New Beginnings

Lotus Flower, Innisfree Garden, Millbrook, NY

The experience of infertility has been on my mind a lot lately. There are a number of reasons for this – a big reason is that I am on the verge of stepping up my involvement in the infertility community in a big way through a volunteer role with an organization whose mission is to educate people about infertility, and advocate for, and provide support for people who are infertile. Needless to say, I am super excited about this opportunity.

Something else that I am super excited about is that I am pregnant again! I haven’t blogged since I found out (on either of my blogs), for all of the usual reasons, but at 21 weeks along, I am more than halfway through this pregnancy (I just updated the details on my “TTC Journey” page). Once again, I am enjoying an uncomplicated, fairly symptom free pregnancy, and am looking forward to welcoming Baby Boy’s little brother into our family.

While my husband and I are not committing to “never again”, the reality is that in all likelihood, our family will be complete once this baby arrives. This means that after six years where trying to conceive, infertility, and pregnancy were such a big part of our lives (at times overshadowing everything else that was going on), we will be closing the door on our reproductive years.

This is, of course a wonderful place to be. After having lived through the anguish and uncertainty that infertility brings, both personally, and through the stories of the hundreds of infertile people I’ve connected with (online and also in person), I know how incredibly lucky we are to get the “happily ever after” ending.

And yet, the last six years are so imprinted in my mind, that it’s still hard for me to see ahead to the time where something that was so front and center in my life will no longer matter. I cannot get my head around never again worrying about the ins and outs of my menstrual cycle, never buying another ovulation prediction test, nor needing any more fertility clinic appointments. Even something as matter of fact for most people as taking birth control after this baby arrives has me torn and confused, as it is diametrically opposed to everything I’ve been working towards these past six years.

For better or worse, infertility (and everything reproduction related) seems to have seeped into my identity and affected my world view to such an extent that in order to move forward beyond infertility, I find myself fighting a version of stockholm syndrome now that I will soon no longer be a hostage.

Before I  wrap up, I feel the need to point out that I have seen posts similar to this one be misinterpreted by those still in the trenches.

What I have touched on here is the coming need (and hopefully) eventual ability for me to move beyond MY infertility. I do not wish to forget or erase the past, nor do I plan to ignore what infertility means to millions of other people who continue to live with that reality every day. Moving on personally does not mean that I will stop supporting other infertiles (and in fact, as I mentioned at the start of this post, I hope that in the coming years I will be able to make a discernible, positive impact on the lives of people who continue to struggle with infertility). Arriving at a healing place, and continuing to be supportive of others are not mutually inclusive.

Lastly, despite all the negative aspects of infertility, the experience has taught me a lot:

– it has opened my eyes to the many amazing advances in science and medicine that have taken place just in my lifetime, while also teaching me that all of our advanced knowledge and tools can still only go so far;

– it has tested me in a way that nothing else in my life has, and as a result taught me about my level of resilience;

– it has increased my empathy towards others who are dealing with hardship (including any number of medical conditions) in their lives; and (more to the point)

– it has taught me to never, ever take for granted the ability to conceive, carry a pregnancy, deliver a healthy baby, and be able to build your family in the way that you had planned.

This Time Will be Different

I published this post on my other blog, but I figured it had some relevance here too…

Sometime this year, my husband and I will start the process of trying to conceive baby #2. This moment is still months away, as there are a number of moving pieces that have to fall into place before we can reasonably attempt any baby making. At minimum, I need to wean, get my chicken pox vaccine, and get my period back. Since we have five frozen embryos from our IVF cycle, we are planning on jumping right into doing a frozen transfer as soon as we are in a position to do so, therefore there will also be the various tests and procedures that our clinic requires before proceeding with a transfer, not to mention coordinating our schedules with both the clinic where our embryos are, and the clinic where we will do our monitoring for the cycle. The many joys of procreating by committee will soon be upon us.

While I have tried hard not to speculate about what trying to conceive will be like this go around until the time comes, in the last few weeks I’ve often found my mind spinning as I try to process the ramifications of what getting back on the baby making train will mean for us. This is due partly to the fact that we are starting to have preliminary discussions about what our timing is going to look like, and that I am getting close to weaning Baby Boy (I had planned to breastfeed him to a year, which is another two months away, but based on his lack of interest over the last few weeks I suspect our wean date will come sooner than that). I have also recently read a lot of blog and twitter posts that touch on some of the issues I have been struggling to get my head around, related to life after infertility, secondary infertility, and infertility amnesia.

I have no idea if or when we will have another baby. If we do have another baby, I don’t know if we will get pregnant via frozen transfer, natural conception (ha – sounds like immaculate conception to me!), or through further fertility treatments. I don’t know if it will happen on our first try, or after multiple attempts. But despite all of the uncertainty, rather than feel panic at the thought of climbing back on the roller coaster, I am at peace with whatever our outcome may be. I am at peace, because I know that the worst is behind us.

The experience of infertility while trying to conceive Baby Boy was akin to falling down a deep chasm, and having no idea how far you had left to fall, or what sort of landing you would have. Along the way, we were willing to grasp at anything that would help us achieve a quick and safe landing – in the six months before we conceived Baby Boy, my husband and I agreed that we would pursue donor eggs, donor sperm, or surrogacy if we got any indication that any of those would resolve our infertility (unexplained infertility is its own deep chasm, but that’s another story).

I am a planner by nature, and while trying to conceive Baby Boy, having a plan gave me some semblance of control over an uncontrollable process. I was always two steps ahead: if the current cycle/treatment option failed, I had a plan A, and then a plan B if plan A failed. At the time we conceived Baby Boy, I had my plan A and plan B all set, and my husband and I had the resources (financial, emotional, physical) to keep going balls to the wall until we achieved our goal. We were not at the point where we had an end date (whether fixed on the calendar, or based on a number of things happening, or not) at which point we would change course to pursue adoption (when we had last discussed it, this was an option my husband was not interested in), or living permanently child free.

While overall, our mindset was that given enough time and treatments, we would eventually be successful, not knowing how our story would end was still terrifying. The future held so much uncertainty, and there was no way of knowing how much more heartbreak in terms of failed cycles, pregnancy loss, or even just the cruel passage of time we would have to endure before we held our baby in our arms.

This brings me back to my original point about starting the process of trying to conceive again. No matter how many times I turn the idea of it around in my head, I come to the same conclusion: this time will be different.

This time will be different because we are not starting at zero: not only do we know way more than we should about all the ways that conception can go wrong and therefore are intimately familiar with how difficult it can be; but the existence of our five frozen embryos (that paradoxically only exist due to the extent of our struggles first time around), mean that we are starting out ahead of the game.

This time will be different because we are no longer in a chasm of unknown depth. I can look ahead and know with certainty that I will not have to endure multiple fresh IVF cycles in order to bring my baby home (I am not ruling out the possibility of doing another fresh cycle if none of our current embryos take, but I don’t see a scenario where I would do more than one more fresh cycle). I know that if we are to have another child, it will take us less time to conceive this time around than the 3+ years it took us the first time, for the simple reason that due to my age it has to (I’ll be between 37 and 38 when we start trying again).

This time,  there are limits to what we will go through in order to conceive. I know that we will transfer each of our existing embryos until one sticks, but if we are not successful, we are not going to go to heroic efforts to have another baby. Lastly, knowing that we had the strength to survive failed cycles and pregnancy loss the first time around gives me comfort that if needed, we have the strength to survive again. All of these factors mean that when we start trying again, we will be able to feel, or at the very least, see the ground below our feet. We will be able to reach our hands out and find something sturdy to hold on to, rather than grasping at air as it slips through our fingers.

This time will be different because no matter what happens, I will never forget that even our “worst case scenario” of being parents to one healthy, amazing baby boy is many people’s dream.

It’s Complicated

Pardon my absence….

Part of the reason for it is the usual “to busy to post” excuse. My husband was wrapping up a few final things in our old city, and he finally came back for good last weekend. My evenings since then have been busy, and since I started my new job, I’ve been pretty careful about my internet usage at work.

At my last position, I was self employed and used my own laptop. We didn’t have an IT department, so I knew nobody was monitoring my internet usage in any way. Here, I have a company computer that is logged on to a network, therefore I don’t feel like I have the same freedom to surf the internet, and in particular, post on my forums, or write my blog (I think facebook and twitter are outright blocked). This is not really a bad thing, as it keeps me focused on doing my job, and if I really need a fix, I can check stuff out on my blackberry. But, at the same time it does limit the time I have to update my blog (I used to write a lot of posts during lunch).

So that’s part of the reason for my absence. The other part is more complicated, but in a nutshell, I’ve been feeling like a break. While for the most part, writing the blog has been therapeutic and a great outlet for getting my feelings out, the act of writing also forces me to focus on the unpleasant part of what is, for the most part the fantastic life that I’m living (especially recently, with our move back to Toronto). It’s a fine line, and for the last few weeks, living my fantastic life and trying not to get sucked into the infertility negativity has won out.

I’ve still been checking twitter, and the two infertility forums I belong to, but less so, and staying away from posting much of anything. While all of those have been wonderful sources of comfort for me, sometimes I feel like it can get to be too much.

Logging on and seeing the raw emotions people are feeling over whatever stage they’re at in their infertility journey has a real emotional impact on how I’m feeling. Often it’s because they’re going through things I’ve experienced (miscarriage, failed cycles, unexpected delays, etc.) and seeing their posts makes me re-live those difficult moments, while other times it’s things I have not experienced, and hope never to have to deal with. But, in any case, seeing so much grief wears me down sometimes.

On a related note, it seems like in the last few weeks I’ve spoken to too many frazzled parents, as my husband and I have started catching up with our friends in and around Toronto, many of whom have young children (3 and under). They are all good parents, and wonderful people, but they all expressed some level of frustration and stress about the demands of parenting, and having to juggle that with everything else in their lives. None of this was said in a “Woe is me” way, and not once did any of them suggest we were lucky for not having to deal with these things. These were just frank conversations between friends, and I understand where they’re coming from.

We were at a wedding last week, where many of these conversations took place, and as my husband and I were dancing the night away (long after most of our friends with kids had left to go home and relieve their babysitters), and getting everyone caught up on our exciting new house and exciting new jobs, for the first time in a very long time (well, since we started fertility treatments a year and half ago) I felt like taking a break and not worrying about anything to do with infertility or treatments for a while.

And then a few days later, I got my period, which meant it was time to get my frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle going. And  then my clinic told me they needed some updated bloodwork for me, and since it was already day 3 of my cycle, I had a minor panic attack that it may be too late to get the bloodwork done this cycle, which meant I would have to postpone this cycle until November (since I was away for two weeks in October), and just like that I was sucked back into the madness. Fortunately, the bloodwork my clinic needs can be done any time of month, so things are a go for an FET this month and now I’m starting to count down the days to my monitoring appointment, my transfer, and my beta day.

Like I said, it’s complicated.