Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Endo biopsy: redux

I had my usual preparatory endometrial biopsy today.  For those unaware, there's some science out there that nicking the uterine lining in the cycle before an IVF (or FET, in my case) causes it to grow back thicker and stickier for implantation.  This was my third endo biopsy since starting infertility treatment.  I'm hoping it will be the first one to actually get tested out with an embryo.  Up to now we've never made it that far; either the cycle or the transfer has been cancelled.  I've been jabbed in the ute a lot for no reason, it appears.

As you may recall, it was at my last endo biopsy that I discovered my super vaginal strength.  Can I just say that, out of all the Google search terms that lead people to my blog, "super vagina" is far and away number one?  I have no idea what those people are looking for, but I'm sure they're disappointed.

This time around my vagina behaved itself.  I think it was mostly due to the fact that my RE went a lot easier inserting the catheter this time.  Which in my head means that my vagina is less of a Clark Kent/Superman type thing and more of a Bruce Banner/Incredible Hulk type thing.  Poke my cervix too hard and VAGINA MAD!  VAGINA SMASH! 

While there I took the opportunity to ask my RE about what has been my biggest preoccupying worry to date: the thawing of our blastocyst.  Amber had an interesting post a while back talking about the 90% survival rate for embryos frozen through the process of vitrification, or flash freezing.  Apparently, the old "slow freeze" method can result in ice crystals forming inside the embryo which can break off and cause damage.  Interestingly, studies have also shown that blastocysts frozen by vitrification have higher implantation and clinical pregnancy rates.

Unfortunately I wasn't really clear on whether our lab uses vitrification or some other method.  So today I asked my RE what the chances were that our blastocyst wouldn't survive the thaw.  She very confidently told me that we had a less than 10% chance of that happening.  She said that she could count on one hand the number of times it had happened to her patients, and that if I was to ask the embryologist at the lab he would wave his hand at me and tell me not to worry about it.  I didn't bother to get into specifics of how the lab freezes everything (since I figured that was more a question for the embryologist), but suffice it to say that I left there feeling better about the whole thing.  I'm going to pack that worry away now and not let it come out again until the morning of my transfer.

So right now I'm just waiting for CD1 so I can start my Estrace and get this show on the road.  I'm not sure why, but I've been feeling a lot more positive lately.  I've been feeling like this just might work.  Nobody move, nobody change ANYTHING!  I'd like this feeling to last.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Infertility Probability Theorem

As an IF blogger, it's inevitable that some of my wonderful bloggy friends will eventually have success in their treatment cycles, or the odd spontaneous natural conception.  I won't go too far into the range of emotions those BFPs can bring up for those of us still in the trenches, as others have put it much more eloquently than I can.  Suffice it to say that after I feel the normal happiness/jealousy mix (we should name this.  Haplousy?  Jealiness?), I often settle into one pervasive thought.  I call it the Infertility Probability Theorem, which states that the pregnancy of other infertiles has a direct and inverse effect on my own fertility.  In simpler terms, the fact that other infertiles are getting pregnant means that it's less likely that I'm ever going to.  Someone has to be the statistic.

This was further reinforced for me today.  Remember Jill, the now-parenting infertile kindred spirit at my office?  Today at lunch when our male colleagues were all out, she had a phone call that I couldn't help but overhear since we sit right next to each other.  I started hearing bits and pieces about "your numbers" and "the transfer" and I pretty quickly clicked in that she was talking to someone who had just had their first positive beta after their second round of IVF.  After a few more minutes I realized that I knew who it was that she was talking to.  It was a colleague at another office out west.  I know this other woman casually, as she is married to a good friend of mine I'll call Derek.

I was initially kind of hurt after this realization.  Derek and I have been through a lot of heavy stuff together that I won't get into now, and even though he moved out west a few years ago and we don't keep in touch as much as we should, I still count him as one of my closest friends.  I actually told him about our infertility in a phone chat only a month or so ago, and while he was appropriately consoling to me he said absolutely nothing about what he and his wife were going through.  It stings that he didn't think he could trust me with it, but as M quite rightly pointed out later I don't really know their story so I can't judge his choice to keep things to himself.  Not everyone has to be "out and proud" about their infertility.

Once I processed the fact that he hadn't told me, I experienced the inevitable haplousy (yeah, that works) and then the Infertility Probability Theorem took effect.  But this hit me harder than when a fellow IF blogger declares a BFP.  Because, as my oh-so-illogical brain pointed out, the interwebs is a big big place and it's a really large sample size.  But I now had two women in my small-ish social circle at work who had IVF successes, which meant that I never would.  I was doomed to be the statistic.

Now, I'm just a lowly arts major, but even I know that this is absolute mathematical bullshit.  To prove it, I did a little research.  We've all heard about the Law of Averages, which people trot out to explain why one event is bound to happen since the opposite has already happened a bunch of times.  For instance, you flip a coin and it lands on heads three times.  Therefore, the next time you think it has to be tails because LAW OF AVERAGES!  It's horse pooey.  Every single time you flip a coin, it has the exact same 50/50 chance of being either heads or tails.  No matter how many times you flip it and it comes up heads, the next time you flip it there's still only a 50% chance that you'll get tails.  Now, if you do it enough times, the results do tend to even out.  It's called the Law of Large Numbers.  But even that doesn't change the fact that for each single coin flip, your chances are 50/50.

Apply that to infertility.  Over a large enough sample size (I'm guessing thousands of women...again, NOT a math major!) the statistical odds of success tend to even out.  But each individual woman still has her own individual chance of success based on her own personal history and infertility issues.  Just like that coin, whether another blogger or my next door neighbour or thirty-eight women in my office have successful IVF cycles, that does absolutely nothing to change my individual chances of success.  They're the same as they ever were.  Which admittedly aren't great, but they're no less than they were yesterday or will be tomorrow.

Class adjourned.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Snapping back to reality

...aaaand we're back.  Seems like just yesterday we were leaving.  The truly sucky thing about vacations is that inevitably, they have to end and you have to return to your regularly scheduled life.  I've decided to divide this post up into three parts because it kind of runs the gamut and some people might not want to listen to me whine after just having returned from a week at the beach.  I'm not exactly inspiring a lot of sympathy right now, I get that.  So I'll start with the fun stuff, and if you want to stop reading when I get complain-y (about life in general, not the vacation), go for it.

The Good

Mexico was awesome!  We stayed in Riviera Nayarit, which is just a little north of Puerto Vallarta.  Our main reason for going there was the fact that I have always wanted to try surfing, but have been nervous about booking a full week at a surf camp somewhere.  I mean, what if I did one day of it and hated it and was stuck with it for another six days?  Puerto Vallarta seemed like the best of both worlds, since there is a good beginner surf beach nearby but it would still allow M and I to indulge our lazy streaks with a lot of lounging around time.

We spent our first two days just chilling by the pool or on the beach, doing some reading and a little bit of boogie boarding.  On day 3 we ventured about a half hour north to the beginner surf beach at Sayulita, which has a ton of surf schools to choose from.  We did a lesson with the awesome Papas of Lunazul Surf School and it turns out that I definitely didn't have to worry about not liking surfing.  It was the highlight of our trip!  After a half hour land lesson, Papas had us in the water and believe it or not, I stood up and surfed my very first wave all the way into shore.  It was amazing!  I managed to surf pretty much all of my waves and only wiped out a few times...thanks no doubt to the huge buoyant beginner boards we were on and the fact that Papas was steadying my board before telling me exactly when to paddle and stand up.  Doesn't matter.  I'll take it!

The surf was actually pretty heavy on the day of our lesson and we got intense upper body workouts from all of the paddling, pushing up, and general wrestling of the boards over the waves to get back out for another run.  After our hour in the water was finished, we were both exhausted and hungry.  We had lunch overlooking the beach and I'm pretty sure I ate my body weight in guacamole and chips.  We also went for a quick stroll around Sayulita itself, which is a really cool little hippie/surfer town with a super chill vibe.  If you ever get a chance to go I'd highly recommend it.

We spent the next few days recovering from our board rash on the beach, and went back to Sayulita the day before we left for another round in the water.  This time we were on our own and the ocean was pretty flat, so we had a lot of trouble a) catching the waves and b) staying on them.  I think I've caught the bug, though...surfing is definitely something I want to do again!

And for those of you keeping score, last time I said that I'd be accountable for my vacation workouts by logging what I did while I was away.  I'm happy to report that for our seven days, I got in five 30-minute cardio workouts on the various machines in the hotel gym.  Go me!

The Bad

I have absolutely nothing bad to say about our vacation itself.  The only crappy part is that it kind of reinforced my negative feelings about my body.  While I stuck to my workout plan, things were less stellar food-wise.  I knew they would be.  There's only so many days a girl can look at hot, fresh donuts with sprinkles and then choose fruit for breakfast instead.  And I really tried not to beat myself up about that, since for the most part I ate a pretty balanced diet.  Also, luckily our resort had a good mix of old and young, so I wasn't entirely surrounded by slammin' twenty-something bodies.  But some of my summer clothes were already ill-fitting when I left, and that didn't get any better as the week progressed.  So now I'm in this place where I'm feeling chubby and gross and like I need to go on a diet, which I really really didn't want to do.  I wanted to focus on health, not size!  But I'm just not there.  Calorie restriction looks to be in my future, at least up until I start my FET.

The Ugly
The ugly is that, well, it's over.  This vacation that I had been so looking forward to as a reward after months of infertility treatments is now done.  As we were packing our suitcases on our last day, all I could think about was that we had to go back to our crappy infertile lives in cold dreary Toronto.  I just couldn't help it...I started to cry.  I felt like I'd just had an awesome dream about giving birth to a beautiful baby and then woke up to realize that no, I'm still just infertile old me with my shitty eggs and a dismal chance of ever getting pregnant.

I get that this sounds totally whiny and ungrateful, and I'm not expecting any sympathy.  I know that a lot of people don't have the luxury of jetting off to Mexico for a week on the beach.  I just spent seven wonderful days with by best friend and love of my life in a sunny paradise, and here I am complaining?  I sound like a total spoiled brat, which makes me feel even worse.  Why can't I be happy with the amazing things I already have?  Why isn't any of it enough?

I know I should be excited about our upcoming FET.  But instead I'm terrified.  I'm scared that our embryo won't survive the thaw, and that if it does we'll just get a BFN.  I'm not even seeing far enough ahead to worry about a chemical pregnancy or miscarriage, since I just can't seem to visualize ever getting those two pink lines on a test.  And if it doesn't work...well, we're back to where we started.  We're back to crappy eggs and no baby and we have to start all over again.  While I was on the beach I wasn't thinking about any of these things, and if they crept into my mind for even a second I was able to shoo them away.  But now they're back with a vengeance.

While we were in Sayulita we passed a surf shop with a chalkboard sign out front.  That day it read, "Life is like a wave.  You can't change the way it breaks, but you can change the way you ride it."  It's a great sentiment, but it's just not always that easy.  Sometimes it feels like no matter how you ride it, it's going to throw you headfirst off your board and toss you around before scraping you up on the sand, sputtering and coughing.  That's kind of how I feel right now, and I'm not sure I'm too anxious to get back into the water.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Healthy holiday plans

Every time I go away somewhere I pack my gym clothes.  Nine times out of ten, the gym stuff stays at the bottom of my suitcase and never gets used.  This time around I'm hoping things will be different.  

So far this year, I've actually managed to stick to my New Year's resolution to exercise more and eat better.  I've been working out almost five days a week, working my way up to 40 minutes of cardio and including some abs and free weight workouts as well.  All in the comfort of my own basement, using some workout DVDs that I got for $5 on Kijiji.

I said from the start that I wanted to avoid falling into my old pattern of becoming obsessive about diet and exercise, keeping a food journal and counting every calorie and giving myself guilt for indulging in cravings.  My focus was just going to be about becoming healthier, not necessarily thinner.  And I've stuck to that, which has been great for my motivation so far.  But I'd have been lying if I said I hadn't hoped to drop a little weight in the bargain.  I'm on the average side size-wise so I don't have much to lose, but I wouldn't miss ten pounds or so.  I kind of hoped that the last 6 weeks of cardio, plus a huge focus on more fruits and veggies and less sugar in my diet, would have put a dent in that.  But as I was packing my suitcase for Mexico earlier today, I realized that some of the bathing suits and shorts that I wore quite comfortably last summer were too tight.  Some were just uncomfortable tight, while others were "Oh honey, you don't actually think you can pull that off?" tight.  I'm talking serious muffin top, people.  Not good.

So I'm kind of bummed.  Bummed for letting myself slide with diet and fitness last year to the point that this has become an issue.  And bummed because it looks like if I want to be comfortable in those clothes again, I may have to get more regimented about my diet and whip out the ol' food diary when we get back from Mexico. 

In the meantime, the magical Joe Fresh came to my aid with some quick-fix new swimwear on the cheap.  And I'm really, seriously going to try not to let the past 6 weeks of fitness-building go to waste while we're away.  I mean, I'm certainly going to relax, but I figure I can carve 30 minutes per day out of my busy lounging-sunning-drinking-sleeping-reading schedule to do something active.  

And so you, my bloggy friends, are heretofore called upon to bear witness to my resolution that I am going to do 30 minutes of exercise per day while I am away, whether it's going for a run on the beach, doing some cardio at the resort gym or something else entirely.  And I will log it all here when I get back next week.  This is how I am going to keep myself accountable.  I will also do my damndest to make healthier food choices, however let's be honest, it's an all-inclusive so I can't really be held responsible.  Because tequila.

See you guys in a week!  I probably won't have reliable internet access so I won't have a chance to read other blogs while I'm away, but rest assured that you are all in my thoughts (especially those of you currently or soon to be in your TWWs).  I'm hoping to see lots of pink lines when I get back.  Don't let me down, ladies.

Adios amigas!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

The Impostor

I've been feeling kind of blue lately.  There's absolutely no reason for this, and in fact every reason not to feel down.  M and I have booked our vacation and are mere days away from a week in sunny Mexico (no, not the rapey part.  Jeez, you guys sound like my mom).  And yet, here I am, feeling grumpy and sad.  And kind of lazy about blogging.

But then today I read a great post on Amber's page called Other Peoples' Babies.  It's about how we as infertiles deal with being around other peoples' children, especially those of our friends and family.  It got me thinking about how much I love being around my niece, and how I strangely never really think about infertility when I'm spending time with her.  On the other hand, when I'm with some of our other friends with kids, infertility is all I can think about.  Which made me think of a story that I haven't told yet.

M has a couple of university friends I'll call Chad and Marie.  They had a baby shortly after M and I got married, and while we'd previously spent a fair bit of time together, things understandably changed after their son Emmett was born.  It became harder to find time to spend together, and when we did the conversation focused on little else besides the new addition to their family and their adjustment to becoming parents.  

In the meantime, we'd confided that we were trying for a baby ourselves and were having some trouble.  While Marie seemed understanding, Chad has a tendency to be a bit of a problem solver (read: know-it-all who is never wrong) and started offering helpful suggestions such as "Can't they test your eggs?"  Trying to explain the intricacies of fertility medicine didn't seem to help, so we eventually gave up and just let the conversation flow back to its other natural topic:  Emmett.  

As the depression caused by our infertility settled in, M and I began cocooning ourselves as a bit of a protective measure.  As a lot of you know, you just don't feel like going out much (especially with babies in tow) when you're sad all the time because you can't have any.  Unfortunately, Chad and Marie seemed to take this as a personal slight or as a sign that we didn't want to spend time with them.  They seemed unable to understand the toll that our infertility struggle was taking on us, and we got a fair bit of passive aggressive guilt about not seeing them.  We resolved to try to make a bit more of an effort.

One Sunday in late fall, we got a phone call from Chad and Marie asking us to join them and Emmett (now almost 18 months old) for lunch.  It was a beautiful and unseasonably warm fall day, so after lunch we bundled Emmett into the stroller and decided to go for a walk around the neighbourhood.  

We soon came upon a small park with a kids' play structure inside.  It was swarming with families, all out enjoying what was probably to be one of the last nice days before the real chill of early winter set in.  Chad enthusiastically swept Emmett out of the stroller and declared that we should all go play in the park.  Marie, perhaps sensing my apprehension, asked me if it would be OK and of course I said it would.  What was I supposed to say?  "No, because I'm infertile and I don't want you to have any fun with your child while I'm around"?  Into the park we went.

M and I hung back on the sidelines with the stroller as Emmett toddled around the play structure, Chad and Marie following close behind to keep an eye on him.  The park was a blaze of colour - the reds and oranges of the fall leaves mixed with the pinks, blues and greens of the childrens' coats.  Parents hovered protectively next to monkey bars and encouraged timid toddlers down slides.  The air was filled with the screams, shouts and laughter of kids at play.

Then Chad beckoned us to come and join them.  

M looked at me, and with concerned eyes asked me if I was OK.  I nodded grimly, pressed my lips together into a line and pushed the stroller forward to join Chad and Marie.

To this day I have no idea what they wanted or why they called us over, since in the few seconds it took to make our way across the grass Emmett had found something else to do and had toddled off again.  Chad and Marie followed.  M and I were left standing in the middle of the u-shaped play structure, surrounded by playing children and watching parents, holding an empty stroller.

In that moment I felt the full weight of our infertility pressing down on me, making it difficult to breathe or think.  The empty stroller was just too perfect a metaphor for my eternally empty womb.  My eyes started to burn with tears, and I wished desperately to be anywhere but where I was at that moment.  My imagination began to spin out of control.  It seemed like everyone was staring at us, wondering who we were and why we were standing there with an empty stroller.  I felt naked, as if every single person in that park knew that none of the children there belonged to us.  At any second I anticipated someone coming over to accuse us of being there to snatch a child, since we couldn't have one ourselves.  Any moment now, some little girl was going to stage-whisper to her mother, "Mommy, why is that lady crying?"  Her mother would reply that she didn't know, but would pull her daughter away anyway, eyeing the crazy lady with the empty stroller with contempt and suspicion.  It seemed like there was nowhere in the world where we could possibly belong less.  

I felt like an impostor.  An impostor trying desperately to fit into a world where I simply wasn't meant to be.

I hurriedly collected myself and told M that I would be waiting on the other side of the park.  I pushed the empty stroller to a bench and sat with my face turned to the street as I waited for the tears to subside.  M sat next to me.  After a few moments, Marie noticed that we weren't there anymore.  In a moment of understanding, she gathered Chad and Emmett and suggested that it was time to resume our walk.  I felt horrible for ruining their afternoon at the park, and yet couldn't have been more grateful to leave it.  I pulled myself together for the rest of our time together, but dissolved into tears as soon as M and I got into the car later that afternoon.

We haven't spent much time with Chad, Marie and Emmett since that day.  But it has nothing to do with not wanting to be around Emmett.  That day in the park I learned a tough lesson, which is that no matter how good your friends are, some of them will just never understand.  Chad and Marie were amongst the few friends in whom we confided everything, and yet despite all our attempts to explain things, they (thankfully) haven't experienced infertility and will simply never get it.  It's totally typical that when we told them how depressed we had been after our first failed IVF, Chad's suggestion was to come and spend part of the Christmas holiday visiting with his sister, who was coming to town to introduce everyone to her newborn baby.  They just don't see how that could be hard.  And that's exactly why it is.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Das Liebster ist wunderbar!

In the last couple of weeks there's been quite the flurry of Liebster award nominations going around.  I was lucky enough to be noted by a few of my lovely bloggy friends including Kimberly at No Good Eggs, Julia at Finding a Way Out of IF, Risa at Who Shot Down My Stork?, Jen S at Overworked Ovaries, Daryl at Something Out of Nothing and Amber at Old Lady and No Baby.

I was previously unfamiliar with the Liebster system but it's basically a way for new bloggers with under 200 followers to give shout-outs and get to know each other.   Technically, you're supposed to post 11 things about yourself, answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you, and then nominate 11 other bloggers by giving them 11 questions of their own to answer.  I'm departing from the norm a bit just because there's so many awesome fun questions to answer already, so here goes!

 From Kimberly:
1. If you were going to be on the cover of a magazine, what magazine would it be? Women's Health
2. What would be the headline?  Get 6-pack abs like this in 10 days.  Yes, I am shallow.
3. What is the best decision you almost didn’t make? Dumping my ex, quitting my job and moving halfway across the country to take a new job, at which I met M.
4. What did you sleep with as a comfort item when you were little?  A stuffed koala bear I called "Mama Bear" that I still have in a keepsake box.  She's very ragged and has been patched up so many times I can't believe she has any stuffing left!

From Julia:
5. Do you remember your dreams? If so, what was the last one you remember having?  I often remember them because they're so crazy.  A couple of nights ago I dreamed that I was at a Michael Jackson concert, and I noticed that Lionel Richie was one of his backup dancers.  I was very confused as to why Lionel Richie would take a step down from being a singer to being a backup dancer...I did not however find it strange to be at a concert put on by a dead man.
6. What is your favourite meal that you make at home?  I cook A LOT so it's hard to pick just one thing, but I love this Thai chicken pizza.  Try it and tell me it's not a party in your mouth!
7. Favourite hot beverage?  Green Mountain Blueberry flavoured coffee.  We can't get it here but we usually buy half a dozen bags of it when we visit the US and then we save it for weekend morning lounging around.
8. Favourite cold beverage?  Really tart lemonade.

From Jen S:
9. What's your biggest guilty pleasure?  The movie Newsies.  I watched it a million times as a teenager and can still sing every song.  Carryin' the banner!  Don't judge me.
10. Snacks...salty or sweet?  Why choose?  Have both in one.
11. Who would you want to play you in a movie about your life?  Kate Beckinsale. 
12. Do you have pets?  We have a cockatiel named Leon.  M charitably took him when a co-worker bought two birds and they tried to kill each other.  I think it was probably Leon's fault.  He can be cute when he sings and talks to us, but the other 90% of the time he's a horrible asshole.

From Risa:
13. What is your favorite holiday?  Halloween.  OK, technically not a holiday, but I think it counts.
14. What is your favorite waste of time?  Angry Birds.  I'm totally addicted.
15. What is your favorite book or movie?  The Princess Bride is my favourite movie of all time!
16. Beer, wine, or hard liqueur?  I'm a wino.

From Daryl:
17. Where do you fall in your family’s birth order (first, middle, youngest, only child), and do you fit the “profile” for that position?  I'm the oldest and I totally fit the profile.  I'm a Type A overachiever who bossed my siblings around.  I'm surprised they still speak to me.
18. What’s the first thing people notice about you?  Ever heard of chronic bitchface?  It's a devastating affliction.  People unfortunately think that I'm either unfriendly or stuck up, which is very much not true.  But that's apparently what my neutral face looks like.
19. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever eaten?  I'm pretty adventurous and will try anything once food-wise.  While vacationing in Peru I ate roasted guinea pig, as it is apparently a delicacy for them.  I didn't find it anything special.
20. If you could change one thing about your partner, what would it be?  M is a "collector" (he doesn't like it when I call him a hoarder).  I am a minimalist.  Do the math. 

From Amber:
21. What's one thing you've always wanted to do, but don't think you'll ever actually work up the courage to actually do it?  Become a redhead.
22. What is your favorite memory from high school?  Being in the play that won our provincial drama festival. 
23. Did you play sports when you were younger?  Yup, I am a good Canadian girl who played hockey.
24. What and where was your best vacation ever?  A safari vacation in South Africa.  Seeing all those amazing animals up close in their natural habitat was the most awe-inspiring thing I've ever experienced.