Sunday, 13 April 2014

A little good news

My mom got the results of her breast surgery back on Friday.  There were nice clear margins around the lump they removed, and her lymph nodes were clear as well.  She still needs a bit of follow up (likely some radiation and possibly hormone treatment), but overall it's the best possible outcome she could have hoped for.   We're all so overjoyed to finally get a bit of good news for a change!

The past couple of weeks have actually been some of the best I've had in a while in terms of mood and energy.  It all started with my trip home to see my family after my mom's surgery a few weeks ago, which probably did me just as much good as it did for her.  My dad was the only one who knew about my visit, which I feared for a while was going to lead to disaster since he couldn't seem to wrap his head around the basics of lying to his wife.  I kept having to field questions about how he was going to get to the airport to pick me up without her knowing (answer: tell her you're going to the hardware store, where you routinely disappear for hours so she definitely won't want to come) or how he was going to stop her from sending my birthday present in the mail (obvious answer: take it and tell her you'll mail it, then DON'T MAIL IT).  It was hilarious and cute at the same time, and reassured me that my dad would never be able to pull off having a secret second family somewhere.  

Despite my doubts, Dad came through in the end and my mom's reaction (huge hug, incoherent happy tears) was definitely worth it.  Then we pulled together an impromptu 38th birthday party for me and had a big family dinner to celebrate.

The rest of the week was spent doting on my 4-year old niece, to whom I am now the awesomest person on planet earth.  We coloured Disney princesses, had a sleepover, braided each other's hair, did each other's makeup (Rocky Horror Picture Show mean anything to anyone??), went shopping, ate ice cream, skipped rope, watched "Frozen", danced about a thousand times to Pharrell's "Happy", and in general had an absolute blast.  I loved everything about being the cool aunt, and it makes me wish we lived closer to my family so I could do it more often.  By day two my niece was begging to stay home from day care so that we could hang out, and at the end of my trip she was talking about how soon she could come to Toronto to visit me.  Man, I love that kid!!

The return home to M and Buddy was bittersweet, but on the plus side spring has finally come to Toronto after what has felt like the longest winter EVER.  We've had some great weather the past couple of weekends, which has allowed us to finally get outside and clear up all of the branches and debris from the ice storm that we had just before Christmas.  We still need to hire some tree and lawn people to help with the last of the cleanup and recovery, but at least our neighbours aren't embarrassed by us anymore.

Finally, we're pretty close to narrowing down our clinic for donor egg in the Czech Republic.  We have had a few Skype consults and I'll share more about our selection process in a later post.  Also, on Friday I was psyched to see that the province of Ontario has announced that it will begin funding one cycle of IVF starting in 2015.  While it's a bit late for me, it's a huge step in the right direction for other infertile couples and goes a long way to helping a lot of people who otherwise couldn't afford it.  All in all, lots to feel good about!

Monday, 7 April 2014

Flights of fancy

For the past month, I've been transfixed by the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370.  I'm not the only one, if the 24/7 news coverage on CNN is any indication.  The idea that an entire airplane could disappear without a trace, along with all 239 people on board, is profoundly unsettling.  In those first few confusing days it seemed almost possible that the plane and its passengers might actually be found somewhere in one piece, although this would have required several creative leaps of logic and a whole lot of luck.  Personally, I kept returning to the principle of Occam's razor: the simplest solution is usually the correct one.  Which meant that the plane was more than likely already at the bottom of the ocean.

And yet, when reading or watching news coverage of the event, I continued to be struck by the insistence of the passengers' friends and family that their loved ones might still be out there, and could still come home safely.  That it might not all have ended as horribly as seemed increasingly certain to everyone else.  As sympathetic as I was to the plight of the families, as the days passed I found myself wondering how they could possibly still believe that everything was going to turn out all right.  How could they not recognize that they were deluding themselves?  Didn't they realize, deep down, how crazy it seemed to hope that their loved ones were still alive out there somewhere?

MH370 disappeared on March 8.  Or CD27, in my little world.  For the past two years, I'd watched my cycle slowly dropping in length to an average of 26 or 27 days.  I hadn't had a 28 day cycle in at least a year, and nothing longer than that since probably before I went on the pill a lifetime ago.  After my chemical pregnancy in February, I'd told myself that I wasn't even going to bother timing my cycles anymore to try naturally.  There was no point.  And yet, as the days dragged on and my period still wasn't showing up, I started to wonder if the old wives' tale about being more fertile the month after a miscarriage might not be true.  CD28 came and went, then CD29.  I got out a calendar and counted backwards.  If I'd ovulated on CD10 (as was the norm for at least the past year), then we'd had sex once in my fertile window.  Sure, I'd had a headache the night before last, which usually preceded my period.  But it could also be an early pregnancy symptom, right?  And yeah, I was spotting, which always happened before my period too.  But people also spot in early pregnancy!  

I toyed with the idea of taking a test, but I knew that even if it was negative I would find a way to doubt.  Perhaps the test would be faulty, or I would one of those mysterious women who wouldn't get a positive HPT until six weeks into a pregnancy.  Whatever happened, I knew I wouldn't be sure until I saw blood.  Only then would I be able to let go of the hope that this cycle wasn't going to end the same way they've all ended, for almost three years.  When my period finally arrived on CD30, I felt a mixture of sadness and relief.  Sadness for yet another chance lost, and relief that I could finally let go of the hope that I'd always known, deep down, was false.

I try to imagine myself in the position of the MH370 families.  Can I really fault them for refusing to believe all of the evidence in front of them, when I do it myself every single month?  Can I blame them for desperately hoping that their loved ones are alive, just as I hope against all odds to create the life of one that I will love?  If there's one thing that infertility teaches, it's that hope is a double-edged sword that can cut you as easily as it defends you against despair.  For the families of the missing, it seems that all we can hope for now is the bittersweet relief that would come from debris in the water.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The long overdue donor egg post

I don't quite know how to explain what's been going on with me lately.  First off, I'll be totally honest and say that I have not felt AT ALL like blogging.  Or reading blogs.  Or commenting.  I've been checking my reader every day, of course, and chiming in when there's drama and I want to offer congratulations or support, but overall I've been a pretty shitty blog friend.  For some reason, blogging has felt like work lately.  I find myself thinking, "I should write something" instead of "I want to write something", and it's not supposed to be that way.  At least it never was before.

This is also the exact same attitude I've had towards starting our donor egg process, which is worrying to me.  Shouldn't I be thinking "I really want to figure out this donor egg thing" and not "Welp, I guess I should start looking into this donor egg thing"?  Obviously, this ambivalence and ennui is all connected somehow.  I usually pride myself on being pretty self-aware, but I honestly can't figure this one out.  It's not that I don't want to have a baby anymore...I just feel like I don't want to have to go through all this work to have one.  To those of you that have made the transition to donor eggs before: did you go through this?  Is this normal?  Or, as I wondered in the past, do I just not want it bad enough?

Despite all of this, I've slowly managed to do my research and talk to a bunch of people and figure out our options.  Here they are:

1.  Donor egg at a US clinic.  My clinic has recommended one clinic that they've worked with a few times in the past.  But it ain't cheap.  There are a number of options that could reduce our cost, including sharing a donor with one or two other couples, but the cheapest we're looking at is $17,000 for a single cycle or $35,000 for a guaranteed program, which promises a live birth within six fresh cycles or our money back.  Nice, but yowza.

2.  Frozen donor egg in Canada.  My clinic has recently partnered with a frozen donor egg bank in the US, and is now able to bring frozen eggs to Canada for local patients.  I'm not sure how this gets around the legalities I mentioned in a previous post, but it's even more expensive than the US option ($19,000 for a single cycle, $44,000 for the assured refund program).  That's OK though.  We can live in a cardboard box, right?  

 
3.  Donor egg in Europe.  I don't know if we would ever have seriously considered this except for the fact that we know a couple who did it.  They've given us a ton of information that's really reassured us, and quite frankly it's the only option that we can actually afford without cleaning out our savings and putting ourselves into serious debt.  Prices are pretty steady at around $7,000 per cycle, with a number of clinics offering various guarantees such as a third cycle free if you're not pregnant after the first two.  Plus, there's the bonus of having a week's vacation in Europe.  In the end, it really wasn't much of a competition.  If we're gonna do this, it's gonna be in the Czech Republic.

Get used to this joke.  I have a feeling I'll be using it a lot.

Deciding on the Czech Republic wasn't all about finances, though.  As I alluded to in my last post, there were two major issues regarding donor egg in general that I had to work through mentally before we could really proceed.  If you'd asked me a few months ago what I thought about these topics I would have told you they didn't matter, and yet I surprisingly found myself dwelling on them a lot.

The first is donor anonymityBy law, Czech donors are anonymous.  We would be told her age, hair colour, eye colour, height, weight, and education level, but that's it.  The clinic will attempt to match my appearance as closely as possible if I want, but neither we nor our child will ever be able to find out who the donor is.  On one level, I like this.  There's no potential complicating factor down the line of another mom on the scene.  And I'm sure part of the reason the Czech Republic has a booming donor egg business is because the donors don't have to worry about some Canadian kid tracking them down 18 years later.  But I have seriously wondered if this is fair to the child, to not know anything about one whole half of your heritage.  Will he or she always wonder about this part of their identity, or feel incomplete?  I might feel better about things if I could be assured that we'd have twins or the chance for a full-blood sibling down the road, since at least then they'd have each other.  Unfortunately there's no way around this (even in many US clinics, I've learned), so an anonymous donor is just something that I'm going to have to get used to unless we can find a way to afford another option.

The second issue that's been nagging at me is the general idea of "fertility tourism".  God, I hate that term.  It implies that there's something fun and frivolous about needing to ask a woman in a foreign country to give sell you eggs so that you'll be able to have a child, which is something the majority of the human population can do without even thinking about it.  There are more than a few academics who have even compared the phenomenon of fertility tourism to sex tourism, which infuriates me on a number of levels.  Not the least of which is the fact that one of them involves travelling to a foreign country to take advantage of lax laws and corrupt law enforcement to have illegal sex with people you shouldn't, like sex slaves and minor children, and the other one FUCKING DOESN'T.

That said, I take their point that unless properly regulated, fertility tourism risks falling down a slippery slope leading to donor exploitation and general social inequality between those who can afford to pay for such services and those who provide the means to do so.  I started to get really hung up on the idea that I would become a (comparatively speaking) rich white Western woman who would be taking advantage of someone who needs to sell parts of her body to make ends meet.  Now, I'm not all rainbows and unicorn farts.  I know that anyone donating eggs anonymously is likely at least partially in it for the money.  But I'd like to think it's an informed decision on her part, fuelled by the extra warm fuzzy feeling she gets from helping someone, rather than an act of financial desperation.  

Unfortunately, without meeting the donor this is something I'll never know.  But the results of this study make me feel a little better.  There's also the fact that the Czech Republic is a European Union country, and as such is subject to pretty rigorous health and human rights legislation (as opposed to places like the Ukraine and Russia, neither of which is someplace I'm eager to visit right now).  Most clinics won't promise you more than 6 to 8 eggs per donor, leading me to believe that they're genuinely looking out for the health of the donors as opposed to overstimulating them for the benefit of the recipient.  They also have limits on how many times donors can donate, although whether those are respected are anyone's guess.  It comes down to needing to have a little bit of faith in the system, and a little bit of selfishness.  If I want to have a baby, this is the only way it's going to happen.  Either I'm OK with that or I'm not.  And I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out which it is.  I'm still not sure I know the answer.

In the meantime, I finally started researching Czech clinics.  There are plenty, so narrowing them down took a lot of reading and, quite frankly, the list got put to the side a lot.  After coming home from a long day at the office, the last thing I felt like doing was researching and emailing clinics.  It wasn't until this week (I'm out east on vacation, visiting my family) that I finally took the time to email the ones we've chosen as final contenders.  We'll pretty quickly have to make a final decision.  I just wish I didn't feel so damn ambivalent and disconnected from it all.  

So, there you have it.  My donor egg brain dump.  If any of you are even still reading!  It's a lot, which probably at least partially explains why it's taken so long for me to put it into words.  I feel like I should reward you for sticking with it.  I offer you this happy baby elephant.  Enjoy!

Little trunksters make everything better!

Monday, 10 March 2014

Procrastination

So there's a whole bunch of stuff that I should probably be blogging about.  My donor egg research.  The options that we currently have on the table, the ones we can afford and the ones that would likely send us to the poorhouse.  All of the unexpected issues that I've discovered are surprisingly important to me.  But honestly, I don't feel like it right now.  I'm procrastinating.

Instead, I present to you a video that I saw online the week after my chemical pregnancy that actually got a chuckle out of me.  While it's not specifically aimed at infertiles, I think it's got a lot of sentiments that we can appreciate.  Hint: make sure you read the fine print.


Bonus marks for anyone who goes further and can actually make it through the comments section on the YouTube page.  It's honestly infuriating.  They're about evenly split between people shouting "Yeah, don't have kids, it'll ruin your life forever!" and "If you don't want kids you're a selfish pathetic waste of space who will never know what it means to be human!"  Sweet Christ, do people not get jokes anymore?  Morons.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

BS tolerance level: Zero

Yeah, I've been a pretty shit blogger lately.  It actually has surprisingly little to do with the aftermath of my chemical pregnancy or my mom's breast cancer diagnosis, and much more to do with the fact that I've been having a crap time at work.  But more about that in a sec.  First, some nice things that have happened in the last little while:
  • I would be incredibly remiss if I didn't thank the wonderful Jane Allen of Mine To Command for the lovely flowers she sent me to cheer me up after my chemical.  How could I not smile coming home to these every day?  Thank you so much, Jane.  You rock.
Bloggy friends are the best friends!
  • I booked a trip home to see my family.  I haven't seen them since this past summer, and with all that's been going on it just felt like a good time to go.  The best part is that I'm keeping it a secret (my dad is my only co-conspirator) so it will be a great surprise for my mom, sister and niece.
  • I did one of those stupid quizzes that keeps popping up on my Facebook page.  You know, the "Which X movie/TV show character are you?" ones.  Except this one was "Which Joss Whedon heroine are you?" and I got Faith from Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  Which is fucking awesome, because everyone knows she's the best one.  No, really.  You got River Tam?  Bitch, please.
Now, back to ranting.  Face it, you know you come here for my rants.  Over the past couple of weeks, my bullshit tolerance level has sunk to an all-time low of zero.  I chalk it up to the fact that I'm dealing with a lot of pretty heavy stuff in my personal life, so I don't have a great deal of patience or sympathy for things like stupid drivers and workplace politics.  Sorry not sorry, but all of my emotional resources are tied up.  Looking for someone to give a fuck?  Look somewhere else.

Work in particular has been testing my resolve not to spontaneously punch people in the face.  Coinciding with this past FET cycle I was working on a project that was micromanaged to within an inch of its life, resulting in all members of the team (not just me) ending up feeling incredibly disenfranchised and disgruntled.  It was a struggle just making it through the day without a) yelling at someone or b) bursting into tears.  Often, both happened anyway.  Unfortunately, this also resulted in me being a terribly inconsistent commenter on other blogs.  On good days I tried pretty hard to still be there for my bloggy friends, but on bad days I literally did not even have the emotional energy to churn out a "good luck this cycle!" and for that, I apologize.

Anyway, earlier this week things came to a head.  First of all, because I now give absolutely zero fucks, I approached one particular problem at work in a somewhat reckless manner that could have blown up in my face pretty badly.  Lucky for me things worked out and we achieved the result we wanted, but it was a decision based purely on the fact that I was in a horrible mood when I made it.  The reason I was in said horrible mood had to do with the fact that earlier in the day, I had attended a meeting where I basically gave voice to all of the negative feelings that had arisen on the micromanaged project.  And by "gave voice to", I really mean "spewed my displeasure in a Pompeii-like flow of vitriol at the very people who did the micromanaging".  It wasn't well received (read: stunned looks and dead silence followed by change of subject), because no one likes to be told how much they suck.  But a number of other employees made a point of coming to me afterwards and thanking me for my comments because they agreed that, even if they don't change anything, they needed to be said.

I've been dying for a reason to use this gif

In all seriousness, the past few weeks have highlighted to me that for me personally, the "anger" stage of grief is the one that I tend to get stuck in the most.  It's weird because I feel as if I've genuinely reached acceptance of the fact that I can't have a biological child, but I keep backtracking to anger on the stupidest things regardless.  There's a lot here that I should probably just save for a separate post, but suffice it to say that it's probably no shocker that I came out as Faith on the Joss Whedon quiz.  Which I still think is awesome.  But yeah, girl's got anger issues.

Monday, 17 February 2014

A little perspective

Things are slowly starting to return to normal around here.

After about a week of drowning my sorrows in wine, homemade french fries and chocolate, I realized that a) junk food wasn't actually making me feel any better and b) I had put on three pounds.  So last Monday I started working out again and slowly weaning myself off my newly reinvigorated sugar addiction.  Work was busy, which kept my mind occupied, and the pity party crying jags have steadily become fewer and farther between.  While we're both obviously still sad about what happened, and pretty far from making any kind of decision about what we want to do, we've started laughing and joking again too.  Valentine's Day provided the perfect opportunity to go out for a nice dinner and remind ourselves of how we used to be before all this.  Not to mention giving us the little nudge we needed to...ahem...resume our marital relations (which were prohibited post-FET, and then just didn't happen because no one wants to have sex with a snotty red-eyed mope).  It was sex without pretense or purpose other than to be close to the one you love, and it was wonderful.

Then, something else happened that could (should?) have knocked me back down.  A few weeks earlier my mom had had surgery to remove a suspicious lump in her breast that had been inconclusive after a needle biopsy.  While everyone in my family had pretty much resolved ourselves to getting the bad news that it was cancerous, we hoped that the doctors would tell her that they had gotten it all and only minor follow-up treatment was required.  Unfortunately, it turned out that the margins weren't clear and although the cancer is small and low-grade, they will need to operate again to either remove more tissue, or possibly the entire breast.  Radiation and/or hormone therapy will follow.

Admittedly, when Mom first told me the news I had a brief moment of thinking "nothing goes right for our family, I can't take much more of this, when will something good happen for us?"  But then I strangely started to realize that, in the grand scheme of things, it could be an awful lot worse.  So far we have no reason to think that this won't work out much the same as it did for M's mom, who went through a very similar diagnosis in the fall and just last week got the all-clear from her radiologist that she doesn't need any more treatments.  Hopefully my mother's situation will be much the same.   But even if it's not...being miserable isn't going to help anyone.  Right now the last thing that my mom needs is to worry about me when she should be focusing on herself.  And I can't support her if I continue to be so self-absorbed in my own problems.

I also started to think about people who get really bad news, like a terminal cancer diagnosis.  I found a few blogs of people who have been living with terminal cancer for years, and who are still doing everything they can to extend their lives even if it means painful treatments and surgeries and pretty much daily agony.  I wondered how I would ever cope if I was in that situation.  Would I just give up and wait for everything to be over, or would I somehow find it in me to forge ahead and wring every last drop of enjoyment out of life while I could?  

At the end of the day, what's happening with my mom provided me with a pretty much-needed lesson in perspective.  I hate to use the old "other people have things so much worse" argument, because infertility brings its own unique kind of loss and grief that no other condition does.  It's world-shattering and life-altering in an incomparable way.  Being miserable is the easy thing to do in response.  It's so much harder to force myself to look beyond it and appreciate all the things I do have to be grateful for.  A wonderful husband, a beautiful home, a loving family, a cuddly dog, a solid job, and the health (mostly) of people I love.  My mom's news was the slap in the face I needed to look at these things again and really see them for the gifts that they are.  I guess that's what they call a blessing in disguise?

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Jumbled thoughts

A week ago today, I got my first BFP.  Then, just as quickly, it was gone.  And with it, any chance I had of a biological child.

It's easy to see why they say not to make any major life decisions while you're in a state of emotional distress.  My mind is all over the place.  While I previously thought that we'd move on to donor eggs if this cycle failed, now I'm not so sure.  The thought of doing any of this ever again fills me with dread and fear.  While I know the odds of success are much higher with donor eggs, they're still not even close to 100%.  Something many of you already know all too well.  The idea of draining what's left of our savings, only to fail again, is unbearable.

If we did go the donor route, where would we go?  Which country?  Which clinic?  Should we pay more for a guaranteed program so that we would get our money back (to possibly pursue adoption) if we fail, or gamble by paying less for just one cycle in the hopes that we'd get lucky on our first try?  What about donor anonymity?  It doesn't bother me, and in some countries it's mandated by law, but would that be fair to a child?  If you want to read a whole lot of stories from donor children who are plenty pissed off that they don't know their anonymous bio parents, go here.  To hear some of them tell it, they'd rather not even exist than be the product of a third party anonymous donor.  M thinks most of the stories are written by angsty teenagers who are in the "I hate my parents / searching for my identity" phase, but I'm not so sure.  There's so much to think about.  It's overwhelming.

On the other hand, would we find peace if we just decided that we were done and walked away from it all?  If we resigned ourselves to a childless life, and resolved to make the absolute best of it with just the two of us?  In the past few days we've talked a lot about how much sadness this struggle to have children has brought to us.  How we've spent basically the first (soon to be) three years of our marriage in a semi-constant state of anticipation, disappointment and heartache.  Sure, we're not constantly sad on a day to day basis (well, not usually).  We've had fun and good times.  But I think we both feel like we've weathered more than our fair share of troubled waters for such a short marriage, and that we deserve some happiness for a change.  Would we find that by stopping treatment?  Or would it just make things worse, knowing that we're giving up forever on the idea of being parents?

I guess I feel like if I knew what path to take, everything would feel better.  But I know that's kidding myself.  I just feel so unbearably sad, all the time, and I want it to go away.  I don't want to have to go to work or see friends and smile and lie and say "good, thanks" when people ask me how I am.  I don't want to have to avert my eyes from the cute baby in line ahead of me at the grocery store because I might lose it and start crying.  I don't want to have to hide my face when my thoughts get the better of me and I start weeping on the subway, big fat silent tears dropping onto my parka as everyone sneaks glances and wonders what's wrong with me.  I don't want any of this.

I just want to feel normal again.  But I don't know how to do that either.