Round two

Today is 11dp5dt, or in English, 11 days past my 5 day embryo transfer. That’s when they inserted two tiny embryos into my uterus and wished me good luck. This also the longest 11 days ever. And the most frustrating. Even though this cycle was SO much better than the last (we had 6/10 get to blastocysts and have four in the freezer now), I can’t get over the sadness and frustration of continually seeing negative pregnancy tests. I have the faintest of faint hopes that my tests are just not sensitive enough, but I’m waning fast.

In my head, I know I can try again, and will keep trying until I’m successful. In my heart, I’m broken and sad and frustrated and having a really hard time with it. I have been trying to stay positive but it’s all just feeling a bit futile at this point.

I was feeling super positive this whole time–through the dieting, the meditations, the vision-boarding, the pep-talking, the pills, the IV’s the potions, the shots, the procedures, the tests–all of it was going so well. And now I fear it’s failed AGAIN. It’s so hard to remain positive when all that’s happening seems to be ongoing frustration.

I will be okay. I will make it through this week at work, and my official test results on Thursday. I will make it through the first two days of next week, and then I’ll be on vacation. I only hope the weather is good where we are going, and that I can clear my head sufficiently to remember all the good and amazing things in my life.

I am just feeling broke, broken, frustrated, old, wrinkly and pathetic today.

The good

I realized yesterday that I tend to only write when I’m unhappy, or there is something nagging at me. It’s a tactic I employ to get things “out there” and therefore out of my head, but the cumulative effect, and the lasting impression it leaves is one of sadness and frustration.

In fact, my life is (mostly) anything BUT sad and frustrated.

So this post is about the good. The amazing things in my life I am fortunate enough to enjoy, and the amazing things I am looking forward to enjoying in my future.

I am super fortunate to live in Canada, where we are largely insulated against many of the world’s woes. And as a woman, living in a country like Canada makes me feel super fortunate that my struggles are not those of women in many other countries.

But more small-scale, and I suppose, more selfish, are the other good things:

  • my husband, with whom I have an amazingly honest and supportive relationship, and without whom I would definitely be a different person.
  • my amazing mother-in-law (who can say that?) who is super supportive of everything her son and I are doing as we navigate this next baby-making journey, the troubles with his ex and his children, and countless other obstacles.
  • my job, which challenges me to be a better human, as well as a better communicator and leader, every day
  • my body, which is about to undergo some more amazing changes as it prepares to bring a baby into the world.
  • my personal emotional resilience–something I really didn’t know I had, but becomes apparent each and every time there’s a hurdle I need to jump. I’ve overcome so many things in the last few years that I never knew I could. It’s amazing what happens when you lean on your determination instead of your fear.
  • my “bump squad,” a term coined by Rosanne Austin and one I now use to describe the team behind my baby-making project: the doctors, naturopaths, counsellors, acupuncturists, pharmacists and all the people in my life who have been supportive of my dreams along the way.
  • and of course, my family, with whom I have a much better relationship now than ever, and who have gone their separate ways with all the dignity and respect they can muster. They remain, individually and together, my personal litmus test for my life (basically, if I know they’ll think whatever I’m about to do is crazy, I know I’m on the right track).

The list isn’t comprehensive, but it is indicative of some pretty great things.

Now, off to conquer the rest of this day!

For my husband’s children

Sometimes when I’m alone, or when I’m with your father, and he’s particularly sad and missing you, I talk to you.

I compose messages to you in my head.

Sometimes those messages are ones of love. Of kindness and of hope that one day you will be the people I have heard you were. Or maybe are, but hide.

Sometimes those messages are angry. I rail at you for hurting the father you were told not to love, and for believing the things your mother says about him. I give you stern talkings-to, about how much love you are rejecting, when so many around the world would kill for the privilege to be you. To be loved unconditionally and without reserve by so many.

Sometimes, I imagine you showing up at our door, and I turn you away. It’s not right, but deep inside me is a part of me that wants you to hurt and understand the rejection you have caused.

Often times, I remember that it’s not your fault. That it was your mother who decided to create a binary life. Him or me. No “and” there. That your father didn’t fight when he could have, and that exhaustion and resentment and old wounds created a world in which you can’t see truth.

But then I wonder–for how long are you going to use your childhood as a crutch to excuse bad behaviour? At what point do you look around and see that you have needlessly caused hurt?

Do you not hurt too? Do you not miss the father that gave you all of his love, all of his life?

I know you don’t like me. I know you are unlikely to ever respect me. In your world, I represent the end of your stability and serve as the harlot to your mother’s martyr. That’s fine. I wish it weren’t that way, but I don’t know you anyway.

I’ve been told you are kind and warm and caring, but I haven’t met those versions of you. I have been told you are young and impressionable, but I haven’t encountered anything less malleable than when you have made up your mind.

So I wish you well. I wish your mother well. I wish you all could find your way to a happiness you are all clearly seeking in the demonization of your father. I wish you didn’t feel that his demise is your way to salvation.

I wish you love. And I’ll use all the love I have to help heal the holes you left in my husband.

Being second

I love my husband. I love him a lot. He is a sweet and kind and wonderful man, who has the most generous heart I’ve ever known. He’s not perfect, as is nobody, but he’s got all the good bits I admire in people and find rarely in such measure.

AND–and here’s another “and” in my life: he has an ex wife.

Now, I also have an ex-husband, who I haven’t seen nor heard from since we got the final divorce papers about 10 years ago. We married young, regretted soon, and divorced quickly. There was no fight, there was no joint property to speak of, so the process was as simple as it gets: $250 and some online forms later, we were as if we’d never been.

The emotional fall out was another thing, but that’s something for another day.

Back to my husband. He had a long relationship with his wife. They had two children and adopted a third. They made a life together, they had a house and family and connections.

Their divorce could not have been more different than mine. Beginning a year before my now-husband and I met, it took four years and was fraught with almost every bad story you could drum up. His wife turned against him, which made the children turn against him, and his life completely fell apart.

Again, not what this post is about.

This post is about how it feels to be second. I understand that the first wife may be bitter. I had nothing to do with their relationship or it’s demise, but I understand that there may be animosity toward the “new” one.

For me, I get no joy in being the “right” one, or the “best” one. I get no joy in being younger than her (I’m actually not sure how old she is–I never bothered to look at that line of the divorce agreement). I get no joy in anything related to her, actually. I wish she didn’t exist. I wish she had never existed–or at least not in my husband’s life.

And these aren’t feelings I’m proud of. I think they speak to a deep-seeded disdain I have for myself, that I’m not sure how to get over. I should be glad they were together, because if they hadn’t, my husband would never have moved to the city in which we met, and our lives would have never crossed.

Instead, I feel shame when I think that my husband had two children easily and naturally with another woman, while we are struggling to conceive on our own. I feel terrible jealousy and somehow less of a woman than her. I feel shame when I think about them living their best years together while I struggled to find my way through toxic relationships, most notably with myself in my 20s and much of my 30s. I experience deep regret when I think back on the ways I shortchanged myself (should I have just had children when I had the chance? Why didn’t I go out with that really nice guy who asked me? How come I gave up on law school, even though I passed the test? What was I thinking?–I didn’t even get that career in world-hunger-solving that I thought I was going to get).

Being second makes me feel like the first loser in life. Being second means that I couldn’t figure out how to do it properly the first time. Being second means nothing (marriage, children, house ownership) is special and new and precious. It’s all “been there, done that.”

These are not comfortable feelings, and not ones that I would admit to in polite company. They are the antithesis of my belief systems and I feel shame in even feeling them.

I know that neither my husband nor I would have found and stayed with each other if we hadn’t been shaped by those experiences. I know that all the situations I found myself in make me the person I am today, and I know that I’m not too old to go back to law school, to change my career, to kick myself in the pants and actually start writing (hello, this blog), and maybe, MAYBE, have children.

So maybe it’s okay that we are second.

As we embark on our next, and second, IVF round, I vacillate wildly between hopeful anticipation, excitement, paralyzing fear, and grim determination. And fears that the “second” try will be worse than the first.

Though maybe this time the second try will be like it was with our marriages: the one that works. Maybe we will have learned enough and changed enough to make it stick this time. Maybe second is where it’s at.

I have to believe that.

My AND list

I have just started listening to the RISE Podcast hosted by the inimitable Rachel Hollis. On one of the episodes, Rachel was interviewing the creator and co-CEO of Noonday, Jessica Honneger, and something she said really resonated with me (the episode aired a few years ago so you may have to search for it if you can’t find it).

Jessica said that she really had to embrace the tension of the “and” in life. While she struggled to find funding for her international adoption, she created a company, making her a founder AND mother. She had to struggle through the hardships that entailed but also faced the judgement of others who said things like “you have to choose which one you want to be,” a sentiment I hear often, and mostly about women as it comes to their family and professional pursuits (no matter how far we’ve come we still never hear men asked how they’re going to choose between work and their family…).

As women, we are barraged with images and unsolicited advice that tells us how we should look, be, feel, act….etc. But it’s very binary. We are taught that success is necessary after sacrifice, that we can’t have it all (I’m not sure if this is true…you just have to pick the bits you want most), or that we can’t be more than one thing at a time.

And really, that’s why I started this blog, and that’s the whole premise behind the admittedly awkward title. A doyenne is defined as a woman who is the most respected or prominent person in a particular field. But I would argue that as women, we are forced to step up and become immediate experts in a number of subjects and skills. Life does not often allow us to find the best positioned expert to tell us what to do. We must figure it out and learn and teach–all at the same time.

In short, we become impromptu doyennes.

My bio intimates at a few of my “ands,” but I thought I’d take the time to write them out here, also. They don’t always contradict, but they do overlap and sometimes, I need to prioritize some over others.

I am

  • a woman and a feminist
  • a wife and a stepmother
  • fiercely independent and needing of intimacy
  • a fighter and a lover, with equal passion
  • an introvert and someone who can talk to anyone, for hours, about ideas
  • a book lover and an outdoor fanatic
  • a driven career-person and resistant to fixed schedules
  • achievement-oriented and goal-driven
  • a voracious learner and voracious eater. Also in equal measure
  • a lover of wine and committed to my health
  • a second-wife and wannabe mother
  • going through IVF and trying to grow in my career
  • learning everyday how much I can do and how much I need to celebrate
  • a lover of small things and big gestures
  • determined and self-conscious
  • perfectionistic and self-critical
  • enthusiastic and exhausted

That’s a few to start with.

It’s the waiting that makes you crazy

The IVF itself is crazy-making. It’s expensive and painful and totally takes over your life. But for me, the hardest thing for the last month has been the NOTHING–just waiting for my next period to come, my next cycle to start, and biding my time until it’s all ready to go.

And the tests. My last ultrasound, supposed to be routine, showed a fibroid that my doctor is “questioning,” (the nurse’s words…). So now I have to go for another test to check that out. Despite being fairly confident it is the same fibroid that was there last time, and the one that didn’t cause any issues, I’m on tenterhooks worrying that this means another setback–another road block in this horror show.

I know it’s not a big deal, really. But the test hurts, and it’s terribly undignified, and I’d really like to get on with the whole process and just try and have a baby. For real this time. I’ve added IV meds to the mix of things I’m doing, including some cocktails to improve my ATP levels and jazz up my mitochondria to improve my egg health. And I am TRYING to sleep better, though that is still a hot mess every night.

And I know sleep is super important. Which just adds to the pressure of the whole thing and creates yet another way for me to become a crazy person–one now wracked with guilt because I’m messing up my eggs, again, and I’m only getting older with each passing day and… it goes on.

So yeah, it’s the waiting that is making me crazy. The pills, the potions, the appointments, even the needles–they are all tangible and measurable items. But the waiting and wondering if the things I’m doing now are good enough for the eggs I’m supposed to be producing with all those needles in a couple of months…that’s the crazy bit!

More waiting-and-seeing to follow.

Sometimes I just lose it

I was trying to explain to my boss how my weekend was and I couldn’t remember. Not because it was a long way away, but because last night I feel like I lost my mind and for some reason it erased the whole weekend.

What actually happened was this: Friday I took the day off work to get some personal housekeeping done–I am tired and worn out with everything going on lately and wanted to take a personal day. So I did. I went to yoga and acupuncture and even though I responded to work emails, I didn’t go into the office.

Saturday, my husband and I drove two hours out of town to meet a guy about a truck. My husband’s truck was stolen from in front of our house a month ago (coincidentally a couple of days after we found out our IVF had failed) and so we were meeting a guy who had one for sale. We’d sent a deposit, and met him at his summer house. He had kindly loaded the truck on a trailer for us so all we had to do was give him the cheque and hand it over. Unfortunately, the truck was in worse shape than we thought, and so we were a bit hesitant to take it. When my husband told him so, the owner got really angry, and threatened to take the truck, and our deposit back home with him. There was a super tense half hour or so during which my husband was fuming and the truck’s owner was angry… it was all very silly, really, if there weren’t so much money at stake.

Eventually, I managed to talk the truck’s owner off his angry pile and he agreed to give us a discount on the truck and we took it off his hands. It was a super tense few moments, and my husband was really irritated as he felt like he’d been blackmailed into buying the truck. Which was kind of true–we really didn’t have much of a choice, and we aren’t the type of people who can afford to walk away from $1,000.

It was a pretty shitty situation all-round, and left a bad taste in our mouths for the rest of the day. We’re still trying to figure out if we should keep this new (to us) truck or not. ugh.

Sunday, my mother called in the morning in terrible pain–she had pulled her back the previous day and was now in so much pain she couldn’t move without fainting. She lives alone in a different city than we do, so this was not great news. Eventually, she had to call 911 and EMS took her to the hospital. I felt awful not being able to be there for her–even just to take her a book or something at the hospital. They ended up keeping her for a night and I was texting and calling throughout the day to keep apprised of the situation. Now, she’s at home and (I hope…) still mobile.

It was super scary, and impacted me more than I thought it would.

So then we get to last night, Monday–the last day of the first long weekend of the summer (though really the summer is SO not here yet–it was snow/rainy all weekend and the sun barely made an appearance). My husband had to work, so I had the day to try and catch up on errands. I needed some things from the outdoor store (waterproof pants for paddling, etc.) so I spent some time there before heading out to practice.

And there was the weekend. Until around 10pm last night–I was feeling SUPER anxious for some reason (I get anxiety-prone sometimes) about how I was going to survive the next two months before my next IVF, worried about this dumb test I have to have next week for this fibroid, and generally just feeling awful and exhausted. My husband said something that made me annoyed and I completely overreacted. While he may have been irritating, and I may have been justified in my emotions, I just completely lost the plot. I yelled and threw a box full of nail polishes (including my new non-toxic ones) on the floor. Why? I have no idea. I was so annoyed at him, at me, at the world. Here we are, both of us with good jobs and good intentions and for some reason my self-loathing tears me to shreds and I act like a two-year-old.

I smashed one of the nail polish bottles (unfortunately NOT the non-toxic ones, so now my house reeks of all the things I’ve been diligently trying to rid it of) and spent the better part of the next hour trying to clean it off the floor and the carpet. I was only minorly successful, and I’m now really annoyed, terribly sheepish, and look like a total psychopath.

I managed to get it together enough to get myself into bed and apologise to my husband (who was non too pleased with my terrible behaviour), and had a restless, nightmare-filled sleep. UGH. I’m embarrassed and angry and feel guilty for being such an idiot on top of everything else.

So when my boss asked about my weekend, when we met at 7:30 this morning, I couldn’t tell her. I still felt the hangover of whatever demons my subconscious is torturing me with.

Apparently my self-love and acceptance work is not done. I feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface.

Gearing up for the second time around

It’s now been two weeks since I got the “you’re not pregnant” call from the clinic, and I’ve been vacillating between depression and determination since. I’m still not sleeping, and when I do I have dreams of death and disaster (last night’s involved escaping from a deadly flood) or eggs. Just eggs. All of the poking and prodding that is involved in egg creation and collection dominates my dreams. It’s crazy-making, and not overly helpful.

My poor husband is at his wit’s end. I spend all my time on Dr. Google trying to figure out how I can overcome my bad egg issue–even though I am doing the one and only thing my doctor suggested, which is taking larger doses of CoQ10–and obsessing about everything I eat and/or drink. I’m totally overwhelmed with “advice” and instead of sticking to one plan, am bouncing back and forth among so many different types of advice I am not doing any of them properly (this, I can assure you–I ate three pieces of pizza and drank some wine last night despite trying to go “low carb” and alcohol free). And then I feel huge amounts of guilt after each infraction (what if that ounce of white bread I ate is the kicker? What if that one glass of wine will mean the difference between doom and success in three months?). This morning I cried when he interrupted me while I was putting on my mascara, to tell me he was going to work. Not really an appropriate response, I would argue. My emotional faculties are wonky, which baffles my poor husband to no end. Never mind the fact that tears and fresh mascara don’t mix.

There simply are not enough eye-rolling emojis to compensate for the strange babbling mess I have become inside.

For someone who has functioned fairly well in society, and who arguably has a fairly high-performing position at work, I feel like the saddest, most downtrodden, directionless puppy in the world. Sometime over the past two years my confidence has plummeted and my capacity for self-help and independence has tanked. I need a direction.

Tonight, I’m going to a naturopath that my husband and I saw months ago, before the failed IUI, and before this “journey” turned into the “treadmill of hell.” I’m looking for help. I’m looking for direction. I’m looking for a way out of my own head and a way forward that won’t further erode my sense of self.

We’ll see how that goes.

So we try IVF

After the dramatic IUI failure of early 2019, we were then told we would only be able to get pregnant if we tried IVF. I remember the previous me of about a year ago, when all this nonsense started, vehemently arguing against IVF: the pills, the shots, the meds–the weight gain and hormonal swings…all of it terrified me. I could never believe I was ever going to be one of “those people” who needed to do this. Funny how your perception changes when it’s you who’s living the story!

And yet, here I was, sitting in the doctor’s office with this option the only one that was going to get us from point a to point baby. We simply couldn’t get my husband’s sperm to mix and mingle with my eggs any other way.

So we agreed, and after another couple of months’ wait, during which my husband had his own set of decidedly uncomfortable clinic visits and had his sperm surgically removed from his testicles, we were on our way. I started my injections, which, although I first balked at the cases of sharps and the bags of syringes, were not that bad.

I think the worst part for me was the time, and the sneaking around work. I didn’t want to tell anyone because I have a job that I love, and I’m trying to remain in the running for new and emerging leadership opportunities. While my workplace is full of, thankfully, a rare breed of high-performing and growth-enabling professionals, I was still afraid that I was not going to be perceived as “at the table” if I told anyone I was trying to get pregnant. So I didn’t.

Instead, I made notes in my calendar and set up my injections on a side table in my office so I’d make sure I did them on time. I went to the clinic to line up before the doors opened at 6:00 a.m. so I’d be able to get into work at a reasonable hour that nobody would question. Over and above the needles, the tests, the internal ultrasounds (all of which I got strangely used to, despite being terribly uncomfortable with the whole thing), the running around at work was the hardest part.

I even managed to do my egg retrieval on a Saturday, so I could recover Sunday and be at work more or less as normal on Monday. It was hard, but not impossible, and I was so proud when I had completed all the steps needed to ensure we had the most eggs we could.

We ended up with 12 eggs, 11 of which were mature, and 6 of which fertilized. At first, I thought this was pretty low, in terms of numbers, but the lovely embryologist told me that we were looking good. For the next five days, I got a call every morning with the status of my eggs. It was fascinating to learn about the mitosis process, and how eggs go through the phases they need to become blastocysts and eventually babies.

On day five after the extraction, I was told to come in for a transfer. Unfortunately that happened to be right in the middle of a conference that my boss had kindly invited me to, so I had to make a lame excuse and duck out for an hour in the middle to go and get the embryos transferred.

I was told that the two embryos they transferred were not quite at the level they needed to be, but they would be “better in than out” and there was still a good chance they would be okay. My lining was great, my health was great, there were no issues they could forsee that would negatively affect the outcome–now all there was to do was wait. And wait.

The next day, they told me that the rest of my embryos had “arrested,” and stopped growing. There was nothing to freeze and so the ones they transferred were my only hope.

That two weeks was awful. I barely slept, I worried all the time, I wavered between bouts of depression and anxiety and hope and expectation. I was terrified to test early for fear I’d jinx the outcome, so I waited until the correct date to do my blood test and then ever more impatiently for the results to come in.

And then they did. And they were negative. All the efforts we had done so far had failed. There were no babies, no frozen embryos, and less hope for success than there was at the beginning of this whole process. It took a long time for me to come to terms with the idea that I had been falsely protecting a womb in which nothing was growing. I felt foolish and silly and embarrassed, and deceived by my own body. I felt like a biological failure.

After a couple of days of wallowing and Netflixing, I tried to put the pieces back together. Thankfully it was Easter weekend, so I had a bit of time off work to get my head back on straight. My husband took the night shifts off (he works shifts, and was supposed to be working through the weekend) and stayed with me, and the two of us tried to come to terms with our most recent disappointment (I’ve been told not to call it a failure, but really…isn’t that what it is?).

As part of the process, the clinic scheduled us an appointment with the doctor to go over what went wrong. And apparently, despite all the months of us thinking that as soon as my husband’s sperm met my eggs, things would be okay–they weren’t. For reasons unbeknownst to my doctor, my eggs were not good quality.

Now, I’m not super old, so that shouldn’t have made such a great difference in ALL embryos, but for some reason, none of the eggs had enough “oomph” to make full babies. This is a bit frustrating, for a number of reasons. And I’m more than a little annoyed, disappointed, and frankly depressed that after all the work we did, the potions and powders and pills and appointments (of which there were many: acupuncture, neuro-feedback, massage, yoga, counselling…you name it) that we ended up with nothing.

Sigh.