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.

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.

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.

The attempts continue

After we realized that baby-making was not going to be as easy for us as we thought, we figured we’d go through the testing procedures recommended by the clinic to see if there were any other impediments. Thankfully, after a few blood tests, and some incredibly awkward internal exams I was NOT prepared for, it appears as though we are biologically fit for the task.

Of course, I’m still of advancing age, and my husband’s sperm has turned into kamikaze fighters, but at least on the outset we didn’t have any additional issues. We were told our chances of conceiving normally, due to these suicidal soldiers was less than 2%. Which was pretty shitty, but we figured we had nothing to lose, so we carried on.

It took a few months for all the testing to be completed and for us to have another meeting with the doctor at the clinic. By this time, we had gotten married (more on that later, also) and were jauntily trying to overcome the odds stacked against us each month. Not surprisingly, this was unsuccessful.

So we decided to try IUI–which really, is just like overly-facilitated sex. The same mechanics come into play, but it’s done at a doctor’s office and timed as precisely as possible. I took the required superovulation drugs (which made me a crazy person), and my husband went off to the clinic to make his deposit. Just before I was about to leave myself, for the insemination process, we got a call and were informed that my husband’s sample contained zero sperm. Nothing. Nadda.

Um, pardon?

I mean, we knew they were being obstinate, but now they were non-existent? Needless to say, the hormonally-charged me took the news really well when we were told we had to cancel the procedure. Apparently the vasectomy reversal had reversed itself, and now my husband’s contribution was stuck at home–no highway out. We were informed that we needed to report back to the clinic together to discuss “next steps.”

“Next-steps” have become the bane of my existence. I envy those out there who’s procreation attempts consist of only one, simple, non-medically-facilitated step.

So now what? Well, now, we do what I feared all along–the one process that gave me nightmares and made my brain and my bank balance hurt. IVF. We simply were not going to be able to get my husband’s sperm to meet my eggs any other way. Regardless of our biological compatibility, now we have a plumbing issue.

Becoming a mother: How it all started (or didn’t).

Though there are a million things out there to read, watch, review and listen to about how great, or not great, becoming a mother is, I never realized how hard it would be. For years, in my 20s, I bargained that I’d have enough time to figure it all out. I married young, the first time, and figured I’d have two children by the time I was 30. No later–that would be ridiculous!

And yet, here I am, at 38, with a divorce, another marriage and countless different life choices behind me, still not a mother.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m lots of other things. I’ve managed to eke out a pretty awesome life, despite some of my glaring mistakes, so I’m not regretting my past. Just saying that I really didn’t see myself here.

My husband now has three children (two biological, one adopted) from his previous marriage. I’ll write more on what that means for us in another post. But the important thing here is that he did father biological children with no problems or complications. And then, as many men do, he got a vasectomy, which has proved to be the bane of our procreation dreams.

After we had been together a couple of years, and had many talks about starting our own family, we consulted the internet, as you do, and chose to get his vasectomy reversed. This seemed like the best way to ensure we could start trying to have a family naturally. I had no known issues that would prevent this, and so off we went, to Toronto, to have him put “back together,” as it were.

Recovery was longer than we expected, but we were told the procedure was successful, and the initial sperm analysis was okay–they were there, and the doctor predicted that they would get more plentiful and stronger with time. So off we went–me tracking my bbt and ovulation and he contributing to the effort at all the right times.

We didn’t anticipate issues, but because by that time I was already in my late 30s, my doctor suggested she refer me to our fertility clinic here. My “advanced maternal age” was enough to make her uncertain as to our chances. So we went.

I anticipated the clinic doctor we met to take one look at us healthy folks and tell us to “keep up the good work,” but I was sadly mistaken. Apparently, while my husband’s analysis had shown sperm, what we didn’t know that these little swimmers had started to produce antibodies that made it nigh impossible for them to penetrate, and therefore fertilize an egg. No matter how wonderfully healthy that was…

Crushed, we were now told that we were officially in the 1 in 6 club: those couples who experience fertility issues for a wide range of problems. Of all the clubs I’ve ever wanted to be in, this was the furthest from my mind. Even knowing how common infertility is didn’t really help. All I remember from that first meeting was a crushing feeling in my chest when I realized that the inevitability of me becoming a mother was not, in fact, the case.