Tuesday, November 22

Candid Infertility

Every January, a pink and yellow bill arrives - the multi layered kind where you tear off your own receipt and put it in the box with the five others.

I hardly remember the first bill, I definitely don't recall the last two (since they never arrived), but I remember the middle years. The years that were part financial burden, part marital unease, part emotional trigger. I never felt a real choice, but Andrew was done at two children.

We had to pay the annual freezing fee, because otherwise it would be gone. But I didn't want to use it - exactly. How do you decide you're done having children? How do you decide when life begins?

I don't have these answers.

One day this summer, I began to panic. We hadn't received a bill since we moved two years ago. For a time, I thought it was the universe taking care of things for us - but that hot July day, things changed for me and I was terrified that it would be gone.

This year we won't have to open that bill because we payed a different kind of bill on the phone, earlier last week. The two thousand dollar kind. A bill with real possibilities rather than indecision.

This bill might just buy us another baby.

At a minimum, it's a chance.

So I am going to break my own rule of late, and not dance around the details. What is a FET? What is IVF? And what's the difference?

Let's start at the beginning shall we!

IVF (in-vitro fertilization... don't worry - there won't be a quiz) with ICSI (introcytoplasmic sperm injection) was our first path to parenthood. In 2010, we were told that our only chance to get pregnant was IVF with ICSI - due to male factory infertility. When we did our original round that year, we paid for everything out of pocket. Something to note - our provincial healthcare system in Ontario would pay for a round of IVF if the woman had a blocked tube back in 2010, but if the issue was on the male side - nothing.

IVF for us, started with the birth control pill, followed by suprefact, puregon and repronex (aka the shot that stung like hell). There was daily monitoring with ultrasounds and blood tests and then, when the time was right, a trigger shot to bring on ovulation. Next came the egg retrieval where a doctor surgically removed all of the eggs that I produced - she got nineteen.

The ICSI part takes place in a lab, where they inject the sperm right into an egg.  The resulting embryos that fertilized were grown for five days, then graded. We had two that were doing very well and they are now our daughters, Alice and Isla. We had a third that was still good and we froze it... six years ago.

We are so lucky that we live in a time where technology is advanced enough to make reproducing possible for us, but it comes with a new set of dilemmas. Some of which, we could have never predicted during our fresh IVF cycle.

What can be frozen, is up to the discretion of the fertility clinic. Each clinic is different. Some will freeze almost anything and others, like our clinic, are quite strict.

When we were undergoing our fresh round of IVF, we wanted frozen embryos. As many as we could get. IVF is expensive and it is a very hard thing.

I hate you. I remember yelling from the floor of our old master bedroom.

Fuck that hurts. Shit I shouldn't be swearing, sorry. I told the doctor performing the egg retrieval (repeatedly).

Dammit I'm bleeding. I told Andrew five days after our embryo transfers.

It worked. He told me as I sat on the staircase crying.

There's the second baby. The doctor told us after some confusion about what we were seeing on the ultrasound screen.

What about the third? A thought, that didn't grace my mind until much later.

FET (frozen embryo transfer) is our answer to the third.

We returned to the fertility clinic in August following a six year hiatus. We approached the entry doors with a familiar longing. But it was different this time.

There is a comfort in knowing that this clinic was able to get us pregnant the last time.

We left that day with hands full of requisitions and hearts full of hope.

Last month I had blood tests, ultrasounds and a saline hysterosonogram and it all came back positive.

You get to do a natural cycle, our fertility specialist told us while tapping her manicured fingers on the desk in mid October.

A natural cycle means no drugs, no at-home needles, no hormones. I called in my cycle on day one, on day eleven I will start daily blood work at the fertility clinic. There will be an ultrasound to measure the thickness of my lining and then they will thaw our embryo.

If it survives the thaw (when it survives the thaw)... two to three days later they will transfer it.

So here I am, sitting in a Starbucks, three hours post acupuncture on cycle day seven, remembering my naturopath's wise words of this morning.

Just take it day by day.


Have you or are you currently going through fertility challenges? Leave a comment or email me directly to chat, candidly about infertility.

P.S. the very best moment, and doing it
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Thursday, November 17

A honeymoon Mantra

You’ll need the malaria test, she says, louder than I deem necessary.

She slips the requisition from my paused fingers and writes on it with big bold script. I feel marked, branded and something akin to a leper. I slide my health card from the reception desk and back away to a vacant chair, avoiding all possible gazes.

Two weeks ago, my boyfriend proposed to me. The next day, I took a seventeen hour plane ride, with a stack full of wedding magazines, as my only in-flight entertainment.

The heat slams into me as soon as we leave the airport. The driver and another man lead us to a large black SUV, hand us cold, moist towels with silver tongs that smell of eucalyptus, before whisking us away to the hotel. The streets are suffocating with cars, bikes and people. Men, women and children wear surgical masks at eight pm in the streets.

I get out of the car and a transparent sheet of pollution greets me. We climb the elevator floors and watch a couple through the glass doors, lounging in the hot tub below. Someone suggests we get naked. I am shown to my room, by a woman, I deadbolt the door and wonder if I can just fly back home instead.

I shower away the flight and cling to the sentences I should have said.

That’s inappropriate seems like the most direct but it doesn’t pack near the punch that I need it to.

That night we walk the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in search of cold drinks and dinner. The city is alive, I feel vulnerable and so far away. I am in Vietnam.

The same nurse calls my name, once again louder than necessary.

I sometimes faint when they take my blood, I warn her.

Oh I’m good, she brushes it off, leading me to a room full of open seating. We head straight for the back corner.

I sit down on the hard chair and give her my right arm. My head lolls slightly to the left, my stomach dropping. She doesn’t even have the band around my arm yet. I wonder where my mother is. She drove me to the clinic.

It’s been a week since I’ve been home and they don’t know why I’m so dizzy. I know what is wrong with me. My body is yelling - enough.

The band is wrapped around my arm, she gives it a tug, likely to get that vein to cooperate. I remember that elevator ride. What he said to me.

She’s going down. I hear as my bones turn to jelly. I slink towards the floor, mental arms raised in acceptance as I surrender to the carpet.

They get me up, four arms just enough to convince my body to get off of the floor and walk with their assistance to a nearby room. Where she should have brought me to in the first place, I can’t help but think, as they bring me orange juice and tell me to lay down for as long as I need. I rub the bandaid on my arm and peel myself up from the table.

We are married in a park, on a sunny day the following July. Two days later, we leave for Mexico. It’s the first time I’ve been on a plane since that trip to Vietnam. This time I don’t have a stack of magazines, the flight won’t take seventeen hours and he won’t be there. I also don’t have Malaria.

The first two days of our honeymoon are spent reminiscing. We relive every moment of our wedding day. Andrew tells me about the swim they took at the cottage that morning, the breakfast they cooked and who was hungover at the wedding. We talk about the generosity of our friends and family and how much fun we had dancing until three in the morning.

I get a pedicure and wince as the aesthetician rubs acetone over my toenails. They are black and blue and I can’t bring myself to care. A small price for of all the congratulatory hugs.

We rub coconut sunblock into our skin, sip champagne at breakfast, order room service, sleep in and do … other honeymoon things. It is more than a trip. It’s indulgent, intimate and completely guilt free. This honeymoon - I’ve never felt so cared for in my life.

We make a game of how lazy we can become.

There are wood plank pathways leading to beach beds with tiny flags that you can raise to beckon a server. We gather kindles and sunglasses and sequester ourselves on those white vinyl beds. We fall asleep, in the warm breeze to the lapping of the ocean. Somewhere between the cool slide of a mojito past my lips and the click to another page on my kindle, I make one of the best decisions of my life. I memorize that moment.

Warm breeze, soft white vinyl bed, cold mojito, the ocean laps, my husband’s arm brushes mine, I curl into him. It’s more than an image, it’s my personal escape and I can grab it whenever I want.

Warm breeze, soft white vinyl bed, cold mojito. I close my eyes, repeat this mantra until the pinch is over for the first of the three daily IVF injections...

Warm breeze, soft white vinyl bed, cold mojito. I close my eyes, repeat this mantra until the egg retrieval is over….

Warm breeze, soft white vinyl bed, cold mojito. I close my eyes, repeat this mantra until the contraction is over….

I carry it with me in my back pocket and throw it at world when I need an escape. I had no idea how that honeymoon would serve me. I only wish I’d had it sooner, to lug with me along with that stack of wedding magazines, to...

I didn’t have this mantra when I got myself out of that situation, but I knew enough to grab onto it when I did. The two were always joined, in my mind - a low with a high.

Five years later, we fly back to Mexico. This time we are parents to two year old twins, it is our five year anniversary and it’s time for a new mantra.

Do you have a mantra that you tell yourself at the grocery checkout while a toddler has a candy craving meltdown? I'd love to hear about it.

P.S. Did you take a honeymoon

(Photo by Nathan Walker)


and In case you missed it - past essays: done, not done , doing it , the secret life of mothers
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