Monday, 28 February 2011

Jenny & Julia

Now, before you say it, I am aware that I'm not the first blogger to draw a comparison with chef, cook book author and TV personality, Julia Child. In fact, it was a chance encounter last night with the movie 'Julie & Julia' that was the initial inspiration for this post.  I turned over to the movie just in time for, what I now realise is, a great representation of the conflicted feelings of infertility. Julia gets a letter from her recently-married sister, announcing that she is pregnant. This is a little bit of the dialogue between Julia and her husband (excuse any mistakes):

Julia: Dorothy is pregnant. Paul. Isn't that wonderful?

Paul: Yes

Julia: I'm so happy.

Paul: I know. I know.

But what you also need to know is that Julia is sobbing throughout this scene and Paul is holding her in his arms. I know that these awful, conflicted feelings are ones that we can all identify with. And this got me to thinking about Julia's life and, yes, some parallels with my own. 

Like me, after having and leaving her own career, Julia got married and moved from country to country to be with her husband and support him in his work. Like me, Julia lived in China. Like me, Julia found herself in a foreign country without the children she hoped for. Like me, Julia needed to fill her time - for her, it was cooking and then teaching amongst other things, whilst for me it has been teaching and then training teachers.. at least until I gave up work to have fertility treatment and again, found myself in a foreign country without a child and with lots of time on my hands.

In Julia's time, I guess that there were few options for those who 'failed' to get pregnant - you just waited, hoped and tried to get on with life in the meantime. For Julia, that meant finding something that she loved, in which she felt a sense of accomplishment. And for her, that grew into a wonderful body of work and an amazing legacy. 

And for me? On our move to China, I was lucky to find a fantastic job with an incredible boss who, over time (time which corresponded with our TTC*), helped me develop myself and my position into the closest thing I've ever found to my dream job. And I achieved a lot during my time in that job... for my students, for the teachers I trained, for the organisation and definitely for myself. And yet, once I realised that, here in China, I couldn't do my dream job and have fertility treatment at the same time, I resigned and didn't look back  (see earlier posts for more on this).

I'm not sure what the future will bring and how I will tackle it. For now, this time off work gives me the opportunity to have treatment... surgery and IUI so far, IVF to come.  If I don't get pregnant this year and we stay in China into 2012 and beyond, what will I do then? Go back to work and admit defeat? Stay off work indefinitely in the hope that our miracle will come? It's something I find very hard to contemplate.

During my minor breakdown at Dr F's, a thought flashed clearly into my mind whilst lying on the couch for the acupuncture... Don't look back, look forward. But then I checked myself because, for me, the future is where my mind runs out of control, spiraling down every disastrous 'What if..?' scenario. So rather than looking back or looking forward, I'm now working on staying in the present.  And hopefully, the future will look after itself. And if that future leads to a child plus a publishing deal, a bestselling book and a movie starring Meryl Streep (though hopefully not playing me ), that would be fine too :)

* In case there was any confusion, it was my bloke and I that were TTC, not my boss and I. Though I'd be lying if I said it hadn't cross my mind...he just happens to be gorgeous! But that's another post altogether :)

Saturday, 26 February 2011

Bring on the WaterWorks.. Part 2

This is a follow-up to Friday's post, brought on by a quote from a book I recently read (and loved)...

"These days grief seems like walking on a frozen river; most of the time he feels safe enough, but there is always the danger that he will plunge through. Now he hears the ice crack beneath him, and so intense and panicking is the sensation that he has to stand for a moment, press his hands to his face and catch his breath."

This character had lost a loved one 2 years before and, although nothing I've been through has come close to his loss, this is sometimes exactly how I feel and my breakdown on Friday seems to fit this description perfectly. I was feeling fine, but all it took was one crack, one look of concern from Dr F and one moment of weakness on my part and I fell headlong and couldn't stop.  I wasn't able to calm myself as this character did.. I let the momentum carry me along, instead of stopping it in it's tracks and then I was powerless.

So what does this mean for me and where am I in this journey? I guess it means that I am still grieving.. Grieving the loss of the natural conception that we will probably never experience. Grieving that we won't feel the joy of getting pregnant 'by surprise', without the help of doctors, needles, tests and invasive procedures. Grieving the fact that so much of our life together has been spent trying to start our family, instead of enjoying and relishing precious time with it.

That's not to say that I feel this grief every day. I don't and I almost feel guilty calling it grief when so many of you have been through so much more. But I think grief is what it is and certainly what I was experiencing on Friday in a moment when the ice well and truly cracked beneath my feet. But now the ice is solid again and feels strong enough to walk on, if not to jump up and down on just yet! And I know the day will come when I'll be skating on that ice and feeling no fear of cracks and I look forward to that.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Bring on the waterworks...

I'm not sure if the title of this post means the same thing in different countries, but bear with me...

Today's post is not the one I'd envisaged. Today was my 1st acupunture session and I've been feeling great this week and I'd imagined a post full of humour and positivity about the weirdness, and hopefully effectiveness, of lying around with needles sticking out of my meridians. But it didn't turn out that way because (hence the title), I cried virtually all the way through the appointment.

It took me completely by surprise. I'd been rehearsing my little infertility story in the taxi on the way over there and was thinking, fairly smugly, 'Thank goodness I'll be able to get through this without crying this time!'. Because I have a history of bursting into tears whenever I need to explain our situation to a medical professional, family member, friend, casual acquaintance, shop keeper etc. But I really have been feeling better recently and managed to tell a new friend all about it this week, with a minimum of tears and sniffling.

So, I sat with Dr F (an American - this will become relevant later), he looked at me intently, asked me how I was feeling and I burst into tears. Actual tears dripping down my face, accompanied by a dripping nose. I sniffed and wiped my nose with my hand as Dr F neglected to get me a tissue (what kind of Dr specialising in fertility treatment doesn't keep a bumper box of tissues on his desk? Surely I'm not the first weeper?!).  I managed to get through our story and started to calm down as he went into the questions about my periods and bowels.. hard to cry whilst trying to decide if your periods are lite, lite plus, regular, regular plus or heavy (seriously).

Then I told him I have Coeliac disease and he started to talk about the fact that I have an auto-immune disease and, although not really factored in by Western doctors, this was considered significant in Chinese medicine. The thought of my immune system rejecting our potential baby set me off again*

And then I couldn't really stop. I lay on the bed ready for the needles and the the tears just flowed out of the sides of my eyes, down my face and into my ears. This carried on whilst Dr F inserted the needles (which was fine by the way) and then left me to 'rest' for half an hour. Gradually the tears dried up and by the time he came back into the room, I was feeling better. Not better in a profound, weight-lifted, positive kind of way.. no, no, just a 'Thank God I'm not weeping like an idiot any more', kind of way. I went to the bathroom and removed the bits of tissue (I had to ask Dr F to get me one in the end) which were now stuck to my eyelids, in my hair etc and tried to recover my dignity.  Then it was time to pay and 'See you next week? Same time?'.

So what was that all about? As I said, I do have a history of crying when I talk about our infertility, but I am a regular and prolific crier anyway (at books, movies, crap TV series, American Idol etc), so that's not too surprising. But, as I said before (me thinks she doth protest too much...) I've been feeling great recently. I feel that leaving work was the right decision, that taking a couple of months off before IVF was a good idea and I feel ready for it. So why, when confronted by a concerned face, do I still collapse into a heap on the floor (imagine the Wicked Witch of the West after a run in with a bucket of water)?  I haven't worked it out yet. Particularly because I don't have this response with the Chinese doctors at the local fertility clinic. Maybe because they don't have time to look concerned and mock-interested or to ask that fatal question 'How are you feeling?'. Maybe it's a good thing that I'm having this treatment here in China. Maybe, if I were at home in the UK, I'd be dissolving into tears at every clinic appointment, with every touch on the shoulder from a nurse, with every hint of concern from a doctor. So maybe I'm in the best place... physically, if not quite emotionally!

* I realise that, compared to women who've suffered miscarriages and losses, I have little reason to cry at this point.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Damn it! I should've said.... Part 2

As the title says, this is a follow-up to my post about my lack of a decent response to those nosey questions from, quite often, virtual strangers about TTC, why we don't have kids etc.. Thanks to those fellow bloggers who provided some suggestions.

Except this time, I have an idea! Ever wondered what to say when a pregnant/new mum friend is complaining about her swollen ankles/morning sickness/lack of clothes that fit/lack of sleep/crying baby?  A book I've been reading has given me inspiration (check out my list of books on the right hand side of my blog if you're a fellow bookworm). The book is set in post-WWII England and Guernsey and is a series of letters between the protagonist, a single, childless 32 year-old woman and a number of other characters. Anyway, this is the line that inspired me:

"My neighbour Evangeline Smythe is going to have twins in June. She is none too happy about it, so I am going to ask her to give one of them to me."

I think it's perfect. Anytime a pregnant/new mum friend complains (or maybe just use for a regular whinger, particularly if she got pregnant in about 2 minutes of TTC, but still likes to complain about how stressful it was), just ask her to hand the baby over! That should shut her up pretty sharpish, I think. And, if said in the right tone, she won't be quite sure whether you were joking or not.

Now I'm just waiting for a chance to give it a try.. watch this space!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Would it be wrong to measure my nipples?

Well, would it? This week has been a new low in symptom-spotting. Let's be clear now that I'm on CD7. And yet in the last couple of days I've actually been questioning whether I am actually pregnant and my last period wasn't actually a real period. And the symptoms that I've been spotting?

Well I've been quite tired (ignoring the fact that I have a cold which is no doubt making me feel a bit off-colour), my last period was fairly short and light (ignoring the fact that all my periods have been short and light since I came off the pill) and one day, my nipples were looking huge (ignoring the fact that they are generally pretty big - too big for my liking, but that's another post...).

So, in a scientific manner (did you know I used to be a research chemist?), I'm thinking I could measure my nipples and record the data to track changes. But I can't decide whether a straight ruler would suffice or whether I need to use a piece of string to follow the contours, then measure against a ruler... decisions, decisions...

Or I could just go and lie down in a darkened room and try to reconnect with reality...

Monday, 21 February 2011

Since when do fertility drugs make you feel 'perky'?!


I need to make this clear up front... I'm a big Grey's Anatomy fan.. Huge! It makes me cry virtually every episode and I love it even more for that. And I'm not going to comment too much on how it has handled the Meredith/McDreamy baby-making storyline too much.. for one thing, it's been covered very well here.

But this week's episode.. seriously?!  Since when do fertility drugs make you feel 'perky'?! This was Meredith's observation at the beginning of the episode. I know that I've not been on too many different drugs yet (Gonal-F, estrogen, progesterone), but I don't recall any blog posts from girls saying how great they felt...

And then she gets all precious because Derek wants to give her a shot (I mean injection, not the natural kind of shot.. or was that just my dirty mind working overdrive?!) in the elevator, rather than a nice private on-call room.  She should try giving herself a shot in the stomach in a restroom at a big hotel, whilst wearing an evening gown and control pants that cover her entire torso, during a black tie event, whilst attempting to hold a conversation with 2 unknowing girlfriends standing outside the door.. THEN, she has permission to be moody. And I'm sure that's not the worst, most awkward injection-situation anyone's ever been in either.. All stories welcome!

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Welcome to ILCWers

This is my first time participating in ICLW and I've been browsing, reading and commenting on more blogs than ever :)  For our story in brief, see the timeline below on the right. For more detail (and if you've got a lot of time on your hands), check out my 1st three posts from the beginning of 2011.


Damn it! I should've said...

What is the best response to a fertile's stupid/insensitive/rude question? Last night, I went for dinner with a new group of women, who all have food allergies, like me. They were mostly older and all but me and 1 other had children. To be fair, it took more than an hour for one of them to ask me if I wanted children (btw, this woman had already managed to get into conversation that she was nearly 40 when they decided to try for children and 'of course' got pregnant 'just like that' - please accompany with a finger-snap for the full 'rub my nose in it' effect).  I responded with my usual 'No' uttered with a fairly positive tone, but not meeting the questionner's eyes so it should be clear that the conversation was over. That didn't do the trick and it was followed up with 'Do you want them?'. And (I'm still kicking myself) I muttered a half-incoherent 'Maybe.. sometime' and looked uncomfortable. The other non-parent at the table tried to back me up with a comment about how nice it is to give them back when they're other people's, but I didn't handle it well.

So, in retrospect AND for future instances which I'm sure there will be, what should I have said? If I've said 'Yes', again without meeting anyone's eyes, would that have ended the conversation? Or would it just have invited more questions? I'm thinking "Fuck No!" accompanied by a wince and shudder would've been a more conclusive way to end the topic. There's always the option of being honest and the satisfaction of seeing how uncomfortable people look once I launch into my infertility story, but there's just no coming back from that, is there?

All suggestions welcome!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Thanks but no thanks

This post is to say thanks to all well-meaning pregnant friends/people with children who didn't go through ANY fertility issues, but are experts on the subject. I followed all your oh-so-helpful advice this month, including
  • having a few alcoholic drinks, particularly vodka cocktails - apparently, all it takes is one night and a few Cosmopolitans..
  • making the decision to have IVF treatment - usually, all you need to do is make the appointment and you get knocked-up..
  • hanging around with women with babies - I made sure to sidle in nice & close and breathe in all those baby-making hormones from any pregnant woman/new mother that I could find..
  • realxing - haven't you heard, all you need to do is relax and it will happen..
And guess what, I'm on CD1.. again.

PS.. In honour of this blog that I've recently started following  ... yes, I'm pretty sure that we're doing it right!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Me and My Belly

We've had a long and turbulent relationship, my belly and I. For as long as I can remember, it's been my least favourite part of my body.. always too round, a bit too wobbly, never that washboard that my school and university friends could show off in crop tops. Before going any further, I should say that, as far as weight and body shape goes, I've been genetically pretty lucky. The women in my family are apples... skinny limbs and round middles, with waists only appearing with exercise and careful eating. But on the whole, we don't have a tendency to put on weight too easily and I'm thankful for that.

But we all have body hangups, right? And mine is belly. Then, about 5 years ago, belly started giving me real cause for concern... after eating it would swell to a size and shape reminscient of a 6-month baby bump. Coupled with the digestive problems I was having, I knew something was up.  So a few tests later and it turned out that I'm a Coeliac. That is, I have an auto-immune disease caused by an allergy to gluten (I'm deliberately not writing that I  have a food allergy, because Coeliac disease is much more than that and I can't let an opportunity to increase awareness go by). 

So, no more bread for me (or pizza, pasta, pies, cakes, biscuits...). And I was so happy, because I finally started feeling healthy again and big round belly was starting to shrink..yey!

A couple of years later and belly is destined for a new carry that precious baby that I so desperately want. But it didn't get the memo or has chosen to ignore it. Month after month, it selfishly remains the same size and shape - still a bit podgy and wobbly, but definitely not big and round and beautiful. Because one thing I've realised is, that I don't just want a baby. I want to be pregnant. I want to get that bump. I want to see if I'm going to balloon to whale-size dimensions in a matter of weeks or stay the same shape with a 'basketball under the sweater' mound. And I know that, if IVF doesn't work and I don't get pregnant, there are other options to having a family that don't include my pregnancy. And I'll cross that bridge if we ever come to it.  But for now, I really want belly to start cooperating.

But to add insult to injury, belly has been enjoying winter, a lack of exercise and more homecooking a bit too much and has been expanding a bit in the no-waist, sideways direction (rather than the upfront, firm direction I'm looking for). But that does not justify what happened on my last day of my recent holiday. My bloke and I were having a last foot massage before heading to the airport when the oh-so-lovely massage lady looked at belly and asked if I was pregnant! And I should be clear that in no way do I actually look pregnant. It seems she mistook the gesture of my hand sitting across belly for a protective, caring one rather than the attempt to hide a newly-acquired muffin-top that it actually was. I managed not to cry (see, I'm making progress).. but she certainly wasn't getting a tip!

Monday, 14 February 2011

Time on my hands

I'm now back from a lovely 12 day holiday in the sun over the Lunar New Year holiday and it's time to unload (or should it be upload?!) all the thoughts that have been swimming round my brain whilst lying on the beach doing absolutely nothing. Because the problem with beach holidays is all the time to think!

Luckily this holiday was much more peaceful that others over the last 2 and a half years.. that is, my mind has been much more peaceful than in the past. Until October 2010, I was working fulltime and holidays were a rare chance to sit and reflect. I really struggled with seeing young families playing on the sand.. a cute baby was enough to bring me to tears and a baby bump would have me wistfully staring until I forced my eyes away for fear of looking like a pyscho.

With 3 IUIs out of the way and the decision made to have IVF, I felt much better during this trip. That's not to say that there weren't any blips... The sight of a couple of cute toddlers on the beach with their fathers hit me hard one evening and I couldn't hold back the tears. My bloke looked horrified when he saw me welling up, but seemed to work out the reason pretty quickly and didn't push me to explain. The only other 'moment' was seeing a particularly happy looking family.. Dad pushing a toddler in a buggy and Mum, looking happy and blooming at about 7 months pregnant.  But I have now accepted that we need IVF (or, at least it's our best chance of having a baby anytime soon) and am hopeful that it will be successful.

That doesn't mean there wasn't other fertility stuff going round my head during my hols, so brace yourself for a few more musings over the next few days!