Melancholy, Friendship and the Avoidance Tactic

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Lately, I’ve been stuck in a fog of my own thoughts, unable to gather enough motivation to do more than the basic necessities. When I am feeling this way, having a sense of ennui (<— that is my favourite word as of late), I tend to avoid. I have emails to return, phone calls to make, errands to run, a house to keep, and I just don’t feel like it.

Besides these minor things, I have larger avoidance issues, like with work. I am generally very prompt in my work life; in showing up for work, getting back to people, other such follow-up. Lately, I have been screeching in the door mere minutes before I am to start work, I delay returning emails, and calling clients, for no discernible reason. My work is getting done, but at a slower pace than I am known for, and for no good reason.

Another pretty significant avoidance that I finally tackled came in the form of having a discussion with my best friend. She recently had her second child, and her first was born when I was in the early days of TTC. Her children are living reminders of our ongoing failure to produce offspring. And I won’t lie, that hurts. It hurts my self-confidence, but mostly it has hurt our friendship. I used to always discuss with her what was going on with our conception efforts, when we were still trying au natural, and after we were labelled “officially infertile” and sent off to Ye Olde Fertility clinic. Right around the time of our last IUI that stopped. She found out she was pregnant with her newest addition sometime between my first and second IUIs. It put us in an awkward position, but I tried to push past it. As her belly became more prominent, I withdrew from her.

After our final IUI, I told her it didn’t work, and that we had an appointment in April at the fertility clinic to discuss next steps. After that, not a word was uttered. It was like there was a silent agreement between us not to discuss it. She didn’t ask, and I didn’t offer. We saw each other very few times in her second trimester, and not at all in the third. I made the obligatory visit (that sounds terrible, considering she’s my dear friend) when the baby was born, and it was very awkward. You could cut the tension in the air with a knife. I brought hubby along to try to defuse the situation but it probably only made it weirder, not to mention then both of us felt shitty after we left.

Even in times when my friend and I haven’t seen each other often, we generally keep in touch, with a text here and there, or through Facebook. Even that had started to wane. Finally a couple of weeks ago, she reached out, and we made tentative plans to get together. Those plans fell through because I procrastinated getting in touch with her until it was too late. I sent her a text a couple of days after, apologizing for missing our date, and earnestly offered to try for another day. We settled on a time and a place, and rescheduled our date. 

I should also mention, that her older son turned 2 earlier in August (actually the day after our missed meet up) and I didn’t remember the date. I knew his birthday was in early August, but by the time I looked up the date, it had already passed. I apologized and sent him belated birthday wishes, but I know she was hurt. Although, apparently I was not the only friend who didn’t remember (not a good excuse though).

We met up on a Sunday afternoon at my place and walked to a nearby restaurant that we used to frequent together, for margaritas and nachos. Our conversation was superficial and stunted, as I asked about life with two littles, and she asked about my life (with not a whole lot going on). We both knew we were side stepping the issue at hand, and I had every intention of discussing it, but she beat me to the point, and asked what was going on. She knew we had had our appointment in April, and she hadn’t heard anything from me about it. I let out a sigh, and an apology for not keeping her posted (not that I owe her that, but I knew she would be wondering).

I dove right in, and told her basically we were half way through IVF. I knew she had no concept of how IVF really worked, so I gave her the quickest run down of what transpired without bogging her down with too much information. I know she doesn’t understand the emotional toll of it all, and she seemed hopeful for me when I told her we had 5 embryos on ice. I told her more than once that it doesn’t always work on the first try, or at all, but I think she wanted to be the positive angel on my shoulder. Obviously if someone is telling you they are about to do something that may not work, you’re not going to agree and tell them it’s a shit idea. So, I can understand her somewhat misguided reassurances.

I told her I was sorry for being a bad friend, but that it was really difficult when she was pregnant, and that she has what I have been struggling for. She sort of just let that part slide, we didn’t really get into it. I know there’s nothing she can do about it, and it’s probably hard for her that I feel that way. Despite my avoiding her, it is harder and harder for her and I to find time to see each other, and when we do it’s just not the same. We live such different lives, and sometimes it’s hard to find common ground anymore. Why do I need to be part of the mommy club just to relate to my best friend?

But in the end, I know I need to make a better effort. Just because we’re in very different stages in our lives, doesn’t mean we have to cease being friends. As I was telling J how I feel like I don’t relate to her anymore, he told me I can’t expect to live a mirror of her life. I was gobsmacked by his wise words, he’s not really the type to bestow sage words of wisdom (love the guy, but just not his style usually). And then I felt shame, because of course he’s right. I have friends of all different types, and stages of life. They are my friends because I like them as people, not because they are a reflection of my life.

This past weekend I had a short burst of motivation, enough to clean the house thoroughly (partly motivation, partly due to the fact that we had company for dinner yesterday). Today I had a day off, with no pressing errands to deal with, but I didn’t want to spend the day inside laying on the couch. I made myself go out, got some sushi for lunch (because I can, little win for the infertile girl!), walked to my favourite tea shop and pick up some of the new seasonal teas, and got some banking done. When I came home I finally made some mint ice cream custard (to be churned tomorrow) that I have been procrastinating for weeks (and J has been reminding me of, he really wants some), then since I was on a roll, I made some chocolate protein balls, and some homemade peanut butter (all you do is put peanuts in a food processor and let them go, can you believe it’s that easy?).

I have to take advantage of my momentary burst of energy when they come. I am working on pushing through the fog, taking care of my life, surviving until I can start focusing on what I need to do for the transfer, but it’s hard. The littlest things get put of and put of, and everything just seems like too much effort. How do you survive periods of limbo without sleepwalking through life?

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The Lucky Ones

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This week two of my IVF buddies have had less than stellar news, both to do with the quality of their embryos. Both had stimulated well, and had high hopes for the number of quality embryos they might have only to find out this would not be the case. In an instant my perspective changed; am I the lucky one? Throughout this journey and in life I’ve never considered myself “lucky”. Lucky to have suffered through a year of trying naturally with no success? Lucky to have been diagnosed infertile? Lucky to have tried, and failed 3 IUIs? Lucky to have had to endure IVF, as my last resort for biological children (still with no promise that that will be the result)?

In my mind, those that get pregnant in the first month are the lucky ones, or just as they are seeking IF treatment, those elusive two lines make their appearance. Even the ones who have success with IUIs, although I wish no one had to get to even that point. But then there are those who see me as the lucky one, to have five good quality (one perfect) day five embryos waiting on ice for me, when there are others who end up with four, two, none? There are those who have to do multiple rounds of IVF, suffer through OHSS, end up with no viable embryos, learn that IVF will not be the solution to their infertility. Not to say that my battle is over, my embryos do not promise me a flesh and blood baby to take home (yet), but I do have them for now. Others may see my cycle and see me as lucky.

Puts things into perspective. I suppose although there are people I look to thinking “I wish that were me”, there are people that look to me and think the same. I try and remember this as I wish I had more embryos, that I wish an IUI had work for us, when I wish we had succeeded naturally. Maybe I am one of the lucky ones?

*I won’t count my chickens though, for all I know, all my of embryos could be crap.

Emotional Hangover

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Today has been a bit of a downer day, I am having one of those days where I am just struggling to stay afloat. I didn’t have to work today, which I am thankful for, as this week has bee a trying one work-wise (though I do have to work tomorrow). I think all of the emotion over the past few months came to a culmination with the egg retrieval and final count of our frozen embryos. There was impatience in waiting to get started, feeling like we were finally moving again after being stalled for several months once I reached CD1 and called in to start my cycle. Leading up to starting our IVF cycle there was anticipation, hope, nervousness, and a little bit of excitement. The massive ups and downs of the stimming, and then retrieval. Waiting for the phone calls from embryology to up date us on our growing little balls of cells, there was always a next thing to move toward.

And now, nothing. Just like my estrogen levels came crashing down, so too have my emotions. I am once again left with waiting, waiting for the next piece to start. Although I am happy to have a next piece, that will hopefully be the final piece, I am somehow left with a feeling of melancholy. The immense crush of infertility is again resting on my shoulders. I was able to put it aside for the task at hand that was IVF, but now it’s just limbo again.

I think know that part of this feeling is due to the fact that we have to choose whether to transfer one embryo or two. Before we even started our cycle I had my mind set on one (depending on the quality of the embryos) and I am still firm in that decision, especially since they are all of good quality. The problem is that J is not in agreeance. We had a very short, very emotional, clipped conversation about it the other night. He wants two, I tried to explain my side to him, but he doesn’t really even want to discuss it. Not because he doesn’t want to see my side, but he is very emotional about it. He just told me to choose, that he didn’t want to argue about it. I don’t want to argue about it either but I did want to discuss it. He told me he wants to do whatever will give us better odds because he doesn’t think he can go through another failure. I don’t see that as a good enough reason for us to take the riskier chance of multiples to increase our odds, when even that is not a guarantee that it will work. Not with the first transfer at least.

With my age, and the fact that we are dealing with MFI, which has been overcome by using ICSI, I feel that we have a genuinely good chance of our first single FET working. Our clinic gave us the average success rate for a single transfer being around 45%. Now interestingly enough, this is not our clinic’s figure, it is from Quebec, where IVF is provincially funded, but only for single transfer. Our clinic does not do enough single transfers to have the data for success rates. So obviously my choice of a single is not a popular one. I am willing to do a double but only if the single doesn’t work. I asked the embryologist if doing two single transfers was equal to doing a double, and he told me no. For some reason double embryo transfers do better, as if the embryos help each other, even if only one of them implants. It is some sort of weird anomaly that makes it even harder for me to turn away from a double transfer.

We have time to decide, but I doubt either of us will change our minds. If he is telling me to decide, then he is consenting to a single transfer, even if it is not what he wants, I feel it is what’s best. I just don’t want to feel guilt if a single doesn’t work. I feel doing a double right off the bat, for us, is like taking a risk, just to get something done more quickly. One may be enough, and then we would have 4 left for future use, if we want.

So, all in all, infertility is still beating me down. I thought I might have a nice reprieve between my retrieval and transfer, but I should have known better.

Invested in the Grey Area

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Throughout this process, the whole process, from the first month of trying to conceive naturally, through the first appointment at the fertility clinic, and during our IUIs, I have never felt like we have had any tangible success. We’ve never been pregnant, I’ve never seen those double lines. Even during the IVF process, I was focused on taking my meds, growing those follicles, and making it to the retrieval. It was all matter of fact, specific, detail-oriented. Obviously there have been a lot of emotions through this journey, ups and downs, tentative hope and crushing failure, but nothing true and real to pin our hopes on.

When we first visited our fertility clinic, there didn’t seem to be any reason why IUI wouldn’t work for us, but I don’t know that I ever had any faith in that. At the same time, I desperately hoped it would work because I just couldn’t do IVF. In my mind, I wasn’t strong enough, brave enough, didn’t want to spend the money when “normal people” get babies for free, and never thought we would get to that point. I was just in denial. As time went on, and IUIs continued to fail, I came to the realization that IVF may be our last hope (for our own genetics at least). I came to peace with it, but was still nervous about making it through.

Though I was miserable on my meds, had many scary moments where my cycle could have been cancelled, and am still bitter that this is where our journey has brought us, I did it because I have to know I did everything to get our take home baby. As of now, we are one step closer than we have ever been to that becoming a reality.

We got the call the day after retrieval that out of 13 eggs, 9 were mature. This is pretty much exactly what I expected as there were two larger follicles that would have held over-mature eggs, and two small follicles that would have most likely been immature eggs. Out of those 9, there were 7 fertilized with ICSI. On day three of growth, those 7 had continued to divide normally, and one more of the original 9 had decided to join the bunch, though it was slow and only of fair quality. As of this morning 5 made it to freeze. There is one straggler still, only of fair quality, so I’m not counting on that one. First big hurdle done, now let’s just hope they thaw well…

We have created living cells that are half him, and half me. This situation begets a bit of a grey area for me. Although I am pro choice, and think that people need to do what is best for their own situation, I am already attached to these embryos. They are us, and could give rise to our child(ren). I found myself thinking of them often, growing and multiplying in the lab. They are now frozen in time, suspended until they can be transferred to my uterus. Created Jul. 31 but waiting on ice until it’s time to come home.

It is surreal. I have a hard time wrapping my head around it, and yet I am already so invested in them. I know we still have many hurdles to get through, the thaw, the transfer, carry to term, and birthing a child. Hope can be a dangerous thing, but I can’t help but hope, that one of those embryos is our baby.