Monday, 29 April 2013

Enough with the f$%&ing chicken fingers!

Tomorrow will be our two year wedding anniversary.  I think it's pretty safe to say, like many infertiles, our first couple of years of marriage haven't exactly worked out the way we thought they would.  We had about 6 months of wedded bliss before we started TTC, and it's been a reproductive roller coaster ever since then.  But on the plus side, we're still talking to each other and no one has filed for a restraining order just yet.

This weekend we went for an early anniversary dinner at one of my favourite restaurants.  If you're ever in Toronto and looking for a recommendation, you should definitely try to get a reservation at Ruby Watchco.  It's run by former Food Network celebrity chef Lynn Crawford, and the concept is that they source local, seasonal ingredients to make a different set four-course menu every night.  They do of course make allowances for food allergies and legitimate dietary restrictions, but otherwise there's no choice and what's on the menu for that day is what you get.  Everything I've ever had there has been fantastic, and at $50 for four courses cooked by a celebrity chef (who is actually there every night, working the kitchen and cleaning your table like a regular joe), it's a pretty sweet deal.

The first time we went there for dinner last year, M demonstrated both why I married him and why I can't take him anywhere nice.  I had filled him in on the concept for the restaurant ahead of time, so he knew damn well there was no choice involved.  That didn't stop him from starting, a couple of days before our reservation, from talking about how much he was looking forward to going out because he had a hankering for chicken fingers.  This from a man who without fail orders either steak or ribs no matter where we go.  I wryly reminded him (several times) that chicken fingers were unlikely to be what Chef Crawford would be cooking for us that evening.

The night of the actual dinner, the real comedy routine began.  First, there was his overstated childlike anticipation of being able to order chicken fingers no matter what I said to the contrary.  

M: I can't wait to order me some chicken fingers!
Me: Yeah, well, like I said, you can't order there. 
M: I've had a real craving for chicken fingers all week.
Me: That's unfortunate, because like I told you, we won't be having chicken fing...
M: They're gonna be the best chicken fingers ever!!

Then, there was his feigned disappointment when we arrived at the restaurant and the evening's menu inevitably did not include chicken fingers.  This quickly degenerated into overly dramatic belligerence at the fact that he couldn't order any Jesus chicken fingers.

M: What??  This place calls itself a restaurant??  They don't even have chicken fingers on the menu!!
Me:  No?  Shocker.  Well, too bad.
M: This is outrageous!  I demand to speak to the manager!  I want to see Ruby Watchco!  Someone bring me Ruby!
Me:  You mean Chef Crawford?
M:  No, I mean Ruby Watchco, the owner!  The one the restaurant is named after.  I want to talk to her.  Where is she?  Where's Ruby?
Me:  There's no Ruby.  And there's no fucking chicken fingers!

The best part was when, at some point during his diatribe, Lynn Crawford actually ended up coming out into the main dining area to put some clean glasses onto a waiter's station less than three feet from us.  I was quite enjoying his performance and was tempted to let him keep going, but eventually shushed him lest she overhear and wind up thinking that we actually were some pair of unsophisticated chicken-finger-demanding rubes as opposed to the sophisticated foodies I like to pretend we are.  Of course as soon as I told him where I wanted to go for our anniversary dinner this year, the everloving chicken finger bullshit started again.  Honestly, I think I would have been disappointed if it hadn't.

I play the part of the exasperated wife pretty well, but the reality is that his shenanigans make life worth living and I couldn't imagine things any other way.  While I still hope at some point we can welcome a child into our life, I know that even if we can't, we'll be OK.  As long as there's chicken fingers.

Thursday, 25 April 2013

A friend comes through

Yesterday morning I had an email waiting from Derek.  I know he came off sounding pretty bad in my last post, but I'm happy to report that he completely redeemed himself.  

Apparently I'm not the Oscar-worthy actress I thought I was, since he knew something was up during our phone chat.  But since he knew I was in a big shared office he didn't want to ask me about it at work.  In his email he came clean about their IVF, and told me how sorry he was that he hadn't been able to share it before but apparently his wife had sworn him to secrecy from all but their closest friends and family.  He was hesitant to even try IVF, since after months of trying with no success he had basically convinced himself that he didn't want kids anyway, since "it would make the reality easier to accept."  His wife has pretty bad endometriosis, and they actually had an ectopic pregnancy on their first IVF.  He said he knew that it was probably hard to hear his news given our situation, and he understood that but didn't want to leave me out of the notification calls because my friendship was important to him. 

I wrote him back and apologized for not being able to be as excited as I should be about their pregnancy.  I told him about our most recent failed FET and how hard I've been finding things.  I also confessed that I had put the pieces together about their IVF but didn't want to bring it up if he didn't want to share it with me.  He responded that, during our previous conversation when I told him about our situation, he really wanted to tell me but didn't want to break his wife's confidence.  Can't blame a guy for that.  But he clearly understood my reaction and how lonely it is to feel like the only one who isn't having kids.  One of the reasons Derek and I are such good friends is because we're both equally snarky and cynical, so I had to laugh when he wrote that "I was so glad when people finally stopped asking us all the time about having kids... a few people who were rude enough to keep harping on it, I just told them I was impotent with a straight face and left it at that (AWKWARD!)"

He finished with a few non-trite, totally appropriate words of encouragement, including the following:

"Of course some of it comes down to luck...we had a long run of bad luck that seemed it wouldn't end, but it did. I won't pump sunshine up your ass because you are way too smart for that, but I really do think you have good reason to be hopeful if you can stick it out for another cycle or two."

I told him that I think he's going to make a great dad.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Yeah, that's about right

Remember a few months ago when I posted about a conversation that I overheard between my officemate Jill and a person that I soon figured out was another friend Derek's wife?  They were talking about the latter's recent IVF treatment and her upcoming beta.  I was pissed because Derek and I had spoken recently and I had told him about our infertility struggles, and he hadn't said a word about his situation.

He called me today.  To tell me that he and his wife are expecting.  Twins.

He still didn't say a word about their IVF.  Then he proceeded to complain about how hard it's going to be to have twins.


Sunday, 21 April 2013

Updates from a grump-tastic week

I've been struggling a little bit about what to write lately, now that we're not actively doing any infertility treatments.  I guess I kind of feel a little bit irrelevant at the moment, even though our journey is far from over.  I've been taking my DHEA (no side effects so far) and M's been taking his "boner pills", but that's it.  I don't even know what cycle day I'm on.  I have probably ovulated but have no idea when it happened; I'm just guessing based on when my last period was.  M and I have had sex when we felt like it, and I haven't bothered to lie there for 20 minutes afterwards with my hips propped up.  And you know what?  It's fucking awesome.

I certainly haven't forgotten about our infertility, though.  Last week the one remaining childless person in my unit at work announced that he and his wife are expecting.   I managed to choke out a congratulations, but then sneaked out to hide in the bathroom as my other officemates (all parents) launched into in-depth baby talk.  Nothing like a sucker-punch pregnancy announcement to take the wind out of your sails.

The wind stayed out my sails pretty much the whole rest of the week.  At first I felt grumpy for no particular reason, and then the reasons started piling up.  First we ended up dropping an obscene amount of money at the vet to get a full checkup done on Buddy.  I objected pretty strongly to some of it because I felt that a lot of the tests were unnecessary, but M believes that since Buddy is a rescue and therefore an unknown quantity, we should make sure we're not missing anything.  The major expense was x-rays, which we had done because we noticed that Buddy favours his rear left leg when he runs and isn't keen on going up and down stairs.  But he has no evidence of past damage or hip dysplasia, so we're poorer but not really any the wiser about what the problem is.  It didn't stop him from going bananas today and running around like crazy for an hour when we took him on his first doggy play date at a local off-leash park, so I guess we'll just wait and see.

We've also been having a bit of an issue with Buddy's digestive system.  I know it's probably just a result of the stress of him moving in here and adjusting to all the new routines and stuff, but it's stressed me out nonetheless.  The first few days he wasn't really eating much at all.  Then he started eating, but very pickily.  He would actually nose through his kibble, take the larger chunks out and drop them on the floor, and then nibble the smaller bits.  We started adding wet food to encourage him to eat a bit more, and that worked for a few days.  But then he started getting diarrhea (which is lovely to try to scoop off the sidewalk, by the way) so we went back to just dry.  Which he is now refusing to eat again.  I completely realize that he's just being picky (as his vet workup included stool and blood samples for worms, parasites, and everything else under the sun).  He's probably waiting for us to cave and give him people food, which he's not going to get.  But the amount of worry it's caused me have had me wondering if I'm really capable of ever being a parent at all.  If I get this stressed out as a dog mom, what the hell would a human baby do to me?  The first fever and I'd be a total wreck.  Perhaps this infertility thing is really for the best.

The grump-train was chugging along at full speed mid-week, when I ended up turning my ankle pretty badly while doing jump lunges in my last week of the 30-Day Shred.  I walked it off and finished the rest of the workout, but later on that evening it started swelling and throbbing like a son of a bitch.  Ice and copious amounts of Advil helped a little, but I slept terribly and was kicking myself for being such a moron since I was afraid it meant that I wouldn't get to finish the rest of the workout schedule.  Luckily a day off helped a lot and I was able to get back into things by the end of the week.  Today was Jillian Michaels' last day to kick my ass, and I'm not sorry to see her go.  All in all I had a love-hate relationship with the Shred.  I loved it when it was over, and hated it the rest of the time.  I'll just never be one of those people who talks about how much she loves a good hard workout!  I will do them, and I will appreciate that they are good for me, but I will never love them. 

That's it for my week.  Obviously, on top of being grumpy, I felt guilty for being grumpy because of the events in Boston.  I mean, how can I realistically be grumpy when me and all of my loved ones are safe and in one piece when there are so many people injured and grieving right now?  But there is no logic to the grump.  The grump just IS.  

Oh, and if it doesn't start getting spring-like around here soon, I'm gonna punch someone.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A new Buddy

Remember last week when I said that M and I did something that we've been wanting to do for a while, but had been putting off until we had children?

Meet Buddy!


Ever since we moved out of our teeny tiny downtown condo into a proper house with a backyard, we've talked about getting a dog.  But in the innocence of our pre-infertility days, we thought it best to wait until after we had kids.  Lots of people kept telling us how their poor dogs got neglected when they had newborns, and we didn't want to do that.  So we waited.

But in my spirit of no longer putting our lives on hold for infertility, after our failed FET we threw our energy into scouring the internet to find ourselves the perfect fur baby.  Our criteria were pretty easy.  We wanted a dog that was a little bit older and not a huge bundle of energy, since we're both gone all day for work.  We also preferred to find a dog from a shelter or rescue, since we didn't really care about having a purebred dog or any specific breed.  After a few false starts, last Sunday we went to his foster home to meet Buddy.  And on Wednesday, we brought him home!

Buddy was originally picked up as a stray in Ohio.  Apparently, lots of beagles end up in shelters there because they're used for the hunting season and then left behind when the hunters go home.  Around July, Buddy found his way into a shelter in Ohio where he was slated to be euthanized.  But the shelter kept putting it off, since Buddy is so gentle and happy they kept thinking he would definitely get adopted.  With no luck by December, they got in touch with their local humane society that has relationships with a number of rescue organizations in Canada.  Buddy made his way up to a foster home in Toronto and that's how he came to us.

We were both initially a little hesitant to adopt a beagle, since they can suffer from separation anxiety when left alone, which leads to barking and howling.  Our house is a semi-detached, so we were worried that any noise would disturb the lovely old gentleman who shares a wall with us.  But his foster mom assured us that he's the quietest beagle she'd ever encountered, and so far noise hasn't been an issue.  He's been quiet during the day and very well-mannered in the house.  We were also a little worried that as a hunting breed, Buddy might look at our cockatiel Leon as lunch instead of a little brother.  Again, we needn't have stressed about it.  While Buddy was initially quite curious, once he sniffed a few times (and Leon made a lunge and hiss to show Buddy who was boss), all has been well.  We really lucked out with this guy, he's so chill and friendly.

It's definitely been a bit of an adjustment for us, getting used to letting him out when he needs to go and walking him regularly.  Also, no more spur-of-the-moment after-work drinks now that we have a doggie to get home to!  While M's family has always had dogs, I've been a bit more of a cat person and enjoyed the fact that they're so low maintenance.  But we can tell already that having Buddy is totally going to be worth the change in routine.  When you call his name he gets so happy, he runs over to you and his tail wags to hard that his entire body moves back and forth.

This pic doesn't do it justice, but you can see his wagging tail is a total blur!

So that's the answer to the big question of what we did last weekend!  We became dog parents.  Sorry to disappoint if anyone thought it was going to be more exciting or x-rated.  You people are filthy.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Surprises and second guesses

We had our WTF appointment on Tuesday.  As expected, there weren't really any answers.  Since this was our first full IVF, my RE said that there was a certain element of trial and error involved.  She believes we got a decent number of eggs, but that obviously the main problem was the fact that we only had a 50% fertilization rate.  

What surprised me was that she didn't seem to be attributing this completely to my eggs.  This is despite the fact that when using Oosight (a fancy technology that allows the embryologist to view the inside of my eggs when setting up for ICSI) only 35% of them had a normal appearance.  Instead, my RE seemed to kind of focus on M's sperm quality.  He has approximately 26% DNA fragmentation, which is slightly higher than normal, along with his abnormal acrosomes (which are what allows the sperm to drill into the egg and fertilize it).  

This is where the second guessing comes in.  When his sperm issues were first discovered, M was told to start taking a fancy male fertility supplement to see if the situation improved.  Our RE is now suggesting doing a new sperm analysis to see if it's helped any.  The problem is, it hasn't.  Because M hasn't been taking it.  He discovered pretty early on that it gives him terrible heartburn, and he quietly stopped taking it.  When I realized this, I was initially kind of pissed.  Here I was taking supplements and vitamins, injecting myself with drugs, and subjecting myself to endless blood tests and trans-vaginal ultrasounds, and he couldn't be bothered to take a damn supplement?  But on the other hand, I was convinced that our problem was my eggs, and that ICSI could fix any sperm issue.  So I didn't push it.  And now I'm wondering if I should have.

The good news is that our RE really thinks we should give IVF another try.  She suggested that we might tweak my drug protocol, and possibly try estrogen priming.  But she was heartened by both my age and the fact that despite my undetectable AMH, we managed to get 8 eggs and one good-looking blastocyst.  As for why it didn't implant, she said that even with a great blast our chances were only 50/50.  It may have just been bad luck.  But to rule out any lining issues, she's recommending doing a fancy (and expensive!) Endometrial Function Test (EFT) run by Yale University.  It's basically a mock transfer cycle, with an endo biopsy to determine whether the lining has certain specific markers that are required for implantation.  That'll be my fourth endo biopsy, for anyone who's counting.  But having had a quick glance online, I'm a bit skeptical of how helpful this particular test might be, especially since it's not like I've had repeat losses or anything.  If you've had this done, please let me know in the comments or email me and let me know if you think it helped at all.

Finally, while my RE didn't bring it up herself, she agreed to give me a prescription for DHEA.  You know, I love living in Canada most of the time, but every once in a while it feels like I'm in a Soviet gulag.  Two hours' drive away from me across the border, people are buying DHEA in the supermarket.  Here, I'm trekking halfway across downtown in the pouring rain to go to a special compounding pharmacy where they make DHEA.  It cost me $133 for a three month supply, and it's not covered by either OHIP or my drug plan.  It makes about as much sense as charging me a special "Canadian" price for books and magazines.  Or blocking me from Hulu.  Sigh.

Anyway, our tentative plan is to use next cycle for the EFT (if I decide to drop the $500 for it) and wait out the rest of the summer letting my DHEA and M's supplement (affectionately known as his "boner pills") take effect.  With any luck, we'll have super eggs and super sperm for the next go around, combining to make super embryos that will grow into super babies that will blast forth from my super vagina.  Here's hopin'.

Monday, 8 April 2013

Moving foward

Today is CD1.  I didn't bother to update you guys, but obviously the clinic confirmed my BFN at my beta on Friday and I stopped my estrogen and progesterone.  As much as it sucks that this cycle didn't work, I certainly won't miss squirting Crinone up my hoo-ha twice a day.  That shit is nasty on the way back out.  I don't think I'll be able to look at fresh mozzarella cheese quite the same ever again.  And I've now also ruined it for everyone else.  You're welcome!

We've made our WTF appointment with the RE for tomorrow.  I expect there to be much discussion of my lousy egg quality and how it was likely to blame for our failure.  In anticipation, I'm planning to ask my RE for a prescription (yup, required here in Canada) for DHEA.  I've just read too much good stuff about this supplement and its positive effects on egg quality in women with DOR not to try it.  I had previously asked my RE about it but was told that they prefer to try CoQ10 first, which I've been on since last August but clearly to no avail.  I don't see why you can't do both, and I imagine most people do, but I think my clinic views it as a one-or-the-other thing.  Regardless, I'm excited to give it a try, and I have to stop myself from getting too enthusiastic or viewing it as the "magic pill" that will fix everything.  It may not work for me.  But at this point there's no real downside, so I expect that's the route we'll go.

Seeing as how it takes about four months for DHEA to reach full potency in the body, I think we'll be taking a bit of a break from fertility treatments for a while.  We'll still try naturally, since I haven't quite given up hope of a DHEA-induced spontaneous pregnancy.  But I'm not going to be tracking my period or taking my temperature or any of the rest of it.  I think we both need a bit of a mental and emotional break from the turmoil we've been going through, so we're just going to have sex whenever we want to like a normal couple and see what happens.  I fully expect we'll be back on the IVF train in the fall.

In the meantime, I haven't really been allowing myself to dwell too much on our failure.  Obviously, the couple of days following my negative test were pretty horrible.  But I know myself well enough by now to realize that treating myself gently is one thing, whereas allowing myself to sink into a total funk is another.  I spent the better part of 2012 doing the latter, and I'm not going to let it happen again.  So I've kind of been kicking my own ass to get myself up and moving and feeling normal again, and strangely enough I've found it's been working.  I've jumped whole hog back into my fitness routine (although it's amazing how much cardio conditioning you can lose after just one week of inactivity) and I'd like to start working towards running a Spartan Race in the summer.  M and I also spent this weekend doing something that we've been wanting to do for ages, but put off for a long time while we waited to have children.  We're not waiting anymore.  But you'll just have to be in suspense for a little bit longer as to what I'm talking about!

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Questionable expertise

Last week I received an email from Michael Weinberg, the "Founder and CEO" of a company called Wizpert.  Apparently, Wizpert bills itself as a sort of online help desk for everything.  They find bloggers to act as "experts" in various topics, and then people seeking advice on those topics can contact the bloggers for help.  The bloggers are paid (some nominal fee, I'm sure) and Wizpert of course takes its cut as well.  You can read more about it here if you're interested.

Why me, you ask?  I was curious as well.  I mean, I have certainly educated myself quite a bit about infertility and assisted reproductive technologies in the past year or so, but have I really reached "expert" status so quickly?  Let's see...

Hi Aramis,
I was reading your blog and thought that your knowledge would be of great value to our users, who pay our experts a premium for advice.
Our platform, called Wizpert, is a fast growing community of experts, where users seek advice and coaching on an array of topics, such as caring for and training pets (dogs, birds, birds, etc.).

Wow.  They must need bird experts pretty badly.  I mean, they wrote it twice.  Plus, if the best bird expert they can find is a blogger who wrote one post about how much she hated her husband's adopted cockatiel, the market for bird experts must be pretty slim pickings.  That, or Wizpert is using a spectacularly shitty search program to troll through blogs to find their "experts".  I chalked it up to the latter, ignored the email and left it at that.

That was before my BFN.  This was today.  

Hi Aramis,
Just wanted to follow up on my note (below) — have you had a chance to take a look?
As explained, after reading your blog, I think you would be a great fit as a wizpert and would love to have you join our community.
To create a free account go to
Please contact me personally with any questions.
All the best,

Don't mess with a bitch after a BFN, Michael. 

Dear Michael,
I'm pretty confident in saying that you haven't actually read my blog.  If you had, you would have seen right away that it is a blog about infertility, not pets.  If one post about my pet cockatiel makes me an expert in pets, then I feel sorry for anyone using Wizpert.  I would suggest improving your screening technique when searching for your "experts", and then actually reading their blogs before approaching them.  I'm not interested.

I got a bounceback reply thanking me for my interest in joining Wizpert.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

When an escape isn't an escape

When I was a kid I used to take dance classes.  It started with ballet, then I added jazz and tap as I got older.  By the time I was 12 I was doing three dance classes per week.  I wasn't very good, mind you.  I have short stubby legs that are decidedly non-dancerish, and I am probably one of the least flexible people my teachers have ever seen.  But I loved it, and I kept it up until well into my twenties when I moved to Ontario for school.

Earlier last year before we started our first round of IVF, our clinic required that we have one meeting with a counsellor.  I found the session pretty unhelpful, as she didn't really have any good suggestions about how to get through this process other than "try to normalize your life".  Easier said than done.  But I decided to do one thing that I hadn't done in years.  I was going to sign up for some dance classes.

I found a studio in our new neighbourhood that offered adult classes.  Most of them were pretty beginner level, and even though I was seriously out of dance shape (or any shape, for that matter) I thought that the ballet or jazz classes might be a bit too easy for me.  I decided to try something I'd never done before, but had always wanted to.  I signed up for hip hop.  It's been pretty much an unmitigated disaster ever since.

First, the hip hop teacher had never taught hip hop before.  He was a very sweet but very vain classically-trained dancer whose primary concern seemed to be fixing the angle of his hair in the mirror.  He never seemed to have prepared any choreography in advance, but kind of made things up in his head as he went along.  As a result, the movements and the counts were constantly changing as he admired himself in the mirror and grooved along in his own head.  A class that used to have five people in it dwindled to two.  One woman actually stormed out of class after our instructor changed his choreography mid-stream for the fifth or sixth time in 10 minutes.  He was pretty upset about this turn of events, and the two of us who remained tried to gently tell him what he was doing wrong.  It didn't help.  

This was around the time that my first IVF was cancelled, and I remember coming home and crying in frustration to M.  Not only was the class a waste of money, but it was a huge disappointment.  It was something I'd been so looking forward to earlier in the fall, but it ended up being something I dreaded.  Here I was, trying to do something nice for myself in the face of all our infertility struggles, and it was totally backfiring on me.

The last straw was the class after Halloween, when our instructor spent a full third of the class in the corner with his iPod, silently making up choreography that he should have prepared earlier, while myself and the other remaining student stood silently watching him.  The following week we went to see the studio owner and told her why her hip hop class was tanking.  She thanked us and told us that due to the low turnout, she was going to cancel the class.  She asked me if I wanted to move to the jazz class instead.  I decided to give it a go.

I have actually been enjoying the jazz classes much more than the hip hop.  Our teacher is great, and the other students are an absolute hoot.  But in other ways, it's worse.  The studio has two classrooms, and during hip hop the other room held an adult tap class.  Now, the other room is occupied by the "Creative Movement" class, otherwise known as baby ballet.  It's a horde of sweet-faced two and three year old little girls dressed in pink tights and leotards, running around giggling and shrieking and generally being adorable to music. 

Just being around them before class starts is hard enough.  Obviously, they remind me of everything I don't (and at this point may never) have.  Some of them are also completely lacking in any shyness, and one came up to me today as I was stretching before class to ask me what I was doing and what was wrong with my feet.  Apparently, three-year-olds don't understand callouses.  It was cute and innocent and I did everything I could to answer her and smile without bursting into tears.

The cherry on top of all of this?  The dance moms who used to sit in the studio waiting room during their daughters' class have now asked to join in on our class warmup.  I can't blame them.  It's a nice stretch and a good ab workout.  But dammit, this was supposed to be my escape!  My refuge where I could forget infertility for a while!  Instead, it's yet another place where my barrenness is getting thrown in my face.  One of the dance moms is even pregnant right now, so today I had to avoid staring at her five-month belly as she stretched while the rest of us were toiling through abs.

I guess it just goes to show I can try all I want, but there is no escape from this.  This is my life.  But I'm pretty sure I won't be taking dance classes again next year.