Have we waited too long?

I will be 29 in two months.

I’ve been trying to get pregnant for almost two years now. If I couldn’t get pregnant at 27 or 28, it won’t happen at 29, will it?

My surgery was delayed. The surgery meant to ascertain (or fail to ascertain, as I suspect) a physical cause for my rampant infertility was delayed. No future date has been set.

For some reason that made me cry. It made me cry. All fucking day. I have an office to myself, so I sat at my desk sobbing. All. Fucking. Day.

Because we’ve already waited too long, haven’t we? We’re both getting older and pregnancy less likely. But they don’t tell you. They don’t tell you that you’d better get knocked up in uni. They don’t tell you to freeze your eggs at 18.

And so we’re old and fucked.

giphy

 

 

Money, money, money

Over the course of this disgusting experience, I have lost track of the value of money. Having spent $50k to completely ruin my life, my physical health, my mental health, my career, my relationships with friends and family… any amount of expenditure that brings me any level of joy seems very legitimate.

$50 for a bottle of wine? No problem!

$200 for a fancy dinner? Beats IVF. Hands down.

$500 for a weekend getaway? Bargain!!!

$3000 for surgery which is probably entirely useless? (E.g. my upcoming exploratory laparoscopic adventure). That’s like a third of the price of an entirely useless IVF cycle, and far less time consuming. What fun!

I’m not even being sarcastic. I’m looking forward to it, because, honestly, the best that I can expect from life is a day off work to have useless surgery.

10 years ago, I baulked at paying over $100 a week in rent. (Those were the good old days.) Now, I am legitimately happy to spend thousands of dollars on bullshit surgery just because it’s more fun than work… or because I feel like knowing if there are hordes of free range endometrial tissue roaming though my abdomen.

IVF promises to make me poor in many indirect ways.

Waiting for Endo

In 5 days, I am having laparoscopic surgery to ascertain whether my faulty body has thwarted my attempts at pregnancy. Thus, I really hope I have severe asymptomatic endometriosis because at least then, I can have an answer. I can be told, ‘this is why you can’t have kids.’ I can understand why this has happened to me. I can give it a name and I can move on.

Two years ago, I can’t imagine hoping for a medical condition like I am now. Now I’m imagining the worst-case scenario as waking up from surgery and being told, “There’s nothing wrong with you. There is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be able to get pregnant.”

And that shit is getting real OLD.

Can you imagine, spending thousands of dollars on exploratory surgery just to find out that, as you have been told hundreds of times before, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH YOU?

I can. In less than a week, it will probably be my reality.

I am, most likely, physically healthy in every way.

The thought is depressing AF.

TBH, I do hate uberfertiles

Last night my uberfertile friend sent me a short message which ended with:

‘Miss you so much xx’

My first thoughts were:

‘Why is she doing this to me?’, ‘Why would she ruin my night like this?’ and ‘Where the hell does she get off messaging me?’

Then I imagined her lying at home with her perfect baby, lazily amassing gossip to pass the time. No doubt I’m a prized subject of said gossip, having been MIA from social events for the past year, busy becoming a tragic enigma.

shit fertile people say
Shit fertile people say.

We haven’t spoken in 6 months. The last time I saw her was at my best friend’s birthday party. After Mrs Uberfertile showed up, I struggled not too cry for the rest of the night, ultimately leaving early. I was a horribly unfun best friend.

I would have been furious at me. I was furious at me. I’m normally really fun at parties, instead I sat in the corner with my face in a margarita.

I apologised to my bestie the next day. She, in turn, apologised for inviting a pregnant person. I told her, quite rightly, that she shouldn’t have to screen her friends on my account.

I wish she had’ve, nonetheless.

I very much doubt that Mrs Uberfertile knows how much she ruined that night’s party for me, or how much distress she caused me in the week that followed. I’m sure she thinks I am thoughtlessly ignoring last night’s message, not dwelling on it and crying and wondering what to do with it.

Reply?

Ignore?

If reply, what to say?

The truth is, I don’t really want to end the friendship with Mrs Uberfertile. I feel guilty about how I’ve treated her. It’s not her fault she’s uberfertile. It’s not her fault she lucked out with a good fertility doctor from the start. It’s not her fault her body is really fucking good at not killing babies.

The other side of that truth is, I can’t be friends with uberfertiles and pregnants and parents. At least not when my wife and I are trying so hard to hit the sweet spot between too much IVF and just enough IVF to avoid later life regret at not trying hard enough.

It’s not about babies for us anymore, it’s about what we have to do to console ourselves to childlessness. It’s about knowing, in 20 years’ time, that we did our absolute best to have a baby and we couldn’t have done any more.

So, why associate with people who have such disparate aspirations for 20 years into the future? They’ll never understand. Why should they?

I wish uberfertiles would just stop contacting me.

Infertility Showers: The awkward new trend

My wife and I were invited to a baby shower last year. It was to take place during IVF cycle #5. Throughout IVF cycle #4, I thought to myself,

“If I get pregnant, I might have the strength to go to this stupid baby shower.”

I used to LOVE baby showers. I don’t know why, but I did. I used to want a baby shower. I attribute this to being an inherently selfish bitch. The hosts of the baby shower were a couple I had known singularly for over 10 years and who met 8 years ago at one of my birthday parties. It would have been appropriate for us to go. It would even have been appropriate for me to invent some great excuse as to why we could not attend. In the end, I did neither of those things. My wife and I simply stayed home.

My wife, the fair minded, socially capable angel that she is, tried to encourage action on the baby shower issue. This ultimately led to an argument which concluded with me storming out asserting,

“I am not going to another baby shower until I get the most epic infertility shower the world has ever seen!”

“You CANNOT have an infertility shower,” my wife tells me. Underlying this is the pervasive idea that it is embarrassing to acknowledge infertility and certainly in bad taste to celebrate it. It’s like an ‘I-can’t-find-a-partner’ party or an ‘I-got-fired’ party (I have been to the latter BTW and it was perfectly enjoyable). People don’t know how to acknowledge and celebrate things that aren’t socially accepted triumphs. Do you need sympathy or what? You can’t do normal stuff. You’re deficient and now I’m supposed to rejoice in it? How?

Forgetting the invitees for a moment, let’s weigh up the facts, shall we?

Infertile women have, most likely, sacrificed their:

  1. Money
  2. Career progression
  3. Emotional energy
  4. Physical health and well-being
  5. Mental health and well-being
  6. Time

… in the pursuit of fertility.

Infertile women also have to deal with:

  1. People asking them when they’re going to have kids.
  2. Almost every woman they meet waxing lyrical on the stupendous greatness of being a mum.
  3. Almost every woman centric nugget of media portraying motherhood as the only real option for womanly fulfillment.
  4. People offering hot tips on how it really is possible to get pregnant, how they/their mate/some random stranger overcame infertility.
  5. Family lamenting a lack of grandchildren/nieces/nephews/cousins and having nothing to give them.
  6. Almost every friend you ever had popping out kids and posting about it on all the social media platforms they can access with absolutely no consideration of how phenomenally privileged they were to have sex and get a free bonus baby.

After all this. After all the shit infertile people have to go through… WE DON’T EVEN GET TO HAVE A PARTY THAT’S JUST IN HONOUR OF US!?!?!?

BECAUSE IT’S AWKWARD FOR OTHER PEOPLE!?!?!

?!?!?!??!?!?

How is that fair?

Pregnant women get showered with gifts and attention and paid maternity leave and those poor fucks who have spent their life savings on some useless fertility treatment bullshit get nothing? Nothing? Nothing.

(We’re especially precluded from one of those screaming, shitting, drooling booby prizes.)

So, I say, bring on infertility showers as the new awkward 21st century trend. Bring me gifts of wine and beer and lovely grown up pretty things that children would destroy. Bring me potting mix and pot brownies. Bring me tens of thousands of dollars in cash and I’ll put it towards recouping the money I spent on infertility.

We’ll eat unpasteurised dairy products, unwashed salad, we’ll gorge ourselves on grog from bottles infused with BPAs and we’ll have an bloody excellent, child-free time.

Who’s with me?

 

 

“For a 28-year-old to have had 4 IVF cycles and no freezable embryos is unheard of” and other things doctors say

“For a 28-year-old to have had 4 IVF cycles and no freezable embryos is unheard of,” says doctor #3 to me this afternoon.

He’s heard of it now, though, as have I and, if you’re reading this, so have you.

Am I really the only one or is he just trying to make me feel like a special snowflake? I don’t mind being a special snowflake. I suppose if I HAVE to be a medical oddity, being the amazing-late-twenties-lady-with-nothing-wrong-with-her-but-who-absolutely-can’t-get-pregnant isn’t the worst option. It’s surely better than the lady-in-a-coma-for-no-reason or guy-with-the-mystery-flesh-eating-virus.

I might, however, had I been given the option, opt for an illness that did not require me to spend $50k on revealing myself to be a medical oddity. I bet guy-with-the-mystery-flesh-eating-virus didn’t have to do that. Lucky rich bastard.

Maybe, given that I am such a miraculous medical oddity I’ll get journal articles written about me and I can weasel my way into being one of the minor authors on the paper. Then, being that the article is about the misadventures of a true maverick of infertility, it will be vehemently cited and my h-index will skyrocket and set up my academic career for future credibility and, thus, greatness. Or something.

Dr 3 also tells me that, given my past monumental failure in the field of fertility, there is a 70% chance I have asymptomatic undiagnosed endometriosis.  Neither of the first 2 doctors have considered the possibility of endometriosis so it seems strange to me that Dr 3 thinks this has such a high probability.

Dr 1: “Only 20% of IVF stim cycles result in frozen embryos”. So, following that logic, the probability of me having 4 cycles and zero freezable quality embryos is 0.8⁴ which is 41%, a statistic which would hardly be considered “unheard of”. Contradictory? Welcome to the wacky world of fertility doctoring.

Dr 1: “An AMH of 7 in a 27-year-old means you probably won’t be able to have kids after 30. You’ll have to do IVF and freeze some embryos.” This was a justification for not starting the fertility nightmare with the simpler, cheaper and less invasive IUI treatment. It was also articulated prior to the comment above which really begs the question of why IVF was recommended given the improbably of producing freezable embryos in the first place. According to Dr 3, this statement is utter bullshit, both for the notion that people with slightly below average AMHs will ‘run out’ of eggs by the tender age of 30 and also that a single AHM test can predict, with that level of accuracy, what ovarian reserve is in the first place. It’s a guide, he tells me, as to how many eggs to expect and not a measure of quantity. I did another AMH test 6 months ago (a year after the first one) and it was 11… meaning that I had more eggs after a year and 3 rounds of IVF. It doesn’t seem worth basing that much on AMH.

Dr 1: “There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re completely average. It’s normal not to conceive after 2 IVF cycles.” He said this after 3 cycles. I told him this and he insisted I was mistaken. Because why would *I* count them??

Dr Douchbag
Keeping notes on your patients is for chumps.

 

The moral of the story is; the only certainly in infertility is that most of your doctors will contradict each other, be fuckwits, be men, lie to you or simply not give a shit about you.

Maybe, if you’re a medical curiosity, you might be interesting enough to warrant a shit being given about you and your reproductive capabilities. Maybe. I hope. Fingers crossed anyway.

Another One Bites the Dust: IVF Cycle #5

I was probably not in a good place when we started number 5. My wife did this one, I having given up after 4 cycles. She was terrified of it, although she’d seen the process 4 times before. It much different when you’re in the thick of it. This is one of the few reasons I am glad to be a lesbian – at least at times like this, your partner knows exactly what you’re going through. Or, in my case, what you’ve been through. This is one of the reasons I don’t tell people about this journey. No one can know how bad it really is unless they’re living it and I don’t want people to think I’m making a big deal over nothing.

But, honestly, I’m a bitch anyway. One memorable night, pre-cycle 5, I told her she was wasting our money, ruining her life and there was no fucking way she was ever going to get pregnant from this IVF shit.

Turned out, however, that she did.

They retrieved 3 eggs, 3 were mature, 3 fertilised, 3 grew. At 5 days, we showed up for the transfer and I demanded proof that there was something to transfer before we paid for the transfer. We’ve been caught out by that trick before.

There was something. 2 embryos were good quality, but our doctor refused to transfer both. Instead, one went in and the other 2 (one good, one bad but alive) went in the bin.

(I often wonder if this whole idea of freezing embryos isn’t just a ploy to make unwitting patients feel like they might just get a second, third or fourth chance of pregnancy out of a cycle. It seems that, invariably, we’re told; “we’ll see how they go and see if we can freeze them” and the call invariably comes the next day; “they all stopped growing – nothing to freeze”, which gives you no confidence that the one inside you is growing, which, invariably, it isn’t.)

But, in wifey’s case, the stupid thing actually grew for 3 or 4 weeks before it stopped. One day, she didn’t feel pregnant any more. Based on its size when we had the 7 week scan, that was the day it stopped growing.

She was skewered on an ultrasound dildo when we found out. She vomited. They let us out the back door of the pathology clinic and we went home to watch Netflix.

Giving Up

The TWW portion of IVF #4 was the same and the rest. Negative home pregnancy tests and a punctual period. I had felt different this time around, however, both during the stim cycle and the TWW. I could feel my baby in me. I knew it was there. I knew it had finally worked this time. I was pretty sure it was a girl.

But the thing is, you don’t know anything. You can think you know a lot of things, but more prudent people keep it to themselves, as I did. You can’t really know anything.

When I say that I know that this is the end of my TTC journey, I don’t really know that either. Two things I do think I know, at the moment, in 2017 and at the age of 28, I think I know that:

  1. I cannot do another IVF cycle. I do not want to. I will not do it and there’s no point doing it anyway.
  2. I’m not getting any more fertile. This is it. If I can’t now, I can’t ever.

I’ve know this for 2 months now. The knowledge is getting surprisingly easy to bear. It still makes me cry sometimes, like now, for instance. It still means that I’m a bitch to that pregnant girl at work and that I avoid all family gatherings because I can’t handle seeing my pregnant cousin.

But, giving up is surprisingly liberating. It’s one of the few things I have control over. Never again will I be sick like that. I will be able to do my job in a way that justifies my pay check. I’ll have the physical and emotional energy to maintain friendships. I won’t have to worry about how I can possibly maintain my house, my car, the adult aspects of my life.

It’s liberating to know that, from now on, you can go out in the world and be a person and probably be OK. You probably won’t collapse on the street. You probably won’t start weeping profusely in business meetings. You’ll probably be able to go to work every day. You’ll probably be able to go to parties without smoke bombing when someone walks in with a kid or a pregnant belly. You probably won’t have a nightmare tonight. You probably won’t have to blacklist friends because they can’t stop asking why you aren’t pregnant yet and can’t understand why such questioning is impossible to bear.

I do regret beginning on this baby making path, but I wouldn’t want to relinquish the knowledge I have gained from it. But, you probably can’t have both.

 

Our TTC saga – Part 1: Trying to try to conceive (TTTTC)

When we started on this journey, we had no idea what we were doing. We had no friends to ask or reasonable sources of advice beyond what the fertility clinics deign to provide. By fertility clinics, of course, I mean the very few private fertility clinics who are licenced to provide donor sperm to couples like us. So here’s a timeline of our experiences. I hope it will help other couples like us shed light on the whole process (or, perhaps, frustrate the crap out of them).

We chose to go with the artificial insemination route for several reasons:

  1. Legally, in Australia, if the pregnancy is brought about by a doctor who both mothers have been referred to (by another doctor) then the resulting baby’s birth certificate can bare both mothers’ names. This was very appealing because:
    1. We would both have legal and parental responsibility for the child, no questions asked, from the time they were born.
    2. It saves the stress and cost of the non-birth mother having to adopt the child later. It may even work out cheaper in the long run.
  2. We didn’t have a sperm donor so donor sperm was a better option. Fun fact: it is actually cheaper to buy donor sperm from the clinic than it is the BYO sperm donor. Or course, if the sperm donor is intended to be the baby’s father, then it’s pretty much free to BYO sperm. Go figure!

June 2016:

We had always talked about having kids but Chloe and I actually started to do something about it! I had finished my PhD in January and gone back to work full time in February 2016. I had applied for a few post-docs overseas and a job in Melbourne, Australia. I hadn’t got any of the jobs but, I didn’t really mind. I had a pretty good job already and that’s pretty lucky for any newly graduated PhD student. Chloe had a job too and our home and work places were all within a 6km radius.

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we threw out the idea of me getting a post-doc overseas, moving far away and having a great adventure. Both of us were so keen to nest that it was hard to find the motivation to shake up our lives at that point. Our families were in our city, or close by. We were 27; a bit young, but not too young to have kids.

It was time, we decided. Time to nest and make babies.

July 2016:

Although we had our wedding in March 2016, we were finally able to hand in the paperwork to have our relationship ‘registered’ in July. In the state of NSW, Australia, they allow same-sex couples to get registered, which basically means you pay money to have a certificate. This certificate essentially means that you’re de-facto. We decided to do this for some weird reason (it’s expensive and practically useless since most couples living together are considered de-facto in Australia). I guess we didn’t want to give anyone an excuse to treat our relationship as being less than any other, if we could possibly avoid it. Having an official document to prove we were a couple seemed like a good back up for a lot of life maladies.

What we didn’t realise (because we are still the only couple I know to get ‘registered’ in NSW), was that, if my wife wanted to change her surname to my surname (which she did, because it’s a far superior surname :P), she’d have to change it before we got registered because, if she changed it after, we’d have to get registered again in her new name. Yet another reason why Australia should just get on with legalising marriage equality… you can get married and THEN change your name without getting remarried!!

The day we finally submitted the registration paperwork was the same day we went for our first doctor visit. We went to my GP. I had never come out to my GP (he was fairly new GP) so it was a little nerve racking for me walking in there with Chlo and announcing, “Hi. We’d like to have a baby. Together.” I wasn’t really surprised that he had never had such a request before. But, he’s a great doctor and asked us what we needed. We had done enough research about the process to know to request a referral to a fertility specialist who we knew would be able to refer us for a dose of donor sperm and the IVF clinic. We got our referral and were on our way. (My GP, BTW, was super excited and requested that he be my doctor through the pregnancy and our future baby’s doctor).

Now, a word about choosing a fertility specialist: if I were to do the whole thing again, I would have done my research into the fertility specialist above all else. The IVF clinic, when I enquired about what to do told us that they had one fertility specialist in our city. Our choice to use this doctor came down to an issue of travel. Do we travel for 10 minutes or do we choose to travel for 2-3 hours? It seemed an easy choice at the time. We were told to get a referral for the fertility specialist in our city and so we did. Interestingly, a couple of friends of ours who lived very near us were going through the same process and the same clinic a few weeks after us. They were told by the fertility clinic that there was NO fertility specialist in our city. I wish I had have been told that too. Worth mentioning too that our FS was just a referring FS, not actually part of the IVF clinic. My advice: stay away from doctors that are not part of the clinic and will not be part of the treatment. Also, read reviews on the FS in question (this particular FS has several bad reviews online, which should have been a flashing red light, but I just didn’t Google it!)

August 2016:

We went to a donor sperm information evening hosted by our chosen IVF clinic. I thought hosting an info session like that meant that they were pretty involved with helping same sex couples conceive. How did we choose the IVF clinic? It was a choice of two in the state (NSW) and I chose the one that seemed least homophobic. Seriously. I think I made the wrong choice in hindsight.

A few days later, we paid to go onto the donor sperm waiting list. We were informed the wait for IUI quality sperm was 8-10 months and the wait for IVF sperm was 2 months. Our friends, who were a couple of weeks behind us in this process were told there was a 6 month waiting list for IUI sperm. Go figure.

Spurred by these hopeful developments, I started looking to buy a family and doggo friendly house J We had our first fertility appointment the same day I took Chloe to see a house I liked. It was the first house I had looked at and the first one she had looked at. We went straight from the house to our appointment.

Our first appointment with the only person in Wollongong capable of proclaiming people worthy of donor sperm. It was anticlimactic. He referred me for all the standard tests: pelvic ultrasound, blood tests.  He said it was good we were starting young. That would make it a lot easier.

I bought that house, or, at least, had my offer accepted.

September 2016:

I went and got all those tests. It didn’t seem much point hurrying because we were preparing to wait almost a year for donor sperm. But, I got them anyway and called up the doctor’s office to see if I had to come in and get the results. The receptionist told me they were all fine and to come in once we were at the top of the donor sperm waiting list. So we waited.

November 2016:

Wifey and I moved into that kid-and-dog friendly house 🙂

December 2016:

My mother met a woman who had gotten pregnant using donor sperm and IVF. Apparently, she didn’t have to wait at all for her sperm. “Why don’t you go to IVF Australia? You won’t have to wait for sperm and B says they’re really good.” Out of two possible choices, we had gone with IVF Australia, gaining us a 8-10 month sperm wait. Thanks for the advice.

February 2017:

The compulsory time-wasting money-grubbing counsellor sessions at the clinic.

“Have you thought about who’s going to work and who’s going to take care of baby?

“Have you considered that baby things cost money?

“Do you know about maternity leave?

Anyone who gets to this stage and hasn’t spoken to their partner about who’s going to take care of the bloody baby is a nincompoop. So, counselling was pretty pointless because any person who has been waiting to do IVF for 6 months has ACTUALLY THOUGHT ABOUT THE RESULTING BABY! But the IVF clinic got $400 and we were approved to continue along the baby making road.

Mostly, I think these counselling sessions are for people who have to deal with surprise infertility and all the rubbish that goes along with that. Lesbians are immune to this, being already quite sure that they are not going to make a baby naturally. There’s always surprises for everyone, though.

Whining and complaining and waiting for IVF #4

We’ve been taking an involuntary break from IVF in which we have changed sperm donors, changed doctors and formally complained about our old doctor and general treatment by our IVF clinic.

In response to the letter I published in a previous post (One Year of TTC), I had a skype meeting with the medical director of our illustrious IVF clinic. Wifey C didn’t want to be a part of this meeting because:

a) she hates complaining and will avoid it at all costs.

b) she thought this meeting was simply a time wasting attempt to appease us, through pretending to take our concerns seriously and thereby, making us shut up and hand over more money.

c) she doesn’t like thinking negative thoughts about all this IVF stuff in general. She gets through life by being optimistic.

On the other hand, if there’s one thing I have gained from IVF, it is the ability to be assertive. I don’t know why or how, but my brain has done a total shift. I used to be shy and terrified of people thinking badly of me. Now, I legitimately do not care. I will tell people if I am dissatisfied. I will tell them if I think they’re wrong. I will happily share my opinions, popular or not, with gay abandon.

This is a nice life skill, but I wouldn’t pay $30k for it. However, at least I’ve got something to show for this shit show.

I wasn’t really sure of the purpose of the meeting. It could be, as Chloe thought, just an elaborate way to make me feel that my concerns were heard and, ultimately, a waste of my time.

It probably was that. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that, as part of the appeasing process, I was offered what equates to a $5000 discount on cycle number 4. I.e. we’ll be paying straight couple prices!!

And, if Chloe ever suggests to me that something is not worth complaining about, I am going to bring up the time my complaining saved us $5k.