The Middlo

I made my mother take me to hospital. Wifey was busy at home. If there was nothing wrong with me, it was supposed to only take a few hours.

On the way to the hospital, she asked gently,

‘And what are you having done?’

‘I dunno.’

It sounds like a teenagerish thing to say but it was mostly accurate. I hadn’t elaborated on the medical situation. TBH, I was a bit annoyed at one of her assumptions when I had asked her to take me to the hospital for planned surgery day #1.

‘I had that surgery when I was your age. They inject dye into your fallopian tubes and look at them and then your wee is blue!’

I nodded, resisting the urge to query why on earth myself or any legitimate medical professional would be interested in the state of my thoroughly redundant fallopian tubes. I have never used them. I will never use them. I don’t even know if they exist and they would have been just as useful to me if they didn’t.

Having been denied the chance to explain once, I did not bother again. Then, having major doubts about the surgery going ahead, I didn’t even commit to mind what I had been told of the surgery months before.

We got to the hospital and I was taken to the little check in room to be questioned.

‘What are you having done today?’

Suddenly the answers of, ‘I dunno’, ‘Just wasting my money’ or ‘Just wanted to know if there’s a reason I can’t have kids’ seemed… inadequate. I wrenched a couple of words from the archives of my mind.

‘Hyss-ter-o-scop-ee and lap-er-o-scop-ee’, I enunciated slowly, adding quickly, ‘did I say that right?’

Apparently, I had sounded out the words correctly (phew). She must have seen my title (Dr) but she didn’t ask me if I was a medical doctor. That must have been *quite* clear. Hopefully, I had avoided looking like a complete dullard who shows up at hospital with no idea what they are doing there.

I was sent to get changed, put on silly stockings and some shitty thread-bare dressing gown. I was thankful that my period only lasts 48 hours, as I had to get naked and I did not want to explain that I was bleeding everywhere. Just like always, my little trickle of blood that started on Thursday morning was over and I didn’t have to negotiate nudity and some elaborate blood catching apparatus.

I lay in bed with my mum waiting for the doctor to arrive. As he had never worked at the hospital before, they suggested that I look out for him as they wouldn’t know what he looked like. 12 o’clock ticked by (at which the surgery was supposed to begin) and he still wasn’t here. I was getting pretty stressed by this stage, having paid my $7k, collected my worthless promises, and gotten all dressed up. What if the surgery got called off again. What if he just never showed up?

pexels-photo-127873.jpeg
Where the fuck are you, doctor?

I was so excited when he did show, I think I said something like,

‘You’re actually here!’

He didn’t seem concerned about being 5 minutes late. I was ready, after all, and, probably, so was he. We both had to sign a consent form (which was good because I still didn’t really know what was going on.)

‘So you know what’s happening?’

I nodded confidently. Again, ‘you’re going to see if there’s anything wrong with me’ sounded very childish.

‘And do you have any questions?’

‘I do’, my mother interjected. ‘Can you just tell me what is happening? She hasn’t actually told me anything.’

So, for my mother’s benefit but secretly for mine, doctor #3 explained the basics of a hysteroscopy and laparoscopy for the purposes of excising endometriosis. If I didn’t have endo, doctor #3 would take biopsies of everything and the whole thing would be over in less than 40 minutes and I would be free to go home in a few hours.

Fun fact: endometriosis is easiest to spot right after a period as the blood is fresh and it ‘lights up’. Timing, it seemed, was perfect.

‘And you think she has endometriosis?’

‘I am quite confident she has endometriosis.’

‘I’m not.’ I scoffed under my breath.

 

Just the Starto

A month ago, I mentioned I was about to have surgery to *hopefully* find out why this pregnancy thing is so unreasonable a prospect for my 28-year-old-purportedly-perfectly-healthy body.

https://cluckydykes.com/2018/03/10/waiting-for-endo/

That surgery didn’t happen. Doctor #3 is from a different state and there was a delay in finding a hospital in my state for him to operate. The details are not important. Suffice to say, I prepared for some very expensive, possibly useless surgery and organised my life around its occurring. The cancellation left me depressed for all the reasons that the fertility industry destroys my spirit.

Promises broken, misinformation, and complete disregard for how this circus effects my life. (The fertility circus, in my case, being an immensely consuming 3rd job that I do not have the time nor the emotional energy to endure.)

So, when the nurse called me the week after #surgeryfail with a *real* date for my surgery, I politely asked her to email me the details.

fertility fuckwits
Dealing with the fertility industry.

With no email forthcoming (*gasp*), I resigned myself to the fact that I had exhausted every fertility treatment option available.

As a same-sex couple, there is a total of 2 companies in my state that will treat my wife and I. We had tried both. We had tried 3 doctors. We had gone through 5 IVF cycles (the full stim cycles, not the stick-a-frozen-embryo-in-and-call-it-a-cycle IVF cycles that uberfertiles love to whinge about). Almost 2 years had elapsed since this nightmare started. That qualifies as trying, surely. So, I decided, if they contacted me about the surgery, I would go ahead with it and *theoretically* discover why I’m barren A.F. If not, I would put this baby business to bed.

The surgery was, after all, an expensive exercise in regret evasion. Wouldn’t I regret not knowing why I can’t have kids? Isn’t that knowledge worth $7k? (Don’t answer that – I realise most answers will not be like mine.)

Last Wednesday afternoon, I got a phone call from the same nurse asking me to send the consent forms back. I still had not received any emails or follow up phone calls regarding this supposed surgery date and the whole thing reeked of fertility industry incompetence (FII). If she wanted something signed she’d better email it to me. But she had, she insisted. Problem was, she said, most of her emails went to people’s spam folders. (Perhaps Gmail has a fancy filter to protect infertiles from FII.)

Dubiously, I checked my spam folder and there they were; 3 emails related to the surgery, dating back 3 weeks. Surgery was scheduled for Saturday, less than 3 days away. So, I just said I’d do it.

Why not, hey?

knowledge is power
The pursuit of knowledge can be used to justify many stupid decisions.

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.