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?

 

 

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.

 

After cycle 3, a date with Dr Douchbag

I had an appointment with our regular fertility specialist booked for the day after my scheduled pregnancy test. It makes me feel better to do everything as quickly as possible, especially after failures. The waiting and wondering makes me crazy. Being proactive makes me feel like slightly less of a failure.

(I was there by myself because wifey was at work. She’s a customer service manager and can’t take time out for appointments as easily as me. The perks of being a researcher mean that I can literally work anywhere, any time. Customers, on the other hand, only get serviced during preordained time slots.)

In the waiting room, I was sitting opposite a couple of girls my age. (If they weren’t a couple I will eat my hat.) I wanted to politely inform them that I knew what situation they were in and what their options were and that they really ought to go get themselves a competent doctor who will actually be treating them and not a shoddy-middle-man doctor who will be palming them off to another doctor and won’t think too much about them or even remember who they are.

I didn’t say that. It seemed a little forward. Besides, I was waiting too. Why should they believe someone who doesn’t practice what they preach?

They went in to their appointment. They came back out. They seemed happy enough. I wondered if they’d have more success than me. Statistically, they will.

Dr D called my name.

He began with the standard:

“Remind me who you are.”

Not to worry, mate, I’ve only been your patient for a year. You’ve only cost me twenty-something grand, you’ve only denied my wife and I medical records and information for the past year. I suppose you do that to all your patients, though, right? We’re not worth remembering. We’re probably not even worth keeping a file on.

I didn’t say that. It seemed unnecessarily argumentative. So, I answered his question with the facts; my name, my wife’s name, our medical history and why I was fronting up to his office on this particular day.

After ascertaining, from me, the sketchy details that I had gathered from miscellaneous lab-techs, nurses and doctors regarding my last cycle (he doesn’t bother to look these up – the clinic’s website, a task which, he has told me, is too hard), he concluded that the cycle was successful because there was one embryo that didn’t die before 5 day transfer. Hooray! Success!

When I pointed out that 90% of my 3 day embryos die before they become 5 day embryos, and that this is statistically very high for a 27-28 year-old, he told me there was nothing wrong with that, because, of course, there was one embryo this cycle that didn’t die within 5 days of existence.

I pointed out that I had more IVF cycles under my belt than 5 day embryos. That didn’t seem a very ‘successful’ track record.

He told me I’d only done 2 IVF cycles, because the first one was cancelled.

I wonder if this denial of the facts is how the IVF clinic generates better statistics.

I wonder what qualifies an IVF cycle as being ‘cancelled’. If you have eggs collected, eggs fertilised, show up for an embryo transfer, pay for that embryo transfer, are taken into the procedure room… I wonder if that is still a cancelled cycle. Seems like a very late cancellation to me. I would have loved it to have been cancelled several thousand dollars earlier.

Anyway. That’s an issue for another time.

“I’m writing up another cycle, and I’m going to put you on a different drug this time,” he says, handing me the paperwork.

“What drug?” (I feel like I have probably read about all of them by now.)

“It’s called, ‘Menopur’.”

…Which is the same drug he’s prescribed for every single one of my cycles so far and which I have told him on several occasions makes me really sick.

He can’t even keep note of what drugs he’s prescribed previously. So much for learning from past cycles. Perhaps he has shares in the Menopur company.

During this consultation, I asked 6 times for basic fertility test referrals for C. He told us last time that I had to do a third cycle before he would allow her to have any tests. After I refused to leave until he gave them to me, he finally handed them over.

Also, I asked to be sent for additional tests given that:

  1. It’s been a year since the first set of tests.
  2. I’ve had 3 failed cycles.

Nope. He won’t let me go for any more tests until I do a fourth cycle. A fourth cycle just the same as the first, second and third.

Because, if you blindly do the same thing again and again and again, the outcome will change.

That’s the definition of insanity, right?

 

You just need to learn a different lesson

When you’re trying to make a baby, and failing to make a baby, and paying out the arse to make a baby, there’ll be someone who makes you feel just a little better about the situation. Maybe it’s your partner, maybe a friend, for me, strangely, it seems to be my father.

When I was younger, I didn’t have much of a relationship with my father. This makes our relationship now kinda weird. He doesn’t feel like a parent, rather, we’re just two adults who like each other, happen to have similar interests and do stuff together.

It so happens, therefore, that my father is the only other person, besides my wife, who has heard all the gritty emotional details of our TTC frolics. This is a situation that I would have never seen eventuating. I always thought of my father as the last person to look to for life advice.

Maybe it’s age and wisdom, maybe it’s his way of never doing things the logical or generic way, or his wacky way of thinking or that he seems to be singularly and enviably at peace with life, the universe and everything. Either way. He’s a good bloke to talk to about the frustrating meaninglessness that is infertility.

The last time I saw him, I told him how we were going with it, and how it had failed, yet again. I got teary and started feeling like the horrible void of nasty barren womb feelings was going to swallow me up… yet again.

“Look”, he said, ending a long and difficult conversation in his usual sage style. “The thing is, some people just get pregnant by accident. That’s because they need to learn some responsibility. Now, you’re already responsible! So, you must just need to learn a different lesson.”

It’s most certainly BS but it made me feel better. I know I’m getting wiser from all this. I know my relationship with my wife is getting stronger and more complex. I know I’m more assertive and more confident and more sensitive to my own needs. I feel like an adult for the first time in my life, not just a teenager masquerading as a responsible grown up human.

One day I’ll finishing learning this darn pesky lesson and then finally it will rain babies**!!!

 

** In a really controlled fashion, I should think.

One year of TTC

Today marks 1 year of us trying to make a baby.

One year ago, today, the weather was just like this, bright, sunny and warm. The perfect Australian winter day. It was a Saturday so we were both off work and we went for our first doctor’s appointment and obtained our first referral. One year ago, today, we celebrated the milestone by having friends over and drinking wine.

We were optimistic AF. Now, this is definitely not the worst first year of baby making in existence, but it has been a pretty shit time. Between me being sick as a dog every second month and metaphorically setting fire to large vats of borrowed money, it has certainly been the biggest challenge our relationship has ever faced.

On the plus side, I’m pretty sure I illegally married the most calm, tolerant and kind woman in the world and I couldn’t be more in love with her.

As a pessimistic summary of the past year, below is a letter of complaint I recently sent to our IVF clinic. (Names omitted). Writing it did make me feel better I suppose. I don’t suppose it helps in any other way. Unfortunately, being that we require donor sperm, we have the choice of 2 fertility clinics in our state i.e. within 1000 km of us and our lacklustre doctor is the only one within 80 km.

To whom it may concern,

My wife and I wish to raise several complaints regarding our experience with [IVF clinic]. We have been trying to conceive using donor sperm as we are both female. We attended an [IVF clinic] sperm donor information session on 10/8/16 and joined the sperm donor waiting list on 15/8/16. We were told that the waiting list for IUI quality sperm was 8-10 months while the waiting list for IVF quality sperm was 2 months.

Soon after this we consulted with Dr ____. Dr ____ implied that I would not have much difficulty falling pregnant due to my age (27) and lack of health issues. He referred me for fertility tests and informed us that I would be doing IUI using donor sperm. At that time, my wife and I intended that I would be the biological and gestational mother.

After going for the prescribed tests, I called Dr ____’s rooms to see if I would need to book another appointment to discuss the results of the tests. I was told by Dr ____’s receptionist that all the tests came back fine. My AMH was a little low but it was nothing to worry about. We would need to make another appointment when we reached the top of the donor sperm waiting list.

During the next few months, my wife and I attended the compulsory counselling sessions at the Kogarah clinic where we discussed IUI and general parental readiness. We also did extensive research on IUI in preparation.

A few weeks before we were due to reach the top of the sperm donor waiting list, we attended another appointment with Dr ____. We were abruptly informed that my AMH test result was so low that we should be doing IVF in order to freeze embryos now as I may not have any eggs left “by the time [I’m] 30”. Needless to say, it was very stressful for my wife and I to suddenly discover this after being led to believe that I had no fertility issues whatsoever.

We were, and continue to be, extremely angry that we were not informed of any fertility issues and were thus kept waiting for IUI quality sperm for 6 months. I could have started treatment last year, had I been told my correct and complete medical information when I attempted to find out the results of my fertility tests. Because of this, we were also denied the ability to discuss infertility and IVF with the [IVF clinic] counsellor, which greatly increased the stress we felt at this time. Additionally, we had very little information or knowledge about IVF, given that we had been told it was a far off possibility.  This again made the situation very overwhelming for both of us.

My next complaint pertains to our treatment following the first IVF cycle, when we came in for our first embryo transfer. My wife and I both had to take the entire day off work and travel for 2.5 hours to reach the clinic. When we arrived, we were charged $500 for the embryo transfer before being sent to another waiting room for additional waiting. Finally, a nurse took us into the procedure room and told us that there were no embryos to transfer. To get to that point in the process and be told the entire cycle was a failure was very upsetting. It would have been very nice to receive notice of this before we left home, or while we were on the way to the clinic, or even before we were charged $500 for the non-occurrent transfer. After asking for our money back we did, however, receive a refund.

My final complaint relates to Dr ____. After our second failed IVF cycle, I requested that he refer my wife for the standard fertility tests, given that I had had so little success up to that point. My wife and I felt it was important to understand our options in order to maximise our success in whichever way we needed to. Dr ____ repeatedly refused to refer her for tests until I underwent a third IVF cycle. Once again, I feel that Dr ____ is denying us relevant medical information. As a couple trying to conceive, do we not have a right to fertility information about both of us?

As an additional, more general comment, in nearly all cases in which I have been speaking to a new contact at [IVF clinic], they have assumed that my partner is a man. Given that same-sex couples do not seem to comprise an insignificant portion of your clientele, it would be lovely if your staff could keep this in mind and use gender neutral language if the gender and/or preferred pronouns of a partner are unknown.

I look forward to your feedback on our grievances.

Regards,

N

Infertility: The more you know

Call me naïve if you will, but I never realised that the process of trying to make a baby would be so emotionally devastating.

Seriously, I really didn’t. I didn’t! Honestly, I think that goes for a lot of people who have never tried or never struggled. I like to think of myself as a very rational person. I’m a scientist. I do research for a living. I make spreadsheets for everything. If you think I didn’t make a spreadsheet and do the statistics on this whole baby making caper, you are absolutely kidding yourself.

But, although it’s expensive and although it’s physically exhausting, the worst thing by far is the emotions. I don’t even know how to describe it to people who haven’t been there. It’s fucked.

My mother got pregnant once before she had me. My parents were on their honeymoon and it just happened. She miscarried a few weeks in but didn’t feel upset or emotional about it. “It was just a bunch of cells”, she always told me. True. Rational. You don’t miss what you weren’t looking for. This story has always coloured my view of conception and loss.

A bunch of cells is nothing to cry over.

A couple of weeks ago, I came as close as I ever have to getting pregnant. Although I don’t have a positive home pregnancy test to base this on *TMI alert* when I got my period, I was losing what looked like big chunks of bloody flesh. Not blood clots, but actual tissue. This has never happened to me before. Ever. It was a legit bunch of bloody cells. And I felt a bloody emotional, teary attachment to them/it. Is it disrespectful to humanity to flush these down the toilet? (If so, I was eventually disrespectful).

Anyway.

How it turned out for my mum: After me, she tried for 6 years to have another baby, naturally and through IUI, and never had another pregnancy. The story she only really told me recently is about how devastating and all-consuming it was to want a baby, knowing that your body can do it, theoretically, and just never ever get one. That particular story is the one about sobbing over baby clothes and about buying heaps of soft teddy bears to cuddle when she was craving a little soft thing to care for. It’s the story of resenting my father for not caring as much as she did and resenting those for whom pregnancy came easy.

It’s the wanting that makes it hard. It’s the knowing it’s just luck and chance and persistence and that the only thing you can do is try and try and try and wait.

N

P.S. My mother recently bought me a really soft fluffy toy when I was in the ‘progesterone-crying’ phase of the cycle and started weeping profusely over it in a shop. She told me the above story and said it would make me feel better. It did.