The Good News

A few weeks back, one Friday, a day before my period was due, I took a lolpregnancy test.

It was negative.

Nothing new. As my post history (overly?) details, we’d been trying for nearly a year and a half. Other than an early loss on the same cycle as my HSG, there’s been nothing to show for our troubles. (I asked for another HSG but they told me no. /sad) In January, a bit over a year of trying (and like 15 cycles or something, I have short cycles), I asked to be referred to the fertility clinic. Unlike our Southern neighbours, Canadians can’t just walk into a fertility clinic. You don’t shop for a fertility clinic, unless you have a lot of time and money to travel. There is one clinic for half the province. Waitlists for just a consult, especially for an unexplained case in someone under 35 (even though I’m getting pretty freaking close to 35) can be up to a year. I was quoted 4-6 months. It was a bit over 5 months and nothing.

I had high hopes for this cycle. We had gone on holidays! I mean, the holidays didn’t coincide with our fertility window but according to everyone who eagerly offers bad fertility advice, there’s nothing better for your fertility than going on holidays.

I went out and partied that Friday. Also booked an emergency weekend trip to Taiwan as Ed’s aunt passed away (no need for condolences, he had met her 3-4 times in his life and I had never met her) and his family was requesting our presence. Then Saturday I invited people over and partied harder.

Pregnancy tests should be repeated every 48 hours until you have your period, so Sunday, before work, I took another. It was immediately negative. I gave myself the usual deflated self talk. Oh well, maybe we’ll hear back from the fertility clinic soon.

I brushed my teeth and did my hair, the usual getting ready for work routine. I took another peak at the stick after the three minute mark.

Lo and behold, there was more than just a control line. It was faint, but it was there.

Telling People

On pregnancy message boards, many ladies like to come up with witty ways to tell their partners. Especially since I got my positive close to Father’s Day. Creative internet ladies LOVE imaginative ways to share the news with fathers-to-be around Father’s Day.

I have no such patience.

I woke Ed up, shoved my pee soaked stick in his face and asked if it looked positive to him. (I believe his half-asleep response was something like “Um, yeah, sure, whatever you say.”)

I also told everyone at work. By the end of the day, half the town knew about that morning’s fortunate test. I know you’re supposed to wait until the end of the first trimester because of risk of loss and all that, but I was vocal about my shitty fertility, I was vocal about my last loss and was prepared to be vocal again should this one end badly.

My parents found out a week later. I wanted to tell them over the phone but the time difference combined with our emergency trip to Taiwan and my crazy work hours made it difficult. Ed’s parents will probably find out after the genetics testing, as I feel like they (and we!) will be happier if we don’t get their hopes up until our chances of everything being ok are pretty good.

On Being Pregnant

So, there’s a misconception about me wanting to be pregnant. See, I didn’t especially care to be pregnant. I just want to raise a baby and, well, even with our fertility struggles, good ole fashion pregnancy is the most efficient way of putting myself in that position. Still, after a year and a half of heartbreak and disappointment, I promised myself I would not take pregnancy for granted.

And I don’t. I think there’s a healthy way to be grateful every second for the opportunity to bring a child into your family while still not appreciating your body’s protests.

I would say that I’ve been lucky. I’m not having one of those “I can’t even tell I’m pregnant!” pregnancies, but it’s not like my face is in the toilet 24/7 either. I feel like things would be easier if I had an office job where I could work at my own pace and not have to deal with hordes of inane people and their rambling (it’s not that I’m insensitive to how your insurance is now charging you 30 cents more on your already really cheap drugs and that you had to wait an 5 extra minutes because the person in front of you had a question, it’s just that I’m starving, covered in sweat, can barely see from the headspinning and if you don’t shut up I am going to legit puke all over this counter.)

Lessons I’ve learned:

1- Never be hungry. Ever. I’m having a pretty bad aversions to meat (Ed is disappointed that I have no amusing cravings yet, just lots and lots of aversions), so my backpack crammed full of salads, fruits, carrots, hard boiled eggs, broths and granola bars. I eat nonstop and I don’t care what the customers think, I’m pregnant dammit. Funny story, the other day I bought a pack of croissants at the grocery store. They were delicious so I ate 3 in one sitting. And was still hungry.

2- Take breaks. I don’t have scheduled breaks at work and I’m so swamped that I usually don’t stop for more than 5 minutes twice in a 13 hour shift to stuff something in my mouth, but since being pregnant it’s a lot easier to put myself first. When I feel the wheels about to fall off the wagon, I tell the customer I’ll be back in 15, get someone from front store to watch my counter and I leave. I’ve also cut down on the volunteering (I work 14 hours shifts, but am only paid for 11 – I still have to volunteer a bit and go in on my days off otherwise everyone in the nursing home will die for lack of meds, but I now proudly do the bare, bare minimum.)

3- Diclectin works miracles. (I think it’s called Diclegis in the US.) I wasn’t having any nausea at my first appointment but my doctor suggested I take the prescription just in case. And wow. When I started feeling sick, I took one and I could actually feel the humanity returning to me. It’s been doing wonders for night stomach pains, morning lightheadedness and insomnia. 10/10 would recommend.

4- I plan my life around sleep. I do okay on days that I work, but my days off go kind of like this: wake up at noon, pee, eat something, fall asleep on couch, wake up 2 hours later, pee, eat something, crawl into bed, wake up 2 hours later, pee, eat something, go play phone games on couch, fall asleep, you get the picture. I would have blogged about this sooner but the way my life is right now, I’m either at work or asleep. I get frustrated that I can’t do the things I want to on my days off, but part of me enjoys just giving my body what it needs, guilt-free.

Ultrasounds

I saw my doctor around 7 weeks. Last time I saw the doctor earlier because I had started bleeding before I even knew I was pregnant, but this time everything was going well so I held off as long as I could. According to her, I was actually 7 weeks 4 days at my appointment given my short cycles (it’s amazing how internet women always know exactly what week and day they’re on. I try to keep track, but the more time goes by, the more I need to rely on my calendar.)

My doctor offered to try to find a heartbeat with the handheld ultrasound machine at the clinic. I didn’t know you could do an abdominal ultrasound so early on, all the internet ladies had their early ultrasounds done vaginally, but apparently you can. We saw the baby (if you can call it that) and the heartbeat! She then ran to grab the clinic Doppler and we were able to listen. Amazing!

I think I was more relieved than excited, though, to be honest. While our struggles to get (and I guess, stay) pregnant were minor compared to many, they did bring me in contact with a lot of unfortunate women. Nothing is ever a given. There’s no certainty you’ll become pregnant. There’s no certainty a fertilized egg will grow. There’s no certainty of a heartbeat. There’s no certainty that the baby will be genetically viable. There’s no certainty it’ll survive childbirth. Worrying about your child’s survival, I’ve discovered, doesn’t start at birth. It starts at conception.

I had the official dating ultrasound on Thursday but have yet to hear back. The technician scolded me for having an empty bladder (They told me to void an hour before then drink water! That’s what I did! And my bladder certainly didn’t feel empty!) but as far as I can tell, the pictures looked fine. If I can see everything clearly, they should be able to see everything clearly.

* * * *

The next step, other than hearing back on the dating, is getting genetics (I think chromosomal is the proper word, but I’m not sure. I believe genetics applies to the parents and we aren’t doing for that, as much as I would like to) testing done. My doctor suggested the Harmony test so we’re going with that one at 11 weeks. It’s not covered by provincial insurance and there are no private labs in town which means we need to travel to the city for the blood draw, but the peace of mind (and the COOLNESS factor! Is it bad that I’m really excited about the coolness factor?) will be worth it I think.

Otherwise, just gotta hang in there, I’m told my energy will be back in the second trimester. Fingers crossed that baby will stick until then and beyond!

Oh, and if you want to hear something funny, the day after my doctor’s appointment confirmed heartbeat, the fertility clinic called. (They were super sweet and understanding, by the way. Absolutely reassuring for if I need to rely on them in the future.)

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Posted in Whiny Patient Ophelie | Tagged , , , | 8 Comments

Holidays and Conventions

When I graduated school, I was excited to get into the workforce: get paid, not constantly be graded and, most importantly, the ability to come home and shut it off.

Turns out it doesn’t really work that way.

I’d still pick my job over school any day (at least, over necessary school with all that pressure – if I were rich, I’d totally do funducation for my own personal growth for the rest of my life), but the 8am to 10pm days kick my ass. And I feel too guilty to charge my employer when it’s probably my own fault that I can’t keep up or don’t have my staff trained properly, so I don’t even get paid for the extra 3 hours a day. I suppose it comes back to me with quarterly bonuses (and a reduction in staff meltdowns – always important!) but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m tired. My days off are usually spent on the couch, staring at the ceiling. Makes it hard to keep up with my video gaming goals. On the bright side, I do love the work. I used to whine and cry and panic about the mountains of work but these days…I don’t know if it’s some form of acceptance or Stockholm syndrom or what, but I actually kind of look forward to work.

Anyway, what I wanted to get to is that I have real vacations planned! My customers are even more excited about it that I am.

Customer: I heard you’re going on holidays! (It’s a really small town, sometimes customers discover stuff about my life before I even do.) What exotic location do you have lined up this time? Guatemala? Zimbabwe? Samoa?

Me: (proudly) Calgary!

Yeah, that’s right. After two years of living on a shoestring budget carrying all my belongings on my back, my ideal holidays are really just enjoying my house and doing continuing education credits to buff my professional profile. Also playing video games, relearning how to write and sipping expensive coffee. (Besides, maybe one day I’ll get off the extremely long fertility clinic waitlist and have little Ophies and little Eds running around, meaning that my days of relaxing in home activities will be put on hold for 20 years.) Still, it’s important to get out once in awhile. Ed was disappointed when he couldn’t go to Calgary with me a few months back when I was sent there for training. So Calgary it was!

Calgary Comic Con is happening at the end of April. I haven’t been to a geek convention in a few years so I excitedly bought tickets and booked a hotel. Since I have like, you know, actual time off work, I went all out and bought the premium package! I’m not exactly sure what that entails, but it was only slightly more expensive than the ordinary weekend-long package and I’ve never bought a premium package before and I’m all about trying new things!

I love conventions. Love, love, love them. I think my first was Blizzcon, so many years ago. If I remember right, I didn’t even have tickets and went just to go to the parties. It was an absolute dream. The parties were excellent (I always say I hate parties but I’ve discovered that I actually love parties – I’m just very snobby about who I party with) and I ended up with tickets when someone had to leave early. I’ve never done strong drugs, but I imagine it’s pretty similar. You have the most intense, most surreal fun. When you come back down to reality, you’re miserable AF, bedridden with con-crud and crushed that it’s over, and all your mind can do is countdown the days, the hours, until next time.

After a few Blizzcon buzzes, I branched out and showed up at PAX when I somehow ended up with tickets. (I don’t exactly remember how it happened, it was so random. I think someone tweeted me that tickets were on sale? I clicked the link for shits and giggles thinking they’d be sold out? Suddenly I had tickets?) No one I knew attended (actually, no, lots of people I knew attended, but obviously I didn’t know them well enough to be aware of their attendance until after the fact) so it made for a totally different experience. I worried about awkwardness and lonelyness, but oh boy, PAX is NOT awkward and lonely. I want to reign in the drug comparisons because Cons are and should be family-friendly events (I feel like this blog should also be a family-friendly blog but who am I kidding?) but the pharmacist in me can’t help herself. Where Blizzcon is a stimulant, PAX is a hallucinogenic. I just chatted up random people (and I’m a super shy, quiet person, I swear!), attended a few feel-good panels that ended with wonderful oversharing and the occasional group hug and finished up with tons of fast friends that I never spoke to again.

Calgary Expo is a different experience. It’s the only convention I’ve attended that isn’t gaming-exclusive and I don’t consume a lot of media so I have no idea who most of the panelists are. What that means, though, is there a lot of opportunities to discover new artists and new work. There are a lot of local panelists and exhibitors as well, which I discovered is really important to me. It was my first attendance at the Calgary Expo that made me realize how much talent there is and how much cool stuff people were creating in Alberta. I started going to more events, festivals presentations and shows during my Edmonton trips. One day I realized that I felt Albertan and that I had fallen in love with Edmonton and I totally blame the Calgary Expo for my conversion (one of these days I need to make it out to the Edmonton Expo – much smaller but I bet I’ll love the even more local aspect of it. Also, you know you’re Canadian when a city 300km away is “local”.)

In previous installments, it was also an opportunity to connect with other Albertan gamers. While the parties weren’t on Blizzcon scale, the intimacy factor was wonderful and I felt like I had real quality time with friends. Sadly, I’ve fallen out of touch with pretty much everyone from my WoW blogging days, so it’s a gamble. Will I meet other cool people PAX-style? I’m much older than I was at PAX, plus the setting in Calgary is way more family-oriented than a pure gaming convention is, so it might be harder, but who knows? Maybe I’ll meet less people but will be more likely to keep in touch after the event.

Ed has also never been to a convention (I know, I’m shocked too!) so I’m nervous because I want him to understand why I love conventions so much. That’s a lot of pressure on Calgary Expo to deliver!

Whatever happens, we’ve also got plans to wrap up in Banff National Park, hopefully get spring skiing (that’s right, there’s still snow up here in the Northern Rockies!) and some hiking (deep in avalanche season so maybe not!) in. We got a great deal on fancy shmacy accommodations so even if we’re trapped inside the whole time, it’ll still be wonderful. (Note, we also got a great deal on our accommodations in Calgary – another perk of Cons is that they often partner with businesses to offer discounts on hotels, restaurants and even flights.)

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Another Year Over

I’ve had those John Lennon lyrics stuck in my head for weeks “another year over and a new one just begun”.

2017 was…not the best year. I mean, I suppose it could be much worse. I see people dying of cancer or losing loved ones every day. I’m lucky I’m not one of those people. Still, 2017 definitely did not turn out the way I hoped.

2017 was the Year of Not Getting Pregnant

We started trying a bit before Christmas last year (as soon as I was far enough into my Beer Advent Calendar to safely try, HA!). Over a year and 15 cycles later, still nothing.

Ok, not exactly true. We learned that I don’t always ovulate (but don’t know why – I have like the most regular periods in the world and none of the usual causes of anovulatory cycles apply to me) but otherwise my hormone levels are normal, Ed is fine and my tubes aren’t blocked. Oh, and I did have a positive pregnancy test on Cycle 13 (the same cycle as my HSG) but miscarried almost immediately after. It was awful in that it’s painful, it’s messy (and smelly), you waste so much time and the bleeding bleeds FOREVER. OMG SO MUCH BLOOD. I was fortunate that it was so early on: I didn’t have any kind of emotional attachment to the pregnancy (I know some people do and have a tough time, even with a loss as early as mine, but after everything I’d been through in my previous 12 cycles, miscarriage did not take me by surprise) and I wasn’t faced with the trauma of having to deliver a real, deceased fetus. So as far as miscarriages go, it was a best case scenario, but it still massively sucked.

So the fantasies of having a baby by Christmas, or at very least, a pregnancy announcement by Christmas were reduced to a flaming pile of crushed dream juice.

I don’t get how some people end up with one (or more! WTF) children they don’t even want. I mean, getting pregnant, as it turns out, takes years of careful timing, peeing on sticks 10 mornings per cycle and going to the hospital every few weeks for doctor appointments, lab work and medical procedures. Why would someone go through all that trouble if they’re not 100% committed? Bloody hell.

Maybe this year we’ll fantasize about having a dog by Christmas. Our odds will be better.

2017 was the Year of my Cats

We lost a cat back in November to a rare illness, which was a very sad time.

We have, in the meanwhile, adopted a new cat, the little black guy in the photo. We missed having an entertaining ball of fluff and energy in the house, plus our two cranky old geezers seem to be less old and cranky with a kitten around to stimulate them.

They are the center of our lives. This may or may not be related to the fact that we have no human baby to fuss over. Anyway, our cats have a good life. We buy them the best food, shower them with toys and play with them for hours every day. They sleep well at night. (And in the afternoon.)

2017 was a Year of Working Hard

I show up an hour before my shift, stay 1-2 hours after my shift and every few weeks I have to go in for up to 9 hours on a day off to catch up. I rarely get paid for the extra time, but the work has to get done. It’s lucky that I happen to really enjoy the work.

My coworker left us at the end of November to go to New Zealand or China or Europe or all of the above, but even before, I think I only had the feeling of being caught up once since I went back to work. My higher ups constantly complain on how I don’t do enough care plans. In my imagination, I ask them what I should cut out to make time for care plans. Should I stop checking blister packs? Perhaps no more data entry? Or answering customer questions?

I do love the work though, even the tedious documenting, the stressful prescribing and the customer service aspect. Which is pretty much like customer service in any job. You need wit of a comedian, the patience of a saint and the thick skin of an alligator. I complain a lot, but I catch myself having a good time more often than I care to admit. Plus, the hours where I do get paid, I get paid well. And while I don’t do it for the money, I figure the more I stash away now, the more I’ll have to spend on my non-existent children later on.

2017 was the Year of Indulging in Consumables

Somewhere in the year, I became obsessed with subscription boxes. Like really obsessed. I’ve never been one for material things, but I think the lack of travel plans, combined with a never ending series of disappointing conception cycles awoke some kind of beast within me.

I subscribed to YEG box for a few months. It was great. The products are very well curated and I found the boxes got better and better every month. It was way too expensive (62.50$/month after shipping and taxes) so I took a break after December. Highly recommended if you’re into artisan creations and have that kind of disposable income.

Rawspice Bar was another box I tried. I avoid buying stuff that ships from the US because border fees are SO EXPENSIVE. I opted for them because I love spices and their shipping fees are reasonable. I paid for 6 months upfront and two months into my subscription, they switched models from monthly to quarterly (and didn’t inform me) and charged me another 20$ for shipping, without asking. And that was the end of that. No more buying anything that ships from the US.

Finally, I picked Roaster’s Pack as a coffee subscription. After 3 months, I forgot to adjust my subscription to 6 months, so I ended up with another 3 months instead of 6. Oops! But anyway, I’ve been 100% satisfied. It’s a little more expensive than buying your own beans, but they do a good job of sending you 3 different sets of beans every month, from roasters you’d never think to try on your own. The coffee doesn’t last me a whole month, but I don’t mind. I’m just happy to try new coffee and read their little info cards.

In other consumables, I’ve become an avid David’s Tea fan. I have tried most of their teas by now. I even bought their Tea Advent Calendar since trying (and failing) to conceive has ruled out Beer Advent Calendars. Note that most of the teas in it are cinnamon flavoured. If you like cinnamon, you will like their calendar. If you don’t like cinnamon, you will resent spending 45$ on that calender. Coffee-wise, my coworker brought me some Atlin Mountain coffee from her Yukon road trip. Best. Coffee. Ever. Their shipping is too costly to justify subscribing to their monthly service, but totally acceptable if you just do one massive order. LOVE LOVE LOVE Atlin Mountain. I even ended up giving both my brothers a nice box of their coffee for Christmas.

The other kind of consumable I’ve caught myself indulging in is, I’m kind of embarrassed to admit, skin care and makeup. I put in a huge order at Dermalogica during their Black Friday sale and I’ve been enjoying an extensive evening skin care routine ever since. I’ve also been watching You Tube make up videos. It’s totally weird. I mean, I’m in my thirties, make up has always felt kind of foreign to me, then one day, boom! But I think the infertility struggle has a lot to do with it. I discover I have no control over an important (to me) part of my body so I get the urge to compensate by controlling another aspect of my body. And hey, learning about make up is both practical and creative! Next city trip, I plan to make an appointment at Sephora’s for colour advice. I mean, I’ve learned to much about products and technique but they get me no where when I don’t really know what I look like.

2017 was an Indoor Kind of Year

In the Epic Journey aftermath, I’ve become very, very lazy. Plus, with all the hours I put in at work, by the time I recover from the week and my legs aren’t killing me, it’s time to go back to work. So there has not been much hiking, skiing or travel in 2017. We did go to Ed’s parents’ in New Jersey last spring as well as Montana in the summer, both for immigration stuff.

When I’m not working, though, I pretty much just…sleep. I gamed a little. Mostly Bioware role playing games. I’ve been playing Destiny since it released in October, but not with any sort of seriousness. I’ve tried to blog, but the entries are sporradic. Most “new posts” end in frustration after a few lines. I keep trying, but I think that’s just where I am in my life. I’m old, I work too hard and I’m just tired all the time. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to Mat Leave. I know it’s not a holiday, but I do long for a day where I can focus all my attention on one little being and just block out the world.

2018: The Plan

I’m not one for resolutions, but here are the exciting plans for 2018:

– Keep attempting to defy my body’s refusal to make a baby.

– Take some vacation time in April. Travel to Calgary for the Expo then enjoy Lake Louise or something. Ed and I both want easier travel, which means indulging on the luxuries in our own backyard.

– Do a make up class at Sephora’s, then spend a shiton of money on good makeup. If I can’t have a baby, at least I can have a stylish face.

– Get my Geriatrics certification. Been putting off the multi-year intensive doctorate in case I get pregnant, but the Geriatrics certificate is totally doable.

– Grow a better garden. Maybe I’ll get some herbs this year.

– Continue with the sporadic blogging. It’s not as social as writing WoW pieces, but I do enjoy (over)sharing on many topics.

Posted in Not drunken ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Saying Goodbye to Baby Cat

Last Friday we had to put down our nearly 18 month old kitty. It was one of the saddest things we’ve ever had to do.

He was creative with his sleeping spots. I still look for him sometimes, even though I know he’s not there.

His adoption papers designate him as Joker. We renamed him Gaston, given his exuberant personality. Most of the time, though, we just called him The Kitten. And I, in my cat mom ways, nicknamed him Baby Cat.

He was rambunctious. He tore up wall paint and carpets. I gave up on the Christmas tree last year. Just left the decorations off and let him climb it. (There is actually a big hole in the carpet under the bedroom door from when I locked him in to keep him away as I was attempting to put up the tree.) He also had some strange logic. We have a closet in our house entrance. When we bought the house, the door had no knob so we just left it open for ease of access. Until the day I grabbed a pair of shoes from it. They were soaking wet. Upon further investigation, it turned out The Kitten has mistaken our closest for a litter box. For weeks. (It didn’t smell very strong for some reason, perhaps kitten urine is less concentrated?) After tossing all those shoes and deep cleaning the closet, we installed a knob and kept the door closed. It was never a problem again.

Then, sometime last summer, around his first birthday, he started sleeping more, in stranger and stranger places. He even discovered how to open the lower drawer in our dresser, to climb inside and move from drawer to drawer, until he found a soft one to sleep in.

We figured he was just being a teenager.

I came home one day and he was sleeping like this.

Not long ago, maybe 2 weeks, he climbed into a cupboard before I left for work. Ed said he didn’t come out until around 6pm. Soon, Ed (who works from home and sees a lot more of the cats than I can) noticed he had trouble breathing and couldn’t breathe at all if held in certain ways. A few days later, it was obvious he was struggling and it just kept getting worse.

But! He was still eating, still drinking, still going to the bathroom. No diarrhea that we could tell. He kept his routine of waiting for us in the bathroom while we showered, then following us into the bedroom to sit on us and purr as we tried to get dressed. He even did his best to play, taking a few swats at the laser pointer the very day before he passed.

“Oh, he must be anemic or something” we thought, as we brought him to the vet.

During the painful, hour long car ride through the snow, we reassured our panicked Baby Cat (he was neutered in our town so he’d never been in the car for any significant amount of time before) “I know the car sucks, but it’ll be worth, you’ll feel better soon.”

I suppose we were right in that he did stop suffering, but not in the way we intended.

The chest x-ray was not good. The fight to breathe wasn’t caused by nutritional deficiency, or infection, or even obstruction. At least, not really. He couldn’t breathe because his chest cavity was filled with so much fluid that his lungs were shoved into a tiny corner. Whether it was freak cancer or, more likely, the words every cat rescuer dreads hearing (as I discovered later) Feline Infectious Peritonitis (FIP), it was clear: there was no coming back from this.

How long had he been been secretly suffering? Was his sleeping in strange places early signs of illness or just his quirky personality? He preferred the dark, was he getting migraines? Like anyone caring for a vulnerable being, I wanted to protect him from everything at any cost, and here he was fighting for his life while I had no idea. If it was FIP, there’s nothing we could have done, but had we caught it earlier, could we have spared him some pain? He was just so good at hiding it. Even the day before he died, he was playing as much as he could, asking for food, eating out of my hand and sleeping next to my face at night. I wish he could know how proud I am of him and how much I admire his determination.

Speaking of determination, he fought, right up to his last gasping breath. Before the euthenasia, they administer a sedative, something I expect that is similar to midazolam which is what we give humans to relax them before death. It had the opposite effect: he tried to run away from the invisible smothering. His breathing was the worst it had ever been and he panicked like he was drowning. He hid his face in Ed’s jacket until the vet finally came back and ended it before we lost our minds. Our poor little guy, his last moments were that horrible car drive, getting poked and prodded at the vet, and then suffocation.

I try to take comfort in that the rest of his short life was a good one. So many cats die of exposure, of trauma or of getting ripped apart by predators. He was always safe, he has two “big brothers” that he got along well with, he ate good food and was showed in attention. I wish we could have done more for him, he was a good cat, but mother nature is neither fair nor merciful.

We’ll miss him.

Like any doting cat mom, I have oodles of pictures to show and tell, but I’ll put a cut here to avoid stretching out the blog too much.¬† Continue reading

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Learning to Garden: The Results

To celebrate my first summer as a home owner, I decided to try growing some stuff.

I…was not very successful, but the fruits of my labor weren’t so disastrous as to chase me away from grassroots forever. My crops just grew (or didn’t) in buckets this year, like I could have easy done on my old apartment balcony, really, but I’ll find some room to install a raised garden and some flower beds next spring.

Summery of my harvest! From most bad to not-so-bad:

Garlic

My bucket garden book forgot to mention that you need to plant garlic in the fall. Or maybe it did and I wasn’t paying attention. Anyway, around now is supposed to be a good time. My mom says she plants her before the big frosts and covers them with newspapers or mulch to keep them from sprouting too early. Perhaps I’ll give it another try.

We did end up with one garlic bulb that somehow got mixed in the with the onions, but it was way, like waaay too tiny to do anything with. A few other garlics sprouted and died shortly after. The others just rotted away.

Herbs

I planted cilantro, basil and green onions. They all sprouted, grew a little, but died before they had grown enough to be harvested. My money’s on a combination of disliking their pot and the chilly nights (it gets cold here, even freezes a couple of times in the summer).

The aerogarden ended up being a better herb supplier, with thai basil, mint and dill going wild. We’re eating the basil but are having trouble finding uses for mint and dill.

Aerogarden: For when all else fails.

Not sure yet what I want to do next year. I think the herbs can do well indoors and I have just the right re-purposed clementine wooden boxes in mind. The key would be finding somewhere with natural light (not easy in a 60 year old small house), but out of reach of the cats. (Our cats are so weird. I know some cats like plants, but ours take it to the next level. No greens.)

Onions

I watched some videos on how to tell when onions are ready for harvest. My onions were ready unusually early, but who am I to argue with Youtube? Out they came.

They ended up being really, really tiny.

Cute and embarrassing. I think #5 from the left is my one random garlic.

I used them raw for salads and they were tasty, but no more flavourful than something you’d find in the store. Perhaps I grew them too close together, or perhaps I used the wrong soil type. Apparently you have to use specific fertilizer for bulbs? Will look into that.

Spinach

Thankfully, spinach loves cool Central Alberta summers! My first round grew so fast and wild that I forgot to take a picture. When it bolted mid-summer, I figured it was still early enough in the summer to try round 2.

Well, here’s round 2.

Only two plants grew this time and I haven’t been eating as many salads so I haven’t harvested them (they seem to grow better if they’re getting regularly snipped), but I’m full of joy knowing that spinach feels at home here. Once I get an actual garden, I’ll be sure to plant a few waves of spinach. I’m giddy about all the grocery trips it’ll save me.

Next summer plans

If I can figure out the tiny-house-and-cats-and-few-windows puzzle, I’d like to get a head start, growing herbs and tomatoes indoors in April. I’m having a love affair with winter squash as well, and would like to give it a try. Summer squash grows well here (and everywhere, really, even in Asia we came across people trying to give away zucchini. Zucchini overproduction is a universal phenomenon.) I do have one of those plant lights but I’m not sure if I can remember to use it and I have no idea if it works as well as natural light.

Of course, I’m hoping for some flower beds and a raised garden for my onions and spinach. My compost should be ready for use by next summer as well, which is exciting.

And maybe next year I can get some not-so-tiny onions.

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On Failing to Get Pregnant: A Reflection

Alright. Last post was a light-hearted take on how trying to conceive isn’t as straightforward as I expected. This is the more… hmm…philosophical follow up post.

This is a super touchy subject because everyone who fails to get pregnant has a different experience. I mean, I feel like I have different experiences every day and I’m just one person! So yeah, I’m worried I’ll come across as flippant or preachy because that’s not my intent. It’s just me, reacting to things I read and musing on the bits floating in my mind right now. Ask me again in two weeks, or had I written this two months ago, the tone would be something else again.

Semantics

I don’t say “infertility” yet. I believe the technically is, barring known medical conditions, no pregnancy after a year of unprotected intercourse. The year timeline seems really arbitrary. It only makes sense as a measure for couples who aren’t actively trying but aren’t preventing. Because if you’re actually trying, a year can mean anything from 10 to 17 cycles (assuming regularity since for someone who’s not regular, the year measurement doesn’t really apply) and let me tell you, if you’re actively trying, you know what cycle you’re on and you know something is wrong well before cycle 17.

This is cycle 13 here and less than a year, so I’ll just wait until the test results finish coming in before slapping a label on myself.

Raise a Child Or Be Mom

I see this all the time in conception or parenting communities: “I’ve always wanted to be a mom.

It occurs to me that I have never wanted to “be a mom”. The thought never even crossed my mind.

I have always wanted to raise children. For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved teaching, having little brothers (though I only started admitting that recently), keeping bits of wisdom to pass on. I’ve had stashes of toys and old school assignments kept “for my future children”. Every time I disagreed with my mom, I would think “that’s not how I’ll be with MY kids” and whenever my mom said “I hope you have a kid just like you” I’d silently agree because having a kid like me would be awesome.

Maybe it’s just semantics, or an English-speaking culture thing, but I never thought of having kids as something to “be”. Rather, to me, it is something to “do”. I still don’t care about being a mom, but I definitely want to raise kids, teach them to talk, show them the world and give them opportunities that weren’t available to me 30 years ago.

The Mood Follows the Cycle

One thing I’ve learned by reading “Trying to Conceive” testimonies is that the stress can come on really early. I’ve seen plenty of posters (not just women btw, I think we do everyone a disservice by forgetting that men are also affected by the process) on cycles 2(!)-4 talking about how emotional and upset they are.

Personally, I thought cycles 8-10ish sucked the most. I’ve been really outspoken about my trials, because…well, that’s just me. Queen of too much information (TMI). Probably makes me detestable at times but I don’t care enough. Anyway, the predictions at work were that I would be pregnant in August. My reaction? “Geez, I hope it doesn’t take THAT long.

August came and went, as did the realization that if the early cycles had worked out, I would have given birth already. That was the worst. Once that hump passed, I realized nature wasn’t going to be on our side, which meant going to the doctor, which mean taking some control over the situation. It helped with acceptance.

For the most part, though, and still today, mood follows the cycle. Day 1, you receive the message that you aren’t pregnant AGAIN and you’re in pain and uncomfortable because periods are just your body’s way of giving you the finger. It’s miserable. About a week in, the fertility monitor changes your status from “low” to “high” and eventually “peak”. This part is great, you feel empowered, you’re bonding with your husband, you’re full of hope. Then you have two weeks of helpless waiting. You hate the world, you don’t want to go to work, you just want to be left alone and play video games. You hold off on the booze, on the Advil, on the melatonin (am serious insomniac, I avoid the heavy sleep aids because they’d kill what little ability to sleep I have and, besides, melatonin works really well for me) so you’re really hating life. Then Day 1 comes along again, reminding you that your suffering was all in vain.

Dealing with People Asking When You’re Having Kids

Probably the #1 complaint of trying-to-conceivers. Actually doesn’t really apply to me. Everyone close to me knows way, waaaaay more than they ever wanted to and most strangers in Canada are too polite to ask about that sort of thing. And if they did ask, ha! would they ever be served!

On the rare occasion where it comes up and I need to shut it down, I just say something like “When Mother Nature/Biology cooperates.” It’s short and sweet and difficult to reply to.

Trying to Conceive and Your Partner

Lots of rants about how the pressure of not getting pregnant wrecks havoc on relationships. That makes me sad. Those people are missing out.

For us, so far, it’s brought us closer together. Talk to me again in 2 years and we’ll see (haha) but for now it feels like we’re working on a team project. We have a common goal, something to talk about, commiserate over. It also gives us an excuse to be extra nice to each other and share ice cream.

I think it’s important to remember that both partners have their challenges. Us women have the downside of having to use strips almost every morning, the invasive tests, watching what we eat and drink. But we have the upside of feeling like we’re taking action and being first to know if anything changes. Our partners have less to do, but they’re like stuck in the post-ovulation part of the cycle: waiting, waiting, waiting. It’s not a suffering competition. There’s nothing to gain in that. Or any kind of competition. We’re on the same team with different roles and we have to help each other be the best we can be.

On Bitterness

The other day I was talking to a friend I’d met on the Epic Journey. She’d recently announced that she was expecting in a few months, so I congratulated her. She asked me how things were on my end so I told her how we were also hoping to grow our family but had no luck. We talked about that for a bit and I noticed she totally clammed up about her own pregnancy. (She’s a very considerate person. She’ll be a great mom.) It then dawned on me that I was genuinely happy for her and actually wanted to hear about her experience. For the first time, I sort of regretted being forthcoming because I was disappointed by how she was worried about upsetting me.

I certainly notice all the Facebook announcements and baby photos. It bothers me in how, if we do eventually succeed, our kids will be so much younger than all our friends’ kids. There’s a bit of pouty “not fair” mixed in too. I’m fortunate, though, that I don’t seem to have the same strong feelings that others report. I am genuinely happy for the people who’ll be great parents.

Someone who probably shouldn’t be having kids right now used to kind of bother me in a “why is it so easy for them but so hard for me” and a “could she donate her uterus to me” sort of way. You know, the struggling 20 year old on her third pregnancy with father #1 missing, father #2 in jail and father #3 an asshole. I work in health care so I see this, ugg, far too often. One day, though, it occurred to me that I was just judgmental, not envious. Their experience of parenting is not the experience of parenting I’m striving for. The only thing their pregnancy and my desired pregnancy have in common is that it involves a baby. While my pregnancy would be an exciting adventure full of hope and dreams, theirs are little other than heartbreak and stress. How can I be envious of that?

On Adoption

I’ve actually been looking forward to tackling this topic. Before meeting Ed, I was very vocal about wanting to adopt as a single mom. Ironic? Maybe. However, years of consideration have given me some perspective I’d like to share. We’re still open to the possibility except for, this is 1) 2017 and 2) Canada. The “possibility” is very small.

For practical purposes, there are two types of adoptions: infant (<1 year) and older child (1 year +).

Infant adoption is the closest experience to having a biologic child. You get to witness milestones, your influence is there from day 1 and you get to grow as a parent alongside them. It's also very rare.

Lets pull up some local numbers. In the 2015-2016 year, there were 69 agency adoptions and 22 infant international adoption (out of 90 total international adoptions). Now, we don’t know that all agency adoptions are infants and many of the international adoptions could have been adoptions of family members. So, for a population of about 4.2 million and about 56 000 births per year (based on 2014 numbers, page 8 on the pdf), Alberta saw less than 91 non-family infant adoptions.

Given the sparsity of opportunity, I think infant adoption should be given in priority to those who have no other options. It makes my blood boil when someone describes IVF as “selfish”. No. Denying someone the chance of experiencing the early parts of parenthood is selfish.

There are more opportunities to adopt an older child, but they come with a different set of challenges. You miss out on all the early milestones, you can’t witness their personalities develop from the beginning, you don’t have any input on their most formative years. Plus, if you’ve never had a child before, you learn to be a parent by being tossed in the middle. Learning to parent is rough enough, just expecting someone to jump in half way, taking on a child with extra needs (all older children are considered to have special needs to varying levels because all of them have experienced significant loss) is absolutely ridiculous.

Would I still consider it? Yes, but I would not expect someone else to. Besides, as much as older children need homes and families, taking in a child when you aren’t prepared or 100% on board doesn’t do them any favors. Personally, adopting an older child would mean we’d have to move house (our current house can accommodate a baby or a toddler that is biologically ours but not a child who needs their own room) and possibly to the city (our small town may not have the necessary resources, and if adopting from social services, we wouldn’t want our child to have to change schools). If the option exists, I would go to great lengths to have raised a child from infancy first, before assuming I have what it takes to adopt an older child.

Conclusion

Like I said earlier, these are just my reactions, in this time and place. In a couple of weeks they’ll probably change. Trying to get pregnant is essentially a hopeful succession of disappointments. There’s a lot of soul searching, of comparing yourself to others, of alternating between frustration and acceptance. Regardless of how my version of this story ends, I hope I don’t forget the things I’ve learned from it.

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On Getting Pregnant: “They” Told Me It Would Be Easy

As long as you’re healthy, getting pregnant is easy, they said. Have sex a few times around ovulation, they said. It’s exciting and it’ll happen faster than you expect, they said.

Around cycle 4, I was getting impatient.

Around cycle 8, I invested in a fertility monitor.

Around cycle 10, I suspected something was wrong.

At cycle 12, I stormed into my doctors’ office shouting about how they lied to me.

Getting pregnant is hard work. You pee on sticks almost every morning. Your calendar is full of little numbers. You learn a new language, one filled with acronyms like OKP, BFN (lots of BFNs, sadly), DPO, CD, RE, LH. Also BFP but BFP never happens. You’re also off birth control so your mood is all over the place, you ache everywhere and you’re exhausted because HOT FLASHES ALL NIGHT EVERY NIGHT. (Not very conducive to reproduction. Mother Nature really dropped the ball there.)

Your mind is blown as to how anyone can get pregnant by accident.

Anyway, I think it’s time a voice counters the Cycle 1 Unicorns and talks about what it’s like to be on the other extreme of the bell curve.

1- Your Cycle Consumes Your Life

I paid attention during high school biology. I was good at drawing the “menstrual cycle hormonal” graph and all that. The fine details slipped my mind after high school and even after learning it again in pharmacy school, but I had a general idea of how it worked and I certainly remember learning it.

(As a side-note, I have explored the “Trying to Conceive” communities and I’ve come across a disturbing number of women who don’t even know what a cycle is. Like wtf, your body tries to KILL YOU every few weeks – slight dramatization – and you’ve never been curious? Also kinda confused how the US – I assume everyone in those communities are American given the metrics they use and how they talk about medical costs – manages to produce some of the best biologists in the world yet basic biology doesn’t seem to even be part of the general curriculum.)

Remember that menstrual cycle hormone graph?

I pretty much have one printed out and framed above my dresser. Or at least I would if it wasn’t burned into my brain after all these months.

I won’t be winning any medicine or art awards anytime soon, but you have to admit it’s a neat party trick.

At any given time, I can tell you what cycle day I’m on, what my estrogen levels are like, when my last LH surge was and how many days prior or post ovulation I am. And I’ve forgotten all about social appropriateness. You know how people with irritable bowel syndrome shamelessly talk about their bathroom habits? Well, I’m pretty sure ever waiter, cashier and hair stylist in town has received, at some point in the past year, a detailed report on my fertility status.

2- Perceived Reproductive Rates in Your Environment Greatly Increases

The longer it takes you to conceive, the more people around you will be announcing pregnancies and births. Take long enough and people will be announcing second and third pregnancies and births.

I’m pretty lucky in that I don’t actually feel bitter but I certainly notice it. My advice to those who are thinking about taking the leap and trying to conceive? Find someone you know who’s past Cycle 6. Guaranteed you’ll get pregnant just to spite them. I believe my lack of fertility has triggered at least a half dozen pregnancies in my social circles.

3- The “Just Relax” Clich√© Is An Actual Thing

Yeah, I’d seen the occasional infertility testimony where someone complains that they’re told to “just relax”, but I didn’t think it actually happened. Or perhaps it’s something old people say because they’re from an era where, if you couldn’t conceive, there was nothing you could do beyond relax and hope.

Rude awakening for me, it happens all the time. And from people who are well aware that biology doesn’t work that way.

I mean, I suppose if you were too stressed to eat or have sex, you’d have trouble getting pregnant, but once you’ve reached that point, “just relax” isn’t going to cut it anyway. Anything less than that, the human body can mix reproduction and stress quite well. People in warzones, or who are struggling to make ends meet, or coping with illnesses, mental or physical, or who are in really unhealthy relationships, reproduce ALL THE TIME. Human history is brutal. If stress sterilized us, we’d have died out a long, long time ago.

In their defense, however, given how outspoken and graphic I’ve been about my struggles, “just relax” is likely a roundabout way of saying “please, please, please stop talking about your uterus.”

4- The Video Game References Come Easy

I don’t have any known debuffs that could complicate matters, so as far as we know right now, I just haven’t been lucky with the RNG.

Every cycle, it feels like we’re farming a 2-man dungeon, grinding away and hoping for epic loots (definition #2).

The game got a lot less fun after about the fourth dungeon reset.

(I couldn’t find a definition for reset, but it’s when everything in the dungeon comes back. Some dungeons can be reset manually, some reset after a day, some after a week. The getting-pregnant dungeon resets every cycle.)

5- The Scientist in You Will Be Fascinated

The process of trying to get pregnant has been an exercise in frustration, however, there’s this part of me that quietly and defiantly enjoys the learning experience.

I will always remember the day I bought my fertility monitor.

That’s it! That’s my fertility monitor!

The monitor and 3 cycles of strips set me back about 300$ (this is with my staff discount, you will pay more unless you find a used monitor). I had mixed feelings of “I can’t believe it came to this” and “Shit, this machine is so cool! I can’t wait to use it!”

I’ve gotten to know a whole new side of my body. I was always very familiar with my cycles (if you looked up “regular cycle” in the dictionary, you’ll find a picture of my endometrial lining, which is the main reason I was shocked when I discovered I couldn’t get pregnant on my own), but actually being told when my estrogen starts to increase and when my LH surge happen is freaking amazing. You know those videos on Facebook of very young deaf children getting hearing implants for the first time? That’s how I feel. Like I’m hearing my body’s voice for the first time.

Yesterday, I went for an HSG and got to see a picture of my uterus! I mean, I’d seen lots of pictures in textbooks or powerpoint slides, but it’s different when it’s yours. Body didn’t cooperate, making the test rather brutal, but it was totally worth the 1-2 minutes of screaming like a banshee. Reaction? It was a lot smaller than I expected.

And my blood test results! I could talk about them all day.

I’m sure the novelty will wear off eventually, but for now I feel like I’m receiving a top-notch hands-on course. I can’t wait until more test results come in!

When I think about it, I feel like a curious mind is the best coping mechanism for every day struggles. So many times in my life I’ve felt like “This is awful…but also utterly fascinating…”

On The Tone Of This Post

The post was many cycles months in the making. I definitely wanted something light-hearted because there’s just so much about the trying to conceive business that’s absolutely ridiculous and that stuff needs to be pointed out and laughed at. Plus, there’s already lots of doom and gloom writings about conception difficulty. Joking around allows for sharing different aspects of the adventure (is it inappropriate to call it an adventure?). And, after all, I prefer to write humour. I’m just not very good at it so it’s all labelled “light-hearted”.

It took a long time, however, to properly organize my thoughts and collect material. Besides, I didn’t feel qualified to write anything until I was past the hump of normal conception time. As the seasons goes by, though, as I gather other people’s experiences and I realize that the RNG may never be on my side, my demeanour has changed from goofy to more…. thoughtful. I still wanted to get the goofy post out there, but I expect to follow up with something a bit more substantial and closer to what’s actually going through my mind. So yeah, if you like reading about this stuff, stay tuned for next time.

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