Small victories

Much to my relief, not only did I manage to do up my fat jeans today, but I wore them all day.

It’s amazing what a relief that is.

And, I haven’t cried since Friday. Well, there was one weepy moment during a Christmas song, but that’s not unusual for me at the best of times.

Even though I went in to work on Tuesday, it was such an out-of-routine day (I spent most of it at a conference) that I hardly feel like I was at work at all last week. I finally feel ready to face everyone again, to accept condolences and kindness in person. It’s one of the hardest parts, and it’s so much easier to do when it’s mediated through the computer. Maybe I can just ask everyone to e-mail their condolences to me?

Thanks again for your comments, your virtual hugs, and your support. I’m not sure I could have said to any one person any of the things I’ve been able to say here, and being able to express my sadness and frustration and loss without immediately trying to reassure someone that I’m fine has been amazingly cathartic.

Post script – part one (of many)

While I was out this morning, Beloved took a call for me. On Monday morning, just before my OB appointment, I had gone to have my second and final bloodwork done for the integrated prenatal screening.

The call this morning was the children’s hospital, informing me of my appointment first thing Tuesday morning with a genetics counsellor. This is the same routine we went through when they found a bright spot on Tristan’s heart at the 18 week ultrasound. It was a soft marker for Down syndrome, and they call you in for counselling to explain the risks and the alternatives.

Aside from being caught completely off guard, Beloved wasn’t quite sure what to say to them so simply accepted the appointment not knowing exactly who or what it was, and they didn’t give him any details. However, I think it’s safe to assume that since the baby had been dead for up to two weeks at that point, my hormonal levels would have been a little out of the normal range.

(Sorry. Still a little bit bitter. Just a bit.)

Facetious as I’m being now, I do hold out some hope that maybe they can identify something in the blood work that will give me some closure on this. If it was something scary like Trisomy 13 or who knows what, then maybe this will be a little bit easier to understand, if not accept.

My wheels keep spinning on this. Four pregnancies, three lost souls. Four, if you include Frostie. And yet aside from losing Tristan’s twin at 9 weeks, I’ve had such healthy, easy pregnancies – when I can carry them to term. I just don’t understand.

An hour or so later, the genetic counselling scheduling lady called back to cancel our appointment, having spoken to my OB before I could call them back and explain. I asked if she could give me any information, but if course she is only a receptionist. She will have the counsellor call me next week if there is anything they can offer. And a pathology (pause for more tears) report will be sent to my OB, with whom I have a follow-up appointment next Thursday.

I think I need some more cookies.

Mood swings

I’ve been trying to write something all day, but whatever I’m feeling one minute I’m feeling the opposite the next, and it’s hard to generalize the flavour of a day that way. So why do I even feel I have to write anything? I admit, I’m beginning to see the point of people who think that maybe I do expose a little too much of myself through blogging. Do I really need to share the minutia of each mood swing as I work my way through this? Where does therapeutic blogging end and pointless navel-gazing begin?

I so desperately want to say, “Okay, that’s done, I’m better now. Let’s move on. What should we talk about today?” I want to say that because I want to be done with the hurting, with the anger, with the deep welling sadness. I want to tell you that today was better than yesterday, and all signs indicate that tomorrow should be better still, and that I won’t be this depressing forever, or even for very much longer.

And yet, I am not there yet. Of course I’m not, I realize it’s only been a few days. But I want to be done. I don’t want to linger in sadness. Despite a bright and energetic start, the prevailing mood of the day has been melancholy. I was in the grocery store (where I spent over $150 and came out with only three days worth of meals and a lot of crap) and I kept thinking about the people around me and wondering who else was harbouring secret grief. Who else was barely coping on the inside but looking normal on the outside?

Scratch this post up to sheer tenacity. I said I’d post each day in November, and by god I will post each day in November. Besides, I still have a lot of bloggable lint left in my navel.

Thank you

I’m overwhelmed by your collective kindness. Beloved and I and even my mother are simply in awe of your support, of how many of you have taken the time to offer support, share your experiences, or just send a word of condolence. Thank you simply doesn’t cover it.

Physically, I’m doing surprisingly well. (You would think, wouldn’t you, that by now I would learn to stop calling down the gods like that.) The D&C was far less painful, far less scary, far less awful than I expected it would be. There was a few bad moments when they started speculating about cancelling the procedure after I had been in pre-op for an hour because I had a low-grade fever, but not only did they go ahead but they somehow bumped up the procedure, so I was in the recovery room eating tea and toast by the time I was originally supposed to go into the OR.

The only other bad moment was when they wheeled me into the OR, and I got it into my head that I should say goodbye to the baby. Of course, I started crying, and once I got started, I couldn’t stop. The harder I tried to stop, the harder I cried. The medical team were amazingly compasionate, which of course made me cry all the harder, until I was hitching sobs by the time they got the oxygen mask on my face. The very kind anesthesiologist kept telling me to just hold on for a few more seconds, and they’d put me to sleep. I even woke up crying. What a mess.

Now, though, safe at home with my boys, we’re all doing better than I expected. I have a day to myself tomorrow, and Beloved has not only picked up a couple of DVDs for me so I don’t have to suffer bad daytime TV, but has also stocked the fridge and cupboards with my favourite snacks. Great minds think alike – my mom, who picked me up from the hospital, came equipped with a shopping bag full of books and Doritos.

I have good people in my life… and by that I mean those closest to me, but also all of you. I can’t even begin to tell you how soothing your words have been to us. I am genuinely overwhelmed – touched, honoured, and overwhelmed – by your outpouring of support and affection. It has made all the difference in the world.

Thank you.

Adding insult to injury

Warning: this will not be a pretty post. You don’t have to read it, but I have to write it. I’m sorry.

I wish this could all just be over. If I can’t have it back, I at least wish it would hurry up and be done.

They’ve scheduled my D&C for 3 pm today. They forgot to call me, and only when I called the hospital at 8:30 last night did I get the details. I haven’t been allowed anything to eat or drink since midnight, and I’m starving already. Wouldn’t it have been nice if it were first thing in the morning or something? No such luck.

I have the kind of wicked bad cold I only get every couple of years. I’m terrified that they will take one look at me and send me home. After all, it’s not like it matters to the baby, right? I asked the person I spoke to last night about it, and she said since I haven’t had a fever or cough, I should be okay. Except I started coughing during the night. The anaethestic is gas, not intravenous, and I’m afraid the cold will somehow interfere with it.

I had to take some sort of medication last night to ‘make the D&C easier,’ in the words of my OB. I was supposed to take it at bedtime last night, but the person at the hospital clucked in alarm at the thought of me going from bedtime to 3 pm with the cramping and possible bleeding it would cause and instead told me to take it when I woke up this morning. So far, I’ve got no real cramps or anything, but I’m getting stiff for being afraid to move.

My mouth is so dry from mouth-breathing all night that I can’t stand it – and I can’t even drink water. Only six more hours to wait.

At least all of that is distracting me from the actual idea of what they are going to do this afternoon. I’m trying very, very hard not to think about that part. When I told the woman at the hospital I was 14 weeks along, she clucked again and revised my recovery time at the hospital from an hour to several hours. I think that’s when I started to cry.

I just want this to be done.

Random attempts to cope

The hardest part for me right now is making sense of what happened. By all measures, this was an exceptionally healthy pregnancy: the high early betas; the fact that the risk of miscarriage falls to less than 5% after that first ultrasound showing the heartbeat; the initial integrated prenatal screening results that were, in the word of my OB, “excellent”; the fact that I was feeling so wonderful; the ultrasound just four weeks ago (scant two weeks before the baby died) showing everything bang-on target.


Unable to make any rational sense of it, my mind wanders to superstition. What did I do to call down the gods? If only I hadn’t spent all that money last Monday on five new pieces of maternity clothing – all of which I washed or wore, of course. If only I hadn’t skipped some of those prenatal vitamins. If only I hadn’t kept going to the gym on Saturday mornings. If only I hadn’t told Tristan’s teacher that very morning, dropping Tristan off for school on the way to my appointment. If only I hadn’t changed my blogger profile just this past Sunday evening – after willfully waiting and waiting and waiting to do so – to include reference to the baby. If only I hadn’t asked Farley Mowat to include Baby in the inscription on my book. If only, if only, if only…. if only I could find that time machine and skip back to Sunday night and take it all back.


Even in this time of sadness, though, there is joy. I was waiting for the phone to ring, expecting it to be Beloved, who still didn’t know about the baby. Instead, it was my brother, who greeted my tentative “Hello?” with a blissfully oblivious, “It’s a girl!!” His daughter, Brooke Laurel arrived yesterday morning at a perfectly healthy 6 lbs 14 oz. A first granddaughter for both sets of grandparents. Doesn’t your heart just break for my poor mother, trying to take in all this in a single morning?


Many years ago, Nancy gave us a set of “boo boo bunnies”. They’re little terry-cloth bunny heads wrapped around a block of plastic-encased liquid. You keep them in the freezer and apply liberally when there is a boo-boo that needs soothing. The boys love them, and request them for all manner of bumps and bruises.

When the boys burst through the door late yesterday afternoon, their boundless energy banished the ghosts of sorrow and dismay and anger and loss that had been swirling around me all day. They’re my boo-boo bunnies, full of kisses and burbling laughter and boyish silliness that heals even the deepest wounds on my soul.

It’s over – a miscarriage

I went in for a routine OB appointment today. I was delighted when she told me to hop up on the table so we could ‘take a listen’ – I had completely forgotten I should now be far enough along to hear the baby’s heartbeat on the doppler.

Except she couldn’t find it, and so we went to the ultrasound rooms on the other side of the clinic. I was still cracking jokes and cheerful – I just figured the baby was being stubborn.

She took two pictures, left and came back with an ultrasound tech. There was no heartbeat. The baby measures 14 weeks, but I should have been 16 weeks tomorrow. The very kind tech told me she could find no abnormalities, no reason the baby didn’t survive. Just one of those things, I guess.

I have a d & c scheduled for Wednesday. I haven’t been through something like this, so it’s a little bit scary – but better than the alternative of waiting for nature to take its cruel course.

It’s over. Four pregnancies, three lost souls. I thought by writing this down, it would snap me out of this bad dream, but it seems this is really happening.

Saying goodbye to frostie

I’ve always believed in a greater order to the universe, if not in an actual higher power. Not exactly fate, because I believe we do control our own destinies. But I strongly believe that everything happens for a reason.

That makes it only marginally easier to say goodbye to frostie. No need to pee on a stick this morning, because nature informed me in her own bloody way last night that the cycle didn’t work, that toastie never did become stickie, and that I’m not pregnant.

I think the strangest, saddest part of the whole thing is saying goodbye to the idea of frostie. For five years, as long as we’ve had Tristan in my life, we’ve also had frostie. Frostie was like an empty chair at the table, a place-holder for the child that might someday be. It was our back-up plan, our big ‘what-if”. It was also the twin of Tristan. For five years, we paid a couple hundred dollars to keep it in frozen slumber, and it seems incredibly sad to me to go through all the effort of re-energizing it, only to have the cycle fail.

But everything happens for a reason, right?

You only had to read a post or two in the past couple of months to know I was occasionally ambivalent about the idea of having three kids. And yet, typically, now that I’ve been told I can’t have something I want it more than ever. I’m such a Leo.

And heck, Simon taught us that we don’t need a lab and a dozen specialists and a couple thousand dollars to make a baby. There’s an easier, much more fun and FREE way to go about it, and you know how I feel about free. I love free.

So yes, today we are sad to say goodbye to frostie. To have a dream end this way is always sad, but we are so very blessed in so many ways. I never, ever want to be that person who reaches past what she has trying to grasp what she wants. Never.

So long, frostie. I’m sorry it didn’t work out for us.

I have no idea what to call this post

I’ve spent a lot of this past week and a half pretty much obsessed with my breasts. They’ve always been the canary in the coal mine, my first indicator of pregnancy. As such, I must have groped myself several thousand times since frostie became toastie. There are entire freshman classes at large universities who have experienced less groping that I have groped my own breasts this week.

Despite the fact that they should have been bruised from all the groping, my breasts were sending some pretty strong ‘not pregnant’ unsignals up until Sunday afternoon.

Here’s a nickle’s worth of free advice for you. In the middle of the two week wait, during a fertility treatment cycle, do NOT randomly choose to wear a bra that you haven’t worn in three months. You will be driven to the brink of insanity trying to figure out if the change in the consistency of your breasts is due to the hormone fluctuations of early pregnancy, or a too-small cup size of an ill-fitting bra.

So I broke down Monday morning and peed on a stick. And despite my best efforts to conjure a second line out of the urine-soaked ether, it was quite obviously negative. I peered at it until I was cross-eyed, looking at it flat on, at an angle, and under four kinds of light – the only thing I lacked was a black light – before finally accepting the fact that the second line was simply not going to appear.

I threw it in the garbage, crawled back into bed (did I mention this was all at 4:30 in the morning?) then stumbled back to the bathroom and checked it yet again. Still negative. I laid it carefully on the bathroom counter, remembering tales of seemingly-negative tests left to ferment on the counter for hours that magically materialized as positive later in the day. But it didn’t.

But I was still feeling pretty hopeful, because Day 11 of a cycle is still on the early side. And when you’re an infernal optimist, you don’t give up that easily. Besides, my breasts remained convinced I was pregnant, and who can argue with a breast?

So I peed on a stick in the wee hours of this morning, too. No big finish here – it was negative, too. And while it’s only 24 hours later, this one has the weight of finality for me. This is the one that made a few tears of regret slide down my cheeks, because now I believe it. I think it’s done.

I’ll still pee on my remaining sticks, at least until tomorrow, but no matter how hard I try, I can’t will even the faintest hint of a positive out of those evil pee sticks, and it seems to have been enough to convince my breasts that they’re not pregnant, either.

Don’t console me now, because I’m still holding out until the blood test on Friday. Hey, you never know. But if you want to post a comment, wish me a happy birthday instead. Thirty seven years ago today, I started out on this crazy trip, despite my best efforts to the contrary. (I was late, and breech, and they had to come in and get me. Stubborn from the day I was born.) I love birthdays, and don’t know why people don’t like to celebrate them. Today of all days is my day, and that’s worth celebrating.

The big infertility story

I’ve been thinking for a while about telling you our infertility and IVF story, and I figure now is as good a time as any. Most of you are busy eating leftover turkey and shopping for deals at the outlet stores, so we’re into light blogging mode.

It’s a long story, so much so that I’ve divided it into two posts, and even then decided to hide most of it beneath the fold. Like any good story, this one begins with heartache, but ends in joy. I mean, you already know how it comes out, and a lot of you know the details already. The trouble is knowing where to begin.

I remember Boxing Day 1998. Beloved and I were on the 401 heading back to Ottawa after spending Christmas in London and Windsor with our respective families. We were talking over some of the early details of our wedding, planned for July of the coming year. I don’t know how we got on to the topic, but I clearly remember talking seriously about when to have kids for the first time. There had never been any doubt about the ‘if’, but the ‘when’ had been a big question even though we’d been together for almost four years at the time. In that conversation, we officially decided to start trying for kids on our honeymoon.

I can still remember the feeling of elation, of expectation, of hope. Finally, finally, being a mother was within my grasp.

We almost waited for the honeymoon, but not quite. I remember being in Paris and not drinking much wine, because we had been busy and I was hoping I might be pregnant by a couple of days. When it turned out I wasn’t pregnant that July, I was only disappointed that I had given up a lot of indulgence in the name of a maybe-baby. Little did I know the road ahead.

Toward the fall and winter of that year, I started to buy the occasional pregnancy magazine. Every time I was a day or two late, which seemed to be every cycle that fall, I’d buy a pregnancy test and start imagining how I’d break the news to my family. First it was over Thanksgiving Dinner. Then as a birthday present for Beloved in December, and when not then, as a Christmas gift to my parents. I dreamed up elaborate ways to announce my pregnancy. When I was denied the chance to tell my mother I was pregnant for her birthday in February, I finally made an appointment to talk to my GP about fertility. That month, for the first time in my life, my cycle stretched out to six weeks, and I was crushed when my period finally came.

My GP listened to my story and referred me to the Fertility Centre at the Ottawa hospital. I was a little freaked out by the fact that she didn’t pat me on the head and tell me not to worry, but at the same time confident that whatever was wrong would soon be easily resolved by the ‘experts’.

In hindsight, our referral was processed in an impressively short period of time, but as each month came and went without a pregnancy, it seemed much longer. After a battery of blood tests, a semen analysis (Beloved’s, not mine) and a hysterosalpingogram (an x-ray of my reproductive plumbing), we had a consultation with a reproductive endrocrinologist. She told us that in fact there was nothing wrong with my physiology, but that Beloved’s sperm had such low morphology (poorly formed sperm) that she estimated our chances of conceiving a child naturally at less than three per cent. She said that the sperm were of such low quality and quantity that even lesser treatments like an intrauterine insemination were unlikely to work and that her best recommendation was for us to move directly to in vitro fertilization.

To say we were devastated would be an understatement. That afternoon, I had a prior ‘date’ with a friend planned to play a little catch. I was so blown away by the diagnosis that I couldn’t even tell her, one of my most cherished confidantes, throughout the three hours we were together. It was only when we were sitting in the car and I was about to go home that I finally found the words. And the tears. A river of tears.

I couldn’t cope with the concept of being infertile. Infertility is so much more than a clinical diagnosis. It means giving up on a dream you felt entitled to your whole life. It is standing on a precipice with a yawing future devoid of the children you already felt were a part of you. It is losing what you never had but always expected.

I was tormented by the fact that our infertility was ‘male factor’. I wished it were me, simply because didn’t want Beloved to be burdened by the guilt of responsibility. As much as the infertility was hurting me, I could only imagine how much worse Beloved must have felt.

In those early days, there were two main obstacles to pursing IVF. The first was money. Beloved had just barely finished his diploma and I was working in a mid-level government job. We were renting a townhouse, living paycheque to paycheque and had no money behind us whatsoever. The drugs would be reimbursed at a rate of 80%, but we’d have to pay the procedure out of pocket at around $7,000. On credit.

I remember the seminal conversation with my wise mother. She asked me, ‘What else are you going to spend your money on?’ And she was right. If anything was ‘worth it’, this was worth it.

Except, the other obstacle we were facing was the fact that even if we could scratch up the $7,000, there was only about a one in three chance it would succeed.

One in three.

All that money, all those needles (oh, how I feared the needles), all those hormones and all that disruption to our lives, and no guarantee of success.

And once again, we decided that if anything was worth it, this was worth it. We made an appointment to tell the clinic we wanted to go ahead in the early summer of 2000.

And then, on our first wedding anniversary, July 3, I peed on a stick because I was four days late and I never learn.

And I was pregnant.

For the summer of 2000, I felt like I was living in a dream. I felt tired but wonderful. My feet never really touched the ground. My due date was in March of 2001, and I found out one of my very best friends was due the very same month. It was fate.

Except fate is a cruel mistress. One afternoon in late August, three days before my first OB appointment, I went to the washroom and there was blood. Not a lot, but enough. I was scared. I managed to get an appointment at the after-hours clinic, and while I was in the waiting room, the cramping started. They tried to find the baby’s heartbeat, and when they couldn’t they told me it was probably too early. Lots of people had spotting. And, the nurse said with sympathy, even if it is the worst, there’s nothing we can do for you.

I cried all night long. I was still crying the next day when I asked Beloved to take me to the emergency clinic because I was in so much pain. Nobody told me that a miscarriage at 13 weeks would involve contractions, and I was terrified on top of being in pain and heartbroken. The emergency room staff were clinical and unmoved by my near-hysteria. They said the earliest ultrasound they could schedule was in five hours, and told me to go home and take some Tylenol and wait.

I passed the remains of the baby into my underwear, in my bathroom at home, alone. Trying hard not to look too closely at the lost little soul no bigger than half my fist, I scooped up what I could into a plastic container, because I had the idea that if I brought the fetus back to the doctors, they could tell me what happened. The only thing that kept me from a complete breakdown was the idea of protecting Beloved from my hysteria. I had to be strong for him.

Of course, the doctors had no answers for me. They said the baby was small for 13 weeks, so had either died some weeks before or had been falling behind in its growth. No matter, really. It was over.

We went back to the fertility clinic, and our reproductive endocrinologist opined that maybe we should try intrauterine insemination (IUI) after all, if I had managed to get pregnant given Beloved’s sperm counts. I imagined my ova like some giant Death Star in my fallopian tubes, gathering up wayward sperm.

By this point, getting pregnant was my all-consuming obsession. It was all I thought about. Each day, I would open my eyes and wonder how long until we could be parents. I would roll out of bed and dutifully chart my temperature, watching for that tell-tale dip in body temperature that indicated the beginning of monthly fertility. After sex (every two days, just like the books recommended) I would rest with my legs up the wall, a pillow under my hips, trying to coax lost sperm in the right direction. For two weeks I wouldn’t drink alcohol, ingest aspartame or deli meat or soft cheese, hoping that this was the month the miracle came back. And each month I would obsess over the toilet paper, watching for that first tell-tale smear of muddy blood, the dream dead for another two weeks.

I tried not to be bitter about other people’s pregnancies. I’ve never been the sort of person who begrudges someone else their rightful joy, but even seeing mothers out playing with their children was like rubbing salt into an open wound. The year in between our infertility diagnosis and the start of our IVF cycle was one of my darkest. The loss was hard to cope with, but the hope nearly killed me.

We opted for IUI with superovulation, meaning I would inject myself with follicle stimulating hormones to produce more than one egg, thus improving our chances for conception. Our first IUI ran through December of 2000. My period came, indicating the failure of the cycle, on Boxing Day at my sister-in-law’s house – two years to the day after our decision to have kids as soon as possible.

We tried another superovulated IUI in February of 2001. My anxiety was ratcheted even higher for that cycle, because I was desperate to be pregnant before facing the due date of the baby we lost to miscarriage. But, it didn’t work out that way. After that second IUI failed, we decided to stop piddling around with intermediary procedures and go big or go home.

We decided to spin the big wheel and try IVF in the spring of 2001. And I’ll tell you about it tomorrow.