Fertility junky

So after 2 cycles on Letrozole, the last one being pretty unpredictable, my fertility specialist decided to go straight to the good shit. She gave me a box of syringes & a sharps disposal box and left me to my own devices. I might as well be a junky the amount of times I’m jabbing myself right now.

Sitting in my OBGYN’s office earlier this year after finding out I had PCOS, trepidatious to say the least, she went through the many options I had ahead of me. I think she was trying to make me feel better about the fact she’d just told me it was unlikely I’d fall pregnant without help. She brushed over the injectables, saying ‘you probably won’t need to go that far’. I never thought I’d go that far. I was scared to go that far. But here I am. 

At first it was a bit rocky, I almost fainted the first 2 days and had to lie on the bathroom floor for a few minutes. Granted, one of these days I was especially hungover after a wedding, so I can’t tell if my floor whoring (great phrase BTW) was from the injects or the alcohol. My bad. By day 3 I was nailing it. I ice the injection site so I can’t feel the needle going in, its not painful and I don’t have any bruises or side-effects (yet!). The fainting thing is just me by the way – I feel faint when I walk into a hospital, or look at any form of blood, I’m just a weirdo and can’t handle anything medical-smelling or looking. Don’t judge me!

So this is my new normal. I’ll probably be injecting myself for half the month until after Christmas because I’m trying not to believe the first cycle will work. Can you tell my coping mechanism is to keep my expectations really low so that I never get disappointed?? If anything, this treatment makes me feel incredibly lucky. Lucky that I’m not diabetic and injecting myself for my whole life. 

The injections have worked though, and I have one beautiful follicle, which is exactly what we’re after (yay for no twins!).

I’m also turning 34 next month. I thought it would be a huge deal, and that it was considered ‘old’ in terms of fertility. But I realised this morning that I was the youngest person in the clinic, and that 34 really isn’t over the hill. So I’m hopeful!

Ideally, my next post will be ‘yay! I’m pregnant!’. But if its just ‘yay! The injections work!’ I’ll take it. You learn to just go step-by-step and try not to plan too far ahead or get too excited too soon. 

Cross your fingers for me peeps!

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The only 2 signs you need to know before trying to conceive

This year I have learnt a lot about my body. Things I wish I knew long ago. Things that make me realise how wonderful, mysterious, complex & frustrating the female anatomy really is. We weren’t taught in school, or by our parents (presumably because they don’t know themselves), that there are ways to know exactly when the timing is right to conceive. In fact, none of the medical professionals I’ve seen this year have given me any insight. I’ve had to find out on my own. And there is a wealth of knowledge out there that is simply untapped. 

My fertility specialist said that usually she’ll do 3 treatment cycles before moving to the next step (i.e. 3 months on tablets, 3 months on injects). She essentially said that if you’re timing ‘the deed’ correctly (and believe me, timing is everything), and you’re not pregnant within 3 cycles, you really should try something else. This amazes me. Here I was, almost a year ago, thinking that its just natural to try for 12 months, that sometimes it just takes that long. But really, if you’re timing it right, 3 months is the magic number. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, and it might just take some women a few extra months to nail it so to speak. But in general, the problem is that a lot of women don’t actually know when their egg is dropping. Or if its dropping at all (like in my case). They’re either winging it, or following one of these shiny apps that tell you day 14 is the best day, or predicts your window based on the month before. None of these techniques actually tell you when you’re ovulating. We’re just flying blind. And in my case, the 5 months I thought I was trying, I wasn’t doing it properly. At all.  Well, I was doing it properly, just not timing it properly. Hell, there are some poor women who are having sex every other day for the whole month! The whole month… respect. And UTI’s. That’s all I can say.

Now its taken me a while to become fully aware of what my body is doing.  And if I’d had my time again, I would have started paying attention at least a year before starting to try. Essentially there are only 2 signs you need to observe in order to know where you’re at in your cycle:

  1. Basal body temperature
  2. Cervical fluid (sorry for the TMI, but it really is the crystal ball of ovulation)

And knowing how to read these 2 signs is explained in so much detail all over the internet, in podcasts, books & forums. It also means you only have to have to do the sideways tango 2-3 times a month to hit the egg. The other times are just for fun. Who am I kidding? There are no other times!

If only the signs were as obvious as crop circles in corn rows. Unfortunately they’re quite tricky & subtle at first, but once you know the rules they’re quite easy to interpret. I won’t tell you how to do this in case I fuck it up and lead you down a path of confusion & stress.  To learn how to read them you’ll need (fuck I wish someone had writing this blog 2 years ago!):

  • The Fertility Friend app. This is basically the go-to app to track your cycles. Its user interface is like a smashed mango, but it allows to enter ALL the things; symptoms, treatments, temperatures, mood, lunar cycles, anything (not actually lunar cycles though)! Signs that you may not know you have. Signs that you’ll never be able to ignore again. Signs that I won’t describe because you’re probably eating your breakfast right now. Log everything in this app and it will tell you when you’re actually ovulating! 
  • Fertility Friday podcast. This is a super in-depth podcast where Lisa runs sessions with women on how to use the ‘Natural Family Planning Method’, or essentially, reading your body. She is a wealth of information.
  • Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. This is a great book detailing how to chart your temperature, example charts & what they mean, and how to tell if there’s anything not quite right. This should be a compulsory textbook in high school. I used this to understand PCOS and what it really means.

Of course, this is overkill for most women who will most likely fall pregnant without even having to worry about their cycles. But it hasn’t worked out like that for me. And I all of these life lessons are handy for women who aren’t trying to conceive too. If I could, I would have researched all of this much earlier and potentially saved a lot of time & pain. I also think its good to know as much as you can about your body. Sure, taking your temperature every day is a lot, but there are other signs that have been glaring at me all these years and I had no idea what they meant. 

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In a way, I’m actually really glad I had to find all of this out. Because now I know the roles of progesterone, oestrogen, insulin & testosterone in the body. How complex & amazing the process of menstruation, conception & pregnancy is. And not in a hippy earth mother way, in a scientific & completely nerdy way, its addictive to research because its so bloody fascinating. In fact, in comparison, men’s bodies are pretty bloody simplistic and boring (no wonder there are so many male OBGYNs). And this is something that every woman should appreciate & be proud of.

I hope someone who was like me a year ago stumbles across this blog and benefits from the information I wish I knew a long time ago.

Silver linings

This morning it took 3 attempts to draw blood for the start of my monitoring. After failing, they told me to come back at lunchtime. I must have had 50 something blood tests this year, and I still suck at it. I have tiny veins and as soon as the phlebotomist has trouble finding it I get fainty and all my blood rushes to my internal organs. This happens about 6 times a month. It never gets easier and it is the single most frustrating part of getting fertility treatment (dildo cam come at me!). But it is what it is, and I will keep doing it until I get this damn baby so help me God!

I told my nurse at lunchtime that its actually a good thing in a way, because the blood tests make injecting myself daily with drugs seem easy in comparison. (I’ve recently started injectable FSH, more on that later). She said to me, ‘Um, yeah, I guess. It’s good that you can find the positive in this! You really are the most positive patient we have at this clinic!’ And laughed. And then I realised something. I am really positive. I’m a glass-half-full kind of person, and although I have my moments, in general I think I’m coping pretty well. It probably doesn’t come across in this blog as its kind of my outlet, but anyone who knows me knows that I can always see the light in any dark tunnel. I often don’t like to throw this affirmation around, because I know many people struggle to stay positive when shit things happen, and I completely understand, I still get to some dark places. Also no one likes a peppy bitch singing ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ and whistling as she stops to smell a rose and pat a puppy (I do this on the regular). But I think I need to be more proud that my best asset is my ability to adapt quickly to whatever challenge is thrown my way, and try to see the silver linings. I realise how lucky I am that I’ve even been able to fall pregnant in the first place. That I’ve managed to find a partner who I love and adore and want to have children with. That I’m (mostly) healthy, have a great family, a few amazing friends & live a privileged life in a beautiful city. I wish I could bottle this shit up and spread it around, spray it like Fabreeze, because it really is so handy to have optimism when shit hits the fan. I wish I could give it to the people I love most who’ve had to deal with cancer, loss, anxiety & depression, so much more than I’ve ever had to go through. I only hope that some of my disposition has rubbed off, or helped them in some way.

So to anyone who’s going through this, or any other challenge in life, I hope you can find your silver lining. There really is one on every cloud.

I’m happy for you. Just sad for me.

The guy sitting next to me has just gone home to pack his bags for the hospital. His wife has started contractions and their doc told them they’ll probably be seeing him tonight. Before this year, and for pretty much all of my life, this information would be akin to someone telling me that their wife is having her toenails trimmed. It was of zero consequence to me. I would have preferred that people keep any notifications about their wife’s opening sphincters to themselves.

But things have changed.

Now when someone goes into labour, or I see a birth announcement on Facebook, I get the tiniest, fleetingest, but sharpest pang of… not jealousy… maybe yearning is the word? Yearning for what I thought I was going to be doing this year. Yearning that in 5 months from now, I should be packing my bags for the hospital myself. But I won’t be. 

And its not a huge yearning. For example, my yearning to go to Italy very soon and sip an Aperol Spritz on the Amalfi Coast, or my yearning to hug a puppy whenever I see one in the street, are both higher on the scale than the ‘wanting to be pregnant’ yearning. But its there. And I can’t express it to the person who’s just had a baby, or about to go into hospital. So here I am purging it here. 

Actually not true. I can express it to my dear friend, who is due in the same month I would have been. I know she understands that my feelings don’t come from a place of malice or jealousy, and that I am genuinely invested and excited about her pregnancy. She is one of loveliest & most selfless people I know. It would have been so nice to go through this together, but alas our timelines will now be a little staggered (hopefully!).

No, its more acquaintances, who I get the pang with. It’s inexplicable, I can’t control it or talk myself out of it, like I can with anger, stress or hormonal upset! I hate that the feelings come from a sad place for such a happy moment. I thought that I would be immune to these feelings that so many women have shared to me about announcements they struggle with. I thought I would be different, that somehow my pragmatic & mellow nature would relieve me of any mainstream feelings around pregnancy loss. But I am no different. I’m human. And I’m happy for you, I’m just sad for me.

And sure enough even waiting will end…if you can just wait long enough.

Worth the wait?

I’ve been trying to find the words to experience what I’ve been feeling this year. Every day is different, and overall, I would say I’ve been:

  • Happy
  • Peaceful
  • Content
  • Grateful
  • Optimistic

But when I think about trying to get pregnant, the feelings that come to mind are:

  • Bored
  • Frustrated
  • Impatient
  • Bleh (yep, bleh is a thing. Just go with it)

It really is fucking laborious. Not laborious in that its physically demanding. I mean sure, the blood tests aren’t great, and the various probes aren’t exactly pleasant, but the worst thing is that NOTHING happens quickly. Even when you do get lucky, the wait for the next scan sucks balls, and I’m sure the whole pregnancy just becomes one big worrisome waiting game. 

I’m not a patient person. Usually in life (and I’m sure most millennials or borderline-millennials like me would agree) you work hard, you get results. With money, education, friends, fitness, sport, family, career – generally if you work hard, you will see some kind of results. Not with this though. Your ability to fall pregnant is not swayed by how hard you work at it. There are women out there having sex every night for two thirds of the year without results. Its not exactly fair. (PS, kudos to those women because I definitely don’t have that stamina!). If anything, they say its better to not try that hard at all to get pregnant. Ha!

So its incredibly frustrating when x (hard work) + y (a little bit of time) ≠ z (baby). In fact, when I got pregnant, we’d pretty much given up on that cycle because we thought we’d missed it. We weren’t trying at all! Its almost like the less a person tries or cares, the more pregnanter they get. 

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So I guess you just get used to going through the motions. Currently I’m waiting to get my period, because unbeknownst to me, I ovulated while I was on holidays, without my husband, and can’t start a new cycle until …. I start a new cycle! So even when you think ‘right, I’m going into the clinic, this is it, I’m going to start on injectables, they’re going to make me drop an egg every month, I’m working really hard at getting this thing done!’ BAM. Another 2 weeks wait thanks! 

The only thing I can say right now is uuugghghaaaaarrrrgghghhghghghrrrrr! Translation: I’m so over waiting! I’m a Gen Y, give me what I want now! I’ve paid the money, I’ve done the time, I’ve put in the effort, I’ve eaten the things and done the exercise and taken up the yoga, just make it fucking happen already!

I know right, cry me a river, life sometimes sucks.

But then I hear my mother saying (and quite rightly so): You can’t have everything in this life straight away. You must be patient. Good things come to those who wait. And that other motherly sensible advice stuff. Damn you mum for being right all the time, even if you’re only in my head!

So… I shall wait…

A list of why being kidless is a good thing

I’m currently in my second cycle of Letrozole treatment. This time its a little bit different. This time my head isn’t in the clouds. My feet are firmly placed on the ground. And the reality that it won’t be as easy this time round has sunk in. And I’m kinda ok with it..

I’ve told myself that the likelihood I’m lucky enough to fall pregnant again straight away is pretty low. And there’s a solid chance that I might still not be pregnant by the end of the year, which was my original ‘goal’. Why do we set these stupid timelines for ourselves? Like ‘by the time I’m 35’ or ‘within a year’ or ‘before my husband decides to leave me for someone more fertile’ – jokes, that last one would never happen. He would only leave me if I cut off his gadget budget.

But there’s a difference this time. This time, its summer in Australia! And you know why that’s awesome? Because in Australia, (as I’m sure it is in many other warm places), summer is a time for drinking, eating soft cheeses, socialising late into the warm nights and doing outdoorsy & potentially extreme activities. And all of these things I can’t do whilst pregnant! 

One of the things that’s really handy during the conception process is a positive mindset. And its really hard for me to stay positive in winter at the best of times… I hate the cold. I hate the dark. I hate wearing shoes. Winter in Australia is a 3 month period that I loathe every year. I basically go into bear-style hibernation and wait out the days until the warmth returns. And this is absolutely the worst time to have baby making at the top of your brain, because there is literally nothing else to think about. I got so completely stuck in forums and blogs and clinical papers on PCOS, that I really didn’t think about much else. It was a rabbit hole that I unfortunately fell into and kept falling until I hit rock bottom, when I decided to give up sugar and carbs and hated my body for what it was keeping from me.

But now. Its different. I have other things in my life. I have camping, hiking, weddings, birthdays, late afternoon Sunday sessions at the pub, beaches, 4WD-ing, trips to New Zealand, and the greatest thing of all – Christmas! These are all so shiny and distracting that I actually forgot for a whole 3 day period that I was in the middle of a treatment cycle. I went camping with my dog and a couple of girlfriends and realised again what its like to just LIVE! I’m going to meet up with my best friend & her husband in a week in New Zealand and I absolutely can’t wait to not say the b-word or the m-word for as long as possible!

For anyone out there who’s struggling, I know when people tell you to ‘take a break’ you don’t think that anything can possibly distract you enough from what you’re going through. But it works! Well, it did for me. It only takes a long weekend, or a mini project, or an activity to take your mind on holiday and sometimes that’s all you need to be refreshed.

At this point in time, I really don’t care if we’re still not pregnant by our anniversary in January. Because the next few months will be filled with all the things that make me happy. And then I can get boozed on my anniversary in the jacuzzi. And I’m starting to realise that I may have an alcohol problem. Or a not-wanting-a-baby-all-that-much-problem.

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My worried face

Here is a list of things I love to do, but made a little bit harder by being pregnant or having a newborn. I recite these to reassure myself that life is the best its ever been right now. Even if I’m potentially convincing myself, it works!

  • Drinking cold, crisp Rose on a warm afternoon
  • Camembert. Oh, camembert
  • Hot baths. Scorching hot. Baby-baking hot. (Don’t judge me, I’m joking already!)
  • Sushi
  • Sleep ins
  • Camping in the middle of nowhere with no phone reception
  • Snuggling with my dog in a tent whilst camping (I reckon this would be near impossible whilst pregnant or with a baby!)
  • Sleeping up to 10 hours a night (yep, I’m a great sleeper, it’s a gift)
  • Copious amounts of coffee. Really strong, large coffees!
  • Playing soccer (I really struggled to play when I was pregnant, running out of breath is a thing!)
  • Not having a sore back (I can’t believe how much hormones mess with your anatomy! Having a baby must be so much worse!)
  • Staying up late. Past midnight-late.
  • Not having to shop for new clothes. I hate shopping. The less time spent in a mall the better as far as I’m concerned! Online shopping is even worse!
  • Not having to lie to people about being sober. Its the first red flag with me when I say no to a beer!
  • Not having to think about the next year, or the year after that, or what’s going to happen to my body, or whether I’ll be a terrible mother, or whether my child will be the devil, or whether my husband will start pulling his weight around the house, or how my family will be with their prized grandchild, or how I can possibly ever duck to the shops again, or go on holiday, or laugh without weeing. 
  • Being able to book a flight to NZ just because
  • Being able to travel around NZ in a small van with 2 other people
  • Being able to sleep on said flight to NZ

The list goes on. As I write this, I really am wondering why the heck I’m trying to have kids in the first place?

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What other things are awesome about being kidless??

Outlandish statements

This is Kanye. Kanye makes outlandish statements. Don’t be like Kanye.

We all make them. Mostly in our youth, the older we get, the more we realise that things change. We learn & grow and with new information comes new perspectives. Some of the more outlandish statements I’ve made in my teens & early 20’s were things like “I want to work for myself”. I did. And it was hard. Really hard. I now realise that to make an income fit to support my lifestyle, I need a regular, permanent job. Or “I will life overseas one day”. I always had a romantic notion that I’d end up living somewhere in Europe or South America. I always had dreams of marrying a Spanish or Japanese-speaking man, preferably with long hair & who rarely wears shoes or shirts, someone who loves camping and surfing and worked just enough on his travel blog to make enough money to support our on-the-road van living. 

Looking back on these outlandish statements, I realise that yes, I wanted that at the time, when I was young & carefree & didn’t want children and wasn’t considering how I’d fund my lifestyle. But now, I want what I have. Which is the complete opposite. A semi-detached house in Sydney, with a dog, and a husband who hates the outdoors but loves his job, me working in a mundane role close to home with great benefits & steady income, about to have children. 

If you’d have told 23-year-old me this is how I’d end up, I would have cringed and said you were a big fat liar. But the older I get, the more I realise that actually, the ‘normal’ lifestyle is pretty darn great. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to go buying a Subaru & paint my picket fence white (yeah, we do have a picket fence…). But I’m learning that this ‘average’ lifestyle I was always rebelling against, is the norm for a reason. 

When I was younger, I told myself I wouldn’t have kids just because it was ‘the next big step’. But isn’t that a good enough reason? There’s so much advice out there these days on how to be mindful, to stop thinking about the next step in life, the next promotion, the next life goal, whether that be cars, houses, marriage, babies, retirement, to stop and smell the roses for a minute and just enjoy life for now. But if we were to all live this way, without ambition and the desire to get to the next goal, wouldn’t we all just be going around in circles? Isn’t ‘the next step’ what stops us from spending our lives treading water in homeostasis? 

Another outlandish statement I made to myself ‘I will never have kids because someone else wants me to. Or because its just the next step in life’. And that’s exactly what I’m doing. But the thing I wasn’t expecting at all, is that that’s what I WANT to do. I WANT to take that next step with my best friend. I WANT to see him as a father. I WANT to be challenged, have chaos & craziness in our lives. 

So to 23-year-old me – Make all the outlandish statements you like. Just don’t hold me to them.