Tuesday, October 25, 2016

A small price to pay for a little bit of sanity

Hubs and I haven't paid for cable TV since approximately 2009.  We don't miss it most of the time.

Last week we caved and got a basic cable subscription.  Why?  This f****** election.  That's why.

After 16 months of campaigning we only had two more weeks to wait before it's over.  We couldn't. We couldn't take the round-the-clock network coverage* or the nonstop commercials.  We couldn't take the attacks, the half-truths, or the outright lies.  Simply put, even though we've had our minds made up for months, all of the coverage was stressing us out.

It's been so long since we've had cable that we don't even know what's on non-network TV any more. We're looking forward to finding out (recommendations are welcome!).  Mostly we're looking forward to avoiding election coverage (and post election coverage).

The cost of the monthly subscription is a small price to pay for eliminating a big stressor from our lives and restoring a small bit of sanity in our house.

*I'm perfectly OK with biased coverage from mainstream media that portrays the Republican candidate in the most negative light possible.  The prospect of his presidency is so frightening that I can't even begin to wrap my brain around it and anything that can be done to discourage people from actually voting for him should be encouraged!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

A couple of interesting hashtags

I am ashamed to be an American right now.  I am ashamed that a man like the Republican nominee is a legitimate candidate for president of my country.  I am ashamed that a man who has publicly made racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic statements could be our next leader.  I am ashamed that a man who publicly shames those with disabilities and women could be our next leader.  And I'm baffled at how he has managed to gain so much support.  Frankly, I don't think this man should be out on bail, let alone running for the highest office of this land.

Just when I didn't think it was possible for my opinion of the Republican nominee for president couldn't get any lower, push alerts started coming through on my phone just as we were leaving for family pictures.  This story broke (just in case you haven't seen or heard about it, if you choose to play the video, be aware that it's not safe for work or children).  I was physically ill  when I heard his words.  And then that anger turned to rage.  Apparently I was not alone.

If you've been anywhere social media or the news recently, you've probably seen or heard about two hashtags, #notokay and #WhyWomenDontReport.  Women started coming out, collectively and loudly, and talking about their first assault, and then later in the week explaining why they didn't report it.  These aren't the first hashtags of this nature, just the most recent.

Loribeth reviewed a book earlier this summer called Sex Object and was brave enough to share some of her own personal experiences with men overstepping their bounds as part of her review.  Her post came back to the front of my mind a few days ago when a notification for a new comment popped up in my inbox. 

So I'm going to share too.  If you find things like this bothersome or triggering, please take care of yourself and don't read any further.

This wasn't the first time something happened, but it was the time where I realized that women really aren't equal.  I was 11.  It was on the school bus.  I was tall and lanky.  I wasn't to the part of puberty where I had hips or breasts yet.  The hairstyle at the time was for women to wear short hair (it was the early 90s, after all).  I was the second to last stop so by the time I got on, the bus was full, save for one seat, directly by a high school boy.   This kid made the 10 minute ride to school seem like forever, and the only seat left by the time I got on was right beside him and where I was the only girl for at least five rows.  There was a lot of verbal assaults in the first weeks of school, mainly telling me that I didn't look like a girl, but he didn't touch me.  Until one day when he did.  I got on the bus just like any other day, except when I got back to the seat, he grabbed me by the backpack and pulled me in, said "I'm gonna pull your pants down and see if you are really a girl."  I struggled.  I got my arm free.  And I punched him in the nose.  I was suspended from the bus for 10 days.  I tried to tell the school administration what happened.  I cried.  I begged them to make him stop taunting me.  In their eyes I was in the wrong.  I had to apologize to the kid who tried to rip my clothes off of me before I was allowed back on the bus.

From this experience I learned that my voice didn't matter, at least not when it came to boys treating me poorly.  I learned that the authorities didn't care about me or my well being.  I learned that I wouldn't be believed.  I learned that I don't matter.  I learned to be afraid.  I learned to feel bad about my body.  I learned to stay silent.  Later I stayed silent too because I was scared, because I didn't want to go through not being listened to again, because I didn't think anyone would believe me.  I couldn't bear the shame again. 

It took me years to realize that it wasn't my fault.  That I didn't do anything to deserve any of it.  That he was the one in the wrong.

The thing is that I know I'm not alone.  I know that most women have experienced some form of unwanted physical attention or advance from a boy or man. 

The ONLY good thing that has come out of this candidate's campaign for president is that people are talking about the prevalence of sexual assault.  Though I fear that if he is elected it will only get worse, because if the man in charge does it, that makes it ok for everyone. 

He can't be elected.  Please tell me that he won't be.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Planning ahead

This is Part 2 (of sorts) to the family picture saga of last weekend, but I felt like this deserved it's own post.

When I scheduled my laparoscopy, I was thinking ahead.  I scheduled it for the Monday before Thanksgiving, a date chosen specifically because it's pretty easy for me to take the rest of the week off from work.  The doctor said to plan for a week of recovery time.  Perfect.

Despite sharing openly in the blogosphere that I'm having this done, in my private life, I wanted to keep this pretty low on the down low.  I'm not ashamed or anything like that, I just prefer to not disclose things like this until after the fact, if at all.  I've found that, similar to infertility, everybody has some horror story (alternatively, a story of hope).  I've only told two friends and my boss, and I only told my boss that I was having a minor outpatient surgical procedure done and that it shouldn't impact my return to work, but that I wanted to let him know in case there were any complications.

I wasn't planning to tell anyone in my family, especially my mother, because she doesn't have a proven track record of honoring requests for confidentiality.

But sometimes the best laid plans have a kink in them.  In this case, the particular kink is Thanksgiving, the epitome of family togetherness.  Oops.  Forgot about that minor detail.  Well, I didn't forget the holiday, I just didn't think my plan all the way through, and how I would explain why we aren't going to be there. 

While we were at my parent's house my mom asked about our Thanksgiving plans.  Shit.  Shit, shit, shit.  Since it's unlikely that I'll feel up to a road trip 2 days after a laparoscopy, I had to tell her.  It feels wrong to tell a white lie to get out of a holiday with family.  So I told her.  I asked her to respect my privacy by not sharing this with anyone but my dad. 

Her immediate response was one of concern.  She asked me why I was having it and who was doing it.  I shared as much as I felt comfortable sharing and stuck to the facts.

Then she asked if I'd like for her to come and be with me as I recover.  I politely declined her generous offer offer as I thought in my head that I'd rather light myself on fire.  Before you think I'm a horrible person, I'm the sort of person that wants to be left in a corner to die when I'm not feeling well.  I don't want anybody to take care of me.  I even told hubs that I only wanted him to take Monday off, which he agreed to, but only on the condition that if needed he would take Tuesday and/or Wednesday off.

But then my mom said something so far out in left field that it completely blindsided me.

She asked if having this done meant that we were going to try to have a baby again.

What the actual fuck?

After I picked my chin up off of the floor I managed to get out that anything I did to my reproductive parts from this point forward was solely about quality of life.

It didn't hurt as much as much as it pissed me off.  Without another word I turned and walked away from her, knowing full well that if I didn't, I'd end up saying something that did permanent damage to our relationship.

I went on a long walk and had an ugly cry.  Not a single word about it was uttered when I came back to their house.

A few days later, the blind rage has passed, but the hurt and frustration remains.

I've never asked my mom (or anyone else for that matter) to agree with every decision we've made during our infertility journey, but I guess I'm still naive enough expect that people will respect us enough to not second guess our decisions or try to change our minds. 

I just want understanding.  And empathy.  And respect.  And if a person can't manage those, silence is the best option.  Words hurt.

Oh, and now my grandma's church has me on the prayer chain.  Because apparently "please don't tell anyone I'm having this done" wasn't clear enough.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Family pictures

This past weekend my entire family gathered for pictures.  My parents, all of my sisters, their husbands, and all of my nieces and nephews, and of course hubs, me, and our dog.  To say that I wasn't looking forward to pictures was a bit of an understatement.

There was some drama in the days leading up to pictures.  One sister doesn't allow pictures of her child on social media and is a royal pain in the ass about it (I'll refrain from stepping on my soap box about this topic).  This wouldn't be problematic, except the photographer utilizes it for advertising purposes and posts "sneak peaks" of all of her sessions to Facebook.  To make a long story short, apparently I hurt my sister's feelings when I told her that she needed to verify with the photographer before the date of pictures that pictures of her kid would not be posted online, and that if this was non-negotiable for the photographer that my sister needed to make arrangements for a different photographer.  If she doesn't want pictures of her kid online, fine, but that doesn't give her the right to make a last minute decision for a group based on her personal policy, especially since every other person in the group had this weekend blocked off for two months and she didn't bother to mention this potential issue until two weeks before.  Thankfully everything was verified and the photographer was understanding about my sister's (stupid) policy.

There was also outfit drama in the days leading up to the pictures.  In August we all agreed to a fall color palette for attire and that that each family/couple (because hubs and I aren't considered a family) would let the rest of the group know what color we chose as we decided on our outfits to hopefully avoid duplicates.  I sorted out attire for hubs and me a month in advance (which involved buying new shirts for both of us) and ordered a custom bow tie for the dog.  Per the arrangement, I let everyone know the color scheme that we chose.  Four days before pictures I was informed that we needed to pick a different color because one of my sisters was short on money needed to use that color so she wouldn't have to go buy new outfits for the kids.  I not so politely informed the group that lack of planning on her part was not an emergency on mine, that we weren't changing our outfits, and that I didn't care if they wore the same color as us.  My sister managed to figure it out.

The actual day of the pictures was stressful.  My nieces woke up in rare form, something that I knew would not bode well for pictures, and then my sister "forgot" to put them down for naps. Also, apparently one of my sisters arranged for my cousin to come out to do hair and makeup.  Two of the topics of conversation were unfair maternity leave policies and being thankful for tubals.  Not surprisingly, I didn't have anything to contribute, so I left.

Pictures were scheduled for 5pm.  Now, I'm obviously not a parent, but as soon as I heard the time, I knew it was a bad idea.  Scheduling a two hour time block starting at 5pm (right during dinner time) when you have five kids that are five and younger, is asking for trouble.  And it was.

Also, one might assume that since we planned to take the pictures on my parent's farm where my parents and two of my sisters and their families live, that everyone would be on time.  This assumption was wrong.  5pm came and hubs and I were the only people ready.  But at least we got our family shots done first.

The biggest surprise of the day is that my mom had my grandparents (her parents) come out for pictures.  I understand this on some level because they are getting older, their health is failing them, and the reality is that there probably won't be too many more opportunities for pictures with them, but after infertility, I don't like surprises.  I have what I would consider to be a cordial relationship with my grandparents, but I don't go out of my way to spend time with them, particularly not during election season.  All my grandma could manage to talk about was how evil Hillary Clinton is, how awesome that Donald Trump is, and how excited that her and my grandpa are to be first time great-great grandparents.  Apparently my cousin's 16 year old daughter had a baby, which, in my mind, isn't something to be excited about.

From the sneak peak that I saw online, it looks like the photographer managed to get some decent shots.  I'm not in love with the shot of me, hubs, and the dog but it's definitely good enough for our holiday card, and she got a really good shot of just the dog.  There's also a pretty good shot of my parents, my sisters, and me.  The group shots of the whole family weren't that great, but by the time we got to that point of the session most of the kids were hungry, tired, and throwing fits. 

Probably the most hurtful part of picture day was when I overheard a conversation between my mom and asshole brother-in-law.  BIL asked my mom if she ever imagined that she'd have as many grandkids as she does.  She replied with "actually, I thought I'd have more by now."  I know she didn't mean for it to be hurtful, and she was probably just being honest about her feelings, but it stung and made me feel incredibly inadequate.

I felt different for the whole day.  An outsider in my own family.  And it was really hard for both hubs and me.  But I think I handled it better than I would have a year or two ago, so that alone is a victory of sorts.  Thankfully, family pictures aren't a regular occurrence so I'll have a reprieve for a couple of years.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Stupid things that people say

Like me, I think that most of the readers of this blog are accustomed to people saying stupid things when they find out that we don't have kids.  These things are often said innocently, but they often hurt.  But I also think that women are on the receiving end of those comments more frequently and that a lot of men don't/can't fully understand their impact unless they have an experience of their own.

Hubs had one of these experiences about a week ago.  He came home from work and asked if anyone had ever said something stupid to me.  I said "of course" but then asked for a bit of context.  He said "you know, about not having kids."  I said "oh yeah, fairly frequently."

Apparently a coworker asked him if he had kids.  When he responded that he didn't the coworker, also a guy, told him that he was lucky and went on to say that he'd lost a child to cancer, then proceeded to proclaim that it's the hardest thing that a couple could ever go through.

I asked him how he responded to the guy.  He indicated that he didn't really say anything beyond that he was sorry.  He said he felt like if he said anything else that he'd come across as an asshole.

Hubs was really taken aback by the whole conversation.  I wasn't taken aback since I'm quite a bit more experienced with this particular assumption, but I did feel bad for him, because this was genuinely the first time he had been made to feel like crap because he doesn't have kids.

He said that he felt bad for the guy because he and his wife had to go through something that nobody should ever have to go through, but he also feels like we went through something that nobody should ever have to go through too, and that we certainly weren't lucky.  I agreed.

I hate that he had to experience this first hand.  But I'm also glad.  Because I think that now he gets it on a deeper level and that empathy will be the result.

Monday, September 26, 2016


Last Tuesday I had an appointment with my gynecologist to go over my test results and determine next steps.

I was equally unimpressed with the receptionist (same one as the first appointment), but I had a new nurse who was much nicer.  I wasn't as impressed with the doctor this time, but my opinion was probably colored by having to wait 90 minutes past my scheduled appointment to see the doctor.  Though I will say that the 90 minute wait probably made me a little less willing to be nice/friendly/agreeable, which helped me to advocate for myself during the appointment.

As it turns out, all of my test results were indeed normal (as indicated on the form letter with checked boxes), including the "best" FSH I've ever had, though as a friend reminded me, your worst set of test results tend to be the most accurate predictor of fertility.  I ended up getting the results in advance of my appointment (thanks for the tip to get them directly from the lab, Obie!), so it sort of helped me frame how to think about the appointment. 

There was nothing to even remotely explain the hot flashes.  She even threw out the idea that maybe they were psychosomatic and suggested that I take Prozac (an SSRI), which would also help with the wicked PMS/PMDD.  I don't have any issues with psychiatric medications and I think they are a wonderful tool for people who need them, and I know that there have been studies done to show the effectiveness of SSRIs in treating hot flashes, I just felt like she was implying that they are all in my head.  I swear to god that they aren't in my head. 

There was no more conversation about my longer than average periods.  Honestly this is my lowest level concern because I've had 8-10 day periods for most of my life, and now is no different.  The part that is surprising to everybody but me is that I have 8-10 day periods in spite of the IUD.  And the fact that they are so much lighter compared to pre-IUD periods, I can definitely live with them!

So next came the conversation about the pain.  The pain is hard to describe.  Sometimes it's like stabby pain right in the middle of my uterus.  Sometimes it's more like period cramps (when not on my period).  Sometimes it feels like my uterus is trying to expel itself from my body.  Sometimes it's more like a million pin pricks all over my abdomen.  Sometimes it's like a lightening bolt struck me in the cervix.  These pains occur randomly throughout my cycle, but always during my period or in the days leading up to it.  Those are the pain symptoms that come and go.  The pain symptom that is constant is in the vicinity of my right ovary.  It's not a cyst or anything else that can be seen on ultrasound or felt during an exam, but the pain is constant and has been for almost three years.  The intensity of the pain varies, but it's always there.  There is always some sort of pain somewhere.  I have long suspected endometriosis is the culprit.  No doctor has ever really listened when I described this pain.  I don't know that this doctor believed me either, but at least she's willing to investigate. 

I have a diagnostic laparoscopy scheduled for November.  If any endometriosis is found, it will be removed to the greatest extent possible.  I don't really have time to recover from something that is technically considered surgery, but my need for answers outweighs any inconvenience at this point.  Once the blood tests and ultrasound came back normal, I think she was keen to let me walk away without further investigation just like so many doctors throughout the course of my life.  I had to push harder for the laparoscopy then I should have needed to, but in the end I got what I wanted, and in November I will hopefully have answers.  I've literally had it with the pain and I've had it with not being taken seriously.  For the first time in my life I'm actually thankful that I had a long wait in the waiting room because I think this put me in a little bit of a bad mood and gave me the courage to stand up for myself.

Oddly enough, I stumbled across this article on doctors not taking women's pain seriously and shared it on my Facebook news feed.  Of the people that commented on the article, three people experienced at least one ectopic pregnancy, one had a miscarriage, one had a large non-cancerous ovarian tumor, and one had a brain tumor removed after 18 months of having debilitating migraines and no one bothering to do a scan (and once they found the tumor, she was having brain surgery in less than 48 hours).  So I guess whether it's acute pain or chronic pain, women's pain isn't taken seriously.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Avalanche: A Love Story

A few weeks ago, Pamela posed the idea of doing a book blog tour for a newly published book, Avalanche: A Love Story by Julia Leigh.  For a link to the other reviews, click here.

I decided that I wasn't going to do a review, not because I didn't want to read the book, but because I knew I had a heck of a month coming up at work and didn't know if I would have the time to devote to reading the book and writing a review.  Then Rachel Cusk's review of the book came out in the New York Times and I decided that I wasn't going to stand idly by while some hoity-toity, non-reproductively challenged bitch woman raked Julia Leigh over the coals with completely uncalled for personal attacks, both on her, and on those who utilized science in their attempts to have children.

First of all, I admire anyone brave enough to put their story out there for the general public, knowing that they're probably going to be ripped to shreds because the topic is an uncomfortable one and wrought with judgement and lack of understanding and empathy.   Many thanks to Julia for adding a much needed book to an important category.

I downloaded the book on iBooks for, I think, $12.99 US.  I probably would have preferred a paper copy of the book, but I also seem to be lacking in advance planning skills as of late and didn't get it ordered in time, so the virtually instantaneous access that an e-book offered was right up my alley.  Plus I apparently had iTunes credit, so that was nice too.  Anyway, the e-book format wasn't as refined as others that I've read, but I don't have any complaints about it, particularly since I was reading within two minutes of buying it.

Based on the cover alone, which depicts a woman holding a newborn, I might not have even picked it up for fear that it was just another "happy ending includes a baby" infertility book.  In this case, I had the advantage of recommendations from Pamela and Mali, so I knew that the happy ending of the book didn't include a baby. 

The book itself was short.  I'm not sure how many pages the paper book has, but my e-book had 79 pages with my font size settings.  I read it in about two hours in one sitting while sipping on a big glass of wine.  I read it again a few days later and it took a bit longer because I was making careful notes of things I wanted to touch on in this review.  The fact that it is such a short read is definitely an asset, I think.

I appreciated the author's ability to say so much with so few words.  Essentially the book chronicled Julia falling in love with the man she would later marry and try to have a child with, that marriage falling apart, trying to conceive with sperm from a known donor, and then falling in love with her life and accepting that she'd never have children. The chronology of the story line was easy to follow.

There were so many times where I found myself nodding my head in agreement or understanding.  For example, early in the book she describes her "deeply ambivalent view of motherhood."  I get this.  Like Julia, I wasn't sure if I wanted kids at all, until I wanted them, and then I wanted them really bad, including the "irrational leap" she made when she concluded that her chances would be better than other women her age.  It took me right back to the crazy part of trying to have a baby, because I did the exact same thing!  I also appreciated her honesty about the toll that trying to have a baby took on their sex life.  I think that anybody who tried to have a baby for any length of time can relate to this.

At one point she talked about "our child," a concept that I fully related to.  While hubs and I never ventured down the IVF path, our hypothetical child was very real to us too (including the discussing names), but I've never quite been able to figure out how to talk about it.  Julia did this for me.  Since I can't say it any better than she did, the quote from the book is:
“I’m an expert at make-believe. Our child was not unreal to me. It was not a real child but also it was not unreal. Maybe a better way to say it is that the unknown unconceived had been an inner presence. A desired and nurtured inner presence. Not real but a singular presence in which I had radical faith. A presence that could not be substituted or replaced.”
I could also relate to Julia and Paul's (the partner/husband/ex-husband) first trip to the fertility clinic, right down to dressing smartly.  She described the fertility clinic as a "temple of discretion" and honestly she could have been describing our fertility clinic too.

Regarding Paul, I must admit that there were a few points where the big sister in me wanted to grab Julia by the shoulders, look her dead in the eye, and tell her to run the hell away from that man and never look back because he wasn't good for her.  But love is a weird thing, especially when the good parts are so good.

I loved her detailed descriptions of egg collection, IUI, IVF, donor sperm, and a variety of other important facets of the reproductive process.  I felt these descriptions would be really important for someone just dipping their toe into the world of infertility or assisted reproduction or if the reader was someone who was supporting a person going through treatment.  I also really appreciated how she gave the actual cost for each and every procedure.  I think that so often these costs are hidden or spoken of in generalities, so I appreciated how upfront she was about it.  I liked how she was quick to point out that because of past financial windfall she was able to pay for treatment without incurring significant debt or hardship, and acknowledged that not everyone was in the same financial position as she was.

One of the most poignant parts of the book for me was when she touched on the societal perceptions of IVF patients.  She said:
“In the public imagination – as I perceive it - there’s a qualified sympathy for IVF patients, not unlike that for smokers who get lung cancer. Unspoken: “You signed up for it, so what did you expect …?”
I don't know how many times people have said thing that completely minimize the life-altering experience that infertility is, and the quote above captures that explicitly.  There's always the assumption that we did something wrong or that we did something to deserve it. 

My biggest takeaway from the book came on the last page, where Julia described her relationship with her nieces.  This is something I've been making a more conscious effort to do.  One of my nieces was born during the hardest parts of infertility and then two nieces and a nephew were born in the aftermath of accepting that we'd never have children in back to back to back pregnancies.  For a long time I had to keep them at arm's length because it was too painful.  For the longest time I looked at them and saw what we missed out on, but I'm starting to turn that attitude around and I'm starting to really enjoy spending time with them (and spoiling them).

In conclusion, ignore the NYT review (unless, of course, you want to write to the editor and tell them all of the reasons that the paper should be embarrassed that they published such a terrible review, in which case, go for it), acquire a copy of the book, and read it.  I think that this book is important and adds to the conversation about the toll that infertility takes on a person and a couple as well as building a life after treatments don't work out.