Monday, 21 August 2017

Lettin' it go. George the Apache. Ride or die.

The moment I let go of it
Was the moment I got more than I could handle
The moment I jumped off it
Was the moment I touched down

These are some lyrics from the song "Thank You" by Alanis Morissette that have really resonated with me.

There are a lot of things I've been attached to that don't really matter. My day to day life and work is good. If that stays this way at the moment, I will be happy. I am feeling more cheerful already.

I went and had my thaw scan today. My womb looks proper snuggly, there is a nice dominant follicle, everything looks textbook awaiting a special delivery/download at the end of next week. The doc has given my chances of this one taking at up to 50% - it is a tested, chromosomally normal embryo. This has given me more hope than I have been feeling. The doc has also said that I can continue my physical activity as normal, which will be very helpful in managing the anxiety of the 10 days of waiting. Before the download, I have wee and blood tests a-go-go.

By way of a 180 degree change in topic, I wanted to share a story from my stay in Sedona, Arizona.

The conference was held in the mornings, and we had the afternoons free. One of the afternoons, I booked in for a beginners mountain bike riding course. My fella loves mountain bike riding, but I am not terribly confident on a bike. Fortunately, I was the only one signed up on this course, the other person failed to show.

I was met by George the instructor. I quickly learned that he was 75 years old, and Native American (Apache). He had long grey hair, in a pony tail, was short with a belly, but strong looking legs.

George quickly figured out that I was quite an anxious rider. We started on the road, then flat off-road. We practiced turning tighter corners and going on uneven surfaces, like little bunches of rocks. To turn smoothly rather than jerkily. To pedal smoothly uphill and "find your BOO-DHA". There was some summer rain, but I was pumped to be riding around in such beautiful surroundings, with an enthusiastic instructor.

We got to the single trail. There were a few cycling rules / life lessons George shared. George was quite emphatic. The emphasis (capitals) was his

"Look PAST the DRAMA" - whenever I was riding past a hazard, I tended to fix my gaze on that. However, if you look at the hazard, and focus on it, then you tend to ride towards it. Which you don't want to do, obvs. He told me to look 10 feet ahead.

"There is an old Apache saying: If you think you are going too fast, you probably are. YOU are in CONTROL of the BIKE". Judicious application of the back brake is required when going down hill, and remembering, yes, I am in control.

"COMMIT, DON'T HESITATE". I tended to want to want to stop the bike when things up ahead looked difficult, although stopping would have meant falling.

George would not let me drive onto a harder part of track until he was satisfied I could manage the easier one, and ride this a few times.

There was a patch of downhill which freaked me out.

When I was 11, I was dared to ride my bike down a steep dirt hill near a floodway, by my little hoodlum 10 year old neighbour. I rode down. My bike swayed violently then I fell off, really hard. I was winded really badly and I thought I was dying as I couldn't breathe in a while. My front wheel was bent at right angles to the frame of the bike.

I was unable to stand up without feeling dizzy for a day or so after. Nowadays this might score a child a trip to the doctor or the emergency department for a check over. Instead, I had to sit at home with this little neighbour, as my mum had to go to work. I was sick and nobody seemed to give a shit. Without going into too much, there was a lot of frightening stuff as a kid, which I had to deal with alone, which always makes things twice as scary.

On this beautiful trail, I was back to my 11 year old self. I shared this with George.

I am fairly sure this is the root of my fairly morbid fear of falling over, my reticence with jumping, my fear on bikes. Perhaps my anxiety more generally.

"YOU ARE NOT THAT LITTLE GIRL ANYMORE! YOU ARE DOING SO WELL!"

George introduced me to a trail which would be a surprise. There were cuttings, downhills, small ledges, uneven bits. I did it! It was fucking scary, but I did it.

I tried going up some of the little steep hills I went down, but I found it hard to COMMIT. I was tired and sweaty, but invigorated.

We rode back to the resort. I was shaking a bit. Probably from hunger, a bit from fear. I think I cracked a bit of PTSD. I thanked George profusely, even gave him a hug.

I was quite emotional afterward. I hadn't realised this fall off my bike at 11 was such a significant event, nor did I anticipate that this ride would be so important.

Now, when I have something difficult upcoming, George's booming voice greets me.

"COMMIT"

"YOU ARE NOT THAT LITTLE GIRL ANYMORE"

Indeed.







Thursday, 17 August 2017

My Sad Sack. And Nina and I are no longer friends.

When we went for pre-IVF counselling, one of the first things that the counsellor said was that infertility was, from research studies, on a par with having a serious illness, stress wise. This was validating.

I have a habit of trying to over-compensate for (real and imagined) failure. I will try and do bigger and better. This approach sometimes serves me well but can be a drag in the long run.

I also think that this "Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) always" is bullshit. Some things are shit. The odds for me having a baby are not great and I cannot deny it.

Hence, I am owning my sad.

I drag it, like a sack, around with me.

I take it to work, and leave it at the door while I am my sparkling work-self. I actually find my work very therapeutic for me. It takes me out of my own murky head.

I take it to crossfit, and also leave it at the door. I lift other heavy shit there.

The sad sack sits with me when I am alone, or sometimes when I am with my fella.

It comes with me in my car, and  sits with me while I sip my hipster coffee. . I let the sad wash over me as it needs to. Tears aren't far away. I let them come if I need to. I believe that the technical term is called mindfulness. If I let it come as it needs to, perhaps I can move forward with it a bit.

Next month, it'll be 3 years of attempted babymaking. Only now am I absorbing the reality of it, rather than trying to deny or delay.

Tuning out completely is also important. I've been reading some fantastic books. "Australia Day" by my GP colleague Mel Cheng is a collection of short stories looking at cross-cultural interactions, and I didn't want it to end. I have also gotten into some memoirs - "How to Dress a Dummy" by Cassie Lane and "Every Lie I've Ever Told" by Rosie Waterland are two.

My ranty feminist side hates it, but I have gotten into the Bachelor. There is a girl who I am friends with on instagram (she is also doing IVF) and we debrief the episode via private message. That is nice.

I must say that my ranty feminist side can appreciate that Matty seems to be going for the most curvaceous and least plastic of the bunch. Booty FTW.

I have been a die-hard Offspring fan since the beginning, but I feel that the series has lost its magic of late. The Wednesday Night Bachie-Offspring session is, or was, a safe tune-out space for me.

However, after a fairly tepid beginning to the season, last night's Offspring episode hit us with the emotional blunder-bus. First a fetal death in utero (bought back memories of no heartbeat on an ultrasound a couple of years ago). Nearly lost my shit there.

In fairness, though, many people praised how sensitively the stillbirth was managed, and that it should be talked about - I get that too. 

Then Nina reveals a hyper-acute sense of smell and kaching! she is pregnant.

Fucksakes she is nearly 40 and hasn't even been trying.

I got more angry than is reasonable to get at a fictional TV character.

My sacred leisure TV viewing has been violated, and, with the show on the decline, I don't know whether I can go back.

Funnily enough, one of my training buddies at crossfit is in a relationship with one of the writers of the first few series of Offspring, but hasn't been writing it for the last 2 series.

Wouldn't you know it, out at coffee this morning, I met this writer. I started the conversation with "you wrote Offspring when it was good", and then proceeded to inform him of the decline in the show and why I disliked the previous evening's episode, including details of my circumstances. Being such a talented writer of a hit show, I am sure he is comfortable with the darkest parts of female neuroticism. He looked sympathetic, anyway.

I will have to find a new show. No whoopsy pregnancies. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

I am/I have/I will be

I am back from my holiday/conference. My skin is brown. The twinkle in my eye shone while I was away, more than it had for a while. It's back to the grind now. I've hit the ground running into usual life, jetlag notwithstanding. I am already looking into my next holiday - that is the most tried and true way to beat the post-holiday blues.

I have a lot of photos from my trips, showing the wonderful time I had, we had. They are on instagram. @c_j_hay - take a squizz?

I will be transferring my $6600 lump this month. People say "oooh, that's exciting". It's not, really. I have a lot of feels about it, none of them are exciting. The sensible thing to do with these feels is take care of myself. I am.

Apropos of this, I have decided that, tonight, I will give crossfit a miss. I had a busy day, today. I will hit it hard tomorrow, but tonight, I am resting (also folding up on the washing).

I have re-discovered the magic of "Jagged Little Pill", the album by Alanis Morissette. I was not a very cool teenager and this was the first album, and perhaps the only album since, that I loved, song by song. Alanis is playing in Melbourne. All the tickets sold out and are on resale (greedy fucking scalpers). This prompted me to do the re-visit, and I still know all the words to all the songs. I am staggered that she was only 20 or 21 when she wrote and performed it. It screams of life having slapped you hard a number of times.

I have re-discovered my singing. I sing along to that album, loudly. While my partner is not at home. Thankfully, my dog is not wont to howl along.

There is another Alanis song "Thank You" which has been on high rotation on my iphone. So many truths. It's my new anthem. It's about incorporating all the good and the bad into yourself, about enjoying the moment, and the good that comes when you let go of what is not helpful.

Hence, I have googled "how to let go of things". My main focus at the moment is getting through the IVF treatment and riding out all the feels with that. New ego-bolstering jobs, house renovations and all the other things that other people seem to be nailing along with having babies - these can wait.

Now - I need to attend to the washing.

Does anyone else have an anthem?

Friday, 14 July 2017

The $6600 lump.

After the ovary stimulating, then blocking, then triggering, then plucking, then watching, I have a single embryo to transfer.

One of the two was aneuploid (genetically abnormal) and so is no good to transfer (I wonder where they put the spent, faulty embryos? I am sure they have a routine).

One. Statistically a 30, maybe 40% chance of implanting.

I had a little cry after I heard about the biopsy results. Now mostly I just feel numb.

The hormone stuff wasn't so bad.

I got the bill - the cost minus the rebate is the figure above. We are lucky we can comfortably make that payment.

I can't get excited about this one little lump of cells. To put all my hope on it would seem unfair on it. The statistics are not that kind (they are not zero, but not great).

I am feeling a whole lotta "what the fuck" at the moment. I try not to extend the "wtf" into "it's so unfair" or anything like that. I feel the pain but don't think too hard.

I had a whole lotta PMS this week. Had a big ugly cry after seeing my friends newborn, but I regaled you with that story.

People say "stay positive" or "it only takes one" or even a weak "oh that's great, at least it's one", but it is not helpful sugar-coating things. It is not good to deny somebody their grief or anger.

I have a week more at work, then a week away, then a conference. Then the transfer.

Then, I don't know. We will see - maybe that $6600 clump of cells will be very badass and stick like a sticky thing.

Perhaps the hardest thing about the last couple of years has been the lack of certainty, having to think about multiple eventualities. I will try and make ourselves a nice Christmas, whatever happens. I am sick of dreading Christmas.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

Two.

I have two embryos in the freezer. They have been biopsied and we are awaiting the results to see whether they are chromosomally normal.

Two embryos.

I have since learned that this is a fairly average haul for a woman of my age, however it made me a bit sad. See, I had a number in my head, and it was three. With a roughly 30% chance of a live birth per frozen embryo transfer, three seemed a lucky number.

So what happened to the other three fertilised eggs? One embryo didn't look good, the other two had growth arrest. Now those 8 day late periods make a bit more sense.

I have regrouped and moved forward, though, mostly with some retail therapy (see below). Today I went to see a couple of friends and their newborn, over some coffee at a local cafe. I was doing fine, until we were about to leave. The song "Only you" started playing ("All I needed was the love you gave"...etc). I don't know this song well, but it stirred something in me, and I pretty much sobbed my way down the street to my car.

I had been doing quite well through this and I suppose I was due an ugly cry. I have time to take it a bit more slowly today so it is ok.



This is the bag I bought. It is small but carries my things that I need for work. My old one was a bit tatty. I like cross body bags as I need both hands free.

I also bought a pair of white sneakers. I am a late adopter of the white tennis shoes trend but I am here. I wanted leather, as canvas gets too grotty, and I need arch support as I am too old not to have it. Most of the shoes fitting that bill are in the $200+ range (Frankie 4, Ziera etc) but I sourced a pair for $70 on sale. I am very proud of myself.

I also bought myself a couple of Karen Millen knits, whose pics I cannot locate on google images. They are beautiful and I love myself sick in them

I have also been keeping sane using the Faux Fuchsia method - de-cluttering, tidying and cooking. So soothing, as she would say.

Also crossfit. Despite having had a few woines last night, and being Day 10 post procedure, and not quite back to normal, I managed to do a retest workout, and beat my last time by about 40 seconds. I was pretty happy with that. I am getting fitter with age, I just wish my eggs would get the memo.

I am following a few IVF-infertility related instagram feeds. Perhaps it is a skewed view of the people who have these types of accounts, but for some people the whole fertility treatment issue can be all-consuming.

Though a fair chunk of this blog has been about the "journey" (I hate that word - I like process), I think I have tried to diversify my life with concentrating on other things.

I have to, otherwise it would be depressing.

It's been hard to get my career progressing as I want it, though. It hit me last week - I was asking about a role that is coming up. The person said "oh but you have other things going on", to which I replied "yes but I think I can do the job, and do it well".

It's a bit of a rock and a hard place - if people know or suspect you want to get pregnant, opportunities close. I can think of a few instances where they have. They are not meant to but they do. There are many reasons other than merit why people aren't given jobs and proving discrimination on the basis of family aspirations is impossible.

The problem is, I am not getting pregnant. I am at least a good year away from a live birth - that's the great thing about a human gestation period - there is plenty of notice to hire a replacement, and it's not like maternity leave is that expensive as we only get 10 weeks paid.

It's a shitty catch-22 situation for. It has only just come to my consciousness that this is what has been getting me feeling glum. It pays not to think about it too hard.

Another distractor has been watching "The Handmaid's Tale" on SBS. Brilliant but I can only handle so much at a time. Too scary.

I have been searching for some nice fluff, some holiday reading (Bali in T minus 13 days). I bought the book "How to dress a dummy" by Cassie Lane. She seems a smart, funny woman, an ex-WAG of a prominent AFL player.

Any other recs re light fluffy entertainment?



Friday, 30 June 2017

Eggstravaganza.

First cycle done. In the can. Or the incubator, as it were.

I went for an ultrasound on Monday. My ovaries were the size of oranges. The specialist said they were growing fast, and that I needed the blocker injection stat. So I had it stat.

A couple of days of two injections (one blocker, one grower) later, at the second ultrasound, I had grapefruits. My ovaries would be ripe for the plucking on Friday. Seven eggs, she said.

Wednesday night was the trigger injection. Chorionic Gonadotropin, ie the pregnancy hormone. That was rough. Sore sore boobs, sick, sore pelvis. All the symptoms of pregnancy, but no pregnancy.

I went out for a coffee, the other day. 8 women sat beside me, probably a mother's group, with babies around the 3 month mark. All looking good and breastfeeding with apparent ease. Just the thing you want in your face when your ovaries are swollen with hormones.

Today I went for the collection. Seven eggs, she collected. How bout dat?

I watched all the other women go in for their egg collections. They all looked hale and hearty. Young, healthy. Wealthy. Like they should be strolling around in their active luxe and beachy waves with a chubby baby in a bugaboo, or gracefully lifting the baby out of their Audi 4WD.

Some of them were in for their fourth or fifth go.

The operation itself went fairly well, insofar as I was knocked out for it, and I am not in a lot of pain. More of a pressure when I sit down.

My little oocytes got whisked off to the lab where they will get fertilised. Tomorrow I will get told how many get fertilised.

It's a bit of a game of attrition from there. A certain percentage will fertilise, of those a proportion will get to blastocyst stage, of those a proportion will pass the genetic screening, of those a proportion will survive the freezing and thawing. Of those embryos which are for transfer, on average, 30% will proceed to a live birth. Attrition. Let's hope my oocytes do crossfit too, and they are super good quality.

People say, when I am doing IVF, "oooh how exciting". They haven't considered the attrition above. I find it hard to be excited as it all seems rather improbable. Sometimes it's not good to know the facts. For now, I am just focussed on getting through this one, on recovering, on getting back to crossfit, on getting back into work. I have not thought about whether I will do any more cycles.

I had an exciting work related email the other day, which turned out to be a furphy, but it gave me a bit of food for thought for how I want my career to proceed. It's important not to put all my eggs in one basket (pun absolutely intended), life goal wise.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Day 5.

I am 5 days deep in Gonal-F. For the unfamiliar this is where I shoot myself up in my belly fat with follicle stimulating hormone for 8 or so days. This is in the hope of getting up to 20 mature ovarian follicles that can be sucked out with a big needle transvaginally (I was going to say up my coochie but goddamn it I am a doctor and we are adults) either this coming Friday or next Monday. Thankfully this big needle will be wielded while I am under sedation, in an operating theatre.

There are a few more stages to get through before the ova are collected, different injections, one of which stops ovulation from occurring prior to harvest, and another which gets the ova in the right spot within the follicle.

I was really worried about the side effects of the IVF, mainly that the drugs would cause hormonal fluctuations that'd make my hormones and mood go cray cray. However, so far, it has been tolerable.

I have had a bit of a headache.

I have felt a bit queasy (alternately feeling hungry sick and wanting to eat all the things, then feeling full-sick and sorry that I have eaten all the things).

I have become aware of the presence of my ovaries. This is not surprising. They go from about the size of a date or just larger, to the size of an orange, thereabouts. There are twinges when this occurs.

I can't go quite as hard as I previously would have at Crossfit. I am still doing Crossfit, though.

I have been taking to bed early and with enthusiasm. I am good in bed!

Not too much in the way of mood lability, thankfully.

So I will know more when I have my stimulation ultrasound tomorrow.

More to the point, for a moment the other evening, I had a moment where, rather than imagining all the things that could go wrong, I was able to imagine that things go well. Maybe the treatment works, I have a healthy baby which I can look after without too much trouble.

I have been under a bit of a cloud - it's hard to allow yourself too much hope after a miscarriage and months of not getting pregnant. It was good to have some hope that things will be ok. It's novel at the moment. Nothing is guaranteed.

I am doing OK, in other words.

Meanwhile, there have been some other good distractions.

I have had a couple of pieces of jewellery commissioned - some earrings and a necklace, by a local jeweller. They are lovely and I feel very special wearing them. They are made from some bits and pieces of diamond jewellery I had but didn't wear. Incorporating the old into the new - very poetic.

I participated in a crossfit competition last weekend. I had a terrific time and hit a personal best lift (47.5kg power clean). I improved my standing from last year's comp - I was somewhere near the bottom last year; this year I am smack bang in the middle. One year older, a lot stronger and fitter.

I have rediscovered my thermomix, in particular making soups and vegetable purees. Cauliflower and potato is a good mix. I am also giving the slow cooker a good workout.

I am loving Masterchef, which is on at present. Am gonna go back to watching that.