Bah Humbug- Part 2

— December 2013 —

It seems that every single person in my life now has a new born or is expecting one. The Christmas posts on Facebook continue and I keep asking myself when I turned into this bitter person?

Normally, most people that meet me would choose a variety of words to describe me – high energy, won’t stop talking, bubbly, hyper – but not bitter. Yet, even I know that I have gone from being an upbeat mid-20’s girl to a bitter, ungracious wreck.

Now, some of you are now thinking… ‘Well she’s been through a lot. It’s understandable.’ Well let me enlighten you – here is a glimpse into some of my worst moments as a human being. It wasn’t pretty.

Refusing to leave my office at work for fear of talking to someone… pretty much anything these days ended in a rant about how terrible my life was, how I had no money from fertility, and how we were never getting a child.

An example of me at my lowest…
I had joined the local gym and was attending with my Sister in law and a good friend. We did this in an effort to get fit, have fun (Zumba!), and enjoy some time out of the house. Yes, a distraction was needed. One evening after a work out, we headed back to change room to clean up before going home. In it were a couple of women chatting about whether or not they should have another baby. Keeping my head down and trying my very best to get out of there before I opened my mouth, I scurried to get my runners off and my coat on. Alas, I couldn’t do it in time. Cue one woman saying, “You know, I was nauseous… not for 3 months, but for almost 9 months. Now that is enough to make sure you take your birth control.” That was it. I turned around, grabbed my coat and said loud enough for them to here- “Boo-F*cking- Hoo” and left. My sister-in-law’s eyes almost popped out of her head. She not so gently pushed me out of the change room in a hurry. Classy Adele, classy.

Posts on Facebook continued… now, anyone and everyone that has a child is so excited about having their kid at Christmas. Pictures and quotes about how Christmas ‘isn’t Christmas’ until you see it through the eyes of a child, children’s Christmas concerts, and matching outfits were enough to make me crawl into bed for weeks.

Dan did his best to force me out. And worked on talking me back into our Family Christmas celebration- normally the highlight of my Christmas season. Was I being irrational? I was so terrified that the pregnancy announcement would turn into baby talk for the rest of the evening. I knew that I wasn’t great at keeping my ‘outbursts’ in lately, and the last thing I wanted to do was to make a fool of myself at a family Christmas. Nope, my bed was a much safer place.

Dan staged a mini intervention. Christmas was my favourite part of the year. It always has been and I start planning for it in August each year. Yes, this year was harder, but think of the progress we are making with surrogacy! We would hopefully have our little one in our arms by next Christmas! Ok, he had a point. I DO love Christmas. I love buying gifts I know everyone will love, I love decorating, singing carols… Maybe I just needed to be careful at certain events and allow some breathing room between me and Facebook. Yes. Plus, I was so excited for my cousins’ pregnancy- they would make great parents! I was not going to ruin this.

Head up, shoulders back, and tears stored at least one layer deeper, I was going to make it through Christmas.

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I attended each Christmas celebration. Smiled nicely at those with protruding baby bellies, coo’ed at the newborns, and kept my shit together until getting in the car home each night. And I did enjoy most of them. They ended with a woe is me pity party at the end, but only Dan got to see those.

Frankly, looking back, I’m shocked Dan didn’t either have me committed or throw my ass out. But he didn’t. He hugged me tighter and tighter. Feeding my anti-anxiety pills when needed, and talked me back into reality. This man is indeed a hero. And if this isn’t true love, then I don’t know what is.

Christmas flew by without any major hitches…. We spent time as a family, gave gifts, and tried to give my head a shake and be grateful for the countless blessings we did have. Yes, blessings. The month of December was harder than some for focusing on the good, not the bad. But January was coming.

January meant the final medical clearance (hopefully!) for Jen to be our surrogate. This also meant the results from my appointment with anesthesia at McMaster so we would know how to proceed with the sedation around egg retrieval. This meant we could literally be pregnant by February… and baby by November! Things were happening. As quick as we could make them. A Churchill baby was certainly at the end of this long trying and bitter saga.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

The next week was a long, difficult week for us.  We tried to process the idea of loosing something I’d always taken for granted- having a baby.  I was home from work.  This was both a blessing and a curse.

As time moved forward, and the longer I had been away from work, the more anxious I got about returning back. I was still very depressed, tired, achy, and wanted to sleep the day away.  On the other hand, getting back to work would keep my mind occupied.  Plus, I love my job.  I kept telling myself I’d go back tomorrow.

Then the evening would hit and I would be so anxious my mind would be racing in circles.  My job took my full concentration.  What would happen if I went back and made a mistake?  What if I missed something?  There were potential negative consequences for others if I made an error.  This thinking was enough to push me back into my cave of loneliness and I’d crawl back into bed for yet another day.

Days became a week, then two.  I needed to go back.  My calendar was fairly light for the next week ahead so thought it might be a good time to ease back in.  I promised myself that Monday would be my first day.

Monday came, I made it to work, and nothing terrible happened.  Tuesday followed, and I was back into the swing of things.  Focusing on other issues made our problems fade into the background… at least during my working hours.  Evenings I’d return home and feel lost at what to do next.

We had our WTF appointment at the end of the week.  Dan and I talked daily about what questions we had, what we needed to understand, and what we had decided- we were done with trying.  Our evenings turned into mini-counseling sessions.  Dan and I would try to talk through everything focusing on what was next.  (Ok, I talked through everything.  Dan did a lot of nodding.)  One thing we knew was that we couldn’t just jump into something else, we had to mend ourselves from this process first.  Throughout the week we talked about next steps.  We had decided to look into surrogacy as our next step, but the clinic didn’t know that yet.  What would they say about our new plan?

The night before our appointment it occurred to me- I needed to completely change my way of thinking.  Instead of focusing on ‘getting pregnant’, I know had to focus on ‘making a family’.  At one time, those meant the same thing.  However, now, I knew they were two very separate things.  Getting pregnant was only one solution.  Changing this mindset would take some time, but thinking about things this way made me feel like there was some light at the end of the tunnel. 

This wasn’t the end, this was just the end of trying ourselves.  More importantly, this was about the be the beginning of a whole different story.  Our story.

WTF Appointment Day:

Dan and I pulled into the clinic and gave each other the ‘we can do this’ smile.  We held hands and walked through the door.  This past year and half may have beat us down, but we made it through.  One thing was for certain, our marriage had never been stronger.  If we could make it through this, we could make it through almost anything.

We sat down with our RE and he said he was sorry about our disappointing news.  He then started into how he was going to change our protocol for the next round in hopes that it would take significantly less time to get my body to produce follicles (eggs).  I kept trying to jump in but he continued on and on about different medications we could try to help etc.  Finally, I stopped him.  I asked him to back up.

Why didn’t it work?  What went wrong?  Was it me?  Was it the embryos? He simply shook his head.  Science had come so far, and the doctors and scientists knew so much about everything before you actually put the embryos inside me.  Once they were inside, we just had no idea what went wrong.  There was no medical answers.  It could be my body rejecting the embryos, it could be something wrong with the embryos, or it could be simply bad luck.

Then I just came out and said it.  We were done.  We simply couldn’t do it anymore.  It took an entire year straight to do only 4 cycles (when most people would get to do 12).  The emotional, physical, and financial toll was just too heavy.  If the doctor didn’t have any reason why it wasn’t working, then what would change if we did it again?  My body was simply revolting at the idea of carrying a child.  No matter what we did, my body seemed to protest it.

I then told him about Jen’s offer of surrogacy and said that we were interested in exploring this option further.

He just shook his head.  What kind of surrogacy he asked?  We were thinking about Jen being a gestational carrier.  This meant that it would be my eggs, Dan’s sperm, and her uterus.  The child would have no DNA connection to Jen, we would ‘simply’ be using her body as an oven.

He took a deep breath and shook his head again.  This was not a simple process he explained- had we looked into it?  Did we know what it entailed?  And if we wanted to do it, we would still be required to make eggs again which was one of the most difficult parts last time.  He explained that while our clinic was one that would work with surrogates, that all of the docs would have to agree that Dan and I made good candidates.  This was not a simple hurdle and was not decided on lightly.  In order for the clinic doctors (the 5 of them) to approve us for moving forward with surrogacy, they would basically be saying they felt there was virtually no chance of us being successful by ourselves.  He wasn’t sure if we met that criteria yet…

I was stunned.  I had thought that we had figured out the perfect option to move forward with.  We had someone who was willing to investigate the process further.  We were with a clinic that would work with gestational carriers, and fertility treatments were simply not working for us.  And now the doc was all but saying no?  I was crushed. 

I asked him if he felt that Dan and I could conceive.  He said that there was no medical evidence at this time telling him that we could not.  I asked then if there was therefore medical evidence that we could?  He looked at us thoughtfully… and slowly said no.

He said, “In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about the costs associated with these treatments.  If we were in Holland or even Quebec, these services would be covered by the government and we would like to do three fresh transfers.  Once a couple has done three fresh transfers and was not successful, it was at that time that the clinic would say that we were unable to conceive.”  We had done one fresh transfer, and two frozen transfers plus an attempt at the less invasive IUI.  Not exactly his formula above, but it also wasn’t like we hadn’t given it our all.

The doc sat there in silence for a minute then said, “I know that your situation is very unique.  We have had issues at every step of the way and we know that you are not a typical infertile couple.  Let me think about this a little more and I will take it to my team to discuss.  We will discuss if we feel you are appropriate candidates for surrogacy and get back to you.”

Defeated, I nodded.  We shook his hand and left the clinic.  I finally thought that we had an opportunity to move forward… and now we were in exactly the same place we were a year and a half ago (only thousands and thousands of dollars poorer).

When we were going to get a break?  It appeared my ideology about this being the beginning of a new story for us meant nothing.  This looked like it was simply going to be the end.

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Picking Up the Pieces

Is it possible to mourn for something you never had to begin with?

The day we got the negative test is basically a blur.  I honestly don’t remember how I got home from Pita Pit or what happened next.  I do know that I ended up curled in the fetal position sobbing in our bed.  It just felt surreal.  Did this actually happen?  We had put everything into fertility- physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and financially.  The science behind it seemed so logical and the doctor’s were so optimistic with our case.  Hell, from the start, we didn’t even think we had fertility issues.  Yet here we were.  Broke, devastated, and an a completely empty uterus.

I stayed in bed with a cocktail of anti-anxiety meds and kleenexes for the next couple of days.  My mind just could not compute that this had just happened to us.  It was so easy to be angry with the rest of the world and adopt the ‘poor me’ mantra.  How could women who didn’t want or care about their children continued to be blessed with them?  How could the rest of world take for granted the miracle of life that was being with held from us?  It just didn’t seem fair.  We are a young married couple who are unquestioningly in love.  We have good jobs, a loving home, supportive family and friends, and so much room in our hearts to dedicate ourselves to our child.  Yet, here we were at a dead end.

It feels utterly impossible to describe in words what it feels like.  My heart was broken.  Completely shattered… and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to piece it back together again.  To make matters worse, Dan, who had always been my optimistic rock, took it just as hard.  He tried so hard to keep it together, to put on a smile to encourage me to come back to the living… But this blow was just too hard to take.

That evening, we just lay in bed together with our faces inches apart, crying.  Our dream, a simple dream of having a family, was over.  No words could console us.  We just needed time to mourn.

 

Day 3: The third day after the news, I pulled myself together, put on dress clothes and tried to return to work. If I could just get back to the business of every day life, then perhaps I could give my brain (and heart) a rest to try and forget… even just for 7 hours a day.  I put everything into my work, but I just couldn’t keep it together.  My colleagues, most of whom knew what was going on, came by to give me a hug or say they were thinking about me. I couldn’t even fake that I was ok.  I’d burst into tears at the drop of a dime.  I was hvaing problems concentrating, making decisions, and was just utterly exhausted. 

At lunch, I decided to walk to Pita Pit so I could at least get a comforting hug from Dan. We share our building with public health and they had just put up a several posters that morning in our elevator.  With one look, I had a complete break down and ended up sitting in the corner of the elevator bawling my eyes out. 

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Am I pregnant? No. I am not.

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I just couldn’t do this.  I lasted three hours and I just couldn’t do it.  I went down the parking garage to drive home… but was far too upset to drive.  So instead, I reclined my chair in my car, and laid down there in the dark trying to relax. 

I made it home and emailed my manager to let him know that, again, I’d need to be off sick again.  Work had been so supportive, however with each day I took off meant that someone else was stuck trying to cover my work.  We are all so busy so I felt like I had to come back. 

Day 4: I tried working from home.  I was trying my best but wasn’t doing great- my thinking was working a little was better than nothing, right?  That afternoon, a colleague called my cell.  She has had some medical issues herself and wanted to chat with me re: sick time.  Known for her bluntness, she gave it to me straight.  Work would would survive if I got hit by a truck tomorrow and never returned.  I needed to stop thinking about work, and instead focus on me.  Focus on healing.

I needed that kick in the butt- I needed someone to tell me that while I did a good job, work wasn’t going to fall apart without me.  I emailed my assistant and my manager and let them know that I’d be going off sick… for at least a week.  I would check back in later and let them know how I was doing.  Looking back, I am so thankful to my colleague.  I definitely needed some time to grieve. 

Day 5: I just could not shake this terrible grief that I felt.  I felt alone.  Powerless.  Furious. Defeated.  Angry.  Misunderstood.  Depressed.  Anxious.  Distressed.  Heartbroken.  Miserable.  Things were not getting better.  But how could they?  My body, and now my mind, was broken… and I wasn’t going to be magically fixed.

Day 6: I decided I needed help.  I called my family doctor and got an appointment for that afternoon.  When he walked into the room I just burst out crying and told him our sad story up until then.  I asked him for more anti-depressants because these ones were obviously not working.  I couldn’t kick this.  I couldn’t just cheer up.  The future seemed dim at the very best.  We chatted for an hour in his office.  We talked about my support system, my future options, and how to best move forward.  That’s when he said it… Adele, you are in mourning- the same you would be if you lost someone close to you.  Mourning?  To mourn, didn’t I actually have to lose someone?  If that someone was never even born, how can I experience mourning?

We talked about the five stages of loss and grief and it fit perfectly.  I had been in stage one- denial and isolation for the first couple days.  I was so overwhelmed by my emotions that I questioned if this was even possible.  It felt like a bad dream that I would one day snap out of.

Stage two- Anger had reared it’s ugly head.  Anyone who was having a child, had a child, or once was a child was on my list of people I hated… everyone. It just wasn’t fair that I was here and others weren’t.  

As we continued to chat, I realized I was somewhere between stage 3 and 4.  Bargaining and depression.  I had spent my last days re-thinking my cycles and wondering if there was anything we could have done differently.  I was also questioning our decision to stop trying… I remember we had good ideas on why to stop then, but now, I couldn’t help but think ‘what if’ we just tried one more time?  The depression had hit at full force and I just felt like I was stuck in the bottom of a deep cavernous pit with no hope of climbing out.

My doctor prescribed a heavier dosage of my already high amount of anti-depressants and asked me to check in with him next week. 

I went home and tried to process how to mourn for something you never really had.  Not an easy task.

I booked another appointment with the clinic to discuss what had happened and what to do now.  We needed to have some closure and I hoped that the doctors could provide us that.  The WTF appointment was next week. Next steps seemed too far away to think about, but we also needed to hear medically what went wrong.

 

The Test(s)

frozen

Day 6 of 14

Six days post 4 days transfer (in fertility lingo that would be 6pt4dt)… This means that the egg was fertilized and then grown, outside of my body in an incubator type thingy, for four days.  After four days, they transferred the embryos.  They’d been in there for six days.  In this case, there was the cryogenically freezing part, the thawing part, but in the end, it all sort of equals the same.

Why does this matter at all?  Because 6 days post transfer plus 4 days incubation meant the embryo should have implanted in my uterus by now and started emitting some HCG… the hormone that pregnancy tests test for.

Ten days was the magic number.  When the above numbers add to ten is generally the earliest time that you will get a BFP (Big fat positive!) on a home pregnancy test.  Infertiles know the dumbest factiods of information.  But this one… this day 10 mark was big.

The pineapple cores had been eaten, I was still going to acupuncture ($87.00 bucks a pop), but ultimately, I just wanted to get to day 10.

Dan tried and tried to convince me to wait.  Wait until the blood work he’d said because you can get false negatives on the HPT (home pregnancy tests).  Why put yourself though this every morning?  Just wait.

Easy to say, not easy to do.  Do I? Or don’t I?  Frankly, if he really wanted me to wait, he would have confiscated the neat row of HPTs, organized by expiry date, in our master bathroom.  He didn’t.  That meant he secretly wanted to me to do it, right?

Day ten.  I woke up an hour before I needed to because I just couldn’t wait a second longer.  I sat there awkwardly trying to rip the packaging open so not to wake Dan… didn’t want to be busted.  I peed on the stick.  I caved.  Then I waited…

One line appeared… Please God, please.  Just let me see a second line.  Hadn’t we been through enough?  …and waited.

And waited.  No line appeared.  It was most absolutely negative.

I actually chucked the recently peed on stick across my bathroom and burst out crying. Out of protest for the test that had just ruined my day, I wanted to leave it laying the on the ground, but my dogs were fairly interested in it thinking we were playing fetch, so I had to go back and retrieve it.

Dan had told me not to do it.

I crawled back in bed and cried as silently as I thought possible.  However the crying breathing, the one where your chest pumps up and down, was shaking the bed.  Busted.  Dan tried to comfort me and made me realize that most pregnancy’s wouldn’t show up this early anyways on a HPT.  In fact, we were still 4 days before I would even get my period.  So let’s be optimistic, focus on the good, and say a little prayer that it was just too early.

I composed myself… and did what every infertile does when they get a negative on a HPT.  Go onto every forum and read about how this person had a negative test but was really pregnant with twins!  And that one didn’t test positive at all but the beta test showed it was positive.  Ok, good thing I woke up an hour early, I needed the hour just to convince myself to make it another day.

I kept a smile on face for the rest of the day.  Yes, it was too early to test and being negative wouldn’t help my little embryos grow any faster.  When I got home that evening, I read the next page in my book about the embryo development for today.

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I kept up the positive mantra for approximately another 24 hours.  It was the morning again and the first pee was the best one to test with as it would have the highest concentration of HCG for the test.  To test?  Or not to test?

Day 7 of 14

This was honestly torture.  I decided that I wasn’t going to test again until I went for my beta testing.  The HPT tests was enough to make you miserable and frankly, they still could be wrong as it was so early.  Dan was right, I was going to wait.

Day 8 of 14

Eight days post four day transfer…. I can’t wait another second.  I NEED to pee on that stick to see the second line.  Every penny in our savings account was gone form fertility.  We had put everything, and I mean everything into this cycle.  This was our last shot.  We were not going to try again.  It had to work this time.  It was going to work this time.

I peed on the stick.  Dan had already left for work so I didn’t even have to sneak around. So I waited…. I sat on the bench at the end of my bed with the test perfectly level waiting for the second line to appear.  Now according to  the “Countdown to Pregnancy” website (http://www.countdowntopregnancy.com/pregnancy-test/brand-chart.php?hptbrandid=41), 87% of people that are pregnant show a positive 12 days after ovulation.  Well using my scientific dates, I decided that the day the egg was fertilized would be day one.  87%!!!  I was one of them, right?

Wrong.  One f’ing line.  The test, again was negative.

My breathing started to get heavier, and before I realized it I was having a full blown panic attack.  This could not be happening.  I did everything.  I even ate the stupid pineapple cores.  Dan and I would make amazing parents- it’s all we want in the entire world!  This just cannot be happening.

An anti-anxiety pill and an hour later I was calm again.  There was still 13% of persons who were actually pregnant that at day 12 still got a negative reading. PLUS, these were dollar store tests… who knew if they even worked anyways.  Right.  I’m pregnant.  I know it.

My boobs were aching, I was emotional, no period yet, and my lower back was throbbing… I AM pregnant.  With that, off to work I went.  I called Dan and admitted the test and the meltdown.  He listened and tried to encourage me that it wasn’t over until it was over- the blood test.  Think positive.

And I did.  Fake smile and all.

On my drive home I had to pick up some groceries and found myself in the pharmacy aisle looking at the First Response 6 Days Sooner tests.  Study after study had shown that these were the most responsive tests and detected pregnancy the earliest… so maybe that’s all I needed.  I ignored the price tag and figured our entire lives was dependent on this one test so we could afford it.

Day 9 of 14

9 days post transfer… and another 5 days until I am able to go and get my beta test.  Armed with a new, better (!!), test and ignoring Dan’s protests I walked proudly into the washroom and peed on the stick.  Dan came to observe as we stared at the test.  We decided that watching it just made the time go painfully slow so we tried to make casual conversations about our scheduled days ahead…. the time was up and I raced to see.

One fucking line.  One line. This just cannot be happening.  This was supposed to work!  How, after them literally putting live babies in my damn uterus, was this even possible?

Dan, the calm and ever optimist, reminded me that only the beta blood test would tell us the truth.  We had to wait for the beta test.  It was that exact second that I called the IVF nurse at my clinic and explained that there was no way I could wait another second.  I was going crazy.

She knew what we had been through and knew all of the struggles (and the price tag!) of the rounds we had gone through.  She also knew that this was our last shot and gave me some hope.  She said that even though the clinic liked to wait until 14 days post transfer, if the test was positive, it would be positive tomorrow.  She warned however, that the levels of HCG might not be enough to detect if it was a viable pregnancy yet, but it would for sure tell us if it was negative.

Done.  I was now going for my beta test four days early.  Tomorrow morning I was going to waiting at the clinic when it opened for my test.  The sooner I got in, the sooner the results.

Trying not to think about if I was pregnant or not was impossible.  I tried to work, but luckily had no meetings booked.  I was being cautiously optimistic and trying to think positively, but I was going to be no use at work today.  I called in and took a comp day and spent the rest of the day researching beta tests, HPTs results, effectiveness of each test, what a good HCG level was for 10 days post transfer… you get the point.

Day 10 of 10

Ten days post four day transfer.  This was it.  By noon, I was going to know.  I drove to the clinic and got the blood test.  I was a wreck. I was so nervous that I could barely speak (and those that know me know that that doesn’t come easily).  The lab tech gave me a hug and wished me the best.  She let me know that she had been praying for us and had a good feeling.

As I walked through the hall back towards the waiting room, the women who dispenses the drugs came out of the ‘pharmacy’ room and gave me a big hug.  With tears in her eyes, she told me that Dan and I deserved to be parents, and she knew that everything would work out.  This woman was also the one who apologized to me daily as she continued to charge my credit card for the latest conglomerate of medications I needed.  She gave me one last hug and said she’d say a prayer for us.

The two receptionists stopped what they were doing with other patients and both said good luck with an encouraging smile.  Everyone knew today was D-day.  Today was the day that would change my life.

I’d gotten to know so many of the employees at the clinic now after spending more time then any other patient they had ever had with them.  When my cycles went on and on for months, I needed to be there every day.  I felt like I had developed this amazing secondary support group- and they were rooting for me.

I just couldn’t go to work.  So instead, I drove to Pita Pit and laid on the couch in Dan’s office.  I needed to be close to him.  Dan continued with busy work and continued to come in and check on me.  We knew that the call would take a couple hours to come.  And so we waited… and waited.

At exactly 11:37am, I got the call.  Dan was out front serving customers at the time and I was in the office alone.  It only had to ring once before I picked it up.

I could tell the second the IVF nurse said hello what my fate had in store for me.

“Adele, I’m so so sorry.  The test came back negative.  You’re not pregnant.”

My first thought through my mind was that I actually felt bad for her.  This poor nurse had to call me to tell me the most devastating news I’d ever get.

It then sunk in.  I will never, ever, ever get pregnant.  Ever.  We were done.  It was over.

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It. is. over.