I am really tired of taking all of these medications.

No, scratch that. I’m just really tired.

I started everything up again on Wednesday, everything being the metformin, the prednisone, the baby aspirin, plus birth control, as well as a new supplement that my sister found called Ova-Boost, which has folic acid, myo-inositol, coenzyme Q10, as well as melatonin and two other antioxidants. It’s aimed at women with PCOS and those of advanced maternal age, and will hopefully help make better quality eggs (and better quality embryos).

My body has been having a hard time adjusting.

Something is making me feel nauseous when my stomach is empty, but even more nauseous when I eat. I suspect it’s the metformin, since I went right back to taking three pills a day given I had been taking that many only a week before.

Note to others: this is not the best plan, but I do seem to have escaped relatively unscathed.

Something else is producing an insane level of fatigue. I went to sleep three nights this week before 8:30 p.m. because if I didn’t go to sleep I was going to pass out standing up. The first night poor Q. had no idea what happened to me, as I went upstairs to settle E. (who had popped up requesting a diaper change), and after I had put him back in the crib, I was so overwhelmed with exhaustion I decided to brush my teeth and just climb into bed.

The first two nights I slept through. The third night (where I passed out with a massive headache at 7:45 p.m.) I woke up at 2 a.m. and was up for a couple of hours, but then managed to get back to sleep.

All three nights I slept through Q. getting into bed. I was dead to the world.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for ages and reading all of my rants concerning my sleep will know how unusual this is.

I spent most of the summer, and a good part of the fall, waking up at 4 or 5 in the morning, feeling totally refreshed.

I’ve been convinced for close to two years now that I don’t seem to need as much sleep as I did before E. was born. Give me six hours in a row, and I’m good to go for the day. I hate waking up in the night to use the loo because if it’s after 3 a.m. I usually don’t get back to sleep, and prednisone just makes my disordered sleeping so much worse.

So the torpor of the last few days has taken me by surprise.

It’s getting better though, which is a relief. Last night Q. and I were able to watch a film we’d rented on iTunes (Starbuck- a very funny French-Canadian film well worth watching), and then went to bed at the same time.

I feel like I’m working really hard just by taking my pills. I haven’t even hit the Lupron stage yet, let alone stims.

I have to say, I’m a bit stressed about the intensity of the IVF cycle. I went back and reread my blog from August 2010, and I noted at one point how tired I was of being in the clinic and how much more work an IVF cycle was compared to a FET. I had found the FETs in 2009 to be so much easier.

This time around I was caught off guard by how much time the FETs took up. I feel like I’ve spent half the fall at the clinic.

The difference, of course, is now we have E., and I tried, as much as possible, to go in to the clinic on days when he was in nursery school. This meant I spent a significant number of Wednesdays, the one day in the week where I have the full day to work in the library on my dissertation, at the clinic.

So I’m looking at the IVF with apprehension, and I’m trying to revise, yet again, my expectations for what I think I can accomplish in December.

It is hard, though.

I’m not used to not being really really good at what I do.

I’m not used to letting things distract me from my work.

I sent an e-mail to my supervisor, as he’s overseas (again) and won’t be back until mid-December. I told him I had been dealing with a medical issue this semester, that it had significantly affected my ability to work on the dissertation, and that my doctor had recommended I step back from an arbitrary deadline and try to minimize my stress.

The next day I received the most wonderfully compassionate and understanding e-mail. It made me cry. He was so supportive. He has faith in my work when I have none for myself.

I should be able to let go of the stress now. I should be able to focus on the IVF, on keeping myself balanced, on being present for E.

I’m struggling.

The December deadline my supervisor and I originally agreed upon was designed to allow for a defence date in June or, at worst, August.

If I defended by August, I would finish my PhD exactly on time, according to the university guidelines.

It’s pretty common for people not to finish on time in the Humanities. It’s common for people to take one, two, three extra years (or more) before they finally defend.

I was going to finish on time.

More than that- I was going to finish early. Because finishing by August meant that I’d finished in the same amount of time as would have been expected if I hadn’t had a baby, hadn’t taken any maternity leave.

I took a full six months off when E. was born. I didn’t read a thing. I didn’t write a word. I didn’t touch any part of the dissertation.

Finishing in August would have meant I had, in effect, finished six months earlier than expected.

There’s more to it.

Since E. was born, I have never actually worked full-time on my dissertation. When I did go back to work, although I registered as a full-time student, I was always responsible for at least 50% of E’s care during working hours (with the exception of this summer, where even then I had a full day at home with him every week). In some semesters, at some times, it was more. I don’t usually work on the weekends because Q. has to so much of the time. I intentionally refuse to work at night most of the time or at 5 a.m. when I wake up and can’t get back to sleep because I know I will spread myself too thin and I won’t have the patience I need with E.

There has never been a point with this dissertation where I wasn’t trying to balance being a PhD student with being a mother.

I started reading again for my dissertation in November 2011.

I didn’t write a word until March 2012.

Earlier this semester I did a word count, and the dissertation stood at around 103,000 words.

Every single one of those words was written in the last twenty months.

I should look at that and see it as a huge accomplishment.

I should look at that and feel proud of myself.

I should look at that and be amazed at everything I have managed to do, in the time that I have had.

I don’t.

I look at it, and all I can see is what I have left to write, left to edit, left to do.

I look at it, and all I can see is how much better it could have been if I had been working on it full-time, instead of squeezing it in around everything else in my life.

But despite everything, I was holding on to the fact that I was going to finish on time.

Having a child wasn’t going to have slowed me down.

Essentially writing a dissertation part-time wasn’t going to have slowed me down.

I was going to finish as if nothing had interrupted my academic life.

And it has been really really hard on my pride to accept that, as a result of going back to the clinic this fall, that simply isn’t going to happen.

I do know that my original timeline was ridiculous. It was crazy to think that I could write a dissertation part-time and still finish six months ahead of schedule.

But until we went back to the clinic this fall, that timeline was within my grasp. I was going to manage it.

I was going to be an academic superstar.

Mothers in academia don’t have an easy time of it. There are many, many articles out there that point to children as the death knell in many a female academic’s career.

Part of why this timeline mattered so much to me was that it would show that having a child hadn’t slowed me down, that my work hadn’t suffered, that my brain hadn’t turned to mush (even though it certainly felt like it had when I first started easing my way back into things). If a job came up in my field, there would be no dangerous gap on my CV that needed explaining. There would be nothing at all to identify me as a mother unless I so chose to identify myself in an interview. No reason for a hiring committee to wonder if I would pull my own weight or would disappear as soon as my teaching was finished, unwilling to take on other responsibilities, unwilling to be a good departmental citizen, unwilling to devote the blood and sweat and tears academia demands.

I would look normal.

Now I’m worried I’ll look like damaged goods, that my failure to somehow magically balance it all (an impossible balancing, even I know that) will tarnish my work. I’m worried I’ve introduced the question mark into my CV.

I know, deep down, that we have made the right decision. It made no sense whatsoever to wait on this last IVF cycle until after the dissertation was completed. And it would make no sense whatsoever to damage the chances of this IVF succeeding by trying to keep to my planned schedule and worrying about all the work I wasn’t managing to do, because if nothing else the FETs this fall have reminded me just how much time and mental energy and physical strength is consumed by trying to get pregnant. I know the IVF is going to be even worse.

I am reconciled with our decision, and I think by the time the IVF starts I will have been able to let go of the “graduate school self-imposed stress/shame spiral” as my sister so aptly labeled it.

Right now though I still feel like I’ve let myself down.


Filed under 2.0 IVF, Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Medical issues, Medications, My addled brain, PCOS, PhD, Second Thoughts, Sleep

4 responses to “Side-effects

  1. Oh love IVF is soooo freaking hard. It just is. And it’s 10x harder stress wise with a toddler (however it is 10x easier emotionally, our failure would have been so much worse without the bebe). I found doing the whole IVF cycle with a toddler very daunting, but not impossible.n looking back over the month and a half I know I wasn’t completely checked in emotionally with her, and since it was all in vain it feels so selfish, so wasteful. If it had worked it of course was worth it, as it would have given her a sibling. My husband says it was worth it just so we can tell her in later years that we tried oh so hard to give her a sibling. I try to believe that! All you can do is take it one day at a time (like the alcoholics do!) and not get overly stressed about what next week, next appt may bring. Easier said than done I know. Hang in there!

  2. I have no experience with IVF, nor do I have any experience with trying to complete a graduate degree, but I certainly have tons of experience with trying to balance more responsibilities than one can reasonably juggle in a day. It is so hard to let go of the high expectations that we have for ourselves. But we HAVE TO let it go. In order to be at our best for the things that really matter- like family- everything else has to take a bit of a backseat. I remember struggling with these issues even as a teenager, and my dad said something to me that has stuck in my head all these years later- he said, “Sometimes good is good enough.” My dad made a lot of mistakes, but he really hit the nail on the head with that one. Perfectionism rarely pays off. Your PhD will get done- maybe a month or two late. But that’s ok- that’s still ahead of a lot of people out there. Will it be as good as it would have been had you not had these interruptions? Maybe, maybe not, but it will undoubtedly be VERY good, and you will obtain the same degree either way. You are smart to focus on taking care of you right now. You don’t want to have any regrets down the road.

    That was a very long-winded way of sending love and hugs, and letting you know that I get it. Deep breaths, one day at a time. That’s the best any of us can do.

  3. I think it’s the Pill. Do you think? That same exact thing happened to me when I started the Pill for my cycle last month (I hadn’t taken it since H’s cycle). It took a good week but I felt back to normal with the fatigue. Similar thing happened when I just started the Estrace. Must be the estrogen?

    I’m not in academia, but I absolutely get the feeling that you’re not living up to your own standards, career-wise. When I started my last full-time job, the first day somehow worked out to be the day they had to do an IUI. I was so mortified to call my new boss and tell him I was going to be late my first day (I don’t even know what I said). Just so not like me. And the worst part is, when you’re going through fertility issues, your career feels like it should be the perfect escape. To feel you’re not doing that well either? It just makes you feel awful.

    Here’s the thing. You’re doing better than you think. And I think one way to think about it is to remove your head from this moment and peer back at it from five years from now when this is all done, hopefully you have your second child, your dissertation is done, and it doesn’t matter if you did it now or had to take a couple months more. It just won’t matter in the grand scheme, you know? The point is you’re getting sh$& DONE, lady. You’re being a fantastic mom (your detailed posts about E are just so lovingly done) and pursuing a huge career milestone that most people only dream/talk about. So just try (TRY — I know — it’s hard. I do this too.) to catch yourself being critical of yourself. Cut yourself some slack. This is all going to be worth it.

  4. Pingback: Rest Easy | Res Cogitatae

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