Category Archives: Lonely Onlies?

One thing leads to another (or does it)

I did two things yesterday that may or may not prove to be related.

I made a phone call to my clinic and left a message asking if I could switch my primary care provider from Dr. L. to Dr. B.

And I did our taxes.

We knew we were going to get a decent refund this year. Q. was on overload last year and they messed up the payments, so he ended up getting the extra pay in one lump in January 2014 and was taxed too much as a result. We had medical expenses. RRSP deductions. Tuition credit transfers. Daycare costs. Plus the new family tax credit, which we could take full advantage of given I had such a low income last year (that was the painful part of doing our taxes: realizing I made TEN percent of Q’s gross salary last year. Ouch. I need a job.).

The final number was very positive.

IF we decide to do it, one final IVF cycle is manageable. We won’t have to draw on long-term savings. And we won’t exhaust our short-term savings to the point that I’ll lose sleep over it.

So the door is open if we want to walk through.

My clinic called me back that same day. Dr. B. is happy to have us.

I booked a follow up appointment for the first of April.

I will make very clear to him what our stance is.

We are not committed to trying again.

We want someone to look at our chart and our history and give us an honest assessment of where we stand.

Dr. L. is too optimistic. He’s not interested in giving his patients statistics or hard answers. And after his emotionally manipulative tricks during our last meeting with him, I will never work with him again.

Dr. B. is different. I’ve watched him in the clinic. He runs on time. He doesn’t disappear at random intervals and throw his entire schedule into disarray. He has online reviews where people complain about his lack of bedside manner in that he didn’t pull punches and gave them hard truths that they didn’t want to hear.

I told the secretary we felt it was time for a fresh set of eyes.

If Dr. B. is willing to give us our sober second opinion, we’re willing to hear it.

We may not act on it. I’m still fluctuating wildly between desperately wanting to have a second child and being perfectly content with what I have already. I spend one night googling “five year age gap between children” which makes me want to have a second and the next googling “stopping at one child” which makes me want to just move on and be happy. The pendulum swings daily, sometimes multiple times a day, and I am no closer to recognizing which side it seems to be settling on.

But we’ll see what he has to say. And if he’s anything like Dr. L., we’re done. If he recommends to us that we go home and love the child that we do have and stop trying to have any more, we’re done. If he has a treatment plan and clear, specific reasons for why he thinks it might work, we’ll see.


Filed under Lonely Onlies?, Money Matters, Second Thoughts, Three's Company

The Big Fail

So. Here is the cold, unvarnished truth about why I am having so much trouble posting on here at the moment.

I feel like a failure on almost every level of my life right now, and I’ve been in such a dark space about it that I haven’t even wanted to type up the words to let them see the light of day. But my blog is my therapy. I don’t have a shrink (although I’m starting to feel like maybe I need one right now). Writing it out helps. So here goes.

1. I failed at having a second child.

2. And I’m failing at accepting this. I have spent the last couple of weeks seriously considering going back to the clinic for one more round of IVF (a Hail Mary pass if you like). With some ground rules: I want to change doctors (I’m done with mine) but stay at my clinic because I can’t handle the thought of moving and starting over. And I don’t want to freeze any late blooming Day 6 blasts. They make it to blast on Day 5, or we discard them.

I have been thinking seriously enough about this to be in contact with friends who have children with big age gaps (because we would be looking at an age gap of very close to 5 years) to get the good, the bad, and the ugly from them. I’m unbelievably conflicted, but there is a significant part of me that really really feels like I need a third IVF to be the deciding factor. One IVF worked. One didn’t. I’m caught in the balance and the uncertainty is eating away at me. Q. is happy to be done, but happy to try again if that’s what I really want. The big stumbling block for me is the money, because I don’t have a job and thus am extra conscious of our level of savings, but I’m starting to hit the point where I don’t actually care about flushing $10,000 down the toilet if it will mean I can walk away with some sense of peace.

3. I’m failing at being an academic. I have the most basic of revisions to do to my dissertation to be able to send it off to a press (well, I don’t think it will be ready, but my supervisor insists this is what I should do, so I bow to his experience) and I can’t bring myself to do them because every time I think about picking up my copy of the dissertation I burst into tears. And I mostly want to apply for a post-doc because that would make it easy to pick E. up from school every day for two years, and that’s not really a very good reason.

4. I’m failing at being a feminist, because it’s become terribly clear to me in the last month that my ongoing freak outs about not having a job are directly linked to the fact that I DO NOT VALUE the job I actually have at the moment- being a stay-at-home mother. Q. values this work. He tells me every.single.time I start worrying that I DO have a job, and a very important one.

But deep down it seems I don’t think it matters. And that’s sad.

5. I’m failing at getting a job. This is largely, I would think, because I can’t apply for 99% of the interesting jobs I see because I’m home full-time with E. (see above, number four). I have exactly five hours a week (if I am efficient at dropping E. off on time) where he’s not with me. Plus an hour of quiet time on the other days. This is not exactly conducive to finding and keeping paid work, but I am freaking out about it nonetheless.

Q. made two points to me on Friday (when all of this bottled-up anxiety finally came spilling out and I spent our Friday night “adult dinner” weeping helplessly at the table until Q. got enough red wine into me that I stopped). The first was: I only finished my PhD about six weeks ago. It might be premature to have expected to have it all sorted out at this point. The second point was: I can’t apply for a job for September now.

I think some part of my brain is still thinking in terms of academia, where you apply for any jobs months and months in advance and then you sit around to see if anyone contacts you. And that’s not the case at all once you’re outside of the university. The plan is for me to get a job for September, when E. will be (if all goes well) in school from 9:oo to 3:00 (or something like that) and I will have enough spare hours to put something together.

I can’t get a September job now, but I seem convinced that I have to.

6. I’m failing at this whole “PhD transition into life outside of academia” because I have no fucking clue what I want to do or what I can do or what I’m really qualified to do other than teach, even though I’ve been reading books and blogs and articles on the subject for a month now. And that makes me feel like I’m failing at being an adult, because I’m 35 and I should have my shit together by now. Plus my two sisters really have their shit together. My youngest sister is making a great name for herself in her field and will be off doing exciting things in exotic destinations this summer. My middle sister is in the midst of contract negotiations for the holy grail of academia- a tenure-stream position at a serious research institution.

I am not jealous of their (very very hard-earned) successes. It’s more that their successes are making my own flounderings ever more apparent (at least to me). I am so badly at sea right now. I hate Skyping with anyone in the family because when they ask what is going on in my life, I don’t feel like I have anything to tell them. E. and I did some stuff? I read a bunch of job ads I can’t apply for? I felt bad about myself again?

Partly it is because it’s winter, and it is dark and grey and cold (although we finally have some snow to go with the cold which makes it fun to be outside with a three almost-four year old). And partly it’s because I’m not getting enough exercise in (despite signing up for a 10K in June to light a fire under my well-insulated butt) because, well, it’s dark and grey and cold and now snowy, and I don’t do well with that if I wasn’t super fit to begin with. I tried running during my five hours a week during the day when E. is at nursery school but freaked out because I didn’t think I was using that time properly.

But mostly it is because I am in a moment of transition and everything, practically everything, in my life is in upheaval right now. And I can look at the situation as an outsider and recognize that this is the case, and recognize that things will get better, and recognize that it is unrealistic insane to think that I would be able to fix all of this in a month or two. And I know that five years from now I probably will have a job that I’m enjoying, and we will have resolved the issue of our family size (one way or another), and I will have made my peace with leaving academia, or will have found a way to stay in it that works for our family.

Right now, though, right here, I’m hurting.

So I’m writing it all down and I’m going to hit publish. Not because I’m trolling for sympathy. Not because I think anyone reading this can fix things.

Writing it down is the first step towards controlling these feelings rather than having them control me.

And I need, badly, to feel like I am in control of something right now.


Filed under A (Good) Day's Work, Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), Family, Life after the PhD, Lonely Onlies?, Money Matters, Second Thoughts, Who am I really? (Career Angst)


I have an aunt and uncle.

They have a son, like we do.

Their son is an only, like E. is.

That their son is an only was their choice, unlike us. I once asked my aunt about it, back in the winter, after we’d lost the baby, and she told me that she had been worried about her career. She had seen first-hand what could happen to a woman when something happened to her husband and she had no career to fall back on. She didn’t want that to happen to her.

So they have only one child.

They are in their mid-fifties now.

Their son has finished his undergraduate degree and has found a job that he enjoys.

He just moved in with his girlfriend. My aunt and uncle helped them set up their new place.

My aunt and uncle built interesting careers. My aunt is retired now. My uncle isn’t quite ready to go.

They travel to interesting places.

They have hobbies.

They take good care of themselves.

They make time for each other.

They are smart and funny and joyous.

They don’t look like they feel they’re living a second-best existence.

They don’t look like they feel that something or someone is missing from their family.

They look, not to put too fine a point on it, like they are having an absolute blast.

I looked at them this Christmas and thought, They could be US.

And that wouldn’t be such a bad thing.



Filed under Family, Lonely Onlies?, Second Thoughts, Three's Company

2014: A year of endings

Today I submitted the final version of my dissertation.

My university no longer requires hard copies, so it was a relatively simple matter of uploading the PDF and filling out a few extra details. It was made a little more interesting by the fact I realized late on Sunday night that today was the very LAST day on which I could submit the dissertation without having to wait until January and register for another term (even though the university doesn’t shut for Christmas until the 24th). So that led to rather a lot of e-mails between myself, my supervisor and the chair of the examination committee, and then a lot more e-mails between myself and the graduate program assistant. But it all worked out in the end- the link came through this morning as promised and it took me less than ten minutes after I’d started the process (including a couple of minutes spent waiting for my computer to load the 398 page PDF so I could just double check it was the right version).

Anyway, I am, for all intents and purposes, done my PhD. Convocation still lies ahead, and I may well have to dress up in robes and prance across a stage (even though I would rather take the degree in absentia) because it would be good for my program to have tangible proof that PhDs are finishing. We’ll see. But the PhD was finished in 2014. That’s how it will be counted.

Two other things ended in 2014.

My second, and last, pregnancy.

And my hopes for a second child.

We had our follow up appointment with our fertility specialist last week. Q. was able to go as well because my sister was in town (not the one who lives in the same city- she was overseas- but the other one) and kindly agreed to look after E.

It was uninspiring.

I wasn’t surprised by this.

I had taken the time to type up all of the details of our two IVF cycles (culled from this blog): # eggs retrieved, # mature, # fertilized, maturation rate, attrition rate, etc. It made things much easier when it became obvious that he hadn’t reviewed our chart in any way before meeting with us.

He was 90 minutes late. This was apparently due to a crisis in the OR, but the man always runs 90 minutes late so I can’t see why they bothered to give us an explanation. It meant we had to endure a very long and awkward conversation with my favourite ultrasound tech who must now hold a managerial position in the clinic. She spent much of it trying to convince us to change our minds.

Both she and Dr. L. told us that it will be difficult when E. gets older and starts asking why everyone around him has a brother or sister. They told us that we won’t be around one day and it will be better for E. not to be alone.

This was, frankly, insulting. I can’t believe that anyone would come to that clinic having decided to end treatments and yet somehow have failed to consider the repercussions of such a decision.

Dr. L. really, really didn’t want to let us go. He started making suggestions: a short-protocol IVF. Putting back three embryos.

I don’t want to have to selectively reduce.

When I got home I did a bunch of Googling and discovered my gut feeling was right- short-protocol IVFs are NOT good protocol for PCOS patients. We need long and slow to get good eggs.

I think he just suggested it because it would be ‘easier’ on us- less time at the clinic. I don’t think he really thought about whether it would be the right thing for my particular set of issues.

He danced around the subject whenever Q. tried to ask him a question about success rates and numbers. I wish my sister could have come with us as she is better at hard questions and would probably have been able to better pin him down.

I came out of the appointment conflicted, but I wasn’t once the dust had settled and I had some time to think.

I just don’t trust my f/s enough to do another cycle. I’m tired of the chaos of my clinic. I’m tired of his perpetual lateness. IF we went back, I would ask to transfer to another doctor, who is always on time and who always remembers me when he sees me. But we’re not even likely to do that.

I know what we will not do, under any circumstances, in building our family.

We will not move to another clinic and start over again. That ship has sailed.

We will not adopt.

We will not use donor eggs.

We will not use a surrogate.

We would probably do another IVF cycle, with the other doctor, if E. were still two, or if our insurance covered procedures and not just medications, or if our province actually funded IVF like they have been suggesting they will, eventually.

There are circumstances under which I can see us trying again.

But those circumstances don’t reflect our lives as they exist today.

And so 2014 is likely to be embedded in my memory as the year in which things ended.

Some good.

Some bad.

But all of them over.

I hope it lets 2015 be a fresh start.


Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Grief, Life after the PhD, Lonely Onlies?, Loss, PhD, Second Thoughts, Siblings, Three's Company

Wish lists

Microblog_MondaysMy sister asked me in an e-mail this week what I would like for Christmas.

I really only want two things.

I want a job that will challenge my brain that I can mostly do during school hours.

I want another baby.

I don’t think you can find those things at the mall.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. For the other participants, click here.


Filed under Grief, Life after the PhD, Lonely Onlies?, Loss, Microblog Mondays, Second Thoughts, Siblings

Waging an inner war

There is a pot of money sitting in our high-interest savings account.

On the spreadsheet where I keep track of things, it’s labelled as “short-term savings”.

It’s not our emergency fund.

It’s not the bit of money we were given by Q.’s mother earlier in the year (which is sitting in the HISA until we figure out what we are going to do with it).

It’s our miscellaneous money.

Here’s what we’ve been thinking of using it for:

  • top up our TFSA, RRSP and RESP savings to make up some of the shortfall we’re now building because I’m not working
  • put it towards a cottage vacation next year
  • finish the landscaping in the side/back yard so it will actually be a space we want to use
  • help offset the cost of demolishing our ridiculous shed and replacing it with a smaller option (a part of the side/back yard project that Q. thinks he can do himself)

All good things that would benefit the family we do have.

I will give you all one guess as to what I currently want to use it for.


I don’t know how to reconcile my heart and my head.

Logically I can appreciate that it makes no sense whatsoever to cycle again.

It would be, at the very least, financially irresponsible.

Q. and I are not financially irresponsible people.

But my inner voice just won’t let it go.

It argues that when it comes to long-protocol fresh IVF cycles where we transfer two blastocysts, we have a decent strike rate.

Four blasts transferred.

Three implanted.

Two turned into embryos.

Admittedly, we’re not doing so well with the final outcome as only one of the four ever became a baby that we brought home, but that’s not to say that the next cycle wouldn’t be successful.

Or so my inner voice argues.

I have no idea how to shut her up.


There is only one positive coming out of this entire experience.

For once in my life, I am not eating my feelings.

It’s like my body has finally realized that no amount of chocolate cake is going to make this better.


Filed under Anxiety Overload, Grief, Lonely Onlies?, Loss, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), Money Matters, Second Thoughts

Questions I don’t know how to answer

Yesterday at nursery school on my duty day. E. has finished his snack and is idly flipping through Words Are Not for Hurting, one of a series of books with overt behavioral modification messages that I find deeply irritating but the kids seem to like. He is looking at a page where an older boy has made his little brother cry because he yelled at him after the baby knocked down his block tower.

“Mummy, are we ever going to get another baby at our house?”

E. is distracted by something his friend is doing before I can gather myself to form a response. It is the first time he has ever mentioned such a thing since he stopped asking about the baby that died.


This morning at breakfast. E. is eating oatmeal after finishing his waffle.

“Mummy, why are we not going to have another baby at our house?”

“Why are you asking, sweetie?”

“Because I want a baby.”


“That just seems to be how it’s worked out, sweetie. Besides, Mummy and Daddy love you so much. If we had a baby, you’d have to share us with the baby.”

Long pause.

“Ok.” E. goes back to eating his oatmeal.

Long pause.

“Why did you say, ok, E.?”

“Because now I know why we’re not going to have another baby in our house.”

“Do you like having Mummy and Daddy all to yourself?”

Big smile. “YES!”

Long pause.

E.: “Imagine if we went for an adventure on the streetcar and we forgot the baby!”

And then he is off, imagining what we would do on the streetcar, and I feel like I have dodged another bullet.


Filed under E.- the fourth year, Grief, Lonely Onlies?, Loss, Second Thoughts, Siblings

Learning to raise the white flag

Thank you to everyone who has commented on my last couple of posts. The support of this community means the world to me.

One of the comments exhorted me not to give up.

But that’s exactly what this is about.

I believe there could be a different outcome if we just kept trying and trying and trying and trying. Eventually, at some point, there would be another good embryo and a cycle that worked.

If we had unlimited financial resources and bottomless emotional reserves and endless time and an unceasing willingness to put our lives on hold, we could probably get there.

But we don’t.

One of the most insidious things about infertility treatments is there is nothing to tell you to stop.

If you succeed in building the family you want, whether that’s one child, or two, or more, then it’s easy. You write thank you letters to your doctor and the rest of staff at the clinic and skip away into the sunset.

But when you don’t end up where you wanted to be, the finishing line is much murkier.

I have a follow up appointment booked with my doctor for early December. I would love for him to tell me that we are making the right decision. I would love for him to look at my history and agree with me that thirteen embryos transferred resulting in one live birth and one miscarriage and a 70% attrition rate for the embryos during IVF cycles and a total failure to get pregnant during FETs suggests that maybe there is something else going on that we don’t know about and can’t (yet) test for. I would love for him to acknowledge that we got lucky, really really lucky, with the cycle that produced E., but that maybe he was a fluke and we should count our blessings and walk away.

I don’t think he’s going to do that. I think he’s going to tell me it’s all been a run of bad luck. I think he will be highly optimistic (because this man is ALWAYS highly optimistic) about our chances of success if we try again.

He’s not going to help us to walk away.

The onus is on us.

And here is the problem.

This is the first time in my life where working really really hard and doing everything right has not led to success.

I have not learned how to fail.

I have not learned how to give up.

I have not learned how to accept defeat.

Right now all I want to do is figure out a way to rationalize trying again.  And I can’t yet tell whether this is an indication of just how deep-rooted my desire for a second child is, or if it is a defense mechanism (because as long as I am planning another cycle that means I don’t have to actually deal with the grief), or if it is my stubborn perfectionist nature refusing point blank to accept that something I’ve done in my life might not turn out well.

I’m sure at some point in my life I would have had to learn this lesson.

I just wish it hadn’t been this.


Filed under Cycle Madness, Grief, Lonely Onlies?, Loss, Medical issues, Money Matters, Second Thoughts

What will not be

Microblog_MondaysNo one to sit with him in the backseat.

No one to make faces at across the kitchen table.

No one to open stockings with ridiculously early on Christmas morning before sneaking downstairs to see what Santa brought.

No one to share his history.

E. doesn’t know what he will be missing.

But I do.

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. For the other participants, see here.


Filed under Grief, Lonely Onlies?, Loss, Microblog Mondays, Second Thoughts, Siblings

Reel Life

If my life were a movie, this is how this act would end:

The beta would come back positive. It would be nice and strong, and it would double appropriately. There would be a baby with a heartbeat at the first ultrasound. There would also probably be another blood clot, just to add some suspense and an excuse for some scary but ultimately meaningless bleeding later in the first trimester.

The ultrasounds would go well, every week. I would feel sick occasionally but would spend the rest of the time putting my feet up, basking in my pregnant glow, and being an exemplary (read: never frustrated) mother to E.

I would stop all the medications, one by one.

Nothing bad would happen.

The baby’s scans would look perfect, right up until I graduate from the clinic.

I’d spend the rest of the pregnancy with my midwives. There would be a few more anxiety-inducing moments (need to keep the viewers’ interest!) but in the end I’d give birth without any major complications. For hilarity the baby might come very close to being born in the (rental) car en route to the hospital. Or maybe the baby would arrive at home before the midwives could get there. But it would all turn out well in the end.

She’d be a girl, of course. Brown eyes and brown hair. The child who haunts my dreams.

E. would show absolutely no signs of jealousy and we’d fade to black with the four of us nestled in our bed at home, deliriously happy, probably all dressed in white.

But my life isn’t a movie.

And so it ends like this:

A phone call from the clinic.

A negative beta.

And a broken heart.


Filed under 2.0 FET #3, Grief, Lonely Onlies?, Loss, Second Thoughts