Category Archives: Money Matters

Microblog Mondays: Deep Clean

Two weeks ago I hired people to come in and deep clean my house.

It was an act of desperation: we’d just been away and we were about to have visitors who were on their first (and likely last) trip to Canada. I wanted to leave them with a good impression of our life here, as I’m a bit sensitive to the fact that most of Q’s family think we’re nuts for living where we do.

I wanted a super clean house but didn’t have time to scrub baseboards, so I threw (a not insubstantial amount of) money at the problem until it went away.

They came in, and they cleaned, and afterwards, I felt…disappointed.

The house was cleaner, definitely, but I didn’t walk in the door and be amazed by the change.

I suppose that’s a good thing, as it means that Q. and I generally clean our house pretty thoroughly. The only two places where we did notice a huge difference were the windows and the kitchen (not coincidentally, those were the two areas that prompted the deep clean in the first place as they were driving me crazy but I just didn’t have time to get to them).

Basically if I can find time once a month to really scrub down the kitchen and we clean our windows even a couple of times a year, I can see no reason to ever hire someone else to clean our house again.

I’m not sure I’m pleased I’ve made that realization.

Do you have a house cleaner, or do you sometimes get someone in for a deep clean? If you clean your house yourself, how do you fit in the extra chores above and beyond the usual laundry, vacuuming, bathrooms?

This post is part of #MicroblogMondays. To read the inaugural post and find out how you can participate, click here.

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Filed under Daily Life, Microblog Mondays, Money Matters

Decisions

I had a hysteroscopy on Good Friday.

I’d met with the new f/s on Wednesday. Among other things he said he’d like to take a look at my uterus to make sure there was nothing amiss.

No scarring from the D&C.

He happened to have a free spot on Friday, and then he was going to be away for a week, and Q. wasn’t teaching on Friday like he normally would be, so I figured it made sense.

I didn’t realize until I was actually there in the IVF suite that they use the same drugs as they do during egg retrievals.

(Note to readers: if debating between going home accompanied by your husband and son on public transit and going home accompanied by your husband and son in a Zipcar, rent the car. I still feel a bit queasy remembering it, but we got home without any vomiting.)

But it was all easy. They got me settled in the room (thigh stirrups now- much more comfortable- and new chairs in the recovery areas too), I had a chat with the nurses, they started my drugs, and I don’t remember anything else until I was in the recovery room and it was almost time for Q. and E. to come and get me.

The new doctor (it is hard for me to say MY new doctor, because I feel like that suggests a relationship I’m not sure we yet have) came back to tell me the results.

“It all went really well,” he said, smiling. “Everything looks perfect. So just let me know whenever you’re ready to start.”

Here’s the thing: part of me, a significant part of me, was disappointed to hear that.

Because, if there had been something wrong, something that made him think we had to do more to make my uterus hospitable, if surgery had been mentioned, I would have been DONE.

Bang.

No discussion.

The line would be firm.

And we could move on.

***

There is a line from Leslie Jamison’s The Empathy Exams that has refused to leave me.

It comes in the first essay, when she imagines a more honest monologue in the tape recorded notes of her doctor:

Patient wants everyone to understand it wasn’t a choice it would have been easier if it hadn’t been a choice.

And there we have it.

***

“There is no medical reason for you to stop,” Dr. B. told me during our meeting, when he read my chart carefully and listened to me carefully and thought about my case carefully and in no way resembled my previous doctor. No Jolly Santa unicorns and rainbows optimism. No emotional manipulation. Just cold truth and statistics.

35-40% chance of another IVF working.

20% chance of miscarriage if it did work.

Strong recommendation for PGS, although he understood my reluctance given my previous lack of success with FETs and my high embryo attrition rates.

Although he wavered, in the end he recommended a short protocol (unlike my two previous IVF cycles). He said he was tempted to just do what we did in the cycle that produced E., but he prefers the short protocol for women with PCOS. He would rather have a smaller number of eggs but a higher percent mature and fertilized.

“You were thirty when you did that cycle,” he said. “You can do anything with a thirty-year-old. With women in their mid-late thirties, we have to think about it a bit more.”

Translation: although they have told me this for years at that clinic, I am no longer young.

***
“If you decide to stop,” he said, “it will be for socio-cultural or financial reasons.”

Q.’s sister is getting married, down under, in January of next year.

We could go there for Christmas, all three of us, and escape at least part of next winter.

Or we could blow that money (and then some) on another round of IVF that probably won’t work anyway.

Our neighbours flooded our basement (long story).

We think what makes the most sense long-term is to give up on the carpet we installed down there before E. was born, get someone in to rip up the ceramic tiles underneath, and lay a new tile floor with nice tiles that we actually can stand to look at, and then put area rugs over top.

Or we could spend the money on another round of IVF that probably won’t work anyway.

We could save a good percentage of our annual income this year, even though I’m not working.

Or we could spend the money on another round of IVF that probably won’t work anyway.

If we stop, it’s not really for financial reasons.

We can do another round of IVF without going into debt. We can do PGS if we want to.

It feels like we can’t afford it, because it would seem so incredibly wasteful to flush that money down the toilet, but that’s not really the truth.

***

Yes, I’m getting older, and Q.’s getting older, and E.’s getting older, and we’d be looking at a five year age gap, and having a second (or, gods help us, twins) would completely destroy any semblance of a career I might try and build as I’d never recover from having this year off, and then being pregnant, and then home with a baby, and Q. and I have already agreed that if we have a second there’s no way we can juggle that baby between us like we did with E., so if someone’s at home with the baby, that’s me, so I will probably go insane because I wouldn’t want to put that baby in daycare during the first two years but boy do I ever suck at being a SAHM, BUT.

If it happened, we would muddle through.

We would adjust.

Our family would adjust.

I would find some way to balance children and career.

I have doubts and fears and reservations about the wisdom of bringing a second child into our family at this stage, but nothing that would take the choice away from me.

***

Patient wants everyone to understand it wasn’t a choice it would have been easier if it hadn’t been a choice.

Yes.

I wish with all my heart it wasn’t.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Medical issues, Money Matters, PCOS, Second Thoughts

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.

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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.

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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)

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.

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

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.

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

Lonely Onlies? Part Two

This is the second post in a series unpacking the ideas found in Lauren Sandler’s One and Only: The Freedom of Having an Only Child and the Joy of Being One. For the first post, see here.

In my first post I wrote about how Sandler explodes the myth that only children end up lonelyselfishmaladjusted. Turns out the research shows that most only children are just fine. More than fine. And one reason for this could well be the fact that only children have one huge advantage over their counterparts in larger families: there is no dilution of parental resources. As Sandler puts it, “Such resources can be time, money, attention – everything from money available for college to the number of words spoken directly from a parent to a child. Only children receive at least fifty percent more active care time than kids in two-child families” (74).

I can see this already with E. When he wants to tell me an incredibly long story about the adventures he and his stuffed dog went on during quiet time, there is no one else demanding my attention. When it is his bedtime, I’m not struggling to also get a baby brother or sister to sleep. When E. wants to build an elaborate train track that takes up the entire living room floor, there is no one who will knock it over, or eat the pieces, or pull them apart (although one of our cats does like to roll around on the track, which drives E. crazy). When we’re doing something with E., whether that’s baking, or reading stories, or going for a walk, he has our full attention.

We will be able to fly down under more often if we only have to buy three seats rather than four.

E. will come out of his undergraduate degree (if he choose to go to university) debt free if he’s the only recipient of the RESP we’ve set up.

Many, many years down the road (I hope), E.’s own children (if he has them) will end up with a much stronger financial position if he is the sole beneficiary of Q.’s and my estate.

I am not, for a moment, trying to suggest that having more money beats having a sibling. I’m just setting out the cold truth: if E. is an only, all of our resources go to him.

I know that there are lots of things having a sibling would teach E., like sharing and compromise and listening to other people’s feelings, but I think many of them he’ll learn from his classmates at school. Q. and I are in agreement that if E. stays an only, he needs to go to a school that doesn’t boast about its tiny class sizes. He’s the centre of our world at home. He’ll need to be somewhere where that isn’t the case to provide some balance and a healthy dose of reality. Life isn’t kind to children who grow up to be adults who believe they are special precious snowflakes.

All well and good. But a monopoly on parental resources is a double edged sword.  Only children do enjoy all the benefits that come from having undivided parental attention. But they also have no one to hide behind.

Sandler writes that only children “are the sole recipient of the parental gaze, which, as we all know, can be a withering one” (88).  She quotes Nicole Campion-Barr, of the University of Missouri’s Family Relationships & Adolescent Development Lab: “Parental authority is especially inescapable for only children. Parents will always win. There’s no one else to appeal to. It’s that simple” (46).  Carl Pickhardt: “Only children are scrutinized all the time…What makes it hard is the pressure parents feel because it’s their first and last chance to do it right…That conveys to the child, who then carries it forward” (88).  Sandler herself adds, “In the incubator of a small, intense family, parents expect their only child to be like themselves, whether they admit it or not” (88), and quotes what John Hodgman (who has an essay in Only Child: Writers on the Singular joys and Solitary Sorrows of Growing up Solo) said to his unborn second child, “You will be freer to fail” (194).

This is what scares the shit out of me.

Q. and I are both capable of intense concentration. You don’t get through a PhD (and, in Q.’s case, become a tenured academic) without this. We are train to analyze and criticize, to see what is written between the lines. We embody focus. I have been prone, ever since I was a child, to bouts of obsession, where I pick up a new interest and devour it, living and breathing it until I have thoroughly worn it out. I can recognize every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in the first thirty seconds and quote entire Monty Python sketches verbatim because of two such obsessions during high school. Q. has an ability to just sit down and get on with things that I’ve never seen anyone else match. His focus can be ferocious.

Our twin parental gaze could be paralyzing.

We could so easily be Basilisks.

E., our sensitive, introverted son, would wither beneath our glare.

I am conscious that my son cannot become my latest obsession.

I try not to overthink my parenting. I failed at this (miserably) during his first year of life when (as this blog shows) I fretted and worried and obsessed over pretty much every aspect of motherhood. But I’m getting better.

I worry though. I worry about what will happen when school starts, when the big issues start to arise. I worry that I will worry too much, think too much about his life, try too hard and crush him under the weight of my love. I worry that Q. and I together will set standards impossible to meet, or that we will be seen to do so by our son, even if we think we are being fair and equitable and only expecting him to try his best. I worry that our house, with its two PhDs and its twelve overloaded bookshelves, will be suffocating.

I worry that E. will believe he is a disappointment if he does not wander down the same road filled with books and schooling that lured his parents.

Having a second child would not change any of this. I know that. But it would dilute the gaze.

It would make the Basilisks blink occasionally.

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Filed under Family, Lonely Onlies?, Money Matters, Second Thoughts, Siblings