Category Archives: PhD

Work Matters

It’s looking like our gamble didn’t pay off, at least not for this year.

I am looking at September, and I am, at this moment, unemployed.

I applied for contract teaching positions at four universities.

I didn’t get any of the positions.

Q. and I had a talk about it, while we were still in Oz, when it was becoming ever more obvious that there are just too many people out there with similar qualifications or with so much seniority that they are entrenched in a course even though they have no real qualifications in the subject (and I do). The irony is that I was a contract lecturer before I started the PhD, and if I had kept doing that, I myself would have been entrenched in those courses by this point, even though I would have been less qualified to teach them than I am now.

I told Q. that I wanted to stay home with E.

“This is our last year with him before he goes to school,” I said. “If he’s going to be it for us, I don’t want to have lost that year.”

Q. agreed.

So it looks like I am getting an unexpected year as a SAHM.

E. is going to continue to go to his nursery school, but probably for only three mornings a week rather than three full days. This will undoubtedly be better for him at this point, but we’re not sure how good it’s going to be as preparation for the following year, when our only option for JK is five full days. E. clearly is a child that would have done well with the old half-day program.

We are going to be stretched financially. We’re not going to be in danger of losing our house or anything, but we will have to prioritize differently, and we’re certainly not going to be putting a lot of money away.

But I know that I am lucky. I am lucky in that I have a husband who has a secure job and who makes a good wage, and I am lucky in that my husband wholeheartedly supports my desire to stay at home with E. for this year, while also at the same time understanding that, of course, I will want to do something else eventually. But I don’t have to figure out what that something else is RIGHT NOW.

We’ve never been without an income on my part. It’s fluctuated a lot over the last seven years, but it’s never come anywhere close to what Q. makes. My income was cut in half this past year after my scholarship ran out and I was back on the minimum guarantee. It paid for E’s nursery school with a bit left over to tuck away into our savings.

Losing that safety net is going to be hard for us. We’ve been so careful financially for so long, and we’ve worked so hard to save money, to pay off our mortgage faster, to build up investments, to pay for infertility treatments. We have no debt other than our mortgage. It will be a challenge for us to budget without our extra savings capacity, to feel comfortable with that smaller amount arriving every month, even if it is only for a year.

But Q. and I both believe it will be worth it if it means I can have that year with E.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at all worried about being at home with E. There was a comment made by a parent on Ask Moxie the other day responding to a post about preschool and daycare, where the mother said that she largely sent her children to preschool because she was a strong introvert and she needed the time to herself.

It was like a bomb went off in my head.

I’d somehow forgotten that, even though I’m E.’s Mummy, I’m still an introvert.

I can’t think of anything less well-suited to an introvert than to be a parent of a young child. There is no room for quiet and introspection and solitude when you are faced with such a constant well of need.

I love E. with all my heart, but I still often find being his mother exhausting.

Reading her comment made me feel better about all the times I get tired of E. I’m not actually tired of E. himself, I’m just tired of having someone else around me, asking me questions ALL THE TIME.

Most days I suspect I need his quiet time more than he does. Her comment made me understand (belatedly) why this is so.

My son is also an introvert. He is a delightful, highly sensitive child, who is happiest when he gets to stay at home, doing his own thing, with his mother.

And so, while I am a bit nervous about how I will cope with this uncharted territory (because I have never been free to ‘just’ be E’s mother- I have been working on the dissertation since before he was born), I know that E. will thrive.

I have promised myself that when E. is at nursery school, that time is my own.

I will not run errands.

I will not clean the house.

I would like to write, but I recognize that there will be some time after the dissertation is finished where I will not be able to do so. But maybe a bit later, after my brain starts to think about other things again, I can pick up the pieces of story in my head.

And at some point I will start to think about the long-term, and what we will do, what I will do, if this year was not just an anomaly, but an indication of what is to come.

There are huge advantages to being a contract lecturer when you are not the primary wage earner in your family.

It would keep Q. and I in academia together. Our years would follow a similar pattern. We would be free for holidays at the same time.

I could refuse to teach in the summer semester and be home with E. in the summers once he’s in school, which is something I’ve always wanted to do.

I could have relatively flexible hours and be around for most school pick ups and drop offs (and the ones I couldn’t make, Q. would be able to organize his schedule to make himself available).

I have known for a number of years now that I don’t want a tenure-stream position, even if one were to come available (which will happen when pigs fly, given how bad the job market is). I just don’t think there’s room for two in one family if there are children involved. A tenure-stream position demands too much of you. I’ve seen how hard Q. works. We can’t both work that hard without abdicating most of the day-to-day responsibilities of raising our son.

I’m just not willing to do that.

But contract work would have been a good alternative.

I may have to start thinking about other options, but I’m not ready to do that yet. I’ve been in school, as a student or a teacher or both, for almost my entire life. I am suited to it. It nourishes me. Contemplating a life built on other rhythms seems impossibly alien right now.

In an ideal world, I would find a job I wouldn’t hate going to in the morning, that allowed me to be there when my son got home from school most of the time, that would let me spend the summers with him.

Contract teaching would have worked, but that door might not open for me.

I’m not sure what else is out there that might fit the bill.

If I were really, really brave, I would say outright that I know exactly what I want to do: I want to write. But I have not earned the right to say this. I haven’t tried, not really, not properly, to write, to see if I could succeed at it. And it’s not fair to Q. to saddle him with the financial responsibilities of the family (which would cause him enormous stress), and it is not fair to myself to cut myself off from some sort of position that would grant me financial independence and stability if anything were to happen to my marriage. (I do not think that anything would happen to my marriage, but I am a child of divorce and I know what happens to many women who head single-parent families.)

There’s time enough to figure out what I might do.

This coming year belongs to my son, my miracle baby.

I am going to spend my days with him, and I am going to count myself lucky.

Because now I know how close we came to not having anyone else in our house at all.

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Filed under (Pre)School Days, E.- the fourth year, Money Matters, PhD, Writing

Resurfacing

Well, hello again.

So where am I at?

When last I wrote, I was facing down the start of a ridiculous month of deadlines. I was, not to put too fine a point on it, panicking.

Here’s what happened.

I eventually gave up and went to my doctor and got antibiotics so that I could stop being sick. I just couldn’t shake it on my own.

I marked all of my students’ assignments and tallied their final grades.

I finished the draft of my dissertation and gave it to my supervisor on time.

The next week I wrote the first conference paper and presented it. It was well received. I wrote the second conference paper while away at the first conference.

Then I wrote my final language exam. I thought I had done well enough that I might maybe, maybe, squeak a viva rather than being failed outright.

They passed me outright. No idea how I managed that, given the mess I made of the final passage, but I’ll take it and run. That made for all four translation exams (two ancient, two modern) passed on the first attempt. I’m the only graduate student in my program to have done this.

The day after the language exam I gave my second conference paper. It was fine.

That weekend my supervisor sent back my thesis, which he had actually read, and read carefully, in two weeks (this is pretty much unheard of in academia). He sent it back with 28 pages of typed comments. Not one was “you have to rewrite this entire chapter/section because it is terrible”.

That Monday Q. went overseas for three weeks. I was on my own with E. for a week, and then had two weeks with grandparents there to help (my dad for the first, my mum for the second).

I worked 12-14 hour days on the dissertation those two weeks. My days went like this: wake up in a panic around 5 a.m. and work at the kitchen table until E. woke up. Then have breakfast with E., and take him to nursery school if it was a nursery school day. Then go to the library. Work until a bit before 5, with a fifteen or twenty minute break for lunch (as much time as it took to get down to the cafeteria level, eat a sandwich, and go back up to the stacks), then get home in time to cook dinner. After dinner put E. to bed and then work until 10:30 or 11 p.m. before going to bed. Repeat.

I am so grateful my parents were able to help. I wouldn’t have been able to get the revisions done otherwise. Even if Q. had been here, he would have had his own deadlines to meet, and I needed every single hour I could get.

I didn’t get every i dotted and every t crossed. This led me to have a massive anxiety attack one night when it became apparent I was going to have to make substantial changes to the introduction where I just lay in bed and cried until I fell asleep, but by the morning I had accepted this and could focus on finishing what I could finish rather than stressing about the revisions that needed more time than I could give them at that point.

But I got it done.

Q. got home on a Saturday night.

Sunday night I finished the table of contents and then turned the draft into a PDF.

Monday morning Q. went up to work, printed the draft out and delivered the hard copies to my committee members, while I did my last duty day at E.’s nursery school.

Monday afternoon Q. and I packed, took apart E.’s crib, and set up his new medium-sized bed.

Late Monday afternoon I picked E. up from nursery school. We had just enough time at home for a quick snack (making sure he didn’t go up and see the change in his room) and then my sister drove us to the airport. That night we flew down under, where we’ve been for the last month, and where I thought I’d have loads of time to blog except that it turned out my MIL scheduled pretty much our every waking minute.

It’s been a bit manic, to be honest.

We’re home now, jet lagged as anything (two nights ago E. slept for less than four hours total), but glad to be back.

Expect more from this space in the near future.

6 Comments

Filed under (Pre)School Days, Anxiety Overload, Down Under, Family, PhD, The Sick, What were we thinking? (aka travelling with small children)

What I would write about (if I only had the time)

I have six BILLION things I want to write about.

Some are good things, like how I found out yesterday I’m going to get paid this summer, about as much per month as I was being paid this academic year, which is beyond exciting as I spent most of this academic year believing I had no right to any funding at all for the summer. So the new roof looks less stressful, and our cottage vacation seems less frivolous, and I guess we’ll have the money for the FET when we decide it makes sense to do that.

Some are bad things, like how I was involved last week in a deeply distressing e-mail exchange where I was bullied by a big-shot professor in the U.S. to the point that I seriously considered pulling the paper I’m giving at a conference in a few weeks just so I wouldn’t have to deal with her any further.

Some are things I don’t have any answers to, but just wish I had the time to write about, like how we had this wonderful dinner out the other week and we were walking home, with E. holding both our hands and swinging between us, and I had this moment of realizing, really realizing, that if this is our life, we will be ok. And how I can think that one second and then struggle to breathe the next when I understand that, deep down, I don’t believe we’re going to be able to add to our family again, and I am not ok, so very much not ok with that reality.

Some are things that make me frustrated, like how I am STILL sick, more than three weeks after it started, and how I just can’t quite seem to shake it, and how I am so tired of being tired, and I still have all this work to do, and Q. is so stressed as well, and it’s just overwhelming if I look at it all at once. And how my face is a disaster zone (again) and I have no idea why, but the birth control pills, which I thought were helping, don’t seem to be anymore.

Some are funny things, like how E. is into the “Why?” questions in a big way, and how he talks non-stop in these hugely complicated sentences with four or five clauses, and how people now smile and laugh and give me knowing looks on streetcars as they, too, listen to E.’s constant questions. At dinner the other night we had this lengthy conversation where E. explained that he was keeping his poo across the street, in a poo tree in the neighbour’s yard, and how the fire trucks on his pyjamas were poo fire trucks, so they would come and get the poo and deliver it, but before that would happen the front-end loaders had to come and FLING the poo out from the tree, and it went on and on and on with Q. and I just grinning at each other. And the next day E. decided he was a giant python, so we’ve had several days of “Can you carry me up the stairs, Mummy? Because I’m a giant python and I don’t have any legs” and “When I see something I want to eat, I’m going to give it a big hug and such a big squeeze and then I’m going to eat it all up” and “Do you think the other kids at nursery school will be surprised to see that I’m a python? Maybe they are afraid of snakes. You could warn them so they wouldn’t be scared.”

Some are things that keep me up at night, like the fact that E.’s nursery school teacher thinks he had an anxiety/panic attack during circle time a week and a half ago. I have known for a while now that E. is very sensitive, and feels things very acutely, and has a very strong imagination, and tends to worry about anything and everything, but I am now starting to suspect that he is struggling with anxiety, real anxiety, not just normal toddler fears. This breaks my heart. I am working on not blaming myself.

But I have no time to write anything meaningful. So instead, I will leave you with this, the printed version of which I gave to my supervisor yesterday.

IMGP8092

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), E.- the third year, Money Matters, PhD, Second Thoughts, The Sick

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…

Last weekend I was supposed to go away.

To reconnect with friends and their daughter, who is the same age as E.

To meet and have lunch with one of my very best blogging friends.

I was going to do something, just for me.

I got the flu instead.

Thursday afternoon I started running a high fever.

I didn’t stop running a fever until Monday.

I wasn’t able to stand up for more than five minutes at a time.

Walking to the bathroom exhausted me.

E. was sick too, but he didn’t get hit as badly. He ended up with a croup cough for a few days and missed Monday at nursery school, but he never ran a fever, never seemed to be dealing with the exhaustion I was fighting. He was happy enough to watch his very first movie (The Little Engine that Could) every.single.day.

It’s more than a week later and I’m STILL sick. No more fever or sore throat, thankfully. No more laryngitis. But now it’s in my sinuses and I have a terrible pounding headache that medication only barely eases.

And now I’m scared.

I have SO much I have to do in the next month.

I’m giving a full draft of my dissertation to my supervisor in two weeks. I have to meet this deadline because if I don’t, he won’t read it in time to give it back to me to allow me to make changes and send it to my committee before we go to Australia for a month. Basically if I miss this deadline I set myself back by at least six weeks.

I have to mark the final assignment for my class. Apparently the grades are due today because I didn’t set an exam. I didn’t know this until today. I’m not going to be submitting my grades on time.

I have two conference papers, both of which I’m supposed to write in advance and send to the session chairs. (I have no time at all in which to do this.)

I’m meant to write a language exam- the last one I have left to do, but I haven’t made the time to prepare properly for it because I’ve been so busy freaking out about the dissertation. But I can’t defend the dissertation if I haven’t passed this exam, so at some point it’s going to have to move up the priority level.

When I’m able to work, I’m properly focused. I’ve cut myself off from Fakebook and my blog reader. When I have time, I use it well. But I am looking at my workdays and there just aren’t enough of them.

I knew this time was going to be difficult. But I assumed I’d be working at night, getting up early, burning the candle at both ends to get it done.

I am good at getting things done.

I wasn’t expecting to be so tired and wooly headed I pass out at night by 8 p.m.

I was supposed to start the Couch to 5k program again. I managed exactly one run- the day before the fever started.

I don’t have time to be sick.

I don’t have time to get better.

I don’t really have time to be writing this, but I needed to get it out before I ended up sitting in my living room crying.

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Filed under Anxiety Overload, Butter scraped over too much bread (a.k.a. modern motherhood), PhD, The Sick

This week

Today I had a dentist appointment.

The last time I was there my usual hygienist wasn’t there because she was doing an IVF transfer.

I’m not going to lie. I eyed her up the moment I saw her, wondering if it had worked.

It hadn’t.

I told her about the IVF cycle. About the losses.

We talked for a long time about things.  She is feeling really beaten down. It’s her second round of IVF.  Her clinic does some things really differently, so we compared notes.

She has snowbabies, so I am hopeful something will come of that. She reminds me of me, circa late 2009. I told her how I’d given up before we did the IVF cycle that brought us E. I told her that if it worked, the pain and the heartache would be worth it.

If it worked.

Eventually she cleaned my teeth. I was due for x-rays and a check from the dentist. He said I’m clenching my teeth and recommended a night guard.

I am not remotely surprised by this. I am still holding so much tension in my jaw. I’m trying to work on it during the day, but I can’t control what I do while sleeping.

***

I went back into the clinic on Wednesday. It completely blew my one full day of work in the week, but the bleeding still hadn’t stopped and I wanted to be sure.

Two ultrasound techs did a scan and then my doctor did another. Eventually they decided that my uterus looked clean.

We did a blood draw and my beta came back at 18, so it is falling as it should be.

My f/s gave me a pack of birth control pills that I’ll start next week after I talk to my endocrinologist about my thyroid dose (I’m still on the elevated dose from when I was pregnant). We agreed that my body was unlikely to get its hormones sorted out without help.

I’m tempted to just stay on birth control pills until July now. We’re not going to do the FET until after we get back from Oz, and it’s not like we’re going to get pregnant on our own as a surprise. Maybe a couple months of bcps will help my poor face get sorted out.

***

My mother and stepfather are here. They’re helping me with E. as Q. left on Wednesday to go to Europe for a conference. (As an aside, I know I shouldn’t like Amazon because they destroy independent booksellers and they hide offshore so they don’t pay enough tax, but when your husband manages to leave his computer cable in his home city’s airport, it is really nice to have a website where you can order the right cable, ship it to his hotel, and have it arrive there before noon the day after he first called in a panic. Also I am superwife.)

Thursday my Mum played with E. all morning while my stepfather and I went to the wonderful land of flat-packed Swedish furniture. I bought E’s bed frame and his storage shelving unit and his mirror and his summer duvet and his little armchair and a step-stool for the kitchen, and I splurged on a $20 night table that matched his bed frame. But what made me stop dead in the store and do a happy dance is that the duvet cover that looks blood/wine red online is actually fire engine/brick red in real life, and it is PERFECT. Perfect and $25.

E. is having a nice time but is a little bit worried about all the changes. He misses his father, which is so nice to see after the ever-s0-long phase of Daddy rejection.

***

I am getting some decent work done on the dissertation. There is maybe a light at the end of the tunnel of my crisis of confidence. My supervisor has agreed to a timeline that requires him to read the entire thing in three weeks. If we both keep our ends of the bargain (and he should as my timeline works extremely well with his other commitments), I should be able to send the entire thing, revised to take his comments into account, to the full committee before we go to Oz.

It might really get done.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Anxiety Overload, Cycle Madness, E.- the third year, Grief, Loss, PhD, Thyroid

(Not) Feeling Groovy

All my blog posts right now are about the emotional side of things. I thought I should jot down some bullet points on where I’m at physically (although the emotional stuff will creep in again. It always does.):

  • 17 days after the D&C, and I’m STILL spotting. My clinic told me to call them if I was still bleeding after 12. I haven’t called yet, but am starting to think maybe I should. The spotting has stopped at least three times for a day or so, and then it starts up again. The longest gap was actually right after the D&C where I had a fair amount of bleeding the day after, then spotting, then nothing for three days, and then, just when I thought I was in the clear, it started up. It’s not heavy, but there are days where I probably should have gone for a pad rather than just a panty liner. Sometimes I get cramps or a deep ache. Mainly it is just depressing to be constantly seeing blood on the toilet paper, in the ‘loo, on the panty liner.
  • My clinic told me not to have sex until the bleeding had stopped. I just want to be able to feel close with my husband again. The last time I thought it had stopped for good, I told Q. that this meant we’d be cleared for resuming marital relations. “Do you think we’ll remember how?” asked Q., only half joking. My f/s only gave us the all clear for sex at the eight week appointment. The last time before that week had been before the retrieval in mid-December. I’m so tired of our intimacy being controlled by my clinic.
  • My face is breaking out again. In retrospect it started to get bad around the nine week mark, which now makes me wonder if that was a sign that things were no longer going well. Clearly pregnancy hormones were helping to fix my face, and now I can’t rely on them anymore. It’s bad enough that I had to get my youngest sister to teach me how to use foundation so I won’t feel like a leper when I leave the house. I know in the grand scheme of things this is meaningless, but I am struggling with it. I used to have such beautiful skin. Seriously- I got to 34 and a 1/2 before I had to learn about foundation. I hate wearing makeup every day, but I hate how my skin looks if I go out without it even more.
  • I am sleeping ok. It is the one blessing- I have retained my ability to fall back asleep. I started (while pregnant) following my mother’s own rule, which was she simply won’t get out of bed before 6 a.m. She won’t read either- she just lies there. Eventually she managed to retrain her body to fall back asleep. I think I’m making progress on this count. I’ve only been up in the very early morning once since it happened. I still wake up at 4, or 4:30, or 5, nearly every morning, but I’m fighting through it and refusing to get out of bed and eventually my body just gives up and goes back to sleep. And then I have really weird, frightening dreams.
  • I feel disgusting. I am ten pounds heavier than I would like to be (despite ceasing my burrito and poutine diet I appear to have gained more weight in the last two weeks than I did while pregnant). I want, I NEED to start running again, to start (again, sigh) the Couch to 5K program, but I have enough sense to recognize that this simply isn’t going to happen while this ridiculous winter continues. I never used to run when it was below -15 when I was running half-marathons. I’m hardly going to start running in those conditions now. Maybe we’ll catch a break in a couple of weeks. I’d like to get the Couch to 5K over and done with in enough time before we go to Oz to actually feel like I have some momentum to continue while we’re away. But in the meantime I feel fat and ugly and soft and gross and I need to stop eating my feelings, especially when nothing tastes as good as I need it to.
  • Yesterday we went out to lunch with friends and I realized that I don’t want to spend time with other people who don’t know, and whom we’re not planning to tell. They are all childless academic couples, and I don’t want to talk about my dissertation right now because if you ask me about it I freak out and cry (which has been the state of things since July of last year). I felt like I had nothing to say to them if I couldn’t talk about my work. I couldn’t sit there and make small talk and natter on about random things or current events when the whole time all I wanted to say was “My baby DIED and my heart is shattered.” But they weren’t good enough friends for that. So most of the time I said nothing, and the rest of the time I talked to E.
  • I am SO angry. I am angry pretty much all the time. I don’t know if I am angry at myself, or at the universe, or at the baby for not being a good baby after all. But I am just filled with cold, quiet, rage. It occasionally boils over, especially when E. is pushing my buttons. It is exhausting, being this angry, but at least it means I don’t have any energy to feel anything else.
  • I have reread every single Guy Gavriel Kay book I own, and when I finished the last one I went online and used up a gift certificate from my birthday buying the three books he’s written that I don’t already own (technically I do own one of them, but it’s the first book in a two-part series, and I hate having books in a series with covers that don’t match, so I felt it was worth spending another $12 for symmetry). When they arrive, I’ll read them. Then I’ll have to think of something else. I’m not yet capable of working in the evenings, so I do one of three things: I read, I obsess over E.’s room, and I write here. Or I cry, of course. It turns out playing “Into the West” from the LOTR: Return of the King soundtrack over and over and over again just tends to lead to more tears. Given the song used to make me cry on a good day, I probably should have anticipated that.
  • In the moments where I am not angry, I am so very sad. The sadness, the grief, catches me off guard, like a deep, cold wave from the ocean that rears up and slaps salt water hard into my face. Then I push it away again, and the surface reverts to stillness, and I can be grey again. I feel transitory, ephemeral, like I am only gliding through the world, like I am not of it. It feels like an out-of-body experience, except I am always very much present in my body, even when I would most like not to be. But it is as if this reality is so alien, so unexpected, that I can’t quite center myself in it, as if I keep finding myself tucked around sharp corners, blinking through mirrors at my reflection, only to raise an eyebrow in surprise each time at the sight of who is looking back. Is this really me?

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Anxiety Overload, Blogging, Grief, Loss, Mirror, Mirror (Body Image), My addled brain, PhD, Running, Sleep

Shattered

Back in the summer, when I was in the middle of a crisis of confidence with my PhD dissertation (which, if I’m being honest, hasn’t really ended, but I’m at the stage now where I have to just get over myself and finish the damn thing), I spent a lot of time blogging about how conflicted I was feeling about going back to the clinic and starting to try for a 2.0.

At the time, I wrote this:

And so my reticence about going back to the clinic is not just about whether or not we are truly ready for a 2.0 (because I know we can’t ever really be ready in the same way one can never really be ready for a first baby- you just have to go ahead and have one and cope with what comes), or about how we will balance two children and two academic careers, or about how E. will adjust to being a big brother.

What it’s really about is I’m opening myself up to failure again, and, what’s worse, opening myself up to failing at something at which I’ve already passed.

It’s as though failing to have a 2.0 would not only be a failure in its own right, but it would also colour/darken the triumph that is E.

I wouldn’t have really passed infertility after all. I would have somehow squeaked through the first time without the gods noticing, but my greed at trying again would ultimately catch me out. As though the universe would take back my shiny certificate I earned with E.’s birth and rip it up, shaking its head. “You didn’t really pass, Turia,” the universe would say. “You bought yourself some time for a while. But in the end you’ve failed.”

That was what I was the most afraid of.

It’s happening.

I really believed after we had E. that we had FIXED things. Yes, it took 35 months, and IUIs and IVFs and FETs, and there were many, many heartbreaking BFNs before we got there, but when we did a long protocol IVF and transferred blastocysts, it WORKED.

I got pregnant.

I gave birth to a live, healthy baby.

And I honestly believed the second time around would be easier.

Because we KNEW now, or so I thought, what we had to do.

We knew what my body needed.

I absolutely believed that one of the two blastocysts that had been frozen and waiting for us at the clinic for three years was going to be E’s younger sibling.

They were from the same cycle, you see.

The cycle that WORKED.

When both FETs failed this fall, it really shook my confidence. But Q. and I talked about it, and we agreed that it hadn’t been exactly the same.

E. was the product of a fresh cycle.

So we waded in again.

We did exactly the same thing we did to get E.: a long protocol IVF with a five day transfer of two blasts.

And it WORKED.

We felt vindicated. We’d been RIGHT. We knew what my body needed.

And then I had an ultrasound where I learned that there wasn’t going to be a baby in September and my whole world came crashing down.

I don’t know anything anymore.

I don’t know if this loss was a fluke, if we were so unlucky as to have that blastocyst grow into a baby who was never meant to be.

Worse, I don’t know if E. was a fluke, if somehow he squeaked through unnoticed, but there’s something hitherto unrecognized in my body that will cause me to kill any future babies should I be so foolish as to try to keep growing them.

All I know is any confidence I had in myself, in my body’s ability to nurture and carry a baby, has been shattered, possibly irrevocably.

I was GOOD at being pregnant, you see.

I had almost no complications with E.

I carried him to thirty-nine weeks and four days.

I still felt good in the last week of my pregnancy.

I looked freakin’ amazing pregnant.

I had a fast, unmedicated labour and delivery, with very few physical repercussions.

I was able to successfully breastfeed my son, even through the MSPI issues and his later rejection of all day feeds, for thirteen months.

I was NORMAL.

I’d held on to that, all through the summer while I wrestled with my emotions, all through the fall and the FETs, all through December and the IVF grind, all through January and February, until I wasn’t allowed to believe it any longer.

All right, I told myself, I suck at getting pregnant. But that’s the hard part. I have a perfect track record with being pregnant.

One for one.

Now it’s one for three.

I didn’t blog much about the embryo that never got further than the gestational sac.

I thought about it, a lot actually, but I never wrote much down.

But if it had been the only embryo that implanted, I would have counted it as a loss.

I would have had a positive beta.

The numbers might not have doubled properly.

I might have known before that first ultrasound that things weren’t going to turn out well.

But I would have been pregnant.

It would have been a loss.

I thought about that, after the first ultrasound, but I didn’t say much to anyone else.

I had the other baby to concentrate on.

“The good baby” is what the ultrasound tech called it at that first appointment.

Except it wasn’t a good baby either, in the end.

The day after it happened my father called me. I tried to explain to him how I was feeling, how I could cope with E. being an only child but that if that was how it was going to turn out, I wished so much that we had never even tried to further expand our family, that we had been content with him as an only, that we had saved ourselves this pain and heartbreak.

“Well, Turia,” said my father, “surely it’s better to have actually tried. Everyone fails at something in their life, and you’ve done really well up until now.”

He’s right. I haven’t failed at very much before now.

But he doesn’t get it either.

There is a great gaping chasm between failing at something because I haven’t worked hard enough, or haven’t done enough research, or haven’t put enough thought into it, and failing at something when I have done everything in my power to make it work, have altered my life for months on end to give it a chance to work, have wished with all my heart that it would work, and, worst of all, have failed at it when it has already worked once before.

I thought I knew things.

I don’t know anything anymore.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, A matter of faith, Anxiety Overload, Family, Grief, Loss, MSPI, Nursing, PhD, Pregnancy, Second Thoughts, Siblings

The Unmaking

Here is what you do.

You take all of your maternity clothes out of your closet. You wash the ones you wore that week. You put them back into the suitcase in your basement storage room. You expect they will be musty again by the time you next get them back out. If you get them back out. Your regular jeans still fit. A small kindness.

You fill out a new form and write new cheques for E.’s registration for nursery school. You go to hand it in. “Q. tells me your work schedule changed suddenly,” the admin assistant says brightly. She looks at your new requests. “You’re working more then. Is that something you’re excited about?”
You burst into tears.

You call your midwife. Or, to be more accurate, you call the number for the midwife collective, on the weekend, when you know no one will answer, so you can just leave a message cancelling the appointment you were supposed to have this coming Wednesday, so you don’t have to say to anyone but a machine that you’ve lost the pregnancy.

You take the ultrasound pictures out of your agenda where you have been keeping them (collecting them, adding one with every new scan) and tuck them away in the filing cabinet, along with the picture E. drew for you on Thursday afternoon to help you feel better.

You ask a friend, one of so very many who has asked if there is anything they can do to help, to take your M coat back to the store. The store normally does exchanges or store credit only for items that were on sale, but you emailed and explained the situation and they are being kind (so kind) and will absolutely refund the money. You don’t want to keep it in the house ‘just in case’. You can’t stand to look at it. The basement is filled with baby things that you have kept for close to three years ‘just in case’. They weren’t supposed to be ‘just in case’ any longer. They were supposed to be ‘in September’.

You email your supervisor. He didn’t know you were pregnant but you tell him the truth. Your work has been so badly disrupted over the last few months that you cannot stand him not knowing, not understanding why you have gone from being months ahead of any expected timeline to being dangerously close to falling behind.

You reread books about great racehorses when you wake up at 4 a.m. and cannot fall back asleep (because you cannot fall back asleep, not any more. You wake up, and then you remember, and then you cannot fall back asleep because you cannot unremember it.) Seabiscuit. Secretariat. Ruffian. You are running out of options because you already read most of your comfort books, the ones you will gladly read over and over again because they are beloved friends, during the first couple weeks of the pregnancy, or during the IVF, or during the FETs. You are wary of reading anything new because every time you try (Gone Girl, Life After Life), you are ambushed by an unexpected pregnancy, or miscarriage, or stillbirth. You certainly cannot face the third volume of Call the Midwife, although you enjoyed the first two. It is surprisingly difficult to find a good book that is not going to ambush you with some sort of story about babies.

You have stopped crying, for the most part.

Most of the time you don’t feel anything at all.

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Filed under 2.0 Pregnancy, Grief, Loss, Midwives, PhD

Gearing up

I took my last bcp on Saturday.

Ironically, given the situation, I had less bleeding on both Sunday and yesterday than had been the case for the entire previous week. But by late yesterday afternoon I figured it was ok to go in to the clinic this morning. My sister (bless her heart) came over to play with E. for the morning. They built a blanket fort, did lots of drawing, and just generally had a great time. E. was in good spirits, even though I bolted out the door very soon after he woke up.

Q. and I are going to have to figure out how we’re going to organize things for this cycle. I got in to the clinic at 8:45 a.m., which is getting towards the end of cycle monitoring hours (they run from 7:00 to 9:30 a.m. on weekdays). I got out at 11:30 a.m.

RIDICULOUS.

Partly it was because we were starting everything up, so it took a while to get all the medications together and go over all the instructions. Partly it was because the ultrasound techs were short-staffed so they were running a bit behind. Mostly it was because I’m convinced my f/s forgot about me and screwed up his rotation through his offices, as he dumped me in a room and then left me there for THIRTY-FIVE minutes, and there would have been only two more people in front of me. It’s possible he dashed off to do an IUI or two, but he’s done this before. It’s the downside of my clinic being so busy.

Anyway, Q. is going to have to look after E. any morning I’m in at the clinic. I next go back in on Sunday, and I’m *hoping* he can then next see me the following Wednesday, as E. would be at nursery school, so it won’t interfere with Q.’s schedule. But there will come a time where we’re going to have to decide whether it makes more sense for me to leave for the clinic long before E. wakes up (which means Q. will be guaranteed a hysterically weeping child), or wait until after E. wakes up, which will blow Q.’s entire morning. If I get to the clinic right for the start of cycle monitoring, I hopefully would get back home again by 9:30 or so.

You forget how much time this process takes until you start doing it again.

Last night Q. and I signed our consents and made decisions about whether we were happy for discarded biological material (eggs that didn’t fertilize, follicular fluid, etc.) to be used for research purposes (yes) and whether we wanted one of us to be able to use any leftover embryos if the other had died (no). We also decided that we wanted to use the embryoscope, provided my f/s could assure me that using this new technology meant that the embryos wouldn’t be disturbed. This did indeed prove to be the case- they have six chambers in the incubator, so our embryos would get their own spot and their perfect environment won’t be disturbed by other clients’ embryos being added or removed. We decided this perfect environment was worth the $750 price tag. This is the last time we are going to do IVF, and we had a lot of attrition in our embryos between Days 3 and 5 with the cycle that brought us E. This new incubator might help them develop. I guess an added bonus will be the fact that it gives the lab techs the ability to see which really are the perfect embryos, but if our cycle goes like last time that will be irrelevant- we only had two embryos that had made it to blast by the day of the transfer, so if we get that result again clearly we’ll just be using them.

I asked my f/s to check my TSH again and should get a call about that this afternoon. All the extra blood tests he ran came back normal, although my AMH has dropped from 37 to 20, which is not unexpected given I’m three and a half years older.  It still indicates a ‘medium ovarian reserve’, so he didn’t seem too worried about it. We spent quite a long time looking at the calendar. He felt my estrogen was a bit on the low side this morning, so eventually he decided I would start stimming on Thursday. This is going to make it really touch and go to make sure we get everything done before Christmas, so I could use some good vibes for responding well. The LAST thing I want to be doing on Christmas Day is an embryo transfer.

He’s starting me on 225 iu Gonal F and 75 iu Repronex. I told the nurse to treat me like someone who’d never done it before, so we walked through every step. It should be straightforward, but it is always stressful when so much rides on you doing the right thing at the right time. I’ll go back in on Sunday to see how things are progressing.

I’m not going to lie- I’m dealing with a lot of anxiety about all of this. I’ve been sleeping really well lately, but the last three nights I woke up at 5 a.m. and then couldn’t get back to sleep. On Sunday I spent E’s entire nap surfing Pinterest for ideas for E’s room (as we’re probably going to move him into the room that is currently my study when we transition him to a bed, whether we’re having another baby or not)- an anxiety displacement activity if ever I saw one. It mostly served its purpose as a distraction, except for the point where I realized that the mattress I want to buy E. (which is made by the same company that made his crib mattress) is really quite expensive, and while it would have been easy to rationalize purchasing it if we weren’t spending all this money on the IVF, it’ll be harder to figure out where that money will come from in our current situation.

That gets to me a lot. I think there is a big part of me now that doesn’t believe we’re going to end up with a 2.0, in which case we’re basically about to flush thousands of dollars down the toilet. And while money obviously isn’t everything, there are so many other things we could be doing with it- things that would have tangible benefits for the child we DO have. I know if the IVF doesn’t work we’ll at least have the peace of mind that we did everything we could, but I wish so much there was a way to get that peace of mind without emptying our savings account.

From here on out my focus is the IVF cycle. Any dissertation work I get done will be a bonus. I’ve basically just shelved the chapter that still needs significant work- I’m not going to even look at it until January. Instead, I’m plugging away at the notes in bold I’ve left to myself in the other chapters (they usually say things like “get this reference sorted” or “add the example with the guy with sixteen kids who’s excused from munera“). They are not sweeping changes, but they have to be made, and every one I do now is one fewer I’ll need to do when I can actually focus on my work again.

When I get overwhelmed, I just remind myself that, no matter what happens, this is the very last time I’ll be stimming. This will be my last retrieval. Whatever we get from this cycle, whatever the outcome, we’re done.

Deep breaths. Take it one day at a time.

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Filed under 2.0 IVF, Anxiety Overload, Cycle Madness, Emotions, Medical issues, Medications, PhD, Second Thoughts, Sleep

Where I’m at

  • I started Lupron yesterday. I decided to start it two days early (and will stop the bcps two days early as well to stay in line) because the more I looked at the calendar, the more I worried that my f/s was cutting it too fine with our timings. We could *just*  manage it if the transfer was on Boxing Day, as Q. and E. could come down to meet me and then we could drive to my father’s house, but anything later would throw a huge wrench in our holiday plans. I’d rather get it done a bit earlier and have to figure out what to do if we’re still out of town when it’s supposed to be beta day.
  • I STILL have Fragmin bruising/lumps on my stomach, which I’m trying to avoid with the Lupron. At least they’re tiny needles. E. ended up watching me do the injection this morning and didn’t seem remotely bothered by it.
  • I’ve had really annoying breakthrough bleeding for the last three days. The first day I  panicked and had to check with Dr. Google that this wasn’t going to ruin the cycle, but apparently it’s really normal. I’ve never experienced it with bcps, especially after only being on them for eight days. Oh well. If it means AF turns up quickly when I stop the bcps on Saturday that will work in our favour.
  • The insane fog of exhaustion seems to have lifted, and I’m back to feeling more like my normal self.
  • I did our finances for the month last night and it looks like we have *just* enough left in the 2.0 fund we built up over the last year to pay for the IVF and the ICSI. If we decide to use the embryoscope and/or if we have embryos to freeze we’ll have to find that money somewhere else, but at least the base cost of the cycle is covered.
  • I am still struggling big-time with not living up to my own expectations with the PhD, even though the more I think about it the more I realize how insane it is that it was ever possible for me to finish on time despite taking a six month maternity leave and working part-time hours for the next two years. Once the cycle starts in December, I am taking the view that my two priorities for that month are the IVF and E. Any dissertation work that gets done will be a bonus. I am scaling it right back and will pick up the pieces in January if I need to. From e-mails with my supervisor it doesn’t look like it would make any sense to give him a draft before mid-February as he’s away for most of January, so I’ll have time to sort things out.
  • There is a huge Winners down the street from the clinic. This is a problem. I’m going to have to stop going in there looking for a specific Bruder truck because I’m apparently incapable of getting out the door without buying E. another puzzle.
  • I am feeling almost exactly like I did before the cycle in August 2010 that produced E.: committed to it, but resigned rather than hopeful. Maybe this is a good head space for me. I feel like we need now to tick all the boxes so we can say we did everything we could, and then we can move on with the rest of our lives.
  • I really, really appreciated the comments on my last post. Your support means the world to me. Thank you.

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Filed under 2.0 IVF, Anxiety Overload, Medical issues, Medications, My addled brain, PhD, Second Thoughts