The long and winding road

This morning, I received some bad news.

A dear friend of mine, who has been on the same infertility journey as I have been, found out that her latest IVF attempt had failed. When the text came in, I was sitting on our bed, playing with our little man. He had been crying and I was trying to make him laugh by pulling him up from a reclining position to a sitting one. It was a hot morning, the air-conditioning wasn’t switched on and his hair was matted to his head. He hadn’t had his bath yet and carried that slightly sour, sweaty but still oh so wonderful smell. Husband had just stepped out from the bathroom and was smiling at the sight of his wife entertaining the little one.

I read the text and my heart fell, remembering that feeling of the world shattering down upon me only too well. I thought about their past struggles and the heartbreaks that they had been through. I thought about how much they deserve their slice of happiness too. I thought about how that used to be us and how we are no longer on that exhausting, pain-riddled road.

I closed my eyes and kissed the top of Aidan’s head. I breathed in the smell of him and told him that I love him, that he was the miracle in my life.

Because he is indeed a miracle.

Nobody, nobody would have ever imagined that we would be where we are today. If you had told me a year ago that I would be cuddling a baby everyday – MY BABY - I would have laughed in your face. I was broken, and I was trying to pick up the pieces and move on. In my most terrible nightmare, I believed that I was destined not to have a child.

And here we are today.

What had kept me going was the belief that things happen for a reason, and that everything had its time and place. I don’t know why they have to go through these trials and tribulations but I believe that they will get their happily ever after.

I just know it.

What helped me through IVF

When I was going through the ART treatments – oh yes, the seven IUIs and one IVF! As if you could forget that – I was in desperate need of emotional support.

Throughout most of my IUI treatments, nobody knew about our journey except for a couple of close girlfriends and even then, I found that it was hard for them to truly understand what I was going through. Outside, I was cool and collected but inside I was a hot mess.

And even when I came out in the open during our IVF process, I felt that our friends still didn’t, couldn’t grasp the enormity of what we were going through. I don’t want to exaggerate but really, the emotional upheaval was sometimes too tiring and painful to bear. And that’s not forgetting the physical impact that the hormonal jabs have on your body.

(Sidenote: when Mr Thick’s friend asked him for advice regarding IVF, he told his friend to be aware of the side effects that the drugs could have on his wife. When I asked him why he said that, Mr Thick’s answer was that he never could have imagined just how much I had to go through and it hurt him greatly to see me like that. Love.)

This was when I decided to turn to the Internet. If I wasn’t going to find it here in the real world, then damnit, I was going to have one virtually. It really helps to just read someone else’s experience and to know that what you are going through is not confined to you and you alone.

One of the best sites that I found was Tertia Albertyn’s blog. If you are feeling sorry about yourself for having to go through IVF and all that “oh why me?” thoughts are haunting you, her story will straighten you out in a jiffy. She has three beautiful children today but she didn’t conceive her twins till nine IVFs and a few losses later. Amazing strength, wit and a seriously hilarious (oxymoron, much?) sense of humour. I spent many an afternoon going through her archives and shedding a few tears.

I loved her site so much, I decided to contribute to her retirement and bought her book “So Close“, which recently won the RESOLVE Hope Award 2011 for Best Book. Her book is the sort that I wished I had the talent and ability to pen. She chronicles her journey to conceiving her twins Adam and Kate, as well as the tragic losses in her life. I laughed and I cried and then I nodded my head and said, Yes that’s exactly it.

Closer to home, I realised that while there are plenty of Singaporeans who are undergoing fertility treatments, nobody was talking about it openly, for whatever reasons (and I completely respect that). Well, nobody except for Yi Lin and Dannie. Writing over at Maybe Baby, they have allowed everyone a glimpse into every step of their entire IVF journey. It was truly a godsend reading their blogs because it made me realise that we weren’t alone.

Now, Yi Lin is a friend (thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web) and we have our own little support network on Whataspp. She and Dannie have been blessed with Coco, their feisty bunny girl who braved the embryo thawing process and hung on inside Camp Womb to grow into the cute tamagotchi with a healthy set of lungs. I like to think that they bring hope to many couples out there battling infertility.

And lastly, there’s Girlfriend X (as she would like to be known). She found me on the Internetz just when we were both gearing up for the IVF. It helped a great deal to have someone going through the process within the same time frame. She’s recently undergone her frozen embryo transfer so all our fingers are crossed for her!

Don’t look back in anger

A friend of mine and I were having a chat over MSN this afternoon when I asked him about his wife, who was due next month. The conversation moved on to the topic of needles and I casually mentioned that my phobia of needles was almost completely erased, after the whole IVF experience.

(I mean, it would have been extremely counterproductive had I been squeamish about jabbing myself, wouldn’t it? I would really be wasting time and energy squirming in pain when I could just stab and go.)

He very innocently asked me the following questions: Is the course of IVF working? Is the jab helping in any way?

His questions made me smile, for it just underscored the fact that most people don’t really get what IVF is all about and they will never have to know what it entails.

And then I wondered, do I regret going through IVF?

There are some people who, when faced with infertility, dither and fall into deep depression because they cannot fathom going through the whole shebang of assisted reproductive technology. To them, the cost of going through something as deeply intrusive as ART is not worth the end result of possibly having a child.

But it was never like that for me. I would never have forgiven myself if I didn’t pursue relentlessly what I wanted. I will go on to my second or third or even fifth IVF if I need to, finances permitting (touch wood though!!). I would have done everything I could in order to spawn (and make the world a better place too!).

At the same time, I think the whole process has made me a better person. I’ve always been the instant gratification sort of person and you can imagine what kind of cosmic joke it is for the Universe to put me through infertility! Want to have a baby now? DO NOT PASS GO, DO NOT COLLECT $200 AND HEAD STRAIGHT TO JAIL.

So yes, I have learnt patience and empathy.

I used to plan my life around the perfect goal posts but now, I realize that it’s okay to move the goal posts back a little. I don’t have to have a child before I hit 30, as long as I have my child eventually. There is no law stating that 30 is the best age to have a kid, nobody is getting upset except me and for what? A silly childhood notion of white picket fences and marrying Prince William? Gah!

Plus, I think IVF has shown me just exactly what I was made of. I didn’t moan (excessively, anyway) even though I was so sick towards the end and was bordering on bloody ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome. I endured the jabs myself and even helped myself to more (acupuncture, anyone?). There were no tantrums or hormonal rages from this genetically-modified cow too. Was v proud of myself.

Along the way, I even made new friends. Talk about multitasking! I just had dinner the other day with YL and S and we were laughing and joking about our silly incidents during IVF. Like, when I went to KKH and did a vajayjay scan with Dr Handsome, only to find myself lying on that uncomfortable bed with NOTHING but a piece of PAPER TOWEL covering my nekkid lady parts. See, IVF-ers are not a depressive lot, we laugh and giggle too! We are not always moaning and weeping!

IVF has even made our marriage stronger than before. We’ve been through so much and we emerged more in love than before. He has seen a side of me that even I never knew existed, and he took care of me so tenderly and selflessly. It’s true, what doesn’t kill us will only make us stronger.

And so, my answer is no, I don’t regret going through IVF and I never will.

Blah blah IVF blah

So. The fabled Dr Handsome.

Let me preface this by saying that it was Dr Y who proclaimed him A Very Handsome Doctor. That got me quite excited, enough to Google for his picture. Whee. And Dr Handsome must be quite photogenic because he did look pretty cute in the photo. Coupled with the fact that he was v nice over the phone and bam! I was sold.

And then we met him for the first time on a stormy Saturday morning at KKH. It was…okay. I mean, I was definitely not expecting the hottest doctor in the world but I was hoping for some form of visual pleasure. While Dr Handsome did turn out to be v v nice, he was also merely pleasant looking. In fact, Mr Thick proclaimed him the typical pleasant looking doctor.

I concur.
And was a tad disappointed.
I should have known better than to trust a man’s taste in men.
Tsk.

And erm, yes, I have broken up with Dr Y and hooked up with Dr Handsome despite the latter’s lack of handsomeness.
As I said to Dr Y, he charges like Chanel and I can only afford Uniqlo. The only logical conclusion: Splitsville. We are still friends, although I think I will miss the days of spamming his phone with my queries. Sobs.

Anyway, it appears that many Singaporeans are finding out that they are also not able to spawn simply by shagging because we have been penciled in for the cycle in…OCTOBER! Holy cow. That’s four frigging months. FOUR! I nearly fell off my chair when the massively pregnant nurse told me the magic month.

That threw a monkey wrench into my Type A, well laid out plans. With the possible changes coming up (shh! can’t talk about them now), I was in a tizzy over how I was going to fit everything in. That’s the thing with this infertility shit – your life starts revolving around jabs and scans and retrievals and transfers. I have a love/hate relationship with cycling (nothing to do with the two-wheeled sort).

Dr Handsome had suggested that we go for the longer agonist protocol which I am cool with, except that it means MORE JABS for a longer period of time, which equals being a Genetically Modified Cow for a longer period of time. I’m also really, really hoping that he can “force” me in for an earlier cycle, we’ll find out again when we see him in July.

And…the biggest revelation of all: I DO NOT HAVE A RETROVERTED UTERUS!

Gawd. You would think that I know my uterus after all these years but NO. During our consult, Dr Handsome asked that I be acquainted with his dildocam (ie. have it stuck up my vajayjay for a look-see) and I casually mentioned that I have a retroverted uterus.

Hmm actually you have an anteverted uterus but that’s okay, he replied.

WHAAAAAAT?!

Either my uterus has been skipping around my insides or…or I don’t know.
Maybe I have a schizophrenic uterus.

Uteruses (uteri?) these days, tsk.

The kids are okay

Two weeks on, I have somewhat accepted that our first IVF attempt was a failure.

Don’t worry, it’s not like I was sitting in the dark every night, crying my heart out. As Yi Lin once wrote, it’s saddening because the “project” that you had worked so damn hard on didn’t succeed. Nobody died – and it is precisely that which makes me very sad. Because, as perverse as it sounds, I would rather have had a miscarriage than a negative.

When you have gained and lost, at least you live with the knowledge that you once had it. Even if it had been a fleeting moment, for that period of time, you were happy. It worked and you know that you are capable of being pregnant. You had a little embryo implanted in you. It gives you hope to try again and again because you know that it IS possible.

But when you have faced months and months of negative results like we have, the road seems extra long and arduous. Lots of “what ifs” dot the future: what if we would never be pregnant? What if we need five or eight or 10 IVFs to get there? What if the next cycle is exactly like the previous one – crappy? What if my eggs are just inherently crappy?

Initially, I was adamant that we ride the wave of momentum. Rest up a month or two and then plunge headlong into it again. There are lots of other factors at play here – a possible change in working environment; the need to get something, ANYTHING done; time racing against us.

But two weeks later, I feel more relaxed and happier about where we are now. Yes, the goals are still there, it’s just that the goal posts have been moved back, that’s all. So I wasn’t able to live my dream of having kids before I was 30. That’s okay. I’d still be a mom, just at a later age. Who knows, I may be a better mom because of all that we have gone through. And if I can’t do the transfer within the same cycle, not a big deal. It’ll let my body recover and perhaps I would be in a better condition for the frozen embryos a month later.

Of course, there is still this big black hole of fears and worries looming. That’s the thing when you bring out the Big Guns – you know that if the Big Guns misfire or malfunction, there is no Bigger Gun to come to your aid. Of course, there are always options like donor egg or adoption but these are decisions that cannot be made lightly. Nobody just adopts or just opt for donor eggs.

But I can’t afford to think of that right now. We have made an appointment to see Dr Handsome* and we’ll see how things go. KKH is notorious for having a crazy long queue for IVF (goes to show just how many couples NEED assisted reproductive technology to conceive in Singapore – someone point that out to our government please?) and we may have to take a longer break than planned.

That’s okay, as long as it’s not a break of, like, SIX MONTHS. In the meantime, there’s always shagging for the sake of shagging! Phew! No more performance anxiety (plus the durian season is over). Clearly, shagging is not going to get us anywhere, as we have proven.

No siree, I am leaving my reproductive future firmly in the hands of Science and Medicine. Let’s hope they don’t disappoint me.

Dream

*I still feel a tad sad at consulting Dr Handsome but my guilt is assuaged by the fact that I am not having a fling with him behind Dr Y’s back and that he was recommended by Dr Y.