Thursday, 13 October 2011

Part 1: Reflection on the Birds & the Bees (ICSI IVF Style)

I thought that I knew all about the birds and the bees.  Living on a small holding for a few years in West Wales back when I was in single digits quickly put paid to any notion of the cabbage patch or the stork.  Even if I had wanted to ignore what the animals were all up to out in the fields, it was hard to ignore the facts of life when we popped Harriet, my goat, into the back of my parent's Morris Minor Traveller (complete with interesting fungi growing on the wood inside the boot) and took her off to a local, rather smelly, billy goat 'to be serviced'.  A quick wag of her tail (well, she was in season), on hopped the smelly Billy and, 150 or so days later, out popped her beautiful little kid - simple really.

Then later when I was an adult and in relationships - I was suitably careful.  After all, the bird and the bees rules are very simple - take one girl and one boy.  Mix thoroughly and 9 months later, baby very likely to pop out - or so I thought.  Who knew that the whole topic of the birds and the bees could get so blooming tricky and involved?!  Certainly not me. 

Ignorantly, when I married the Fella, I thought that the biggest task we faced would be discussing the whole topic of changing our lives radically by starting a family, becoming parents and incorporating a child into our lives - making the enormous decision to start 'trying for a baby' officially.  It might sound strange, but after almost 20 years of dating and being a 'Sink'ie (Single Income, No Kids) before I met my husband (who already had a teenage son and likely thought that his parenting days were coming to an end), it's quite the topic to discuss and decision to make. 

As it turned out, the decision was not that hard.  We both wanted children together.  So, really, I could not have been more wrong about the real task that we actually faced.

To begin with, we were completely laid back about the whole thing.  'If it happens, great - if it doesn't, no problem at all - that's also fine.'  There was a sort of excitement mixed with trepidation at the uncertainty of it all every month - would it happen, would it be this month?!

After a number of months, a little alarm bell of concern started to ring at the back of my head so I bought some of those ovulation kits.  When I found myself staring at a shelf in a supermarket, debating the merits of one brand of stick over another brand of stick in my head, I realised that I was crossing some kind of invisible line from casually trying for a baby to actually trying for a baby. 

For a while there, I applied myself enthusiastically.  However, all that resulted from my purchases were a number of months where I logged my cycles, peed on ovulation sticks and tried to romance the Fella at the appropriate times.  Naturally enough, my romantic timing always stank.  'The right time' always seemed to conflict with when we are both too exhausted or busy to do anything about it.  One way or another, the whole thing was an unmitigated disaster.  So I abandoned it before it started to have a serious impact on our relationship.

We went back to our, 'If it happens, great - if it doesn't, that's also fine,' approach but I have to be honest, there was no excitement or trepidation for me each month.  By this time, it had been over a year and I pretty much knew by this point that no month would ever be 'the month'.  I felt very flat about it.  I worried about my age.  I started to read online about how much harder it was for women over 35 to conceive and maintain a pregnancy.  I assumed, as the Fella had his son from his first marriage, that our inability to get pregnant was my fault in some way and I felt wretched about it.  I also worried about the Fella's age - not because  of his health but because the longer it took us to get pregnant, the more worried about being 'too old to be a dad' he would start to feel.  I have to admit that I was worried that we might reach a point where he would want to stop trying for a baby before I was ready to give up on the idea of us having children together - I just didn't know what impact that would have on us as a couple.

It was about this time that I handed myself into a doctor.  I discovered, as an aside, that I had an autoimmune thyroid problem.  I have blogged about my struggles on this front already.  I might not have been so determined in my pursuit of treatment if I had not found out that thyroid problems can have a serious impact on fertility and unborn babies.  It took some time but I did eventually get treatment which eventually brought my thyroid hormone levels into the correct range to both conceive and sustain a pregnancy successfully.  At this point, I felt quite hopeful again.  However, nothing happened and so my doctor agreed to refer us, as a couple, to a fertility clinic for assessment.

This meant that the Fella had to have some standard tests before our hospital appointment materialised - just so that there was a full case information on us both.  To our mutual surprise, the results of his test were not that great.  He was referred to a urologist who advised him to make some simple lifestyle changes and to start taking vitamins.  He duly made the changes and started to take the vitamins.  We waited for our hospital referral to come through. 

In the end, it took about three months for us to receive our first hospital appointment. By this point, it had been about 20 months since we had started to try for a baby and I think that both of us were mentally trying to reconcile ourselves to the fact that children just might not ever happen for us.  I felt quite sad about it.

This said, before we went to our first hospital appointment, we talked at length together about the prospect of being offered some kind of assisted reproductive treatment and how comfortable we felt about it.  We discussed couples that we either knew or had heard about through others whose relationships had been destroyed by endless rounds of fruitless, expensive treatment.  We decided that if IVF was suggested, then we would give it 'a go' but that we would not get sucked into rounds and rounds of it.  We just did not think that we could afford it - either emotionally or financially (IVF treatment has no public funding in British Columbia).  We agreed that trying for a child was important to us but also that we were important to us too - so, if we were offered IVF and it failed, we needed to be prepared to pick ourselves up and plan a future together without children.

Our view was, "We should do this and have one proper go at it.  If we don't, then we could end up looking back in 10 years time and really regret it.  We'll be sad and wonder why we never did it - there will always be a 'What if...? and 'I wonder what our child would have been like?' hanging over us.  If we have a go and it doesn't work, then at least we will know that we tried, gave it a good, proper go but it was just not meant to be.  At that point, we can move on."

We felt very sensible about the whole thing and thus prepared, we went to our first hospital appointment.

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