Tuesday, November 27, 2007

IF in the Headlines!

The article appears today. Here's a link, which will function for a week or so I guess.

Baby-desperate moms share every detail online

To Mel, Tertia, Julie and all the women who contributed: congratulations to you. I think you've all done a splendid job! Be proud.

Tralee, hats off to you girl! I appreciate your taking the time to talk to me the other day and to present what is a sensitive topic. This is a beautiful article. Thank you for shining the spotlight on us for a fleeting moment.

And lastly to Bill, the gentleman who took my photo for the article the other day, thank you. I hope you got something to work with!

Baby-desperate moms share every detail online

Globe and Mail Update

November 27, 2007 at 6:37 AM EST

Gillian Wood has been trying to get pregnant for three years. She's used fertility drugs, tried intrauterine insemination and has even been tested for in-vitro fertilization.

She considers none of this private information. Instead, Ms. Wood, who hopes to embark on in-vitro sessions soon, is sharing every last detail of her experience, fears and all, via her blog, the Hardest Quest.

"I am so afraid to take that next step," she writes of her infertility journey. "You cannot imagine. (Okay, maybe some of you can. But right now, it seems overwhelming and immense to me.)"

This is the world of the infertility blog.

Here, women (and a few men) relay every medical moment, every disappointment and every shred of hope they find in their attempts to have babies.

They share tips on injecting fertility drugs and freezing embryos. They commiserate about insensitive queries from friends and family members, and seek out "cycle buddies" whose ovulation and fertility treatments align.

Infertility blogging has won more adherents, and sites have proliferated over the past 18 months, some say. One of the infertility world's most famous bloggers, Melissa, a.k.a. the Stirrup Queen, says that during her first hard-won pregnancy three years ago (which resulted in twins), bulletin boards and chat rooms were all she could find.

Now, her highly visible blog competes with dozens of others and, like its competitors, has a growing core of loyal readers. "I see myself as a blogger, but also as a pollinator, bringing together bloggers who may have missed each other otherwise," the 33-year-old says by e-mail from the Washington area. (She declines to share her surname.)

May Friedman, a women's studies PhD student at Toronto's York University who studies infertility and mothering blogs, says such forums bring together two of the Web's major hallmarks: anonymity and confession.

Tell-all blogs are safe places for the infertile to overcome the shame and isolation they may feel about infertility. They can "come out," if you will.

Ms. Wood, 37, says she started the blog as an outlet for all the emotions she and her husband were facing - not to mention as a practical spot to record all her drug doses and ovulation schedules. "I thought, 'I'll do it for me; if I get readers, cool,' " says Ms. Wood, a technical writer and editor in Ottawa. "You tell it like it is - you can be as emotional as you want."

Julie, of the blog A Little Pregnant, was also searching for an outlet. She has written about her ectopic pregnancy, a miscarriage and, finally, her high-risk pregnancy and 10-weeks-early delivery of a son. Now she and her husband are trying again.

The 36-year-old Vermont native was uncomfortable opening up with family members, but "my blog allowed me to do that, to be frank about what I was going through," she says in an e-mail. When well-meaning friends didn't understand, "I had friends inside the computer who could."

For many, blogs allow for some black humour. Julie defends using salty language on her blog: "You try having your uterus filled with glow-in-the-dark dye, and then we'll discuss what kind of language seems appropriate."

Along the way, readers and writers alike share any expertise they have gained. "My doctor taught me how to give myself an injection," Melissa says. But online, "another infertile woman was the one who taught me how to make an injection less painful."

Community members quickly adopt an insider lexicon - much of it built on medical acronyms: RE is the reproductive endocrinologist; OPK is an ovulation predictor kit.

As South African infertility blogger Tertia writes: "The infertility world is a subculture on its own. It has its own set of rules of interaction, its own language, class system, social hierarchy. ... It is not a culture you willingly belong to, but it becomes perversely comforting once you are in it."

It can also be a complicated place to be when you finally get pregnant. While a positive pregnancy test is the Holy Grail, it also poses a problem.

The editors of Redbook magazine recently found this out when they introduced a new blogger, Lili, to their Infertility Diaries this July. Her first post mentioned she was just back from maternity leave with twins, which threw many readers for a loop.

One, called SarahKt, wrote: "Lili's wonderful announcement of returning from maternity leave ... made my insides ball up into a big barren knot. ... Maybe this isn't the space for me at this time. ... It might be nice to have an expanded reach into voices in the infertile world? To hear from others whose stories are still quite ... barren?"

Julie of A Little Pregnant joined Lili as a Redbook blogger in August. So far, she has not found herself in the middle of controversy, despite having a child. This may be because she is already known as a successful infertility blogger.

Nonetheless, she's keenly aware of the fraught relationship infertility bloggers and their audience have with pregnancy.

She says discord can also arise when someone expresses disappointment about the gender of her baby-to-be or wishes fleetingly that she wasn't having twins - or even complains about how uncomfortable she is in the last few weeks before birth, she says. "It's sometimes hard to be happy for someone else when we're so unhappy for ourselves."

It's too early for Ms. Wood to worry about the politics of getting pregnant. For now, she and her husband eagerly look forward to another round of in-vitro fertilization. She may have a successful blog, but she desperately hopes to move beyond infertility. "I never envisioned a life without children."

Online lingo

Infertility blogs boast an entire lexicon of terms, ranging from actual medical terminology to neologisms that reflect the reality of infertile couples.

IF: infertility

FTTA: fertile thoughts to all

RE: reproductive endocrinologist

IVF: in-vitro fertilization

IUI: intrauterine insemination

FET: frozen embryo transfer

BFN: big fat negative (on a pregnancy test)

BFP: big fat positive

BMS: baby-making sex

DE: donor eggs

DPO: days post-ovulation

DPR: days post-retrieval (of eggs)

DPT: days post-transfer

OPK: ovulation predictor kit

Post-beta cry: the letdown after a negative or questionable pregnancy test

Follie: egg-producing follicles

Vagacamera: wand-like device that takes internal sonogram

Wand monkey: the technician who operates the device

2WW: two-week wait to find out whether a treatment during ovulation succeeded

Assvice: unsolicited, stupid suggestions made by people who know nothing about infertility

LBC: live baby check. An ultrasound for no other reason than to reassure a neurotic would-be mom that her baby is, in fact, just fine

DBT: dead baby thoughts

Sources:,, and

Friday, November 23, 2007

An Interesting Turn of Events

I sat at the keyboard the other day, checking gaming forums, reading your blogging updates (heavens I really need to update my sidebar!), perusing flights to somewhere sunny for the Christmas holiday season (you know, to forget that this is yet another holiday without a child), among other things. And as I frequently do, I opened up my g-mail account to check my messages. What I saw there piqued my interest.

I received an e-mail from a writer for a prominent Canadian newspaper. She had stumbled across this blog and she wanted to know more; would I be interested in speaking with her?

Here, I have to confess (because I know she'll be reading this!), my initial thoughts were, "Riiiiight," (insert sarcastic voice), "Who's yankin' my chain?" So I do what any technologically inclined blogger would do: I Googled her. That lead me to some of her previous articles. She is real and no one is yankin' my chain. Neat!

Now the best part: she's not just interested in me per se, she's interested in the community of IF bloggers. Get that girls?! Yes indeed, you read that right. Our community.

Well, after I got over my initial shock, I replied to her via e-mail. In short, my answer was, "Oh yes, I'm interested in speaking about this. Here's my number, give me a call."

This morning I spent about 30 minutes on the phone with her. I answered her questions surrounding blogging in general: why do I do it? What lead me to it? What sorts of readers do I have? And other questions about my personal journey on this road: where are we now? What are our next steps? What does having a baby mean to me?

You know... the questions we all have answered a dozen times in our minds. It's interesting to know that someone out there is listening.

I can say this with absolute certainty: Even if we never get anywhere with our quests, if we never reach our goals, if we never fulfill our dreams, at least we can educate. We can put a face on the pain and hurt. We can show the world that infertility is real. Infertility affects many people in a myriad of ways. Infertility is not something to be ashamed of or afraid of. Infertility is part of our lives, it is a part of who we are now.

What we go through here makes us stronger. We never realized how much we could do until we were pushed beyond our limits. We never understood that there was an entire world of women (and men) out there going through the SAME thing and with whom we can relate.

You, ladies and gentlemen, you GET IT. And I am proud to have such a wonderful community to turn to for advice, assistance and emotional support. You have helped me more than you can possibly know. Kudos to you. YOU make the difference.

By the way, as a follow-up, I expect a photographer at my house on Sunday. Frankly, I don't think he'll get much to work with (not unless they want to frighten their subscribers!) but hey, if I can put a face on infertility and tell part of my story, shining a light on this subject for other suffering infertiles, our government and policy-makers, then I'll do everything to make that happen. Wish me luck. Oh, and if I can find out when said article is going to be published, I'll let you know.

Friday, November 16, 2007

I need a virtual bar. Now.

I'm getting back in the swing of things at the office following my return from Newfoundland. It was lovely to see the folks and to spend time at Cape Spear, go to Middle Cove, have proper fish and chips, and all that good stuff. Of course, it's also accompanied by the recognition of changes in my family each time I go home now. Seeing my mom and dad get older. Watching them try to do the things that used to come so easily and quickly... and now things take time. Seeing them slow down is tough I guess. I mean, realistically you know it has to happen, but you always hope you can prolong it. Just a little more. Hope that you don't have to see it in YOUR parents... that sort of thing. In the last few years, I've debated moving back home. I haven't ruled it out yet, but you can be certain there are no opportunities for IUI or IVF in Newfoundland. The closest in Nova Scotia, and that would be rather costly on a repeated basis. That's for sure.

Back here in Canada's capital, it's downright chilly today. Yesterday hubby and I hung the Christmas lights. No, they're not turned on, but they're up! It's so much easier to put them up when it isn't -5 outside! Brrr! Would you believe I saw my first snowflakes of the season today? Winter's coming fast! And here I am with NOT ONE CHRISTMAS CARD DONE! I'd better get a move on.

In the office this week, I talked with one of my co-workers. He and his wife (she's my age, 37) have been married for quite awhile. They had decided before getting married that they weren't going to have a family. Well, as they grow a little older, they are rethinking that plan. But his wife still doesn't want/need to experience the whole "being P" thing. So they are looking into adoption with the Children's Aid Society. They've been to an information session and have the package of documents that they now have to fill out. They're considering taking a sibling pair, either same or opposite sex. I would like to pick his brain a little more (in private) about how the process works and more to the point, how did they, as a couple, come to that decision. What fears and concerns did they have and how did they resolve them before getting to that point?

I've been asked (as many of us have), "Well, why don't you just adopt? There are so many children in the world looking for a home." I don't know why we haven't looked into it. Something tells me it isn't our route. I can't explain it really; but it's just not calling to me. It's not something I can see myself doing, but again, I don't know why exactly. Very hard to explain. And very hard to understand. And if I can't understand it myself, then what is stopping me at all? Tough questions. I dunno if I have the answers.

And where are we with the IVF stuff? Nowhere. Not at all. I haven't made any decisions. I haven't gone for bloodwork. I haven't thought about "what next" because it scares the bejeesus outta me. I am so afraid to take that next step. You cannot imagine. (Okay, maybe some of you can. But right now, it seems overwhelming and immense to me.) If I make the decision to try, and fail, I will be devastated, with little support around me. If I make the decision to not try, it's a 50-50 thought: part of me will regret and always say, "I should have tried it" and the other part of me can justify it and say, "So it could theoretically have worked (and thus I'm not a total failure)." That is huge in my mind for some reason. Why? I don't know. But it's immense.

I'll tell you what's immense: hubby and I are going to a girlfriend's 30th birthday party tomorrow. Said girlfriend, myself, and one or two others who will be there are in the IF boat and have tried IUI more than once with no success. We're on the rollercoaster. Still. And yet, tomorrow evening, one of my former co-workers and her husband will be in attendance... accompanied by their six-week old infant.

Now I know it isn't fair to the new parents to ask them to leave such a young child at home. And rationally, I know it's silly of me to want to avoid this new young family. But I do. Yet I WANT to go to my girlfriend's party! Dammit, I do NOT want this to control my life. But it seems to, far too often. I talked to my girlfriend tonight (she and her husband made sure I was aware this infant would be there, God love them for their sensitivity and knowing I need to be prepared). I told her that hubby and I would be there, and the duration of our stay would really depend on how I felt and how well I would be able to handle it all. She understands, of course. I just hate that my brain stops to dwell on this at all. "Normal" people don't think twice about it, do they? I know I wouldn't have in my pre-IF days. In fact, I would probably have been excited to see the baby. But now? Eeesh.

Hand me the rum. I think I'm gonna need a drink to get through this. Pull up a stool and share. I'm not sure about Mel's bar, but this one is open.

Friday, November 02, 2007

A Halloween Horror Story

So, here I sit. It's November 2 and I'm at 'home' in Newfoundland with my family on a bit of a vacation. It was sorely needed, for both me and my family I think.

I sat at the kitchen table last night, talking to my mom, and her best friend for a few hours. This is a woman I've known since I was knee high to a grasshopper, whose children played with me and my sis when we were all children together, living on the same street. The topic turned, as it often does, to the 'kids' from the old neighborhood (yes, yes, I'm one of the gaggle of 'kids' included therein), and where they all are, who's doing what, who's working where, etc. La la la... work, husbands, problems... and the elephant in the room, children. Mom looks at me and says, "So tell Mrs. M. what you've been up to this year Gil." And I give her THE LOOK. Raising a brow, and sort of insinuating, "Do you really want me to tell what I've been up to this year Mom, or are you looking for something else here?"

I stammered. *insert shifty eyes here* I "ummed" and "errred" back and forth and then I finally said, "Well, this year has been a helluva year for me and hubby, so we indulged around August and took a vacation to Vegas to celebrate our anniversary." I thought: Okay, I'll leave it at that and see what comes of this convo. I pick up my mug of hot tea and Mom pokes me, "Tell her why it's been a helluva year. Not like you are getting divorced or anything. You just can't say it's been a helluva year and leave it at that."

I set down my mug and looked her square in the face and said, "Hubby and I have gone through our third year of infertility treatments. I dealt with a second miscarriage last year. We've spent over 9K and used donor sperm. And now, we're looking at IVF in Montreal at a cost of about 15K. That's been our year. The trip to Vegas was a sort of consolation prize."

Seriously, when Mom pulled out pics of Mrs. M's second (and latest) grandchild (who looks just like her mother, one of my childhood friends), I almost cried. I had to bury my face behind that huge mug of tea and try not to think about it.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE coming home and hearing about all of what's going on, how everyone is doing, where everyone is these days, etc. But knowing that our family seems to be the only one without grandchildren... it is so painful to deal with. Mom knows what we are going through, and although she understands the logistics of it, no one here really "gets" the psychological aspects of it. They cannot fathom what it's like for me. They do not know how hard it is to see those photos and hear about this one's new baby and that one's pregnancy, and oh they just had their third. Part of me cracks inside each time I hear that. I cannot get away.

It's the most difficult thing in the world to dress up for Halloween, and answer the door at my parents' home, loving the costumes the little kids are in... and wishing to God that I could go out Trick-or-Treating with my own daughter or son. I don't know if I will ever get that opportunity.

And there it goes again... the sound of my heart cracking.