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


Kate said...

That is a really great article. Thank you so much for sharing with that reporter! :)

decemberbaby said...

Way to go, Gill!

Aurelia said...

I'm so impressed with you, you will never know the level of admiration I feel for you!

Heather said...

I'm so proud of you!! You rock!

Anne-Marie from Toronto said...

Hi Gillian,

I read the article in today's Globe and Mail mentioning your situation with much interest and compassion. Hats off on appearing publicly. So many people feel shame where there should not be any.

I too have weathered infertility and feel complelled to share with you the things I did to help me through it, just in case any of it may be of help. (sorry that I don't have time to read all your history to find out what you have tried to do for coping so far.)

Here's what I did to help me survive this crisis:

I joined a monthly infertility support group

Spent time only with friends who were supportive

I read some amazing self-help books by women who have been through it

I started meditation/yoga and acupuncture, which I was told by my RE increase the chances of positive outcomes. At the very least, the above 3 activities kept me calm, which is crucial when you're doing the hard work of trying to conceive the high tech route.

At the very best, acupuncture increases blood flow in the pelvic area and it is believed it helps the embryo(s) implant by creating a nice thick uterine lining.

I took months off between cycles to recharge my batteries

I talked to a social worker specializing in infertility trauma available thru my hospital in Toronto to help me cope

Here's a little bit of backbround about me in case you want to know more:

After a miscarriage and an ectopic pregnancy, both in the first trimester, my husband and I thought we better consult a fertility specialist just to be sure there was nothing wrong but expecting to be told all was well and it was just bad luck due to my age. (37 the first time I got pregnant) So we were shocked when I was told my tubes were almost completely blocked after the HSG test. (just open enough for conception to have taken place twice but not enough to achieve a viable pregnancy). We were told surgery was not an option in my case.

After more tests, the specialist informed us I was a good candidate for IVF.

So after much consideration of all that would be involved, we decided to try IVF once and see.

Long story short, the first and second cycles (both fresh) yielded great numbers of eggs and we had 2 blasts transferred each time.

But both fresh cycles resulted in devastating negative pregnancy tests.

My husband and I had leftover embryos after the 2nd cycle so we had them frozen and took several months off to recharge our batteries before trying a 3rd a final time for closure although our hopes hit rock bottom and we gave up hope completely.

We went away on a trip and decided that we were going to be happy and make this the best marriage possible without children and I had started to think about a career change involving working with children, in order to rechannel my maternal energies. (adoption was not something I was ready to consider because I had always wanted to experience pregnancy and childbirth and if I couldn't have those, i was not interested in alternatives)

This is going to sound crazy but giving up hope is the best thing we ever did for ourselves. It completely freed us from the repeated pain and dissappoitment that we couldn't take any more.

Fast forward to August 2006. I went for acupuncture once or twice a week for a period of 3 months prior to that time in order to prepare my body for the upcoming transfer in August and keep me relaxed.

We had our 4 embryos thawed and 3 of them survived the thawing process. We had the RE transfer all three and had our acupuncturist come to the hospital to treat me just before and immediately after the ET in the procedure room. This greatly increases IVF success rates, we were told.

Of the 3 embryos, one little survivor implanted and I gave birth to a healthy 9 lbs boy this past April. He was conceived when I was 39 and I was 41 when he was born.

We feel blessed and appreciate this outcome infinitely more than couples who've conceived easily.

Just wanted to wish you the very best in the weathering this major life challenge.

It has certainly changed me forever and has brought my husband and I closer, as we really pulled together to work as a team.

Warm regards,


Angie said...

You did a wonderful thing! Way to go!

Anonymous said...

Such a GREAT article!!!
Thank you Gil!!!!

Debbie said...

That is a really nice article. Congratulations to you, I'm so proud of you!

ultimatejourney said...

Congrats on a great article! Oh, and I'm a tech writer too :)

Anonymous said...

Thank your for speaking so openly about this, Gil. I am proud to be a part of this community with you.

The Town Criers said...

Congratulations--I actually yelped when I saw your name in the first paragraph and had a huge grin on my face. I haven't gotten to see the photograph yet--does the print edition come with the photograph?

Yay, Gil!

decemberbaby said...

Gil, I just saw the actual article. Once again, good for you!

(and your laptop looks like my laptop's long-lost cousin. they should reunite.)

Gil said...

To those who wonder:
The pic is indeed featured in the print version of the article. I was aghast to see the photo take up about one-third of a page! Yikes!

Given that I work with graphics and layout gurus, I'm going to get them to scan the pic and maybe I can use it in some form in this blog, maybe popped in the sidebar somewhere.

And the laptop in the picture was not mine; it belonged to the photographer.

However, the kitty behind the laptop, peeking over the top is my very own Shadow, age 12, brought to Canada from Japan with his brother Smudge.

Thanks for the comments folks. I'm glad to see you're reading and that you like the article!

ms. c said...

Thanks for sharing your story so openly Gil. That was truly amazing.

Nearlydawn said...

Wooo Hooo! So wonderful of you to share your story - our story. I sent it around to my friends too. I hope that it helps people find this group and get the support they need too.