Jody Vance

Infertility Road – Pt 1

Image: Peter Dazeley

Image: Peter Dazeley

For me, parenthood was always in the plan…..a plan without a biological clock tick-tocking. I would either conceive or I would foster and/or adopt.  I wanted a house full.

When folks toss around “freezing their eggs” or “getting some help conceiving” I often wonder: Do they realize what’s involved?

Look away now if you get at all queazy with real med talk.  I’m not a doctor, but I am somewhat of an expert at “struggling to conceive”.

The pursuit of parenthood, for some, can be as simple as “Oops!”…  for others it’s an iron-man-meets-tough-mudder–marathon of needles and internal ultrasounds —  yes, internal, condom and all.

Here we go, it’s time to talk realities involved in the process of infertility treatments — AND the realities of the sentence: “So………I’m thinking of freezing my eggs”.

Freezing your eggs is basically IVF (the hard part anyway) without the transfer (the easy part).

Having been through it, I can tell you that it’s far from a cakewalk — you need to emotionally prepare.  I wish I’d had the heads up to be better prepared for my journey, I’m hoping this may help you – or someone you know – be ready for the infertility road ahead.

It must be said: none of it hurts. If you can handle a blood test, or an injection, you will be able to handle this.  It’s painless when compared to the “Oh my God that hurts”, pop your dislocated shoulder back in, sort of way. It’s tough mentally – emotionally.

It all starts with two words that still make my skin crawl: Cycle monitoring.

Cycle monitoring is at the root of all infertility treatments. It’s how it all starts…like when you go to your doctor for a physical and it begins with blood pressure and weigh-in. You cannot know “where you’re at”, fertility-wise, without cycle monitoring.  It is far more invasive than than the weigh in and BP, and can be incredibly emotionally, and physically, exhausting — you see, cycle monitoring happens daily. From day 1 of your period to the day you ovulate (usually day 17).

When I embarked on my personal path toward parenthood, I’d suffered three miscarriages. As mentioned, I’d always wanted a houseful of kids and never worried about my age — I should have.  I didn’t get married until 36, 36 is OLD for making babies, contrary to what hollywood says! (safe to assume that Janet Jackson is using a donor egg at 50)

Most of the over 40 hollywood moms are carrying a baby made with someone else’s egg. I would have gone there — had a donor egg — It’s always been my belief that motherhood comes in many forms.

It was only after my third miscarriage that I learned my husband wasn’t on board with the “not necessarily ours biologically” child plan. He wanted his DNA. So the donor egg would be an option, albeit a complicated one (see Canadian Law – you basically need to “find a friend” willing to gift you one, or go state-side.) and we could use his sperm — so biologically his.

Even with a donor egg, it would still be pressure on me to conceive and carry a miracle. I felt the weight of the world….but I digress.

Back to the nuts and bolts.

People rarely really talk about the process. This could be a 10 page post if I went into full details (if you have questions, post them and I will answer) One thing we all do is walk through the treatment centre doors hopeful for the “quick fix”, a sprint, and what we get – most often – is a marathon.

At first blush, infertility is an overwhelming collection of buzzwords: Timed intercourse, AI/IUI, donor eggs, donor sperm, stimulant injectables, surrogacy….sexy, right? (we will get into the impact on your relationship another time) Each of those little words have massive connotations. Each require research, and sometimes knowledge of Canadian laws. Then there’s the cost. OMG, the cost.

I don’t want to dwell on dollars too much, but I will give you this tip: if you are over the age of 35 and having issues with conception, don’t start small (timed/IUI etc) and pay a few thousand here/a few thousand there — your medical plan only covers a certain amount — go big or go home.  Do the IVF. The bulk of it may be covered and if you end up being lucky enough to have extra embryos … YAY! Freeze those.  They will be 36 year old embryos forever.

The younger the egg, the higher the odds of success.  In the fertility world 36+ is OLD.

Now, back to the process.  CYCLE MONITORING….uhg, seriously, it makes me cringe to write the words.

This is the term for the very complicated process of monitoring your cycle from day 1 of your period thru ovulation.  It involves daily blood tests, to see your hormone levels, followed by daily internal ultra sounds to see what is happening in your ovaries.  (I have an intimate relationship with my ovaries)  See what I did to daily? That’s because I mean 17 DAYS PER MONTH, for 2 1/2 years, I had daily blood tests and internal ultrasounds. My arms looked like I was some sort of addict and, well, let’s just say the ultrasounds were not my favourite….

I know, I know, this is not the best reading material — periods…blood tests….internal ultra-sounds — but that’s exactly why I’m writing about the details: NO ONE DOES IT.

Yes, you can see the definitions on Wikipedia, as I linked to above, and you can go to public forums and boards — you will find many desperately motivated, hopeful mothers, bonding in their pursuit — sending “sticky vibes” (as in “I hope this month it sticks”). It’s all so hard, so emotional, one month at a time — and so much disappointment when that “one month” isn’t “the month”.

As you track your hormones and number of follicles in your ovaries, you decide whether hormone stimulants are needed.  Injectables — very nerve-wracking to inject yourself if you’ve never done this. In my case, I was injecting myself during games – in the Air Canada Centre women’s washroom, while hosting the pre/postgame shows for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Often the treatment involves progesterone.  For some women this messes with them emotionally, think PMS x 1000.  I was lucky, it didn’t mess with me too much.  I was on the progesterone for almost two solid years.

So many couples, so many women, suffer from infertility issues. SO many women have miscarriages and fear talking about them….I mean, it’s not exactly scintillating dinner conversation over prossecco.

However, I’m here to tell you that once you start talking about it, you will find that the loneliest time of your life can be filled with sisters going through the same damn thing — less lonely. Waaaaaay less lonely.

Conception is a miracle. “Oops” baby makers often miss how much of a miracle it is….for the fertility challenged, it’s a full blown m i r a c l e.

It’s all incredibly scary to just go through, moment-to-moment.

Granted, unlike egg freezers — I, like so many, had the awful stress and of fear that I would never conceive, never carry “to term”.

I’m rambling a bit here.  This story is thick with details that I can’t fit into one blog.  What I will do is answer any questions you might have….just comment below and I will reply, honestly.

There is one point that I will end on here.  Once I was deep into the fertility struggles I found a village of women in the same boat — we bonded, we hoped for each other.  There were 12 of us in all.  Of the 12, 11 of us are parents to healthy kids.  We hope and send those sticky vibes to our 12th woman……there is always hope. There is always a child who needs a mother, whether by science or by another way.

Don’t. Give. Up.

 

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8 Comments

  • Reply Barb Billinger October 11, 2016 at 8:48 am

    You know me, and you know how this resonates for me. Every word. It’s still such a hard topic to put into context with proper words. Reading this, pretty much, brought all of those feelings back.

    But as much as I remember the darkness from that time, I also remember as vividly the kindness, the empathy, the love and the support.

    Thank you for writing this. It’s important for people to know that the hardest battles aren’t always the ones that are front and centre and on display.

    • Reply Jody Vance October 11, 2016 at 8:57 am

      Isn’t is rather incredible how we “almost” need to remind ourselves of the struggle, yet, a little reflection brings it all flooding back? You and I really were in this together, that’s so key. There needs to be real talk about the journey. I invite you to write from your perspective. This is a broad topic and there is certainly, as I say in the blog, safety and comfort in numbers.

      • Reply Barb Billinger October 11, 2016 at 9:15 am

        I will definitely consider it, my friend. (hugs)

  • Reply Katr October 11, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Thankyou for sharing and informing others who may not know how really hard it can be but is truly inspiring knowing there is another option and many for that matter.ivf and adoption is my story..I have to say would not change it for the world..remember We are strong!

  • Reply Danielle October 11, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    As someone who is now 38, and have been through 3 iuis, 3 ivfs and no children as a result. It’s hard. I met a huge support group from Instagram that have helped abundantly. While we never went the donor egg route due to costs…which would have been in total over 20,000 for the chance…I couldn’t risk throwing more money away for my failed body.

    Infertility is somewhat a taboo topic for most, I was pleasantly surprised to see this post. Thank you for writing this. There is no reason to feel alone, 1 in 8 deal with some sort of infertility. Open up, talk about it. It will help your emotional state and will give you answers on this subject.

    In saying all this, I never succeeded with fertility treatments but in April of this year, I became a mom by adoption. While adoption wasn’t easy either and will never replace the feeling of having a bio child….I have to say, my heart is full from another woman’s realization that she could not parent. ❤️

    • Reply Jody Vance October 11, 2016 at 3:59 pm

      This. This is why I started to share my journey. Thank you for sharing back. Xo

  • Reply Amy Beeman October 12, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    I remember being at the IVF clinic and seeing a co-worker. Neither of us knew the other was going through IVF… Our eyes met, we nodded and then talked on the phone for hours that night discussing everything we were going through. It was so nice to not be lonely.

  • Reply Nicola October 12, 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Beautifully written and meaningfully told. My brother and sister in law have a similar story. They struggled so much but were so committed. They are the best parents to a lovely son, who is now 8. And feel blessed for their miracle. Thank you for sharing.

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