Hey Again. Ps. Don’t Give Up.

I haven’t said anything in a while. I’m here. Just menstruating. Got some feedback re: the last cycle (the one where the clinic wouldn’t go ahead with an IUI procedure (refused) because I was ‘too fertile.’ I had three big, juicy follicles. I know, some of you are thinking, ‘shut up!’ it’s a great problem to have, but the needles, and the time and the hopes and the aging, and the constant revolving door of feelings… I feel like the entire summer was a write off. I feel the sand draining through that narrow hour glass, like the sands of my uterus, slowly pouring out of me as I become decrepit.

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This is how I am picturing it (my womb) by the end of this year. Please don’t be mad. It’s how I’m dealing with my disappointment. Feeling jaded and imagining hornets making a nest in there seems better than focusing on things beyond my control.

I keep hearing that number: 35. The tipping point. Fuck, it’s depressing. I don’t feel old. I don’t think I look old. I feel like my ovaries are still kicking up their heels, putting on a party dress and making eyes at strangers in bars. I was looking at Jason Mamoa’s feed on Instagram today and felt for sure like I could have a baby.

Does anyone else waver between extreme confidence and crippling self-doubt from moment to moment? I’m managing that by staying very busy.

Early Monday morning, before being almost late for work, I was at the clinic and found out from the doctor that, in addition to 3 over-eager, tarted-up follicles that looked way too desperate to take into a procedure room (triplets anyone?!) my estrogen was at 4000. That was the real concern. No wonder I’ve been a basketcase.

I’m keeping it all in, but like Ani Difranco says (I can’t help the nod to my tween lesbian days), “Every pop song on the radio, is suddenly speaking to me.”

And every person I pass is pregnant, or has a parade of ducklings behind them. Or those damn ‘First Day Back to School’ chalkboards all over their social media. And I work in a high school (which you would think might have the opposite effect on me and cause me to reconsider….), but they are the loveliest, most adorable people and I feel pretty confident that we’d raise a good one. When I’m looking out at my motley bunch of charming, smart-alecky, naive, strange and clever students, I think: this is why we (and YOU, you amazing internet community of brilliant, passionate queer folks who will make the best, most sincere and fierce parents) need to have kids. We will be filling the ranks of future classrooms with kids who are wanted, beloved, with a sense of self, of advocacy, of dignity and who will be the kind of humans we will be so proud to have helped get there. We can’t give up. It will happen.

Rambling. Restless. I am sitting on the couch, being stared at by my cat. Drinking scotch (cause I can). Thinking about this, reading your stories, trying to be more ray of sunshine and less doom and gloom; trying to think of the up sides.

It was tough luck to get told I couldn’t go ahead with IUI try number 2 (for me). *For new friends to AsquaredMamasquared, my wife and I tried for 3 years, with her as the carrier. So now we are hoping that, having scaled back my medication to half the dose they gave me last cycle, two things will happen:

  1. I will have the right number and size of follicles to put me squarely in the middle of the ‘go ahead, runway is clear, let’s land this thing’ territory
  2. My wife will not have to deal with quite the same experience as last time (from me, hormonally)
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Ambivalence

She (x 20) tells me she is expecting.

I feel like the biggest jerk. Because yes, I’m so thrilled for her. But.

I struggle with the constant happy news of other people’s pregnancies. I have watched people who, as my wife and I – years into our relationship were trying to conceive – were lamenting their singledom, crying about how they felt their life was off-track… who have since gotten engaged, married and pregnant. Have had healthy bundles of joy.

Some have been pregnant not just once, but twice. To be so blessed.

Some are unexpectedly pregnant. To be so blessed.

Some have been trying, just like us. To be so blessed.

All while we have slogged through 2.5 years of miscarriages. We are on hold. Waiting for the timing to align, with career and performances (mine), to create the best moment for me to start trying. For US to start trying again. But pregnancy is everywhere.

I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

At work, maternity leaves abound.

My book club.

My extended circle of friends.

My cousins.

People have had first and second children who coincide with miscarriages 1 and 2.

At my dance company, most recently, the barely concealed bodies, changing and morphing from powerful dance machines to sweet, preciously rounded bellies gloat unintentionally – they are everywhere. The choreography is adapting to accommodate bodies that can’t bear weight as they bear life; lifts are altered, as are costumes. We are making room. I am so thrilled for all this change and growth, but heart-broken too, because other people’s journeys remind me of my own stunted path.

And I am nervous that when I take the next step, I may go sliding into the same mire that has held us, suspended, for the past few years.

I know I’m not the only one. But it feels like I’m both surrounded and alone.

Sperm Shopping – Your Average Saturday Afternoon

It’s time. No more putting it off. I’m stalling. Eating a veggie burger, roasted parsnips, carrots and hummus. But today is the day (or at least one of many). We have signed all the paperwork. Literally 1.5 hours of papers and contracts.

We have signed off on using a clinic (our fave doctor is branching out and going it alone, so we get to stay with her).

We understand the possible consequences. We might get pregnant as a result of the ‘treatment’.

We agree to the procedure. We agree to share the ‘product’ of the procedure. We are not being coerced. We signed off in both directions, me to co-own the ‘product’ with my wife, and she to co-own if I should get pregnant. We are both on the roster. Signed off on the sharing of our info with the government, with the system that monitors in-vitro and assisted pregnancy. We even signed off on what might be done with extra specimen, in the event that we don’t need them; in the event that we separate; in the event that we… die. There’s an option for embryonic donation… option D. For use in research, for disposal, for … freezing and use by the other partner.

Now that we are both on the wait list (2 year) for In-Vitro Fertilization, and I have consented to move forward with IUI, we might find ourselves in a few interesting scenarios. What if I get pregnant with IUI? And then Allia finds herself at the top of the list, while I’m still pregnant? What if we are called up at the same time for IVF? We are technically side by side on the list. It’s all so interesting. What if she gets called to say we are a go, and then has leftover eggs … should we implant them inside me?

I guess I’m getting ahead of myself, but how far can you plan? The whole process will start rolling (more than it already is) in June, once I’m off the stage from my dance show, and when exams have ended at school. Will I be able to take a course this summer? Take a trip? What can I plan when I could be pregnant in July,… or next year some time?

At least we can spend the afternoon online shopping for juice, objectively objectifying men based on a list of ticked boxes. I know what I am hoping for, but I don’t have to be ‘in love’ with the man in the photograph. Just the idea of him and how he presents himself on paper.

Stay tuned for next time: what I’m looking for in a man (seriously/not seriously).

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What would your criteria be for choosing a donor? Please share. I’m always inspired by your messages.

Welcome to Us

I’ve been sharing my life with Allia for five plus years, and now she is joining me online for a new chapter of this blog. Here is our first instalment of smiley, silly, honest and colourful wife-talk – about love, making babies and, today: choosing sperm.

I’ll still be sharing my own thoughts and gripes via the written word, but occasionally we’ll be coming at you almost IRL as Asquared (Allia+Alison) MamaSquared (with two mamas, and possibly two pregnancies. We’ll see. More on that later). Welcome and talk soon.

Miss and Trope

Am I a misanthrope if I sort of hate everyone this week?

It’s hard to keep a brave face and an uncracked exterior when all of this holiday gushing begins. The cards start to arrive, with the smiling faces of my friends and family, and their beautiful broods, babies (fur and otherwise) and the forced cheerfulness of Christmas music.

We got back another negative result with the latest round of blood work. Not a miscarriage. Thank god. But, nonetheless… the tentative hope (every day of it) held out, just in case, feels like a bad joke – when you tell yourself to think positively (and remind yourself that every pregnant friend isn’t doing this to you on purpose) and you remember that you’re usually so cheerful, so gracious, so happy. But this feels like it’s been going on for weeks; this mood where little things annoy you; you feel happy, but it lasts as long as the episode that is distracting you; you rearrange the house and clean with freakish attention to detail; little things that should roll of your back feel like they are thrusting you under the waves and pushing you, relentlessly towards the tears that are brimming (which you hold back stoically… even though this feels so unfair).

My own personal brand of hell? Being asked/told to teach a ‘family dance class’… where everyone brings their beautiful cherubs to dance to Feliz Navidad, Frozen and denominationally diverse holiday tunes… Please, can I? One: I don’t teach little kids. I teach teenagers. Two: I don’t own or have Itunes lists of children’s music… and don’t want to envision your sugar plums as I plan a playlist and can’t have any of my own. Three: I cannot imagine a worse thing than grinchingly grinning through a 90 minute class where I teach you and your kids a dance routine and am LITERALLY surrounded by pregnancy and fertility, where the worst parts of me picture myself in a heap on the floor crying, or I lose it at some poor person who has no idea that I’m mentally cracking. And if this all sounds dramatic; I’m a drama and dance teacher (so I guess you’re on track, good job). But it’s also how I feel. And I know it’s not flattering, or rational, or adult to feel this way.

Two years is a long time to watch other people move forward in their lives, to want something so badly, to see the possibility come close and then to feel powerless as it’s snatched away. And the other wonderful parts of your life, your health, family, relationship, beautiful clothes in your closet… can only patch that little hole in your heart for so long. I have even tried mentally tricking myself into ‘not really wanting kids anyway’ to see if that helps. It doesn’t .

But there is hope, right? Medical assistance? Yes, but even that is so fraught with traps, emotional and financial, that it’s enough to wreck even an optimistic, highly motivated person. Plus, I’m mildly OCD and anxious, so this lack of control – in a prolonged sense – is really taking its toll.

So, here’s the long part:

Canada (let’s be accurate… Ontario), has a program available through which they will subsidize one round of In-Vitro for eligible couples. The numbers, the waitlists, the criteria… I wanted to slump out of the meeting, past all the other couples who are going through the same thing… just thinking about the $35,000 that one friend has spent. The stats, the two year wait list. There is also the extra gay hoop: if we know our donor, in order to even sign consent… to be put on the list…to wait two years…. we have to collect, quarantine, test, freeze, thaw and process the donor sperm. All of these steps involve added costs; but a straight couple can just say ‘we’re a couple’ and donate fresh specimen – no testing, no quarantine… because they are presumed to be sleeping with that person. They can say it and it’s taken at face value – saving them thousands. Or I could order some sperm from south of the border, for less than the price of a known donor. But then, instead of knowing my wonderful, equitable, healthy, kind, smart, sane, empathetic, feminist brother is the other part of the DNA cocktail… I could wind up with some broke, redneck, anti-immigrant, sexist, racist, homophobe (who voted for Trump (GASP!))’s sperm as the other component to the most important decision of our lives.

All of this is to say… that this waiting game is killing me. And if I seem sad, and someone has the bad luck of asking how I am… I’ll be lying when I say, I’m fine.

Lighthouse

Sometimes when you get a call or text in the middle of the day, it’s a cute message from your partner. Others… it’s a text to tell you that she got her period. Meaning: we are not expecting. Still.

It has been hard. But talking about it helps. As if by fate, the first email I opened was a review, talking about the film “The Light Between Oceans.” Starring Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender, the film and its central conflict, a woman’s multiple miscarriages, is dealt with so thoughtfully by Elizabeth Kiefer in her article “This Is What Happens When Miscarriage Plays A Starring Role In A Movie.”

The article can be found here, but I’ve also pasted it below, courtesy of Refinery 29.

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There are at least five good reasons to go see The Light Between Oceans when it hits theaters on September 2. First, the obvious: Michael Fassbender, who should be observed in high definition on a giant screen whenever possible. Second, the chemistry between Fassbender and Alicia Vikander, who are great together. If you loved the book and you wanted the movie to live up to it, that’s your third reason, and fourth is that director Derek Cianfrance has done this love story gorgeous justice, and who couldn’t use a little more of that in their life.

To some, the fifth reason may seem a little particular. But, in my opinion, it’s one of the things that will stick with you long after the rolling credits. The Light Between Oceans pays homage to a female experience that often gets maligned and deserves its moment in the spotlight: the heartache and physical pain of miscarriage….The The Light Between Oceans is, at its heart, a story about a man who loves his wife so much that he will do almost anything to secure her happiness. Tom Sherbourne (Fassbender) has returned to Australia after fighting in World War I. Seeking solace and silence, he winds up with a job as a lighthouse keeper. Sherbourne meets a woman while on the mainland, Isabel (Vikander), who becomes his wife. They live together on their isolated island, content with one another’s company — but also hoping to start a family.

This is where the rough waters kick up: Isabel conceives and appears to be months along in her pregnancy when one night, while a storm rages outside, she miscarries. The physical pain is searing; she is clearly terrified, unsure of what is happening within her body, and without anyone to turn to for help. The next day, they bury their child in a marked grave on the island. Isabel is inconsolable.

Not long after that, she becomes pregnant again. But this time around, she is wary of the precariousness of her condition and terrified of repeating the ordeal — which, inevitably, she does. The second miscarriage is even more painful. Not only because of the scene itself, which portrays a hopeful Isabel sitting at a piano — in one moment joyful and the next doubled over in pain, blood seeping through the back of her skirt — but because it so keenly reveals the hysteric emotionality behind what it means to lose your dream coupled with the death of hope. Twice.

What Vikander telegraphs in this scene is more than just the physical elements of how the early stage of miscarriage proceeds. Her performance also showcases a distinctly female form of failure at something that, as women, we are told for an entire lifetime is our destiny: the ability to bear a child.

For women who want to become mothers, the inability to bring a pregnancy to term — to literally deliver on a biological promise — is perhaps one of the more devastating experiences they will ever endure.

Still, despite the fact that up to one-fifth of all pregnancies result in miscarriage, it is something that does not receive a commensurate amount of discussion. The heartbreak of miscarriage is something that often gets minimized and belittled; we are ill-practiced with the language required to console someone who has gone through it, once, twice, or many times. For that reason, we often avoid talking about it altogether. But not talking about contributes to the feelings of isolation — of failure — that accompany losing a wanted pregnancy. And so the downward spiral spins.

… I have been on the other side of plenty of conversations with women — some who lost their pregnancies recently, others who lost them long ago, but still feel empty. Often, these friends have said they felt minimized. A colleague once told me she felt like her husband was living on Earth and she was living on planet “My Baby Died” — and there were no telephone lines between those two worlds.

And so here is my theory and one reason to go see The Light Between Oceans: If we talk about miscarriage more, it will not hurt any less when it happens, but it might make the aftermath a little easier to bear. It might make women feel less alone. It might be like erecting a lighthouse out in the ocean, so that people know there is hope when they are out in a storm.”

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Kiefer puts it so well. I worry that my wife feels like I’m on another planet, watching, carrying on with my life. I cannot imagine feeling worse about what we’ve gone through, except to be in her shoes. Watching someone you love suffer is brutal, but I hope that being in it together makes it bearable.

We all have private worlds

we all

Have private worlds of worry

And of joy. 

No one talks enough about the brave faces we put 

Between the world and ourself 

Or our own mirror  

This is the face of someone who is holding It together. 

And not always well. 

Dance is saving my life. 

But being surrounded by the tiny feet and faces of all the sweet babies

Of company members is equal parts hard and inspiring 

People don’t talk about how miscarriage and loss and fighting

Changes your resiliency 

I don’t know how to bounce back 

When the certain things don’t seem so certain 

So I look up. 

I stare into the lights. 

It feels like Ani says,

“Every pop song in the radio

Is suddenly speaking to me” 

I do “feel better when I’m dancing…

We can do this together…”

And parts of these moments are being stolen 

Because sadness is always under all of it

I dance for myself 

Because it reminds me who I am 

And I don’t know if I can be happy 

Or if anyone can 

If they don’t know who they are

And what brings them joy 

So I humble myself and step out onto the stage 

  
Vulnerable in every sense of the word

No more tears. 

And trust myself to do what my body and mind knows how to do

“I’ll keep on making the same mistakes. 

I’ll keep on making them every day. 

Try everything.”

And I will. This is for me. 

And for you. Because if I’m okay

Maybe we will be, too. 

But at least I’ve taken care of my half. 

This is mine.

I’m doing better than I think I am. And I have this right now. No matter what happens.  

I will step forward. Not back.