~ There is only one journey: going inside yourself. ~
- Rainer Maria Rilke


La Vida in Vitro, Part 1 ~ Thursday, August 21, 2008

A couple of years ago, I learned, as a result of some pretty conclusive exploratory surgery, that I am infertile. More than that, without the recent innovations in fertility treatments, I would have been deemed sterile. Salt-sown-in-the-ground barren. It's only thanks to the In-Vitro Fertilization technologies--resulting in the famed and so-called "test-tube babies"--that there's even the remotest chance I might be able to have biological children.

I actually wrestled somewhat with the idea of "coming out" on this topic. It's one that's still cloaked somewhat in mystery and shame, though I don't really understand why. As friends whom I see somewhat regularly know, I'm actually very open about it and if asked, I'm happy to answer any questions people have.

My hesitation in posting about our adventures actually came from the knowledge that others aren't as comfortable with the topic as am I, and so, some people might feel squeamish or like I'm just giving way too much information--though I have no plans to go all gory and graphic about it. If you happen to feel that way, feel free to read no further. I'll title all future posts on the topic "La Vida in Vitro, Part #", which should serve as an easy marker for steering clear of them--and I respect that choice.

So, as I say, I wrestled with the idea of posting on this topic, but finally decided in favour of it for three reasons:

1. There are family members and friends who are curious about our progress and our adventures as we try to grow our family, and this is a good way to keep people who want to know up to date.

2. There may be people out there who are curious about the details, but shy to ask. Don't be. But, this will provide some background on the day-to-days of it.

3. As I mentioned above, this is a topic that still seems shrouded in mystery and, worse, in shame. The temptation is strong, when the diagnosis come through, to blame oneself or to hate oneself, though most people who aren't infertile or sterile might be puzzled as to why. Others might well be able to understand such reactions, but are also quick to point out that such feelings are irrational and make little sense (which reminders I actually do appreciate, since it keeps things in perspective on the darker days). It's true. They are irrational--they don't make sense. It's an emotional thing and has little to do with logic.

And so, such difficulties are often kept as dark secrets. There are tons of anonymous blogs about it out there. Fair enough, I respect that. Not everyone is able or willing to go public with their difficulties and heartbreak. Sometimes, the honesty is so dark and raw and wounded that I can understand why they don't want their names associated with it.

But, I also think that the best chance that people have of coming to terms with that shame and self-loathing is if those who have such experiences and feel ready to share them, come out and talk about them openly, without the mask of anonymity. It's hard enough, coming to terms with the thought that you may never be able to bear biological children, without also feeling ashamed, like you have some horrible secret, and second-guessing whether there was anything you could have done differently, that might have prevented such an outcome.

This is the most compelling reason for me--the hope of adding another individual voice to those of other women who have chosen to be open about their infertility, in the hopes of reducing the stigma associated with it. That's the reason that I decided to go for it. After all, I can always give updates to friends and family in person or in private, and those who are curious but shy could probably do a quick web search and learn more than they ever wanted to about it all.

For this first post, I figured I'd just fill in a bit of the background.

I learned that I was infertile, conclusively and without any chance of conceiving naturally, at the beginning of 2005. The biology of it all is irreversible and irremediable. Short of a deity descending to lay healing hands upon my uterus, it's just not going to happen.

I went through a couple of IVF cycles at the time. The first one didn't complete, because I'm a "poor responder" (i.e. I didn't produce enough eggs, despite my daily hormone injections). The second one, with far higher dosage, resulted in a pregnancy that featured a week-long hospital stay, and ended in miscarriage, a few months in. A few weeks after that, I had a cancer scare and went under the knife. The years since 2005, I've been under the knife ~3 or so additional times. It seems as if each time that my body was deemed ready to go through another IVF cycle, the doctors would have a last look and discover some further impediment. So then, the wait for a surgery date would begin again and the timer would be reset for my next treatment.

Now, after a long wait, I'm back to the IVF days--the days of injections, of blood tests and of condom-covered ultrasound wands. Of dizzy spells, nausea and bloating.

But these are minor, as is the fact that I'm administering my own injections.

I'm not afraid of any needles--nor ultrasound wands, for that matter! Bring it, I say--and Lay on, Macduff!

So yes, the joy of it is that it's a go! A go! After all these years, all this waiting, this fact alone feels miraculous.

Now... to find out if my sliced up, "poor responder" ovaries (each surgery pared away at one or the other of them--half here, a third there, and so on) are up for the challenge!

And so, we begin!


::Posted by Anduril Elessar @ 7:28 PM::::


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Anduril Elessar
Susan Deefholts

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La Vida in Vitro, Epilogue to Part 1
The Song of the Open Road
Mum on CBC Radio, aka, you know you're famous when...
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