Sunday, 2 March 2014

My Imaginary Speech at the (in)Fertility Oscars

I look forward to watching the 86th Academy Awards later today, Sunday, March 4th ! I'm a big fan of films and a bigger fan of award speeches.

If there is a “Keeping your Sanity despite the Crazy Journey in Infertility” Award, I may have a tiny shot of winning a trophy. (There will be thousands of other men and women nominees, too.) 

Let’s just imagine that there is such an award. Now imagine that I got that accolade (ehem, ehem).

This will be my speech:

Most of the narrative we hear or read about infertility focuses on couples with infertility issues. This is understandable. But today I’d like to center the spotlight on the men and women who help couples fulfill their dreams of having a child. In particular, I thank everyone – the doctors, nurses and clinic staff at our fertility clinic.

To Dr. Beth Taylor, fertility doctor extraordinaire. It’s not often that you get the right combination of a doctor who is an expert in her field and also have the understanding of the roller-coaster ride infertile couples experience. Her intelligence, curiosity and analytical skills makes me think that she is some kind of a CSI – albeit not with crime scenes but with infertility issues.

Dr. Taylor is better than all the CSIs put together though. They’re all fictional characters and she’s not. She’s a superb scientist, yes. She also has the sensitivity of an artist. Her empathy and compassion is a solace, especially in days when hope seemed out of reach.  I can go on with my ode to Dr. Taylor ad infinitum. 

We also had the opportunity to work with Dr. Nakhuda and Dr. Hitkari. Both doctors are very knowledgeable and answered questions clearly, patiently and cheerfully.

To the many wonderful nurses of the clinic whose ability, skill and dedication are remarkable. Special mention goes to Paula, sunshine personified. I first met Paula in the clinic’s support group and was struck with her talent in explaining medical concepts in a way that is accessible to many. What I most appreciate most about Paula is her warm and caring ways. Her positive attitude is an inspiration.

Mikki is also another nurse who made a difference. Some medications taken during an IVF cycle can have different side-effects on different people. One medication was making me really depressed. I called the nurses’ line of the clinic. I talked to Mikki who gave essential support. She stayed on the line until both of us felt confident that I was safe and out of harm’s way.

Other nurses, like Biddy, Nicola, Anna and Wendy (who has a great sense of humor!), have all been helpful and kind. One of the hardest jobs nurses do, I think, is informing fertility patients of a negative pregnancy test. All those who have had this difficult job of delivering unfortunate news to me have done so with exceptional sensitivity and compassion. Being in the front line, every committed nurse is an asset to a fertility clinic.

To all the clinic staff: the men and women of the laboratory, the administrative team, and the team at the front-desk including those who answer phone inquiries. All of them have shown exceptional competence in their own area. I've also felt that they have a real understanding of the intense emotional upheaval that usually accompanies fertility treatments. 

Tracy at the front desk is always friendly and helpful. I suspect she has a special ability to assess (in seconds!) the demeanor of people who come in to the clinic. From the nervous first-timer to the lost-a-couple-of-times-but-still-hopeful “regular” patients like my husband and I.

Going through infertility without the support and company of the dedicated men and women of our fertility clinic would have been very difficult, if not impossible. Imagine Frodo Baggins, bearer of the One Ring, trekking to Mount Doom, without the help of Samwise, Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Gandalf, Boromir, Legolas, Gimli and the other Middle-Earth folks. How could Frodo have survived the orcs, goblins and the evil Lord, Sauron, just by himself? He wouldn’t have.

This is not Mount Doom but Mount Jefferson in Oregon.
Photo Credit: R.H.

I think the “trophy” at the (in)Fertility Oscar’s isn’t having a child. Of course, every infertile couple (or single without a partner) who wishes for a child, wants to eventually have a child. But the trophy isn’t really the child.

It is continuing to love yourself and your partner despite the disappointments. It’s in the knowledge that, although the child you’re hoping for will add to the joy in your life, not having a child does not necessarily diminish your zest for life. It is in not succumbing to bitterness and anger. 

It’s in the deep conviction that whether you’ll eventually be gifted with a child or decide to live child-free, you’ll remain the beautiful person that you are.

The men and women at Olive Fertility Centre have helped me keep my sanity so that I won’t lose sight of who I really am. A complete, loving and caring woman. With or without a child.        

Backstage at the (in)Fertility Oscars

My speech "on stage" has turned out to be long-ish. If this was really the Academy Awards, the orchestra would start playing the music and the usherettes or ushers of the show would half-escort, half-drag me to exit the stage.

But I still have some more people to thank. Good thing the camera will continue rolling backstage to give the awardees the chance to thank other people they have missed on stage. Better thing is that this isn’t really the Oscars and I can continue my speech.    

I thank my husband who has been my solid and stable partner in this journey. From being present in every meeting with the doctors to helping me with my injections. From reading many articles and journals about fertility-related studies to keeping my hopes up and embracing me when words became insufficient. He was there and I know he will continue to be there. This part of our life has brought us closer to each other. 

Photo credit: Wendy D. 

When most girls dreamed of meeting the men of their dreams, marrying, raising children in a nice big house, I dreamed of becoming a famous actress, a missionary, and world explorer. I had hoped of finding my special someone but never imagined I would actually find that person. One who accepts me for who I am – opinionated and silly, fantastic and fabulous. One who is different enough to make things interesting but who shares my values and priorities in life.

I thank Alanna and Ty for their emotional support and encouragement. They are always interested in hearing updates about our fertility treatments. They share disappointments and our joys. 

I thank Neil and all my dear friends – in Canada and in the Philippines, who may not always be up to date with every step of the journey but whose thoughts and prayers are important to me. You know who you are.

They say it takes a village to raise a child. I say, it also takes a village to take care of each other.   

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A New Chapter Begins

Flashback: October 29th, 2013. I had recently finished another IVF cycle. Our third.

My husband, let’s call him RH, and I were sitting in the office of Dr. Taylor, our fertility doctor. It was a sunny but cool day. It was warm inside Dr. Taylor’s office, though. Too warm. I hadn’t taken my winter jacket off, though I opened the front zipper. The sun was streaming through the glass wall. The warmth reminded me of siesta time when I was a little girl in the Philippines. The warmth felt very familiar and so was the disappointment.

Two weeks before our visit with Dr. Taylor, the verdict was in. The pregnancy test was negative. Again. I should say this was not a surprise. Based on our experience in the first and second IVF cycles, my ovaries were not responding well. A higher dosage was prescribed in the third IVF cycle but the number of ova or egg cells was still quite measly. This confirmed my suspicion that I have very low ovarian reserve. It’s not rocket science really. I was 40 then and I just turned 41 January of this year. What did I expect?

RH and I have always liked Dr. Taylor. An intelligent woman with a gift in making complex concepts easy to understand, she has always been honest and open with us. Whenever we asked a question that she didn’t know the answer to, she told us. Like the other doctors, nurses, and staff in that fertility clinic, Dr. Taylor has shown us great compassion and empathy throughout our whole journey. Most of all she has always been very patient with us. My husband and I are probably some of the geekiest patients Dr. Taylor has ever encountered. We would ask her about the veracity of the information we have researched on our own. We sought her opinion and respected her insights. I think that she might have enjoyed our geekiness a little! She wrote a blog (aptly entitled "Stats 101") that included RH’s probability computation.

Dr. Taylor’s recommendation was for us to seriously consider an egg donor program. Essentially, this means using another woman’s (a younger woman’s) eggs. Using RH’s sperm, an embryo will be later transferred to my uterus. In some circumstances, a family member or a close friend could potentially donate eggs to an infertile woman. R and I don’t know anyone who could do that for us. I mean, I have friends and relatives in the Philippines who would probably offer us their ova. Or at least, consider it. But they are on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. It’s just not logistically possible. Since buying and selling ova is not allowed in Canada, our best option was to go to a fertility clinic in Seattle.

As Dr. Taylor was handing us the brochures of possible clinics in Seattle, I burst into tears! RH held my left hand and squeezed it tight.

“It’s okay,” he assured me. “We’ll try again, Sweetie,” 

“I know,” I replied while wiping my nose. “That’s not why I’m crying.”  

Dr. Taylor and RH looked at me kindly but with perplexed looks on their faces. They probably thought I was devastated by the failure of yet another IVF cycle. I had accepted that fact. I was ready to move on to the next chapter. I was crying because I was going to miss the people at the clinic!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Humor and Infertility

In infertility, negative feelings is often part of the territory. Humor makes difficult feelings easier to deal with. In an older post, I wrote about some things Filipinos say to their Fertility-challenged friends and family to express my anger in a safe way. I don't support violence, if I can help it. ;)

Many well-meaning friends and family members, in an effort to make me feel better, say hurtful and insensitive things that reflect their lack of awareness of infertility. The worse thing is that I was starting to get really angry at myself for not correcting these misconceptions and for not speaking up. I decided to write the post I mentioned above to prepare and empower myself to deal with situations like these.

What started out as an expression of anger turned out to be an enjoyable exercise! I crafted responses that were in turn tongue in cheek, bitchy, and outright silly.

Yesterday, I re-discovered this funny video (below) by fenneladasgupta. I first saw this about a year ago and I fell on my chair laughing!

Nothing beats humor. Enjoy!

Full disclosure: I have to say that before I experienced infertility, I probably said (or at least thought) some of these remarks and assumptions.