When It Comes to the Holidays, “Pleasant” and “Unmemorable” are Quite Underrated

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For a long time, I’ve sort of more-or-less subconsciously and sometimes overtly had a tendency to try to make holidays “the best ever!”  In some ways, this is testimony to a pretty happy childhood where Christmas and Thanksgiving were days to anticipate.  For a long time, we went to my maternal grandparents’ house yearly for Thanksgiving and I used to spend hours staring at boxes around the Christmas tree trying to anticipate what was inside (I was allowed to look but not touch/shake).  In other ways, I think it’s the influence of advertising/Insta.gram/Pin.terest/Face.book.

The thing is, I’ve had my share of great holidays (Arthur proposed to me on December 21, 2002), and also really crappy ones.  With infertility and treatments, I found out we’d need to see an RE in December of 2012 and had a miscarriage a few days before Christmas in 2013.  In 2014, I was on bedrest, bleeding a lot, and the doctors were trying to be kind but also not particularly optimistic about the pregnancy.  In 2015, my brother died in late October and Christmas entailed a huge kerfuffle with my in-laws and in 2017, more in-law unhappiness stuff.

Thanksgiving in the US was this past Thursday, and I have a tendency to get anxious leading into the holidays.  Thursday morning, we headed out, and the holiday was…no big deal.  The food was good, I mostly enjoyed the company, and it was fairly low key for as big a group as was present.

In short, it was pleasant and largely unmemorable, which was lovely.

“Pleasant” gives me a more realistic goal to shoot for and mentally, lets me off the hook for “perfect” or “great”.  It allows for the mixed emotions that accompany this time of the year for me.  It’s okay to be happy or excited when I feel it, but also, to be sad or grieving when those moments come.  It doesn’t have to be a holiday season “to remember” (and it’s also okay to just “take the year off”).

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

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Infertility Quirks

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When I first went to the fertility clinic to start injected medications, I remember literally choking on something I was drinking when I called the specialty pharmacy and they told me how much foll.istim cost.  It’s still pretty mind-boggling that I only did a spit-take over the cost and then more or less went, “okay, so where do I sign?”  (Back when I was going through it, a vial cost just slightly less than $1 USD for 1 unit of the drug.  And if I bought the smaller size vial, the vial was usually overfilled by about 30-50 units, so it brought the cost down slightly.  But yes, a *lot* of money.)

Anyhow, this induced a really bizarre association in my brain that persists to this day: I measure the cost of just about everything in terms of how much infertility treatment cost.

New couch?  About one to one and a half vials.

New flooring? Around the cost of the drugs for two fresh IVF cycles.

Chimney cap? About the cost of clinic fees for a TI cycle.

Down payment on a house?  About two fresh IVF cycles plus the FET thrown in.

This last was particularly good when the mortgage banker gave us a sort of startled look after he quipped about the down payment being the biggest check most people ever write and I just started laughing.  It wasn’t really funny, but it was either laugh or cry.

The kicker in all of this was that when we wrote the checks for house-related stuff, it was a guarantee – we were actually getting a house, the flooring had a delivery date scheduled, and we could look at samples and touch fabrics for couches.  We weren’t paying for a 25% chance that we’d get the house or a 30-50% chance that the flooring would come.

There’s still a sense of unreality about every check I wrote during infertility, especially now, pitted against the tangible things that money can buy.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want to read more, please head over to Stirrup Queens!  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

 

 

Not Quite the Original Project, But…

Fun fact: pattern sizes are NOT the same as ready-to-wear sizes.

As a consequence, I am paused on dress-making, mostly because I discovered that I cut the fabric too small. One frantic call to my aunt (amazing fabric arts person) later, and I’m sending most of the project to her to help figure out because she’s pretty sure she can save things by putting in a gusset, but that’s outside of my skill set right now.

Did I mention that aunts are THE BEST?  Because they really are.

Instead, I pulled out some fabric I had bought a couple of years ago and found a free 1/2 circle skirt pattern online.  That looked a bit less intimidating, as it involves two pieces only.

I got working, and by the end of the day, I had a skirt for Older Daughter.  I even knew enough to put interfacing in the waistband (that the tutorial/pattern didn’t mention) to get it to look right and managed to get the invisible zipper in (mostly) invisibly.  The hem is slightly crooked, but I’m pretty pleased with the outcome!

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I figure I increased my skills and followed a pattern correctly.  Next step is making a skirt big enough for me and putting in a lining.  We’ll see how that goes…

 

Reading Thoughts

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I’m still considering a couple of Mel’s posts from last week about reading and diversity.  If you haven’t read them, they’re really interesting and thought-provoking and I highly recommend them.

They got me thinking back to my capstone senior English class in college, where my professor asked all of us to bring a list of around ten books we’d like to add to canonical literature.  We went around the table and at the end, she looked at all of us and said something to the effect of “Wow, a lot of white men.”  Then we talked about the influence of culture and dominant voices.

So I went back and looked through my reading list for the past couple months.

Fiction

  • Prep (Curtis Sittenfeld)
  • Norwegian Wood (Haruki Murakami)
  • Burial Rites (Hannah Kent)
  • Little Disasters (Randall Klein)
  • The Blind Assassin (Margaret Atwood)

Nonfiction

  • Anne Perry and the Murder of the Century (Peter Graham)
  • When We Were on Fire: A Memoir of Consuming Faith (Addie Zierman)
  • Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI (David Grann)
  • Squeezed: Why Our Families Can’t Afford America (Alyssa Quart)
  • King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa (Adam Hochschild)
  • The Blood of Emmet Till (Timothy B. Tyson)
  • Let’s Pretend This Never Happened and Furiously Happy (Jenny Lawson)
  • Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again (Rachel Held Evans)
  • The Trauma Cleaner: One Woman’s Extraordinary Life in Death, Decay, and Disaster (Sarah Krasnostein)

Reading Currently

  • World of Our Fathers: The Journey of the East European Jews to America and the Life They Found and Made (Irving Howe)
  • Sisterland (Curtis Sittenfeld)

Eagerly Awaiting

  • Kingdom of the Blind (Louise Penny)

There’s no doubt that if I look over my general trends, I tend to read more nonfiction than fiction and when I do read fiction, I tend to read fiction by white women (Atwood, Sittenfeld, Kent, Penny).  With non-fiction, I definitely read a variety of topics, but again, mostly white authors even when reading about minority or POC topics.

Definitely time to work on diversifying my reading list a bit more.

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you’d like to read more, please visit Stirrup Queens.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.

Thinking Through my IVF/RE Experiences: Part 2

This is the second part of my coming to terms with my IVF/infertility treatment experiences, picking up when I switched doctors.  Read Part One here.

I’ve written in a Q&A format, mostly because that seemed easier than trying to form this as one narrative piece.

What was the difference between the first and second RE?

I switched because my second RE was the doctor who “officially” diagnosed my miscarriage.  He was kind and compassionate through that awful moment and promised that he would *personally* talk to my OB/GYN to help arrange the D&C.  I was super surprised the next day when my OB/GYN told me that 2nd RE had, in fact, actually called and talked to OB/GYN.  It was probably one of the first times I’d been promised something in that office and it actually happened.

I mean, that was the biggest difference.  2nd RE actually followed through on his word consistently.

I also appreciated the fact that 2nd RE wasn’t nearly as uncomfortable with the really strong emotions that come with IVF as 1st RE (2nd RE was a lot younger than 1st RE, so I wonder if that played a role).  After my ectopic/miscarriage (following my FET), I walked in for the follow up appointment loaded for bear, so to speak.  I cried for pretty much an hour plus, and I really appreciate that he didn’t try to cut me off or tell me that it was okay, we could try again.  He told me that it made total sense that I was upset, that we did need to take a break at this point.  Also, he was in favor of limiting the number of IVFs – 3 fresh was his personal max in my situation, and as he put it, that was only if we wanted to go that far at all.  It was helpful to hear that he wasn’t advocating for more and more and more and that it was okay to say enough.  In that follow-up, we decided we’d do one more round of fresh IVF, but if that failed, we were probably done.  He supported that decision.

2nd RE also was willing to try things that helped me get through.  I asked, prior to my FET, if my embryos could be grown out to blastocyst stage (they were frozen at 3-day) prior to transfer – and if they couldn’t get that far, then at least I’d be spared the 2 week wait.  Even though this wasn’t clinic protocol, he was fine with that.  He also would call me personally if things were changing/not going well/etc.

Did things go perfectly after that?

No, I mean, there were still communication issues at times between staff in the clinic, but it was better.

What helped?

I mean, honestly, it’s amazing how far listening and basic compassion goes.  Don’t sell false hope.  Follow through on your promises.  Keep in communication with patients.  Respect limits and boundaries.  None of this is reinventing the wheel – it’s stuff clinicians should be doing.  Unfortunately, it’s time consuming, and I think this is where problems come up.  My clinic offered a complimentary session with an infertility counselor with IVF, but it’s not really enough.  It’s not something that can be entirely outsourced – the doctors and staff at clinics have to be involved.

One thing 2nd RE did that I found helpful was that he gave me his personal work email – the one that went directly to him.  Funny enough, I never wound up using it.  But it took a HUGE load off me mentally to know that if I had one of those questions that wasn’t serious enough to call the on-call physician at 2am but was bothering me, I could send an email.  It also helped to know I could contact him using my own words and not have to rely on someone else passing the message along.

Also, when 2nd RE had bad or mixed news, he would sit down with us – I mean, physically, sit down.  I know this sounds sort of strange, but it helped because he wasn’t sort of “standing over” us and could make eye contact that way.

What are some thoughts on clinics and the experience?

I think one thing I would say to infertility clinics/staff is that even a single failed cycle, whether that’s IVF, IUI, whatever, can represent an enormous loss to the patient.  It’s time lost, emotional endurance lost, and as crass as it feels to mention money, it can be a big financial loss.  I mean, a single cycle of IUI or TI with injected fertility meds for me cost around $800-$2500, plus the time and emotion that goes into it.  Even clom.id or fem.ara, with timed intercourse, while cheaper, still ran about $150-$300 including the ultrasounds.  That’s not impossible, but it’s not an inconsiderable expense either.  By the time my husband and I got through infertility treatments, we had spent >$40,000.  For perspective, we spent about as much on a down payment for a 4-bedroom house + some new furniture + some new flooring.  We don’t live in a super expensive area, admittedly, but it’s still a boggling comparison.  Having a cycle fail doesn’t just mean all the emotional losses (which are considerable as well) but also a sickening amount of money and financial stability in many cases.

I was really grateful when the fertility clinic I used took down all the baby collages that patients could see.  I’m fine with clinics having stuff like that in strictly staff-only areas, but I remember really clearly passing the “baby board” with my miscarried fetus still hanging out in my uterus and feeling like someone had kicked me in the face.  I did not find it “hopeful” or helpful to have those out.  It made me feel like a defective failure.

It would also be nice to see “success” and “failure” re-defined when it comes to infertility.  I’m not a “success” because I had kids – I have absolutely no idea how I managed to pull that one out.  In other words, it’s not because I did something “right” or “wrong”, it’s just how things worked out.  Likewise, I wasn’t a failure when my cycles weren’t working and I miscarried twice in a row.  I would love to see clinics be much more mindful of patients as whole human beings who have intrinsic worth and dignity regardless of whether or not they have children.  I view success – when it comes to infertility – to be comprised of having a life one considers full and meaningful no matter what that looks like.  Basically, coming out on the other side is a huge victory.

Meant To Be

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As one of those getting-rarer people who married their high-school sweetheart, people sometimes ask me if I knew he was “the one”.

Uh, no.  I met and started dating Arthur when I was 15.  That was entirely too young to seriously think of marriage.  I was a lot more worried about getting to a final round in speech team competition and trying to control the frizz of naturally curly hair than finding a marriage partner.

More than a few people who knew us back then, however, have told us that they knew we were going to end up together.  One of the speech coaches, also the yearbook adviser, put this photo/caption in the yearbook from my freshman year of high school:

Altered Speech Photo

This is at a speech team party, during an improv game.  My glasses and the frizz are, uh, fierce.  Please excuse my editing skills!

Now, around 21 years after our first meeting, it’s an interesting artifact to pull out every now and again :).

This post is a part of Microblog Mondays.  If you want more, please check out Stirrup Queens.  Thanks to Mel for originating and hosting.  

Progress

It’s a good thing I have an aunt who happens to be extremely good at fabric arts, because I’m not sure I would have even gotten started on the dress before throwing in the towel.

I took home ec (Family and Consumer Sciences when I went through school) and I can do extremely basic machine stitching.  I’m actually a bit better with hand-stitching and embroidery type work.  I also took mechanical drawing (and, in 1999, was the only girl in the class) which helped to make some sense of the pattern since that class taught me to take 2D pieces and be able to see what kind of 3D object they make.

But, as a beginner, I really did not consider my material.

I did buy 100% cotton material (helpful) but failed to consider that correctly sewing anything with plaid involves matching the pattern so it goes around the body and lines up.  Oops.  Also, it’s flannel, which means it frays very, very easily.

After quite a few attempts at pinning the pattern to the material and then having to readjust and re-pin, I finally got the main pieces correctly aligned.

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Despite the fabric issues, I think it’s going to be pretty cozy when it’s done.  Good thing too, because winter is coming and it gets cold around here!