The secret: marriage, infertility and infidelity

I have a secret.  But it’s not my secret to tell.  I didn’t want to know this secret, but somehow I have ended up the keeper of this secret.  Let’s just say this world is way too small for my liking.

Let’s start with marriage and infertility.  Infertility puts a huge strain on any couple’s relationship, whether you are married or not, it’s makes you question everything about you and the way your partner are together.  And sometimes your relationship is questioned through no fault of its own.  Infertility does that to you.  It tests your relationship in many ways that other couples could never understand.  The burden of infertility on each of the couple is heavy and yet we are expected to support each other throughout the grueling journey.  And yet each of us infertiles will experience the impact on our relationships in different ways, whether it is positive or negative.  Our journeys are different, our relationships are different.  But what I am 99% sure of, is that what is common, is that infertility WILL strain your relationship to the point of almost breakage.

When I typed into Google…”Infertility effects….” the top search entries that came up were:

  1. Infertility effects on marriage
  2. Infertility effects on family
  3. Infertility psychological effects
  4. Infertility side effects

That’s pretty damming (because google is always right of course).

I will do a separate blog post one day about my internet research into infertility and marriage someday, but for now, let’s just say….research shows that infertility does impact our relationships. (No shit Sherlock!!!).

But what about infertility and infidelity?  It may be argued from an evolutionary view that a failure to produce offspring may cause the failure of a monogamous relationship and increase the likelihood for infidelity to occur.  Well, I couldn’t find any research on this theory at all, despite it sounding like a pretty sound theory.  But I did find research on Zebra finches which are animals that are socially monogamous.  A failure for mummy bird to successfully hatch her eggs made zero difference to their monogamous relationship.  Daddy bird did not cheat on her,or vice versa, she didn’t go looking for another mate.  And apparently there is no convincing evidence to suggest that this is the case in any other monogamous species either.

So, I really thought that may be infertility could increase the chance for infidelity to occur in a marriage.  Turns out I am just paranoid.

For me, Chris and I have definitely had a few moments where we just could not understand each other, we thought may be we were on different paths, may be our marriage was in jeopardy.  But despite the rockiness of our emotional and physical relationship, I have never been tempted to cheat.  In fact any attention from another man was definitely unwanted.  No matter the times we argued.  I would not have it in my heart to cheat on him.  I feel like our relationship has solidified in crazy ways I cannot explain unless you have lived it.  My relationship with Chris is phenomenally strong, I never want that to go away.

I can understand however for some that infidelity may be an escape.  An escape from all the problems we face in our struggles to conceive what many do so easily and readily.

And so back to my secret.  I have a friend who is going through infertility who has cheated.  And none of the three parties involved know that I know.  I don’t want to know.  But I do.  I feel so so sad about this situation.  There is never a worse time to cheat on your partner.  But I also understand escapism and that some relationships do just simply fail under the weight of infertility.  So it is my secret to keep and not to tell. But it kills me at the same time.

What would you do?

A week of celebrating my loves

This week has been chaotic, stressful, exhausting and emotional both in my personal and work life.  It was like being on the triple loop-de-loop part of the roller coaster of infertility with a crowd of people squirting water into my face as I go round and round. Ughh I feel sick!!  My roller coaster journey hasn’t stopped just yet, but it’s feeling a little gentler this weekend!

But amongst all that chaos there are three people in my life who are always there for me that I am celebrating this week – My husband, my mummy and my granny!

My husband.

Four years ago I married my best friend, my confidant and my very handsome lover, Chris.  It was an amazing day!  We celebrated our love and our commitment to each other with all our friends and family around us.  The sun came out and we danced the night away to an epic Ceilidh band.  I remember every minute of it, I hope I never forget second of it.  Little did we know on that day what the next four years had in store for us!  We had no clue we would be moving our lives to the USA and starting from scratch.  We had no clue we would lose touch with some of our friends, and make some friendships even stronger despite the distance.  We had no clue we would be making new friends.  We had no clue we would struggle to grow our family.  We had no clue we would miss these friends and family that surrounded us that special day.  And through all of this, our love continues to grow stronger day by day in ways I never thought possible.

Thank you Chris for being so loving to me!

Dani and Chris-352

The cat who got the cream!

My mummy.

I have known and loved my mum longer than anybody else in the world.  We have had our fair share of disagreements….OK….some of them might actually be arguments!  But I can say that probably 95% of the time they were of my doing as a teenager I caused despair with my mother!  We are also chalk and cheese in some other things in life and times, I have wondered sometimes how we are related, but I guess that is normal in every parent-child relationship!  The important thing is, my mum always supported me in my differences and encouraged me to seek out the best and different opportunities in life – even when she didn’t really approve (I could tell those disapproving looks!).    I don’t think I would be so happy and successful now without her support.

My mother has been through some very tough times in her life and has battled breast cancer – twice.  She has also been through many ups and downs in her relationships with my fathers.  Simply put, my mum is a fighter.  The most important thing my mother has taught me as I grew up, probably unknowingly to her and maybe today she will only realise that I credit this to her, is problem solving skills – and not giving up on wicked problems.  I learnt this skill from observation and understanding the effects of successfully solving a problem ….it was a nurtured skill, not given, not genetic.  Often I’ve wondered how I ended up becoming an analyst, but it makes a lot of sense given what I have learned from my mum.  And there is one other thing that I admire about my mother – and that is her care and dedication to many of her friends and her children at her job.

Thank you mummy for being you!!! Happy Mothers Day!!

My granny.

My gran is the second person in my life I have known the longest after my mum (my mum wins because I hung around inside her for 9 months before meeting the rest of the world :-p).  My gran is one of the most humble and selfless ladies I have ever known in my life.  My gran has taught me the values and standards I try to live by in life and how to be considerate for other people.  I think this is why today I find it so hard to fathom why other people can be so mean and horrible to other human beings (i.e. trolls).  But there is something else that I think my gran might not realise she has taught me to be in life… that is fearless.  My gran IS fearless.  My gran is not afraid to try new things or think of things in a different light.  I am pretty sure every time I speak to my gran she has been doing something different, something new – it probably seems like nothing to her – but to me that is amazing.  Gran is coming to visit us in a few months time and I am soooo excited that we can share our USA experiences with her!  My granny and papa looked after me and my brothers regularly as we grew up and their unconditional love has always been my safe place that I think about when I use calming techniques.

Although my gran isn’t my mother, she is my mummy’s mother and so on this Mother’s day I want to thank you granny for everything you do!!!!

I’m not going to leave you

Yes, it’s true, I have said to Chris on several occasions in the past that I worry that he might leave me if I can’t provide us with a baby.  It’s quite a ridiculous thing to think about, I know.  I haven’t felt like this though for a long time, but I have felt in the past.  Perhaps when I was lot less insecure with myself and our relationship.  I can genuinely say now that I am not worried that he would leave me because we can’t have a child.

After everything we have been through together, I doubt he wants to run off with someone else to give it a go 🙂 I  am just kidding.  But what I really mean, is that I have seen with my own eyes and felt in my own heart how far and how much Chris is willing to put into this baby to make it happen – it has strengthened our relationship in ways I can not explain how.

Naturally, Chris gets offended by the very thought that I would believe he might leave me if I couldn’t bear a child.  He tell’s me:

“I’m not going to leave you, silly”

And I don’t blame him that he might be quietly offended.  I think in some ways it is like I just questioned his love for me.  I never meant for it to be interpreted like that, I just never understood why he would want to stay with me when he could find happiness elsewhere.  I can see now how much it must have hurt for me to utter these words to him “I’m afraid you might leave me”.

I truly do not feel like that today.  I have come a long way since I first worried about this.  I know Chris will be there with me, no matter what.  I am lucky to have discovered this now, I don’t need to worry.  But the funny thing is Chris worries that I still worry.  It’s worrying, all this unnecessary worrying.

Despite my own past insecurities, there is something that never goes away on this infertility journey; it’s those very tough days when your relationship with your partner is pushed to the extreme limits.  Just when you thought it was safe, the cork pops.  The feelings explode. You don’t know where they came from. Our resiliency is tested to the max.  That happened this weekend.

I know we will bounce back stronger, with a better understanding of each other’s buttons and mind matter.  It’s just hard to pull myself back up sometimes and Chris is no different.  We normally use each other’s strength to help one or the other back up, but what happens when you both fall down?  I don’t want to wait for help from someone else, we need some self rescue.

….do you have any ideas?  How can we get ourselves out of this funk?  How do you get yourselves out of the blues and into the sunshine, together again?

The gift of giving

This year as part of setting our new family Christmas traditions, amongst other things, we talked about volunteering becoming part of our holidays.  So I set out to start this tradition by taking a day off work and helping out with a local charity that our organisation donates money to – The Joy Fund.  This charity collects money throughout the year to purchase new toys for children who might ordinarily not receive toys at Christmas.  Every single penny donated goes to purchasing toys, the administrative costs are covered by the local newspaper The Virginia Pilot.  This huge programme is run in co-ordination with the Salvation Army, Marine’s Toys for Tots and Operation Hope.  Last year almost 10 000 local children received toys at Christmas.  In addition to toys, many of the families will also receive brand new clothes for the children and a bag of groceries with a frozen chicken.

I volunteered to help out on the first day that the parents come to pick up the toys, clothes and groceries.  The parents get to pick the toys from an incredible selection, some lucky children even get brand new bikes!  There were some 800 bikes ready to be distributed.  Volunteers help the parents with their ‘shopping’ and go around with the parents helping them pick out the toys; my job for the day was to help load up groceries into their shopping trolley.

groceries

every family received a bag of groceries – this was the pile of already packed bags (by local school children), ready to be distributed

I got to meet the parents after they had loaded up their trolleys with the toys and clothes.  You would not believe how emotional some of these parents were.  They were simply overwhelmed with the generosity they were receiving.  Honestly, some of the trolleys had way more toys than I would probably buy my own children.  But these toys might be the only toys the children will get for the year.  The whole operation was simply incredible.

toy-aisle-2.jpg

parents get to choose the toys, volunteers help them with the shopping and make sure the toys are distributed out fairly

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toys!

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more toys!

There were times throughout the day that I welled up with tears with just the thought of those children opening the presents on Christmas day!  The vastness of this operation also made me a little bit sad that in our own local area there are so many families living below the poverty line.  We just don’t see them.

It wasn’t until towards the end of my shift that I thought about the toys I was helping the parents load up with, seeing the vast amount of baby clothes and toys; it hit me hard seeing the number of children some of these families had, many had four or five.  For a brief moment I was insanely jealous.  How ridiculous is that?

Anyway, over lunch we sat with an 84 year old lady who had been volunteering at this programme for over 15 years.  She told me that sadly a few of these parents will sell some of the more expensive toys on for cash to buy drugs.  She also told me of a story one year she helped a seemingly ungrateful and snotty lady with her shopping trolley full of toys to her car – it was a brand new Mercedes Benz, the lady then barked at the old lady to be careful of the paint on the car.  So the old lady pushed the trolley at her and said “Well do it yourself then!” and walked off!  You can’t screen out all the bad eggs, the Salvation Army works hard with the schools to prevent fraudulent applications to the programme or stop the parents from selling on items donated to them.  I’d say that 99.9% of the programme is all goodness and there will be many happy children with a happy smile on Christmas morning 🙂

If we are here next year I will definitely volunteer again with Chris.  What a wonderfully warming family Christmas tradition 🙂

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It was an emotional day, hard work lugging around groceries, but rewarding in the festive spirit

The sugar monster

Hello, my name is Dani and I am a sugar addict. Phew. Glad I got that out into the open now :-s

After reading ‘It starts with the egg’ by Rebecca Fett I decided to give up sugar about 2 months prior our 1st IVF cycle.

It starts with the eggActually what I really gave up was simple/refined carbohydrates.  The science behind it all is rather compelling so I thought I’d give it a go.  It turns out that women who follow a diet of low-glycemic/slow carbohydrates have a much lower rate of ovulatory infertility.  Research shows that high blood sugar and insulin levels significantly decrease egg quality.  This in turn reduces the proportion of embryos that can successfully implant in the uterus, reduces IVF success rates, and increases the risk of early pregnancy loss.  As we have no clue what causes my infertility, I thought it has got to be worth a shot.

Well fat lot of good that did me!  Although, as it was my first time doing both the diet and the IVF, it is difficult to know what would have happened had I not followed the diet.  I mean, it was the first time I ever saw two pink lines, so there was definitely something that helped!! Whether it was the IVF or the diet we will never really know. I’m not willing to experiment.

Chris helped me and we made some general food choice changes.  We swapped out white rice and pasta with the brown and black stuff.  We bought quinoa, lentils and whole wheat cous-cous….all slow release carbohydrates.  Our portions also became smaller because we got fuller quicker.  I bought a bread machine and we made our own whole wheat breads. We got rid of the chocolate, cookies and other bads and replaced them with nuts, fruits and plain yoghurt.

After the news of our unviable pregnancy the comfort food came out and the diet went out of the window.  At first, everything was too sweet and I couldn’t eat much of it!  But it soon became easy to eat the bads, and we treated ourselves to whatever we liked.

Today we are back onto the path of a low glycemic diet and exercise.  I got a call from my nurse co-ordinator who went through some dates with me for our second round of IVF and we are looking at starting Birth Control Pills around my Birthday (yey!  Happy Birthday Me!  Have a BCP!!!), starting stimulation injections around about 7th Jan 2016.  So that is 2 months of healthy eating (minus Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays).

At the weekend we bought a new book called ‘the sugar free kitchen’ and we have stocked up the cupboards with the good stuff.

sugar free

Does it seem ironic that there is ice cream on the front cover of this ‘sugar-free’ cook book??!

Our menu for the week looks like this:

Breakfast:

  • Toasted oats cereal with banana and milk

Lunches:

  • Chicken salad (no change this is what we usually eat, we just vary the meat and vegetables week to week)

Snacks:

  • carrots, celery, pistachios, wholewheat cracker bread with butter

Dinners:

  • Avocado, bacon and chile frittata with peas
  • Quinoa, squash and pine nut salad
  • Flat bread pizzas with garlic zucchini ribbons and salad
  • Squash and chorizo quiche
  • Italian meat sauce with whole wheat pasta

Homemade Treats:

  • Raspberry and mascarpone ice cream, frozen yoghurt cups, Ginger and oat no-bake cookies.
Quinoa, squash and pine nut warm salad.  Actually pretty darn tasty and easy to make.

Quinoa, squash and pine nut warm salad. Actually pretty darn tasty and easy to make.

We are generally healthy eaters and cook all our own food from scratch anyway, but the biggest change is the treats.  I get the sugar-low cravings in the mid-mornings and after coming home from work….this is when I typically snack and eat a lot of sugary things.  So for the next week or so my body will hate me as I come off my sugar high.  Hopefully it won’t be quite as bad as last time :-s

We are also getting back onto the exercise.  I was going to be playing dodgeball this winter season, but the league was cancelled.  And our local yoga centre shut down.  So we have to motivate our butts to get moving.  Chris is still recovering from his sprained ankle earlier in the year so we can’t do anything too energetic like insanity….but we will do some P90X again.  We won’t follow the programme religiously, but enough to get a bit fitter than we currently are. So, here we go!

Bodies………………. ready??!?!?! Three….two……one…….*Whistle blows*

(If you ever watched the gladiators you should shout that sentence out loud in a Scottish referee type accent, if you have never watched the gladiators, I am sorry for my randomness but here is a video to help explain it)

NaBloPoMo November 2015

My Mountains Monday Memoirs: Healing Holidays Days 1 to 9

This is actually a very recent memory!  But there there were lots of mountains in this holiday and we pretty much remained at altitude as we spent the majority of it on the Colarado Plateau. So here we go….!

This holiday was never meant to be a healing holiday.  We had been planning this road trip for almost a year, we even delayed it from May to October because of the infertility treatment.  But we decided to bite the bullet and book it for whatever stage we were at.  We were cautious and kept things less adventurous and a little more comfortable just in case I was anywhere up to 5 months pregnant.  We didn’t imagine that we would be leaving for this holiday with a cloud of sadness over our heads.  But yet despite the sadness, this holiday came at a great time.  It has been a chance to reset and refocus.  I know not everyone can afford to take the time off work or even have the money to travel afar, but I highly recommend getting away somewhere, switching the phones off and avoiding the rest of the world to help heal the mind.

This road trip was always planned to be epic.  And it sure was!  Here is a brief run down of our adventure:

Day 1: Excitement sets in (NV).  Finished work early (Friday)!  Fly to Las Vegas, arrived late and stayed at nearby airport hotel.  Teased by the sights and sounds of Vegas!!!  There are even slot machines in the airport baggage terminal.  Do people really get that addicted?

Day 2: Trippy & Valley of Fire State Park (AZ).  Picked up our rental campervan – AKA Trippy!  Can you guess why we called her Trippy??!

This was our 'cosy' home for the last two weeks - AKA Trippy.

This was our ‘cosy’ home for our holiday AKA Trippy.

We were upgraded from the small campervan we originally booked – woohoo! When I say upgrade – I mean we got an extra two feet of storage space!  Which we were grateful for.  Trippy had a table and chairs in the back that converted into a queen size bed and took up the whole width of the van.  Cosy.  In the boot (trunk), Trippy had a sink, mini refrigerator and gas burner.  All that was left to do was sign our lives away on a dotted line and Trippy was ours for 13 days.  We were off to our first stop – the Valley of Fire.  It truly was like the valley had been set on fire, the rock was a beautiful orange/red in the midst of a green flat plateau.

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Over looking the valley of fire

Day 3:  Zion National Park (UT).  Change of time zone.  Travelling five states in 2 weeks that are in different time zones soon became confusing!

We hiked up Angel’s Landing – a challenging climb if you were to have vertigo.

We hiked and scrambled to the top of Angel's landing

We hiked and scrambled to the top of Angel’s landing

Some people turned around as their fear got the better of them.  Chris and I on the other hand love this kind of hike/scramble.  It is easy to tell why this park was called Zion.

If you have vertigo this is not a great hike for you!

If you have vertigo this is not a great hike for you!

The view from the top of Angel's landing

The view from the top of Angel’s landing

Day 4: Bryce Canyon (UT).  The weather turned and the rain came in.  Our first disappointment came when we got the phone call from the horse riding tour company that they had to cancel the pony trek.  We were gutted because this is something on our bucket list!  It is also not a good idea to be in the lower rim of the canyon due to the high risk of flash floods, so we didn’t hike too far down into the canyon either.

Bryce canyon and the Hoo Doos

Bryce canyon and the Hoo Doos

According to the native Americans the ‘hoodoos’ formed when a tribe who did bad things were turned into stone by Coyote.  We don’t know the exact story because the story can only be told during winter time (according to tradition – the park upholds this out of respect for the tradition) – we will just have to go back some day in the winter to find out!  Despite the disappointments it was one of the most unique and spectacular places I have ever been to.

Day 5: Grand Canyon North Rim (AZ).  The rain followed us, and the clouds too.  Our first sneak peak of the Grand Canyon was somewhat disappointing.

A view of Angel's point on the North Rim - it was pretty cloudy. There was a whole canyon hiding behind this!

A view of Angel’s point on the North Rim – it was pretty cloudy. There was a whole canyon hiding behind this!

We were teased by little breaks in the clouds, but we could not get an impression of its greatness.  We waited for three hours at one of the view points for the clouds to break.  All of a sudden there was sunshine and we ran to the view point!  It wasn’t completely clear, but we could see a bit further down in to the canyon.

Chris got a great shot with the canyon in the clouds

Chris got a great shot with the canyon in the clouds

So we gave up and checked into the campsite.  This was when I got the phone call from my clinic telling me I should be having weekly blood tests.  I felt a bit emotional after this call because it was the first time in days that I had really thought about what the future 9 months wasn’t going to be.

As there was a bar at the Canyon lodge we decided to hike the 1.5 miles from the campsite to the bar just as the sun was setting.  As we reached the lodge, we were blessed with the most incredible sunset as the clouds dissipated!  It was truly magical – great things come to those who wait came into mind!

Finally! This is what the Grand Canyon looks like!

Finally! This is what the Grand Canyon looks like!

After our first alcoholic beverage of the holiday – and my first drink in months we hiked in the dark back to Trippy.  Chris took some wonderful starlight photos from across the canyon.   Just as we made it back it started to tip it down with rain.  What an incredible day – full of highs and lows in emotions.

Day 6.  Horse Shoe Bend & the Antelope Slot Canyons (AZ).  Wow.  The drive from the Grand Canyon to Page, Arizona, was spectacular!  Along the way we stopped at the Colorado River Horse Shoe Bend.  It was busy with tourists, but we were able to sit down for about 30 minutes whilst we waited for the shadows to move out for Chris’s photoshoot he wanted to get.  We sat and people watched.  So many people literally took a picture and headed back to their car.  It made me sad that this amazing feat of nature was not really taken in for all it’s incredible glory.  But hey.  We can’t all be nature lovers right?!

Horse Shoe Bend in all its glorious colours

Horse Shoe Bend in all its glorious colours

Following the incredible drive we arrived at Page where we had booked a Native American tour guide into the Antelope Canyons.  The canyon itself was impressive.  We were hearded through quickly like sheep.  Our tour guide was informative, but the crowds made me sick.  Apparently there are many other slot canyons like this in the Native American reservations but this was only one of two open to the public…and it is incredibly popular, apparently over the last year or so business has been booming because of the internet.  It’s great that so many people want to appreciate it, but I worry about the conservation of it.

Chris took some beautiful shots of the formations

Chris took some beautiful shots of the formations

it's a guitar....

it’s a guitar….

Day 7.  Four Corners and Monument Valley (AZ, UT, CO & NM).  We spent most of the day on the road, but managed to stop at the four corners monument…

One limb in each of the four states - CO, UT, NM & AZ

One limb in each of the four states – CO, UT, NM & AZ

…put all four limbs in each state all at the same time!   We also visited Monument Valley which is where a lot of wild west movies have been filmed.  It was truly an outstanding park.

Monument valley - everything image you had of a wild western was shaped by this landscape

Monument valley – everything image you had of a wild western was shaped by this landscape

Sadly there was not enough time to do a hike to one of the ‘monument rocks’ and we couldn’t drive.

Day 8.  Mesa Verde National Park (CO).  A.M.A.Z.I.N.G.  We managed to shake off the crowds, Mesa Verde was a lot quieter, there were no coach tours bugging me (I am completely selfish when it comes to enjoying nature – I want to enjoy it in peace and quiet without Japanese and Korean tourists shouting and selfy-ing everywhere I looked).  A lot of Mesa Verde had closed for the season, but we did get a tour round one of the more ‘adventurously located’ settlements of the cliff dwellers.  What struck me as really odd was that what we were looking at were rock dwellings that seemed to be from thousands of years ago.  But in reality, they were only 800 years old…it was amazing to compare the dwellings in Europe at that time and how different life was for the Puebloans (what I mean is how undeveloped they seemed compared to Europe).

Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde

Cliff Dwellings at Mesa Verde

Our tour around one cliff dwelling was a little 'adventurous' I was super impressed to see an 87 yr old lady climb this ladder successfully! Go Girl!

Our tour around one cliff dwelling was a little ‘adventurous’ I was super impressed to see an 87 yr old lady climb this ladder successfully! Go Girl!

We hung around the park to have dinner in our campervan and watched the sunset over the mountains.  Chris took some more amazing starlight pics.

Trippy under the star light at Mesa Verde

Trippy under the star light at Mesa Verde

Day 9.  Santa Fe (NM).  We weren’t really sure what there was to do in Santa Fe, we had a walking tour planned and knew we wanted to try some New Mexico cuisine.  We were surprised at the incredible art galleries here.  We also saw America’s ‘oldest church and building’ (considering we had just come from mesa Verde I am not sure they could claim the oldest building title).  I chose a mexican restaurant and was excited to be eating Mexican food that was actually spicy!  Where we live in Virginia the Mexican food has little spice to it and is covered in cheese – more Tex-Mex than Mexican.  So it was a real treat, and poor Chris ate it despite his ‘sweating’ from the spice.

America's oldest Bell in the Oldest Church - with whole bunch of Milagros (representing miracles) pinned into the wood

America’s oldest Bell in the Oldest Church – with whole bunch of Milagros (representing miracles) pinned into the wood

How lucky are we? Just 9 days in and it was already epic!   Days 10-16 to come next  week!

Mountain Lesson #8: Enjoy the journey.  Sure the infertility journey can be a long one, but sometimes you need to take a little diversionary break to feel the power of mother nature and help lift your mood to higher states of happiness.  Take a breath, take a rest, soak up the sun – let the beauty of the mountains reset you.

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A discovery – How far are we willing to go?

Whilst on our epic South West USA road trip, Chris and I had lots of time to talk to each other.  You could almost say we lived in each others pockets for two weeks…some couples might break…but for Chris and I we kind of thrive on it, and it brings us closer together.  I think we only had one small ‘argument’ on this trip, but you could probably describe it as more of a strongly heated debate rather than an argument as such.  Anyway, the point is, we had lots of time to talk about some of the bigger things in life.  Surprisingly, we didn’t talk about our future as prospective parents for several days.  It wasn’t until I received a phone call from our fertility clinic that we got around to talking about it again.

The topic of conversation was how much more can we deal with all the infertility treatment?  Can we deal with another miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy?  The likelihood for another ectopic pregnancy almost doubles after you have had one.  What about dealing with a negative result?  We discussed whether to transfer our one frozen blastocyst or to go for another round of IVF/ICSI.  Yes, a frozen transfer would require injections, but I would avoid the egg stimulation and egg retrieval process which, for me, was very painful the last time around.  Chris wants to avoid me being in pain as much as possible.  He hates seeing me in that way.

I understand his point of view, it is hard for a partner to see their loved ones in pain over which they have no control.  But I feel differently, I feel like I know what to expect, how to better deal with the symptoms and feel overall less anxious (although I think I was pretty cool in my attitude about the first IVF cycle).  I feel ready to get some embryos frozen into reserve.

I am 32 about to turn 33.  If we go for the frozen transfer and we succeed in a pregnancy (!!!!! That would be awesome!!!) then I will be 35 by the time we are ready to have a second go at it for child #2 – my egg quality is likely to reduce and we could be facing an additional factor to our unexplained infertility.  So I figure it is best to do one more IVF/ICSI cycle now and we have one in reserve.  Perhaps I sound a little greedy in this respect – we are lucky to have one frozen right now!  I don’t mean to be – but I am an operational analyst after all, so I can’t but help try to figure out the optimal solution to a problem.

I explained to Chris my reasoning for going ahead with another round, and he gets it.  He admitted he hadn’t thought about age related factors for the future.  So we have both agreed that tomorrow we will ask our doctor about going ahead with a new round of IVF/ICSI.

But this isn’t really where the story ends.  I think Chris and I have different ‘lines’ to draw under how far we are generally willing to go to get our own baby in our arms.  How many times is enough to say we gave it our best shot?  How many times can we deal with sadness?  Will we ever become numb to it?  Depending on the nature of the outcome for round 2 will create different visionary paths in our heads for each of us, we discovered that they are not aligned at the moment.

This isn’t an easy topic to talk about without accidentally hurting each other with words that first come to mind…. so we are going to try writing down our feelings on paper and swapping our ideas so that we can understand each other’s perspectives.  I don’t know whether it will work, I hope it will help us at least gain a respect for each other’s feelings.  Love and marriage is unconditional, but feelings can easily get hurt when we are talking about something so passionate as becoming parents and how to do it.  Infertility knocks you for six when you discover that you can’t become a parent the ‘normal’ way.  So I think it is healthy to have this exploration of feelings and keep things open between each other.

Perhaps we will share these letters to each other on the blog at a later date, but for now we just need to focus on getting to the same place together.

My Mountains Monday Memoirs: The Dolomites

How does one describe the Dolomites?  These incredible mountains are unlike any other in the world.  A picture barely paints a thousand words in this case, but here is one anyway.

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They are located in the North East of Italy, and so naturally I attempted to learn some basic Italian before we started our three week adventure.  Little did I know that actually they predominantly speak Ladin (unique to the area), German then Italian. Fail!

After 6 months of being deployed in Afghanistan this holiday was our treat to ourselves.  It was going to be epic.  And it was.  But I won’t tell you about the whole holiday because I could be here forever, but I want to tell you about one particular mountain trek.

As we packed our bags for the four day wilderness* hike Chris asked me how well I had slept.  So I told him about my dream, it was vivid – Several unknown males asked to marry me, one after the after, I kept telling them no, I did not want to marry them!  Apparently I forgot to tell Chris that the reason I didn’t want to marry them was because I had someone else on my mind to marry, Chris, of course!  But apparently although I assumed this was a given, Chris thought in his mind that I just didn’t want to get married.  Period. Full Stop.

Thinking nothing of telling my dream to Chris, we jumped in the car with our two friends we were travelling with and drove up the windy roads to our start point.  Our friends wished us goodbye as they had other plans to see Lake Garda and stay in the warm sunshine.  After a whole lot of faffing around we finally got onto the gondola to take us half way up the mountain.  As we found ourselves in the peace and quiet in the silence of the alpine pastures, half way up Chris asked me a strange question about the meaning of life.  I brushed him off because we had an adventure ahead of us and I wasn’t in the mood!  Once we were up the top of the gondola, Chris was faffing.  And I mean FAFFING.  I was getting a little irritated because we were running a bit behind schedule and we had a refugio dinner to get to about 15 miles away!!!

5 minutes into our hike, we were still in the green alpine pastures, but really the views were spectacular as they were in dolomites.  Chris took his bag off his back and started faffing around, again.  I was mildly irritated, but Chris called me over to say he had haribo in his bag.  Now I was really mad because that meant for the last 4 days he had hidden it from me!! OK I am not that fickle, but really Haribo is one of my favourite bads.  When I came over he pulled out a ring box with a jelly haribo ring in it.   “Ummmmm are you kidding me??” were the first words out of my mouth.  Apparently, I should have said “Yes, Chris I would love to marry you!” – well I don’t know these things!  It’s not like I have had men proposing to me left right and centre to practice my response (except for in my dreams the previous night!!).

The ring Chris Proposed with - yes it is haribo!

The ring Chris Proposed with – yes it is haribo!

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The ring Chris Proposed with - yes it is haribo!

The ring Chris Proposed with – yes it is haribo!

Of course, you know the story, because Chris is my husband now.  But let me ask you this…would you say “no” to a man you were just about to spend 4 days hiking in the wilderness with??!  Could have been a bit awkward.  Just kidding, I said yes and meant it.  Chris was very nervous I was actually going to turn him down based off my dream.

It was weird being engaged and not being able to tell anyone about it until we could find some phone reception!  But the mountains are good for the soul.  The four days helped give us time to think things through on our terms.  It was a complete surprise to me, although some people had suggested that Chris might propose on this romantic holiday to Italy, but I thought it would be too cliché and obvious that I thought nothing of it.  How wrong was I?

Yes, this mountain was memorable, not just because of its beauty, but because it was one of the best days of my life.

Of course - Chris had chosen a real ring too! He's not that stupid :-)

Of course – Chris had chosen a real ring too! He’s not that stupid 🙂

Mountain Lesson Number 3:  Always expect the unexpected and be prepared for anything.

*Wilderness in this case mean travelling from refugio to refugio – a kind of mountain hostel.

Introducing: My Mountains – Monday Memoirs – Scotland

Mondays – I think most of us could say that this day of the week can be likened to a mountain.  But I LOVE mountains.  Chris loves mountains too.  We like climbing mountains (although we haven’t done much of that this year), although climbing mountains is hard work – there is great reward once you get up there though (most of the time!).  So I thought I would write a regular post that reminisces on some of our quality mountain days and reflect upon my pudding club hunt; and what better day to write it on than a Monday.  Plus the post title alliterates (…got to love a bit of alliteration!).  Introducing….My mountains – Monday Memoirs.

The Highlands, Scotland 2010

Hogmanay in bonny Scotland (i.e. New Years eve in beautiful Scotland).  We planned an escape from the more traditional New Years Eve parties – i.e. get pissed/sloshed/leathered/smashed/plastered/hammered/wasted/trolleyed/spannered/wankered/battered/badgered/bladdered/fecked/lashed/legless/ming-monged/mullered/ratted/shit-faced/tanked/trashed/wrecked or put more simply – drunk.  Yes, us Brits have many words to describe getting drunk!  We decided to head off into the Scottish Highlands to see the new year in with a bit of peace and quiet.

After a night of Scottish dancing (a ceilidh) fuelled by haggis, neeps and tatties, we woke up bright and early on New Years Day.  Not a hangover to be seen.  We took to the hills with not a person in sight.  It was bliss.  We were spoilt to have the hills to ourselves.  Our hike started off in the boggy marshes.  There was no path to be found and we were pretty much hiking off our compasses at this point.  After about 20 minutes we finally saw a sign, we were heading in the right direction at least!

It was a hard grog up the hillside in the tall marshy grass.  But we had some fun along the way, and we took a timer photo that turned out to be one of my favourite pictures of us both – it is my screen saver and people always comment on it.

One of my favourite all time pics.

One of my favourite all time pics of us both.

We had passed the steepest point, about half way up the mountain and so we took a breather – I had to strip down a layer I was so hot….I  took off my glasses placed them on a rock beside me so I could pull my fleece over my head.  And this was the last time my glasses were ever seen on my head (this very photo!!!).

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The last time my glasses were ever seen on my head

When we reached the top of the mountain, it was beautiful, but windy and very very cold, I told Chris we had to keep going before my face froze off.  We took one quick picture and started to head off down the other side of the mountain. We had planned a circular route around rather than go back down the same way we came up.

Got to keep yourself warm somehow out there in the wilderness!

Got to keep yourself warm somehow out there in the wilderness!

Half way down the other side of the mountain I realised I no longer had my glasses with me.  FAIL!!!!  It was only because of the photo above that we figured that I must have left them on the rock when I stripped down a layer.  As you can see from the photo at the top, it was starting to get quite dark.  Chris offered to run back up the mountain and get them, but that seemed quite dangerous considering the lack of other people around and the impending darkness.

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The moment I realised the glasses were not on my face.

So we stuck to our route, and I was annoyed at myself for a long time – they were quite new glasses as well.  For months afterwards I kept an eye out in the ‘outdoors’ magazines in the ‘lost articles’ section just in case someone had found them.  But alas.  They were gone forever.

So here are the first of my mountain lessons from this trip that help me think about infertility and overcoming the mountains we face.

Mountain Lesson #1.  Don’t let the bogs get you down or put you off your course.  When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.  We almost turned back after 15 minutes of bogging it…so glad we didn’t in the end!

Mountain Lesson #2.  Sometimes things just get lost, it will make you mad and eventually sad.  But losing Chris in a ditch somewhere and probably calling out mountain rescue along the way would have not been worth the loss of my glasses.  I made a decision that was safer in the end.  He was willing to put himself out there for me – love can make you blind to danger!

Understanding: #YouAreNotAlone, #NIAW, #WeAreNotAlone

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The baby shower

I sit in the corner, quietly observing the group, hoping no one talks to me and asks me how I am.  I’ve been dreading this day for weeks.  I am not really sure what the etiquette of baby showers is.  I’ve learned about wedding, birthday parties, funerals and baptism etiquettes, but as a Brit living in the US, baby showers are new to me.  One thing I do know for sure is that sobbing away in the corner, trying to make sure no one sees is not part of the celebrations.  Why all the tears?  Because this should be my time for my baby shower.  I don’t mean to sound self-centred, but you see we have been trying to conceive for 17 months now.

Like the singleton table set aside at weddings, baby showers should come with a table reserved for infertiles.  After all, 1 in 8 couples of reproductive age could have a seat at this table.

My tears are short lived, of course, as the excitement of adorable ‘mini-me’ baby gifts and funny games take the course of the day.  Our friend who has that beautiful pregnancy glow to her skin, was happy.  So happy.  For me this was all I needed to prevent me from drowning in my own misery and enjoy the party.

Unfortunately, it seemed that not all of us could cope this well.  One of the guests left within 10 minutes of arriving.  She had driven hundreds of miles for the baby shower.  Why would you drive all that way just to stay for 10 minutes?  And so the speculation and rumours started.  My husband interjected with a suggestion “Perhaps she is trying for a baby and found it all too much?”.  We both looked at each other with that ‘knowing’ look.  Sadly, no one in the room bought this excuse, dismissed it and the speculation continued. The departing lady, who I did not know personally, may have been infertile, or perhaps she had some other good reason for leaving the baby shower as quickly as she had arrived.  Statistically, the chances were high that at least two of us at the shower were suffering from infertility. With both my husband and I in the room, it was easy to wonder who else is silently suffering?  If it was this lady, I wish I could have told her:

You are not alone

I would have held her hand, hugged her and told her it’s OK, I understand, we can face this disease together.

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But for some people experiencing infertility, a hug from a stranger will never make the pain and hurt go away.  I know this.  I feel more comfortable on my infertility journey than I ever have been because I discovered a place where hugging strangers is quite a common place. The blogging world.  I have been surprised to discover comfort and understanding from the ‘virtual’ hugs, support, discussion and love from the biggest group of ‘strangers’ I know.  It’s not just strangers that have joined us on our journey, but a small group of family and friends too.  The ability to communicate, open my heart and share my feelings has been a therapy for me.  But not everyone we care about knows of our struggles because it is not easy to talk about.

Please help us on our journey.

As it is infertility awareness week, we are taking a big leap and inviting you to join us on our journey – or more aptly put – the hunt for the great pudding club.  You have been invited because we trust and love you.  We want you to know that this week we will be starting a new chapter in our journey.  Ironically it is National Infertility Awareness Week.

We have been diagnosed with unexplained infertility, it is a surprisingly common diagnosis for about 25% of those with infertility.  To date we have tried three rounds of artificial insemination, known as IUI (Intra Uterine Insemination).  This week has been particularly difficult for us as our final prescribed round of treatment failed.  With each round of treatment the sad news of our failure does not get any easier to digest, rather, the sadness stacks up and our hearts grow heavier.

The IUI procedure summed up

The IUI procedure nicely summed up

We are now at the cross roads stage where we do not know exactly which route we will take: IVF, gestational carrier, adoption or even child-free.  Whichever route we do decide to take, we want you to be there with us.

How you can help us

Opening our hearts about our infertility journey leaves us with open wounds, and the occasional feeling of self-inflicted nausea (wishing it was nausea from pregnancy, of course!).  If you would like to come with us we have some ideas on how to help us through our journey…

  1. Ask us how we are doing, and if we do not to tell you every intricate detail of our treatment, please don’t be offended. Sometimes we just don’t want to talk about it because we have been thinking about it all morning and just stopped thinking about it.
  2. We love hearing stories about how your little one was conceived, especially the funny stories. But please do not tell us that we should try this position, or that method.  After all, I am pretty sure we have tried everything we could possibly google.  Legs up, from behind, on top, downward dog, on holiday, when drunk, herbal tea, with a full moon etc… The chances are slim that we will be able to conceive naturally.
  3. Although telling us about your friend that conceived after X time, with X procedure might seem affirming, everyone with infertility is different and so your story probably won’t apply to our situation. The obstacles each one of us faces will be different and the path we take will be unique.
  4. Please don’t ask us 14 days after our fertility treatment procedure if it worked. If it worked, we will tell you in our own time if we find out I am pregnant (it won’t be long after we find out, I am sure the excitement will be too much!); if it didn’t work, we need some time for ourselves to contemplate our next steps and to just have a big old cry.
  5. We like emails, phone calls, skypes and messages that remind us that there are other things going on in the world. We don’t want to think about infertility and babies all the time.  It can be emotionally exhausting at times.  Send us photos, tell us funny stories or pass on a couple of memes.  Please don’t feel like you are treading on egg shells around us or worry that we are too busy to speak to you.
  6. We also want to hear about your little ones too and would love to be invited to events and parties too, after all we are going to be parents sometime soon too 🙂
  7. Finally, please don’t suggest ‘You can just adopt’ to us. If you look into adoption you will quickly learn that this process is not easy, cheap or free from emotional baggage.  There are no guarantees. The casual statement of ‘you can just adopt’ makes it seem like not being able to conceive isn’t that big of a deal and ironically is often said by people who already have their own children. Such a casual, throw away statement makes the whole process seem like we can simply go to the store and pick the type of baby we want from the range on the shelves.

The list above is specific to us, not everyone who suffers infertility will feel comfortable with what we are suggesting, each couple will deal with it in a different way, so if you know someone else who is going through this you should ask them how you can help.

Regardless of the individual items on people’s lists, one thing we can all do is be cautious, being a little more sensitive and take a little time to think before asking anyone about having children. If you know a couple that has recently married it is easy to ask ‘so when will we hear the pitter patter of tiny feet, eh?’ but what if the couple is struggling to conceive? Such an innocent question and yet it could be devastating. We’re not saying don’t ask questions, just don’t make assumptions. Until we had gone through this experience I would often be the one asking such questions, I only realise now how hurtful those questions could have been.

What else can I do?

Come join us, support National Infertility Awareness Week by adding a twibbon to your facebook profile.  You can follow my blog or facebook page, read the links below to help understand more about infertility.  Share your awareness so that others who quietly suffer do not feel like they are alone.

Thank you for understanding as we go through some challenging decisions and supporting us, giving us hope like you have already, we feel very much loved in the knowledge that we are not alone on our journey.

Dani & Chris X

#WeAre1in8 #YouAreNotAlone #WeAreNotAlone