Chris #FlipsTheScript

Infertility isn’t just a woman’s issue, it’s a man’s issue and it’s a couple’s issue.  So when I asked Chris to do this interview he said ‘sure’, but he later let on that he was actually anxious about it.  Even though our story is here on this blog, he finds it hard to still talk about.  So I am very proud of him for pushing through his fears to tell you his story.

Chris, my husband, is here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s his story…

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First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!

You know a lot about my partner, Dani, this is her blog!!!  But you probably don’t know how we met.  We met at a work event, Dani was organizing a conference and I was a guest presenter.  Although she will swear blind that I wasn’t a presenter, potentially because the amount of wine we had drunk the night before fogging her memory.  We got along very well…the wine may or many not have been a factor.  We married in 2012 and moved from the Cotswolds, UK to Virginia, USA, 6 months later, where we still live today.

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When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?  

I married Dani thinking that we probably wouldn’t be able to have kids.  It wasn’t a surprise.  But I loved her enough that it didn’t matter.  So finding out we were infertile was more of a confirmation of a strongly held suspicion.  Mind you, we did have a go at it naturally for a year before hand.  It never really felt like a diagnosis of infertility, instead it was an increasing realization of infertility over time.  The failures added up after repeated unsuccessful attempts, we never had a diagnosis – it was just unexplained infertility.  This changed how I felt going into each round of treatment.  The first round of treatment, an IUI, was exciting, we went in full of hope… but by the sixth treatment- our third IVF- each cycle was no longer exciting.  It filled me with a sense of dread, and I went into it wishing it was over before it started.  Some of this was my own personal journey and some of this feeling was because it hurts to see the person that you love go through the physical pain and hurt with all the drugs, surgeries and hormones.

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Where are you on your infertility journey now?

I don’t know.  While that may sound like a strange answer, I don’t know if our journey is over or not.  Is infertility ever really over?  The great news, the wonderful news, is that our sixth round of treatment, our 3rd IVF cycle, was successful and we now have a 16 month old daughter, Aviana.  The reason I am not sure if the journey is over has two parts.  The first is the question of whether we can have a second child, and in part do we want to have a second child, knowing full well the challenges and stress we experienced to conceive Aviana the first time.  The second is that I will always have a nagging question in the back of my mind about whether Aviana is destined to follow the same path as us.  By using science to overcome our infertility challenges, do we pass on our ‘duff parts’ to our future children? So our infertility journey may continue into the quest for grandparent hood.  But having experienced all that we have,  I will never pressure Aviana into having a family.

Oh, and we have one frozen embryo from our first IVF cycle.  Every month we get the $60 bill for the storage of it, a constant reminder of both hope, and the potential for disappointment.  We don’t know what we will do next.

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Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner? 

This was the hardest thing we have ever done. At times through our journey I felt a small amount of hate towards Dani for what felt like forcing me to go on to the next cycle, and I also hated myself for not having the strength to immediately, and willingly, support her.  I thought long and hard before making these statements but we spend so long and so much effort hiding our feelings, experiences and the challenges of infertility that we often put a positive slant on the pain, therefore this is my honest answer, although I must confess it is uncomfortable to say out loud.

The good news is that despite these low points throughout our journey we became closer. It has brought us closer together because:

  1. You have to be close to stab your partner with 200 + needles. Nothing says togetherness like shoving a 2.5inch needle into someone’s body.
  2. You have to be forgiving when being stabbed by your partner (thanks Dani, sorry for the mistakes).

The only way we got through it was as a team. We talked a little and often, we talked in the shower, we talked in the car, we could stop and start the conversations as either one of us felt willing.   Being open, truly open, about how we felt meant being vulnerable and at times brutally honest.  After being so vulnerable and so open, I now feel a level of comfort, closeness and companionship that was more than we had before.

How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?

We are very fortunate, we are among the few who have infertility treatment as part of our healthcare coverage in the US.  The majority of our costs were covered by Dani’s insurance and yet we still had to plan and budget for the portion we had to cover.  I’m amazed at those who are forced to self-pay for IUI and IVF treatments because it adds another level of stress to infertility that we didn’t have to deal with.

How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?

In the early part of our journey we tried many things to help improve our chances.  We cut out alcohol, we cut out sugar (all good advice that come from ‘It starts with the egg’).  These two acts by themselves served to improve our general well-being and we made a concerted effort to do more exercise.

To be honest, as the journey went on I cared a little bit less about my physical health and focused more on my mental health.   Our first IVF ended in a suspected ectopic pregnancy, leading to us having to terminate the pregnancy of unknown location with the drug methotrexate.   Because methotrexate is to toxic we were not allowed to conceive for at least 3 months after.  After our second IVF failed and as we began our third cycle I began to hate the process, hate the ever present doubt, dread and stress. This was the lowest point for me and where our relationship was most challenged. I didn’t want to do it again, I didn’t want Dani to hurt again and I didn’t want to hurt any more either.  On top of all that, Dani was caught in the Brussels terrorist attack at the airport and was blown up, I didn’t take care of my mental health.  I wanted it all to be over with.  We knew that it would be our last attempt, there was so much pressure.  I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t get that positive result or we had another loss.  I don’t want to think about it.

How have your friends and family supported you through your journey?  Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings?  

Overall friends and family have been awesome.  Everyone was supportive, many people asked how they could help.  The flip side of this, which many people going through infertility have probably experienced, is the good intention, but totally uninformed advice and suggestions.  ‘Just Relax’.  ‘My friends tried this…’ ‘Have you tried herbal tea…’ At one point we had received so much of this “advice” that Dani and I started writing a book as a guide for friends and family for what not to do and how to better support loved ones going through infertility.  This is not a criticism, this is a statement of fact, and weeks like this infertility awareness week and #FlipTheScript are part of an ongoing process to educate, inform and raise awareness so that more people know about the challenges faced by 1 in 8 couples. Their good intentions and enormous support and generosity can be coupled with better information so they can truly support the people they love as they go through this truly shitty experience.

What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?  

I can’t and won’t pick one point in this journey.  To do so would diminish all the other moments.  Every part of this journey is difficult.  This whole experience has a price, not just a  ‘$ price’, but an emotional price that we pay for every minute and every day in our struggle to conceive.  Low points come in many forms, the most obvious is the doctor saying we are not pregnant.  The less obvious come when you are sat in a café and look up to see a family enjoying time together, it is just another reminder of what we don’t have.  And in that moment that’s a low point.  As with all journeys there are twists and turns, highs and lows and the journey is different for each of us.  There were some very low points for me, but I’m not comfortable sharing them specifically.  (you may be able to guess some of them from my previous answers 😦 ).

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

None. I don’t think any advice I could give now would change how I felt then.  We had so much advice from so many people, much of it good, some of it not, some of it just plain weird, but when it came to it, what really mattered was how Dani and I felt in any moment and how we handled that together.

As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public? 

1 in 8 couples are affected by infertility.  Looking around you on a train, in a café, at you work place and realise that as many people are affected by infertility as they are breast cancer.  Charities and support groups have done a great job of raising awareness about cancers like breast cancer….we need to do better to raise awareness of infertility. Talk about it.  Help raise awareness.  Get more research funded.  Help us to bring this topic out from the shadows.  Play a role in removing the stigma from infertility.

Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

One final thought, infertility can create some surreal moments that can be laughed about after the fact. For example, there is nothing quite like sitting in an open waiting room at a hospital holding a test tube containing a bright pink sample of your sperm.

Please leave a comment or message of support below for Chris (and me if you like too!!!) 🙂

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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!

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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?

November: My blog therapy month #NaBloPoMo15

I challenged myself to write a post every day in November as part of National Blog Posting Month 2015.  Well, I certainly wrote more posts than I thought I would, but I didn’t quite manage to post every day.  I managed  22 posts out of a possible 30 :-s  If you posted every day, kudos to you my friend!!! It isn’t easy.  The thanksgiving holiday and travelling to Europe for work has limited my success in posting every day/  The days I didn’t blog were the days I yearned to write; just had little physical time to sit down and write it.  I got withdrawal symptoms when I didn’t write.  And I still have a long list of things I want to write about.  Fortunately, I never experienced writers block, I always had something to talk about.  Which is surprising, because I am not much of a big talker in real life!

I have written about some things that perhaps have given you more insight to my ways of thinking – an insight to the inner Dani!   If you are still here reading – Thank you for sticking with me!!!!

I have written about infertility related issues, and explored some broader topics about becoming a parent.  I have written about things that have bothered me and simply writing about them has helped me get over them.

I have also killed some time; time until our next cycle of IVF cycle.  I now have a new countdown – Christmas!!!! And I even have an amazing 3D Christmas Tree advent calendar that my granny gave me which will help.  I bought Chris a Birthday present – a daily lesson of couple’s massage for a month.  Basically he gets to be the stooge whilst I learn how to massage properly. It’s the gift that keeps on giving!!!! Not only does Chris get a mini massage on a daily basis (assuming I don’t hurt him whilst learning the massage techniques!), it brings us closer together through the power of relaxation – AND this daily lesson will be another count down to Christmas!  Then, after Christmas it is only 3 days until my Birthday, which will also most likely be the start of my IVF Diary Vol. 2.  Whoop whoop!

Time has flown this month, NaBloPoMo15 has signified a lot more to me than just exploring my ability to write and blog.  I have discovered that writing is therapeutic, something very much needed.  It has helped in my recovery to positivity.  I am feeling ready to start afresh.  January 2016 is going to be a rollercoaster ride.  But I have a feeling that we are going to have a great start to the year.
NaBloPoMo November 2015

Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world….

Sorry, but being a mother is not the most important job in the world….

Ha!  Got you thinking there with that provocative statement….well it certainly got me thinking when I read this opinion article from the Guardian.  Catherine Deveny tells us that we should drop the slogan “Being a mother is the toughest job on the earth”.

Well Catherine, apparently you would be going against the opinion of 92% of mothers.  According to a survey by ‘Parents Magazine’, 92% of mothers agree that being a mother is the toughest job on earth.  The other 8% must be rocket scientists and coalminers (well at least according to @JillFilipovic.) And don’t forget the journalists at The Guardian.

Why does Catherine tell us we should quit the slogan?  Because she believes it encourages mothers to stay socially and financially hobbled, it alienates fathers and discourages other significant relationships between children and adults.  Hmmmm, I’d never thought of it like that before.

When you really think about it, she is right.  In her article she explores what a mother actually is in this context, and argues that the slogan delegitimises the relationship fathers, friends, grandparents, and carers have with children.  And what about those single dads out there?

“If being a mother were a job there’d be a selection process, pay, holidays, a superior to report to, performance assessments, Friday drinks, and you could resign from your job and get another one because you didn’t like the people you were working with.  It’s not a vocation either – being a mother is a relationship.”

(That’s my favourite part of the argument!)

But is she getting a bit het up about it all?  It’s just a saying, a phrase.  Surely it doesn’t cause any harm?  Who actually cares?

Well, when you evaluate it at deeper level it contributes to building up the idea that nothing a woman can achieve in life matters more than having babies.

My dear Friends, I am not saying that being a mother (in whatever guise) or even going through motherhood, isn’t tough, it is.  I have seen it and it isn’t pretty.  I’m looking forward to the challenge AND reward of being a mother someday.  But I’m not going to kill myself over this infertility, I’m not going to dig myself into a hole of physical pain and emotional suffering. At some point in the future we may have to make a choice of being childless and I don’t want to feel like I have failed.  Chris said this to me in the car yesterday after my HSG test.  “It’s not giving up, it’s not failure – it’s a decision”.  This slogan “Being a mother is the most important job in the world” will make me feel like I failed and will perpetuate a hole of sadness and depression in me, and I don’t want that.  And I also don’t want that for anyone of my friends and family, child-free, now and in the future (or anyone else in the world for a matter of fact).  My feelings are pretty much in alignment with Catherine…

“If you are using motherhood to assert that you care more about humanity than the next person, if you’re using it as a shorthand to imply that you are a more compassionate and hard-working person than the women and men standing around you, then feel free to get over yourself.”

NaBloPoMo November 2015