Finding an answer in the Unexplained

Unexplained Infertility messes with your head. Well, all infertility does, I know, but I’m an unexplained case; that is what I know and it confuses me. Sometimes I wish I had a reason why things haven’t worked out; a reason that was fixable, or gave us a clear plan in itself. I’m sure this wouldn’t make the pain any easier to bear, but the guess work involved in unexplained infertility sends the mind in to such a spin that sometimes it forces me to question what I really believe about myself and life.

Ridiculously, I feel like it would be more acceptable to society to be able to state a biological issue. Society would give a sympathetic smile, tilt its head and say, ‘Ah, that’s tough. I’m sorry. I hope the Docs can help you out.’ I cringe each time I’m asked if I plan (oh, if it was just that easy!) on having a child, sense the white elephant in the room when it’s not and hear the whispers in the background. It’s like I can hear their thoughts, awkwardly wanting to know the details. Society scrunches its eyebrows, confused and says, ‘Oh, you must be stressed out, you need to relax. Maybe you’re timing things wrong.’ Unexplained infertility feels like a dirty little secret. It feels like we are doing something wrong, messing things up for ourselves. The reality is that society isn’t society at all; it’s me. My inner demon. My own insecurities that have risen from this journey. The only thing I’ve got from those I have spoken to is support and/or sympathy. Although sympathy riles me. I don’t want your freakin’ sympathy! It is of no use to me. Support, great, but sympathy, no thanks.

I hate how I can feel so secretively angry with the world, and how infertility can make you feel like an outcast. Being ‘unexplained’ is isolating. It feels like no one wants to look deeper and that you are the only one trying to find a way to be ‘explained’. Above all, it makes no sense to me why, if everything appears to be working normally, a couple can’t get pregnant. It just doesn’t compute. Logically, there must be something causing a problem and it just hasn’t or can’t be picked up by conventional medicine. That opens up a whole new can of worms …Hours have been spent online trying to find something that might make sense and apply to me, only to feel like I’m trying to escape from inside a room with no windows and no doors. Unfixable. And yet the normal test results giving hope that one month, your body will miraculously fix itself. I feel like I’m spinning between infertility and the possibility of not being able to complete us naturally, and fertility, and the real possibility that any month could be the one when everything just falls in to place.

Not having a reason for our infertility issues, or lack of them, leads me to unhelpful thinking in the dark days. I think such negative things, all in attempt to find an explanation. For example, did I do something wrong in a previous life? Is this punishment for something? Could I be doing a better job with the Little One? Do I need to prove myself? Why do people less deserving get to be so fertile? Who am I to be so judgemental about whether anyone deserves a child? Maybe I’m being selfish and need to focus more on giving something to the world, rather than what I get out of reproducing? Maybe I wouldn’t cope with another child? See, really negative and unhelpful thinking … I don’t know what I think of past lives, or higher beings that make decisions about our life path. I’ve pondered these things before, but not in times of duress. Not when I feel I need a definitive answer. It’s crazy how the mind wants any explanation, even if it is something awful, just to know. To get some warped sense of peace. Luckily, my dark days pass quickly and I spend a lot of a cycle in the light, so I’m pretty sure I am not being punished because I think life is about balance. I have a wonderful life, but I am not immune to struggles. That is life. It is beautiful, ugly, cruel, kind, angry, calm, light and dark. For probably no reason at all, we have been in a difficult struggle for a while, but I know brighter times are ahead in some shape or form. There will be something positive to balance this negative.

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Failure is not an option

Sometimes I wonder what it is that keeps me on this emotional rollercoaster.

What keeps me trying to conceive a second child? Is it the desperate desire for another pregnancy; another child? Is it the overwhelming need I feel to give my daughter a sibling? Is it because I always said it was two children that I wanted, before I had even met my husband, because that is what feels right? Or has society set that number in my mind? Is it because my competitive streak says I can’t lose this battle? Is it the need to feel in control of my own life?

The honest truth is that they all keep me going at different times, as and when I need them to.

Believe me, I have thought about trying to get off this train, just because it is too damn hard a lot of the time. Sometimes I even question whether I really want this anymore. Has enough time passed to change our plans? When I ask myself that question though, I always find the answer, not too deep down, is yes I do. I feel like my subconscious mind tries to protect me by tempting me with no more sleepless nights, no threat of morning sickness or toddler tantrums again. Life is pretty easy with our not so little Little One these days. Things are calm and controlled. We are out of the baby/toddler phase. We are in a different era, and I have heard the little voice in my head whisper, “Do you really want to go back there again?” ‘Do you want to change the status quo?’ I do. And until it’s physically impossible, I just don’t know what it would take to get me to give up on this goal.

Sometimes, in those dark moments, when I wonder if I can carry on fighting for this baby, it’s Little One that keeps me going. She wants this too. This isn’t just my desire, or my husband’s desire. We all want this. I feel like it’s not just my choice. Twice this week alone she has said to me, ”I wish we had a baby so I had someone to play with.” Oh, the sadness. I HAVE to complete this journey somehow for her, for us; for our family. She feels the empty space. I play with her. Her Daddy plays with her. Her friends play with her. She is looking for a different relationship. Children really are very perceptive.

Underneath it all, I am a fighter. I am strong. I can endure the pain. So, out of the black nights when another cycle has ended unsuccessfully, always comes the girl who says failure is not option. I will get back to the content and emotionally peaceful life we knew before we began trying to conceive. I will have another baby, somehow.

So, here I stand at the beginning of yet another TWW. My week or so of hope leading up to ovulation has given me respite. A time to re-group, and relax and feel positive. For the next two weeks I will be repeating ‘failure is not an option’ over and over, willing my body and the vitamin B6 and the Chinese herbs to help my body do its thing. Let’s get pregnant!

One slice or two?

Parenting a child is a wonderful experience, and parenting one child has many positives. For some these reasons are compelling enough for a growing number of couples to choose to have one child only. I even found a book about it in the library! It was called ‘The case for having an only child’ or something similar. I couldn’t help but feel the title had a sense of the author needing to convince readers it was a good thing though. Maybe because general public opinion seems to lean towards a belief that giving a child a sibling is the right thing to do?

Having one child means you can focus as much time and energy as you want on them, without siblings also demanding something from you. I watched a young mum struggle with three very young children in a car park today. Seriously, how does anyone cope with 3 children who all appeared to be under 4? It was chaos! Mostly because she was also talking on her phone, but hey, it may have been a crucial conversation so we won’t go there. They all got out of the car and went in different directions, and she unsuccessfully tried to herd them all into the same spot, whilst holding the phone to ear with her shoulder. I realised how civilised it is bringing up my only child in comparison. Hats off to you car park lady, you must be so tired! And thank you for giving me a small and rare moment where I appreciated having the ease of one and felt like the lucky one. I should clarify here (because I have SI guilt) that I feel lucky every waking moment for the gift of my daughter, I just feel unlucky that I haven’t been able to have another. I think of them as separate lucky dips. I struck gold in the first pot, I’ve come out empty handed from the second.

Financially, having one child leaves you a bit better off, and gives parents a greater ability to finance a child’s interests and education. And perhaps a bit more selfishly, one child families will be able to afford a few nice holidays. But is this what is important to that only child? Sure, we would all give our children everything if we could, but even if we could afford to give them everything, should we? In this modern world, many mums have to work to make ends meat, not just to give their child the best education. Many have careers that are very important to them, and feel another child would mean time off work which they can’t afford financially or for the future of their career. We are in a new era where mums have to balance family with work, and for some, having one child balances their maternal instinct with their feelings of identity and value as a person through a career. A friend of mine opted to stick with one child as she didn’t feel she wanted to take more time out of her career. For me, career wasn’t as important as being a Mum, but the irony is we can afford for me to be at home raising the kids indefinitely, but we just don’t have the number of children necessary to keep me at home much longer!

The stresses of parenting are apparently leading to a rising number of one child families. Parents are feeling under pressure to be perfect parents, and there is an argument suggesting some couples stop at one because they feel they can do a better job focusing on their only child. Woah! That is a controversial suggestion. Personally, I understand the pressure a parent puts on themselves to do a perfect job, but I know many AMAZING mums (and dads) who do a pretty awesome job with more than one child. And if I’m anything to go by, having one definitely does not protect you from the pressure of being a good parent. I think I would put that pressure on myself no matter how many children I had, although I’ve been told you relax much more with the second child. Really, I wouldn’t know (said through gritted teeth). In a ridiculous way, I feel sometimes it puts more pressure on me having one, as I only have one chance (at the moment) to get this right! I’m going to let you in on a secret here. I nearly didn’t because it’s crazy, but this is a place for me to explore my thoughts so here goes … I’m frightened beyond belief of anything bad happening to Little One because I think, get this; that I only have one and can’t be without her because what would I do?! This it totally crazy because having more children wouldn’t make things any better if something bad happened. But hey, infertility sends you to dark places and this is one of my fears I’ve brought back from a dark corner of my mind. Anyway, back to the topic in hand … I don’t think parenting is black and white? How do we measure a good parent? I’m pretty sure the number of children they have is irrelevant to their capabilities. I think modern day parenting is in a pressure cooker situation. We analyse to great depths, the decisions we make and the strategies we use. We feel our children’s emotions to such an extent that we take it personally, and take away opportunities for them to learn about dealing with negative emotions and challenging social situations. We are frightened of our children being unhappy, and jump to attention to give them their smiles back even if it isn’t actually the best thing to do for them. I think parenting is not about making your child happy, but rather teaching your child how to be happy. I hope I would do that whether I have one or two children.

Some believe only children are more likely to be spoilt brats. Always expecting attention or material possessions. I guess there is potential for that, but it really comes down to the parenting. I would like to think if Little One ends up eternally “only” she will continue to be kind and loving and not too selfish or demanding of others. I try to give her lots of opportunity for interacting with others, and she shares really well considering she doesn’t have to whenever she is home.

I think the bottom line is this: the number of children you want is your choice, the number of children you have is up to the universe. There is no right or wrong when it comes to how many children should occupy one house, and there are positives and negatives that come with any number of children.

I have to focus on the positives of having my ‘only’ Little One, and I say only in a sarcastic tone, as yes, she stands alone but she certainly is not solitary, or not enough as the term suggests. Logically I know we can take her places, show her things, spend time being very close with her and focus on doing the best we can for her. But my heart wants to give the unconditional love of a sibling, a childhood friend. We have an amazing family dynamic as 3, but I feel we are all needing an extra dimension to our family and 4 is right for us. I just wish we had the control to make our family the size we want it to be so that I don’t have to try to turn my logical thoughts into my actual feelings.

 

The emptiness of a cupboard full of baby clothes

 I am a baby paraphernalia hoarder. But to be fair to me, I did think that we would have needed all Little One’s baby stuff again, so I assumed it was all worth keeping. Bags upon bags of her clothes are piled up in our storage cupboard. Every time she moves on to the next size of clothing, I pack up all the things that are too small for her and store them all for ‘the next one’. Said storage cupboard is in the empty room, by the way. The extra room we needed to have for the ‘next one’. It’s like a sick joke. An empty nursery, with a cupboard full of baby clothes. All Little One’s toys that she no longer plays with, because they are too babyish, are boxed up in the garage. Dust has settled on those boxes. They have been there too long.

Recently, I felt the need to cleanse ourselves of some of this baby paraphernalia. I felt like it was holding us in the past, and in the melancholy of our unexplained infertility. What is the point of holding on to this stuff for someone who isn’t even here yet? I felt bad and bitter holding Little One’s newborn babygro and mourning a baby that hasn’t even existed, when it has already been worn by my beautiful daughter and I should feel warm and nostalgic. I have enjoyed dressing her in the pretty dresses and cute onesies. But now they sit there, getting moth eaten, because I can’t let go of this hurt … I have given myself a stern talking to. They are just clothes! Maybe I was keeping them because it was as close as I could get to touching the baby who hasn’t yet existed. Holding the tiny babygro to my face, I could smell my Little One’s baby-ness on it. Maybe the smell alone could kick start my reproductive organs back into action again?

It’s time to take a step forward towards a new era. I have spoken in a previous post about grieving for the image of the baby we planned to have when we first started trying to conceive for a second time; when it all felt like it was possible, real and in our control. In many ways we have moved on from the very clear image we had of that baby, but we need to take another step on. I think this sorting and cleansing exercise is part of that grieving process.

Logic is a powerful thing though, so we haven’t thrown away everything. We still want to have another baby, so it makes sense to hold on to some essentials. But we need to move on from the panic of it not happening in the time frame we originally planned. We need to move on from the emptiness of our full cupboard of unused baby clothes. With a small sibling age gap it would have been most sensible, cost effective and less wasteful to re-use Little One’s stuff. But Little One isn’t so little anymore. And I feel that WHEN we do have another child I want to suck up the excitement of expecting again. I want to spend hours browsing the aisles of the baby stores. It will be a new era, so separate from Little One that I feel its right to start afresh. Rather than digging out the old stuff, dusting it off and feeling relieved think, “Well we got there eventually, but boy has it taken some time and many tears”; I want to celebrate and excitedly prepare the nursery, buy tiny baby clothes and set up the new pram.

 So I have at least halved the amount of clothes we hoard. Gone. To charity. To someone who needs them.

The highchair and baby rocking chair. Gone. To someone who can’t afford to buy one.

The change table. Gone. Knocked and chipped, and now being recycled.

The baby bath. Gone to someone who didn’t see the point of buying a new one for the sake of a few months use.

Some old worn out baby toys. Gone. To the charity shop.

The pushchair. Gone. Sold on for a small amount. Missing a drinks holder (it really wasn’t an essential feature) and probably still containing a few crumbs thanks to Little One’s constant snacking. Perhaps I should have charged extra for that?

I do feel cleansed. I feel I could be a step away from the baby who we imagined but never existed, and a step closer to the baby we are finding it hard to imagine right now, but might just exist one day.

 

Spice and all things B6

Little One has been rather demanding this week. And this is tough, because I have started my second round of Clomid this week, and my patience is at zero. I have felt pretty good at times, but at others
my mood can just crash and I can go from happy and smiley to irritable in under a second. It gets so messed up and complicated, because my emotions feel so real and Little One’s minxy behaviour has made me feel quite stressed, but I know she isn’t doing anything really bad. She whined a little at the shop, hung off my leg and then wandered a bit further away from me than I was comfortable with. But this was all happening whilst I was trying to find the B6 complex that I read could help iron out some fertility issues. It was a stressful ten minutes. When I got her back to the car, I told her what she did that made me feel stressed out. She looked remorseful, and a bit shocked, as if she really was sorry but didn’t think she had done anything that crossed the line completely. I drove away feeling teary, knowing that it wasn’t her at all, but me. It was my lack of patience, my meds and my emotions that made tears prick her eyes. My child is a good kid. A really good kid. I have some high expectations of her. I do expect her to behave appropriately, but she is a child and she was ready for lunch and tired, and so in the midst of some low blood sugar level combined with a little lunchtime sleepiness which is always a bad combination. Poor Little One! I give my all to being the best Mother I can be for her, and never feel it’s enough anyway. Mother’s guilt! Throw in some Clomid, and you can times that guilt by 10. I’m sure this is not conducive to conceiving.

Anyways, I digress. I dislike Clomid. A lot. Though I will remove this statement should we happen to get pregnant whilst using it. My face is covered in pimples. Well, I have 3. But it feels like my face is covered. I look in the mirror and see my teenage self, unconfident and hanging hair in front of my face as much as possible to hide them. I am also finding that this month, I’m not feeling irritable constantly as last month, but I’m more up and down. Yesterday I was on a big high, feeling great, having fun with my Little One and feeling like I could take on this unexplained infertility and bat it out of the park. But there have been other moments this week, where my chest is burning again with the hurt, and tears are hovering behind my eyes just waiting for a small reason, any reason, to burst forth. Another side effect I have noted is feeling hot during the night a little, just whilst I take the Clomid. It’s not bad though. I can cope with a hot flush or two. It’s the emotional rollercoaster and zits that make Clomid unlikeable. I was already on a rollercoaster and didn’t need to up the intensity.

Baby making filled my mind this week. I could not think of anything else. I was researching spotting before a period one evening this week (one of my issues during this journey), because although my Dr says it’s not a problem I feel it’s one thing that has changed and may well be some of the problem. I came across a thread in which a girl described the same issue, and felt, as I do some months, that something may be happening but it just doesn’t quite make it. She used Vitamin B6 to help her progesterone and claimed she was pregnant the next month. These forums seem to be full of miracle HPTs but I read some more about B6 and it seems it can indeed help progesterone levels. Now, my progesterone levels have been tested and they are apparently fine and ‘normal’. But my question is, are they normal for me? Maybe not as I spot heavily, which suggest my lining is breaking down a little early? As my Dr isn’t very interested in pursuing and rectifying the spotting then perhaps I can help myself a little here?

The other thing I read was about cinnamon. Yep. You heard me. I found an article from last October, which claimed that there was research that suggested cinnamon could be extremely helpful in regulating cycles and ovulation and specifically talked about ladies with PCOS. I don’t have PCOS, but I do have late ovulation linked to polycystic ovaries (yes, you can have polycystic ovaries without the syndrome apparently). Hey, I thought, a tea spoon of cinnamon in a coffee or in a banana smoothie sounds appealing! It’s worth a shot. I don’t actually drink coffee really, because caffeine is a no-no in the struggling to conceive world, but it still sounds nice.

I’m starting to feel like a lot of time has passed just waiting to see if something will happen, and it hasn’t, so it’s time to get serious and try some of these natural fertility mumbo jumbo-old wives tales – hocus pocus solutions.  What if they aren’t mumbo jumbo? What’s the worst that could happen?

Pins and Needles

I hoped acupuncture would be my miracle cure. It hasn’t been. I’ve been attending sessions with a wonderful woman for a long time now and, even though it hasn’t yet helped us achieve our goal, I love my sessions and see some definite benefits so am happy to continue paying a lot of dollars every month for my little slice of therapy.

Miss Acupuncture is a kind and approachable lady, who I felt comfortable around from the first consultation. She took all my details, we discussed my history, she felt my pulse and examined my tongue and made a diagnosis. I had a spleen yang deficiency mostly, and she picked up on my anxiety and emotional turmoil. At each session she stimulates certain acupoints with needles and prescribes me herbs based on the time of my cycle and what I may be deficient of or excess in of at any given time (there can be some fluctuation between Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnoses). The needles sound horrific, but they aren’t that bad at all. Some are a bit sharp when they enter the skin, but there isn’t really any pain involved as such. And I find it really is such a relaxing experience! I get to lie on a bed, warm and cosy (lovely, because I’m a cold type) and listen to beautiful, calm music for about 25 minutes. It is one of the only times I get to lie down and be in my own head and focus on quietening it, because I have a busy and demanding little one at home. I remember when we were TTC the little one. I was absolutely focused on my body, and getting pregnant and remember feeling so in tune and centred within my own body. TTC number 2 I have found is different, not only because of the awful journey we are on, but because I don’t feel like I can give it the same attention. Strange.

I feel healthier when I’m doing Acupuncture. I feel amazing the day I have it in particular. Just so calm and serene, in control and myself which is totally needed as sometimes I can feel the opposite of those things to the extreme. I know I will get some emotional down time on Acupuncture days.

Having Acupuncture means I’m taking some control over the situation. I’m doing something. I’m getting my body in balance. In amongst the chaos of infertility, it feels good to do something positive. I have realised that I do not, unfortunately, have control over my ability to have another child, but I most certainly have control over what I can do to try and make myself the healthiest I can be, physically and emotionally.

Although Acupuncture has not been my miracle cure, I think it has been a big help in keeping me going. It gives me more explanation for our issues conceiving than Western Medicine has, and I just love the theory behind it. It sounds hocus pocus, but when I read in to it further, I found it making a lot of sense to me. I was given a book titled ‘The Infertility Cure’ by Dr Randine Lewis. I devoured it the same day. I could relate to what I read, and believed Chinese Medicine would help give me what I have long dreamt of. A friend of mine has accounted her recent BFP to reflexology. She said it made her feel so much more relaxed, and noticed helpful changes physically too. It strikes me that whichever complimentary therapy you choose to pursue, the real benefit is that YOU are doing something to make yourself a healthier environment to grow a baby. I think the feeling of being in some control in these circumstances is priceless.

I’m thinking of making an appointment with a Naturopath too. We are pretty healthy. We eat really clean most of the time, and don’t drink or smoke. But I’m wondering if there is anything in particular I am missing from my diet? Or any supplement that may help, especially if my hormones are slightly out for me even if they are still in normal ranges according to my Dr?

Do you do any complimentary therapies you find helpful? My husband jokes about my growing entourage of therapists as I research different things! I tell him it will cost a lot less than doing IVF if it works!

Where is our baby, Mummy?

That moment where your only child says, “I wish you had grown a baby in your belly Mummy”. Yeh that. Sob.

Little one told me this today, on our way home from a park where there were a few mums with tiny babies. So it’s not just me that notices that then. “I’d help you look after it”, she tries to coerce me. Oh baby, you really don’t have to persuade me to give you this gift. I’m trying very hard. On a positive note, WHEN we get there and a baby does indeed grow in my belly, little one will be able to thoroughly enjoy the experience too. Something to look forward to!