Saturday, May 26, 2018

The Path

I have been laying low for a while. I was working on two posts but decided to postpone those and start a new one. The last couple of years Mother's Day knocks me off my feet and it takes me some time to get my footing back. Mother's Day has grown more complex over the past few years. Four years ago on Mother's Day was the last time I saw my Aunt (who filled the guiding role of a mother in my life) before she passed away a few days later (on my husbands birthday no less). She was my rock, and I lost her just before the most difficult years of my life. No one could ever replace her in my life, and since she has been gone the foundation of my support and encouragement is no longer. That's not to say I have no one, but she was my go to person.

Mother's Day hasn't been easy for me for my entire adult life as I have a rather complicated relationship with my own mother. There are never cards that capture our tenuous relationship. I think the only thing to celebrate is that against the odds we actually have some form of relationship. I don't have a mother to lean on when my life is challenging, because when I do put myself out there and share my vulnerability my mother always finds a way to make it about her. This always results in my regretting being vulnerable and feeling worse than if I had said nothing at all. I was so jealous to hear of friends who had good relationships with their mother's and even more envious when my friends had babies and their mothers would come stay with them and help, because I knew I would never have that.

 I have done a lot of work to overcome to impacts of my relationship with my mother, in hopes of not just improving myself, but also in hopes of shifting things for future generations. I have felt the pain, I have opened my heart to understanding my mother did the best she could with what she had, and that it was a pattern established before her. Even in the moments of extreme discomfort and wanting to walk away I have persevered to maintain some form of relationship with her. That growth taught me a lot, and showed me glimpses of the mother I would want to be. I have dreamt of having a very different relationship with my daughter. One where she felt unconditional love and always knew she was enough. I wanted to be a soft place for her to land after a fall, and sit with her in the times when things feel so dark.

This year was different because we did a frozen embryo transfer just before Mother's Day, so I experienced an array of emotions, including hope. This time was different from previous times, because we had decided before the transfer that this would be our last one. Every time previous to this there was a hope that even if not his time then maybe next time. This time was different because there would be no next time.

The nearly two week wait from embryo transfer to pregnancy test is a difficult leg in the journey. This time it felt like the fork in the road of the life we dreamed of having with a child or life without a child. The only comfort we could feel was that we would finally know which path we were going to be walking.

Pregnancy test day came and I did all I could distract myself and get through the day until the results were in. Negative. Literally felt my heart shatter into a million pieces.

So, a new path is before us. We have no idea what that looks like, and quite frankly are just starting the journey to process this information and what that means to us. For now my mind is swimming with a lot of painful thoughts. We will never feel a baby kick, never get to use the names we had chosen, and never see parts of us in our own child staring back at us. Parenting is a privilege we will not get to experience.

I have been keeping to myself since I found out, but have told a few people (mostly family) of our current situation. If you know someone with fertility challenges please please please do not ever say it was not meant to be, or maybe it's for the better. As someone on the receiving end of that I have no words for the pain that inflicts.

I do feel very appreciative that I have had some friends check in on me & let me know they are thinking of me and that has been so appreciated. I was so touched by the friends who contacted me on Mother's Day to let me know that I was in their thoughts. It's especially touching when it's a day celebrating them and they take the time to give me some thought. I am grateful that I have some really great people in my life, and I am lucky to have them help support me as I try to navigate the road ahead.

Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but no more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the entire woman. ~Maya Angelou

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Home

Last week I went for a walk along the seawalk. I took some time to sit & enjoy the beach, and then carried on along the path. Before I knew it I had walked nearly 6 kilometers, and the light of the day was fading, so I knew it was time to turn around and head for home. Sunny days bring people down to the beach and there were numerous beach fires along the way, with the smell of the smoke lingering in the air. I watched a heron waking along the shoreline, stopped to see the fish jumping in the creek, and observing others enjoying all the beach has to offer.



I could catch the faint smell of salt that anyone who lives on the coast knows all too well. That smell becomes a part of you when you grow up here. I hadn't noticed it until I moved away from the coast, and when I returned, there reached a point as I got closer to the coast that I could smell the ocean air. That smell feels like home to me, it's in my bones.


One of my favourite things about living here is all the eagles. If your eyes are looking, you will see them everywhere.

 I could hear a unique sound but couldn't place what it was.
I looked a little harder and found this dove in a monkey tree.

I find as I walk I can often get lost in my thoughts. I have been thinking a lot about returning to my home town and all that comes with it. I reflected on the feeling of being at home and the comfort that comes with the familiarity. I still have mixed feelings about being here, and I am sure to appreciate the natural beauty this place has to offer. 

It has been a rough few weeks and being near the ocean gives me a moment of peace. I have gotten quite comfortable in the darkness in this cycle of continual grief. Not only do I continue to grieve over Amy, but every time a fertility cycle fails I grieve, over, and over, and over again. Life carries on, and we are in this continual cycle trying no to get overwhelmed by the outer world just carrying on an usual.

Sometimes I feel like life is dragging me along, but when I go to the beach I am just there, fully present. I suppose it's the in-between on the continual loop of the fertility journey and the outer world of life just carrying on.

Last month we went over to the sunshine coast to visit my sweetie's family. It's a scenic trip that always involves waiting for ferries. While there we went up to the cemetery to spend some time there.

While there we had our first Airbnb experience. The off season has some great prices, and we got an entire ocean front house, for less then the cost of a hotel room. This place was located in Halfmoon Bay, which is a lovely area.



While we were over there we spent some time up at the cemetery. In the fall we had planted bulbs around the edges of the grave where Amy's ashes are buried, and at the bottom of the hill I could see the yellow poking up. The crocuses has recently finished, but the daffodils were fully out and the grape hyacinths were beginning to come out. I would like to plant the same daffodils at home, then when they come out at home I will know they are also up at the cemetery.

 I was in town with my mother today, and we ran into someone she knew, so we stopped and she introduced me. This woman and my mom were talking about their kids, and the differences in there kids ages as my mom has a 39 & 34 year old and this lady who is the same age as my mom has  2 kids both younger then my brother and I. They were talking about the benefits of having kids young & older, and it was interesting to observe them chat away (at least until I became the conversation). Then the lady commented on how my mom must have grandchildren. My mom replied that my brother has 2 boys, but that I can't have children. As I was standing their they proceeded to talk about how lucky I am that I have the freedom to do what I want, and not have anyone dependent on me. My mom must have noticed my level of discomfort and then said well it was easy for them to say that because they both have kids. My mom talked about my awesome husband and how great we are together an the lady said that must be because we have no kids,  and then they were back to why I was so lucky to be free. After my mom and this woman parted ways, I asked my mom to please just leave it at me not having kids, because it's up to me who knows why I do not have kids and how I respond to that. She understood and apologized, but I have carried that conversation with me since.  Let me tell you I would give you my 'freedom', most prized possessions, or ANYTHING really (other then my husband because he's my number 1) to have my own child. Maybe if it had been my choice I would be lucky, but it is not my choice. 

 I was recently talking to a friend who had some curiosities about my blog and why I started it. Previous to this conversation I hadn't given much though to how much this blog has evolved and shifted. It started off as a way to document my journey to trying to live a healthier life, and it provided me with some level of accountability. More recently this blog has shifted to sharing bits and pieces of my grief and loss process, and well as my fertility journey. This is logical given when in the process of fertility treatments it takes over your life, and it has been the centre of 3 years of my life so it's hard to ignore. It also deeply impacts my mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health. I have noticed that I keep trying to include some of the food I am making at home, but I think I may stray from that. So if you are here for some food ideas & recipes, that will still be here, but you will not find it in every post. If you are here to read my perspective on the grief and loss process, or the challenges around fertility that will still be here too. Sometimes it may be one sometimes the other. I figure it all relates to my imperfect attempt to live a healthier life. And I must say through this fertility journey, there have been times when cooking has been the only thing keeping me sane!

Some things I have in mind for upcoming blog posts include sharing some insights on how our relationship has endured 3 years of fertility treatments, and not only has it endured but is solid as a rock. I would like to share a bit about why I think we are still going strong, if not stronger then ever. Another planned post is on food prep. When I am about to start a round of fertility treatments I try to get the house squeaky clean and do lots of food prep as I know I will be feeling tired and uninspired, as well as pressed for time with all the travel that comes with it. I have some other ideas rattling around in my brain and will see how they develop. So stay tuned!


She understood that the hardest times in life to go through were when you were transitioning from one version of yourself to another. ~Sarah Addison Allen

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Keep On Keepin' On

Since my last post I have continued to think a lot about my body, and how my perspective about it has changed throughout this journey. I truly hope my appreciation for my body returns, but I'm certainly not anywhere near there. This process is one that has shifted my body in many ways, some of which will never be the same again. The weight gain from the medications, the constant look of tired black circles under my eyes that at times feel like dark trenches, my face randomly breaking out like a teenager in puberty, the bruises from injections, the single crazy hair that seems to keep coming back under my chin, the light layer of hair across my belly that wasn't there before, the uncomfortable bloating in my stomach that never seems to go away. They all suck! I can often dress to minimize the weight gain and bloating, but my clothes are getting worn and my options get fewer and fewer as I haven't' wanted to buy any clothes because who knows what my body will look like 6 months from now and whether I will gain or lose weight. Hell these days I am just living in pyjamas or sweat pants to avoid having to deal with what to wear. Makeup helps with the tired eyes and acne, I am constantly keeping my eye out for that chin hair's inescapable return, and if it gets too long before I notice it, my poor sweetie hears about how he should have told me it was there (he isn't looking for it, and loves me chin hair and all). I have just accepted the additional body hair and bruises because it's not anyone even sees my midriff.  So it's not just the dignity of the process that occurs in a fertility centre, but an ongoing process, that nearly 3 years later I am wearing pretty tired of.

This journey is unlike any challenge I have had to face, and I think a big part of that isn't just the process, it's also because of the sense of isolation you feel. Very few people are aware of the ongoing journey we have been through, and since it is the center thing in our lives from which all other things revolve I don't have a lot else to talk about. Frankly after nearly 3 years, I am tired of it being the centre of our life and I am tired of talking about it. That doesn't help with the feeling of isolation...

It's all so exhausting I often find myself just avoiding people and contact all together. There are a few people in my life I can visit and talk about it, and I love getting to hear what they are up to and it's also a welcome distraction from my life.  I have such an appreciation for their ability to handle what must be the discomfort of how to be a friend to someone going through a challenging fertility journey. What I appreciate the most is that when I disappear for periods of time, they are gracious and we just pick up where we left off, because they know that's just how I am coping when things get overwhelming. When I am in the thick of a protocol and all that comes with it, all my energy is focused on that, and when I am emotionally in a dark place I prefer to keep the darkness to myself rather than spread my negativity.

 Most days I try to make the best of the days, but just managing to get through the day and the encounters I will speak to in  moment can make getting through the day even more challenging. I have been getting out more, which inevitably means running into people I haven't seen since I moved away 12 years ago.  I had been staying home trying to avoid those encounters because they drain me emotionally, and I get enough of them with the mandatory grocery shopping because hey a girls gotta eat! Every single time I get asked if I have kids, it's inevitable. This past week I ran into someone who asked if I had kids and I said no, to which they replied, "oh you decided not to have any?" (please, don't ever say that to anyone, EVER, mostly because it's no one's business) without thinking I reacted and said actually I can't have kids, thinking that would be the end of it. Of course with  someone who would actually ask you if it was a choice, it's not the end of it. Then after the awkwardness becomes thick, I get to hear all about their kid's kids. This is the moment I wonder if my glazed over look is noticeable or if I have become an expert at hiding that too. That was only one of my encounters similar to that this week.

 I also had a more positive encounter, I was asked if I had any kids or fur babies, which was a first. At first I was surprised by this question, but then I got to say I have 3 cats and could tell I was talking to a fellow pet lover, so it was quite refreshing.  Afterward I pondered that question. I have fur balls at home, and it felt validating that I have a 'family', what if I had said no? I would have felt like my family of myself and my sweetie wasn't validated.

Just a suggestion, but another way to approach when you haven't seen someone for a long time is to ask how their family is. Then they get to define who their family is. If they don't mention kids they probably don't have any, because I have yet to run into a parent who doesn't mention their kids. I don't say that in a way that pokes fun at parents or is critical, parents are generally proud of their kids and have every right to be, so it will come up. And if it doesn't it's probably a topic to steer clear of. They will bring it up if they want to. If asked how my family is I would mention my sweetie, my parents, and my brother's family, and I would be quite happy to let you know how they all are. And you could read between the lines that I don't have kids, which is really all the information you need to know.

Curiosity doesn't mean a person has a right to know, and regardless my sense of dignity, at least what's left of it (see my last blog post for more on that) overrides your curiosity. You don't need to or have a right to know why I don't have kids, or whether it is by choice or because of my failing reproductive system. That is my own business, not yours. And if I want to talk about the struggles that have come with that I will, although it is highly unlikely, it is even more unlikely if I am asked probing questions.

Dealing with the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual impacts of ongoing fertility treatments is exhausting, and adding to it, with what seems like small interactions for the other person that would be meaningless to someone else can knock your feet our from under you. When you are going through fertility treatments it consumes your life, everything is planned around it and if you're not in the thick of it, you are thinking about what's ahead, or the ache in your heart for what you long so deeply for. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about it, it's just a matter of how much of the space it consumes.

I like to spend time at the beach, because it helps me feel more grounded. When I feel grounded I feel like I can manage the curve balls life throws my way. Its been nice to see the signs of spring; the flowers, the sunshine, the warmer temperatures. It makes it more desirable for a fair weather girl like me to want to spend time outdoors.



I continue to focus on what I can control and have really been enjoying my time in the kitchen. We have been getting into the habit of having breakfast for dinner when my sweetie is between night shifts. Breakfast seems more fitting for when he wakes up and has to eat before work, and I love breakfast any time of day! I made his fav poached egg with dairy free hollandaise I have shared on this page many times. This time I put sliced avocado, sauteed spinach and shiitake mushrooms on the toast, then the poached egg, and smoked fish that I canned. Then I topped it off with the hollandaise. I could eat some version of this breakfast every day!

I poached halibut in veggie broth and cooking wine, I sprinkled it with tarragon. This was served alongside steamed carrots and cauliflower, and mushroom rice which I added green peas to.

I made a fettucini alfredo with prawns, carrots, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, and frozen peas.

My all time favourite crockpot recipe is my sweeties whole chicken with a delicious rub. He has two different rub recipes he uses.  This time it was: 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp thyme, 1 tsp white pepper, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 2 tsp sea salt. Rub it on and let the crockpot do the rest. It makes a delicious gravy hen you pull the chicken out of the crockpot and skim the fat. We like to saute sliced crimini mushrooms and add the our gravy. We love mushrooms and add them to pretty much everything:)

Chicken dinner with mashed potatoes & kale, steamed green beans and asparagus, and gravy with mushrooms. Mmm mmmm mmm

I am about to start this book, Avalanche, by  Julia Leigh.  It is a a fertility story that I am sure I will work my way through rather quickly. I will let you know how it is.

We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face... we must do that  which we think we cannot. ~Eleanor Roosevelt

Monday, March 5, 2018

Trying to Stay Sane

I have been reflecting a lot and writing about the process of how I have felt my sense of dignity slowly erode as I have gone through the process of this fertility journey. I found myself pondering the ways in which my body, which I used to have such an appreciation for, has shifted to resentment that I feel so strongly.  It's hard not to feel like your body is failing you when it isn't doing the one thing biology has told you it should be able to do so naturally. And every day I wake up wondering what kind of day my body is going to have. There are days I don't even recognize my body.
The last round of IVF I actually said what I was thinking out loud (that comes with the exhaustion of fertility treatments, you lose your ability to filter and keep those thoughts in your head, oops did I just say that out loud!?!). The new nurse came in for my internal ultrasound, a procedure I have had more times that I can even count, and I actually said, "Oh great someone who hasn't yet seen my vagina!" Awkward... But we all got through it... I know the nurses and doctors do their best to be respectful of ones dignity and privacy, but there isn't a single part of this process that isn't totally physically invasive and you are at the peak of vulnerability.

My constantly bruised and swollen stomach is often the determining factor in what kind of day I am going to have. How much pain or discomfort do I have? Can I hide that much bloating, is there really an outfit for that? Is the discomfort at a level that I have to adjust or cancel my plans? Can I not have a panic attack while I jab numerous needles a day into that sore, swollen belly, please? I won't even go into the level of exhaustion, and emotional upheaval that comes with the medication.

I have been thinking a lot about the link emotions have to our body and how I have been carrying my grief. I decided it was time for a change and to let go of the heaviness my hair was carrying, so 7 inches gone... It definitely feels lighter and better, although I miss the laziness of throwing it into a ponytail, haha. I plan on going even shorter, but having had really short hair previously I know it is higher maintenance with regular cuts and I am not ready for that yet. I joked with the doctor when he noticed I had cut my hair and said, you know what they say, if you build it they will come, hence the mommy bob, he chuckled. I chose not to say that hair laying all over the floor carried away a lot of heart break and tears with it. Humour, a very important coping strategy I have deeply appreciated.


I really can't emphasize enough how lucky I am to have the spouse I have. I want to cut off my hair, or stay home for days in my pajamas because that's the only thing I can comfortably wear, I am not up for social activities because I am feeling emotionally drained from all the poking and prodding, or recent news that once again it didn't work, he's all hey no problem, is there anything I can do for you? I am having a meltdown and he drops everything and anything to comfort me. I truly feel like we are on this journey together, and I can't imagine not having him with me every step of the way. When I don't feel like living anymore, he gives me a reason to. This journey has been heart wrenching, but it has also brought us closer together. I must admit that before this process began we were solid, and that has only grown with the challenges we have come through. It's easy to see how couples could struggle through this process and even separate, but one thing and maybe the only thing I know for certain is that we are stronger then ever, and can get through anything so long as we have each other. He is what I am most grateful for, and I know that if this fertility journey that is coming to an end doesn't go as we hope, we will have each other and that is what is the most important.

These two fur balls always seem to know when I am having a rough day and surround me with their purring love. Sometimes they help bring me back to a space that is more mindful and present, which makes it easier to see my gratitude for the little things. Hard to beat kitty cuddles and a cup of tea!

Cooking truly helps me stay grounded and gives me something positive to focus on as I try to create delicious meals that will nourish us. I find there is currently so much in my life I feel like I have no control over, but food gives me something I can control and yet be creative and have some fun with. Sometimes I totally flop and that's okay! Luckily I have sweetie who is very open to trying new things and eats anything I put in front of him with a smile on his face (for the most part). He never complains, even when I bomb a recipe or experiment, and just seems happy that I have gotten exploratory with food. When we met I was strictly a meat and potatoes kind of girl with limited options and no sense of adventure to try new things, so it has been quite a process of growth for me, one that has enhanced our life (or so I like to think).

This Slow Cooker Creamy Tomato Basil Tortellini Soup is a fav in our house! I have never liked tomato soup, but this recipe was a game changer for me.  It's an awesome crock pot dish, and you can change it up by using different tortellini. I have done it with cheese filled and prosciutto filled, and you can add as little or much of the tortellini as you like.  My fav is a large package of cheese tortellini. It make a large batch so as soon as the tortellini are cooked I scoop out single portions into containers for the freezer, and then leave enough out for 2 meals for the 2 of us. This time I didn't add the cream to the batch I put in the freezer, just the batch we were eating fresh. I like it even without the cream, so you can definitely get away with making this soup dairy free if that is your preference.  Just skip the cream and use beef or prosciutto filled tortellini, and don't garnish with grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Trust me it's delicious even without the dairy. The freshness of the basil is such a good pairing with the tomato and the texture of the tortellini sets it apart from standard tomato soup.

We serve it with fresh biscuits or some sliced foccacia bread dipped in oil & balsamic.

I threw together this Spaghetti Squash with Lentil Bolognese. I cut a spaghetti squash in half lengthwise and drizzle it with olive oil, sea salt, & pepper. I place it face down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I bake it at 375 degrees, but the cooking time really varies depending on the size of your squash. I just check it every 20 minutes or so to see how tender it is and how easy the strands pull apart from the edges.  Once cooked through I let it sit for about 10 minutes & then scrape out the insides with a fork onto a cutting board.  While the squash was in the oven I fried up some diced onion, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, and celery, and when tender added 2 cans of tomato sauce, a can of lentils, Italian seasoning, seas salt, & pepper to taste, and if I have it on hand (which I did this time) a genreous handful of fresh chopped basil.  It can simmer until the squash is ready. This could also be done in a crock pot with dried lentils you just may want to add some extra liquid such as stock of your choice. The flavours could meld together beautifully cooking all day in a crock pot.  Some days I plan ahead for meals other days, not so much, and this is a good one for those days because I generally have all the ingredients on hand.

I like to serve it with some fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. A little tip: we get a block of Parmigiano Reggiano at Costco and I grate it and keep it in the freezer in a ziplock bag and take out what I need when I need it.


Baked Pork Tenderloin  and Cabbage Wedges with Onion Dijon Sauce , were delicious and we will be having them again.

We had these alongside some roasted carrots, beets, and cauliflower. I just love to roast any and all veggies. I just toss them in olive oil seas salt & pepper, and pretty much every veggie comes out tasting awesome when roasted in the oven at about 400 degrees!

This one is a long standing recipe in our house.  I have been making it 3-4 times a year for the past 5 years of so, Turkey Meatballs & Cranberry Gravy. I like to use ground chicken instead of turkey, but that's just a personal preference, both work with this recipe. We had the meatballs with mashed potatoes, steamed green beans, and roasted brussel sprouts. I made enough for 2 nights and the leftovers were just as good as the first night. I will also make just the meatballs and use them in a pita with tzatziki and veggies, or make them into patties for burgers. They are quite versatile and can also be kept prepared in the freezer for a quick grab dinner!

I've learned a lot this year... I've learned that things don't always turn out the way you planned or the way you think they should. And I've learned that there are things that go wrong that don't always get fixed or put back together the way they were before. I've learned that some things stay broken, and I've learned that you can get through bad times and keep looking for better ones, as long as you have people who love you. ~Jennifer Weiner