The 50/50 chance

As today is Throwback Thursday, a social media made actual thing, it’s natural for me to think back… or as the name instructs – throwback. So I throwback to last year. It was around this time in 2015 that I fell pregnant. Apparently a little weekend off the grid can do wonders.

But as my little miracle lies sleeping this afternoon at exactly 14 weeks old, my throwback today is actually a sad one. Maybe its today’s not so sunny weather. Maybe its because she was around 14 weeks in my tummy when it happened, but today, and often, I can’t help but think of the day that she was given a 50/50 chance.

Discovering I was pregnant was truly overwhelming. We had given up even imagining that it would actually happen. But when it did, we told a few close friends and family in excitement and did the required and waited for our big scan before we made the ‘big announcement’. I had baked cookies, muffins and a cake for the office. I had planned the group whatsapp message to our friends. All we needed was the ok from the doc. We had had 6 scans already – weekly from 6 weeks due to our fertility history, so we were fairly confident week 13’s scan would be fine.

Instead… that doctor gave us a 50/50 chance of a healthy baby. That’s a 1 in 2 chance that she’d be unhealthy. She prepared us for the very worst as she ran additional tests and checked, and rechecked our baby’s heart. Recalling that day, what was to be our big announcement day, my body goes a little numb and I feel lightheaded. My heart aches and my eyes sting again. It truly was the worst day of our lives. So much excitement turned into so much gut-wrenching disappointment in anticipation of a horrible outcome.

When I talk of Elle as a little miracle, she is in so many ways. Odds of 1 in 2, really aren’t favourable but after three days of what can only be described as an emotional hell while we waited, we received a call that told us the opposite of what we’d been preparing for. She was going to be ok.

And while Elle has a special heart that may look (and perhaps work?) a little differently to yours or mine – she is here. She is perfect. And she kicked those crappy odds’ butt.

I wouldn’t say the 6 months that followed that phone call were easy and that the health of my baby wasn’t on my mind every single day.  The day she was born and also her 6 week checkup have all been challenging with this tiny baby and her tiny little organs, but she is here. She is smiling. She is our daughter.

Elle Charlotte, you are destined for great things my baby girl. You were strong enough to hold on when the others didn’t. Strong enough to defy odds, even before you were born. I’m so excited to see how you’re going to be strong enough to tackle the adventures of life!

Time to remember

19 years ago my cousin was killed in a car accident.

She was only 16. She has been gone longer than she was here for.

While some might think that this post should be saved for the 20th anniversary, let me explain the significance of marking the 19th.

You see, my sisters 21st birthday was marred by the coma Samantha Jane was in while we waited for further news – which we received the day after – the machines had been switched off and our young cousin had passed away. As we approach my sisters 40th birthday, I can’t help but remember Sam. Not that I don’t remember her often, talk about her, and bring her into topics as much as I can, but this time of year (and especially this year), it seems heightened. The memory of her.

She was a wild one – an artist, an adventurer. She was creative and whimsical, confident and fashionable. She was only 16. And it had been 6 months since I had last seen her when we received that phone call. We were due for a family get together the following weekend. We were just waiting for her to get back from camp.

And then just like that. She was gone.

While I can’t begin to go into what her death did to her parents (she was an only child) or how hard it was for me personally, just a 15 year old, to really come to terms with her death – it does make me think about when people leave. For good. Or for sort of good.

I know that absence makes the memory kinder. As time goes past we always look back favourably on someone who has left. Somehow the fights become insignificant. The differences, the arguments, the stubbornness – it all fades away and all that you recall are happy, laughing, champagne drinking times (I got drunk for the first time with Sam as only a 13 year old and a 14 year old could – at Christmas. At the kids table). The memory of someone is a haze of happiness. But even that haze fades. (In my memory, we were best friends, although I know we actually weren’t). You go from thinking of them often (daily) to then sometimes months without giving them any thought.

A friend of mine lost her dad in April 2003. I only recall the date because it was the day of my graduation and I called her for advice on what to wear – to which she responded that her dad had passed away. Shit I felt awful. I miss her dad. He was amazing. I know she misses him too. I can’t even begin to imagine how much. We talk about him every April.

Memories of people, like the haze, fades. They fade if we don’t relive them. They fade if there’s nothing to remind us. I remember Sam like she is lying on the bed next to me right now reading over my shoulder. But of course – I don’t really remember her at all. Its been 19 years. I can’t hear her voice, and I can’t see her. I have a photo of her. And I have that photo ingrained in my mind, and that is how I see her when I think of her. In a non-moving picture that was about a year before she passed away.

No one in my life today knows Sam. Mark knows our stories. My old friends may recall her. But they don’t really remember her like I do. My sisters ofcourse remember her, but they weren’t our age. They were older – and we were the kid cousins. My memory of her has become a happy haze, but one that is fading.

I want to talk about Sam to people. I want to talk about Ashley (my friend’s dad) to her. I want to talk about every single  person that has left. Even the ones that haven’t passed away, and that perhaps I just don’t see anymore. I want to talk about people that have been in my life. I want my memories of them to be able to live on. I want to be able to reminisce about them. About times with them. I want to not let the haze fade. I don’t want to forget them.

When you say goodbye to someone, you never expect it to be forever. Even if it is in theory (like you’re leaving a job, a school, a country) – you always expect there to be another time you’ll see them. Except when they’re gone for good and you actually have no one that remembers them with you. They’ll slowly fade from your memory too.

So forgive me while I reminisce about Sam, about the importance of her 16 years on earth and her cherry doc martens that I loved to borrow. About Ashley, the niknaks and steri-stumpie on a Friday night dad who looked a lot like Jesus, and about all the very special people that have come, gone, come back, or are gone for good. Its that time of year, and this is what I do. I need to make time to remember, so that it all doesn’t fade.

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Yes, I just included another quote from Greys Anatomy. What can I say – they make good content

Infertility – the head and the heart

No one tells you how it really is. What your mind really thinks. The dark places you visit. The options you consider.

Infertility. No one really talks about it.

Sure there are forums with people talking about TTC, who are 6 DPO or in their 2WW – the acronyms never end. My best being BD. Baby Dance. Seriously – they’ve acronymised sex of the good old fashion variety, to BABY DANCE.  (At the risk of sounding white girl in my 20’s – I can’t even!) There are books written and stories told of people who battled for years (with inevitable happy endings of adoption, surrogacy or falling pregnant naturally).

But the truth of the head and the heart during infertility? This is hardly ever shared. Discussed. For risk of judgement. For lack of understanding. Only those who have been there may know. And to be honest, even then. Not everyone is the same. Your own personality, your partners’, your willingness to share, the opinion’s and thoughts of the person you decide to share with – all these may affect the places you will go.

Oh, the dark places you will go.

This year, I started being a little more honest about the facts of IVF procedures… about what happens and about levels of disappointment and sadness. I think it helped friends and family – it became easier for everyone to talk about infertility (and pregnancies) in conversations without skirting around the subject (and me). Some people think they understand now. Some may liken it situations they have faced too, in an attempt to make it personal and understand it. But actually, there is no understanding any of it.

Not getting something you’d like, or feeling left out, isn’t the same as the struggle of infertility. It isn’t the same as struggling with invasive procedures, tests, needles, blood work and the doctors appointments, not to mention the never ending bills. Bills of R3k at the end of an appointment that no longer shock you. You simply swipe that Discovery Card and wonder if your voyager miles are at least racking up for a flight to Bloem (as thats as far as they take you). But all those are the physical parts. Its the emotional that is hard to make tangible.

No one could possibly understand the deep deep sadness that consumes you. Defines you. For years. Even during the moments when you’re actually happy, there is guilt that then controls you. Takes over. Sets you back under a dark cloud.

There are ted talks on Infidelity, on making hard choices (both great talks worth watching even if they’re completely not applicable to you. Except, they’re probably applicable to everyone you just don’t know it) but you’d think there’d be one on how to cope with Infertility. There isn’t.

So here’s my Ted Talk.

Infertility will fuck you up.

Say what you like, read all the forums you want.Think what you want to think. If you think it won’t, you’re lying to yourself. It changes your entire perception on everything.

Love. Marriage. Commitment. Relationships. Friendships. Life. Living. Breathing. God.

Infertility makes you question everything. It makes you question your life choices.  Marriage and commitment. Why? What is the point if not, afterall, to be able to provide a stable home and loving and committed environment to raise children in. Why do we actually even get married? For love? Ok, sure… but we all know that fades and wades in time. Marriage is part of building your future with someone. Wanting to spend every day with them and grow old with them. You choose them, not the family you may have with them. (I’ve said these words myself… to myself and to others).

All good and well – in theory. When the future turns out pretty much how we anticipated, marriage makes logical sense.  But what if that future and growing old doesn’t? Coping with the fact that you are committed to someone whose dreams are shattered just as your own are, adds another completely irrational level to the thoughts running through your mind. The face and eyes of the person who made you so happy, remind you of your perpetual sadness. And don’t be naive to think that you don’t remind them of their sadness too.

An obstacle to happily ever after.

Why monogamy? Traditionally we relied on fidelity to know who the father of your children was (stolen straight from Esther’s Ted Talk). So with infertility – why not open relationships? Where there will no boredom and you can seek out fulfillment of different needs from different people. We do it within friendships. Why is it different in marriage?

An open marriage? This thought will make you cringe, dear monogamous, married and fertile reader. Because unless you’ve visited this dark place – this is something you’d never have considered. You never wanted to love or be with anyone else again? None of us did. This is the vow we made that day in front of everyone. But when your view on love, and on life and on happiness is crushed – how do you think you seek out fulfilment?

Love, sex, drugs (and rock n roll). Ok, it may also be work, wine, travel, (and shopping?). Things to numb your reality. Numb your pain.

And through the numbing and with the vices you may choose… You lose yourself. You lose all sense of yourself. Your lines between right and wrong, life and death all blur. And you don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Because you don’t feel anything anyway.You don’t recognize the tear-stained face in the mirror. You don’t recognize the heart that has shut people, friends or family, out. But worse, you don’t even recognize that you’ve changed.

The process is gradual. It doesn’t happen overnight. Years of struggling with anything will do that to you. Without even knowing how, the years pass and you ask yourself ‘who am I even?’ I’m not that person who said ‘I do’ filled with all the faith that your existence would be a normal one as we’d dreamt of – of marriage, kids, family Christmas’ and growing old with grand kids. Its destitute now. Its an empty future. A future sometimes, you don’t even see yourself being around for.

You question life. The point of it. You question God. If you ever believed in Him to start with. You fall out of sync with anyone in your current existence, and dream of escape. Escape from the life you dreamt of having. Escape from your reality.

Oh, the dark places you will go in your head and your heart with the infertility struggle.

While I’m talking about infertility, I’m not so selfish to believe that struggles with life-threatening or fatal diseases couldn’t push you to the same or similar dark places. I also know that having children is not all that, or that parenthood may also damage your relationship as much as it may reward it. I also know that some may suffer infertility and not question leaving their marriage or abandoning life. In fact, some may even draw closer to God, their husbands/wives, or friends, godchildren and family. Some may read this, and have no idea what I’m talking about. I envy you.

Others may have varying degrees of fucked up thoughts and feelings. Some may act on these. Some may never.

Lets, be honest – this is a fairly kak Ted Talk if I were to be giving it. Mostly because I don’t have a point. And shouldn’t there always be one? So I’ll try.

You don’t know these dark places, and you should be grateful for that. But you should also not judge nor try and understand them. Don’t identify with them. Don’t try and make the story of an infertile into your story so that you can understand it better. Be grateful you haven’t faced it, and be silent in what you think you know about struggling. Walk 5 or 10 years in the shoe of an infertile and you’ll realise their decisions, their choices, their view on the world is no longer their own. Its a manifestation of a deep-rooted and incurable pain.

Infertility is learning to manage your pain. But knowing it never goes away.

Much like a back injury. Except with a lot more fuckeduped’ness. Which is a word when I need it to be.

 

September was busy

(From September 2015. One of those pending drafts I may have mentioned. Just published). 

September 1st and Spring day was spent in the rain, on the third day of a 2 day Summer TV shoot in Robertson. You know, Robertson. The place in the winelands that is always hot. Except when you’re shooting your Summer TV ad. Then it rains. And is muddy. Muddy and cold.

The chaos at the end of August, spilled into the start of September. By chaos I just mean work really, and lots of it as we tried to roll out a summer campaign in minimal time.

But I did this.

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This is a (local) celeb. His names is Maps, and don’t worry – I didn’t know who he was either until this year. I got to hang with him in the rain in Robertson.

Two days back in the office, and I was off again. Weekend away to Kogelberg Nature Reserve. I only booked that about 6 months in advance. This isn’t even one of those large exagerrations, promise. I really did (its popular like that. Its also worth the advance booking).

The timing of a weekend away was crap with everything at work… but perfect with some actual Spring weather.

We wine-tasted. (And took tipsy selfies)
We hiked. Walked. Ok we walked. (And took top of the world moments that failed)

We slept. And we read. And we drank some more.

In September we also had breakfast with friends, we entertained guests from the UK, we visited newborns (well, I did), we attended babyshowers (again, all me actually). We drank some more wine, because for every action (gym session) there’s a reaction (glass of wine) so that the universe is in balance.

And then this happenend.

What the actual F!!!

So I checked it again. Three times.

Just me, or is that little line getting darker?

THIS IS THE MOST PREGNANT I HAVE EVER BEEN!

Do not freak out! Do not freak out!

And while I toyed with trying not to freak out, going to get a blood test and working out how on earth this actually happened (without a biology lesson) after 5 years of it never happening (not even once), I remembered to sms a friend on his birthday and found the last message he sent me.


Never a truer word spoken.

(I also believe he may have misused the word intuition. But I’m not judging right now).

The child I may never know

You’ll have your father’s way with a paintbrush. And mine with x + y’s (and other scientific, mathematic or logistical equations – otherwise that was money poorly spent!). I hope you have our wanderlust. You’ll have my co-ordination to move on pointes, and your dad’s to move in adidas.

You’ll dance. I really hope you’re good at it. But even if you’re not, I hope you always do it. I hope that you dance in the car when the radio plays your best song even if it means awkwardly getting seen by people in the car next to you. I hope you know that if it wasn’t for dancing, and a Jamiroquai song – your dad and I would never have been together.

You’ll struggle to choose between Stellenbosch University and UCT. But I hope you choose one of them, and don’t pick Rhodes or something too far away from us. I hope its Stellenbosch, so that you know where it all started. And I hope you do honours at UCT. So you get the best of both worlds.

You’ll walk down the aisle on your dad’s arm in a dress that is truly you – even if its in colour, short, or has no frills or fuss. You’ll wait patiently at the end of the aisle for your bride with all of our support. Either way, I hope you don’t do it too early, but that when you do – its because you fell into the magical kind of love that makes you want to dance in the rain together and lie on your back under the stars and talk all night. I hope that I am able to graciously let you go as you start a new family when you marry. I hope I don’t become that MIL, but I hope you know how hard that will be.

You’ll have one Romeo & Juliet type love. And I hope you’ll know that this type of love affair always ends badly. But its still worth experiencing.

You’ll know the importance of talking. And I hope you’ll base all your relationships on the meeting of minds, your ability to communicate openly and honestly with a person… amongst other things of course.

You’ll make mistakes. Sometimes they’ll be on purpose. Sometimes they’ll be an accident. You will be forgiven by those who really love you. And those that don’t forgive, are better off not in your life any more.

You’ll break the rules as a kid, and we’ll catch you out and you’ll probably regret it. You’ll break the rules as an adult. And you’ll know that sometimes, its worth it.

You’ll smile at personal jokes and laugh at inopportune times. You’ll make others laugh with you. You’ll realise early that you have plenty to smile about, as every day we’ll smile at you – our greatest gift.

For all the things I know you’ll be and do, I already love you. Even though I may never get to meet you.

The third time

A year ago today, we started our third, and last try at IVF.

I remember this because the news that we were all systems go hit us like a (shock) wave. We were still marginally hungover from the party we’d had the weekend before, so when Prof said my body was responding (must’ve been all that wine) – I’m not even sure I really heard him through the cottonwool in my ears.

The memory, like most of them, is a sad one to look back on. (The hangover of the same size that I’m sporting today doesn’t help). Its sad, because even on this third attempt at IVF, and after the 8 IUI’s before that, we really believed this was it. We always believe this is it.

When it wasn’t, in fact, it (again) – I truly believed that all would come crumbling down. And that ‘we’, as the ‘we’ we were – would not in fact make it at all. But here we are. And we’re still ‘we’. There is still only two of us (humans anyway), but like they say, its going to be ok.

3 days

A snapshot. Three days. A view into a cycle. This was over a year ago. People may have wondered why all the tears back then. They didn’t know. They couldn’t. I still cry when I read my own words because it feels like it was yesterday. These were some of the hardest moments to go through. 

A pass/fail moment

**written on 24 June 2014. I never finished that book I was reading**

I only recently read the term a pass/fail moment. I never really saw it as that – it’s funny how you can adopt the thoughts of another and not even realise you have.
I’ve also never hated my inside of my body – the outside, sure – I’ve had a love/hate on/off affair for ages – but the inside, I’ve never considered being distasteful to my ovaries or my uterus. Today I had that thought.
To be honest, it was an adoption from the book I’m reading. The one that is painfully close to home, the one that painfully describes every feeling and emotion I have failed to document but have felt all the same, but also the story that is not my own. And I’m trying to acknowledge that the thoughts I have today, are not in fact all my own.

Today did feel like a fail on our journey. This is the first fail I’ve felt to be honest. Every other step seemed to have gone as I, we, the professionals expected. Today did not.
Scan 1, day 8, shit loads of drugs between day 3 and today, and only 4 follicles. All on the right. The left has just stopped working it appears.

A low responder. That’s the category I’ve been put into now. One needing individual special attention. Why I couldn’t get that from the beginning I don’t know – it’s not like I’ve already spent close to R100k on this whole debacle. (I have in fact spent that. That’s the same as an overseas holiday to a destination I’ve been craving for years. It’s also more than a swimming pool. It’s also the deck, the chairs, the renovations. Well look, it’s a lot of things. Except it’s not. It’s R100k worth of tears).

So, now we wait. For next steps, for a sign.

And all I gotta do is sit around and wait
And all I gotta do is not anticipate

That’s harder than Newton Faulkner makes it sound.

Bloods Day

**25 June 2014. Bloods day**

Day 9 and it’s time to get my blood tests on. Basically, I do this a lot. First thing in the morning – head over to Pathcare, take a seat and be asked “is this your first time?” (Err, no – I was here last month), “Have your details changed?” (Nope, but you still have my husbands phone number wrong), ok take a seat. (Gee thanks, flicks through a home decor magazine).

The nurse gives me the same drill each time “when you stop thinking about it, that’s when it’ll happen” – yes thanks nurse. Or better “you’re still so young” – really? Because I don’t feel fucking young? I feel tired and exhausted from having that needle in my arm every day between day 9 and 14.

Bloods day is especially fun when they can’t get the vein to work. “Ooh, looks like this one has collapsed, let me try that again” – makes prick in other arm.

I used to be ok with needles, blood tests, doctors rooms. Now, I close my eyes like a child and try not to cry as yet another needle goes in. I don’t watch the blood fill the little tubes with my name and ID number on them. I just silently pray (or wish) that whatever hormone they’re testing for today, is at the level it should be, doing what it should be doing.

I make a joke as I leave, something about seeing them soon and holding thumbs. They laugh, I laugh. I walk out the hospital that feels too familiar. People should not have to be so familiar with hospitals around Cape Town. People should not have to have blood tests this often. People should not have to know every day what day of their cycle they’re on or what exactly their follicles and uterine lining are doing.

But I do. And tomorrow, we scan again.

Cancelled

** 26 June 2014. And the last documented chapter of this (part) of my story. My second IVF. There were more. I stopped writing for a while after this. Some may say the wheels came off for a bit. Others may say I just had a little wobble**

Cancelled.

And I think I’m ok about it.
Look, it’s not ideal and not what I had revved myself up for (I was rather looking forward to the best nap ever – deep sedation will give you that). But yep, there it is. Stop spending money on this this month. Instead we try a new, different, more personalised approach next month.

Keep trying. Not quitting.