When to call it quits.

I didn’t anticipate how different or challenging trying to conceive a second child would be. And as the name of this post suggests, we’re now at a point where we don’t know whether to call it a day and move on or continue this heartbreaking process. At the very minimum, we will be taking a break.

For some reason, this time around, I didn’t have much desire to document all the steps to getting pregnant like I did when we were trying for Oscar. Partly because I simply didn’t really have the time but also because it didn’t seem necessary. I honestly thought it would be a very similar story to conceiving our son. Of course, I was wrong.

At the start of the year when I first stepped foot back inside the fertility clinic, I was hit with the familiar smell, exact furniture and many of the same faces, that I was years earlier. All the memories came rushing back. I was excited and confident because I knew the process, I knew what to expect.

But as time went on, the butterflies and excitement left me. They were replaced instead with a feeling of numbness. I would pass women in the corridors of the fertility blood clinic, some looking nervous, some excited but most of them looking just like me. Forlorn and sad, feeling a bit like cattle in some sort of processing line. Getting in and out as fast as we could, hiding our anxiety and trying not to show any emotion. The nerves I had on each drive to the hospital felt crippling and the tears I’d shed throughout embryo transfers were humiliating. Always desperately hoping that this would be the one that would bring us a positive pregnancy test.

Well, as I sit here, I am currently just over 6 weeks pregnant. Though, it’s not something I can celebrate as I’ve been told it won’t be for much longer. I’ve had bleeding, cramping, lower back pain and although my HCG continues to rise, it’s not doubling in the correct timeframe. My OB frightened me by saying that she strongly suspected an ectopic pregnancy so I was sent for an early ultrasoundat the beginning of the week. The scan was able to rule out ectopic pregnancy, which has been a huge relief but something is still very wrong. The sonographer said that the gestational sac IS in my uterus but it is measuring out of range and is appears ‘irregular’ for how many weeks I am. It was too small at that stage to see anything inside so we left with no real answer.

Of course I went home and consulted Dr Google while I waited for the actual doctor to call with her interpretation of the scan results. I found in my search that the term ‘irregular’  when speaking of gestational sacs if often used when it is likely that the sac is close to collapsing in on itself. When the OB finally called, she basically said that it is very unlikely that this pregnancy will be ongoing for much longer but until the HCG starts to decrease, I am to keep going with the oestrogen and progesterone meds and continue blood tests every few days. Unless of course I have a massive bleed, at which point I am meant to go to the early pregnancy unit at the Mater Hospital to confirm miscarriage. If I make it to next Thursday, another scan will be done but it is extremely unlikely that it will be positive. The OB thinks the end is near and when you combine the bleeding, cramping and low rising HCG, I have to completely agree.

I’m feeling really frustrated. There’s nothing I can do but wait. I can’t explain how much it aches to be stuck in this limbo phase of not even being able to start the healing process and move on. Physically, I can’t do anything too strenuous as my lower back and abdominal area are so sore, cramping on and off constantly.

We don’t have any frozen embryos left. So if we do decide to continue after having a break, we will be starting from the very beginning which scares me. I’m currently 4 years older than I was at my last egg collection, nearing my mid thirties now. A huge part of me worries that waiting and taking this break is risky but an even bigger part simply can’t continue with it all right now. I’m so drained – mentally, physically, emotionally, financially – you name it, I’m drained of it. I’m not ready to risk more heartache and pain right now so for the foreseeable future I’m going to try my best to focus purely on what I already have – my wife and the beautiful little boy that made me a Mummy.

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Photo by LJM Photography

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So what next?

We’re pretty much back into the normal swing of things around here and it feels strange and sad. Working. Parenting. Existing.

It’s a weird feeling to be here right now. In the time leading up to last months embryo transfer, everyday life felt different. There were nerves and excitement. We were making plans. It felt like we had an end game, we were heading in some kind of direction. And now we’re not.

A few days ago, we briefly spoke about when the right time might be to start another cycle but no decisions were actually made. It feels odd to not have a plan, not in a ‘I feel free’ kind of way but in a ‘I feel lost’ kind of way. Candice seems fine with not having any plans which makes sense as she already has so much on her plate. I can feel distance between us but with the way our life is structured at the moment (my work schedule, parenting Oscar, busy weekends) I’m not sure what we can do. So we’re just shuffling along, one foot in front of the other.

Oscar has been cute as always. His vocabulary continues to explode and his tiny sentences are getting longer and more frequent. He understands so much and it’s making our day to day lives easier. If I say we’re going to the park or for a walk, he says “I need my toots, Mummy” and will run and find his gumboots. He’s also become really familiar with emotions and recognises them in himself and in others.

One thing that we do find a struggle is convincing him that it is time for bed. He has no problem staying asleep once he drifts off and will deeply sleep right through until morning but that initial stage of getting him to stay in bed is long and painful. Candice has had enough and I think she has reached breaking point this week because she has to deal with it on her own due to me being at work. I’m talking 2+ hours of laying with him in the room, coaxing him to sleep. It hasn’t always been this way, for a while there is was taking closer to 30 mins. I’m not sure what but something has changed. Perhaps his daytime naps need to be shorter as at the moment he averages about a 2 hour midday stretch which is quite a long time. Now that he is able to understand us when we speak to him we are going to start leaving the bedroom lamp on and leaving the room for short periods of time. It will need to be a strict bedtime routine and will likely be – dinner, bath time, book, explaining that it is bed time, saying goodnight. Once he’s in bed, we’ll kiss him goodnight and tell him that we are going out now and will back in 5 minutes to check on him and that he needs to close his eyes and go to sleep. We 100% expect tantrums but at his age we know that he understands us and we’ll let him ease into this next phase. He’s so good at fake crying that if you hear it from another room, you would swear it was sincere. But the jokes on you, buddy. Just because you pull that whiny face and make the crying sound, you can’t force actual tears no matter how hard I see you try. Don’t worry, as soon as you do manage to squeeze out one tiny teardrop, I’ll be there to wipe it away in a heartbeat. We’re not thinking of this as a cry it out situation but more of a communication/negotiation situation. There will be no actual tears (I hope) and no lights out. There will be soft lamp light to begin with and eventually a dimmer nightlight. If it all fails, then we go back to laying with him until he falls asleep and try this again in 6 months when he is able to communicate even better. I have faith in him though, I think he’s a clever little kid.

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Sadness

I really wasn’t sure if i was going to share any of this. It’s all so personal and fresh but I think in some ways it might be therapeutic to write it all down and get it all out of my head.

As I mentioned recently, we have been ready to start trying for another baby. We decided to jump right in and do a February cycle. In retrospect, it was a terrible idea. I think we both knew deep down that it wasn’t the right month but for some reason we let the wheels keep turning and went ahead with it.

The first curveball was that my cycles have been so irregular for the past few months and so cycle day 1 came almost a week before we expected it to. It really took me by surprise and I didn’t quite feel ready but I went ahead but made the call to my doctor so she could start tracking ovulation via blood tests. Four blood tests later, we had our embryo transfer date booked and the nerves and excitement were setting in.

Throughout this, we had some awful news. Candice’s Mum was told that the doctors would be stopping chemo for the terminal cancer she has been living with as it was no longer working. The timeframe that they’ve given her Mum is devastatingly short at 6-8 weeks. We decided that Candice would go down to part-time at work, working 2 days a week so she would be able to spend those days off with her Mum. We should have called off the cycle at that point but again, that ball kept rolling.

Another set back we faced was that the childcare rebate for Oscar had reached its cap for this financial year, meaning that we are now paying full daycare fees which isn’t cheap. In fact, it’s the same as our weekly mortgage repayments and with Candice now working part-time, things are extremely tight. Still, we didn’t call it off. We reached into our pockets and handed over the $3000 for the cycle and transfer fees.

The next hurdle was realising when the due date would be if this embryo transfer worked. It would have been very early November and because I foolishly changed health insurance fund at the end of last year, all my waiting periods had reset. Meaning that if that baby came before the 31st August, my insurance wouldn’t cover me and we would be slapped with $8000 in hospital fees. So I was feeling quite tense about that. But again, we didn’t call of the cycle. The fees were paid, the date was set and our excitement was too much.

Finally the morning of the transfer came. We were relieved to find out that we still had 2 remaining embryos as the one they chose to transfer survived the thawing process. The actual transfer was horrendous. My doctor had a really difficult time getting through into the entry of the cervix as for some reason it was really tight. It felt like an eternity and they had to send the embryologist back into the other room with our embryo to keep it warm because it was taking so long. After a painful 5 minutes of her trying, she got through and they brought the embryo back and transferred it. I had been on night shift all night so I was able to go home and sleep for the rest of the day which was great but when I woke up, my throat was sore, I had a temperature and flu-like symptoms. I took paracetamol for the next few days to keep any fever down but I felt like absolute rubbish and was scared that getting sick was going to mess up any chance of the embryo sticking. When I took a home pregnancy test 10 days later and saw that there was a positive line, we were shocked. We actually didn’t believe it but a few days later the official blood test confirmed that yep, I was indeed pregnant.

The joy was short-lived though and it wasn’t long before we found out that the embryo stopped growing, my HCG levels started declining and I had lost the baby. The next few days were awful, just waiting for the cramps to start. For it all to be officially over. Yesterday morning it started and late last night it reached its peak. I had constant cramping and lower back pain that was so intense it had me in tears. Not because it was unbearable but because I was scared and didn’t know how long it was going to last. Candice wasn’t home as she was staying at her Mum’s place for the night and as I lay there doubled over in pain on the couch I thought about how fucked up this entire cycle was. It was as if the universe was trying to tell us it wasn’t the right time but we didn’t listen.

We’re going to take some time. We aren’t sure when we’ll try again but I think emotionally, we’re so spent at the moment. There’s just too much going on. I find myself asking if we would be okay with an only child if it came down to it. If our remaining 2 embryos don’t stick. If we are faced with having to start an entire IVF round again. It’s not something I really want to do but at the same time I can’t quiet the voice in my heart that wants a sibling for Oscar. It’s out of our hands anyway, clearly the universe is in charge.

 

Little boy, Oscar

In 6 weeks, our kiddo is going to being 2.5 years old. What a ride it’s been. I’ve haven’t done a general update for a while so here is a quick run down.

Overall, things are easy.

He communicates well and is a happy, active child. His health has been great and I actually can’t remember the last time he was sick. He’s an inconsistent eater but somehow he has an amazing immune system! He goes through periods where he is a bottomless pit and I’m shocked that he is able to fit so much into his tiny toddler body. I think it’s during these times that he must be having a growth spurt because he really does demolish a LOT of food during those periods but they only last 3-4 days. The rest of the time, he doesn’t appear to eat enough but maybe I offer food too frequently or too much of it. He is a healthy weight for his age and height so that’s all we need to focus on. Speaking of height, he’s a tall kid. He’s in the 95th percentile for height at the moment so one day we expect he’ll tower over his parents. His Mumma is quite tall though so maybe it’ll just be me that has to look up.

He loves playing with his matchbox cars and you will find him with 1 (or 3) squeezed in his little fist almost all the time. We can’t seem to leave the house without him needing to take handfuls of them. They’re scattered everywhere all over our the place, in backpacks, in our cars, in his sandpit, in the bath. I actually have 2 of them in my handbag right now. Matchbox cars are a true love of his.

As are books and nursery rhymes. Reading books with him is one of my favourite things. I love that the house is quiet and how he cuddles in really close. I love how when we finish a book, he takes it off me and turns the pages, ‘reading it’ back to me. I love how when I ask him if he wants to go get another book, he says, “Yeaah!”.

He continues to sleep through the night which we are so grateful for. Getting him to sleep in the evening is never easy but once he’s asleep we know he’s down for the whole night. Nap times on the other hand are a breeze! He will easily sleep for 2+ hours (generally 11.30 – 2) and it’s never really hard to get him down for them, usually under 10 minutes.

Call this age what you will; terrible twos, terrific twos, boundary pushing age. It’s actually not as bad as it seems in the moment. I’ve done a lot of head scratching, head shaking and head holding over the last few months but as I said at the start of this post, things are over all easy.

So what better time to start work on having another one. We’re early in the process but the ball is rolling and baby number two is in our plan for this next year. Obviously we’re hoping to get lucky and be pregnant in the next few months but at the same time, it all feels less urgent than the last time around. We have already decided that if the first cycle that we do doesn’t work than we will have a 2 month break before trying again. We already have a kid that keeps us on our toes so we’re not rushing this next one.

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Little bumps

When something happens or I’m having a tough day, I quickly jot down my thoughts in bullet point with the intention of coming back to them and writing a blog post. The problem that I’m finding is that by the time I get around to writing that blog post, whatever the problem was, it’s no longer an issue. Short lived bumps in the roads. Moments of frustration or anxiety that at the time felt huge and unbearable, now seem minor.

I guess it goes to show how fleeting these days really are. It feels like an absolute eternity when we’re smack bam in the middle of a difficult time. The list of troubles I have written down are all within the space of a few months and it would seem that every week there is something new that I am ‘struggling’ with. I’m not an incompetent mother, not by a long shot. I just have yet to learn that not everything needs to be a mountain. Nine times out of ten, it’s damn molehill and I need to start seeing it for what it is, not for what it could turn in to.

Easier said than done, I realise that.

Let’s call it a work in progress.

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Outside influence

The older Oscar gets, the more I realise that no matter how hard we try, we aren’t the only ones raising him. Most weeks he spends up to 40-50 hours at daycare. That is 40-50 hours a week that someone else is teaching him, influencing him, caring for him, raising him. It’s a hard fact to swallow but it is what it is.

I know they are professionals that are trained in early education and they have a passion for child developement so I’m mostly fine with it. But I do have moments where I wonder if they would handle the situation/behavior in the same way that we would. I like to think yes. After all he responds so well to them, I guess because it’s very similar to the way we are with him at home. They’re doing a fantastic job with him, that much is clear. He’s polite and caring, always giving hugs and waving goodbye to everyone when we leave. Most importantly, he’s happy there.

It’s just weird to see the way other kids react and behave. When it’s really obvious that their parents must deal with situations in a very different way, when the kids seem to lack understanding. They seem possessive or confused or angry in a situation and unable to work though the moment. My first thought is that I want to help that kid. My second thought is always curious to know how things work in their home. Maybe I’m just being judgmental. I don’t know enough about children, about humans even, to say if it is actually a direct result of the parenting. Some kids are just naturally more emotional, short-tempered, aggressive. Born that way, if you will. But I don’t think that should be the end of it. I really believe with some patience and understanding, that children can grow and learn how to handle difficult situations. I’m also aware that some are never given that opportunity and often enter adulthood lacking the emotional skills that they could have learnt as children.

I feel like I’m getting off topic a bit. This post is really just about Oscar and how I sometimes worry a little about those outside influences. I think children learn much quicker from other children than they do from adults. Candice and I pour out so much energy, patience, time and research into raising him so that he will grow up to have a high level of emotional intelligence. I guess my concerns come from a fear that all our hard work could become interrupted, derailed. The scariest part is that he is only TWO. How are we going to be when he’s a teenager?!

I say all this but Oscar hasn’t actually picked up any bad behavior habits yet. Just the usual meltdowns, the 2-year-old irrational requests and decisions. He’s a good kid and I know I probably worry for no reason but I’m a parent now. Isn’t that what we’re meant to do?

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The D word

It’s so exciting when your child starts to speak. Life generally gets a little bit easier once they begin to communicate and a lot of frustration from the parent and child disappears. Oscar has been churning out words for a while now and just recently has begun forming short sentences. I can’t even explain how cute it is to be in another room and hear his little voice call out, “Mummy, where are you? Come back!”. It absolutely melts my heart.

So all of this has been great.

Except for one tiny thing.

About a week or so ago, I was picking Oscar up from daycare. As I walked into the room, there was another parent, picking up his daughter. As he entered the room, I saw Oscar point and turn excitedly to the girl and say, “Daddy!”. I didn’t really have a chance to say anything as he saw me come in behind the man and started yelling out “Mummy! Mummy!” So that was fine, a little awkward but not a big deal. But ever since then, he’s saying it a lot. The next day when I picked him up, we were saying goodbye to one of his carers and he said, “Bye Hannah”. Then a male parent walked past us and he yelled out “Bye, Daddy”. I corrected him, telling Oscar that he was a man, to which Oscar repeated me, saying “Man! Daddy!”

I went home with a weird feeling in my stomach. I couldn’t make sense of my feelings. At this point in the story it seems necessary to mention that this day coincided with the day Trump was elected. So I was already feeling disheartened and fragile. I sat down and had a little think about it and decided to donate a handful of Oscar’s two mum/different families style story books to his daycare room. He spends 5 days a week there and loves story time however all of the books he is exposed to, that have families in them, always have Mummy and Daddy characters. His daycare was thankful for the books and I have requested that these particular ones follow him into the next room when he moves up to the next age group.

Other than that, we’re really just correcting him by telling him that it’s a man when he point one out. So far it’s not really working but it’s only been a couple of days. The other night I was out at dinner with my Mum and sister. My Mum took Oscar to the baby change rooms to check his nappy and as they were walking away he called out “Bye Mummy” and then waved at a random guy sitting at a nearby table and said “Bye Daddy”. I was mortified. I’m not even sure if anyone else noticed but I certainly did. What has surprised me is how I don’t really want to talk about it with people who aren’t same-sex parents just in case they give me that concerned look. The look that says, ‘Hm, maybe you’re really going to screw this kid up by raising him with two mums’.

I have asked Candice how she feels about it, wondering if it was just me overreacting. She’s feels weird about it too, she doesn’t like it at all but can’t really explain why. I mean, it’s just a word and it’s clear that he just thinks that all the men he doesn’t personally know must be called Daddy. He doesn’t call any of the men in his life Daddy, only the strangers. I have to constantly remind myself that he is only TWO. At the rate he learns, by this time next month, he will know to call them ‘a man’. At least I hope so.

I guess it’s just not something that I thought we would have to think about yet. It has also made me start to wonder how we will handle things when he reaches the age of 4 or 5 and throws out that big question of “How come I don’t have a Daddy?”. We have our answers prepared and have spent so much time thinking about it and how Oscar will feel, how to ease his confusion, how to validate his feelings. Something I hadn’t prepared for however, was how it would make Candice and I feel. How we will have to be very careful to not take it to heart. To understand that he is just curious.

Reading back over this I feel like I am definitely over reacting. Perhaps I’m simply looking for reassurance. Has anyone else dealt with something similar when their child was this age? Two seems far too young to really be able to explain it to him. Does it just blow over?

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