Saturday, September 27, 2008

Good Grief... Bad Grief...

Hi all,

Guys are typically more stoic than their female counterparts. We all know this. We expect it sometimes... but there are other times when grief bursts forth like a raging torrent - consuming all in it's path. Maybe that's a bit dramatic, but in many ways it can adequately sum up how it feels when it happens.

I guess there have been a couple of things to deal with in this Oddyssey of mine when it comes to grief... How do I do it? Why is it that there are times when I seem to need to grieve but it feels so inappropriate? 

I've recently been musing to myself, and a few close friends, about this and phrased it like this..."How do you grieve for something that has never been?". We all instinctively know how to grieve for a loved one that dies for instance, but I would argue that this is no different. Granted I have never known the children that we've never had, but the emptiness remains... If someone dies then we hold a funeral, and the grieving process is expected and encouraged, but this grief goes unnoticed by many - those that know can appreciate that there are times when those of us struggling for infertility just want times to ourselves, but I've found that it's only really those who have been there who are truly able to identify with this hidden grief. 

I recently had one of my staff at work approach me because the father of one of her friends had died, and she wanted to travel out of town to be there for her friend at the funeral. I had no problem with allowing this, but it got me thinking - since our first failed IVF treatment I haven't taken a day off specifically for the purpose of dealing with that grief. Should I have? I don't know. 

Sure guys deal with grief differently - in some ways I don't think we deal with grief very well at all. For some of us it's simply a matter of survival - it is by no means because we don't care! I hope that I have been supportive enough of Sarah during this process - but there are times when the grief inside is like that raging torrent I mentioned earlier. As guys we need to find a safe outlet for that, because there are many way in which we could unleash it which would be disastrous

Personally there are times when all I want to do is sit back and cry. Sob my expressions of grief and longing to God. Because only he can TRULY understand what I'm personally going through. There are other times when to be honest I think I'm just down right clinically depressed. But God has been faithful and I know that during the roughest storm of grief God has always been the light of steadfastness which has seen me through. Some may consider that a crutch - to be honest with you, that's fine with me. I need to make it through this and I think he's the only way I am going to make it. We all have to have a foundational statement on which to base all of our other beliefs - for some it's scientific method, for others it's God. Personally I think when testing the theories and theologies of the supernatural - scientific method comes gravely short of being able to qualify or quantify that realm. 

How do I deal with grief? I think I internalise a lot of it. I think a lot. A lot of what goes on in my head is much more emotional than can be put into words or expressed in the usual sense. But I think that this blog and other journaling I've done has been useful as an outlet for that raging sea - so that it's less likely to spew forth and consume anything and everything in it's way.

Of course I'd be interested in reading how any other guys have/are/plan to deal with this type of grief process. And I also think it's useful to have female input on this to because you gals have got this thing so much more sorted out than any of us guys so don't be shy to comment or point out other blogs were this is dealt with.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Where are we at now...

Hi again - just making a wee post in my lunch break - if I'm going to be honest with you, I'm home because I knew that the hard drive I ordered on line would be arriving today - and since I'd all connected and formatting now - I figure I should make another contribution to the ramblings...

I have decided that this will most likely be very therapeutic. It's great that I can talk about these things completely annoymously to a group of people who are at the very least interested in the topic I'm talking about, and most likely have had som infertility issues at some point if not currently. Don't get me wrong, I find talking to my wife is great - and it's necessary to keep each other going, but this is kinda different - this is a previously untapped resource of people who know what it's like and understand. 

So currently Sarah and I are waiting for Sarah's next cycle to begin so that she can then start on Estradiol Valerate three times a day, and also uterogestan pessaries also three times a day. After having been through the follicle collection phase previously, I don't think Sarah's anywhere near as concerned about the effects of these medications - this time it seems like a walk in the park by comparrison!

For me - the last couple of months have been quite hard. In a number of ways really. Firstly of course there is the fact that we've lost a potential life - our best chance at beating this infertility thing so far didn't work. I know in my head that this doesn't really mean very much, because it was never a "sure thing" - but it still gets me every time. Secondly there's the way that infertility has affected both my life and Sarah's. I have found that stress has become a fact of daily life for me - work isn't helping things. 

Speaking of which - lunchtime is coming to a close...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Brief History of Time

Ok,  it might not be so brief, but hopefully it will give you the picture your looking for :-)

For as long as I can recall, I have had only really two goals in life...

Get Married (WooHoo! got that one sorted!), and then have children... (umm, yeah - still working on the recipe for that one...). So anyhow back in December 2001 Sarah and I got married. We decided that it would be prudent for us to wait a few years before we seriously started thinking about kids. So Sarah went onto the combined oral contraceptive and was on that for a total of probably three and a half years. During that time one of Sarah's Sisters became pregnant with her first child. That was fine, but it sort of gave us the impression that when a couple decided that they wanted to get pregnant then they stop taking their OC's and low and behold within a couple of months women get pregnant. By this time many of our married friends were starting to have their first pregnancies - and in time we decided it was our turn.

 We might as well have kept taking the OC's because from that time until now we haven't even had a flicker of hope from month to month. There was the occasionally ridiculously late period, but otherwise no missed periods, no positive pregnancy tests, no real glimmers of hope. Now as you may have realised we are Christians, and I think that there is a perspective out there that good Christians get everything they want from God, and that life should always go from strength to strength with blessing after blessing showering down from heaven as God lavishes his love upon us... I can frankly say that has not been our experience.

The person who tells you that being a Christian makes all your problems go away, and makes life so much better, is probably missing something fundamental in their walk with God. God never promises that life will be a bed of roses, but what he does promise is that he will work through us and in us using his whole tool box - which will occasionally include pain and suffering to produce character and all those other things that he says are important for us to learn. 

Sarah has had to have surgery for endometriosis, and I've had numerous tests. Apparently with Sarah having had the surgery it essentially puts her fertility back into the normal range, however my issue is with a low sperm count, and morphological issues. Our specialist puts our chances at bout 10% per year, and so after 10 years he said we may get 1 or 2 naturally born babies. But that IVF provided some real benefits for us in increasing our chances. 

According to the statistics I've seen, each cycle has about a 50% chance of producing a live birth at the end - that includes the first "fresh" embryo that is implanted directly after fertilization, and also the subsequent embryos that are chryogenically frozen for later use. 

About 6 weeks ago we were right in the middle of our first experience of IVF...

It was exciting, scary, unbelievable... That was a very special time - we really felt that for the first time we were being given a real shot at potentially getting pregnant! Where our chances previously were negligible, they were now real! I distinctly remember the day after fertilization when Sarah answered the phone and it was the fertility clinic calling to tell us how many embryos we had. Bear in mind that up until this point we had no evidence that conception had taken place - for us this was a HUGE milestone! When Sarah got off the phone - I figured out from her end of the conversation that it had worked. I asked her how many - she said "FIVE!", I couldn't believe it! I'd mentally prepared myself for perhaps 2 or 3... we spent the next hour at least in tears of relief, and Joy all because the miracle of life had started on it's journey - and as far as we were concerned, this was the first real evidence that we would ever have kids! 

Apparently it was a good looking embryo that was selected to be implanted, and the implantation process went just how it's supposed to in the textbooks - so those were not the issue... But 12 days later we had the blood test that gives the first indication of pregnancy. Initially Sarah and I were quietly confident that this was our time, and that God would give us the easy road just this once - that he was smiling on us... But towards the end of the time leading up to the blood test, Sarah was feeling that things weren't right. I figured that she couldn't possibly know what it's supposed to feel like and reasonably quickly dismissed her apprehension. But she was right. The blood test was negative - and so we were back with both feet firmly planted in the ground. It's times like that that I feel that reality sucks. We found ourselves in a state of confused disbelief - and apparently even the people at the clinic were surprised that it didn't work. Somehow that wasn't quite the comfort I'm sure they intended it to be. 

Our belief is that there is a point at which the soul is imparted to the embryo - sometime between conception (sperm+egg=embryo), and when the brain is fully developed. I've always erred on the side of earlier rather than later. I've never felt comfortable with abortion at any stage, and that includes the emergency contraceptive (I'm a pharmacist you see - so this is quite topical). I think it is the ultimate arrogance to state that it doesn't matter because it's still in the womb. Who are we to say that a life hasn't been lost in our situation? But I know that we may very well have had this happen to us a number of times before now - but have just never known that conception had occurred. I know that if God had intended that embryo to become a live birth - then he was the only one who could do anything about it - it was entirely up to him - and it still is. 

So here me find ourselves - waiting for Sarah to complete her current cycle so that she can take the drugs which will manufacture the conditions necessary for her womb to be as receptive as possible at the correct time - so we can thaw some embryos and try again... 

I've said it to some of my friends - I feel a bit like Job... in the last few chapters he gets a little indignant and asks God to justify all the suffering that he has had to experience... God has a different approach to getting Job to realise his place in the world.  He asks Job several chapters worth of rhetorical questions like "Where were you when I created the heavens and the earth", and "Can you control the wild beasts of the earth"... basically God's saying - when you are equal with me - then I will explain myself to you - in the meantime just remember that being God means that I don't have to explain myself to you. So I'm trying to learn from Job's experience - I don't particularly want any object lessons like he had!

Abe's Oddyssey is very much in God's hands...

What is Abe's Oddyssey?

HI! My name isn't Abe, but it will do for the purposes of this Blog.

You may ask - "Where'd you come up with a blog name like that, and what is it all about?"

The long and the short of it is that My wife and I have now been trying for the last 3 and a half years to conceive, get pregnant and have children... If someone had told us 7 years ago when we got married that it would be this difficult then we would have started seriously thinking about becoming parents A LOT sooner!

This is going to be a journal of thoughts, dreams, hopes and prayers that one day - like Abraham in Genesis - God will grant us the greatest desires of our hearts. Hence Abe's Oddyssey.

Here's some info about me...

I am currently 28 (29 in October), I am a Christian, My wife (who I will call Sarah for obvious reasons!) is 27 and also a Christian. Obviously there is much to tell from our past three and a half years. Over time I've come across blogs from a number of people who have undergone IVF, and other fertility treatments, and it always seemed that they had such valid stories to tell. Mine seemed kind of boring, and I'm not sure I had the words or motivation to put it into this kind of format. After recently undergoing our first attempt at IVF the floodgates were opened (in more than one sense), and I began to record a little of the thoughts, emotions and struggles that I was experiencing. It was a tremendous release!

Thinking back to some of the posts that I've read from other bloggers, their ramblings always came across as valid, and it had nothing to do with how exciting they were. Their validity and usefulness, for me, came from the fact that they were recording a similar experience, and I felt that I had shared somewhat of their experience. So I hope that someone out there feels similarly at some point. And if I ramble then that's ok - it's likely that it simply helped me more than anyone else. :-)

I want this blogging journey to record the very real struggles of a Christian man that one day has the dreams of his heart realised (no - sorry, I'm not American ;-)). Abraham was a firm believer in the God that created him. He had been promised that he would be the father of many nations. It is easy for us to look back and with hindsight forget that there were probably decades of time that passed from the first promise from God through to the realising of that dream for Abraham. I think I can appreciate a little of what he went through thousands of years ago...