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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

I'm Still Here...

It's been a while. A long while. Something you may not know about me is that when I am really struggling, I isolate. I isolate to contain my darkness, because who wants to be around that? I isolate because I don't have the energy for the pleasantries. To those in my life who have wondered where I have gone, I am still here trying to pull myself out of the darkness. There are moments that I can see the light, and I will get there. In time.
I haven't been in touch.
Because some days all of my strength is used to get myself out of bed, and the last thing I want is to answer the polite nicety of how are you. I don't have the energy to lie anymore, and I don't want to actually say how I am.
Because my body feels like it's being held hostage by the hormones I inject and ingest daily, or it's attempting to recover from the hormones before the next round. The hormones that make me want to cry uncontrollably because I just happened to turn on the tv and saw a diaper or pregnancy test commercial, or when I went to the grocery store I nearly parked in a spot until I saw the parent parking sign, which just reinforced my lack of child, and once I managed to get into the store I have to try to get in and out as quickly as possible because the longer I am in there the greater the chances of crossing paths with someone who is pregnant, or with a baby.
Because gauging a good day verses a bad day has become measuring how many times that day I thought about wishing I wasn't alive, and less then 3 is a good day, don't ask how many can be in a bad day...
Because I am still trying to work through the grief and loss of a pregnancy that ended, and never happened again...
Because I really don't want to hear that things happen for a reason, or my challenges are making me stronger, or that I have no idea what tired or busy is.
Because this roller coaster ride has been going on for two and a half years, and I no longer see the point in pulling others along for the looooong ride.
Because 'my person' who I have gone to my entire life for support, guidance, and encouragement is deceased and not only am I trying to navigate the grief around that and I need her more then ever and she's not there.
Because I am driving three hours or more to an appointment that takes fifteen minutes so I can turn around and drive home... and I may have to do it over again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next...
Because even though I want to make plans to meet up for a coffee I can't (see the previous or first 'because' to know why) and if I do there is a good chance I will have to cancel, and eventually I will have cancelled too many times.

Those 'becauses' take every ounce of energy I have. So it's just easier to disappear into the wood work, until I get through this darkness. Yes I know it won't be this way forever, and that is what keeps me going. Two and a half years of ths has taken it out of me.

At this point I am focusing on one day at a time and not thinking about the next day, week, month, or year, and that is how I am getting through. I am meditating, walking, cooking, going to therapy & acupuncture, writing (with an actual pen and paper), and spending time with my sweetie, and on occasion time with family or a friend. This is helping me keep my head above the water.

I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen and trying out a fair number of new to me recipes. These are my dad's chicken wings, and they are mouth watering delicious! They are dipped in egg and then flour and cooked in a sauce that combines soy sauce, vinegar, water, and sugar, and then cooked low and slow turning regularly. MMMMMMM I will be making these again soon.

I made this recipe for Skillet Pork Chops with Mushroom Gravy, which were excellent. I served them on mashed potatoes, and steamed some sliced carrots and frozen peas.

I tried out this delicious recipe for Baked Scallops.  While they baked I roasted brussel sprouts and fennel tossed in olive oil sea salt & pepper, and toward the end of the vegges cooking I added 2 prawn skewers also drizzled with olive oil sea salt & pepper. When there was a few minutes left on the veggies I cooked packaged stuffed portabello mushroom ravioli and then tossed in olive oil & fresh basil and served it with the veggies, prawns and scallops, and drizzeled some of the scallop sauce on everything.  Best dinner EVER!

I made a new spin on my sweeties favourite breakfast for dairy free eggs benny. I usually make it with sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and smoked or candied salmon. This was a much simpler version with avocado and bacon. I am not sure which version I prefer but they are both pretty darn good!

On one of my trips down island I stopped in one of my favourite places to go for a walk.

I spend a lot of time in the car and have come across some great podcasts. I listen to a huge array of podcasts including a variety of true crime podcasts, The Secret Life of Canada, The Good Life, On Being, Night Time, Lore, Radiolab, Stuff You Missed in History Class, and Historical Figures to name a few. I like to listen to podcasts when I am in the kitchen or the numerous hours I spend in the car. It's a nice escape from the everyday life.

If you are looking for an interesting listen I suggest:
CBC Podcast Out in the Open hosted by Piya Chattopadhyay Pregnancy Loss

Or an interesting read:
How Infertility Kills Your Self-Esteem by Aela Mass

There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.
~Zora Neale Hurston

Sunday, November 12, 2017


Things have been a bit crazy lately so I haven't had much opportunity to work on a couple of posts I started a while ago. My mother's health has been very up and down and I have spent a lot of time in hospitals, sometimes due to calls at ridiculous hours of the night.  She was improving and set to head home and then came internal bleeding which took her recovery off the rails. So I have been pretty low key and sluggish the past few weeks.

I have been feeling rather frustrated with the current situation and how busy and tired I am given I had decided to take time off work to focus on my own wellness. I'm not frustrated with my mother, I know she doesn't want to be sick, I am frustrated with the situation. Watching my parent wither away slowly and painfully to a person I barely even recognize is a difficult thing.  I don't even see the vivacious woman she once was anymore and it hurts my heart. I do not turn off the sound on my phone because the two times I have turned it off I missed calls that my mom was critically ill. Every time the phone rings late at night I anticipate hearing she is gone. It as been a long journey, and my heart and soul are tired. I feel selfish for wanting to focus on my own health, when I am her person. Hopefully things level out a bit and I can get my wellness back on track.

I had some physical issues brought on by running and have started physiotherapy. It appears I have aggravated my piriformus muscle and it is quite inflamed. This sacrum pain started very early in my running, but I was in denial that the running was causing it, until it got so bad that I couldn't sit without horrific shooting pain. It only hurts when I sit, but spending long hours sitting in a car or at a hospital it got to the point I couldn't handle it anymore. I went to my doctor and the x-ray showed it was clear so it was a muscular problem. I have been going to massage therapy regularly and my massage therapist suggested I add physiotherapy so I did. I have been twice and have been given some exercises, and then some adjustments to the exercises as my piriformus once again was inflamed. I have a goal of getting back to running for January and my physiotherapist thinks that is a reasonable goal. A friend is trying to talk me into doing the Goddess Run in Victoria in June and if I am back to good health by January that should be a reasonable goal. I will keep you posted on my progress. Strangely I have found myself missing it, so I am very hopeful that will be back in my routine in the new year. My sweetie and I have been getting out for walks which is good, and most days I am meeting my goal with my step tracker, so I am still staying mobile.

Recently I listen to a very insightful podcast on Pregnancy Loss by CBC Out in the Open hosted by Piya Chattopadhyay. I encourage you to give it a listen.  I really appreciated the different perspectives and a lot of what was shred resonated with me. For a moment I felt a little less alone.

Despite the craziness I have managed to continue eating healthfully, for the most part...
This past summer I was having toast with peanut butter and banana and a boiled egg for breakfast nearly every day. Lately I have been changing it up and adding Raisin Bran cereal, and Red River cereal with maple syrup and added ground chia seeds. 

I tried out a new Pinterest recipe which is a Slow Cooker Jambalaya, I only made one adjustments to the meat, and used prawns and scallops instead of chicken, and used chorizo sausage. I had basmati rice on hand so that is what I used. I found after the suggested cooking time the rice was still a bit crunchy, so I would add a bit more broth and cook it a bit longer next time. I added the cooked prawns an scallops just before serving. This was so delicious, and we will be sure to make it again.

I purchased pumpkin filled ravioli triangles from Superstore and made a brown butter sage butternut squash sauce to go with it.  I roasted cubed butternut squash tossed in olive oil, sea salt & pepper at 425 until browned. While the butternut squash cooked, I put butter in a frying pan and once hot added fresh sage. Once the sage had browned and was crisp I took it out and cut it up and set it aside. When the butternut squash had browned I put the cubes in the Vitamix and added veggie broth until the desired creamy consistency. I also added some of the melted butter from browning the sage, chopped yellow onion, and 1/8 tsp dried red pepper flakes. Once the pasta was cooked according to the package directions I drained it and put it back int he pot. I added enough sauce to cover it and the fried sage. once plated I sprinkled it with fresh grated parmesan cheese. I served the yummy pasta alongside roasted asparagus, mushrooms, and fennel tossed in olive oil, sea salt & pepper. I had lots of sauce left over so I popped it in the freezer for another dinner.

I'd love to tell you my Russian Broscht recipe is an old family recipe handed down through the generations... but it's not. My grandma's borscht recipe is more red and I am heavier on the purple ingredients. I think borscht is something people are often quite particular about (myself included). I love this recipe!

In place of the one cup tomato puree I add one can of organic tomato sauce.

I serve mine with a generous helping of cashew cream and dill. This time I had a slice of sour dough bread with cheese broiled in the oven.

The only way out is through. ~Robert Frost