Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Red Flags or a Shitty Day?

I have learned over the last 15 years since my diagnosis to be painfully aware of any sort of "slippage" because it can literally mean life or death. Though I don't expect to - or hope to - be suicidal ever again, it's not just my life I have to worry about any more. There may be another on board right now. And if next week when I take a home pregnancy test and it comes out negative, there will be another on board soon.

Last month I lowered my anti-convulsants and was terrified my seizures would return. So far, they have not. I did experience a bit of anxiety when I was in Mexico, which has ceased since I've been home. Not sure what that was about. Overall, I've felt as though my mood is okay, but here's the thing:

I keep fucking up at work. Although I work in a hospital environment, I'm not saving lives, so it's not as though my mistakes are killing anybody, but it doesn't look good... nor feel good. I've let projects slip through the cracks, I've been less than enthusiastic about my portfolio, I don't actually really care about work. Which is so not like me. 

I'm generally really good at my job. I have been called out a few times over the last week since I've been back from vacation for not being creative enough in planning, not taking initiative, and today, for totally not thinking through an email I sent to an exec asking for help... it was pointed out to me (by my manager, spurred on by the exec's response) that my tone was off and no wonder she refuses to help at all. 
Due to negative feedback (internal and external), I've lost confidence in simple things that I used to be good at. I'm not a people person when it comes to work (though I am in comfortable, social situations) and I've been shying away from dealing with people. Which is my job. I work in Communications, for god's sake, and I can't communicate.

So, this has been going on for a week, and I'm trying to figure out whether this behaviour is a red flag, or whether I'm just having a shitty week. Or whether I got too relaxed and detached on my vacation. And whether I can ever get it out of my head that, "Oh well. In 9 months, I'll be on may leave anyway..."

I hope to call it a shitty week and move on, but if I've learned anything over this past decade and a half, it is that I have to pay close attention to stuff like this, because it can be very telling. I see my shrink tomorrow morning for the first time in 6 weeks (I realized today that this has been the longest time I have ever had without therapy since I was 17), so I'll be going over medication changes then. But I just really need to know what's going on... and that it will pass. Soon. It has to.

In TTC news, it's been 7 days my last insem and I have no symptoms. Nada. The good news is, I keep forgetting about the possibility, so it isn't constantly on my mind. If we aren't pregnant this month, next month is going to be our last attempt before we come up with a long-term plan, whatever that means. Hopefully we won't have to go there. I really don't want to go through an IVF cycle if we can help it.

In HAPPY news, Crazy Lesbian Mom won first place in the Canadian Weblog Awards in the category of Best LGBTQ Blog in Canada. I'm very honoured and thank everyone involved for the opportunity. I'm sorry this isn't much of a "winning post," but I am thrilled... just had to get these thoughts out of my body.

Take care, everyone.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Value of Conception: What's Important?

There were no clinic rooms available for the scheduled IUI this week, so we had to use an old office with a medical exam table jammed into the corner of it, with stirrups that didn’t pull out so I lay like a frog, the light wouldn’t stay shining on my goods so Devon had to hold it for the nurse, and there was no regular speculum around so they used a smaller one (which actually worked out well for me). Ah, the joys of trying to get pregnant in a not-for-profit clinic in an old, run-down public hospital. 

I may be in the minority, but I would actually prefer to go somewhere like that, instead of a top-notch clinic that spends my money on overpriced equipment and ambiance. I’m not there to soak in the views or spend time looking at art. I’m there to get knocked up. I’m there to form relationships with the staff, and I have had such amazing experience with that staff. They are public health nurses, and probably get paid half of what a technician in a fancy-schmantzy private clinic would, but they truly love their jobs, and I appreciate that more than I can say.

The price I pay for service is just as expensive as if we were to go to a private clinic, but I want my money to go to an organization that I believe in – and I believe in this one wholeheartedly. As clinical as this process is, the reality of the situation is that a near-stranger is there for the conception of my child. And though I know sperm doesn’t immediately enter the egg and become a baby right then and there, it’s still a very special couple of minutes. I care who I share those minutes with. Although I wish it could only be Devon and me, we will always have a third wheel, and I’m glad that this week our third wheel is an eccentric nurse of 40 years who makes us laugh (under our breath) at how batty she is. [As she was putting the boys inside of me on Wednesday, she told me that if our donor was infected with HIV, freezing his sperm would get rid of it, “so not to worry” but if he had TB, we were in trouble].

Maybe it’s because I have a soft spot for nurses, having basically been brought up by them in my late teens when I lived in the psych ward. Maybe I just don’t want to stare at a piece of art or office plant and wonder whether the hard-earned blood money that I’m putting into this process paid for that instead of something more practical. Maybe it's because money and things have never been that important to me, outside of survival.

Throughout our appointments over the past year, I feel as though the staff have become a type of family. We haven’t even been TTCing for that long, but we are already treated like family. We get hugs after our procedures. We get very personal phone calls when it’s a “no, not this time”. The receptionist gives us recipe ideas. We are offered cake after a staff member’s birthday party. When looking through the baby book where past patients have placed baby photos, we are reminded that our baby will be there soon. 

Is it the most comfortable place in the world? No. Would I rather look up at white ceilings instead of water-stained boards? Maybe. Would I rather not have to wait for one of the two clinic rooms so that the procedures could be done faster? Not if it meant speeding through a process that constantly reminds me to slow down and say, “Holy shit… we’re creating a life here.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Awards and IUIs, in that Order

I'm happy to report that we are back safely from Mexico and were not one of the handful of Canadians who were murdered or attacked there over the last little while. I was actually surprised at the flak I got at work for choosing that location to go on vacation. I've never been one to cower away from something on the "off chance," though I have to say, the latest beating of the 37-year-old Albertan staying at a 5-star resort in Mazatlan did get to me. I hope she's going to be okay.

The few weeks were fantastic and the only thing I missed was blogging and reading blogs. I managed to keep up a bit with your blogs and got at least one post in, but I'm happy that I'll be back to my regular programming. I hope to blog more in 2012 than I have in years before.

I came back to some pretty cool news, and please don't mind me as I gloat a bit. I don't do it often. If you want to skim this part, I do touch on my IUI tomorrow (!) after these next two paragraphs of the post.

My blog was nominated last year for the Ninjimatics' 2011 Canadian Weblog Awards and I found out today that Crazy Lesbian Mom made the shortlist in all three categories that I was entered into: Best Weblog About Family & Parenting, Best Weblog About Health & Wellness, and Best LGBTQ Weblog. The most fabulous part about this whole thing was that the initial nomination was a surprise. I have no idea who nominated me, and considering I don't have a (real life) friend in the world who knows that I write this blog, it was a true reader, which feels pretty cool.

It is an honour to be in each of those categories: I'm extremely stoked about the Health & Wellness, as not a ton of other nominees were mental health related (and even fewer  about reproductive mental health), I'm ridiculously honoured to represent the LGTBQ community, and quite honestly, the fact that a blog about a not-yet-but-soon-to-be-mother made the Family & Parenting was a finalist really makes me so proud of this venture. There were 85 blogs in that category, and I think it's incredible that they would consider a blog about family - never mind one with two moms - from someone who doesn't yet have one (in the conventional sense... I always consider Devon my family). I have a lot of respect for that. Winners will be announced in the next week or so. I'm excited to hear the final results and feel very lucky to be in this position.

Okay, done now. Thanks for sticking with.

Now onto regular programming. Before vacation, I was wondering whether I should potentially waste a round of Clomid on a cycle that we may miss due to being away. Devon and I decided that we would not use Clomid this month. I thought that if I was taking it, in some respect, I would be thinking about TTC, and all I wanted to do while I was away was forget about it. 

And I did. It hardly passed through my thoughts. Of course, I thought about having a baby, but I have to say how awesome it felt not to shove my fingers up my vajayjay three times a day to check whether my cervical mucous looked like eggwhites. Not having to take my temperature while stiff as a corpse at 4 am was a treat (what? I can lift my head off the pillow as soon as I wake up?). I didn't even take my prenatal vitamins that often (gasp!). I was FREE! I did, however, use OPKs to test for ovulation starting at CD 10.

We got back at midnight last night and we were up at 5:30 this morning. I couldn't test this morning at home, so I packed up my OPKs and tested in a washroom stall at work. Always fun. I don't know why I was surprised to see the annoying happy face, as it smiled right on time, but I was.

Tomorrow will be the first IUI where we have not had an ultrasound beforehand. No Clomid, no cervical fluids, and no temps... we are totally going into this one blind. It is our first IUI with our new donor and perhaps because I am still in vacation mode, I have a very passive attitude about this one, and not in a bad way, I don't think.

If it happens, it happens. My expectations aren't necessarily low, they just aren't high, and I'm okay with that. Yes, it would be fantastic to get pregnant, and I hope I do, but for the first time ever, I don't feel that chest-tightening pressure. Good job, Mexico.

Will this change? Probably. But for now, I'll enjoy it.  Maybe I'll even take a prenatal vitamin tonight before bed.

As this post is already long, I will save my mental health status for another day, very soon. Things are different. I feel different. Something is going on. More to come...

Monday, January 16, 2012

We're Here and We're Queer... Kind of

I am writing this from a deck overlooking the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, beer on one side and a palm tree on my other side, rustling in the warm breeze. Devon and I are on our first vacation in over two years and are enjoying every minute of it. Our neighbour from home texted us a picture of our hometown today, covered in wet snow. I like it here.

What I didn’t expect on the trip here was my anxiety at customs around choosing whether to declare that I was traveling with a family member or not. Although I have no problem being out with US or Canada customs agents, we decided (or did I force Devon to?) that we would pretend, if questioned, that we were traveling together as friends. Not that they are stupid here, but it just felt safer in this very conservative Catholic country that we are visiting. Although Devon and I are married, neither of us took the other’s last name, so although it felt a little wrong, it was the easy thing to do.

As we left the airport to head to the place we are staying, I realized that pretty soon, we are not going to be able to have the option of pretending we are someone else, and I realized immediately after that this is not bad thing. The next time we travel outside of Canada or the US, we will hopefully be traveling with our baby. We will undeniably be a family, traveling as a threesome. And for some reason, with the addition of a little heartbeat, it would feel wrong to lie about who we are just because it feels safer to, in the moment. [But yet, isn’t safety a number one priority when you have a child to care for?]

First, let me say that we have been treated very well here and as hotel guests, it is quite obvious that we are together. Despite having to ask specifically for a room with a king bed instead of two, we have been treated as a couple. For some reason, it was tougher to handle at the border with official gun-holding, uniformed guards. Fair enough, I say, but something still doesn’t feel right about it.

I never want my child to feel as though we need to hide who we are as a family. I never want my child to think that having an “alternative” (I hate that word) family is something to be ashamed of or anxious about. I want my child to know that we are proud of who we are. That we are exactly what we should be. That family is stronger than religion or conservatism or bigotry or hate.

But my actions this week have not stemmed from pride, but from fear. So what is worse? Me judging Mexican authorities to be homo-hating monsters, or me being a shame-filled lesbian because I’m not the norm?

I think the latter.

This is hard to admit, but I still have a long way to go before I’m comfortable being a two-mom family. Yes, Mexico – and many other countries – is a bit of an exception, and I appreciate that I’m just trying to be protective here, but even back in our hometown, there are still scenarios when it is easier to walk away from the truth, like distant colleagues or clients who ask me what my husband does. Though I answer them using the word “partner,” I’m still not using the word “wife”. Because it’s easier that way. Less awkward for both parties.

But where do you draw the line? Where is the happy medium of being honest about your family without being in-your-face and loud-and-proud? I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that we’re different, but I also don’t want to pretend we’re not.

Apparently I need to figure this out before we make this two-person family a three-person family. 

Monday, January 2, 2012

Decreasing another medication: Risk of epilepsy?

I'm currently cutting my anticonvulsant prescription in half. Though I haven't spoken with my shrink about this (he's was away over Christmas and then I'm away when he's back), I feel confident in my decision. Doesn't mean I'm any less scared though.

Anticonvulsants also serve as mood stabilizers. I'm not worried about my mood changing... I feel as though I can keep a good eye on that. It's the convulsant part. After years of ECT treatment, which forces you to have a seizure in order to move around the gray matter in your brain (they still don't know HOW it works, but hey - why not just fuck with people's brains to give it a shot - literally), I began to have seizures on my own. Except at the time, I didn't know they were seizures, because they were hallucinatory episodes where I could predict what would happen in the following 5 minutes. Turns out they were temporal lobe seizures. On an epilepsy site which explains the different types, they do a great job of explaining what it can feel like:

"I get the strangest feeling—most of it can't be put into words. The whole world suddenly seems more real at first. It's as though everything becomes crystal clear. Then I feel as if I'm here but not here, kind of like being in a dream. It's as if I've lived through this exact moment many times before. I hear what people say, but they don't make sense. I know not to talk during the episode, since I just say foolish things. Sometimes I think I'm talking but later people tell me that I didn't say anything. The whole thing lasts a minute or two."   

Except mine involved visual hallucinations of an woman on the left side of my face, who I can't really describe except to say that she was pure evil. She used to try to entice me somewhere... I still don't know where. Absolutely horrifying.

I am terrified that if I cut this medication completely, she will return, as will the epilepsy.  I won't drop it off completely until I speak with my doctor at the beginning of February, but I have one more week at 75% and then in a week, I will have made it to half my dose. I have been on this medication since 2000.

I figure as I am taking a TTC break AND going on vacation, this is the best time to try. In pregnancy, the medication is relatively safe, though there has been some cases of cleft palates and cleft lips. If I can minimize that risk, all the better. It's just a scary time...
Speaking of breaks, the clinic opens again tomorrow after the Christmas break. And I don't think I've ovulated yet (forgot to test until CD14, though I'm usually about CD17. Tomorrow will be CD18). Technically, we could probably do an IUI this week before going to Mexico. Though I think I've sat with the forced break enough to be okay with it - maybe even looking forward to it. Perhaps I'll take the break and come back nice and relaxed from vacation, and get nice and knocked up on my return.