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Saturday, 23 July 2016

An Even Bigger Change of Life - Time to Confess

I've been plotting and scheming lately, and it's time to fess up to what I'm doing. Partly because I'm bursting to talk about it, but also because I think it might be helpful to someone if I document this journey I've decided to undertake. I should really say that it's a journey we've decided to undertake, because it involves my boyfriend, too.

The plotting and scheming I refer to has nothing to do with writing, though I still do that of course. After all, I have a trilogy to finish. This is far more personal, however, and I'm sure many will judge me for my decision. Yet, everyone close to me has been cheering us on.

My boyfriend and I have decided to attempt to have a child - well, at least one, possibly two, depending on how things work out. Having a child at our ages (I'm 45 and he's 51) becomes complicated just by itself. On my end there's an additional hiccup. I've had my tubes tied since my early twenties. That combined with the age of my eggs makes things difficult, to say the least. There's little point in getting my tubes untied and trying to conceive by the usual means. We certainly have no problem practicing the maneuvers, but the odds of conception are practically nil. It would be a waste of time and money, most likely, and surgery is always a risk.

This leaves us with IVF, or in vitro fertilization. My eggs will need to be harvested, fertilized, and then implanted at the appropriate moment. From my understanding, this will cost us quite a few thousands of dollars. Are we still going to go through with it? Hell, yeah! For that matter, we're already spending a fair chunk of change just getting ready for it, and we haven't even had our first fertility appointment yet.

Let me explain.

The older eggs get, the less healthy they are. However, until recently doctors believed that we were stuck with the eggs we were born with, and there was nothing we could do to improve on them. Or, if we allowed our egg health to decline there wasn't anything we could do to get it back. Now it's looking like there's a lot we can do to make things better, which includes certain vitamins and nutrients, as well as switching to a fully organic diet. Our food bill skyrocketed this month, and it's probably going to cost me a couple hundred dollars a month for vitamins and such, in addition to buying a water cooler so I can drink spring water rather than tap water with all that chlorine and fluoride in it. I've cut out caffeine, alcohol, and sugar, too. Plus I'm getting out and walking a fair bit.

You're probably wondering if all these changes are making me crazy, and they're really not. I guess it's true what they say. If you want something badly enough, you'll do what you have to do to get it. I used to think of myself as a person who couldn't achieve my goals, and most of that had to do with my writing (and the fact that I'd never published a book). Now I realize I'm perfectly capable of attaining my dreams, seeing as I've got two books published and I know there are more on the way.

How does my boyfriend feel about all of this? Actually, he's even looking forward to potentially crazy mood swings when I have to start injecting myself all the damn time. I was warning him about what I'd heard of the process, and he said he couldn't wait. I thought he was being sarcastic, but apparently he was serious and couldn't wait for the whole thing to happen. Huh. Well, colour me surprised. Honestly I've never known a man who was so into the idea of having kids - with me at any rate.

So far we've gone to my family doctor, and she's referred us to her favourite fertility clinic. They called a few days ago and booked us in for the end of August. It's good timing, seeing as I only started trying to improve my egg health around the end of June, and apparently your egg cycle needs at least 90 days of healthy living, though the full egg-production cycle is 150 days, I believe. By the time we've both been tested for our potential fertility, and they can get me started on the constant injections, it should be a good 90 days of proper nutrition and supplementation.

I haven't yet started the prenatal vitamins, which they recommend as part of the preconception process now, but I'll start that later this week. I just want to keep my folic acid down a bit. They've been doing studies that indicate too much folic acid may be part of what causes autism (through Johns-Hopkins, so I trust the source, though it's not yet peer-reviewed). I'm going to take only half the prenatal vitamins they recommend, and also choose the lowest level of folic acid I can find. I'll still be supplementing with it, in order to prevent spina bifida and other issues, but I don't want to overdo it.

One issue I currently have is the pain medication I'm on for my hips. I've cut back, partly because I had a shot of something called Visco put directly into my left hip joint. I still have to have the other hip done, but my pain has been lowered enough that I can cut back on Gabapentin and Tylenol 3s. The opiates are the worst thing, because they can kill your ovulation, so I'm down to 1.5 to 2 pills a day of those. Gabapentin is mostly an issue once you're pregnant, to the best of my knowledge, though I'm going to do more research on that. I was taking 4 Tylenol 3s a day, so I've cut it to just under a half (on average).

I've lost weight since my boyfriend and I got together, which helps with my hip pain, of course, and allows me to be even more active. Eating nothing but healthy food is helping me lose additional weight. Being overweight affects ovulation as well, and since the plan is for hyper-ovulation so they can extract a bunch of eggs at once, I really need to make sure I'm ovulating.

I'm also avoiding things called xenoestrogens. They're in damn near everything, including hand lotion, nail polish, shampoo, body wash, lipstick, etc. And the kicker is that you absorb 100% of what goes on your skin, as opposed to only about 10% of any xenoestrogens you might ingest by mouth. Your organs actually filter out 80% to 90% of what you might get orally, but they can't do anything to filter out what your skin absorbs.

What do they do that's so bad? Well, they act like estrogen, and too much estrogen makes you infertile. It can cause things like micropenis in boys - I'm assuming it's when women are exposed to it during pregnancy, since the penis is already formed when the baby comes out, but it could also impact the eggs in a way that causes it. I'm not certain of my facts there, but I'd just as soon avoid having to deal with that issue with my potential son. Then you get things like breast growth in men (who use products that have xenoestrogens in them), and lowered testosterone.

In order for women to be fertile, and for proper implantation to occur as well, it's progesterone that they need. Too much estrogen is pretty bad. I'm actually taking hormone supplements to regulate estrogen levels, and that's correcting any issues I've had with my periods, too. I never really noticed it because my periods were never that bad, but I have less cramping and other symptoms usually synonymous with PMS. Thankfully I've never been particularly moody with PMS either, though I certainly get plenty moody when some guy asks me if I'm PMS-ing just because he's done something to piss me off.

Speaking of periods, though, I've switched to organic cotton tampons, seeing as the other ones are made with cotton that's been sprayed with oodles of pesticides. It never even occurred to me before that it would be an issue, but apparently cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, and it's not a good idea to have that stuff anywhere near your nethers. Those tissues are highly absorbent, and pesticides can also act as xenoestrogens. Yippee.

One thing I haven't done is switch my wardrobe to safe fabrics. I figure any cotton stuff I buy to wear will, or has been, washed umpteen zillion times. Nylons and polyesters aren't good in general, though, so I think I'll work on at least using natural fabrics where anything bad can be washed out. I tried hunting down the organic cotton underwear, but there was a sizing chart issue and so I had no idea what size to order. Plus my weight loss has changed my underwear size.

Thankfully I didn't have a lot of bad habits that needed to be broken. I don't smoke and I don't take illicit drugs - not even pot for pain simply because it doesn't work for me, and it apparently has an effect on fertility, particularly in women. I drank a bit of alcohol once every couple of years until pretty recently. When my boyfriend and I got together we would have a beer or two when we went out, which was pretty frequent at first, but I started to go back to my old habit of not drinking even before I started on this fertility kick.

My diet was the worst thing. Too much sugar and too many preservatives. Granted, I wasn't going for fast food at all. The worst I had there was Subway. Now everything has changed. I drink black, decaf, organic coffee. I drink lots more water, and I also drink herbal tea sweetened with organic honey (or whatever the pure, unpasteurized stuff is called). I'm rather shocked at how well I'm doing. I'm taking Maca Root capsules, which are supposed to be amazing for fertility, but I still have to add a few other supplements, like CoQ10, the aforementioned prenatal vitamins, and Royal Jelly.

I probably sound like a nut with all this, but I'm looking at very bleak odds here. I have to produce not only a high number of eggs, but ones that are as healthy as possible. I also have to make sure my uterus is healthy. Good times. Luckily I'm not the type that gets stressed out easily, because that can be a huge factor in fertility issues. My boyfriend and I have both procreated before, so if we're infertile it'll be a recent development rather than a lifelong issue, so making healthy choices could make all the difference.

My boyfriend is also pretty familiar with this whole thing, seeing as he was a sperm donor before his son was born. He was extremely fertile in that respect, so I've got very high hopes that this will work out. So long as there is a batch of healthy eggs (or embryos) to be used, a woman can carry a successful pregnancy well after menopause. According to my doctor at my last physical, I'm nowhere near menopause. I guess the average age in Canada is around 51 or 52, and I've shown no signs of perimenopause. Everything is as regular as can be.

You might wonder, if I wanted more children, why I had my tubes tied - and especially at such a young age (I had just turned 22). Well, there are a few reasons. First, my doctor at the time recommended it. I couldn't take the pill, and an IUD made me bleed for two and a half months. The only other options for birth control back then were extremely inconvenient for anyone in a monogamous relationship. I'd had a total of three miscarriages by then (one before my daughter was born and two after), and I didn't want to keep going through that. It turned out to have something to do with the boyfriend I had at the time, rather than my own physiology, so I wasn't happy that I'd 'sterilized' myself for no good reason. In retrospect I think the doctor was tired of seeing the plethora of young women getting knocked up so they could go on welfare or 'trap' some young man into taking care of them. I could be wrong, but it's the impression I have.

Strangely, the people I thought who would be so against us doing this, have been very supportive and encouraging. We've been told that we're exactly the kind of people who should be having children, so I feel pretty good about that. Even my adult daughter seems pretty happy and excited about it. We were out shopping one day, and she suggested we go look at baby stuff. Apparently any children my boyfriend and I have now will be spoiled rotten, because my daughter was looking at all these outfits and saying she was going to buy this, that, or the other thing for 'the kid.'

I'm no better in my level of excitement or prematurity. I've already looked at cribs and stuff. We've discussed names we like, and pretty much all the decisions parents have to make when a baby is born, like breast feeding, circumcision, religion, vaccinations, you name it. We got all the deal-breakers out of the way (or non-starters as my boyfriend calls them), seeing as there wasn't much point spending thousands of dollars to do this if we couldn't agree on some of the more important issues. We've also discussed what to do if there are congenital issues. In one way it's lucky we're going through IVF, because they can actually check if an embryo is healthy before implantation. That doesn't rule out all issues, of course, so we may be faced with tough choices later, but the fact is he's already told me he would never interfere in my right to choose. Of course, I can't imagine being with a man who would.

I did tell him any kids we have would have his last name. I have no interest in carrying on my own last name, with the exception of continuing to use it myself because it's who I am now (and my name has been changed far too many times - something I wrote about in a previous post). He thinks kids should have their father's last name, but not for the reasons you would think. He believes it engenders a deeper sense of responsibility in the father, if his children carry his last name - and some men need that reminder. He doesn't. I already know what kind of father he is, even under less than ideal circumstances, so I have no fears there. If I did I wouldn't have even considered this.

How much is this going to cost? No idea at this point. In the US an egg harvesting cycle would cost about $10,000, and I'm okay with that. Canada's a bit different, however. At least some portions of it will be covered by our healthcare, such as our initial appointment. In fact, Ontario Healthcare actually covers fertility treatments now, but there's a 3-year waiting list and we can't afford to wait that long at our age, so we'll be paying for anything that isn't generally covered by our regular insurance. As we go through all this I'll keep track of it and talk about it more when I know what's covered and what's not.

What will we do if my eggs (or his sperm) don't work out? Well, nothing. Call me selfish or picky, but the whole point to this is for us to have our own child - together. There are donor eggs and donor sperm out there, but neither of us is interested in that at this point, and I doubt we will be. There's always the possibility of adoption if this doesn't work out, but we haven't discussed that yet. I don't even know if they allow people our age to adopt.

Yes, we know how old we'll be when our child(ren) reaches adulthood. And, yes, we're both looking after our health to make sure we're alive as our kids grow. The fact is, no one knows whether or not they're going to survive to see their children grow, and we'll both be well under the average ages when men and women in Canada die. We're not dealing with alcoholism, drug addiction, or other risky behaviours that will shorten our lifespans.

The fact is, I've been waiting my whole life to meet the man I wanted to have more children with. The one where I could imagine him being a full partner and truly sharing the whole experience, as well as the responsibilities. Now I have, and I'm not letting even a small chance of experiencing that slip from my grasp.