Confusing Unique Bunch

When it comes to couples infertility, I feel that yes: we are unique. Oddly unique. Hopelessly unique. Confusingly unique.

I was taught at school, and got reassured through life, that all humans are different, unique individuals. Good? Bad? Indifferent? Until a certain point in my upbringing, I really did not care much as such notion had little practical impact on me… That was only until reality made me focus on how unique we really were. And reality came in the form of the many treatments my wife and I had to do to overcome couple’s infertility, the longest medical condition we both had to endeavor thus far in our lives. This experience has given me a new perspective, making me realize that the notion of human singularity is hard to accept when it comes to understanding the outcome of medical treatments.

If we are all unique, why is that I always felt as if my wife and I were being labeled and then treated with “alike” infertility cases? Why is that I felt that we became a number and not a person when our fate led us to the wrong side of the statistic charts? Why is that I felt that we were on the pages not yet fully written by the Academia?

In short, if we are all unique, why is that I felt being treated as a herd?

Of course that logically I knew, and agreed, that health studies rely on statistics to validate its findings and procedures. Of course that my pragmatic self knew that a medical treatment is not an exact science so I was not to expect a 100% success rate. Of course that the male I am knew to trust numbers and rational thinking as means to gain control. But the emotional me was painfully learning that rational thinking did not really helped when there was no explanation for my wife and I not getting pregnant…

So I felt odd. I felt confused. I felt hopeless. When doing such an emotionally draining process as an infertility treatment is, the least thing I wanted to hear from a Doctor was “I am not quite sure why this is not happening to you two, as everything looked great”… That statement, which unfortunately I have heard more times than I would like to remember, always gave me no confidence that the treatment we just did was correct nor that the Doctor was in control… All I wanted to hear was a clear explanation about why we were not successful. All I wanted was enough information to make a decision, whatever it was, so we could move on. All I wanted was a bit of guidance without any “but” in the middle of the sentence. But we were unique… And that sucked!

My “new rational” became to go back to basics and look for ways to be treated as a single entity. We have done all the tests. We have done all the exams. We have tried all types of treatment. It did not work out so far. So we needed to be treated as the unique individuals we really were. Was this a “new concept” to fertility clinics? Perhaps, but the one that felt right to me. After all, we had learned through our journey that the principles of infertility treatment were the same, but the investigation of the causes for couple’s infertility, the interpretation of the findings and the prescribed treatment could be completely different if we were not to be treated as a bundle.

And that new rational has been driving my intimate search. Search to be placed outside the herd. Search to have our condition seen as unique and treated as such. Search for the one who will be The One! Has this search been successful? Not yet. But ironically, at least I think I know why: I have to be bundled as one, to generate one.

Confusing? You bet! But I believe that statement holds the unique irony behind couple’s infertility, where I have to recognize our singularity while accepting that the treatments are made for the pack, trusting that a single Doctor will be able to bring it all together and give us our so expected little person… Yes, ironically we are a confusing bunch of unique individuals.

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Happy Ice Cube

A happy ice cube. That was me over 15 years ago. And I was living in Brazil, so no reference to the dreaded Canadian winter here… Shiny, squared with rounded edges, confident that no matter how full a glass was, I would always “add-up” to see it fuller. I was always ready to help cool down the hottest pot but, in being an ice cube, always kept my own emotions frozen, preserved from the outside word.

Of course I did not view myself that way at the time. I have always been a communicative person that loved to make new friends while cherishing all existing relationships. I was the guy who loved to host, from a soccer game at my place with whomever to a last-minute party, just to celebrate life. I was a good listener and I like to think I was a good friend as well. So yes, I was a pretty happy guy.

And “guy” here is the dominant word… I was a true guy, a pal, a dude. I was a man born and raised on the Latin society of the all powerful men. And, as such, I should keep my emotions hidden, frozen. No talking about it. No sharing it. But, if they were ever to come out, they should be expressed in a simple form: yes or no. Like it or don’t like it. Black or white. Well, life in the “real world” is not quite simple…

As I have grown wiser (OK, older…) I became aware not only of the need to break the ice, but also to understand that there was more between pure water and its frozen kind.  And that was, and still is, hard. What if what came out defrosted was not as great as I would expect? What if when I shared what was locked it would not be as pure as I would hope? What if I would be less loved by showing my true self? Hard questions to answer and to deal with, for a dude and even for a gal.

But I like to think I learn from my experiences. And the one thing I have learned through the infertility journey is that there was no point in keeping my emotions locked-in. The stress and anxiety were so great that, should I keep it frozen; it would break out of the pressure I was imposing on me. I have not done it alone and have not done it at once. Defrosting is a slow process, where I needed to take one step at the time and where I had to rely on my wife and my loved ones to give me support and understanding as I was discovering myself.

And what is my main “technique” for defrosting? Talk. Yes, talk. It was the only way to express my feelings. Even as I write these words, talking about it is what makes it relevant. I could write these and lock them in a drawer for nobody to see but, in doing so, I would only be transferring freezers… Talking and sharing of feelings has helped me tremendously during our many fertility treatments, and has kept me sane and true to myself and my wife during the processes. But I am still a guy, a pal, a dude. So talking is still hard. Talking is not yet “natural”. And talking for a guy has definitely a different timeline and schedule than for a girl. After all, right or wrong, it is not because I am stressed to my teeth that I would like to miss the game to talk about my feelings…

So, am I still a happy ice cube? I don’t think so but I as mentioned in the beginning, it has been 15 years in the making…. One of the first things my wife told me when we met in 98 was that she would help me find ways to melt my heart. At the time, it did not make sense … Fortunately she has kept her promise and, with her help, defrosting has indeed begun to happen for me! But it is far from being done or perfected.

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There is nothing like home…

I think I found where “home” is when it comes to our infertility treatment. But, before I reveal its address, let me put a few things in context…

I was born in Brazil and came to Canada when I was 30 years-old. Therefore, even today, I have lived most of my life accustomed to the Health system in my home country. Brazil has many social and economical imbalances but, when it comes to the Health system, the difference can feel like an invisible abyss. Private medicine is available and is fantastic! I could consult with specialists (including fertility ones) without a gigantic waiting list, I had access to labs that look like research facilities and I was treated in hospitals and clinics that looked like five-star hotels. The abyss, however, became clear at time of payment, as I could only afford such treatment for having private insurance. But that was the medical environment I was used to.

So it was only natural that my wife, who is also Brazilian, and I had a bit of trouble adapting to the publicly funded Health Care system in Canada. I am not arguing that one system is better than the other; I am just saying it is different…

And those differences were pretty evident when it came to our past medical history in Toronto, leading my wife and I to developed very strong feelings about the Heath system in Canada.  Those opinions were no mystery to our friends and family and, unfortunately, were not positive ones either… We have had several adverse experiences since our arrival in 2002, ranging from misdiagnose to poor human interaction to procedures done wrong at about every major hospital in the Greater Toronto Area, including having a terrible first experience with fertility treatment on a cash-grabbing clinic in Oakville, ON.

We had not yet looked at specialized IVF clinics in Canada, but we had very few hopes that they would be any different than those we had experienced thus far. Therefore, frustrated with our options locally, we’ve decided to try our home Country, where we were familiar with the system, where private medicine is in existence, where family would be close by and where we felt Doctors were personable and approachable (they even gave us their cell phone number to call at anytime!).

We have definitely found what we were looking for in Brazil: a much welcoming clinic environment than we had ever experienced in Canada, a more personal relationship with the Doctor and the close support of our family. But we have also found that there is no magic to IVF. That the many elements that need alignment on Mother Nature’s formula for procreation do not change with country or language. That the basis for IVF treatment is the same, no matter where you are at in the globe.

We have done several IVF attempts in Brazil and unfortunately none was successful.

So, was the treatment received in Brazil better? Was it worse? Was it worth it? It is hard to find a simple answer to those questions… We have yet to have our dream of conceiving a child fulfilled so, from that perspective, I would say that going back to our home country was not a success. But, having said that, doing the treatment in Brazil was definitely necessary for us! For as expensive, frustrating and emotionally draining as it was, I am confident that we would have never rested our hearts should we have not tried it…

As I write these words, we are now back in Canada, continuing our journey with the help of a local IVF clinic. And it feels like a great one! Definitely there is no difference between Canada and Brazil when it comes to the IVF clinics we’ve experienced. And the approach and treatment of our local Doctor is, in my opinion, far superior to the one we received in our home country! He is approachable, more practical and scientific about the entire process and his staff is fantastic! So, have we found locally a solution to our infertility issue? I truly hope so, but only time will tell…

What is the lesson learned from this experience? Well, it is easy now to look back and point-out the hits and misses on our “home adventure”, but I believe I learned that “home” is where it feels right. That “home” is where our hearts are at ease and where my wife and I feel comfortable at the time. That the best Doctor will be the one who ultimately would lead us to a successful pregnancy. No matter where he or she is located…

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Strawberries

Couple’s infertility has made me a better person. Yes, I strongly believe in that.

As I also believe that the world is a gigantic strawberry…  My friends and family would normally say that in reference to my sometimes almost naïve optimism towards life. This is not an unshakable belief, of course, as I have gone through challenges at different times in my life that made me question if the world had not turned into a sour preserve…

So, was infertility one of these challenges that made we question the quality of the fruit I’ve chosen to define what’s good in the world? You bet it was!

It should go without saying that having the opportunity to write about how I feel on my wife’s and mine journey through infertility has given me a lot to think about… As I reflect back on our many attempts for pregnancy and on the impact it had our lives since we decided to start trying to have a kid, I do consider infertility the toughest challenge we had yet to overcome. It has been a difficult road to travel in, when most of the time I felt like driving on a curvy road, dueling cliffs by the sea with a thick fog above us. And I am terrified of heights, so such picture is a particularly bad one for me…

But every challenge offers an opportunity. And my opportunity is to learn from our difficulties and try to become a better person as the result of it. Naïve? Perhaps. Easy to accomplish? Definitely not. But a true feeling nevertheless…

Infertility has been hard on us, for sure, but it has not been unbearable. It has made us suffer in ways we never felt possible, but it also made us grow as a couple and as individuals. It has made us put things in perspective and, in doing so, has made us value what we have versus cry over what we don’t. It has thought us the true meaning of cultivating something, rather than expecting to be given everything effortlessly. Like many couples on the same situation as ours, we have inevitably put the many treatments we went through as the “driving forces” of everything we did, from business to pleasure. We have committed more financial resources than we have the courage to calculate. We have drained our emotional pool more times than we dare to remember.

But I like to think that I have also learned from every pregnancy attempt we did. That I have grown with every tear dropped on our many missteps on this road. That I have become a better person in this process. So I’ve decided to embrace our situation and, rather than fight it, live with it! Since then, my wife and I have taken some time-off to travel, to renovate, to study, to work, to workout, to dance (ok, ok, only my wife did, not me. I have the rhythm and the moves of, well, a strawberry…), to laugh, to party! Has “time-off” helped on the infertility treatment itself? No. But it made me live better!

I think what I want to say is: it has been hard, but not so hard that we could not enjoy our lives. The infertility issues, the potential upcoming treatments and the discussion of options will always be there and we will have to live with it. Some days will be better. Some days will be worse.

So yes, I do believe today that I am a better person than I was in 2006. I have learned to value what I have at the moment I have them. I have learned to feel pain and share my feelings without being afraid of judgment. I have learned to love my wife and our life together, unconditionally. I have also confirmed that the world is indeed a gigantic strawberry, but that strawberries are not perfect… And, in that case, all I have to do is to put some extra work, effort and love and perhaps I could end-up with a fantastic jam!

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Hormones: Dealing with PMS on steroids!

I am sure that all men will agree with me: talking about her hormones is a touchy subject, even if you are not dealing with fertility issues.

It has taken me many attempts to write these words as I was trying to find an honest description of my feelings about this. However, being a good representative of the average male, I was looking for a rational narrative that would follow a logical path towards my feelings on the subject. And the result, not surprisingly, never felt honest…

I had to dig deeper in my emotions to find why it was so hard to write about how her hormones had an impact on me. And the answer was quite simple and obvious: I had them as well…  “Hormones”, in my case, could simply be described as “feelings”. And no, I do not think I became more fragile in admitting that. In fact, it was a bit of a relief…

I have written before that the cultural and social environment my wife and I live-in praise on the all-powerful men, the one who does not have “hormones”. The one who has answers and not questions. The one who, ultimately, has control over every situation. Well, at every treatment we went through, I had none of that. In fact, I always felt quite lost and not in control at all… And this was a terrible feeling at a time all I wanted was to be as positive about the outcome as possible. But there were days it was difficult to remain focused. How could I have remained calm 100% of the time when I was feeling “attacked” by her sudden harsh words every so often? How could I have remained supportive if I was being pushed away by her erratic behavior? How could I have kept emotional balance over the situation when I too was feeling adrift?

Since our first treatment I learned that there would be days where I would never, ever, not in a million years, not by holy intervention, be right…That there would be days when I would “casually” embark on an easy ride to soon find myself on an emotional rollercoaster that was coming down fast, making sudden and sharp twists along the way and finishing on a triple loop that would leave my head spinning for hours… That there would be days where it would be best to dive at a ruthless tackle and fake an injury than to face that “fierce defender” armed with an uncontrollable desire to stop me, no matter what… And the timing? Ah the timing… Joyful were the days when she felt the urge to discuss a very key point of our relationship when I was about to fall asleep. Or when we were stuck in traffic and I was stressed to miss the doctor’s appointment, but we had to go over a forgetful comment I have made possibly three year ago… And the subject of such discussions really did not matter, as it could range from what I would be cooking for our guests on Saturday to running over possible baby names for the 847th time. It could be related to my family, to her family, or to someone else’s family. It could be over what’s best: Pinterst or Instagram?   (Really, I do admit having feelings but that doesn’t mean I get those two sites…) It could be an in-depth discussion on options to infertility, already assuming the treatment had failed… The subject was definitely not important as the timing never felt right.

Those were challenging days… I felt I was bound to impossible discussions, where there was no winning for both sides.

All infertility treatments we went through required a bombing of hormones that caused an almost nuclear blast to my wife’s body. It felt like she was brought to menopause in 2 weeks to then be forced to come crashing back to a fertility status in a couple of days.. Just by thinking about it, I fully understand the rollercoaster… But it was never an easy ride. For both of us. In a matter of seconds, my wife would go from a fragile creature that needed caring to a determined woman planning in taking the world by storm. She would be a stubborn teenager, playing “I don’t like you anymore”, just to turn into an injured animal determined to protect herself even from the ones trying to help! I had to read the signs early and prepare, as our emotions were constantly put on the turbocharger!

Yes, it was definitely hard. And No, I was not always nice about it. I reacted in ways that were not nice to her. I rationally knew where her behavior was coming from, but that did not block my emotions from erupting from time to time. I was only being human… But that did not made it right. Not for me, not for my wife.

We have always been a couple that talked a lot. That hardly fought. That always discussed things rather than argued about it. That has, in my opinion, a very balanced relationship. Infertility definitely put a challenge to our “emotional status-quo” and I had to learn how to deal with it. The “hormonal blast” never lasted long and it was not chronic by any means, as we were always able to talk things through and get back to our normal selves, but it helped me see I needed additional counseling. My wife consults with a Psychologist for a while now and, after feeling the extra pressure of the treatments built inside me, I felt I too needed assistance. Since last year I begun consulting and we also go for couple’s sessions every now and then, when we both feel the need to talk at the same time.

That has become one of the best initiatives I could have done for myself and for our relationship, as it helped me release and deal with the pressure of our infertility journey little by little, not allowing the “pressure cooker” that is my head to explore without warning. Hormones, at the end of the day, did lead me to a better path!

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Rabbits

Mother Nature has a “formula” for life continuation that, let’s face it, has been working very well for the past few thousand years. This formula is easy: mix the right elements and every life form on Earth will have the ability to procreate and perpetuate their species. If you take Human beings as an example, we have reproduced and evolved tremendously over the centuries to become the dominant kind on this planet. Based on that, Humans should be quite happy with the formula, right? Well, it depends…

Statistically, Mother Nature’s success rate for the perpetuation of the Human race is fantastic, so no one should question it. But what about the ones that have yet to get the right elements on the formula to work? The ones that witness the Miracle of Life resulting from this formula happen everywhere, with everyone but them? The ones who question the efficacy of the same formula that put them on this Earth?

I do consider myself as one of those that challenge Mother Nature’s work… This is, of course, not a rational thought but rather a deep emotional feeling that makes the logic of my own being a question… That makes my thinking not straight. That shakes my pragmatism and optimism towards life. That blurs my vision and confuses my senses.

Yes. It blurs my vision. So much so that I don’t see people getting Mother Nature’s formula right. I see Rabbits. Fluffy, insatiable, fertile little creatures that easily and effortlessly procreate!

My wife and I live in a cultural and social environment where willing couples are expected to have kids at a certain age, following the Nature’s clock for procreation. When I was born, the clock was set for the early to mid 20s. Nowadays, it is set to the late 20s to mid 30s. Just when we begun to try to have a baby and just when we saw everyone around us getting pregnant of one, two, three or more kids. Just when everyone turned into Rabbits.

Like in any species, however, there’s differentiation. Therefore, I think of Rabbits in three ways: White Bunnies, Wild and Black Rabbits.

White Bunnies are the loving parents that willingly want kids as a continuation of their love. They are the ones who are dedicated in providing good education and good health to their children, despite all the challenges of parenthood. They are the ones whom solely interest is in building a Family! White Bunnies live close by. So close that we get to live and love their offspring! And we both feel extremely fortunate to be sharing our lives with them…  My niece is a gift from heaven. Our many godsons and goddaughters are a blessing to us. The kids of our closest friends and family give us the privilege to love them and be loved back. I do truly consider us lucky for having the experience to have so many loving children around us, but that do not take away the desire to have one of our own.

Wild Rabbits, on the other hand, are annoying. Those are the ones who live a bit far from our lives but not so much that they eventually come out of their hole and trash our yard. Wild Rabbits would meet us in social events and would, without hesitation; share how easy is for them to have kids and how careful they have to be not to overpopulate the planet. They are the ones who have 3+ kids. They are the ones that live only for their kids and become socially awkward. They are the ones oblivious to the fact that some folks, sharing the same age, may not have children and may not want to make the experience of others the center of each and every conversation. They are the ones that we can’t be too mad at as they are almost naïve to the world, living on their hole and only coming out occasionally. But they are annoying. They make me mad at times as they have the uncanny ability to sadden my wife and me in a millisecond. They can be considered a plague at times. But they are harmless and they tend to cause only temporary frustration in our lives…

And then there’s the Black Rabbits. The ones that DO NOT want to have kids but have them anyway, by pure ignorance, by accident or simply by convenience.  The ones that are so selfish that, in being so emerged on their own needs and desires, become absent parents. The ones that have the audacity to leave babies on the garbage or at the doorsteps of hospitals.  The ones that abuse and intentionally harm babies and children. Black Rabbits carry the evil side of the Human nature. A side that would gladly harm an innocent baby or kid, causing them emotional and physical damage, possibly to the rest of their lives. Fortunately for me, I only know of Black Rabbits via the news. I honestly would know what I would do or feel if I get to know one…

Will we get Mother Nature’s formula right one day? Will I stop being annoyed by Rabbits everywhere? I trust YES! But I hope I do not become wild in the process…

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Dr. Google, PHD

I have to admit: Yes, we have “consulted” with Dr. Google, PHD. Many times, too many times… And the consultation was normally done following the “referral” of Dr. Myfriendknowsbetter, Md.

I believe I am more pragmatic than my wife is when it comes to our infertility so, right or wrong, I would rarely take into consideration the infamous Myfriendknowsbetter, Md counsel. Therefore, I would get irritated and uncomfortable every time she would bring someone’s “new find” up. And even more upset when I was told to read an article of some sort. For me, trusting the doctor was my way to take control over the treatment and the simple notion of questioning him was very hard for me to take. I always felt as if I was at a crossroads, with no real good option to choose from, when presented with Dr. Google’s PHD findings…

If I chose TO FOLLOW the lead of a friend’s story that miraculously solved a couple’s infertility and dived into the web in hope to find the article that would change our lives, I would be challenging and doubting the professional we have chosen to help us. In doing so, I felt that I was questioning my own judgment by thinking that the doctor that had studied and practiced medicine for so long (and to whom we were paying a significant amount of money to) would miss-out on a very simple aspect of the treatment. So simple that I could find the solution myself, just by surfing the net. On the other hand, if I chose NOT TO FOLLOW the lead, I would be left feeling that I could in fact be missing on a very important detail that would give me control over the situation and lead us to a potential successful pregnancy. Either way, I felt that there was no good option when it came to use Google as a supporting tool to our treatment…

That Google is an amazing search engine, there is no question about it. But the content it directs us to can’t be taken as the ultimate truth on a subject, particularly when it deals with medicine and health. Good practitioners would caution you regarding the inevitable desire to find yourself the “cure” or the “fix” by searching the Web. Of course that there is no harm in wanting to get better educated on the condition that was (and still is) affecting us so deeply, but I always felt that we needed to take all findings with a grain of salt. In doing the “research” ourselves and questioning the doctor’s approach and / or the treatment we were receiving, we added the unnecessary stress of distrust on the one person we should be absolutely comfortable with in this process. Not to mention the tension that rose on the couple at a time when we should be optimistic and confident about the outcome of the treatment.

But the tales that someone found the “fix” over the net and then used his or her findings to challenge the doctor to finally get them pregnant were, and still are, inevitable to be told. And I admit that the promise of “taking control” over the treatment is indeed very appealing to me, thus why I make an effort to keep an open mind about it. But, even though I believe that this could happen, I also believe that such occurrence is rare. At least, it has never happened to us…

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Two weeks

Anxiety. Nervousness. Fear. These were common feelings for me during the dreaded two weeks between the embryo transfer to the first blood result. There was no easy way around it since we knew there was a firm date, set in stone, for us to get the result and that there was nothing we could do to expedite it.

Of course we followed all medical recommendations for this period but we have also tried many things, right or wrong, during our many trials, to anticipate the results… Of course we have done the over-the-counter pregnancy tests before, even though the doctors didn’t recommend it as all the meds and hormones could have lead to a false result. Of course we have relied on our faith, even though we have also consulted with many oracles and future-tellers. Of course we have consulted with Dr. Google, PHD every time we’ve heard a different tale about the “one thing” a friend of a friend did that made all the difference… But the reality was that no matter what we did, we had to wait for those two weeks to pass… And it was tough.

As the hormones kicked-in, my wife’s body changed. But was that because she was getting pregnant or was it because of the side effects of the progesterone? Was she cramping because the embryo was developing or was it because it was not? Was she getting nauseous because of the meds or was it because this was in fact a pregnancy? Should she have carried that small grocery bag or was that too much exercise? How much was enough rest? Questions, questions and, when there were no more questions, doubts, doubts, doubts… These two weeks were a bit maddening…

The best thing we have done so far to ease the anxiety was NOT to tell to as many people as possible about the treatment. This can be hard and sometimes even stressful as my wife and I were suddenly a bit different and reclusive from your normal selves, but it reduced tremendously the pressure on me and, most importantly, on her. We know that everyone we care about will always cheer for us, but the feeling of telling everyone it did NOT worked is horrible. Dealing with our own sadness was hard enough, so dealing with other’s was sometimes unbearable as the inevitable “pity party” or the “cheer-up speeches” would start and make things even harder.  We know those were natural reactions from folks that love us and know our history, but the truth is that “untelling” is hard, so our emotional preservation was proven to be the best strategy to avoid it.

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Control? What Control?

This is probably the most difficult thing to realize in this whole process: we do not have control over the outcome. No matter what we do.

We may try to come-up with some ways to have the perception we are controlling the outcome, but we are merely controlling the process…

Quick example: I am an organized guy who needs any sort of visual aid to help me understand things. Therefore, at every time we were given a list of medications that needed to be taken, I immediately thought about a very colorful Excel spreadsheet, with all dates, meds and dosages to help guide our drug intake. Then, a few hours later, when we were back from the doctor’s office, the spreadsheet was done! Beautiful! Professional! And I felt proud of it and in control as no medication would be left untaken!! This was for sure great as it reduced the stress level and ensured the treatment was done properly, but the medication intake success hardly guaranteed a pregnancy.

Another example: no coffee! For some, this could be easy but for my wife and me, it is extremely difficult. As she struggled with only a decaf every morning, I did follow suit in support of her pain. We then both battle the side effects of coffee deprivation (really, this exists and is hard as you feel weak, with headaches and tired all day long). At the end of three or four days we were finally coffee-free and feeling like we had achieved something! Great! We have got control over one more thing that would enhance our chances of success, but again would hardly guarantee a pregnancy.

Those are simple things, from a couple’s perspective, than can be addressed and for sure make a difference on the process. But the real bearing of the weight of losing control, unfortunately, is my wife’s… She was the one injecting the medication. She was the one taking the hormones. She was the one getting poked for blood every so often. She was the one doing the ultrasounds. She was the one feeling her body change without really knowing what was happening (were we getting pregnant or these were simply side effects from all the meds?). She was the one, ultimately, having her body changed and having to relinquish control over it. And I felt powerless over that… She was feeling the lost of control over her own body while I was feeling the lost of control over my ability to properly be her husband. A husband, in my culture and in my personal view, is someone who provides and cares for his family. Is someone who protects them against all harm. Is someone who gives direction and, of course, control when someone is in need. And the feeling of not being able to do just that was terrible, as if I was losing control over my life and my marriage…

So how I have come to learn to deal with the lack of control? Well, first I had to make an effort to understand that I am no less of a husband nor I love her less for not having all the answers and not having the ultimate control over the outcome of our many treatments. Second, I learn that sharing that I too was scared and that I too was in pain was OK. Finally, I begun to understand that being there, supporting her and being her safety net was perhaps more important than the control itself.

Are these easy thoughts to come to terms with? NO, DEFINITELY NOT! I have to work on them every day and make a real effort to get rid of my personal stigma of feeling that I need to be the all powerful men to be worthy of her love. Some days are better, some days are worse. But I have grown immensely as a person and we have definitely grown tremendously as a couple during this process.

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The wrong side of the chart

Nerve wrecking. I think there is no better way to describe the day we are expected to get the first pregnancy results. We had three positives and what seem to be too many negatives. The feeling of a negative result is horrible. There is no way to describe the emotions that you go through when you get such results… All the planning and expectation, all the emotional, physical and financial stresses we have been going through finally come to an abrupt and undesirable end.

And it’s an end without explanation. A pregnancy has a certain statistical percentage of success, but we were not there. That’s the best explanation we were given. We are both healthy and capable of producing high quality embryos. My wife responds spectacularly well to the hormonal treatment and yet, we were not there…

And the question is, why? Why do we have to be on the wrong side of the probability charts? Why do we have deal with the unbearable pain of not knowing why? Why us? Why, why, why… And the worst part is that, in our case, there is no easy medical answer to that.

But then, what to do with the void? That void that you have been so eagerly trying to fill, investing all your energy on it? That void that will be automatically filed with joy with a simple “yes, it’s positive” response. That void that seems to have grown bigger with each and every “no” we’ve got…

Finally, what about the inevitable “now what?” For a guy like me, that has the tendency to always look at the bright side and plow forward, blindly believing that you learn from each experience in life, this is a particularly painful question. I feel static, incapable of any movement, stuck! So can I know what comes next?

Anyway, I do consider myself a very calm, optimistic and pragmatic person. But no matter what your personality type is, nothing prepares you for the “no”. I simply don’t know why, I don’t know how to fill the void and for sure I don’t know what’s next… My heart drops so deep with every negative result and with every tear coming from my wife’s eyes that I can’t even hear when it hits the bottom.  I just want the pain to go away…

But the pain never goes away. You learn how to live with it, how to respect it and, more importantly, how to embrace it (Yes, embrace it. I have learned, thanks to my wife, that it is OK for me to embrace the pain…) but it never goes away.

There is nothing we could have done to prevent any of the negative results. I am convinced of that. At every attempt, with whatever treatment or physician, we definitely did everything possible, at that time, to make it right… We’ve done it all: Do not move at all. Move a bit. Eat light. Eat well. Sleep well. No sex. Don’t take coffee. Don’t drink. Reduce sugars. Take the medication as prescribed. Don’t take Advil. Think positively. Don’t exercise. Yes, we have done it all…

But we still don’t know why we always fall on the wrong side of the charts…

And I don’t know if we ever will know. What I know is that knowing how to live with the unknown and with the uncontrollable is perhaps my biggest learning of it all. Too much knowing for something that seemed so dangerously easy when we were in our early 20s…

But somehow, I have learned how to cope with the pain as we try, and try, and try again.

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