Sunday, February 26, 2012


I met someone the other day. A male someone. I've known him for awhile actually but I hadn't had any meaningful conversation with him in a long time and in some ways, our conversation, felt like meeting him again. I happened to sit next to him at lunch and we wound up talking for almost an hour. We spoke about some of his goals and plans. We spoke about some of mine. They sounded important and even possible in the context of the conversation. He spoke about things that I would normally find only marginally interesting but the passion and intelligence he brought to the subjects made them utterly compelling. He was utterly compelling. And more than just a little good looking. When the conversation ended I found myself wanting more. More conversation. More of him. There was undeniable attraction and chemistry.

Now I find myself thinking about him. I feel driven to connect with this man again. I know we will connect again. In conversation and other. The odds are stacked against us though as we are both incredibly busy. He has a demanding career about which he is passionate and to which he is committed (part of the attraction). He has a two and a half year old toddler and a baby on the way due in less than a week. He just moved into a new home which he has yet to fully unpack. He is a recreational pilot which eats away some time. His wife has a challenging, time-consuming job. She is also a distance runner (and has a fairly serious blogging habit) both of which create more demands on his time.

But I know our impromptu lunch "date" meant something and we will somehow find a way of nurturing this connection.

Monday, February 20, 2012

When the news is about you

I had my first radio driveway moment in ages driving back from the very, very pregnant 5 km. You know when you get home and cannot get out of the car because the story on the radio is so compelling? Not owning, as we don't, a car nor until very recently, a driveway - I have not had these moments often. It was the feature on the Sunday Edition of the CBC with Michael Enright that had me pinned to my seat. A story titled: "Wanted: Egg Donor in Good Health" which you can listen to here.

In her feature, Alison Motluck discusses some of the ethical dilemmas of Canada's booming fertility industry - namely the health risks to young women who volunteer as egg donors. She describes add after add on Craig's List of couples essentially seeking tall, attractive, university educated women of an ethnic background matching their own who are free of genetic disease, drug-use and between the ages of, typically 21-31. Further, unstated, these women must be willing to undergo time-consuming appointments, invasive interventions and be willing to inject/consume non-trivial doses of non-trivial medications... out of the goodness of their hearts and desire to help. In Canada, unlike our sister to the south, it is illegal to purchase human eggs. Alison rightly points out that while sperm donors are often mainstream news not to mention the background story of many a Hollywood movie (not to mention PAID), egg donors, who endure ... well let's face it, the comparison is laughable, are largely ignored.

In her feature Alison interviewed 12 women who volunteered to be egg donors, many of them multiple times. All of these women had in common that what they hoped to get out of their donation was the good feeling of having helped someone else. No strings attached. And ultimately all of these women found themselves ultimately of sharing horror stories with Alison.

The problem with egg donation is that the egg donors are assuming a non-trivial risk without medical need of doing so for themselves. The greatest risk is ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome which, in a nutshell, is the risk that the ovaries will over-respond to the hormones, produce too many eggs and result in grave side effects for the woman including drastic fluid retention (one woman spoke of gaining 20 pounds in 2 days) which can lead to water on the lungs, clots, heart problems etc. Some victims of OHSS must actually have the fluid aspirated from them. It's tricky. The higher the dose of medication, the more eggs produced, the greater the likelihood of success for the actual patient a.k.a. the paying customer BUT with more eggs comes greater risk to the donor. The donors are not treated as patients of the clinics (the story implied), are NOT paying customers and therein lies the crack into which many of them fall. In a normal stimulation cycle, doctors hope to stimulate somewhere between 6-12 eggs. The women in this story spoke of producing upwards of 30... 40... one woman reported 80 (this is reaching almost amphibious levels of egg production!!).

Then it got nasty, these women told stories of being sent home by plane the next day despite feeling ill. One woman did not want to get on the plane and was informed by the clinic that the recipient family was "not open" to re-booking her flight and paying another night's hotel (it is legal to cover expenses, nothing more) and that she best go home and see her gynecologist there. This woman even had to trick the flight attendant, who upon seeing her was concerned about her well-being, into letting her onto the plane because she realized she would have to pay a ticket home out of pocket if she did not take the flight. These women spoke of being ignored by the clinics after their donation, trips to their locals ERs, one woman has not had her period in 8 months since she was over-stimulated by her clinic in a cycle that resulted in 60 eggs. The official risk of OHSS is 1-2% for donors yet 100% of the women interviewed had experienced it. A lack of research about incidence of OHSS among donors was alluded to implying, along with the 100% incidence among women in the story, that the rate is far higher than advertised. The report implied that these women are being treated as "bags of spare parts" and painted a picture of cold hearted recipients, clinics concerned only about the bottom line and a shocking lack of regulation. The fertility industry was likened to "the wild west" of medicine.

And I sat there riveted.

Because it isn't often that feature news story on National Radio is about me.

But this one was. 14 years ago, at the fertile, naive age of 23 I was one of those women. I saw so much unhappiness around me and felt such despair at it all that, like the women in the story, I just wanted to help. I wanted to help one person with one concrete problem. It seemed so obvious. I did not want anything in return except (and this is no small thing) the satisfaction of having done one thing to make one person happy. Like the women in the story I was not seeking financial gain (and did not get any). Like the women in the story the risks were explained to me as being small. Like the women in the story I developed OHSS and required hospitalization. I remember the intense nausea. Gaining 11 pounds in 3 days. My distended belly and bloated limbs. I was one of the cases that required needle aspiration to remove excess fluid. I spent 4 days in the hospital. I missed my MSc

Here's where my story differs. The clinic I was donating through was horrified and properly concerned. They saw me as a patient i.e. did not refer me to the ER or to my (at the time) non-existent gynecologist. The had me admitted to hospital immediately. The fertility doctor who was treating my recipient saw me everyday in the hospital. My illness was hugely concerning to the clinic and, I was given the impression, unprecedented. Here's the other thing: I would do it all again. In a heartbeat. If anyone actually wanted my close to expired almost 38 year old eggs. Because although the whole ordeal felt horrifically unfair at the time, at 23 ("I.... just...wanted... to.... do... something... nice... for... someone" I remember sniffling into my beleaguered boyfriend-of-the-time's shoulder), in hindsight at the age of 37, as someone who has experienced infertility, I realize that my "suffering" was trivial in the face of potential gain by the recipient.

And speaking of my infertility, ironically one of the "tests" I had to pass was an interview with a psychiatrist (who awkwardly turned out to be the father of an ex-boyfriend... weird). He assessed me to ensure that I was mentally stable, making this decision of my own free will without expectation of gain. He also asked me to visualize various scenarios one of which was that 10 years down the road I would want a child of my own and be unable to conceive and how would I feel knowing that there was a child who was genetically mine "out there." I remember telling him: "I know the right answer is that I'd be fine with it but really... how the hell do I know? I'm twenty-freaking three (I was more polite than that) but you're pouring hypothetical scenario (I will want kids) on top of hypothetical scenario (I won't be able to have them)... should we really deny these people their chance because IF I want kids and IF I am unable to have them then MAYBE I will regret this???"

And so, time passed and both those hypothetical scenarios came to be. And what did I feel about my previous egg donation? Absolutely nothing. It felt completely and utterly inconsequential. I didn't have trouble conceiving at 33 because I gave 13 eggs away over a decade ago. And I gave those eggs as a time when I felt completely ambivalent about reproducing myself. So no psychological scarring.

What's my point? Ok. Well I'm certainly not saying "well I got sick and things turned out okay for me so egg donation is not an issue...". Alison Motluck's story is an important one. The ethical issues she raises are complex and worth questioning. Perhaps ANY risk to an otherwise healthy person to allow another to reproduce (an act not essential for the physical well-being of the recipient) is unacceptable. I'm not qualified or thoughtful enough to reach a meaningful conclusion of that. I know it was and remains the right decision for me and I cannot speak beyond that. But as I say, it was an important story. The plight of these women should be brought to light. It unacceptable that a human is used as spare parts and then disregarded. There is clearly a lack of regulation in the fertility industry (cough, octomom, cough). But in listening to this story one could be left with the impression that the risks to donors are enormous and that the callous treatment of afflicted donors by clinics and recipients is the norm. Clearly these situations should not happen. EVER. but I wonder what the vast majority of egg donation experiences are like? How were the women in the story chosen? Are they the vast minority or is this really the norm?

But finally my point is this... it was very eye opening for me to be "in the news" so to speak. I tend to have a rather uncritical mind in the sense that I soak in information at face value without really questioning the source or the balance. This story forced me to really think about the reporting and the information in this case. It makes me realize the importance of questioning information critically and evaluating what might be missing, how carefully the information was sieved and sorted before the choicest pieces were presented. It makes me wonder about all the other stories that I have no personal experience with and how I consume those.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Race Report: The very (very) pregnant 5 km

Some thoughts about today's race:

~splits: 5:27 (steep uphill), 4:52 (rolling, mostly downhill), 5:08 (flat-ish), 5:29 (rolling mostly uphill), 4:37 (precipitous downhill) - 25:33

~25:33 was far faster than I thought I could run while keeping the effort reasonable

~I still feel guilty about the 4:51 2nd km and actually gave myself a 1 minute walking "time out" after the third km was not much slower so much to lower my heart rate (which was not high) as to break my rhythm and slow the overall pace down (hard because i felt so damn good!!).

~teenage boys do NOT appreciate being passed by visibly pregnant women

~I don't blame them, neither would I.

~positive comments outnumbered negative comments (at least those within audible range) by about 20:1
~spending Saturday assembling Ikea furniture, unpacking boxing and cleaning was way more tiring and contraction-inducing than running 5 km (which caused zero contractions)

~lots of kicks and punches from baby before during  & after.  very reassuring.

~had I run 3 measly seconds faster, I would have actually scored points towards this year's series

~whatever PPC LET IT GO.

~did not go into pre-term labour (is it really pre-term at 38 w2d?? that stuck in my head because one person asked me if I was worried about causing pre-term labour. I think it is really just called labour with no qualifier at this point)

~I know that when I am still pregnant at 42w1d (and trust me... I will be - that's the last possible day for me to be pregnant as my back-up c-section is scheduled for that day) I will laugh at myself for actually wondering if this race might have triggered labour

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Losing my sense of normal

I have been regularly following the blogs of so many running pregnant women, running moms and (my favorite) running, pregnant moms that I am beginning to wonder if I have lost my sense of normal. It now seems normal, typical, average, standard to:

~get up at 5 am to run
~run at 3 am after nursing and during a bought of insomnia
~run a 60 km week while in one's third trimester (actually in all honesty, 60 km/week seems low)
~run, puke, continue running (a la Bob Kempainen - 1996 Marathon trials)
~run the morning of giving birth
~run within 72 hours of giving birth (haven't done this myself but my point is it just doesn't seem that weird or extreme)

So, without much thought, I signed up for a 5 km race tomorrow (on which day I will be 38 weeks and 2 days pregnant and T-10 days to my due date) and it just didn't seem that weird or extreme. The only part that gives me (very slight) pause for thought is that this race is a little far from home, approximately 40 minutes by car. I'm not worried about "competing" while so heavily pregnant because I am, obviously, not going there to compete but rather to get out in the crisp air, see people I haven't seen in awhile and probably won't see for awhile and just drink in the atmosphere of this race which is the first of the year in the series I usually run. The physical demands of running this "race" will be no different than the demands of the "work-outs" I have been doing in the gym lately. My OB says I am not dilated, the baby has not descended, there is "no reason to restrict activity" (and yes, she does know what my activity consists of).

Have I lost my sense of normal?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why does moving suck

If there exists an award for the overstatement and over-analyzing of the obvious, then please, members of the esteemed selection committee, I would like to nominate myself. Seriously... a post on why moving sucks, surely as ground breaking as "Why root canals are unpleasant" or "Why child birth might sting a little" (which is apparently only because of the expectation of pain that society instills in women which triggers fear and anxiety therefore causing pain as a reflection of the fear according to a recent theory to which i do not subscribe on child birth... oh PUH-LEASE! can't we just say it hurts because one is pushing a HEAD out of her wohoo and leave it at that???).

But yes, moving sucks. Need I write 500 words about why? Well, I am finding, mid-move, that it is actually the subtler aspects of moving that come and slap one in the face. Yes, there are the obvious things. The chaos. The mess. The expense. The feeling of being uprooted. The unfamiliarity. Not knowing how to even turn on the lights or the heat in one's new place. Being overly friendly with a new neighbour and realizing 2 minutes into the conversation, after hearing about her divorce, search for the right man, eagerness to have children (and do I happen to know how old a woman can be and still conceive?), the negative energy in her old 'hood, failed career as an accountant, re-discovering herself as an artist, that perhaps friendly reserve would have been the better strategy. The long hours cleaning. The long hours unpacking. Not knowing where anything is and worse, once it is found, where it actually belongs. The treadmill dis-assembled sadly waiting for the technician to come. Moving while 8.5 months pregnant, working full-time, in FEBRUARY... it all sucks. And I have to take a moment to acknowledge the fact that we had some amazing help in this endeavor. Family and friends taking on la cocotte so we could unpack etc. We even had a family member drive in from a distant city this week-end to cocotte sit so we can continue our efforts so... I have no right to complain; we are very fortunate... but it all still sucks.

As I said, it's the subtle things. It's the act of packing one's life away in boxes and realizing with each cupboard emptied how many dreams and goals one had that never came to fruition. The small things... the knitting project never completed, not only was the project itself forgotten but it has been so long that I have actually forgotten how to knit. The vegetarian cookbook from the month where I realized I was no longer ethically comfortable with eating meat and had to make a change... and then didn't. A few elegant pieces of clothing and some make-up from the period where I decided I really needed to put more effort into personal grooming... and then didn't. Learning a new programming language - fail. Growing my own vegetables - fail (though to be fair until 10 days ago I did live on the fourth floor in a downtown condo). Learning Italian so we could live abroad for a year - okay that one I did, Auguri! But all of these projects, admittedly not terribly important, begun so earnestly, cast aside and completely forgotten. It is painful to have them trotted out one by one from the bookshelves, cupboards and drawers... each one whispering fail fail fail.

Then the endless decisions of unpacking. Every item needing to be categorized, prioritized and ultimately placed. Each of the thousand items removed from boxes triggering a decision. I am a slow thinker and generally dislike making decisions. To the point that when the movers were moving things into our new place and repeatedly asking "Where does this go?", I found myself repeatedly thinking"You should really ask someone who lives here!" (when I wasn't thinking "hmmm,  not sure... what IS that??") but honestly I was mostly wishing they wouldn't ask me and just decide and then I could use their judgement to "decide" where things should go. I hate decisions. Exhibit A: our new spice drawer - it's configured such that while there is ample room for all of our spices, only a few spices can be easily reached. Therefore unpacking the spices necessitated a string of decisions - do I use cloves or carraway seed more often (both tied at "almost never"). Which of these three containers of cayenne pepper should I consolidate the others into? It sounds ridiculous (because it is) but each decision was seemingly endless.

We splurged and paid people to pack for us (not sure if this counts as splurging when both partners are working full-time, one is 8 months pregnant and there is a toddler in the picture, may just count as survival regardless definitely in the category of Best Money Ever Spent). 3 packers arrived at our place the day before the move at 8 am and essentially stormed the castle. As I watched them I realized that perhaps the most important service they were providing was emotional distance from the objects being packed. There was no pausing over every item wondering where did I get it? Should I keep it? When did I last use it? What is it used for anyway? In the box it went... running shoes, opened bags of lentils, chipped dishes and garbage alike were packed with equal un-hesitation. At first I tried to stay ahead of them and go through closets and drawers throwing things away (which clearly I should have been doing in the weeks before the move) but it was like trying to stay ahead of a tsunami. Every time I turned around another closet had been emptied. At one point I panicked wondering where la cocotte might be and was ready to start tearing open their boxes until I remembered she had been dropped at daycare.

Then there are the ghosts. I have been back to our old apartment since we moved out and it was actually physically painful walking and seeing it laid bare, filled with ghosts... the ghost of me visiting hubby there on our early dates, the ghosts of us packing up our lives on two separate occasions to move to foreign countries... once for my career, once for his, the ghost of us bringing home la cocotte and, of course, the ghost of la cocotte... growing and learning and loving and screaming and laughing... hard. Hard to leave the first home we brought her to.

Finally, I think with every move a couple makes, there is inevitably going to be one member of the couple who is move eager to make it than the other. In this case that would be the member of this couple who is almost nine months pregnant and wanting to nest a little before hatching another. I am, despite the evidence in the paragraphs above, much happier to make this move than hubby and so there is guilt... guilt that he is leaving the first home he ever purchased that he adored... guilt that he only finds our new place acceptable, rather than loving it.