Monthly Archives: August 2013

Life. Just – life.

Certain events in the last few weeks have brought home to me how very weird the world can be. Things move in mysterious ways, guys (all things, not just that woman that Bono was jones-ing on). Sometimes even as a secular person it can be hard to believe that things happen the way they do just by chance (while knowing that, of course, they usually do).

If you’ve been following my last few posts, you’ll know that I recently went through the process of doing an egg donation.

Well, it didn’t work out. If you want the long story, read on. If you want the short one, here it is: I have pretty much run out of eggs. And I’m not even 30. And everyone thinks you’ve got til 35 or even 40 to have kids, but I will be lucky if I have another baby ever, and I’m 29 freaking years old, dammit.

Here’s how I found out:

I had zero response to the Gonal F injections – not a single follicle did grow. This got the gynae very worried, especially considering my age. So after a number of scans, off I trundled for more blood tests.

The egg donation was cancelled after the blood analysis showed that I had very low estrogen levels. I was quite devastated. I’d so badly wanted to help my recipient, and I was really emotionally invested in the process – I was totally committed. The gynae then went above and beyond his duty to me as a “failed” (I can’t think of another way to put it) donor by requesting an AMH test on my bloods. Apparently this test, which is quite involved and advanced, tends only to be run on women who have been trying unsuccessfully to conceive for about a year.

The results came back two weeks later, and the upshot of all of this is that, relatively speaking, I have a much lower ovarian reserve than most other 29-year-old otherwise completely healthy women. Which means that, basically, my eggs have almost all run out. As in, I don’t have many more left – even if the ones that are there are all good eggs (as evidenced by the perfection of my Lil A).

So the gynae advised that if I plan on having another child, I shouldn’t waste any time.

But! But! I do want another baby, but not until, like, 2015. That was the plan! I’m not ready for another baby yet! I’m not ready for another pregnancy, we’re not financially ready for another child yet, I want to spend more time enjoying Lil A as she grows more and more into her own person, I don’t think I could handle another 6 months of breastfeeding and no sleep and I was just getting into shape again and what about all the fretting about miscarriages and what about my 30th birthday party and and and and. You get the idea. Basically, I’m not ready for all of that again right now.

But in a few years, when I feel I am ready, my biological clock will have struck 12 and my ovaries will have turned into pumpkins.

So I’ve got to either seize the day and try to make use of my few remaining eggs and adjust to the idea of having a second baby sooner than planned, or settle on the idea that there might never be a second baby. Although, when you think about it (and I’ve been trying not to, to be honest), I’ll probably have to do both of these things at once.

Emotions and all of that aside, the irony of this whole situation is just astounding. I’m caught between being a bit angry, a bit relieved, and really awe-struck at the weirdness of the way things work.


Things my daughter does

16 months

16 months

  • She eats. From scrambled eggs with spinach, to chickpea and courgette stew with harissa (mine), to pasta puttanesca (olives, capers and all), to whole apples, one of Lil A’s greatest pleasures is tucking into big-girl, grown-up food (and, come to think of it, some weird toddler snacks, too – like sweet potato puree on toast. I’m dreading the day she realises that vegetable puree is not a normal sandwich filling). She’s got a special head-bop reserved for things that are Most Delicious, and is a very neat fork-and-spoon eater.
  • Clutches her teddies to her chest and pats and shoosh-es them to sleep, and gives you one to cuddle and rock and shoosh, too, so you don’t feel left out.
  • Waves and says “buh-BYE!” to her reflection in our full-length bathroom mirror before she leaves the room.
  • Licks the glass of the sliding doors and windows, a lot, and often.
  • Drinks strawberry-flavoured rooibos tea in her sippy cup by the litre.
  • Calls one of our dogs by name and calls the other dog “no, no, no” (to be fair, he’s usually the one that’s barking). No matter how much they bond, she’s still calling the poor harassed cat “Meow”.
  • Makes an approximation of the noises for donkeys, cows, cats, fish, birds, ducks and lions on demand. It’s a great party trick.
  • Takes her dirty clothes out the laundry basket and tries to put them on over her head. She settles for walking around with her dirty T-shirts and leggings draped like a scarf around her shoulders.
  • Classifies any round object in her picture books as a ball.
  • Says “no” if you ask her for a kiss if she doesn’t feel like giving one. That’s about the most conclusive proof you can get that she knows she’s her own person.
  • If she’s in the mood, she gives Eskimo kisses (should this be Inuit kisses? Eskimo’s actually an allowed term, right?) or say “mah!” against your cheek.
  • Carries treasures around in her fist for hours: fridge magnets, pebbles, hair clips, my roll-on deodorant, necklaces, bits of paper … these are all better than any toys.
  • Follows the builders who are doing renovations in our house around, watches them absorbedly while they work and occasionally strikes up gobbledygook conversations with them. She’s a friendly sort.
  •  Calls her nanny almost perfectly by name (we can all be forgiven confusing an “m” and an “n” here and there) most of the time, and calls her “morning!” for the rest.

Sweets for my sweet (except, not)

Cubes of sugar. White sugar. Oh, my life.

Cubes of sugar. White sugar. Oh, my life.

In case you didn’t know, we’re all supposed to be sugarphobes these days. I’ve written about my feelings on grains, another food item that it has become de rigueur to demonise (to sum up: grains – I love ’em). But my attitude to sugar is a little more complicated.

The thing with sugar is that I don’t love it. in fact, I don’t really eat it. I don’t eat sweets or biscuits or cake or chocolate (except the very dark, bitter kind that’s basically only cacao and of which it is impossible to eat more than a piece the size of your thumb). This is kind-of a rule for me. Rules don’t apply on weekends, as everyone knows, so dessert at a restaurant once every few months doesn’t really count – though lately I’ve been opting for the cheese platter instead of the malva pudding in any case.

But it’s not like I’m a person who “doesn’t have a sweet tooth”. A while ago, if I heard someone say that, or that they didn’t really like desserts, I thought they were lying, and that they just didn’t want to eat dessert because they didn’t want the calories or the sugar. Because, surely, everyone likes desserts, deep down.

I thought this especially while I was pregnant. I had an unhealthy obsession with sugar while my Lil A-shaped bun was in the oven. I ate a lot of ice cream. I ate a lot of frozen yoghurt. I ate a lot of mint Aeros and mint-flavoured Tumbles and Peppermint Crisps. If it was dairy-driven, sickly sweet and especially if it had something kinda minty going on, I inhaled it. The dentist remarked on how much sugar I’d eaten when I went for a check-up two months after having had Lil A, which she got entirely from the state of my previously-perfect and now somewhat hole-y teeth.

It could be because of this nine-month sugar binge – or maybe those articles in women’s mags are true on this count: the less sugar you eat, the less you want it – that now I’m the person who says, “I don’t really feel like dessert” and “Do you think I can have another starter instead of pudding?”.

So my aversion to sugar is partly because of a change in tastes and appetite. It’s also partly, I suppose, because I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid (or whatever a sugar-free alternative would be. Vitamin Water. I’ve drunk the Vitamin Water. No, wait – that’s not right.) Anyway, you know what I mean: I’ve really bought into this idea about how bad processed sugar is.

Lil A has never eaten processed sugar in all her 16 months, except for a mouthful of her dad’s peach-flavoured frozen yoghurt at lunch a few weeks ago. Her snacks are brown rice cakes and bananas, and, knowing how many years of birthday-cake-and-licorice-allsorts-and-jelly-babies-and-suckers-and-Chomp-and-marshmallow-eating she’s got ahead of her, I’m quite happy with that.

I don’t have the same attitude to sugar as I do to junk food or absinthe, which is that a little bit every now and then won’t do any harm. I’ve started thinking that even the tiniest bit of processed sugar will a) make me feel weird, and b) undo all the other efforts I make to try to be healthy.

But this is obviously, obviously ridiculous, right? Because even though I don’t add sugar to my tea, and I buy the Black Cat peanut butter with the yellow lid, I do eat wholewheat bread – which has sugar in it. Ditto for bottled pasta sauces, ready-made soups, tomato sauce and pizza. With this in mind, next time I feel like a biscuit, I’ll go ahead and have one. Really, I will. I’ll just have to go out and buy a packet, though, because we don’t keep that kind of stuff in our house.

Speaking of sweet things in the pantry, in an altogether uncharacteristic spurt of spontaneity, I went off-list at the weekly grocery shop the other day and bought a squeezy bottle of agave nectar. It was looking all “buy me, I might cost R80, but I’m so very, very healthy and ORGANIC and definitely better for you than dreaded granulated sugar or honey or maple syrup”, so I did, and summarily regretted it as soon as I got home and did some research on what agave actually is. I should have known better, considering I did a course in nutrition and food labelling earlier this year. But I got suckered, dammit.

Agave is heavily processed, for one thing, despite my bottle’s tricksy green labelling that implied “natural and wholesome, freshly squeezed from things growing in the earth”. It’s higher in calories than sugar is, but because it’s apparently 1.5x sweeter than sugar, you use less of it. I’m not convinced of that, though – I’m sure that most people would do what I did when I used it on my oats that one time, which was squeeze until the amount of syrup looked about right. Agave supposedly contains calcium, magnesium and potassium, but you’d need to eat about eight bottles of it a day to take in enough to be nutritionally significant. And you wouldn’t want to do that because a lot of commercially available agave has a similar make-up to high fructose corn syrup. Plus – and this is perhaps what put me off most – it tastes an awful lot like honey, which just doesn’t do it for me.

So for now, my oats remain unsweetened (and every morning I think I might be getting used to it until I reach about the fourth mouthful, and gag), my pantry remains biscuit-free, and my toddler keeps crunching through her rice cakes – but I’m sure one day soon I’ll get my sucrose mojo back, and then I’ll try to be less uptight about the whole thing. My husband, for one, would like to go back to the days of having at least one tub of The Creamery‘s goodness in the freezer at any given time. (But then again, he’d also like to eat doorstop slices of banana-and-blueberry-bread-French-toast with bacon for breakfast every morning, so perhaps we don’t need to indulge all his culinary whims.)

One week til E-day

One week away from the retrieval procedure, my thoughts on egg donation have changed somewhat.

One week away from the retrieval procedure, my thoughts on egg donation have changed just a little.

 I’m five days into the 12-day Gonal-F injection cycle. Tomorrow I go for the first of three scans to check that the right number of eggs are growing at the right pace. A week from today, I’ll go into surgery to have the eggs removed from my ovaries using a tiny suction probe. And, as so often happens, all the things I was so worried about before (detailed here) were totally not worth worrying about.

Physically, I feel absolutely normal. Some people say the injections make them put on weight, cause mood-swings. Not me, thank god.

And the injections themselves really don’t hurt. The first time I used the pen and plunged the long, thin needle into my belly roll, I got such a fright that I pulled it right out again immediately. Then had to go through with it all over again. But after that first time, it’s got a lot easier and takes no time at all. I always thought I’d never be able to be diabetic, I just wouldn’t be able to inject myself all the time, but after just five days, it’s already become so routine. So maybe I would cope as a diabetic (let’s hope I never find out, though).

What I have struggled with so far, though, is the sense that all these other people have a warped kind of right to the workings of my reproductive organs. You get this feeling when you’re pregnant as well – suddenly your body doesn’t belong to you any more – but you’re okay with it, then, because your identity has suddenly shifted for you as well. But with egg donation, I still feel like my body is mine, and that I have a right to my privacy.

The thing is, I don’t. There’s a recipient couple out there who have forked out a lot of money to an agency and a fertility clinic to make sure that they make sure that I produce some good, healthy eggs to grow into a good, healthy child, so I’ve got to sacrifice my privacy and shelve my pride, and do my very best to cooperate.

I had to keep reminding myself of that last Saturday.

I was instructed not to start injecting until my menstrual cycle started. If it hadn’t started by the date I needed to start injecting, the fertility clinic coordinator told me to phone the clinic’s gynae on his cell, just to be on the safe side. They didn’t want me injecting myself with fertility drugs if something was wrong.

So I found myself, at 9 on a Saturday morning, phoning a man I’d met briefly once on his personal cellphone to tell him that my period hadn’t started yet. I’m sure I’m not the first woman who’s had to go through with such a cringe-worthy call, and my circumstances were admittedly a lot less scary than most people’s who find themselves doing the same, but still. It was very awkward.

The gynae emailed me a form to take to the Path Lab for the blood work I’d need (hormone tests and, of course, a pregnancy test – my second since starting the egg donation procedure), so off I schlepped to get poked by the world’s most gentle nurse – come to think of it, I’ve never met a Path Lab nurse I didn’t instantly trust – and have three vials of my blood taken.

At the end of Saturday afternoon, while I was on an unprecedented husband’s-wardrobe shopping spree at the mall, the gynae called and said the test results were all normal and I wasn’t pregnant “or anything”, he said (and I thought, flipping through a rack of on-sale hoodies, “Anything what? What would the ‘anything’ be?!”), so I had his go-ahead to start injecting.

I also had to send the clinic coordinator an email to keep her in the loop after all this, and for the second time in my life I had to send an email to a virtual stranger (the previous one was to her as well, about two months ago) containing the words “bleeding”, “period” and “not pregnant, obviously”. It wasn’t any less embarrassing the second time.

When it comes down to it, though, this kind of correspondence about my reproductive health will all be worth it, if for nothing more than the feeling that I’ve done something that’s really quite selfless (and for this reason, I don’t believe pure altruism exists) for someone I’ll never meet.

Still – I’ll be quite relieved in a week when it’s all over.