Making Circles and Plans and Circles and Plans

It’s hard to be caught between two long-distance families. It’s hard not only for us, but also for the people we leave behind with each plane ride back to that slippery concept of “home.”

Yesterday evening Zsolt, his mother and I were at the kitchen table looking at some stitching she had done. Anna is very creative, and she’s been working on a beautiful pillow case of red flowers. It’s taken her several months to stitch, on and off as she watches television in the evening.

Anna Stitching Hungarian

Anyhow, there we were yesterday evening. The dinner had been put away, and we were sitting at the table just talking, which is a bit of a rarity since normally it’s a choice between playing cards, watching a movie, or me escaping to our upstairs bedroom where I can watch some English webseries and chill out.  Frankly, I’m not a fan of the movies, and while the games are fun I get tired of them easily,but talking . . . talking is very, very interesting. Even if it’s all in Hungarian.

Anna was telling us about all kinds of things. One was that she had wanted to be an architect, but ended up in banking instead because her parents thought she was too skinny to do the co-op necessary for architecture that took place on a construction site. (She says she could have done it, but her parents worried she could not.) And so she studied accounting instead and ended up working at a bank.

Interesting no? I’m accustom to seeing my mother-in-law as a mother. Cooking, caring, and fussing all the time – that’s what I see. I’ve never met the young woman who had aspired to design buildings and dared to get married in a miniskirt. But I bet we would have gotten along, had we been able to understand one another.

And then she said what somewhat struck an even deeper chord within me. Anna related that back when she had children, (back when she was working 12 hour days at the bank, coming home late at night and only seeing her kids on the weekend – it was communism in Hungary back then, very work-focused rather than family-centric. . . had she been given the choice, I suspect she would have stayed at home more often) – back when she had children, she had wished they’d hurry along and grow up already. And now that she is older with far more time, she kinda wishes the reverse, that they could go back to being kids again.

I guess it’s empty nest and missed opportunities. And it made me feel a little bit frustrated with our own lack of children. We never talk about the baby stuff with Zsolt’s parents. They understand we need to wait before trying. But part of me would love to scoop up all those grandmotherly vibes and pour them over my own kids. I feel as though there’s a circle of life here, and we’re missing an essential loop.

Because really, Zsolt is never going to be four years old again. And, I reckon, instead of wishing him back to childhood, it should be wished that he become one heck of an amazing man, which he is – supportive, loving, caring, and growing; I think that her loneliness is more a result of family being far away, then her children no longer being children. At least, that is my guess.

Of course, I’ve known for a very long time that Anna sees Zsolt as her little boy. It makes all the sense in the world. She’s so full of love, and it’s the sort of thing that needs to be passed forward. But at the same time, I shouldn’t worry about her empty nesting, should I? That’s her journey to navigate. Though it is still a little heartbreaking.

Children grow up, parents step back, and families continue in a way that spreads outward rather than closing back inwards. It’s a theme I’ve written about in this blog, and loads in my fiction – and to be honest, since leaving Canada those many, many years ago for England and therefore taking my first steps ‘outward’, I have been just a little bit heart-broken. Once you step ‘out’ you can’t step back ‘in’.

Kids won’t solve long distance. But that’s not why I want to have children. I simply feel like we’re ready. It’s time. Let’s continue the circle. And not for the grandparents, though they are in my heart too, but because it’s right, and Zsolt & I want it. And frankly, we’ve got a whole lot of love to pass forward as well.

So, I’m counting down. April in Hungary. Then May in Canada. Scans at the hospital in June. If all goes well, then I need to wait three more months before trying. And then we try. And then we see.

And I have no idea what will happen next.

My American Idol eggs

“What a beautiful uterus,” says Shannon the technician. “All dressed up in her Sunday best.”

Yep, that’s my uterus – a real girly girl, getting all dolled up before trips to the fertility clinic. I tell her it’s no big deal, just wear sweat pants like me and my lulu’s – but no, she likes turning heads when she leaves the house.

So my uterus is on the display screen and looking good. Having established that ( and having taken a picture with her fancy machine) the technician takes a short break in her ultra sound scanning so I can go to the washroom. One hour before the appointment I drank about half a litre of water. Zsolt was pushing for the full litre, “Come on, drink more!” and I pushed back, saying, “I’m full! I can’t manage another drop!” What I didn’t mention was that I was mainly full because (only two minutes before) I’d stuffed two cookies down my throat in a bit of a ‘need a snack, oh, there’s a snack’ quick-fix indulgence. But nevertheless, I drank the minimum required amount of liquid one hour before my ultra sound, which meant by the time we arrived at the fertility clinic and were escorted in for the scan, I was bursting to use the washroom.

A minute later and I’m back in the scan room, relieved of holding it in, and with a sheet wrapped around my lower body (trousers and pants removed) as the technician has me sit back on the table.

Earlier, as Zsolt and I waited to be called for the test, Shannon (the technician) came out into the waiting lounge and asked, “Catherine?” To which I replied, “That’s me!” and hurried over to her side. She then asked, “aren’t you taking him with you?” So Zsolt, who is used to not accompanying me on my tests because generally speaking, nurses at the hospitals here in Ottawa are not keen on a second person in the room, put away the Playbook and joined us for the scanning. Today he was allowed to hold my hand as Shannon investigated the status of my ovaries, and I’m really thankful for that. It means we both know more about the situation.

(I’m strong in my belief that a patient ought to be allowed a source of support during tests and procedures. Even if they are sitting across the room, it so helps to have a loved one nearby during those challenging moments.)

So I’m on the table, and we’re getting down to the real stuff here. In goes the ultra sound wand. (In where? You guess.) After a few uncomfortable attempts to capture my left ovary, where she pushed down on my abdomen and prods upwards with the wand, we have a clear picture.

Basically, we are examining my ovaries today to learn about the eggs. Now, Shannon is not a doctor, so the results of my scan cannot be 100% confirmed until someone trained for years up on years in ultra sounding has examined the images, but she does explain what she sees.

“Basically your eggs are like contestants for American Idol. There are so many, that you can’t see the individual people (i.e. eggs) on a scan. But every month there are try outs, and the people who succeed for those try outs (i.e. eggs that try to ovulate) and get through to the competition are given costumes and makeovers – and then we can see them. (i.e. the follicles change in a way that makes them apparent in an ultra sound).”

So, looking at my left ovary . . . not too many contestants made it to the try outs. The blob that represents my ovary is small, and she counts only three follicles. That is a low number. (But better than zero, in my opinion.)

Onto Ms Right. Moving to the other side, with more compression and squeezing of my abdomen, she takes a picture of my right ovary and then explains what she sees.

“See how it’s so much larger?”

And it is – it’s like three times larger than my left ovary. Apparently, according to Shannon, the left ovary often takes the hit when it comes to declining fertility. Mine certainly has. But in my right there are seven follicles. That’s not horrible.

Apparently, the minimum number of follicles (eggs that made the competition) the doctors are happy to see in women when combining numbers from both left and right is eleven. Eleven. My combined number was ten. Ten.

Therefore, I have low fertility levels . . . but . . . well, ten is almost eleven, right?

“You might have to get on that earlier than other women,” she suggests. What Shannon means is, I ought to be trying for a baby now as opposed to later.

Which is more easily said than done, considering I’m only one year out of treatment. But Zsolt and I have a plan, and it involves waiting at least another year before trying. And in the meanwhile, I’m on tamoxifen and trying to keep this body healthy.

The truth is, there are more tests they could run, more scans they can take – because knowing the state of my eggs is really only a starting point. But I promised Dr Canada to abstain from the fertility yellow brick road . . . and though I agreed to have my eggs tested (because I WANT to know), there will be no further investigations for quite a while. Yes, I have to go back and get my blood taken on day “21” of my period, so we can know whether I’m actually ovulating those American Idol eggs . . . but that’ll be the end of things for now.

Fertility can become so confusing, so overwhelming, and so panic-inducing after having had chemotherapy. Last summer when I thought I couldn’t have children, that was totally crushing. This past Autumn when the doctor gave me some hope – that was relieving. But one way or another, things are going to work out, and I have faith in that eventuality. Chasing down this information is a good thing: I look forward to learning the results because then, finally, I can plan for the future with a clear picture of the options. But there are times to step back too, and after this upcoming consultation – that’ll be my time to step away from the babies and just focus on here and now.

Maybe you know what it’s like to run this fertility race? If you want to share, please do  – it will help others reading this post who are hoping to learn what comes next.

What was your experience?

And in the meanwhile, have yourself a lovely loved-filled day. See you next week.


Eggs in many baskets

Monday morning. Have spilled orange juice all over myself, but thanks to a damp sponge and a (once) clean tea towel, have cleaned up mess. Weather: cloudy. Apartment: messy. Allergies: active. Temperament: not so bad.

I nearly forgot that Easter was coming. This year we’re staying at home for the sake of Zsolt’s study habits and the impending viva.  But I will miss having an Easter with family. In Canada we go to my grandmother’s home (Bonjour Lulu!), or someone’s home in Quebec, and share a lunch. My family is comprised of cooks and bakers, and people create excellent food. Like, lick your fingers and smack those lips excellent.  When we were younger (proper grandchildren rather than adult grandchildren) Lulu would always hand out these large chocolate bunnies with marshmallow filling. They were pretty to look at – I loved the idea of them, the idea of the chocolate and the bright pinks, yellows, blues on the wrapper . . .of a bunny who also collects painted eggs and carries a blue tinfoil basket. . .  but could never bring myself to love that marshmallow filling. Oh well.

In Hungary, Zsolt’s mother will hard boil about two dozen eggs, and his sister will prepare the dyes out in the garden. Then we’ll sit around for an hour or two and dye the eggs. I love it. After you have your egg dyed with whatever colour arrangement you choose (all red, half red, half blue, some purple in between, or yellow and blue with a green band, etc) you take some pork fat and rub into the egg shell to make it shine. On Easter morning people crack into the coloured eggs, but Zsolt’s mom saves the prettiest ones from hungry fingers.

And speaking of eggs, I have a fertility appointment this week. Wednesday.  It’ll be a family gathering of sorts. In that it’s about family, and there will be a gathering.  A good friend recommended I stop thinking about fertility and just give my body a break. Good reasoning. It’s on my ‘to do’ list (along with some meditation). But first there’s this appointment.

Right, back to Monday morning. Orange juice is under control. Time to make some breakfast if I can find a clean dish in this mess. Yesterday I made a fantastic meal of some curry chicken and a soup. But fantastic meals leave me knackered, and I can never bother with the dishes immediately. As a result my flat looks like a culinary Armageddon.

But that’s okay. 🙂  And now, onwards with the day.