Thursday, December 29, 2011

Out with the old...

I am not at all sorry to see 2011 go. I'm very done with it, and it's not going down as a good year.
In some ways, it was good though. We started it off in Sydney, watching the fireworks with brother- and sister-in-law, as part of a very nice holiday, because MeneerHaan had to work in Australia for 2 months. Christmas barbecues and wonderful warm weather, fantastic trips, all relaxed.

Then I came home to a sick parent. I knew this when I left, in fact my family found out 2 days prior to my departure. I went anyway, because everything was very unsure, but when we were in Australia, surgery showed a nasty form of cancer. Not the homecoming you want. After the first surgery came a second one, then serious complications, few weeks hospital, a bit of recovery and then many many months of chemo. It's just a few weeks ago that we could leave this mess behind us. All seems OK, the doctors are happy, so we are too. Now it's recovery time for real for both my parents. Besides the physical strain, there is the emotional. They, we, need healing.

Soon after MeneerHaan came home from Down Under, his job ended. Even though it was his choice - he was very unhappy in his job - it was not easy making this decision and it meant some unsure times were coming. Luckily I bought my apartment before we got together on my salary alone, so we were blessed enough to be able to afford this. However, being unemployed does not normally improve one's mood (after the first few vacation-like weeks), so we were very glad MeneerHaan found a new job several months later.

The best thing of 2011 was without a doubt our engagement. My "marriage is nonsense" boyfriend proposed in the most beautiful garden of a lovely French castle, with a gorgeous ring. I was completely surprised, I hadn't seen it coming at all. That didn't prevent me from saying YES before MeneerHaan had even finished The Question. :-)

All this time, we were trying to conceive. But without believing it would ever work, because we heard in February that we would need help no matter what. The biggest part of the year we spent getting ready for ICSI. First the basic tests, then MeneerHaan had a fever which delayed his tests by three months. I had to have a HSG and a myoma removed, and they found out I have Hashimoto's disease. This meant another delay to get my hormones sorted out. And finally, at the end of October, we could start. I've written about our ICSI before, so no need to explain that this didn't end as hoped.

It's not all misery. I celebrated some successes at work, even got to accept some prestigious awards for the campaign I'm the project leader of, my loved ones are all good - except for the abovementioned problems, so there is stuff to be thankful for.

But the conclusion is: this was not my, our, year. 2012 needs to be better. In 2011 my family has fought and  beat cancer and unemployment. Next year we will fight and hopefully beat infertility. That's what I will be wishing for next Saturday night at 12 o'clock. On the child-infested New Year's Eve weekend we spend with a lot of our friends. That is, if these kids not have driven me so crazy I'm tying my tubes self handedly.

Yes, I know. I don't need my tubes anyway.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Christmas is only hours away, and I've been looking forward to it. Unlike many others, I don't have to deal with other one's kids or spend endless time with unfriendly in laws. We're going to have relaxed days, with presents, nice food, movies at my parents, and I'm making a Christmas dinner in my own home for the first time for fiancé's parents.

Christmas diner 2010

Last year we spent the holidays in Australia having lots of barbecues. Oh, to be there, in the sun, hamburgers and wine and no worries at all. Just  driving our campervan to wherever we felt like and doing fun stuff. We are definitely doing that again some day. But for now, I'm going to try to be as happy as I can be, think not too much about the sad stuff, and enjoy myself and my family.

I know it's not going to be easy (at all) for others, whereas some are over the moon with good news they just received. I hope all of you can enjoy these coming days the best you can. And I'll repeat my tweet:

I wish you all rest in your minds, peace in your hearts, loved ones in your arms and babies in your bellies! 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Kitchen therapy (EN)

I love cooking and baking. If I could keep only one room in my house, it would be my kitchen. That is, if my bed would fit in my kitchen as I love my bed very much too. Eating is another one of my favorite things to do. I'm all for sophisticated star food, I also I love Moroccan, Italian, Indonesian (in part my roots), but you can make me very happy with mashed potatoes and stew, or grilled fish. However, these last few weeks, I needed carbs and fatty's to make me happy. Bowls of oatmeal porridge and (home made) mac & cheese. Lots of tomato soup. Anything chocolate-covered. Cake and pie and cookies. Comfort food can comfort you by eating it, but also by the process of making it.

Now that I'm losing control over my procreating efforts, I compensate by cooking and baking. Truthfully, I have been slouching on my sofa a lot lately, but if I did get off, it was to cook or bake something. Coconut-lime cake, brownies, carrot cake, speculaas (a Dutch specialty, the almond-paste filled variation), but also beefstew, rosemary-baked potatoes,  lasagna have been made in my kitchen. If my hands are busy, my mind cannot drift to my worries and anxieties. It brings me comfort.

And it seems I am, again, not alone in this. I don't know if it is a coincidence, but so far I have almost swapped recipes with more IF-buddy's than with my IRL friends.
I guess it's all about control. At least, for me it is. You can take your ingredients, mix, knead, stir, boil, bake until you have willed them into whatever dish you want. It's not unlike the stimulation process in IVF/ICSI, where you have several body parts poked, prodded, swollen, molded into a warm and welcoming environment for an embryo to settle in. With one big difference. I have a lot of control over my cooking and baking. I usually know what I'm doing. And if for some reason I'm not and the food turns out to be less then yummy (or, ok, burned, terrible tasting, ugly or whatever - it happens), I toss it out and order a pizza. I wish IVF was that easy.

In the spirit of kitchen therapy, I'm sharing one of my latest experiments. Brings comfort in making, baking (ooh, the smell!) and eating. I'd love to hear what your comfort foods are. Recipe's more than welcome!

Lime-coconut cake
Next time I'll make a photo of the actual cake ;-)
Use a ready-made mix for cake or your own favorite basic cake recipe. Before mixing, add the zest of 1 lime (or more if you want it to be more lime-y) and the juice of half that lime (or, again, more if you like). Add coconut. I used about 4-5 tablespoons of unsweetened dessicated coconut, but felt it could have been more, at least 8. There was only a slight coco-flavour. If you cannot find that, use sweetened (then maybe a little less sugar) or dried coconut. Mix and bake the cake as you normally would.

For the icing: about half a pack of Philadelphia Light or any other plain creamcheese. Add powdered sugar and/or sweetener (enough to make it sweet, will at least be several tablespoons), some vanilla extract (about 1 teaspoon), a tablespoon of lemon juice, and the zest and juice of lime according to taste. I used the zest of 1 lime and about half or maybe more juice. Mix it together really well. If it's very think, you can add water or more juice, one tablespoon at a time. It should be a bit runny, but not too thin. If it's too thin, add some more creamcheese.

I'm not really a recipe-person, I just try and taste and if I don't like it, add some more. I guess you should do the same, adding more or less sugar, lime zest and juice to your taste.

When the cake is ready and cooled, add the icing on top and sprinkle with some more coconut.

My apologies to @babywishes25 and @AerynHansen for recycling this recipe. If you've made it, you can review it ;-)

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tick the boxes that apply (EN)

Earlier this week I visited a travel clinic for the vaccinations for our upcoming visit to India. The receptionist was surprised by my cheerfulness. I guess most people that enter the door are a little apprehensive about the shots. Hey, you don't scare me with needles so easily anymore. And besides, these are completely voluntary and are a guaranteed precursor for some good times, whereas IVF-shots are all about maybe's and small percentages, insecurities and worries etc.
Before the consult I was asked to fill in a form. And there you have it:

Are you pregnant:
[  ] Yes
[  ] No
Are you planning to be pregnant soon:
[  ] Yes
[  ] No

AARRGGH! People! If only getting pregnant was as easy as ticking a box! Can you imagine that there ARE women who can tick the box, stop taking precautions and get knocked up within a few months? In a bed? Without needles and people in white clothes?

I was happy to note that this didn't really affect me. I didn't get teary eyed or emotional, which was a good thing. But I do want to suggest some extra answers:

Are you pregnant:
[  ] Yes
[  ] No
[  ] Noooooohooooooo *snif* *tissue please* *snif*
[  ] Have you any idea how painful this question can be? For anyone who wants to be pregnant but can't or isn't? I'm not asking you any personal questions am I? How would you feel if I asked you if you are happy with your health, your weight, your relationship? Are you kidding me? Do you want me to leave? Do you want me to cry? Do you? Do you? DO YOU?
Are you planning to be pregnant soon:
[  ] Yes
[  ] No
[  ] Yes, can you please give me a miracle fertility or immaculate conception shot as well?
Don't get me wrong. The clinic nurse was super nice and friendly and answered all my questions about possible interference of the shots with my IVF-cycle (which there are not) and thought I was very brave for undergoing all this and wished me all the best. I am not hurt or bitter at all about this questionnaire, I know that they have to ask and it's a good thing they do. Cause if I wás pregnant, it would have made sure that my baby wasn't harmed. And that is the most important thing!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Baby Bubbles (EN)

Trying to get pregnant through IVF/ICSI is like blowing bubbles. I think most of us did that when we were young, or not so young (I still like doing it!). Blowing bubbles may seem easy, but it's not.

You have to have the right mix of soapy water. Not to soapy, or it will be to heavy. Not to watery, or there will be no bubbles. Then you need your ring, bubble wand or whatever to blow your bubbles through. It needs to be round and even and straight. Then comes the blowing-part. Too hard and you're just spitting soap. To soft: nothing happens. Your bubbles can be too big and never come loose, they can be too small, they can refuse to float. You need an even, steady stream of air to blow beautiful bubbles. And even if you do, anything can happen. It can be windy and you bubbles get blown away, they may land in a bush, or someone snaps it out of the air.
But every now and then, you  blow the perfect bubble. The right size, floating in front of you, like a precious gem catching the sunlight. And if you are really lucky, you can catch it back on your bubblewand and hold it again.

We blew a good bubble these past few weeks. It was not perfect, but it was good enough. There was no wind, no mean prickly bushes around, no one that would destroy it. And for a moment, it looked like we could catch it again with our magical bubblewand. The excitement of that second where you think you will make it. An instant of joy and happiness. And then, the bubble shattered. Just like that: it was right in front of us, and now it's not.

We are not really blowing bubbles but making embryo's. The good thing about embryo's is that, if they are the right size and look good, you can freeze them. So now we hope that our bubbles have frozen into tiny little snowballs. Or frozen bubbles, just like this one.