Thursday, 16 February 2017

"Why don't you take a vacation?"

I am a mother to a nineteen month old daughter. I have three fro-yos in the freezer. I am currently using Nex.planon for birth control. Yet, I am still infertile. I am still infertile as I get annoyed with stupid shit well meaning people tell their infertile friends. Nothing grinds my gears more than hearing the suggestion to take a vacation. I think this one really gets me as Myrtle really pushed it. When I told her that Husband was diagnosed as having mild male factor infertility due to a low sperm count, her response was "Fuck the fact that you're staying at your in-laws and try to conceive in England" [This was a few months before our scheduled trip to go to London for the 2012 Olympics] Apparently, her logic followed that maybe if he were back in his home country, his sperm count would go back to normal? She pushed it again when I visited her for her baby shower one week before we left for London. [I had a positive OPK that weekend and thus missed another month to make a futile attempt at conception] "I still think you should try when you're in England" she advised. Sigh. I tried explaining that I have a long follicular phase and wouldn't ovulate until we returned, and by the way, we're staying in the House of Abstinence, but maybe she thought I was going to be the next immaculate conception after the Virgin Mary.

Two and a half years later, after many failed infertility treatments, she was still insisting that taking a vacation was integral to success. She suggested that we take a trip to Hawaii after our embryo transfer. As a fertile trust fund baby, she had no idea that one is a bit cash poor after paying about five thousand dollars for a transfer and it would be difficult to coordinate as I wouldn't know my exact transfer date until 1-2 weeks before the date was set. We had to endure even more theories about Hawaii promoting conception from my cousin. She experienced infertility and was a first time IVF success. After their son's first birthday, they decided not to pursue any more transfers with their frozen embryos and would embrace their only child. A month later, they went to Hawaii for a holiday and brought home a special souvenir. "Oh, we were just so relaxed," I had to listen to her say that over and over again and I felt those words were a betrayal to the infertility community every time I heard them. No, you were just lax about birth control! I said to myself at that time. Now, as I've done a vacation to Hawaii with an infant, I call double bullshit on that statement. You are not relaxing while on holiday with a baby.

A few months ago I gave an infertility primer lecture to our primary care department. I had seen a few cases where patients weren't counselled about when to have labs drawn, or they were interpreted incorrectly. As I had heard that one doctor advised a patient to "just relax", I included a section busting common myths. "People take their infertility diagnoses with them when they travel," I explained "Maui may be magical, but it does not enhance fertility potential" I ad-libbed. Then I thought of something else to include; "actually, traveling can be rather stressful."

Warning: what will follow is some serious first world problem whining and I apologise for that; but if you stay with me, I may actually have a point. I want to go beyond explaining that a sandy beach is not a sperm producing, ovulation inducing, fallopian tube opening and implantation welcoming paradise (correlation is not causation) and introduce the notion that a vacation can carry bring just as much stress (if not more) compared to the amount of relaxation. Here's what went down preparing for our recent trip. (Full disclosure: There is no potential for conception during this trip, thanks to two highly effective contraceptive methods. Nex.planon and staying with my in-laws)

  • Looking at our schedules to find a time for a holiday
  • Both Husband and I need to secure the time off from work
  • Purchase airfare. In this case we needed to coordinate Kate and I flying into New York, and then all of us departing New York to London. After a few searches, we found some flight prices that weren't too bad. There is always the possibility that you can make the purchase only to see the price drop in a few days, or alternatively you can wait and see the prices rise and feel like an idiot for not snatching the lower price earlier
  • Obtain passport for Kate and re-new my expired passport. Pay additional $50 for expedited service as we delayed getting this done, which still wouldn't guarantee that we would receive the passports in time. Fortunately, they arrived rather quickly, making me think we probably didn't need the rush order. Better safe than sorry
  • Text my swim teammate, who lives nearby to see if she can take care of the cats. She's been swimming at a different time and I rarely see her, so I start to feel guilty that I only contact her when I need a pet minder. Once again, I vow to invite her out for dinner some time. To save some effort, I asked my swim coach to facilitate passing on our spare key.
  • Finish a shopping trip and discover and I forgot to pick up a box of cake mix and frosting, which is the payment my cat sitter requests. I'm sure I'll need to go to Tar.get later this week
  • Swing by a drive through ATM to get some cash for cat sitter. Although, she only requests cake mix with frosting and Annie's Mac and Cheese (I'm re-gifting a few boxes that my mum sent me for Kate) I pay her in real money when it's a long trip. Actually this part is not too stressful. Drive through ATMs are genius.
  • Contact cleaners to cancel cleaning service while we're away
  • Request to hold the mail
  • Email our diaper service to coordinate a vacation hold
  • Message our pediatrician to have him refill Kate's prescription for Nystatin. I'm sure she'll get a diaper rash and I want to be prepared. Make a mental note to pack her antibiotic eye drops (She had conjunctivitis a few weeks ago and a recent playmate was diagnosed with it) as well as the leftover Amox.icillin from her last ear infection
  • Swing by the pharmacy after picking up Kate from Day Care. It's really busy at this time and her patience is thin
  • Spend the last week at work frantically trying to tie up any loose ends. Work on contacting patients with results so they don't wait over two weeks for my return. I also need to finish closing charts as it will be the last day of the month when I return
  • Do multiple loads of laundry in preparation for packing
  • I figured I would bring two weeks worth of night-time diapers, so we don't have to buy a full box in England. Discover I only have 8 left. Need to run out on Wednesday during lunch to buy more diapers. Pick up the cake mix and frosting.
  • Clear the fridge of perishable foods. Get a little carried away and remove condiments and sauces that have passed their expiration date
  • Prepare to mix up the cats' dry food. Fuck! We're out of dry food. Will need to go out on Thursday, which will cut into my work time.
  • Get soaked, as it's absolutely pouring down rain when I run out to get the dry food for the cats. 
  • Make reservation at the off-sight long-term airport parking. Last trip, I didn't make a reservation, they were full and I had to park in the airport parking garage at $25 per day. Ouch
  • Write instructions for the cat minder, even though everything is easy enough to figure out and she's done this before. Still feel this is something I should do.
  • Pack. Discover that I'm packing way to much stuff for Kate and I'm running out of room for my clothes. Re-evaluate what I need for Kate. Decide I don't have enough room for the nighttime diapers
  • Charge iPad and phone
  • Pack the diaper bag with toys and lots of snacks for the flight
  • Decide I can't be bothered to weigh my suitcase. I need everything in it. If it's overweight, will have to pay extra
  • Load up my car. I have to remove the jogging stroller from the boot and to do this, I need to have the garage door open to have the extra space. I realise this defeats the purpose of having an attached garage and being able to discreetly pack your car so that others don't know you'll be away. 
  • Try to spend some quality time with Tyler. He's keenly aware that we'll be leaving him
  • Wake up at 0330 as I need to leave the house by 0400. Our flight is at 0700.
  • It's raining as we leave. I seem to be hitting every pothole on the road and I'm surprised I haven't broken my car's suspension
  • Arrive at the parking garage. There are signs indicating that the elevator is broken. Valet parking is encouraged. I'm tempted, but the price is $21.95 per day, which isn't too much less than the rip-off airport parking. However, I could get my car washed... which is needed as some birds have shat on it. Decide against it, dump the suitcase, pram and diaper bag on the curb
  • Place sleepy Kate in the carrier as we take the shuttle to the airport
  • Discover the suitcase is 5 lbs overweight and the fee is $100, which is quite a sticker shock. I figured I would have to pay $35, which is the fee for a second bag. Grab some items from the suitcase that I can stash in the basket in the pram. Stop at the airport gift shop to pick up a plastic bag so I can better secure the items in the basket
  • Go through Security. Get pulled aside so they can inspect Kate's milk
  • Uneventful flight with Kate -she actually napped for 90 minutes! Arrive in New York and meet up with Husband. Check in and go through security again.
  • It was a long flight to London. Kate didn't want to sleep and I felt travel sick. Realise I haven't slept properly for three nights in a row
  • Kate gives us priority status so we go to the head of the queue at Immigration and our bags arrive early off the carousel. 
  • Despite the fact that Husband had a valid UK driver's license, for some reason it takes us three times as long to get our rental car as others in the queues. Kate is about to lose it during this wait and I'm not far behind her. Wait is extended a bit as Husband takes his own photos of the car before we leave the lot. 
  • We're off to start our vacation, feeling absolutely exhausted

Even when you are going on a proper holiday, like last year when we went to Maui, there are still some stresses. Finding your destination. Wondering if the actual facility is anything like the photos on the webpage. Checking in and lugging the suitcases out of the car. Figuring out where to eat. If there was a time change, jet lag can take a serious toll on your body. I've always found that for each hours deviated from your home time, it takes that many days to adjust to the local time. Even if there is not a time change involved, some people find that they don't sleep as well in a new place for the first few nights. Although you're not supposed to think about work; sometimes it's inevitable. Work doesn't stop just because you're on holiday. Yes, it is a total American thing that we can't ever relax and check out of work. I find it's better to log in and keep up with my results and messages as it make an easier return when I get back. Even if you are able to do something fun or relaxing, sometimes people feel a certain pressure to make sure they're making the most of their vacation time, or making sure the vacation is living up to expectations. Sometimes there's also an unspoken pressure to have sex, because that's what you're supposed to be doing on vacation, even though you'd rather catch up on sleep. I'm actually surprised that anyone conceived while on holiday.


  1. Ha, I can relate to your stress planning the the trip. Or even just getting through the day. The one thing I don't especially enjoy about my life is that it feels like death by a thousand details.

    ah stress....I get that it's a real and complex problem. But I don't love it when people try to explain away my health issues as a result of stress. It feels like being dismissed. The only person who can really evaluate my stress is me. When it comes to fertility, I of course can retort that I was under a ton of stress when I conceived.

  2. A vacation seems like too much trouble to me too! Or at least at the moment while also having a toddler.

  3. Urgh, I hate all the "just relax" and "go on a holiday" comments from people! Just because it may have worked for your cousin does not mean it will for everyone. It's a very insensitive comment too I think because it implies it's within the couple's control to be fixed,they are just too stressed.

  4. I think i just might lose my shot if i ever heard a dr say 'just relax' when talking to a patient about fertility. like seriously someone would have to restrain me!