Udder Etiquette 101

Cheers, dear readers,

Cathy here again. (Next week is Eric’s week.) Last that I left you, I had just gotten through the experience of having dye injected through my fallopian tubes with un-stellar and unwanted results. I was shocked, upset, and desperately trying to keep my sh*t together as we walked down this road, Eric and I. We did our best to stay hopeful. After all, what did I need a fallopian tube for if we were going to go through IVF anyway? The fallopian tube was a moot point from a scientific standpoint, but emotionally it was still so hard to realize that something was “broken” with my baby-making bits.

After Eric had completed all of his tests as well, we went back to the clinic to hear our results of the tests, filled with both hope and trepidation. I was healthy, at a great weight, never had any prior issues, had a rockstar cycle (perfect 28-day), and no bad cramps. Eric is super healthy overall and never had any issues either. So we held hands, held our breath, and crossed our fingers and toes.

As we sat down with our doctor, we were quite upset to find out that Eric’s swimmers are …. well… not good swimmers, and they look funny, and there are just not a lot of them… at all. Wow! And my eggs were… well… old… and not so many of them left… and who knew how viable they were? I didn’t burst into tears at the moment – but I was heartbroken and very worried. My heart just sunk. Eric held my hand tighter. OK, well, it’s all part of the process, so what do we do next?

The doctor said our best chance was to try ICSI (where they hand-select the best sperm to fertilize an egg) coupled with natural cycle IVF to start. Thus we would bypass IUI (where they insert Eric’s sperm with a syringe) and just go right to the heavy-hitting IVF, given my age and Eric’s low sperm count and quality. Natural cycle IVF was also about a quarter of the price of regular, hormone-induced IVF, partly because the hormones for regular IVF were so costly. All of this information and emotional management was a lot to take in. But we are data driven geeks, and after looking at all of the facts, this plan of action made a lot of sense to us, so we agreed to proceed. As I mentioned earlier, our insurance covered literally none of this, except for the initial tests. Thus the choice of “natural cycle IVF” at a reduced cost (not to mention a more “natural” method) seemed the perfect route given our finances and our situation. I knew it was not at all a slam dunk, but I still had the hope and faith in my mind that if one of my “good” eggs met and had a happy dance with one of Eric’s “good” sperm, we’d be all set! A done deal. And finally a biological child of our own to carry on our parents, and our own, legacy.

This was also the part of the process where we learned to joke about our situation. We said that we had “two-headed sperm who swim in circles and were hitting a wall, trying to meet fried eggs.” If we didn’t laugh, we would all go insane as an old Jimmy Buffet song goes. So the jokes went on and on, not just between us but with our close friends as well, with whom we used humor as much as we could to explain to them what we were going through. Sometimes it went well, sometimes… well… not so much.

Around this time, we had a visit from a friend who had just conceived literally weeks after going off birth control in her mid-thirties. We were all at another friend’s house – a friend who had her first baby in tow, a baby that she birthed at the age of 40. I gave myself a pep talk, and told myself that we would have a fantastic evening, and that soon, I would be pregnant and would have so many similar and awesome things to discuss with these two friends. I’d feel like “part of the club.”

Both of these friends knew that Eric and I were not conceiving “the old-fashioned way”, and that we were undergoing fertility treatment. My friend with the baby was lamenting about how breast feeding was not going particularly well for her. She was going on an on about it, which was not easy for me. Finally, to try to help ease the flow of conversation as well as move it along to something else, I said “Well, my mother did not breastfeed me, and I turned out OK. I think it will be fine no matter what happens.” My friend then said, “Cathy, when you have your own baby, you will understand what I am talking about. Breast-feeding is very important.”

Her words stung. I know that she meant no intentional harm – yet harm was done. I felt that my infertility issues had been dismissed, as well as that I was being spoken to in a condescending way, as if I knew nothing about babies. I immediately reminded her, “Well, I may never have my own biological baby, thus I may never know what it’s like to EVER breastfeed. So there’s that”, I said curtly. I felt slightly guilty for being “curt”, yet I didn’t. Is it really that difficult for our friends who conceive easily to be sensitive to the feelings of those who struggle? Yes, apparently it is. As humans, we are all very concerned with our own problems. It takes an extra effort to step outside of our own worlds to truly empathize with others and stand in their shoes.

Getting through that evening with my pregnant friend, and my friend with her newborn baby was incredibly difficult. Several times during the dinner, I excused myself and went to the restroom to try not to weep and get my emotions under control. Once again, when Eric and I got home, I allowed myself to openly cry… I very much dislike pitying myself, but that’s what I was allowing myself to do. I had no idea what else to do. I do not want to think of my well-meaning friends in a poor light. However, it is important for ALL of us to try to remember that though we may never understand first hand the type of struggles our friends have, any attempt to be sensitive to our friends’ feelings, even if that means occasionally keeping our mouths shut about certain topics, is a wonderful gift.

Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.

Warm regards,


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  1. Loving the honesty, Cathy about what it’s really like to travel this road. If I had a £ for ever tear I shed along the way I’d be a billionaire. The hardest part is having to keep it all together and show a brave face whilst inside you just want to rant, scream and cry. No one can truly empathise with infertility unless they’ve experienced it themselves 🙁 Hugs xxx

  2. Maz, it is so absolutely lovely that we have found such an emotionally intimate way to connect across the pond, and so sad that it is about such an uncomfortable topic. But it makes me feel closer to you after all of these years that we have shared the same sorrow. I am so happy for you that you and Troy were able to conceive through IVF. I bet Lily is such a joy for you!

    I love you and miss you so much, and by goodness, we will see each other soon! Come across the pond for our 10 year anniversary if we do not see you before then—but I hope to!

    Cathy B.

  3. Cath, just caught up on the last three blog posts…wow. You’re so incredibly brave and selfless to share your (and Eric’s) inner-most pain and personal journey with infertility. Thank you for doing so, as I’m guessing it’s helping many women across the world. Your writing is fantastic and the mix of humor is perfect and makes me laugh through the tears that are falling. I feel like you’re sitting across from me and sharing your story face to face. Nice job, my sweet friend.

    Love you lots! 🙂

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