I’m shuffling my feet and chewing on my lower lip like it’s a piece of Hubba Bubba.
My heart is pounding.
I’ve just called my OB for an appointment so I can learn about my childbearing options. I’m separated, I have a beautiful daughter and a dynamic business, but I’m just… not done yet.
I still don’t know if having more kids is a sustainable reality for me, but at thirty-six, with a history of fertility issues and loss, I’m curious to know from a professional standpoint if even ‘maybe’ is a viable answer.
And I’d like it to be.
And that’s okay.
To be honest, I feel weird.
Even though, apparently, this isn’t weird. It’s actually getting to be more and more normal. Because more and more women—regardless of their marital statuses or situations—seem to be taking their fertility into their own hands.
And I’m not talking drastic ‘put a baby in me’ measures here. I’m talking about simple fact gathering and education; something so important and so often overlooked.
That’s what I’m trying to do now too—get a lay of the land, and get a fertility snapshot so I can understand (really understand) what the next few years could look like regardless of how I choose to move ahead.
There are answers to questions like ‘are my eggs still okay?’ or ‘how many do I have left?’ and even ‘how long do I have left?’ that I want to know—that are part of making an informed decision toward family planning—and to get those answers, I need to be referred back to a fertility specialist, which is why I’ve reached out to my OB in the first place.
When I finally get to the appointment I am an anxious mess. That squeaking nose? I’m pretty sure it’s my bladder threatening to explode. My hands are sweating and I’m swallowing hard.
Cap, my boyfriend, is giving me some bemused side-eye. “Just. Relax.”
I shoot him a withering glare and scrunch my face up into what I think is my most stern ‘do not go there’ expression.
He laughs and puts his arm around me. “It will be just fine. You’ll see. Just go in there, and ask your questions. You’re awesome.”
My OB comes out and motions me in with a smile.
“Are you coming in?” He asks Cap, in a very welcoming way.
There’s a very brief, almost slapstick pause, as I shoot Cap a mixed look of mortified excitement which serves as an apologetic afterthought of an invitation, as he shrugs with a helpless but encouraging smile.
“He’s not coming in.” My voice booms and then I instantly rethink what I’ve said. ”Um…not…not yet?” I’ve got Cap locked in my tractor beams. Or he’s got me locked in his. I can’t move. “Um…not this time? But maybe…I mean...maybe next time?”
Oh god. This just got weird. It’s weird. I didn’t think this whole ‘sure you can drive me to my appointment’ thing through. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t thought about having kids with him. I mean… Wait. Woah. What?! I what? Oh my God. I’m pretty sure he could hear me think that last thought. Oh no. That squeaking… My bladder… I’m going to pee my pants.
“Ok. No prob. I’ll talk to mom this round, and then you guys can take it from there.” Apparently that huge, long, gaping pause was nothing more than a split second, and my OB is acting like this happens all the time.
I tell him as much as we go into his office and he laughs.
“It’s totally fine. I get husbands who get relegated to the hallway, too, you know. Besides, I thought you might want to talk alone with me; this is the first time you’ve been back in almost two years.”
Since my last loss.
It’s what he doesn’t say. But our eyes meet and he gives me a bolstering smile.
“To be honest, I’m really glad to see you back here,” he says, and that gives me a spark of strength.
I tell him my predicament. How I’m really interested in staying open to grow my family, but want to learn more, and also wonder if I should be doing anything—like freezing my eggs or embryos—if that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen for a few years.
What I love about Dr. W. is that he doesn't bat an eyelash.
“First of all, there are a lot of conflicting opinions out there, but freezing your eggs has a substantially lower success rate than freezing an embryo. I wouldn’t suggest that you personally pursue freezing your eggs. If you’re interested in freezing embryos, that’s different, and it’s something you should definitely talk to a fertility doctor about. But before you jump there, you should get an idea of how long you have to conceive naturally, and how many years of trying you have left which also means you’ll want your partner to participate in these conversations. Presuming that you want to have kids with your partner… That nice guy out there with the big smile for you is your partner, right?”
“Well. Yes. We’re really… He’s my best friend. We’ve been together for a while but you know. We’re still technically a newer ‘couple’ and we’ve kind of but not really talked about it, you know...about kids...and I’m still just separated…still tying up the divorce…and he is practically a stepdad to Vee now, so I mean…”
“I get it. And it’s not going to stop me from giving you a referral to a new fertility specialist. But here’s the thing. At the end of your monitoring, you’ll be able to know about your eggs, about your reproductive environment. You’ll know what your chances are to conceive in the next year, and what they’ll be in the year after that, and even if you wait beyond that. You’ll know what your chances are at conceiving naturally. You’ll know if you have to move to assisted technologies like you did before, and how quickly you have to move if you want to increase your chances. You’ll know all this about you. And you’ll know nothing about him. And you’ll want to know about him for a few reasons.
"First, so that if he has any issues with his sperm, they can be worked into your planning as a team—whatever decision you guys come to.
"But most importantly, you need to have that conversation, because if he doesn’t want kids, or isn’t sure about the relationship in that context—or even if you guys decide that he’s a great sperm donor candidate—well, then you still have some really big decisions to make together, or maybe alone about your next steps as a couple. Whatever the path is—even if you’re on it alone—you guys both have to be 100% with it.”
When I said I came here to learn about my options. This isn’t exactly what I had in mind.
“I’m sure it’ll be fine. I am sure he’ll be open to at least talking about it.” My voice seems detached and muffled. I feel a creeping heat working its way into my face and a strange weakness grasp at my heart.
For a moment I feel anger at the incredibly nice, supportive doctor across from me. I feel anger at the amazing man—my best friend—sitting outside in the hallway. Actually, I am angry at every man everywhere who thinks they have a bearing in my decision to have kids and I am totally giving in to a nostril-flaring surge of Amazonian “HOW DARE YOU! I DON’T NEED A MAN TO PROCREATE” rage coursing through me. But it falls short. Extinguished by a short, brief, and powerful pinch of the most innocent and gentle truth:
“One day I want to have kids with the man that I love. And that man is currently sitting outside in that hallway, reading a waiting room copy of Auto Trader from two years ago, with all the patience, encouragement, and support for me in the world.”
I blink back the bittersweet mist of tears and nod as Dr. W. tells me they’ll be in touch with a specialist appointment for me.
“So did you get all the info you wanted? Did you find out what you have to do next?” says Cap, his lovely face looking up at me.
Oh crap. I’m going to make a mess. A relationship mess. I can feel it.
“Well what? Do we need to get you blood work or anything?”
“Um...nope. I just need to go over some stuff. Maybe talk about a couple things.”
It’s what I don’t say. But our eyes meet and I give him a bolstering smile.
“Well that seems easy enough,” he says happily.
“I hope so,” I say.
I hope so.
Having shingles is horrible — the aches, the pains, the feverish nerve inflammation, and that awesome ‘I just took a roll in fiber glass’ feeling where your skin hurts when someone even looks at it… Oh and let’s not forget the gross tell-tale rash and, in my case an eye infection. Eww.
Moms, beware. If you’ve had chicken pox, you can get shingles. You aren't immune. And it sucks. It especially sucks when your recovery time can be clocked with a stopwatch, because shingles can go on for weeks.
I’m a mom with an active 3-year-old, a rambunctious 85lb puppy, and a dynamic business that keeps me hopping and zooming around. Downtime is not a word I know, so when I found out I had shingles I was devastated. I think I had about 3 days to actually ‘be sick’ and try and get the worst of the symptoms under control — or build a tolerance to them so I could get back out there.
I played virtual Tetris with my schedule and gave my clients the heads-up that I was going to be benched for a few days, but motherhood is always another story. No matter what’s going on in my life, and no matter how sick I am, I’m still the only one who can co-ordinate, cajole, calm, and comfort my sweet kid — and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
What mom can’t relate to that? And what the heck was I going to do?
Now, I also have Crohn’s disease and as part of that, I’m not a stranger to serious achy joint pain. I’ve used a TON of different topical creams to help with stiffness, soreness, and inflammation. In fact, around my (camphor, menthol, lavender, arnica, cayenne smelling) home, I’ve been dubbed the ‘Liniment Queen.’ Yes. True.
So when I was asked to try out and review LivRelief's natural and clinically proven topical creams for pain relief, shingles, and varicose veins, my curiosity was totally piqued.
I decided to add LivRelief’s Extra Strength Nerve Pain Relief Cream and their Pain Relief Cream into my self-care routine and have been using them nonstop for the last couple weeks.
I have to say… I’m impressed.
I used the nerve pain relief cream on the worst shingles ‘band’/area on my back and the pain relief cream on my ankles, knees, shoulders and hands. I applied them 2-4 times daily.
I asked myself a few questions before I started using LivRelief and then answered them again after I’d been using the creams for five days.
Here’s a glimpse at my before and after diary!
Before: Searing. If I rated my pain, it would be about a 7/10.
After: Still there, but about a 3/10. The cream is instantly soothing and using it everyday really helps.
Before: DO NOT COME NEAR ME. If I could program an alarm to go off when someone gets within 5 ft of me, I would. Pain is at an 8/10.
After: The pain and sensitivity is still there at a 4/10, but hey, it’s ok that everyone keeps forgetting that I have shingles on my back and for some reason feels the need to randomly pat me right there. Seriously? What is up with that?
Before: I am naked. Whoever invented clothing is a sadist. I hate all fabric. I have decided to be a nudist or at the most have committed to wearing a cardigan like a Snuggy to minimize socially awkward situations. Pain is at an 8/10.
After: WOOT! I’m totally wearing clothes! Although I’ll admit, I’m still most comfortable in un-starched, soft jerseys, and my sports bra (nothing underwired). Also I’m convinced I could have made that backwards cardigan thing a trend. Pain is at a 3/10, fashion sense? 10/10. Bam.
Before: No. No I cannot. And what is with his seemingly incessant need to go outside all of a sudden? Can he not somehow magically learn to use the toilet?! GAH. Pain is at 7/10.
After: I still have problems going for long walks because of the aches and the joint pain, but a walk around the block or to school in the morning is back on the table. Pain is at 3/10.
Before: Are you kidding me? No. Really. That’s hilarious. Pain is at an 8/10, and I have to lie down. STAT.
After: The saddest thing in the world is when it hurts to do your favourite thing. I am so glad I’m back down to a 2.5/10 so I can snuggle my kid.
Before: Sleep? Nope. More like feverish moments in and out of consciousness. The pain is waking me up, at a 7.5/10.
After: Much improved at a 2.5/10. I honestly think the care regimen of self-massage really adds to the quality of my sleep as well.
LivRelief is a bit pricey coming in between $27 and $38 depending on the product — but that’s because it’s really good. Great news though, you can save $10 off your purchase of any LivRelief product. See below for details!
I do suggest putting the bottles in their own plastic bag for purse travel so the pumps don’t get all gross and mealy because the tops tend to pop off, but you’ll want to have the creams with you no matter where you go. Trust me.
A cool little perk? The products I was using were travel-sized. And that meant I could bring them with me on the plane to Vancouver this past weekend for the premiere of my film. (It was a big life moment for me, and I can honestly say that my walk down the red carpet would have been a painful zombie shuffle if not for LivRelief!)
I generally think any product that lets you enjoy your life again and that helps alleviate symptoms rocks. LivRelief brought my pain down consistently and let me get back to the most important things — my kid, my family, my career...my happiness.
It is definitely going to stay a star in my self-care routine, and I hope it makes its way into yours.
My daughter is out of diapers. She is in a great school and has a great routine. My ex-hubs and I are amicable and have worked out a really solid approach to co-parenting.
I have a dog.
I have a small business with ever-changing demands.
I have a new, supportive, and amazing relationship.
I have friends that I can visit with, and events that I can say "yes" to, confident in my child care routine.
After many years, my life is finally coming together.
No more fertility treatments; no more losses.
There goes my brain again, feeling the none-to-gentle tug of my uterus and its amazing hormone-loaded marionette strings. And it only knows one word: MORE.
My ovaries are in on it too, and they’re relentless. I think they’re actually chanting it.
More. MORE. MORE!!
In fact, I’m starting to see my entire reproductive system band together as a villainous Clockwork Orange-ian council for Pavlovian response—a council with an insidious agenda, a united voice, and a codename—REPRO.
“Every time she sees a baby, sniffs a newborn, looks at her own child even, we’ll be there pushing her to THAT PLACE. The Baby Making Place of Endless Fixation. That black hole of menstrual cycle math and ‘what if’ probability that will absolutely make her head explode.”
Hold on. Did you hear that? REPRO’s collective laughter sounds exactly like Mark Hamill’s Joker.
And it’s as infectious.
Well it’s not that crazy… not at all! Lots of single women have kids. And I’m still young. I mean…I’m in a new relationship, too. What if that is something we want to talk about in a few years? Wait. A few years? Nope. I need to do something now. Maybe if I just look at freezing my eggs or some embryos? But who’s sperm do I use for the embryos? Do I look at donor sperm? How would that affect my relationship now? Because let’s face it, that’s just weird. Ok. Ok. I got it. I’ll start looking into adoption...
Get a hold of yourself, Inokai!
I shake off the estrogen-induced haze of frantic baby daydreams and grab tight to my routine—to the lovely scaffolding of my schedule and the promise of blossoming potential in my life.
Look around you. Look! See? You have finally figured it out. Finally! So why do you want to throw a monkey wrench into everything and start all over again? Why?
My logic is wearing a ref shirt and has laid both hands firmly on the shoulders of my maternal whist. I roll my eyes and pout.
Ok. You’re right. It’s stupid. I’m done. I’m really done. It’s over.
Logic seems mollified and nods, patting me gently, but there is all at once an explosive ball of anger and revolt in my throat.
NO. Don’t tell me what to do. I’m not ready. I’m only thirty-six. There’s still time. I want more!!!
I feel judged by my own right brain. It sizes me up with a kind of impatient, pursed-lip, bitterness.
You do it to yourself, Kat. You really do. And you know it. I’m not going to stick around to say ‘I told you so’…so have fun with that.
So with my heart feeling utterly abandoned, half scattered, half transfixed, and propelled by a Lorenzo’s Oil-type fervor, I start doing the kind of fertility equations that only women already affected by REPRO could possibly know.
"Ok. So if I’m 36, and at 35 your fertility dips…. and if I ovulate on day 13… and if a young, healthy, fertile, couple only stand a 1 in 4 chance of conceiving each month. And the miscarriage rate is close to 1 out of 3. And fertility monitoring takes about 2 months before treatments. And…hold on…carry the 3… then…um…”
Hi, Kat? You are totally losing it. Totally. Just saying. Thought I might point that small fact out to you.
I’m not done.
I’m just not.
Choking back tears I sit, dejected and hopeless on the living room floor.
For a few minutes, I sit just taking it all in.
My client emails chime in with soft dings, as my kid and dog run boisterous circuits around me. My boyfriend is making dinner for us all in the kitchen, and I hear him talking to our housemate in low, pleasant tones about something.
The afternoon sun has bowed out and all of a sudden the string of Christmas lights in our window feels magical. The simple, comforting smell of baked breadcrumbs scents the warmth of the room as Baby Girl’s giggles harmonize with the dull ambience of homeward bound traffic and the sizzling droplets of boiled over pasta water as they hit the stove.
There is so much love—right here.
And I realize this is a perfect moment.
There is nothing that I would take away and nothing that I would add.
Or is there?
I pick up the phone.
Dial a number.
“Oh hi… yes… this is Kat Inokai. I’m just wondering if I need to be re-referred to see the doctor, or if you still have me on file.”
Here we go again.