Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Nurture Hope: an infertility story

After I had surgery almost a year ago, I was very hopeful that my husband and my dream of having a family would quickly become a reality. I followed up with our fertility clinic a few weeks into my recovery, and I was given a prescription for fertility medications to help us along that path. Unfortunately, when I went back in for routine monitoring a month later, my doctor found that the endometrioma (a cyst caused by endometriosis) on my left ovary that had been removed along with part of my bowel, had returned and completely taken it over. That means that, despite having just had surgery, my endometriosis was back and doing significant damage to my reproductive organs. At this point, my doctor recommended that we take advantage of the very small and honestly, a little unlikely window of opportunity we have after surgery, and attempt an IVF cycle. 

This was a scary thing for me to hear. I have never been keen on the IVF process, and the low chances, made even lower by my medical status, make the investment of emotions, physical pain/discomfort, and finances all the more of a risk. But we really want a family, and if this was the only way, then so be it. 

When I got the call that our name had come up on the waiting list to start a cycle, it was a few months sooner than I had thought it would be. So of course we jumped on it, and started the long and intensive process of oral hormone medications, injectables, almost daily blood and ultrasound monitoring, scary medical procedures, progesterone suppositories, and emotional turmoil. 
I made a beautiful hour basket to hold all my injection supplies- the process wouldn't be pretty, but gosh darn it, the needles can be kept somewhere pretty!
To help me cope with the emotional side of this process, I decided to make a special quilt to give me comfort at the end of this, regardless of the outcome. I wanted something cozy, with my hopes and dreams and pain sewn right into it, and significance in every stitch. 

So of course, I called my fave Charley Harper into action. His most recently released line was called Nurture, and it features mama animals with their babies. It was meant to be! And the name of the line fit perfectly with my meditation, and eventual theme for the quilt - Nurture Hope. Because above all, hope and faith are the most important things in this long and hard journey. And Hope doesn't necessarily come easily. You have to keep it tucked away in your heart, and feed it happy thoughts (which are sometimes hard to come by when dealing with infertility), and stroke it when it is feeling small and scared. And you have to do this even when The Facts are screaming at you that your hope is unreasonable and unlikely. You have to Nurture Hope. And this quilt helped me do that. 

I decided to make a sampler style quilt, so that each print with their different scales could be properly featured in an individual block of their own. First I spelled out the words Nurture Hope. Sometimes you need a constant reminder of your task before you, to help you stay on track. Having these words up on my design wall for a few months was very helpful indeed. Next, I made the large blocks, using a different print for the centre of each block. I didn't have a plan at all in terms of where the quilt was heading, so lastly, I made small blocks, and the ones with funny shapes to fill in the spaces between blocks in the layout. This was a very fun part, changing and rearranging until the final product was just right. And sometimes, initial thoughts and intentions changed or modified into something better. 

I have many parts of this quilt that have special meaning to me, and here I will share them:

Above all, the message is so important to me.  Nurture Hope.
Infertility is filled with ups and downs.  I try to maintain more ups, but sometimes you fall into a pit of despair.  Especially when your period arrives despite all your hopes otherwise.  Hence the red arrow is the down arrow.  
This little piece of artwork is called Family Owlbum.  That is just so special, and one of my favourites from the collection.
These penguins pretty much sum up living with infertility.  All around you, everyone has their egg, but you are alone in thinking "Where's my egg?"  Everyone has their eyes up and focused on other things, but the mamas without their eggs have their eyes focused squarely on where their eggs should be.  Rarely are your thoughts diverted otherwise.  My heart aches for the penguins without their eggs.  
Sometimes you have a million thoughts in your head during the IVF process.  What if I'm doing the injections wrong?  Is this feeling normal?  Does this pain mean it isn't working?  Will this work?  Of course it will work.  It's impossible that it will work.  What happens to me if it doesn't work?  It's not fair.  Fear, anxiety, glimmers of hope.  You must Be Still.  Have faith.  Nurture Hope.
The feathers represent for me that, as with fabric scraps that you can piece together to make something whole, so it is with life.  Sometimes you don't have the whole image to be able to have the perfect picture of life.  But you can still make a good life with what you have.  
This artwork is called Love from Above.  I truly feel that love is greater than all of us, and God's role in my journey has been integral.  Faith and hope can be hard to come by, but that constant love from above can keep you going when things seem bleak.  
And ultimately, love conquers all.  

For me, this process has been such a metaphor for this journey. You start with the major plot points planned out in your head, and then you have to fill in the middle with unexpected and unplanned aspects, all the while rearranging, adapting, and persevering through, even when you don't know how it's going to turn out in the end, fearing that it will all be a terrible mess, and all the while remembering to Nurture Hope. 

And finally, after all the waiting and all the work, and all the anxiety, you have a happy ending. A beautiful quilt, and a beautiful pregnancy. I am so happy to report that our journey has a happy ending. Against many odds, our hoping and wishing and praying has been for a baby to call our own, and now we have that chance. Oh happy day!