Friday, January 4, 2008

Ten years ago: The one before

(Warning: possible TMI included)

I recently dug out my datebook for 1998. Looking at those first few days of January brought back so many memories of the time before loss & infertility took over our lives.

We'd been ttc for a little over two years by then, and despite my family doctor's assurances that "It will happen," I was getting nervous/sad. I had been so sure that I'd get pregnant, if not immediately, then surely within a few cycles after going off the birth control pill just before I turned 35. The first few cycles -- off the pill but using backup contraception while my body readjusted -- were almost textbook (although my cycles have never been 28 days, usually more like 32-35). And then, once we started ttc, my cycles went completely wonky. 44 days, 56 days at one point! I did hpts & even went in for a blood test at one point (after which my period promptly started). I was diagnosed hypothyroid & started taking eltroxin (the dr assured me it would help).

But during the first full week of January, the week before my 37th birthday, what was front & centre in my life was the Canadian national figure skating championships. I've never been athletic, but like many small town Canadian girls of my time, I took figure skating lessons, & I'd been a big figure skating fan for years (my first memories of watching the sport were of Karen Magnussen & Janet Lynn at the 1972 Olympics in Sapporo).

The 1998 nationals were at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton, Ontario, about 1.5 hours from where I live. I'd attended a Stars on Ice show there once with a former coworker, who was just as big a fan as me, if not bigger, and whose daughter (then about 12) skated. I'd been to nationals once before, in Brandon, Manitoba, in 1982, had a wonderful time then, and always wanted to go again. So after some discussion with my friend, we booked off work for a few days, bought all-event tickets & booked a hotel near the arena.

Figure skating tickets were & probably still are a huge bargain. Our all-events tickets cost the grand sum of $125. That's $125 for the entire event -- Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday & Sunday; novice, junior and senior competitions; men's, women's, pairs & dance events in each category; compulsories, short programs & long programs in each event, plus practices, and the Parade of Champions on Sunday afternoon. Dh could easily spend that much for just one good but not great seat at a Toronto Raptors game. We split the cost of the hotel room for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday & Saturday nights. All told, including food & souvenirs, the whole thing cost me about $500. Not bad at all!! Our seats were great -- just above the kiss & cry area, & several rows up from the CTV broadcast booth, where Barbara Underhill & Rod Black were doing commentary. If I used my binoculars, I could see the results flash onto their monitors up to half a minute before they were posted to the arena audience!

Anyway, the day we left was day 34 of my cycle, so I was expecting dear Aunt Flo to show up and (fortunately) came prepared with lots of pads -- and she didn't disappoint. Day 1 of that cycle was Thursday, Jan. 8. The first day, from what I can remember & from the notes in my datebook, was OK, but Friday, day 2, was extremely heavy & crampy.

We spent most of our days at the arena, living on Pizza Hut pizza, Mr. Sub sandwiches and hot dogs from the concession stands there. Friday's schedule of events began at 12:45 with the junior dance original program, followed by the junior ladies free program, junior pairs free, senior dance original program and senior ladies short program.

Mid-afternoon, my friend came to find me. She had run into her daughter's coach, who sid, "Did you bring her skates with you? [She had not.] They're having open partner tryouts on Sunday morning for anyone who wants to skate pairs or dance." Several high-level judges and scouts would also be there. My friend's daughter wanted to dance, & this seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up. She told me she & her daughter were going to leave immediately and drive home to get her skates. They would return the next day, attend the tryouts on Sunday morning, meet me back at the arena for the final events, & then we'd head home. I did NOT want to leave with them -- the hotel room was paid for anyway -- so I said I would hold down the fort at the hotel & see them when they got back.

So they left, & I was on my own in a totally strange city. It felt a little strange, but I really didn't mind, because I wasn't THAT far from home -- I could have taken a bus or a train home, if I absolutely had to -- & I was having such a good time. I called dh to tell him what was going on. I wasn't prepared for his reaction. He was upset that my friend would leave me on my own like that, & we had a tense conversation (on a payphone, with a dozen other people lined up behind me waiting for their turn, no less!).

I'm not sure whether it was sitting all day long & then standing up, stress hormones from my conversation with dh, just a plain old heavy period, or a combination of factors -- but as we talked on the phone, I could feel all hell breaking loose in my nether regions -- gushing & gushing & gushing. My periods are normally on the heavy side the first few days, but this was ridiculous. I'd tried to take advantage of all the breaks I could to go to the bathroom & change pads (& you can just imagine the lineups for the women's washrooms at an event like this...!) & I headed there immediately after I got off the phone. My heavy-duty pad and my underwear were soaked & the blood had seeped through to the crotch of my pants.

The senior events (the big attractions) were about to get underway, & I did not want to trudge all the way to the hotel to change & back (it was already dark, for one thing). I blotted my underwear & pants with toilet paper as best I could, changed my pad, thanked God that I was wearing a long sweater that hid my butt (!) & returned to my seat. Later, I took a section of newspaper from my tote bag & sat on it (!). I decided to leave just before the last couple of skaters, in order to get out before the rest of the crowd & be able to hail a cab back to the hotel quickly. I stood up quickly, folded the paper & tossed it in a garbage can on my way out. I used another section of newspaper in the cab, so as not to ruin the seat.

When I got back to the hotel room, I immediately stripped down & surveyed the damage. Ugh. I was glad I was the only one there. I rinsed my pants out in the bathtub & hung them up on the shower curtain to dry. (Thankfully, I had brought more than one pair of pants with me...!) And then I collapsed, exhausted, in bed.

Why am I reliving all this? Well, this was the beginning of the last cycle before I got pregnant. The first day of my last menstrual period -- the all-important, oft-recited LMP date -- was February 8, 1998. Like many women who have struggled with loss & infertility, I have analyzed all the details of my pregnancy endlessly to try to figure out what I did (& didn't do) that might have contributed to me getting pregnant when I did. Contending with an overly heavy period & ruining my clothes in the company of 15,000 people in a strange city is not my idea of fun (although the skating was great & I'm glad I got to see it...!) --but if that was part of what it took to finally get me pregnant, then hey, bring it on. For years afterward, whenever I had a particularly heavy period, I would hope against hope that somehow, history was about to repeat itself. The things we latch onto...


  1. I can understand why you thought "what if" on successive cycles. Some people think that very heavy bleeding can be cleansing in a way. I've had very heavy flows & similar embarrassments. Infertility is a real punishment for women who hoped for some relief (pregnancy) from heavy periods.

  2. hmm - just thinking how you could scrapbook this ... skating embellishments and a red splotchy background (yikes!) OK not so good a thought! But it is an unusual story.

    I know how all these "anniverseries" are marked or even seared into the mind. It is going to be a tough year for you, I'm afraid. The "10 years ago today" may just always be at the back of your mind. Please know that I am thinking of you - if I knew what to say, I would say it. And send you your favourite virtual chocolate (dark or milk?) or wine (red or white?) or both.


  3. Aaaah memories :) Glad they ended well.

    Here's to a wonderful 2008 for you and your dh!

  4. Reliving those moments and trying to understand what worked and what didn't in TTC is so hard *not* to do.

    And reading your description of a particularly how shall we say, "intense" AF reminds me of the countless times when I wondered if I might not faint from extreme blood loss. Not being able to conceive just made those bad periods all the more vexing. It was pretty common for me to ask, what's the point?