The (Continuing) Burden of Infertility

These past few days, I have been an absolute slave to my hormones… Or what I am hoping are my hormones, and not that beasty depression starting to creep back up on me.

I’ve also been unfortunate enough to be completely floored by a nasty viral infection (not man-flu, like a PROPER viral infection) that has left me feeling incredibly sorry for myself. My husband has been busy at work with the elections looming this Thursday and so I have been left to fend for myself in my pit, with nothing to distract me from my own worst enemy – my mind.

My thoughts are completely dominated by the prospect of something going wrong with this precious pregnancy, and every twinge or bit of discharge sends me running to the toilet in a panic for the good old “knicker check”. This past week, I’ve paid for a private scan. All is fine, and as it should be, and this calms me for a few days, until the old doubts start to creep back up on me.

Sometimes I don’t know if getting scans is a pathological behaviour that is feeding the worry, and whether I should be denying myself of it, or whether anything that makes me feel better is a good thing. There are divided opinions amongst my friends and family – the IVFers being completely supportive and understanding, and the “I took a sniff of his armpit and magically got pregnant” lot telling me that I need to chill out.

I am completely aware that I am physically and mentally draining myself, but I don’t know how to make it stop. I’ve done another old favourite, which is my statistic-checking (a foetal heart on US at 8 weeks reduces miscarriage risk from 25% to 2% – I like that one), but Dr Google also throws horrible anecdotes of missed miscarriages a few days following a normal US, and this, along with stories of patients/friends, is enough to send me spiralling back down to the pit of misery.

My mother-in-law keeps telling me that I “need to get rid of my doctor head, and put my mummy head on”. The next time she says that, I may actually lose it.

DO YOU THINK I DON’T WANT TO?! TELL ME HOW AND I WILL!!

I am very grateful to have had such fantastic support throughout the IVF, and for those who have followed me through the thick and thin over the past 3 years, I was overjoyed to be able to tell them that I’d finally got there. There are those (some of my family members, mostly) who hopped on the IVF bus right at the end, and got a privileged seat in the testing-day-arena back on the 2nd April.

These are people who have known I was pregnant since day 1 (i.e. at 4 weeks, vs the 12 weeks, when most couple start to breathe a little easily, and have had the time to work through any worries and anxieties. And lets face it, when YOU’RE starting to finally accept that you’re pregnant, and are READY to share the news). I feel like I’ve lost the privacy of my 4-to-12-week slot to these people, who don’t understand how I’m feeling and just do this whole, “but you’re pregnant now, so it’s fine”

AAAAGH, FUCK OFF!

I know that most of you must be thinking that I’m losing my mind. I feel like that most of the time, too.

I think a lot of this catastrophic, negative thinking has followed me from childhood. My single father was in and out of hospital from when I was very young. I constantly feared losing him and being left alone. I had spells in and out of care when he was poorly, and it was a glimpse of the life I may have to lead if I was orphaned.

I met my wonderful husband when I was 16 years old, and was left estranged when my dad discovered our relationship. My dad died a year later, without any opportunity to reconcile.

My wedding day was the single happiest day of my life, and I thought life was finally on my side, until we started trying to conceive!!

I know life isn’t always fun and games. And I know that I have some incredibly positive and wonderful things in mine. I guess I just need to start believing that life isn’t there to screw me over at every turn.

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Happy New Year, folks! (Yes, I know it’s February!)

Ok, that greeting is getting rather old now… I CANNOT believe we are in February already. When did that happen?!

I realise I’ve been rather anaemic on the blogging front, but I’ve just had to catch up with life, and have had to lock “baby” away in a box for a few months.

Firstly, I’m going through a career change. I have left my training programme to be a General Practitioner and am embarking on the road to becoming an Emergency Medicine doctor. Yes, I’m mad. You’ve read the headlines. I am hereby sacrificing sleep, weekends and sanity to deal with the patient spectrum of “dying from a heart attack” to “stubbed my toe on the end of the bed” (yes, we do get those in A&E). BUT, as I have said previously, I have found an area of medicine that I am passionate about, and enjoy. I cannot mould my entire life to fit around a family that may never happen (though hopefully will) and life has so much else about it.

So the vast majority of the past month or so has been spent preparing for interviews, and deciding how to occupy my next 5 months before formal training begins in August.

In some respects, as much as I complain about it, I have been grateful for the distraction.

I completely and utterly underestimated how emotionally draining IVF would be. I had my medic hat on, and, when I started bleeding and got the negative test, my “human” came to the fore, and my heart broke. That was amidst news of my 39 year old sister-in-law becoming pregnant along with a few friends – some of whom, had been my “infertile buddies” and have received that golden ticket to pregnancy, leaving me behind, all bitter and barren.

I felt myself sinking into that deep, dark hole of depression, again. I cried at the smallest, most insignificant things, I felt irritable, unmotivated, and avoided people and social situations like the plague. I couldn’t sleep with sleeping tablets as my mind just wouldn’t switch off.

Christmas was hard. In fact, I denied most of it, as, all I could feel, was my sense of loss at a time that was for “family”. In hindsight, it was slightly ridiculous – I have a wonderful family, who would move heaven and earth for me. My mother-in-law was devastated when I said that I’d rather spend Christmas sleeping at home. So much so, that I felt immensely guilty and dutifully turned up, ate my dinner and wore my hat. I was glad for it to be over though.

Now my happy pills are doing their job, life seems a lot brighter. My mood is far less labile, and I barely cry. Sometimes, I feel like I struggle to emote at all – it’s like the pills have completely dampened my ability to feel things. But I prefer this to the alternative.

Several other things have also metaphorically kicked me up the arse recently;

1- I discovered a nurse at my workplace who went through many attempts of IVF and has a 7 year old child. Subsequent attempts led to a twin pregnancy, but she lost both babies at 37 weeks due to a cord prolapse. She never had the strength to go through another cycle.

I cannot even begin to imagine what she went through. Miscarriage/stillbirth is horrid at the best of times, but, on a backdrop of infertility and assisted conception, is just EVIL.

Although I mourned my little day 3 embryos, I have been spared that heartache.

She told me that, every time she thought more positively about a cycle, it always seemed to go more successfully than others. So, I have vowed that, for attempt #2, I will adopt a positive mindset.

2- My husband’s best friend, aged 36 years old is dying of cancer. Last year, he was found to have throat and tongue cancer that didn’t look like it had spread beyond a single node. He subsequently went through successful radio- and chemotherapy but, shortly before Xmas, was found to have a lung tumour. This was successfully resected, but he recently started complaining of back pain. Now they’ve discovered 2 tumours in his spine and he has been told he probably only has months to live.

He has a wife, and 5 year old. His mother died of cancer a few months ago. His dad will have lost his wife and son within 12 months of each other.

Isn’t the world just a cruel, cruel place?

It has made me realise, more than ever, that I should spend every day counting my many blessings, and stop fixating on the (very) few things I don’t have in life.

So, as cycle number 2 approaches at the beginning of March, I will be keeping this quote in mind:

eeeeeeeaaaaa

AND breathe…

I am becoming a registered hermit. I’ve decided. This is what I’ll look like next time I post on here:

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I know I’ve not been on here for a while, but I needed some space from it all just to get back to some normality – not that I don’t like to follow all of your journeys and hear your news! There are also some of you, who have had the wonderful, amazing news of a pregnancy after all of your heartache. And as much as I am glad that you have successfully kicked infertility up the jacksie, and wish you all the best, I can’t help wishing it was me.

Shortly after the result, I got news of a close former-work colleague’s son expecting a baby. It threw me a little, but I picked myself back up and I was doing really well and looking ahead to IVF round 2.

I went back to work a few days later, which provided me with all manner of distraction. I have also taken the (perhaps,crazy) decision to leave my current training scheme for General Practice, to pursue a career in Emergency Medicine instead. It will be a lifetime of shift work and unsociable hours, and my training years could see me anywhere within a 50-mile radius, meaning that I could have to live away from my home and husband. It’s scary stuff. But the main reason I chose to be a GP was its family-friendliness; the job itself isn’t that appealing. And that’s just not enough, seeing as work is such a big proportion of life. That now means applications (deadline, next week!), interviews, training courses and exams for the next 6 months. On top of everything else. But as my “mum” says, “Nothing like displacement activity”.

On Saturday, my husband told me he had “something to tell me”. It sounded ominous. I knew I wasn’t going to like it.

My 39 year old sister-in-law, is pregnant.

Do you remember how occasionally I’ve said in the past that I’m so glad I’ve not got the pressure of any babies/future babies in the family? Well, that’s that little blessing out of the window now.

I cried, and cried and cried. Until I gave myself a migraine and had to call in sick.

The good that’s come from it, is that I decided to tell my mother-in-law everything. I needed her to know that I wasn’t being a bitch if I couldn’t talk “baby” or come to family do’s, or even see the baby when it’s born. She held me, and cried with me, and sent some wonderful text messages to me afterwards:

“Dear, dear S – I am so sorry that you are going through such a tough time. I will do whatever I can to help and I hope with all my heart that the treatment will work for you both. Thank you for telling me. We will deal with it as a family and support you whatever. Stay strong and positive lovely lady and all will be well. Love you both X”

“You will get yourself back. Just now you are hostage to your hormones and sense of loss. Stay positive and things will get better. You have time on your side and * clearly loves you to bits. Be happy with that for now and hopefully the little one you are wanting will come. I’m glad I’m your mum-in-law – my lovely, clever and talented daughter-in-law Xx”

Wow, I think my heart melted to a puddle. How lucky am I to have that? It made me wonder why I’d kept it from her, but I guess 1- I didn’t want our disappointment to be somebody’s else’s as well, if things didn’t work out, and 2- I had a lot of faith that the IVF would work, and that I’d be able to be sharing news of a pregnancy, instead.

Yesterday, I was still raw. Today, it was better.

Until my “IF buddy” at work, who has been on Clomid for the past 6 months, told me she, too, was pregnant.

I haven’t really reacted. I think I just feel numb. There’s a part of me that wants to LAUGH maniacally, because, seriously, who else? Is there some fertility virus going around that I’m not a party to?

Yesterday, my other half told me, frankly, that he thought I needed to see my GP. I’ve been struggling to sleep beyond a few hours a night (probably not helping my frame of mind), I’m intermittently tearful, I’m struggling to motivate myself, and all I want to do is comfort eat. I had a mild depressive illness after my father died, and he was starting to recognise those telltale signs, after 2 years of being as happy as Larry. My GP agreed. I’m now back on Prozac.

I will not have a nervous breakdown. I will not have a nervous breakdown. I will not have a nervous breakdown.

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The Demons

I have some serious demons at the moment.

The past few weeks have been hellish at work, and most mornings, I would rather pass a kidney stone than face the prospect of a day in the hospital. I’m sure this is a major contributor to me going from, “keeping my head above water” to “sinking” lately, as one adverse life event is just about manageable, but add in another stress factor, and it is just too much.

I recently had news that I’ve got a job offer for my desired choice of training scheme, to begin from August. I scored in the top 10 of the 300+ candidates in the region, and I should have been over-the-moon when I heard. But I just couldn’t feel it, even though I knew it was a good thing. And that bothers me. It also bothers me that my family are starting to see that I’m not okay, as it gets harder and harder to keep a smile on my face. Don’t get me wrong – I have good days where I feel genuinely happy and have gratitude for all the good things I’ve got going for me, but there are days where it is completely inverted, like the negative of a photograph, and it’s exhausting to force a smile.

There has been a disproportionate amount of pregnancy announcements this last month, mainly at work, and this is getting increasingly harder to cope with. Without Facebook (and with my other half censoring the information that reaches me through other means), I’ve got far more control over these than I had previously. But the main source is now work, where I can be completely knocked off kilter and made to feel emotional and vulnerable, when I should be on my A-game to look after others. This is clearly a problem- it’s behaviour that is entirely non-constructive and damaging, and something that I will HAVE to learn to combat. I just don’t know how to.

I have similar issues to the “announcements” when I have to deal with the “questions”. I really don’t know what people think (or don’t) when they ask you when you’re going to have children. 1 – why is there an assumption that every couple wants children? 2 – how is it their business? Ironically, it’s only being on this side of things that I’m starting to realise that I, too, have been guilty of this in the past. I have duly reprimanded myself.

Since my last post, there’s been no developments from the fertility-front. I’m currently on the combined pill, in order to induce a bleed and commence my 2nd cycle of Clomid. And that is what I keep trying to tell myself – I’ve only had ONE intervention since all this began! Why am I self-prophesying a life without children already? Why can’t I see the glass half-full?

For the past month or so, I’ve almost been adopting a completely irrational, childish mentality of, “If I can’t have children, why shouldn’t I live a little and do adult things like going out with my friends and getting completely smashed, or even getting high?”. I’ve lived a relatively “straight and narrow” life, where I’ve never done drugs, got my degree, got married, ate healthily and cut out alcohol to try for a family. And there’s a part of me that’s now bored of that, and thinking, hey, should I just live a little while I’m still young?

I think I’m having a mid-mid-life crisis.

I might go out and buy a dog.

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