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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IVF number 2

Hello all, happy Spring!

i AM still alive, I promise.

I’ve deliberately been keeping off the site in an attempt not to focus too much on everything this cycle, and instead, just to let it almost be a “sideline”. But here is the update.

I started stimming again the beginning of March. Because of the poor quality of the embryos in IVF-take-1, my schedule was changed to twice daily injections – the morning jab, Buserelin, and the evening jab, the Menopur.

The cycle went pretty smoothly, with a better follicular response earlier on, and I had 17 eggs retrieved in the end. Surprisingly, only 6 fertilised, but we were blessed with better quality embryos this time round and I’ve had 2x Day 3 eight-cell grade 2 jelly beans (grade 1 being the best! – I know the grading systems differ everywhere) put back on Thursday.

It really, really has been a heck of a ride again – leading up to the egg collection, I got news that I’d passed my Emergency Medicine interview and got a job in my first choice region (to commence in August, with 6 years of run-through training to consultancy). That, coupled with my best friend also getting a job against the odds, and the news of our embryos being happier and healthier this time round, has made me feel so much more positive.

During “the week”, another friend was losing his grandfather to terminal cancer at a hospice. He text me on Day 2, saying, “As one life fades, another one is growing. You WILL get pregnant, I just know it”. Although I’m far more of a cynic than an optimist, I really found those words comforting – I can’t explain why! This guy isn’t some kind of prophet, but it just seems to help maintain a positive mindset.

The other thing this cycle, that I have found so helpful, is the complete, heartfelt support of friends and family. In hindsight, I don’t know why I kept our battle with infertility a secret – I guess it was a wish to be giving people news of a pregnancy, and not admitting that I, high-flying, high-achieving, healthy young woman, was struggling to achieve something for the first time in my life. Instead, the words of encouragement and comfort that I’ve had from everybody has been so healing. I genuinely feel that the world is rooting for me, and that is just great.

Over the past 5 days, I am having good days and bad days. As time passes, the anxiety and worry is definitely predominating though I’m trying desperately to bat my chimp away.

Over the past few weeks, a few good friends of mine have got engaged. 7 years ago, when I lost my Dad (my only family), I had this intense need to belong to somebody and be part of a family. I nagged and nagged (not sexy, I know) my better half (who I had been with for 5 years at that point!) to propose. He didn’t succumb to the pressure, and instead chose to do it after I graduated 2 years later! But I spent the best part of those 2 years being massively jealous of anybody who got engaged or married. I am ashamed to say that I was sometimes even *that* typical-American-High-School-bitch, who would take pleasure in criticising the wedding venue, or the flowers, or what the guests were wearing (yes, I know, not one of my finest moments – I have grown up, now!)

BUT, my point being, now that I am happily married, the news of the first of my besties getting hitched made me ECSTATIC and so excited. I.e. the normal reaction to news of somebody you care about getting engaged! And it felt so good.

THAT, ladies, is how I want to feel when I see babies, when I see bumps, when my sister-in-law gives birth in May, and when my (ever increasing) friends and colleagues pop their sprogs.

Come on, jelly beans. Make me a happy mummy.

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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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On a downer – day 6 post-transfer

I’m having a real “woe-is-me” day today.

I keep getting distracted from everything I’m trying to do, to access Dr Google, and so I’ve decided I’m just going to hash it out on here instead.

I cannot stop obsessing over our poor-quality embryos. I guess, as a non-smoking, (newly)-teetotalling, under 30s specimen, I didn’t think for a moment that this would be the case. And it’s really shocked me. I keep wondering if I’ve contributed to it in some way – by not looking after myself. Since qualifying, I’ve run myself into the ground working stupid, long hours, eating rubbish as and when I can, and rarely engaging in time to truly relax.

I’ve been googling incessantly to try and learn more about it as arming myself with information is the way I seem to cope with adversity. There is so much conflicting information out there, and little of it stands out as being research-based or reliable. I can see what there are endless forums of women turning themselves upside down and inside-out.

My head is telling me that there is little chance this cycle will be successful, and that I ought to keep my “realist” hat on and assume it has not been. We go away for 2 nights just before we are due to test (check-out morning is pee-on-a-stick day) and part of me is toying with the idea of letting my hair down and hitting the wine bars. But… ever so occasionally, my heart will pipe up, and say, “there is a chance – don’t abandon hope”, especially when reading the incredibly kind comments you guys have made on my previous post.

I text my other half earlier:

Me: I’m having a “woe is me, I’m never going to be a mother” moment

Him: Try not to get upset. We’ve got plenty of time on our side, and the money needed to keep trying. It’ll all work out. You’re the most important thing to me though.

And he is right, and also the most important thing in my life, too.

Although this is being incredibly pessimistic and defeatist, if – worst case scenario – we were not to have children, I’d have a lifetime with the man that I love more than anything else in this world, Is that so bad?

For now, whilst I dry my eyes and get ready for another 8 hours at work, I’m focussing on one of my favourite quotes:

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Egg Retrieval: Day 1

My mother-in-law always says, “there is no place lonelier than that hospital trolley”, and she is absolutely right.  Yesterday was my third experience of having a procedure of some sort or another (I’ve had an endoscopy previously, and an operation on my arm), but that horrible “fight-flight” reaction never goes away, no matter how many calming influences you have around you. My heart was racing at around 130 bpm, and I couldn’t stop shaking. I also don’t do well without my morning cup of tea, and I’m sure I was having some sort of concomitant caffeine-withdrawal.

The morning had begun with an obligatory pregnancy test to prove that the HCG shot was on board before they proceeded to egg collection. The cheap testing kit they gave me at the hospital didn’t work meaning I had to open an expensive Clearblue one of my own and dip it in the toilet bowl (!). It read “1-2 weeks pregnant” – the first time in this journey that I have ever read those words, and known for sure that I definitely wasn’t!

The retrieval process itself was pretty painless, post-Midazolam and Fentanyl sedation. I hardly remember most of it, other than placing myself in that horribly undignified Lithotomy-position, with your legs up in the air and your fairy on show to all and sundry. I also remember moving at some point (presumably in response to pain) and being told to stay still. Other than that, I think I proved the old adage of doctors being terrible patients, wrong 😉

I felt remarkably well, afterwards, and even better after being told they’d retrieved 14 (FOURTEEN!!) eggs, and that they didn’t need to do ICSI as my other half’s sample was “within normal limits for IVF” (I think he was secretly relieved that he wasn’t, in his words, a “jaffa”).

By yesterday evening, the Fentanyl was noticeably wearing off. I was bleeding (which I was told to expect), and feeling this horrid bloated, tender sensation in my lower abdomen. I also went faint and dizzy several times throughout the evening, necessitating me lying on the floor with my legs being held up in the air by my better half (lots of legs in the air yesterday…). The discomfort is persisting, along with the occasional feeling of nausea and light-headedness. I’ve been told I can’t take any Aspirin or Ibuprofen (my pain relief of choice), and instead am having to resort to the codeine-based meds, like Co-Dydramol and Co-codamol. I feel like my tum has been blown up to twice its usual size – I can just about get my elasticated leggings on – it feels a bit like having trapped wind. I’m waddling around the house like a duck at the moment.

The nurses did explain, a few days ago, that the drained follicles can refill with fluid, meaning egg retrieval doesn’t necessarily equate to relief of symptoms. And no pain, no gain, right? But I really do hope this feeling goes away soon. I’ve even had to stop blogging this post a few times to lie down. I do not do feeling ill.

To add to it all, the Cyclogest pessaries are so yuck. I’ve been instructed to do them twice daily for 6 weeks. Without intending to be graphic, you may as well be coating your entire genital area with lard.

On a more positive note though, this morning, we got the call. 8 have fertilised! They analysed the ones that didn’t – 1 was out of its shell (makes it sound like I laid a sunny-side up egg), 1 was immature, and the other 4 were mature, but obviously didn’t catch for whatever reason.

We are over the moon though. My husband actually got a little teary at one point. It is a really profound thought, that you’ve got 8 potential little babies sitting in a petri-dish somewhere.

They will call us every day to let us know how our little bunch of cells are getting on – exciting stuff 🙂

Thank you to all of you ladies who have blogged your way throughout your own IVF journey this week – I have really enjoyed being able to follow somebody else’s experience so intimately. I wish you all the very best of luck.

Stimming: Day 14 (with a little bit of fretting)

Well this is it – final scan today revealed a host of follicles – approx 15+, all at varying stages of development but mostly about 14mm+ (biggest was 21mm). So, no more stinging Menopur jabs! However, this has been replaced by a whole host of other meds, that, even as a medic, I’m struggling to get my head round the regimes of.

I’ve been instructed to give myself my HCG jab tonight, in preparation for egg collection on Wednesday morning. On the Wednesday, I have to give myself a Flagyl suppository (yipee) and do a pregnancy test to show them, to ensure the HCG is on board. I’ve also been prescribed a week’s course of Cabergoline (to start tonight) to reduce the risk of OHSS due to the number of follicles and my Oestradiol levels. And finally… from tomorrow morning, I start my Progesterone pessaries, twice daily. So, I reckon that if I was picked up, I would rattle.

This is all so exciting, albeit daunting, but (in a typical “me” way), there are a few things that are niggling away at me.

My main worry is that my endometrium is only 5.5mm. Previously, I had been blaming my thin endometrium on the Clomid, but why, despite soaring Oestradiol levels, have I only got a piddly lining?! The nurse did not seem at all bothered by this – apparently, on day 7, my lining was only 1.5mm, so it’s come a long way in a week. She also assured me that they would not transfer any precious embryos if my lining wasn’t sufficient on the day. But I can’t help fretting that there is some intrinsic issue with it that will lead to an inability to sustain a pregnancy. Over the past 2.5 years, I’ve come along thinking that my only problem was not ovulating.

Have any of you guys had any similar experiences? Would be grateful for any calming words!

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