The Fear (Part 2)

Today was the day that, 27 years ago, my mother’s life support was withdrawn on the Intensive Care Unit of our local hospital. This was following a post-partum haemorrhage a few weeks prior, hours after delivering me into the world. My 56 year old father was left widowed and thrown into the deep end of fatherhood like no father ever knew it.

To rub the salt in the wounds, this day coincides with the Sikh celebration of Vaisakhi – the birth of the Sikh faith, and as prominent in the calendar as Easter or Christmas. Although not religious at all myself, I can only imagine the pain of a devout Sikh/Christian/Hindu/Jew/etc to forever associate a bereavement with, what should be, such a joyous occasion in your community.

The past week or so, I have swung between the extremes of sheer excitement at the prospect of being a mum before the year is up, and utter panic at the endless possibilities of what could go wrong between now and then. I am feeling the latter more acutely than ever today, for obvious reasons.

Since getting those magical two lines, that hope that I would suddenly happily launch myself into the world of “baby” has not been forthcoming. Although I “tolerate” (that is not quite the word I’m looking for) the bumps a little more readily, I am wishing the weeks away so that, in Darwinian fashion, my jelly bean would have a chance of making it in this world should anything happen to me. “The bumps” are at that point, where they can happily talk cots, prams and names. I, at 6 weeks today, still have a very long time to go.

It’s all very catastrophic, ruminatory thinking, that’s certainly not being helped by all the pesky hormones. But I don’t know how to make it go away!

My scan is due a week on Wednesday – maybe seeing a viable little bean will inject me with some confidence that this pregnancy WILL be fine.

I went on a spa day with my mother-in-law last week. The girl who was doing my nails announced that she was 10 weeks’ pregnant with her second. I asked her if the worry ever goes away, and she answered with, “I don’t worry about anything. Cos most of the time, whatever you’re worrying about NEVER happens”.

So very true. It must be so nice to be living in that head.

The Fear

“The Fear” is, what we refer to in our house, as that horrid “Sunday night” feeling that hits you at around 6pm, when you know that you’ll shortly be going to bed, and, next thing you know, it’s Monday morning and you’ve got a whole week to battle through.

That feeling is something I haven’t experienced in a very long time, since starting ED, as the concept of the traditional “weekend” as I knew it, became non-existent.

Now, it refers to the fleeting thoughts of, “oh heck, what if these jelly beans don’t like their home for the next 36 weeks?”.

I am horribly aware, through stories of friends, of fellow bloggers, and of course, as an occupational hazard, of the possibility of miscarriage – the possibility that we could go for scan in 3 weeks’ time, and find that the pregnancy isn’t viable, or even after then, the chance that this could all go tits up later on down the line.

I recall an article I read in the Washington Post, that was a link from another blogger’s site, referring to the cruel destiny that we IVFers (and I guess, any other IF treatment recipients) face, to be in a permanent state of anxiety throughout the entire pregnancy. I so badly don’t want to be that neurotic patient that panics over the slightest bit of bleeding or cramping, but how do you not do that, when your pregnancy is so precious?

My anxiety behavioural “thing” is to have a boob grope. My boobs are getting quite sore – especially at night, in their unfettered state, when I roll over and accidentally squash one. And if I go over a bumpy bit in the road. If they start feeling vaguely comfortable, I’ve taken to popping a hand down my top, and giving one a poke *just to make sure* that my precious symptoms aren’t disappearing on me.
The other “classic” is the “knicker-check”. My specialist keeps his IVF-ers on the Cyclogest pessaries, to provide progesterone support until the pregnancy is at the point when it should be adequately producing its own. These delightful pessaries do leak their vegetable oil shell as the day goes on, and it feels a little bit like passing bits of blood/discharge. Ever so occasionally, I pop to the toilet to check that it IS just the white, greasy stuff.
I’m going nuts.
Bring on scan day!

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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I feel so sad…

It keeps coming over me in waves, sporadically and unprompted.

I cried so much yesterday that I ended up with a migraine. I took a concoction of painkillers, and a sleeping tablet because my mind would not stop racing, and I still didn’t successfully get off to sleep until the early hours. I’ve had to call in sick, because even without the pounding head, I can’t stop my emotions running wild and I’d undoubtedly end up in tears at some point.

I don’t know why I’m feeling quite like this. Well, obviously, I know the root cause, but I DEAL with adversity. It’s what I do so well. My mother died when I was born. I had no other family other than my dad, who was in and out of hospital during my childhood. I cared for him. I got though medical school when he died suddenly. I dealt with it so well. Why does this feel 10x worse?

I envisaged the negative test and that I would simply just pick myself up, start enjoying a bit of normality after months of anything-but, and say, “hey, let’s focus on round 2”

But I keep thinking that, at some point, there were 8 little embryos that had the potential to become 8 little babies. OUR babies. 50% me, 50% him. And they’ve just gone.

I so badly want to start feeling normal again.

The Fertility Clinic

I have a diagnosis!!! I know I sound disproportionately excited by that, but I am just so relieved that I finally know what’s going on, and what can be done to rectify things. Almost instantly a week last Thursday evening, my levels of the various stress hormones that my body had been drowning in were starting to regress, and I almost started to behave like a sane being. (What prevented it in its entirety was the lurgy, which took the form of a kidney infection- ouch. You know that saying, “I’d rather have a kidney infection than sit this exam”, or “I’d rather have a kidney infection than <insert horrible life experience here>”?? Well, I got both)

Prior to our precious 20 minute slot with a specialist, we had the dreaded “waiting room” scenario, which I always find so awkward and uncomfortable. What is it about being sat in a room with strangers, all whispering in hushed voices, that just makes me squirm? A visit to the dentist is bad enough, but I couldn’t help looking at each couple and wondering what their story was. And you knew those thoughts were being reciprocated every time you caught somebody’s eye. We were all there for the same clinic after all. Some left in tears… others looked like they’d got some renewed hope as they left clutching a precious prescription. I sat there patiently for 1 hour, clutching a Costa Chai Latte, trying to make my hands feel less clammy. I think I actually felt more chilled out before my exam.

It’s Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which I had suspected from the fact that I hardly get periods, but hadn’t got the typical appearances of it when I was scanned a few months ago. Even though it’s not something I’d pay for anytime soon, the miracles of modern medicine mean that there are options to get my cycle going again, in an attempt to get me ovulating. This is going to take the form of the Provera/Clomid combination, which is limited to 6 months to prevent ovarian cancer. What shocked me a little is that my particular NHS Trust does not then use hormone injections, or even Metformin, as second line, but proceeds to ovarian drilling (yeah, I didn’t like the sound of that either), or straight to IVF. I feel like the pressure’s on this next 6 months because of that.

My husband, much to his relief, has passed his barrage of tests, though there was some suggestion that the pre-semen-analysis-piss-up on the second occasion had had an adverse effect on his little swimmers. I think my exact words to explain the term “abnormal sperm morphology” was “some of them are a bit funny-looking”. He understood that better.

So the wait is on.

I’m aware that Clomid can make some ladies feel pretty rough (though not exclusively, all), and as I look ahead at my next 3 months of 12 hour shifts, weekend-on-calls, and night shifts, I do wonder if I’m giving myself an uphill struggle. But when will there ever be a perfect time to start something like this? I’ve got years left before my work-life relents a little, and if we end up having to go down the IVF route, I want time on our side. So I don’t really feel like I have a choice.

For now, my next challenge is  a mutual friend’s birthday party next weekend, who have just announced that she is 20 weeks’ pregnant with their first child. As per the “routine”, my husband was reprimanded for sharing this news with me, I had a mardy bum face for a few hours, I attempted to reason with myself that we are at that age where couples are going to be starting families and I that I am going to have to find some way of being at peace with this. Avoidance is my current preferred tactic for this social event, although I do actually love spending time with this particular group of friends, and I know it’s not constructive or feasible to avoid everybody who is pregnant or a parent for the foreseeable future.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not unhappy for them – I’m just sad for us. And I wish that I could snap myself out of that.

The Year of Dreams

I am an emotional wreck.

The annual post-Christmas blues have arrived; brought on in combination by:

1- Indulging oneself to near-diabetic coma for the past month or so, and consequently seeing the Michelin Man reflected in the bathroom mirror whilst en-route to the shower

2- The subsequent efforts to shed the “winter coat” by signing up to WeightWatchers = feeling so hungry that my stomach feels like its begun to digest itself

3- The dark, cold, wet Great British January mornings that make me want to curl back up under my duvet

4- A miserable, man-flued-up husband with cabin fever, which is a bit like having Eeyore, the depressed donkey, in the house

5- My exam for speciality training in my desired medical career looming on the horizon this Thursday (no pass = no job from August)

6- And finally…. our first appointment with the Fertility Specialist, also on the dreaded Thursday.

Needless to say, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed with life. And as a friend so nicely put it,

“if that bucket’s already full, it doesn’t take too much for the contents to start tipping over the edge”

That awful feeling of uncertainty and not being in control of life is universally acknowledged as unhinging the most stable of us, but it’s fair to say I’ve gone to some extreme lengths this past week to attempt to claw back some control. Most of this takes place in the home, and involves a disproportionate amount of cleaning, tidying and filing. The DVDs may all be stacked in alphabetical order now, but those butterflies are still keeping me awake at night.

The hospital appointment is probably the most dominant of these worries (the exam, a close second) – finally finding out what’s “wrong” with us, and what options, if any, we have. Having had to wait months and months for this day to come, it’s remained fairly dormant in my mind. Not in the sense that I don’t think about the infertility – it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up, and the last thing I think about at night – but in that, knowing it was so far off, it just got put on the back burner. Now it’s only a few days away, it’s dragged it all back up from under the carpet.

Will we ever be a Mum and Dad to anything that doesn’t have 4 legs and a tail?

As touched upon in my last post, I have struggled with Christmas this year. As the remnants of the festive period were packed up last weekend, I came across the numerous cards we’d had from friends, signed, “him + her + bump”. I also came across a card from a neighbour who I’d confided in about our problems conceiving. They had told me a year back that their 2 children were conceived naturally 10 years ago, having been investigated to the end of the earth for infertility and told that they would never have their own. She had so kindly and thoughtfully written, “We hope 2014 brings you everything you both dream of”.

I visited a friend today, who lost her 17 week pregnancy a year ago, after discovering on a routine scan that the baby had died 2 weeks prior. Since then, the desperation to become pregnant again has led to the inevitable struggle to conceive. Whilst I can say that I can empathise to an extent with what she has gone through, I cannot begin to imagine the pain of losing a baby that would have been. Today, she has confided that she is 10 weeks pregnant, and I am genuinely overjoyed for her, and massively relieved that I still have the ability to be pleased for a friend.

So, to my friend, B – I know that you are understandably apprehensive about the next 42 weeks ahead. But I have everything crossed for you.

To all of you who are walking in my shoes, I hope that this is the year our dreams come true. Happy New Year!Image

The evils of Christmas (shopping)

Earlier on this year, I played with the idea of taking our immediate family on a mini-break  to do some Christmas shopping together in Bath. Bath is one of those quintessential British towns with beautiful period buildings and plenty of quirky, middle-class shops and attractions. It’s the type of place you go to and think, Why do I live in the grey, murky Midlands when places like this exist in the country?? I had visions of a quaint cottage with a roaring fire, and us soaking up a bit of culture during the day, and then putting our feet up and soaking up some good food and wine in the evenings. 

It was the first holiday of its kind in our family – it had the potential for us to return having gouged each others eyeballs out, but we have all returned, bodily organs intact, and with even the most skeptical of us up for a 2014 encore. It was just great to be away from blighty and the monotony of everyday life. 

What I didn’t bank on, was the letter that dropped onto my doorstep a few days prior to this, informing us that our appointment with our consultant had been put back a month. We would have had less than a month to go (not that I was counting or anything) to have some understanding of what is going wrong. When you’ve been trying to conceive for over a year, it finally feels like a light at the end of a very long, undignified tunnel.

Needless to say, the subsequent few days were spent ruminating and draining myself of energy with my false efforts to smile and laugh and joke, when all I wanted to do was curl up in bed and cry.

Shopping has got to be one of my favourite pastimes and is usually a guaranteed way of cheering me up (providing it’s in the right place, and that I have the right number of zeros at the end of my account balance). The trip met those criteria (as well as having the added benefits of stalls selling mulled wine, hot apple cider, and roasted nuts) so why did I feel like I was on the brink of an emotional outburst? 

The kids’ stuff. Everywhere.

There are times when I absolutely hate being a woman. I hate being at the mercy of hormones – a few chemicals being chucked out into your bloodstream that can make you assertive and confident one moment, and then turn you into a hysterical wreck the next. Life must be so much simpler being a bloke.

Everywhere I turned, there were cute little booties, Christmas jumpers and teddies.. just all that stuff that you’re wired to respond to as a woman. And my “mothers” (the in-law and my surrogate mum) cooing over the merchandise saying, “Ohhhh, isn’t that so gorgeous. Oh that would be perfect for a little boy. We just don’t have anybody we can buy things like this for” HINT HINT. 

By the end of the day, I was plaiting my legs, trying desperately to ignore the messages being sent from my bladder to my brain telling me I had a further 100ml capacity before I would spontaneously void, just because going to the toilet would involve walking through the childrens’ department in BOTH of the main department stores.

I always count myself lucky that my day job is too hectic and busy for me to really fixate on the fertility problems – there are barely enough hours in the day to do the mandatory “sleep, eat, shower, work”. But times like these, when I am caught off my guard, it’s easy to feel how devastating it is to other couples, and how it can really consume every part of your life.

For now, I’m holding onto the hope that I’ll be buying a pair of these at Bath Christmas Market 2014…

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The Beginning

Ok, so I’m on the road to thirty, not long married, and working in a madly busy, though very fulfilling career as a doctor. At a glance, I have it all – a degree, a beautiful home, a wonderful, successful husband and a menagerie of furry animals, but there is one  gaping hole in this Desperate Housewives-esque dream, and that is a baby.

One thing that academia does to you is to instil in you that, if you work hard enough at something, you can achieve anything. This is a mindset that is so difficult to shake off, having been ingrained in you since childhood. And it sets you up for misery later on in life, when things are beyond your control. I liken it a little to taking a driving test – it doesn’t matter how many books you read, or even how much you practice your reverse-around-a-corner, it’s all about your luck on the day. If that white van decides to cut you up when you’re so diligently driving along, that’s your lot. And your £70 or however much it costs to take a test these days. I failed my test. Twice. And it wasn’t books that helped me the third time.

Approximately 14 months ago, we decided the time was right for us to embark on the next rite of passage. As with most couples who find themselves in our predicament, you don’t imagine for one second that it will be difficult to conceive when you choose to do so. I mean, aren’t you told, “You’ve missed a pill?! Use condoms for 7 days”, “There’s a small risk you can still get pregnant on a period”, “Best thing to do is to use the Pill AND condoms”. It makes you think you only nearly to be looked at by a man to catch. You only nearly to do go down to the local shops (especially where we live) to run into a pregnant woman. So how hard can it be, right?! Is it not what our entire purpose is on earth?

Well, 14 months on, doing the textbook (here goes the books, again!) “no smoking, no drinking, healthy eating, exercise, healthy BMI, regular Folic Acid, man-Vitamins for the other half”, here I am.

What is the purpose of this blog? Well, over the last year or so, one of my biggest struggles has been the inability to discuss this with the significant others in our lives. Infertility is one of those taboos – not unlike miscarriage – where there are countless people who have experienced it. But nobody ever seems to talk about – not unless it was a problem years ago, and now resolved. 1 in 4 pregnancies miscarry. 1 in 6 couples will have problems conceiving. Lift up both of your hands and name 10 people you know. Statistically, two of these will have difficulty conceiving. That’s one hell of a lot! And yet, it’s just not talked about openly. And it’s because you feel like a failure,  don’t want people’s sympathy, don’t want people to know you’re trying in case there’s no chance you’ll have one of your own… and that’s just to name a few.

And so, this is my way, of not only being able to vent my anger and shed my tears, but hopefully share some positive experiences about the process, too.

This is my journey.