Is honesty the best policy??

Usually, when I blog, I sit and write from the heart, and have no hesitation clicking the “publish” button.

My last post was different. I read it, and re-read it, and then saved it, and then came back to it, and then thought “to hell with it, this is how I’m feeling” and released it to the blogosphere.

That night, I lay in bed with some serious guilts. I felt like a truly awful human being – selfish, unkind and juvenile. There were hardly any comments, which, exacerbated by my state of paranoia, made me think that nobody else ever felt this way and so there was something wrong with me. I actually considered taking the post down. Why? Because my blogging community is full of people whom I’ve come to really respect and admire. I worried that everybody would lose their respect for me.

But, a comment from a fellow blogger made me think, “if I can’t be candid and honest on my own blog, where can I be?”.

Over the past few years, I’ve often sat in front of the computer, in tears, and find the process of writing extremely healing and really quite cathartic. So much so, that I leave the computer feeling stronger, more rational and ready to crack on with life. Even more so, when the comments start piling in!

So how honest should we all be? Is it a problem when we start blogging as an escape from the judgement of family/friends but then fear being judged by our online community?

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Harmony, growing pains and the first grandchild (14+6wks)

Life has gone back to its usual 110mph pace, although this has sort of been my saving grace over the past month or so, with little time to fret, and the much-anticipated second trimester being on my doorstep before I knew it.

I have *definitely* chilled out a little, where baby bean is concerned. The knicker-check is less frequent (although not entirely absent) and no longer is every abdominal niggle sending me to the private scan company in fear. This past week has definitely seen an increase in aches and pains in my lower abdomen, with excruciating stabbing pains if I move too quickly. I suppose it’s no surprise, seeing as baby bean is now apparently approaching apple-size. I have a little, but definite, bump, although I’m still in that category where nobody would automatically offer me their train seat, as it could possibly be central obesity vs baby (and nobody wants to make that mistake).

My boobs are continuing to grow at the rate of knots, with my other half exclaiming every time I take my top off. Unfortunately, I don’t think I qualify for page 3, as I also seem to have developed veins and stretch marks EVERYWHERE. Sigh. Still, I can’t complain. It’s taken 3 years and £10,000, and it is *totally* worth it.

Harmony results all came in as low risk, which, again, was great news. We also know what clothes section we need to shop in when the time comes… BUT, I’ve been sworn to secrecy!! Even from you, fellow bloggers, as my other half wants it to be a surprise for everybody else, and I do still have the odd friend who reads this.

The past few weeks have seen a challenge of a different kind – one that has been on the horizon for months, and which has slowly been nibbling away at me. My sister-in-law (40 year old, 2x children from a previous relationship who are 11 and 9, not yet married to my brother-in-law) had her baby a few weeks ago.

Some of you might recall that I discovered the news of their pregnancy shortly after my own IVF cycle failed last year. My husband tentatively breaking the news to me of this completely unanticipated baby will ALWAYS stay with me, along with the utter despair that I felt for months afterwards. I’m sure that these memories are part of my continued inability to be truly happy for them, including the fact that (the way my friend put it), “they’ve got to the finish line before you”. And it shames me to say it. I’m not a nasty person, really.

I genuinely thought that finally being pregnant, would change how I felt… but it hasn’t. There is a juvenile, selfish part of me that feels pushed aside, that the miracle of my hard-won pregnancy no longer has the spotlight and the recognition it deserves. And the fear that, when my baby enters this world, nobody will care, cos, “been there, done that”.

My mother-in-law, whom I have taken on holiday, spa-days, shopping trips, who I involved heartily in my wedding plans as she has no daughters, who I used to call every other day on the way home from work, has not spoken to, or visited me in THREE WEEKS (she lives 5 minutes round the corner). To say I feel abandoned may be a bit dramatic, but I definitely feel hurt.

The next hurdle is meeting my new nephew.

I have never been one for huge gatherings full of excitable people (my own gatherings, included!), so I made a deal with my husband that the first time I meet him needs to be alone, with just my sister-in-law. (This is in the event I bawl like a baby myself, which is a distinct possibility the way my hormones are behaving – I don’t want to be on show). This is, however, easier said than done. Over the past 18 days, I’ve had TWO days off work. It is honestly so difficult to fit a visit in around her kids, my brother-in-law, doting grandparents etc, as well as MY own need for a day in my pjs whilst I’m cooking baby bean.

Hopefully, the next time I post, it’ll be to pat myself on the back for being a dutiful auntie.

To Test or Not To Test…

I have been following many of your blogs over the past few weeks, and feeling such empathy, understanding and relief at most of your thoughts and feelings, as they more than often mirror my own. And that is what I LOVE about this blog community – that it’s my little world where I’m understood and where my feelings are accepted without challenge or judgement.

These past few weeks have seen me transformed from “nervous ball of worry” to “cautiously optimistic and actually a little bit excited” as I am now in my 11th week, and approaching that much-coveted-12-week-mark. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not sat in some yoga pose, all chilled out and unflappable – that would require some kind of lobotomy! But, I’m definitely relaxing more.

This week has seen a different sort of dilemma, in the shape of Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT). In the UK, on the NHS, the current provision is a blood test and Nuchal Translucency for Down’s Syndrome. This test carries a stupidly high false-positive rate of 5%. That means 1 in 20 women will be told their baby has a high risk of Down’s Syndrome, when they aren’t. This then leads to the prospect of unnecessary invasive investigations like amnio/CVS which carry with them a 1-2% of miscarriage. It also has a false negative rate of 15%, meaning more than 1 in 10 women will be told their baby is fine, when it is not. There is no testing for Edward’s/Patau’s, which, out of all the Trisomies, have the worse outcome, leading to miscarriage, stillbirth, or death shortly after birth.

I was blissfully unaware of NIPT, until a work colleague, who is a cardiology doctor, told me about Harmony which is far, far more accurate, and also looks at Trisomy 18 and 13 (Edwards and Patau’s). It’s available privately for £400 or so. Samples are sent to the US, and then returned within 10-14 days.

So I ummed and aahed about this.. Did I want to open this can of worms? It’s all very well if you are low risk for everything, but what happens if you are high risk? I would be far too apprehensive to have an amnio, and couldn’t bear the prospect of a termination, but then what is the point of the NIPT?? Was I just undertaking an investigation simply because it was available?

Also, having gone through IVF to get this wonderful, precious, pregnancy, is it fundamentally wrong to want to know if something is wrong, or do you just “accept what you’re given”? I remember, a year ago, a fertility nurse in my clinic telling me an IVF mother had gone through with a termination at 20 weeks, after discovering the baby had got a cleft palate on the 20 weeks scan. A CLEFT-FKING-PALATE, seriously! I remember thinking that this mother ought to have some kind of psyche intervention, but am I just as bad for wanting to “mess” with this pregnancy?

The opinions we’ve had from friends and family are SO varied. A few of my fellow IVFers didn’t accept any kind of screening with their pregnancies, having just been happy with whatever they got given, so to speak. My friends have seen both sides of the coin – that it would be advantageous to know that everything was low risk, and that if there was something wrong, that it would be better to know in first trimester than in the second or third, but that having a high-risk result could lead to all sorts of anxiety.

My mother-in-law begged me not to, and pleaded that I “left my little one alone”.

More importantly, my husband, who’s invested in 50% of this little bean, has supported the decision to press on. If our baby is high risk for Down’s, this doesn’t bother us so much, but allows us to be prepared for the health issues they’re likely to face, and how it is likely to impact our lives, too. If it is, God forbid, high risk for the other Trisomies, we face a dilemma – do we amnio or wait and see what happens, with the forewarning that we may lose our baby bean?

Yesterday, I sent that package off, for it to journey across the Pond. I just hope I don’t regret the decision to open Pandora’s box!

On a more positive note, our 12th week begins on Monday, and will be the first time my husband sees our little jelly bean, live on telly, complete with limbs and a face, since the “6-week-spotting-scare”, where jelly bean was more like a blob. He is like a kid before Christmas, and it is so lovely to see 🙂

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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Fretting in the early hours (it’s always the early hours…)

This past 5 days has seen me jolted from my happy, excitable, newly-pregnant state to a miserable, pessimistic bundle-of-nerves, on, not one, but TWO occasions.

The surge of progesterone (coupled with the additional dose of twice daily pessaries) has given me all manner of cramps and niggles – most probably due to physical changes in my uterus and constipation (yay). That is fine. It’s what I’ve wanted for 3 years, and I cannot and will not complain about it.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, I woke up with, what felt like, trapped wind (sorry for the detail). The pain was EVERYWHERE and I spent a good hour on the floor in the foetal position and eventually fell back to sleep. I woke up later to discover I’d been spotting throughout the night, and was still in pain.

As is not uncommon with me, I completely lost all sense of reason, and immediately thought that it was game over. My mind immediately went to my sister-in-law, who is due to deliver in 4 weeks, and that I would possibly have to consider emigration as a coping mechanism. Luckily, EPAS (Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit) where I was due to have my first scan later in the week, slotted me in within the hour.

Words cannot describe how it felt to see that little heart flickering away. We both cried. My 37 year old husband sat and wept in the corner of the scan room. We have a viable singleton! They thought that the bleeding was perhaps some old implantation bleeding, or the second embryo’s remains coming away.

There is a part of me that is a little sad that its twin didn’t make it, but when I think realistically to how risky twin pregnancies are, my little singleton will stand a better chance of making it to term without another one fighting for territory in there.

This reassurance was pretty short-lived though…

Last night, a similar thing happened. This time cramping, like period-pain. On inserting my pessary, I withdrew my finger to find pink-red blood on it 😦 The gynae ward, who are the only people contactable out of hours, got me in to the assessment unit this morning. I was seen by a colleague – a little weird, but you are kind of looked after by your own, and scanned.

Our little jelly bean is still there, and is growing nicely in accordance with its 7+4 dates.

They also did a random Beta level – not entirely sure what the point of it is in isolation, but it was 99,000+ which sounds pretty damn good to me.

What was it this time? Trauma from the pessaries? Those pesky follicles rupturing? Or just one of those things?

My instructions have been to basically “use my medic-head”. If the bleeding is not fresh red, or heavy, it ought to be ignored. Nobody has made me feel at any point, like a neurotic woman, but I DO feel like one. Some of the staff and my friends who have had first-hand experience of IVF are fully aware and understanding of the fact that blood = FEAR OF GOD. I guess I just have to try and relax a little, and accept that this may be a semi-permanent feature for the next couple of weeks or so…

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!

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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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.

Heartbroken

So today was testing morning….and it’s a big fat negative.

Crying Sad Puppy

Deep down, I knew our chances were not good with the grade 4 embryos we had, but there’s still a part of you that hopes for a little miracle.

We were away for a few nights in Oxford, which is a BEAUTIFUL city – home to one of the most prestigious universities in England, and very quaint with cobbled streets, gorgeous old buildings, independent shops and cafes. But the entire break was dominated by thoughts of the 2WW coming to a close. Up until this point, I had been at work, and not had time to dwell on it. There are some advantages to having a life that is work-eat-sleep-repeat.

In an attempt to “wind down”, we had sex (which incidentally, was great – not in accordance with calendars/charts, or forcing it when we’re both completely shattered after long hours at work, or worrying that too much lube would be detrimental to the little swimmers, but because we wanted to!).  If you remember from my previous posts, I was quite unwell around the time of my transfer, and then returned to the shift work, so we’d not been abstaining because anybody had told us to, but because the opportunity hadn’t arisen. There’s some VERY conflicting advice about sex (post-transfer) online – mainly due to the lack of any robust evidence around the area. Some clinics insist on complete abstinence and not even some “self-induced” pleasure in case an orgasm is detrimental to the implantation process. Others say sex as normal, because out-of-context of fertility treatment, who abstains during in the last 2 weeks of their cycle?!

However, I started spotting with streaks of blood shortly afterwards. Not sure if it was some local trauma from the pessaries, or a bit of cervical trauma, or if it was heralding the start of a failed cycle.

The testing was traumatic, to say the least. It was the first time I have ever known that there was a real chance. I actually felt sick to my stomach – worse than when I sat my final exams. I left it on the bed with the other half, and knew that the lack of response from him of any kind after a minute or so meant that it was negative.

I actually feel a little bit like my heart has split itself in two. And there is no plaster big enough to mend it.

All that emotional energy, time, mileage, money, physical trauma, that has been invested in this cycle. It’s all been for nothing.

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