Friday, 24 December 2010

The nightmare before Christmas

Well, I've survived two nativity plays, a class Mass with sixty six- and seven-year-olds lisping their way through Christmas carols, babysitting Nieces #1, 3 and 4 while my sister took #2 to see the Nutcracker for her Christmas treat, all the Christmas shopping and Christmas telly with images of smiling happy families... I'm prepared for tomorrow, with Niece #4's first Christmas and all the baby talk that's going to happen when my mother, sister and 8 months pregnant SIL get together.

But yesterday was something I was NOT prepared for.

Niece #1's Christmas treat was a trip to the temporary ice rink at the Natural History Museum in London. I missed seeing her actually on the ice - my other sister, her godmother, skated with her but then left very soon afterwards - but I went along to help my sister take all four of them into the Natural History Museum after the skating was over.

#3 is a very determined 2-year-old who runs remarkably quickly, and my main task for the day was to wrangle her. She loved pressing buttons on all the interactive exhibits, and it took a good few minutes to persuade her away from each one.

We started with the dinosaurs, which was great. Then while my sister stopped to look at a map and see where we could go for lunch, #1 and #2 spotted the human body exhibition and asked if we could go in.

We went through the displays on cells and muscles, then arrived at the entrance to the next exhibit. There was an interactive display with flashing lights, and #3 made a beeline for it. She then stood for about five minutes (or was it five hours?) happily pressing the buttons to make the lights come on.

The display was called 'See which sperm makes it to the ovum first'. It was a large 3-D model of a uterus, with little flashing lights representing the sperm making their way through it to fertilise the egg.

I finally managed to winkle her away from that display, only to be dragged by #1 and #2 into a giant mock-up of a uterus, with womb sounds playing through a loudspeaker. I was confronted with a five foot high foetus, which by happy (?) coincidence just happened to be pretty much the same gestation as my SIL's baby now is. #1 was asking lots of questions, which I answered through gritted teeth.

We passed through the giant uterus into an area with models of embryos at various stages of gestation, followed by pictures of a woman giving birth ("Look, Aunt ___ - that lady's pooing out a baby!") and then a room with all sorts of information about hormones and how they help in the baby-making process.

If I can survive that, I'm pretty sure I can survive the rest of Christmas. Whatever way the conversation turns, I can comfort myself with the thought that at least I'm not stuck in a giant uterus with a five-foot foetus staring me in the face.

I hope you all have a happy Christmas - and that next year a few more of us are looking forward to our children's first Christmas.

Monday, 20 December 2010

The good, the bad and the ugly

Sorry I haven't been around for a while - life suddenly got ridiculously busy, and it's still not showing much sign of letting up. At least it gives me less time to think about things...

My AF showed up on Friday, so I went down for my blood test on Saturday morning. While I waited for the call with the results, I took the opportunity to do a bit of Christmas shopping in Oxford Street, and was amazed at how uncrowded Britain's busiest shopping street was on the Saturday before Christmas. Perhaps the forecast snow had something to do with it - it started to fall around 10:00.

By the time I was ready to go home, there were about four inches in central London, and about seven inches at home. My journey home took me three hours (compared to the usual one) and I ended up having to walk the last three miles, because there was no public transport at all running to my town. I got off the train in the next town, bought myself a sledge and trudged home, pulling my shopping behind me on the sledge.

So it wasn't with unreserved joy that I greeted the news that the clinic wanted me to go in again on Sunday for a repeat blood test and a scan. My FSH was 7.6, oestradiol 247, LH 3.4 and prolactin 289. Apart from the oestradiol, those were pretty good results, and I'm pleased that my FSH has come down again so nicely. But I wasn't sure how I was going to get back into London yesterday, and even less sure how I would manage daily blood tests over the Christmas period if I got the go-ahead to get started.

In the end, DH and I managed to get to my sister's on Saturday evening and spent the night with her - she lives closer to central London and her local station has more trains and was more likely to be open than our little terminus station at the forgotten end of a branch line.

Mr Greek God did my scan again, and I was impressed that even before he looked at my file, he seemed to remember the issue that I had last month.

This time, I had a 12 mm follicle. He said they didn't like them to be this big so early, but that this was a day later in my cycle than the scan I had last month (day 3 rather than day 2), which could explain why it's a bit bigger. And the good news was that, whereas last month one ovary was doing absolutely nothing and the other had a big follicle and two tiny ones, this month I had two follicles on one ovary and three on the other, and all were around the 10 mm mark - so bigger than they would like, but there wasn't really one dominant one.

I asked him why I always seemed to have these big follicles already before getting started, and he said that although it wasn't ideal for IVF, it was what my body was meant to be doing.

DH and I then went away and waited for the call. We went to Mass at a very nice church round the corner from the clinic, then waited in Starbucks with big mugs of coffee and the Sunday papers.

The first call, when it came, was not what I had expected. It was the nurse I had spoken to in the morning, who had received my blood test results. She asked me to confirm what day of my period it was, and asked how heavy the flow was and whether this was normal for me. From this I guessed that my progesterone was raised again, as it was last month. (I sneaked a peak at my file while I was waiting for the scan, and last month's CD2 progesterone level was 6.something, when it should have been less than 2.) She then said she was about to take my file up to Mr Miracle Worker, and would call back shortly.

When the next call came, it was Mr Greek God himself. He said that my levels were not ideal for cycling this month - and I must admit that after the travel problems over the weekend, I did breathe a sigh of relief that I wasn't going to have to travel into London every day during this bout of snow.

He then said that if my levels are similar next month, they would like to try down-regulating me. I've always done the short protocol up to now, and when I asked Mr Wonderful after the last cycle if down-regging might help to prevent the dominant follicles, he said he didn't think it would be suitable for me. But I'm actually really pleased to get a chance to try something new, and curious to see how my body responds to it.

So it looks as though, provided my FSH level is reasonable next month, I should be starting down-regging in mid-January. I think what they're planning is the follicular protocol, which seems to be halfway between the long and short protocol. I can't find much about it on the internet, but down-regging starts on CD1 or 2 with daily Suprefact injections, and you normally start stimming after 10 days. I'm sure they'll tell me more about it when the time comes...

So, the news is mostly positive, and it's just our laughable transport system, the amount of work I still have to do before Christmas and the fact that I have yet another cold/throat infection that stops me from looking forward to the next few days.

Oh, and the ugly? That's me - I'm a bit run down at the moment, and it's showing up in my skin. I have more zits than I've had at any time since I was a teenager, and look a bit like a geriatric adolescent. Perhaps Santa should bring me a big bottle of Clearasil...

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The curse of the Android

For the last 24 hours, Facebook has been full of posts from one of my friends, regularly updating the world from her phone on the progress of her labour. Of course, each post is followed by several thousand comments about what a special time this is, how wonderful she is, and how excited everyone is.

This morning, there's a birth announcement with a photo of the baby which must have been taken within minutes of the birth.

It's her third child, and her second since we started TTC.

I'm happy for her, but can I admit to wishing that it wasn't all quite so in my face?

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Nothing but a dreamer...

The last few nights, I've had the most incredibly vivid dreams. Most of them have been classic anxiety dreams - I've forgotten to do something vital, and I'm trying to sort it out at the last minute. I've had dreams of this type at various stages all my life - I used to get them every single holiday during the week before going back to boarding school, for instance - so they're nothing new.

Several have involved our family Christmas get-together - not in the form of any sort of concern about spending the day at my 8 months pregnant SIL's house or watching the latest niece wear the Christmas pudding outfit for her first Christmas, but more about realising on Christmas Eve that I've forgotten to make the trifle I promised to contribute and don't have all the ingredients in the house, or getting halfway there and realising I've left the trifle at home.

Last night's had nothing classic about it as far as I was concerned, and was very bizarre and a little upsetting. It involved me watching in horror as someone prepared to sacrifice a baby on a barbecue. I don't know who the person was, or why the baby was being sacrificed, but this person obviously thought it was absolutely necessary to do this. Then I saw someone who I knew was coming to help. She was climbing up an open waste pipe, and just as she was about to reach the top, I accidentally flushed her down the pipe. I stood there helplessly looking on as the one person I knew could help disappeared down the sewer... and then I woke up with a horrible sense of dread which left me unwilling to move a muscle for several minutes for fear of what might happen.

It was quite possibly the daftest dream I've ever had, and all I can say is my subconscious is obviously having a busy time at the moment working its way through the decisions that we're making and the shift in our thinking that they entail.

I do wish it would shut up and do it a bit more quietly, though.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Coaching update

A couple of you asked whether I was still seeing my coach. I am, and the whole process is really helping me - I don't think I'd be where I am now without her help.

There are three main things that she's helping me with - working out what I really want and need and how I can achieve that, communicating better with DH and getting what I need from my relationships with other people.

The help with communicating with DH is particularly helpful, as the usual reaction of certain members of my family to hearing that I've been trying to tell DH something that's important to me is "leave the poor chap alone".

I originally booked eight sessions with the coach, and Thursday should have been the last of those eight. As it happened, I couldn't get my car out because of snow and ice on the hill we live on, so the session has been postponed to this coming Thursday - and this week, I'll try to make sure I don't park the car facing uphill.

I spoke to her on the phone and said that I knew coaching wasn't meant to be open-ended, but asked if she thought it would be a good idea to book more sessions. The cynical part of me said that for anyone you're paying for a service to advise you that you no longer need that service is a bit like a turkey voting for Christmas. The emotional, needy part of me said that I need this extra person on my side, helping me to work through the decisions I'm making and the issues they're throwing up, for a while longer, and hoped that she wouldn't say she thought I was ready to deal with all this by myself.

As it happens, as with everything else, she struck exactly the right note. She said that as far as the not being open-ended is concerned, one difference between counselling and coaching is that with counselling, you're working through a lot of stuff that has often happened years ago, and it can take a very long time to deal with all the issues that come up. Coaching deals largely with the present and is more forward-looking. You're learning tools to help you to deal with specific things in your life, and so after a certain amount of time you should be able to stop the coaching and still use the tools that you've gained from it on your own.

She also said that she still occasionally contacts her own coach when she feels that she needs a bit of help and books a single session to help her work through whatever it is she's having trouble with. She said it can be helpful to be able to talk something through with someone who knows you well but can be completely objective. It kind of reassured me to know that this is an option.

In my case, I'm still in the middle of all this - I've taken a big step towards making a major decision, but the decision won't be put into practice until after the new year. In the meantime, we've got Christmas to get through, the birth of my latest niece, and the whole child-oriented shebang of nativity plays and Christmas parties. She said I may feel that I need support through all of that, and if I do, she's happy to keep working with me, but I must tell her if there's anything that I want to do differently or that I feel isn't helping.

So I'm going to book another block of sessions, and hope that by the end of this block, a lot of the stuff that's up in the air at the moment will be resolved one way or the other.

And, of course, I'm also hoping that the resolution itself will be one way, and not the other...

Thursday, 2 December 2010


Thank you so much for all your comments on my last post - I really appreciated them all. I'm so sorry I haven't reciprocated this week. I've just been completely empty - I had no words, nothing constructive to say.

We had a bit of a distraction this weekend in DH's birthday celebration. We had friends for dinner on Saturday evening, and they stayed over. We stayed up very late, DH and his friends drank an outrageous amount of whiskey, his friend's wife asked me some fairly personal questions and I totally opened up and poured my heart out to her, but she was so drunk that I know she remembered nothing about the conversation in the morning, and on Sunday I kept DH at arm's length because he stank of stale whiskey.

His actual birthday was on Monday, and he took the day off work so we could go and take his parents out for lunch.

It's not that I didn't have time to blog - on Sunday and Monday mornings, I was first up and went to my computer as I always do. And then I just stared at the computer screen and couldn't even bring myself to put my fingers on the keys.

On Tuesday, DH went back to work and I spent most of the day rediscovering my inner child as I coloured pictures in, cut things up and stuck them together to make a very involved Christmas decoration. Last night was our fortnightly pub quiz, and as it was the last one of the year, there was a competition for which team could bring the best home-made decoration. We didn't win the quiz, but we did win a bottle of wine for my Christmas decoration.

Yesterday I had set the day aside for working. As it turned out, I did absolutely nothing. I haven't been thinking, I haven't been feeling sad, I haven't been working anything out or doing research - I've just been.... nothing. I had no energy and no desire to do anything. It was all I could do to drag myself out of bed.

Then last night at the pub quiz, I got irritated. As usual, we ate at the pub, and as usual, DH ordered something which on the menu came with mash, and he asked if he could have chips instead of mashed potatoes. And as usual, I commented on the fact that he'd chosen the unhealthiest option, and as usual he laughed it off.

On the way home, I told him how much this upset me, and again he laughed it off. And I thought that at least I was feeling something again, even if it was irritation.

But I was still irritated with him at bedtime, so just as he was settling down beside me to read his book, I said, "I'm still not happy." I pointed out (for the umpteenth time) how I try so hard to give him healthy food and to cook nutritious meals for him, and how he undermines that by choosing the unhealthy option every time he makes a choice for himself.

I reminded him that I'd fed him all his favourite foods over his birthday weekend, and that the puddings, birthday cake and full English breakfast that we'd had were not exactly healthy - and that he'd had chips when we took his parents out on Monday, so I wasn't telling him he could never treat himself to the fatty treats he likes, but that he should exercise a little moderation.

I said it wasn't just about the baby thing, but that I wanted him to eat healthily for the sake of his own health, because I wanted us to grow old together. I also told him how irritating it is when I tell him I'm not happy about something and he just laughs at me, and I said that if he just said "sorry", it would go a long way towards making me feel better.

He did apologise then, and promised to take more responsibility for his own diet and to try to stop undermining me.

And then he held me as I cried into his pyjamas and told him that I just didn't think I could do the donor egg option, and told him why. He seemed to understand, and said that in that case, donor eggs were off the table and we wouldn't talk about it again. I carried on crying as he just held me, and we grieved together for the idea that we'll probably never have a baby that's genetically related to us.

Although I'm crying as I write this, I think this is a step forward - I'm no longer numb and empty, and I'm ready to climb back out of my cave and deal with life again.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Talking it over

Way back when all this began, we talked about what we would do if the IVF didn't work, and we agreed that the options on the table were embryo adoption and ordinary adoption. At least, I thought that was what we'd agreed. But it turned out DH hadn't considered either option at all, because he was so convinced the IVF would work. And he wasn't too sure what embryo adoption even was.

Fast forward to this week, and he's got his head round normal adoption but is still very hazy about embryo adoption. Part of the issue is that my research showed that it's pretty rare to be able to do it in the UK, due to a huge lack of donor embryos. So I was thinking we'd have to go abroad for it, and he's dead set against that, because he doesn't want me to undergo 'a medical procedure' in a foreign country. But then I discovered that although it's rare in the UK, it's not impossible, and it was back on the table again - as long as we did it here.

I'm sure we talked all those months ago about the reasons for embryo adoption rather than egg (or sperm) donation, but I underestimated DH's ability to fail to process things he doesn't want to think about. So now the whole topic is having to be rehashed, and I'm still not sure what the end result is going to be.

We've had a few discussions about embryo adoption since Monday. I've explained to him why it's my preferred option over normal adoption.

If we want to adopt, we'll have to wait a year from our last fertility treatment before they'll even start the approval process. Then we'll have to open up every aspect of our lives to a bunch of strangers who will be judging us on everything we say and do.

There's no guarantee that we'll be approved as adopters, and in fact being white, middle class, middle-aged, married and Catholic are all likely to count against us in the eyes of social services.

Even if we are approved, we then have to wait for a child to be matched with us, and since we're looking at a foster to adopt scheme, we could then end up spending the first two or three years not even knowing whether we're going to have to give the child back.

And, of course, we're unlikely to be given a baby and so we have to consider the psychological damage that the child has already suffered in its life. I admire people who adopt older children, and I'm not completely ruling it out, but right now it's not for me.

Plus, I really want the whole package - it's important to me to know what it's like to be pregnant and to give birth, and if there's any chance of that happening, I want to take that chance. And it seems shallow, but I also want to be able to name my own child - and if we're adopting an older child, or fostering with the possibility of adopting in the future, the child will have been named by its birth parents and it would be cruel to try to change the name that it's used to.

We were talking about the whole adoption vs embryo adoption thing in the car on Thursday night, and I said that with embryo adoption, the child may not be genetically ours, but because I would be growing it in my body for nine months, biologically it would be getting an awful lot from me and so I would feel that it was very much our baby.

But DH said, "Yes, but it would get nothing at all from me."

And I realised that I've been looking at this from my point of view, and what I need, and haven't really thought enough about what he needs and what he's giving up in deciding we've reached the end of the road with our own eggs and sperm.

I thought a lot about this, and then yesterday he had the day off work and we were in the car again - and I do find the car a very good place to have a discussion like this, what with him being a captive audience and everything.

So I told him I'd been thinking about what he said, and I explained that there were three reasons I'd been talking about embryo adoption rather than egg donation.

The first, and probably the most important, is that we know that there are problems with his sperm as well as my eggs. None of the embryos we've had in the first three IVFs have implanted, and we can't say for sure whether that's because of my crappy eggs or his crappy sperm, or both. If we're deciding to give ourselves a better chance by going for younger, fresher eggs, it makes sense to give ourselves the best possible chance by going for embryos which have been produced by a couple who have already become parents themselves.

The second reason is that our Church is very opposed to donor eggs and sperm, but hasn't really come down clearly on donor embryos. Plus there's a very good argument that adopting an embryo is a good thing, as these embryos have already been created and would probably be discarded if people like us didn't give them an opportunity for life. Of course, we've already gone against the Church's teaching by having IVF in the first place - I'm very conscious of that, and it was a very difficult decision to make. Going for donor eggs with DH's sperm would be a step further in opposing that teaching.

The third reason is that although the chances of success with donor embryos are much higher than with our own eggs and sperm, it's still highly likely that we wouldn't be successful first time. We can't afford to have more than one attempt with donor eggs - and can't really even afford to have that one attempt if we do get the go-ahead to have one last try with my eggs and then have to move on if it's unsuccessful. Donor embryo treatment is cheaper, and so we could probably scrape together the money for two or three attempts if necessary, and could even manage to afford one attempt after trying one last time with my own eggs.

There's another secret reason that makes me feel absolutely horrible, and I hope I never have to tell him and show him what an awful person I am. But the fact is, I can cope much more easily with the idea of having a child that's not genetically related to either of us than the idea of having a baby that's his but not mine. There's just something about the idea of his sperm fertilising another woman's egg that makes me feel betrayed. I know it's irrational, and I feel like if I loved him enough, I would want to have his child no matter what. I do want his child, but I want it to be with me - I want it to be half mine and half his, and if I have to say goodbye to that dream, I just don't think I can bear to watch a child grow up and know that genetically, it's half his and half a complete stranger's - to see a character trait or a certain expression on the child's face and think, "Does she get that from DH, or is it from the stranger who gave us her egg?"

So now you know what a horrible human being I am. But I gritted my teeth and said that those (the first three) were the reasons why I thought embryo adoption was better . As I said at the beginning of this ridiculously long post, I thought we had discussed all this over a year ago, but at the time he might as well have been sticking his fingers in his ears and shouting "la la la" for all the good those discussions did. But I said that if he was dead set on it, we could consider egg donation as well.

So I said the right words, but even typing that last sentence made me cry just now, so we've got a lot of work to do before we're on the same page on this.

In the meantime, he said he needed to find out more about it for himself and asked me to get out my IVF books for him - and I think he's planning to spend some time today doing some reading.

I feel like we're back in that twilight zone when we first found out that we weren't going to be able to have children without help - each of us having different ideas about what we're going to do next, and struggling to understand each other's position and reach a decision about what's the best thing to do. It's not an easy place to be in, and the degree of peace that I had earlier in the week when I thought that the decision had been made has just been shattered. All I'm left with is the sadness, and a bit more confusion and uncertainty.

A couple of months ago we took our nieces to a music show. One of the songs had the following refrain:

We can't go over it.
We can't go under it.
We'll have to go through it.

And that's what's playing in my head at the moment. The only way past this uncertainty is to go through it, and I don't know what it's going to be like at the other side. But I do know it's not going to be easy to get through, and I'm kind of wishing I could just hibernate and wake up in the spring with the way forward suddenly and miraculously clear to us.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


When I got home from London on Monday evening, I had a long wallow in a hot bath. It had been a long and stressful day, and I was freaked out by being told that I wasn't having a 'proper' period. I was also concerned that yet again, it looked as though I didn't have any more than one follicle ready to grow.

I can't keep doing this month after month - I don't want to keep getting my hopes up and then having them dashed, and every month is another month closer to the inevitable time when I'm going to run out of eggs altogether.

I've also read recently in Zita West's book that fertility stops up to 10 years BEFORE your last period. As my mother had her last period when she was 51, it's likely that I'll be around that time too - and I'm now 41. So I really could be flogging a dead horse here.

When DH got home, he came into the bathroom and stood over me, still in his work suit. He said he was sorry that it had been such a disappointing day, and I told him that I thought it was time to start thinking about how long we're going to keep doing this before we move on to Plan B (actually, more like Plan D - IVF is already our Plan C). I pointed out that I wasn't getting any younger and that all indications are that it may already be too late for us to succeed with my eggs.

He immediately trotted out the usual line that I hear so often from him and from others: "But you're not old!"

These days in the West we're absolutely terrified of admitting that we're getting old. It's why botox and plastic surgery are so popular, and telling someone they look old is one of the worst insults you can throw at them. My parents, who will both be 70 in the next 18 months, think of themselves as middle-aged - despite the fact that you don't actually meet many 140-year-olds. They're horrified if I refer to them as OAPs, though they will just about admit to drawing a pension when it suits them.

So when someone says they're too old for something, the knee-jerk reaction is to tell them that of course they're not, they're only as old as they feel, or that they look way younger than their age.

The sad truth is that it doesn't matter how well I've looked after myself, or how well preserved I may look - you can't argue with the chronological age of your ovaries. I only have a few eggs left, and up to 80% of those I do have are likely to be chromosomally abnormal.

So when DH tried to reassure me by telling me I wasn't old, something inside me snapped. I lay there in the bath, with tears streaming down my face, as I threw facts at him like machine-gun fire. I pointed out how every single chart shows fertility falling off a cliff-edge after the age of 40. I told him that age was a fact of life, and acknowledging the passing of the years is not an insult but an acceptance of reality. I said that people can trot out all the stories they like about people who gave birth in their 40s, but these people become anecdotes precisely because they're so rare. I told him I was tired of being hopeful every month and then getting the same answer, month after month after month. And I said I wasn't prepared to keep wasting time and money to chase after a dream that is becoming less and less likely ever to become a reality.

Eventually, when he managed to get a word in edgeways, he said in a little, sad voice, "I suppose I do need to start facing up to reality."

Poor guy - he's seven years older than me, and thought he had a young wife. But once I was out of the bath, I showed him some more statistics and made him read what Zita West had to say about the effect of age on chances of success.

So now we've agreed - I'll go for my test next month, and probably in January as well. But if those tests don't show ideal conditions for going ahead with IVF, then we'll get in touch with clinics that do donor embryo treatment. If we have to go on a waiting list, we'll keep trying for the perfect month with my eggs in the meantime. But once a donor embryo becomes available, that's it - no more trying for the impossible dream of having a baby that's half his genes and half mine. Being parents is more important than producing a mini-me.

I'm sad, relieved and a little bit hopeful all at the same time. We still have two more months to get my hormone levels right. And if that doesn't work out, we have a plan - and one which has a greater chance of success.

I just hope when the time comes, we have the nerve to go ahead with our plan and not keep stalling any further.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Yet another false start

So, I went into the clinic yesterday all excited and looking forward to making a start on IVF #4. I picked up my form and trotted round the corner to the lab for my blood test, then back to the clinic to wait for my scan. I was taken upstairs for a teaching session to remind me how to do my jabs, then eveeeeentually went in for the scan. And that was where it started to go a bit wrong.

The scan was done by Mr Greek God, and the first thing I did was make an idiot of myself by putting my bottom where my head was meant to go. OK, I know, I'm hardly a beginner at all this - you'd think I'd know. In my defence, it was in a different room with a different set-up, and I got a bit confused.

Once I'd got myself in the right position, he got started. My lining was looking as it should, beginning to come away. One ovary was showing no signs of activity whatsoever - not a potential follicle in sight. The other had one or two around 4 mm, and another which measured 9x10 mm. Mr Greek God said that their cut-off is 10 mm, which interested me, as I had a 10 mm follicle last time we got started and they never mentioned it to me as a potential problem. Anyway, he said it would be Mr Miracle Worker's call whether he was willing to go ahead.

I then wandered off to a coffee shop to wait for the results. I met DH for lunch (and he irritated me by turning up 10 minutes late, so that I was left hanging around in the cold for 15 minutes, because, as he should know by now, when I make an arrangement with someone to meet at a certain time, I always try to turn up a few minutes early), and then wandered around the shops, clutching an information pack from the clinic in one hand and my phone in the other.

Eventually, one of the nurses called, and said that they weren't happy with today's results, but if I wanted to I could go back again today for yet another blood test and scan to see whether they had improved. She said the blood test indicated that this wasn't a proper period yet - well, that really freaked me out, because it came at the right time and had been as heavy as usual since Saturday afternoon.

I said if this wasn't a good month, I didn't want to waste time and money going back for more blood tests and scans for nothing, and tried to ascertain what she meant by 'not a proper period'. All she could tell me was that my progesterone was still high, and it should have dropped after my period started.

In the morning, I had asked Mr Greek God what I should do about the DHEA if Mr Miracle Worker decided I shouldn't go ahead this month. He said it was fine to be on DHEA for up to six months, and since it was Mr Wonderful who prescribed it last time, I should talk to him about getting a repeat prescription. I mentioned this to the nurse who called, and she said she would talk to Mr Wonderful and call me back.

So it was back to wandering the streets while I waited for another call, and eventually I settled in another coffee shop with a book until the phone rang.

It was Mr Wonderful who called me back. He asked if I was still taking the DHEA, and when I said I was, he said I should stop it immediately and then come back next month. He said that the high progesterone could be caused by the DHEA - and sure enough, when I consulted Dr Google when I got home, I discovered a few articles that said DHEA supplementation could cause increased progesterone levels. The only warning I'd had beforehand was that it could increase testosterone levels, so I wasn't prepared for this at all.

Although they didn't tell me what the level was, both the nurse and Mr Wonderful also said that my oestradiol was elevated yesterday, so I presume that must have risen since Sunday - maybe no surprise, if I already had a dominant follicle.

So the upshot of all that is that I wasted a day hanging around waiting for calls, wasted more money on blood tests and scans, and don't get to go ahead with IVF this month after all.

The good news? Well, my FSH was lower this month than it was last month, but still borderline at best, so another four weeks should hopefully give it a chance to come down a bit further. My cycle has returned to its normal length at last, following several short cycles after IVF #3. We get another month of healthy eating and taking the Foresight supplements, which did seem to help last time. And if we had gone ahead this month, we might have ended up with just the one dominant follicle again.

But does all of this make me any more confident about next month's results? Well, after one dominant follicle cycle and then seeing that the same thing seems to be happening again the very next time you get a scan, would you be confident of ever again getting more than one egg?

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Starting blocks

Sorry I've been a bit absent the last few days - life suddenly got very busy. It's calming down again now - in one way. I have no more work bookings for the next couple of weeks, and can do as much or as little marketing as I choose to get myself busier or less busy over the coming months.

And that calm is a great thing, because the next couple of weeks could be rather busy.

I was quietly pleased in the last couple of days to see that for the first time since we went through IVF #3, my cycle appears to have returned to normal and AF showed up when it was supposed to, late yesterday afternoon. For the last three months, it's been arriving one or two days early, and I'm pleased to be back in my regular cycle (which at 26 days is short enough as it is).

This morning DH accompanied me into town for my day 1 blood test.

I just got the call back from the clinic. My FSH is 11.6, which is still borderline but much lower than last month. And the great news is that my oestradiol, which has been a problem since we first signed up with this clinic, is only 116. That's the lowest it's ever been by a very long way, and means that my FSH level is a true level and not artificially reduced by higher oestradiol levels.

So the clinic want me to go in tomorrow morning for another blood test and a scan, and then hopefully tomorrow afternoon I'll be getting started on IVF #4.

I'm hoping the low oestradiol level this month means that I won't be starting with a dominant follicle this month, as I did last time, and that this might help me to end up with more than one egg.

I feel mentally and physically ready for this in a way that I didn't for either IVF #2 or IVF #3. I have no major commitments while this cycle is going on - even DH is taking a couple of days off work so that we get a long weekend together next weekend - and I'm actually looking forward to being able to put everything else second and concentrate fully on following Mr Miracle Worker's instructions.

It's crazy, but I actually feel quite excited!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Little good feeling

One of my favourite books when I was growing up was 'The Little Brute Family' by Russell Hoban. It's the story of a fairly miserable family of creatures who eat sand and gravel for breakfast, stick and stone stew for dinner, and are rude and unpleasant to each other.

Then one day, Baby Brute comes across a "little wandering lost good feeling" in a field of daisies. He takes it home in his pocket, and by the end of the book everyone is nice to each other and their lives have been transformed.

Well, on the way back from the Fertility Show the other day, I came across my own little wandering lost good feeling.

I can't explain it, and I have no real reason for it, but I suddenly got this really calm, peaceful feeling that everything's going to be all right.

And I still have that good feeling now. I'm actually allowing myself to be cautiously optimistic - even though I know it's still more likely than not that our next IVF will fail, and I know our chances of conceiving naturally are vanishingly small.

Maybe I'm finally learning the difference between hope and expectation - separating out my understanding of the odds from my hope that it might work for us, rather than being plunged into despair at the thought of how low the odds are and talking myself into expecting to fail.

Maybe it's also because I feel more in control of my life. A lot of things spiralled out of control over the last year, and are just beginning now to come right.

I've always been strong and healthy, and I was terrified by how unable I was to function when I put my back out earlier this year, and how long it took before I was able to do simple things like put my own socks on or turn over in bed. For the last couple of months, I've been seeing a personal trainer, and she's been concentrating on exercises to strengthen my back. As a result, I feel stronger, fitter, and more confident in my body's ability to do what it's meant to do.

Then there was my job situation. When I was made redundant, the programme that I had researched, written and run from its first conception was abolished - my employers were effectively saying that they didn't value the product that I had devoted five years of my life to creating, developing and improving. And the product was so much my creation that it felt that they were saying they didn't value me as a person - my skills, my ability, my knowledge and the personal qualities that I brought to the job.

When I was then also turned down for a job which I had been told was being created especially for me, I hit a real low point in confidence. I couldn't have a baby, I couldn't rely on my body to do what I wanted it to do, and now I couldn't even get a job.

Around the time of the Fertility Show, I was just reaching the end of my first commissioned piece of work. I had also had a call the previous day offering me four days' work for the next fortnight, and so I knew that for the first time since August, I was going to be earning some money this month. Both of these jobs were what I think of as bread-and-butter work - connected with my previous job and so something I know I should be able to do to make money when I need it, but not something I'm hugely enthusiastic about continuing in the long term if I can make a go of what I really want to do.

But that morning I had also got my first bit of serious interest in the work that I really want to do - something I've done on an amateur basis for years now but have now decided to try to do professionally. It's something I'm passionate about, and although I'm increasingly realising that I still have a lot to learn, I have had some pretty good results when doing it for friends and family. Anyway, I subsequently got the booking, and I did my first professional job for a total stranger this last Friday. There are more commissions in the pipeline, and I have lots of marketing ideas and am excited about making this work.

As for the fertility business - I know I'm doing all I can. I'm not giving up without a fight, and if nothing else, everything that I'm doing at the moment will make me mentally and physically stronger and ready, if need be, to take that strength into whatever the next round of the fight might be.

You've all been very patient with me through all my whinging, and no doubt there'll be more dips and troughs to come, but for today, what's not to feel good about?

Sunday, 14 November 2010


I said I would tell you about my first reflexology session, last Monday. This was an extra-long session, to allow her to take a full history before she started playing with my feet. I answered all her questions, then lay back as she went to work, kneading away at various parts of my foot as I occasionally winced in pain and she looked interested, nodded wisely and made little notes on the clipboard next to her.

I didn't really know what to expect. At one point, she murmured that she could tell I was calm on the outside but crying on the inside. I wasn't all that impressed with this, as you can say that to pretty much anyone who's having fertility issues and it's likely to be true. I also found it a bit irritating the way every time I winced, she encouraged me to breathe through the pain - I know what real pain is, and I don't need to start puffing like a woman in labour to soothe myself after a little twinge when someone presses a sore place in my foot.

I was impressed, though, when just from playing with my feet she was able to identify two major health problems that I've had in my life, neither of which I had alluded to at all when she was taking my history.

She said she felt some vitality in my reproductive system, which meant that there certainly wasn't any reason I shouldn't produce some good eggs. But she detected sluggishness in my pituitary gland, which plays a major part in hormone production, and also in my thyroid. She said if my thyroid was borderline underactive, it wouldn't be picked up as a problem in testing (the test I had earlier this year said it was in the normal range), but could still be causing problems.

These are areas that she said she could work on, as well as helping me to destress and be a bit more relaxed. First, she wanted to see if we could get rid of my sinus infection. Since I'm not a big fan of antibiotics, and couldn't get an appointment with the doctor anyway, I was all for her having a go at treating it just by rubbing my feet. She also gave me some 'homework', showing me points that I could press on my hands to try to clear the congestion.

After the treatment was over, she warned me that I would probably feel very tired and a bit fluey and achey over the next day or so, as a result of what she had been doing. Sure enough, on Tuesday I dragged myself out of bed feeling like death warmed up, and spent the day feeling very sorry for myself.

By Thursday, though, my head was still stuffy, but the rather yucky signs of infection were already clearing up and I was feeling quite human again.

She stated very clearly that she's not setting herself up as a doctor and she can't claim to be able to 'cure' anything, but she said it felt as though everything was still there and ready to work, but it was almost as if I'd just shut down shop in reaction to something traumatic, and that if we could just coax my body into the state it was in just before everything shut down, it should be able to do the rest on its own.

That makes sense to me - I've never got millions of eggs, and that doesn't really bother me. But on IVF #1 I got six, of which four were mature and three fertilised, and on IVF #2 I got four, of which two were mature and one fertilised. Those two treatments were very (too?) close together and involved huge doses of hormones and lots of messy emotions.

Then there was a longish wait, during which I improved my diet, took supplements and tried to get in as good a condition as possible, followed by a third IVF in which I got two eggs, only one of which was mature. I also had my worst ever back problems (and interestingly, the reflexologist said that the precise area where I had my slipped disc is strongly connected to the reproductive system) and lost my job, so it was a pretty stressful few months.

So after the assaults on my body and my emotional well-being over the last year, despite the healthy eating regime, is it really any wonder that my ovaries decided the time wasn't right to start pumping out eggs as if there was no tomorrow?

In any case, something was definitely going on in my body after the first session last Monday, so I look forward with interest to seeing what effect, if any, this treatment has on my hormone levels in the next couple of months.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


One of the things that's so difficult about this whole IF business is the feeling of loss of control. Many of us have no, or very little, control over when we'll be cycling. We have no real control over whether the treatment will be successful or not. We spend month after month being unable to make plans, or having to make tentative plans in the knowledge that they may have to be cancelled in favour of a trip to our favourite clinic.

This is why we so often fall prey to superstition and mumbo jumbo - because they give us something that we can actively do and in a way give us back some sense of control. Saluting a magpie may not get me pregnant, but it's a positive action that some say can help ward off bad luck.

One of the things that I think my coach is trying to do is to give me back a real sense of control (rather than the false one you get from superstition). Before last week's session, she asked me to think about things I'd like to change to help me feel more positive about this next cycle, communicate my needs and feelings more effectively, and/or improve my chances of conception.

I decided that the first and third of those aims would be fulfilled by losing weight, eating more healthily and sleeping better, and I thought about things that I could do to achieve each of those aims.

In the session, we concentrated on the weight loss. We drew up an action plan with a specific, concrete goal (how much I want to lose, when I want to lose it by and how I will reward myself if I achieve that aim) and specific actions setting out how I plan to do this.

Suddenly, my focus has shifted slightly from something I have no control over ("I must reduce my FSH, then produce plenty of good quality eggs, then get pregnant") to something that is much more within my control and will ultimately be good for both my general health and my chances of conception.

I know that I'm also doing everything that I can in other ways - I'm listening to Circle + Bloom and going to a reflexologist for relaxation, I'm back on the supplements that I'm convinced helped us last time, I'm taking DHEA and wheatgrass, and I'm getting regular exercise.

Despite feeling so grotty over the last week (thanks for putting up with my whinges, by the way), I have maintained that sense of control over what I'm doing, and so far I'm seeing results - in the first week, I've lost 3 lbs.

Just as importantly - perhaps even more so - I'm beginning to feel as though I'm back in control of my life. It's been a crappy little-over-a-year, with three failed IVF treatments, a slipped disc, a redundancy, a couple of months of no work, dealing with feelings of jealousy over my SIL's pregnancy - all things over which I had little or no control. And now I'm making progress with my work (tiny steps, but it means I'll be earning money this month for the first time since August, and since what I want to do relies quite heavily on word of mouth, the first few jobs were always going to be the hardest to set up) and have taken as much control as I can over the whole baby-making process.

All of this makes a control freak like me feel an awful lot better.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


I've got loads of stuff I could be blogging about - my last coaching session and the homework I've got from it, my first reflexology session yesterday, the job bookings I have which mean that I'm now officially self-employed rather than unemployed, the funny thing that happened on the way home from the Fertility Show on Friday...

But you're going to have to wait for all of that, because today I'm just too busy feeling sorry for myself.

I only ever call for a doctor's appointment if Dr Google tells me he thinks I should. So when I have all the symptoms of a humdinging sinus infection which I just can't seem to shake off, and after being sick for nearly three weeks I finally give in and decide to ring the useless surgery, I do find it irritating to be told on Monday that the earliest appointment they can give me is on Friday.

So excuse me if I just curl up in a corner with a hot drink and a healthy dose of self-pity for company - in the absence of antibiotics, the self-pity is the only thing I can dose myself with at the moment.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Fertility Show - Part 2

That was getting a bit long...

The seminars cost £1 each, and I hadn't booked tickets for any of them. However, when I got there I discovered that they were not being held in rooms, but in roped-off areas. This meant that passers-by could stop and hear the seminars - the only extra you were getting for your £1 was the chance to sit down in a chair for 45 minutes. If I'd paid my £1, I might have been a bit miffed to realise that other people were getting to hear the seminars for nothing - especially when the barriers were lifted at the beginning of one talk and people without tickets were invited to fill the spare seats.

So I managed to catch the second half of a seminar on coping strategies before, during and after treatment, which had already started when I arrived. Then I lurked at the side of seminars on complementary and alternative medicine, fertility treatment for older women and one called 'Why should I give it another go?'. All were interesting, and it was good to learn more about reflexology in the seminar on complementary and alternative medicine, since I have my first refloxology session coming up on Monday.

In no particular order, here are a few of the little titbits that I noted down from these sessions.
  • There's plenty of suffering in life, and you will suffer at times - you don't need to practise for it by putting yourself through needless suffering.
  • We find it hard to live with uncertainty, so when things are uncertain, we try to make them certain. Often, we do this by predicting a negative outcome. We need to learn to live with uncertainty and allow ourselves to accept that positive and negative outcomes are both possible.
  • "Everyone is a house with four rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person". (This is a quote from Rumer Godden, based on an Indian proverb.)
  • There was an acupuncturist there who said that the people who are successful following his treatment are the ones who feel a change in themselves and then make a change in the rest of their lives as a result - as opposed to those who keep coming for treatment week after week after week, but continue to do everything else exactly the same. He said if you're not willing to change, don't expect results.
  • In the talk on fertility treatment for older women, the guy talked about tests of ovarian reserve. He said it's a truism in medicine that where there are many alternatives, none is perfect - and this is the case with the various methods of testing ovarian reserve. So a poor result on one of the tests (FSH, AMH, antral follicle count) doesn't necessarily mean disaster.
  • He also said that a major issue has been identified with the quality of DHEA supplements. Some brands have been found to contain no DHEA at all, while others contain more than the stated amount. This gave me pause for thought, as I was thinking that if we still hadn't started IVF #4 by the time my prescription runs out, I would order some cheaper DHEA off the internet. I'll now look more carefully at the brand and do a bit more research before I buy it.
  • Of all creatures on the planet, humans have the worst reproductive potential. Up to 70% of all embryos are non-viable. Playing the numbers game now, I've had 5 embryos which were clearly not viable. Perhaps the 30% will turn up in my next batch.
  • Low AMH doesn't mean you're menopausal - having no periods for a year does. This reassured me, as my AMH is low, but my periods are still regular.

I'm still assimilating a lot of what I heard yesterday, but it was all useful, and I'm very glad I went.

Fertility Show - Part 1

I had wondered whether there was any point in going to the Fertility Show yesterday. Most of the seminars I was interested in were sold out, and I wasn't sure how much I would learn that was new, given how long we've already been on the IF train. Then on Thursday, my 4-year-old niece phoned and said she was going to be in a play at playgroup on Friday morning, and asked if I would go. Being incapable of saying no to a 4-year-old, of course I agreed.

So yesterday morning I did a bit of work on an article I'm writing which is due in on Monday, checked the material I'd been sent for another assignment which has just come in (yes, for the first time since August, I'm actually going to earn some money this month, and I'm quite relieved about it!), went and had coffee with a friend (a long-standing arrangement that I wanted to fit in, even though it had to be cut short because of the play), then rushed over to watch my niece's play. I did a bit of useful networking afterwards and picked up a couple of potential customers for the other bit of my new business (the bit I'm more excited about).

Finally, at about 1:30, I was ready to set off. The article wasn't finished, and we're busy all weekend, so I wondered if I should just go home and work.

But I remembered what my coach had said about priorities - if I want this IVF to work, it must be my number one priority, and I mustn't let other stuff get in the way. The Fertility Show is once a year, and you never know what useful titbits you might pick up at something like that. And I'll be able to make time over the weekend to finish my article.

I arrived at the show at about 2:45, and started by doing a quick tour of the hall to see what was there. I then had to go back out to the ticket office, having realised that there was way too much change in my pocket and they must have undercharged me. I think the woman was a bit surprised when I complained about having been given too much change and insisted on giving £10 back to her, but it felt good to do the right thing, and I like to think it made up for what happened with the seminars...

There were a few interesting stands about. Most of them had big bowls of various sorts of free chocolate and sweets in front of them, and I was very good and avoided taking any, despite the exorbitant prices in the cafe (£1.80 for half a litre of water, and I didn't even dare ask what the food cost).

One of the things I appreciated was the chance to browse through some books - our local bookshop isn't very big on infertility, IVF, etc, and with such a bewildering array of books out there, I didn't want to order from Amazon without getting a chance to flick through them first. I ended up buying the Foresight recipe book, which also contains a lot of advice and information about nutrition and menu planning, and Zita West's latest book.

A lot of clinics, both in the UK and overseas, were represented, including the other two that I considered when we were looking at switching clinics at the beginning of this year. One, which is known for its success with people with high FSH, didn't impress me much when I went to its stand towards the end of the day and all the representatives who had come from there stood chatting to each other and completely ignored me, but I took one of their brochures anyway.

The other is the place where a good friend of mine conceived her twins on her second IVF cycle. I had read that they did donor embryo treatment, and I got a chance to sit down and talk to their donation co-ordinator. She said they have three lots of embryos available for donation at the moment, but are not able to predict from month to month whether they will have any available. These three will be there until they are taken, which could be a couple of weeks or a few months. This is definitely something I'd like to explore with DH if IVF #4 doesn't work, and he showed some interest when I told him last night about the conversation.

I also met and chatted to the woman from Foresight, a couple of other nutritional experts and someone from Infertility Network UK.

I probably shouldn't have been, but I was surprised at the number of men who were there, especially as it was a normal working day and most would have had to take the day off work for it. I commented on this to DH, and he said, "Well, yes - we're involved too."

I explained that my surprise stemmed from the fact that the people I've met IRL and online who do all the research and are active in finding out how to improve their chances of success tend to be women, and he said, "That's just the natural way of things."

"It seems to be the natural way for us," I responded. And maybe he did finally realise that it doesn't have to be that way. I've left the Zita West book out on the coffee table and mentioned a couple of chapters that he might be interested in reading - you never know...

Friday, 5 November 2010

A timely exercise

Well, that exercise I did where I thought about my support network couldn't have come at a better time.

Yesterday, I was on the phone to my BFF and she asked what we were up to this weekend. I told her I was thinking of going to the Fertility Show.

She immediately began to giggle, and said, "Those are two words that really shouldn't go together, aren't they?"

It wasn't the most sensitive response ever, but then my effortlessly fertile friend still thinks that the way you get pregnant is by having sex. I suppose that image doesn't really go with the idea of a show - or at least, not the sort of show that people like us would be going to.

I'm sure a few weeks ago I would have got quite upset at the way she responded. Yesterday I was able to laugh it off - I love her dearly, she will always be my best friend, but there are some things she just doesn't get. And since I'm not relying on her for support in this particular area, that doesn't matter. I know who I can rely on, and they won't make mistakes like that. So we can just be good friends, without the pressure of me expecting her to understand something that she never can understand and constantly being disappointed when she doesn't live up to my unrealistic expectations.

(Incidentally, I told Jeannie, who IS in my support network, about this conversation, and she said she was worried now that she might say the wrong thing. Let me just say again, Jeannie - the reason you're such a major part of my support network is because you NEVER say the wrong thing. Even if it's ever not what I wanted to hear, it's the right thing because of where it comes from and the understanding and desire to give me emotional support that I know is behind it.)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Support network

The homework that my coach gave me this week was to think about who's in my support network - not just who my friends and family are, but who I can really rely on and turn to for help and support, both emotional and practical, in this whole business.

One of the ideas behind this is that if someone I have identified as not being in my support network disappoints me, or says the wrong thing, or upsets me in some way, the sting will be taken out of it somewhat by the realisation that they're not one of the people I'm relying on.

I've been thinking a LOT about this all week, identifying people in my mind and mulling over whether they're one of the four or five key people who will help me to get through this. And it's surprising how many people, regardless of how much I love them and know they love me, I've realised are not in this network.

One of the limitations for me in identifying people who can truly offer emotional support when I need it most is that there are very few people in the world that I'm prepared to cry in front of. And if I can't cry in front of someone, there's a point at which, when I'm at my lowest and most vulnerable, I have to stay away from them, or back off from the thing which is hurting me the most.

There are also those whose feelings I try to protect by not talking to them about how low I'm actually feeling, or how difficult I'm finding things. Or perhaps I worry that they'll think less of me if I admit to some of my uglier feelings.

A combination of those three factors means that my mother and sisters are not part of my support network. They know what's going on, they're very supportive, and I have told my mother some of what I've been feeling. My sister is wonderfully understanding about some things, and I know how much she wants this to happen for us. But there's always a big part of me that holds back, to protect them and to protect myself.

DH is going through this with me, and has the dubious honour of being someone I'm not afraid to cry in front of, or get impatient with, or show any other ugly and unpleasant feelings to. And he's patient and loving and tries hard to understand, but a lot of the time he's too close to the problem. And sometimes I get frustrated with the different way he chooses to deal with our situation.

I have a couple of friends who live locally and are always willing to offer practical support - the one who drove us to the clinic and picked us up when I was having my egg collection on IVF #1 and #2, the one who drops round with flowers and chocolates when I'm feeling low and offers to do my shopping for me when my back's bad. But although they'll ask how it's going when we're in the thick of treatment, neither of them wants to have children and they don't really understand how I feel.

And my BFF has demonstrated in the past that she's willing to drop everything and come to me whenever I need her. But she has three children and a lot of commitments, and I don't want to abuse that willingness by making her drop everything when she doesn't need to.

There are two or three close friends that I know I could call at any time to talk about things if I needed to. One went through IVF twice herself - the second attempt resulted in her now 9-year-old twins. Another had her own fertility struggles and really gets the sort of decisions I've had to make over the last couple of years. But I always hold something back - I don't want to cry, I don't want to upset them, I don't want to overburden them.

Most of all, I don't want to become that whiney friend who never talks about anything else and never moves on - I have personal experience of the compassion fatigue that can result when someone you've propped up through a difficult time in her life is still making the dramatic 2 am phone calls about the same issue several years later.

I met a couple of people through one of the internet forums - we were having treatment at the same place, and all three of us had failed IVFs around the same time. We propped each other up through it all, experienced it all together, and shared our impressions of the clinic, the buttoned-up consultant, the lovely nurses, the side-effects of the drugs and our hopes and fears for the future. One of them had her baby three weeks ago, after a successful third IVF treatment. The other is now about 18 weeks pregnant. They're not in the same place as me any more.

The last time I saw the latter of those two was when she told me she was pregnant. She sat there saying, "The thing is, I never gave up. I prayed really hard, and my DH and I have a really strong relationship. I think those two things are what made it happen." That made me feel as though if it didn't happen for me, it would be because I hadn't prayed enough, or because my relationship with DH wasn't good enough.

She also kept saying, "I know it's going to happen for you. I know you're going to get pregnant too."

And I kept thinking, "No, you don't. We can both hope as much as we like, but nobody knows."

I felt worse after seeing her than I did before, and although I'm sure we'll remain friends, she's certainly no longer on my list of people I could turn to for understanding.

So my support network, in the end, boils down to two 'people'.

One real-life person who I can talk to about anything, I can even cry in front of without feeling too uncomfortable, and who is always at the end of the phone when I need her. She sends me little notes and text messages that let me know she's thinking of me, and she's the only member of my family that I would ever want to read my blog. She gives practical advice as well as emotional support, and is a wonderful sounding-board. I just wish she didn't live quite so far away...

And the other 'person' is the blog itself, all the anonymous people who read it without leaving comments but who make me realise that there are people listening to my ramblings, and the wonderful people who leave comments to let me know they understand and send me virtual hugs when I most need them.

So I'd just like to say thank you for all your support - and let you know how important you all are to me.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Sticking at it

I'm feeling a bit run down at the moment - my insomnia has been pretty bad the last month or two, and I've got a nasty cold which is showing no signs of abating after a little over a week. So it's time to reassess what I'm doing and try to get myself (and DH) back into peak physical and emotional fitness ready for our final IVF attempt.

One of the things my coach pointed out in our last session is that I keep trying new things for a relatively short period of time and then abandoning them when they don't work straight away and moving on to the next miracle cure I've found on the internet. I need to give things time to work, and stop chopping and changing so much - it's not a wonder my body is a bit confused.

Well, I tried acupuncture for over six months, and eventually came to the conclusion that it had done me more harm than good, so I won't be going back to that.

The Foresight regime had a lot of positive benefits. DH stopped snoring, his sperm improved hugely, we both lost weight, and we both felt healthier, picked up fewer bugs and recovered more quickly when we did pick anything up. My FSH was lower for the months that we were on the regime, although I did have a corresponding rise in my oestradiol.

So why did we stop? Well, it's not so much that we consciously decided not to do it any more - it was a three month programme, following which we were supposed to get another hair analysis to see how we were doing. When we reached the end of all our supplements, we were a few days off the end of a cycle and although we did actually cut our hair and have it ready to send off, we decided to wait and see whether we were able to start in that next cycle - and sure enough, we were, and we got a much better embryo than on the previous two attempts (though I did only produce the one mature egg).

And then after our BFN, we never did send those hair samples off, and then they got too old and we would have had to cut new samples, and then DH got a really short haircut, and we just never got round to it. It takes a couple of weeks to send the hair off and get the results back and then order the supplements, and we just kept putting off deciding to do it.

My coach made a revolutionary suggestion last week. She said it was so long now since we stopped taking the supplements, we were likely to be back to square one, so why not just reorder the same supplements we took last time? Well, that had never occurred to me, but today I'll be searching out the order forms from last time and phoning up the supplier to see if I can do that.

We'll then stay on those supplements until the final IVF attempt has been and gone, however long that is.

I'm also going to stay on DHEA, and I've started taking wheatgrass again - I stopped after a month because I'd read that it could affect immune results, but I definitely felt healthier while I was taking it, so I decided to reorder it and we'll deal with the immune issue if and when it comes up.

During IVF #1 and #2, I listened to a self hypnosis CD. The woman's voice and some of the language that she used annoyed me from the start, but I persevered with it until we got our second BFN, and those CDs are now gathering dust in the spare room. I do like the idea of tapping into the mind-body connection and listening to something to help me relax, though, so I'm now using the Circle + Bloom series.

Coaching is currently helping me to identify and address the sources of stress in my life. Coaching is not meant to be an open-ended thing, as the idea is that it gives you the tools to deal with things yourself, but I am finding it very instructive and in each of the three sessions I've had so far, something has come up which has given me a new perspective and made me see something in a different way, so if there's work still to be done at the end of the 8-week course that I've already booked, I'll carry on with that for as long as necessary.

And the final piece in the jigsaw at the moment is that I finally got hold of the reflexologist who had been recommended to me (it turns out she was on holiday last week), and I have my first appointment with her next week.

So there we have it - a whole raft of extra measures which will hopefully help me to get ready for our final attempt at IVF. And once they're all in place, I'm going to stick at it until those pesky FSH and E2 levels are under control and we get to go ahead on our final IVF attempt.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Messy emotion

One of my very clear memories from childhood is of a time when we moved house. Nothing unusual in that - we moved house regularly due to my father's job, and by the age of 10 I was attending my sixth school.

On this particular move, when I started at my new school I felt that I had a clean slate, and was anxious to keep it that way. Conscious that I was growing up and had responsibilities, I was especially keen that none of my new friends should ever see me cry.

It must have been about three weeks into my time at the new school that I went to get something from under a raised counter top, stood up too early and bashed my head very hard against the corner of the counter. It really really hurt, and instantly tears came into my eyes.

The reason this incident stuck in my memory is that I can still remember how hard I cried, and how miserable I felt for days afterwards. Not because of the pain in my head, but out of frustration, humiliation and sheer rage at myself for having exhibited such a sign of weakness in front of everyone.

This happened shortly after my sixth birthday.

I soon became adept at keeping myself under control, and by the time I went to boarding school at the age of 10, I found it difficult to cry even if I wanted to.

I've spent many years since then keeping my emotions well buttoned up. If something was too painful to talk about without getting visibly upset, then I would avoid talking about it. If it was too painful even to think about without crying, I would push it to the back of the mind and do my best to avoid thinking about it. I've cried more in the last year than I have in the whole of my adult life, and there's a big part of me that despises the weak, blubbering mess that infertility is turning me into.

What's happening in my coaching sessions is the exact opposite of my usual way of dealing with difficult things. I tell my coach about something that has happened, and she asks me questions about how I dealt with it and how it made me feel, and she keeps asking questions beyond the point where I would back off from the subject as being too uncomfortable to deal with. So in two of the three sessions I've had with her, I've cried. And I still hate doing it in front of other people, but these are issues which need to be dealt with, so I sit there displaying all that embarrassing, uncomfortable, ugly emotion and work with her to try to work out how I can make things better.

But I do sometimes wonder with what sort of disgust my six-year-old self would have viewed the incontinently emoting adult I seem to have become.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Benched again

I wasn't really enormously keen on getting started this month. There were several reasons for this - the cycles that I've had since IVF #3 have been so short that I just didn't feel ready, having mentally prepared myself to wait three months. The DHEA and vitamins that we were given after the last follow-up are meant to be taken for at least three months, and it hasn't been three months yet. I'm concerned that my cycle doesn't seem to have fully returned to normal since our last IVF. And I feel rotten this week because I've got a bad cold - yesterday I completely lost my voice, and had the greatest difficulty making myself understood when I rang the clinic.

Because of that last point, I was even more hesitant about phoning the clinic and getting my blood test done. I thought it wouldn't be fair on everyone there to take my coughing and spluttering into the clinic and spread my germs around. I even asked about this over the phone, and the person I spoke to told me not to worry about it, and that having a cold wouldn't affect the treatment if my levels were right.

Anyway, despite all my reservations, I went in and had the blood test. My levels were:

FSH - 13.4
LH - 5.4
Oestradiol - 146
Prolactin - 188

These numbers are almost exactly the same as when I was first tested at the other clinic last summer, following which I got half a dozen eggs and two embryos transferred in IVF #1, so they're certainly not disastrous. The FSH is, however, the highest I've had - despite one month of wheatgrass (I didn't order any more after the first month, because I read that it could affect the immune readings) and almost three months of DHEA.

The nurse who called with the numbers asked if I'd been very stressed lately, since she said this can have a negative effect on FSH. I instantly said no, because I feel as though I shouldn't be stressed now that my job, the main cause of stress in the past, is gone.

But of course, life isn't just about work, and I have had other stresses in my life recently - not least the worry about how I'm going to earn money in the future. And one sign that I probably have been more stressed than I was admitting to is that I've been sleeping badly again for the last couple of months - having some trouble getting to sleep in the first place, then waking up at about 3 and being awake for at least an hour, and sometimes for the rest of the night.

I'm pleased that my numbers aren't any worse, and it's kind of reassuring to know what's going on at the moment, but I'm also quite pleased not to have been starting with the IVF this month, when I just didn't feel ready.

So the next 25 days or so will be spent trying to get myself ready. There are three particular things I'm doing to address the stress - the coaching, following Circle + Bloom's Mind + Body programme, and today I'm going to call a reflexologist who's been recommended to me. She specialises in fertility issues, and I've read that this can help some people - since acupuncture did nothing for me, I'm going to see if this will work better.

I'm also going to get another month's supply of wheatgrass, increase my B vitamin intake, and really concentrate on cooking good, nutrient-rich meals over the next few weeks.

DH and I discussed going back on the Foresight programme. But by the time you've had the hair analysis done, got the report back, ordered the recommended supplements and received them, a good couple of weeks have passed, so DH suggested that we wait until next month, and then if my FSH is high again on the next test, we'll do the hair analysis. Last time round, we had to wait five months for my FSH and oestradiol levels to be good enough to start treatment, so we're half prepared for it to be a while this time as well - but hoping that November will be our month.

DH, by the way, has been very supportive this week, and is really trying to take more responsibility. I have also been stepping back and letting him make more of our joint decisions - things like "this letter came from the water company today - I've left it out so you can have a look at it and see whether you think we need the insurance they're offering", rather than making my own decision and binning the letter like I usually do, and also really asking his opinion on whether I should have the blood test and what we should do next, rather than (as I now see that I usually do) telling him what I think we should do and then asking if he agrees.

I'm not bothered that my FSH is a bit too high for this month, but I really really really want to get it down so that I can get started next month - so now the destressing begins...

Monday, 25 October 2010

Positive negativity

I keep talking about acknowledging the negative in my life, and yet what I'm really trying to achieve is a positive attitude towards our upcoming IVF. It seems a bit contradictory, but this is my reasoning.

As we've gone through failure after failure in the last two and a half years - first failing to conceive naturally, then eventually being told IVF was our only hope, then going through three failed IVF treatments - I've been trying harder and harder to protect myself against the pain of yet another failure.

I'd pretty much reached the stage where I was thinking that it's inevitable that the next IVF will fail, and that it doesn't matter if it does, because my life is pretty perfect as it is.

And yet I know that this isn't the case - it will matter tremendously to me if this IVF fails, and although my life is good, and could be good even if we never have children, I'm kidding myself if I think that I'm happy to move on and live a child-free life.

So my attempt to protect myself from having negative feelings is actually contributing to my negative attitude towards IVF, where I'm already convinced that it's going to fail before I even start. And because of that, I'm terrified to start, because until I do, I still have some hope. But after the inevitable failure, there will be no more hope that I'm ever going to have my own biological child.

I think I need to allow myself to acknowledge the extent to which my life at the moment is not what I want it to be, in order to start visualising again the sort of life I do want and imagining that it's possible to have that. The friend I stayed with last weekend said that she's convinced I will be a mother, but she's not sure how that will come about - whether I'll give birth to my own child, give birth to a donor embryo or adopt a child. She said the only way I'm not going to get there in the end is if I decide myself to stop trying.

I don't think she's entirely right - all our fertility treatments could fail, we could get turned down for adoption, and we genuinely could end up running out of options. But it's certainly a refreshing change from all those people who say, "I just know you're going to get pregnant soon" - to which my immediate mental response is, "No you don't - and why can't we just acknowledge that some people never are going to get pregnant and I could be one of them?"

But the basic idea about not giving up hope of us becoming parents one day is a good one. And in particular, I need to go into this IVF with the hope that it's going to succeed. If I'm protecting myself from negative emotions by convincing myself that it's going to fail before I even start, I'm not allowing it the best chance possible to succeed.

I think that's what I mean by acknowledging the negative. I'm not going to turn into a total Eeyore. I'm not going to lose my generally upbeat attitude to life. I just want to acknowledge to myself how much I want this to work and allow myself to feel hope without being crippled by the fear that raising my hopes will only make me fall harder when those hopes are dashed.

And by writing all this, I think I've just convinced myself that, this being CD1 (and I'm very bothered by the fact that I just had my second 24-day cycle in a row and that my cycle doesn't seem to have sorted itself out properly since IVF #3), I will feel the fear and call the clinic today, rather than giving up on this month before it even starts and putting it all off until next month - or the month after - or the month after that.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The bright side

I don't think I'm a natural optimist - but since the days when I was a moody teenager, I've worked very hard at accentuating the positive. I've been pretty successful, and I still think of my petrol tank as 'only one sixteenth full' rather than 'nearly empty'. Fortunately, that's never actually led me to run out of fuel...

But does accentuating the positive sometimes mean denying the negative altogether, or denying my feelings about it, until it gets too much for me and I explode? Or does the suppression of the negative increase the stress in my life, because I secretly know it's there but am trying to pretend to myself that it's not?

My last two posts have basically been whinges about my DH's behaviour. (Incidentally, I really appreciated all your comments. I actually mentioned to him this morning that the three huge glasses of wine hadn't really sat very well with his assumption of responsibility, and he said, "But she only half-filled the glass each time, so it wasn't really three glasses." I pointed out that the glasses were the size of small buckets, and he seemed genuinely surprised and claimed not to have noticed that they were larger than your average wine glass!)

In my first coaching session, I filled in a thing called the Circle of Life, in which I scored various areas of my life out of 10 according to how they were going at the moment. The scores I gave were almost all between 7 and 9, and I gave my relationship with DH 9/10.

In the second session, the coach asked if I wanted to revisit any of the scores in the light of the week's events, and I didn't really - except that I increased the score for my career, because although it's at a bit of an impasse at the moment, I'm not too unhappy about it.

She suggested that I was kidding myself - basically indicating that my life was pretty close to perfect and especially giving our relationship such a high score when I was clearly very angry at DH at that particular time.

I keep coming back to this thought and wondering if I should be less contented with my life at the moment. I know that over the last few months I've begun to focus more on all the things in my life that I enjoy and that would be more difficult or at least very different if we had children. And that's me - I'd rather look at what I do have than what I don't. And I'd rather feel happy than dwell on the things that make me unhappy.

The trouble is that the things that make me unhappy are still there, lurking beneath the surface. And every so often something happens to make me realise how present they still are, and how much they do still bother me.

I know that in order to get what I really want, I need to examine all those things that I've shoved to the back of my mind and stop pretending to myself that the status quo is absolutely fine. And I know that this is the process I went through with the coach I saw before, who helped me to take the plunge and make some big changes in my life.

The difference is that this time, the end result of all this is not within my power. It's not as simple as "if I don't get that job, another one will come up soon and I just need to tweak my CV a bit and brush up on my interview technique" or "if I look long enough and hard enough, I'll eventually find the perfect house in the right area".

With IF, I can do everything 'right', remind myself exactly how much I want to be a mother, throw a harsh light on all the areas of my life that are not perfect right now, but nothing I can do will guarantee me a baby at the end of it. I might end up stirring up all the areas of discontent, bringing my unhappiness to the fore and then being left with nothing but discontent and unhappiness at the end of it all.

And that's why I'm terrified of admitting, even to myself, that any area of my life is much less than perfect at the moment. But I think it's also something I really need to allow myself to do. (Mind you, I'm still not ready to suggest that my relationship with DH is any less than 90% perfect - it's just that I've been bringing the 10% to the fore recently...)

In retrospect, I wonder if the title of this post should have been 'The dark side'...

Friday, 22 October 2010


At my coaching session yesterday, we talked about what happened on Tuesday. This morphed into a long discussion of DH's passivity, my frustration with it, and what I might be able to do to make things better.

Once again, I was surprised by something that really made me stop and think, and that I think I really needed to hear. My coach asked if DH had always been this way, and I said he had. She then suggested that if I had always known he was like this, and was now trying to change him, perhaps the problem was mine rather than his. He's been totally consistent, and perhaps it's unreasonable for me to expect him to change.

On the other hand, he does need to take responsibility, and we have fallen into a pattern where I make all the decisions and he just passively sits back and lets me. I have the feeling that if I don't do things, they just won't get done, and so I rush around doing everything and then get stressed because he's not helping.

She helped me to see that I need to step back a bit and actually allow him to take responsibility himself, rather than automatically doing everything myself. If I don't do things, they may end up being done differently, but the world probably won't fall apart around my shoulders.

And it's true - I find it as hard to let go of my independence and of doing everything myself in the way I like it done as he does to take control of anything. So the problem is not all on his side, and I need to work on my control freakery as much as he needs to work on his passivity.

I told him all about it when he got home from work yesterday evening. Then I told him another thing we had discussed - that he has the responsibility for making sure that his 50% of the DNA that's going to our future embryo is as healthy as possible. I can't do that for him, and so he needs to agree to take on that responsibility himself and make the right choices without me nagging reminding him the whole time. And he agreed that this is what he needs to do.

And then we went to our monthly book club meeting, and as I watched him accept his third glass of wine I gritted my teeth and wondered how long I can keep letting him take the responsibility if the decisions he makes are often so irresponsible.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010


DH and I had a Big Talk last night.

It all started with him working late and failing to turn up to Niece #2's birthday tea. We were all expecting him, and the nieces kept asking when he was going to arrive. He claims he had mentioned in the morning that he would be working late. If so, I certainly didn't hear him, and in any case, since he knew we had plans for the evening, I feel that he should have at least acknowledged that he was going to be changing the plans rather than just casually remark that he might be late. The birthday tea had been discussed several times over the last week, and he said nothing to suggest he wouldn't be there when I reminded him of it by e-mail during the day.

Anyway, eventually I got worried that he was so late, and texted him to ask where he was - and was pretty cross when he replied that he was still at work. He did join me at my sister's house eventually, but not until after the children were in bed.

Somehow, the discussion that we had on the way home returned to a familiar theme - one that you'd think had been done to death, except that nothing ever changes.

DH is easy-going to the point of laziness and complete passivity. He's always very good at agreeing with me that X or Y needs to be done, and he's usually good at emotional support once a decision has been made. Even then, though, I find that if the decision involves something I need to do, he'll support me. If the decision involves something he needs to do, it almost invariably ends up not getting done, regardless of my support/reminders/nagging.

But the day-to-day running of our life - decisions both big and small about everything from whether it's worth trying for another IVF treatment or whether we should try to adopt, right down to what we eat every day and even what clothes he should buy - all those decisions are left to me. If I ask his opinion about anything, he always says, "You decide." And on the rare occasions when he does make a decision of his own, they're often bad ones - like unerringly choosing the unhealthiest option on the menu when we go out for a meal.

And I'm tired of bearing the entire responsibility for everything that goes on in our life. I'm tired of the fact that he doesn't support me in the decision-making, and that if the decision involves him, he'll listen and nod along, not disagree, but then go away and do the complete opposite of what we've agreed. If he disagrees, he should say so, but I'm fed up with this form of passive aggression.

And guess what - most of the 'conversation' yesterday consisted of me talking, followed by long pauses as I waited for a response. Occasionally, he would say, "Yes, you're right" or "That's true", but he never engaged in trying to work out anything positive.

Anyone who thinks they would like a husband who never disagrees with them should take careful note - it's the most exhausting and frustrating thing in the world. I dream of the day that he gives me a reasoned response that shows he has actually thought about something we're discussing and has come to a different conclusion. I want to be his wife, not his bloody mother.

Monday, 18 October 2010

First coaching session

Wow, it's almost a week since I last posted. I've been busy since then, and we went away for the weekend, but apart from that I've been doing a lot of processing - which will probably make this an incredibly long and boring post. If you don't have time to read it, the short version is "I saw a fertility coach for the first time and I think that was a good idea and will be helpful, so I've booked a series of sessions with her".

On Thursday I had my first session with the fertility coach. I had been fondly imagining that I had formed some sort of protective shell around my feelings about infertility - and maybe even that I had come to terms with it to the extent that I'd really be OK if it turned out that this was it and we were never going to have children.

I did realise, though, that I felt very ambivalent about this next cycle, and that I had some very confused feelings that I needed to try to sort out, which was why I went to see her in the first place.

Anyway, the whole "I'm strong and together and really OK with all this" idea very quickly fell apart. I even cried after I spoke to her on the phone to set the appointment up, and for the hour that I was with her on Thursday I cried for most of the time. This is kind of a big deal for me - I hate all that messy emotion, find crying in front of people very uncomfortable and have never understood those people who say, "Have a good cry and you'll feel better". So I was surprised that I cried in front of a complete stranger for an hour and then actually felt sort of calm and relieved while I was wandering around the shops afterwards.

But it's not all about wallowing in my misery and having a good cry. I've seen a coach before in my life - a few years ago I was very unhappy at work, and my boss actually arranged for me to see a life coach. This coach helped me to see that there were positive things I could do to improve my situation, and helped me to find the courage to stop procrastinating and change the things in my life that I wasn't happy with. Within a few months, I had started a new and much more fulfilling job, moved from a grotty South London flat to a lovely house in a beautiful area outside London, and met my future husband. (The only thing I found a bit odd was that I saw her at my new place of work about four months after our last session and said hello - and she barely even acknowledged me. I felt that if that had been me, I would at least have been interested to see that my former client had obviously followed my advice to the extent that she now had a new job, and would have wanted to spend two minutes finding out how she was getting on, out of curiosity if nothing else, rather than giving the impression (even though I know this was the case in any event) that I had only ever shown an interest in her because I was being paid to do so.)

Anyway, there were three main things that came out of Thursday's session with this new coach (apart from the whole messy but cathartic blubbing business).

The first is that I was using a lot of negative language. For instance, I said that our next cycle is likely to fail because I'm a poor responder. She said that I should try to avoid putting negative labels on myself like that, as if it's somehow my fault that I haven't responded well to the drugs in the past and as if it's a foregone conclusion that this will always be the case. She wants me to work on expressing things in a less negative way.

The second thing is that we talked about all the other stuff that's going on in my life at the moment, and how IVF #3 was squeezed into a very busy period and I did my jabs in a different place every day while I rushed from one thing to the next. She looked at me as if I was mad and said that while keeping everything ticking over might be a good thing when you're going through your first ever treatment and have plenty more chances, this next IVF is my last shot. If I'm serious about wanting to make it work, I need to give it the best possible chance, and that means prioritising it above everything else and not trying to set up a new business, dropping everything to babysit for other people every five minutes, and arranging to have a ridiculously active social life while I'm cycling. And if that means saying no to people, then I just need to learn to say no.

I talked about this with DH afterwards, and fairly tentatively said that I felt I'd been given permission to take my foot off the accelerator for a while and stop trying to keep all my balls in the air. He instantly replied that he'd been trying to get this through to me for a few weeks - and he certainly has talked about the IVF being our number one priority for the coming months, above any need for me to start earning money. Somehow, I needed to hear that from someone completely impartial before I could actually accept it.

The third thing was something that took me totally by surprise. The coach asked me what I saw as my purpose or role in life. I said that I had met DH quite late in life, and that I had often thought it was useful that I was single and childless, because I had been able to be there to help various people who needed it. This had continued since our marriage, and I sometimes felt that I wasn't meant to have children, because I was the one who was meant to be always available to be there for other people. I didn't say this, but a couple of times I've thought that it's just as well our IVF #1 and #2 didn't work, as my sister needed a lot of help around the time that Niece #4 was born this year, and not being heavily pregnant or having a new baby myself meant that I was able to give that help.

And then I started to cry really hard and said I didn't want to be that person any more, and it was my turn to have it for myself rather than always have to be just the one that's there for other people.

So this idea that I'm not meant to be a mother is one of the things that I need to confront and get past, and it kind of surprised me, because although that feeling has been lurking there in the background for a long time, I've never really thought of it in terms of something that might be giving me a mental block which could be preventing me from getting what I want. And maybe if I can accept that I have as much right to be a mother as anyone else, then my body can start to do its stuff and make itself a bit more of a hospitable environment for a baby to snuggle in next time round.

Interestingly, this weekend we stayed with one of my very dear friends, and we stayed up and talked for ages after the children and husbands were in bed (one of the advantages of visiting a fellow insomniac!). I told her all about this session, and she said that the reason she turned to me when her first baby was born was that she knew I knew what I was doing and would be able to give practical support. Then she said, "And far from thinking you're not meant to be a mother, when I look at everything you've done for various people over the years, all of that is the reason why I think you absolutely MUST be a mother, because you'll be so fabulous at it."

I'm not so sure about fabulous, but it's certainly a different way of looking at this.

Hoping is still scary, because I'm afraid that if I allow myself to hope too much, I'll just have further to fall when the (inevitable?) disappointment comes along. But if I don't have any hope, there's no point in doing any of this. I've definitely proved to myself that I still want this as much as ever, and I still feel as rotten as ever about it not happening. So I'm slowly working on building up hope again, and trying to believe that it really is my turn now. And I just really really hope that this hope isn't going to be crushed again.