Sunday, 28 February 2010
I have a lovely friend who I've known now for almost 15 years. During that time, first I got to know her husband and her first son, and then she had two more sons. Her youngest son is my godson, and since he was born she has always sent me something for Mothers' Day from him and referred to him when talking to me as "your son".
Over the years, she has got to know most of my family and has pretty much adopted my parents as her own. She often comments that my family is so big and we're all so close that we're "just like an African family" - high praise indeed from a Nigerian!
I always knew she had struggled to have her children - she had several miscarriages due to an incompetent cervix, and only managed to hold onto her second and third children because she had a stitch put in. She was firmly told after #3 that she shouldn't try to have any more, and was sad because she had always wanted a daughter. I told DH even before we got married that if we had a daughter, I would like this friend to be the godmother.
We talked last night for the first time in a few weeks, and I told her about our struggles and the two IVFs. They held a huge party at a time when we were expecting to be in the throes of IVF #1, but that was the month I had a cyst, so we were still in the waiting phase - and that was the last time we saw them.
She told me last night that not only had she struggled to keep her babies, but she had also struggled to conceive them in the first place - her #2 and #3 were both Clomid babies.
And then she said that she hadn't realised that I wanted children - and even suggested that she wasn't sure she would have gone through the struggles she went through to have her children if she had been English, because English couples have much more choice about whether or not to have children and don't have the pressure on them to reproduce that Nigerian women do.
She said that if we had been Nigerian, she would have been asking since the wedding when we would be producing children, but that she had learnt in her almost 20 years of living here that it's not a question you ask an English woman (if only other English women had the same sensitivity!). When we didn't instantly produce children, she just assumed that we didn't want them and so never asked.
Having seen me around her sons, around my nieces and nephews, and around so many other children that I know, I'm amazed that she could ever have thought I didn't want children - and she must be the only person in the world who thinks that.
And then she said she'd pray for us, and that if we want it badly enough and don't give up, she's sure it'll happen for us (sadly, not necessarily the case, but I didn't want to argue). And she gave her own gentle take on "just relax and it'll happen". She said, "I know it's hard, and I know how stressful it is to keep waiting and hoping and trying. But somehow you have to fool your body into not realising how your mind is feeling."
I was left with the realisation which I've had so many times before that our hearts understand each other, but that understanding is overlaid with cultural differences which can only be uncovered and unpicked with some really open communication.
Saturday, 27 February 2010
My excuse is that it's been a very tough week at work, there are a lot of jobs needing to be done, and I need to relax a bit before I start.
Friday, 26 February 2010
But the story of this games surely has to be the story of Petra Majdic. Entering the cross-country sprint as a favourite, she slipped off the track during the warm-up and fell several feet into a ravine.
Battered and bruised, she then completed a qualifying round, a quarter-final, a semi-final and a final. Each time, she collapsed in agony as soon as she passed the finish line and had to be helped from the course. Each time, she plucked up the courage to do it again, and at the end of the final she was completely done in.
Despite all this, she won a bronze medal, and she was taken to the medal ceremony in a wheelchair and had to be helped onto the podium.
X-rays after the medal ceremony showed that she had four broken ribs and a collapsed lung, and she spent the next few days in hospital.
I think all the winter Olympians are a little bit mad to do the sports they're doing, but their bravery and tenacity can only be admired. And none more so than Petra Majdic, who won a bronze medal with - let me say that again - four broken ribs and a collapsed lung, against some of the best cross country skiers in the world.
She shows what the human spirit can do, how the mind can overcome the body if you want something badly enough, and what true physical bravery and mental tenacity means.
And it's because of stories like this that I love to watch the Olympics - it's not just about athletes at the peak of their abilities, it's not just about people who work hard and are good at their job - it's about so much more, and it has lessons for all of us about keeping your eye on the goal and never giving up as long as there's hope.
Thursday, 25 February 2010
And why, when they know that I have recently gone through two failed IVF treatments, has each of them felt it necessary to tell me that this one was an 'accident'? Am I supposed to share their pain at having to put up with an extra child that wasn't really wanted?
Sometimes I think I must have done something very wicked in a past life...
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
"Not at all," he replied. "I like helping my wife."
He was a bit taken aback when I immediately responded, "Actually, you're not helping me."
I then had to explain: "You're not helping me, because it's not my job. Doing your fair share of the chores is called pulling your weight."
It's something that's important to me. DH and I both work full time, my job is more demanding than his, and running the household is not uniquely my job.
DH has learnt his lesson well. I still do almost all the cooking, but he does almost all the washing-up. He's also learnt to tidy up after himself a lot better - he usually cleans out the washbasin after he's shaved, he picks up his own towels and hangs them up neatly - baby steps, but a huge improvement on the way he handled things when we were first married.
And the other thing that I think we're good at is not taking each other for granted. We do remember to thank each other for doing the laundry, or the recycling, or cleaning the bathroom - not every time, but often enough to show that we still appreciate each other's efforts. I read an article a couple of weeks ago which said that showing appreciation for each other is much more important in maintaining a relationship than constantly repeating "I love you" or making grand gestures every once in a while, and I think that's true - there's nothing worse than being taken for granted.
I thought of this when he was leaving the house on Saturday morning with two huge sacks of rubbish to go down to the recycling centre. As he left, I said, "Thank you for taking that."
And he gave his cheery smile and said, "Just pulling my weight!"
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
For me, I can say with absolute certainty that if I were guaranteed to end up with a child at the end of it, my definition of 'worth it' could be stretched to include a whole lot more than I've gone through up to this point.
But we have two failed IVFs behind us and very low odds of success on future treatments. My eggs are only going to get older, my FSH is already high and my AMH is already low. I have to face up to the fact that it's way more likely than not that our next IVF will also fail - that's not pessimism speaking; those are just the odds I'm working with.
So the question 'is it worth it?' is one that I have to ask from the perspective of someone who is pursuing a dream which might never become a reality, or which might become a reality in some other way, such as through adoption.
Then what I have to consider is what I'll regret more in five, ten, twenty or fifty years' time - doing X or not doing X.
And at the moment I know that if we don't at least try to have treatment at XXXX clinic, at least ask if they're willing to give us a third chance at IVF, I will regret it, because I'll always wonder if their tailored approach could be what was lacking on the first two attempts, and whether I might have got a positive result with them. Knowing that I tried and it didn't work would be better than knowing that there was a chance of trying something different and I didn't go for it.
I also know that if we abandoned the four months of healthy eating, healthy living and supplement chugging just because it was a bit tricky to stick to, or if we hadn't had the hair analysis done in the first place, I would always wonder if that could have made a difference. The saving in a bit of money and four months of inconvenience is nothing against the peace of mind that comes from knowing that we did everything we could.
A fourth IVF? Donor embryos? Going beyond spending all our savings and remortgaging the house? Chucking out the microwave and going even more New Age hippy? I don't know - we're not there yet. At the moment, I'm thinking ICSI #3 is the limit both physically and financially, but we would like to explore the donor option. But I don't know what the result of ICSI #3 will be, and until I do, I won't be able to make the mental calculation.
But the fundamental question is now this: will it still be worth having done this if it fails? And all future plans will have to be assessed in the light of this question. Because this business doesn't come with guarantees, and some of us have to fall on the wrong side of the statistics.
Monday, 22 February 2010
I've struggled a bit with the logistics of it - trying to get DH to eat healthily without providing him with a hot meal in the evening. I made a big pot of beef casserole with loads of vegetables in and some leek and potato soup last week, so he had casserole on Tuesday and Thursday and soup with home-made bread on Wednesday. On Friday we went out in the evening, so he had his usual sandwich for lunch. This week I have slightly more variety planned, but it's still a matter of balancing practicality against the huge list of prohibitions from the hair analysis people.
Then over the weekend he just wasn't co-operating - meals have to be at least four hours apart, because each dose of the supplements has to be taken with food and there must be at least four hours between doses. He didn't get up early enough yesterday to have his breakfast four hours before our planned lunchtime, which meant the lunch plans had to be changed.
We went for lunch with friends yesterday, and DH drank wine and grumbled to our friends that I wasn't letting him have any of the things he enjoys. I pointed out that I was being deprived in equal measure, but I was a little irritated by the whole thing.
On the way home in the car, he apologised and said, "I'd forgotten you were having to cut out things you enjoy as well, and it's not just me that this is hard for."
I reminded him that because I'm the one who has to worry about providing meals, reminding him to take his supplements every time he forgets, reminding him of the rules about when and how to take them, and change my entire shopping and cooking routine for this, it's probably harder for me than it is for him - but if we're going to do this, it's important that both of us do it properly.
I have explained to him, as I had it explained to me, why it's so important to take the supplements at the right time - they interact with each other, and taking one at the same time as another might affect the absorption of both. Optimal absorption and processing takes place if the supplements are taken exactly as directed.
He was thoughtful for a while, and then I said that it probably was more important for me to do it properly, since I'll hopefully be carrying a baby for nine months. And then all by himself, he remembered that he has a part to play in all this and that his sperm need to be healthy too, and he promised to try not to let all the burden of this fall on me and to be more careful about remembering these things in future.
I think he'll continue to enjoy making out to people that I'm the dragon woman who's making him stick to this horrible routine and take hundreds of awful pills. But I'd never have started this without having discussed it with him and got his full agreement to it. And in a way, that's why it annoys me that he's made so little effort to remember and follow the rules. We've already picked and chosen which bits we're going to follow in order to make it more workable for us, but we really do need to stick to the bits we are following.
When I ordered the supplements, the woman I spoke to said that it was always the men who had the most trouble sticking to the plan. She said if I managed to get DH to stick to what he was supposed to do for the full six months, she would want more of his DNA so that she could clone him.
I had to tell him this weekend that at the moment, he's not in any danger of being cloned. But I am grateful that when he's not grumbling about what a pain it is (and he's right - it is a pain having to remember all these things and stick to a more rigid routine than we're used to), he sees the value in doing this and is willing to do it.
So the weekend ends on a positive note, with DH back on message.
Sunday, 21 February 2010
But it seems that to most people, "BFN" means not "Big Fat Negative", but "Bye For Now". I chuckled a bit to myself about how my world view, once again, is out of kilter with most other people's at the moment.
And then I got to thinking. Actually, "Bye For Now" is quite an appropriate phrase to describe the feeling you get when that mythical second line fails to appear for the umpteenth time.
It's bye for now to the hopes and dreams that you've built up - that this will be your month, that the cycle was successful, that your dream of becoming a mother is finally going to come true.
It's bye for now to the plans that you had for telling your DH that he's going to be a father, telling your parents that they're going to be grandparents, and publishing cryptic status updates on Facebook.
It's bye for now to the dream of holding a baby nine months from now.
But it's just bye for now, and not goodbye for ever. Because even if it's the last natural cycle before you start fertility treatments, even if it's the last IVF you can afford, even if you've reached the end of the line with your own eggs, your own partner's sperm, or your own uterus, even if it drives you into the pits of despair from which you don't emerge for days or even weeks... even then, those little green shoots of hope will return again one day.
You might have a different plan, you might be looking at a different way of building your family, but you pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and begin once again to hope, to dream, to plan and to pray.
So maybe it's not so daft after all. And maybe next time I'm staring at a whiter-than-white test window and feeling all my hopes and dreams flying out of the window, I'll be able to look at it not with the air of finality that "Big Fat Negative" brings, but with the knowledge that one day, I'll be ready to pick myself up, work out my next step and carry on.
Bye For Now. Not the end, but a temporary blip. I think I like that idea.
Saturday, 20 February 2010
My feelings are a little bit mixed - I'm excited to get the ball rolling again and to see what the new clinic is like, but I wasn't mentally prepared for our first appointment to come through so quickly. I'd like to have lost my Christmas/comfort-eating weight before going in to see them, but at least this is just the initial appointment and not the actual treatment. With my work schedule, we wouldn't be able to start treatment until late May/early June at the earliest - which actually probably fits in quite well with this appointment time.
I know that before they do the actual treatment they like to do a monitoring cycle, to see how your body normally works before they pump it full of drugs. The old place didn't do that, and I see it as another way that this place treats each person as an individual and tailors their treatment plan.
I'm anxious to hear whether this clinic is prepared to treat us after the initial appointment, whether they're prepared to use our own eggs and sperm, and what the likely timeframe will be.
So, it was a nice break, my head briefly stopped spinning - but now we're ready to step back on that rollercoaster again.
Friday, 19 February 2010
The appraisal meeting was with my boss and his new boss. His old boss used to let him take the lead in these meetings, because after all, he was the one who saw me every day and knew my work inside out.
The new boss didn't let my boss get a word in edgeways. He didn't let me get many words in either - and I've never been in an appraisal meeting where less was said about me and my work.
The new boss had obviously read my forms. In my self-assessment, I had put a final paragraph which said something like, "From a personal point of view, this has been a very difficult six months for me, but I feel that I have maintained my focus well..." I knew that my own boss would know what I was talking about, and if it was brought up, I wanted to say in front of his boss that I appreciated the support that he had given me - without actually telling his boss what it was all about.
Anyway, the new boss kept banging on about how everybody was suffering a certain amount of uncertainty in the current business climate, and he appreciated that it made life difficult, but we just had to carry on and hope that the economy would pick up soon. And I suddenly realised - this guy thought that my "personal" issue was concern about my position in the firm and whether I was going to be made redundant!
It really made me realise what different planets he and I live on. DH and I have rapidly dwindling savings, but we have enough to cover our bills, we don't have expensive tastes, and we could definitely manage until I found another job if I was made redundant. But this guy earns at least three or four times what I do, and he lives, breathes and thinks nothing but work.
My own boss and I had a little chuckle about his perspective on the "personal point of view" afterwards, and I thanked my boss for his understanding and support. But the recognition he should have got from his boss for being such an outstanding mentor never came. And all because our world views don't coincide, and one of us doesn't know how to listen.
Thursday, 18 February 2010
Because it's the only way we can get our four doses of supplements in with the requisite four hour minimum gap between them without cutting into our valuable sleeping time, we need to eat our tea just before leaving work rather than wait until we've had a chance to get home and cook.
We were away at the weekend and I didn't have a chance to plan menus and do any shopping and preparation, so on Monday I left DH to sort himself out. And guess what he had for tea...
Yes, that's right - three or four slices of buttered toast. Not a vitamin or mineral in sight, apart from his supplements.
So obviously I can't trust him to choose healthy food for himself, which means I need to do all the thinking for him. And each meal has to be portable, nutritious, tasty and easy for him either to eat cold or to reheat. The instructions from Foresight say no microwaving, but how else can he reheat his meals when he's in the office? I'm certainly not going to make him eat cold food all week at this time of year, and I'm sure my additive-free meals, made with fresh organic produce, are healthier than sending him to a cafe for his lunch. Plus a lot of cafes reheat their food in the microwave anyway.
So I'm working out what bits of the instructions we can follow and which bits we can't. And at the same time, I can't help wondering...
If we're taking dozens of supplements a day which give us all the vitamins and minerals we were lacking before, won't they be the wrong dosages if we change our diet and eat healthier food? Has this stuff been prescribed on the assumption that we'll carry on eating exactly the same stuff as we did before? Or is there no assumption at all about what we'll eat, meaning we could eat nothing but doughnuts for the next four months and still have improved health as a result of the supplements? Could we be like astronauts, getting all the nutrition we need from (not so) little space-age capsules?
Or am I just clutching at straws and looking for excuses to start eating chocolate again...?
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
One of them started this whole process a good while before I did. She had an exceptionally hard time last year, and two failed ICSIs and one failed FET were the icing on the cake to everything else that went wrong. She's a lovely, caring, positive person, but really struggled after her last BFN - and I must admit that at the time, I couldn't really understand why she was soooo upset. I didn't really see how a BFN following ICSI was so much worse than a BFN following 16 or 18 months of trying naturally.
Then we had our first ICSI, and knowing everything that I had gone through - the invasive procedures, the injections, spreading my legs for half of south-east England, the mood swings, the hopes and fears - I began to understand.
I understood how the emotions are heightened by the extra hormones that are raging through your body, how your hopes get built up at every stage of the process, and how crushing it is when you realise that you're not one of the lucky ones.
I understood how it feels to know that you had every chance, that there were real living embryos inside you at one stage, and that those embryos are gone. It wasn't just the potentiality of egg possibly meeting sperm. Those eggs and sperm had met, shaken hands, had a party and created a little new life, and however hard you tried to be pragmatic, you had started to build dreams around that little life.
But I still didn't really understand the devastation of a second failure. Because you go into the first treatment knowing that you have to be very lucky to succeed first time, and that the first time should almost be viewed as a trial run which allows the doctor to see how your body reacts and how the treatment should be tweaked for the second, successful attempt.
And as soon as Mr No Nonsense said that he wasn't going to change a thing about my dosage or any other aspect of my treatment second time round, I already had a little feeling that it was doomed. Why do exactly the same thing again when the first time round it had led to failure?
I cried during my second embryo transfer, I despaired in the first half of my two week wait, then I dared to let myself hope. And the second negative, much more than the first, made me face up to the reality that it was more likely than not that I would never be a mother.
And then I understood the devastation that my friend had been expressing six months earlier, because I was on the same page at last.
But last month, my friend had her third fresh cycle, again with Mr No Nonsense. And he had agreed to change the protocol completely - her second cycle had been identical to her first, but this time she switched from the long to the short protocol, switched stimming drugs and changed her dosage. She felt hopeful again, because she wasn't going through the motions of something she knew had failed twice before, but was trying something new which might just work.
Two weeks ago, she got the three best-looking embryos she has had. Two were transferred, and the other was frozen.
And yesterday afternoon she texted me to say she had tested and got a BFP! I can't tell you how thrilled I am - for her, because she's gone through so much and will make a wonderful mother, but also for me.
Because if she can be successful on her third attempt, maybe I can too.
Tuesday, 16 February 2010
It comes with a few rules:
1) Thank the person(s) who nominated you for this award
2) Copy the award and place it in your blog
3) Link to the person(s) who nominated you for this award
4) Tell us 7 interesting things about you
5) Nominate 7 bloggers and link to their blogs
I'll start with the nominations. I'd like to have given it to both Sonja and Egghunt, but they already have it, so my other nominees are Myndi and Circus Princess. All of them have been so consistently supportive towards me and write such great blogs themselves that I really feel they are friends and would love to know more about them. I'm an accountant - that makes about 7, doesn't it?
And now on to my 7 things about myself...
1. I was potty trained at 16 months. To listen to my mother speak sometimes, you'd think this is the greatest achievement of my life and that nothing since then has matched it. Maybe she's right - but it's sad to think the peak of your life happened before you could even talk...
2. I loved looking after my little sisters when I was growing up. One visitor to the house when I was a teenager thought I was the nanny.
3. At the age of eight, I used to try to sing my one-year-old sister to sleep. She was not good about going to sleep, and one particular night I sang the same song 100 times over in the hope of boring her to sleep. She now sings the same song every night to her children.
4. The summer I turned 10, we lived in a place where the local swimming pool allowed children to go in unaccompanied by an adult once they reached the age of 10, provided they could demonstrate that they could jump in at the deep end and swim 8 lengths without stopping. On my 10th birthday, I went down to the pool to do my test, and when I reached the end of my 8 lengths, I didn't stop. I kept going until I reached 100 lengths. The next day, my brother just HAD to beat me, so he went and swam 120 lengths. The day after that, I swam 123 lengths. My mother then banned us from carrying on, as we would quite happily have kept the competition going until one of us drowned from exhaustion.
5. I really am sad enough to have counted the 100 instances of that song and the 123 lengths of the pool. It gets worse - I completed the Dublin marathon a few years ago, and I counted every step that I took, both in training and on the actual day. I have a system which allows me to count to 100 on my fingers, using one hand for tens and the other for units.
6. I'm quite evangelical about giving blood, and when I ran the marathon I asked people to give blood rather than sponsor me in cash. I raised over 100 pints, and some people who gave blood for the first time then are still doing it now. When I was a student in France, I once gave blood there, and had to put up with EVERY nurse and assistant who was there coming up to me and making jokes about the fact that they'd know who got my blood, because the recipient would start carrying an umbrella and wearing a bowler hat. At the time, I owned neither a bowler hat nor an umbrella, and I have still never owned a bowler hat.
7. The Chinese call Westerners Big Noses. I saw how they believe the truth of this nickname when I fell off a mountain and injured my nose. First the nurse who saw me when I was first brought into the hospital said in a musing tone, "Of course, if she had a nice neat Chinese nose, she wouldn't have hurt it so badly." Then the guy who sewed me up offered to give me a good deal on a nose job if I went back to him once the wounds had healed. I have also had to be stitched up for various reasons in Germany, the US and at home in the UK. The only country I've spent a significant amount of time in without needing stitches was France. I never did go back for the nose job.
Monday, 15 February 2010
Then we came back to unpack the boxes of supplements that had been delivered:
So, here's what a week's worth of supplements now looks like for us:
And just to give you a better idea of the size of these things, here's a view of the ice cube tray from the top:
All I can say is, this had better be worth it...
Friday, 12 February 2010
So I have several posts to write, and several more to comment on, but I'm afraid it's going to have to wait till Sunday - or possibly Monday.
Have a good weekend.
Thursday, 11 February 2010
He spent a happy hour or so with his calculator before announcing that the grand total price for our four month programme of supplements would be a shade over £500. Eeeek! Still, when you've already spent £12,000 on two failed IVFs and heaven knows how much on ten months of acupuncture, 21 months of prenatal vitamins, hypnotherapy CDs, brazil nuts, sweet potatoes and whatever else anybody told you was good for conception, another £500 is just a drop in the ocean. If we ever do have a baby, it's going to be wearing hand-me-downs and eating gruel, and it'd better start saving up for university when it starts getting its first pocket money, because we won't be able to help...
On Monday, I phoned our order through. The lady I spoke to was lovely, and very insistent that I should understand the importance of both of us sticking to the programme. She said they often have trouble with the men, and if I could persuade my husband to stick to all the instructions then they might have to ask if they could clone him (after all, they already have some of his DNA in the hair sample!).
I commented that I was surprised we both had low zinc, as we've been taking supplements for a while. She looked at our results and said that manganese is required to help metabolise zinc, so because we both also have low manganese, we just haven't been metabolising it. Supplementing one thing without balancing it out with something else can also cause levels of the other thing to drop, so the zinc and selenium supplements could actually have caused some of our other levels to drop.
She said it was very important to take the supplements at the right time of day and the right distance from each other so that they don't interact and stop us from absorbing others. We have a strict regime of pills to take at breakfast, lunch, supper and bedtime - and she announced that we need to have at least four hours between each. This is a problem for the evening ones, as we usually get home around 7 and then I have to start cooking - meaning we'd have to stay up till about midnight every night to fit our bedtime pills in. Since we get up at 6:15 on weekdays, ready to leave home at 7, I'm not prepared to do that on a regular basis.
She suggested that we have a sandwich at 5:30 and take our suppertime pills then, giving us plenty of time to take the bedtime ones and still get a decent night's sleep. Apparently some of the supplements, particularly the zinc, which we're due to take at suppertime, make you feel sick if you take them on an empty stomach, so we definitely need to have the food with them.
So for the next four months, we're going to have a new regime. We'll head off to work in the morning with TWO packed meals - a lunch of salad, frittata, quiche, or whatever else I can think of that's healthy and isn't a sandwich, and a sandwich, perhaps with some soup, to have just before we leave work. Then when we get home in the evening, we'll have more free time to go for walks or do other things (which will include preparing packed lunches), and we can have a piece of fruit or some other little snack at bedtime. And there's enough flexibility in our timetable that we can still live a fairly normal life at the weekend.
I think we can survive that for four months...
Wednesday, 10 February 2010
As well as taking the supplements, we're going to make some of the lifestyle changes they recommend, but not all of them. No doubt if we fail to get pregnant, they'll tell us it's because we didn't follow the programme in full, but there are some things that just won't fit into our life at all, or that I'm not prepared to do.
The first thing they advise is that you should avoid the possibility of pregnancy until your hair has been reanalysed and the balance of minerals is more satisfactory. This is because if we did conceive, miscarriage, premature birth and birth defects are much more likely if we don't have a good balance of minerals. In particular, our zinc and manganese levels are both low, and low levels of both of these have been linked to miscarriage and birth defects. Well, chance would be a fine thing, and as we're unlikely to start our next IVF cycle within four months, I think it'll be pretty easy to avoid getting pregnant.
The next recommendation is to give up smoking and alcohol. Well, neither of us has ever smoked. We don't drink much, and we both always give up alcohol for Lent anyway, so that won't be too hard.
We're only to consume filtered water, and if we drink bottled water it should be from a glass bottle, not plastic. I say 'consume' because it's not just for drinking - they want us to cook with filtered water as well. I have a filter jug somewhere, so I'll dig it out and see how that goes.
They've told us not to carry mobile phones in our pockets, as they "severely damage sperm and affect the ovaries". Thinking about this, I always have my phone with me, and it's often in the pocket of my jeans - which is as close as you can get it to being pressed up against my ovaries. I've now started either carrying my phone in my handbag (but then I don't hear it ring, which kind of negates the point of having a phone with you) or slipping it in my coat pocket as we leave the house.
They also advise us against freezing meals that we have cooked and reheating them some time later, as the process destroys a lot of the vitamins and enzymes in the food. Again, with full-time jobs we need to think of the practicalities, and I don't do a lot of freezing and reheating anyway, but we'll try to avoid it for the next four months.
There's then a long list of things to avoid, as follows:
- Fluoride toothpaste - They have GOT to be kidding! I don't know of any good toothpaste that doesn't have fluoride in it, and I'd rather have healthy teeth, thanks very much. Mind you, I brush my teeth twice a day, use the recommended amount of toothpaste and have very healthy teeth. DH gets through four times as much toothpaste as I do (sharing a tube would lead to divorce, since he makes such a mess of his tubes, so I have to provide it separately for him, and am amazed how much he gets through), so perhaps a gentle word about only using the recommended amount might be in order for him.
- Foil wrap - We don't use it a lot, so that shouldn't be too hard.
- Food additives - I don't buy an awful lot of processed food, but we'll be eating an even higher proportion of fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. I can't guarantee that we'll be additive-free, though - what about when we eat out?
- Microwave food - Again, I never cook in the microwave, though we do occasionally use it to reheat food. I'm not sure we can avoid it altogether, but we will make the effort to reheat soups etc in a saucepan on top of the stove rather than in the microwave.
- Pesticides - We'll eat more organic food, but this is also a matter of time. We both work full-time and have other stuff going on in our lives. Sometimes I just don't have time to prepare stuff from scratch and I cheat by using ready-chopped fresh vegetables. I'll try to be a bit less lazy about this, but I haven't seen any organic ready-chopped stuff, so sometimes we might slip a bit.
- Tuna and swordfish - I can't remember when I last ate swordfish, and we don't have tuna that often. Oily fish are supposed to be good for you, though - I was wondering if we could have tinned mackerel, but then noticed that tinned food is also banned, as are canned drinks.
So there you have it. We were also eating way too much processed sugar, so I've cut that out as much as I can - DH has even given up taking sugar in his tea without me even asking him to. And I've given up caffeine, but haven't asked him to, as it's one of the few things that's not mentioned in the covering letter they sent us.
It's going to be a super-healthy but fairly inconvenient four months...
Monday, 8 February 2010
Last Friday was my brother's birthday. On Tuesday evening I ordered something for him on the internet. I knew it wouldn't arrive on time, but the timings given on the website suggested that it would probably only be a day or two late.
Mid-afternoon on Friday, I received an e-mail telling me that my order was being processed. This was not within the timeframe promised on the website, and I was a bit cross - probably exacerbated by the fact that I was in pain and feeling out of sorts. So I responded to the e-mail, thanking them first but then expressing my disappointment that the order had not been processed earlier.
I then received the most extraordinary response, saying that I was completely wrong in my expectations and announcing at the end that because of my attitude, they had cancelled my order and refunded my money.
Now, I happen to believe that customer feedback is one of the most valuable things for a business, and that they can learn from their mistakes only if they know what those mistakes are. And I was still irritated...
So I responded with a polite but direct e-mail saying that I found this approach to customer services rather extraordinary and that I would be telling people I knew about it and we would not order from this company again.
This is when things started to get a little bit surreal. I told a couple of friends about this and showed them the e-mails. One of them has a business making products which are complementary to the ones sold on this website, and without my knowledge she e-mailed them and said that she had been considering buying from the website, but in view of what she had heard from the person who originally recommended it to her about their customer service, she would not be doing so and would advise her customers not to do so either.
Obviously, anybody is completely within their rights either to recommend a business or to give their personal view that they would not recommend it - it's called word of mouth and is seen by many businesses as the most important form of advertising that they have.
Now, I believe what happened next is that the woman who ran the business went home to her cats, had a couple of glasses of wine and stewed over this for a couple of hours. This is surely the only explanation for the next two e-mails that my friend received - the first making an insulting comment about me. The second was threatening in its tone, and the woman had obviously googled my friend's business and found its registered address. The e-mail quoted my friend's address (she runs her business from home), which freaked my friend out quite a lot.
Less than an hour later, an anonymous e-mail was sent to me. It was nasty in its tone and contained information which anybody could have obtained by googling my name and the town I live in - it's in the first link that comes up in the results. I don't make a habit of going round making enemies, so I can't think who else would have wasted their time on Google yesterday and sent this. As well as being nasty, it could be construed as threatening, since the hotmail address it came from was a clear reference to revenge.
My IT-literate friends tell me it's very easy to find out the IP address from which an e-mail was sent, and I'm sure that if they looked into it, they would find that it was sent by this woman (in breach of the Data Protection Act, which forbids the private use of personal data obtained in the course of business).
My friends and I didn't respond to any of these three e-mails, and we hope that having got it out of her system, this woman will now leave us alone - and that in the cold light of day, she will have realised how silly she was being. Although we were both initially quite upset by the threatening and insulting tone of the e-mails we received, we now just find it funny that anyone has such an extraordinary attitude to customer service, and sad that this woman has such an empty life that this was all she could find to do on a Friday evening.
And as a postscript, I found a replacement birthday present for my brother on a US-based website on Friday evening. Within an hour, I received an e-mail telling me it had been shipped.
Sunday, 7 February 2010
"While I spend a great deal of time focused on shoring myself up to make it through the struggle intact, the true mess that I am still exists, it's just tucked away. If we let it stay ever present, would we really make it through each day or would we fall to pieces?"
The friend we were visiting last weekend is an old schoolfriend and an amazing woman. We were talking about a mutual friend - also from school - who had visited her the previous weekend. I'll call them A and B respectively.
Ten years ago, B's husband left her. This was a horrible trauma, and I fully appreciate that the feeling of rejection that must engender never really leaves you. A was pregnant with my goddaughter at the time, and B would phone both A and me in the early hours of the morning and sob into the phone for hours.
As well as emotional support, we offered what practical help we could - looking after her children, bringing her meals, and I even went to a couple of meetings with the solicitor with her when she wanted to make sure she understood the things she was being told.
Despite the trauma, things worked out as well as they could have done. She has an amazingly supportive family who give her unbelievable amounts of practical, emotional and financial support. Her ex-husband's family also remain in touch and help with the children. She got to keep the house, and her ex-husband has never failed to pay maintenance or to follow the childcare arrangements they've agreed. He has the children for the whole of every other weekend and for one day of each weekend in between, which meant that she was able to enjoy the footloose single life every other weekend, while he was never able to go away with his new partner.
The thing is, she got to enjoy being the centre of attention while all this was going on, and she's found it hard to let go of that, so her life seems to be one long list of tragic disasters, all of which need to be wept over and unpicked to the nth degree. I have to say that for both A and me, ten years of this has got a little old. B's entire life is defined by her divorce, and she sees and appreciates none of the good things that she has in her life.
A hasn't had it all easy. When she was a student, someone spiked her drink with drugs, and the accident that she had while she was high from those drugs changed the whole course of her life, because she was no longer able to pursue her intended career and suffered long-term effects from the injuries. She has had two major operations in the last three or four years, and a lot of pain both before and immediately after them. She took two years to conceive each of her three children, one of whom she miscarried. The youngest has special needs. Her husband had an incredibly difficult childhood.
But A is the most thoughtful, outward-looking and energetic person I know. She doesn't let her guard down with many people, and I'm privileged that I'm one of the people she does feel able to show her vulnerability to. She has allowed none of the major life-altering events that she has gone through to be her 'defining moment' - they've happened, they sucked and she moved on.
At the moment, I'm in the middle of the infertility mire, and sometimes I feel it's all I can think about, and all I can talk about.
But I want to be like A, and not like B. In ten years' time, I don't want anybody to be saying, "She was fine until she couldn't have children, but now she never stops whinging" or "She's just tiring to be around now" or "Her whole life is defined by the fact that she wanted children and couldn't have them". I'd rather they said, "This could have defined her, but she didn't let it - and although it's not the life she expected to have, she's happy with the life she has."
And that's why I can't let the hurt stay ever present, and however often I accidentally knock the scab off and have a little cry with my husband, I have to see an end to this whole business and then learn to live with the result, whatever it is.
Saturday, 6 February 2010
She said she wasn't worried that it had happened four times in three years, and she wasn't worried that I had been unable to walk when I got up, "because you can obviously walk now". She didn't think any further investigation was needed, and recommended that I do core strength exercises to strengthen my back once this episode is over.
The osteopath, on the other hand, gave me a good massage to start loosening things up, did some acupuncture on the damaged ligaments (yes, apparently there are now two) and told me that as well as the muscles being in spasm, she could feel the cause of that spasm, which was a huge swelling around one ligament in particular.
She was interested to hear about the first episode, when I was putting my niece in her car seat, and said that from what I was doing and the angle I would have been bending at, she was pretty certain that the ligament I would have damaged that time is the same one I've damaged this week.
She then covered me in strapping to support and protect my back while it heals, and booked another appointment for Monday.
And I'm happy to say that although I was limping and in pain when I got up this morning, I was able to stand upright and walk, and having iced my back, taken painkillers and walked around for half an hour or so, I'm now able to walk reasonably well and without too much pain.
And that's why I never usually bother going to the GP, but love my osteopath! And hopefully I'll stop whinging about my back and resume normal blogging tomorrow.
Friday, 5 February 2010
The last 24 hours have been excruciating. As I lay awake last night, I realised that this is the fourth incident in about three years.
In May 2007, I took Niece #1 to Jersey for a car rally. At the time, I was driving a two-seater classic sports car. She had just turned 3, and her car seat was in the passenger seat of my low-slung car. All went well and we had a marvellous time, but when we were on our way home, we stopped off somewhere and as I lifted her back into her car seat - an activity which involved a certain amount of bending and twisting because of the type of car - I felt something pop in my back. It was sore for a while after that, but I don't remember any major trauma.
In June 2008, my back went while we were on our honeymoon. There was no popping this time, but after I had been tossed about by some big waves while snorkelling, I got out of the water to find that my back was sore. It was certainly very uncomfortable, and I can remember wondering whether I was actually going to be able to walk to the restaurant we had booked for that evening, but I was never completely incapacitated. It was when we got back to England that I found the osteopath, and she told me that I had pulled a ligament and sorted me out pretty quickly.
At the end of May last year, we celebrated our wedding anniversary with a weekend at the hotel where we had our wedding reception. On the Saturday, we lounged about all day in the sun, and when I got up I must have overstretched the ligament or something. The next day my back was very sore and stiff, and according to my diary from last year, the day after that I was unable to walk when I got up. This time, the osteopath described it as a ligament sprain, and again, she sorted me out and I was over the worst of it by the end of the week.
Since then, I've had regular visits to the osteopath to keep an eye on it and deal with any problems before they got too bad. You may wonder why I never saw my GP - it's basically because the NHS has two answers to back pain: "Take two aspirin and wait for it to go away" and "Here's a big knife - I'm going to chop you up." I suspected that I would get the former response. The osteopath, on the other hand, did something that worked.
And so we come to this time. Yesterday I felt the popping in my back when I stretched in the morning. An hour later, when I got out of bed, my left leg was very weak and it took a couple of minutes before I was able to hobble a few steps on it. I knew from last time that the morning is worst and that it eases off in the course of the day, and after a couple of hours of really not knowing where to put myself for the pain, it reduced to a steady 7 or 8 on the pain scale and my movement became a little freer. Every time I sat down for more than 15 minutes, though, it seized up again.
I was dreading the night, knowing that the two things that made last time really hard were the difficulty with turning over in bed and the issue with getting up in the morning.
Sure enough, every time I wanted to turn over last night, I woke up. Each time, it took me a couple of minutes to readjust my position, and I felt it getting harder as the night went on. At 6:00, I gave up on trying to sleep and experimentally pushed myself into a sitting position, just to check that I could. I could, but it took a while and was very painful, and I thought how lucky I am that I don't have these mobility problems all the time. Lying helplessly on your back, feeling uncomfortable but knowing that you're not going to be able to shift your position at all without shooting pains going all the way up your back is not much fun.
Before he left for work at 7:00, DH brought me an ice pack, and I iced my back for ten minutes before I got up. I manoeuvred myself into a standing position, and then realised that my left leg wasn't going to take my weight at all. I had slept in the spare room, where we have a cot for Niece #3's visits, and I leant on the side of the cot flexing my leg muscles and trying to keep myself upright. Standing up straight again sent shooting pains down my back. I managed to grab hold of the door handle, then the radiator the other side of the door, and dragged my leg behind me as I pulled myself out into the hall.
The two paces from the spare room door to the bathroom door then proved too much for me, as there was nothing to hold onto for leverage, and I eventually crawled on all fours to the bathroom, where I managed to pull myself almost upright and drag myself along the length of the bath to the loo.
I then dragged myself back to the bedroom and slowly pulled on some clothes. I didn't even attempt to put socks on - my trousers were difficult enough.
The strength gradually began to return to my left leg, and although it was stiff and painful, I managed to get downstairs, where I paced up and down for about an hour to loosen everything up.
I decided perhaps it was time the NHS had a look at my back, so I rang the surgery and for the first time ever, I actually managed to get a same day appointment with the GP without any argument! Perhaps it was the pathetic tone in my voice when the receptionist asked, "Is it urgent?" and I said, "Well, I'm having trouble walking."
I've now been sitting still for about 15 minutes, which is a definite improvement on yesterday morning, and am going to have a go at climbing Mount Bathtub so I can have a shower before I see the doctor and then the osteo.
I can't tell from reading last year's diary whether this episode is the same as last year's or worse, which is why I want to get all the sorry details down this time, so I remember. I certainly remember being in excruciating pain then, and I'm really hoping this time isn't worse, because that might indicate some sort of deterioration and even that the next time might be worse still, and that would be unimaginable.
Thursday, 4 February 2010
The osteopath was treating it, and by yesterday it had improved to the degree where I actually went back to the gym and did some gentle exercise.
This morning, DH was in the shower and as I lay there in bed, half awake, I yawned and stretched - and felt something pop. Immediately, my back was flooded with pain. For a few moments, I was unable to move, but then I managed to turn onto my side and was relieved to find that it wasn't so painful in that position. I decided not to go to the stretching class I'd planned to attend at the gym this morning - a class attended mainly by older people, at which they do the stretches that the osteopath recommended to me to strengthen my back - and went back to sleep for an hour.
When I woke up, I got out of bed and found that my left leg wouldn't hold my weight. This has happened to me before, so the fear that I have now is first that I know how much pain I'm going to be in over the next few days and how difficult it's going to be to recover, and second, that it wasn't a one-off last year and I may be facing episodes like this regularly for the rest of my life.
I eventually managed to struggle to the bathroom, where I looked at the insurmountable height of the bath and decided I would have to live without having a shower today.
Since then, I've been hobbling around the house, knowing that if I sit still for too long, my back will seize up and be even more uncomfortable when I have to move again. Plus sitting still for more than five minutes causes the pain to radiate round to the front and start shooting down the front of my thighs. Since I got out of bed a couple of hours ago, the pain has been a constant 10 or 11, with occasional moments of relief where it goes down to 8 or 9. Painkillers don't touch it, and the ice pack didn't do a lot either.
I'm now waiting for a call back from the osteopath to see if she can fit me in before my next scheduled appointment next week. She worked miracles last time, so I'm hoping to get to see her before the weekend - though at the moment I'm even dreading the thought of hobbling out to my car and driving up there to see her.
In the meantime, I'm sorry if I don't comment on your blogs - it's taken me over half an hour to write this, and I've changed seats four times in the process and got up a few other times to walk around a bit. I just can't sit still long enough to read and leave comments today.
If blogging is light in the next few days (or possibly totally full of self-pitying rants about how much pain I'm in), you'll know why - hopefully normal service will be resumed soon.
Then on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings we were out together, we were away at the weekend, and on Monday and Tuesday of this week he had driving lessons. He has another lesson tomorrow evening.
So tonight was going to be our night for curling up and spending a bit of time together, and just catching up on what's been going on. I was working from home, so at lunchtime I was able to prepare a nice beef casserole to go in the slow cooker. Just before he was due home, I lit a fire, so that it would be roaring away nicely by the time he came in.
And then it all started to go wrong. The slow cooker was slooooow, and the casserole wasn't ready. The logs were damp, and the fire glowed gently for a while and then fizzled out. We sat there gazing at the dying embers and waiting for our casserole to be ready, and although he said nothing, I felt impatience coming off him that here he was, home on time for once, and he was still having to wait for his supper.
Then he phoned his parents, and his father asked in a hopeful sort of way what we were doing this weekend - angling for a visit. We were meant to be visiting my parents this weekend for my mother's birthday, but the trip fell through - and I had told DH that I was pleased in a way, because although I was sad not to be there with my mother, we had a huge long list of jobs that needed to be done at home.
So I was a little annoyed when he looked sideways at me and then told his father that he didn't think we had any plans and he might drop in to see them. He tries to visit them once every two or three weeks - we visit my parents about twice a year. I encourage him to visit his parents whenever he has the chance, as they're elderly and his father is very frail, but if he went this weekend it would mean that, yet again, I was left to do all the jobs on my own.
I sat there and stewed for about an hour, then it just came out. "I know I'm probably premenstrual and unreasonable, but I feel a bit resentful that you told your father we weren't busy this weekend."
He looked hurt and said, "Honestly, I can't do anything right. I didn't think we were."
So then I reminded him that we had talked about all the jobs we needed to get done this weekend. And I reminded him of the most important one - that since our papers arrived from the old clinic last week, we haven't had a chance to fill in the forms for XXXX clinic. In fact, DH hasn't even seen our papers from the old clinic. There are a lot of questions for both of us on these forms, and it's a job that we need to do together. Plus, I want him to care about this and invest in it at least a little bit.
And I pointed out that every month that passes is another month closer to me having no eggs left at all, and that nothing is going to happen until we've sent the forms off.
And he put his arms round me and apologised, and suddenly I found that I couldn't hold back the tears and his shoulder was getting awfully wet.
It was like I'd scratched at the corner of a scab which I thought was ready to fall off on its own - and suddenly I found that I'd ripped the whole thing off and found that I was still bleeding underneath.
And I'm wondering once again if this is what it's going to be like for ever - pootling along through my everyday life thinking I'm OK with all this, talking about it in perfectly sane and reasonable terms, until suddenly and unexpectedly the scab gets ripped off and I'm in pieces again.
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
We tend not to have puddings very often, although when we do we usually have cream or yogurt with them. We also only really buy cheese when we have visitors, although I do occasionally put grated cheese on a pasta dish. But since I was advised to drink half a pint of milk a day during my first two week wait, I have carried on drinking a lot more milk, while DH has stayed at his usual level of consumption. That probably explains why my calcium level is 563 against a recommended minimum value of 380, while DH's is only 299. No little old lady osteoporosis for me! I am going to get him drinking more milk, though.
My magnesium level is also pretty high, but iron, potassium and sodium are all low. DH has normal magnesium and also has low iron, potassium and sodium. I tend to use very little salt in my cooking, so especially as I'm giving us as much fresh food as possible and trying to wean DH off processed stuff at the moment, I suppose I'd better start using a bit more salt.
Having read that selenium and zinc are good for fertility and that many people are deficient in them, I've had us eating five brazil nuts a day each since early last summer. I encourage DH to eat his by giving him four normal ones and one chocolate-covered one. Also, since about October/November last year, we've been taking an additional zinc and selenium supplement. We've been taking preconception vitamins for what seems like for ever, and I'm sure they also have zinc in them.
So I was surprised to see that, although DH's selenium level is OK, my selenium is a little on the low side and we both have low zinc. This either means that I was right about us needing the supplements but our levels haven't quite caught up yet, or that we're not absorbing it properly. My friend who tried this several years ago had a similar problem with magnesium.
I have normal levels of chromium, cobalt and copper, but manganese, molybdenum (which I've never even heard of) and vanadium are also on the low side, and nickel is half what it should be.
DH has very low levels of all of those things, and his nickel level is even lower than mine.
They also test for metals which shouldn't be present in high quantities. We're both within the acceptable range for aluminium, cadmium and mercury, but both have trace levels of tin (where on earth does that come from?), and I have a slightly raised level of lead.
They've recommended a whole bunch of supplements, and we have to take those, follow their other advice (which I'll tell you about later) and then get our hair retested in four months. They advise us not to get pregnant in the meantime. Not that I think there's any chance of that, but they reckon if you get pregnant while your nutritional levels are not optimised, you have a much higher chance of a miscarriage or of birth defects.
Once we get our supplements, I'll be on 19 pills a day and DH will be on 26. If you're walking down the street and meet someone coming the other way who rattles as they walk, that'll be us...
Tuesday, 2 February 2010
From what I've read, it's not just the sperm that take three months to mature. It also takes three months for eggs to mature. This means that if you have a second IVF cycle within three months of the previous one, the eggs that will develop on that second cycle will have been exposed to the drugs that you took in the earlier cycle.
Does this have any effect on the development of the follicles and the maturing of the eggs? Could it be the reason why I responded so poorly on IVF #2, which began less than two months after IVF #1? And could it mean that I could expect to respond better on IVF #3 later this year, when the drugs from #1 and #2 have completely worked their way out of my body?
Or could it be that the residual presence of drugs in my body and the fact that the eggs in IVF #2 had effectively been exposed to two sets of IVF drugs made my body respond better than it would otherwise have done, and that the poor response in IVF #2 was a sign of how quickly my ovarian reserve is deteriorating?
I don't know the answers to these questions, and Mr No Nonsense never ventured an opinion on whether it was a good idea for us to try again so soon or whether we should, in fact, wait for a while to give us a better chance.
I'd be really interested in any thoughts that anyone else has on the subject, or experiences of second and subsequent cycles which were either within the magic three months or outside it...
Monday, 1 February 2010
At the end of today's appointment, she handed me a bit of paper and explained that another of her patients had, like us, had two failed IVF attempts at the local hospital. She had then gone to one of the London clinics and was now pregnant with twins. She had raved about how wonderful this place was, and so the osteopath had written down its details for me.
And guess what? The clinic this woman was raving about was the XXXX clinic. And Mr No Nonsense had been as scathing about it with her as he was with me, but she had gone anyway, and she couldn't sing the praises of the XXXX consultant (henceforth to be known as Mr Miracle Worker) highly enough.
The copy of our file from the old clinic arrived last week, and since then we haven't had a single evening at home. We were also away for the weekend, and DH has driving lessons tonight and tomorrow. But some time this week, we're going to make another copy of our file, fill in all the forms from the XXXX clinic and get the whole lot sent off to them.