Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Decision made

I had a call from XXXX clinic yesterday. My immune test results had come back - cytokines, thyroid function and various things I didn't have time to write down all came back within the normal range, which is good.

The one thing that was out of range was natural killer cells. Two of them were within normal range. Then there was one called CD56 which has a range of 2 to 12, and my result was 17.1, and another two called CD19 and CD5 which have a range of 5 to 12, and my result was 23.8. I have NO idea what all that means, but will spend some time with Mr Google when I have a spare moment.

The recommendation is that I may need treatment with IVIg (which costs over £1,000 - ouch!) and/or dexamethazone, which is a type of steroid. The treatment would be done during the treatment cycle if needed, but since levels of natural killer cells can vary, they would test again during the first week of stimming to see if I still need it.

The next stage is to organise the hysteroscopy, then on the first day of the treatment cycle I have to go for a blood test, have a scan, another blood test and an lesson on how to mix my injections the next day, and then it's all systems go.

I've been increasingly feeling that to go through treatment this cycle would be a step too far - my back is still sore, DH and I really want to spend the Easter weekend with my family, we've got his family to sort out, I'm ridiculously busy at work for the next fortnight, and adding IVF to all of that just seemed a bit much. Plus we were told not to try for a baby until we'd finished the four month course of supplements, and while the four months won't be up by the next cycle after this one, we will be that much closer to the end.

The thing that bothered me about making the decision was that there's never really a convenient time for such an intensive treatment, and if we put it off for the sake of convenience, I was afraid we might never get round to it. And I felt as though I needed to demonstrate my commitment by going for the first opportunity I possibly could - putting baby-making first above all else, regardless of how difficult that might be at the time.

But I don't need to 'earn' the right to get pregnant, and if the timing isn't right, it'll add to the stress of the whole experience.

Since we had our first appointment at the old clinic last summer and got our diagnosis, we've done everything as quickly as we could - we did our first IVF as soon as we could, and our second straight after, and then we took a very short break before moving on to XXXX clinic. I didn't want to look into Foresight before we did it, because that would cause a delay and I felt that time was of the essence. And here we are, a year after we first started talking seriously about getting tested, with two IVF failures behind us and with some evidence that the Foresight programme is actually helping us.

So I've decided that there's no rush after all, that we don't have to go into the next cycle no matter what, and that there's a benefit to being a bit calmer about all this. The nurse I spoke to thought it was a sensible choice, so when AF shows up this Friday, we're going to go up to my parents' house regardless and have a jolly good, relaxing weekend.

So, we have four more weeks to whip our chaps into shape, and in the meantime, we're making haste slowly...

Monday, 29 March 2010

More complications - or Bob Crow ruined my week

The original plan was pretty complicated.

Immune results hopefully coming through this Wednesday or Thursday. If positive, cycle delayed for steroid treatment (which could apparently have the bonus effect of reducing the inflammation in my back - that would be cool). If negative, hysteroscopy hastily arranged to take place before potential cycling.

AF due this Friday. If immune results were negative and hysteroscopy was OK, have blood test to check FSH. If over 10, go home and wait till next month. If under 10, start cycling. (Do you want me to do a flowchart for this...?)

So far, so complicated. Then we throw in Easter.

Good Friday and Easter Monday are both bank holidays, so we have a four-day weekend. All my UK family are gathering at my parents' house, and my mother needs to know if we're coming, and how long we're thinking of staying. I've briefly outlined the situation to her so she knows why I can't give her a firm answer. Nobody else knows, because they don't need to.

Except... we then throw in the train strike and evil Bob Crow.

My sister wants to stay with my parents for a couple of days extra with the children, but my BIL needs to get home for work on Tuesday. He was going to take the train early on Tuesday morning, but good old Bob has put paid to that (and yet he claims that this strike won't disrupt people's Easter holidays).

So I've tentatively offered to drive BIL down south when we leave on Monday. Except, of course, we might not be leaving on Monday. We might be leaving earlier so that I can spend Monday fast asleep in a London basement with my legs in the air (unlikely, since I'll be in the middle of AF). Or I might have to rush back for a blood test, or to pick up a prescription.

And then, as if that isn't complicated enough, we throw in the in-laws. SIL has asked if, since we're going up north anyway and she only lives about an hour out of our way, we could bring MIL and FIL and drop them off at her house. I forgot to tell her that we can't pick them up again at the end of the weekend, as our car only comfortably carries four adults and one space is reserved for BIL, who asked first. They could squeeze in, but for 100 miles, when FIL gets car sick at the best of times...?

So, to recap.

We don't know when we're going - but when we do, we need to pick up DH's parents and drop them off with SIL.

We don't know when we're coming back - but when we do, we need to bring BIL with us, and he wants to spend as much time as possible up north with the family.

We don't know how DH's parents will get home from SIL's house.

We don't know whether I'll be having a hysteroscopy in the next 10 days, and we don't know whether IVF #3 will be starting in the same time frame.

And I don't even know whether I'm teaching the week after Easter, because the course might have to be postponed on account of students not being able to get to London with no trains running. Or we might have to run the course twice, because some of the offices have complained that a change of date is not convenient for them. If so, I need to learn pretty quickly how to bilocate, because it would mean that I'm due to teach two different classes simultaneously on one day of the following week.

In fact, bilocation would be a pretty useful skill for the whole of the next fortnight. If only I'd listened harder in my school physics lessons...

Sunday, 28 March 2010

An extra yawn

British Summer Time began last night, so once again we're another hour ahead of the US.

Winston Churchill was one of the sponsors of the Bill that introduced British Summer Time, and here's what he said about it:

"An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts. We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later."

I have to say, it's not looking a lot like summer at the moment. We've lit the fire a couple of times this week and huddled together in front of the roaring flames. This morning is grey, and the local weather forecast predicts rain every day for the next five days (as far ahead as this forecast goes).

OK, on second thoughts, it's looking a lot like a British summer...

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Massaging my ego

I was working from home yesterday, and had to e-mail my boss about something. I wrote a little PS to update him on the job situation.

His response came back within minutes: "Ah, more proof that there is a God."

You see why I love working for this guy?

Friday, 26 March 2010

A happy side effect

I suddenly realised this week that since we started the new regime, I haven't been disturbed by DH's snoring. Not that he hasn't snored at all - that would be altogether too much to hope for. The gentle buzz of the chainsaw is still a regular feature of our nighttime. But the horrid strangulated freight train that regularly used to thunder through our bedroom, waking me up and making it impossible to get back to sleep - gone!

Could it be because he's lost a bit of weight?

Or is it because we're eating earlier in the evening, so that he doesn't have a full stomach when he goes to bed?

Or could it be the healthier diet and the lack of processed sugar and other gunk?

I don't care - all I know is that whatever it is we're doing, it's giving us both a better night's sleep.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Decision made

Well, I currently have one less thing to bend my brain over.

I went for an interview for that job on Monday. Fortunately, I had already told my lovely boss that I was applying for a job - the way the timings turned out, I had to go to the monthly departmental meeting in my interview suit. If I tell you that the last time I wore a full suit to work was December 2005, perhaps you'll appreciate the stares and speculation I would have got had I not already told half the department what was going on.

My boss actually gave me some very good advice - he's been with the firm for over 20 years, and he said that he had looked into a few other job opportunities over the years himself, but had concluded that attitudes towards what we do tend to be cyclical in every firm, and while you may hit a new job while things are on the up, there will inevitably be a corresponding dip a few years later - and similarly, if you stay put things will usually improve if you wait for long enough.

He's right - the problem with what we do is that we're a cost centre in a business that exists to make money. Unless the people at the top see the value of what we contribute to the business, they will see us as nothing but a cost - to be reduced whenever their own income is in danger of not increasing at the rate they would like. And while every firm has some narrow-minded idiots who can't see any further than the thickness of their own wallet, every firm also has people of vision who are able to see the bigger picture. At any one time, one group or the other will have greater clout.

Five years ago, when I started this job, it was the latter group that had more power - and at the moment, it's the former group. The same could happen with the new job - the fact that there is support for this role at the moment doesn't mean that I could rely on that support in two, five or even ten years' time. And in the meantime, the people with vision could gain more relative strength in my current firm.

Realising this made me slightly less unhappy about my current role - we're going through a rough patch at the moment, there's still a lot of uncertainty about whether we'll be made redundant, but if we survive this slightly stormy patch, things will improve again as the economy picks up and people realise that what we do is essential to help the firm make money.

At the same time, there were all the negatives about moving - no maternity pay if we had a successful IVF, missing out on the redundancy pay if the myopic morons win the battle and close our department down, the longer commute, the loss of the ability to work from home regularly, and the fact that the department I'm in at the moment is a great team of people with a boss who is the most amazing person I've ever worked for.

So I went along to the interview more in a spirit of curiosity than anything else. The people who interviewed me were lovely, and I enjoyed spending an hour boasting about my achievements. I also found out a bit more about the new role, and it did sound fascinating - but almost certainly not as well suited to my skills and interests as my current job.

The night before the interview, I'd had a very peculiar dream - I was in a little boat on a lake with some people from my current firm. We rowed the boat out to the middle of the lake through a fierce storm, and I started to teach a seminar to the other people in the boat. We gradually realised that there were capsized boats all round us, and the lake was full of bodies of people who had drowned. Stray limbs kept poking up out of the water, and I tried to ignore the distractions and carry on teaching. At the end of the seminar, I asked how we were going to get back to shore through the strong winds and choppy waters, and someone pointed out that we were very close to the opposite shore from the one I'd been looking at - and we rowed to safety just before I woke up.

Was my subconscious trying to tell me "you're safe where you are - just stick with it"? I don't know, but I do know that after the interview I decided that the new job wasn't for me, and I instinctively felt straight away that I had made the right decision.

I also felt that if I had been on the other side of the table in that interview, I wouldn't have appointed me. It was fairly clear from their questions that they were looking for a different skill set. And it was fairly clear from my answers that I was interested in but not really committed to this role.

So when the recruitment agent phoned me up yesterday to tell me I hadn't got the job and spent several minutes almost audibly squirming as he tried to 'soften' the message, the first thing I felt was relief - my instincts had been right, and as far as I was concerned a mutual decision had been made which was absolutely the correct one from my point of view. I then settled down to amusement at the guy's verbal contortions, followed by slight embarrassment that he had so clearly got the wrong end of the stick and was expecting me to be devastated.

So, for the moment I stay put, in my rocky little boat on waters that remain stormy - and my mind is calm, because for the moment this is exactly the right thing to be doing.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

A whole lot of waiting

It's been a few days since I was on here - life got in the way for a while, and sitting is so uncomfortable at the moment that surfing the interweb just isn't as much fun as usual. The osteopath now reckons I have a slipped disc, and Dr Google appears to confirm that. My GP is on holiday this week, so unless there's a significant improvement in the next few days, I'll make an appointment to see her next week.

In other, slightly less dull, news - I had a blood test on Monday for progesterone levels. They didn't tell me what the level was, but they did say the result confirmed that I had ovulated. I already knew that, because on the evening of the day I got my smiley face I had quite bad ovulation pains, but it's nice to have it confirmed. My ongoing back issues and general lack of ... errm... flexibility mean that there's absolutely no chance of a baby this month, but I'm OK with that.

I'm now back into more waiting for the results of the immune testing. If that all comes out OK, then they'll do a quick hysteroscopy and then see if they can start the actual treatment when AF shows up. It's a very tight schedule, though - the quickest they can get the results through is next Wednesday, and AF is due next Friday. The fact that Good Friday and Easter Monday are both bank holidays is immaterial, though, as the clinic is open 365 days a year.

If the immune testing shows up anything that they want to treat, that'll delay the IVF treatment. I'm totally OK with that too - it gives the supplements more time to work their magic and my back a bit more time to recover before I start having to put my legs in the air for the magic camera on a regular basis.

Apart from my busy work schedule, which I'm sure can be shifted if need be, the only problem with any delays is that once Easter is out of the way, I'm going to find it very hard to keep DH on the straight and narrow with our new regime. The last two Sundays he's had wine and beer at my sister and BIL's house, and he's itching to get back on the chocolate and wine gums.

Last night I jokingly said to him that I was afraid it was going to be very difficult to keep him teetotal after Lent is over, and he just said, "Yes, it will." Not that he's a heavy drinker anyway, but he obviously has no intention of avoiding the wine and beer whenever it's offered to him after Easter.

I pointed out to him that not a drop of alcohol has crossed my lips since we started the new regime and that I only want him to stick to this until his swimmers have done their bit, so we'll just have to see... For me, the fact that we've both shown such an improvement while following the regime is a big motivator to keep at it, but he obviously doesn't think the same way.

So, that's the story of my life right now - waiting for test results, waiting for my back to get better, and also waiting for the rain to stop so the roofers can finish replacing my kitchen roof and waiting to see what happens about this new job opportunity (about which I'll tell you a bit more tomorrow). And now I need to go and catch up on my favourite blogs, which I haven't visited for a few days...

Friday, 19 March 2010

My first ever...

... positive pee stick! OK, so it was just an OPK, but I've never used them before.

After I had the scan on Wednesday, I went into a pharmacy to pick up the OPK. I was offered two choices - one was £4 cheaper, but the other was a digital one that gives you a smiley face when you get a positive result. I couldn't resist the lure of the smiley face, and what's £4 when you're spending several THOUSAND times that amount on treatments?

So I got up yesterday morning, and as has been the case for the last two or three weeks, my main concern was minimising the pain of crawling out of bed and getting myself ready for work. As I was brushing my teeth, I suddenly remembered that I hadn't peed on my stick. It crossed my mind that it was only CD 12 and perhaps I should just not bother, but then I reminded myself that I have often ovulated on day 12 in the past. So I just about managed to squeeze out a few drops, and then waited impatiently for the result to show up while I finished brushing my teeth.

And suddenly, the little flashing icon turned into a smiley face! So I have this unbroken record - never had a positive on a pregnancy test, never had a negative on an ovulation test!

I phoned the clinic later in the morning, as instructed. The nurse I spoke to was a little po-faced - I explained who I was and what my instructions had been, and then told her that I'd got a smiley face that morning. She rather frostily responded, "You mean your test detected the surge?"

Well, I'm sure I'm not the only person who refers to smiley faces, and I'm equally sure the nurses are familiar with the concept of these digital tests, so I thought she could have been a bit more friendly about it.

Still, if it was a friendly attitude I was looking for, I'd have stayed with the old clinic, where everybody knew my name - and Nurse First Time would even recognise my voice and know where I was up to in my treatment and when my next appointment was before I'd even said anything other than "Hello" on the phone. But friendly attitudes are just the frills - it's the science I'm after, because the nicest smile in the world isn't going to make me a baby. Although the happy smiley face on an OPK is a good start...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010


Well, I went back to XXXX clinic today. As I had feared, the scan was pretty painful on my leg. More embarrassing, though, was the fact that I was completely unable to get up off the trolley when the guy had finished, and I ended up asking him to come back and haul me upright.

He measured my lining at 11 mm, then looked at my left ovary and said I was going to ovulate from that side this month. I had a 17 mm follicle, and everything looked normal. Then he looked at my right ovary, and there was a 16mm follicle there too, so apparently ovulation is not one of the things I have problems with.

He talked again about getting immune testing done. I hadn't really thought I wanted it, but one of the things they test is thyroid function, which can affect FSH and other hormone levels, so that swayed me in favour of getting it done. Fortunately, I'd had some breakfast before I went down to the clinic - they took 19 phials of blood from me. As I said to the phlebotomist, since I give blood I'm used to having that much taken from me at once - but I do usually get a cup of tea and a biscuit afterwards.

The next thing is that I have to use OPKs for the next few days and call them again when I get a surge, then they'll take more blood four or five days later to test my progesterone level.

They want to do the hysteroscopy as close as possible to the start of my treatment cycle, so wouldn't book an appointment for it just yet, in case the immune testing shows up anything that needs to be treated before we start. The immune results usually take about three weeks, but they're going to try to rush it through a bit.

If all goes well, I'll then have a hysteroscopy the week before Easter. AF is due on Good Friday, and as the clinic is open 365 days a year, the four day weekend won't affect my day 2 blood test. Assuming everything is OK with that, I should be able to start the short protocol straight away.

If we can't start straight away, I won't be too bothered - it'll give my back more time to heal and the supplements and new regime more time to take effect. We were told not to try to conceive until we had finished the full four month programme, but if everything is OK to start next month, I'm not going to delay. A delay would also give us more time to save the money to pay for it, though.

I'm resigned to the fact that we won't have any firm answers about either the current job situation or our IVF chances before I have to make a decision about the new job. I have an interview next Monday, and the easiest thing would be if I they don't offer me the job. If they do... well, then I have a difficult decision to make.

In the meantime, I have sticks to pee on - and for the first time ever, I'm pretty confident that I'm going to get a positive result in the next few days.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Who am I kidding?

** Warning - this is a VERY whingey post. Look away now if you don't want to join me in drowning in my own self-pity **

I have my mid-cycle scan tomorrow - and I'm terrified, because I can't think how I'm going to get my feet into the stirrups without an immense amount of pain.

I really am trying to think of all the people who have it so much worse than I do, and to be a bit more stoical about it, but right now this is really getting me down. When my back went into spasm and I saw the doctor, she told me to come back if I wasn't better in six weeks. Well, this Friday will be six weeks since I saw her, and it's now three weeks since the sciatic pain began in earnest.

I'm short of sleep, because it's hard to find a comfortable position, and more often than not when I turn over in bed I'm woken up by the pain shooting through my leg. Each morning begins with planning how I'm going to manoeuvre myself out of bed with the least possible pain. When I'm at home, I'm not bothering to wear socks, because it's too difficult and painful to reach my feet. I have to be in the office tomorrow and Thursday, and I'm already dreading the thought of getting dressed for work.

I'm sitting here now, for the I-don't-know-how-manyeth day running, with an ice pack on my back, my right buttock gradually going numb but with pains still running gently up and down my right leg. Soon I'll exchange the ice pack for ten minutes of heat, and then I'll be able to start my day's work.

I'm miserable because this thing isn't getting any better. I don't know what's caused it, and I don't know what I can do to make it go away. And I'm even more miserable because right now, this is what's going through my head:

Who are you kidding? You can't even get out of bed in the morning and bend down to get dressed. How can you possibly think that you can look after a baby, day in, day out? Sure, you managed it this weekend, but there were things you normally do with them that you couldn't this time. And you had DH there to help - he won't be there during the week if you have one of your own. And even if you could cope with a baby, how are you going to manage pregnancy? You're having enough trouble heaving your non-pregnant body around - how's it going to cope with the extra strains that pregnancy would put on it? And...

I won't go on, but you get the idea.

Monday, 15 March 2010

The soft touch

The first time DH met my nieces, #2 was about four or five months old, and he was terrified that if he held her, she would break. Now, they're a bit bigger, and they absolutely adore him.

I loved watching him with #2 over this weekend - she is a very affectionate little girl, and she snuggled up to him to watch a DVD on Sunday morning and to look at a book with him in church. She held his hand and walked along with him to church as I pushed #3 in the buggy and listened to #1's endless stream of chatter. They lagged behind us a bit as she told him her stories about princesses and fairies, and he listened and made all the right noises.

Normally, although he'll play with the children, he leaves all the childcare duties to me and just takes responsibility for clearing up after meals and tidying up the toys while I'm putting them to bed. This time was a bit different, because BIL arrived after the rest of his family and so DH was left alone to look after #3 while my sister and I went off to the theatre with #1 and #2. He also handled #3 on his own during Mass, because #2 wanted to go to the children's liturgy and 3-year-olds were only allowed to attend if accompanied by an adult.

'No' is a word that's not really in his vocabulary, and he'll go along with whatever wild ideas the children think up. One time I left him in the sitting-room with the girls while I was cooking lunch. #1 had a sticker book, and when I checked on them after about half an hour, the book was empty of stickers and DH was covered - he had them all over his face, his glasses, his shirt, his hands... I asked why he hadn't suggested that she put the stickers in the relevant places in the book instead, and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, she was having fun."

Looks like I'm going to have to play bad cop to his good cop a few more times in my life - but he's so sweet that I think I'll cope...

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Magic moments

We've got my nieces for the weekend again, and yesterday my sister and I took #1 and #2 to the theatre while DH and BIL looked after #3. #1 had been to the theatre once before, and it was #2's first time. The play was a musical which they're familiar with on DVD, and they were spellbound. We had excellent seats, at the front of the banked seating with a walkway in front of us. Booster seats were provided for the children, and they were thrilled when at one point the entire cast trooped off the stage and walked across directly in front of us as they sang one of their numbers. #2 almost fell off her seat with excitement, and didn't seem to mind that when she waved shyly at the lead couple as they passed us, they didn't wave back!

We arrived home to find that #3 had her shoes and coat on and was standing expectantly by the front door - as she had been apparently for some time. She refused to let anyone unzip her coat, and stayed there looking expectant, so I took her out of the front door, round the side of the house and back in through the back door - following which she was satisfied that she'd had an outing, and allowed me to take her shoes and coat off her.

Today is Mothering Sunday and last week was BIL's birthday, so I'm not sure which of them was treating and which was being treated last night, but hopefully they enjoyed their date night. This morning I'll get the children to make Mother's Day pictures for my sister before we go to church and then take them home for a celebratory lunch.

So I'll be herding small children during Mass and won't experience quite so acutely that empty feeling that you get when special prayers are said for mothers and small children are given daffodils to hand over to their mothers, and maybe make special cards and pictures during the children's liturgy. But wouldn't it be wonderful if in a few years' time it was my own children clutching those daffodils in their sticky little hands, and if I was the recipient...?

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Driving and more lovely friends

DH's progress on the driving front had stalled a bit, and I think his instructor isn't doing him any good - he's a bit of an old woman who tends to panic and not give DH the chance to think for himself about what he should be doing.

Suddenly, we have a legion of friends who are offering to help out. I dropped him and the car off with one couple this morning, and while the wife ferried me to and from my hair appointment (no more hair in my eyes - yay!), the husband took DH for a drive. They were both buzzing when they got back - it went really well, and DH got some proper practice in, dealt with some difficult situations (cyclists, little old ladies crossing the road in front of him, narrow country lanes) very efficiently with someone calm sitting beside him, and his confidence has increased exponentially.

Next weekend, the same friend has offered to take him out again before church on Sunday, and another friend is taking him out on Saturday. Since the pain in my leg is making it difficult for me to get in and out of cars at the moment, I'm hugely grateful to them - and it's doing DH so much good to have nice calm blokey friends helping him out.

We may not (yet) have been blessed with children, but over the last week I've really been appreciating more and more how blessed we are with our lovely friends.

Friday, 12 March 2010

The work dilemma

I mentioned the other day that I've applied for a new job. But nothing is simple in this life, and IF makes it doubly complicated, so that I really don't know what I want - there are too many permutations to think about.

The basic situation is that I enjoy the work I do, and I have the best head of department ever. He gives me a lot of freedom to do things how, where and when I think best - which means I can work from home two or three days a week and fit my work around the rest of my life. Everybody wins, because I don't have to take time off work for my appointments with the osteopath or the clinic, to wait in for the gas man, or for any of the other things which tend to happen between the hours of 9 and 5:30, and at home without all the interruptions of being in the office I get three times as much work done. Plus not commuting every day saves me a fortune in train fares.

BUT - and yes, it is a big 'but' - I work for a large organisation and the current leadership of the organisation doesn't support what I do. To put it in very broad terms, I work for a partnership where the partners want to maximise the profits every year so that their share of the loot will be a nice fat one, and my department is a cost centre.

We rely on the partners seeing the value of what we do, and at the moment there are too many people at the top who don't see the value in anything that can't be measured in figures on a spreadsheet. The value of our work is more long-term and in helping to avoid enormous future costs (like being sued for negligence), and some people think it's unnecessary, while others think it could be done for a lower cost, or should have a different focus.

The future of our department is therefore currently being reviewed, and one likely result is that we'll all be made redundant and in future the firm will outsource the work that we currently do. Another likely result is that they'll demand that we completely change what we offer and will make half the department redundant. In that case, it's highly unlikely that I'll get redundancy, as I'm the number two in the department - but my workload will increase hugely, and I'm likely to be doing a lot more of the sort of work I hate and have less time for the work that I consider important.

The job opportunity which popped into my inbox this week was for a very similar job in another firm, but I would be the head of a new department which is just being set up. That indicates clearly to me that the leadership of this other firm appreciate the value of what I do, and being able to set the department up from scratch and recruit my own staff to assist in the work of the department would be fantastic. And this sort of job is very specialised and doesn't come up very often.

On the other hand, the commute is longer, and at least for the first six months (and probably longer) I would have very little, if any, opportunity to work from home, so I'd have to do that long commute every day. And I know from experience that while some people pay lip service to the importance of what I do, when it comes to the crunch it's always going to be the cost that people scrutinise and try to reduce first, so I could be jumping out of the frying pan into the fire in that respect.

Then there are the other considerations - first, what if my current department does get closed down? If I hand in my notice before they start making people redundant, I could be missing out on a nice redundancy payout. On the other hand, if they only intend to make half the department redundant, by handing in my notice before the announcement, I could be saving someone else's job. Or could I be precipitating the decision to close down the whole programme once they realise that I won't be there to sustain the large part that I'm solely responsible for, and therefore costing other people their jobs?

And then we throw IF into the mix. Might I be able to have IVF #3 in the next two or three months? If it's successful, I want to be sure that I qualify for maternity pay, which wouldn't be the case if I changed jobs in three months' time (my current notice period). I also wouldn't want to start a new job while pregnant - I wouldn't be obliged to tell the new employer straight away, but I do think it would be pretty unfair on them.

But with my three months' notice period, plus how long the application process will take, we could be all done with the IVF by the time I was due to start the new job, and would either know that I'm never going to get pregnant or would already know that we had been successful. And the IVF appointments would all hopefully happen while I was in the current job, with the flexibility that it allows. And then we get back to the maternity leave dilemma - and the fact that I won't get maternity leave in any case if I'm made redundant.

At the moment, I'm burying my head in the sand and letting everything wash around me while hoping that the review of my current department is resolved quickly and the application for the new job goes slowly, so that the way forward might be a bit clearer by the time I have to make a decision.

But I can certainly see why the Chinese see "may you live in interesting times" as a curse. And these are nothing if not interesting times.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The paradox

You know what's odd about XXXX clinic? Their treatment is cutting edge - the very latest scientific advances, including some stuff that's experimental (or, as other clinics would have it, unproven), where they really are leading the way in the field.

But when you go into the office, there's not a computer in sight. All medical records are kept in paper files only. At the end of our consultation last week, Mr Greek God went straight down to the office and wrote out his notes (in addition to those he had taken during the consultation) in longhand, filled in our blood test form by hand and sent us round the corner to the blood lab clutching our piece of yellow paper.

The appointment diary is a big fat book kept on one of the tables in the office, and when you phone for an appointment, they usually take your number and ring you back when they have the big book in front of them.

When I went in for my blood test on Tuesday, there were three crates behind the main desk in the office. They contained the files of people who had appointments that day, and as people arrived they would pull their file out, attach a note to the front to say what they were there for, and put them into an 'arrivals' box to show that the person was now in the waiting room.

There must be a computer somewhere, because their letters and information sheets are word processed, but the equipment in the office is more in keeping with the age of the building - a converted 18th century house. You can almost imagine the clerks writing out their notes in beautiful copperplate handwriting.

The waiting room, too, is unlike most modern medical waiting rooms. It must have been the drawing-room when this was a house, and it has pleasant proportions and high ceilings, and is filled with overstuffed leather armchairs and sofas, with the occasional fine dining chair in between for those who prefer to sit more upright. Perhaps it's the domestic atmosphere as much as the length of the wait that encourages people to chat with other couples while they're waiting in there.

So, the place is a funny mixture of the ultramodern and the old-fashioned - and as someone whose favoured pastimes include blogging and baking, who loves latch-hooking but uses a computer to create designs for it, and who loves having the latest gadgets but was never happier on the road than when I was driving my 30-year-old car to classic car rallies, I think I'll fit right in there.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Day 3 levels

Yesterday was CD 3, so I went and had my bloods done for the start of my monitoring cycle.

I got a call in the evening to say my results were fine, and they wanted to go ahead and book a mid-cycle scan. I asked what 'fine' meant, and these were the results they gave me.

Another drumroll is needed for this one - my FSH was 9.1!!!

LH was 4.7, which is within the normal range, but I think it's supposed to be close to the FSH level, so not sure if that's good or bad. Since the nurse sounded quite optimistic about my levels, I'm assuming it's OK.

Oestradiol was 220, which is high, and Mr Greek God said last week that to go ahead with a cycle, they like to see FSH of less than 10 AND oestradiol of less than 200. FSH seemed to be the key one, so I'm not sure if an oestradiol level just over 200 would be a deal-breaker if my FSH stays at this level.

My prolactin level, which I don't think I've had measured before, was 337 - according to the form, the range it should fall into is 0-500 (I think there are two different scales, as there's another scale where a level above 25 is a concern), so I'm within the expected range for that.

So the new regime seems to be doing lots of good to me as well, and I can have some hope that we will be given a chance to go ahead and could even be successful on IVF #3.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Various updates

We're a little over three weeks into our new regime now. I've lost half a stone (7 lbs), DH says he feels healthier, and I told you last week what it's done for his sperm. We both feel better for having small, regular meals and not eating a big meal too close to bedtime, and we're enjoying having more spare time in the evening - though I still have to find time to cook his lunches, so not all my evenings are freed up.

On Friday, we decided to treat ourselves and have fish and chips for supper when we got home from work - something we quite often (used to) do on a Friday evening. I found the fish almost unbearably greasy, and we both had trouble getting to sleep because of the heavy, full feeling in our stomachs. That's a 'treat' we won't be having again for a good while.

This weekend I took the time to plan our menus for the week and make out a shopping list before going to the supermarket. I went through a stage of being very good about this last year, and it definitely saves us money and avoids waste. I'm going to try to get back into the habit of doing it every week, as I've been a bit lax recently.

I haven't whinged about my back recently, but it's still giving me a lot of trouble. The back itself felt much better, and I was hoping to get back to the gym, but over the last week I've had increasing pain in the back of my right leg. It's not constant and is considerably less debilitating than when my entire back was in spasm and I couldn't even turn over in bed, but I have very severe shooting pains in my leg whenever I move in certain ways - for instance, I currently find it almost impossible to bend down and pick anything up off the floor, so if I drop anything it stays dropped.

My wonderful osteopath started her maternity leave last week, so yesterday I saw her locum for the first time. I think she's going to be equally good, but she's a bit more tentative at the moment - it must be hard to take over someone else's practice temporarily. She said some other back and leg muscles have gone into spasm and are so tight that one session wasn't enough to relieve them. The pain in my leg is referred pain from the same ligament that caused my back to seize up a couple of weeks ago, so I've got to apply ice and heat alternately to my back over the course of today and then see her again tomorrow.

It's an odd feeling, because anything I do to try to protect my leg does absolutely nothing to prevent the shooting pains, which are caused by certain movements of my back. When you have a pain in a particular place, that's the area that you try to protect, so it feels strange to try to remember to move my leg normally and protect my back instead.

AF showed up right on cue on Sunday, so I'm going in for a day 3 blood test this morning. I had hoped to do a day 2 test, but I couldn't go into London today because of my osteopath's appointment. I should have the result of that by tomorrow evening, and that will inform a lot of my plans for the next few weeks - like when I book the hysteroscopy, whether I have the immune testing, and what I do about work.

And as for work - well, nobody's more surprised at this than I am, but I applied for a new job yesterday. I'm not sure it's the right time to move, and there are all sorts of reasons why it would be easier to stay put, but the job opportunity is very exciting, and the sort of thing that comes up once in a blue moon. I told the recruitment agent that I'm not really looking for a move at the moment, but that it sounds so interesting that I'd like to know more about it. She's putting my CV forward and we'll see what happens, but I don't have to make any firm decisions at this stage.

So, interesting times are ahead, and I have no idea what I'll be doing in six months' time...

Monday, 8 March 2010

Lovely friends

We spent the day with our Nigerian friends yesterday, and as usual, had a wonderful time. We celebrated my godson's birthday, and our football-themed birthday card, England World Cup replica shirt and mini World Cup replica football went down well - his cake was also decorated to look like a football, and as soon as he'd opened his present he put on the shirt and started playing keepy-uppy with the ball.

In the evening, the boys went off to play upstairs and my friend broached the subject of our IF issues, which I had told her about on the phone last week. Her husband is a highly experienced obstetrician, so he took a professional interest and wanted to know all the details of our treatment and what's happening next - and declared himself very satisfied with the approach the new clinic is taking.

They talked more about their own struggles to conceive - one of her losses, not long before I met her, was at 18 weeks, and I had to hold back the tears as she told us about it and described the clinical, unfeeling attitude of the doctor she saw that day.

They also talked about the miracle of their middle son - after two miscarriages, the cause of which was clearly an incompetent cervix, my friend's husband was very insistent that she should have a stitch in this pregnancy to keep her cervix closed. The hospital where she was having her antenatal care didn't agree, and first the registrar and then the consultant refused even to examine her.

Her husband went with her to an appointment and insisted that they should at least check her cervix, and eventually, just to shut him up, the consultant did a scan. Her cervix was wide open, and one of the baby's legs was already poking down into the birth canal. She was instantly rushed to theatre, where a stitch was put in.

And my friend's husband triumphantly finishes the story (this wasn't the first time I'd heard it) with the words, "And those few moments of me being there resulted in this fine young scholar who is doing so well at school that I burst with pride whenever I hear from his teachers."

We talked for a long time, and when I said it was time for us to leave, my friend said to her husband, "We must pray over them."

He instantly agreed, and we joined hands in a circle while my friend prayed fluently and lengthily, her husband regularly interjected with a loud "Amen", and DH and I shuffled our feet and cleared our throats in that excruciating form of quiet embarrassment that we British specialise in. Our own prayer is silent and private, but we appreciated the thought and the concern that our friends have for us.

And then we left, and as we got into the car my friend's husband thrust an envelope into DH's hand. It turned out to contain a very sweet card, assuring us of their continuing prayers, and a very generous gift of £100 towards the cost of our treatment.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Clearing the path?

When we talked about doing the hair analysis and changing clinics, we expected the clinic to have a really long waiting list. I expected to have to wait at least eight weeks for our first appointment, and was amazed when we were actually seen within three weeks of sending them our forms. Then I expected to have to wait for treatment, and was surprised that we would be able to start our monitoring cycle straight away and then go into a treatment cycle as soon as my FSH was right.

That means that when I started the ball rolling with XXXX clinic, I expected to be finishing the four month supplement programme from the hair analysis people before we went any further with our IVF treatment. I also expected that our treatment would be in the summer, which is a relatively quiet period for me at work.

I was a little bit thrown by the suggestion that the timing of our treatment should be determined solely by the result of a blood test. Mr Greek God specifically said that if we got a result below 10, we should go for it regardless of what else we had planned in life, and that work and other things would just have to fit in around it.

He pointed out that it might be our only chance, and that if that was the case, we would always regret having thrown away that one chance to put work first. He also pointed out that because the clinic is so close to where I work (about ten minutes' stroll, or five minutes' speed-walking), I could have my blood tests and scans first thing in the morning and it needn't affect work too much.

That means that if all went well with my monitoring cycle and the hysteroscopy and my FSH level was OK, I could be starting treatment around Easter time. That, in turn, would mean that if things go as quickly as they did on my last two treatment cycles, egg collection could be in the week commencing 12 April. And I had been booked to speak at an external conference during that week. Flyers had already been printed, I was being paid a freelance speaker's fee for it, and there was no way I could back out at the last minute.

So you can imagine how thrilled I was on Friday to receive a very apologetic e-mail from the conference organisers telling me that the conference had been cancelled. And since that was the only thing really standing in the way of an April treatment cycle, could this be another message from the universe...?

Saturday, 6 March 2010

What's the universe trying to tell me?

Thursday was an unusual sort of morning at work. One of our students had been asked to babysit her 8-year-old nephew for the day, but didn't want to miss class, so I offered to look after him. He came into the office with her and I spent a couple of hours entertaining him (or more accurately, being entertained by him) until it was time to go for our appointment.

Although our office is open plan, my desk is tucked away in a corner of the building, so we were able to play with his remote controlled toys without disturbing anyone - and it's amazing the obstacle courses you can make with an almost endless supply of flipchart markers and highlighter pens.

I thought back to the last two huge days in my IF journey - the day I found out ICSI #1 had failed, when my sister came over for tea with her children and told me she was pregnant, and the day I found out ICSI #2 had failed, when I babysat my nieces while my sister went for an antenatal appointment.

This month's AF should be here either tomorrow or Monday, so I'll hopefully be going for a day 2 blood test on Tuesday morning. On Tuesday evening, my sister has asked me to babysit while she goes to a parents' evening at Niece #1's school.

I actually don't get asked to babysit all that often, so it's quite coincidental that every time something big happens to do with my IF, I'm babysitting that day. I reckon either the universe is trying to tell me that it'll be my turn one day, or it's trying to remind me that even if we never succeed in having children of our own, there will always be children in my life.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Drum roll, please...

In his first SA in July last year, DH had the following results:

Volume - 1 ml
Number of sperm - 0.6m/ml
Motility - 30%
Morphology - 3%
Progression - 1

For ICSI #2, he had volume 0.7 ml, number of sperm 0.5 m/ml, progression 0-1, motility 20%, morphology still at 3%, and for ICSI #1 they just wrote 'occasional' across the chart.

Having looked at those results, Mr Greek God was telling us that he thought we should freeze a sample or two, so we would have something in reserve if there were no usable sperm in the sample DH produced on egg collection day.

Then the results of yesterday's sperm test were brought in:

Volume - 1 ml
Number of sperm - 6m/ml
Motility - 35%
Morphology - 10%
Progression - 2

Still rubbish, but a pretty awesome improvement - and Mr Greek God said with these results a frozen sample wouldn't be necessary. He asked if we'd been doing anything to help DH's sperm, and we said we were on a healthy-eating programme and taking supplements, and he said it was obviously working!!!!

He suggested DH see a urologist, because the low volume with all the other low results suggests that there could be an obstruction. He said what's there now is fine for ICSI, but DH and I discussed it afterwards and decided that if he can get an NHS referral, it might be worth it - if there is an obstruction which can easily be resolved, perhaps it might help the other problem of delayed ejaculation.

He also recommended that we test for the CF gene, as this wasn't done on our previous rounds of tests. He said a mutation on the CF gene could also be a cause of low sperm counts, including low volume.

But in general, it looks like DH's boys are beginning to perk up and learn to swim!!

Not dead yet

Thank you so much to all of you for the good luck wishes yesterday, which really buoyed me up.

Our first appointment at XXXX clinic was a very different experience from our first appointment at the old clinic.

As we walked in, the entrance hall was covered in framed photos of babies, and this continued into the office and up the stairs. I commented on them to the doctor we saw, and he said that some people find them encouraging and others hate them. I chose to see them as encouraging.

Our appointment was at 12, but we were told to arrive at 11:30 to fill in forms and so DH could give his sample. There was a lot of waiting around, but I'd been warned about this, so we weren't phased - and perhaps the amount of waiting in general is one reason why everyone was so friendly to each other in this waiting room. The waiting room in the old clinic was always silent, with couples occasionally making the odd comment to each other in whispers. This one was buzzing, with everyone talking to everyone else - it was like a cocktail party without the booze!

We didn't see Mr Miracle Worker himself. He does a good proportion of the actual procedures - hysteroscopies, egg collection and embryo transfer - and reviews every single chart every day to decide on the best course of treatment, but I think it's pretty special if you actually get to see him while you're awake.

The doctor we saw was Greek and gorgeous - I think we'll have to call him Mr Greek God (that's Greek god with a small 'g', obviously). He ushered us up the stairs to a room on the top floor and joked that this was the first fitness test for future parents.

He had already reviewed our notes from the old clinic and made notes, and he asked us lots of questions to fill in the gaps. He also gave us the opportunity to ask questions, and was very chatty and jokey, putting us right at our ease. This was very different from Mr No Nonsense, who left Nurse Perfect to deal with any questions we had and always had to read our notes while we were there to remind himself who we were and where we were in our treatment whenever we saw him (which was rare).

Mr Greek God said that my FSH level was a concern, but FSH levels can fluctuate from month to month. I've only ever had one day 1-3 hormone test, at which my FSH was 13.2. Mr Miracle Worker won't start a cycle where FSH is above 10, because his experience has shown that the day 2 FSH level on a particular cycle is a very good indicator of how well the cycle will go.

Mr Miracle Worker likes to have as much information about your body and your normal (drug-free) cycle as possible, so they do a monitoring cycle before going into any treatment. This involves day 2 bloods, a mid-cycle scan and another hormone screening and (I think) another scan about a week before AF is due. He said I could start my monitoring cycle as soon as my next AF shows up - which should be on Sunday or Monday. He also recommended that I have a hysteroscopy, as this can give them a lot of information not just about the lining of my womb, but also the length of my cervix and the best place to put the embryos when we get to transfer.

We talked about smear tests, which I hate, and I explained that I found them very uncomfortable and Nurse Perfect said it was because of my tilted cervix. He immediately made the connection and asked if I also found embryo transfer uncomfortable, and I told him how painful it had been both times. Then I could have kissed him, because he said that if I wanted, they could do my embryo transfer under sedation!

He said they usually recommend that patients get certain immune tests done to make sure their bodies aren't going to reject the embryos once they're there. Both the testing and the treatment they offer are very expensive. so we'll have to think about that - he said they recommend it more strongly where the IF is unexplained, but we do already have two reasons why we can't conceive, in my crappy eggs and DH's lazy sperm.

Before the end of the appointment, someone came in with the results of DH's SA, but that merits a whole post of its own - this post is long enough already.

After the monitoring cycle, usually you can choose when to go ahead with treatment (though they like to have the monitoring cycle not too long before the treatment cycle). Because of my FSH issue, Mr Greek God recommended that I go for day 2 bloods on every cycle after my monitoring cycle, because if we get a result under 10, he thinks we should not pass up the opportunity and should just go for it straight away. This makes planning my life a little awkward, but it's a small price to pay for the care these people are going to take.

The one disappointment was that I asked about donor embryos, and he said they don't have a donor programme. This was irritating for two reasons - first because I saw a post on one of the boards last week from someone who had had successful treatment at XXXX clinic and had just been in touch with them to donate her spare embryos, and secondly because their website says they do it. Oh well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

The appointment finished with a chat with a very nice nurse with a slight Antipodean accent, a flash of the credit card, and then a trip round the corner to have our blood drawn, before getting back to work a little after 2:00.

So now it's onwards to the monitoring cycle, and then hoping and praying that I'll get a cycle fairly soon where my FSH is under 10.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The big day

Well, this is it - our little IF holiday is over, and we're jumping back on the roller coaster today with our first appointment at XXXX clinic. We both have to have a couple of blood tests, and DH needs to have an SA. I'll be interested to see whether there's any improvement, but we're only a couple of weeks into the new regime, so there's no reason to expect any. I expect I'll get an appointment with the magic wand, and hopefully we'll also see Mr Miracle Worker (not guaranteed, as it's a bigger clinic with more than one consultant).

I have to say, I'm really nervous about this. On my way into work yesterday, I suddenly thought how close I was to the clinic and how close our appointment was, and my heart started racing.

I know I'll be better once the appointment's over, because then I'll be dealing with whatever has happened, and that'll be better than the current fear of the unknown. But for the next few hours, they won't be getting much sense out of me at work...

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

A big day for DH

DH is taking his driving theory test today. I've never seen anyone study so hard and so long for a theory test, so I'll be extraordinarily surprised if he doesn't pass.

He still has no confidence - I took him out driving on Sunday, and the only thing that stopped it from being a complete and utter disaster is that I least I managed to remain patient and not yell at him or anything. I'm annoyed with his instructor, who ought by now, after 35 hours of lessons, at least to have calmed his nerves enough so that he doesn't panic when things don't go exactly according to plan.

As it is, I was trying to get him to turn left out of a junction which was on a slight incline. The car started to roll backwards and he completely panicked (although there was nothing behind us - we were coming out of an industrial estate onto a very quiet country lane) and put his right foot to the floor without moving it from the accelerator to the brake. Fortunately, he did nothing with his left foot, which remained firmly on the clutch, so although the engine made a nasty protesting noise, we didn't shoot out into the road and kill anyone. We were still rolling backwards until I grabbed the handbrake, though.

I gave him a stern talking-to on Sunday evening. He uses his lack of prior experience as a comfort blanket, constantly using it to make excuses for his lack of progress, and I think that's holding him back.

So I told him that after 35 hours of lessons, he is no longer a complete beginner and must stop making excuses and start approaching this whole business with more confidence in his ability to learn.

His father hasn't left his house other than in my car or for trips to the doctor or major occasions like our wedding since October 2007. He's had every test under the sun, and the final conclusion is that there's nothing physically wrong with him - but he had a little stumble one day, caught himself before he actually fell, and hasn't walked outdoors since for fear of actually falling one day. We even bought him a walker so he would have something solid to lean on, and he refuses to use it.

It drives me mad, because after all this time his muscles have atrophied and he really is becoming completely immobile, but it's all self-inflicted. Fortunately, it also drives DH mad, and he has said both to his mother and to me that if he ever starts to turn into his father, we're to shoot him.

Hopefully it was enough that I pointed out that his excuse-making and lack of confidence on the road are signs that I may need to get the shotgun ready - because if he's constantly repeating to himself internally that he's never going to be able to learn, then he's probably right. But if he tells himself he CAN do it, he'll also be right.

I love my husband, but sometimes he has as little oomph as his swimmers do, and I so hope that today he overcomes the little voice of negativity in his head and passes his theory test with flying colours - and that this then gives him a bit more confidence for actually learning to drive.

Update: He passed - now we can concentrate on the practical bit and hopefully he'll have a bit more confidence about getting behind the wheel now.

Monday, 1 March 2010

The new regime - end of week 2

Well, we're getting used to taking our mountainloads of pills, and if you listen very carefully when we move, I'm sure you can hear us rattle.

The key thing for me this week has been learning to let go and trust DH. Now that he's (hopefully) understood the importance of leaving at least four hours between doses, I need to hold off from nagging him and trust him to take his supplements when he's meant to. And I think he pretty much is.

He went to see his parents on Saturday and had his lunch and tea with them, and I do worry about the rubbish that they feed him - on one hand, I remind myself that he survived this long on that rubbish, and on the other hand, I can't ignore the fact that the diet he has had up to this point in his life hasn't helped him to produce good swimmers. And although I know it's not all about diet, that's precisely what the current regime is supposed to do for him.

So I do what's in my control - providing him with one healthy meal a day and making sure there's plenty of fruit in the house - and just have to hope that that's enough.

As for me - well, since we started this regime two weeks ago I've lost five pounds, which I'm pleased about. I'd like to lose at least two stone, to get back to the weight I was when I got married, but this is a reasonable start, especially since I haven't made it back to the gym yet after the latest episode with my back. Hopefully I'll get there this week, but I don't know how many times - it's going to be another very busy week at work, and I don't want to leap straight back in and pull the ligament again before it's fully healed.

Providing a good variety of healthy meals for his lunches that he can take into work and either eat cold or reheat is proving to be a bit of a challenge, so any ideas would be gratefully received - so far, he's had beef stew, home-made soups and pasta in a tomato and vegetable sauce. This week I'm doing a lamb casserole that he can have with couscous, spag bol, and maybe I'll also try cottage pie - though the mash might get a bit mixed up with the bottom while he's carrying it in his bag.