Saturday, 31 July 2010

Two cells

I don't like to boast, but this morning the embryologist said my embryo looked 'perfect'. S/he was checked on first thing this morning and was at two cells, but as the embryologist said, s/he may already have carried on dividing and reached four cells.

So I'm to go in for 8:00 tomorrow morning, and the embryologist confirmed that I would start off awake but be sedated if I found it very difficult. She said that a lot of people have had difficult transfers elsewhere and then had no problems at XXXX clinic - largely because Mr Miracle Worker almost always does a hysteroscopy beforehand and so knows the best way in. Also, he doesn't try to rush the procedure, which probably helps.

I know you don't want to mess around with sedation if it's not necessary, so I'm quite happy with that arrangement.

I went back to the breakfast table - we have a friend staying who has 9-year-old IVF twins, and I said, "We have two cells!"

An alternative birds and bees conversation ensued when one of the twins asked what that meant. Their mother explained in simple terms what we were going through, then said, "I haven't really told you this before, but that's how we got you as well."

And then she gave the most beautiful, simple explanation of how their father had been ill and they hadn't been able to have babies on their own because of it, and how the treatment had happened, and told them that the first time she saw them, they were each about six cells. And the children asked three or four questions and were then satisfied.

I hope I'll be having that conversation in 9 or 10 years' time, with my perfect little two-celled chap.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Rucksack III

Well, the embryologist called. One of the eggs wasn't suitable for injection, but the other has fertilised, so Rucksack III is currently waiting for us in the lab and hopefully working hard on dividing nicely. Perhaps we should change his/her name to Chesney (The One and Only).

Although I was a little disappointed, I still feel more hopeful than I did at this stage last time round. It only takes one, and although our odds of one implanting are slightly reduced by only having one in total, it's still the quality of the embryo that counts. And surely, after everything we've done over the last six months, the quality of both my eggs and DH's sperm MUST have been better this time round.

I asked about the sedation, and the embryologist said Mr Miracle Worker prefers people to be awake for transfers, but that she would talk to him.

She later called back and proposed what I think is the best possible compromise - because I'm sure it's best to avoid sedation if I can.

My transfer will be scheduled for some time on Sunday morning, after all the egg collections for that day have taken place. Until the end of today, they won't be able to say exactly when that will be, as they will be monitoring people for the rest of today to see if any of them are ready to trigger tonight. But that will mean the anaesthetist is still around when I go in. Mr Miracle Worker wants to start me off awake, and if it gets too uncomfortable for me, he's promised to put me to sleep.

Having got that little detail sorted, I feel quite calm about the whole thing. I don't feel too anxious about little Rucksack/Chesney sitting there in the lab, because I know the embryologists are on the ball and s/he will have five star treatment while s/he's there. And to be honest, if s/he isn't going to survive to day 3, it doesn't really matter whether s/he's inside me or not - but at least if I know before transfer, I'll be spared the agony of the 2-week wait.

In reality, though, I'm not letting myself think about the possibility of having nothing to transfer, and am concentrating all my energies on praying that our little embie will survive - not just until Sunday, but to grow into a baby and then an adult and ... well, you get the picture. One sometimes has to be specific in one's requests.

So the next hurdle is the phonecall from the embryologist tomorrow to see how Rucksack/Chesney (Ruckney? Chessack?) has done overnight, and then hopefully instructions about when I need to be in London and what I need to do on Sunday. And in the meantime, I've restarted the Dexamethasone and aspirin, am on Cyclogest twice a day, and the Clexane starts up again tonight. I'll while away the waiting time with drugs...

A modest harvest and a little freak-out

So, we got up yesterday at 4:15 and left the house at 5:00 (DH complaining that he was tired). We were at the clinic for 6:30, where we discovered that there were SEVEN egg collections happening that morning, and I was last on the list. Apparently today there are no egg collections taking place. That's the thing with individualised treatment and all this intensive monitoring - you get your eggs collected when they're ready, not when it's convenient for the clinic and they have a space on their list.

DH was taken off first to do his business. I do find it hard sometimes to think that he has no problem producing into a cup at the clinic, and he even had no problems when I ordered him upstairs on Tuesday night, but he has such a psychological block about coming up with the goods when he's with me. Can you be jealous of a plastic sample pot? Still, at least his little pot was filled yesterday without any difficulty.

The contrast from the old clinic is huge - much more informal surroundings, more chit-chat to put you at your ease, absolutely no frills, but absolutely superb care. I was in no pain at all when I woke up, and although I was a bit sore by the time I got home, I had killed a few hours wandering the streets of London (I did have to beg DH to take me to a coffee shop for a sit down in the end, in preference to going round yet another bookshop as he had intended) and then gone to my work leaving do in the interim period, which is probably not the most highly recommended way of recovering from egg collection.

At the old clinic, they wrote the number of eggs they'd collected on your hand, so that you could see it as soon as you woke up. Here, they didn't do that, which gave me a brief moment of concern that perhaps they hadn't got any.

As it turned out, they had collected two. Bearing in mind that on IVF #1 I had four follicles visible on the scan and ended up with six eggs, and on IVF #2 I had two in the running and two coming up behind and got four (although two turned out not to be mature), I was a little disappointed with this. At my last scan I had two huge ones, as well as one about 18 mm and another one or two possibles. So was it the huge ones that yielded up the goods? Or were they overripe, and had a couple of others caught up?

However, I was also hugely relieved that I had any. I know I would have been gutted to get only two eggs at the last clinic, but all I could think of yesterday was "well, hopefully they're both better quality than the crappy eggs I got before".

XXXX clinic does transfers on day 2, 3 or 5. Having only two eggs, it's unlikely that we'll go to day 5, so we're looking at a day 2 or 3 transfer - tomorrow or Sunday. Strangely, I think I'd prefer day 3. Before, I've been so worried about my little embies in the lab and just wanted to get them inside me. But this clinic has some of the best embryologists in the country, and if they think it's OK to let my embies go to day 3 I feel as though that means they have more confidence in their quality and viability.

I had a little freak-out when I was told that they're not expecting to sedate me for embryo transfer. At our very first appointment, I was told they would consider doing this, and the last two transfers have been so painful that this was a hope that I was really clinging onto. They insisted that Mr Miracle Worker is really good at this and that people who have had painful transfers elsewhere haven't felt a thing with him, but the image that keeps playing through my head is of Mr No Nonsense sticking that blasted car jack into me and vigorously cranking it until I felt I was going to split in two. I'd so much rather be asleep and not know anything about it, however skillful Mr Miracle Worker is.

Of course, all of this could be academic - I'm now waiting for the fertilisation report, and there's always the chance that there'll be nothing to transfer. If we're playing a numbers game, I don't have many options. I just keep repeating to myself that it's quality that matters, not quantity - and hoping against hope that all the supplements, the healthy diet, the pints and pints of milk I've consumed, the intensive monitoring in the course of this cycle, and all the other things we've done differently will add up to super-quality eggs and sperm that got happily jiggy-jiggy last night and now are busy dividing away in the lab and beginning to grow into my future children.

Thursday, 29 July 2010


The lab where they do the blood tests is round the corner from XXXX clinic. The lady on the desk is there every single day - I was staggered to see that she was working both Saturday and Sunday as well as every weekday.

On Tuesday, I said to her, "Do you ever get a day off?"

She put her hand on my knee, gave me a lovely smile, and said, "You tell me when you're pregnant - then I'll take a day off."

So no pressure, but I really hope for her sake that I get pregnant soon...!

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

I never thought we'd have a row about this...

Some people's husbands do their jabs for them. Others do the cooking from time to time. Mine does neither. He won't even be in the room while I'm mixing my jabs. And I'm the one that always has to think in advance about what he's going to eat, do the shopping, cook it and tell him which of the Tupperware containers in the fridge he's taking for tomorrow's lunch. And sometimes just the fact that I always have to think about it exhausts me a bit.

Anyway, when I started stimming this time, I asked him to do one thing. Research has shown that the optimal amount of time to abstain before giving a sperm sample is something like 2-5 days. More than that, and the sperm aren't fresh. Less, and you might not have time to make enough good new ones (especially if you have a very low count to start with).

So, given that his little problem means that this is something he has to do on his own, I asked him to make sure that for as long as I was stimming, he should make sure that he clears the chaps out every two or three days, so that when I got the go-ahead for egg collection he could then stop and know that we'd be in the 2-5 day window on the day his chaps were needed. Not an unpleasurable task, I would have thought, and not much to ask when I'm doing absolutely everything else.

So last night I asked him when he'd last done the deed, and he said, "Oh, I'm not sure. Some time last week, I think."

I got really cross, pointed out that it was the one thing I'd asked of him, and that we were now definitely not going to be in the 2-5 day window for optimal sperm production.

His response was, "I'm sorry - I've been too tired." (I went out with friends on Sunday - he was at home pottering about the house by himself all day. And was still too tired to do a five minute job which would presumably have given him a certain amount of pleasure? Oh please...)

After organising this whole thing, sticking up to four needles a day into my stomach, having to get up at 5 am to give myself jabs and leave home at 6 am to go and have yet more needles stuck into my arms, spending a day on a drip on Monday, and following all sorts of other instructions so that I'm a tired, achey, bloated pincushion with arms and stomach covered in bruises, is it unreasonable that I got a bit cross with him for being too tired to give himself a little bit of pleasure over the last week?

And I wonder how many other arguments have finished with the wife shouting at the husband to get up the stairs NOW and get on with that particular job...?


Yesterday was another very intensive day. When I had my scan on Monday morning, I had one big follicle on each side (like, over 20 mm each) and one or two little pathetic things lagging behind. I was warned that they might call me back for another scan in the afternoon, but they didn't, though I did have a repeat blood test. Having done 0.25 mg Cetrotide jabs every day since Thursday, on Monday afternoon I was instructed to do a 3 mg jab immediately (that's the one I did in the loo at Starbucks!).

So here's my timetable for yesterday (and bear in mind that I was supposedly at work all day!):

5:00 - 25 mg Cetrotide injection
6:00 - train to London
7:00 - drop into the office to pick up some papers I needed
7:30 - blood test
8:00 - scan - one follicle on each side over 25 mm, plus a 14 mm on the left and another possible one on the right that I don't think he measured
8:30 - breakfast at my desk, start dealing with a few e-mails
9:00 - dexamethasone and aspirin
10:00 - appointment with my solicitor on the other side of London, sorting out some paperwork to do with my redundancy
11:15 - back at my desk
12:00 - call from the clinic, calling me back for repeat bloods and scan. Instructed to take 300 IU Fostimon immediately before going into the clinic, so went off to shoot up in the loos at work
12:30 - blood test
1:00 - I managed to fit in a nice lunch at a cafe round the corner from the clinic
2:00 - scan - told I'll almost certainly be triggering today or tomorrow. Still only two huge follicles, but so big now that the scan was really uncomfortable. Don't know how people manage who get dozens of follicles in there
3:00 - back at my desk
4:45 - call from the clinic, instructing me to take 150 IU Fostimon immediately - went to shoot up in the loo at work again. Also instructed me to drink half a litre of water immediately and up my liquids to 3.5-4 litres of water (plus the regular 1 litre of milk) for today and tomorrow and to drink another glass of water every time I get up in the night to go to the loo, have regular (2-3 hourly) protein snacks and to do my trigger injection tonight
5:30 - left work - crossed my legs and hung on desperately on the way home
6:45 - arrived home, quick trip to the bathroom, then carried on chugging water and eating nuts and seeds
8:30 - 10,000 IU Pregnyl - I'm triggered!!!
9:30 - huge mug of milk followed by huge glass of water, then bed at last

My stomach's pretty uncomfortable this morning and I have EWCM, so I'm hoping nothing untoward is happening. I've been up for a couple of hours and have so far consumed half a litre of milk, a cereal bar, two cups of Redbush tea, half a litre of water and a bowl of Fruit 'n' Fibre with apple and pear puree. Apart from that, I'm enjoying a day of not having to go into London or stick any needles into myself. The only medication I have to take today is my Dexamethasone, which I just had a few minutes ago.

We need to be at the clinic at 7:00 tomorrow morning for egg collection. There's a big do at work starting at 4:00 tomorrow afternoon to celebrate the end of the year for our students and say goodbye to those of us who are leaving. I'd prefer not to miss my own leaving party, but we'll see how I feel...

Tuesday, 27 July 2010


Today I'm having lunch with a colleague who knows about the IVF, having covered for me when I was due to teach the day after my first egg collection and the day of that embryo transfer. When I first told her I was doing IVF, her immediate reaction was, "How exciting!" At the time, I thought this was a little odd - what's exciting about being infertile and having to have intrusive treatment for it?

I was reminded of this last night. I'd spent the day at the clinic, having three bottles of IVIg and a bag of saline dripped into me over the course of five hours. I'd also had two blood tests and a scan and given myself two injections, and had two more injections that I had to do during the evening. A couple of my cousins who live in the US are in the country on holiday, and we met up for a meal last night. I explained away the huge bruises (honestly, despite the intensive monitoring, I haven't seen anyone else at the clinic who has bruising as bad as mine - I'm a delicate little peach really!) on my arms by telling them what was going on. The instant reaction from both of them was "Congratulations!!!"

I shuffled my feet and muttered that there was nothing to congratulate me on yet, and they said they were sure there would be soon. As we left them in the evening (way later than intended, given that Mr Miracle Worker keeps instructing me to take injections at 5 am and then be at the clinic for 7:30), both hugged me and wished me luck.

So is it exciting? It's a treatment for a horrible illness which affects my whole life. Would someone get excited and congratulate me on being in the middle of chemotherapy?

Clearly not, but still, it is exciting to know that I have a chance. It's exciting to be in the middle of treatment after all these months of waiting. And it's exciting to know that this technology exists, and that I'm being given an opportunity to go through this that is still only available to the privileged few.

Yes, in many ways I'm lucky. I just hope that over the next week or two, I'm going to get luckier still...

Saturday, 24 July 2010


If you say "I'm going to appreciate every minute of this for as long as it lasts", are you being positive because you're living for the moment and appreciating what's happening now, or negative because in doing so you're demonstrating that you don't expect it to last long...?

Actually, the intensiveness of the monitoring and treatment this time round makes it hard to think further ahead than today anyway. And although I won't be monitored during the 2WW, I will still be injecting, swallowing and maybe shoving (progesterone suppositories), so there'll be plenty to keep me occupied then as well.

Today I did my Cetrotide jab at 6:45 am, left home at 7:15, had my blood test (first time I've got a huge bruise from that place - butchers!) and scan (still four follies in contention, and a bit bigger than on Thursday, but this time there were two on each ovary, rather than three on the left and one on the right - not sure what happened there!), went to the pharmacy to pick up my Clexane and Dexamethasone, took the Dex with breakfast on the train home, picked up DH and took him out to lunch in a nice country pub, got the daily call from the clinic while we were waiting for our food to arrive and had to go straight away to shoot up 450 IU of Fostimon in the loo, did some shopping, visited DH's parents, came back and had a cup of tea with a couple of the neighbours, then did my Clexane job and took my aspirin. And now it's bedtime.

So no, not much time to think and stew over what the outcome may or may not be. But whatever it is, I feel absolutely confident that Mr Miracle Worker is doing everything he possibly can to make that outcome a positive one, and every jab and pill, and every bruise and twinge (yes, the bloating is back with a vengeance, and my stomach is feeling tender) feels like one more positive step towards the goal we're all aiming for.

Friday, 23 July 2010

While my credit card gently weeps

Today I had another 'take this now' call. This means that in the four days I've been stimming, I've had to shoot up in a busy reception room at the clinic, in the public toilets of a concert hall, at a friend's house, and now in the toilets at work. The only jab I've managed to do at home was this morning's 6 am dose of Cetrotide. At work today I had to do two jabs: 300 IU of Fostimon and 150 IU of Merional. Tomorrow afternoon we'll be at my parents-in-law's house - taking the call and then shooting up there may be a bit tricky, as we haven't told them about the IVF, so I hope at least I'm instructed to do the jab in the evening rather than straight away.

The results of my immune testing also came back, and weren't brilliant - I'm now on 75 mg of aspirin a day, and from tomorrow I'll also be taking Clexane and Dexamethasone. But the one my credit card really won't enjoy is the £1,300 per dose IVIg, which I'm due to have on Monday. Let's hope I only need the one dose. It's administered by drip over the course of four or five hours, and they may decide not to start it until they've seen the result of Monday's blood test, so I've been told to plan to spend the whole day at the clinic on Monday. Just as well my boss is so understanding, and that I've told him what's going on.

Tomorrow I have another early dose of Cetrotide, then bloods at 8:30 and a scan at 9:00. The Cetrotide must be taken at least an hour before the blood test - not a problem if I do it at home, as it takes over an hour to get to the clinic.

In terms of side effects, the bloating and headache have actually eased a bit - maybe I'm getting used to the drugs. DH would probably tell you that the irritability hasn't eased very much, although I'm doing my very best to bite my tongue and not take it out on him.

My biggest problem today was total exhaustion - the most recent bout of irritability was when DH tried to stop me and give me a hug on my way upstairs, and I felt really cross that he was coming between me and my bed. But now I'm sitting in bed updating you before I allow myself to go to sleep, so go figure. I'd better stop and go to sleep before I get grumpy with you too.

9:30 pm - what a lightweight!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

For probably the last time...

... I have to tell you again how much I love my boss.

I told him yesterday what was going on - one of my slight concerns was that I have a few days' teaching coming up, one or more of which I may not be able to do. Since I'm due to finish work in two weeks anyway, I offered to resign on the spot rather than hang around and potentially let him down at the last minute on the teaching.

He has arranged cover for all my teaching if necessary and told me not to resign, but to do what work I could while ensuring that what I need to do for my treatment cycle takes priority, because that's the thing that's most important in the grand scheme of things.

I'm going to miss working for such a great guy.

In other news, today I had my first scan since beginning stims. I'm on day 3 of stims and have three follicles on the left ovary, all around the 7-8 mm mark, and one on the right, at 12.8 mm. Today's instructions were to take cetrotide as soon as I got the call and then 'as soon as possible' to take 450 IU of Fostimon. I'm not sure what the difference is between 'now' and 'as soon as possible', but I did the cetrotide straight away and then immediately afterwards did the Fostimon. I have to take another cetrotide tomorrow morning, and probably every day after that - not something I'm excited about, as I get that itchy reaction to it.

But as I said to a friend today as I chugged my third litre of water for the day, if Mr Miracle Worker told me to drink ditchwater while standing on my head, I'd do it. This guy knows his stuff, and at the moment I love him almost as much as I love my boss...

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Shooting up in public toilets

One of the signs of Mr Miracle Worker's attention to detail is in the timing of the jabs. At the old clinic, I was told to do my jabs at the same time every day - I was pretty much free to choose what time that should be, so I did them around 7 every evening.

The daily instructions from XXXX clinic are very precise - they say what dosage you should take of which drugs and at what time, as well as saying what appointments you have the next day (blood tests, scans, etc) and anything else Mr Miracle Worker wants to pass on. You need to have an injection kit with you at all times, as you can be told to take the drugs 'right now', 'as soon as possible' or at a specified time.

My instructions today were to take 300 IU of Fostimon between 8 and 10 pm. This presented something of a challenge, as my cousin was singing in a concert and DH and I had arranged to be there. The concert began at 8.

I had my little bag of drugs ready, and managed to find a seat at the end of a row, closest to the toilets. As soon as the choir went offstage for the interval, I dashed to the loo and shut myself into the first cubicle, where I hastily mixed my injection and jabbed myself in the stomach. I could hear the queue building up outside and was too embarrassed to stay in there any longer after doing the jab, so had to cross my legs until the end of the concert - not so comfortable after following the instructions to drink a litre of milk and at least two litres of water in the course of the day!

Tomorrow I have a blood test at 7:30 and a scan at 8:00. I've also been instructed to up my fluid intake again and drink 2.5 to 3 litres of water tomorrow (as well as my litre of milk). This morning I had eight little phials of blood taken from me - perhaps they're trying to replace all the blood I'm losing with water...

So it's up at 5:45 tomorrow, and hopefully I'll get to do tomorrow's jab in the comfort of my own home.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Wish me luck...

Well, here's unexpected!

I went in for another blood test and scan this morning. It turns out Myndi was right, and the large 'follicles' I had last month were the same sort of cysts that I had last September. One of them had disappeared completely and the other had shrunk to 10 mm, so the doctor was satisfied, although he still found my right ovary quite hard to find.

All then depended on the oestradiol, and I must confess I assumed it would be too high again and was resigned to waiting for next month.

Having had the tests, I went off to Niece #2's pre-school sports day. I was then due to look after #2 and #3 while my sister took #4 for her 8 week check and first lot of jabs.

Two things changed the plan somewhat. First, I had a call from the clinic saying that I was OK to start and should do my first jab as soon as possible. Expecting to be told to wait another month, I hadn't yet acquired any drugs, so said I would go back to the clinic to pick them up as soon as I could.

Then my sister reappeared a lot sooner than expected, because she had forgotten to register #4 at the doctor's surgery in advance (and nobody had reminded her, despite the fact that she had been there twice since #4 was born and had an appointment for this afternoon), and because she wasn't on the doctor's computer, they wouldn't give her the jabs.

So off I hopped back to London, where Aussie Nurse presented me with a huge bag of tricks. She offered to mix the first jab for me (450 IU of Fostimon), so I was able to watch her do it and refresh my memory, then I gave myself the jab right there in the office (which has four desks, all of which were occupied at the time, as well as the reception desk, at which there were a couple of people waiting). So OK, now I'm shooting up in public.

If you've been willing my oestradiol levels to go down, or praying for me, I'd like to thank you, because it clearly worked. On nosing through my file, I found that last month the level actually went up to 230 on the second day they tested it. Today, it was down from 230 yesterday to 93, which with FSH of 6.9 is awesome!

I'm back for another blood test tomorrow morning - and every day, including weekends, until egg collection. As well as the hormone panel, I'm having blood taken tomorrow for a natural killer assay - since my natural killer cells were slightly raised when I had my immune testing in March and levels can fluctuate from month to month anyway, they need to know what they're doing right now, so they can decide whether I need steroids or even IVIg - I hope not the latter, as each dose costs £1,300.

And in the meantime, the big thing I need to work on is that this clinic requires everyone on treatment to drink at least two litres of water and one litre of milk a day and to eat - preferably something containing protein - every two or three hours. I have a big bag of beef jerky and lots of nuts and seeds, so that shouldn't be too hard.

Six hours after the first jab, my stomach already feels bloated, so I think I can safely say that's a side effect I can look forward to over the next couple of weeks. Apart from that, I'm apprehensive and excited in equal measure.

Here we go...

Letting off steam

Forgive me if I have a(nother) little rant today.

When I arrived at the clinic early yesterday morning and told them I was on CD 3, the person I spoke to gave me the form for my blood test and told me to stick around in London, as I might be required to have a scan in the afternoon. I had foolishly decided to work from home, and had been planning to get home around 9:30 and put in a full day's work. I didn't have any of my work with me.

I very clearly told her that it would take me over an hour to get home and that I would have to hang around and kill time while waiting for them to get back to me. She said they would have the results by 11:30 and would contact me as early as possible.

At noon I went back to the clinic and told them that I would hang around in the waiting-room in order to ensure that everything could be dealt with as soon as possible.

At 1:30, I finally tracked down Aussie Nurse, who gave me my results and told me to go back this morning. All that time waiting around had been wasted - she seemed surprised that I had been told to wait, and the information she gave me could equally well have been given over the phone.

But that's not what made me cross - though I was a little agitated at the thought of the work waiting for me back home and the apparent endlessness of the waiting (in previous months, the call with the results has sometimes come through as late as 6 pm, and I was concerned that they might not get to me until then, since the promise to call me as early as possible obviously wasn't materialising).

No, what made me cross was the woman who was coming back for an initial consultation for her third IVF. The results of her first two successful attempts came in with her, as did her husband. Her husband didn't go up to the appointment with her, so it struck me that he and the children didn't really need to be there. As it was, she came in with a three-year-old and a baby. The baby was so chubby she was almost spherical, and this woman kept desperately trying to make her take a bottle, as the baby wriggled, squirmed, clamped her lips shut, turned her head away and demonstrated in every way she possibly could that she really didn't need a bottle right now.

For the 20 minutes or so that they were there, they took over the waiting room. The woman kept up a constant, high decibel stream of baby talk. She referred to herself as Mummles, and kept saying in a piercing voice to the older child, "Tell Mummles if you want a pee pee. Do you want a wee wee? Mummles needs to know if you want a pee pee." The child ran around creating havoc, and kept yelling at her father to try to get his attention. He had created a barrier in front of himself with a copy of The Sun and was completely ignoring all three of them, until the child's incessant and increasingly long and loud yells of "Daddy!!!!!" made me want to pick her up and force her head first right through his newspaper.

Eventually Mummles was called for her appointment and instructed Daddy to take the children to the park - why he couldn't have done that in the first place, I have no idea.

Meanwhile, a pregnant woman sat down next to me and lovingly caressed her bump. A nurse came in to admire the fat baby and chatted to another woman who turned out to be there for her six week scan. And I sat there trying to read my book and ignore all this, while wondering in the back of my mind whether I would ever get the chance even to start a cycle.

The waste of time didn't matter to me too much - I had a good book to read (had I only been able to concentrate on it), and the work will get done at some stage in the next three weeks. But a good half hour of the hour and a half I spent in that waiting room was the most exquisite torture that I have been subjected to for a long time.

And that's why I came home grumpy yesterday.

Monday, 19 July 2010

What more can I do?

This month's results are almost exactly the same as last month's. They are (with last month's in brackets to compare): FSH 6.9 (7), LH 3.6 (3.2) and oestradiol 230 (222). So the blasted oestradiol is still the sticking point, and I'm to go in again tomorrow morning for another blood test and a scan - no doubt to be told exactly what I ended up being told last month: "No, not suitable this month."

In one way I'm relieved - as I said, I really wasn't sure I wanted to do this during my last three weeks of work, and if my levels improve next month, I'll be able to relax completely while going through treatment, as I'll have finished work and have nothing else I need to do.

But that's the sticking point - IF my levels improve. And at the moment it seems to be a very big IF.

DH and I finished our four month programme of supplements about a month ago, and about two weeks ago we cut each other's hair again to send it off for reanalysis. I haven't sent it off yet - it costs money, and I thought if we were able to go ahead with treatment, we'd have our proof there that the supplements had done their job.

So now what do I do?

Send off the hair and pay the money, with no real evidence that the supplements are working? Because if a high oestradiol level can artificially make your FSH reading lower, then the improvement I thought I was seeing in my levels is illusory.

Not send it off and risk undoing the good that we've done over the last few months? Because we're definitely healthier and fitter than we were when we started all this. But then we've also made changes to our diet which I'm going to keep in place for as long as I can, so how much of the improvement in health is down to that?

I feel this strange mixture of relief that I don't have to cycle this month and fear that I might never be able to. But mostly I just feel desperate to know whether there's anything I can do to bring down my oestradiol levels.

And so it's back to waiting...

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Bother bother bother bother bother!

So, it appears that my cycle is so regular that if I'm late one month (as I was last month, by a little short of two days), I'm early the next - by the same margin. And here are some of the reasons I'm not too impressed by that discovery:

1. AF showed up as I was getting ready to leave for a ceilidh. Since I wasn't expecting her till Sunday, I didn't have any of the heavy-duty CD1 supplies that would have ensured a carefree evening's dancing.

2. The only clean trousers I have for the weekend are white.

3. I discovered that AF was here 20 minutes after the clinic's phone lines had closed for the weekend. There is an emergency number, but I don't think they'd see this as an emergency, and all their patient information gives strict instructions that you should not turn up for blood tests or anything else at the weekend unless you have an appointment. That means the best I can do is turn up on Monday morning on the off-chance that they can fit me in for a blood test. It'll still technically be CD3, but all my other blood tests have been done on CD1 or 2 (as they prefer).

I feel a little ambivalent about this month anyway. I have exactly three more weeks in my job, and if we started to cycle now, egg collection would fall round about the time of our big leaving party. Plus I do still have work commitments in those last three weeks, and I'm not sure if the stresses of leaving a job I've been in for a few years would be compatible with the zen-like calm I hope to achieve during my treatment cycle.

On the other hand, there's that ticking clock and the fact that I haven't yet had an ideal CD1-3 blood test result, so that if it is right this month, I have to go ahead anyway.

Why is life never simple...?

Friday, 16 July 2010

It's all in the stomach

I went to boarding school for eight years from the age of 10. It was a wonderful school in a beautiful valley, and I made life-long friends there - I'm godmother to the daughters of two of them, and we're still in regular touch after all these years. Last weekend I went to a picnic organised by an old schoolfriend. Another classmate was there whom I hadn't seen since 1986. We recognised each other instantly, and chatted away as though we had seen each other yesterday.

So yes, I loved my school. The surroundings were beautiful, the friendships unbreakable, the education... well, it was perfectly adequate.

But every time we drove up the long school drive, there was a sinking feeling in my stomach - the feeling that (avoiding) homework was about to take over my life again, that my access to the television was going to be restricted, that I wouldn't see my family for at least another three weeks, and usually longer, that I was going to have to abide by a set of rules I didn't always agree with and shake down with people who weren't all what you might call soulmates.

Being several years younger than me, my sisters didn't attend this school until after I had left, and I often went back to visit them. I then became a school governor, and the journeys up the long school drive continued for a few more years. It's a special place that I've taken my DH to visit, and I've been back for various reunions and other occasions.

It's now 23 years since I left that school, and yet the school drive still has the power to stir those old feelings in my stomach. My head looks forward to the visits, but my stomach knows better, and remembers the aspects of school that my rose-tinted hindsight has forgotten quite successfully.

I was reminded of this last week. For the first time since the follow-up appointment after our failed cycle in December, I had occasion to take the road that leads to our old clinic.

For about five miles, I turned up the music on the car stereo, sang along loudly to it and sternly told my conscious mind that I was on my way somewhere completely different and there was nothing special or unusual about this road at all.

My stomach thought differently. As my car twisted and turned along the country road, my stomach churned and turned with all the feelings of hope, dread, disappointment and ultimate despair that characterised my dealings with that clinic. It wouldn't let me forget, it wouldn't let me move on. As the schoolgirl trapped inside me still experiences those first-day-of-term nerves on the old school drive, so the infertile inside me is reminded of all the times I drove this route, angrily swiping away treacherous tears as I tried to concentrate on the road ahead.

That was when I knew. My conscious mind will rationalise this thing, will tell me that if it never happens for us, if we never become parents, we'll be all right and will still have a happy life, even if it's not what we planned and hoped for. And most of the time, that'll be true.

But my stomach knows better. It knows that it will always carry that knot of grief, the knot that will be twisted at both predictable and totally unexpected times for as long as I live. And my stomach will tell my head, and my head will tell my eyes, and suddenly I'll be singing at the top of my voice and trying to drown out that little voice of pain that tells me I'll never be the same again.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

An anniversary of sorts

A year ago today, DH and I nervously went for our first appointment with Mr No Nonsense. DH had provided a sperm sample in advance, and I was prepared for my first encounter with the ultrasound wand.

We weren't too sure what to expect, but were shell-shocked by the news that DH's sperm were so bad that we had pretty much no chance of conceiving naturally. Even IUI was not an option, and we were bluntly advised that IVF with ICSI was our only hope.

Thus began a year of struggles.

Struggles with my conscience as I came to terms with the fact that the only way I had any chance of achieving my life-long wish to become a mother was to go against the teachings of my Church.

Struggles with my body, as I learnt to give myself injections, forced myself to eat and drink more of some things and less of others, and battled to coax my aging ovaries into producing the one decent egg I needed.

Struggles with my feelings, as I fought the green-eyed monster that told me the people around me who got pregnant and popped babies out so easily were 'jumping the queue'.

Struggles with my tear ducts, as I shed more tears over the course of a few months than I had done throughout my life.

Struggles with my appetite, as I worked to lose the weight gained through comfort eating and treatments, denied myself some of my favourite foods for months on end, stuffed my body full of supplements and tried to follow the instructions I'd been given to improve my general level of health.

Struggles with my husband, as he failed to take any responsibility for the regime he too was supposed to be following and fell off the wagon again and again.

Struggles to persuade our little embryos to stay with us, and to come to terms with the fact that they were gone.

It's a year in which I've experience deep sorrow, physical and mental pain, soaring hope following by crushing disappointment.

And whenever I reached the pits of despair, I've been lifted up. DH and I haven't had to carry this burden alone. My family and friends have been amazing. You, my internet friends, know more of my story than any of my 'real-life' friends (apart from Jeannie, who has given me so much support). You have shared the ups and downs with me, hoped with me, prayed with me, rejoiced in my good news and given me words of wisdom and comfort in the many troughs of this rollercoaster ride, and for that I'm so grateful to all of you.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Taking back a bit of control

One of the things I hate most about IF is the loss of control - the inability to make plans, and the feeling that time is just pulling away from us. We were planning to go to South Africa last year to see my brother and his family, and it didn't happen. Then we were planning to go this August/September, and we've just pushed it back again. We haven't seen them since our wedding, and I so long to chat over coffee with Jeannie, to get to know my sweet godson and his brother again, and to see my brother.

Over the last two years, we've also put off a trip to China and innumerable other treats and trips that we thought of.

We've handed over our immediate future to XXXX clinic, so there's not an awful lot we can do for the moment about the lack of ability to plan - everything depends on the results of those monthly blood tests, which are not bad enough to give up but not good enough to be able to risk missing what might be the one perfect month.

But there are other treats we've denied ourselves. When I met DH, my pride and joy was my car - a classic MG which was rusting and of variable reliability, but which I loved driving and which took me on many great adventures. DH is not a car person, and he didn't like the MG much - but the real reason I sold it to buy a sensible car was because I was the only person available to drive DH's parents around, and our getting together coincided with his father's increasing frailty and inability to take the train as he used to. A reliable car with space for the in-laws was a necessity, and I consoled myself with the thought that we would soon be filling it with children of our own and have another reason for needing the sensible car.

More than two years on, we've been enjoying beautiful summer weather, and I secretly promised myself that if it turned out we definitely couldn't have children and we had to close the door on that dream, I would at least console myself with another frivolous, fun car. After all, DH is learning to drive now - I had always thought that if we got a second car it would be for him, but why should it be? I've been driving longer, so insurance is cheaper for me, and he's on the insurance for the sensible car anyway.

Last week, I decided that I'd had enough of waiting for the outcome of this treatment. It may or may not work - in fact, it may or may not ever even happen. My life is still on hold to a large extent, but there are some things I can take control of.

So my dream of a fun car is not going to wait until I know we can't have children. I can have fun while we're waiting, and if I end up in the happy position of having to sell the two-seater because the twins won't fit in it, then I'll do it with a singing heart, but knowing that I've really enjoyed my last summer of 'freedom'.

And things couldn't have worked out better once I'd made the decision. I picked up my new toy boy on Friday evening, and the weather has been perfect over the weekend for my first couple of days of topless motoring (the MG was not convertible).

We went to a picnic yesterday, and as we were leaving I asked if my friend's son wanted to have a look at my new car. I ended up with six small boys queuing for the chance to sit in the driver's seat, and I don't know who enjoyed the experience more - them or me.

The new boy in my life may not be flesh and blood, but he puts a smile on my face, and who could ask for more...?

Thursday, 8 July 2010

I spoke too soon

I should have known it wouldn't be that simple. A problem that's lasted two years and is so strongly wrapped up in the workings of the inner psyche doesn't go away just like that.

I had a blissful few days where I naively thought that DH's delayed ejaculation/anejaculation was cured, because out of the blue it happened on its own not once, but twice.

I warned him that it probably wouldn't happen consistently every time from then on, and that we must both be relaxed about any times that it didn't happen. And I told him that the main reason I was so happy it had happened those two times was for his sake, because it was enjoyable for him.

So the first time after that that it didn't happen, I was quite relaxed about it. Unfortunately, DH wasn't - and ever since then, we're right back to square one, with him desperately working at it, trying to make it happen. I can tell that whenever we're making love, he's only thinking about one thing: "What can I do to make it happen? Will it happen this time? What if it doesn't? Will it ever happen again? Maybe if I try moving a little bit differently..."

Meanwhile, I'm silently praying that he'll get some relief, and trying everything I can to help him relax and try to feel those tense muscles unclench.

So there'll be no natural conception this month - my bubble has burst, and I'm so intent on trying not to make a big deal out of this that I daren't even suggest using the artificial methods that we tried before. And in any case, it's now too late for this month however we try to do it.

Last week I was cut to the quick when it was all over and I was trying to reassure him and tell him that it didn't matter (but it did, and a little bit of me was dying inside as I said it). In a voice full of despair, he said, "But all I want to do is make you pregnant."

There are only three things that make our situation now better than it was two years ago: I know it can happen, and I'm sure it will again one day, when he's ready; I know it's not my fault; and I know it's not because he doesn't find me desirable.

But right now, our love-making doesn't bring us comfort and togetherness, but tension and isolated despair. And I'm left wondering how I can help a man who over-analyses everything in life to relax and just let things happen.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Missing a layer of skin

I'm so thin-skinned at the moment, and so easily wounded by things people say.

I need to stop reading the comments on other people's blogs, because a comment that's made to help another person in a different situation can unintentionally stick another barb in my wound.

Like the one who commented that once she knew a NICU nurse who was treating her daughter had fertility problems of her own, she was afraid this nurse would steal her daughter.

Like the one who said of a nurse who was being mean that she obviously wasn't a mother herself, because a mother would be more sensitive.

Last week, my sister rubbished the advice of one of the best-selling authors of baby books, saying that because she doesn't have children of her own, she clearly knows nothing.

Just a couple more of the thousands of little pin-pricks that daily remind me that I'm a freak, that I'm not a member of the exclusive club I so want to join. And I watch the first-time mothers who've never changed a nappy before, never burped a baby before, holding the baby awkwardly in their arms as if they're afraid it'll break, and I wonder at the fact that they're members of this club and I'm not, and might never be.

I love my nieces and nephews, my godchildren, other children of my friends and family. I'm a useful babysitter, and I have tons of experience of looking after newborns, babies, toddlers and older children.

But don't worry - the fact that I don't have a baby of my own won't make me any more likely to steal any of your babies. It's a baby of my own I want, not somebody else's.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010


Circus Princess has some amazing news today - I was feeling a little bit low when I started checking blogs this morning, and this gave me a real lift. I'm so thrilled for her, and hoping and praying that everything will go smoothly.

Unfortunately, Blogger seems to keep eating my comments on her blog, so let me just say it on here - CONGRATULATIONS!!!!

Sunday, 4 July 2010

The trouble with not logging on every day...

... is that by the time I've read and commented on all my favourite blogs, I've run out of computer time.

Life is busy at the moment, and a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts. Today will mostly be spent ferrying my mother-in-law around and visiting my father-in-law in hospital. Hopefully normal service will resume soon...

Thursday, 1 July 2010

The closet

At the weekend, I had coffee with a friend who is 20 weeks pregnant after her third round of IVF. She said that one of the things she has insisted on as her friends and family have found out about this pregnancy is telling them how it happened. She has felt very alone in her IF journey, and felt that she and her husband were the only people in her circle of friends who were struggling. Since she has started being open about her IVF pregnancy, she said it's amazing how many stories have come out of the woodwork about people having similar struggles.

I have found the same thing. There are a couple of people I will never tell about our struggles, either because they would be judgemental about us as Catholics going through IVF or because they would use my pain as a source of cheap gossip. Mostly, though, I've been very open about it throughout the whole process - everyone knew how much I wanted children, so it seemed pointless to try to hide the sadness I experienced about it not happening.

This week, we had visitors - a friend from my university days with her husband and baby. I hadn't seen her for several years, although we had been in touch by e-mail and Facebook. I must confess I was a little disgruntled when I heard that she was pregnant, especially as she had never seemed particularly interested in children and had made a comment on Facebook about how unexpected and unplanned her pregnancy was.

While we were catching up over a cup of tea, we talked about travel, and I said that it had been a bit difficult to make any plans over the last couple of years because of TTC and then the inability to plan around our IVF treatments.

That was when she told me that she totally understood the inability to plan, because she and her husband had tried for two years without success. Eventually, they gave up and when an opportunity came up for her husband to take a two year posting overseas with his employer, they decided to go for it. Within a couple of months of arriving in a new country, she was pregnant.

Apart from the fact that she told me the best cure for infertility is being in a cold environment with no heating so that you and your husband need to spend lots of time in bed keeping each other warm, it was a very enlightening conversation.

I know many people choose to keep their struggles to themselves for all sorts of reasons. It's also a bit of a double-edged sword having so many people know about our situation, because they regularly ask for updates and it's harder to keep private any bits of information that we don't feel ready to share. But I love to hear the stories of struggles and eventual successes, and every story I hear makes me feel a little bit less alone in this journey.