Tuesday, 17 July 2018

The end of hope...

It’s taken a year for me to find the words for this blog entry. Sorry about the hiatus. It’s been a struggle but here it is. The resurrection of my blog...

A year ago today I was told I will never have a biological child of my own and we were to give up. Give up on my dream of making a mini-me that has my eyes, knobbly elbows and dark brown hair. Even with all my egg pimping which produced a bounty of morphologically perfect eggs that most 25-year old IVFers would be happy with let alone a 39-year old, I was to stop trying to make a baby with my husband using my own eggs. All down to my duff, faulty genes that I only found out about on 15 June 2017. All of our 8-top-grade blastocyst embies weren’t viable with life and would result in miscarriage (which, trust me, I’m in no hurry to repeat). 

There’s about a 1% chance of that happening when a parent has a balanced reciprocal translocation like I do - just my luck. The lesser of two evils, find out before you transfer, get another positive and walk on air for 4-10 weeks (while your inner voice tells you to not get too excited - which is impossible btw). Only for it all to end too soon in heartbreak. Yep, I’d still rather know but it’s still a bitter pill to swallow.

Somehow out of this mind-blowing news I managed to find some strength and I grabbed life by the horns. I negotiated newborn babies with some trepidation for a while but I chose to try and remember what life was like before we started trying to become parents. I focused on me, I ran a bloody marathon and Lady Luck was on my side and I’m now an M.D. If you told me that would happen a year ago I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s quite an achievement and there’s so much to be grateful for, I’ve got a wicked life, an amazing husband and awesome friends & family and I am generally happy. But I’m still not a Mum. It stings really bad some days and today I am feeling sad. Really, really sad. More friends and family get pregnant, all the babies are growing fast and are delightful little people who I adore. I know there are options but right now I still can’t get my head around the fact that I can’t make a baby with my eggs. WTF? Everyone else finds it so easy, 95% of the people I know who have had IVF got their happy ever after but not me?  Doesn’t seem right, does it? 

All hope has gone, let it go. Pick yourself up, dust yourself down and carry on. Life is for living. Let’s see where this crazy life will take me in the next 12-months, as what’s clear, nothing can be planned or expected. Friends, when they see me say they are so pleased to see me ‘happy’ but that’s just my happy face you see. I’ve decided to give happiness and the wonder of life a go. A year on from that news I’m getting closer to deciding what path we’ll take - but I’m still reeling from that news.

To everyone who has made their mini-me cherish that little person. They are the miracle of life that we all take for granted. I’m gearing up for my next BIG THING in a quest to give my life meaning. I’m so, so, lucky to have all that I have worked hard to achieve and I’m grateful for what I have. Today, however, I’m mourning all the potential babies we have made over the years, and I’m sorry my faulty genes prevented them from grasping life by the horns. 

Laters x

Saturday, 29 October 2016

One year on

It's 29 October 2015. Four days ago I had a massive gush of blood, I was six weeks pregnant. I would be seeing my consultant for a scan the following day. The day when we hold our breaths and hope to see a heartbeat. I knew deep down it was all over but I still had hope. The bleeding stopped as quickly as it started and Dr. Google told me that there was a strong possibility that the bleed could just be a clot and all would be ok. But I knew.

The 30 October 2015, when I was told we had a missed miscarriage and our fourth round of IVF hadn't worked started a chain of events I wasn't expecting.

Soon afterwards I lost my job. I became depressed. I reluctantly had a frozen cycle the following New Year which also resulted in a (strong) pregnancy but also resulted in another miscarriage (although this was far more dramatic and violent and heartbreaking - we had seen a heartbeat the week beforehand and I naively thought 'this was it.')

Since then I have lost the plot, regrouped and got myself a fantastic job that I love. It's funny how things turn out, isn't it? I have made a fantastic new 'barren friend' Katy. We were brought together through sad circumstance, introduced by my best friend, meeting for the first time on a 'blind date' at the Southbank in Spring. She's been through the toughest journeys and I was able to help her through it. Without my new barren friend Katy, I'm not sure how I would've gotten through this year. So from the pain of infertility and the dashed dreams of having a baby of our own, I have made a life-long, solid friendship and I feel blessed. I'm happy-ish, things seem to be on the up. My marriage to my amazing Hubster is the strongest it has ever been. I'm the fittest and healthiest I have ever been. There are lots of positives but we still don't have a baby. I'm hoping our luck changes.

As we approach National Fertility Awareness week 2016 (#NFAW16) I felt compelled to pick my blog back up. To take a deep breath and start sharing this journey with you all again. 2016 has been a pretty crap year in the Courtney fertility stakes. Our strength has been tested and I have been overwhelmed at times. Overwhelmed by life. Overwhelmed by people telling me how brave I am (I'm not brave - trust me. I'm just trying to become a Mother and that urge is strong. Not that I'm not already a Mother. My babies are Angel Babies who I never got to meet in person). I've also been overwhelmed by the love and support of friends and family as we have been forced to navigate through what can only be described as a living hell of grief. When life blurs by and you somehow, miraculously  'carry on.' 

I have been most overwhelmed by the brave, honest accounts given by my fellow infertilies in the Fertility Network's  #HiddenFaces campaign. My amazing Hubster and I recorded our account of what the journey has been like these eight years of trying to become parents. It was hard but something we both felt like we had to do and we're both glad we did it. You see, there's nothing to be ashamed of and if we want to get people talking about what it's really like then someone has to make the first move and start talking, so we stepped up to the plate.

Show your support for these brave people. They have been on a super hard journey that makes you question everything. I'll share our video when it goes live next week but for now, I'm thinking of my first Angel Baby and what might've been.

Much love, hugs, compassion and strength to everyone who is struggling to start a family of their own, and to those who have had to carve a new life out for themselves after experiencing infertility. We are not alone and our faces are no longer hidden.

#HiddenFaces #NFAW16 

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

My babies...

  • You would have been about 7ib 4oz.
  • You would have been quite dinky.
  • You would have had a BIG big toe just like your Mum, uncles, grandpa and great grandma in Ireland.
  • You would have been loud like your Mum.
  • You would have had your Dad's nose and nice ears.
  • You would have had blue, blue eyes like the ocean like your Dad.
  • You would have crossed your legs and rubbed your feet together like your Dad, uncles, cousins, grandma and grandpa.
  • Like your Mum - you would have had a head full of hair. Despite years of saying 'when I have my ginger baby,' you decided to stick two fingers up to the 'strawberry blond' gene that lurks in the background of your strong Irish heritage. Your hair would have been so dark it was almost black.
  • You wouldn't have been born with height on your side but as the saying goes the best things come in small packages. 
  • You would have been born bang on time - just when your Mum was expecting you. No sooner, no later.
  • You would have been the most gorgeous, most perfect, most wanted baby in the world and you would have been loved so, so much.

How you were born is of no consequence. After years and years of trying to make you, your entry into the world is really of no importance. Gone are the days of visualising a homebirth with a private midwife in an all singing, all dancing birthing pool in my tiny front room. No need for hypnobirthing, trippy chilled out music with ambient lighting or a supportive husband tending to my back with a tens machine. Bring on the pain as with every painful contraction it means I'm getting closer to meeting you. Give me a back-to-back labour that is excruciatingly painful that lasts for days on end, give me an epidural, give me a rushed delivery in the car on route to the hospital, give me an emergency c-section - give me a birth - just give me any birth.

I don't know if you would have been a boy or a girl. I've lost you twice now so either or. Your sex is not important. I say both versions of your name in my head. I've tried to guard your names over the years, but as the years trundle on, more and more friends and acquaintances have their babies and they have your names. Sometimes your name changes in my quest to have a baby with a unique name. After 8 years of trying for you, I realise this is a fruitless exercise. When one day you do (hopefully) arrive I'll name you what I want. No one has a monopoly on names. And if anyone accuses me of 'copying your name' I'll tell them I've had your name on my list for years. When I dream of you sometimes you're a girl, sometimes you're a boy. All you need to know is that you were so, so wanted.

You would have been a Crystal Palace FC fan whether you wanted to be one or not! Like your cousins, you would have had your very own kit with your name on the back.

You would have been the baby of the bunch. The runt of the litter. Surrounded by a crew of mad giggling aunties who were all so excited to have welcomed you to our motley crew. Your fairy godmother would have been your Mum's pregnancy oracle. She knows every detail of how you were made and your journey here. She would have dropped everything for your arrival and she would have loved you so, so much. The Little Miss of Ibiza would have you by the hand the moment you could walk and you would look at her with wonder as the crazy, adorable little nutter that she is showed you the ropes. You'd get muddy with The Dude as he showed you where all the dinosaurs are in Crystal Palace park, and you can guarantee your Aunty Wes would have bought you a copy of 'Calm Down Boris' before your arrival. You would have had the biggest crew of ready made little mates who had your back.

But none of this has happened.
All of this is in my imagination.
I don't know if I'll ever meet you in person.
Even with the Wizard of Harley Street on my team, you are yet to become a reality.
Years of healthy living, years of tweaking diets, years of hope, years of sadness.

People's words of 'congratulations on reaching the first hurdle' are playing over and over in my head. Unless you have travelled the journey I have you'd realise that is a platitude that a fertile person should never say to an infertile when they excitedly tell you 'I'm pregnant.' It's closer to the tenth hurdle of that round of IVF. To get a BFP is THE DREAM. To have that BFP turn to miscarriage is the nightmare. For it to happen twice is the nightmare on Groundhog Day. For it to happen after 5 rounds of IVF is cruel. For it to happen when you have no embryos left in the freezer signals the end of the dream. It means despair. It means I have to find strength to get back up again and try and get past what must be the one-hundredth hurdle - not the first. The first hurdle is making enough good quality eggs my love but in your naivety how are you supposed to know that? In your mind it is the first hurdle. In my mind a BFP is a massive achievement and marks progress and hope that the impossible is possible.

When an infertile woman gets her BFP everything above happens in an instant. A millisecond. No amount of your caution or warnings of not to get excited will stop that from happening. If I ever get a BFP again my excitement will return. As will my fear. When your friend who has struggled for years to get a BFP finally gets one be excited for her. Keep your caution to yourself. She's petrified enough and needs all the hope and positivity she can muster. Her entire journey to get to being 7 weeks and 3 days pregnant has taken 8 years, 4 of which include fertility treatment. For this entire time she's been scared but has done everything in her power to be positive. She really doesn't need anymore caution or fear - she has enough of her own to go round. She is so in-tune with her body she Googles every single twinge. And when the blood appears on her liner after a breathtaking cramp on the train to work (that she tried to convince herself was stretching ligaments), the blood drains from her face, she goes dizzy and she has to grab the wall to steady herself. Her mind races. She needs to get home. What does she say at work? She needs her baby to stay. Someone make the inevitable stop. She knows pain that you have not one iota of what that feels like (and she doesn't want you to feel her pain. No one should ever have to feel her pain or deal with society's discrimination and judgement against childless women). Just be there to pick her up if it all crumbles. She can't get all of the 'told you so's' out of her head. Yes, you were right not to get excited - happy now?

It's 10:27am on 6 April 2016. Exactly a week ago today I was on day 4 of my new job. Preparing to rush home and 'rest' as you'd just signalled that my dream yet again might be disappearing. I left at 10:55am, I was home by 12:10pm and I was covered in blood. Saturated. Your Dad opened the door to find me crying, desperatly trying to hide the blood with my coat, I was finally home and I could crumble, peel my saturated clothes off and get to the loo and let nature do her worst. I thought you might be taking me with you there was so much blood (part of me wishes you had). There was no warning. In the morning you were with me, in the afternoon, you were gone. I was left bereft, in pain, bleeding heavily (little did I know the bleeding and pain was set to ramp up a gear over the next few days. The bleeding still hasn't stopped.) A week ago I was full of panic and fear and yet I was also calm - I knew what was coming but I didn't know what to do with myself. And I still don't know what to do with myself. 

I just want you back.

The second time round you made your presence felt immediately. I was certain I was pregnant before test day - I didn't need a blood test to tell me that I had a baby on board. The highway of veins that exploded over my body a week after transfer were evidence enough for me. Bring back my ferocious temper that scared your Dad, what I would give to spit a sip of wine out as it tastes of vinegar, or to have a mouth that tasted like I'd been sucking on coppers. As for peeing - that's when I knew you had really left me - the last time I was up to pee in the night was 8 nights ago. 

I diligently jabbed myself every morning with progesterone and blood thinners, I took metformin first thing to keep my blood sugars low (and I hate metformin but will take it every day of my life if it means I get to meet you one day), the steroids came after breakfast to stop my body rejecting you (fat load of good they did), oestrogen followed and daily progesterone pessaries were added to the mix just to be sure.  

Out of all the would-be Mum and Dads past and present, I know no one who wanted you more than your Mum and Dad. We are more than ready to be your Mum and Dad. We've wanted you longer than some of our friends with children have even known each other. I don't want or care about anything else. And yet here I am, 8 years on since your Dad and I started trying to make you and we are back at square one with our savings diminished. Time has stopped. How could you leave me so abruptly and violently? I'm searching for answers to questions that I'll never find. And the only explanation is that it's down to me. I did everything in my power to make you and keep you, but for some reason, you couldn't stay.

What now? What is your Mum supposed to do now? How can she ever be happy if you're not here?

  • She'll take Dong Quai and Shatavari to try and dampen her immune response.
  • She'll introduce fresh ginger and organic apple cider vinegar into her daily routine.
  • She'll go and get a Mayan Abdominal Massage to try and get her womb to tilt the right way - that must be the reason you couldn't stay? You just weren't comfortable. 
  • She'll go to acupuncture, meditate and become a yogi master.
  • She'll continue to be the IVF oracle and she'll battle down the painful tears when more pregnancy and birth announcements are made.
  • She'll hate herself for being jealous.
  • She'll hate herself, even more, when friends get their BFP (no matter how hard fought their battle is) and all she can think is that it should be her and not them as she's tried harder for years. She's done EVERYTHING but they drank and smoked and got wasted - why them and not her? It doesn't mean she isn't happy for you when you tell her, it doesn't mean she wants to be excluded, it doesn't mean she'll steal the baby when s/he arrives, it just means that you have achieved the one thing that she wants and with relative ease in comparison to her battle and she finds that so hard to deal with. Be gentle with your friend. She loves you and she really is very happy for you, but her pain squashes your joy. Give her time.
  • She'll scream it's not fair.
  • She'll feel guilty.
  • She'll cry daily for you.
  • She'll start running again.
  • She'll rant on this blog intermittently.
  • She'll pretend to be happy.
  • She'll throw herself into work so she can save to try and make you again.
  • She'll repeat the cycle again and again and again.
  • She'll do whatever it takes. Whatever it takes to make her husband a Dad. Whatever it takes to take his pain away.
  • She'll tolerate people's well-meant advice and she'll try oh so hard not to scream F**K OFF to all the well-meant platitudes. 
  • She's somehow going to get through 15 June and 15 November. These were the dates that you were supposed to arrive.
  • She's avoiding Christmas this year - like the plague. Please don't make her join in. It's suffocating and painful and she wants nothing to do with it.

Maybe not praying to St. Joseph is the reason you left me? Maybe I need to go to confession and confess all my sins so I am forgiven? Maybe then I'll stop being punished and maybe then one day I'll meet you? Maybe I should be on my knees? 

But you see I am on knees. I've been on my knees for years. I'll do whatever it takes.

I'm sorry I couldn't look after you for 9 months.

Mummy is sorry x

Friday, 18 April 2014

Big Fat Negative

Eight days post six day transfer (8dp6dt)

Not sure why we're surprised or upset or heartbroken or shocked or devastated? Once again I didn't even get to test day and once again I have had to endure a very heavy and painful period. 

We were told at Embryo Transfer in no uncertain terms that we needed a miracle to get pregnant. I thought given our recent run of seriously rubbish life experiences that some good karma was due to come our way, and that we would get our January 2015 mini-me.

But it seems it's just not meant to be. Not now anyway.

I can feel myself becoming 'one of those women' who just keeps on having infertility treatment in a quest to become a mother and I don't want to be 'one of those women.' I just want to bonk and get pregnant - is that too much to ask? You ladies who get pregnant the traditional way really have no appreciation for just how lucky you are - for the miracle that has taken place in your womb. There's only a 20% chance of getting pregnant when two healthy people have sex on the right day of the woman's cycle. Eggs need to be in tip-top condition as do the swimmers - after all they have a marathon to swim to reach the egg. A lady's cervical mucus needs to be the right PH, it needs to be swimmer friendly, if not then there's little hope of even the fittest of swimmers reaching the egg in her fallopian tube. Even after conception the embryo still has five days to travel until it gets to the womb and then it has to burrow in, and then after all of that the lady's body needs to accept this foreign body that is trying to feed off her supplies. This is one reason why some women suffer from recurrent miscarriage - their body rejects the embryo, sees it as invading its space and then disposes of it normally in the first trimester. The point I'm trying to make is that we all just presume that we will be able to create mini-mes very easily but as I go to show - it's not always that easy. Every time a woman gives birth a miracle has taken place.

When do you stop with fertility treatment? When do you finally pack it all in and give up on achieving what we are put on this earth to do? I can't see myself ever giving up. I want a baby, I want to be pregnant, I want to get a 'baby-on-board' badge and scowl at commuters on the train home who won't give up their seat for my heavily pregnant belly. I want to moan about indigestion in the third trimester and worry about what my boobs will look like post baby. Unlike most western women I want to go through labour, I want a drug free birth, for my body to take over, to use the pain to help me bring my child into the world. I've imagined all of this and more. I know the names of my much longed for baby girl and boy, I've imagined what they'll look like with their brown hair and blue eyes like their mummy and daddy.

The saddest place in the world is a fertility clinic waiting room. It's full of people from various different backgrounds, some older, some stinking rich, some have flown in from another country and have an interpreter, some are same sex couples, some ladies are trying to become parents all by themselves, some couples are like my wonderful Hubster and I and have saved long and hard to be sat waiting in that room. But what unites every single person in that room is that they all want a child of their own and it reeks of desperation, loss and hope. 

By the time a couple have arrived in that waiting room they have been through quite a tough journey; they have suffered loss and they are grief stricken. They are tired of a life congratulating friends and family as they get pregnant over and over again, tired of suppressing that green-eyed monster called jealousy every time a pregnancy announcement is made, tired of gathering reserves of strength every time they are invited to a baby shower/christening/first birthday party etc, tired of feeling guilty for being jealous, tired of being happy for someone else, tired of looking longingly at baby clothes, tired of being the odd one out, tired of the well meaning questions about when they are starting a family, tired of being asked 'why don't you just adopt?' A fertility clinic waiting room is full of grief for the babies that have never been, and you can hear the tick-tock of biological clocks getting louder and louder the longer you have the misfortune of waiting in that room.

So here's my plea to all of you who are in denial about your fertility and when to start a family.

Chaps: Did you know that most of your sperm is in fact abnormal? Did you know that if you have an abnormal sperm count of 75% you are perfectly normal? Did you know that because of all the crap we put into ourselves on a daily basis that the average sperm count for men has dropped quite significantly over recent years? Did you know that it might not be as easy as you think to get your wife/girlfriend pregnant? If you've been talking about having kids one day (but not just yet as life is just tooooo much fun right now) then have the difficult conversation - work out a strategy, talk about your fears with your lady, take a leap and embark on the biggest adventure of your life. What I'm urging you to do is to is to man-up and grow a pair of balls, get your swimmers tested and find out how they are shaping up. If they are swimming in circles and have two heads then you know that there are changes you need to make to your life to fix that, so when the time is right to have a baby hopefully you are ahead of the game. If your significant other wants babies now (and her age demands it) and you're not quite ready yet - what will you do if it takes years? Have you thought of the consequences? What will you do if you have left it too late? Have you thought about it? 

My Hubster's swimmers are in great shape after dietary and lifestyle changes and taking oodles of supplements especially for male fertility, even after spending £7000 at one of the best fertility clinics in the UK we still didn't get pregnant. My message to all the men out there putting off starting a family as their life right now is so great: take control of your fertility and never presume that you'll be able to produce loads of offspring.

Chapettes: If you are are over 35, have a great job and have a packed social life and think 'ah - I'll have kids in a couple of years time,' or 'now's not quite the right time' or your fella just isn't keen on the idea of making babies 'just yet' PLEASE don't make the mistake I made. It took my body 18 months to start 'cycling' normally after coming off the pill - I thought I'd be pregnant within the year. I knew nothing about infertility. Getting pregnant is not as easy as you think, the longer you leave it, the harder it will be - take my word for it (or if you don't believe me go and sit in a fertility clinic waiting room and experience the despair for yourself). 

I am fertile, I have a high AMH of 43 (very unusual for someone my age - the average is 15 - apparently I'm one of the lucky ones as I have a very decent ovarian reserve), and I have a follicle count of 28 on a natural cycle (that means I can make 28 follicles all by myself every month - without the aid of synthetic FSH injections). After four and a half years of trying and this includes two fresh IVF cycles and one frozen cycle I'm still not pregnant. I'm mourning the loss of 18 embryos. 18 potential babies. 18 mini-mes were made in our two fresh IVF cycles, 12 in our first, six in our second and not one of them attached, they all died either in-vitro, in my womb or they didn't survive being defrosted, despite all our love for them and desire to become parents - none of them survived and this breaks mine and my Hubster's hearts. I don't wish our pain on any of you so if you are over 35 and delaying starting a family for one reason or another please don't.

I hate to be the one to tell you this but after the age of 35 your eggs start to diminish, after the age of 37 your ovarian reserve drops off a cliff, after that the quality of your eggs will start to deteriorate quite dramatically. The ideal time to have a baby is in our twenties not in our thirties and forties - no wonder the fertility clinic waiting room is such a sad place, all those ladies know their time is running out and are desperate. Get off your contraception, let your body get back into it's grove and work out when in your cycle it's baby-making time or no jiggy allowed time, learn how your body works, get yourself checked out, find out what your ovarian reserve is, find out if you have adequate thyroid function and whether you ovulate every month? The longer you are on the pill/injection/coil etc the less time you have to fix any problems that you don't even know you have yet. My message to you is the same as the chaps: take control of your fertility and never presume that you'll be able to produce loads of offspring.

If I could speak to my younger self I'd tell her to start trying for a baby straight after she married the love of her life almost eight years ago. I thought by the age of 35 I'd have at least two children by now but I don't have any. There's a massive void in my life and I feel like I'm asking for the impossible - to get pregnant and have a baby.

Laters xx 

Friday, 11 April 2014

Don't count your chickens before they've hatched

Two days post six day embryo transfer (2dp6dt)

'Having a baby is like getting a tattoo on your face. You really need to be certain it's what you want before you commit.' 

Elizabeth Gilbert 

From my last post up until 8:45am on Wednesday 9 April 2014 everything had been going tickety-boo. I've actually got three blog drafts saved that I'll never publish - they're going to remain drafts. In these drafts I've babbled on about The Lister hospital experience and compared it to a stay in a 5* hotel, with room service, great food, Molton Brown goodies and Sky TV. The only difference is you do actually have to go down to theatre and have a general anaesthetic and the nurses check in on you every 30 minutes afterwards. Below is a photo of me a few hours after egg collection, my blood pressure was very low at that point but I was overcome with joy when the food arrived - I was very hungry and I inhaled the lot. It was delicious!

Egg collection via general is FAR more civilised and I thoroughly recommend it. They managed to get 13 eggs, 10 were mature, six fertilised. Yep - we had six mini-mes and apparently fertilisation was easy - to quote the embryologist I spoke to three days post egg collection: 'Very easy fertilisation, in fact so easy I'm surprised you went for IMSI, from what I could see you would have been fine with straightforward IVF - the sample was grade 1 sperm. Your eggs were also top quality.' 

All six of our mini-mes were going strong on day three so we enthusiastically agreed to go for a day five / blastocyst transfer. We got a call on Tuesday from one of the embryologists telling us that four of our mini-mes hadn't reached blastocyst stage - they were what they called morulas - the other two were a wee bit behind but we should give it another day and give them a chance to develop a wee bit more. Again this was fine, day six transfers are perfectly normal. So when I got a No Caller ID phone call at 8:45am on Wednesday morning I answered the phone with dread - I knew instantly that it wasn't going to be good news. Four had arrested in development and two were developing slowly but were showing signs of becoming blastocysts, they were at the cavitating morula stage of development. W
e were advised that we may have to cancel the cycle.





The room started spinning and I felt sick. I immediately got on the phone to my Bessie who is travelling in Europe (what would we do without Apple and FaceTime/Viber/WhatsApp? We are in the age of the smart phone and I would be 100% lost without mine).

My Bessie calmed me down, so I could calm my wonderful Hubster down. We were going to go to the clinic, talk to Dr Wren, and I was positive that we were going to transfer. Just because our mini-mes were a bit slow doesn't mean they won't stick. But the journey there was the longest its ever been and it was the most quiet we've ever been. We were supposed to be excited but we were scared.

I was hoping to see my consultant James Nicopoullos but he was on holiday so we saw Dr Wren instead. She was in the main nice but my god she was also VERY blunt. To cut a long story short she said: 'you didn't get pregnant with a 5AA blastocyst so you're not going to get pregnant with these.'

BOOOOOOM - kick me us both in the teeth when we're down why don't you? Up until that morning as far as we were concerned we were on track for a single embryo transfer and hoping to be able to freeze two or three embies for later, but now you tell us four have died and we will need a miracle for the others to progress. A little sensitivity wouldn't go a miss eh? I appreciate that you are a scientist and see everything in black and white but look after your patient's emotions, you work in the field of infertility - by the time ladies have come to you they have been through years of trying for a baby - they're desperate - you're their last hope - your patients have invested EVERYTHING into this process so be mindful of their hearts. You should know better than to say something like that, especially someone in your position. Our mini-mes weren't dead, they were slow, so whilst they are still growing (albeit slowly), there is still hope (even if it is only a glimmer and a miracle is needed).

We took five minutes, we went outside, I called my Bessie on Viber. I didn't know what to do. I felt like I was drowning. On the one hand I have this doctor who I had never met before telling me in no uncertain terms that there is no point in transferring our last two mini-mes (but she'd do it if I wanted her to, the choice was mine), on the other hand I wanted my mini-mes in my womb. I wanted them with me, they'd be better with me than in a petri dish, they belong with me. 

To be told that the only way forward was to abandon your cycle is a million times worse than getting to test day and having a negative. Trust me - I know. I've had a cycle not even let me get to test day and end in a very heavy, painful bleed. I've gotten to test day and got a negative and now I've been told that my cycle is being abandoned and there's not much hope in your remaining embryos progressing - in fact there's no point in transferring. Out of the three scenarios the third is the worst - take my word for it, it sucks.

I felt winded. 

My legs felt weak. 
I was confused. 

I cried and cried and cried. My Bessie cried. My Hubster cried. We all cried.

But you know what? My mini-mes were still going. They might be slow but they are still growing so what did we have to lose? So we transferred them and they are now with me where they belong. Here they are - the one on the left is a bit more developed than the one on the right. They are called cavitating morulas - the stage right before blastocyst.

I've read of day five and day six cavitating morulas resulting in pregnancy. Apparently they usually result in girls? I'm not getting ahead of myself and believing that next week I'll have a positive pregnancy test and I'll be carrying a baby girl - I'm not that silly. I know I need to be positive but not at the expense of dealing with the here and now and the range of emotions that comes with that. I'm being realistic. The opportunity to be cautiously optimistic was taken away from me the moment I was told there's not much point in transferring as I won't get pregnant. They took away my hope. Ladies on the Fertility Friends forum have helped give me a bit of hope, whilst you have an embryo there is always hope (but let's keep that hope in check shall we and not run away with ourselves).

Today my boobs are like rockets, they are swollen and they hurt, so much so I had to wear a sports top to bed with an in-built bra to try and stop them hurting as much. Today I have mild cramping. The hopeful part of my brain tells me that this is a good sign - my embryos would be eight days old (if they are still going), as they were a little slow off the mark the mild cramping could be implantation cramps. But I doubt it. It's the cyclogest pessaries Johanna - YOU KNOW THIS - it's the progesterone, nothing else so stop imagining you're pregnant.

We have a lot of questions.

Why in our cycle at Kings were we able to get five blastocysts but not at The Lister? Why when we were focusing on quality and not quantity were we unable to get the quality we got in our previous cycle? You told us we didn't need IMSI so why did our embryos not develop? What about sperm DNA fragmentation? Did the awful family bust-up a few weeks ago affect the quality of my eggs? Was the stress partly to blame? What went wrong in the lab? How could this happen? 

Questions. Questions. Questions.

We need a miracle. Please let our mini-mes fight and stick and prove everyone wrong.

I started this post with a quote and I'm ending with a different quote. Repressing your emotions is bad for you, and imposing positivity when you are sad is bad. Don't get me wrong - I am a positive kinda girl, but even people who are naturally positive and reject negativity have their sad days. Being sad and being negative are very different things. I'm finding the strength to acknowledge how the past few days have made me feel and I'm dealing with the tough emotions - I'm allowing myself to feel happy believe it or not. In my acknowledgment of my sorrow I can truly be happy as happiness and sorrow are two sides of the same coin. To be truly happy you must be at one with all of your emotions and you must have the strength to live in the here and now. I may be feeling sad, but I'm ok with that - as it's our emotions that makes us human. 

'Joy and sorrow are inseparable…together they come and when one sits alone with you…remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.' 

Khalil Gibran

Laters xx

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Last day of jabs - woo hoo

Day twelve of stimulation, day seven of cetrotide and trigger shot (ovitrelle) day!

This is going to be a rather short and sweet post.

Despite it being less than month since our first consultation at The Lister we are now galloping towards the IVF finish line. It's felt intense, the jabs have hurt more this time round (yes they bruise and I normally bleed after each and every one, my belly also goes bright red and itchy immediately afterwards). Despite a lower dose I have been responding well but I am very glad to not have to jab myself for a good while after today - fingers crossed. Today is the first working day since last week that I haven't be required at hospital, it feels strange. I had roughly 14 follicles that looked ripe for harvesting at my scan yesterday, my hormone levels have been balancing out, I'm learning to relax and I'm trying not to fret about not being at work.

I'm nil by mouth from midnight tomorrow, in at 7am Thursday morning in preparation for egg collection by general anaesthetic later that morning - I'm first on the list. This is the main difference between being treated privately compared to the NHS. At my previous egg collection I was heavily sedated so have vague recollections of what went on and my Hubster was in the room with me. They 'woke me up' and two nurses then walked/carried me to a bed in the treatment waiting ward. I was then shuffled out the moment I was 'compus-mentus' and sent home; at The Lister I'm knocked out via general, I won't be aware of the 'bum torpedo' (this is a term I picked up from a fellow IVFer for the diclofenac suppository they give you rectally before surgery to relax your womb - it's not a pleasant experience I can tell you, I'll let your imaginations work out why), and my Hubster won't be in theatre with me. I'll have my own room and can leave when I am discharged which should be roughly four hours after I've been in theatre - so when I'm ready to go home, not when they need me to go home. There are other differences with this treatment cycle compared to my first fresh cycle: I have been monitored very closely, I've had a lot of blood taken to monitor my hormone levels - this didn't happen at the Kings ACU and I think if had been monitored as closely as I am now I wouldn't have gotten so poorly last time round. 

We're provisionally booked in for embryo transfer this Sunday (6 April) but I'm pretty confident that we'll go to Tuesday (8 April) for a blastocyst transfer. We've paid for a more advanced version of ICSI called IMSI - this stands for intra cytoplasmic morphologically-selected sperm injection. The main difference is that the swimmers will be selected by an extremely strong microscope (x600 times stronger than the one used for standard ICSI) and then injected into my eggs, this should give us the best chance possible of making fabulous mini-mes - together with the endometrium scratch I had a couple of weeks ago should encourage implantation.

So for the interim I'm at home, relaxing trying to put all the nonsense of the past few weeks that could have very easily interfered with our treatment to the back of my mind. I'm focusing my energy on making protein rich, healthy eggs and trying not to focus on the negative - I am repelling stress as there's only one thing that we need to focus on. I have acupuncture at 4pm so I'm certain I will remain zen like in preparation for egg collection and for the transfer of our mini-me(s).

I'll be back in a few days with a round up with how egg collection went - exciting times!

Laters x

Saturday, 29 March 2014

To get IVF ready you must look after your mind, body and soul

Day 12 of stimulation, day four of cetrotide...

"People tend to be generous when sharing their nonsense, fear and ignorance. And while they seem quite eager to feed you their negativity, please remember that sometimes the diet we need to be on is a spiritual and emotional one. Be cautious with what you feed your mind and soul. Fuel yourself with positivity and let that fuel propel you into positive action.” Steve Maraboli  

Today I can't stop crying. I have sobbed my heart out this morning and I know for certain there's much more to come. Gonal F, the synthetic version of the follicle stimulating hormone is raging round my body. I am bloated, I can ping my left and right ovaries about and I am the antithesis of the hormonally balanced woman. It makes me want to shout:


But this is our path and we must follow it faithfully. There's no point moaning or fussing about the injections as it is what it is. Good will come out of all of this effort and money saved and spent. It has to. The past 10 days or so have caught up on me and even without the synthetic hormones I think I would be forgiven for cracking up (just a little bit).

You see, we've been getting it from all angles recently - I'm not sure why the universe is throwing some seriously unwanted karma in our direction but it is. I'm trying to put a positive spin on it all and that ultimately, the revelations of the past week have freed us from a cycle of pervasive negativity - that what has happened is a good thing. But the hormones are scuppering up my rational thought processes and making me feel really low today. There's been way too much drama and I've had enough, my wonderful Hubster and I really don't need any of this nonsense right now, really we don't.

Going by the title of this blog I think you can guess that I've been focusing on things that I do have control of - my mind, body and soul. I started off with the above quote as this is exactly what I am doing. No more will I be made to feel inferior due to someone else's negativity. We often rely on our family to be a support and just 'be there.' We can sometimes put our trust and confidence in someone when we know deep down that we are being a little naive, as we have been burnt previously. Our desire for things to be different, for them to be 'right' and our belief that everyone is nice deep down, that any negativity and hate that we may have been on the receiving end over the years has dissipated. Our desire for things to be different can cloud our judgement. I forgave in the belief that I wouldn't be hurt again, but I was and so was my Hubster. I feel guilty for letting my Hubster get hurt, that it's my fault and I'm angry at myself for letting it happen. I believe in forgiveness and I forgave this person and slowly let them back in; I started to trust them again and so did my wonderful Hubster. I have forgiven a lot of people for wrongs they have done to me over the years. Wrongs that happened to me from people I trusted. It's hard to forgive, really hard. To get to the point of forgiveness you have to be brave enough to face how these wrongs make you feel: angry, hurt, upset, mad, questioning, the list could go on. And then you have to deal with these emotions and put them to bed, throw them away, discard them. If you don't do that then you start to hate the world and I don't want to hate. Hate is a very powerful word that has powerful consequences. Unleash your hate on the world and the people around you and one thing you can be sure of, you will end up alone with your hate, hating more and more. I don't want to ever be like that so I am trying to muster the power of forgiveness once again but I need to go through the motions first - I'm not quite ready to forgive.

What I've learnt over the years is that the people that harm you are the ones who are not brave enough to deal with their issues and they take their negativity and warped view of the world out on you. They are all about the 'me, me, me' they believe the world owes them something and they are constantly angry, looking for bad in everything. I pity people like this. They are their own tormentors. You can try and help these people but be wary, their negativity is infectious. There comes a point when enough is enough and when they unilaterally reject your love, compassion and are just plain nasty it's time to turn your back on them and let them find their own path as these type of people can't be helped. 

Well no more. From now on I am taking myself out of that negative world as it's dragging me down. I am naturally a positive person who has a lot of love to give, I don't have a negative view of the world, life is what you make it and I am making my life happy as I just don't want to be miserable. We have one life so let's just live it.

Bye-bye negativity. This picture says it all and I am proud to say that I listen to my heart and not my ego.

Some people may call me a fool. But my heart was unequivicoly broken last weekend, both my Hubster and I have been reeling from the hurt caused. So we have turned our back on a situation and have been licking our wounds and cementing our relationship further. I have all the important members of my family loving and supporting us and if anything, the drama over the weekend has made my relationship with someone who is so very dear to me so much stronger. I rely on him, he is my rock when really it should be me looking out for him - let's just say we look out for each other. Right now I'm leaning on him to help me make sense of what happened last weekend, and to help me get through this IVF cycle as on top of everything else - it's suddenly gotten a little intense and for someone who is almost 13 years my junior he really his totes amaze balls. He is caring, intelligent, philosophical, charming, handsome, lovely, funny; the world is a happier, smilier place with him in it and when I needed him - he was there. Thank you. I know he'll be reading this and I hope he knows that I'm talking about him and I hope my words haven't upset him as he is the last person in the world I would ever want to hurt. My job is to be his protector, to look out for him and to fight his corner, he's been doing that for me recently but I will step up soon - I promise. I love you! I can't really expand any further (and I don't want to) as there's only so much of my dirty laundry I can wash in public. I really do not want to focus my energy any longer on what happened as my body is telling me that it needs me right now.

Yep - my body sure does need me right now.

I've had numerous scans and blood tests this week. I had an inkling that I was responding well to the Gonal F as I have been feeling hot, have had headaches and yes I've had insomnia (although due to exhaustion caused by full-on drama I have been able to sleep - much thanks goes to my trusty IVF Believe CD for getting me off to sleep every night this week), and the bloat has started (I couldn't do my trousers up the end of yesterday - luckily they stayed up and the top I was wearing allowed me to undo the top button - thank the lord for small mercies). 

What was due to take 12 days has taken five; as of Wednesday it looked like I was ripe for egg collection a mere five days after starting the stimms. Hoorah you may think - this is a good thing? But no, it isn't really - it means my body isn't in synch and I'm not ready to have my eggs harvested just yet thank you very much. 

Despite all of the drama I have been keeping very calm (today is the first day when I feel like its gotten on top of me but that really is down to the hormones taking over my rational judgement). Thankfully my hormone levels have been quite level (in IVF terms). There was a possibility that I was going to have to go in today for another scan and blood test with a view to having egg collection on Monday but I have been granted a little time to continue brewing my eggs. I am however back in for a scan and another blood test on Monday, I have a feeling I should be near enough ready then. As of yesterday I had 14 large follicles that could be seen on the scan but I can guarantee there will be more than that when it comes to egg collection time.

I thought I'd show you some photos of how I go about injecting Cetrotide - it's a wee bit fiddly but I'm starting to get the hang of it:

Below you can see the syringe with the giant needle on it and a vial of powder. The liquid from the syringe needs to be squirted into the vial and mixed with the powder.

Next you'll see the liquid and powder mixed in the vial - when all the powder has dissolved and there are no air bubbles you can draw the liquid back up into the syringe. It took me a while to nail this - it can be quite tricky.

You then need to change the needle ready for injecting. The needle below is a lot smaller than the one used to mix the powder and liquid but I promise you - it's a large needle that I really dislike having to jab myself with. My belly has become quite sensitive now, every injection makes me bleed and bruise (I don 't like jabbing my thigh). No part of IVF is fun, that's why it's important to try and keep a lid on simmering anxiety and to remain focused on the here and now. Just get the jabs done quickly, safely and with minimum amount of fuss. The energy you use getting in a tizz is wasted energy, stay calm and the whole process will be easier. In fact staying cool and calm should be the way forward full stop, particularly during IVF. Focus your energy where it's needed - right now my energy needs to be focused on producing lots of nice eggs and for my womb lining to be thickening nicely.

Yikes. It's all happened a little quickly and I've been feeling very much overwhelmed by the situation. We've had so much stress to deal with that the nurses told me to stay super chilled, give myself some TLC and if I can get signed off work for the duration of my treatment then do it. When I had a scan on Wednesday and saw my super large follicles I knew there and then that something had to give - there's only so much pressure I can take so I took the nurses (and my consultant's) advice. I went back to work, tidied a few things up and then put my out of office on. I am blessed to work in such a supportive environment, my workload has been crazy recently but I am under doctor's orders not to stress and to take it easy so I'm being signed off sick. My body's over reaction to the drugs, despite the much smaller dose of Gonal F is reminding me of my previous fresh cycle when I got OHSS and I need to do what the professionals tell me, we all know the link to stress and fluctuating hormone levels so I am 100% convinced that the drama of last weekend has affected things and I can't let that ruin my chances of becoming a mother. Take it easy, keep stress levels to a minimum and focus on making my body ready for what I hope will be pregnancy.

So, I must look after my body as well as my mind and soul - this means I must eat lots of protein and put good stuff into my body. Luckily I've been making spirulina and maca smoothies for the Hubster and I every morning since June 2013. They're not exactly yummy but we've learnt to like them and they make us feel amazing.

Here's my recipe for two pints of the green stuff:

Two bananas
One apple
One pear
Three handfuls of frozen blueberries
One handful of spinach
One tablespoon of powdered maca 
One tablespoon of powdered spirulina
Four tablespoons of low fat yogurt

Put all of the above ingredients (chop the fruit) in a blender, fill the blender up with water so it's at the top of the ingredients, then whizz on full power for about a minute. You will have a jug full of dark green goodness. Pour and drink. Word of warning - don't gulp it otherwise you will gag. 

Since starting the morning with a 'pint of green' every day I can tell you that both our energy levels are up, our skin is clear and we look seriously healthy - this pint of green goodness lasts us until lunch time and we feel great because of it. Even when we do get pregnant I'm keeping it up as I can feel the tangible benefits. Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is 65% protein and is full of immune boosting amino acids - it is THE WONDER FOOD and I don't know why more people aren't on to it?! It is also an appetite suppressant and has been touted as the world's answer to hunger as it grows naturally across the world. If you are looking to lose a few pounds you'd be wise to incorporate spirulina into your diet. Maca has been used in Peru for thousands of years, it levels hormones in ladies and increases testosterone production in men and can increase libido (very important when you're trying to get pregnant!) Blueberries are antioxidants that aid concentration, bananas are full of potassium and release slow energy, apples and pears are full of vitamins C and K as well as copper, fiber, potassium, and flavonoids and spinach is full of folic acid (folic acid is good for men who are trying to get fertile fit as well as women).

So there we go. My mind has been wobbly but is in good shape, my soul has been struggling to make sense of recent events but I am confident that all is well and it is OK and understandable to feel how we have been feeling, and my body is 'enthusiastically' responding to treatment. I'm putting good stuff into it, I'm relaxing and trying to keep my cortisol levels to a minimum and I am surrounded by love and positivity. I've rejected negativity - the world is a good place.

Laters xxx