Saturday, 30 March 2013

Where's your head at?

Well I'm back, after a six week break from blogging; not only are the Hubster and I back on the quest to make a mini-me, but I feel like my head is almost back in the room (but even I'm the first to admit I have my moments - this week was challenging to say the least. I blame the crazy Libra full-moon for some strange goings-on but not everyone agrees with my belief that the moon can do strange things to people).

Pregnancy loss is not nice; not having something tangible to grieve over means that some people think you recover quickly and also find it hard to fully understand what you're feeling. What's more after embryo transfer you are considered PREGNANT UNTIL PROVEN OTHERWISE (PUPO). You have a personal responsibility to treat your blastocyst as an implanted, developing embryo - you have a responsibility to behave like you're pregnant and this isn't an issue as you want it so much. What is shockingly hard is coming to terms with is NOT being pregnant. 

I've been devouring a great book called Navigating the Land of IF (IF is the online acronym for infertility - infertility is full of acronyms - it takes a while to learn them all) by Melissa Ford. The way she writes really appeals to me; she says it how it is and I think this is a vital read for all of you who have found yourself on the Land of IF and if you have friends who are going through it then I also recommend you have a read - you'll soon discover those tit-bits of advice you give with good intentions normally have the opposite affect. EG: saying "I can feel it in my bones, this cycle is going to work for you" doesn't help - all we can do is hope, how your bones feel has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not I'll conceive (and how were your bones feeling during my failed cycle? Could you feel my cycle not working then or did your bones give off the wrong signal? You can see the futility of such a comment now I bet?) Anyhow - she describes exactly how invested a couple are in IVF, both emotionally and financially - so much so that I want to show you an excerpt from her book where she explains the financial point to non-iffers (non-iffers are those of you who are fertile and live on the mainland). I think the financial point also illustrates quite clearly the emotional investment as well:

What if, during your eighth month of pregnancy, you were told by your obstetrician that in order to get the baby out, you would have to shell out the equivalent of a year of college tuition?
"But I thought I'd have eighteen years to save!" you'd exclaim, staring down at your belly, where the child you've been dreaming about for the last eight months waited.
Alas, you need to cough up the cash ... immediately.
You somehow gather together and fork over the money, but your doctor stares at the wad of cash and says, "Sorry. I guess I wasn't clear. This money is just for me to think about it. You'll need to come up with double this to get me to  actually do anything."
Once again, committed to having a child, you pull together the money ... only to discover that there are more hoops, more bills - and not one of the payments you make will result in the absolute promise of a live child

By the time you're ready to enter treatments or adoption, you - like those already expecting - are committed to the idea of parenthood. It's a strong impulse to procreate and/or raise children. Either you have that impulse or you don't, and if you have it, it is not something you can talk yourself out of or fulfill with a puppy.

Melissa Ford, Navigating the land of IF - Understanding Infertility and exploring your options, pg 26, Seal press, California, 2009.

So while many of my friends who have found themselves pregnant are twitchy and panicky during their first trimester and wondering what the hell they have gotten themselves into - are they ready to be parents? Their age says they bloody well should be but they didn't expect it to be that easy... Coming to terms with the new life that is growing inside of them I don't doubt is a head fu*k, of course it is, but us Iffers are already one step ahead of them emotionally - we're ready to be parents NOW, it just so happens that it isn't that easy for us. So being PUPO then finding out that you're not pregnant is like being sucker punched, winded, broken... The urge to become a Mum is so strong in me, that despite not really feeling ready to start all over again, my heart is over-ruling my head and I am back with both feet firmly in the IVF process - this time with Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET), although this time I'm not excited: I'm wary, apprehensive, cautious and overall I'm scared. Scared of my heart shattering again, but the Hubster and I want more than anything to be pregnant, IVF is not for the feint hearted. I've heard that after a failed cycle you're never truly ready for the next one - you just get on with it - it's all to do with the strong impulse to be a parent.

It seems like a lifetime ago that I was howling, I entered a very dark place, so dark in fact that rather than wait for my one counselling session provided by the NHS (which I am still waiting for) I took matters into my own hands and am now paying to see a "head doctor." My head doctor - Elise is registered with the British Infertility and Counselling Association (BICA) - this is why I chose her. During my dark place (which I still have half a foot in) I started to have panic attacks, I've managed to reign most of them in with controlled breathing and just stopping whatever it is that I'm doing and having some rescue remedy  but anything can set me off: not being able to find my keys in the morning, going to a party where I'll need to speak to people who will ask me "what've you been up to Jojo?" As you might've guessed I'm quite an open person, I'm also a shocking liar so any attempt at telling a fib and I go a particular shade of crimson and get the sweats... I also can't bear not being in control, I hate not knowing what I am doing when and what is expected of me, it makes me feel uneasy - I've always been like this to some extent, I'm just a little worse nowadays - I find this very disconcerting. I've always known I'm a control freak when it comes to certain things but our recent IVF loss has exacerbated my typical feelings of insecurity. Normally I can reign these feelings in but even telling you all about this anxiety is making my heart rate increase, I then internally chastise myself for being silly and then of course - the anxiety gets worse - it's a vicious circle so you can understand why I had to do something about these feelings hey?

Gone is the vivacious, chatty, confident Jojo of old, replace her with a timid, tongue tied, hand twisting angry little girl. That's what our failed IVF cycle did to my head. At a very good friend's birthday party less than two weeks since it all went wrong a well meaning friend who has a wonderful little boy as a result of IVF insisted on talking to me about IVF, and she just wouldn't shut up. She was like a wood-pecker who kept peck, peck, pecking. Despite telling her three times to stop and my wonderful sister-in-law telling her to stop she just wouldn't let it go until on the third time I told her I was visibly in pain and on the verge of tears. Apparently I need to go to Spain as the clinics are sh*t here - no they're not, they're amazing and they've already made us five mini-mes, one of them just didn't fancy sticking. I was a mixture of angry, intimidated, shy and all I wanted was to say beam me up Scotty and to find myself in my PJs, tucked up nice and safely in bed. Instead I found myself sobbing in the loo feeling too timid to come out and have fun. Party animal Jojo was no more, I just wanted to curl up and cry - someone who has been through IVF should know full well that your first public outing after a failed cycle is quite a big deal and one where compassion and love is needed; it's not an opportunity to dissect your failed cycle.

So, I've taken back some control and I'm getting some help dealing with how I feel - I've worked out the hard way that infertility is a tough island to find yourself on, I knew it was a tough place to be before I landed on the island of IF, but I never really understood what it was like. Everything is out of your control and for a control freak it's a rather tricky thing to get your head around. So I'm taking control of my emotions by going to counselling. Being in control is something that is central to my feeling ok - my counsellor and I have worked this out together quite quickly so she's helping me control my emotions and to find an outlet for them. Sudden bursts of anger and frustration can hit me without any warning and some things really annoy me (more than usual) - I'm working on managing these outbursts! She's also advised me to take control of aspects of my life that are 100% in my hands and the main thing that has been a source of stress is debt and my finances.

I'm taking control of my finances by clearing my debt and I'm a heartbeat from being debt free for the first time in my adult life. I can't tell you how amazing that feels; debt is BAD for the soul and it really annoys me how socially acceptable it is nowadays to be up to your eyeballs in debt, we all blame the bankers for the state of the economy but is it the bankers' fault that a lot of us have whacking great big overdrafts and several credit cards maxed out? No it's our own greed and inability to budget and save - it's not big and it's not clever, in fact it's stupid. I know the economy is up the creak without a paddle but it's about time we all started to take responsibility for our situations and take control of our expenditure, if you spent the money then it's your own fault (it took me a good while to learn that - in fact it's taken the majority of my adult life to work that conundrum out). I hate seeing all of my salary go on paying back creditors and I can't wait for when it's all gone (nearly there - the last student loan payment has been paid - now to clear the teeny-weeny bit that is left, then I'll be free and in a position to save for things rather than saying "sod it, I'll whack it on my credit card.") If you're in debt then my best piece of advice to you is to sacrifice and get yourself out of it, that £3000 overdraft you have ain't gonna clear itself and the dreaded bank could withdraw it without any warning. Knowing that I've finally cleared 99% of my debt is liberating. This is one of the main benefits of making yourself fertile (other than making a baby of course), you actually realise how much money you wasted on nights out that you can't fully remember; you no longer feel crap for the first half of the week only to get clubbers' lurgy for the second half. Feeling healthy and taking control of my finances is one thing I'm sticking to, I feel great (and people I haven't seen in a while are commenting on how well I look - fancy that?!) 

I want to be able to cope, be chilled, I don't want to be angry, I want to be pregnant and my hope is starting to come back. I want to be in control of what I can control and I'm starting to except that there are certain things I can't control, such as whether my two defrosted mini-mes are going to a) survive defrosting and b) whether they'll implant. No one can control that - not even the clever doctors and scientists, I just need to continue doing what I'm doing and looking after myself and hope for the best. As that's the best my wonderful Hubster and I can do is hope. We're getting there slowly.

I still have my moments however, certain things wind me up more than ever:

Anger towards our funding: this quite upset and shocked me - another Iffer who paid for her treatment who (as Melissa Ford would describe it) has left the island of IF and has joined the mainlanders after a successful first cycle that resulted in twins. Upon telling her that our funding covered medicated FET she unleashed a wrath of anger in a text that I wasn't ready for, that the NHS "took all her money." REALLY?!?! I have never known for the NHS to forcibly take money from us - we pay our taxes and when we're poorly we go and get treated be that at the doctors or hospital - most of the time for free. Yes, sometimes (unfortunately and often unfairly) some people don't qualify for free fertility treatment but the NHS doesn't take your money to pay for it, you opt to pay for your treatment, that is your choice. I will save and pay for whatever treatment the Hubster and I require once our funding has been depleted; I feel lucky to have funding but don't begrudge me for getting treatment when you have what you want - your babies (and you didn't have to experience what IVF loss is like - you're VERY lucky). I'd cough all the money up and some this very instant if I was guaranteed a baby at the end of it but as the excerpt above states, money / no money / emotional investment etc - there are no guarantees when it comes to IVF and I tell you what, whether you pay for your treatment or are lucky enough to receive funding - it doesn't make the pain easier to handle if your cycle doesn't work - I would never wish that pain on anyone. What REALLY annoyed me about this anger was if this person actually qualified for funding, neither her or her other half would've been able to quit smoking (a prerequisite of IVF treatment on the NHS and rightly so), their cycle worked first time and no real effort to stop smoking was made once pregnancy was achieved ... Why exactly should the NHS fund such treatment if you're not going to jump through the required hoops to get free treatment when there are others who remain infertile despite treating their bodies like temples? GRRRRRR!

Another thing that riles me right up is people that say: "you're so lucky you don't have kids." If you think this stupid bloody comment is supposed to make me feel better then you really are a dumb-ass. Lucky?! REALLY? Check page 96 of Melissa Ford's response to such nonsense - if anyone says this to me then they can expect to be on the receiving end of a hard punch to the face! I also hate it when people whine about losing their evenings as they have kids to feed and put to bed, and then work to do due to their job (which they're probably moaning about as well as it doesn't pay enough and they have to work too many hours) - that was your life choice so why don't you just shut up or take responsibility for your situation and change it?

So - as you can see, my tolerance levels aren't what they used to be! I still have my moments of anger but I do feel the anger I have is justified - I just prefer the happy me and not the angry me. I've started running again which is really helping me sort this out (as well as seeing Elise), I've also started making bread! Odd I know but I'm quite obsessed about it now - it's very satisfying so I strongly recommend you go out and buy a bread maker!

What's next then: I've started the first phase of down regulation so I'm on microgynon again. Those of you who have been following my blog will know that I seriously hate being on this pill, it does funny things to me. Then as with my last cycle I start the down regulation jabs - oh boy - I can't wait for those fun and games to start again but at least I know what to expect this time round. Once I've shut down I then start on estrogen as opposed to the gonal-f stimulation drugs - I'm quite pleased about this, the thought of getting OHSS again is horrid. The estrogen is to make sure my womb lining thickens nicely so I should quite like that feeling I imagine, then our two best surviving mini-mes are defrosted - these are 4BBs (see my previous post on grading embryos for an explanation), hopefully they'll both survive, be transferred and you never know - they both might implant (but I'm not going to make the mistake I made last time round and start thinking I'm pregnant with twins - trust me, I've learnt my lesson this time round).

So, after a long blogging break I'm back with a vengeance. To help keep me sane I repeat the lyrics of Basement Jaxx's Where's your Head at? One of my all time favourite tunes - why don't you have a listen?

Catch ya later :) x

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