Tumbling Through the Rabbit Hole...
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FET #1 - BFN

Posted by Haisla Wednesday, 4 November 2015 0 comments

I kind of knew this already on Sunday, as I peed on a stick to give us a bit of a heads up & time to process before the actual OTD on Tuesday, and it came back stark white. Not even a squinter was to be seen.

It turns out that at this stage in the game a BFN is far less devastating news than waking up to a failing pregnancy. Not being pregnant is the norm for us, so nothing's really changed. And after two weeks of being on hyper-alert about any potential symptoms (also known as the dreaded TWW) returning back to normal is actually quite a relief.

I think for some reason M. felt this failure far more acutely than I did. I guess I had the benefit of living in my body for the TWW and realising that I didn't really 'feel' pregnant. Not like I did last time. I mean I had symptoms and all, but none of them were really wholly convincing. Sure I felt nauseous, tired, etc, but I would like to have it here on record that they were just symptoms of the progesterone, should I ever come to wonder.

Anyway, I'm now waiting for a call-back from the clinic for our WTF appointment. This is the end of free treatments, so we need to talk game-plan. The guidelines recommend a two month wait between cycles, but unless there are very good medical grounds for that recommendation, I would like to (and M. agrees with me) to proceed with another FET as soon as possible (i.e. in December). Because it turns out that FET cycles are actually quite long. If I wait for one cycle (to help my body reset or whatever) and start a new FET cycle in December, the earliest we would transfer an embryo is mid-Jan. Waiting for two months would push things to Feb and we just haven't got that kind of time, thanks very much.

There's a list of questions I have for the Doc when we next see him/her (we don't have a regular RE at our clinic, but see a different doctor every time), one of them being about transferring two. Now that we've proven that perhaps the quality of our embryos is not quite as high as the doctors originally assumed, perhaps it'll be less risky to transfer two. Because again, I'm not sure we've got time to do 6 FETs in a row, in case it turns out that all of our embryos are bad. That would mean that by the time we get to do another fresh IVF cycle I'll be pushing 37 and M. his mid-40s. And as we all know what time does to egg quality, it's one of those things I'm not keen to take a gamble on.

So that's the plan, and just having a plan makes me feel so much better. I can wait one month to let my system recalibrate - I mean, after all,  I've become a bit of an expert on waiting. In December this year, I will have waited for 48 months in all. If anyone would have told me that in early 2012 I would have had a heart attack, and probably never had had the nerve to even start on this journey. Sometimes it's best not knowing what the future holds, eh.

Upwards and onwards, then. I'm dusting myself off and moving on.


FET accompli

Posted by Haisla Wednesday, 28 October 2015 0 comments

Actually we had the FET on Friday and I am now 5dp5dt.

I've been feeling so hormonally unbalanced (i.e. going through the dreaded emotional rollercoaster) that I haven't even been able to bring myself to post about the transfer until today. I've just been feeling really negative & pessimistic, until yesterday, when at 4dp5dt I finally started having some 'symptoms' (nausea, sore boobs, ravenousness, knackeredness, the usual). That however was short lived and today I'm feeling absolutely fine and normal again.

What really gets me, though, is that last time (when I actually was pregnant) I had some very specific symptoms that stood out from the TWWs past: 1) I went completely off my sugar-free chocolate bars, which are normally my favourite treat (like I properly could not stomach them) and 2) I gagged at the very smell of my favourite perfume and had to use it very, very sparingly. Those were my tell-tale signs that something was going on. No such symptoms this time around. Food seems to smell amazing to me (even meat), but that could easily just be the progesterone talking.

Anyway, the FET itself (like so much of this cycle) was most uneventful. I wore my snowflake socks in honour of our 5 day frozen snowflake that got transferred into my ute. It was a bit more uncomfortable this time around, but the discomfort could have been due to a trainee nurse bursting into the room as they were doing the mock transfer to ask a question of the senior nurse who was pressing the ultrasound wand against my poor over extended bladder. The senior nurse seemed most displeased about the disruption, as was I. But I think it was an emergency of situation, so I'll let the trainee nurse off the hook.  Thankfully once that little episode was over they got on with the actual transfer and it went as smoothly as anything. We even got a little photo as a souvenir:




That little blip in the middle is our precious snowflake. I hope he / she is still there and nuzzling in. And if that's the case that she / he will send us some strong messages - nausea, vomiting, I'll take anything at the moment.


Notes on a Scan(dal)

Posted by Haisla Saturday, 17 October 2015 0 comments

Well actually the scan itself went fine, with only one minor hiccup, to which I'll return later. More importably, the date for our transfer has been set for 23 October 2015.

I was given the choice to transfer on either Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, so I chose Friday. Even though I'm not looking forward to waiting even longer (and it is starting to feel like I've been waiting, like forever), it's great that we've now got the whole weekend to chill afterwards. I also wanted to make sure M. could take the time off work, as it would have really sucked if he hadn't been able to be there.

Re: hormones, I haven't had that many side effects from the meds since I started taking the little blue pills (no, not viagra) of oestrogen. The Buserelin on its own seems to send me bat s*it crazy, but the oestrogen balances it all out. The only side effects I've noticed are some mild nausea at night (I take the pills right before bed), feeling really hot (to the point of having to shed some layers) and having to get up to pee at least once a night (nothing new there, that will continue with the progesterone, too). Otherwise this combo of hormones seems to have suited me just fine. My endo symptoms have kept quiet, too, so I'm just hoping that means that these drugs have suppressed the beast.

Now to the scan(dal). I waited for what felt like an inordinate time for the scan (about 30 - 40 minutes, which for our clinic is quite unusual) only to find that they had lost our notes. Hmm.. what now? I thought that they had just been generally overbooked and running late, but I think they were actually just scrambling around looking for the missing file. That really didn't raise my confidence levels, even though so far I haven't had many complaints with the clinic. But instead of apologising and reassuring me that the notes would be found, the nurse kept on asking me whom I'd seen last time at the schedule appointment and whether they might still have our notes. Umm.. I don't know, I'm not a nurse, nor am I aware of your filing system.

Well, they had better find the file before next Friday and I certainly want them to find the right embryo (i.e. ours) to transfer into my uterus..

Anyway, the scan went ahead all the same and was mostly fine. The only minor concern (in my mind) was that my lining was only at 7.6mm. Even though the nurse said it was fine, in my mind it is a bit on the thin side. I'm sure during our last cycle it was around 9mm by now. It was triple layered, though, and the nurse called it beautiful, but I couldn't help feeling a little concerned.

I did some googling once I got home and found that different clinics have different standards regarding the thickness of the lining. The absolute minimum appears to be 6mm, some clinics want to ideally see it at 8, some at 10, some even 13.. I mean, I guess there's a few days for it to still thicken up, eh? If anyone's got any experience on this (esp. success stories are most welcome) I would appreciate any light you could shed on the matter. In the mean time I'm trying not to stress about any of the above. Zen is my aim.

In the next steps, I am to stop the nasal spray tomorrow (Sun) and start the progesterone suppositories twice a day, still continuing with the oestrogen pills until it's HPT time.

I'm just so sick of waiting now. Bring on Friday.

I'm still here..

Posted by Haisla Thursday, 1 October 2015 0 comments

For some reason it's been really quite hard to find things to say in here lately..

Perhaps it's because I've actually been out there in the real world enjoying life. Which has been kind of different and nice and necessary after the past three and a half years. It's been exhilarating not to fret, or obsess, or spend every living, breathing moment thinking about infertility. It can kind of suck life right out of you.

The awful thing about infertility is that as soon as I've gotten myself back together after a setback (say a failed cycle, a miscarriage or whatever) and found my equilibrium, it's been time to face the music again. And whilst in the past I've been ready and rearing (almost desperate) to go after each failure, after the miscarriage things have changed. I'm far less eager to put myself back in the game. And yet I know that there's no time to waste. I can't stop this train now. Or if I did, I mightn't ever get back on it again, I'd lose my nerve. You just got to keep going.

Whilst I've often likened infertility to a roller coaster ride, these days it actually feels more like a brutal boxing match. You get in the ring, give it a shot, get knocked down, get back on your feet again, are just about to get back in the swing of things only to just get knocked back down again.. And every time you fall it seems to hurt that little bit more than it did before. I guess the aim should really be to beat the sh*t out of your opponent (i.e. infertility) but sometimes it just feels like they are way bigger and stronger and better at beating things into pulp than you are. And there only seem to be two ways that this game can go. Either I win by finding the one weak spot in infertility's armour (my silver bullet, to mix some metaphors here), or I get knocked back down enough times to decide that I haven't got it in me to get back on my feet again.. (I know, ever the optimist, I am).

But, for now, I'm back up on my feet. I've got my dainty boxing gloves all laced up again and my shiny satin shorts on.

What's helped me to get here, is that:

a) We've had a lovely holiday to France thanks to our friends who invited us to stay at their place near the sea:




Amazeballs, people. If I could, I would uproot in an instant and go live there. But alas, I don't speak French and there are hardly any jobs there, in the winter, so there's that. But anyway, a holiday was exactly what the doctor ordered and we both feel tons better for it. Thank you V&B!!



b) As well as holidaying, we've done a major clear out in our flat and got rid of a lot of junk (mainly 'faux-antique' furniture which we no longer use, but which we have been holding onto out of sheer stubbornness sentimentality). It was cluttering the 'baby room', which is now almost spacious enough to house a baby, should we be lucky enough to have one, one day.



c) We have also expanded our little family by adopting (and when I say adopting I, of course, mean purchasing from an aquatics shop) two lovely, little non-furbabies. Meet Bubbles & Stretch:

It's hard to tell which is which, I can only tell them apart by their tails..

They are darn cute. They've already learnt how to beg for food with their tiny, big round eyes and by flailing their paws excitedly whenever they see us. I'm learning to recognise my tendencies to be an indulgent and easily swayed parent.. Must do better and not succumb to their cuteness.

We've been desperate for pets for ages, but aren't allowed cats, dogs or any other creatures that might 'damage' the property that we rent. Hence the turtles. They are adorable and tiny and aquarium dwelling, which is perfect. They also come with a high risk of carrying salmonella, which is um.. awkward considering that we're hoping to get pregnant, soon. And if you believe anything written in the interweb about turtles, salmonella is like the WORST THING that you could possibly contract when pregnant. So instead of getting rid of the turtles, like, immediately, as the assvice on most online forums goes, we've opted for the slightly more measured approach (followed by people who actually own turtles), i.e. adopting a hand-washing regime that we follow after handling the turtles or their dwelling. And we'll be mindful of the risk should I get pregnant and should our home one day be inhabited by a small child. No kissing of turtles for our kids..

So for now, I am happy..

..which is nothing short of miraculous considering that I've been sniffing Buserelin for the past two weeks. Truth be told, this time around, hormonally, I have been far worsely (what do you mean that's not a word?!) affected, than I was when we were doing the Buserelin injections. Or maybe now that my work is not a crazy, stressful nightmare I've had more time to be aware of how the hormones are affecting me.. Or maybe I've just got incredibly short memory and it was just as bad last time. Hot flashes, immeasurable sadness, unaccountable rages. You name it, I've felt it. Thankfully, somehow, I've managed to remember that it's just the hormones, stupid. And M's done incredibly well to survive the madness.

So I've done two weeks of Buserelin sniffing (four times a day, no less) and yesterday was officially day #1 of our first FET cycle, when my period finally started four days late. I reduced Buserelin sniffing to mornings and evenings only and started taking 3 Progynova pills in the evenings. This is sooo much easier than IVF. I don't much care for the after-taste of the nasal spray, but I'll take it any day if it spares me from needles.

I'm having a scan on 15th October and hopefully, all being well, our transfer will take place a few days after that.


I can't believe this is happening again. Someone get my mouthguard already.



One or two?

Posted by Haisla Sunday, 30 August 2015 0 comments

I can't believe how the time has flown.

This summer has literally just sped by.

I've started in my new job (after a very stressful three months of working long hours to try to bring my previous job to a tidy-ish conclusion) and have had the lowest stress levels in years. My new job is a doddle. For the first few weeks I felt like I was "cheating". It was all just way too easy. A nice office based job, enough time to do everything I was expected to do and (comparatively) short working hours. And I got paid for it..

I also had to make a major adjustment in terms of my identity, which for so many years had been tied up to my career. Who was I now that I wasn't that person who worked long hours, put up with a lot of cr*p, dealt with very difficult / dysfunctional people on a daily basis, all for a very worthy cause?

I had to get used to not being that very important person in the lives of many very unwell individuals, for not having to deal with their daily dramas and often self-inflicted emergencies. I had to realise that to quell my hunger for excitement I would now have to obtain my daily dose of drama from the TV, like normal people do. I thought I used to thrive on being the person who brought order to all that chaos, but I must say that I feel much happier working in a calmer environment. I can actually see my desk these days, a huge improvement from my previous job and hopefully reflective of my inner world, too.

I'm slowly learning what it feels like to have a work-life balance (yes, I know, it actually exists - for many years I thought it was one of those unicorn-like things). And in short, it's quite wonderful.

I'm sorry if this sounds boastful, but it's really not meant to be. I just feel like I was under some kind of a weird spell (call it workaholism if you will) and just couldn't see a way out - I thought it was normal. Which just goes to show what growing up in a dysfunctional environment can do to you - it warps your sense of normalcy. Now that I'm on the other side, I can only shake my head and wonder how I survived. I don't need to be Freud to realise that on some level I must have craved for the drama and chaos; it felt familiar, it felt safe. I was re-living my childhood, but this time I was in control. Perhaps I needed to prove something to myself. I'm sure my motivations weren't completely pure (as often is the case, - we want to rescue people, because ultimately we want to be rescued ourselves). I do hope (and I genuinely believe) that I must have done some small good in the last ten years. I don't think it was all wasted, but I did pay a heavy price, as did M.

It's only now that I've slowed down that I realise how much he did in terms of running our household. He did most of the cooking and grocery shopping. He did quite bit of the housework. I did some over the weekends, when I wasn't too floored with exhaustion. But in the evenings, because he always got home first, he would do what needed to be done. I feel really bad about this. I was just way too preoccupied with my work to see. M. would bring it up every now and then, but what could I do? I only had so many hours in the day. So I would just feel guilty. Not a great dynamic. But I married a good man, you know. Not many would have put up with such nonsense. But M. knew what he was getting into when he married me. He knew what my work meant to me and he was willing to make the sacrifice. So I'm grateful, so very grateful that our marriage has somehow remained more or less intact and I'm now catching up on being a better partner. And it's nice, it feels healthier. We're both contributing to our family life, no-one needs to carry most of the burden. And we have more time to have fun and just enjoy each others' company.

That all being said, I'm not surprised I couldn't get pregnant. All those stress hormones continually flowing around my body for so many years. Goodness knows what kind of long-term havoc they've wrecked on my system. Not that I believe in all that 'just relax' crap (advice so familiar to us in the IF community), but surely a constant cortisol overload is not beneficial for the body either.

Anyway, after a month of much lower stress levels and lots of dedicated baby-making (which is much easier when both of you are working 9-5, I must say!), we still didn't get pregnant. AF arrived today and with its appearance heralded the start of our first FET cycle.

So I'm finally getting to the title of this post; the one question that has been haunting me since my WTF appointment with our fertility doctor in July, namely how many embryos we should transfer.

I know that we are in a fortunate position to have any embryos to transfer at all and that in the greater scheme of things this is a frivolous first world problem. But frivolous or not, a decision has to be made and it could have some rather serious consequences..

The Dr seemed to be strongly of the opinion that since we had such high quality embryos (out of which one was transferred and seven frozen) and a successful outcome at our last transfer (i.e. a pregnancy, which sadly resulted in miscarriage) we should only transfer one.

I did point out to her, that however beautiful our previous blastocyst had been (at "five grade AA"), it had obviously still not been chromosomally normal as it had resulted in a miscarriage and not live birth. Ergo, we have no way of knowing (save for carrying out a PGD, which is way too late now) how many (if any) of those 7 frozen embryos are likely to be chromosomally normal. In fact even a PGD could not guarantee a 100% certainty as only a fraction of the chromosomes of each embryo are tested. She had to concede that this much was true. I also pointed out that since this was our last NHS funded cycle, we would have to take finances into consideration, too, when deciding on the number of embryos to transfer. Again she accepted that these were things we would have to think about, but warned that based on our previous cycle and my age, I would be at very high risk of becoming pregnant with multiples and due to the increased risks to mother and babies, she could only recommend a SET. She said that we do have the right to request for a double embryo transfer, as long as we are fully aware of the risks and make an informed decision.

One positive thing I took away from this conversation was that a FET at our current clinic (with our frozen embryos) only cost approx. £1,000 a pop, which is a fraction of what a fresh cycle would cost. I didn't think to ask whether that figure includes the meds, but all the same, it did make my heart feel a bit lighter.

No matter how cocky I may have sounded in pushing for a double embryo transfer, it doesn't mean that I feel by any means certain that that's the pathway we want to go down. In some ways I guess I just wanted to make sure that we have the choice.

I've researched the risks that come with twin pregnancies. I've researched the pregnancy rates between SETs and DETs. I've read all sorts of scientific articles, case studies etc and as a result of it all, I think I am slowly (and rather reluctantly I have to admit - I mean surely transferring two would double our chances!) veering towards a single embryo transfer.

I've had a few conversations with M. about this, too, and I think we are both pretty much on the same page. We'll do one more SET and then if this one fails or ends up in miscarriage, we'll do a FET privately (at the same clinic) and transfer two.. I think especially since we now know that the cost of a FET is fairly reasonable, we feel safer in the knowledge that we should be (financially) able to do quite a few of those if needed..  I'm just hoping that at least one of our frozen embies is chromosomally normal. I would hate to spend months and months doing FETs only to realise that we'll have to do yet another IVF on my even older eggies.

Another scary possibility (that has crossed my mind more than once) is that perhaps our embryos are perfectly fine and it is my uterus that is just immunologically hostile to anything attempting to implant in there. The Dr I had our WTF appt. was fairly dismissive about this theory (I know immunology-stuff is considered pretty 'out there' by mainstream docs, so I can understand her scepticism), so I'm only holding onto it ever so lightly. I guess we would need to suffer three or more miscarriages before the doctors at this clinic would even start investigating such avenues and I'd quite frankly rather not cross such bridges until we get there.

Maybe we'll consider some more testing should this FET fail, but again, I'd rather get through this first before starting to worry about such things.

All in all, things are therefore well.

I've emailed the clinic and am waiting for further instructions (I can't help but think of the 1980's series Mission Impossible - "Your mission, should you decide to accept it ... is to self-administer numerous subcutaneous injections, undertake much cloak and daggery, including secret / whispered phone conversations with your ER, attending many undignified appointments with a dildocam, all in the hopes of having a baby.." I almost wish they'd send us one of those little discs that self-destructs in 30 seconds with the instructions of what we are to do next. Receiving a voicemail / email just seems so very underwhelming for something as complicated and potentially life-altering as IVF/FET) ..

Anyway, I digress. As per our info leaflet, I'm expecting an appointment in the next two weeks, to start sniffing Buserelin on CD21 and to start taking oestradiol tablets approx. 26 days from today (on the next CD1). The transfer itself should then take place approx. 3 weeks later, in mid-October-ish. Much easier than a fresh cycle of IVF. I think there are one or two scans sprinkled in there, too, but that's about it.

Bring it on, I say, bring it on!

I would be 12 weeks and 3 days pregnant..

Posted by Haisla Sunday, 12 July 2015 1 comments

..had I not miscarried at 7wk4days.

As miscarriages go, it was actually fairly uneventful once it got started (as so many of you assured me in response to my last post).

For those looking for info on miscarriage experiences I will just do a short run down (this will contain some TMI content, so if you're easily repulsed, look away now) on how things unfolded. I know how horrible it is to stand at the brink of your very first miscarriage and not know what to expect. If you are here because of that, my heart goes out to you. This is my experience, yours may vary, but just know that you are not alone.

I had one final scan just before I had to make my way to the airport where M. was waiting with our luggage (we were flying to my native Finland the same day). Thankfully the Doc could not see anything untoward either in my uterus (i.e. baby hadn't really even got started developing before his/her demise) nor in my fallopian tubes or surrounding area, so I was sent off to catch our flight to Finland.

This was on Saturday. I had stopped progesterone on Wednesday and had started spotting on Friday.

On Monday morning the proper 'contractions' started. The worst of it only lasted about 5 minutes (although felt much, much longer). I was literally writhing on the bathroom floor white as paper and unsure whether I'd end up puking or pooping myself; I felt so shaky and weird I didn't know what to do with myself. Poor M was trying to get my hot water bottle done whilst frantically googling directions to the nearest hospital in case it was an ectopic bursting.

Thankfully it wasn't. It very much reminded me of my endo pain when it's at its worst. I haven't really suffered from that level of pain (thankfully) in years. The bleeding only started some hours later. I reckon, though, that the pain was more or less the endo being released from the placating grip of progesterone and rearing its ugly head again, as I've heard from others that miscarriages so early on in pregnancy are rarely that painful (I mean there's hardly anything to dispel at that stage).

The bleeding was moderate compared to my normal period, which surprised me. I sort of thought that since my womb lining had been unshed for longer than usual it would be released with greater vengeance. No such thing. Yes, I bled but it was fairly minor. The only difference was that it went on for longer than usual, approx. two weeks in total with all the spotting prior to and after.

It was horrible and sad, but at the same time I got to be with M. all that time and didn't need to worry about whether or not to take time off work. By the time I'd returned to work it was all over. I guess it's fair to say that I got off fairly easily.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Anyway, it took me this long to be ready to write about it. I have been too busy to think about it too much, which has been a blessing in disguise. I've shed some tears, but over all gotten quite swiftly over it. And the reason I've been so very, busy, is actually really quite brilliant...

..I've been offered a new job and I will be starting in three weeks' time!


It all happened quite spontaneously. I think I may have mentioned that I was going for an interview round about the time all the IVF stuff was going on.

Well, lo and behold, I got through to the second round of interviews and was eventually selected for the post. When I was offered the job, I decided to come clean about our IVF journey and the possibility that I could be pregnant by the time I started, or needing time off for further treatments. I wanted them to have a way out (even though it would have been legally dubious) but also to negotiate this stuff from the word go so that there would be no nasty surprises further down the line. Talk about an awkward conversation. With the Director. Who is considerably older than I and a man. It was like discussing my period with a male relative. Squirm-worthy but unavoidable. He said, he'd have to pass it by the Trustees. Two hours later I got a phone call back; they'd decided to hire me anyway. Yay! Go me for being all adult and putting my assertive pants on.

So I handed in my notice and have been working my little a*se off for the past two and a half months, trying to tie up all the loose (and man are there many loose ends). It has been exhausting. I don't think I could have done this whilst pregnant, or would have run myself to the ground trying.

The new job is lovely. Boring as heck, but lovely. It's a charity that deals with fuel poverty. My new colleagues are lovely (there's only three of us in the office), the office in itself is lovely (as in purpose built, air-conditioned, the works), my work journey is lovely (20 minutes by bus or 15 minutes cycling - no more hours long journeys to work!), the working hours are lovely (9am-4pm, except Fridays when we finish at 12noon!). Compared to my current job, it'll be a doddle. In fact my new employers said that they are a little concerned that I "may get bored". I tried to assure them that I don't mind a bit of bored-ness especially not after the madness that I have endured with my current job. "And especially if it'll give me a better chance to get and pregnant and remain so" (I said to myself, not aloud, mind, I'm not a complete fool). It's much lower paid than my current job, but I have come to the conclusion that money is not everything. I would rather retain my sanity than hold on to a big pay package.

In other good news, M. too, got offered a new job a couple of weeks after I got my job offer. He'll still be working for the same employer, but in a different, office-based capacity. As a bit of a back story, he's suffered from a back injury for the past three years now and has been unable to fulfil his frontline role. He's therefore been office based, but at the risk of redundancy or being moved to another borough in London, potentially far further away from home for the past two years. It's like we've been waiting for the axe to fall. This new job is literally like a lottery win in the context of his profession. A colleague of his left an office-based IT role in a rush without giving the organisation much notice. They needed someone with the skills to fulfil the role asap and M, with his reputation as a bit of a computer wizard and requirement to remain office based, was ideal for the role. He was told about the move on a Friday and was in the new role the following Monday. He remains in the same location, just one floor up. He is now working 9-5, Monday to Friday and gets to take his Christmases off. This is literally almost unheard of in his line of work. And his job is safe. No more risk of redundancy. That source of anxiety is suddenly gone.

I hope I don't sound too smug when I say, that this all feels like our stars may finally be aligning. I mean none of this was really our own doing. I randomly (and rather leisurely) applied for an ideal job and when was offered it had the courage to take the leap of faith and accept it. And meanwhile M. gets (totally randomly) offered a Monday-Friday 9-5 job within a couple of weeks of my job offer. I mean what the heck!!? I couldn't make it up if I tried.

All these things happening make me wonder whether "the universe is [just] unfolding as it should" (to quote the Desiderata). Perhaps this is God working in His mysterious ways. We got our little glimmer of hope in May with our first ever positive pregnancy test and although it wasn't to be, at least we got to learn that we can get pregnant. When we start our next FET cycle (hopefully in Sept) I feel like we will both finally be in much better place emotionally, physically and just mentally to welcome a new life into the world.

I'm ready and actually quite excited about the future again and just a teeny-tiny little bit hopefully, that all may work out well in the end after all..

Musings whilst waiting to miscarry

Posted by Haisla Thursday, 4 June 2015 3 comments

Thanks all for your lovely and supportive comments after my last post. When things go south, it's great to know that there are people out there who will cheer you along.

I haven't been updating much lately, mainly because there hasn't been an awful a lot to update on.

My numbers are still creeping up ever so slowly (or were up until Wednesday) with an astonishingly snail-paced doubling time of approximately 137.5 hours. The last number was 257 or 275, I could't quite catch what the nurse was saying, since she also pronounced our pregnancy 'unviable' in the same breath. That kind of robbed my attention. I sort of knew that that was the case but it was another matter to hear it from the mouth of a healthcare professional.

It was surprisingly hard to go for the blood test at our clinic on Wednesday. Sitting in that waiting room full of hopeful women and their partners whilst I pretty much sat there knowing that my pregnancy is doomed.

Unfortunately my favourite nurse (whom I normally adore - she is so funny) didn't help the matter by being overtly cheery whilst drawing the blood. I don't know if she hadn't quite read my notes or whether she just really doesn't know how to deal with bad news, but our encounter left me feeling really out of sorts. If only she'd just acknowledged that things weren't looking great, that alone would have made me feel better. You know, let's just be real here. Although I probably would've burst into tears had she shown me sympathy, so maybe it was for the best after all. Nothing worse than leaving a fertility clinic with a tear streaked face.

Anyway, as they gave me the results (of 257 or 275) on Weds afternoon, I was told to give up the progesterone suppositories so that they could get a 'truer picture' at Friday's blood test (they've cancelled our scan). The bad news is that I am now anticipating to miscarry in Finland. Not the best of summer holiday plans, then.

I'm not spotting or bleeding yet. Somehow my body really seems to enjoy being pregnant, it just doesn't know how to do it very well, I'm afraid.

I have to admit, though, that for as long as those numbers are creeping up, there is still this 1% portion of my brain that refuses to give up. I try to give it as little airtime as possible, because you know, that way madness lies. But until the numbers start dropping and I start bleeding, I can't seem to quite let go. Because, maybe, just maybe it'll turn out that I am in that magical 1% group of women who have super-duper low hCG levels  and still manage to have healthy babies (unless of course those women exist only in urban legends). Anyway, if that turns out to be the case, I solemnly swear to visit every pregnancy / infertility forum and share my unicorn story with the world.

Because a girls' gotta have hope. Even if it's just to get her through her summer holiday.

The other reason for this desperate scrambling for hope is that one of my best friends in Finland has just very recently had the courage to tell us that she is 7 months pregnant (with her fourth child). She felt so bad for us, that she left the telling really, really late. Like two weeks ago late. For that alone, I need to be just a little bit pregnant when I see her. I don't know if I'll be able to face her 7 months' pregnant belly (not to mention her wonderful brood) whilst I'm miscarrying. That'd just be too hard and too cruel. And yet I know it may (and with a great probability, will) happen. So I'm steeling myself.

Anyone got any personal experiences of stopping progesterone at the tail-end of a failing pregnancy? How long did it take until the bleeding began?

Do I really want to know?

Posted by Haisla Thursday, 28 May 2015 2 comments

Finally after a long day of phone tag (which ended up involving M. too who was having a day off whilst I was at work) on Tuesday I managed to speak to a Dr at our clinic.

She told me that I could have another blood draw done, but also that she would be quite happy to wait until my scan on 5th June.

I was tempted, since I have now landed a place of (relative) calm and am dreading another meltdown. However, since we are flying to Finland the day after our first scan (I know, great timing) for a brief summer holiday, we kind of want to know what's going on sooner rather than later in case it does turn out to be an ectopic or that I am miscarrying.

I really don't want to blow my fallopian tube / miscarry on our holiday if I can help it. Thankfully I have just renewed my EHIC card, which means that should anything go wrong I can still get free medical insurance whilst we're in Finland.

Anyway, I got my blood drawn yesterday.

The nurse was lovely and sympathetic. She did ask me why I'd gotten my blood drawn in the first place, which made me feel like a bit of a fool (I guess they truly don't do beta blood tests here as a matter of course..) and I had to sheepishly confess to her that I'd hoped to get some reassurance from the numbers.

She reckoned that my numbers looked quite low for an ectopic in her experience and since I wasn't experiencing any bleeding or one-sided pain she considered that a positive sign.

She said this number should give us a far better picture of which way things are heading and if the numbers are going up the scan on 5th should show us whether whatever is growing in there is in the uterus or elsewhere.

This morning I've started experiencing some mild pains on my right side, but I really can't tell whether the sensations are real or purely psychological (I am such a hypochondriac). Plus with endo I get all sorts of pains all the time, so it's quite hard to distinguish those from others. Obviously if I start feeling like I'm being stabbed I'll make my way to the A&E presto.

But for now we're waiting. The nurse said it could take up to 48h to get the results, but I could try ringing them this afternoon. Yuk. Not sure if I really want to do that. I quite like this new sense of equilibrium.

99

Posted by Haisla Sunday, 24 May 2015 4 comments

So it turns out you can't buy peace of mind.

I received the second beta results on Friday evening but just couldn't bring myself to check them that night. M. was going to the pub with a friend, so I wanted him to have a nice night out and I certainly didn't want to be alone facing the news should they turn out to be bad. I'm so glad I didn't. Besides, I just wanted to spend one more night pregnant.

Yesterday, on the other hand, I spent crying.

We checked the results together first thing in the morning. It was a sobering moment. We both took our turns crying in the shower (there's something about running water that turns the waterworks on). It was really heartbreaking to see that M. was as devastated by the news as I.  He really wanted this to work out. He left for work (poor thing) and I proceeded with spending my day on the sofa with a box of tissues at hand.

Some of you may think that our reaction is a bit premature; my numbers aren't going down yet, I'm not spotting or bleeding, but the numbers speak volumes. Plus my peesticks are getting gradually lighter. I still have some residual pregnancy symptoms (sore boobs, tiredness, keen sense of smell), but then again, I also have some residual hCG lingering (or very slowly doubling) in my system.

According to an online hCG calculator our pregnancy looks something like this:


Doesn't look normal, does it? 


Doubling time of 132.39 hours (i.e. 5 and a bit days) and an increase of 28.6%. Not good.

Did I scour the Internet to find similar stories that ended up with healthy babies? Of course I did. And for a little while it gave me some hope. Hope against hope. But I did also have to face the facts and recognise that those stories were in the minority. They were the 1% unicorn stories.

Yesterday I was devastated and unsure how I'd ever get over this.

This morning I woke up with a greater sense of zen. I decided that the only way for me to get over the overwhelming sense of devastation was to stop dwelling on it and move on. Which wasn't to say that I didn't love our little failing embie-baby with all my heart. I just felt that unless I moved forward, I'd never get past the sadness. I thought to myself that I might revisit it again, if and when I started bleeding or my fallopian tube exploded, but for now I needed to look forward and let go. We had 7 blastocysts in ice for pete's sake and a FET to get on with.

Turns out I was a bit premature in my attempt to move on, but it did help me to get out of the house this morning. The problem is, I still feel pregnant. I cannot escape the symptoms that remind me of exactly where I am; in the no-man's land of abnormal beta results.

Since this morning I have vacillated wildly between absurd bouts of hopefulness, moments of reluctant acceptance and periods overwhelming sadness.

I emailed our clinic with the beta results and asked them for guidance, only to receive back an automated message that told me to ring up and leave a message if I wasn't reporting a day one of my cycle on the email I had sent. I was furious. So you are asking me to leave a voicemail in the midst of all my snot and tears..? Why can't they have a freaking email account for enquiries such as these (i.e. ones that aren't related to medical emergencies but are still pretty important)? I'd much rather take my time to compose a nice non-neurotic sounding email than to sob down their answering machine.

Anyway, I doubt that anyone will get back to me before Tuesday as it is a Bank Holiday weekend and all they do during weekends is scans, retrievals and transfers. It's a pared down service.

It's good though. If I can convince them to give me another blood test (free of charge this time - I can't afford any further Harley Street charges this month) at least it'll be far enough apart from the last one to hopefully give us more definite news. Surely they can't deny me that? I'm in a risk group for having an ectopic now, am I not?

So that's what's happening in Endoland. The bizarre and head-spinning journey continues.

77

Posted by Haisla Thursday, 21 May 2015 5 comments

Seventy seven is a great number if it for instance denotes a ripe old age you've reached from where you can look back on your life and appreciate all the great things you've accomplished.

It's not such a great number when it's your first beta result for 15dp5dt..

After numerous light pee sticks (which were darkening daily I hasten to add), I caved and booked a private hCG test at a clinic near work. I snuck out during my lunch break yesterday and received the results on my way home. I was devastated when I saw the double digit figure. I mean I knew that my pee sticks were lighter than the ones I'd seen posted online, but they had been getting gradually darker. Of course I immediately immersed myself in the world of Dr Google to find out what this number meant and the results were not good. According to Betabase for instance I am at the very tail end of the stats for pregnancies that have turned out to be viable*. Not at the very tail end, since 44 was the lowest number recorded at 20dpo, but not far behind. Although I'm aware that the doubling time of the hCG is more important than the number itself, seventy seven at this late stage in the game seemed more like 'game over'.

I felt dejected by the time I got home. I told M. that it didn't look like it was going to be good news.

He  tried to remain positive, but I could tell he was sad. We hugged and hugged.

Since yesterday I've done some more research and found slightly more encouraging information amongst all the doom and gloom. The American Pregnancy Association has this to say about hCG:

  • 85% of normal pregnancies, the hCG level will double every 48 – 72 hours. As you get further along in pregnancy and the hCG level gets higher, the time it takes to double can increase to about every 96 hours.
  • Caution must be used in making too much of hCG numbers. A normal pregnancy may have low hCG levels and result in a perfectly healthy baby. The results from an ultrasound after 5 -6 weeks gestation are much more accurate than using hCG numbers.
  • A single hCG reading is not enough information for most diagnoses. When there is a question regarding the health of the pregnancy, multiple testings of hCG done a couple of days apart give a more accurate assessment of the situation.
  • The hCG levels should not be used to date a pregnancy since these numbers can vary so widely.

    Guideline To HCG Levels During Pregnancy

    hCG levels in weeks from LMP (gestational age):
    • 3 weeks LMP: 5 – 50 mIU/ml
    • 4 weeks LMP: 5 – 426 mIU/ml
    • 5 weeks LMP: 18 – 7,340 mIU/ml
    • 6 weeks LMP: 1,080 – 56,500 mIU/ml
    • 7 – 8 weeks LMP: 7, 650 – 229,000 mIU/ml
    • 9 – 12 weeks LMP: 25,700 – 288,000 mIU/ml
    • 13 – 16 weeks LMP: 13,300 – 254,000 mIU/ml
    • 17 – 24 weeks LMP: 4,060 – 165,400 mIU/ml
    • 25 – 40 weeks LMP: 3,640 – 117,000 mIU/ml
    • Non-pregnant females: <5.0 mIU/ml
    • Postmenopausal females: <9.5 mIU/ml
    These numbers are just a GUIDELINE– every woman’s level of hCG can rise differently. It is not necessarily the level that matters but rather the  change in the level.
The article does then go on to say that low hCG levels could indicate possible miscarriage, blighted ovum or ectopic pregnancy.

So hCG of 77 could mean something or absolutely nothing. I could just be one of those women who naturally produces low levels of hCG, or I could be at the brink of a miscarriage. I'm not bleeding or spotting but that doesn't really guarantee anything.

I've booked a second beta for tomorrow at the private clinic. The best thing I can do for now is just sit tight and try not to drive myself absolutely mad. If the number doubles by tomorrow, I will just try to leave it at that and wait for my first scan on June 5th. If the number looks dodgy or is shrinking, I will contact my clinic for guidance.

Oh, and I couldn't help myself, but checked the due date using an online calculator. Should this little bean turn out to be viable after all, my due date will be January 20th, 2016.

Just one more little fact to torment me.. ; )

The results are in...

Posted by Haisla Sunday, 17 May 2015 10 comments

.. and they look something like this:

Taken on Sat 11dp5dt


Yep.. it's a bit of a squinter, but undeniably there (it's much more obvious in real life than in the photo).  So my first response was utter joy - my first ever positive pregnancy test, ever!!! I showed it to M, who was over the moon.

The lightness of the second line left me feeling a bit concerned though, considering how long it's been since the transfer. It was one of those crappy freebie pee sticks that clinic provides, though, so I am partially putting it down to that. Needless to say, I spent a large amount of time yesterday visiting all sorts of shady corners of the Internet that no-one in their right mind after a faint 'BFP' should visit.. The only result was that I convinced myself that it was probably some kind of a chemical pregnancy or at least unviable in some shape or form.



I did feel a bit better when I peed on a stick again this morning and got this:

Sunday 12dp5dt


...which seems a bit more unequivocal in its pronouncement and set my mind at greater ease.

Of course I'm terribly aware that we're not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination yet (well, by about eight and a bit months really). It still feels incredibly unreal that somehow I have managed to get pregnant.

However far this pregnancy will progress (till birth is what I hope), I will always be grateful that we managed to get pregnant at all!! That is not something to be taken for granted. After three and a half years of 'nada' I was kind of starting to wonder. Whichever way this will pan out, I now have some hope that I am not dreaming of completely impossible things.

It's a weird place to be. I am absolutely ecstatic and yet at the same time almost paralysed by fear. I now understand what people mean when they say that a positive pregnancy test is just the start of the hurdles race that makes up a full-term pregnancy. I dare not dream yet. I dare not imagine the baby or look up the due date or do any of the other stuff that blissfully ignorant 'normal' people might do.

I am trying my hardest to be happy and grateful for what I have today. I can't by worrying change the outcome of this pregnancy. It will be what it'll be.  But today I can choose to be happy.

This post will be a sort of a summary of our fertilisation report and today's transfer all mashed up into one (since I've been a lazy blogger).

We actually received our one and only fertilisation report on the morning after the retrieval.

I was making popcorn (as you do at 10am on a Friday morning; let's just say I had a hankering), M. was in the loo. So it was without a doubt the perfect moment for the embryologist to call.

I'm sure she thought I was mad with my slightly distracted tone of voice and the ferocious popping taking place in the background (I make popcorn the old-fashioned way, on a stove, in a pan). Somehow I managed to grab a Green election candidate Tony Firkins' leaflet from the kitchen counter, find a pen and take notes with one hand whilst shaking the popcorn pan with the other.

So our precious fertilisation report is scratched onto an election pamphlet. How very fitting.

Anyway, I digress. The embryologist had good news, which I was just about able to hear amidst all the popping:

- Out of the 11 eggs that were chosen for ICSI, 9 were viable and 4 fertilised.

- Out of the 11 eggs that were selected for IVF, 10 fertilised.

- So altogether we had 14 fertilised eggs!!! With this result they recommended day 5 transfer.

Great news.. However, do you notice a teeny tiny discrepancy?

Yep, on Thursday after the retrieval we were told that they obtained 18 eggs.. 11 + 11 surely = 22.. Umm.. had they somehow multiplied overnight?

Had I been less preoccupied with my popcorn during this crucial phone call I may have asked this very question of the embryologist. However, I wasn't and I didn't.

So I was left with Dr Google to figure this one out, before I drove myself crazy convinced that they'd mixed M's sperm with someone else's eggs!!

Thankfully I found this very helpful blogpost from an actual scientist (the Infertility Lab Insider) who has worked in a number of fertility labs over the years. To summarise (very badly) the initial counting of eggs after retrieval can be obscured by a cloud of cumulus cells that surround the egg inside the ovarian follicle and sometimes immature eggs (which are at the brink of maturation) mature naturally in the next 24h in vitro which may account for a change in the number of mature eggs. So there appear to be very good, scientifically based reasons why the egg count after the day of retrieval may go up as well as down. Whoever knew? Anyway, I am not complaining. But if you're interested in fertilisation and everything that happens to an egg before it becomes an embryo, may I recommend that you visit the above blog - it's fascinating.

So we had 22 eggs out of which 14 fertilised, which leaves us with a 63% fertilisation rate. According to Fertility Lab Insider this is below average, from memory I think she states that 75% is normal. But again, I'm not complaining. I am 36, my eggs are bound to be heading south in quality.

But the good news is that on some level we obviously are really quite fertile - I can produce a fairly decent amount of eggs; M's sperm can find their way to those eggs and actually get in and get things going.

This was as much as we knew until today, day 5. Our clinic does not appear to be big on providing information for their patients. It could be that the reason why they don't provide detailed daily reports is because they want to keep the developing embryos as undisturbed as possible. Apparently this is a thing with some clinics.

So today we approached the clinic with trepidation.

We were there at 11.35am for our 11.50am appointment. I was busting for a wee (as is the norm, I had been asked to arrive "with a full bladder").

At 12.20pm, I was in absolute in agony. Did I mention that progesterone makes my bladder hyper-sensitive to the need to wee? At this point I alerted a nurse to my dilemma and we were without further ado whisked to the transfer lab. I got to don the hairnet again with a fetching white disposable gown (as did M - we got the cutest photo taken), the doctor asked me to sit down whilst she gave us the final fertilisation report - I couldn't I was literally in pain with the need to wee at this point. She kindly allowed me to go to the toilet and empty my bladder somewhat. What a sweet relief! I was again able to take in and retain information.

The doc resumed sharing the Day 5 fertilisation report with us. Out of our 4 ICSI embryos all had turned into blastocysts and were hatching (yay!).

Out of our 10 IVF embryos 2 had turned into blastocysts (but were not yet hatching) the rest were still developing but at a far slower rate than the others. The doc said they'd keep an eye on them for the next couple of days.

But the bottom line is that we got 6 blasts!!!

They asked if we were happy with transferring one, to which we said yes. So I've got one healthy (looking), beautiful (the doc's words, not mine), hatching embryo nuzzling inside of me as I am writing this and we've got 5 in ice for future FETs!!!! I am so, so very grateful; this has all gone so very smoothly and without a hitch.

The transfer itself was fairly uneventful. The doctor cranked me open with the speculum as they do (that was mildly uncomfortable, as she wasn't able to use any lube), then her assistant got the embryo from the lab in a catheter, the doctor placed the catheter inside of me (we saw a little light flash on the ultrasound screen as it happened) and then her assistant checked the catheter to ensure that the embie had indeed been decanted inside of me, which it was. Not two minutes later I was back up on my feet and dressing up. We sadly didn't get to see a picture of the blast, which was a bit of a shame and all in all the whole transfer experience was a bit a of an anti-climax.

But, and this is a big but, at this very moment I am officially PUPO and am planning on enjoying every single moment of this experience.

The progesterone pessaries have already given me massively sore boobs, a heightened sense of smell and slight nausea, so I'm aware that symptom spotting will be futile. I'm back to work tomorrow and my plan is to stay busy (in a very relaxed sort of way) and try to stay away from Dr Google as much as I can. Wish me luck. Eeeep!!!xx


Retrieval

Posted by Haisla Friday, 1 May 2015 6 comments

Ok, so the good news is that we got 18 eggs retrieved yesterday!!!

I'll tell the slightly longer story, just in case one day I'll get to repeat it to our children and need a reminder of the full facts:

We left home at 7.30am supposedly in good time to reach Central London by 9.30am.

Everything went well until we hit traffic around Battersea. We'd had such a nice drive up until then, the sun was shining, we had good music on the playlist and were feeling fine. From Battersea on the journey was wracked by nerves and unannounced roadworks (M. had planned the journey meticulously to avoid as many traffic jams and roadworks as was humanly possible). The problem with Central London is that once you hit traffic, there is no way to back out and you just have to grin and bear it. My jaw was clenched so tight by the time we arrived at the hospital that I could have done with a crowbar to unclench it.

I'd had nightmare visions of having to ditch M. and the car to make their own way to the hospital and hopping on public transport to beat the traffic. The obvious problem with this plan was that we were both needed at at the hospital; me leaving M. behind wouldn't have really accomplished anything.

To cut a very long story short, we arrived at the hospital at 9.40am.

Another reason for feeling some pressure to arrive at the hospital in good time, was that I'd been advised to insert a rectal Diclofenac pessary approx. 1h before the retrieval. Obviously with the long drive, I couldn't do this in the privacy of my own home and no way was it doable in the car (I mean there are crazy things I would do to beat infertility, but there are also lines I will not cross!). So as soon as we arrived to the hospital (sweating, panting and slightly shaken), I slipped into the toilet and got the thing in. Not pleasant. If you have to do this thing in a public toilet, I recommend a pair of disposable latex gloves and nerves of steel. I know, I know, perhaps this borders on TMI, but listen, I'm glad I thought of the gloves before I left home. This is really just to prepare any IVF first-timers out there on what might lay ahead.

Once at the ACU itself, there was a bit of waiting around to do. I was offered a fetching gown,  a hairnet and the ugliest pair of slippers I have ever seen (see exhibit A) to wear:

Mmm ... sexy

I got to confirm my name and date of birth umpteen times, but I'm obviously grateful that they take such care in identifying each couple in order to match the right eggs with the right sperm. M. was led into a private room to do his thing, but generally we didn't really know what was going on, or what the schedule was going to be like.

I emptied my bladder a million times, since I'd accidentally drank some water in the morning just before leaving the house (somehow I hadn't managed to take in that the 'no food or drink 6 hours prior to procedure' advice included water *doh!*). I was terrified that it would wreck the retrieval (that somehow they'd 'know' and cancel the procedure) or that I'd end up choking on my own vomit whilst unconscious. Thank goodness it had been enough time for the water to travel through my system and thanks to my nervous bladder I managed to squeeze out every single drop before I was led into the theatre at approx. 11am.

The operating theatre was much more 'medicalised' than I'd thought with scary looking stirrup bed placed in the middle of the room. I climbed up on the stirrup bed, got the IV-drip attached to my hand by the dead nice anaesthetist (he had to dig around a little and it was probably the most painful part of the procedure that I can remember). He then placed the oxygen mask on my face, said something about it being time for the 'gin and tonic' (I think, although I can't be sure), I started feeling a bit woozy and then went out like a light bulb.

The next thing I remember is waking up back at the recovery room where M. was waiting for me. I woke up from what felt like a really nice deep sleep; apparently I'd been completely out of it (and snoring lightly) when they'd wheeled me in.

As I woke up a bit more, I discovered I was in quite a bit of pain (me and pain don't get along), so I asked for some extra painkillers and was given some together with my tea and gluten free crackers.

After a while, the embryologist came in to have a chat with us and confirmed that they'd managed to retrieve 18 embryos.

18!!!!

As M's sperm sample had been fairly cracking, too, they proposed a 50% IVF and 50% ICSI plan for scientific purposes, so they could learn a bit more about our fertility issues. We were both overjoyed by this. I'd always felt that by doing ICSI alone we might miss out on learning something valuable about why we're not getting pregnant. I'm all for gathering data. So this was like having the best of both worlds.

Around an hour later I was feeling steady enough on my feet to get changed and leave the ACU. I was still feeling a bit wobbly so allowed M. to go fetch our car from the car park whilst I waited in the lobby. By the time he got back (which did take a good 20 minutes) I was feeling decidedly odd. With hindsight, I don't think the gluten free crackers did much to hike up my blood sugar levels and I was positively crashing in the car on our way home. I just kept my eyes closed, leaned my head against the opened window and did my best not to throw up all the 90 minutes that it took us to get home.

When we got home, M. made me some cheese on toast and I drunk a large glass of water and went straight to bed. After a couple of hours' sleep I was feeling much better and spent the rest of the day on the sofa part napping, part watching crappy telly and drinking as much water as I could.

Today I am feeling much better with hardly any pain. There is still some discomfort and bloating in the pelvic / belly region (which worsens after I eat), but I haven't needed to take any pain medication since leaving the ACU. I also spotted a little yesterday, but that appears to have cleared up today.

So all in all, not too shabby at all. Now we just wait for the fertilisation report, on which I shall report later.





Retrieval tomorrow

Posted by Haisla Wednesday, 29 April 2015 6 comments

Since it's nearly midnight and I need to wake up tomorrow at 6am ready for retrieval, I'll try to keep this brief.

The retrieval is booked for 10.30am, but we've been asked to arrive at the hospital around 9.30am, so we'll set off driving at 7.30am since we live quite far from Central London.

Surprisingly I don't feel nervous much, just sort of anxious to get this show on the road.

I just find it amazing that inside of me are eggs that might make up our children and that tomorrow the clever doctors will take them out, mix them up with M's sperm and presumably make little human beginnings; the beginnings of our potential offspring. And those little embryos (I'm assuming there will be embryos) will contain all the human potential required to build up a unique individual.. all the traits and genetic material that will make the person who they are is stored in those few cells.  Isn't that just the craziest thing you've ever heard? It kind of just blows my mind.

We were given the prediction that we'll get around 15 eggs (providing that all the follicles contain eggs). Oh, please God, let it be so. And let them be of the most amazing quality; let them mix beautifully with M's sperm and grow into strong, resilient embryos out of which our healthy, happy babies will grow. Please, God.. I don't often ask you for 'things', but this one thing I ask. Please.


To have sex or not to have sex..

Posted by Haisla Saturday, 25 April 2015 3 comments



..that is the question.


Now, I like sex.

I'm sure I've said it here before.

But for quite a while during our infertility journey things were not this way. This was especially before I got my endo diagnosis, when I often found sex (and intercourse in particular) to be painful and not in the kinky, turn-on kind of way. I find now that I know what is wrong with me, I can better manage the condition, and believe it or not, somehow the pain also feels more bearable, when I know I'm not doing permanent damage to my innards, but that there's just something in there that oughtn't be there, that is always going to emit a level of pain.

As is the case with most IF journeys, there obviously also came the time when sex became strongly associated with rigid timetables, high expectations (talk about performance anxiety) and perpetually dashed hopes. Add to that heady mix a level of depression and despondency and you have a potent marital bedroom buster in your hands.

So we've worked really hard to reclaim our sex-life back from the claws of infertility and it's really only been this year that I've finally got my mojo back.

I have to say that ART has played a huge part in this. Knowing that we don't have to try so hard every month has lessened the sense of panic and pressure and we've actually had time to recover our sexual appetites again.

From reading other blogs, I'm aware that a lot of ladies give up sex during their IVF cycles, often at their doctor's orders and I, too, have contemplated this myself. However, the thought of giving up this (fairly) newly rediscovered source of joy, (now that we are finally embarking on our first IVF cycle) is a little disconcerting.

So, I've been doing a bit of research.

It turns out that there are quite a few studies conducted to decipher whether it's safe to engage in bedroom sports during IVF. I know that different clinics have different policies. Our clinic has been fairly laissez fair; I think we were told that we can have sex up until a few days before the retrieval (in fact, more sex = improved sperm quality) and haven't been given any guidance on what to do or not to do after.

This study from the Oxford Journal (2000), appears to suggest that the male partner's sperm introduced into the uterus during an IVF cycle may have a positive impact on implantation rates. If I've understood the study correctly they reckon that the male partner's sperm may 'familiarise' the mother's body to the 'paternal bits' (yep, that's the technical term I have decided to use) of the embryo so it is better able to accept the embryo and not reject it as an invading, foreign object. The effects appeared to be more pronounced for some reason in the fresh IVF cycles than the frozen ones.

The only risk that I could see them identifying were uterine contractions that may result from intercourse as these may have the unintended and unfortunate consequence of disrupting embryo implantation.

I still think, that in the light of this study (even if it is a little old now), it may be advisable if not advantageous to engage in a bit of rough and tumble at least before the transfer (providing one is not completely incapacitated following the retrieval). There seems to be no harm in having some of M's 'material' inside of me, welcoming the embryo(s) in, especially since some theories purport that endometriosis may do funky things to one's  immune response and set it on a bit of an overdrive.

However, since I have history of having occasional bad period-style cramping post-orgasm (especially in the post-ovulatory phase for some reason), I think I'll definitely try to abstain after transfer (plus who would want to mess around when using those messy pessaries anyway.. they act as a bit of a mood-killer from what I can recall).

At least these were my thoughts on the matter, before I stumbled upon this case study. According to it, a woman undergoing IVF treatment ended up with a quadruplet pregnancy (after a transfer of two embryos) as a result of having sex during her IVF cycle.

To cut the long story short, there was a happy ending in that she had the babies at 34 weeks and they all survived and lived on in health and happiness (apart from having more siblings than was intended). However, there were some questions asked about how she could have ended up with quadruplets from having had only two embryos transferred. Apparently this is a highly unlikely scenario. When they looked into the case more closely and studied the babies genetically, they found that the four babies could not have originated from the two embryos transferred. It transpired that the couple had had sex both before the HcG injection and before retrieval and that at least two of the babies were the result of natural conception that concurred with the embryo transfer and implantation. Crazy stuff, eh!!?? The writers of this case study suspect that more of the twin  and triplet pregnancies that occur in relation to IVF treatment may actually be as a result of unprotected intercourse that takes place at the time of the treatment. As this issue hasn't really been studied to try to establish whether the babies all originate from the transferred embryos, the assumption has always been that for some unknown reason IVF results in greater number of twin and triplet pregnancies than natural cycles. It's interesting stuff, and perhaps more studies should be (or may have been since this is quite an old case study?) conducted.

This study did give me pause for thought. I certainly don't want to end up with triplets let alone quadruplets. Could my 'throwing caution to the wind' attitude heighten our risk of having multiples!?

With further thought, the lady in this case study was suffering from secondary infertility and had been able to conceive naturally and without any problems six years previous, which may place her in a completely different category from me. At least she had proof that her body was able to produce a natural pregnancy.  Considering that we have now been trying  for 3.5 years with absolutely zero results (not even the chemical kind), the fear of a natural pregnancy occurring simultaneously with our IVF cycle sounds a bit fantastical. I think at this stage in the game I should really be more concerned about whether we'll be able to get pregnant at all..

So, I think "to have sex" it will be for us, but in a well-considered, moderate and scientifically approved manner, in order to maximise our chances of a successful pregnancy..

However, first we kind of have to get to the transfer stage, I suppose.

I shall write a bit more on that later.


 

On why one cannot 'plan' an IVF-cycle

Posted by Haisla Wednesday, 22 April 2015 4 comments

So it's been interesting..

The nature of my job dictates that I have had to disclose to (some of) my regular clients (whom I am caseworking at the moment) that I will be going through a medical procedure in the very near future and will be taking some time off for that. Trying to dodge questions would have been even more difficult than being semi-transparent, but it turns out that with IVF even semi-transparency can get ever so complicated.

Somehow (probably due to my response to past IUI cycles - what folly!) I was under the impression that by day 9 (of stimulation) scan I would pretty much be guaranteed to be bloated to the hilt and almost ready for retrieval and therefore told clients (and colleagues alike) that I would possibly, probably have to take the rest of this week and some of next week off.

Well nothing could be further from the truth. On Tuesday at our day 9 scan, we found out that my eggs are nowhere near ready for collection. I think there were a few 'larger' follies at 8mm but majority were still tiny-weenie. If this was some kind of a race, we would've hardly left the start line. But hey, since this is Endoland, it figures. My eggies are probably racing backwards or something.

I am trying not to panic about the implications (although couldn't help googling 'slow response' to Gonal-F), as the nurse told us that at this point almost anything is considered normal.. My eggs are not only racing backwards, they are probably also lazy.

So we've been instructed to carry on with the Buserelin and Gonal-F shots, have another scan on Friday and then see where we're at. The nurse was almost certain that nothing of interest will be happening until late next week. So I'll now have to go back to work tomorrow and reschedule everything again with my clients. Grrreeaattt. And we're talking about highly vulnerable and often quite inflexible individuals who have a hard time understanding that I may have life outside of work.. This is going to go down like a lead balloon.

Well at least I now know the reason why I haven't been bloated like a whale yet and have only experienced minimal discomfort so far - I have hardly anything going on in my ovaries!! I can still fit in my normal work trousers etc. So my worries about the choir thing and the interview today were completely unfounded, which is great in someways, but means that I'll have to experience more awkwardness at work, trying to shuffle my regular clients, scoot off to more scans in the middle of work day and explain away the uncertainty about not knowing when I'll actually be taking time off for this 'procedure'.

I am planning to take at least two days off for retrieval (retrieval day and the one after) and then at least one or two days off for transfer. I really, really wanted it all to be done and dusted by late next week and early the following week, but it looks like we are pushed way back now. Unless my ovaries decide to have a crazy growth spurt and get to the finish line in record time.

I think basically what I hate is how out of control I feel with this IVF cycle. I cannot organise my timetable, as I don't know what's happening and when. So much is unknowable and I cannot make my eggs grow faster, just by trying harder. Normally I can achieve things and make thing work out if I just work hard enough. This whole experience is almost like the total opposite. I just need to let go and allow my body to do the thing it needs to do, preferably with minimal interference from me. I am so, so outside of my comfort zone.

I am, however, glad I took a few days off this week (these were meant to be the 'bloat days'). I got to hang out with M after our scan on Tuesday and sit by the river in the sun. It was gorgeous and I feel far more relaxed for it.

And today I had my second interview. It went well. I looked presentable and non-pregnant. I was able to answer all the questions and come across as competent and effective (which I am, I promise). They tried to ring me twice this evening after the interview, but as they'd said they'd contact us tomorrow with the news, I wasn't paying attention to my phone. So I'll need to ring back tomorrow morning.

I have decided to be forthright about our IVF and my possible need for time off if I get offered the job (and if this cycle is a bust). It might be a bit of a career-suicide step, but I'm just so sick of hiding this and fretting about it, that I'd rather bring it up now than later. If they then decide that they don't want an infertile / possibly soon pregnant lady working for them, then too bad for them. I can still carry on in my current job and be £12,000 / year better off (albeit continually stressed out). M. and I even wrote a little spiel for me to quote should I get offered the job tomorrow and it's more about negotiating time off with short notice (poss. during probation period) than me asking their permission to engage in IVF treatments. Obviously they may come up with some excuse to withdraw the offer, but if that's the case I don't think it'll be the kind of organisation I'd want to work for anyway. Obviously if they don't offer me the job, this is all moot, but I'd rather be prepared and have the peace of mind that I am entering this situation with honesty and integrity.

So that's that. Everything (possibly) is happening at once. Things would be far simpler if I didn't get that job.. Although on the other hand, I really would like it. I'm trying to see this as a win-win again, whichever way the cookie crumbles. And crumble it will. Tomorrow.


Entering the choppy waters of IVF

Posted by Haisla Thursday, 16 April 2015 8 comments

So we're in the midst of our very first IVF cycle. It is finally really happening.

This is going to be quite a boring post about jabs and dates and so on, just for posterity's sake really or for anyone interested in finding out what a real life IVF cycle looks like courtesy of NHS.

I've been on the blessed Buserelin injections for more than three weeks now (since CD 21 i.e. 27/03/15) and have experienced all the 'fun' side effects of the stuff, such as hot flashes, mood swings (ranging from anxiety to red-hot-rage to bouts of depression and back), lack of concentration, disturbed sleep and difficulties in remembering things.

My period was much lighter than usual, but has just gone on for ever and ever. I bled heavily for two days and have had light bleeding for the past 11. That has been incredibly annoying. I hate wearing pantyliners, but what can you do. I asked the nurse whether this is something to be concerned about but she didn't seem worried. Apparently it can be a side effect of Buserelin.

I will mention it again at our next scan on Tuesday if it hasn't eased off my then, as surely I'm supposed to start growing some plump womb-lining and bleeding is sort of counterproductive to that end.

Anyway, I digress. We had our first scan on Monday 13/04/15 to check that my ovaries and womb were all subdued and cyst-free, which was the case. We therefore got the go-ahead to start the Gonal-F injections too (300 IU / daily) and to reduce Buserelin from 0.5ml to 0.2ml / daily.

So I have Buserelin shots in the morning and Gonal-F in the evening. Always something to look forward to. ; )

Despite the Gonal-F needle being tiny, I still am not able to bring myself to self-inject. I guess I should pat myself on the back for actually managing these shots at all and not fret about overcoming my needle phobia. I never really thought it ran that deep, but it turns out to be a proper, real thing.

So we now have a little injection routine every morning and evening, where I sit on the bed, with M beside me, I grab the headboard with both hands, close my eyes, take three (or more) slow, deep breaths and then give M the go-ahead to do the shot. I swear I cannot manage the shots without this little regime. We've tried belly shots (doesn't that sound fun, like something you'd do in a bar!?), but I just go into hysterics, so we've dropped that act. All I can say is that if you hate needles and have to go through IVF, just find something that works for you. NHS recommends breathing relaxation exercises or the applied tension method. I find that the smaller doses of the meds (0.2 ml vs 0.5ml) has also made the injections easier, because what I've discovered I hate even more than a needle piercing my skin is the sensation of something seeping into my body. Yuck, and it's even worse if the stuff stings which is the case with Buserelin. And somehow ass shots are easier than thigh shots (IMO) although with Buserelin and Gonal F, butt is not an option.

However, before you freak out about all these injections, please know that I have a very low tolerance level for such things, which is why I go on and on about them. This is my way of purging it all and getting it all out of my system. I'm sure most other women going through IVF find the needles far less traumatic.

                                              --------------------------------------------------------

Our next scan is on Tues 21/04/15 and we should then find out whether we're ready to pull the trigger on them eggs. So the earliest possible date for retrieval is Thurs 24/04/15 and the latest Mon 27/04/15. I've taken Tues and Weds off next week mainly because I don't fancy doing a long 11.5h shift when I am likely to be as bloated as a whale if our last IUI cycle is anything to go by..

Which handily takes me to my next subject of moan - the bloat. Am I the only one who ends up looking approx. 5 months pregnant on these meds? I am meant to be performing with our Community Choir on Sunday (this is a work thing) and my worry is that I'll get funny looks and inopportune questions from people as I'll be huge and on display on stage. Great. I tried to buy some bloat covering clothing today after work, but since I'm not normally seen in floaty dresses, I fear that my attempt to cover up might end up back-firing on me. My greatest fear is that people will just ask outright whether or not I'm pregnant. What am I to say to that? "Umm.. no, I'm just really full of eggs, thanks for asking.." M. told me to tell people that the bloat is constipation related should they be silly enough to ask. Apparently that should shut them up. Thank you, M, for your words of wisdom..

                                                 ---------------------------------------

In other news, I've also managed to secure myself a second stage interview for a boring but low-stress job. The bad news is that the interview will be taking place on Wednesday next week, which is also the day after our second scan and at a time when I am going to be just about fit to burst with eggs. I am basically going to be attending an interview looking like I am pregnant, whilst I'm actually not. I've eyed through my whole wardrobe and tried to decide whether attending an interview in yoga pants might be appropriate under any circumstances .. sadly I haven't yet found a shirt and yoga pants combo that wouldn't make me look like I'd snuck out of a mental hospital, but I'm just not sure that I'll be able to fit into any of my smarter trousers. Hmmmh..

I just don't understand how I always manage to get myself into these situations where I am job hunting or attending interviews in the middle of cycles (I think last time it was during or just before/after our second IUI..?) I am starting to see a pattern here. Do I somehow subconsciously crave additional and unnecessary stress? What is wrong with me!!??

The kick in the teeth is that if I do get offered this job I'll have to make a decision about whether to take up the offer before I actually know whether or not the cycle has been successful. However, with my 3 month notice period and lack of driving licence (which was stated as a desirable, not a must have for this job) I don't think I'll be their top candidate. So I'm sort of thinking, if I do get an offer it'll be borderline miraculous and at that point I'll have to seriously consider whether it might be a sign from the universe that it's time to move on.

Anyway, I'm not going to worry about that just yet. My priority right now is this IVF cycle. Everything else is secondary, the job interview included.

So far things are going good, though. I feel like I'm as ready as I'll ever be. Let's get this show on the road!!xx


The meds have arrived

Posted by Haisla Sunday, 22 March 2015 0 comments

The meds arrived yesterday.

And I am feeling decidedly unenthused.

It's weird. This is the thing that I've been waiting for the past, ummm, I don't know, year or so, and now that it's here I feel strangely calm and reluctant to hop back on the roller coaster of crazy.

I managed to whip myself into such a frenzy last year, desperate for things to happen, for this journey to move on, and in the past months I've kind of found a strange new sense of serenity (or maybe gotten used to the 'new normal' of being in an eternal limbo) and I am sort of a bit bereft that it's coming to an end soon as I know that whichever way this IVF cycle will go, there will be heightened emotions involved. I think I may have overdone it with heightened emotions last year and now I'm all emotioned-out.

Or maybe I am keeping myself safely numb in preparation for whatever is to come.

So the meds are here (partly strewn across the dinner table, partly piled away in the fridge), we had the nurse's appointment on Wednesday to confirm the programme and I will start jabbing myself with Suprecur on Friday. No nasal spray for me it turns out, but thankfully the needle is tiny, to the point where I may be able to overcome my needle phobia and do the jabbing myself. Counselling appointment is booked for 2nd April and first scan for 13th.

I think this might really be happening..


Feeling slightly overwhelmed

Posted by Haisla Tuesday, 10 February 2015 4 comments

So we had our first IVF appointment today and since I confess to feeling somewhat overwhelmed by everything I've decided to put my thoughts on paper (I mean screen)..

First things first, the clinic is wonderful, the staff friendly, and I am so very happy with our choice. It's a world away from the bumblings of our previous (IUI) clinic.

However, something obviously had to go wrong (it's us we're talking after all) and it turned out that we not only had we not received our invite letter, we were also missing tons of consent forms that they should have sent to us in advance (we only received the invite letter via email yesterday after pestering the clinic with phone calls and emails). In their defence, they are an extremely popular clinic and therefore extremely busy. These things happen, and thankfully this problem was easily rectifiable.

The downside was that today during our appointment we were literally bombarded by different staff asking us to fill out, read and sign sheets and sheets of papers. For all I know I may have just donated all of my vital organs to science.

So that was one of the drawbacks; having to decide the fate of your future embryos in a busy corridor of an Assisted Conception Unit under some considerable time pressure. I think we decided to give them up for research (should there be any left once we're done with family building) which with hindsight feels perhaps a little callous. Apparently we have the right to change our minds yet. Maybe once the embryos turn from a mere fantasy into reality I may feel somewhat different and wish to hold on to them for more than 55 years (that was one of the options given on the numerous forms - perhaps with the advance of science I'll decide to try to get pregnant again when I'm 90).

Anyway, I digress.

The next item on my list of today's experiences may appear as far TMI for some, so please proceed with caution. I am only writing this for the benefit of those new to the IF world. These are the lengths to which we are willing to go to have a baby:

Today I had for the first time in my life the dubious pleasure of being ultrasound scanned on day 2 of my period, also known as 'the blood fest'. I genuinely thought that the mention of menstrual blood would deter them in their eagerness to scan me, but alas(!) it was not so. I have therefore now faced the ultimate dildocam shame and humiliation of having a man scan my uterus whilst it is merrily shedding itself away and onto his clean exam bed. Unnerving.  Oh, and it was my first encounter with real stirrups. I didn't quite know how to hoist myself onto them, but figured it out in the end. It felt like I'd finally graduated into the big girls' infertility clinic.

In positive news though, both my uterus and ovaries looked all fine and dandy.

Meeting with the doc was positive, too. She was lovely and interested and actually took the time to ask questions and listen. She noted down my endo diagnosis and our four failed IUI cycles and those seemed to give some extra credence to our case (i.e. nope we're not just making this up and nope 'just relaxing' at this stage won't make one bit of a difference - oh, the sweet vindication). She seemed a little concerned about M's sperm analysis, too, based on the notes from the previous clinic and as she wishes to take no chances with our chances (because she cares!) she is recommending ICSI. The last thing she would want, she explained, would be to find out that my eggs and M's sperm aren't getting jiggy with it on their own (I have heavily paraphrased here) hence the little extra helping hand from science.

Also, and this was a huge shock to me, there is a possibility of us transferring two embryos and not just one. I thought this was a complete no-no with the NHS unless one is over 40 and even then they would do it under duress. This clinic seems to have far laxer stance, and yet they boast fairly low levels of twin pregnancies. I think the fact that I am at the cusp of being 36 (gulp) makes two embryo transfer a possibility depending on how our embryos turn out overall.

I also asked about the risk of breast / ovarian cancer as a result of taking all the blessed hormones requires. She said research has shown that the hormones used are safe and should not heighten the risk of cancers generally. However, in those individuals who are genetically 'destined' to get cancer later on in life, the hormones may speed up the process. Am I destined to have cancer? I don't know. My mum had both breast cancer and ovarian cancer, but as far as I know she didn't carry the genetic marker. But I guess if I am genetically pre-disposed to getting cancer then a whole host of things may have an accelerative effect on the dormant cancer genes and at the end of the day, I can't live in a bottle. So for now I am deciding not to worry about that yet.

One last thing before I go to bed.

They are running a thyroid anti-body research at the clinic and asked whether I would like to potentially take part. As anyone who reads this blog regularly will know, I freaking love research, so I immediately said yes. If I am chosen for this research (this will only be the case if I turn out to have thyroid anti-bodies in my system) I'll write more about it later on.

For now all I can do again is wait until my next period, which should be in approx. 25 days' time. Then they will start me on a long protocol which will involve using nasal spray for some weeks from before day 21 of the cycle (spray rather than needles - yay!!!) and then later on a pen for stimming rather than those ghastly vials and needles (double yay!!). Anyway, by my calculations it'll be late March until anything really interesting will start happening, so I've got a bit more time to get my s**t together (meaning mainly my health back after this string of illnesses). But hey, at least we're on the road to somewhere!!




Whilst I've been gone

Posted by Haisla Friday, 6 February 2015 2 comments

I realise that this blog has become a bit of a 'this is what happened whilst I was gone' journal..

In the past months I've just needed to step back from TTC and the lovely IF community whilst our waiting limbo has continued.

You may remember that in early December we were due to see our Fertility Doc at our local clinic to discuss next steps.

The good news is: IVF is our next step

The bad(ish) news: We cannot have IVF at the same clinic as the IUIs (they do not provide the service)

So in the past two months we have needed to have our application for IVF funding approved (check), choose a fertility clinic out of a choice of four (check - it was a tough choice, but we went for convenience of travel, shortest waiting list and reasonable stats re: outcomes), have our STI tests re-done (check - second time in two years - as if we'd had time to be have extra-marital affairs what with all this TTC nonsense), and get our referral successfully sent to the chosen clinic (check).

So far all the above has happened and actually taken place at quite an astonishing speed. For all my moaning and groaning about the inefficiencies and sluggishness of the NHS, I must say that I'm impressed.

We now have an appointment for our chosen clinic on Tues 09/02/2015 to discuss our IVF treatment. Considering that we had our last appointment at the previous clinic on 09/12/2014, I would call this a modern miracle.

Of course there have been some minor hitches to the ride: we didn't receive an invite letter for the appointment, just a text message reminding us of the appointment we weren't even aware of. Thank goodness for their automated text message service. I wouldn't have been best pleased if we'd missed the appointment because of their admin error. But all in all and compared to previous experiences this has been plain sailing.

So, what have I been doing in the meantime whilst waiting for all of this to happen? Well, I've mainly been sick (I had a vomiting bug just before Christmas, caught a cold during Christmas holidays, have had a couple of minor colds throughout January and now a real killer cold that started last weekend and floored me yesterday); we have also had (despite my diseases) copious amounts of amazing (non-TTC) sex (we made a pact that now that the big guns are almost out, we'll no longer torture ourselves with timed intercourse, but have a tumble when the feeling takes us) and on top of that I have waded my way though a pile of trashy romantic novels. So in one word I have distanced myself as far as possible from TTC. Which has meant that I have also read fewer blogs and done so less often and generally been a bad blogger and commenter. For this I apologise, but sincerely, I only did it to preserve my sanity.

So much sadness and joy is contained within the blogosphere (happily many of my favourite bloggers have gotten their long awaited BFPs, but so many also struggle with losses and failed cycles), that sometimes the breadth and depth of emotion just becomes overwhelming. So I step back and drown myself in fiction, because in trashy novels you always know you get your happy ending.

But hey, here I am dipping my toes back into the blogosphere again to see how it feels, and so far, it ain't too bad.