No such thing as “just adopt”

I have been thinking about this post for a while.  It has been swirling around and I’ve gone from definitely write it to definitely don’t write it.  I have decided to write about our decision not to pursue adoption in the hope that it shows that every story is different and that there are many reasons why it might not be a route to building a family.

Many times during our IVF treatment we have been asked “why don’t you just adopt” or “have you thought about adoption”.  The questions usually come after a treatment hasn’t worked or when we have been at a stage of not having treatment and not knowing what comes next.  My response to those questions is now “of course we have thought about it, we have explored it thoroughly and we have made the decision that it isn’t the right thing for us”.

There was a time when I thought it would be an option for us.  After FET number 5 didn’t work back in 2014 we spent many months talking about the possibility of adoption being the next step for us.  Hubby was really keen and so I started to do some reading about it.  The more reading and research that I did, the more I tried to convince myself that it would be the right path for us.  In the Autumn of 2014 we went to an adoption information evening with the local authority.  We listened to a presentation about the process and the general backgrounds about some of the children in care who were placed for adoption.  As I was listening, a sense of panic set in and I just wanted to get out of the room.  We left as soon as it was over.  Hubby came out saying he was more certain now that he wanted to pursue it, I was an emotional wreck.  I wasn’t ready for this.  I told hubby that I wasn’t ready and that I still wanted to go with more IVF.

The process for approval is intrusive, it would take time and it was clear that the children placed for adoption had a whole range of histories that would mean they needed something very special from the people that would become their parents.  There was of course, no guarantee that a child would be placed.  There was no guarantee of a ‘happy ending’.  There are very few babies placed for adoption.  In fact, at the time the local authority were only accepting applications from people willing to consider sibling groups or children over (I think) age 4.  There were already lots of people approved for the younger age groups.  After everything we had already been through I just wasn’t ready to put us through another grueling process which, to me at the time, sounded utterly exhausting and terrifying.  I was on the floor emotionally after 7 rounds of treatment and hubby and I were struggling to get through some days.  We had waited the required 6 months after treatment before we approached the local authority, but I just wasn’t ready.  In all honesty, I didn’t think we were strong enough to get through the process.  There really is no such thing as ‘just adopt’.  Everything about us would be scrutinised and I just couldn’t go through it.

So, we continued on the IVF path with no firm decision on adoption other than it wasn’t for now.

2016 saw IVF cycle 8, transfer number 6, no implantation.  I had hit rock bottom and was now in therapy.  Hubby simply said no more IVF and that he thought we should consider adoption again, once I had recovered and was ready, of course, there was no hurry.

One counselling session I talked about the fact that hubby wanted to consider adoption but that I just didn’t think I could.  She asked me what I knew about adoption.  My response was…well quite a lot.  I started to talk about the fact that when I was about 8 my parents decided to adopt.  We went through the process, we had a child placed with us and unfortunately a year later the placement broke down and the child was placed back into foster care.  A year or so later, they became foster carers.  We had lots of children pass through the door, from babies through to teenagers, from singletons to sibling groups of three.  Some went on to be adopted, some back to birth family, some onto other foster placements that were more suitable and others into specialist placements.  All had a different story, a different history but I saw first hand, time and time again, the reality of the impact of what they had been through as young children.  I talked and talked and talked some more to the counsellor about my experience of growing up with children who were in the care system.  Towards the end of that particular session we talked about whether there was a link between my experience of adoption and fostering as a young person and my now complete inability to think about it without panicking.  Of course there was, in that moment it became obvious.  I think I always knew it was there but I had never made the link.  Perhaps I hadn’t wanted to.

Through the rest of 2016 hubby and I talked about all of our options.  I think that’s what annoys me about people saying “have you thought about x, y or z”.  I can assure you all that infertility makes you question everything and think about every possible option.  I started to try to research the impact of adoption and fostering on the families birth children.  I found nothing.  I suppose I wanted to try to move forward and to try to understand some of the impact on me.  More importantly, I wanted to work through things so that it would be an option for us.  I talked about it during my counselling sessions and it became more and more clear to me that it wouldn’t be the right route for us but I was constantly wrestling with it, going round and round between yes and no.

January 2017 we went to another adoption information evening, this time with a local agency.  I had talked it through with my counsellor and she encouraged me to go armed with the questions that were important to us both.  And that’s what we did.  It was a one on one session with 2 social workers.  They took us through a presentation about the approval process, the likely timescales, the option of foster to adopt, some of the general backgrounds of the children placed for adoption and the post adoption support.  I hit them with what felt like tens of questions.  Hubby listened whilst I bombarded them.  I felt that they answered honestly.  They confirmed everything that I thought I knew about the reality of adoption.  That many adopted children require something special in terms of parents and in many cases they required a different style of parenting.  We came away from the session, got in the car and hubby said how proud he was of me for being so open to the idea even though he knew for me that was really difficult because of my history, but he agreed…adoption isn’t the route for us to create a family.

The door was closed and I felt a sense of relief.  We had made the decision together.  This wasn’t me just saying ‘no’ and not really understanding why.  It had taken us 3 years of thinking about it, reading and researching to come to the point of knowing it wasn’t the right thing for us.  I had never quite understood why I just couldn’t get to the point of being ready to build our family through adoption, now I completely understand.  If anyone asks me about it now, I’m happy to talk about our decision, but that’s exactly what it is, our decision and not for anyone else to judge.

Through fostering my parents opened their home to many children and gave them love & stability that they had probably rarely or never experienced before.  It also helped shape who I am today.  My sense of caring and reaching out to others I’m sure comes from a place of growing up surrounded by children who needed something extra special. Adoption is an amazing thing but it has to be the right thing for each person involved.  It is a very personal decision and one that is not taken lightly.  It took us a long time to make the decision but I know it is the right one for us.

It has taken me many months to find the courage to write this post.  I hope that it helps those that may be struggling with the decision to know that it is a difficult & personal decision.  In time you will reach the decision that is right for you and its ok if that takes time.  There is no such thing as “just adopt”.

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Lucky 13…?

It is 13 years this weekend since I walked down the aisle to my now hubby and said ‘I do’.  I have so many fantastic memories of our wedding day.  Surrounded by family and friends celebrating the next chapter in our lives together.  I was in my mid-twenties, infertility hadn’t crept into our lives, we were renovating our first house and we were looking forward to whatever was going to come our way.

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Those 13 years have been packed full of good times.  We have seen some amazing places in the world.  We have watched many people close to us get married and have families.  We have built a life together.  A good friend of mine wrote in our wedding card that we should remember, even in tough times, to laugh together.  So many times during the past 13 years I have said, if I couldn’t laugh then I would just cry.

It has been 11 years since we made the decision to start a family.  11 years later we are no further forward.  Years of disappointment, heartache and sadness have tinged our relationship.  We try hard not to think about it, not to allow it to seep into the depths of who we are, but inevitably it does.  When I walked down the aisle, never in my worst nightmares did I expect that we would be tested so much.  And yet, somehow, we have survived, just us two.  Time after time we have brushed ourselves off and found the strength to move forward, together.

I used to read often on forums that infertility had made a relationship stronger and that IVF had brought couples closer together.  I could never understand how that could be the case.  For me, it felt that it just pulled us apart, that it had created so many cracks in our relationship I wasn’t sure if we would make it from one treatment to the next.  The years of treatments not working, the grief, the pain, the isolation and ultimately the lack of wanting to talk about it and what it really meant for us, lead to a point where we were just going from one day to the next…we just survived.  There have been times where we have felt broken, both as individuals and as a couple.  I suppose there is one thing that has always kept us together…love.  Pure and simple, the deep love that we have for each other has held us together in the really hard times.

I am happy to say that now in our 13th year of marriage, things are good.  Infertility is part of our lives, but it isn’t all of who we are anymore.  It consumed us for far too many years of our marriage, we no longer allow it to.  It feels like we are stronger and closer than ever before.  It hasn’t been easy and it has taken a lot of soul searching and honest communication.  Somewhere along the track we forgot to ask each other how the other one was doing, we avoided talking about the important things and we were scared to tell each other how we were feeling.  Once we started talking…and I mean really talking, things felt so much better.

At some point during our 13th year of marriage we will be transferring our 13th embryo.  That’s got to be a sign right?  Unlucky for most people, but lucky for us?  Probably not.  After being on this treadmill for so long I have come to realise that nothing is quite that simple.  So many times I’ve made those types of connections, been filled with hope only for it to be taken away again just as quickly as it came.  Like the time we were due an embryo transfer on our 5th wedding anniversary,  ooh now that was a sign.  Nope, I spent the week in hospital with OHSS instead.  Time after time I have tortured myself with false hope because of some sign from the universe.  Anyone trapped in the nightmare of infertility will understand what it’s like and how much it messes with you.  We grab onto just about anything in the hope that this time will be our time.

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We are heading into our 13th year full of love and hope.  Whatever happens, happens.  We will deal with it.  One thing I do know is that I’m lucky to have found someone to share my life with that truly loves me.  There is no-one that I would rather be facing the next year with.  From the bottom of my heart I hope that embryo number 13 is the one that finally sticks around, it wouldn’t be lucky, it would be amazing.

You are not alone

Feeling Stuck & Tired

Time seems to be going so fast, yet it seems that I’m stuck in the same place I have been for many years.  It feels like I’m treading water or maybe trying to wade through treacle.  It’s one step forward and two steps back…all of the time.

I’m tired of the complexity of infertility.  I’m worn down by it all.  I’m exhausted by the whole thing.  I’ve had enough of it, I want it to stop and I want to step off.  I just want to get up in a morning and not think about IVF, having a family, not having a family and most of all I don’t want to think about staring at another negative pregnancy test.  The fear it real, so very real.  Part of me feels completely numb to the whole thing but maybe that’s just a bit of self protection.

Maybe it’s the January blues, maybe its the crap going on at work or maybe it’s the reality of heading into another frozen embryo replacement.  I don’t know but whatever it is I need to snap out of it…quickly.

Work has been a roller coaster.  Firstly I was facing redundancy with no obvious job for me.  Now I’ve been told my job isn’t being touched in this restructure (thank you for the 6 weeks of stress I’ve been through) but my job will change and I think it will have more stress.  That is a very real worry.  Even after everything I have been through I don’t think I handle stress very well.  I would say I’m a flight not fight type of person.  You maybe wouldn’t think so given my all out war with infertility over the past decade (yes, its been a decade), but in most situations I want to run for the hills at the first sign of conflict or pressure.  I just didn’t need this all right now.  We had a plan.  Now I’m not sure that we can continue with that plan whilst there is so much change going on at work.

Then I find myself questioning whats more important, work or treatment.  Treatment of course.  But work is such a massive part of my life and I don’t want to go through treatment whilst work is stressful.  Or maybe I’m just not ready to go through treatment at all.  I feel like my head is about to explode.  Its in overdrive, as it usually is when we are staring into the unknown future that is IVF treatment.  Worry and panic is starting to set in and I feel like I’m starting to loose control.  That scares me.

I hate it, I hate everything that it has done to me and to us.  I know we have to continue, we have to move forward.  I need to find some energy from somewhere.  I need to find some positivity from somewhere that this may actually work and that one of those embryos currently frozen at -196 degrees may become our future child.  Yet I constantly question why it would work when it hasn’t the last 6 times with 12 embryos.  What do I have to do to make this work?  There is probably nothing that I can do other than look after myself & stay positive.

I’m sick of hearing about trusting in a higher plan, that everything happens for a reason, that one day it will be our turn or that this year it has to be our year.  The reality is infertility is utter shit & nothing anyone says can make it better or make it go away.  We got dealt this and we are trying to live with it as best we can.

Today I’m struggling with it.  I’m tired of it and I’m worn out by it.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.  It’s likely that it will be, it usually is.

You are not alone

 

 

The FET Plan

So we now have a plan for our frozen embryo transfer.  Two weeks after our freeze all IVF cycle we saw the consultant to talk about the next steps.  Firstly there was a huge amount of relief in the room because I hadn’t been ill with OHSS this time.  We had the choice of a medicated or natural Frozen Embryo Transfer.  Due to the number of cycles that haven’t worked we have opted for medicated.  Fortunately there is no buserelin involved so it isn’t a long drawn out process.

So here is the new plan…

I will have oestrogen patches for 2 weeks, then a scan.  I’ve never had the patches so will be interesting to see what that does to me!  If everything looks ok I will start the progesterone support plus what our clinic calls quad therapy.  A date would then be set for transfer following the scan.  The quad therapy is steroids, clexane, aspirin & progesterone.  Basically what I’ve had in the last 2 cycles.   The consultant is happy to prescribe this type of support because of our repeated implantation failure and the fact that I have high NK cells as per the uterine test that I had all the way back in 2012.  I’m not having intralipids as I have done previously, our clinic doesn’t offer them.  Aspirin also doesn’t start until a positive test result because the thinking on the impact on implantation has changed apparently.  I’m also having progesterone injections for the first time.  We asked the consultant about the fact that I never seem to get to test date without bleeding and whether that was something to do with me not absorbing the progesterone from the pessaries.  He didn’t think so, he simply thinks its because none of the embryos implanted and if they had then I wouldn’t have bled before OTD.  He was still happy for me to try the injections though so that’s what we have decided to do.

We talked about the timing of FET.  The consultant was keen for us to get started in January but I have a follow up hysteroscopy at the end of January.  I had a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy at the end of August and a polyp was removed.  A follow up hysteroscopy has been requested by the gynae to ensure the polyp was fully removed because there was debris in my uterus.  All sounds delightful but it makes complete sense to get re-checked before FET.  So, my January cycle is out…February it is.

Well, February it would be, had work not just decided to take us through a huge restructure that puts me at risk of redundancy.  Why is nothing ever straightforward?  We had a plan, now we don’t.  Do we wait until the work situation is resolved before we even think about FET?  Do we just get on with FET anyway and live with whatever happens?  All I know is that the whole situation is causing me immense stress.  Going into FET in a state of stress isn’t an option BUT in the words of hubby, we have to get on with this now.

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The cycle of IVF that we just had is likely to be our last fresh cycle.  We have 6 embryos frozen…embryo numbers 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 & 20.  Even typing that seems utterly crazy.  How did we get here?  One thing we do know is that we can’t keep doing this.  We can’t keep putting ourselves and our family & friends through this either.  2018 is likely to be the last year that we try to start a family.  I know I need to give it my all (whatever the hell that even means), I need to try to concentrate on just this, but that’s easier said than done.

 

Knowing that this set of embryo’s are our last chance it is also time to start thinking about a future without a family.  As soul destroying as that is, it may become our reality.  With that in mind, life cannot be on hold.  It is time to start just living, just doing & just being without the cloud if ‘what if’ hanging over us, weighing us down.  My first decision has been to apply for a part time university course which starts in September.  A bit scary but I have loved being back at college.  It feels like the right thing for me…and so for the first time in a long time I am just going to do it.

You are not alone

Another year comes to a close…

As 2017 comes to an end, it seems timely to reflect on the year that has just passed.  For many years we had entered a new year hoping that by the end of the year we would either have a baby or that I would be carrying our baby.  Sadly that has never been the case.  We entered 2017 with a very different priority and that was for our marriage to survive.  At the end of 2016 we were in tatters and quite honestly we both struggled to see a way forward.  Thankfully, a year later we are in a very different position and again we will enter 2018 with renewed hope in our hearts that we may one day soon have a family.  But, how did we get here?

January we sought help with our relationship from a counsellor.  It felt like we might not make it through the month but both of us wanted desperately to try and make it work.  One thing became clear very quickly, we had stopped talking.  Both of us were scared to say what we were thinking and feeling about our future to the other, so instead we were silent.  Counselling helped us to start to talk again.  It helped us to think about what we both wanted for our future and ultimately it led us to make some decisions.  The month saw us consider adoption much more seriously than we had done previously.  It was also the month that we made the decision that it wasn’t an option for us.  The door closed on that route for us and finally I was at peace with that decision, knowing for us it was the right one.

February we travelled to India.  I had always wanted to visit what looked to be an amazing country.  Winter holidays had become our new norm and rather than sit by a pool for 2 weeks we decided to go on a tour and then finish with 5 nights in Goa.  We had an amazing time, met some lovely people and we have memories that will last a lifetime.  The highlights for me were visiting the majestic Taj Mahal and seeing Tigers in the wild on one of the safaris that we took.  Something shifted in our relationship during our trip away and when we got home there was a renewed sense of togetherness.  Something that I had hoped for but hadn’t expected.

 

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March & April there was lots of discussion about more IVF treatment.  I just couldn’t see a way forward, couldn’t see how I was ever going to step into another clinic, how I was going to trust another medical professional and how I would ever put me and us through another treatment cycle.  It wasn’t going to happen.  I continued with counselling, I needed an outlet and someone to talk things through with.  I felt like I was going round in circles and wasn’t getting anywhere fast.  Yet the more I talked about it, the more it seemed like I would be ok, that we would be ok.  A breakthrough for us came towards the end of March and I agreed that we would start to look for a new clinic.  After a few weeks of filling the on-line form out and deleting it, I finally sent it off in Early April.  This was it, we were facing this again.

May we waited for our appointment.

June came and we met our new consultant for the first time.  It was like a breath of fresh air.  He actually listened. We decided on a further test for hubby, the Sperm Aneuploidy test.  Hubby’s DNA frag test had come back ok previously so we didn’t repeat it.  This test looks for chromosome abnormalities in the sperm.  We had tested just about everything else so why not?  We waited for a further 4 weeks for the results.

July we had the follow up at the fertility clinic and the results of the sperm test.  They were in the normal range.  We had a new plan.  We had a treatment protocol and so we headed into August expecting to start IVF at the end of the month.

July was also the month that this blog, Strength Through Infertility came to fruition. 

I had the idea and the name a few months earlier, but with lots of encouragement from hubby & my counsellor, I wrote my first blog.  I wasn’t sure if anyone would read it or find it helpful but for me it was the start of something new, something raw, something honest and something that has opened my eyes and heart to those around me who also find themselves struggling through infertility.  It was a special month.

August didn’t see the start of IVF, it saw me being referred to a gynecologist because of immense pain throughout my July cycle.  Knowing that we wouldn’t be having IVF in August we took the opportunity to take a holiday in the sun.  Menorca was the destination of choice and we had a lovely time.  We came back ready to face what was next.  The gynae suspected endometriosis and so sent me for a laparoscopy.   I knew from my cycle in Greece that I had a polyp so I also convinced her to carry out a hysteroscopy to remove it.  Sometimes it pays to be a bit pushy.  Within 2 weeks of seeing the gynae I was being wheeled into the operating theatre for the procedures.  They found that my bowel and uterus were fused together with scar tissue.  There was no active endo but they removed as much scar tissue as they could.  Could this be one of the reasons that the embryos never implant?  We will never know but at least the pain eased as a result.

September & October I recovered from the surgery and started to make preparations for IVF in November.  Healthy eating took priority as did preparing myself mentally for a fresh IVF cycle.  Counselling sessions and acupuncture kept me grounded & focused.  There were plenty of wobbles, second guessing and “I can’t do this” moments but I got there.  family-2609525_960_720

November was a month of waiting.  Waiting for the end of the month to start IVF again.  20 months since our last cycle and here I was facing the prospect of putting myself through it all again.  What was I doing?  I can tell you what I was doing.  Panicking.  Lots of panicking.  The end of the month came, the first injection was done and we were actually doing this again.

December began and we were part way through our cycle.  Early December we found out that we had 6 perfect blasts to freeze.  It was better that we could ever have hoped for.  It was also the month that I found myself at risk of redundancy at work.  Christmas also caused its usual emotional havoc with me.  Lots of ups and downs, but I survived, with the help and support of some amazing people in the virtual world.

And so there it is.  What a year.

Even through the heartache of infertility I managed to have a positive and productive year.  I know there are times when I won’t feel ok, I know there are times when it hits me, seemingly from no-where.  I also know that I have a great support network in place and I have some strong scaffolding around me holding me up when I need it.

I found a new on-line tribe in the Twitter and blogging world.  A tribe that helped me through some tough times, a tribe that ‘gets it’.

Writing this blog has helped me reach out to others, I have connected with people all over the world, I have written articles, blogs and recorded a podcast.  I never expected any of those things to happen, but they have and it’s amazing!

I found the strength to start to help others on their own journeys through my volunteer work with Fertility Network UK.

I found renewed confidence which helped me to go back to college and start a new journey of learning.  My own healing and self discovery through counselling has put me onto a path that I never thought I would step onto.  I have loved every minute and I can honestly say that for the first time in a while I feel like I have found something that just makes sense to me, something just clicks.  I’m not sure that counselling is in my future career plan but right now I feel at home when I’m learning about it.

Finally, this year I discovered that my future is bright whatever it holds.  I know I am going to be ok, I know that we are going to be ok.

All that is left to do it wish each and every one of you a Happy New Year & to say a massive THANK YOU for reading and supporting us on our journey.  It means more than you will ever know…

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From trigger to frozen embryos

Cycle 9 (part 1) has now come to an end.  Here’s what happened…

On day 9 I went to the clinic for a follicle scan, later that afternoon I got the message to tell me to take the trigger shot the next evening.  The trigger shot is usually HCG which is the pregnancy hormone.  For me, that is too risky so I took a different trigger of Buserelin.  9.30 pm came and I was scared.  I had been scared all day if I’m honest, not knowing what the next steps would hold for us.  How many eggs, how many embryos and whether or not I would get ill with OHSS again.

I took the trigger shot and went straight to bed.  It was the worst I had felt through the whole cycle.  Sick, lightheaded and just rough.  Luckily, I woke up the next day and felt fine.  The trigger shot is taken 36 hours before the egg collection with no drugs the next day.  At last, a drug free day!

The day of egg collection came, we needed to be at the clinic at 7.30 am so we left the house at 6.30 am.  Luckily it was the only early start in the whole cycle.  We arrived at the clinic and were taken into a private room.  This was new…I’d been used to being on a ward in the other clinic.  I suppose that’s what you get when you pay privately.  I was seen by several people, one of which was our consultant, who was also doing the egg collection.  He told me that he had really wrestled with the buserelin trigger shot and freeze all because I wasn’t showing any signs of OHSS.  He had thought about asking me to trigger with HCG and to do a fresh transfer.  He had reached the conclusion that he had promised to take care of me and that’s what he was going to do, so he had stuck with the original plan.  Finally, a consultant that had listened to me and actually heard me.  I knew I was in safe hands.

Hubby was sent off to magic the beans (his words not mine).  I was whisked away on a trolley and knocked out with a sedative.  Some 40 minutes later I was back in my room, in pain but feeling ok.  The consultant came to see us and told us we had 13 eggs.  A great number for my ageing ovaries.

An hour or so later we were sat in John Lewis eating breakfast, just both really happy that we had made it through another stage.  Our minds now starting to think about the next stages.

Early the next day the phone call came from the embryologist, of the 13 eggs, 12 were mature.  11 of them had fertilised.  This was a fantastic start. In previous cycles we only had a 50% fertilisation rate, here we were with a much higher rate.

I was also on watch for signs of OHSS.  By this point in my last cycle I was in A&E.  I felt rough, in pain and bloated, but there was no sickness and no increasing of swelling.  It all felt a bit too good to be true.

Day 2 there was no update.  The pain had now subsided and still there was no swelling.

Day 3 we were due an update.  The phone call eventually came at 1 pm.  The morning was a drag but the news continued to be positive.  7 of the embryos had made it to day 3 and were great quality.  The other 4 had also made it to the right number of cells for the day but they were concerned about the quality so they would continue to be watched.

Day 4 there was no update.  I felt dreadful, massive headache, I felt sick, but I hadn’t swelled.  This wasn’t OHSS.  It was PMT.  Day 17 of my normal cycle and I felt like it was day 27.  No-one had actually explained that the buserelin trigger would shorten my natural cycle, but it shuts everything down so of course it seems obvious that it would.  All I knew is that I felt bloody awful.  I was an emotional wreck, not sure if it was the come down from the hormones or the anticipation of the update the next day.

Day 5 and I woke up in pain, lots of stomach pain.  The thing we know as ‘the witch’ had arrived.  In some ways I was relieved because it meant the swelling would start to subside and I would perhaps be a little more emotionally stable.

The phone call finally came from the embryologist…

“You have 6 perfect blasts going into the freezer, they look beautiful”  

They were words I hadn’t expected to hear.  We were expecting a drop off between day 3 and day 5 due to the sperm issues, but it hadn’t happened.  The embryologist commented that I must have had some fabulous quality eggs…so maybe the avocado soup was worth it!  I was in a bit of shock.  As I put the phone down, I cried.  Tears of relief, tears of happiness.

Another hurdle has been jumped.  We now have a chance.  We have 6 potential chances to be a mum and dad.  There are no words that can describe what that feels like.

I know we have a long way to go and I know that none of these may grow and develop into our children, but for now we have hope.  There is a fine line between realism and negativity.  I’m trying to stay on the hopeful, positive but realistic line right now.

We have an appointment next week to see the consultant about our plan for frozen embryo replacement in the new year.  I have a follow up hysteroscopy at the end of January to check that things are ok, so that’s perfect timing for a potential transfer in February.  Well, at least that was the plan.

I went back to work to the news that I am now at risk of redundancy.  Its a massive blow, just when we thought we had a plan, that we had a chance within grasp, we are now in turmoil.  Everything may all get put on hold whilst my future is decided by others.  It is a huge period of uncertainty and so we have to decide what to do next.  Whats the priority, what comes first?  So, just when we think one hurdle is jumped, another hurdle is placed in front of us, but I suppose that is this thing called life.

I have to remember the positives of this week…I didn’t get OHSS and more importantly we have 6 precious embryos that are waiting for us.

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Getting through Christmas

For years now I have struggled with Christmas.  I am indeed known as The Grinch to Image result for grinchthose around us.  The Grinch also happens to be one of my favorite Christmas films.  It just resonates.  I don’t find it upsetting that people liken me to The Grinch and I hope this post helps to explain how I got here.  Struggling with Christmas and just trying to survive.  Hiding myself away, finding comfort in my own company and being ok with being different.  It is only a few weeks before Christmas and we have no tree up, no decorations up and we are the only house in the street not to have lights outside.  Right now, I can’t be bothered.

I haven’t always struggled at Christmas.  As a child I remember the excitement, the build up, picking what I wanted Santa to bring (mainly from the Argos catalogue), rehearsing Christmas concerts, visiting family to drop presents off.  All of it.  I suppose we learn that Christmas is about children.  And we don’t have any of our own to share this time of the year with.

Somewhere along the way I have also lost my faith.  I no longer go to church and I’m no longer part of that community either, as they celebrate ‘the true meaning of Christmas’.  Indeed, my mum always reminded me that Santa as we know him now in his red suit was in fact shaped largely by a well known drinks manufacturer.  As a child, Christmas was as much about the arrival of Jesus as it was about the arrival of Santa.

In the early days of trying to conceive, we would look to Christmas as a marker for the year.  Maybe we would have a baby before Christmas and as the year progressed maybe I would be pregnant by Christmas.  As Christmas got closer, maybe we would have some happy news to share with family at Christmas.  Of course, this was all fantasy.  For us it never came to fruition.  As the years passed and the treatments failed, I fell further and further into depression.  Those around us started to have families and I really started to struggle, in fact some years I haven’t coped at all.  It wasn’t that I was jealous of them, it was that it brought a deep sense of sadness to me.  This time of the year is a reminder of the life we wanted so much and yet for some reason we just aren’t able to have it.

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I put together Christmas Eve boxes for the children in our lives, hoping one day I will be able to do it for our own children but knowing that may never be the case.  Somewhere deep inside, that hurts.

I wrap the presents for Christmas and think about the ages that our children would be if any of our treatments had worked.  Would our spare bedroom currently look like a Pokemon explosion had gone off, or that Batman had taken hold of the house, or would it be filled with Barbie and pretend dragons?  At the moment it is all of those things & I’m glad we are able to spoil the children in our lives, but at the same time I am filled with a huge sense of sadness.  Even writing this is painful.  As we spend time on Christmas Day watching them unwrap everything, there are times when my heart literally feels like it is bursting and I have to fight the tears back.  I know in those moments I have to step away and then come back when the feeling has passed.  No-one ever notices but me.

I have learned over the years where my limits are and that has been key to me being able to get through the holidays.  So my tips for getting through this time of year:

  • Put yourself first – if you think a situation is going to upset you then say ‘no’.  Those that know and love you will understand.  If it creates a problem, that’s for the other person to deal with and not you.  They will get over it.Image result for be kind to yourself at Christmas
  • Close the door – if you need to lock yourself away to protect yourself, then do it.  Your feelings are the most important thing, do what you need to do.  You don’t need permission from anyone else.
  • Shop on-line – I avoid the shops at all cost.  I think the local delivery guys wonder whats wrong if they don’t drop something off at our house during December.  I don’t want to see the decorations, listen to the music and wrestle with the crowds.
  • Buy nice food  – diet goes out of the window for me.  I don’t go mad but if we want something different then we will have it.  I’ve missed the on-line slots this year so I will have to brave the supermarket but that will be an early morning trip and my trolley will be full of whatever I want.
  • Know when it’s time to leave – if you are at a gathering and are struggling then have a key word that you use so that your partner knows its time to go.  Don’t stay in a situation that is causing you sadness or upset.  Its ok to leave.
  • Buy plenty of tissues – its ok to cry, infertility is hard to cope with and even more so at Christmas
  • Create your own ‘traditions’ – we take part in some of the family traditions, but we have started to create our own.  We go out for lunch on Christmas Eve, we watch films on Boxing Day.  We try to do things that we enjoy, just us two.
  • Take time off work if you can/need to – there seems to be an assumption that those without children are ok to cover the Christmas period at work.  For me there is nothing worse than being in work.  I don’t want to hear those with children talking about how fabulous it is/has been.  It hurts, it cuts deep and so if I can I ask for the time off.  I don’t always get it as we have to ‘take turns’ but I never let them assume I’m ok to go to work just because I don’t have children.  Just because I don’t have children doesn’t mean I don’t have a family.
  • Spoil yourselves – we ask for spa vouchers for Christmas so that we can have a day in an adult environment, being pampered and relaxing.  Bliss.couple

Christmas is hard.  It is upsetting.  At times I am filled with utter sadness.  Yet I have to find the strength to get through it.  I am not The Grinch.  I am simply protecting myself and putting us first.  I am sad about the life that we wanted so badly and yet we are unable to have right now.

If you are struggling at this time of the year, be kind to yourself and know that it’s ok not to be ok.  Christmas soon passes, a new year of hope begins and the torturous road of infertility continues.  Maybe next year I will be writing something different, maybe we will have a baby, maybe we won’t.  As I write this we are mid way through an IVF cycle & so I don’t know what our future holds.  I am not heading into Christmas thinking about what is to come for us, I am trying to live in the here and now.  The sadness is real and that’s ok.

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