Transfer Cycle 8 – Embryo 14 *Trigger Warning*

***Trigger Warning***

We headed into transfer cycle 8 with some hope but also realistic that none of the previous embryo’s transferred had progressed past 5 weeks.  Embryo 13 had resulted in our first ever positive pregnancy test, it unfortunately ended in miscarriage days later.  I recovered from it as best I could.  I knew I would never feel 100% ready to have another embryo transfer, but I also knew I just had to get on with it.  It would never feel like the right time.

May 2018 I started the drugs for embryo 14 to be transferred.  Everything looked ok for transfer, so on a sunny June day we entered the clinic.  A short time after we left with a great looking blast on board.  They asked if we wanted a picture, again I said no, just like all the times before.  I didn’t want a reminder if this didn’t work again.

The day after transfer I carried on as normal, back to work, no break.  The two week wait passed relatively slowly, as they had done the previous 7 times.  I started to test early, I suppose I wanted to prepare myself for the worst again.

5dp5dt – 1st test – positive – very faint – but positive…how could this be…I entered a state of shock instantly.  Followed by a state of crippling fear.  With a tiny hint of excitement.

I tested each day until official test date 12dp5dt.  All positive.  Digital tests saying ‘Pregnant’.  I called the clinic, booked in for a scan in a few weeks and entered the next three week wait.

And then it happened.  On the same day it happened the cycle before.  Bleeding.  Bright red blood.  How could this be happening again?  I felt broken.  I threw all but one of my positive tests in the bin in a fit of rage with tears streaming.  I called the clinic.  We were to have blood tests 2 days apart to check the hormone levels.  So the next day I went to the clinic, in and out in 5 minutes.  The phone call came, my levels were 2400 so were ok, but it would depend on the next test to see if they were increasing or decreasing.  I went back 2 days later.  The bleeding had continued so I was just waiting for the inevitable.  The conversation I had last time which told me things weren’t progressing.  The phone call came.  The levels had gone up to 4400.  So not quite a doubling but increasing at a good rate.  The bleeding continued so I was told to go back in for another blood test.  Another tense few days of waiting.  The phone call came.  The levels had gone up to over 8000, so again not doubled but definitely going up.  How could this be?  I was bleeding and yet the hormones indicated that things were progressing.  I was told to wait until my scan date as my levels were going up.

2 days later I was in so much pain.  Bleeding continued.  We called the clinic and they told me to come in for a scan.  We were worried it was ectopic, they wanted to rule it out.  So we travelled silently to the clinic.  Hoping for the best, expecting the worst.  After a tense wait, the consultant called us in.  Wanda was inserted.  The screen was turned around and there it was.  The sac and what can only be described as a grain of rice.  No heartbeat yet as it was too early, but there was our baby.  In the right place.  We could also clearly see the area of bleeding, it was away from the sac but still it was there.  Hubby cried,  I was in shock.  Complete shock.  I was still pregnant.  It made no sense.  I was told to take it easy, to stop taking the blood thinners as they wouldn’t be helping and to come back for the pre-arranged scan.  I could start the blood thinners again when the bleeding stopped.

Here the worry really set in.  I had been advised by a previous clinic that I probably wouldn’t carry a pregnancy to full term without blood thinners.  I needed them because of a gene that hubby carries.  The C4/M2 gene.  What the hell am I supposed to do?  I need the blood thinners but I can’t take them.  All we could do was hope the bleeding stopped quickly so that I could get back on them ASAP so that I didn’t have another miscarriage.

The bleeding didn’t stop.  It carried on.  We went for the 7 week scan.  Bean now had a heartbeat.  The area of bleeding had grown and there was a risk that it could cause a miscarriage.  We had gotten further than ever before and yet there was a huge cloud of fear and doubt that hung over us.  I expected every hour of everyday that I was going to have a huge bleed and that would be the end.  All I could do was live hour by hour, sometimes it was minute by minute.  The clinic should have discharged us at this point, but because of the bleeding they asked me to come back in 2 weeks for another scan.

Another 2 week wait which dragged like nothing I have ever experienced before.  Scan day came.  Bean had grown some more and was measuring a day ahead, heart beating at what looked like a million miles an hour.  And there was still an area of bleeding.  It was now right next to the sac and had grown significantly.  I felt numb.  I just couldn’t see how this was going to be ok.  And I still couldn’t take the blood thinners. in my head that only meant one thing.  Either way I was going to loose our bean.  As I was still bleeding, the clinic asked me to come back in another 2 weeks before they discharged me.

I got booked in for my first appointment with the Midwife.  This was new.  I had never gotten this far before.  I talked through my history and told her about the bleeding.  She referred me urgently to see a consultant at the hospital.  The appointment was the next day.  I sat in the waiting room staring into space.  I couldn’t look at those sitting around me, pregnancies progressing whilst mine probably wasn’t going to.  The consultant saw me, said she wouldn’t change anything and she would take the lead from the IVF clinic as I was under 12 weeks.  She wasn’t sure why I was there and that they would see me in a few weeks if things progressed.  She had never heard of the C4/M2 gene issue and pretty much dismissed it.  If the IVF clinic said not to take the blood thinners then I wasn’t to take them.

I lasted another few days and decided to go for a private scan.  I couldn’t stand not knowing what was going on with the area of bleeding.  Bean was still growing, heart still beating.  Area of bleeding had reduced slightly and now wasn’t infringing on the sac.  Finally some goodish news.  Still bleeding, still petrified…but bean was still with us.

Week 11 we had our final scan with the clinic.  Bean had grown some more.  Area of bleeding had reduced further.  Bleeding was now very irregular.  Maybe, just maybe things were going to be ok.

Week 13 we had our standard 12 week scan.  No area of bleeding could be seen.  Bean measured 2 days ahead and my due date was set…our bean would arrive on 20th February 2019.  I was still in shock.  The bleeding had finally stopped.

I haven’t mentioned the sickness.  Sickness had been part of my daily routine from about 8 weeks.  5 times a day.  Starting at 2pm each day and lasting until 11pm.  I have never been so sick.  I lived on cheese and cheese flavoured anything.  I tried to eat in the morning so I knew I was having at least some food.  After 2pm nothing would stay down.  Everyone said it would go by 12 weeks.  Mine lasted until 20 weeks.  I hated it and it was kicking my ass daily, but if it meant bean was growing then I would take it.  I didn’t care how crap I felt, I just wanted everything to be ok.

At 16 weeks we had a midwife appointment.  For the first time we heard the heartbeat.  It was surreal.  It is a sound I will never forget.  A day later we had another private scan.  I never felt a sense of excitement before a scan.  I was utterly terrified.  I was waiting to be told that something awful had happened.  Bean was measuring perfectly for the dates, heart beat was perfect…and we found out we were having a boy.  In that moment it became real and yet still every day I was terrified.  Scared it was going to be taken away from us.  We both wanted it so much and yet it seemed impossible that this time things would be ok.

I hadn’t gone back onto the blood thinners.  I had to try and move on from the so called gene issue and hope for the best.  It still played on my mind and that didn’t change.  Its scary how the result of one blood test a few years before hung over us.

20 weeks and the scan was all ok.  We saw the consultant and due to my anxiety they decided that I would see the midwives fortnightly and have growth scans from 28 weeks.  I was seeing my counsellor regularly too.  In all honesty I was struggling, really struggling.  After 12 years and so much heartache and pain, I just could not get to the point where I could accept that everything was going to be ok.  Everyone kept telling me that various milestones would make me feel better, would make it feel real.  They didn’t.  Infertility and loss had just stripped me of confidence.  Would my body be able to keep doing this, would our bean continue to grow.  Would we get to meet him in a few months?  Instead of feeling better as time went on, in some ways I felt worse.  More stressed.  More worried.  More scared.  Feeling him grow and move deepened my hope and fear at the same time.  It had taken 14 embryos to get here and I wanted it more than anything.

Things seemed to be going ok.  Taking it day by day.  Hearing his heartbeat every 2 weeks helped for a few hours.  My bump was growing.  His movements grew stronger and more regular.  We went for our 28 weeks scan.  More bad news.  I had too much amniotic fluid.  As we waited to see the consultant we both frantically googled to see what it meant.  There seemed to be a few potential causes.  I had blood tests for various things to see if they could find a cause.  The consultant told me to go away and enjoy Christmas and he was confident the fluid would have gone down by the next scan.  If not, then we would need a plan.  Needless to say Christmas was awful as something else hung over us.  This could all still go very wrong.  I literally crawled from day to day.  Dr Google once again was not my friend.  Making a conscious effort to feel each movement to make sure they weren’t reducing.

The scan 3 weeks later showed the fluid had gone down.  Everything else looked ok.  My anxiety levels were through the roof.

2 days later we had our baby shower.  I had never been to one, I had in truth avoided them like the plague in all the years we had struggled to conceive.  It was a lovely relaxed afternoon with friends and family, just what I could cope with.  Our little boy wasn’t even here yet and he was being showered with so much love.  Maybe, just maybe, things would be ok.  Everyone around is excited for us, I was still utterly petrified.

The next scan and all looked good.  Growth was good.  We talked to the consultant about not going passed my due date.  The gene issue still hung over me and I was worried.  She agreed that at my next appointment we could talk about being induced but they wouldn’t do it before 38 weeks.  I went away feeling a little lighter.

A week later I went on maternity leave from work.  How had I got here?  How were we now so close and yet it still felt so surreal.  Weeks away from giving birth and I hadn’t really thought about it.  So fixated on just getting through each day and now I needed to think about what was coming next.

37 weeks and the scan was all ok.  Growth ok and flow through the placenta looked good.  A date to be induced was set for 39+5…so pretty much 40 weeks!  We never saw the same consultant twice, so the consultant at this appointment didn’t want to induce me unnecessarily but I genuinely could not cope with going overdue so she agreed.

Time was ticking away slowly.  37 plus 4 and the itching started.  Just at night on my hands and feet.  I just thought it was another pregnancy related thing that was normal.  2 days later the itching was getting worse.  37 plus 6 and overnight I felt hardly any movement.  He was usually active from 6am.  I felt nothing.  I was worried.  I called the hospital and they asked me to go in for monitoring.  On the way I felt him once.  This was really unusual.  I was hooked up to the monitors and all seemed ok.  His heartbeat was fine and I started to feel some movement.  I happened to mentioned the itching.  Bloods were taken urgently, apparently this can be a really bad sign.  A couple of hours later it was confirmed that I had developed a liver condition that can cause still birth.  I was broken.  I cried.  I couldn’t cope.  i just wanted him here safely.  After a few heated and emotional discussions with various staff they decided I needed to be induced…urgently.  They couldn’t do it that day so I was booked in for the next day.  It was happening.  I just had to get through one more night.

I got through the night.  We headed to the hospital.  Embryo 14…baby Edward arrived later that evening.  He was here, he was ok and that was all that mattered.

I suppose you could say it was one heck of a journey.  Infertility is the worst and most scary roller coaster that I have ever stepped onto.  At times broke me, it broke us.  I experienced some of the most painful times whilst we struggled through and those around just didn’t understand.  There were times when I didn’t think I would get through the day, but somehow I did.  Infertility changed me, it has helped shape who I am today.  It will always be a part of me.

I want to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you for reading and sharing.  I started to write as an outlet but also in the hope that it helped others know they weren’t alone.  If you are struggling with infertility, please know that you are not alone.  It is ok not to be ok.  Ask for help if you need it and be kind to yourself…always xx

You are not alone

 

 

 

 

 

The other side of the story…a male perspective

I started this blog in the hope that it would help people to understand what we have been through and hoped that it would help people struggling to know they aren’t alone. So far, it has been my version of events, my side of the story. I asked hubby a few months ago if he would like to write something for the blog. He said he would think about it. He thought about it and I’m so happy to now share what he has written about his side of our story…

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So after a little bit of consideration I have agreed to write a piece for my wife’s blog. I have to say when she started talking about writing a blog about our infertility struggles I wasn’t sure about it. However, I’m so proud of what she has achieved and I have seen the huge amount of support she gets from and gives to people who are surviving this horrible daily struggle that is infertility.

So here goes my version of our story (or at least some of the story so far)…

I remember discussing infertility during the marriage counselling we had to go through before our wedding. I sat there thinking…why are we talking about this now, we will be OK, we have plans. 3 kids, nice house, a dog! What can get in the way of our future hopes and dreams. Oh boy how clueless were we…?

I remember the night everything in our life changed in what I will call the ‘discussion’. ‘What do you mean you think we should start thinking about having a family’. ‘OK I think we are ready. ‘It’s a scary thought but sure let’s do it’. That was the cue for some of the happiest times in our marriage. It’s full of hope, love, lust and romance and I remember it being a really happy time for us. Excited about our future and creating our family together.

However, 18 months later we were still no further forward and we were beginning to think maybe there were some issues. I went to see the Dr to see what his thoughts were, hoping to rule out any problems. The Dr was a young guy who said he would run some tests. This meant my first visit to the clinic to do what I now call ‘magicing the beans’. I had never been so embarrassed in all my life to get a pot from a really good looking nurse for me to fill. After she explained the procedure, showed me the ‘material’, she left me alone. With regards to the ‘material’ I now have a theory that the more expensive the clinic the better the ‘material’ is. Also, the only thing I can say about the UK is we are pretty vanilla, Greece has some really kinky stuff!

Personally, I am programmed to deal with adversity by making jokes about the situation. So when my friends used to ask how we were getting on I used to tell the about my experiences of being in fertility clinics and how I played my part in the whole IVF thing. My favourite story to tell them about was when a fire alarm at the hospital caused everyone to be evacuated including two chaps who were ‘mid stroke’ at the time. Cue me walking into a full waiting room of guys all knowing what the other one was going to do. So me being me I gave wink and a smile to the guy next to me I sat down with the immortal line of ‘nice day for it’. Finding some humour in our situation helps me to deal with it. One thing I will say to anyone who has to do this is not be worried or embarrassed about having to give a sample. In my experience the staff are generally great and do a great job to make you feel at ease. No one is judging you or what you have to do.

So after we got the results back from the GP and he said the line ‘just need a little help getting pregnant’ I lived for the next few years with the realisation that our fertility issues were all my fault. I had a low count and poor morphology. I felt guilt, shame and a sense of not knowing what to do with the hand we had been dealt. We had conversations about no longer being together. We talked about letting each other go so at least she could have the chance to be a Mum. Of course, it came to nothing but we came to realise that conversations about the future were important.

I think that this is where the NHS failed with their approach to our infertility. They offered us no tests on K at all and just put it down to me. Immediately we were then thrown into the world of fertility clinics and ultimately IVF.

After extensive and expensive tests we have both undergone through private treatment we now know that this is not all my fault. Raised NK cells for one thing. We have more recently found out that K had lots of scar tissue from endometriosis, but her constant pain was disregarded by the IVF clinics. We needed IVF and that was it. However, even with this knowledge, with every cycle we do, I still feel bad that I am putting the person who I love most in the world though huge amounts of physical and emotional pain. This for me is worse than what I was going through alone and this was the cause of some really dark times in our marriage.

Leaving her in hospital with severe OHSS on our wedding anniversary was one of the really low points for me. Seeing her then go through it a second time after we were assured it wouldn’t happen again was also horrendous. Watching her being so unwell, swelling up, unable to breathe properly and being sick all the time…whilst I could do nothing, we just had to wait it out…twice. The severe depression that she suffered as a result of failed treatment was also horrific to watch…trying to help but not being able to. Living through K reaching the lowest point and being so unwell, yet trying to hold us both together just so she would get through the day. No one said it would be like that. I thought IVF equalled baby.

Infertility is a team ‘sport’ and whilst at times it has been incredibly lonely for both of us, we have found it better for our relationship to face it together. We have not always been like this and our marriage has not been the fairytale I thought it might be. We have had times during the last 10 years where we have both nearly ended things, we have fought, shouted, swore, packed bags, and she even threw hair straighteners at me (they hit the skirting board and broke so I suppose it serves her right). I did possibly deserve that though. I suppose what I’m trying to say is that infertility changed everything for us, not just once, but time and again. We had hope that embryos would stick, when they didn’t we were crushed. New test results gave new hope, add another drug in and it will work. It didn’t. We went from ‘only needing a little help’ to needing a miracle.

Infertility hits you like a wave and the feelings it creates come and go. We struggle through those ‘family’ times like Christmas, reminding us of the family we wanted so much and even after 8 years of IVF we seem no further forward and in some ways we are completely left behind. We have, however, shared some unforgettable experiences together, lots of travelling and holidays, even if most were an attempt to recover from failed treatment.

One thing that has definitely helped us has been couples counselling. This took us from a very dark place in our relationship to where we are now. It has taken time and lots of talking, but it has been worth it. I would recommend to any couple faced with infertility to get help to navigate the choppy waters (or dangerous seas). I wish we had done this sooner as it has helped to bring us closer and now we can face whatever comes at us together.

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A huge thank you to my hubby for being brave to share his side of the story. As we head towards another embryo transfer, I know whatever comes our way we will get through together

Transfer Cycle 8

I can hardly believe we are here. I can hardly believe this is us. Transfer cycle 8. Embryo number 14. The 10th time I have started a cycle in the hope that I get pregnant. It has happened once, just a few month ago with embryo 13. Unlucky for some, we thought it was lucky for us and look how that turned out.

And here we are again…back at the starting blocks. I try not to use bad language in my blog but…right now I’m so fucking angry and upset that we are back here again. Why us? Why me? Who the hell knows. It’s so fucking unfair. I hate this, I hate what it has done to me, to hubby and to us.

Right now I’m lying on a sun lounger staring at clear blue sky. An intense heat. It sounds idyllic. It looks idyllic. Those who are around us have no idea why we are here. We are here to get away from it all. To try to gather ourselves back together, to renew our strength, our courage, our relationship. We are in a good place. So much better than we have been before when cycles haven’t gone well. There were times I didn’t think we would get here again, we were so broken. But we got through it. We talked. We grieved. We survived. And here we are, on holiday again, loving being together and yet both worried about what comes next. Holidays are our reward for IVF failure…there I said it. The only reason we have so many holidays is because we need them. To escape, to recover, to try to find some slice of happiness after such sadness.

In the immediate aftermath of our miscarriage I thought that we might be broken again. We are not. We are facing the next cycle together, head on. Trying to keep a sense of perspective. A whatever happens, happens kind of approach. Deep down inside I am afraid, scared, petrified. It feels like I am suspended at the top of the Oblivion rollercoaster with the words ‘don’t look down’ ringing in my ears, knowing that I’m headed into free fall, with no control over what comes next. I daren’t look down. Another negative. Another positive. Another miscarriage. Another heartbreak. It really is the worst fucking rollercoaster that I have ever stepped onto. I’ve been on it for 10 years. When will it stop? I suppose it will stop when we decide it’s time to stop. We have 5 frozen embryos, now isn’t the time for hitting the stop button.

I have started the drugs for transfer number 8. I don’t have the headaches I had last time, but I do have the tears. I’m not sure if it’s the oestrogen, the reality of what we have already been through or fear of what is to come. Maybe a combination of all 3. I hope the tears pass soon. I hope the fear passes soon, but that’s probably unlikely.

What if I never see two lines again? What if that was it? What if all I see is one line & the words Not Pregnant? What if all we ever get is the 12 days of thinking we were going to be parents and being so utterly crushed when the words ‘not progressed’ are said by a nurse on the other end of the phone? That can’t be it. Or maybe that will be it. Maybe that’s the closest we will ever come. I need to drop kick those thoughts out of my mind right now.

Hubby is convinced that one of the 5 will work. The statistician in me doubts that. The odds certainly don’t feel in our favour. I hope more than anything that he is right. I don’t know if I will survive being crushed another 5 times, I don’t even want to think about it.

The next month is going to be another tough one. For now, I need to take one day at a time. Enjoy the sunshine. No more reading books about IVF and miscarriage. And remember that whatever comes next, I’ve been here before. I’ve survived it, we both have. We used to head into transfer full of hope and optimism, we even used to talk about our future family. Now, we talk about how we will cope when it doesn’t work. That in itself shows how shit this whole thing is. But, it is what it is. I have to try to remember that this can work, I can get pregnant. It took 13 embryos and 8 years of IVF to get that far. Maybe this time we will get even further, maybe we will even clear the hurdles and get to the finish line. Right now that doesn’t seem likely, but if we don’t try we will never know!

Let’s do this…again…

Lifted…

A song that I hadn’t heard since my teenage years came on today. I’ve heard the words lots of times, but never heard them in the context of our current path. Waiting. Waiting for our 8th embryo transfer. Waiting to see if it works. Waiting to one day become parents. Waiting for something that may never happen.

I know we will get through whatever comes our way, we always do, we have to. I sometimes just wish we didn’t have to. I know it’s our choice to keep having treatment, I know we could move on at any point…but we are not there yet. Neither of us are there.

And so, as we wait to start again, to go through it all again…the words to Lifted by The Lighthouse Family (I know, really?) say so much…

I’d really love to be alone without all the

Ache and pain and the April showers

But it ain’t long before I long for you, like a

Ray of hope, coming through the blue moon

When it all gets dark again

The whole thing falls apart I guess

It doesn’t really matter ’bout the rain

‘Cause we’ll get through it anyway

We’ll get up and start again

It’s undisturbable the peace we found

In a bright new space up above the clouds

Everything is understandable

You don’t have to say anything too loud

When all our luck runs out again

We’re brought back down to solid ground

I wouldn’t say I’m mad about the rain

But we’ll get through it anyway

We’ll get back to the start again

I’m sure there will come a point where we can’t go back to the start again, we’ve been here so many times already. But for now, we are on the starting blocks again…and feeling lifted.

What next?

This week was our ‘follow up’ appointment following my miscarriage.  We could have gone a few weeks ago but I needed time and space before I ventured back there.  IVF clinics are strange places, nervousness and optimism hang in the air, silently people wait for whatever is coming next for them.  I have lost count of the number of appointments that we have had in clinics.  Too many too count & probably more than anyone should have in a lifetime.  On the week that would have been our 12 week scan, instead we waited to see the consultant to talk about our next frozen embryo replacement.  To say I had mixed feelings would be an understatement.  I sat waiting and just kept thinking, I shouldn’t be here, I don’t want to be here.  I imagine everyone else sat waiting is also thinking exactly the same thing.

We had it in our minds that we would do the next cycle in June.  The plan was two weeks away on holiday and then come back to start treatment a few weeks later.  It felt like a good plan.  As soon as I sat down I clocked the notice that said they were closed for lab work in July, which meant that between certain dates patients are unable to request treatment.  I know my cycle dates, June isn’t happening.  I will miss the cut off by about 3 days.  Just brilliant.

The consultant kept us waiting for 25 minutes.  How appointments are running 25 minutes late at 10am I have no idea.  At least she will have read our notes in that time…surely?  That will be a no then.

Sitting in front of a new consultant who hasn’t read our file was a little frustrating.  She was lovely, but I just wish they would at least read the file.  What don’t they get about how exhausting it is to keep going over the last 10 years?  Her first words took me by surprise…’how are you?’ and ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’.  Wow, some compassion.  Instantly the atmosphere changed.  She asked me some questions about the miscarriage, when I started to bleed, when I stopped taking drugs, if I had taken a test 2 weeks after to make sure it was negative…all of this is or should be ON MY FILE.

Her view is that it was a positive thing that I got pregnant.  Obviously the miscarriage was not the outcome everyone hoped for…but…for the first time ever I got pregnant.  We have 5 excellent quality blasts in the freezer.  As this is my first miscarriage, there is nothing to indicate that there is an underlying problem with me, the likelihood is (in her opinion) that the problem was with the embryo.  She is very hopeful (her words) that I can get pregnant and have a baby.  No more tests needed.  Just bad luck I suppose.

I asked about the steroids and clexane.  She prefers a natural approach unless we have known issues. Do I have killer cells?  Yes…READ THE FILE.  Ok, she will prescribe steroids.  Do we have known blood clotting issues?  Yes…READ THE BLOODY FILE.  Ok, she will prescribe Clexane.  If I get a positive I start aspirin.  Progesterone injections are my choice, I choose them.

My body dealt with the miscarriage as it ‘should have’, which apparently is positive.  My cycles have returned to normal straight away.  We can go ahead with another transfer, as soon as I feel ready.  I came away filled with renewed hope.  We have some great quality blasts and maybe at least one will become our future child.  The cloud of ‘this is never going to happen’ has started to lift.  The sadness is fading and being replaced with a new feeling.  A feeling of hope and optimism.

She talked to us about the clinic closure.  My cycle in June falls after the cut off date.  Why is nothing ever straight forward?  Why am I always left with huge decisions to make?  So, we either start again in a few weeks, whilst we are away on holiday.  Or we wait until mid-July.  We have a week to make the decision because I will need to take the delightful oestrogen patches on holiday with us if we decide to start on the next cycle.

I suppose the question is, do I feel ready?  I will never be ready to see another embryo on the screen before it is put back inside me & I will never be ready to take another pregnancy test again.  I have come to the conclusion that I will never ‘feel ready’, we just have to make the decision and go for it.  Is 2 months long enough to wait in terms of being physically and emotionally ready?  Is 4 months too long to wait and will I just end up being an anxious mess in the meantime, it feels like a long time to wait.  Part of me wants to wait because then we have hope for longer, the other part of me wants to get going again because I am loosing patience and I want to be pregnant again.

Either way we are heading towards transfer cycle number 8 with embryo 14.  I am left with 2 questions:

  • How the hell did we get here?
  • Why us?

Right now this is how I feel about infertility…YPMTFO

 

 

 

The Importance of Seeking Support

For those of you that read my blog regularly, you will know I’m a huge advocate of asking for help and seeking out support.  I have talked in some of my posts about the role that counselling has played in my more recent journey.  I never expected it to become part of my life. Up until a few years ago, I thought that seeing a counsellor meant I would never be a mum and we would be trying to move on from not having a family.  It was always something I would do when we had run out of options and it was just going to be the two of us.  I probably hoped we would never reach that point and therefore I would never have to go and bare my soul to a counsellor.  I used to see counselling as the thing that other people did, it was also something that I associated with ‘failure’.  I have seen others around me struggle, as I did, with the question of whether they should see a counsellor.  Given my own positive experience, I would always encourage others to try it.

We found out in 2008 that we would ‘just need a little help getting pregnant’.  In 2010 we embarked on our first IVF cycle.  Two IVF cycles with two stays in hospital due to OHSS, 12 embryos replaced with not even a hint of a second line, an IVF cycle abroad,  more tests that I can recall, 2 major house renovations and 4 house moves and a stressful job…finally in 2015 I hit rock bottom.  I knew it had been building for about 18 months, hubby tried to encourage me to go and talk to someone, I refused.  Surely that meant I had failed.  When I went to see the GP because I just couldn’t cope with life anymore, he said I needed 2 weeks off work and offered to add me to a 6 month waiting list for counselling.  I refused.  Two days later as I sat at home like a zombie, I knew I wasn’t getting through this, I knew I needed help.  This wasn’t something that my on-line IVF buddies could help me get through.  This wasn’t something family and friends could help me with.  In fact, they had slowly watched me deteriorate into a huge black hole and not one of them could do or say anything to get me out of it.  This was something I had to do.  The realisation hit me that I needed someone who knew what they were dealing with to help me help myself.

The impact of infertility on mental health isn’t often talked about.  It seems like many of us who go through tests, treatments and ultimately grief and loss, expect that we can just ‘get over it’, ‘move on’ or just ‘deal with it’.  I thought that too.  I thought the feelings of emptiness, sadness and loneliness would disappear as soon as we got a positive test.  We never got a positive.  The feelings didn’t disappear.  I don’t think they ever will, but I now know when they are coming and I know they will go again.  Before I sought help, they were just there.  All of the time.  Nothing made any sense.  I hated myself, I hated life.  I didn’t feel like I had a purpose.  I had no future, nothing to look forward to and nothing to work for.  I asked myself often ‘why me’.  Truth is, there is no answer to that question.

I used to be active on a couple of fertility forums.  I would post on the cycle buddies threads as I went through cycle after cycle with others.  In the first few cycles, I celebrated the positive outcomes of others with them.  As time went on, I felt left behind.  I never got a positive and there I was, now cycling with IVF newbies who then also seemed to get their positives.  Forums provided me with some of the most useful information, its how I found out about NK cells, immune testing and opened my eyes to the possibility of IVF abroad.  After transfer 5 I came off the forums.  The reality was, they had become another source of making me feel like a failure. I did everything that everyone else was doing, they seemed to get a positive, all I got was an emoji virtual hug.  For me, they were great in the early days, but as I became more experienced and endured more loss, they became a space that was unhealthy for my mental health.  Stepping away was the only thing I could do.  Don’t be afraid to move away from something that is having an negative impact on you.

When I was looking for a counsellor, I had no idea what I was looking for or where to find it.  My trusted friend, Google provided lots of information.  I knew I needed someone that knew something about infertility.  A few searches later and I had found someone that I thought ‘may’ be able to help me.  A couple of days later I experienced my first counselling session.  I’m not going to say that I instantly knew it was going to help me.  It took me a few sessions to start to see how counselling might help me help myself.  It took a bit longer for me to start to truly open up and trust the person sat opposite me.  But with time and care, it happened.  Once that happened, I started to really experience the positive impact that it was having on my life.  Little things started to shift, but even with the small shifts I started to feel better.  I started to feel in some control again.  I even started to think about things other than infertility and treatment.  My life had been utterly consumed for years and here I now was talking and thinking about a life that may or may not include children.  I never thought that would be possible for me, so deep rooted was the desire to have a family.

Talking to someone who had not known anything about us felt strange at first but even after the first session I felt a huge sense of relief that I finally had an outlet.  More importantly, the person sat opposite me seemed to ‘get’ me.  For the first time in a long time I felt like someone was not only listening, but was actually hearing what I was saying.  No inappropriate comments, no ‘relax and it will happen’ rubbish, finally an acknowledgment of our infertility and the impact that it had on our lives.  I could say what I wanted, no judgement, just empathy and understanding.

I started to see that it was no wonder I was in the throws of depression and struggling to function, I had come to expect that I could just get on with life even though I hadn’t really dealt with the impact that infertility was having on me.  I was staring back at the last few years and I had to start to acknowledge it and then try to deal with it in order to move forward.  And that is what I did.  I talked and talked and talked.  Some times I didn’t talk so much.  Moments of silence sometimes say a lot.

When we embarked on our first IVF cycle, no one said that we would still be trying 8 years later and that it would send me into the darkest depths of depression.  Of course, it doesn’t happen to everyone, but it happened to me and it probably didn’t have to.  Counsellors seemed to be hidden in the depths of dark corridors in clinics.  I viewed them as the person that was offered when IVF doesn’t work and the nurse on the end of the phone doesn’t really know what to say, which only fed the belief that counselling equals failure.

I look back on all of those times I was offered a counsellor, I should have said yes.  Consumed by grief that I didn’t want to deal with in that moment, of course I always said no.  Perhaps if I had dealt with the aftermath of a cycle immediately I would not have reached the point of a deep depression.

I can see those around me watching for signs that it happening again following our recent loss.  It isn’t.  It isn’t because I now ask for help, I seek out support and I talk.  Counselling is one of those outlets and I wouldn’t ever go through a treatment cycle without it.

If you are reading this and wondering if you should try counselling because you are struggling, please don’t be afraid to try it.  I am lucky that I found a counsellor that was the right fit for me, but if I hadn’t then I would have sought out another one.  I now view life differently,  I have times of sadness but they pass, I have someone who walks with me as I keep going through whatever comes next, supporting me and helping me to find my own way forward.

Finding a good counsellor who has an understanding of the impact of infertility can help you change your life.  That is exactly what it did for me.  Never be afraid to seek out support or ask for help.  Infertility is difficult to navigate, it brings feelings of loss, grief, sadness, anger, emptiness and loneliness.  Who wouldn’t need help to deal with all of those feelings?  Be kind to yourself, always.  Most of all, know that seeing a counsellor doesn’t mean that you have failed, it means that you know you need someone to be your person for a while as you move forward through the maze of infertility.  Without support it can be a lonely place.

Useful links:

BICA – British Infertility Counselling Association

National Fertility Society

Fertility Network UK

The question of “Giving Up”

I’ve been asked over the years if I’m ready to give up.  Our latest cycle seems to have raised that question again.  Before I go any further I want you all to know that it hurts to hear these words.  I wonder if those that ask this question have ever walked this path or have ever thought (and I mean truly thought) about what they would do if they had been dealt this hand.  For most people, they fortunately will never have to make decisions about the path they choose to take to try to have a family.  I am glad that they have never had to even think about the things that we think about every day, I hate that anyone has to go through this.

Why should I give up?  8 years, 7 transfers, 13 embryos…maybe it is enough, maybe its never going to work.  We have 5 more embryos frozen.  At the moment, that is 5 more chances.  Of course, there may come a point in the future where we decide to move on, but that is very different to ‘giving up’.

‘Giving up’ somehow implies that I don’t want it enough.  It implies that I need to admit defeat.  I have news.  This isn’t something that either defeats you or you beat it.  We entered the world of assisted conception 8 years ago, completely naive to the fact that we thought IVF would work first time.  Even the GP told us we would ‘just need a little help getting pregnant’.  For us, IVF it didn’t work first time.  We seem to live in a place where hope is given and then within a few weeks it is gone again.  Yet we continue to move forward.  Our relationship has been tested in ways I never thought possible.  I have had more medical procedures than I care to admit.  I have suffered depression as a result of not dealing with things when it didn’t go well.  I have felt left behind, out of touch with those around us and I have lost people who were once my friends.  There is a vacuum of silence between me and most people ‘close’ to us as they struggle to know what to say and I brace myself for what they might say.  Its a lose lose situation.  Everyone else around us moves forward, mostly with families that have grown over the past few years and will continue to do so over the coming years.  Our route to parenthood isn’t as simple as it is for many, but does that mean I should now ‘give up’.

Infertility will never defeat me because I am not at war with it.  It is part of me, it is part of us and our lives.  Saying the words ‘we give up’ will not make that go away or change it.  We have made the decision to continue to try to have a family.  I know it is not in the conventional way, but for us it is the only way it is possible.  Whilst we have the strength, courage, hope and probably just as important, the money, to keep having treatment, then we will.

There will come a point where we will move on.  In fact, this time last year I thought I was at that point.  It didn’t feel like I was ‘giving up’, it felt like I was starting to move on in a different direction.  I spent what felt like weeks and weeks in counselling sessions saying that I thought I would ok if we didn’t continue with treatment, but seemingly going round in circles, probably trying to convince myself that it was the truth.  We hadn’t had any treatment for 12 months & I was feeling the best I had done for a long time.  It turns out that I wasn’t quite ready to move on.  Something was telling us both that we would regret it if we didn’t have at least one more cycle of IVF.  It was a joint decision to find a new clinic and have more treatment.  It was the right decision for us.  Just as the decision right now to have further treatment with the embryos that we have frozen is also the right decision.

I went into the last frozen transfer with a renewed hope and positivity.  I am afraid of treatment, but that is because I know the reality of what it feels like and what the drugs do to me.  Yet, I am still willing to try.

Seeing 2 lines for the first time in 12 years truly was one of the best days of our lives together.  The day I started to bleed was one of the worst days of our lives together.  Being pregnant and then miscarrying has made our grief and sadness so much deeper that it has ever been before, but it has also given us renewed hope that one day somebody may call us ‘mum and dad’.  Should we ‘give up’ on that now?  Yes I am sad, I am angry, I think why me, I have no explanation as to why 6 transfers haven’t worked and why 1 did work and then didn’t continue to develop.  There is a place in my heart for all 13 embryos and there always will be.  I will always think of the dates that they would have been here with us and how old they would be now.  That will never leave me.  I know that 17th November will be etched on my brain and in my heart forever.  We have been through a lot, maybe if I was reading this story I too would be asking why we ‘keep going’.  And yet we are not ready to move on.  Our last cycle did the opposite, it gave us hope that at least one our 5 remaining embryos may actually stick around for the duration.  Whilst I know I am in the depths of sadness right now, I also know that in time it will lessen and I will be ready to transfer another of our embryos.  And as I keep being told, hope is everything.

Maybe its easier for those around us if we ‘give up’?  Of course it probably would be, they wouldn’t have to ride the roller coaster that we ride with each cycle, they too could get off.  Maybe they have ‘given up’ on us after all this time.  That’s ok too.  I get it, our story is now getting a little boring.  We don’t have a baby for all of our efforts, the reality is we may never have one.  It is probably hard for those people around us to watch us each time we are plunged to the depths of sadness and hope that we crawl ourselves out of it.  Each time we do.  It perhaps scares people that I may drift to a place of darkness.  Just because the tears are flowing and I feel sad right now for what might have been, it doesn’t mean that I am going to get to the same place I did before.  I got there because I didn’t cry or talk about it.  The fact that I am is a good thing.  It means I am dealing with it and not burying it.  How many times can we go through this?  To that there is no answer, I know that we will know when it’s time to move on.  I wonder if people would like me to say I’ve given up so that I can somehow forget what we have been through the past 10 years and just ‘get on’ with life?  I will never forget any of it.  I am changed.  I am different to most people that I know in the real world.  Infertility and our journey means that I always will be.  I have accepted this, I just hope one day that others can also accept this about me.

So, please don’t ask if it is time we gave up or if I’m ready to give up…when it is time for us to move on, we will let you know.

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