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…

Small Steps

The last few weeks I have struggled, swinging from being ok to being completely grief stricken.  My stress levels have been building, my anxiety has sky rocketed and have just generally felt rubbish.

Last weekend I had to pee on a stick to check that my body had ‘dealt with’ the miscarriage.  Staring at a negative test filled me with so many emotions, sadness that it was finally over, anger that we had to go through this, panic that we may never see two lines again and fear about what comes next.  The clinic called me a day later to check that I had a negative test.  The nurse talked about a follow up appointment, apparently it would be something to look forward to.  I corrected her, in a nice way of course.  I am forever disappointed, yet not surprised, by the lack of empathy and support that clinics show to patients.  I still haven’t been asked if I would like to speak to a counsellor.  Maybe it’s not in the script, who knows.  Its pretty poor though.  All they seem interested in is when I go back for a follow up and for another transfer.  Basic support seems to be lacking.  It really needs to change.

I have days where I feel generally ok.  Work is completely manic at the moment but at least it means the time passes quickly.  What is also means is that my stress levels are through the roof.  I have been working long hours just to try and keep things under control.  I haven’t been eating properly.  I wake up early worried about things.  I have pain in my back and shoulders.  All of these are my stress indicators.  I can hear them screaming at me to stop.  I cannot stop.  I feel a huge sense of responsibility to do the job to the best of my ability.  I suppose work is a great distraction, but at the same time I am also very aware that we are hoping to do another FET in the next 8 weeks and being in a state of high stress is not going to help me one bit.  In fact, I wouldn’t cope with it and so I cannot allow it to continue.  I can also feel myself hurtling towards the point of another panic stricken breakdown.  Last weekend I had moments of feeling like I did when I hit rock bottom.  For most of the day I felt the same way that I did on that fateful Sunday in December 2015 when I knew I couldn’t carry on as I was.  It was a scary place to be.  I never want to go back there.  I am determined not to.  So, it is time for some self care.  I need to try and re-balance things.  Easier said than done.

Alone

In the aftermath of the last treatment cycle, I feel alone.  I am surrounded by people and yet there are times when I feel completely alone.  Our latest cycle only added to the desire for a family.  I feel like I have been pushed back 5 years in our journey as the yearning for a family throws me back into the depths of feeling empty, feeling like something is missing and feeling that I am so far apart from those around me that I just can’t connect with anyone.  I thought I had moved on from these feelings, but I suppose it just shows how quickly it can all come flooding back.  A family was within reach, we had done it…but no, a cruel twist of something came and snatched it away from us.  And once again I am left with a heart smashed into a thousand pieces.  People struggle to say the right thing.  People struggle to say anything.  Someone dared suggest that at least now I know I can get pregnant…just no.  On so many levels, just no.  I understand the sentiment but no, not right now.  I am plagued by the feelings infertility brings, right now it will not leave me.  I know in time I will move forward.  I have done it before and I will do it again.

 

Lots of people have asked us when we will do another cycle.  I swing from wanting to do it as quickly as possible because I want to be pregnant and have a baby, to never wanting to put us through it again.  The thought of hormone patches, scans, injections, steroids and an embryo transfer fills me with utter dread.  I have always been filled with hope when we knew we were having FET.  Now I am filled with fear.  Maybe it is too soon to be thinking about it, but I can’t dwell on what has happened last time.  I need to find the strength to move forward.  Grief will come and go.  We all reach the point at different times of knowing when we are ready to go again.  If we get to June and I’m not ready, I won’t do it.

For now, it is small steps to start to prepare.  I have started to walk the dog more often, the fresh air definitely helps with the stress levels.  It will hopefully help me get rid of a few pounds that I put on during our last cycle too.  I need to address the stress issues at work and this time I will not be consumed by it, but it is easier said than done.  I have booked an acupuncture session in 2 weeks time.  I didn’t do it with the last FET but I think it may help my anxiety levels.  We have a follow up appointment at the clinic at the beginning of May.  I’m not expecting them to change anything but we can’t cycle again without the follow up.  All chocolate is removed from the house, healthy eating starts again from now.  Today I have started my vitamins again.  Small steps indeed.  But important ones.

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I need to try and work through the fear and reach a place of hope.  This quote sums it up perfectly:

“Never let fear make decisions for you.  Try to make life choices from a hope-filled perspective, as this will give you the greatest potential of achieving a happy life” 

Zoe Clark-Coates, Saying Goodbye  

The next few weeks will be key for me in deciding what to do next, more treatment or not.  All I can do is take each day as it comes, look after myself, be kind to myself and know that it will get easier with time.  The moments of grief will pass, the emptiness will lessen and I will find a way to move forward positively.  I have to.

You are not alone

Dear Embryo…

You were made a few months ago, but because I get too ill you had to be frozen until I was ok to have you back.  Today was finally that day. 

I have been taking many drugs over the last few weeks in the hope that they help you to stick around.  I started with hormone patches, which made me grumpy.  I then had a scan to check that the hormones were working; the good news was that everything looked ok so I then had to start injecting 2 more drugs and taking some tablets.  The drugs aren’t very nice, but they will be worth it and I am willing to do anything to try to help.

This morning the phone rang and it was the embryologist (the person that has looked after you until today).  There has been a huge snow storm and so he asked if we were still ok to come and get you.  Of course we will get there, I said, nothing will stop us.  So, he then took you out of the freezer and rang me back.  He told me that you had thawed and were looking really good.  It was such a relief to hear that you were ok and that we could come and get you!

We made our way through the snow, talking about you on the way.  We got to the clinic and we had to wait a while.  Eventually my name was called and we were taken into a room with a scanner and a screen.  They checked my details to make sure that I was the right person and then we were told to look at the screen.

In front of us was a picture of you.  The embryologist came to see us and told us that you were a 4AA when you were frozen (that’s very good by the way) and that you were now a 5AA, and you were beginning to hatch so you were definitely developing.  Both of us were filled with emotion as we looked at you on the screen.  In that moment and even now as I write to you, tears were in my eyes.  My heart wanted to burst and it may sound strange, but we love you already.

The nurse scanned me, the embryologist brought you to the consultant in a long tube.  We watched the scan machine as they inserted the tube.  We then saw the small flash of white light.  You were finally back where you belong.

The tube was checked to make sure that you hadn’t got stuck, you hadn’t so we were ok to go.  I got dressed and we left the clinic.  Heading back through the snow we talked about you some more.  When we got home, we told our puppy, J, about you.  I don’t think he really understood but I’m sure he would love to have you join our family too.

So, now all we can do is wait…and hope.  We want you more than you will ever know.  

Time for Self Care

More and more I hear the term ‘self care’, but what does it actually mean?  Being stuck running the gauntlet of infertility puts a spotlight on every aspect of life, including relationships with those around us.  One thing I have learned is that I really can’t rely on anyone around me to take care of me.  That doesn’t mean that people around me can’t walk with me, hold me for a while and help me through the tough times, but in terms of looking after the essence of me, that’s up to me.

I decided that I wasn’t going to blog through our frozen embryo cycle.  I suppose this is part of my idea of self care.  I wanted to protect myself and hubby from the outside world when it came to finding out the result of our next cycle.  We both agreed that I would keep the cycle off the blog until we knew the outcome.  We are now mid-way through our cycle, I am pumped full of drugs and the embryo will hopefully be transferred in the coming days; yet I am wondering if I made the right decision about closing down the outlet for my thoughts and feelings as we go through this process yet again.  Writing has been part of my self care for the last few months and yet here at a time when I probably need that outlet more than ever, I cut it off.  It feels good to be writing but I’ve realised I don’t need to blog the in’s and out’s of our cycle at this point.  That can come later.  What’s important is that I write what I am able to write and what I feel able to share with you all.  Being honest, if my blog was anonymous I would probably write about the intricate details of this current cycle, the tears, the doubt, the anger and the anxiety.  I would also probably give a day by day account of the two week wait that I head into within the coming days.  I don’t feel able to do that on this cycle…but that’s about me rather than anyone that knows me who may be reading.  I suppose it’s part of my self care strategy, I don’t want to expose myself by giving a blow by blow account as this cycle is happening.  I don’t want to be vulnerable, I don’t want to show my lack of positivity, I don’t want everyone knowing that I’m struggling to get from day to day and I don’t want to feel pressure to let everyone know the outcome as soon as we know.  But that’s what infertility is doing to me right now.  I haven’t had an embryo transferred, yet I cannot get to a positive place thinking about the outcome.  All I can see is negativity.  I do not want to hear the words “just stay positive”.  I’ve done that 6 times before, I’ve thought positively about 12 embryos.  It made not one bit of difference.  So, I know I’m struggling and I’m trying to take care of myself.  Which leads me to one self care strategy that I’ve not had in my previous transfer cycles…counselling.

I sometimes wonder whether those that read my blog regularly get a little bored of reading about how vital counselling has become to help get me through each stage of our infertility journey.  I see it as looking after my emotional health.  Given how anti-counselling I was until I had a breakdown, I’m as amazed as anyone at my complete shift in how important it has become to getting through these times.  I have been to the depths of depression because of hope, positivity and IVF cycles that did not work.  I am not going back there.  I will not stand in the shower after a cycle hasn’t worked and question my reason for being on this planet, it is not happening.  I have spent the last few weeks swinging through all sorts of emotions, I have felt numb, I have felt angry, I have been in floods of tears and I have been full of hope too.  The feelings can change in an instant and I had no idea where they were coming from.  So this week, I spent time with my counsellor talking through some of the feelings.  I reached the point of realising that most of them were being driven by deep rooted anxiety.  I just thought I was becoming an out of control emotional wreck, but I’m not, I need some self care to help me manage my anxiety.  We then talked about how I could manage my anxiety through the coming days.  Not weeks, not into the future, not thinking about all possible outcomes, but the coming day or two.  That’s where I needed to start.  It is hard but all I can do is try.

Anxiety

I have found so much support through Twitter, but I realised in the same counselling session that by being on it so much I was surrounding myself with the journeys of others and that was causing me to worry about our own cycle.  I have been through this so many times and I have only ever had a negative outcome that I don’t think I believe it will ever actually be positive.  Seeing others also have negative outcomes is heartbreaking and I just couldn’t cope.  It was starting to fuel my anxiety.  I try to support others as much as possible, but I had to admit that I was struggling and unfortunately I had to take a step back.  I know I have to put myself first, care for myself.  I also know that my infertility sisters on Twitter will understand and they know I will be back with them as soon as I feel able.  I also know that they will be rooting for us and supporting us every step of the way.  So to my Twitter buddies, a huge thank you for being you!

Talking of support, I facilitate a support group forfamily-2609525_960_720 Fertility Network UK.  Through this group I have connected with some amazing people.  I offered to start the group so that I could help others.  It has also helped me more than I ever thought possible.  Our support group is relatively small but I love that I have been able to meet with people who ‘get it’.  We speak the same language of IVF.  It makes a huge difference & for their support I will always be grateful.

I am struggling to keep my weight to the normal levels.  I put too much pressure on myself when going through IVF.  I have hormone patches stuck on my belly, my body is being pumped full of drugs and not fitting in my Jeansjeans has led to tears.  I have to be honest and say that I have skipped the odd meal here and there over the last few weeks to try and keep the weight off, it hasn’t worked.  I won’t be doing that moving forward.  I need to take care of my body and nourish it the best I can.  If I put on some weight I will go and buy a new pair of jeans.  If the cycle works, I will be putting even more weight on and if it doesn’t I will loose the weight.  It isn’t important right now and worrying about weight will only fuel my anxiety further.  So for now, it is parked.  I am not thinking about it any more.

I haven’t put my life on hold this time, like I have done for the previous 10 years and 9 cycles.  I haven’t started to think about the ‘what if it works’ scenario.  I can’t because I know it will start to creep into other things.  I applied to go back to university for a part time course, I had an interview this week and I nearly didn’t go because, well if the treatment works how can I possibly study and the whole process was worrying me, should I be doing it right now because I’m going through treatment?  I decided to go for it, I need to know I have a future even if I’m never going to be a mum.  I figure it is also part of my self care, putting me first.  What I thought was going to be a 20 minute interview turned into a 2.5 hour group discussion and interview.  They said I would have to wait 2 weeks to hear if I got a place.  I got an email the next day to offer me a place.  And so, putting myself first, feeling the fear and doing it anyway, not thinking or stressing about the ‘what if’s’ now means I have a place on a course that could see a whole new and different future for me.  It isn’t my plan B, its my life, my future.  There is no ‘plan’, I feel like I have accepted that my life will just be what it will be.

One day at a time

Self care means that I need to take things day by day.  I need to try not to think about whether the embryo will thaw, whether I will bleed early or whether I make it to test date and its negative.  I need to get through each day and see what happens.  I need to look after my emotional and physical health.  I hope I reach a place of positivity and I hope that our little embryo decides to stick around this time.  I know I will be heartbroken if it doesn’t work, but I also know that with lots of self care I can get through just about anything.  Self care isn’t about the big gestures, its about the little aspects of everyday life.  In the words of my counsellor…

“…if it feels like no-one else is around to hug you, then you have to learn to hug yourself”  

Wise words indeed.  Self care is about loving and looking out for yourself, that is what I need to do right now.

I know it’s hard for those around us to really understand what this feels like, and so this cycle I have no expectation of you.   All I ask is that you walk with us if and when you feel able, that you ask how we are both doing from time to time and that you understand that we are going through something pretty huge right now and we may need to put ourselves first, it is self care all the way for the next few weeks.  To those of you that have reached out to us in the last few weeks, whether through social media or in our ‘real’ world, from me to you a heartfelt thank you.  It means more than you will ever know.

You are not alone

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

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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Day 9 IVF Cycle 9

Today is day 9 of stimulation.  This morning I did 2 more injections and then headed for the clinic.  Luckily I didn’t get stuck in traffic so there was no panicking.  I can’t say I was’t nervous because I was.  I just hoped that some of my follicles had increased in size.

The good news is that they have!  I have 21 follicles, 9 on the left and 12 on the right.  The largest one is now 18 mm, so that’s at 5 mm growth spurt in 2 days.  I also have two or three at 17 mm, a number at 16/15/14 mm ones and then the rest are 12-10 mm.  The hope is that the 16 – 14 mm ones continue to grow and contain eggs.  There is also the potential for a couple of the smaller ones to catch up too, but that’s less likely.  I know I wasn’t going to compare to my last full stim cycle, but at this point in that cycle (which made me really ill) I had 31 follicles, so we have a lot less.  There is no estimation of the number of eggs we may get, we just have to wait and see what happens.

I went for a counselling session after my scan and bloods.  I needed it.  I hadn’t really realised that I needed to offload all of the stuff that has been whirling around and building over the last week.  All of my fears…over stimulation, the OHSS risk, poor quality eggs, having no eggs, no fertilisation, failed embryo development.  It is all here and all present.  I have come to realise that IVF is just a series of hurdles to jump over and at each one we may clear it or we may hit it and fall flat on our faces.  Talking about each hurdle and gaining a sense of perspective at each stage has been vital for me in this cycle.  I went into the session feeling tense and emotional.  I came out feeling lifted, positive and hopeful.  I think I often deny the enormity of what we are going through and its ok that sometimes I question it or have a wobble.  It’s going to be ok, I’m going to be ok.  I’m just glad I decided to continue to go for counselling alongside this cycle, it seems for once I made the right decision.

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Two things happened in the car on the way home.

Firstly the clinic called.  They want me to take the drugs tomorrow and then tomorrow evening I will take the final trigger shot.  Egg collection will be on Thursday.  I have no idea of a time yet, apparently they are going to text me tomorrow to let me know what time to take the last injection and the time for collection on Thursday.  How very modern.  Lets just hope they text the right number.  Holy crap this is happening.

Secondly, a song came on that I’ve not heard in a while.  It’s called ‘Thy Will’ by Hillary Scott (of Lady Antebellum for those who are thinking who?).  Anyway, she wrote the song as she struggled through acceptance following a miscarriage, trying to understand why it happened and how could something like that be part of God’s plan.  I have heard this song many times and every time I hear it something touches me.  I will never understand why this is us, I don’t think that I will be able to accept that this is part of a wider/higher  plan, its just too cruel and heartbreaking.  I feel like I lost my faith somewhere along the way and I suppose this song reminds me of the faith I once had and that it’s hard to keep hold of it when something bad comes into our lives.  I struggle to find the words, she finds them perfectly.

This is the link to what is, in my opinion, a beautiful song, in case you want to listen.

And so, as I head into the unknown, full of hope and full of fear, I will leave you with some of the words from the song…

I’m so confused 
I know I heard you loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here 
I don’t wanna think 
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of your plan
When I try to pray 
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done 

I know you’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know you think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that you’re God
And I am not 
So

Thy will be done

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Day 8 of IVF Cycle 9

It feels like I’ve been injecting forever, but its only been 8 days.  So far I have stabbed myself with a needle a total of 12 times.  It doesn’t sound much really but I know the drugs are working.

I went for a blood test on day 4 to check my E2 levels.  Given my history of OHSS the clinic wanted to do an early check to make sure my blood levels weren’t shooting off in the wrong direction.  It took an hour and 15 minutes to get to the clinic, 5 minutes later after a sharp scratch in my right arm, I was in the car travelling back home, which took another hour.  I waited for the phone call to let me know if I needed to adjust my medication, the phone call never came.

Day 5 I started to second daily injection of Cetrotide.  This drug stops ovulation.  As my ovaries are going like the clappers to produce more eggs than usual, we need to ensure that none of them get released before they are removed at the egg collection stage.  And so each day there are now 2 injections to do.

Naturally my mind has been in overdrive, mainly worrying about over stimulating again.  That just cannot happen.  I can’t be that sick for a third time.  It is awful to just sit and wonder what is going on inside me, hoping that my body isn’t over reacting again.  During the last few days I haven’t even been able to think about the next stage.  Maybe because I know this cycle finishes before we get an embryo transferred.  Most people go into IVF hoping for a positive pregnancy test at the end, for me all I can hope for is no OHSS & some good quality blasts (5 day embryos) in the freezer.  For now, that will be enough.

I’ve had emotional days, crying at nothing.  I cried this morning thinking about writing a blog post about surviving Christmas, just reminding me that I’m still very vulnerable and that infertility cuts deep to my core.  I also have to remember that I’m high on hormones!

Compared to my previous cycles, so far I still feel well.  In my previous stim cycles at this point I have been puking my guts up every morning, unable to face much food.  The steak, cheesecake and peanut butter Kit Kat bites yesterday evening made me realise that I’m no where near being that unwell at the moment.  Great news.  No puking & still eating.  I have suffered with headaches most days and I don’t remember this from previous cycles but they now seem to have stopped too.

My ovaries are awake and I know it.  I wouldn’t say I’m in pain, but I’m starting to get a little uncomfortable.  I just have a dull ache.  I am now living in jogging bottoms because my jeans are too tight.  The £47 I spent on 3 pairs at the start of the week are just one of the many hidden costs of IVF.  I do aspire to have a unicorn onesie though, just like my fellow infertility blogger and current cycle buddy, Jess over at Infertility and Life.  She has been a true source of support & strength.  I have stayed away from the cycle buddies threads on the fertility forums this time, but I have found great support from my Twitter pals and to you all, a huge thank you for sticking with me thus far!

So, yesterday was scan time.  It is so different being in a private clinic to my NHS experience.  I get an appointment time and I actually go in on time, rather than turning up at stupid o’clock AM and waiting with a number to be called.  Its making for a much less stressful cycle.  I hadn’t even sat down in the waiting room and I was called in.  The sonographer explained that she would be counting and measuring follicles to see how I was responding to the drugs.  I would then need to see a nurse who would let me know if anything needed to be adjusted.  Wanda was inserted.  The sonographer said she needed to check my lining first to ensure it was getting ready for transfer.  Actually we don’t need to check it as I’m having a freeze all and won’t be having a transfer, but anyway she checked it and apparently it was ‘perfect’.  Wonderful news but completely irrelevant.

First ovary checked, I have a few follicles just under 10mm, a few more at or just above 10mm and the lead one is 13mm.  To me there looked ALOT less than in my previous cycles.  Next ovary checked, she took measurements for about 5 of them & was counting some just under 10mm, but she didn’t say much.  I commented that it didn’t look like they were over responding, she agreed and said things look about right for this stage and that:

“We are aiming for quality and not quantity”

I came out feeling deflated.  I suppose I should be glad my ovaries aren’t going crazy like the last few times.  A few minutes later we were called to see the nurse.  She said things were looking ok and that they work on “quality not quantity”.  Why do they use the word ok?  Is that good, bad, indifferent?  Should I be now worried that my ovaries aren’t responding enough?  I didn’t ask what my E2 level had been on day 4 and I didn’t ask how many follicles I have that could potentially turn into eggs.  Maybe I should have but part of me doesn’t want to know if they are going crazy again, part of me just wants to trust the clinic to look after me.  My dose of Menopur stays at 112 and I’m back in on day 9 for another scan and blood test.

We left the clinic 15 minutes after we got there.  I said to hubby that my scan looked NOTHING like my previous scans and I’m now worried we aren’t going to get a good number of eggs.  So, I’ve switched from worrying about over stimulating to worrying about getting a crap number of eggs all in the matter of minutes.  I got home and looked at the notes from my last full stim cycle.  At this point I had 40 follicles.  Maybe its a good thing that I don’t have anywhere near that number this time.  Or maybe I do have that many but they just aren’t telling me.  Anyway, I’ve decided to put the notes away and just let this cycle be a cycle of its own.  No comparing.  Those previous cycles didn’t result in a baby so maybe its a good thing that this one feels completely different.

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Hubby and I are also talking lots and being honest about how we are feeling.  This is also new but is making such a difference.  I’m just glad it is him with me on this rollercoaster, holding me as I try to navigate each twist and turn.

 

I truly forget what an awful, emotional process IVF can be.  On the plus side, I don’t feel unwell but growing eggs is exhausting, both physically and emotionally.

All I can do is get through each day and remind myself that I’m doing ok.

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IVF cycle number 9 begins…

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve had time to sit and write.  The last 2 weeks have been a little crazy but I think everything I filled my time with has helped me prepare for what we have just embarked on.  I am on day 3 of stims for what is our fourth fresh cycle but this is our 9th cycle in total.  Even writing it, it seems a little unreal that it is us in this situation, but we are and we have to go with it.

How do you prep for a cycle?  Well, there is no straightforward or single answer.  For me, I’ve just made myself as busy as possible.

I’ve had a couple of counselling sessions, which have really helped me to calm my fears and anxiety.  I would not be doing this again without those sessions.  My anxiety has been up and down, talking it through has helped immensely.  My counsellor also has a wonderful way of bringing me back down to earth from planet ‘lets think about all of the worst possible outcomes’.  I’m a natural worrier, a pessimist maybe, I look for the negative in everything.  I cannot allow that to take control of me right now, so I’ve used my counselling sessions to bring me back round to a place of calm.  I promised myself a few weeks ago that I would take care of me through this next cycle, yet I found myself questioning whether I should take time off work or not.  I seemed to be going round in circles between wanting to give this IVF cycle my whole focus and having some loyalty with work & feeling like that was also a priority.  After a heavy session yesterday evening, I knew today that I have to put this first and I have to accept that its ok that I do that.

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I’ve also used my time over the last few weeks to try to help others going through this thing called infertility.  If you read my blog regularly you will know that I volunteer for Fertility Network UK and last week was the first meet up of the support group that I run for them.  I was really nervous in case no-one turned up.  I shouldn’t have been.  It was a small group but it was great just to chat with others who really ‘get it’.  All of us were at very different points on our journey’s but yet we were able to just talk, freely and openly.  I’m so glad I took the leap of faith in myself to get involved.  It is great to be able to support and encourage others who are going through the same thing.  Its a very different kind of support to my counselling, but no less important.  I have already set the date for the next one in the New Year.

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I was also approached a couple of months ago by Natalie who produces The Fertility Podcast.  I came across the podcasts a few months ago through Twitter (@fertilitypoddy) and listened to a couple of them.  It is a great resource for anyone trying to conceive or going through assisted conception.  Natalie had read my blog and asked if I would talk to her about how infertility had affected my mental health.  It is something that I had written about in my blog but had never really spoken in depth with anyone about (other than my counsellor).  Of course, I said yes!  This was a fantastic opportunity to help raise awareness about the deep impact of infertility and treatments on mental health.  It isn’t something that I have seen much written or talked about, so if my own story helps others then I was happy to talk about it.  I knew it would be quite exposing but the only way that I’m truly going to help raise awareness is to be honest and to own my story, even when that means talking about some of the depths that I sunk to because of infertility.  I am so glad that I said ‘yes’ that I am now part of such a fantastic resource.

My first ever podcast can be heard here.

You are not alone

Last weekend was hubby’s birthday, so we booked a weekend away.  In the back of my mind I knew this would also be the weekend that our next IVF cycle might start.  And it did.

Saturday was cycle day 1.  I called the clinic to request treatment.  I was told someone would call me back to let me know that I was ok to start.  An hour later the phone rang.  This was it, this was the start.  I was to do my first injection the next day, between 6 am and 8 am.  I was booked in for a blood test on day 4 so that my E2 levels can be monitored closely due to my OHSS history.  A scan was booked for day 7.

Sunday morning at 7.30 am, I snapped the top of the Menopur bottle, mixed the first lot of drugs, held the needle and quickly stabbed myself.  There was no panic, no hovering, no hesitation.  It was done.  Monday morning at 7.30 am, injection number 2 was done.

Monday evening I felt really tired and a little uncomfortable.  I also felt very emotional and on the verge of tears, yet none came.  Tuesday morning at 7.30 am and injection number 3 was done.  I started to get ready for work but something inside was screaming at me not to go, its too much.  I need to just concentrate on this right now.  I called the Doctors surgery and waited for a phone call back.  The GP that rang me back was lovely and has signed me off for 3 weeks.  That will hopefully be enough time to go through the stims and come out the other side (without OHSS).

And so it begins.  My ovaries are kicking into action and reacting to the drugs.  I am very aware that something is going on inside me and I just have to try to stay calm and not panic.

I will not overstimulate…I will not overstimulate…I will not overstimulate…

Tomorrow I head to the clinic for a blood test and then they will let me know whether to change the dose of Menopur.

I also received the bill this morning from the clinic, there isn’t much change out of £6,000 because we are having a freeze all and we have also decided to use the embryoscope this time.  I’m annoyed that I have to pay extra for it but in the words of hubby, we are throwing everything at this cycle.

I feel ok, I feel well, I feel calm.  Hubby is excited that we may actually have a chance to have a family, I am petrified.  Petrified of so many things, but whatever happens, I know I will be ok.

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A New Perspective

When I started this blog I wanted it to be a true reflection of our fertility treatment journey.  Fertility treatment is about more than going through a process of drugs, scans, egg retrievals and embryo transfers.  It is about the person as a whole, mind & body.  It is about the people we meet along the way & the relationships that come and go.  This post is about where I am with all of that right now.

I met someone new this week who has given me a different way of looking at what I have been through.  Its amazing how a few sentences can bring a change of perspective.

One of my favourite musicals is Wicked.  I don’t know why, it just is.  The words to one song always resonates with me, they always have…

I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return

I’m a huge believer that people come into our lives at the right time.  Some stay for a while, others just appear and disappear again.  I find that people enter when they are supposed to and leave when they are supposed to.  I honestly didn’t think anyone could teach me something new about myself where my own fertility journey is concerned.  I was wrong.

During my very first counselling session nearly 2 years ago, after I had given a whirlwind tour of our fertility treatments to that point, my counsellor observed that I was traumatised.  All the years of treatment and embryos not implanting had meant that time after time I have suffered one trauma after another.  When she used the word trauma, I honestly thought it was a bit strong.  Yes, I’d been through a lot, felt like I’d lost something (even though I never had it in the first place), yes my heart was broken into a thousand pieces & I couldn’t see how I was ever going to feel ok again, but traumatised, a bit OTT maybe?  I have heard the word a few more times during my counselling sessions but I haven’t quite been able to relate to that word being in my world.  I have of course been in denial for a long time about the impact of infertility on me and its taken many sessions for me to truly open up about the devastation that it has caused in my life.  We have also talked more recently about the mind and body connect, both have to be in balance and it is clear that I’m not quite there yet with the balance.

And so this week, I met someone new for acupuncture.  I was reluctant to find someone new but circumstances dictate that I can’t see the person I have seen previously.  I was gutted about that because she has been an important part of my journey thus far.  I’m hoping acupuncture can help me stay balanced through our upcoming cycle, as it has done previously.  As with all of the professionals I meet about our fertility struggles, I have to go through the last 7 years with a fine tooth comb, reliving each and every cycle that didn’t result in a positive pregnancy test.  When I got to the end, she put her pen down, sat back in her chair and said something that I’d heard before

“You have suffered so much emotional and physical trauma, how have you coped” 

As she said the word trauma, I was sent back to my first counselling session.  A thought flashed through my mind, 2 people in my life saying the same thing, it can’t be coincidence, its time to take notice and acknowledge the trauma that I have been through repeatedly.  I sat there and wondered why the hell I was about to put myself through this again, why do I want to go through that trauma again.  There is a simple answer, I don’t want to go through it again but hubby and I would like a family and to have a chance of achieving that I have to do IVF.

Our conversation continued.  Talking about our IVF cycles she asked me about the outcome of FET number 5, I said, that one failed too.  She looked straight at me and said that she never wanted to hear me say the word failure again.  In her view, it brings a negativity that is hard to shake off.  In that moment I knew she was right.  In using the word “failure” I’m setting myself up to feel like I’m the one that has failed.  I have not failed because our embryos did not implant.  The reason I ended up in some very dark places previously was because I felt like I had failed.  Our embryos not implanting is not a reflection on me or anything I have done or not done.  It is what has happened.  Its not my fault.  And so as I prepare for a new cycle, I have found myself with new grief, acknowledging the loss of our embryos.  And that makes me sad.  Sad more than words can describe.  I still need to grieve for our 12 precious embryos that didn’t make it to this world, even though we wanted them so much.  Its ok that I still need to grieve.  I will never stop thinking about them.  Its probably hard to understand the position I find myself in and that’s ok.  No-one else needs to understand.  They were our embryos, part of us, me and hubby, and they are gone.

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You will never hear me say or write again that it failed or that I failed.  I can no longer use that word when talking about our fertility struggles and everything that we have been through.  I am not a failure because I can’t get pregnant.  I am many other things, but I’m not a failure.

The third moment of enlightenment came with a conversation about me not thinking treatment will ever work for us.  Why would it, it hasn’t so far?  Each time I think about an IVF cycle I relive the one before and the one before.  Its all negative.  It is the impact of suffering repeated trauma.  It is something I have talked about in counselling, that I don’t believe I will ever be able to get pregnant, and I have worked to try and understand the connection between mind and body but I’ve never really managed to understand why I feel physically tense when I think about IVF.  The person I was sat with explained that if I hold negativity about what has previously happened then my whole body will react to this negativity, it will become tense and so things may not work quite the way they should.  She said that I need to let go of the past and move forward positively without the dark cloud of the previous cycles hanging over me, both physically & emotionally.  Yep, she is right about that too.  This hit me like a bolt of lightening.  This has to change, I have to continue to change.  I have changed so much since my breakdown but I know I still have a way to go to being healed.  I need to heal physically as well as continue to heal emotionally (and I have already come along way on the emotional front).

We talked about whether I was ready for another IVF cycle.  I started to get a little angry because I’m ready and I’m committed to this next cycle, we are doing this, its the right time.  As we are doing a freeze all I explained that I know the stimulation cycle is going to be traumatic for me, both physically and emotionally.  Mainly because I’m petrified of OHSS and rightly so.  Pumping myself full of drugs isn’t ideal and I wouldn’t choose to do it, but I don’t have a choice.  After a lengthy discussion, I had my acupuncture session and I felt good when I left.  This person has definitely entered my life at the right time & is another person who seems to ‘get it’.

And so once the first part of the IVF cycle is done, it will be time for me to heal myself before we move to a frozen embryo replacement cycle, as long as we get some good quality embryos that is.  I have promised myself that I won’t jump into another FET, I will do it when the time is right.  After all, this is likely to be our last cycle so I have to make sure that I am ready for it, both physically and emotionally.

This week we also visited the clinic, got my protocol, had blood tests and we are all set to go.  My protocol has changed from Gonal F to Menopur.  I wasn’t expecting it and Menopur has made me so ill in the past that when I saw it written down I had a panic.  This isn’t going to be easy, but lets hope its worth it.  I’m starting on 112 of Menopur, which is different to both my previous cycles.  I get a blood test on day 4 of stims to see what my E2 is doing and then the dose may change.  It already feels like I’m being taken care of.  The nurse told me there are notes all over my file about being an OHSS risk and that everyone is aware of it.  I was going to ask if they knew of me because of the Twitter blocking incident, but I didn’t feel it was quite appropriate!  So, now we wait for day 1 of my next cycle and then make the phone call to ask to start treatment.

We also had a couples counselling session after our prep appointment which helped us both massively, even if it did get emotionally charged a few times.  We now know what each of us needs from each other to get through the next 6 weeks.  We have never done it before a cycle but I’m really glad we did.  We have to be kind to ourselves, to each other and most of all we have to talk.  Even if we don’t want to talk for fear of upsetting the other one, we have to say how we are feeling.  Its the only way and we are both more than ok with that.

So, for this cycle I have a new perspective and a new approach.  No more negativity.  No more doubting the clinic.  Hubby is firmly by my side, holding me whilst I grab onto him for dear life, going through every twist and turn together, after all this is as much about him as it is about me.  We also have our friends and family around us helping us to hold ourselves together as we head into something that I know is going to be traumatic.  I also have 2 people walking with me, both helping in different ways to keep me balanced and focussed.  Both encouraging me to look after myself, reminding me to be kind to myself and acknowledging that what I’m heading into isn’t going to be easy, but that I’m going to be ok.  One is new in my life, the other has been walking with me for nearly 2 years now, I know I need them both in order to stay positive and work through the inevitable melt downs that are going to come over the coming weeks.  All of the people that are supposed to be in my life right now are here.  In previous cycles hubby and I have closed ranks, tried to do this alone and I certainly haven’t let anyone help me.  I have hidden away hoping to get through it as best I can.  I cannot do it this time.  I know I am surrounded by love and that I have some amazing support.  That is all I can ask as we venture into our 9th cycle.

And as I head into another cycle I just have to remember to breathe & remember that I’m going to be more than ok…

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