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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Seven Days of Sadness

It has been exactly a week since our world came crashing down around us.  After a week of knowing I was pregnant after 12 years of trying to conceive, everything changed again.  It has probably been one of the worst weeks of my entire life.  I genuinely don’t know how I have made it through some of the sheer moments of pain and grief.  I wanted to write this post in the hope that it helps others who may be trying to put one foot in front of another after they have suffered a miscarriage.  In all honesty, I didn’t have a clue what would happen to me, what my body would go through or how I would feel.

Within the space of a few seconds, I went from being pregnant and happy to being heartbroken and scared.  Seven days after it happened and I feel empty.  Empty uterus, empty heart.  I am exhausted, just completely wiped out physically and emotionally.  I am tired, of everything.  I feel done, defeated, broken.  And yet, I am hopeful and know that I am going to be ok.  But what has happened to me in the last seven days…here goes…

When I wrote my last post, in my heart I knew it was over.  I knew I was having a miscarriage.  I couldn’t say the word but that was what was happening to me.  I suppose I was still clutching on to some hope that maybe I was wrong and that our bean was a fighter and had by some miracle stuck around.  The pain and bleeding were pretty horrific for a few hours and then they all but disappeared.  This is where the false hope started to creep in.  Still, I knew it was done.  Utterly drained from crying buckets of tears, I somehow managed to get some sleep.  I slept until 1am and then I cried and cried and cried some more until 4.30am.  Sitting on the cold tiled bathroom floor, curled into a ball, I have never felt so alone in my entire life.  What have I done to deserve this?

A new day, the day I should have gone for my second Hcg test to confirm the numbers were dropping.  It snowed heavily so we phoned the clinic to tell them we couldn’t make it in.  In reality, I couldn’t face going in.  I didn’t want to go for a blood test, I had lost our baby, end of.  The nurse that I spoke to said that I needed to continue with the medication and to come in the next day.  I reluctantly agreed.  I couldn’t come off the drugs until they had confirmation either way.  We trudged through another day, random bursts of tears.  Lots of tears, seemingly set off by nothing, other than the realisation of what had happened.  Family visits passed a few hours, everyone truly as heartbroken as us.  My pain was back, the bleeding had slowed right down.  I stayed away from Google, I didn’t want to read stories of positive outcomes, I knew this just wasn’t the case.

The snow cleared so the next day we made our way to the clinic.  I walked in but I didn’t want to be there.  I felt and looked like crap.  I wanted to be in and out as quickly as I could.  The fertility clinic was just a reminder of what we nearly had.  Luckily, I was in and out within 5 minutes.  As we drove away, the tears flowed some more.  Why has this happened to us?  Both of us in a state of pure sadness.  A couple of hours later, the phone call came.  The Hcg had dropped from 3000 to 1100 and our worst fears were finally confirmed.  The nurse didn’t use the term miscarriage, she simply said that I was right and things hadn’t progressed.  She said it usually ‘resolves’ itself so they don’t offer a scan.  I have to do a pregnancy test in 2 weeks to make sure it’s negative.  That is something to look forward to then.  She didn’t offer me a counsellor, didn’t ask if I needed any support.  Fortunately, I already had this in hand but she wouldn’t have know that.  We would need to wait a month before we went for another cycle and she was quick to remind me that we had 5 embryos frozen.  I told her it would be a few months and we would need a holiday before we thought about another cycle.  She commented that it was positive that we had a positive, we’ve never had one of those before!  Yey for us…are you actually kidding me?  She did then realise what she had said and started to backtrack a little, but I understand the sentiment.  Heck, I’ve even thought it myself in the last few days.  She advised us to avoid Zika areas for a holiday.  She then started talking about arranging a follow up when we were ready…I took part in the conversation but I had switched off.  She had just delivered the worst news I had received throughout 8 years of fertility treatment, I couldn’t take in what was being said.  I said I would contact in a few months when I was ready.  Her parting line…you know where we are if you need anything.  Really, are you?  You haven’t even asked if I want to speak to someone about what has happened.  I don’t know why I expect any other.  Oh I know, because I’m a person with feelings who has just been ripped into two and maybe I expect to be taken care of through the good and bad.  Unfortunately, they got this very wrong, but that’s just my opinion.    The phone went down, the tears flowed.  It was done.  It was finally confirmed.  I am 1 in 4.

Another day came.  Hubby and I went to see our counsellor, I had arranged the appointment as soon as I knew what was happening.  We were going to need help to get through this.  It was probably the hardest session I have ever had.  I had stopped the medication the day before and now the period pain was ramping up to another level.  I sat in the session, in so much physical pain I could barely breathe for the first few moments.  Luckily the painkillers kicked in and it eased.  We talked to her about what had happened, how we were feeling, where we were up to.  She handled us with extreme care.  It’s not my fault, nothing I could have done would have changed the outcome.  We talked a little about the future.  About me not getting depressed again.  About me not sitting in a pool of grief for the next few months or years.  It was, however, the first time that someone used the term miscarriage.  As I talked about the events of the previous few days, I was using phrases like not developing, not continuing, positive then negative.  I couldn’t say the ‘M’ word.  She did.  In that moment I was struck by a wave of realisation, a wave of grief even.  It hurt like hell, but I needed to hear it, I needed to acknowledge that I have had a miscarriage.  She knew it, I knew it.  And since that point, it is how I talk about our loss.  I am no longer afraid of the ‘M’ word.  I have said it out loud a few times since, it hurts like hell, but that’s ok.  It has happened and to move forward I need to acknowledge it and talk about it.  We came out of the session, both feeling a little lighter.  Some of the weight had gone, for a few hours at least.  We talked about how we were going to take care of ourselves and each other.  I came out of the session knowing we are going to be ok.  The day continued with more pain and the bleeding got worse, much worse.  I was passing clots, lots of them and many of then were huge.  When was this going to end?  We tried to distract ourselves with lunch and a film at the cinema, but I kept drifting off, thinking about what might have been.  And then the tiredness hit.

I was due in work the next day, surely 2 days off sick was enough?  Wrong.  The next day came and I could barely open my eyes.  Exhaustion had set in.  The pain worse than the day before, painkillers not touching it.  The bleeding continued but not as bad as the day before.  I spent the day with one of my closest friends.  We chatted, sometimes about what had happened and then about just normal, random, everyday crap.  I ate my own body weight in crisps, chocolate, cheesecake & ice-cream.  It didn’t make me feel any better.  There were times in the day when I couldn’t move because of the pain.  Evening came, I felt sick (probably from all of the crap I had eaten) and couldn’t keep my eyes open.  I only cried 3 times all day.  I decided to order Saying Goodbye by Zoe Clark-Coates, a book with 90 days of support to help navigate the aftermath of a miscarriage.  I was going to need help to get me through this.  My strength felt all but gone.

3 days off work and it was time to go back.  I worked from home so I didn’t have to go into the office.  I couldn’t face it.  I logged on and within half an hour I was in floods of tears.  I can’t do this.  I gave myself an hour and if I wasn’t ok then I would log off and take the day off.  I got through the hour, then the next, then the next.  It was a struggle, a real struggle.  My mind drifted off, thinking about our baby.  The tears stayed away.  The end of the working day came and I was utterly exhausted.  The book arrived.  A friend then arrived.  The evening passed relatively quickly.  I took myself off to bed with the book.  I started to read the story of the author and her journey through pregnancy loss.  The tears came once more.  Our bean is gone.  I got through the first few chapters of the book and some of the things written helped me realise that what I’m feeling is normal.  Its going to take time to recover and heal, but it will happen.  I have the strength to get through this. I don’t have a choice.

And so today it is seven days since my miscarriage.  Another full day at work.  I cried this morning as I thought about how this time last week I left the house for work with a huge smile on my face, and a week later the smile is gone.  I had initially thrown my positive pregnancy tests away, but retrieved them quickly.  I looked at them today and my heart hurt, I cried and then I put them away.  Maybe one day I will get rid of them, but right now I’m not ready to.  It has been my first pain free day in a week and finally the bleeding has all but stopped.  Hopefully it has ‘resolved itself’ and I can start to recover physically.

One thing that caught me by surprise today was a feeling of panic.  What if this never happens for us?  What if we never have a baby?  What if I never get pregnant again or what if I do and I miscarry again?  I haven’t felt like this for a while.  Even though we still have 5 good quality embryos frozen, there is simply no guarantee that any of them will ever call me ‘mum’.  The desire for a family is stronger than it has been for a while and it has really taken me to a place that I haven’t been for a while.  I am scared of what comes next.

The last seven days have been filled with tears, sadness, grief, pain and the feeling of hopelessness.  But I am not consumed by them.  I will not allow myself to be consumed by them.  I allow the feelings in, I give them some time and then I try to move forward.  Sometimes it is the tiniest step forward, but that is enough.  I know in another 7 days I will have moved forward some more.  I am living one day at a time.  And that’s ok.

I also want to say a massive heartfelt ‘thank you’ to everyone that has sent us messages of love and support.  It has made a huge difference knowing that we aren’t alone and that you are thinking of us.  Those messages provide some light in our darkest of moments.

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From hope to heartbreak…

We transferred our embryo just over two weeks ago.  There is a reason the two week wait is also know as two weeks of hell.  During the last two weeks I have experienced more emotions than I ever thought possible.

The first few days of the two week wait I swung from ‘this can work’ to ‘this is never going to work’.  Two days in and I sat sobbing, saying that I’m never going to do this again, it is just too hard.  And then some positivity appeared.  But at the same time, I was gripped by fear.  All of the previous 6 cycles where it hasn’t worked kept coming back to haunt me.  The drugs probably playing havoc with me.  Oestrogen patches, progestrone injections, blood thinning injections, steroids, a conception vitamin pill and vitamin D became my daily routine.

I went for a counselling session 5 days after transfer.  I needed a sense of perspective and I needed to try to calm down.  I just couldn’t settle or concentrate on anything.  I talked things through.  It became apparent that my anxiety levels were sky high and I needed to try to take back some control.  Most of all I needed to breathe.  I came away from the session feeling much lighter, I had been able just to talk about living through another two week wait.  How hard this time is and how much it messes with every single part of you.  The will it work, wont it work, playing over and over, like a broken record.

6 days post transfer I was in the shower and I felt a sudden wave of nausea.  This was new.  By this point in previous cycles I had started to bleed.  So far, no bleeding.  I got through the day with something in the back of my mind niggling at me…this may have actually worked.

7 days post transfer and I caved and did a pregnancy test.  The First Response was calling my name…shouting pee on me from the bathroom cabinet.  And so I did.  Slowly but surely a faint second line appeared.  For the first time in 12 years of trying to have a baby I saw a second line, a positive test.  I took it to show hubby, just to check I wasn’t seeing things.  Nope, there was a definite second line.  Hubby cried, I just stood there completely numb.  This had actually happened.  I’m really not sure how I got through the day.  All of a sudden, hope had returned.  I was pregnant.

We were cautiously happy.  I was completely in shock.  I was also expecting it to end any second. I continued to test each day, knowing we were still 5 long days until the official test date.  Anything could happen, there were no guarantees that it would continue.  Over the coming days the second line appeared quicker and darker each time.  10 days post transfer I braved a digital test.  I have only ever seen the words Not Pregnant and part of me was expecting to see them again.  Still no bleeding, feeling more nauseous I took the test.  Then words I never expected to see appeared…Pregnant…closely followed by the words 2-3 weeks.  Holy shit.  The test the next day was also positive, as was the one on official test date.

I made the phone call to the clinic.  The nurse asked me what the result was…positive I replied.  I wanted to burst.  This was actually happening for us.  She booked us in for a scan for 3 weeks time.  Now, we just had to get through the next three weeks.  We moved from the torture of the two week wait to a new torture of the three week wait.  Not sure how we were going to get through but finally it felt like this was going to happen.  Cautiously happy but we were now starting to get a little bit excited that we would be having a baby in the middle of November. 10 years after being told that we would just need a little help to get pregnant, it finally felt like our dream was within reach.  I went for another counselling session.  It was clear that I was in shock.  Although it was the outcome we both wanted more than anything, I never actually believed it would happen.  I talked about all of the things I feared, most of all I feared that this wouldn’t end well and that I would be broken once more.  As ever, the session provided some perspective.  I started to actually believe that this was happening.

Two days later at 14 days post transfer I did another test.  Clearly I had turned into a pee on a stick addict, but why not?  As much as I feared seeing a negative, I loved seeing the positive, the 2 lines or the words pregnant.  This time it said Pregnant 3+ weeks.  Eeeek things looked to be progressing as my HcG levels were rising.  I moved from living in a constant state of fear that I would start to bleed at any point, to living with some hope and happiness that we were finally going to become parents.

It’s frightening how 24 hours can change everything.

15 days post transfer at lunchtime, I went to the bathroom and I had started to spot.  My heart beat out of my chest, my stomach sank and I felt sick.  I knew this wasn’t a good sign.  15 minutes later and I had a huge gush of blood, bright red blood.  I rang my boss and told her I needed to go, I left the meeting I was in and drove home.  I cried all the way home.  I knew this was the start of the end.  How could this be happening?  Why me?  Why us?  What have we done to deserve this?  How can life be so cruel?  How are we going to get through this?

I managed to get hold of hubby on the phone.  There is something utterly devastating in having to tell the person that you love most in the world that our dream of a family is probably over.  I could barely speak for the tears that were flowing.  My heart felt like it had been ripped out.  Hubby phoned the clinic and they asked me to go in for a blood test.  I would then need to go for another one 2 days later to see if the Hcg levels were rising or dropping.  The bleeding had subsided and was now back to spotting, but still I knew it wasn’t right.

Blood test taken, no false hope from the nurse, simply a time will tell type conversation. Back home we just couldn’t speak.  Dr Google became my new best friend but also my worst enemy.  So many stories of pregnancies progressing even with spotting.  I couldn’t grab onto that hope.  I needed to be realistic.  I started to send the message out to those few people who knew we had a positive result to prepare them for the worst.  Those closest to us clearly as devastated by the news as we were.  I hate that we keep putting people through all of this loss and grief.  Its just too hard.

The next day the bleeding had definitely turned to very light spotting.  OK, so maybe things could be ok.  The clinic called, my Hcg levels were at 3000, which for 5 weeks pregnant is in the middle of the normal range.  The nurse said we would need to carry on with the drugs, take another blood test tomorrow and hope that the bleeding stayed to the minimum but it would just be a matter of seeing how it goes over the next few days.  As the phone went down, I felt utterly deflated.

Within 10 minutes of the phone call, I had the most horrendous period pain.  I knew it was over, I knew what was coming next.  An hour later, I was literally pouring with bright red blood & I started to pass huge clots.  It is definitely over.  Whilst we wait for the blood test to confirm, in my heart I know it is over.   I have never felt so broken in my entire life.  The tears just keep coming and coming.

Embryo 13 on transfer cycle number 7 hasn’t survived.  Our hearts are literally shattered.  I do not even know how we start to grieve, to heal or to start to recover.  I have no idea where our strength will come from to get through the coming hours, days, weeks and months.  There are no words.

To our bean…for the very short time you were with us, we loved you more than we ever thought possible and more than you will ever know. 

You will be in our hearts forever xx 

Miscarriage

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

The FET Plan

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

So here is the new plan…

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

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

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

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

 

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

You are not alone

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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