Positive Pants are back on!

The thing about infertility that I struggle with the most is the strain it has on my general positivity. I’m a positive person. My mindset is always that being negative and down about things will never fix a problem. Then fail no2 happened….

“Next time will be the one.”

“Baby just wants to be a September baby.”

“Third time lucky.”

Really though? Why is third time lucky? If it was certain to happen eventually maybe it wouldn’t be as hard. But it isn’t, and maybe it never actually will work. I’ve spent 2 months throwing myself heavily into work, drinking too much and mentally beating myself up about being a failure. Not the best thing to admit I know.

What a different a good consultant makes. Today we met with a doctor, at the same clinic, to discuss the potential options for our final frozen embryo. I think my clinic are exceptional are I’m not ready to look elsewhere yet. He explained so clearly and honestly our treatment so far – the chemical pregnancy I thought I’d had was never fully explained until now. Apparently my cycles are perfect – who knew!! We have close to 0% chance of conceiving naturally but all the signs for IVF success are really good.

So I’ve put my positive pants firmly back on. Fingers crossed I won’t ovulate on a day the clinic is closed this time. Double fingers crossed the last little embryo has a successful thaw. Triple fingers crossed a positive outcome will be the Christmas present we so desperately long for.

We’ve got this!!

The Second Blob of Hope

A medicated cycle for FET will be easier they said. We have more control they said. You won’t need as many scans they said. They haven’t met my uterus clearly (well they have, repeatedly, but it’s a law unto itself). 5 scans, increased estrogen tablets and I was convinced we’d have to cancel yet again. Then finally, although the triple lining wasn’t as clear as they’d liked, a doctor said we were good to go with the FET!

Cue the over-thinking…….is it triple lined? Was he doctor just clutching at straws so we didn’t have to cancel again?

The FET went well – my little frostie thawed perfectly so we still have a remaining one available for a future FET. We’re currently in the dreaded 2 week wait. So far I’ve managed to be busy enough at work to not think too much about every twinge and cramp and to worry about what might be. In fact I haven’t felt anything at all – which is now where the worrying and overthinking begins!

The part of this I find the most difficult is telling my family and the few friends that know that it hasn’t worked when I’m completely devastated myself. It feels as if I’m disappointing them for failing at the one thing my body is supposed to do most naturally. I saw friends this weekend who already referred to me as being pregnant. I know they are only trying to be positive but the way I see it, I’d much rather think I wasn’t and be happy than think I am and be disappointed.

I’ve learnt from my last mistake of testing early. The false positive was unbearable. My 2 week wait is officially up on Wednesday but have asked to not go for the test until Saturday. Having to call up for the results during work then walking straight back into my classroom to teach is unthinkable. I’ll do a test myself on Wednesday morning and try not to fall apart when it inevitably comes back negative.

Sorry folks, a miserable post today. The hormones are extreme.

Here we go again…

I lied in my last post.

We attempted round 2.

Well I say we attempted. I followed what I was told to do and have at least 1 cycle before thinking about the 2 frozen embryos. My cycle came and went and I was ready. I wouldn’t have been ready had I had to do the whole process again, but the frozen embryo transfer was more straight forward.

Find out when you’re ovulating. Wait 5 days. Plonk the embryo back in. Cross your fingers.

The clinic is 45 minutes from my house. In the morning traffic it takes an hour and a half. I can cope with that. If I’m lucky I get into the car-park – if not it’s the multi-storey. I can’t cope so well with that (I wasn’t gifted with spacial awareness).

Starting the frozen embryo transfer process we were given 2 options – 1) Have a natural cycle, have scans to find out when you’re ovulating and go from there, or 2) Medically induce your cycle with injections so you know exactly when you’re ovulating and go from there.

It might sound silly because none of this process is natural but I if I could have this small part as naturally as I possibly could, I wanted to try. Also, if I didn’t have to spend £400 on additional injections, that would be helpful. The risk? Ovulating on a Tuesday. 5 days after Tuesday is Sunday – they’re closed so no transfer could happen.

But that’s a 1 in 7 chance. I accepted those odds.

My app told me I was ovulating on a Saturday – good news – and was advised to go into the clinic on the Wednesday for a scan and blood tests. The hour and a half journey – I can cope with that.

Not quite ready – come back Friday.

Not quite ready – come back Saturday.

Not quite ready – come back Monday. Perilously close to Tuesday…

Not quite ready -you might ovulate today. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday – you’ve had a hormone surge. Let’s hope it’s Wednesday.

Wednesday – you ovulated yesterday – we’ll have to cancel this round. Come back in a month and we’ll try again.

My husband – the eternal optimist – “Well we know when you ovulated and we ‘did it’. This might be our month!” In a way I’m glad I no longer have that optimism as the disappointment hurts too much.

A month in infertility world is a long time. No one seems to get it. “Well at least you can have a drink at the wedding this weekend.” I’d give anything for that precious little blob on the scan to stop me from being able to have a drink at the wedding at the weekend.

This was a month ago. I got my period today (optimism squashed), so tomorrow I’m going back to the clinic to find out about how to do my frozen embryo transfer the medically induced way. That £400 will be worth not having it fall on a Tuesday again.

This leaves me feeling selfish in the thought that I’ve had for the last month. Why can’t they open on a Sunday? The rest of the hospital does?

The Little Blob of Hope…

You’re given a photograph of the embryo they put back into your uterus. A little blob containing lots of other little blobs. That’s the hope.

Then you wait…

We had a trip booked to Paris for a few days over the period that I was due to go back for my pregnancy test so, instead of cancelling, I packed several tests in my suitcase and put it to the back of my mind.

2 days prior to my pregnancy test day I was starting to get a little apprehensive. Do I take an early test or do I wait? Being the impatient person I am, I couldn’t wait, so I nervously dashed to the chemist for a Clear Blue early test, the day of our trip to Paris.

At this point, almost 3 years into our journey to parenthood, I was a pro at taking a pregnancy test. Waiting patiently for the ‘Not pregnant’ symbol to appear like it always had done, I was blown away by what we saw next.

Pregnant.

It was early. It was 1 test. I wasn’t believing it but that little bit of hope was starting to grow. Off we went to Paris.

The next morning, in the Air BnB in Paris, I took the other in the pack of Clear Blue tests and waited…

Pregnant.

It was still a day before I was supposed to go to into the clinic for my official test but this was the moment that my hope gained momentum. Also the day we were going to Disneyland – no rides for me, just waiting in the queue and disappearing through the exit to watch my husband enjoy the adrenaline rush. I didn’t mind one bit. That feeling that this might actually be it meant I could watch him all go through the single-riders queue all day long.

The morning of my proper test day I (with more confidence than trepidation) took the little cassette-looking test that the clinic had provided.

Not pregnant.

Confusion, worry, nervousness, still hope. The Clear Blue was more accurate, wasn’t it?

Next day… Not pregnant.

More confusion, more worry, more nervousness, hope diminishing. We returned from Paris in a different mood than we set off.

The day after we went to the clinic together for the official blood test. The look on the nurse’s face when I told her about the tests told me that this wasn’t going to be a day of celebration, however my husband was still optimistic. The wait between the 8am blood test and the 1.30pm results was one I hadn’t prepared myself for, I expected a negative, whereas he thought positive.

Not pregnant. We were crushed.

We’re still not sure whether the embryo implanted successfully to begin with but didn’t survive or if it was the hormones that caused problems with the first tests.

Picking him up when he broke down is single-handedly the most difficult thing I have ever done.

The First Round

I was excited. No nerves. Pure excitement. This was it – the moment we had been waiting for. All those additional 3 month waits, the disappointment about having to self-fund. This was it.

Armed with my injections (£740…gulp) and my sharps bin, a couple of Youtube tutorials later, I felt ready to begin. I feel OK about needles and after the first one it all went smoothly. I had 3 hen parties to attend on 3 consecutive weekends over our IVF period so no alcohol for me – but even this didn’t deter me. I had fun regardless and only slightly uneasy about telling people the reason why I wasn’t drinking and sporting a delightful sharps bin with my luggage. It wasn’t that I hadn’t told my friends – I’ve made sure I’ve been very open about our difficulties (I’ll write a bit more about this another time) – but I was slightly more uneasy opening up to friends of friends I met at these events as I was realistic about the success rate of the procedure.

2 weeks later and the scan showed that I had 15 eggs ready to retrieve! 15!! I couldn’t believe it. After all of the disappointments so far I was half-expecting to not have produced many at all. I booked the day off work for my egg retrieval and even the pain I had heard about in my copious Google searches didn’t worry me. If I was wanting to give birth, surely this can’t be that bad?!

Now I don’t know what I was expecting from my egg retrieval. I sort of just tried not to think too much about how it would be done and just think about what it would mean would potentially be happening afterwards. But it was being wheeled into theatre with my gown on and seeing my husband not far behind in his scrubs that kick-started the nerves.

I’d been told many scans ago that I’m the proud owner of a retroverted uterus, along with apparently about 20% of other women. Nothing major other than that it ‘flops back’ so is a little more difficult to access. It made scans slightly uncomfortable due to the angle that various implements had to be maneuvered but nothing too painful. I mention this here as this was about to change…

The procedure in a nutshell – the doctor produced an arm-length needle which he inserted into each ovary, ‘sucked out’ the eggs which disappeared along a tube into the embryology department. Ouch. That retroverted uterus? The arm-length needle pushed back at an awkward angle throughout. Double ouch.

So I might have been high on gas and air but there were a couple of things about this whole thing that I found amusing…

  1. Remember those houses that you don’t seem to get anymore with the hatch from the kitchen into the dining room? As I was wheeled in, the embryologist popped her head through this exact little hatch between the theatre and embryology department to have a chat. All I could think about was whether she’d be popping back through with a shepherd’s pie and a jug of gravy.
  2. You realise throughout this process that your nether regions are no longer your nether regions – they’re open for anyone’s viewing. So as the poor male doctor was eye-level to crotch my gown slipped and he was ever so apologetic. You’re nose-distance away love and everyone in the room (2 nurses and husband) are all well acquainted with the area, I wouldn’t worry about a slipped gown.
  3. What are the partners supposed to do during all of this?? The nurse was next to me with the much needed gas and air, rubbing my hand and offering words of comfort. He’s sitting behind my head, watching his wife in waves of pain, gasping for said gas and air, without any way of providing support at all. His comment of “Thank goodness they’re not the size of chicken’s eggs” didn’t go down as ‘support’.

In my excitement that morning I’d packed us some sandwiches and a croissant. Thank god for that foresight.

Tests, re-tests, re-re-tests

Initial hospital testing – for us, well and truly categorised in the ‘despair’ section of the hope-despair-repeat cycle. From what I can gather through my copious research (honestly, I feel as though I’ve done more Google searches than a PHD student) this is normally a relatively swift process. Check female, check male, identify the problem, off you pop with a referral to the fertility clinic. I’m over simplifying a process which I know causes major heartache in every couple having these tests. We were lucky in that our problem was identified. I can’t even begin to imagine how unexplained fertility must feel. However, I’m over simplifying purely because for me it wasn’t the actual tests that caused the despair but the inability to complete more than 1 test at once. Our journey seemed outrageously inept – something I hope was an unfortunate one-off set of coincidences rather than general procedure.

To the tests… (not all of them, but the ones which provided the most irritation)

  1. Standard vaginal swabs – nothing traumatic, although mild BV discovered and a trip to the GP for antibiotics. Then what was going to turn out to be a customary 3 month wait before the swabs could be repeated.
  2. Sperm sample – including the well-documented panic drive to the hospital, little pot in hand, to get to the lab within the 1 hour window.
  3. HSG somewhere in the mix – not too traumatic other than it hurting like a b****
  4. Low sperm count identified – re-test required (cue panic drive with the little pot). No female problems, if it’s low again you’ll be referred at your next appointment (apparently).
  5. Blood tests which revealed that, despite having the MMR vaccine as a child, I wasn’t immune to rubella. Trip to the GP for a vaccination, 1 month wait until I could have the booster then yet again, 3 months for the vaccine to have done its job and be out of my system before another appointment. We’ll get this out of the way, you’ll be referred at your next appointment (again, apparently).
  6. Low sperm count identified again. Now this is the part that infuriated me the most…did you have 3 months without drinking and smoking between samples like you were told to? No because we weren’t told to. Don’t get me wrong, my husband doesn’t drink in excess and has never smoked, but he does like a pint at the weekend and we do enjoy the occasional gin. Cue 3 months of him not being allowed to drink anything before re-testing his sperm. Thankfully he took it as the ‘well you won’t be drinking for 9 months so this is nothing’ train of thought rather than being too bothered about it. How sensible would it have been if these 3 months could have been during my rubella-immunity 3 months? Don’t worry, you’ll be referred at your next appointment (yet again, apparently).
  7. 3 months later – no change to the sperm count. Haven’t you been tested for Cystic Fibrosis within your genes? We can’t refer you until this has been done. Cue tears of anger/disappointment/frustration etc.

I’m aware that this entire post sounds like one long moan when people are just trying to do their jobs and what’s 3 months in the grand scheme of things? 3 months was never the problem – being told at every appointment that the next one would be when we’d be referred and having to wait several more lots of 3 months was the problem. The further problem was that it took, you guessed it, 3 months for the referral to make it from the hospital to the fertility clinic.

Fledgling optimism finally sprouting at the point of referral…you know the rest.

IVF: hope – despair – repeat

If you’re reading this blog you’re no doubt either somewhere on your IVF journey or you’re wondering how to support someone who is. I’m not writing this for anyone else – more for myself as a way of processing my feelings at an incredibly difficult time. However, if this helps you in any way, please leave a comment. We’re in this together.

Who am I? I’m 29, a teacher, wife of a South African, living with my husband and our adorable Cotonese (dog-speak for small, white, fluffy thing) pup Frank in Sheffield.

Our journey began almost 3 years ago now. My husband and I had been trying for a year before we thought we’d better look into what was causing the monthly disappointment when my period arrived. Trying to conceive is a strange time – having spent many years worrying every time my period was slightly late, suddenly I was hoping it would never come.

A referral to Bassetlaw Hospital was the start of 15 months of tests, re-tests and re-re-tests before we were finally referred to Jessops Assisted Conception Unit in Sheffield. Our journey through Bassetlaw was an infuriating one for many reasons (which I imagine I will blog about along the way) and the referral to Jessops we thought would be the beginning of a more positive journey.

The postcode lottery was in our favour – armed with the knowledge that we would have 2 rounds funded by the NHS we were optimistic of our chances. Finally, this felt like progress.

For anyone who doesn’t know my husband and I – I’m English and he is South African. 11 years together, almost 5 of those married. Contrary to the way it is portrayed in the media, foreign nationals don’t get citizenship once married to a Brit and the road to permanent residency is one almost as challenging to get your head around as the IVF process (citizenship – even more complex)! He was at the time, and still is, the proud holder of a spouse visa which entitles him to work, pay taxes and national insurance and the freedom for us to live our lives together in England. Permanent residency comes roughly 5 and a half years, and several new visas, later. For us, March 2020.

On a drizzly afternoon in February, 2019, came a phone call which once again shook our fledgling optimism. Was I aware that my husband didn’t yet have permanent residency? Um, yes very aware. Then unfortunately the NHS would be unable to fund our IVF until he did. Our options? Self-fund or wait another year to start a family. Emotionally fragile, having already had 15 months of tests, re-tests and re-re-tests and being told to wait another year… fledgling optimism extinguished.

Waiting wasn’t an option for us. With a small amount of saving and a fantastic family support network we continued our journey. Where are we now? 1 failed attempt down with 2 frozen embryos tucked away in the freezer waiting to be de-frosted and given a chance at success.

Fingers crossed.

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