IVF, disappointments and a story still to tell.

In July 2015 I snatched back control of this life of mine. I feel like I have been playing tug of war with something unseen for years now, so it felt oh so good to flex those muscles and do some thing that would bring us the closest we have been in a long time to the “p word”.

We began our ICSI cycle (our specialist felt this would be the best approach despite decent sperm analysis as our unexplained infertility means we are all left guessing what may or may not be happening) sailing smoothly through the stimulation injections. Well, as smoothly as you can when you inject your stomach several times a day, forcing it to puff up to ironically pregnant looking proportions, ovaries are tender, your hormones are a-raging, tiredness is overpowering and you are wrangling with strong emotions. By the time I was ready for egg collection, which fortunately didn’t take long, I could sense how full those throbbing ovaries had become. Even sitting down needed some preparation time just to get in the right position to be comfortable. With the help of gonal f I created 24 mature eggs. I was a bit of an egg heroine apparently, and I came away feeling I could hit this infertility thing across the head and never see it’s ugly face again. The only downer was that my progesterone levels were raised, and meant my lining was out of sync with the growing embryos so a fresh transfer was cancelled. I was annoyed and disappointed, but in hindsight realised how much my body had been through and felt it was good to have some recovery time before a transfer.

It’s a weird time when you wait to hear about fertilization rates. How many mini forms of life have we made? We willed every one to hang on and literally fight for life. One day passed and we found out that 18 had fertilized normally. Amazing! Big sigh of relief. It seemed my body had done me proud and I gave myself permission to relax a little. It is hard to not become attached to these bundles of cells; thinking about how our daughter also began life this way. The overwhelming, mind blowing possibility that one of these early embryos could be the one, left us in a spin of both excitement and fear. At day 3, 13 of our embryos were looking good and we had every reason to feel positive that, finally, we were on the right course. We were nailing this ICSI cycle! The lab rang me on day 6. It was so late in the day, I was seriously worried something had gone very wrong. They delivered the news that 3 had made it to blastocyst stage and they were happy with how they looked. In all honesty we were a little disappointed that our numbers had dropped so rapidly. The embryologist told us that with our initial numbers, they would have expected around 6 to make blastocyst. Our specialist had also put us forward to have any blastocysts PGD tested, so we froze all and had several weeks to mull over questions, disappointments and fears. Do we have a chromosome issue that caused so many to arrest before day 5? Will we be left with any useable embryos? Do I have an egg quality issue even though I have a high reserve? Does my husband have a sperm quality issue despite his count and motility looking normal? Can our ICSI cycle be diagnostic in anyway?

3 weeks passed and I thought I was coping well with the uncertainty. Another call from another embryologist brought a surprising flood of emotion when I heard that 2 out of the 3 blastocysts were absolutely chromosomally normal and one was inconclusive for chromosome 6 (which puts the ball in our court as to whether we use it or not. They don’t know either way if it is normal or not). To know we had 3 useable embryos and that we went through the stimulation round with something to show at the end was a massive relief. I realised how totally spent I was emotionally with all the drugs, the waiting and the desperate hoping. I would not have been ready to throw myself into another stim round at that point, so was grateful for this ray of sunshine. The eye of the storm. A medicated frozen transfer was scheduled for my next cycle. For a few weeks life was good and full of possibility again. We allowed ourselves to dream.

We were ridiculously excited at the arrival of cycle day 1. After several months of waiting (thank you to my mild PCOS for a 45 day wait) I felt close to finding the end of this journey. I even felt I sensed somebody was close by, on their way to us even. I felt that this was it. After years of unexplained subfertility, overcoming stress and anxiety, acupuncture, becoming healthier in mind and body, clomid, ovulation induction and now IVF, surely this would be the moment? Surely we have done everything to prove to the universe that we are ready? My body responded well again to the drugs and my lining thickened up nicely. The transfer of a excellent looking, already hatching blastocyst went perfectly. I remained calm and positive, visualising what was happening inside my body until 7dp5dt. Pink blood. One spot. Fuck. My mind went into a spin. I talked myself down, telling myself if could be a good thing but after that the anxiety just took hold. I was afraid of what the following few days would bring. Two days later some more spotting. Hardly anything, but red. It was over. My period was coming. But, hold up! And here is the mind bending shittyness of this experience … all spotting disappeared. 10dp5dt and I was all clear. I didn’t feel like my period was coming and I allowed myself to feel a glimmer of hope. After all, with the two week wait any symptom could mean ANYTHING. Perhaps I was still in with a shout. We couldn’t take the suspense anymore so we decided to take a home pregnancy test. I was due to have my beta the following morning and wanted to be prepared for that anyway. It was depressingly stark white. I was red with anger. I made a sound that I can’t describe. A scream or a growl. I was green with bitterness and envy. I wanted to message my friends and tell them how lucky they were and how they would never know anything close to what I was experiencing. I was black with sadness. How can this still be happening? How can I have not learned my lesson? How am I still naïve enough to think things will be different?

I’ve done this so many times that I can run through the emotions in break neck speed and get myself functioning again. But it is so much harder when you’re doing all that science can offer you, the stakes are higher, you believe once again and yet the result is still fucking negative. What do I have to do?

I felt hope and belief leave me like a river flowing down a valley. Can I put myself through this again? I don’t know. Probably. Maybe. Can I walk away from it? Yes. No. I wish I could but I don’t think I can. Can I leave my frozen embryos? Certainly not. But I’m not sure I can stop the rush of hope leaving me either.

My specialist was surprised we didn’t have a successful round. With all our results and stats, I think she thought we were going to be a big success story. I don’t think failure is in her vocabulary though, so we are doing an endo scratch next week to increase implantation chances during this next transfer. This is good I think. We aren’t doing the same thing expecting a different result. I have learnt my lesson there. But, sigh, more questions. Is implantation our issue? I always felt in the early years of this journey that we were having failed implantation, but we were also very stressed out at the time. Miss Acupuncture tells me not to let that worry take hold. She thinks we are simply unlucky and that it is a numbers game for us. ‘One day you will hit jackpot,’ she encourages. I wish I had the same unquestioning faith.

In the meantime, wish me luck as I jump aboard the FET train again. Our journey is unfinished. Maybe we will reach our destination this time …

When parenting pressure possibly prevents pregnancy.

Hey there! Long time, no speak. I don’t have a reason for it, other than I guess time flew before I felt the need to rant/unload/share anything. The basic truth is I was feeling rather good, and rather positive despite this being cycle 24. That was until 6 days ago, when I had an almighty emotional crash for some random reason that I couldn’t even figure out for a day or two. Hence, my logging in to my blog to rant/unload/share.

So, back up … Last time I blogged, I wrote about figuring out how anxiety is impacting my life and that I had decided to speak to someone. Fast forward to now, and I have had 3 lovely appointments with an extremely kind and warm lady. I instantly felt the difference after walking out of my first appointment. It was liberating. I have never had any sort of counselling before, but I happily blabbed away to my heart’s content. I came away feeling so much lighter and so much more positive.

Last week though, I felt my positivity came crashing down and I was left with tears, anger and frustration and I couldn’t see which way was up. It was so confusing. I even felt angry and about feeling angry. I was frustrated I had tripped up, emotionally speaking. But our paths are rocky, eh? No path is smooth in life. And this path I am on, finding my way back to emotional paradise, where downs are only dips, recovery from a minor stressful moment is instant and every day holds mostly happy thoughts, self-worth, fulfilment and laughter; it is a little rocky. I am lucky though. Most of my days contain happy thoughts a plenty, laughter and dips rather than downs if there are any. Many people have much darker times than me, I know that. Sometimes, I feel like I go for a little visit to see those people though. I feel the turmoil, the self-doubt, the negative self-talk. I see how dark it can be. I hear the screams of panic, cries for help and pleas for the pain to go away. I am lucky. Those times are fleeting for me. I probably get dragged there by my hormones if I’m honest. I visited this weekend just gone, but only for a short while. I’m back in my world now, and it is a sunny day.

Being back here gives me a chance to assess what I saw, felt and heard. It gives me a brief chance to talk to my subconscious about what is going on. This weekend I discovered that I’m angry about how our society parents in the western world (I’m talking a general thing here). I also discovered that I question my strength to bring another child into a world where parenting is in such crisis, putting them in potential situations that I’m not comfortable with. What am I going on about I hear you ask? Let me elaborate …

Personally, I feel that as a parenting society too many of us over protect our children and are judgemental of others. As a parenting society we are so afraid of hurting our children’s feelings, we can’t see through it to make good decisions for our offspring. As a parenting society, we act for our children before teaching them the tools to act for themselves. As a parenting society, in being so desperate to do the perfect job we are actually sending our children the wrong messages.

I put myself in the group of parent in crisis. I am desperate to do the best job, and ensure my child is not hurt in any manner. I put an immense amount of pressure on myself. But do you see how I am setting myself up for failure? I cannot do the best parenting job ever, because I am human. I make mistakes. There will be times I make the wrong decision. There will be times I lose my patience. But I also love my child more than life itself. I provide her with healthy food, clean clothes and motivating toys and activities. I try to teach her how to be a good friend, how to use manners and right from wrong. I try to teach her about the world, differences, similarities, how to be healthy and letters and numbers. I do the best I can do with all that I have. Surely, I am a good parent because of these things?

A friend of mine had something happen to her daughter at school with another child. She was unhappy, to say the least. Apparently, the other child was totally in the wrong, and the situation was dealt with at school. No child was hurt physically, and it was a ‘normal’ schoolyard one off clash as far as I could tell. However, my friend was in total anguish about the whole thing! She felt angry towards the other child. She felt angry towards the school for letting it happen. She felt guilty about sending her child to this school (they had recently moved there). She worried it would stop her daughter settling in and being happy. She entertained pulling her out! Stop. Stop. Stop. Surely this story should have stopped at, ‘the situation was dealt with at school.’ Perhaps rather than my lovely friend feeling so terrible about the whole thing, she should have stepped back, realised that in the path to being a fully developed social being children make mistakes! They do silly things that hurt feelings and occasionally body parts. Some children do things because they are hurting so bad inside. Perhaps rather than letting her child see the guilt and anger she had, she could have taught her how to be compassionate and loving. She could teach her how to be resilient and get back in that classroom with her head held high. She could have used the school community as a resource to help her child develop. She could have turned into something so wonderful, but instead chose to give her child a different message. In my eyes, the wrong one.

OH PARENTS OF THE WORLD HEAR ME! Putting your child first does not always mean instant gratification and even instant happiness for them. We must stop pressuring ourselves to be the ones who make our child happy 100% of the time. Our job is to teach them HOW to be a good, happy person in the world, who knows how to overcome obstacles when they arise. And they will. Just look at me and you!

So, how does this all come back to me and my blog about Secondary Unexplained Infertility? Well, I’m thinking I’ve (and by I’ve I mean my subconscious) been doubting my parenting approach at times, as it sometimes goes against the grain and in some small and bizarre way I feel a little guilty that I have brought Little One into a world that expects her to be bloody darn perfect despite her being so small. However, it is funny this is a thing for me, as Little One has many wonderful traits and we actually get lots of positive comments about her. She isn’t always perfect though. Yesterday she shouted at me because I had distracted her (it wasn’t on purpose!) and spoiled her playdough creation. I could make an excuse and defend her actions, like so many Mums do, but I’m not going to. Because she is not always perfect and that is OK. And that finally leads me to trying for Baby number 2 … Can I bring another imperfectly perfect little being into the world, to face criticism, judgement and labelling? Do I have the strength to just love my children for who they are, and ignore any whispers about their flaws? Do I have enough belief in the fact that my husband and I love them enough that nobody else needs to?

I think I can answer yes to these questions, because I am pretty sure it is fear who is asking them.

So, I count down to the end of cycle 24 … Bloated. Check; perhaps more so than normal, but hey perhaps I’m just kidding myself. Emotional and irritable . Check; and extremely so around 6dpo and 7 dpo. Swollen breasts. Check, well a little. I hope this is the one.

It’s your Clomid Day!

Two years on this rollercoaster of a journey has brought us to today. Clomid day! Having wept my torrent of tears for last cycle’s end, and endured one of my worst ever periods, I swallow the tiny white tablet with some … excitement? Dare I even feel that emotion? Could this be what we have needed to help us along?

I remember two years ago, almost to the day, beginning the first cycle on which we had decided to try to conceive a second little person. Having had no issues getting pregnant with my first miracle (a few months in the making), we entered that cycle with excitement and no anxiety about our fertility status. I remember the anticipation of the two week wait, analysing every little symptom and believing it could be THE sign. I knew it might not happen that month, but I knew it would happen. It didn’t. Obviously.

Every one of the 19 cycles since that very first, have each stripped away a little bit of positivity. Each month it is harder to keep that light of hope burning. The image of holding another child of our own fades. Now I fight internally with my inner voice to believe it is still our destiny.

The two week wait has become a torturous time, in which I hope but also feel afraid to hope. Where my conscience hears my prayers, and snorts, “Don’t be so stupid as to think this is it”. Where my body seems to smirk cruelly, as it gives my mind a glimmer; enough pregnancy symptoms to hold on to a slither of hope. And when it becomes clear that it was all a trick, I feel so naïve to have believed, even just a little bit.

But this cycle, we are doing something totally new. I’ve done acupuncture (which I will write about another time), I’ve taken supplements and I’ve tried old wives tales. This month I take a step into the realm of fertility meds. And with that comes more hope than I have felt in a long time. I’m still afraid to hope. I’m still afraid my body won’t do what nature intended. The negative side of myself says it will be just my luck to fail to conceive this month too even with Clomid. But I must push those thoughts away. This is a step forward. A “normal” cycle length should happen as opposed to my irregular ovulation days and therefore cycles anywhere between 30-50 days. Predicting fertile days won’t be such a long, tedious wait. Clomid may just help any slight hormonal abnormalities that I believe could be one of the reasons for our “infertility”. Clomid may give me a ‘stronger’ ovulation (whatever that means?).

And so, I will centre myself. I will treat myself kindly. I will take on a Zen like state. I will take my Clomid, and hold on tight again for yet another rollercoaster month. Wish me luck. It’s my Clomid day!