Category: Fertility

The first trimester.

I just want to start this blog post with a huge thank you to all of you who have been following my journey (can we come up with a  better word than ‘journey’?) from secondary infertility to pregnancy. Your supportive comments and congratulations have all been so heart warming and revealing. I think it’s so important that we talk about those hard things. I wasn’t always ready to in real time, but it’s meant a lot to me to share my story – even after the fact. To know you have been there reading along is so wonderful. So thanks. You’re frickin’ amazing. 

I feel so lucky to finally be updating you on my pregnancy. I hope you will bear with me as I document it. I didn’t really write down as much as I wish I had when I was pregnant with the Little Mister, so now is my chance! x

I think this felt like the longest first trimester ever. From the moment I found out I was pregnant, time just dragged. I felt like I was carrying the weight of 3 years of trying to conceive around with me – not just 3 months. All of the cards kept close to my chest. Not being quite as open and as honest as the usual me would have liked to be. The stress of wanting to make sure that all was OK. Even though I was so grateful to be pregnant, I was also sick of still feeling like I was living in the shadows. I didn’t feel safe to celebrate. I didn’t feel like I was able to be fully me. The me I was before we started to try for a baby in 2014. The ‘me’ I’ve missed so much. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad I’m stronger and I’m wiser. I wouldn’t take that back. I just missed being able to live my life without it revolving around my fertility (or lack thereof as it was). Having to stay quiet and never quite feeling safe to spill the beans kind of took some of the joy out of the experience. I felt like I was still trying to process everything that had gone before. My head really struggled to keep up. I am not at all trying to sound ungrateful. Holy shit, I am. SO GRATEFUL. This is literally a dream come true. It still didn’t quite feel real.

I spent a lot of days not getting a whole lot done (I think some of my friends thought I was being the laziest cow haha). I was spotting non stop from week 5 to week 8. It scared me and even though I knew I couldn’t prevent a miscarriage if it was ever going to happen, I was worried about everything. The two times I really did venture out, I dodged a bullet with food poisoning (all my friends ate the same thing and had it but somehow I did not – pregnancy super powers?) and I even accidentally ingested alcohol (long story – not my fault and not my friends’ faults either). So then I was too scared to do much after that. And then I bled one day before 12 weeks ticked over (which lasted for two damn weeks). Which was crazy because it was exactly the same day of pregnancy that it happened when I was pregnant with the Little Mister. So I was worried, but trying not to be because the last time I’d had a beautiful baby. But then I psyched myself out thinking that what if I didn’t worry too much but it did turn out to be something horrible. I worried some more. Luckily the doctor reassured me I was fine.

I worried about my 10 week blood test (the one that screens for risk of Downs Syndrome etc). Did I mention that when I’m hormonal, I get anxious? Great side effect, that is. Add all the trauma I was trying to work through from the infertility and the enormity of the IVF and shit got crazy inside my brain at times.

I was quite wiped of energy in the first trimester and I got a bit nauseous so my appetite would fluctuate from non existent to wanting to eat ALL OF THE FOOD. And then when I would eat ALL OF THE FOOD, I’d feel like shit after. I had a bit of heartburn. Who knew it happened so early? Luckily it passed (for now).

But it wasn’t all totally stressful. I was finally able to dream a bit. Slowly begin to accept baby type things into my mind. I could get clucky looking at baby stuff on Instagram. I could be happy when celebrities gave birth. Hey, I was even pregnant at the same time as Beyonce for like a few days. Goals! I let myself watch movies that had been on my DO NOT EVEN GO THERE lists for years. I cracked and ordered some maternity clothes because I was not fitting in my jeans anymore. It was fun looking at pictures of people with bumps showing off some really great fashion ideas on Pinterest. I even found myself hoping some of my good friends would announce pregnancies at the same time as me so we could be baby bearing buddies (some did which was so amazing – I never thought I’d be in sync with anyone in my close circles ever again).

For the first time in a really long time I could think about that stuff without crying or having a mental breakdown. You have no idea (or you might). That in itself was huge.

I was tested a lot during the first trimester – blood tests every week until 8 weeks (plus a couple more when I had bleeding scares). My hormones were always on track. I had my dating scan at 8 weeks which was amazing. Oh and hearing that heartbeat never gets old, right? 😍

I started at a new clinic closer to home where I was lucky enough to get a bonus scan at 10 weeks (again – AMAZING) and when I had that bleed just one day shy of 12 weeks I got an extra scan again! I was really weirdly lucky to get to check in on how it was all going as often as I did. I found it very reassuring.

I started to get a little bump from about 9 weeks onwards (always worse in the afternoons/evenings) as my uterus expanded and changed shape. I am only 5 foot tall so everything shows with me. Even lunch when I’m not pregnant. There’s nowhere to hide anything. Even though I’m a bit chubbier than I was when I fell pregnant with the Little Mister (I honestly blame the infertility stuff because of the hormones and the comfort eating and the irregular ability to exercise the way I wanted to), that bump still made itself known. I had to hide a lot in hoodies with front pockets and big jackets etc. It got a bit stressful! I hated hiding but I was too scared not to.

I was hanging out for the all clear at the 12 week scan so much, like you would not believe!

Our IVF story: Part 5 – Pregnant or not pregnant?

June 2017 (2 years and 11 months after beginning our attempts at trying to conceive)

Waiting after our first round of IVF to find out if I was pregnant or not was pretty tough! I had basically coped by talking myself out of any possibility of it working that time. I tried to be philosophical about it all. I figured that if it had failed, then it wasn’t meant to be. I wanted my eventual baby to be strong and healthy and if it wasn’t going to be viable, then I would have to be OK with it. I still had more chances before my odds of success decreased significantly.

I had a blood test lined up for 12 days past my IVF transfer. THE blood test. The one that would tell me if I was expecting or if I would be trying again. Oh, the pressure!

In the meantime I had to insert progesterone (guess where) twice a day. It was gross and a bit annoying, but nowhere near as bad as having to inject myself.

Mr Unprepared had been really supportive while we waited. If I worried about anything, he would read about it first and then tell me only the reliable information. It made me feel so much calmer not having to sort through the noise of the internet.

Only thing was, he was getting impatient. He kept reading about all these women who took home pregnancy tests really early and got positives. He never pressured me, but I could feel that he was really really hoping I’d try to be one of those women (he’s not always known for his patience). Thing is, I had trained myself for at least the last two years to never take a pregnancy test. Just wait for my period. Because taking a test was stressful and heartbreaking and never positive. I knew that what would be, would be. Whether or not I knew a few days in advance wouldn’t change anything. If I was pregnant, I would find out eventually haha.

I had started spotting a bit. That usually happened in the days leading up to my period. I tried to brace myself for a disappointing outcome. So what if all the things on the internet said that spotting was more common in women who have had IVF and that implantation bleeding can be a thing. SO WHAT. I had done this so many times before. I was not prepared to break my own heart at home with a pee stick. Let the nurses and doctors do that with their blood test!

We made it as far as 10 days past my IVF transfer. Two days before my scheduled blood test. It was a Saturday morning of the June long weekend. I was getting myself all knotted up worrying about my period arriving and ruining everything. I was so tired of my life revolving around my period and I was nervous that a movie date with my friend in a couple of days would be a bust. I was sick of having to cancel plans (my periods were ridiculously heavy). I was sick of the unknown. I was sick of the unpredictable. I wanted to know if I was pregnant or not so I could get on with my life.

I had it in my head that it was far too early to test, but Mr Unprepared (buoyed by the resounding idiocy of the internet haha) was in disagreement. He had seen my frustration and finally he had his chance to quietly suggest I take a test. He must have been so relieved when I said I would. He wasn’t the only person dying of suspense.

He left the bedroom to tend to the Little Mister – getting him breakfast and such. I took that chance to head to the toilet with an old test I’d had in the bathroom drawer for about a year (I couldn’t believe it wasn’t out of date yet). I followed the instructions and I stood in the toilet (not in the bowl just in that tiny room haha) and waited. I knew from that fateful positive test with the Little Mister 6 years prior that if it was going to be a great result, it wouldn’t take long for the second line to show.

I wasn’t too optimistic. I figured that I might get a super faint line that you had to squint at to see. That this test might tell me nothing. But I was so sick of not knowing, I was willing to take a chance.

Soon a faint second line showed up. I sighed and thought – yep. It’s super faint. I don’t know about this.

I kept staring. The three minutes wasn’t up.

The line progressively got stronger and stronger before my disbelieving eyes. My brain really wasn’t catching up, to be honest.

 

Soon the line was only a millionth of a shade lighter than the control line.

I stood there in shock. I was willing this strange new information to go into my brain. I kept saying to myself (not out loud), YOU ARE PREGNANT. I’M PREGNANT. HOLY SHIT. I’M PREGNANT. NO FOR REAL. I’M PREGNANT. AFTER ALL THIS TIME I AM PREGNANT. LISTEN TO ME, YOU DUMBO, YOU’RE PREGNANT.

Finally it registered. I started crying. 3 years worth of tears. Oh gosh I’m tearing up writing this.

Mr Unprepared eventually managed to extricate himself from the Little Mister’s breakfast demands and came to check on me. He saw me crying and he went straight into comfort and sympathy mode. He hugged me tight and kept saying, “I’m sorry. It’s going to be alright. It’s going to be OK. I’m sorry.”

I stopped him and said, “You haven’t even looked at the test…”

“It’s negative, I know. I’m sorry.”

“I SAID YOU HAVEN’T EVEN LOOKED AT IT.”

He looked at me like I’d lost my mind, took it from me and saw the two lines.

I was hugged ferociously again and I could hear him laugh-crying in shock. He didn’t have to say it. I could hear it in his tone.

You. Bloody. Beauty. We did it (well so did a lot of other amazing people who helped us but you know what I mean).

We might have experienced our miracle. Finally.

I was over the moon. We were over the moon.

I went on that movie date with my friend and gosh it was tough not telling her. I was so happy not just that I was pregnant but that I wasn’t getting my period – I’m not kidding. You don’t even know. My shark weeks had been ROUGH.

Two days later, I had a phone call after my blood test.

“Congratulations! You’re pregnant and your hormone levels look great.”

Oh, my heart. Of course I had an inkling already, but hearing it from somebody else was amazing. This was finally real.

Our IVF story: Part 4 – Transfer day (when they put the embryo in).

25 May 2017 (about two months after my egg retrieval)

I was so nervous on transfer day. I’d already been driving myself insane with the craziest thoughts leading up to it. We were to drop the Little Mister off at school and then make our way to the clinic (an hour’s drive from our home). We were going to be a bit early for our midday appointment so we tried to take our time. We weaved our way through Fremantle and found weird ways to stall without actually stopping in public (because I felt like the hottest emotional mess there ever was).

I was also trying to stay fresh ‘down there’ so I didn’t want to get sweaty walking heaps (hahaha). At one point during our drive up, I received a phone call from a nurse. She was letting us know that the embryo they’d thawed had ‘survived beautifully’ and they were ready for us when we arrived. I don’t know what it was but the words, ‘survived beautifully’ suddenly made it really real. That was a potential baby. HOLY SHIT. I hung up the phone and bawled. Mr Unprepared was quite startled!

I had already said that I was worried about this because I’d had too much time to get attached to my ‘babies’. No joke. I know it’s a bad idea. Kind of like naming your animals when you live on a farm. Well, except I wasn’t planning on eating them. OK now I’ve taken this to wrong town. Where was I? Oh yeah, I know it’s probably not smart and definitely not rational but I was already attached. After all this time, my potential completion of my family was right there in a lab and it was exciting and I already felt a maternal…something towards them.

I said to Mr Unprepared and my mum that this could end very very badly if this round of IVF didn’t take. I said I had no knowledge of what it’s like to miscarry but I wondered if maybe some of the feelings might be similar for me. That I’d feel the loss far more than if we had just conceived the ‘good old fashioned way’. I’d known too much about every step of the way.

When we got to the clinic, there were other couples waiting. I could very faintly hear whispers of them being there for the same reason as us. We were not the first people to go in. I watched people leave and come back. It was a very quick procedure. I saw one sharply dressed woman who appeared to be on her lunch break from work just take it in her stride! I tried to imagine being able to do that. Nope. Probably couldn’t do it.

When it was our turn, it was all very efficient too. I took off my pants, got on the reclining chair thingy and had my dignity taken away for the millionth time. My legs were up on stirrups, the chair was raised to eye level with the person responsible for putting in the embryo, a very very bright light was pointed at my hoo ha. A speculum was used to make access easy, so I was really feeling good about myself at that point. I think the key word for the feeling was ‘exposed’.

A phone call was made to the lab. There was a screen in the corner of the room where they showed the embryologist sucking up our embryo from a petri dish before running in for the transfer. I almost cried seeing our embryo. It was not just super cool that we could do that but emotional. Who can say they saw their baby before it was even a foetus?!

A really long catheter thingy was used to insert the embryo – it didn’t hurt or feel like much more than a pap smear. Then I was out of there thinking WTF just happened? Like did that really just happen? It was so weird to think the embryo was inside me!

It was such an emotional process and yet so clinical too. It was weirdly, by far, the easiest part of the whole IVF process.

It was really surreal to know it was inside of me. I felt like I was pregnant before I was pregnant (but knew very very well that I wasn’t yet – a very strange and confusing and anxiety ridden feeling). I really really hoped I would not have to experience the loss of it not implanting.

Now the waiting really had to begin.

To be continued…

Our IVF Story Part 3: Egg retrieval.

March 2017

I had survived the hardest part of IVF – all of the injections and scans and tests leading up to my egg retrieval. Here is how it went…

As you can imagine, I was bloody nervous. Not so much about being put under general anaesthetic (I figured I’d survived my first experience with that the year before) but about how many good eggs they’d be able to retrieve. I was also a bit worried about something going wrong and I had to really really try to put the actual mechanics of the procedure out of my mind. Nobody wants to think about a big needle going up your vagina, pushing through your cervix and sucking out the eggs. A NEEDLE IN YOUR VAGINA.

I found it really comforting that the anaesthetist and the person doing the procedure were women for some reason (also – girl power!) and under I went! The doctor (oh gosh I’ve forgotten her actual title) told me she’d write the number of eggs on my hand so I’d know as soon as I woke up.

I woke up to the number 20 scrawled on my right hand. TWENTY. They took out 20 eggs. I was gobsmacked and so relieved. What the hell, body? Body that couldn’t even get one good one on the drugs I’d already tried (although I now suspect the drugs were what was stopping my ovulation from being as good as normal)!

Mr Unprepared came to see me as soon as he heard I was back in recovery. He looked at my hand and his reaction was priceless. He thought it was the best thing he’d ever seen.

He’d been to the clinic while I was under to provide a sample (a very embarrassing process but as I constantly reminded him not as bad as what I’ve been through)! Our eggs and sperm would be put together to fertilise over the coming days before hopefully being frozen as 5 day old embryos. I would not be able to have one implanted this cycle, due to my risk of ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS) which can make a person very very ill. I would have to wait until my body returned to normal.

Fast forward a few days of me on the couch recovering and it was time to travel east for a wedding. Each day for a week afterwards, I would receive a phone call checking in on my health. They had to make sure I wasn’t gaining fluid weight really fast or showing scary signs of ovarian hyper stimulation. I had to ensure to them that my circulation was good (from flying) and that everything else in my body was doing the right thing. I also had to sleep upright for the longest time, which gets old quick!

I was bloated and tired and hormonal but I think the best thing we ever did was go away. It was a positive distraction. Quality time with my family and being able to show the Little Mister a place he’s never been was really special.

During that time we were also receiving almost daily phone calls to update us on our (hopefully) embryos. Day 1 I was told that 14 eggs had been initially fertilised (this is actually a fantastic number). Then day 3 we were told that 11 had survived. Day 5 still 11! We had 11 potential babies waiting for us in a lab. Holy shit! ELEVEN. We felt very fortunate. I had honestly been hoping for maybe 3 and had never dreamed that 11 embryos could get through this process.

I sighed with relief as it sunk in that I would potentially never have to go through the full IVF process (with all the injections etc) again. Egg retrieval was full on and got a bit scary with my discovered susceptibility to ovarian hyper stimulation. Knowing I would not have to risk my health again was an amazing blessing. After 11 tries or so I knew I would probably be absolutely be done. Maybe even before then, truth be told. We were all not getting any younger (Little Mister included) and I figured that if it didn’t work in 11 goes then it would never work). We are so fortunate to have a great health care system where you can get a lot of your money back after a treatment but you do have to pony up the money up front to start each time too. FULL ON.

As much as it was a setback having to wait before my transfer (when they put the embryo in you), a part of me was secretly relieved. Those little embryos weren’t going anywhere. I could rest a bit. It had been an intense month.

Our IVF story Part 2: Before egg retrieval.

March 2017

I decided to keep a diary of my first experience with IVF. Partly so I can remember everything in this chapter of our fertility journey, partly for therapy (writing is what keeps me sane) and partly to educate. I know that even I went into this without knowing all of the ins and outs and timelines. If you’ve been through it, I wonder if you can relate. If you haven’t, I urge you to read this anyway. Chances are, someone in your life will struggle with infertility and you may be a much better support if you have an insight into what a person might be going through.

I kept this diary to myself as the real time events all rolled out. This was to protect my little family during the process and to hopefully avoid people knowing too much information at any given time. While I gave some people a heads up that we would be doing IVF, I wanted to avoid people being able to guess exact dates etc in case we should be successful or in case we fail (so either way!) because we wanted to avoid big mouths from doing that whole “ARE YOU PREGNANT YET” thing constantly. Because it happens and it’s kind of rude and insensitive and not what we wanted to deal with.

Day 1: It’s the first day of my cycle. So relieved my period is here and we can get this show on the road. I haven’t felt happy to have my period in the longest time. I feel like a lot of people don’t understand that your IVF start date can sometimes depend on when you get your period. So when someone would ask me ‘when do you start’, they had to accept that for a while I genuinely did not know and vagueness is all they’d get (not that it was truly anyone’s business haha). Knowing that everything can move forward from today has been good for calming my anxiety – I hate not knowing how to plan my life and now that I can finally do the maths and plan my month around my treatments, procedures and appointments makes me feel a bit more at ease. There’s a lot to coordinate! Time sensitive blood tests and scans, injections of various drugs at specific times etc etc (as you’ll see further along in this diary). Not to mention making sure the Little Mister’s routine is disrupted as little as possible and coordinating support networks because I can’t be in 3 places at once! It’s a lot to deal with in a hypothetical sense before your start date actually arrives! Nothing is set in stone until shark week begins! Even then, you don’t know how long exactly it will be before they collect eggs etc.

Today I had to spontaneously drive to the clinic (over an hour’s drive from home) for a scan (vaginal – fun times) and a blood test at the last minute due to my period arriving right before a long weekend. I was relieved to be told that there are no cysts or other obstacles in our way as yet. It had been in the back of my mind that I could face bitter disappointment from the start, as I have experienced similar situations in the past two and a half years already.

My period got really really heavy by the evening and I told Mr Unprepared that I really really hope this is the last time. I feel like my period has stolen my life for over two years (it was well controlled on the pill).

Day 2: I received a text telling me to start injections (Gonal-F) tomorrow and the dosage required. Gonal-F is a drug that stimulates your ovaries so you hopefully grow lots of good eggs. Also should be noted that I had a big meltdown with my mum and husband this morning. We were feeling the stress of juggling IVF with a trip interstate planned for later in the month. We decided to play everything by ear. What’s meant to happen will happen and we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. I admit I kind of panicked when reality set in.

Day 3: Awake early. Wonder if it’s nerves about my first injection. I’m feeling calm about the actual sticking-the-needle-into-my-stomach part because I was able to do a practice run at the clinic and it wasn’t anywhere as bad as I had thought it might be. I think I’m just excited to get started (famous last words).

More emotional moments. Had to tie up a few issues. Man this is hitting me hard. Resolve to move forward much more positively.

1st injection is done with me looking nervously at the needle and Mr Unprepared reading me the instructions for proper administration. Even though I felt confident the clinic nurse had taught me well, I was worried about screwing it up. Everything went well.

Day 4: Second injection day. I can still feel the injection site from yesterday. I shouldn’t be surprised by that, but I am. I’m starting to wonder how I’ll feel by the end of all this! Pin cushion-y, I’m betting! I don’t know if I’m imagining it (because the power of the mind is ridiculously strong with this stuff) but I swear I’m already feeling twinges in my left ovary area.

Day 5: Injection number 3 of Gonal-F today. I’m getting a bit more confident with the needle. I’ve always had a fear of seeing the needle go into my skin (I always look away as hard as I can during blood tests) but I am well and truly confronting that now! I feel like I have a cold. Again. I could be wrong but I swear all the fertility stuff I’ve been through has affected my immune system. Will rest between school drop off and pick up today.

I got a call from the nurse today about my Day 7 scan. I was told that I should bring my syringe of Orgalutran with me just in case I need it that day. The Orgalutran is the drug which stops you from ovulating too quickly before they can collect your eggs. I really hope I’ll need it that day (for the right reasons).

Day 6: Injection number 4 today. I am feeling some slight bloat/ovulation type pain. I think something is happening. Not sure what but I’ll find out tomorrow.

Day 7: Injection number 5 of Gonal-F today. I had to get up early and drive myself to the city for a blood test and internal ultrasound. Mr Unprepared had to start work late, because he covered the school run for the morning. I was really nervous because this scan would be the first indication of whether things are on track or not. I’ve been disappointed by my ovaries before so I tried to calm myself all the way up in the car.

The scan revealed that my right ovary is quite active with lots of follicles growing. The right was a little less active, but the nurse seemed to be happy with that because we also don’t want to risk hyper-stimulation (which can be dangerous for me). I asked if everything was on the right path and she said yes. I am so relieved and glad something is going right so far (touch wood).

Day 8: Injection number 6 of Gonal-F. I spent the day feeling exhausted. Slept half the afternoon (which is usually not something I can do easily). I can’t believe I am sharing this but I felt like a crazy hormonal woman – think Nina from Offspring when she was getting ready to have her eggs collected to freeze and she ends up with Harry…if you don’t get that reference, then I am definitely not spelling it out haha.

I had no appetite (maybe because of bloating?) and craved fresh juice all day. Felt a bit woozy at bed time but slept all night even after my big nap!

Day 9: Today I have to inject the Gonal-F and also a drug called Orgalutran (it is supposed to stop you from ovulating too early and losing the eggs before they can be collected). Two needles in one day – lucky me!

I did the injections and for some reason they hurt today. I freaked out a bit. The Orgalutran (pronounced by Mr Unprepared as Orangutan to make me laugh) has a bigger needle than the Gonal-F and no joke afterwards, I almost fainted! I never thought I could still freak out and faint around needles after all I’ve been through! Life is not predictable, I can tell you that.

Weirdly, I feel much like I did when I was pregnant with the Little Mister. The drugs have given me tender boobs (let’s not talk about my nips OK?), my abdomen is tender too, and embarrassingly I have taken to sleeping with a pillow – it just helps, OK?

Day 10: Two injections again today. Man, the Orgalutran is not as easy as the Gonal-F I can tell you that much! You feel that needle! I drove up to the clinic (over an hour in traffic) at 6am and had blood tests and a scan – Mr Unprepared has taken time off work and has been covering the school run. I’m so glad to have that help.

The scan showed progress. My follicles are growing! They make you lie on your back with a little notepad/chart thingy and a pen. They call out measurements of each follicle and it’s my job to mark it down. You almost forget there’s a stupid wand up your clacker.

I asked how long until collection and they think Friday by the latest (it’s Monday now). This may screw up my travel plans to Sydney but because everything’s so positive, this is just a little potential hiccup. Everything will work out somehow in the end.

Received my afternoon phone call from the clinic. I am to continue on the two injections until my next scan in two days. The nurse advised me to just be mentally prepared that I may need to have a ‘freeze all’ upon collection of my eggs, due to my ovaries being quite productive. They would decide this on the scan prior to collection. I now have so many questions running through my mind!

This kind of thing makes me glad that I’ve only told a handful of people about us commencing IVF this month. If everything gets frozen – literally and metaphorically – then I am glad I won’t have to tell many people.

Day 11: I had to give myself the two injections without anyone there for moral support. I found this quite difficult. That Orgalutran needle is a bitch! It hurts! I hesitated a couple of times before I got it into my skin. I’m starting to get a little tired of it all. Strange how you can start injections with so much confidence, but then get shakier and more needle shy as you go on.

I can’t remember what happened exactly in the few days following day 11 because I think I kind of went into shock (mentally)! I was basically told that we would have to freeze everything – I was at too much risk of ovarian hyper stimulation. I was given a script for a drug to trigger my ovulation 36 hours before retrieval – it wasn’t the original drug they’d planned on using. It was something else better suited to someone in my situation. Next would be the egg retrieval under general anaesthetic…

To be continued…

 

Our IVF story – Part 1: Deciding what to share about our IVF experience.

I wrote this in February 2017. Mr Unprepared and I had just started seeing a doctor at a specialised fertility clinic. We had been given an information overload at our first appointment, after being told by the doctor (a real straight shooter with a quirky sense of humour) that he could send us for more medicated cycles but if pregnancy hadn’t happened by now, it probably wasn’t going to. He suggested IVF and said we could decide to wait another couple of cycles before seeing him or just sign ourselves up and get it moving after waiting so long for some kind of definitive progress. We were so ready to move forwards and so grateful that we were in a position where we could consider it. At this point it had been about 2 and a half intense years of trying to conceive. 

As I write this, I am waiting to find out when exactly we can commence our first ever round of IVF. It has finally come down to this and I have mixed feelings. I am excited and hopeful and glad to be doing something proactive. I am worried that it might not work and that we’ll have put all our hopes in that one basket. I am stressed when I think too much about what it actually physically involves (and how much of our lives will revolve around appointments and tests etc – I thought it was bad before haha). I am eager for it to be successful on our first try but I know that’s not the reality for many couples. I want to be realistic and just hope it happens in the first few rounds. Not to mention that everything is hypothetical at this stage. I need to take things one step at a time. What if they have to stop the process for various reasons? What if I don’t have enough good eggs to harvest? What if fertilisation doesn’t work at first? What if something is found inside me and they say I can’t go ahead yet at all?

Then you tell yourself to stop thinking about it all, but then that’s like trying not to notice the whopping big elephant that’s perched on your couch every day and night.

That’s a lot to take in, right?

I am sure that if you’ve been through this, you might relate to that overload of thoughts. And if you haven’t, perhaps it gives an insight into the sheer magnitude and weight of it. IVF is not just some magical cure for infertility. It’s not the easy way. I mean, it might be, if you existed in a vacuum where you didn’t have work, commitments coming in for dates you’re not sure of your availability for, a marriage that has to work even when you’re under a lot of stress (and the influence of crazy hormones), a child who you are so lucky to have already that you need to look after and love and send to school every day. A household to run. Yikes.

Not to mention that some couples can try and try and try but it still won’t work for them.

But we’re all in. We are so ready. We’ll be warriors and push through it. It’s not forever. It’s temporary and could be one of the most rewarding things we ever struggle through (fingers crossed).

It’s hard. You don’t know how much you should tell people about this *cough* journey.

If I tell person A that I’m starting treatments on date B, will they come to conclusion C about whether I’m pregnant or not on date D. Y’know?

We don’t plan on telling anyone we’re pregnant (if we get that far – please let us get that far) until it’s past the first trimester and even then, we want the Little Mister to be first to know. That’s really important to us.

Which is difficult when there may be people hanging on our every word and behaviour, waiting with bated breath for an outcome because they know when we underwent the procedures. I know everyone means well and are just excited and wanting the best for us.

BUT…if I don’t tell anyone what we’re doing, then I risk social isolation. I risk the worst feeling of being alone and having nobody other than my husband to speak to. And while that can be OK for a while, we need that friendship or family support too. This shit is, by all accounts, very fucking hard.

I also feel like it’s also for everybody’s own good (sorry not sorry) to learn more about the process so they can be more sensitive and understanding. Education can be key, sometimes. I don’t want it to be some crazy taboo in my life or in society either. A lot more people go through this than we’re led to believe!

I’m trying to find that balance about what to share and what to keep to ourselves.

I think that if an IVF round doesn’t work for us, we’ll tell people straight away. So they stop staring at my belly and thinking I might be pregnant when I’m not (there’s nothing worse when you’re already heartbroken). If it does work, maybe we’ll go to ground and keep our happy news to ourselves. Never confirm nor deny. Politely tell people that if there was news our son would be the first to know and stealing that from us as a little family would be rude.

So I literally am going into this awesomely unprepared. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’ve shared with some close friends and we’ve shared with family. I just have to hope that everybody understands that our rights to privacy in the first trimester (should we be blessed) are the same as everyone else’s who conceives ‘naturally’. I hope we can tell them just enough but not too much.

I also hope that the pain of anything not working out isn’t worsened by people wanting to play a guessing game: is she or isn’t she?

I guess time will tell if I’ve played this right and if I haven’t, or if I just come across some insensitive folk, I will also have to let it roll off my back. I’ll have to be strong and keep my chin up.

Here goes…

 

To be continued.

Our secondary infertility story: Part 11 – A typical cycle on fertility medication.

This is part 11 of my secondary infertility experience. I’ve been documenting it throughout – since 2015. After we finally received the news that we are finally expecting a little one in early 2018, I feel ready to share the stories that I had kept inside for so long. I hope that they will help others to feel not so alone. I also hope to give family and friends some insight into what was happening at the time, as it was hard to talk about (or just seemed like a shit topic at social gatherings).

You can catch up on the first 10(!) instalments here: 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10

I thought I would share with you what most of my 2016 was like. This was the year I commenced medicated cycles. They were supposed to help me ovulate really well and hopefully increase our chances of conceiving. This was probably the toughest time for us emotionally. I really struggled as I saw little to no progress. In fact, in hindsight, I realise that doing these drugs actually messed my cycles up more but I guess I just wanted so badly to believe that eventually it would work for us, saving us from IVF or other more invasive procedures.

I have already mentioned my first round on the medication Clomid and how that didn’t work out so well, but I thought I’d delve a little deeper into what a typical medicated month was like for me/us. I got used to the routine more or less, but now looking back, I realise just how full on it was. No wonder I felt like shit. No wonder I withdrew from the world a bit lot. No wonder it felt like crap when certain people decided that actively trying to be my friend and having my back throughout was too hard (now I see it as a blessing – I was set free and learned a lot about who I want to surround myself with). I spent a lot of the year depressed. Only I didn’t realise until I literally felt the fog lift off me on a random Monday morning, as I was driving out of a car park in town. I remember feeling a wave of lightness come over me. In an instant I realised what had been happening. I suddenly knew that how I felt in that car park was how I should have been feeling all along. My circumstances had not changed at that point, but luckily my mental health began to improve. The shit times were still utterly shit, but I was glad to be able to feel the good times again. To notice the sunshine. To feel happy when I was with my closest friends.

I guess I had been able to get through it – perhaps it was some kind of high functioning depression – because I had to stay strong and keep trying for my family. I had to look after my son while he got through his first year of school. The amount of times I stood at that classroom door at the end of the day, having received bad news or gone through yet more emotional upheavals, wanting to get home and cry my eyes out in private. The amount of times the most lovely school mums chit chatted and asked me, “How’s your day been?” and I just managed to squeak out, “Oh yeah, you know…alright! How was yours?” while trying to will the tears to stay inside and not escape. I wanted to make a good impression. I didn’t know anyone well enough to share the details of my life like that.

I now know that was not fucking normal. There’s normal sadness and tiredness from dealing with tough stuff and then there’s what I was going through. I probably should have got help if I’d actually been able to figure it out. I guess it just became so ‘normal’ to me that I accepted that I thought it was who I was now.

So here’s what a normal cycle on medication looked like for me…

Early on in my cycle (usually near the beginning of my period), I would take medication 5 days in a row. I took Clomid first, then was given Tamoxifen (a substitute when Clomid wasn’t so readily available due to some kind of supply shortage). Then I had one more Clomid cycle towards the end of the year before deciding to move onto more intense treatment (eventually IVF).

Day 8, I would have a blood test. I think it was to determine a baseline of sorts for my oestrogen and progesterone levels.

Day 10, I would go in and have a vaginal ultrasound. Yep. I had one of these every month. It was not pleasant. Especially when the doctor would more often than not tell me that nothing much was even happening in my ovaries and that my medication probably wasn’t helping so we’d have to up my dosage for next time. It felt like I had to endure that indignity for nothing time after time. It was tough because it felt like I was having to give up and start planning the next cycle before the current one was even finished. Brutal.

Day 21, I’d have a blood test to determine if I had indeed ovulated or not (it would be compared to my day 8 blood test results). My doc would often tell me I hadn’t but I suspected my cycles were just too long for the dates he had me tested a lot of the time. I never felt fully confident in these results. If I had ovulated in that time frame, I would retain a little hope.

Day 27, I would have to have a blood test to check if I was pregnant. This was particularly tough because I sometimes would have a super long cycle on the medication so I felt like it was probably way too early to tell if I was pregnant anyway. Other times I would spend the whole day just hoping I’d get a positive phone call but it never came. I’d have to wait ages before my period would arrive and it felt like hell. Some cycles it felt like I was getting the bad news 3 times over before they even finished. Once after the scan, once after the second blood test and another time after the negative pregnancy test. Actually, make it four. Because getting your period is the ultimate last nail in the coffin. Absolutely soul destroying.

PMS would arrive with a vengeance and I’d feel so defeated and angry. While some women would hold out hope that it could also be early signs of pregnancy (WHY DO PMS AND PREGNANCY SYMPTOMS HAVE TO BE SIMILAR), I had given up. I would try to find the positives but it was often a time of internal struggle.

I’d have a ridiculously heavy period, be house bound for a few days at a time (really difficult on the Little Mister’s school days etc) and try to start thinking forwards. Trying to find hope in the next cycle. Also, devouring chocolate and wine kind of helped too.

Then everything would start again and I’d never know exactly when each step would occur until my medication commenced each (increasingly erratic) cycle. That is why I probably seemed flaky and unreliable and maybe even uninterested in social events. I was stuck in a crazy time of my life where I felt like I couldn’t commit to anything ahead of time. I never knew what could be around the corner – more intense treatments/procedures, a possible pregnancy, important doctor’s appointments or even my period and a necessary time to just work through my sadness. It really got me down. To those who worked around me, who stood by me, I am so grateful and I will always remember your kindness even if to you it was no big deal (because that’s the kind of awesome person you probably are).

In hindsight, I probably should have got off the merry go round a lot quicker than I did. Stood up and said, hey, this medication is doing jack shit. I’m really struggling with my mental health and if we haven’t conceived or seen any dramatic difference in our circumstances then maybe it’s time to move on. See another doctor and look into IVF. I think I was just so beaten down by everything and scared and unsure that I procrastinated. At least I knew that by the time we made the big move, I was more than ready to do something different.

Please don’t think that these kinds of treatments won’t work for you just because they didn’t work for me. Many people have experienced positive outcomes from using these medications. I was just not one of them due to my own specific circumstances x

Our secondary infertility story: Part 10 – Feelings before a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy.

May 2016

You can catch up on the rest of the story so far, here: 

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9

I am only a few days out from having a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy. Where the doctor looks to remove the endometrioma cyst on my ovary, search around for any obvious causes for my inability to get pregnant, and scrape out any other endometriosis from anywhere it should not be. I am also sick with a cold and my period is supposed to be due any minute. I am in a foul mood and I am struggling to come to terms with just about everything. I am nervous I’ll be deemed too sick to have the surgery. I am nervous about the surgery. I have never been put under general anaesthetic before in my life and for some reason my lack of control of the situation is really getting to me. I mean, I like to have some control in my life, but I wouldn’t call myself a total control freak. Yet this freaks me out. I’m going to be completely out to it and anything could happen without my knowledge. I know that these procedures should hopefully help my quality of life (my periods have been HORRIBLE and I just want the madness to end*) and the unavoidable end game is that there is the hope that it might help my chances of being able to conceive with my husband. You know, that baby we’ve so badly wanted for years now, who hasn’t turned up yet. Tardy little bugger.

I am struggling because I am usually a realist. Or even verging on optimistic. Yet, I am in a headspace where I feel quite disillusioned and unable to imagine an outcome that actually makes me feel like things are getting better. See, this whole fertility thing has been a mixed bag for me. When I got pregnant with the Little Mister it was amazing. He was determined to hurtle his way into this world and I am so glad he did. But…I was the person who got gestational diabetes. I was the one who against the odds was lucky enough to have PUPPP (from halfway through the pregnancy and not at the end like most people). Whenever I was told the odds of something happening to me during pregnancy were low, I just stopped listening because it turns out I’m pretty ‘special’ when it comes to the weird shit. I even got a ridiculous infection in my amniotic fluid that brought on labour really fast (luckily the Little Mister was full term when it happened). It was considered an unusual case for some reason at the time.

So you can imagine how I’m feeling days out from this surgery. I am not optimistic about this cold pissing off in time. If I do miraculously shake off the illness in time, I can’t imagine coming out of it with the doctor saying, “Everything was routine and normal. We found the exact issue and you’re right as rain. Good luck trying for a baby in a few weeks when you’ve recovered.” and then my period gets easier and we suddenly conceive like all those ‘friends of friends’ we keep hearing about. I just can’t go there. I imagine us still not conceiving and feeling defeated and confused and frustrated. I imagine the hurt of being on the two week wait roller coaster over and over again. I imagine waking up and being told they took my tubes or my uterus isn’t viable for baby carrying. Despite having previous tests that have not indicated this to be the case. I imagine my anger that maybe if I hadn’t tried Clomid in the first place I wouldn’t have ended up even more infertile. Like that’s a thing. I worry – what if it all goes wrong and my keyhole surgery turns into open surgery? What if I don’t ever come back and my quest for a second baby leaves my first baby without me ever functioning normally again? What if all those things the doc said were such a minute chance of going wrong with me, go wrong with me? Because I’m me?

Yes. I’m probably coming off as a Negative Nancy right now. A paranoid…Patricia. But it’s not that I’m trying to be down in the dumps about it all. A small part of me is excited at the possibilities. But a larger part of me is used to this not being so simple. I can’t seem to believe that this will ever come easily. That our time might come where we get to feel the miracle of a good, successful pregnancy. It feels like it’s been so long with no results or clear answers. I know people try a lot longer than us and I know that those people would be laughing at me for feeling like this only 2 years in. But it’s tough. I don’t know how they do it.

But I guess I know why. Because our family isn’t complete yet. Because that old nursery in the back of my house feels like a sad place. There’s a space in my heart waiting for a special little person to decide it’s the right time to come to us. And we just can’t give up on that nagging feeling that we can’t be done yet.

I think I also think of my own (adoptive) parents. They never got their answers. They did all the right things and deserved the world and it didn’t work. Hence the adoptions of my brother and I. Of course none of us would change any of that for the world now, but I often (half) joke that my mum is a terrible example for hope for those with fertility issues. Because every procedure she’s tried that I am now going through, didn’t make things better!!!! She’s been a tremendous support, but gosh it’s a bit disheartening too.

I keep trying to remind myself that I am lucky because one advantage I have is knowing that my body has done the whole baby thing one time before. That gives me a slightly better chance than someone who has never been able to do that.

I don’t know how I’m going to get through this. Other than I’ll just literally have no choice but to get through it. I guess when I’m lying on the table counting backwards from ten, I might stop overthinking it. I guess whatever greets me at the other end will be whatever it is. I just hope and pray (in the non religious sense) with everything that I have that I will be strong enough to cope with even the toughest or most unpredictable news I might receive. I hope I will be able to handle whatever comes my way with as much sanity as I can possibly muster.

Life isn’t fair and I might not ever get the ‘fair’ outcome my friends and family are believing I deserve. And it’s knowing this that drives me crazy these days.

I just hope that maybe there’s a bigger plan out there that will end in some kind of joy for my family. It’s hard not knowing what that ‘plan’ is, but I really have to believe that there is one.

Luckily, I was allowed to go through with the surgery – my cold was not going to be a problem. I was glad to just get on with it. I was so relieved to wake up and be told that my tubes were intact and that everything that was growing in the wrong place had been removed. Sadly, this did absolutely nothing to help my fertility, but it was good to know my health wasn’t an issue anymore. It was a relief to finally be able to take good drugs to get rid of my cold and in all honesty, I think that the general anaesthetic was actually great – I had a good sleep haha. 

*despite my hopes, my periods didn’t get better – they got inexplicably steadily worse

Our secondary infertility journey: Part 9 – Stop telling infertile people to ‘relax’.

When I wrote this in March 2016, I was in a tough place. I kind of got my ranty pants on. But reading it back, I don’t regret it and I don’t have any problem with sharing it now. I hope it doesn’t ruffle anyone’s feathers or make anyone feel defensive – that’s not my intent. I know people mean well. I’m just trying to shed some light on what it’s like when you’re struggling. 

You can catch up on the rest of my story so far here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8

Mr Unprepared and I are going through what is called ‘secondary infertility’. This means that we are lucky enough to have a child already (conceived naturally), but are struggling to conceive a second. To qualify for this reluctant title, it means that we tried for over a year on our own before needing to seek medical advice and testing.

Everyone in our lives has been so supportive and caring, since we’ve shared our situation. Choosing to be fairly open about it has been the best thing I’ve done. It has strengthened my relationships with those close to us and I am sure it has prevented a lot of awkward questions and conversations.

However, there’s one thing that irks me. Something that I keep hearing and reading. Nobody who says it means harm. There is surely an element of truth in it. But I still struggle with it.

“Maybe you just need to relax and not stress. I know someone who tried for ages and then when they finally relaxed and stopped worrying about it, they got pregnant right away!”

Yep. That old chestnut. Heard it a thousand times.

Thing is, it’s kind of complicated, this ‘stress’ factor. At least it feels that way for me. Which is ironically quite stressful.

See, I’m sure that stress can affect hormones. I know that excessive stress is bad for our physical health in general. I mean, it all follows that it can probably affect fertility.

I am not disputing that.

It’s just hard to be told constantly that you just need to ‘relax’ and ‘stop thinking about it’. Because, when you really really want something, you will think about it. You do have to do certain things that cause you to be reminded constantly about your fertility status. It cannot be avoided. And I have been known to fall into the trap of stressing about whether I’m stressing too much to conceive, which causes more stress! Surprise, surprise.

This is why I don’t react so well to being told to ‘relax’. Because duh. Someone who really wants to get pregnant will do anything it takes. Including efforts to reassess the stress in their lives and to try to make sure there isn’t excessive stress where unnecessary. We are not stupid. We’ve thought of it. Our doctors have probably mentioned it. Trust me. At this point I kind of feel like unless you have some specific, helpful advice on what to do in order to relax, please refrain from telling me that story about a friend of a friend who stopped trying and suddenly – voila – pregnant as fuck!

Would I love to be THAT friend one day? Of course. I do love hearing success stories, do not get me wrong. But some days, those success stories just sound like more people who managed to be better than me at fertility. And those days are the worst days.

So I have decided to try to stop analysing my stress. I know I’m the worst over thinker on the planet, but the thing is, when we conceived the Little Mister I was under a lot of stress (maybe even more than I am under now because I’m trying harder to not let things get to me given the circumstances). But he came along. Puts things in perspective.

If I have a ‘stressed out’ feeling, I will not freak out that I am too stressed to conceive. I will just be stressed out (like a normal person), think about how to stop/relieve the stress and move on. I’ve got to stop making the stress about how it may relate to our fertility efforts. People have conceived under way more horrible, unwanted circumstances throughout history. People have fallen pregnant during crazy times – with terminally ill partners and during times of grief. If they are going to get pregnant, they are going to get pregnant. If you are not, you are not.

Let’s stop making it all about the hopeful mother to be. We carry enough responsibility for all of this on our shoulders. We can’t control everything. I refuse to be told I just need to ‘relax’. When in the history of being told to relax, has a stressed person ever felt like relaxing and not strangling the person who suggested it?

Even if, by some miracle, I am suddenly super relaxed and ‘stop thinking about it’ and fall pregnant one day, I will NOT be preaching to those who are struggling. I will not be telling everyone to relax. I might pass on some of the things that helped me to relax (if asked), but I won’t attribute everything to my ability to calm the fuck down. Because it takes more than that to conceive. And every person, every couple, is different in some way. Everyone has their own journey, physically and emotionally. Yes, I said ‘journey’. You can spew now.

So how about we calm the fuck down and chill the fuck out about telling everyone to ‘just relax’. Just ‘stop trying’.

No amount of ‘relaxing’ will help someone who has an actual physical medical complication that prevents the ability to conceive.

Because people can’t always just stop trying. That’s fucking dumb. You don’t stop trying until you’re so over it all that you think your dream is over and you’ve exhausted a bunch of medical options. And I am sorry but I refuse to stop dreaming and hoping right now. So deal with it.

Our secondary infertility story: Part 8 – After the first round of Clomid

This post was written in March 2016 – after my first medicated cycle. Let’s just say it didn’t exactly go ‘to plan’. 

You can catch up on previous instalments of my story here…

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7

So…I was cautiously optimistic about starting Clomid during my last cycle. I didn’t expect it to help me become miraculously pregnant first time around, but I did hope that perhaps something promising would appear in my ultrasound. Something to tell me that I was going to ovulate up a storm etc.

I was nervous before my scan, but hopeful. I’d had a strong reaction to the Clomid. I’d been hilariously (and awkwardly) emotional all of a sudden while taking the tablets. I thought that must mean something was taking place in my body. I did notice that my already fairly heavy period became much heavier than it had ever been but I thought that any change in my body had to be good, because there’d been no changes whatsoever in the whole time we’d been trying for a baby, which had been discouraging. I felt like the time it was going to work, you’d think there’d be different symptoms throughout my cycle.

Nope. Turns out, things can probably get worse.

It turned out I had only one follicle on my left ovary and a 4cm cyst. A cyst that hadn’t been there when I started the search for better fertility a few months previous. There was a chance the Clomid caused it (i.e. the doctor couldn’t rule it out). Great. That thing I was hoping would make a difference seemed to be making more problems.

I was told the cyst would probably go away by itself but the doc would check on me before I was due another round of Clomid.

I went to this check hoping like hell the cyst would be gone. That I would be told I could try again. That even perhaps, I might be pregnant (I had an early blood test to check).

Nope. The cyst got a little smaller, but not enough. Now I have to go and have scans to see if it’s endometriosis/an endometrioma. In which case, I might have to have a procedure to have it removed. I was advised to not have Clomid again at this point (pending the next scan etc). That’s a cycle or two without help. It’s just me and Mr Unprepared, all alone in this again. While it’s not forever, it’s a setback. It’s tough. It’s disappointing.

I was really angry on the way home from my appointment. Frustrated. Pissed off that life is unfair. Scared that my body hates everything. Worried about the stress and what it will do to my body. I cried.

And then I went home and just tried to get on with life. I tried to remember the so called perks of not being pregnant or worrying that I might be. I could drink alcohol 100% guilt free. I would be able to exercise vigorously without even an inkling of doubt about whether I could be hurting/risking something (I then had in the back of my mind that I could rupture the cyst and be in all kinds of hell so I did end up being careful anyway). I could take all the ibuprofen I need for my period pains. Not be pissed off at the fact that I had to pretend like I might be pregnant for half of my life, when I knew deep down I wasn’t.

So now I will just try to relax until I am put into action again. It’s hard to see pictures of pregnant people in my Facebook feed or hear talk of little babies, but I am strong and I will get through this somehow.