Another miscarriage: surviving the plane crash

I miscarried last night. Our sixth loss in a row. As I looked at the blood in the toilet I wondered which little speck was our guy, and felt sorry for him having to end things in such an undignified way. I had cramps, but they weren’t too bad. I was glad that we had miscarried now, at 5w2d and not later into the pregnancy. I’m glad I didn’t need medical intervention, especially surgery after all the trouble I’ve had with my lining from my previous surgeries.

I can still barely believe what happened. After my son was diagnosed as having a virus, perhaps slap cheek, I was unwell for days. Dizzy, headachy, nauseated, fatigued. I put it down to early pregnancy hormones. But then, at 4w6d, I got a hot, red, itchy rash over almost my entire body. My worst nightmare had come true. I had a serious illness. I saw my doctor and she said that the embryo would have had, “no chance”. She said she’d have diagnosed me with German measles if I didn’t show good immunity to it from previous blood tests. Honestly, WTF. I haven’t had a virus like that since I was a kid.

I feel as though I have been in a plane crash and have realised that I have survived, but have no idea what to do next. I am a bit paralysed by what has transpired over the last couple of weeks. I think I will have to take some steps to seek out a counsellor, even though the last counsellor I spoke to was like a brick wall and left me feeling no better than before.

We have some big decisions to make. When we first began thinking about having our second child, I imagined and expected that we would have a two year age gap. I was so upset when that gap became two and a half years, then three years, but each time I gradually came around to it. When the gap was two years people asked my constantly about when and whether we would have a second child. Now they don’t say anything.

We are staring down the barrel of a gap of around four and a half to five years if we try again and succeed. I feel as though the gap is getting out of control. Perhaps I am being unfair to everyone who had a close relationship with their siblings growing up with a large age gap, but to me it is starting to feel pointless having two children with quite different childhoods. And putting ourselves through all the sleeplessness again when our lives feel so easy now.

But then I think about the rest of my son’s life. Once you’re in your twenties, that five year gap becomes smaller and smaller. It would eventually become insignificant – surely. Thinking about my son having a sibling for the rest of his life gives me the resolve to consider doing another round of IVF.

The alternative is quite scary. There must be so many couples out there that decide enough is enough, we have given it our best but our relationship and family and sanity must prevail over more attempts. We are so close to this point. I just don’t know if I have quite reached it yet. We wanted this so much, and when I saw that positive pregnancy test a week ago the age gap issue floated out of my thinking completely. I was just happy that we were pregnant.

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Broken hearted

I knew as soon as I answered the phone. The nurse’s voice was solemn, she asked if it was OK to talk. I braced myself. “Your HcG has actually dropped since the last reading. It was 206 and now it’s 196. I’m so sorry.” When she didn’t explain that it was possible that things could still be OK I realised that I was having a miscarriage. Again. I’ve actually lost count what number we are up to. I started sobbing on the phone almost immediately. The nurse asked if I was OK. “Of course I’m not OK!” We agreed that I would do another blood test on Monday but it barely mattered. Embryo number six will not make it.

I text my husband even though he was at lunch. I figured he should know. And then I completely broke down. I lay on my bed and I cried so much. And I’m crying again now as I write this through my tears. My heart is broken again.

We’re pregnant! Well, maybe?

I took a pregnancy test on Friday. I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was hopeful. It was a First Response early result test, the only ones I use after all these years of trying. And there it was, two strong pink lines. Pregnant! I was not as excited as I thought I would be, more relieved. And happy.

Things changed quite quickly though. I took my son to the doctor as he had a strange rash on his face and legs. The doctor didn’t know for sure, but suspected that he had a virus commonly called slap cheek. She said “make sure he stays away from pregnant woman and anyone that’s not well.” I said, ‘but I’m pregnant! I just found out today!!” The doctor suggested I take my son to a grandparent, but we didn’t have anyone in the city. She said I probably already had the virus anyway if I was going to catch it, and there was nothing I could do. It was possible I could miscarry.

I was beyond distraught. What were the chances of this happening to us ever, let alone the day I find out that I’m pregnant. I was so upset. When my husband came home he thought the worst as he saw my teary face poke through the door. He suggested that I move out for the weekend. I didn’t want to call on my friends on a Friday night, but he was right. I did. I was in exile. We told my son that I was sick and needed to stay away from him.

When I looked into slap cheek further, I read that many people develop immunity to the virus from being exposed as a child. If you do catch it when pregnant though it can cause miscarriage as the virus attacks the red blood cells of the baby. It made me so worried.

The next day, my wonderful friends made me scrambled eggs for breakfast and took me to the zoo with their daughter. We had a lovely day, although after walking for a couple of hours I was pretty exhausted. In hindsight, I think that walk did something to my back, because the next day I woke in agonising pain. It radiated across my shoulders and down my arms. It radiated down my back and hips and legs. I was paranoid as hell that I had caught the virus. Why else would I be in such pain all over my body??! But almost as soon as the pain arrived, it was gone. The next morning I awoke basically pain free. Maybe I was OK. Maybe I didn’t have the virus!

Then the spotting started. FFS. Only the slightest, slightest bit of light brown spotting, not enough for anyone else to probably ever notice, but enough to freak me out completely. And I noticed it across three days. My first miscarriage began with spotting, albeit a bright red spot. The loss of the first of the twins began with spotting. I never had spotting with my other pregnancies. Fair to say then I have been a tad anxious.

The last couple of days I’ve felt fairly dizzy and queasy, and lacklustre. I’ve spent a lot of time sleeping. I’ll periodically poke my poor boobs to check that they still feel sore, and they seem to. I feel as though I should still be pregnant, but its anyone’s guess really. I’m expecting a phone call soon from the clinic to let me know if my HcG has risen as expected from my initial reading of 206 at 16DPO. It reminds me a little of the call I waited to receive from BEP (beedy eyed peepus), my obstetrician, to confirm whether or not our previous pregnancy had a trisomy. Every minute is taking a lifetime.

 

 

 

The two week wait (or, in our case, ten day wait)

So we had another embryo defrosted and popped into my uterus. “Embryo number six”.  We’ve got a little photo of him (I say him, but we don’t know the sex) pinned on our fridge. He looks so similar to “embryo number four”, the one that didn’t work two months ago. My husband and I joked that the clinic just gives everyone the same photo and spiel that, “look, it’s hatching! Everything’s looking great!”

The procedure went well. Apart from the indignity of hoisting yourself, full bladder and all, onto a table with stirrups to have a middle aged man look directly into your lady parts and pop a tube up there, it was quick and painless. I was feeling the least stressed I have for a long time, perhaps years. We were given a piece of paper that said we need to do a pregnancy test in ten days’ time, that I can exercise if I want to, that sort of thing. We were also given the government pamphlet for food safety in pregnancy. I left that behind.

Now, it’s the day before we test to see whether the little guy has stuck. I feel nervous but almost resigned that what will be will be. After all that we’ve been through, I try not to get my hopes up, but equally try to remember that it could happen for us. I’ve had days since the transfer where I’ve been a complete mess. A few days after the transfer I began to feel anxious and fearful, and by the mid-way point I had completely lost the plot. I could feel hormones raging and could do nothing but try and ride out the horrible effects. I cried a LOT. I felt guilty that I was not able to be more positive and relaxed on these days, and worried that my emotions could affect the result. Now I feel I’ve come full circle and am more zen, albeit nervous like I’m about to sit an important exam.

It’s hard to say if I’ve had any real symptoms of pregnancy. My boobs are always sore after ovulation, and that sensitivity usually drops off promptly before a period. My boobs are still sore now, and it’s a day after I would normally have got my period. That gives me hope. Similarly, I usually get a bit of a funny bloated tummy in the lead up to my period. And I’ve had nothing. I had a coconut milk yesterday and got the absolute worse nausea and heartburn for about an hour. It was a bit out of character. I’ve felt more tired in the last few days than in previous weeks. Who knows.

If this doesn’t work I can genuinely say that I gave it my best shot.

On the eve of IVF, round two

We’ve signed up for more blood tests, more scans, and the hope that “embryo no. 6” will be the baby that we’ve been dreaming of for over two and a half years now. If our little guy “defrosts”, he will be popped in on Tuesday, in two days’ time. And then we wait.

The build up has been great. It started with two weeks’ holiday in Australia walking on the sand, eating ice creams, soaking in sunsets and scouring the horizon for whales. Since then, I’ve been focussing on me. Feeble attempts at running, long walks, yoga in front of the telly, gorging on salmon and avocado… I feel like it’s been worth it. I’m relaxed and happier than I have been in a long, long time.

On the first days of my cycle I talked to my gynaecologist. He told me of a new study called the H2oil study. If you have ongoing fertility issues because of endometriosis or unexplained infertility I’d encourage you to read it. In essence, woman who have unexplained infertility appear to be more likely to get pregnant if they “flush” their uterus and fallopian tubes with an oil based solution.

I mulled over the results of the study for hours. We had unexplained infertility, but we had been pregnant many times. It seemed what the oil flush seemed to do was assist in the implantation process, more than anything else. It would delay our transfer cycle by at least a month if we went ahead with it. I asked my gynaecologist what he recommended and together we decided that, if this transfer didn’t work, we might try it in the future.

From day 10 of my cycle I underwent a blood test every morning for six days. It was a mere inconvenience compared to some things I’ve been through. On day 14 (the day I ovulated) I had a scan. “You’re lining is at 10.1mm”, the gynaecologist on duty told me. 10.1! Wahoo! It felt like I’d just achieved a PB in fertility treatment.

7mm is the minimum thickness required for an embryo transfer. The reason I was so stoked this month was that last month my lining was only 6.5-7mm on day 13 of my cycle. I felt like I was failing. By day 15 (the day before I ovulated) it had increased to 8.1mm, but to reach 10mm this cycle feels all the enforced relaxation is worth it.

 

 

Back on the mouse-wheel of infertility

My colleague that sits next to me in the office is pregnant. Again. Unless something goes drastically wrong she will have two kids in the time we have been unable to have one. She’s so happy. I overhear her making  telephone appointments for scans, pregnancy yoga classes, “babymoon” holidays, and buying a bigger car. It really gets me down and that bothers me.

It was one of the reasons I’ve decided to take time away from work. I’m taking three months off. In part, this time is to repair some of the damage done to my mental state over the last two and half years. When our first embryo transfer failed, it hit me in a different way than I expected. It has been like a thick fog descended on me overnight and has barely lifted. My senses have been dulled and I don’t feel happiness like I usually do. I grump at my husband and cry way too much. It’s no good for anyone.

So I’m trying to take charge. I also want to do the best that I can for our second guy in the freezer, embryo number six. I was so anxious prior to and in the weeks following our first embryo transfer that I believe it may have affected implantation. It was unhealthy and unhelpful, and given the stakes are so high I feel a bit stupid in hindsight that I didn’t prioritise my health and sanity more by taking time off work then. Not that I can do anything about that now.

My boss was amazing actually. When I raised with him taking time off it was as if he had figured it out before I had. He said that he realised that the alternative to me taking leave was that I’d probably quit, which was true. This was more important than my job and he agreed. I don’t know how he convinced himself and management in barely 24 hours to approve my proposal, but here I am, on leave now for three months.

Fingers crossed that its productive in more ways than one.

IVF part 4: the transfer and the wait

The day before we found out the result of our frozen egg transfer was one of the most anxious days I can remember. It was as if my heart rate had dialled up to 140bpm. Like I’d had ten coffees, no food and watched a horror movie, only I hadn’t. I couldn’t concentrate. I was so worried.

That was around eight days after our transfer. On the day of our transfer I’d have seven blood tests in the build up. I was convinced I had a UTI, but a test suggested otherwise. I was so nervous. The procedure itself went well enough, apart from my bladder nearly exploding. We’d had to wait an extra fifteen minutes or so than expected. By the time we got into the transfer room I had to wriggle my feet to stop myself from bursting. It wasn’t ideal. The staff double checked our details on the test tube. That made sense. It was rather important. And the transfer itself went well, it seemed. We went home with a little photo of our guy, a blastocyst, “hatching” out of his shell and ready to stick. We hoped.

I felt a certain relief after the transfer was successful. I had hugged the gynaecologist in tears, and he didn’t know how to react. But soon the stress flooded back. I was sure I had a UTI. I went to my GP who diagnosed it immediately. I couldn’t remember the last time I had a UTI diagnosed. It could affect the embryo. I flipped out. Then our three year old started vomiting in the early hours of the morning, for the first time probably in a year. If I caught a tummy bug it could affect the embryo. WTF. Why was this happening?! The more I tried to calm myself down, the more stressed I seemed to become.

It was the day we found out the result that I reached a tipping point. I had barely slept. I woke early and stared at the ceiling. I was sure I should be able to get a result on a pregnancy test. Maybe I should just do one. But I only had another two days to wait. My boobs didn’t feel sore any more. That always happens right before I get a period. That was the final straw. I bawled. I couldn’t go to work. I bawled some more.

My gut feeling was right. The next morning, the day before our official test, I got my period. The anxiety fell away almost instantly and in its place a blanket of numbness and sadness shrouded me. I was transported back to some of my darkest days in this process. I didn’t want to see anyone. I was no longer hungry. I didn’t want to talk. I had my first beer in ages and it was good and bad – all the pain came gushing out and I sobbed on the couch by myself. While I felt like an utter failure as a woman I was at least thankful that the anxiety had left me.

It’s now a couple of days later. I don’t really know where to from here. We have one more chance. I am terrified of what it means if we don’t succeed. I’ve adjusted my expectations so many times that I feel we may be reaching the end of all of this.