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.

 

 

 

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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.

IVF part 3: survival of the fittest

The IVF process from egg collection onwards is a real eye opener.

Our egg collection process retrieved 24 eggs. Then, at the party-in-a-petri-dish on day one  23 eggs were fertilised. 15 embryos “hatched” on day three. 13 embryos survived to blastocyst stage on day five. They were all biopsied for pre-genetic testing and then frozen.

They told us that 13 embryos was a ludicrously good result. I felt confident and happy, even if I was a little uneasy at the thought that we had a football team (and reserves) sitting on ice.

Our guys were biopsied on day five and those biopsied cells were sent away for testing, to see if there were any chromosomal abnormalities.  Given our history, it was the sensible thing to do. When I received the call from my gynaecologist exactly a month after the egg collection I realised just how sensible it was.

Only two out of the 13 embryos tested as “normal”. Embryo number 4 and embryo number 6. Three were “inconclusive”. The remainder were “abnormal”. I was shocked. What did this mean? We still do not really know, except they their cell division was not normal and the abnormalities appeared to be random. I called my husband straight away. As I heard his voice I started shaking and crying, and had to babble “it’s not as bad as it sounds!” quickly so that he wouldn’t worry. I told him the news. He was gobsmacked too.

It took a few days to come around from the shock of only two of our “guys” surviving to believing that two was a good result in the end and meant that we had a real chance of finally getting off the mouse wheel of infertility.

 

 

 

 

IVF part 2: egg collection

I opted to work from home the morning of my egg collection. It proved a good distraction from egg collection, but a bad distraction from my ban on any food or drink before the procedure. I became pretty nervous in the half hour or so before I had to get in the car. I checked I had everything I needed, which was basically nothing, about five times.

My husband was there when I walked in the doors of the clinic. We sat on the couch and waited. I was too distracted to read any of the trashy magazines, or to even really talk.

We were called into our own small room. Two nurses came in. They asked all the usual questions, “are you allergic to anything?” “have you eaten anything today” “when did you last drink anything?” They explained the procedure in brief. An embryologist joined the conversation. My gynaecologist joined the conversation. It felt like there were thirty people in a room meant for one. My poor husband slunk back from providing his “sample” to a room of chaos.

I was walked into theatre. Almost immediately I noticed a tiny little window with the embryologist sitting on the other side of it. It looked like a little coffee bar, or a service kitchen. I almost expected to see a little moustached barista with an apron pop out with a smile and an espresso. I think what really was going to happen was that my gynaecologist would pass fluid containing eggs through the window so that they could examine the eggs immediately.

I sat down on the theatre bed and was promptly hooked up to various machines. An IV drip. A blood pressure monitor. Something in my nose with some gas passing through it, probably to zap any fears away. Then the nurses passed my gynaecologist drugs and even before I had my legs in the delightful stirrups I felt myself going fairly floppy.

The procedure itself was pretty painful. With 26 follicles my gynaecologist had to make a number of incisions directly into the ovaries. I cringed and let out a little squeak with each one. I tried to focus on my breathing. Soon enough they were finished, and I was out of theatre just like that, back in my little room.

I was given some toast, and I suspect about then the effect of the drugs really kicked in. I can’t remember what was on the toast, but I do remember that I offered some to my husband. The next thing that I remember was my gynaecologist advising me that they had managed to retrieve 24 eggs. “Wow!” I exclaimed. I was so stoked. My husband laughed and said, “you do realise that is about the sixth time they’ve told you that?” I had no recollection whatsoever.

I was discharged fairly quickly. We had a prescription for some codeine and we drove around the building to the pharmacy on the other side. I waited in the car while my husband went inside. Pretty quickly things went really downhill. I realised that I was going to either throw up or pass out, or both. I shifted uncomfortably around in the car, put the seat back, but to no avail. My mind told me that I had to escape the car and lie down on the cold concrete of the car park. So out I flopped. I began sweating and my head was spinning. I frantically told myself not to spew, to breathe, to focus on lying still.

I don’t know how much time had passed. I heard my husband say my name in shock. He later said he felt like he had an out of body experience seeing me lying with my head on the curb amongst some dead leaves and cigarette butts. I heard a lady say, “is she alright?” and my husband replied, “yeah, she’s ok, she’s just nauseous.” Poor guy.  I refused to move for a while, until I was able to get myself into the car and stay as still as possible on the reclined seat. Off we drove.

At home I rushed myself to bed and basically conked out for the rest of the afternoon. Occasionally I would get enough will and hunger to have some food and drink, but mostly I just slept. Neither of us had expected it would be such an ordeal, or that I would basically spend the next five days in and out of bed with nausea and a feeling like my insides were pumped full of concrete and squeezed. But we had done it. Now the wait to see if any of our guys would make it began.