Eight weeks pregnant: enter The Phantom Period

ivf-blog-mum100-the-phantom-period-pregnancy-after-loss-pregnancy-symptomsI’ve been spooked! This little chap has been floating in and out of my consciousness this week. He has a bunch of shadowy tricks, including disappearing pregnancy symptoms, new pain and spotting.

So, what better way to befriend him than by turning him into a cartoon? Out of my mind and on to the page, you grizzly little ghosticle! Begone with your worrisome ways! I think you’ll agree, The Phantom Period looks harmless enough in his red and pink robes – a misunderstood character, no doubt.

So what’s the story with the Phantom Period?

Well, half way through week eight of pregnancy, all my pregnancy symptoms disappeared. Overnight, nausea and sore breasts faded away and they haven’t returned. On Wednesday, I had light cramps, low down in the centre. It was a continuous mild pain throughout the day. Since then, the cramps have been intermittent throughout each day. On three occasions this week, I’ve had light pink spotting. My emotions became more frazzled. Essentially, everything that normally happens when my period is due has happened.

Except, there has been no proper bleeding – thank the dear moon and planets above! The strangest thing is this: had I not been pregnant, I would have been due on my period this week. Could my body be confused? After 25 years of having regular periods, is my brain still tapping out its monthly rhythm? Come to think of it, I did have cramping for three days at the end of the two-week wait, right around the time when my period was due.

Last night, I had a mega cry, straight after watching Shaun of the Dead! The film was meant to take my mind off things, which it did because it’s so silly – but then the cramping came on again, right as a herd of zombies were attacking Shaun and friends in The Winchester pub! As the credits rolled, all the love and hope I have for our baby came flooding out. It was a proper wobbly-lipped sob. Dad 100 was so lovely, holding my hand and listening to my shaky sentences. He opened up about his feelings too – how wanted our child is and how loved, how much we wish to meet our baby in July.

I went up to the bathroom to wash my face. For the first time in a long, long time, I got on my knees to pray. I’m not religious but I prayed last night like I have never prayed before. I asked all the angels in the skies above Hackney to take care of our child. Sometimes I feel odd praying. Sometimes I wonder to what or to whom I am praying. But not last night. It felt the most natural thing I could do. The prayer came straight from the heart – a direct request for help. And it did give me the most peaceful feeling, to let go of all that fear.

As I was undressing for bed, I realised something else. I was exactly nine weeks pregnant, a huge milestone in itself, but it was also a connection to our first IVF pregnancy. It was at nine weeks pregnant that we finally conceded the loss of our first IVF baby. In the early hours of midsummer’s day, 24th June, surgeons operated to remove our ectopic baby and my left fallopian tube. Perhaps this was always going to be a tough week.

What now?

We spoke to an NHS Direct advisor on the phone. He said the cramping and spotting could either be: a) nothing to worry about or b) a threatened miscarriage. We’ll take option A please! We were advised to go to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit for a scan. When Dad 100 phoned the EPAU this morning, we got the answerphone. They were too busy to answer and we should try back later, the message said. When he did get through on the fourth attempt, the receptionist said we should get there before midday to have any chance of being seen. Sunday hours are shorter and there was already a full waiting room.

Would it really help our baby to rush into central London, sit in a waiting room for hours? Or would it better to wait until Monday? We talked it through and decided to stick to our original Sunday plans. I had already arranged a date for us, an exhibition at Tate Modern, followed by a stroll along the River Thames and food at Southbank Christmas market. I’m so glad we stuck to our plans. What better antidote than fresh air, a river walk, Indian street food, a custard tart and a large dose of artistic creativity. The exhibition we went to was called The Radical Eye: Modernist Photography from the Sir Elton John collection. It features around 150 photographs, taken from the 1920s to the 1950s. There are portraits of Salvador Dali and Picasso. There are a set of Irving Penn’s Corner Portraits, which I absolutely loved, including these intimate photos of Duke Ellington, a penguin-like Noel Coward and heavyweight boxer Joe Louis.

There are some incredibly moving documentary photographs by Dorothea Lange, including ‘Migrant Mother’ and ‘Damaged Child’ – I could gaze at those pictures for hours, the life stories behind the images are so compelling, the emotion so vividly captured.

There are Man Ray portraits, including this vintage print of ‘Glass Tears’. I treated myself to a fridge magnet of this one, I love it so much. The exhibition is well worth a visit – it’s on until 7th May 2017.

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Tonight, I’m back in a place of peace. We are going to the EPAU on Monday to get checked out. My pregnancy app tells me our baby is the size of a green olive. We look forward to seeing our olive’s heartbeat.

Week 9 of pregnancy commitments

Last week, the most enjoyable commitment was to play music with breakfast everyday. We picked a decade each day and played a random selection of tunes from YouTube. My favourite was our roaring 1920s breakfast café – we were transported to a Prohibition era speakeasy, as we ate our scrambled eggs.

This week, my commitments are:

  • Pray and be grateful for each day
  • Get checked out at the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit
  • Go to Tate Britain with my friend
  • Distract myself with work and writing and reading
  • Enjoy our visit to the Harry Potter studio 
  • Book tickets for a Christmas panto

Seven weeks pregnant: the blueberry has a heartbeat

ivf-blog-mum100-heartbeat-7-weeks-pregnant-blueberry-instagramHow can something so tiny have a beating heart? I have been playing with this riddle since our 7-week scan on 14th November. I have the same sense of wonder when I watch nature programmes. How do migrating birds know where to fly? How do hatching baby turtles know they must run for the sea? It’s enthralling to witness the natural intelligence of creatures big and small. And it’s humbling to experience that no input is required from my conscious mind for our baby to grow. This tiny human, the size of a blueberry, is designed for living.

At our scan, I felt head-to-toe relief to see our baby, settled in my womb. We watched the silver light pulsating on the screen, its tiny heart in motion. At 7 weeks 2 days, our blueberry measured 10.6mm (crown to rump), slightly smaller than average but still within the range expected for our dates. The yolk sac was 4.1mm (mean measurement), again on the small side but nothing to worry about, the nurse said. At the bottom of the ultrasound report was our official diagnosis: “viable intra-uterine pregnancy – singleton”. Having heard the word “unviable” from doctors many times during our first IVF pregnancy, this was a joy to read. We were discharged from the IVF clinic back to our GP – another first.

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It’s taken me over a week to write this blog because I have had so many feelings come and go. Mostly, there is overwhelming delight, that we were given good news. I have also felt sadness and guilt, thinking about close friends who were told there was no heartbeat at this stage. I know how precious this tiny life is to us. I can only imagine how devastating and shocking that experience must be. I still have some fear of loss in the first trimester, so to help with that we had a free counselling session at our hospital. We both found it helpful to air our fears and be supported by the counsellor. By the end of the session, I was back in the truth of the present moment. This pregnancy has been so calm compared to last time.

Week 7 pregnancy symptoms

I’ve had mild nausea, on and off, but no sickness. I eat regularly and drink lots of water, which stops the nausea when it comes. Sore boobs come and go. Afternoon sleepiness is the main symptom for me, especially when I’ve been active during the day. I have occasional headaches. I welcome all the symptoms as signs of the changes taking place.

Week 8 of pregnancy – commitments

Last week, I stuck to all but one of my commitments. The only one I couldn’t do was plan a date for Friday because Dad 100 went up north to visit his Mum. Instead, I’ve planned a date for Sunday – croissants and eggs for breakfast, then a trip to Tate Modern and a stroll through the Southbank Christmas market. Chocolate for me, mulled wine for Dad 100!

Here are my other commitments:

  • Be grateful for each day that passes calmly
  • Book a scan for next week
  • Go out with work friends on Thursday
  • Play music with breakfast everyday
  • Say no to Dr Google – he is a Dementor!

Five to six weeks pregnant: facing The Big Fear

ivf-blog-mum100-face-the-big-fear-miscarriage-pregnancy-after-lossAt five weeks pregnant, I came face to face with The Big Fear: miscarriage. It’s good to name it rather than tiptoe around it. I had flashes of being examined at the 7-week scan, a long silence in the room, finally broken with “I am so sorry”. I have witnessed friends going through this heartbreak. I feared another loss of our own. I had a cold, which didn’t help my mindset. I drank cup after cup of hot lemon and honey. Logically, I knew that the common cold could not harm the life inside me, but fear will latch on wherever it can. I imagined the poppy seed embryos, hearts forming. I prayed  for them to spark into life.

So why would my brain imagine another loss? Is this a function of survival, to prepare for the worst? I came across this BBC Woman’s Hour interview, which was shared on Twitter by a friend. Dr Jessica Farren of Imperial College London discusses her research into miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr Farren mentioned clusters of symptoms, including reliving pregnancy loss, as well as coping mechanisms after loss, such as avoiding being around pregnant women or babies. As I listened, a pressure bubble popped in my head. I felt reassured that many women in the same situation experience difficult feelings. I had a good cry. I talked through the fear with Dad 100.

Since then, I have felt remarkably peaceful. Despite hardly any pregnancy symptoms in week 5, facing the big fear of miscarriage released me from its grip. For now, my head is clear and I have enjoyed most days.

On Friday 4th November, I did the last ClearBlue pregnancy test. The shift from 2-3 weeks since conception to 3+ was a brilliant result.

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Hours after this test, I felt the first hint of nausea. Was it just a coincidence of timing? Or did the release of all that fear allow me to feel the physical symptoms?

Since then, I have kept to most of the commitments I made in my last blog. I have stayed away from Dr Google. Dad 100 and I wrapped up warm and enjoyed our local fireworks night. I didn’t make the Chi Kung and meditation class because of having a cold, but I did plenty of meditation and deep breathing at home.

Week 6 pregnancy symptoms

Mum100-blog-IVF-embryo-transfer-bleeding-loss-acceptance-trustEach day, I’ve had short bursts of nausea. I love it when I feel sick. It’s like my future kids are talking to me. I say hello back and wish them well with their growing. The nausea fades when I eat, which has been a great excuse to snack. I have been tired in the afternoons and evenings, falling asleep early on the sofa. Sleep is deep, with the occasional vivid dream. In the last few days, I’ve had a few sharp twinges, low down on the right. There has been no bleeding, so I don’t think this pregnancy is another ectopic – I am so grateful for that.

Week 7 of pregnancy – commitments

It’s a big week ahead with the 7-week scan, so I’m setting out a positive stall. Hopefully, I can stick to it!

  • Wear bright colours for our 7-week scan (Monday 14th November, 2.40pm)
  • Breathe deeply in the hospital waiting room
  • Let the sonographer do their job before asking a hundred questions
  • On Monday evening, gaze up at the biggest and brightest supermoon in 70 years
  • Go for walks in the sunshine and enjoy the autumn leaves
  • Follow up new work opportunities
  • Plan a date for Friday evening
  • Say thank you everyday for this pregnancy

Sending loads of love to all of you for the week ahead – and don’t forget to look up at the supermoon!

Four weeks pregnant – joy and disbelief

ivf-blog-mum100-pregnancy-sanity-4-weeks-pregnantThe key to serenity is to let go. Surrender the outcome; accept where I am; be at peace. Yes, yes, I know all these marvellous theories of how to live life without going crackers – but can I actually practise them?

On 25th October at 7am, two blue lines appeared. For the first time since we started trying for a baby in 2013, our result on a home pregnancy test was positive. Absolutely no squinting required. I took the test up to our bedroom. I climbed under the duvet with Dad 100. We cuddled up and gazed at the plastic stick with the turquoise lines, as if it was a magic wand.

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We are both delighted, of course. I am also scared. Is this really happening? Can we believe in this result? In bed, I turned over the test stick to check the other side of the window; there were still two blue lines. Relief!

Later that day, I called the hospital with our result.
“Congratulations,” the nurse said. “We’ll book in your 7 week scan. Can you do Monday 14th November at 2.40pm?”

Now in ordinary circumstances, I know that is not long. But my first thought was, really? More waiting????

The three week wait

Daft as it sounds, I wasn’t expecting another wait. I hadn’t given any thought to what happens if it works. For the rest of official test day, the reassurance of those two blue lines settled my nerves. Dad 100 and I had group hugs with our growing embryos between us. I checked the test stick several times, to confirm I wasn’t imagining things.

By next morning, however, I was back in doing mode. I wanted concrete actions to take. How can I possibly wait another three weeks for the scan? I need to organise this pregnancy and fast! Dad 100 and I talked about getting blood tests done. Our new hospital doesn’t offer HCG blood tests as a standard part of the procedure. I looked up private London clinics for beta testing. I called up two clinics for prices. Later, I spoke to a friend who is at the same hospital as me. She suggested I ask the IVF nurses for a blood test, as they did one for her when she requested it.

So, in full organiser mode, I emailed the hospital:

Dear IVF Nurses,

I phoned yesterday to let you know about our positive pregnancy test. We now have our date for the 7-week scan (Monday 14th November). Thank you very much for arranging this.

We were wondering if it’s possible to have a b-HCG blood test in the next few days. We ask this because our last attempt at IVF resulted in an ectopic pregnancy and salpingectomy. It would be good to know that the levels are okay this time, as last time they were very low.

Now, that wasn’t exactly honest of me. Yes, I do have memories of what happened last time, but truthfully the email should have said this:

Please can I have a blood test, ASAP, today if possible? You see I really didn’t think there would be yet more waiting, not after doing a whole two weeks of waiting (okay technically, it was only eleven days of waiting, but it felt like forty). What do you say? Shall we do this blood test?

A nurse replied to my email:

I am happy to hear of your good news. I have spoken to one of our senior doctors in the unit and what they have advised is you come for a scan at 6 weeks instead of 7 weeks, instead of having a blood test. The blood test does not pick up an ectopic pregnancy and the results can come back normal and can still be an ectopic pregnancy. I am more than happy to book you in for your early scan. Please let me know if this is something you are happy with.

Next morning…

I did another pregnancy test (13dp6dt). This time I used a Clearblue digital pregnancy test with conception indicator. The result was good: it came up 2-3 weeks after conception (4 to 5 weeks pregnant).

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I breathed out and then I realised. I was getting it all wrong again. Now is the time to practise patience. I cannot have total reassurance every minute of the day. Say we go for that scan at six weeks and it’s too early to see a heartbeat – what then? Would I panic about not seeing the heartbeat? Or let’s say we book private blood tests. What if the results come back with HCG numbers we don’t understand? Do we pay for a private consultation, so a brand new doctor can interpret our results? Do we turn to Google? NO, PLEASE NOT GOOGLE!

Fast forwarding the tape, this need for constant reassurance never ends. If I give into the endless demands of anxiety, then I will always need the next fix. After the week 7 scan, there’s another 5-week wait until the week 12 scan. Then there’s another 8-week wait until the week 20 scan.

I may as well stick with being exactly where we are – it’s a much more hopeful place. I want to enjoy this experience as much as I can.

So, I wrote back to our hospital:

Thanks so much for coming back to me. Maybe we’ll stick with the original plan for the 7 week scan, as we’d like to be able see the heartbeat. I’m sure it’ll be fine.

It felt great to send this email – it was another surrender in this uncontrollable process. The nurse was very kind when she replied. She said we could change our mind at any time and come for an early scan. But I know that’s not what we need. Instead, we booked a free counselling appointment at the hospital. That will be far more useful than trying to project manage this pregnancy!

Week 4 pregnancy symptoms 

Throughout week four of pregnancy, I’ve had mild pregnancy symptoms – sore nipples and mild cramps. They come and go. At times, I can sense the changes going on in my body. Other times, I don’t feel anything. It is still very early days. The best symptom of all is my period is now over a week late (we’re doing an unmedicated cycle, so this is a reliable sign). I haven’t had any bleeding since the trace of spotting on day 3 past transfer. I am truly grateful for this.

Week 5 of pregnancy – commitments

To help me stay sane, I’ve made some commitments for the week ahead.

  • Enjoy where I am and be hopeful
  • Go to the London Buddhist Centre on Thursday evening for meditation and Chi Kung (deep breathing exercises)
  • Go to the fireworks on Saturday night and eat Dad 100’s chips
  • Do one final ClearBlue pregnancy test with conception indicator on Friday 4th November
  • Breathe deeply whenever I get scared
  • Do not book private blood tests
  • Do not Google any symptoms or lack of symptoms 

I’ll let you know how I get on! Thank you for always being there xxxxxxx

The IVF two-week wait: the Land of No Eye Deer

ivf-blog-mum100-two-week-wait-no-eye-deer-instagramWell, here we are again. I haven’t a clue what is happening inside my body. Nine days after our embryo transfer, there are no obvious signs of pregnancy. I am truly grateful, however, that we’re still in the running.

Mum100-blog-IVF-red-admiral-butterfly-bleeding-after-ivf-embryo-transferI’m enjoying the hope and wonder that being PUPO brings. For anyone new to this community, the acronym stands for ‘pregnant until proven otherwise’. When I say, “I am PUPO”, it brings to mind a butterfly inside a chrysalis, preparing to hatch. There is just so much potential for a beautiful outcome. It is also a mental endurance test. Will the butterfly emerge after the two week wait?

Embryo transfer day

We wore our brightest T-shirts to the hospital – neon pink and turquoise. We wanted to celebrate the occasion with colour and this didn’t go unnoticed at the hospital.

“Wow,” our doctor said. “I saw you two coming!”

Outside the transfer room, we covered up with white hairnets and lab coats – in another setting, we would have passed for shift workers at a meat market, clocking on after a rave.

The embryologist broke the news that our day-6 blastocysts had thawed well. “They’re beautiful,” she said on final inspection. Oh, the pride and love we felt. Let nobody tell you that embryos are ‘just cells’ – the attachment is real; the hope is extraordinary.

Our team completed the embryo transfer in less than ten minutes. We travelled home with our micro-babies, inside our bubble of peace.

Rest and relaxation – 1dp6dt & 2dp6dt

For 48 hours, I did next to nothing. Our hospital said it’s fine to carry on as normal but other clinics say to rest. I’ll take any excuse to keep warm on the sofa, watch films and read books. I ate rainbow-coloured foods and drank lots of water. I celebrated our PUPO status by styling this pineapple. He is the legend of IVF folklore, after all, and he laps up female attention!

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Spotting and mini meltdown – 3dp6dt

I had traces of spotting on day three – which may or may not have been implantation bleeding. I remembered the spotting on day three in our first IVF, which rapidly progressed to heavy bleeding. I imagined escaping to India; my default panic setting is to daydream about hot holidays. However, I knew from our first IVF transfer that booking international travel in the two-week wait is daft.

Pale yellow cervical mucus and mild cramping – 4dp6dt & 5dp6dt

My cervical mucus changed colour on day 4 and 5 – marvellous! According to Google, this may or may not be a sign of early pregnancy. And then I had mild cramping on day 5 – yes, you’ve guessed it, another inconclusive sign of pregnancy.

Symptom analysis is truly bonkers. Really, what I’m searching for is certainty, which is an illusion. I am asking a search engine to tell me how my story ends – just stop and think about that for a minute!

All quiet on the uterine front – 6dp6dt onwards

There have been no further symptoms. No fuzzy head. No sore boobs. No nausea. On day 7, I let go. I came back to that peaceful place of acceptance and surrender. I cried tears of relief. All roads in this fertility journey end up in the same place – the heartfelt knowledge that I am not in control.

Dad 100 and I upped the distractions. We went to the London Buddhist Centre to try out Chi Kung. It’s a bit like Tai Chi, moving through set poses with deep breathing. On Friday afternoon, we went to London Zoo. We saw Kumbuka the gorilla, three sleeping lionesses, diving penguins, a growling tiger and this blue poison dart frog – how cool is he!

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In the reptile zone, I discovered I am Harry Potter. I said hello to a puff adder, the deadliest African snake – and I kid you not, the snake popped its head up from a rock, did a small dance, then slithered to the front of the cage. It flicked its tongue and eyeballed me and we carried on our chat. I can speak Parseltongue, people – a talent at last!

The last creature we saw at the zoo was this stork, which made me laugh. We had words, let me tell you, despite the clear warning.

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Today, we’re off to Kent. We’re staying overnight in a cosy B&B, exploring a couple of towns as potential locations for our house move.

Official test day is Tuesday 25th October – 11dp6dt

I’ll take the test first thing in the morning. We will wait for five minutes and we will look at our result. I promise not to squint! Whatever happens, I know we’ll be okay – we have each other and I have you lovely lot.

When I zoom out from all this, I can appreciate that infertility and IVF are great training for the mind. The process is changing me for the better. I am being shown my limitations. I am discovering my strength and resilience.

One line or two on Tuesday, we will carry on.

Making a rainbow baby

Like so many of us, I never thought I’d be here. I expected motherhood to come easily. I didn’t ever imagine I’d be blogging and drawing my way through IVF cycles, reaching out for vital support. We’re about to do our second embryo transfer, after losing our first pregnancy in June – and here I am again in new territory, this land of hope beyond the storm.

mum100-ivf-blog-rainbow-baby-embryo-transfer-baby-loss-wordpressThe term ‘rainbow baby’ makes me smile. It means a baby born after a loss. When I was new in this community, I didn’t know what it meant. I assumed rainbow babies were those born to gay people after IVF. Little did I know how personal the term would become. I love the connection it makes between the trials of loss and the hope of new life – a connection I wrote about in my last blog.

Baby Loss Awareness Week

Our second embryo transfer is on Friday 14th October. This falls in Baby Loss Awareness Week, seven days of commemoration and sharing, with a global #waveoflight on Saturday 15th October. Their website says:

“Simply light a candle at 7pm and leave it burning for at least 1 hour to join us in remembering all babies that have died too soon. This can be done individually or in a group, at home or in a communal space. Wherever you do this, you will be joining a global ‘Wave of Light’ in memory of all the babies who lit up our lives for such a short time.”

I remember when a friend in our community lost her baby. There was an outpouring of spontaneous love. People lit candles and shared the pictures with her. It was incredibly moving to see people mark her loss with candlelight. I will join in the #waveoflight on 15th October, to remember all our losses.

Trying again after pregnancy loss

Just hours before our second transfer, I feel at peace. We are so close to being reunited with our embryos. I know I am meant to be doing this. Whatever the outcome, I feel proud that we are showing up and stepping forward on this difficult path to parenthood. Naturally, I have had my concerns about how it will turn out – but at my core, today I am fearless.

We’re transferring two embryos again. Dad 100 had doubts about this. Will it increase the risk of another ectopic? Statistically, we’d have to be very unlucky for it to happen twice but I do understand that his fears are born out of love for me. He stayed much sharper than me towards the end of our first pregnancy. He could sense the danger, pressing harder than me for the correct diagnosis. After discussing it with our hospital and researching the risks of ectopic pregnancy in IVF, we agreed that two embryos gives us a better chance of pregnancy. I admit it’s more me than him making this decision. I will take responsibility for my choice, if it doesn’t go our way.

Mum 100 blog - our blastersThey are our last two embryos from the original fab four, created last November. It still feels extraordinary to me that life can be made in a lab, then paused at -196 degrees for months or years. I imagine our frozen embryos as tiny glass beads, smooth and strong, perfectly clear. We aren’t religious but we both feel a spiritual connection to the power of nature and creativity. We are saying our prayers for their safe journey back from the deep freeze. May they spring into life on Friday morning!

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Natural frozen embryo transfer

Our hospital gave us the choice between a natural or a medicated frozen embryo transfer. I didn’t know it was possible to do an embryo transfer without medication. Our doctor explained that as I had regular periods, they could map the transfer to my natural cycle. There was no difference to success rates, she said. They would do a scan on day 11 to ensure an ovarian follicle was developing and check the thickness of my womb lining. Then I would use an ovulation prediction kit, to detect the surge of lutenising hormone prior to ovulation. With a positive test for the LH surge, they would book us in for our embryo transfer, six days later.

I turned to our community for help with the decision. Many people shared their successes with natural frozen embryo transfers, as well as their reduced stress levels. The idea of no injections or tablets or suppositories was hugely appealing. Last month, I did a test run with an ovulation prediction kit and had a blood test for luteal progesterone. The results were good – the LH surge was positive on day 15 and my progesterone came back at 71.3 nmol/L on day 22.

So in the end, the decision was easy. Why not give my body a chance?

Endometrial scratch

We were also randomly selected for an endometrial scratch trial. Here’s the science bit, quoted from the participant information sheet of ‘The Pipelle for Pregnancy in IVF study’:

“Endometrial pipelle sampling (also known as endometrial biopsy, injury or scratching is a new procedure being trialled in women underground IVF/ICSI or embryo transfer. The procedure involves inserting a thin plastic sampler (pipelle) through the cervix and into the womb where a sample from the endometrium is then obtained by rotation. The sample is then discarded. It is thought that the action of taking the sample results in a small disturbance to the lining of the womb, which might result in an increased chance of pregnancy when embryo transfer takes place…because it causes a small inflammatory response. Biological factors which are then released due to this response are thought to be helpful for implantation of an embryo into the lining of the womb.”

So, that’s the theory – but how did the procedure go? Well, apart from my ‘shy cervix’, which the doctor said ‘takes quite a bit of finding’ – hooray! – it was simple. It was like a smear test with extra twinges and a research nurse thrown in for good measure. Thanks to advice from a friend online, I took two Paracetamol beforehand. I have read that other women experience pain with endometrial scratching, but luckily not for me.

By the end of October, we will know our transfer result. I’m also going to keep an eye out for the results of the wider study.

Embryos on the road

Oh my, the responsibility! Our first road trip with our future kids. We transported our two frozen embryos from east to central London. I was unconvinced by the courier recommended by our old hospital – he was blasé about his availability and there was a trace of sarcasm when I asked questions. My protective instincts kicked in big time! No-one would take better care of our embryos than us. So, we borrowed a dry shipper from our new hospital and drove across town to collect them. This photo shows us on our way to pick them up – I was a bit excited!

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Our old hospital packed them safely in their shiny silver box. We took them down to the car and strapped them in the back seat. I played them two Barry White tracks on YouTube (because IVF folklore says Barry helps them grow!!). Dad 100 played some Beatles and we sang along. Between songs, we talked to them.
“We love you,” we said. “Hope you settle into your new hospital. Not long until we bring you home!”
Of course, they heard every word!

Starting the cycle

When my period arrived, we were all set. On day 11, I had a scan. I thought I knew where the follicle was developing.
“I think it’s on the left side,” I said to the nurse.
It was incredible to see the black blob in my left ovary. My womb lining was 8 millimetres. It was lovely to feel renewed trust in my body.

Then it was on to the ovulation prediction kit, first pee of the day. I used the ClearBlue Digital Ovulation Test with dual hormone detector. Flashing smiley faces appeared on day 13 and 14 to confirm a rise in oestrogen. I had my fears on day 14. Would my body fail? Would it forget what to do? Then I read this in my book on the Tao:

“Trust the harmony of the Tao. It took care of everything that you needed in your creation as well as your first nine months of life without any assistance from you, and totally independent of any desires you may have had.”

And there was this quote in there from Henry David Thoreau:

“I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.”

I love these two quotes. They tell me that no amount of worry will make a difference to the outcome of this IVF – it will succeed or fail, all by itself. Just as my heart needs no direction from my conscious mind to beat or to fail, neither does my reproductive system take orders from my anxious head. I could do with getting this tattooed on my forehead:

I am not in charge of the outcome!

And then at 5.30am on day 15, the solid smiley face pinged on to the digital display. A positive for the LH surge.

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Mum100_blog_IVF_fertility_treatment_excitement_excited_Christmas_on_heliumFresh belief flooded over me. One of my old pals, Christmas on Helium, joined us in bed – he’s the character in my head with undiluted enthusiasm for life. Dad 100 was most definitely asleep when I took the test, but when I got the result, my bouncy friend decided to WAKE HIM UP!

Thank you, Dad 100, for putting up with my weird friends!

Transfer day

So here we are – our date with our micro-babies. Friday 14th October at 12.50pm. I’ve just had the Love and Hope surge. I feel the incredible potential of our rainbow baby. I am wearing bright colours to the hospital, to celebrate life. |

And I am thinking of all of you. I am so grateful for your love and for sharing your own experiences so openly. Without you, I would be stranded.

A blog about making decisions and new hope…

…but first, a yell from the kitchen!
‘What’s wrong?’ I called down the stairs.
‘They’re back,’ Dad 100 said.
I knew straight away. The pitter patter of tiny feet!

They first came in the spring. Our landlord sent in builders to repair holes. For months, there wasn’t a whisker. Then our rental contract came up for renewal. At the time, we talked about moving but IVF1 was well underway. So we signed for another six months. And now, they’re back – mice!

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This isn’t bad news, however…

…it’s actually a helpful development. The little squeakers have helped us make a decision we’ve been putting off because of IVF. We’ve decided to see if it’s possible to buy a house. There will be many steps to achieve this dream but it’s great to start the process. The big baby question doesn’t have to hold up the rest of our life.

Making this decision has released so much hope, including about our second embryo transfer later this month. IVF and pregnancy loss have made me feel powerless at times, so I’m truly grateful for this renewed inspiration. There’s a saying that ‘when you polish over here, then it shines over there’. In terms of our hopes for a family, often the best thing I can do is to focus on something else. I have made the mistake of putting all my energy into creating a family. I have believed that if I give absolutely everything I have to this quest for a baby, then it has to work out – right? In reality, that single-mindedness wears me out.

Where does hope come from?

All this got me thinking about hope. Since making the decision to move house, a locked door has sprung open in my mind. Behind that door, there is bright light. It’s delightful to feel hope’s full beam once again. Why don’t I just decide to be hopeful all the time? Why has hope been stored away in such abundance? Surely it’s better to live my life focused on possibilities?

You can’t have one without the other

I think there’s a good reason why I can’t feel hopeful all the time. It came to me while I was doing this drawing. To colour the kite, instinctively I reached for purple and pink pens.

mum100-ivf-blog-hope-instagramLater, I remembered this balloon drawing, which I did in May 2016 after our doctor told us we had lost our first pregnancy. The purple and pink balloons were to acknowledge and release our loss.

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So why are these drawings the same colours? It’s because hope and despair are made from the same raw materials, the experiences we go through in life. They only exist because of each other. To feel hope, I must also know despair. To appreciate fully when life is going my way, I must experience failure or the loss of things I love.

Paradoxical unity

Coincidentally, this week I picked up a book called Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life: Living The Wisdom Of The Tao. In this book, Dr Wayne Dyer explores the 81 verses of the Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese book of wisdom. Dyer describes the Tao as ‘the ultimate discourse on the nature of existence.’

Verse 2 of the Tao Te Ching is relevant to this theme of ‘paradoxical unity’.

Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty,
only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good because there is evil.

Being and nonbeing produce each other.
The difficult is born in the easy.
Long is defined by short, the high by the low.
Before and after go along with each other.

So the sage lives openly with apparent duality
and paradoxical unity.
The sage can act without effort
and teach without words.
Nurturing things without possessing them,
he works, but not for rewards;
he competes, but not for results.

When the work is done, it is forgotten,
That is why it lasts forever.

I love this verse because it helps me understand why it is necessary to feel difficult feelings and go through painful experiences in life. Without them, I cannot appreciate the flip side – just how wonderful life can be. I love the idea of living ‘openly with apparent duality’ – for me, this is about surrendering to life’s twists and turns, accepting that the light and the shade are equally necessary.

Hope springs from taking action

For months, I have felt stuck in areas of my life, including where we live and changing my career. I have believed that I can’t make any big changes while we are going through IVF. Whilst there is definitely a good argument for taking one big thing at a time in life, I have found that recent decisions to move house and to study psychotherapy have recharged my spirit. Those decisions are generating positive actions to take in my life – actions which connect me to the world and make me feel excited about the part I can play.

An example of transformation

mum100-ivf-blog-hopeFinally, this gift arrived. It was a beautiful surprise from a friend in our community, Sofie. She read my last blog about my partner losing his Dad.

The timing of the delivery was inspired. My partner was having a very tough morning. On the surface, he was frustrated with work challenges. Underneath, it was only days after his Dad’s funeral. The doorbell buzzed and he went downstairs to answer the door. He brought a parcel back up to our flat. It was addressed to both of us.
‘What’s this?’ he said.
We opened it and then I explained – it was from someone who understood what he was going through.
‘I find that so amazing,’ he said. ‘People actually care.’

In that moment, his sadness was transformed to gratitude, thanks to this unexpected kindness.