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.

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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.