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.

glass-tears-man-ray

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
Advertisements

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.

ivf-blog-mum100-positive-pregnancy-test-hpt

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).

ivf-blog-mum100-pregnant-2-3-weeks-clearblue-pregnancy-test-on-track

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!

ivf-blog-mum100-pineapple-two-week-wait-embryo-transfer

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!

ivf-blog-mum-100-blue-poison-dart-frog-london-zoo

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.

ivf-blog-mum-100-london-zoo-stork

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.