Today, yesterday, tomorrow

Today

My intention this morning was to write a post about keeping busy and cheerful – and the day did begin on track. I danced to some tunes in the living room. I air-boxed infertility. I had a soak in the bath and enjoyed the warmth on my back. I used generous quantities of sea salt body scrub. Then I tucked into a large bowl of porridge with banana and nuts. I was set up for the day.

After breakfast, I sat down at the computer. I intended to create my plan for staying positive. The blank page would not be filled, however. My eyes glazed over and my brain switched to standby mode. I just couldn’t make myself think. I flicked through social media instead, to find a hook back into the world. Somehow, I managed to send the hospital report to Airbnb, who are considering our refund request for the Ibiza accommodation. It took an hour to achieve that, however, as I couldn’t work out how to attach the document on the website. I cried on the phone to the Airbnb agent, who said I could email the report to him instead – thank you Paolo.

For lunch, we had homemade soup and a long hug, which is when I remembered that I don’t get to decide how this goes. Many people have said to take it easy, that the feelings will come and go. So I went back to bed this afternoon and slept for an hour, which was the perfect medicine.

At tea time, I had peanut butter and honey on toast (a suggestion from a friend on Twitter, which sounded so disgustingly delicious, I had to try it). Then the spark came to do a quick drawing, as we’re packing for the seaside and I didn’t want to go without saying thank you for the loving messages – they take the loneliness out of this experience.

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Yesterday

We had a three hour wait for our blood test results, which would indicate whether a scan was required. While we waited, we left the hospital for a walk in the sunshine and some lunch (another great suggestion from an IVF sister). On the way back to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit, we picked up a new prescription from the hospital pharmacy for Progynova and Cyclogest – to signal our confidence to each other that there was good news ahead. When we returned to the unit, there was an episode of Jeremy Kyle on the waiting room TV. It was a DNA testing episode, where they prove conclusively who is or isn’t the daddy. Cue the shouting and finger pointing and storming off set – nightmare show!

Thankfully, we were called by the nurse. She was quick to tell us the result.
“I’m afraid it’s not good news,” she said. Six little words that ended IVF1.

We were taken through to the doctor’s room. It was Nargis, the same doctor as last Thursday. She was kind and very clear. She said to stop taking the medication now. I felt a bit daft clutching the prescription bag.
“Come back in a week’s time for another blood test,” Nargis said. “We need to monitor the hormone levels, to make sure they drop further.”

Walking out of hospital, there were just sounds – footsteps, alarm beeps, doors opening and closing. It was a strange experience of shrinking inside myself, like a hedgehog curling up. People were featureless shapes in the corridor. It is true that the world blurs with bad news. In the hospital entrance, we were stuck in a buggy jam, but the sensory shutdown protected me. The buggies were just dark blobs. With his arm around my waist, Dad 100 steered me through the gap. When we got to the car, we sat for a minute, holding hands.

Naively, we thought we were prepared for this outcome. Since our double embryo transfer, there have been so many warnings that things weren’t right. Low beta results, continuous bleeding, medics giving opinions – but of course, hope is stronger than all of that. The instinct to protect and believe in the life inside me superseded all the gloom. So when the conclusive statement came – “your beta-HCG levels have dropped, which confirms the miscarriage” – we both felt a fresh punch.

Tomorrow

In the morning, we’re heading to the east coast for our overnight stay. We have booked a comfortable hotel room with a big bed and sea view. I’m really looking forward to the fresh air and the old-fashioned arcade games on Southwold pier. Sunshine is forecast when we get into town. See you all very soon – thank you so much for your friendship.

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Happy holiday head

I woke up with a fuzzball head – that feeling you get if you’ve stayed up late watching crap TV, gobbling chocolate. There was a swirl in my stomach. I said to Dad 100, “I feel a bit pregnant”. He suggested a group hug.

This slightly pregnant feeling has come and gone today. In the last four weeks, I have learned that symptoms, or lack of them, do not necessarily mean what I think they mean. Tomorrow, our scan will clarify, we hope.

There is an aeroplane landing in Ibiza this evening with two empty seats. We have no regrets about cancelling. It would have been beyond daft to travel to a small island, a boat ride from Ibiza Town, with this question mark about the nature and location of our pregnancy. Formentera can wait.

Soon, I need to look for new work. The money I set aside for time out in IVF1 runs out in August. I’m not sure where the next project will come from but I know that confidence will come by taking even the smallest actions towards work – baby steps are the most creative, after all.

For now, it’s holiday time. So, I’m dedicating this week to happiness.

Reading

Over the weekend, I picked up a fine haul of books at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival. I was drawn to the heightened emotions of gothic tales – Sarah Perry’s After Me Comes the Flood and Eleanor Wasserberg’s debut Foxlowe. Eleanor gave a captivating reading by candlelight in the 16th century Old Church (the only surviving Elizabethan church in London). The setting was ideal for spook and intrigue.

Candelight-Old-Church-Stoke-Newington-Literary-FestivalThe authors also discussed Mary Shelley, including her experiences of loss as a mother – three of Shelley’s four children died in early childhood, from premature birth, dysentery and malaria. There was also Shelley’s own traumatic birth. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, died due to complications in childbirth, when her daughter was just eleven days old. From these beginnings, the birth of Frankenstein seems inevitable – Shelley’s classic gothic tale, conceived 200 years ago.

Sun

After-Me-Comes-The-Flood-Sarah-PerryLondon glowed gold today. I lay on the long grass on the common with the sun on my face and Sarah Perry’s After Me Comes the Flood. This book has incredible atmosphere, eerie and mesmerising. I disappeared into the tale of John Cole, the man who escapes London, only to break down on a country road. He makes his way through pine trees to a house, where to his surprise, he is expected.

Food

I was born a little pig and I shan’t change. Tonight, I’m dreaming of peanut butter, spread on crispy toast, with banana slices. This snack is both disgusting and delicious. It sticks to the roof of my mouth and clogs my teeth – but, my god, when this combo hits the bloodstream, my brain lights up like Blackpool tower.

Sea & travel

Dont-Need-The-Sunshine-John-OsborneThe next best thing to a spa in Formentera is a B&B in Southwold – oh yes it is! At Stokey Lit Fest, we went to an event with writer John Osborne. He read from Don’t Need The Sunshine, his book about the crumbling fascination of British seaside towns. John read a passage where he plays the coin-operated arcade machines on Southwold pier. They are ‘lovingly constructed’ games, with names such as The Chiropodist, The Zimmer Frame Simulator and Walking the Dog.

When we get home from hospital tomorrow, we’re booking an overnight stay. There will be battered cod and fat vinegary chips. We’ll share a side of mushy peas. I will crunch my gherkin alone, however, as Dad 100 thinks they are the preserve of monsters. There will be pier games and ice cream. After dark, we’ll sit on the beach and star gaze.

Who needs Formetera, eh?

Sisters

My IVF sisters are a constant source of happiness. These connections are vital to me. They allow me to find out what I’m really feeling and deal with it. I cannot navigate this strange journey alone. I have booked a ticket for Fertility Fest in London on Saturday 11th June – for some face-to-face time with people who understand.

And I must say thank you to my real sister, Georgie, who reaches out consistently with love and support.

Drawing

Today’s doodle reminded me to focus on what makes me happy.

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Music & dancing

This Paolo Nutini song helped to shake off the fuzz this morning. I love the teenage simplicity of the idea that new shoes can fix a rubbish mood – and it’s always good to move my bod to music.

Comedy

I want to laugh until my cheeks hurt this week. Daft cat or monkey videos will probably do the trick tonight. I will also surprise tickle Dad 100 and he will attempt to get me back. Later this week, we’ll find some laughs on Southwold pier.

Sleep

My lifelong love, sleep! I’m an eight hour girl. Life is baffling enough without sleep deprivation – I’ll willingly do my stint at broken nights when my babies arrive, but tonight, I will sleep very well after the fresh air and sunshine.

Hugs

When Dad 100 wraps his arms around me and squeezes tight, the tension flows out of my body. Virtual hugs from friends online relieve mental stress.

Each hug is a jab to infertility’s jaw – BAM!! Sending a big hug to everyone out there who is suffering. Let’s stick together – because as a team, we can knock infertility out.

To the sea

Mum100-blog-IVF-embryo-transfer-bleeding-loss-acceptance-trustFirst of all, a big thank you, to all the bloggers and tweeters who have supported us during our first IVF cycle. Your encouragement and suggestions have been a blessing. The kindness of strangers is remarkable.

Dad 100 and I are now initiated in the dark side of IVF. Until now, fertility treatment has been a long, but mainly procedural, road including:

  • dozens of hospital appointments (thankfully, close to our home)
  • giving up generous quantities of my blood (that’s fine, I can make more!)
  • countless tablets, injections, supplements and suppositories
  • some emotional ups and downs (Mother’s Day was tough, for example, but mainly there has been hope in abundance)
  • two operations with anaesthetic for me
  • one date with the ‘procurement room’ for Dad 100 😉
  • Olympic-level googling

Overall, our minds were focused on being a first time IVF success story. I pictured receiving my embryos, which our doctor said were good quality blastocysts (oh, the pride when they passed their first test!). I imagined my womb lining as the perfect home for our blasters. I considered how much time I might need off work in the first trimester. I saved every penny I could for maternity leave. The tale I was telling myself was that IVF was as simple as I allowed it to be.

How IVF 1 turned out

Our first IVF journey has taken fifteen months – from attending our first consultation and patient information evening in February 2015, to today, eight days past our double embryo transfer. The transfer was one of the happiest days of my life. Dad 100 was glowing with happiness when we came out of theatre. His face reflected everything I felt inside – the long process was worth it, for the love and connection we felt.

Then, I had some spotting on day three past embryo transfer. I have been bleeding heavily since day four. I am still taking oestrogen and progesterone, as advised by our hospital. However, I don’t have any pregnancy symptoms – and if there was the faintest swirl of nausea, or the tiniest twinge of sore breasts, I would be hanging on to that right now!

On Friday, we have our blood test (day ten past embryo transfer) – the hospital have brought the test forward, due to the amount of bleeding. If we get a negative result, then at least I can stop the meds, including the delightful Cyclogest (which actually isn’t that bad). If we get a positive test result, well, I will officially hand over everything I think I know in a bag marked ‘bollocks’ – then I will dance the tango along Homerton High Street.

Kindness is everything

What has been amazing over the past few days is the kindness that Dad 100 and I have shown to each other. We have talked whenever we needed. We have felt angry and sad and then absolutely fine, and then angry and sad all over again. We both know how important it is not to direct anger at one another. We have just said a lot of nice things to each other, which shoos away the fear and loneliness that creep up.

We’ve had some fun too, including some spontaneous meals out. It really does help to get out, especially when the sun is shining. After 3 days heavy bleeding, I relaxed my ultra-nutritious pregnancy menu and had this f**king gorgeous pizza instead – guilt free.

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We’ve also decided to go on holiday. We went to a couple of travel agents, because our planning brains have turned to mashed potato. However, the packages weren’t right for us. Our focus was to find warmth and blue sea – the kind of gentle, turquoise water that you get in the Caribbean. So, last night, we booked our flights to Ibiza – leaving on Monday 6th June. We’re going clubbing, people, we are going clubbing! Party all night, sleep on the beach all day!

Only kidding 😉 When we arrive, we’re taking the ferry from Ibiza Town to Formentera – the very relaxed little sister of Ibiza. Formentera is a small island, which mainly consists of beaches like this. GET IN!!!

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(Photo credit: Trip Advisor)

We’ve found a lovely hotel with a pool and spa facilities. They do the best breakfast on the island, including baking all their own bread and pastries. We going to hire mopeds and explore the island and swim swim swim.

My future kids are very happy about this adventure. I am relieved and delighted to say that they’re still with me. When the bleeding first started, I was scared that I wouldn’t be able to connect with my family vision anymore. I feared the trust had gone. In the past, I have walked away from things I have wanted, when they have become tough. Would it be the same with this?

I cried when we did our first meditation after the bleeding started – the peace was overwhelming. However, once I settled into the meditation, the experience was wonderful. Mum100-blog-IVF-embryo-transfer-bleeding-loss-acceptance-trustI saw a picture of my family in a rowing boat at sea, an image which sums up how I feel. We definitely need to work out our new direction, but we’re all still on board, and we are united.

In meditation, I also saw another picture of Dad 100 and me, swinging our future kids round in circles, their faces delighted with how dizzy their Mum and Dad are getting. Future kids, we love you. We’re willing to wait for you. We will step up as best we can to the challenge ahead.

Dad 100 has banned any further IVF research for the rest of this week, because yesterday I went into manic research mode. We have decided to get a second opinion from a private clinic. I spent some time on the Human Fertilisation & Embryology Association website, looking at success rates for fertility clinics in the UK. I made myself feel rubbish, however, looking at how success rates decline as women get older. Dad 100 said it was too soon for figuring out the next steps and he was right.

cool_sunglasses_emoticonSo for now, our focus is on rest, laughter and gratitude. We are feeling the feelings as they come. We are letting them go when they go. And we are getting excited about our little holiday!!

 

How long will the butterfly stay?

Mum100-blog-IVF-red-admiral-butterfly-bleeding-after-ivf-embryo-transferI wanted to draw a tortoiseshell butterfly today. I don’t know why. The image came to me when I woke up, fluttering around my mind.

I used to see these butterflies as a girl, every summer, growing up in the countryside. I loved their flame orange wings with bold black and gold markings. I was fascinated by their furry brown bodies and dotty antennae.

They decorated the flowers in our garden. Their landing pads were bright petals and green leaves, in the beds my Mum created. They flapped from flower to flower; pairs danced in the sky.

I remember trying to catch tortoiseshells in my hands. I approached with the focus of a tiger, steady and soundless. Close in, I held my breath. I raised my hands, and so quickly, I cupped them around a butterfly, catching petals in my hands. Mostly, I missed; the butterfly flapped up and away, zig-zagging across the garden.

Eventually, I caught one. I held my hands in a ball shape, to give enough space and light. I carried it with me, those delicate wings tickling my palms. Then there was the pleasure of opening my hands, a magic trick reveal, before the tortoiseshell took off to the sky.

Occasionally, the butterfly sat in my hands, its tiny feet resting on my palms. That was the greatest wonder of all, those rare times when the little creature chose to stay with me – even for a few extra heartbeats, when it had all the freedom to fly away. In those moments, I believed the butterfly knew I meant it no harm. When it did leave, I watched, both delighted and sad to see it go.

Now I live in the city, I don’t see butterflies so much. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I saw one. I should get out to the countryside more, to remember those glorious warm summers of childhood. They were endless golden spaces, certainly my memory has made them so. Where we lived, we were surrounded by wheat fields and long grass. There were giant pines and horse chestnuts to climb, apples and blackberries to pick, big ditches to jump and scrape our knees. There were miles of farmland to explore, the roar of green combines at harvest gave such a thrill.

Any adventure was possible in that landscape.

Day 4 past our double embryo transfer

Today, the cramps are much stronger. Since 6am, I have been passing red blood. I have said my prayers of acceptance for whatever is happening to our beautiful blasters. Tears are coming and going. It really helped to draw my little butterfly this morning, there was comfort in that.

I am drawing lots of strength from the words of my IVF sisters yesterday. I know pretty much anything can happen in the two week wait, and still result in a positive pregnancy test. I have read about pregnancies in the IVF community that are nothing short of a miracle.

We spoke to the nurse at the hospital, who said to keep taking the medication and rest. There’s nothing else we can do in this waiting game. The nurse said if it becomes a full period, chances are we’ve lost them. I still have hope.

So, I’m taking to my bed today, to draw and write, read and sleep, whatever I feel like doing or not doing. Dad 100 is making some homemade tomato soup.

I am not in charge of the miracle.

This too shall pass.

Reassurance is human

Mum100-blog-IVF-day-3-past-embryo-transfer-spotting-words-wisdom-welcomeIt’s day 3 past my 5-day embryo transfer. I had mild cramping, low down. Over several hours, I passed a small amount of brown blood. I was frightened when it started. I went for a walk to the shop, to clear my head. A guy with a can of Tennent’s lager called out, “cheer up love”. I managed a smile, further down the road.

Mum100_blog_Doctor_Google_overgoogling_IVF_fertility_treatment_answersDr Google was at my door when I got home. He was making his usual guarantees of total certainty and fast results. I let him into my flat, having promised myself I wouldn’t hang out with him in the two week wait. Dr Google found an article that reflected back exactly what I wanted to see – this one on implantation bleeding. It satisfied me for about five minutes, but then I wanted more!

Thankfully, I soon realised that no amount of googling could solve the real problem. I needed connection with human beings, with people who have been where I have been, people who understand these strange tricks of the mind. So, I reached out to the IVF community on Twitter instead.

Some helpful and kind responses came very quickly (thank you sisters!) – reassuring me that my symptoms are perfectly normal, and more importantly, reminding me I’m not alone. I also asked Dad 100 for a hug.

I’ve learned again today that reassurance is provided by humans not internet searches. A Google search is a sprint in the darkness: I will get somewhere fast, but I might slam into a brick wall!

IVF sisters – I really appreciate your company and kindness. Thank you!

 

On Cyclogest – (very likely too much information!)

I’ve been awakened to the delights of Cyclogest suppositories, which start tomorrow morning. I did know they were coming because I’m an over-googler – but in the fifteen months of going to our fertility clinic, the nurses have been zip-lipped about this one! Until they schlipped this little piece of paper across the desk…

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On returning home from the hospital, I took a stroll to our local pharmacy. I had the most un-British of conversations with a lovely assistant, who proposed various options to “help it on its way”.

“Did you want some gloves?” she said.
“Um, not sure.”
“We have latex or cotton.”
“Er.”
“One pair? Or we’ve got four pair packs.”
“If I go the glove route, I’ll need a lot more than that.”
“Your best bet is to call back after lunch. The pharmacist will be back then. He’s ever so helpful.”
“Great, I’ll do that.” (In other words: I bought some toothpaste and left sharpish, never to return).

Back home, I discovered again how much support is available in the IVF community online. I found some experienced IVF sisters, who freely shared their marvellous tips – including exactly how to bend and insert. And then there was this priceless tip on exactly how far the Cyclolaughing-smiley-cries-tears-of-joygest needs to go in:

“I’d describe it as…“until your bum swallows it”. When it does, you’ll know.”

Mum100-blog-cyclogest-IVF-frozen-embryo-transferA big thank you to @hopeepimum, @tweettoconceive and @mamaedenandme for making me laugh-cry and for teaching me that there is, in fact, an emoji sequence for the Cyclogest experience. Fancy that!

2 little changes I’ve made after reading “It Starts with the Egg”

Mum100_blog_It_Starts_With_The_Egg_Rebecca_Fett_vitamin_D_plastic_BPA_IVF_fertilityI’ve had a few days now, to absorb all the information in Rebecca Fett’s book – “It Starts with the Egg”. I devoured this book in one sitting because the evidence base was so compelling. I rely far too much on Dr Google, so it was fantastic to read such clear guidance and see how much research Rebecca had studied to draw her conclusions (on the Kindle version of her book, p245 to p303 are the list of references she cites!).

To be honest, the book sent me into a bit of a spin for 24 hours. I thought, right, I have to implement every single one of Rebecca Fett’s recommendations today – ha! Thankfully, common sense has returned and now I have taken a couple of actions, which feel most relevant for me.

Vitamin D spray

I’ve topped up my vitamin supply with some Zita West Vitamin D spray. Here are three quotes from “It Starts with the Egg”, which convinced me this was a good idea – it’s possibly worth getting a test for vitamin D deficiency first, for those with time to play with, but my embryo transfer is just weeks away:

  • “In one of the most compelling studies, which was published in 2012, researchers at Columbia University and the University of Southern California measured vitamin D levels in nearly 200 women undergoing IVF. Of the Caucasian women in the group, the odds of pregnancy were four times higher for women with high vitamin D levels compared to those with a vitamin D deficiency. This trend was not seen in women of Asian ethnicity, but for Caucasian women there was such a powerful difference in the chance of becoming pregnant that it should make anyone about to go through IVF think twice about their own vitamin D levels.”
  • “It is not yet known how vitamin D is involved in fertility, but researchers suspect that one of the ways it may improve fertility is by making the uterine lining more receptive to pregnancy. Specifically, some scientists think that vitamin D deficiency may contribute to infertility by interrupting the estrogen system and also reducing production of antimullerian hormone which is involved in the growth of ovarian follicles. Another enticing clue about the role of vitamin D in fertility is the discovery that there are specific receptors for vitamin D in cells in the ovaries and the uterus.”
  • “It is likely that vitamin D supplements can only improve fertility if you are currently deficient, but a deficiency is surprisingly common, particularly in cooler climates. By some estimates, as much as 36% of the U.S. population is deficient, and the rate nearly doubled from 1994 to 2004. Researchers believe this is largely due to reduced time outdoors and greater use of sunscreen because even though we obtain small amounts from food, the vast majority of vitamin D in the body is made after skin is exposed to sunlight.”

Given the facts that I live in England, I work indoors and it’s been a long cold winter, I’m going for it.

Glass food storage containers

Secondly, I’ve chucked out my tatty plastic storage containers and I’ve bought a glass food storage set. They still have plastic lids, but they are BPA-free (which is the worst offender, according to Fett) and the food will only be in contact with glass. Rebecca writes that as long as you don’t damage the plastic by heating it up or washing with harsh detergents in hot water, then the nasty BPA is less likely to leach out. She suggests washing all plastics in cold water to minimise this.

Other information in “It Starts with the Egg”

There’s so much more good information in “It Starts with the Egg” about phthalates and other toxins, thyroid problems, vitamins, coenzyme Q10, Mediterranean diet, PCOS, DHEA for dimished ovarian reserve, blood sugar and insulin, antioxidants, sperm quality and much more – with basic, intermediate and advanced action plans to follow, if you want to implement suggestions she makes.

Finally, I love the quote Rebecca Fett puts at the start of her action plan chapter:

  • “Forget past mistakes. Forget failures. Forget everything except what you are going to do now and do it” – William Durant

That sums it up for me because according to her book, I have made quite a few mistakes. But that’s alright, because I didn’t know any different!

Buckle up, I’m on the oestrogen!

Mum100_blog_progynova_oestrogen_tablets_IVF_rocket_fuelThree little blue pills each day: IVF science is launching me skywards after my fake menopause! We’re on countdown to my beautiful blasters coming home to mama.

Thankfully, all went well at our first pre-transfer scan. Our nurse reduced my Suprecur injections to 0.3ml per night. She added in 6mg of oestrogen – aka rocket fuel.

Mum100_blog_starship_oestrogen_ivf_embryo_transfer_up_and_awayEdgy McSpark is still on the scene, but he definitely approves of the impressive spacecraft flames.

To all my IVF sisters and brothers, I couldn’t do this daring adventure without you. Thank you for lighting up the galaxy for me with your experience and encouragement.

Piglet’s delight

I’ve always been a little piglet. You’ll find me leading the lunch line, sampling in supermarkets. Hurl me headlong into a hamper and I’m happy.

Of course, now I’m looking through the fertility food lens. My initial research, along with suggestions from IVF sisters, points to all the food I love anyway – mediterranean cooking, ample fruit and vegetables, good proteins. Hooray!

Today, I’m adding salmon to the baby-making basket, full of omega 3 fatty acids – which is good for building babies, especially their brain and eyes. Omega 3 also boosts blood flow to the oven.

Wow, Mother Nature is inspired!

Listening to my IVF sisters

I woke up before daylight with my bing-bong-lala-chatty-mind for company. It wanted to talk at 5.47am.

I’m excited about our embryo transfer. It’s all very real now, which means my neurons are flashing like fireworks.

Thank goodness for the wise words of my friends and IVF sisters – who have reminded me throughout the day about the importance of rest, play and relaxation.

So, I had a bath and listened to a visualisation CD. I had lunch with friends. This afternoon, I put on my PJs and chilled on the sofa.

Bedtime now, because sleep is definitely needed.

Night night, people.