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.

Mum100-blog-IVF-journey-do-what-makes-you-happy

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.

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A faraway star called hope

Mum100-blog-IVF-hope-uncertainty-incomplete-miscarriage-early-pregnancyPseudo sac, pouch of Douglas, foetal pole – a fresh batch of medical phrases I picked up in hospital on Thursday.

If nothing else in IVF1, my vocabulary is growing.

The day starts well

My friend Jessie visits. We met at university sixteen years ago. Somehow we managed to get degrees, despite our commitment to the pub over the road. Jessie has been through so much with pregnancy, including miscarriage, stillbirth and successful pregnancies. Thank God for friends with experience. There is no awkwardness when I tell her my news.

Jessie tells me about having no pregnancy symptoms with her two kids. She tells me about having an early scan with her daughter, where the doctor wrongly diagnosed an incomplete miscarriage. We talk about the loss of her son and how difficult people find it if she mentions him. We also speak about her two teenage kids – who were a tot and a pregnancy bump when our friendship first started.

We head out for lunch. We order juice and healthy-sounding burgers. We pick up our conversation with the plot leaps in friends’ lives, since we last met up.

Suddenly, I have an intense cramp, so strong that I feel sick. I try to stay with the conversation. There is that daft British instinct not to make a fuss (stupid habit!) but then comes the heaviest bleeding yet.

Thankfully, common sense returns. I tell Jessie what is happening. She understands, immediately. We make our apologies to the café staff and head home.

Game shows and new words

Dad 100 and I drive to hospital. We go straight to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit. A sleepy lady on reception gives me a clipboard with a form to fill out.

During our afternoon in hospital, we discover that Channel 4 afternoon telly is the same as thirty years ago – Fifteen to One and Countdown – except both shows have different hosts now. The presenters I grew up watching are now retired (William G Stewart) and dead (Richard Whiteley). I laugh at the swift reminder of my age.

Within ten minutes, we see a nurse who takes brief details. Back to the waiting room for more quiz questions – I get one right about the Pixar movie, Inside Out (great film) – then we are called for a scan.

The sonographer is an Irish man called Robert. I ask him to show me what he can see on the screen. He shows me my right ovary, normal he says. I look at the grey ball with black follicles, an asteroid in space. Then we whizz over to my left ovary – abnormal, he says, due to an endometriomal cyst. Old news, Robert, old news.

Robert says there is fluid in my pouch of Douglas – er, sorry? my pouch of whom exactly? It turns out there’s a cavity between my uterus and rectum, named after a Scottish anatomist called Dr James Douglas. The good doctor explored this area of female anatomy in the early 18th century. He then named body parts he discovered after himself, including said pouch!

A jellyfish head

Then Robert shows me my uterus. The consulting room suddenly feels wide open, roofless. Time stops for at least twelve heartbeats. Robert points the device at the top of my uterus. He shows me what looks like a jellyfish head – a floaty ghostlike appearance.

“It looks like a small gestational sac,” Robert says.
“Oh, really?” I say.
Dad 100 and I peer at the screen, hopeful, a bit tearful.
“But I can’t see anything inside it,” Robert says. “There’s no foetal pole or yolk sac, so it may be a pseudo sac.”

A pseudo what?

When I am dressed, I ask Robert to explain further. He is perching on the clinical waste bin by the door, however – he’s a scan and run kind of guy.

“Take a seat in the waiting room,” he says. “The doctor will call you soon.”

Cue the purple plastic chairs and the theme tune for Countdown. Dad 100 and I lose ourselves in the letters and numbers games. I get a 7 letter word – PLASTER. I award myself an extra mark for the relevance to our location.

The doctor calls

Nargis is her name. She is friendly with a round face, around fifty years old. I am reassured by her slightly messy hair. In the consulting room, Nargis invites us to take a seat.

I peer at Robert’s report on her desk, while Nargis types up notes. Have you ever tried reading medical words upside down? It’s a skill, I tell you, to cross your eyes in exactly the right way, whilst trying not to be caught out.

I learn from my snooping that I’m 6 weeks pregnant. The expected delivery date is 26th January 2017, tucked between my birthday on 16th January and Dad 100’s birthday on 4th February.

I see Robert’s report of the 2mm gestational sac and I feel that wide-open-stand-still feeling.

Then comes Robert’s diagnosis: “incomplete miscarriage.”

Okay, I’ll stop reading now.

Report

“There is always a chance”

“So, what is happening actually?” Nargis says. She has an uplifting smile.
“No idea,” I say.
“We have seen a very tiny sac. It could be a pseudo sac or it could be a pregnancy sac. At this moment, we are not sure.”
“So, there is still a chance that there’s something in there?”
“Might be, I don’t know, but the pregnancy hormone level suggests that it could be an incomplete miscarriage or ectopic. We have not seen any foetal pole. No yolk sac.”

Nargis takes time with us. She asks questions about the level of bleeding and pain. She doesn’t rush us, which is the best gift any doctor can give. We can think and breathe and ask questions. Nargis takes some more blood from my arm, to test beta-HCG levels and iron.

“We will do another scan on Tuesday and we will test your hormone levels again,” Nargis says. “Then we will discuss what management we will do.”
“Is there still a possibility of things working out?” Dad 100 asks.
“I am not sure at the moment. There might be. There is a sac. To see something inside, the hormone level should be around 1000.”

I ask Nargis about other explanations for the sac. Do they sometimes form without anything in them? She says it could be that – a pseudo sac – an impression that I am pregnant. Sometimes the uterus will do that, apparently, in response to a pregnancy of unknown location. It can also mean an incomplete miscarriage. She says the fluid in my pouch of Douglas may have come from the gestational sac.

“In your experience, Nargis, are there ever cases with this amount of bleeding, where things work out?”
She smiles, takes a breath.
“Be truthful, it’s okay,” I say.
“It could be a miscarriage. I don’t want to give you false hope. But there is always a chance. So please carry on with the progesterone and oestrogen until Tuesday.”

Mum100-blog-IVF-hope-uncertainty-incomplete-miscarriage-early-pregnancyThere it is again – a faraway star called hope, twinkling constantly.

Omelettes and psychics

At 4.15pm, Dad 100 and I finally get some lunch in our favourite caff near the hospital. Spanish omelette, chips and peas. Oh, the relief of food. We both feel calmer with grub to demolish over a debrief session.

We agree – we have not yet heard conclusive proof that it’s over. There is the possibility that it was too early to see anything in the sac. I tell Dad 100 about Jessie’s story of her early scan and the wrong diagnosis of incomplete miscarriage. How we reach for hopeful stories at these times. We devour our food like hungry bears and head up to the counter to pay.

A woman calls out to me from across the café.
“I like your shoes,” she says.
“Thank you.”
She has wild dark hair. She is wearing clothes that could either be pyjamas or comfy casuals. She fixes her eyes on me.
“I am psychic,” she says.
I’m always intrigued by strange characters, so I stop for a chat.
“What’s your name?” I say.
“Sybil. Do you have an education, a husband?”
I say yes for simplicity, although Dad 100 and I are far too lazy bones to organise a wedding.
“Ask me something,” she says.
“Okay, why not? What do you think will happen next Tuesday?”
“It may go up, it may go down,” Sybil says. “But really, the most important thing is balance.”
Sybil then says something about taking care of my heart, which I don’t quite catch. Her parting line is this, “you need to believe in something.”
“Thanks Sybil, that’s good advice.”
“Thank you for talking to me,” she says. “I am staying in the hospital. You can come and visit me there, if you like.”

Outside the caff, it makes us smile. That we still have hope, despite all the odds. That we still believe there may be miraculous news, possibly even delivered by Sybil the psychic!

It’s great to find out that hope is stronger than fear.

How not to do the two week wait

We learn along the way in this glorious pond called life, don’t we? And what I’ve learned since our double embryo transfer is:

  1. It’s called the two week wait for a reason
  2. I am not very good at waiting

Yesterday, our third beta/HCG result was 321 – up from 37 last week. We have managed to baffle our doctors enough for them to refer us elsewhere. Next Tuesday, we’re off on a mini-break to the Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit, to have a scan.

Er, rewind a minute – was that number in the hundreds? Three hundred and twenty one? Yes, it was my loves! There is absolutely no denying it now. I am pregnant. Astonished and thrilled.

Mum100-blog-how-not-to-do-two-week-wait-IVFYesterday, the nurse said again that our beta/HCG numbers are still too low. ‘Possible ectopic’, ‘unviable’, ‘not what we normally see’. Despite these predictions, I’m taking in the warm encouragement from our community online. The medics do not know everything – and until our scan next Tuesday, I am sticking my fingers in my ears about possible complications.

Instead, I will believe in my baby or babies growing inside me, until such time as someone proves conclusively otherwise – as one IVF friend said to me this week, medical professionals often think the worst.

The way I see it is this – let’s say I have two kids. I’m at their sports day, standing by the race track with the athletics coach. Ready, set, go! The coach blows the whistle and all the kids fly off the starting blocks, except mine. The coach blows again, long and hard. My kids make a slow start but they’re having a go. The coach turns to me and says: “rubbish runners, your kids, look at all the others so much further ahead.”

What would I do in this situation?

  • Would I cheer my kids on?
  • Would I feel proud of them for having a go?
  • Would I still believe they can finish the race?

Of course I would! I would never give up on them and go home. And if the athletics coach piped up again – ‘some kids should just take Art class instead’ – I would bop his boney bum with a baton!

I just need to be a mum right now, to the little life or lives growing inside me. I am truly grateful for this strange and wonderful experience of being pregnant.

THANK YOU MOTHER NATURE FOR OUR FIRST BFP!!

From this point forward, I solemnly promise to:

  • Believe in the life or lives inside me
  • Talk to my future kids everyday
  • Take it day by day
  • Have more fun and distract myself more
  • Stop believing that doctors and nurses know everything
  • Refrain from panic buying another holiday (we have to cancel our holiday next week, but I honestly don’t mind)
  • Eat a combination of healthy food and treats, as it doesn’t have to be perfect
  • Avoid Dr Google – my symptoms are what they are, no amount of misinformation can change them


Mistakes I’ve made…

I also wanted to record here all the mistakes I made in our first two week wait, mainly as impulsive reactions to the ongoing bleeding. If we go through IVF again, I can remind myself what not to do.

Transfer day: two 5-day blastocysts come home to mamma – the happiest day.

1 day and 2 days past transfer: nothing to report – I am confident I will breeze through the 2 weeks.

3 days past 5 day transfer: Cramping, dark blood, mild panic sets in. I Google my symptoms. My TTC sisters cheer me up.

4dp5dt: Fresh bleeding begins – I think it’s all over. I draw a butterfly for about three hours – therapy!

5dp5dt: Bleeding, full flow – I decide the time is now to get a strong body. I go for a run around our local park.

6dp5dt: Bleeding, full flow – sod the TTC menu, I eat an enormous pizza.

7dp5dt: Bleeding, full flow – we book flights to Ibiza and a hotel in Formentera. I dance around the flat to celebrate. Infertility, you will not beat us!

8dp5dt: Bleeding, full flow – I do a handstand to prove I’m still young.

9dp5dt: Bleeding, full flow – we book airbnb apartment in Ibiza Town and more dancing.

10dp5dt: Dark blood – first beta/HCG test is 10 – the hospital say it’s a negative pregnancy test. They advise me to stop taking Progynova and Cyclogest. After encouragement from the TTC community, however, I request a second blood test. Hospital agree, although it’s not something they normally do.

11dp5dt: Trace of dark blood.

12dp5t: Bleeding stops – eat a large curry.

13dp5dt: Second beta/HCG test is 37 – total surprise at the rise. The nurse says the “unviable” word.

14dp5dt: an uneventful day – the official end of the two week wait. Clearance from hospital to go on holiday – hooray!

15dp5dt: Cramping, trace of blood.

16dp5dt: Spotting fresh blood.

17dp5dt: Spotting fresh blood.

18dp5dt: Another uneventful day – hooray.

19dp5dt: Dark blood.

20dp5dt: Dark blood.

21dp5dt: Dark blood and mild cramps. Third beta/HCG test is 321 – utter disbelief and delight, I am pregnant!! Nurse says they suspect ectopic. She refers us to Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit. Advised not to travel. Start process of cancelling our holiday bookings.

22dp5dt: Dark blood and mild cramps. Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit call. Scan booked for Tuesday 6th June at 11am.

On control and surrender

Mum100-blog-IVF-treatment-journey-letting-go-control-surrenderThis tweet on Tuesday helped me enormously – thank you Susan for saying the right thing at the right time, as so often happens in our community.

Mum100-blog-IVF-treatment-control-surrender-letting-go-peaceWhen I accept that I do not control the miracle of conception, I am free. I am glad to be in with a chance of having a baby. I am proud of myself for having the courage to show up for fertility treatment. By letting go of the final outcome, however, I feel peace.

It’s vital, of course, that I take action towards my dream of being a mum – that I take my medication on time and show up at the hospital, that I inform myself about the process and seek specialist care.

There are so many things, however, that I have no control over:

  • how many embies will grow?
  • will my embies survive the freeze?
  • will they stick in the right place?
  • will my baby grow inside me?
  • will it be completely healthy?
  • when will I hold my baby in my arms?

There are many times when I forget this. I search for magical formulae of precise behaviour combinations – a + b + a + b + y = a baby – right? I try to strike deals with Mother Nature. I chase after the Creative Director of the Universe to sign my agreement.

It feels better to pray

I don’t have a religion but I do pray for guidance and miracles, specifically in terms of how to be useful in this world – and I do feel strongly that I can useful as a mum.

This morning, I started out well. I prayed for direction in all areas of my life, including with motherhood. Then I listened to this Eckhart Tolle video in my meditation practice. I’ve not read any of Eckhart Tolle’s books – he just came up in my YouTube search today. In this video, Eckhart says, “can you feel how painful it is to internally stand in opposition to what is? When you recognise this, you also realise that you are now free to give up this futile conflict, this inner state of war.”

He is right, of course, the clever German sausage!

Feeling the feelings when they come

I also do not control when strong emotions will be triggered in me. Yesterday, for example, Dad 100 and I were out for lunch. I looked across the cafe and there was a little baby in a high chair. He was looking across at me. He smiled so freely, gazing with that absorption and presence that babies often have; it touched my soul in the way that all mothers-at-heart know. I cried with the unexpected connection – because I am a mother, I know this is true. It was good to allow a few tears to come in the cafe, rather than fight them back like a good British citizen! A friend of mine, Sabbir, always says this to me – when the feelings come, feel them, don’t run away. Feelings won’t kill me, but repressing them might.

The best support

In the last few weeks, I’ve experienced many acts of kindness from friends and strangers. The best support is where people allow me to feel whatever I am feeling in that particular moment – sadness, anger, joy, peace, contentment, hope, despair, grief or excitement. I have had all of these feelings in the last few weeks – I really must thank the TTC community online, who just allow me to feel whatever I need to feel. I do not sense fear of the feelings I’m having from people in our community. I’m sure this is down to the soul connection which comes through shared experience, especially where there is pain and great challenge. This connection with others is so freeing – it’s why I feel so welcome here – I can be Glumbags or Christmas on helium or Edgy McSpark or Professor Wilson or just me, Mum 100 – all of my characters seem to be equally welcome!

I think it takes a really emotionally developed person to do that – to just allow other people to express what they’re feeling, in the moment. I really value people in my life who can hold the space with me, without trying to make me “feel better” in an instant, without running away if I am experiencing strong emotion. I know that it’s human nature to want to relieve suffering as quickly as possible. I do this often when I see people in pain. I want to share experiences or suggestions, in an attempt to reduce or remove their pain. But really the truth is this, I don’t control other people’s feelings either.  Maybe it is better to acknowledge the feeling someone is having – to offer hugs and love  and identification where I can – but not to attempt to patch over people’s emotion.

Of course, if a friend has painful feelings that linger for weeks or months on end, then maybe that’s different – possibly that is where good friends do step in and make suggestions – but when feelings first appear, I believe the greatest act of friendship is to allow the person to express themselves, however they choose.

I will come to terms in my own time with this IVF journey – and I truly believe that by feeling my feelings, I will reach acceptance faster. For me, pain and emotions are not the enemy. Fear of pain and emotions is the enemy. And whenever I act from fear, invariably I panic and make the wrong choices.

The three week wait

Next Tuesday is our third blood test, three weeks after our double embryo transfer. Today, I do feel acceptance about the result. I don’t know what is or isn’t happening inside me. As many of you know, we had a strange set of blood test results at day 10 (HCG 10 – BFN) and day 13 (HCG 37) – very low numbers, according to our hospital, and yet the numbers did rise. I still have no pregnancy symptoms at all – but that is fine too.

Mum100-blog-IVF-acceptance-control-surrender-peace-letting-go

I want this level of acceptance that Susan writes about. I know that this process without that principle can be unbearable. When that obsession of the mind takes me over, I feel extreme pressure – that if only I find the right clinic + the right food + the right supplements + the right magic spell + the right wizard, then I will achieve my dream!

I know I’m human, however. I am committing to this principle, but there will be many times along the way that I forget. So, I’m calling on everyone to remind me:

  • to feel the feelings that come
  • to let go of what I don’t control
  • to take action where I can
  • and most of all, to live my life today, as best I can.

I am good enough and today is good enough

Dad 100 and I are getting ready for our little holiday on 6th June. We are both very excited about this trip to the white sand and blue sea. We called the hospital to make sure it was okay to travel in our situation. The nurse said it’s fine. We explained our situation to the travel insurance company, they are fine with it too (hooray!). These are little miracles at work. We can go. We can be free little bees by the sea. I may even treat myself to a new bikini!

I know a big, fat nothing

An extraordinary day

Mum100-blog-IVF-journey-blood-test-results-hopeWe had our second blood test today (day 13 after transfer), following our first pregnancy test three days ago.

The same nurse takes my blood, a kind Filipino woman called Josie. I make a point of asking her name today, because when I walk into her cubicle, she remembers me.

“What was the result of your pregnancy test?” Josie says.

Considering they see hundreds of people in the blood clinic each day, I find it remarkable she recalls this.

“The HCG was very low,” I say. “The fertility clinic said the result was negative, but we’re repeating the test. Just in case.”

Josie smiles. She puts her hand on my arm. “You know, we pray so hard for these things in life. And we do not know when or how they will happen,” she says. “But I am sure this will happen for you.”

Such unexpected kindness, yet again. Josie finds the blood test order on the computer. She inserts the needle into my left arm – I hardly feel the scratch – she patches me up with cotton wool and sticky tape.

“Thank you for remembering me,” I say. “And for your kind words.”

As I leave the blood clinic, a feeling of lightness comes over me. In fact, it’s more than that, I feel joy as I walk along the hospital corridor, past the Costa concession in the reception, out into the bright sunshine.

 

Back at home, two builders arrive at 10.30am. Remember, the mouse problem we had back in March? Well, our furry friends visited us in April and May too. Our landlord sent round his old man to ‘sort it’ – a lovely East End bloke called Terry, with a generous laugh, big hands and a Tenerife tan. Terry and his mate rip out our kitchen units, revealing some rather large holes around the skirting board, where little mice have been sneaking in. They fill the holes with wire and cement. They’re coming back tomorrow to finish the job. Our kitchen is a junkyard right now, but who cares about that!

 

When the time comes for our call to the hospital, Dad 100 joins me on the sofa. I know what the nurse will say, of course – the result is negative and I should stop the medication. I put my mobile on speakerphone. We talk to a nurse called Liz, who has been one of our regular helpers over the last fifteen months.

“Your HCG level has increased to 37,” Liz says.

I almost drop the phone. That’s nearly 4 times higher than Friday. Dad 100 and I look at each other, completely baffled.

“The number is still very low,” Liz says, “so I need to speak to the early pregnancy unit for some advice. I’ll call back later this afternoon.”

Dad 100 and I sit still on the sofa, taking in the news. I put a hand on my belly. After a week of heavy bleeding, we were convinced it was over. We’ve booked a holiday. We’ve eaten pizza and curry. I’ve been dancing around the flat each morning, to get my mojo back. Ooops!

The hospital thought it was over too – it’s only because of suggestions and encouragement from the IVF community, that I requested another test – I must say a special thank you to IVF79, for some very timely advice.

When Liz calls us back, she tells us to come for another blood test on Tuesday 31st May. I should carry on taking the Cyclogest and Progynova. She says if I experience any sudden, sharp pain, on either side, I should go to A&E immediately. She mentions the possibility of ectopic pregnancy, but I’m ‘fingers-in-the-ears’ about this. I am just stunned and delighted with the result.

I call my sister, who is very optimistic by nature. She is thrilled when I share the news. I call my Mum, she is happy but worried. My stepmum and Dad call, they’re going through a big struggle right now, with Dad’s recovery from cancer. I tell my stepmum the news, while my Dad winces with pain in the background (get well soon Dad!). They are, as we are, delighted.

 

This evening, I feel overwhelming peace and gratitude. One or both our embryos are fighting for life inside me. It feels like a miracle, after a week of heavy bleeding.

From now on, I am going to forget everything I think I know. My embie(s) and my body are up to something. I don’t know what is happening, but I’m not meant to know right now. I will celebrate each day and take care of myself.

There is hope.

Drop ’em, Glumbags!

Mum100-blog-IVF-journey-ups-downs-glum-bags-past-futurePut the bags down.

But I like carrying them.

You’ll feel better if you let go.

I will carry my bags until I’m blue in the face.

Er, Glumbags? You looked in a mirror lately?

Nope, eyes down.

You’re blue in the face already!

Really?

Yes indeed.

But if I put down my bags, someone will pinch them.

I promise you, no-one will steal your baggage. No resale value whatsoever.

Excuse me, there are tons of memories and future concerns in here – and they’re very, very precious to me!

How do they make you feel, Glumbags?

Glum.

Do you like feeling glum?

No I don’t.

What have you actually got to be glum about today?

Well, I have to carry these two heavy bags for starters.

Aha! I have a fine solution. Come out and play.

What about my hair? Will the rain mess it up?

Definitely.

Do you know how much Brylcreem I use, to smooth my navy locks?

How about this? After we play, we’ll go to the late night Turkish barber on the High Street.

What is there to do on a Sunday, anyway?

We can do handstands in the park. We can juggle plums at the grocery store. We can gargle the National Anthem in the Rose & Crown. Hey, here’s an idea – we can have a curry!

I like curry.

Let’s go, my treat. We’ll ask Dad 100 if he wants to come with us. And no thinking about babies, deal?

Can I pick up my baggage when we get home?

Sure Glumbags, they will be right here.

Okay, mine’s a king prawn jalfrezi and some sag aloo.

Oh, I love a sag aloo, I do.

Big fat negative – or is it?

Mum100-blog-IVF-blood-results-HCG-BFN-confused-beta-testMy poor addlebrained monkey! The Professor is as confused as spinach bubblegum, after our trip to hospital today.

This morning, on arrival at the blood clinic, the ticket counter reads 67. I pull a paper ticket from the reel – my lucky number is 27. I’m relieved we have to go round the clock before it’s my turn. I settle into the last plastic chair in the waiting room, between a suited man playing army war games on his iPad and a lady making an enthusiastic phone call, arms and everything.

Every possible man and woman are in this waiting room – I still find it fascinating, each time I go to the blood clinic, all the faces and possible stories. Battered liver, Sir? Wonky heart, Madam? I put it down to watching Casualty as a child; I always tried to guess what misfortune was going to befall the characters! The ticket counter clicks on. An old lady with an impressive back hunch pushes herself up. It’s a small miracle she doesn’t topple straight over. She totters towards the nurses’ station, chuckling.

Mum100-blog-Money-Master-The-Game-Tony-Robbins-financial-freedomWhile I wait, I read a chunk of this book by Tony Robbins about money management – because there’s now a fair chance that infertility is going to start costing us some serious poundage £££££. I need to get smart about cash! We are the lucky ones, however. We are NHS-funded for up to 3 cycles (which complies with NICE recommendations, unlike many CCGs). We still have two day-6 frozen embryos – our wonderful hope – but our funding will end in January 2017 when I turn 40. There’s also the question of whether to retrieve more eggs this year, privately – but that’s another post.

Back in the blood queue…

My number comes up. A Filipino nurse with a jolly round face draws my blood. She wishes me luck with the result in such a motherly way – I am touched by her kindness, amongst all the bustle of her clinic (there is standing room only when I leave).

As I go, I am certain of the result – BFN.

Fast forward 3 hours…

I’m phoning the nurse at the specified time. The call clicks through to answerphone. A mild stalky feeling creeps in – “pick up, pick up!” – in the message, I confirm my complete availability for their call back, this afternoon.

Five minutes later, I want to call again, but I manage to hold back my inner weirdo. Clearly, I’m still hopeful about the result – it’s the same when I play the lottery. I always, always, think I’m going to win (until the balls prove otherwise) – it’s very childlike magical thinking, which I don’t think will ever leave me.

Around 3.30pm, I’m on my landline to a financial advisor called Norman. He is giving me lots of very sensible information about pensions and sickness protection cover for self-employed people. The hospital call me back on my mobile. I am so ridiculously British about not interrupting a professional, mid-flow, that the hospital’s call goes to my voicemail. I kick myself for my conditioned politeness to authority figures. When I do manage to finish the call with Norm, I scramble to call the hospital.

Thankfully, the nurse answers. She tells me that they have detected HCG in my blood – Professor Wilson faints at this point – it is a very low level of 10, however.

“We’d expect to see  a level of at least 100 on day 10 past transfer,” she says. “So, your pregnancy test is negative and you can stop all your medication.”

However, due to a timely conversation with a fellow blogger yesterday, I did ask the nurse to check with the consultant. “Is it worth carrying on with the meds a few extra days,” I asked her, “then testing again?”

The nurse phoned back twenty minutes later to confirm that I can come back on Monday for another test.

What does it mean, my lovelies?

Well, my gut still says it hasn’t worked for us. However, I must have a nugget of belief, to carry on with the meds until Monday. I know stories of low early HCG results, which then boomed to big numbers days later. Could it be possible after bleeding for seven days?

The loveliest thing about the test result was I felt a swell of pride for my two little embryos. The nurse said the most likely scenario is that a pregnancy did start, but then it arrested. Weirdly, I feel happy about that. I had truly believed nothing had happened at all – no implanation, no nothing. I was ready to blame my womb for being unreceptive. However, the blood results suggest that at least one of them did take. I love them even more for trying to stay.

The conclusion I have come to today is this: I know nothing about what is or what isn’t happening in my womb! I must learn to trust more and have patience.

Tonight, stretched out on the sofa, I am hopeful again – that it is possible, that our time will come.

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.

Mum100-blog-IVF-embryo-transfer-pizza-guilt-free

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!!!

Mum100-blog-embryo-transfer-holiday-formentera

(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.

Conversations of delight and wonder – our double embryo transfer

First, a quick recap: we decided to start a family in 2013 and when that didn’t work out, our GP referred us to our local hospital for fertility treatment. We’ve been going there since February 2015. This is our first IVF cycle (with blastocyst embryos created and frozen last November). 

And finally, transfer day arrived – truly, one of the happiest days of my life. For our box of memories, I recorded our conversations on the way to the hospital and on the way home…

9.50am, on our way to hospital:

Mum 100 (M): How are you feeling?

Dad 100 (D): Excited. It’s an historic day.

M: Historic! That sounds very grand. Well, we certainly have some lovely English rain for transfer day – it’s nice to be cool. I have to say, I am very excited too.

D: It feels like a big event.

M: Like Christmas times fifty. I hope they’re doing well, our blasters. They should be thawed out by now.

D: I’m picturing them as actual babies.

M: Tell me what you’re seeing.

D: They’ve got bald heads like me! Their eyes are half open. They are small and pink with tiny hands and fingers.

M: Aaaaah, that’s so lovely. What’s been the best part of this process for you?

D: Right now. This process has gone on for so long that it has felt remote at times – but now it’s transfer day, it’s very exciting.

Mum100_blog_ivf_icsi_the_family_and_other_animalsM: In my hypnosis session this morning, I saw our cartoon family. I am so glad I’m doing this with you. You’ve been a good friend along the way. You’ve helped with the injections and made our medication wallcharts. You’ve put up with Edgy McSpark.

D: Good old Edgy.

M: Final thought, before we get to the hospital – what’s in your heart, right now?

D: That our blasters are healthy and happy. I’m picturing the outcome and I do feel a warm connection to them – it’s an ‘aaaaah’ kind of feeling!

M: Oh yeah, I have that feeling too. I feel so proud of our blasters and their incredible journey across 240 degrees, to come back to us today. Please let them be safe! I can’t wait to bring them home and feed them lots of nutritious food – that their Dad is going to cook for us.

D: Ha!

 

11.38am – driving home from hospital:

Mum100-blog-IVF-frozen-embryo-transfer-day-TTC-blastocystsM: How did you feel in there?

D: Quite emotional actually. I felt very proud of you and I had a very happy, warm feeling towards our babies. I was welling up in there.

M: So was I. What an amazing team, three brilliant women – our nurse, embryologist and doctor. They were so calm and friendly.

When the embryologist told us she had thawed out two of our four blastocysts, I felt complete joy. One embryo was exactly how it was before going in the freezer :-). The other embryo had ‘collapsed’, but apparently that’s okay – we’ll take her word on that!

D: The embryologist was so smiley, wasn’t she? She seemed so happy our blasters made it back.

M: Yeah, she was so lovely. The whole team there really enjoy their work, which makes me feel very confident.

I can’t believe my bladder was too full when the doctor first went in. There I was, downing water in the waiting room before we were called. I was worried I hadn’t drunk enough.

D: You had to go and let some wee out. Haha!

M: I was in the loo thinking, ‘is this enough? do I let out more? am I about to ruin everything?’ Talk about pressure pee!

Thankfully, second time around my uterus was in the right position. On the monitor, we saw the first catheter going in – a white line against the grey – like a super highway for our blasters! Then the doctor called through the embryologist. She brought in a very thin catheter with our babies inside. Our babies!!

D: Another ID check, just to make 100% sure.

M: I felt so happy and emotional at that point. I gave my name and date of birth and I squeezed your hand so tight. Did you feel that?

D: I did.

M: I said a little prayer as our blasters were transferred – a prayer of acceptance, handing it all over to Mother Nature. What did you see when you were looking at the screen?

D: Lots of grey blobs! And when they did the transfer, I saw the bright liquid come out of the catheter. Our blasters, landing inside you!

What about you?

Mum100-blog-IVF-embryo-transfer-scan-hospital-blastocystsM: Just that bright light, like a shooting star. The doctor said she put them back near some thick lining. I think our embryos hatch and implant over the next three days.

D: Is that what they do?

M: Yeah, they settle in. Aaaaaah, I love our blasters. They made it back from the cryosphere.

D: And when the embryologist checked the catheter afterwards, to make sure they’d definitely been transferred – that was brilliant when she gave the thumbs up.

M: Pure delight. I could have kissed them all!

D: And now, we’re bringing them home. There are four of us now. We’ll say a prayer for them everyday.

M: Let’s do one now.

D: Please look after our little embryos and help them embed into the lining. Let them grow over the next two weeks, so that when we go back for our blood test in two weeks, it’s positive. Please help them thrive in there and grow into healthy babies.

M: Aaaah I feel so happy!

D: I am very proud of you.