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

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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.

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.