Get the gloves on – anger and pregnancy loss

At 39 years old, I have bought my first pair of boxing gloves. They are red with white stripes down the middle, emblazoned with fierce lions. Lonsdale London is stamped on the wrist and fist. I am ready for the ring – ding ding!

The purchase came after a training session with Dave. At the end of class two, Dave reached inside his rucksack (which is the personal trainer’s equivalent of Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, holding implausible amounts of kit). He pulled out two pairs of boxing gloves and some contender pads. My gut fluttered with excitement. This was an exercise I really wanted to try.

With rain spitting on our faces, Dad 100 and I put on our gloves. We awaited our instructions from Dave, like two eager terriers waiting for a ball to be thrown. Dave demonstrated a sequence of punches. He showed us how to stand for each blow – legs square on for the jabs, one foot forward for the upper cuts and hooks.

“Got it?” he said.
“Yes!”

Dave strapped the pads on his hands and raised them shoulder height. He braced like a defending champion. A group of teenagers were huddled under the pavilion on the green – the crowd for our first big fight.

“Right then,” Dave said. “Let’s have you!”

Mum100-IVF-blog-anger-fertility-pregnancy-loss-ectopic-boxing-exerciseI stepped up first to whack Dave’s pads – WHAM, BAM, SCHLAM! I powered through my shots. Each thwack on the pad thrilled me. My arms filled with hot blood and soon my lungs were working hard to keep up. I was a prizefighter on the overgrown bowling green. My biceps and triceps and flexors smarted with lactic acid. Finally, the hooks: for anyone who is new to boxing like me, hooks are the money shot, the side-swiping cracker-smacking blows. I pulled my arm right back and swung each punch towards the pad. DOOF! DOOF! DOOF! Five with the left, then five with the right. POW! POW! POW! On my final punch, I spun a full turn to celebrate.

I looked across at my teenage fans under the pavilion, expecting at the least an approving nod, maybe a cheer or shout of “respect!” Instead, their eyes followed a spliff around their circle. I laughed at their indifference to my knockout punches, as Dad 100 stepped up to the pads. He launched into his jabs and hurled his hooks, as I cheered him on – his number one fan.

Straight after the session, we went to our local sports shop. We bought pads and boxing gloves – bright red for me, black for Dad 100. Home they came, bringing into our flat that excitable energy of new possessions. I look at them lovingly as I pass them in their storage bag and whenever the anger rises, we say:

“Right, let’s get the gloves on!”

It does help – to concentrate on the pads, to feel the force in my arms, to hear that sock on the pads. The rush of power and release makes me feel proud of my body. I become aware of a tremendous store of strength inside me, which is great to feel right now.

Anger and pregnancy loss

It is normal to feel angry after pregnancy loss. So many people have said this to me that I have now accepted it. I’m no longer fighting my anger. It comes when it comes and that is all there is to it. There is no need to deny anger or squeeze it down. It’s an expression of the uncontrollable, the incomprehensible. It’s healthy to feel anger and it’s phenomenal to channel it – SMACK into those contender pads!

I don’t always get it right because my anger comes in unpredictable spikes. Yesterday, for example, we were out for an early jog. The traffic lights turned red and we stepped into the road. A cyclist zoomed towards us. My stomach jumped when I saw the bike was whizzing too close. I yelled at him, “the lights are red!” as his handlebars skimmed past me, then I swiped at his rucksack. The cyclist turned around in his saddle, swore back at me. We both had our moment of fury and I won’t lie, it felt good to vent. Seconds later, however, I thought, “actually, he could beat me up now” – so we ran fast through the graveyard gates and didn’t look back.

For Dad 100, the anger is more of a build up of frustration. He gets annoyed when his computer plays up. He gets more annoyed when yet another SEO company phones him, pitching for business. Sometimes, he turns anger on himself, calling himself an idiot for minor mistakes. I tell him he mustn’t do that – he is feeling the loss as much as I am.

Saying this, we are getting through it. The anger comes and goes but there is plenty of love and fun and relaxation in between. And with regular boxing practice, hopefully there will be fewer clashes with cyclists and telesales agents.

Seconds out – round 2

In other news, we have received a letter from our new hospital, after we transferred our remaining IVF funding. Our first appointment with their Assisted Conception Unit is on 1st September – two and a half weeks away.

We don’t yet know whether to transfer one or two embryos. There is more chance of pregnancy with two embryos but also more chance of complications. I feel very protective over our last two frozen embryos and my remaining fallopian tube. I’m frightened of another ectopic pregnancy, but equally I am hopeful that we did achieve a pregnancy in the first round of IVF, albeit in the wrong place.

Round 2 here we come!

Advertisements

Weeble wobble

Mum100-blog-IVF-wobble-falling-over-getting-upOn the surface, there was no reason for me to lose it. I slept well. We went for a jog around Abney Park cemetery. Beneath tall trees, we darted down paths between ancient gravestones, running in and out of sunlight pools. For breakfast, we ate fried tomatoes and mushrooms on toast. I sent some work emails. At lunchtime, Dad 100 made cheese and onion omelette with mixed salad. There it was on the table, red and yellow and green, ready to go.

The first piece of omelette was too hot. It brought tears to my eyes. I gulped water and started on the salad instead, cucumber and tomato slices in vinaigrette. I couldn’t make eye contact with Dad 100 because of an ugly feeling in my stomach. Quite suddenly it was there, as if an elevator had dropped a floor with us inside. I tried to hold back tears by concentrating on the next fork of food – blowing to cool it, chewing, swallowing too quickly. It was absolutely no good at all. My eyes were spilling over. Unfairly, I wanted my partner to guess what was in my head. Worse, I wanted him to make me feel better.

“I don’t know what to say,” he said.
Without looking up, I said, “I’m not expecting you to say anything.”

Except that was a lie. In that moment, I was craving answers. Why can’t I stay upright for long? How is this going to turn out? Don’t get me wrong, since the surgery there have been plenty of good moments. We’ve started with a personal trainer called Dave. We met him by the goat enclosure at Clissold Park for our first session. He had us skipping and squatting and side-stepping on the grass. We attracted inquisitive gazes from local dogs and toddlers, who were keen to join in. I’ve also taken steps towards work, emailing and meeting with prospects, contacting agencies. I’ve met up with friends for food and conversation. I’ve visited my Mum and stayed two nights longer than planned. These are all positive things. However, punctuating all of this have been sudden tiredness, sharp snaps of anger and turn-on-the-tap sadness. I’ve fixed up social activities then wanted to cancel. Right now, there’s a convincing illusion of complete safety inside our home, potential harm outside.

Mum100-blog-IVF-journey-ups-downs-glum-bags-past-futureIs any of this making sense to you? My head has been a jumble of sensations and thoughts over the last few weeks. Glumbags has been on the scene with his memories and predictions. And I haven’t known what to write on my blog. I don’t want to be gloomy, as we’ve all got enough to deal with in this community, so I have missed the connection that comes with weekly blogging. To write a piece, to press publish, to feel the arms of sisters around me – I have shrunk away from the very thing that makes this process bearable, enjoyable in fact.

Anyway, I lost it over that omelette.
Dad 100 said, “too much thinking about what’s happened, it’s not doing you any good.”
Through wonky ear filters, I heard, “why don’t you pull yourself together?”
I said, “I’m trying my best. Can’t you see that? I’m looking for a new contract and training courses. I’m meeting up with friends, even when I’d rather stay at home. I’m working out. Isn’t that enough? I already feel useless enough, without you adding to it. I can’t even carry a baby, for god’s sake.”

I always know within seconds when I’ve been out of order. I left the kitchen. I cried off a face of make up. Up in the bathroom, I scooped handfuls of cold water on to my face. I looked in the mirror and thought, yep, that’s about right – puffy eyes, blotchy cheeks, mascara smudge. I was due to meet with my friend Jill in an hour. I was so tempted to cancel, to swerve my writing class that evening. After crying, I always get tight temples and the start of a headache between my eyes. I could easily call it off, I thought. I can suggest meeting before our next class.

But this is exactly how the gloom wins. It wants me to cut myself off. This is the lie it tells. It says, “you just need a bit more time on your own, away from the world.” And it’s a convincing voice because it does feel safer to close the curtains, to curl up. It is more predictable to disappear into a Storyville documentary or to gawp at the latest drama on the news. Watching the world go mad is a terrible fixation of mine, when I’m avoiding my own life.

Of course, I do accept that not knowing what was happening inside my body – for so many weeks, months – has knocked my confidence. But strangely, all that build up to discovering the ectopic pregnancy, all the alarming symptoms and uncertainty over the diagnosis, the many hospital visits and the operation – that was easy compared to how I’ve felt since the surgery. Whilst going through it, we had to take the next step forward. There was no choice. We had to get to the next blood test or scan or examination. Now, the urgency has gone and I’m tumbling in space.

Thankfully, sense kicked in after my tear storm. I did meet up with Jill. She was great to talk to, actually. She pointed out why it was easier before the surgery.
“It was an anchor, all that stuff going on,” she said. “And what you’re telling yourself now is you should be over it, you should be back out in the world.”
“Yes, that’s it,” I said. “And the normal conversations involved in drumming up work, they feel like rejection. I know that finding new work involves talking to lots of people. It’s about numbers and the truth is I’m not yet having enough conversations – because the ones I am having, I’m taking way too personally.”

Then, for an hour or so, I listened to Jill’s stories. Turning points, those big reversals in life that switched her course – unexpected illness, job crises, family matters. It was such a relief to sit and listen. I asked questions and Jill answered them generously. She told me about her partner walking out unexpectedly and a sociopathic work colleague, who I wanted to slap on Jill’s behalf by the end of her tale. Then Jill mentioned not having kids, something I didn’t know about her.

“I haven’t exactly taken Conventional Road,” she said.

To listen to Jill was to be in the world. I need other people’s stories for relief from my own. I need to hear that other people have been through their own tough times and they are still up and out and doing life. Jill is a smart sixty-something year old, always sharply dressed, a great talker with an infectious laugh – you wouldn’t know, on the surface, there have been these big difficulties in her life. Her stories made me remember how much I enjoy writing. I love to exchange stories with people in the hope of connection. It’s what energises me the most – the identification that comes through sharing experiences.

Before our writing class, Jill and I tapped at our laptops for an hour. Out came this blog. It’s a human-shaped blog, rough around the edges, but it’s something. It makes me feel hopeful to see words on the page, after several weeks of not being able to write.

I have also apologised to Dad 100 – for expecting him to know how our story ends.

Round 1 to infertility

I have three new scars. They tell me I’m recovering well. Neatly stitched, they close this confusing chapter. They will fade but they won’t be forgotten.

On Sunday, I decorated my scars. I drew a cartoon face. I cut out the features and arranged them around my belly button scar – a fine nose, I think you’ll agree! Dad 100 laughed at the photos.

“You’re daft,” he said, which made me happy.


Last week

After six weeks of inconclusive tests, we booked a scan with an early pregnancy specialist. It wasn’t an easy decision because £380 is a lot of money for us to spend on a second opinion. Were we overreacting? I did ask myself this, especially when our hospital downgraded the risk after a scan on Tuesday. I was grateful for the reprieve from methotrexate, I really was, but there was still a quiet voice inside me, whispering that something wasn’t right. Dad 100 was worried too, which decided it for me.

So, on Thursday afternoon, we went to see Mr Jurkovic in a grand Georgian house on Harley Street. He had a large office on the first floor, with high ceilings and comfortable chairs. His face was serious and kind. He asked us questions and listened carefully to our answers – good doctors always have good ears. I handed him a typed summary of the last 44 days: beta-HCG levels, scan results, blood and pain. Through spectacles, he considered the information. Then he asked me to prepare for the scan.

Through the red door

Dad 100 and I held hands during the scan. Would we get another uncertain diagnosis? We turned to the other-worldly images on the screen. Mr Jurkovic confirmed there was no pregnancy in my womb. He found my ovaries and pointed to some blood in my abdomen. Within minutes, he became focused on a round mass. He drew lines across it on the screen, measuring from top to bottom, side to side.

“Here it is,” he said. “The ectopic pregnancy.”

As quick as that, he found it. I felt a spike of adrenalin. To my untrained eyes, it was just a grey blob, but I didn’t doubt him. At 9 weeks pregnant, we saw our pregnancy for the first time. There you are, I thought, all along. I felt relief and sadness and love, all squashed in one ball of emotion.

Mum100-blog-IVF-pregnancy-unknown-location-ectopicThe pregnancy measured 33mm x 27mm x 20mm. It was in such an obvious place – through the red door of last week’s drawing, inside my left fallopian tube.

“How could they have missed this two days ago?” I asked.
“It does happen,” he said. “You really have to know how to look.”

One way to go

Mr Jurkovic advised us to go straight to A&E at the nearest hospital. Emergency surgery was essential, he said, due to risk of rupture and further internal bleeding. Methotrexate injection was not a good option, he said, due to the damage to my fallopian tube.

“How much damage?” I said.

I knew what was coming. I absolutely knew in my gut, before he spoke. My left tube would have to be removed too. He explained the high risk of another ectopic pregnancy with a damaged tube. I looked at Dad 100. His face mirrored mine. Mr Jurkovic reassured us that many women have healthy pregnancies after losing a fallopian tube.

Did it sink in? Not really. There wasn’t time to think about implications. We thanked Mr Jurkovic for the clarity and waited downstairs for his report. We were given cups of hot chocolate. We agreed it would be foolish to ignore his instructions.

The final wait

We went to A&E at University College Hospital. Their systems were down and an angry drinker was swearing in the waiting area, but still we were admitted quickly and assigned a bed. Beneath fluorescent lights, I took off my clothes. Dad 100 helped me to put on the hospital gown, but he couldn’t figure out the ties. A nurse helped out with two efficient knots, then two cannulas were fitted, one on each arm. Then doctors with questions, another scan, more tests.

When it was just us, Dad 100 pulled his chair up beside the bed. We talked about the best experiences we’ve had together:

  • Mum100-blog-IVF-ectopic-pregnancy-Venicewatching the sunrise in Venice on Accademia bridge
  • seeing the brightly painted houses of Burano
  • stargazing on Brighton beach
  • getting lost near Bolney wood on a charity walk
  • the night Dad 100 proposed to me in a teenage disco in Camden, after Italy knocked out England in Euro 2012

“Four years ago tomorrow,” Dad 100 said, “I asked you to marry me.”
“Is it really?” I said.
He’s always been so much better with dates than me.

“Do you understand?”

At 8.30pm, we met our surgeon. He was tall and slim with eyes of pure concentration. He named the procedure: a salpingectomy, left side. He gave precise facts about the operation. He asked me to repeat back what I understood. I passed the comprehension test.

Then we were alone again. Dad 100 and me. Perhaps it was to do with speaking the words out loud, perhaps it was meeting the surgeon, but I woke up then, I realised fully what was about to happen. Sadness covered me like shrink wrap.

“I love you,” Dad 100 said. “More than ever.”

I looked across at him. How wonderful it was to hear those words. I wasn’t diminished in his eyes. In fact, the opposite was true.

Time tricks

The clock raced on – nine, ten, eleven. Each hour disappeared, so very fast, as if hospital gremlins were devouring great chunks of time.

At 11.30pm, the call came from theatre. There was lots of activity in our cubicle. Dad 100 and I kissed goodbye. A porter wheeled my bed out of A&E. There were faces at odd angles, two police officers, pale yellow walls, a well-used coffee machine. Then inside a silver lift, going up and up and up. Out on to a high floor in the longest corridor in the world. Not a soul in sight. There were black windows to my left, London city lights outside. I was floating down a tunnel to a parallel universe. At the end of the corridor, through double doors, there were people inside. They were expecting me.

In the anaesthetic room, the clock said twenty to midnight. Tom the anaesthetist prepared his potions, while his assistant Steven wrapped a blood pressure pad around my arm and clipped my finger into a pulse monitor. I put my hands on my stomach and said a silent prayer. May the life inside me be protected from unnecessary harm.

Tom passed me a plastic mask. He told me to hold it over my nose and mouth. “Nice deep breaths of oxygen,” he said, “you’ll taste vanilla.” The smell was like those air freshener trees in cars, artificial and sweet. I focused on my vanilla breathing, as I watched the second hand on the clock. Time was slow now, almost unmoving. Then Steven tickled my throat and there was the black juggernaut, hurtling towards me, that shocking and irresistible oblivion. Could I beat the blackness? I tried my very best. But soon there was the taste of anaesthetic, seeping from my windpipe on to my tongue.

A hand, a voice

When I came round, I was sobbing and shaking. It was like waking from a nightmare I couldn’t remember. It was an instinctive cry of loss and surrender. There was a clock, 2.15am. Then Dad 100 was by my bedside in the recovery area. I don’t have any visual recollection of him, but I felt his hand holding mine. And there was the sound of his voice, comforting me, though I don’t recall the words. On the ward, our conversations calmed me. When he was falling asleep in the chair, I told him to go home to bed. I drifted in and out of semi-conscious corridors. It wasn’t an unpleasant place to be.

Mum100-blog-IVF-ectopic-pregnancy-hospitalAt dawn, I opened my eyes to surprising light. I studied the diagonal shafts across sea green curtains. The angles and patterns occupied my mind. The sunlight stretched into my cubicle, warm and hopeful.

That’s when I decided to take this photo. At 4.50am on Friday – no longer pregnant and one tube down – I realised I have nothing to hide. I wanted to show my face because I remembered the love in our community. Infertility is not a shameful condition. It’s a fact of my life.

Mum100-blog-IVF-ectopic-pregnancy-surgery

Finally, some proper sleep, two or three hours. When I woke up, I sent a text to Dad 100 – he was already up, just about to leave for the hospital.

New goals

I am happy to be home. I appreciate my bed and sofa. I am lucky to live in a comfortable flat in an area I love. I am getting out when the sun shines.

I am very grateful for Dad 100’s love. He is a strong and available man. He wants children as much as I do, but he’s always said the most important thing is my health. I am lucky to have a partner who values me, above anything we are trying to achieve. I must make sure he knows he is loved.

I am still determined to be a mum – more than ever – but this is not about having a baby at any cost. My goal is now to stay safe, sane and happy while we try to conceive. We’re not in charge of the result.

I have some thank you cards to write this week – to all the NHS departments that have helped us and to Mr Jurkovic. Though this isn’t the outcome we wanted for IVF1, there are still dozens of nurses, doctors and support staff who tried their best for us.

I also need to find some new work. I would love to work in this field now. There must be a good use for this experience.

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.

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!

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.

Hope snowflakes

Mother Nature performed an impressive repertoire today – bold orange sun, whipping wind, grey storm clouds and pellets of ice, with splashes of blue sky in between.

At lunch time, I sheltered from the hail in the post office doorway, thinking of our four frozen blastocysts. I still marvel that they are suspended in time at -196 degrees. How is this possible?  Today’s play fight between winter and summer symbolised their journey home from the cryosphere. An incredible adventure across 240 degrees! I pray for their safe thaw and those vital sparks of cellular sunlight.

We’re investing all our hope in this miracle!

Mum100_blog_ivf_frozen_embryo_transfer_IVF_hope_banner

In kid world, anything is possible

Last night, I discovered three things:

  1. I can draw spindly, spidery claws
  2. I can draw blobs with five stubs
  3. I cannot draw hands

I wanted to draw hands holding a heart, but I couldn’t do it.

“Draw around your own hands!” said the child in me.

As a kid, I loved feeling the pencil, tracing around my fingers. Then the big reveal, when I lifted my hand from the page. How my fingers had grown!

Going through fertility treatment, the child in me is the brightest director.

“Be present and playful – especially in the two week wonder!”