Archive | July 2013

Swinging tubes & merry-go-rounds

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting at my desk at work, minding my own business, when I was hit with the most intense cramping in my abdomen, predominantly on my left side. It was bad enough that I had to double over.

Can I just say, I know a little something about cramps? My first ever period at the age of 13 was heavy for 18 days straight and so painful I experienced fainting and vomiting. By the time of my first fertility surgery, just after my 24th birthday, I already had stage four endometriosis in every possible place. It was particularly bad in my bladder and bowels, where it is rarest. Needless to say, pain and I are pretty tight.

So when I say I had bad cramping yesterday, I had bad cramping yesterday.

And this panicked me for a couple of reasons….

Firstly, the cup and syringe job the night before hadn’t exactly been successful. I have huge amounts of admiration for the gals who inseminate themselves, but it wasn’t something I’d ever considered doing myself so it wasn’t something I’d ever researched or thought about.

Doug did his part just fine, patted me on the head, laughed at me, then went to cook dinner. I ended up being so nervous I inseminated myself a little too quickly, and even though I had my hips under two pillows a fair bit spilled back out almost immediately.

To cut a really icky story short, I had absolutely no confidence that enough sperm was sitting there waiting for our egg and if I was indeed ovulating we would almost certainly miss our chance. Given it takes around 40 hours for a male to restock sperm, and Doug already has some morphology problems, even if we had sex last night (24 hours after the syringe debacle) fertilization almost certainly wouldn’t have happened.

And secondly, our one dominant follicle wasn’t 18mm in size yet, and if I was indeed ovulating there was a good change the egg wouldn’t be pregnancy viable.

I dashed outside where my colleagues couldn’t hear me and phoned Flo the nurse at the clinic for advice. Thankfully, she was very kind and sympathetic. She understood that I’ve never gone through ovulation before, so I don’t know what to expect.

She checked the computer to see if the results of the blood test I had first thing yesterday morning were available, and luckily they were. Flo put my mind at ease, telling me that my results showed my LH was not surging in the morning. Even if I’d begun to surge in the afternoon it meant I would still be ok for the following 24 hours and we could catch the egg. She advised I keep my appointment with Doctor B, which was scheduled for 8.45am this morning, and go from there.

Despite Flo’s kind assurances, last night was extremely tense for me and I didn’t sleep very well. I was completely paranoid and also really weepy. I don’t know how women go through this every month. There’s no way that level of pain and discomfort was normal. I can’t imagine ever wanting to have sex while I was feeling so awful. If that’s what all women go through every month I’m surprised the human race is surviving.

This morning when I arrived at the clinic at 8.30 Doctor B was already waiting for me in the waiting room. I really, really like her. She’s so sweet and puts me at ease. I honestly believe she has my best interests at heart when she makes decisions. My previous fertility specialist had his cheque book at heart when he made decisions….

Straight away we went through to the back room and started my scan. Sure enough, my follicle was still sitting there completely in tact in my left ovary. I breathed a huge sigh of relief. All the panic yesterday had been for nothing.

“Ok let’s see,” Doctor B said, measuring the follicle. “We have a little way to go still Sadie. The follicle is 15.1mm.”

A small scrap of hope and joy, then suddenly it was all snatched away from me. My stomach dropped.

“15.1??” I gasped.

The follicle was shrinking. It was all over.

Doctor B read the emotion on my face and grimaced. “What was it the other day?”

“15.5!” I said. “It’s a bad follicle!”

“Ok,” Doctor B said calmly. “Let’s check again.”

Once more she measured the follicle. Left and right, up and down. 16.9mm. Just to be sure, she repeated the process twice more. 16.9mm. 16.9mm.

“It’s ok Sadie you don’t have a bad follicle, just a bad doctor.” she laughed.

Once again, I breathed a massive sigh of relief. The follicle had grown. It was just growing at a glacial pace.

“Your blood work actually shows your hormones are all over the place.  Hopefully you should have your LH surge tomorrow or Friday.” Doctor B said as we finished up the scan. “Get another blood test tomorrow, and if you’re not surging then we’ll scan you again Friday then maybe trigger ovulation for you.”

“Ok.” I agreed. “Sounds like a plan.”

“Now let’s hope your unblocked tube picks up the egg and not your blocked tube.” she said. “If your blocked tube swings around to meet the egg that will be unfortunate.”

What in the what?!

So today I learned that fallopian tubes aren’t solidly attached to ovaries. They are attracted to eggs and can flip around to pick up from either ovary, though the right tube will pick up from the right ovary approximately 95% of the time and the same goes for the left ovary and left tube. I had no idea about this. Did you girls all know about this?! Just one more thing for me to worry about…..

After I left the doctor’s office I was waiting out the front for the receptionist to total up my bill for the morning’s visit when Flo appeared. She came and sat down next to me on the bench and asked to see my blood results.

“My goodness you know you’re a very unique young lady.” she said. “We’ve never seen anyone react quite like you have. To go from 34 eggs at pick up last time, to mimicking a normal cycle this time and ovulating for the first time ever? You’re just so unpredictable!”

I felt like there was a glitch in the Matrix or somthing. These were almost the exact words the head nurse at my last clinic had told me, right before I left. You’re so unique Sadie and we’ve learned so much from you.

I don’t want to be unique. I want to be text book. I want to be wham, bam, thank you ma’am pregnant and having babies.

At least I feel supported at this new clinic. I’m getting the blood tests I need, they’re monitoring my dodgy hormones, they’re scanning me every second day, they’re paying attention. This is what I so desperately needed at my last clinic.

Do you know that from before I started my first cycle of IVF, right through to egg pick up, OHSS and then an FET the only time I ever had a blood test at my old clinic was on my beta day? And even then they only checked for pregnancy they didn’t check my hormones. I feel so strongly that had I had even ONE proper blood test they would have seen my estrogen and progesterone levels were all wrong, and they could have corrected those problems before I lost my last pregnancy. Maybe I’d still be pregnant.

“You know what I think?” Flo said, placing a comforting hand on my knee. “This is your one perfect moment. The first time you’ve ever had a proper, normal cycle. This will be your miracle, one in a million ovulation and you’ll get pregnant.”

Then, my brain exploded.

THANK YOU FLO. THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR SAYING THIS TO ME. I ASSURE YOU THIS THOUGHT HAD NOT PREVIOUSLY CROSSED MY MIND. THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I NEED A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL TO TELL ME. DON’T WORRY I WON’T HOLD ONTO YOUR WORDS AT ALL. I WON’T LIVE OFF THEM FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS.

Ok I’m only kidding (…or am I??). I know she meant well, but honestly a fertility nurse should know better than to give that kind of hope to an infertile.

Tonight we have sex on the menu again. Real sex this time. I’m not going to risk syringe failure again. Then I’ll just have to wait until my blood test tomorrow to find out if my LH is surging, or if we’re staying on this merry-go-round for another few days.

As always, I’ll keep you updated…..

 

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July IVF – CD21

I slept almost all of Sunday. I honestly can’t remember sleeping so much since I was a teenager. Nearly three weeks of injections, and the restlessness that comes from being home alone, had clearly taken their toll.

So when Monday morning rolled around, I was feeling mostly like a human being again and keen to get back to the clinic and see the doctor. I got up bright and early, got myself ready, then went into the bedroom to check on Doug.

“Up you get, darling. We need to leave in twenty minutes.” I said, shaking him awake.

Doug moaned something unintelligible, threw a pillow over his head and rolled over. After much cajoling, I finally got him up out of bed. But instead of hopping into the shower, he went downstairs to make himself some toast.

“What are you doing right now?!” I shrieked, following him into the kitchen. ” Are you trying to enrage me? I’ve been on hormone shots for 3 weeks! My temper isn’t exactly under control.”

“I’m a growing boy,” he shrugged. “I’ve got to eat!”

“You’ve got to shower.” I argued.

“Eat.” said Doug.

“Shower.” said I.

Twenty tense minutes later, after reaching a compromise, we were finally in the car with two pieces of honey toast for Doug to eat on the way to the hospital. We arrived right on time (luckily for him) and took our seat in the waiting room. 

My name was called soon afterwards, and for the second time in 48 hours I was making my way towards the small room behind Doctor B’s office where I was to be scanned. Except this time, there was hope. And thankfully the fancy shmancy silver ultrasound machine was back.

“All right let’s take a look,” Doctor B said, starting the scan.

Almost straight away, she was showing me my left ovary, where I could see one large follicle which now measured 15.5mm. My endometrium was also perfect looking – a 9.7 triple, whatever that means…

“This is quite ironic.” she admitted. “Miss Sadie you’ve never ovulated in your life. So we’ve given you FSH injections to try and get many eggs for IVF, and instead your body seems to be perfectly mimicking a natural cycle. See how those other follicles have all shrunk down now and you’re left with just one? This is how it’s supposed to happen.”

I got dressed and we all went into the doctor’s office to have a chat about what the plan would be going forward. I felt sort of giddy with nerves and excitement.

Obviously the IVF cycle was over now, because there would be no egg pick up. Doctor B offiically converted our cycle to ovulation induction and instructed us to “begin coitus.” I tried not to giggle at her use of the word. There are literally dozens of words she could have chosen that mean the same thing, and are also more widely used. Coitus sounds like a foot fungus.

She also told us we would have to pay for all of the medication that we’ve used during the cycle. All the FSH and antagonist injections are wrapped up into the heavily government subsidized cost of IVF, but since we were no longer doing IVF we could no longer claim the costs that way. Luckily given our circumstances (medical infertility, no children) Doctor B was able to ring through and ascertain a PBS number for us.

The PBS (Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme) is an Australia Government system that subsidises the cost of prescription medicines. I’m sure there are equivalents in most countries. Patients are only able to get certain medications discounted on the schedule if they have an acceptable reason. Which was the case for us.

“So are we all clear on this?” Doctor B asked.

“No,” I admitted. “I’m not clear on anything. We’re going to do this the regular way? Like regular, fertile people?”

“Yes.” Doctor B confirmed.

“Well you’re going to need to walk me through this,” I said sheepishly. “Because I don’t think I know how the regular way works.”

For some reason, Doctor B found that idea very funny, but she kindly pulled out some paperwork and walked me through the process step by step.

Step one – that evening, we were able to have intercourse. This step wasn’t mandatory, as my follicle was still only 15.5mm and we need it to be 18mm for it to be considered pregnancy viable (though anything above 14mm is technically mature). By having sex that night, we would basically ensure some sperm was sitting there ready to go when I eventually did ovulate. The risk, however, was knocking the egg out of the follicle during sex. Given I’ve been stimming for 3 weeks, and I’m now off the orgalutran which prevents early ovulation, there was a small possibility this would happen. So Monday night sex was up to us.

Step two- Tuesday morning I would get a blood test to check my LH, progesterone and estrogren levels. Pretty straight forward. No sex.

Step three – Wednesday at 8.45am I would go back to see Doctor B. She would scan me and check if I’ve ovulated. If I haven’t (which is what we hope will be the case), then the follicle should be pretty close to 18mm so I can be artificially triggered for ovulation. Sex on the Wednesday night is a definite, and then again on the Friday – which is the day the egg should leave the ovary.

And then, we get to suffer the two week wait like regular people. Except we won’t be able to test early, because Doctor B suspects she will need to give me a few shots of pregnyl (a hcG hormone) throughout the fortnight to keep my levels steady.

In two weeks, I’ll either be pregnant or get my period (that part I already knew……). The good news being, if my period arrives Doctor B is happy enough with my health that I can start FSH injections again immediately at a higher dose and try to actually get to egg pick up this time. So in two weeks I’ll either be pregnant, or starting a new cycle of IVF. Win, win situation!

Here’s where I explain to you what it’s actually like to be on the slippery slope from infertility to madness. When you’re infertile you start to hear things selectively, even though you really shouldn’t. Even though you know you’re only hurting yourself.

“I want to be clear with you,” Doctor B said. “The chances of this working are extremely unlikely.”

There’s a chance this will work! I thought, squeezing Doug’s hand.

“You have so many factors causing infertility, and let’s not forget Doug has a minor male factor as well.” Doctor B continued. “That’s not to say it won’t work, I just need you to understand the odds.”

There’s nothing to say this won’t work! I thought happily, whilst nodding my head to let her know I understood.

“Ok you two,” she said, motioning to Doug and I. “I’ll see you on Wednesday. Good luck.”

Good luck! I grinned, getting up and heading for the door. She’s wishing us luck on our pregnancy.

As usual, by the time we made it to our car in the hospital car park, reality had re-entered my brain and I was feeling depressed and anxious about the whole situation.

“Don’t tell anyone we’re doing this.” I hissed at Doug across the centre console. “Not anyone!”

“Why?” Doug asked, laughing at me.

“Because this has a zero point zero zero zero one percent chance of working and I don’t want anyone putting an idea in my head that our chances are any better than that.” I explained.

Too late! said the voice in my head, even though I tried my hardest to suppress it.

We drove to the pharmacy next. We needed to replenish the stocks of the clinic’s FSH we had used, but patients are not able to physically handle the drugs. So the plan was to pay for the medication and have the pharmacy ship them to Doctor B’s clinic. On the way there a google search told me the drugs we had used would cost approximately $2650. I nearly passed out from shock.

Of course we are fully prepared to spend money in our quest to have a child. We’d factored in a cost of $7000 for this cycle of IVF (because of the added cost of MRIs and other non-routine testing that happened for us this time around). But $7000 for IVF seemed acceptable, because IVF gives us a hugely increased chance of achieving our baby goal. Meanwhile, $2650 on a stab in the dark, one in a million possibility was asking a lot.

I was shaking when I handed the medication script over to the pharmacist, and waited nervously while he called to order in the vials we required.

“Ok that’ll be $36.10.” he said.

“………….sorry?” I asked, frowning.

“36 dollars and 10 cents.” he said, slower this time.

“There’s a mistake.” I said quickly. “I’m ordering 2100iu of Puregon.”

“Yes.” he said, and I could see he was trying to make up his mind if I was sane or not. “That will be $36.10.”

“But…”

Before I could argue any further, Doug was handing over a $50 note to pay for the drugs.

I wanted to do a happy dance in the pharmacy. I friggen love the PBS. I love Australia. There’s no way we could afford to go through these fertility treatments in many (if any) other countries. I’m so extremely grateful for that.

Next up on the agenda was work. I had so much to do at work, and a shortened work day wasn’t going to make my tasks any easier  to accomplish.

But that morning I spent way too much of my brain capacity stressing about whether or not we should have sex in the evening and risk early ovulation, or abstain and then risk missing ovulation entirely. Realising I wasn’t getting any of my work done, I went outside where no one could hear me and phoned my mother to ask for advice. Um, is it weird that I feel most comfortable talking over these things with my mother??

“Turkey baster.” my mother said.

“What? Mum, no.” I spluttered.

“Turkey. Baster.” she said again insistently. “You’ll get the sperm up there without bumping anything.”

And then I thought about it more, and I realised she was right. Sure it wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t romantic. It didn’t fit with the notion I have in my head of couples making love and creating life. But what else about my life was ideal and romantic? The constant injections? The regular transvaginal ultrasounds? The cramping, acne, mood swings, bloating and bruising?

Plus, we could always try for the old fashioned romance on Wednesday night if the scan that morning went well.

With much trepidation, I called Doug and divulged my plan. Surprisingly, he agreed.

“Whatever it takes, darling.” he said. “We will do whatever it takes.”

And a fun Monday night was had by all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

July IVF – CD20

After another sleepless night, I woke at 6am on Saturday morning with the world’s worst headache.

My dog Arnold, for some unknown reason, had decided to climb up onto my bed in the early hours of the morning and was fast asleep with his little head directly across my abdomen. He seemed so peaceful and content, keeping my defective ovaries company.

At that point I honestly, truly, genuinely wanted nothing more than to switch off my alarm and go back to sleep. I wanted to sleep for about 100 years. But instead, I hauled myself up out of bed (displacing poor Arnie in the process) jumped in the shower and raced around the house getting ready.

It wasn’t until I was leaving home and about to jump into the car that I realised I was quite possibly wearing the world’s most ridiculous outfit. Flared jeans, a black tunic and a baggy black cardigan. I looked like I was drowning in my own clothes. To make matters worse, after days of sleep deprivation my eyes were blood shot, my skin was blotchy and my hair was all frazzled. At best I looked like a hot mess, at worst a crack addict. But I had to be up at the hospital by 7am for my appointment and there was no time to return to the house and fix myself up.

Ironically, I arrived at the doctor’s rooms at 6.50am, it seems I’d had plenty of time to change. Especially given the fact that as I approached the clinic, I noticed a woman sitting out the front looking quite lost and confused. She was an older woman, maybe early forties, and she had that IVF look about her (signs only a fellow IVF gal would notice – bloated tummy, glazed eyes, skin break out, general nervousness).

“Are you ok?” I asked her.

“The doctor’s room is closed.” she said, frowning. “My appointment was at 6.30. I don’t know what to do.”

Sure enough she was correct. The doctor’s rooms were closed but the lights were switched on inside. The phones went to voicemail, and no amount of banging on the door elicited a response from anyone. Sighing, I sat down on the bench next to her and joined her in waiting. I didn’t think there was anything else we could do. I rationalised that eventually someone would come along.

And I was right, eventually people did come along. But they weren’t clinic staff, they were more women waiting for appointments. Forty-five minutes later there were five of us squashed onto two small benches. All slightly confused, slightly worried and none of us knowing what to do.

I stole glances at the other women while we waited. I was surprised just how different I really was to all of them. I was certainly the youngest by a good ten years. Most of the women on the benches looked over forty, a few maybe late thirties. I felt out of place, even though we were all at the doctor’s office for the same reaon.

Just after 8am, we heard the door unlatch from the inside, and Doctor B finally appeared in the doorway of the clinic.

“Hello ladies!” she gushed. “I’m so sorry to keep you waiting for this long! My ultrasound machine has broken and there was a tech inside trying to fix it! Come in, come in and sit inside.”

A reasonable explanation, I supposed, but it would have been nice for Doctor B to let us known the situation oh I don’t know, say, an hour ago.

I wanted to tell her I was unhappy. I wanted to tell her she was wrong for making us all sit in a hospital corridor, none of us knowing what was going on, all of us worrying we’d messed up our appointment times and days. But I was too nervous and depressed, given I knew my cycle was going to be canceled very shortly, so I kepy my mouth shut.

Quietly and without complaint, we all filed into the clinic’s waiting room where it was more comfortable for us to sit, and Doctor B took the first lady (the one who’d been sitting outside on that bench for almost two hours!) into her office. While I waited I wondered how her scan was going, and if her cycle was being canceled as well. I hoped for her sake it wasn’t.

Ten minutes later, she was finished (her face gave no indication of a result) and Doctor B appeared again in the waiting room. I jumped up, as I knew I was the next cab off the rank.

“Ah it’s my Little Miss next, is it?” she asked with a smile. “In you come then!”

Little Miss???

Now I’ll admit I’m not exactly geriatric, but I’m not a baby anymore either. I may have been 24 years old when we started this process of trying to conceive, but I’m 27 now. I’d been thinking lately, given my age, it probably isn’t even fair to call myself “young yet infertile” anymore, instead I should just be “infertile” now.

But given the age of all the other ladies in the waiting room, and the realisation that my doctor always calls me Little Missy or Miss Sadie, maybe I’m wrong about that? Maybe 27 is still young?

It then occurred to me that I may still be one of Doctor B’s youngest patients and I took a weird comfort in that. I tried to cement in my mind the idea that I was still young, and there was still time, and this failed cycle didn’t mean the end. There was still a chance for me to become a mother.

“Sorry about all this,” she said, leading me into the room where I would have my scan. “The tech couldn’t fix my fancy ultrasound machine so I’m using my old one. It still works fine but the image isn’t as clear.”

Sure enough, a giant ancient looking yellow machine had taken the place of the slick, silver one that I had become accustomed to.

“How have you been feeling?” she asked through the door as I undressed.

“Nothing to report.” I said flatly. “No cramps, not much cervical mucus. I don’t have any hope.”

I hopped up onto the table as she came back into the room, and she quickly inserted the ultrasound wand into my cervix.

“No hope?” she asked, raising an eyebrow at me. “There’s always hope. Let’s have a look and find out what your ovaries are doing ok?”

There were a few moments of silence then, as she adjusted the settings on the machine, and moved the wand both left and right. I gasped in pain as she pushed it hard against my right side.

“Sorry,” she said apologetically. “I’m trying to be gentle. I told you it’s difficult to get a nice clear image on this old thing.”

Then came more silence as Doctor B analysed the screen in front of her. Usually, there’s a duplicate image on the television screen next to the bed so I can see what’s happening during scans. I can see my ovaries, and I can tell before she speaks what the results are (I’ve become a bit of an expert at reading ultrasounds). But this older, clunkier machine only had the one screen, which was swivelled around so only the doctor could see it. I was completely in the dark, and the unknown was driving me mad.

“Sorry Miss Sadie,” she said eventually. “Looks like there’s nothing going on here.”

I let out a breath of hot air and gave her a tight lipped smile. I felt deflated, but not destroyed. It was, after all, the result I had been expecting. I braced myself, waiting for the uncomfortable sensation of the wand being removed from my cervix.

“Wait!” Doctor B said suddenly, still staring at the screen. “Drop your legs.”

I was perplexed, but did as instructed and let my feet fall off the stirrups so they were dangling over the edge of the table.

“Relax your pelvic floor,” she said gently but urgently.

I’m not sure whether I’ve discussed on this blog before that after a few years of invasive treatment I’ve developed vaginismus? It’s something that Doctor B and I have been working on together, and I also go and see a doctor that specialises in female sexual dysfunction. I have relaxation and breathing exercises that help me during ultrasounds, and Doug has been extremely supportive in working through this with me at home in the bedroom.

Using some of the breathing techniques I’ve been taught, I closed my eyes and concentrated on consciously unclenching my pelvic floor. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, unclench.

“Good girl,” Doctor B said, “Keep relaxing….”

I felt the probe pushing into my left side, digging in painfully as I tried my hardest to stop my muscles contracting. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, unclench.

“There!” she suddenly said. “We’ve got one!”

My eyes flew open and I sat up a little on the bed. Doctor B was grinning at me.

“There’s a dominant follicle on your left ovary. It’s measuring at 13.7mm at the moment.” she said, this time fully removing the probe.

“So what does this mean?” I asked, as I cleaned myself up and got dressed.

I was in a bit of shock, and my body was suddenly alive and coursing with adrenaline. My mind was filled with emotions – I was elated, nervous, confused, hopeful, hopeless, and desperate for clarity.

“It means this isn’t over yet.” Doctor B said. “Come back on Monday morning and we’ll scan you again. Then we can make a decision on this cycle. Maybe we do ovulation induction. We’ll see.”

My initial reaction as I left the clinic was pure joy. This isn’t over yet! It isn’t over yet! I have a follicle! I have a follicle! I HAVE A FOLLICLE!

But by the time I got home, I had somewhat calmed down and started to rationalize with myself. Just because I have one follicle doesn’t mean I have one egg. Even if I triumph over the PCOS and ovulate, even if we time it perfectly and egg meets sperm, there’s still the endometriosis and adenomyosis to stand in the way of a pregnancy. Two different specialists have told me my chances of conceiving naturally are zero percent. Sure, ovulation induction isn’t quite natural conception, but it’s pretty damn close.

In some ways, I think I’d have been better off not knowing. If Doctor B had never found the follicle and simply canceled the cycle, I could have moved on with my life in total ignorance and just waited for my next IVF round to start. Now I have this (almost completely) false hope again. I can’t shake this notion from my mind that this is all meant to be. It’s a dangerous way to think when you’re infertile.

Doug arrived home from the airport a few hours later. It had been six days since I’d seen him last, and I was absolutely exhausted. We curled up on the bed together at about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and I finally felt safe and happy again, wrapped in his arms.

I fell into a deep sleep and didn’t awaken for five hours.

 

 

 

 

 

July IVF – CD17

If someone asked me to choose one word to describe myself, today that word would be tired. If I could use three words? Very, very tired.

Doug is away at the moment. He’s coming home tomorrow afternoon, which is good because I rarely sleep well when he isn’t lying next to me in bed. I have always had an extremely over active imagination. If I’m alone I just lie awake listening to the noises in the night and convincing myself there’s either a serial killer outside my bedroom window or a poltergeist loose in the house. To be clear, I don’t believe in ghosts except when I’m alone and irrational, nor do I live in some kind of ghetto. In fact, I live in a quiet, middle class suburb in a city with a relatively low crime rate. But let’s not allow those things to get in the way of my 2am hysteria!

Confession time? On one occasion, back before Doug and I moved in together, I convinced myself the council workers doing night time road repairs the next street over were actually police searching for a criminal who was hiding out in the neighbourhood. Using the darkness of the night, and our leafy backyards to conceal his whereabouts. And quite obviously this criminal was most likely a murderer or rapist, otherwise why would the police be bothering to search at 3am? After pacing for an hour, I phoned my mother in a panic and convinced her that she simply had to come to my house (at the time I didn’t own a car so I couldn’t drive to her). You know you have a good mama when she’s willing to drive to your house in the early hours of the morning simply because you’ve made up some ridiculous sleep deprived story.

But Doug and I have lived together for three years now. He’s my husband shaped security blanket when he’s home. He never complains when I nudge him awake and ask him to go and check on a noise downstairs, though truthfully he rarely has to because I generally fall into a deep and easy sleep with his arm wrapped around my waist. I’ve become spoiled, and I’ve forgotten what it’s like to live alone. So today, I am tired.

Now that I’ve convinced you all I’m nuts, let’s talk about my IVF cycle………

I have an appointment with Doctor B tomorrow morning at 7am. I know she is going to cancel my cycle.

Doug wasn’t supposed to be home until Monday but he’s flying back two days early so that I won’t have to be alone. He’ll miss the appoinment, but he’ll be home by lunch time so I won’t have to stew over the outcome on my own for too long. I’m grateful for that, even though at the moment I’m feeling calm and ok. I think I am mentally prepared for the worst possible outcome at my appointment tomorrow.

I honestly, truly believe this cycle will be cancelled. Usually I’m the type to hold out hope. When someone says “there’s a 99% chance this has failed” my immediate reaction is “well there’s still that 1%!” But not this time, and here’s why:

  • I have very little cramping (last time the cramping was awful!)
  • I’ve only put on 2kg (last time my weight gain was much more significant)
  • I am bloated but not uncomfortable (last time my pants didn’t fit once I reached day 12 and now I’m on day 17)
  • I have hardly any cervical mucus (last time there was so much towards the end it was disgusting)
  • I don’t have that heavy feeling under my skin near my tummy that only IVF ladies will understand.
  • Women’s intuition.

In my mind, all these signs translate to no growth. No follicles, no eggies, no egg pick up, no fertilization, no embryo transfer, no pregnancy, no baby. I’m sure you get the picture.

But like I said, I’m doing ok. I do think I’ll become quite upset if Doctor B tells me I have to wait a long time before starting another cycle. I’m going to push to start again straight away, but I know she feels strongly that I need a few months break. I can hear my fertility clock ticking so loudly in my ears now that it’s almost deafening, I do not want to wait to start again.

I guess there’s no point in stressing about that now. I can’t do anything about it until I know the situation with my ovaries. I need to get through the scan tomorrow morning, sit down and talk with Doctor B about our options, and then go from there.

In the meantime, I have to get through the day at work, and then make it through one more sleepless night before my husband comes home. It doesn’t help that I have the world’s shittiest guard dog. Arnold would just roll over and beg a serial killer to scratch his belly.

He does have swagger though. You can’t fault him for that. As my parting gift, I’ll leave you with a photo of Arnold showing off his b-boy style. You’re welcome.

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July IVF – CD14

This is going to sound weird, but I think my husband is more upset about this cycle being a failure than I am.

I was definitely angry and bitter yesterday morning, but writing a blog post was quite therapeutic for me and by the time I got home I felt as close to normal as a gal can possibly feel when she’s going through IVF.

When Doug arrived home from work at about 7pm, he looked tired and sad. He wrapped me up in a big hug and asked me how I was doing.

“I’m ok,” I said. “What would you like for dinner?”

“Come on now, don’t lie.” he cajoled. “You don’t have to be strong for me.”

“Um…I’m not?” I said, looking up at him. “I feel ok.”

“Neither of us feel ok.” he disagreed. “We don’t have to pretend with each other. I tried to pretend this morning at the doctor’s clinic but we need to just allow ourselves to be sad now.”

That’s when I really noticed just how devastated he actually was. He confessed that he had been on the verge of tears all day at work. His boss had even noticed something was wrong, and had asked if I was sick. He’d also spoken to his family and asked for some space from them so we can grieve.

Doug has never really shown that much emotion throughout this whole IVF process, at least not without a few wines in him. When we lost our last pregnancy, I was the one who hid under the blankets and cried for a fortnight. Doug almost seemed to carry on as normal. I knew he was disappointed with the result, but he even admitted that he didn’t think of our loss as a baby because it was only 5 and a half weeks along and “shaped like a tiny tadpole” rather than a human. It’s just the way he copes with things. He rationalises and internalises and carries on.

So to see him so upset last night really broke my heart. It’s frustrating and awful and soul destroying to have a cycle fail before egg pick up. But I also know it could have been so much worse.

In a way I was glad Doug finally showed that IVF is affecting him too. He even admitted he might need to go and see someone like I am. It’s not healthy to bottle up all your emotions all the time. The last thing I want is to see him sad, but I’d rather get upset with him than worry he’s getting upset when he’s all alone.

Speaking of “seeing someone”, I had my first session with the infertility counselor this morning. She seems a bit odd and I haven’t made my mind up about her yet, but I’m going to go back next week to give it a second try.

She asked me some weird questions, like why I think infertility is becoming a greater problem in society. I didn’t really see how that was at all relevant to me, or my situation. I’m trying to have one child not solve the fertility problems of the entire world. Do I look like Captain Planet??

Pushing those thoughts aside, I considered her question for a moment then told her I thought it was because people were leaving it later to have children, thus diminishing their fertility. Other environmental factors, such as the genetically modified foods, chemicals and preservatives we eat in modern, western society surely also played a role. Then there was social infertility. I gave examples of single women who are now able to try to fall pregnant through the use of donor sperm and homosexual couples who are able to use donors or surrogates. Treatments were not legal or widely available for non married couples until recently. Then I added the basic fact that infertility would historically have been under-reported. A childless couple was not necessarily considered infertile. There was no assisted reproductive technology available, thus they would not routinely be identifying themselves as unable to conceive to medical professionals.

“No, that’s wrong.” she said dismissively, offering no supposedly right answer.

What in the……

To be fair, it wasn’t all weirdness and she did also offer me some interesting insight into my own mind. She picked up on the fact I seem to now identify myself as an infertile.

“That’s not who you are.” she said. “Infertility is a circumstance, it is not the definition of a person. You can’t let infertility define your character. You’re more than just a young woman who is struggling to have a child.”

Those words really hit home with me. I realised very quickly that I have allowed my medical conditions to take over and define who I am as a person. If someone asked me to sum myself up, I’d say Sadie, 27 years old, infertile. But that’s not actually me. So I think it’s time to reintroduce myself…..

I’m Sadie. I’m 27 years old, kind, funny and supportive. I love my dog an unnaturally large amount, I’m very close to my family, and I’m married to the love of my life. I eat vegemite straight from the jar, and I have an irrational phobia of whales. I’m a high achieving student, I hate exercise but I try, I can never stop at just one piece of chocolate, I’m a movie buff with a huge dvd collection and a little bit obsessed with the X Files. My goals in life are to see Versailles, complete a PhD, run a marathon, have three children, write a novel, learn to swing dance and live on a farm.

I am not just an infertile. My medical problems make up a big part of my life, but they are not shameful and they don’t define me. I am a whole person with multifaceted habits, goals, opinions.

I encourage everyone who is going through fertlity treatment, or struggling with infertility, to sit down and write out on a piece of paper exactly who they are. You might be surprised by the results.

July IVF – CD13

Twelve days of injections.

For what?

Nothing.

I had my second scan this morning, and my ovaries haven’t done a single thing since last week. I still have that one follicle on my left ovary, and it’s still measuring 9mm. It hasn’t grown even one millimetre. The look on Doctor B’s face told me everything I need to know. There will be no egg pick-up. This will be a failed cycle.

We are pulling me off the orgalutran, because there’s no point putting me through the awful burning pain of those injections if there’s no ovulation to even suppress. But I’m going to keep stimming with 100iu of Puregon for another five days.

I’m going back Saturday morning at 7am for one last scan. We’re going to just give my ovaries one last chance. But Doctor B said given I’ve been stimming for twelve days and absolutely nothing has happened, she is extremely doubtful there will be any change. I love getting up super early on Saturday mornings to be delivered bad news!

I need to think about this realistically. This cycle is going to be a failure. And then what? Doctor B wants me to rest for a few months. She wants my body to recover a little from all the treatment over the past six months. This sounds like a horrid plan to me. I want to go back to back and start injections again as soon as I get my period. I want to keep going.

I want to scream at her until I lose my voice. Inject me every day for the rest of my life if you have to. I don’t want to wait again. I don’t want more months to lapse. I don’t want another rest. I don’t care if more hormone injections and steroids wipe my foggy memory completely clean. Just let me keep going. Please? Please?

I’m trying very hard not to be bitter. I’m trying very hard to keep calm. I kept having this warm and fuzzy recurrent thought that I was going to be pregnant when my sister-in-law Jess has her baby in early October. I was going to be pregnant and that was going to take the edge off my pain. The insensitivity shown by Doug’s family, the heartache of losing my last pregnancy, the pitiful feeling that I’m going to be barren and childless for the rest of my life…none of it would matter.

We’d go up to the hospital to meet our new niece and offer our congratulations. They’d pass me the baby, all new and squishy, and I’d look down at her and smile and think You’ll have a new little cousin soon. Your aunty is going to be a mummy soon. We’re all going to be great friends. Life is good.

But instead, that dream is now almost certainly an impossibility. Instead I’ll go up to that hospital, I’ll walk down the hall of the maternity ward and drink in the happy, exhausted new mums and crying babies, I’ll hug my sister-in-law, they’ll pass me my new niece, and I’ll look down at her and just wish a sink hole could open up beneath my feet and swallow me. Your mummy and daddy started trying for a baby a year after we did. Your mummy and daddy got pregnant straight away. You thrived in your mummy’s womb, but my little one didn’t make it. Your mummy and daddy now get to hold you and kiss you and love you and cherish you. Your aunty and uncle are still childless and miserable.

Resting for another few months before we begin another cycle will also mean I’ll now be at least another year old before I give birth to a baby. I’ll be 28. Big deal, I hear you say. But I’ve had two different specialist doctors tell me I’ll need a pelvic clearance around my 30th birthday. No more ovaries, no more uterus, no more anything.

Every minute, every hour, every day, I am hurtling so fast towards my third decade. Will I get a child at all? If I get one, will there be any chance for me to try for a second? Will my clock run down? Will I miss out on something that seemingly comes so easily to everyone around me?

Doctor B squeezed my arm this morning and smiled at me, almost as if she could read my mind. “You’ll be a mum, Miss Sadie.” she said.

Will I? I don’t know.

Tomorrow morning I’m going to see an infertility counselor for the first time. It’s something I should have done over a year ago, but for some reason I’ve been too afraid. Of what? I’m not so sure. Maybe admitting to someone other than Doug and my mother that I’m not strong enough to cope on my own. I admitted those things to my mother-in-law and look where that got me. Am I really ready to admit these things to another person?

I think in the end it’ll work out for the best. This counselor will understand my feelings, but not judge me for feeling them. Plus, they’ll never be able to throw them in my face or hold them against me at family dinners.

Doug is away most of this week. He’s on business until Thursday then he was supposed to join his mates on a boys football weekend away from Friday through Monday. He’s now coming home to me on Saturday midday, so I won’t have to be alone after I’m given the inevitable news that this cycle has failed. I love him dearly for sacrificing his weekend away, which I know he’s been looking forward to since it was planned in February. It makes me feel guilty that my wretched body is ruining both our fun.

Today, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. Today, I am no closer to achieving my dreams. I need to keep reminding myself that there’s always tomorrow, though it’s easier said than done.

The post where my mother-in-law loses her shit (part two)

“Kill her?” I gasped into the phone. “Why would I want to kill Kate? I feel awful! You never should have said anything to her.”

I was standing in the hallway at work, trying to keep my voice down so my colleagues inside wouldn’t hear. I’d just received an alarming text message from my mother-in-law Kate, letting me know she was extremely sorry for upsetting me and she would understand if I never spoke to her again.

“Let me explain,” my husband began cautiously.

“No Doug!” I cut in angrily. “I know I was annoyed at her carrying on about your sister’s pregnancy, but that was personal. It was something I told you in confidence! Poor Kate! You’ve upset her for no reason!”

“No.” Doug said firmly. “I haven’t. You don’t know what she said to me.”

“Wait….what did she say?” I asked, my voice dropping conspiratorially low.

And over the course of half an hour, my loving husband divulged to me the truth of my mother-in-law’s opinion of me. A truth that shocked me to my core, and an opinion I knew was completely and utterly undeserved.

Doug had gone to visit Kate and his stepfather John while he had business in Torquay. He’d planned to stay for dinner before joining the rest of his team at their hotel. But according to Doug, his mother had spent almost the entire meal gushing about his sister Jess, who is twenty-five weeks pregnant, and her husband Rory. Finally, Doug said the rage that had been building inside him over the past few months overflowed and he couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

“Mum,” he said, holding up his hand to stop her. “I have heard enough. I don’t understand why you constantly talk about Jess’s baby. You know Sadie and I lost a pregnancy that was only a couple of week’s behind hers. It’s hard for us to hear about it constantly. Can’t you understand?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kate had dismissed his comment with a laugh.

“Yes you do!” he argued. “And while we’re talking about this, why do you treat Sadie so differently to Rory?”

“I beg your pardon!” Kate spluttered. “I treat Jess’s husband and your wife exactly the same.”

Doug, not willing to let the matter go, proceeded to provide a handful of examples that proved just how much Kate preferred Rory to myself. To drive his point home, he pointed out the fact I was the only family member missing from the photo wall in their house.

“I don’t understand,” Doug said in exasperation. “Sadie is smart and reliable. She has two university degrees, a great job, she bought her own home when she was twenty-two years old, she doesn’t drink, or smoke or do drugs. By comparison, Rory is always in and out of work, he’s covered in tattoos, he drinks heavily and he almost certainly did drugs in his younger years. Why is it him and not my wife who you keep on a pedestal?”

I knew Doug’s words were very true. Rory is a nice guy and we all get along well with him, but he is certainly from the other side of the tracks than Doug’s posh upper middle class family. It had shocked me when they so readily accepted Rory into their lives, given he didn’t fit their mould. Whereas I certainly fit easily into their world, or at least I should have.

And that’s when Kate slipped up and finally divulged the truth. Once the flood gates had opened and she started to talk, she apparently hadn’t been able to hold back. What ensued was a mammoth four hour argument, peppered with screaming, tears, and moments where Kate stormed off into the bedroom to calm herself before returning for another round.

She told Doug that whilst she had heard that Rory drinks a lot and maybe used to do drugs, she personally had never seen that side of him. All she saw was a good husband to Jess and a good dad to their toddler. But she had witnessed me drunk, inappropriately dressed (according to her ridiculous standards) and acting like “tart” on one occasion six years ago at that pool party in her backyard (the one I spoke of in my last blog post).

Doug immediately pointed out it was unfair to judge me for being a drunk twenty-one year old, when he himself had been drinking heavily at that party. So drunk, in fact, he’d burned his hand when he lit a pizza box on fire in their backyard. But she refused to accept that. Her first impression of me had lasted and she’d never been able to shake it. In her mind I’d always been a floozy with loose morals. Never mind the fact I haven’t had a drop of alcohol in over three years and act like the perfect wife and daughter-in-law. I was automatically the bad spouse. Even when Doug argued that this whole thing was grossly unfair, she refused to concede.

Then Kate took it further. She went on to say she was concerned that I wasn’t the “girl for her son”…

“Excuse me!” Doug had exploded, standing up from the dining table. “What the hell are you talking about?”

It was at this moment that John turned bright red, confessed he didn’t share these opinions and quickly excused himself. He must have known what was coming next.

Kate started to tell Doug how over the past few years I’ve changed so much and now she was worried he didn’t love me anymore. She noted that when we came to stay with them at Torquay on weekend visits, I’d sleep in until after 9am (shock horror!) and then sit around the house all day being lazy. I didn’t enjoy playing family games with everyone after dinner and I was always so sullen. She didn’t doubt my love for him, but felt that perhaps he didn’t love me and was only staying with me out of obligation.

“She’s going through damn fertility treatment!” Doug shouted. “She works full time, she was studying a masters degree full time, and going through surgeries and IVF. She’s allowed to sleep late on Saturday mornings and skip a game of Pictionary! For Christ’s sake Mum!”

“But you never tell me you love her.” Kate continued her campaign against me. “You’ve never once called me on the phone and told me you love her.”

“What???” Doug gasped, completely thrown. “I’m not that kind of person! You know that I’m not! Do you expect me to call you constantly and profess my love for my own wife? You’ve never called me to tell me you love John! Does Jess call you and tell you she loves Rory?”

“No,” Kate admitted. “But Rory is a good dad, so I don’t worry about him. Whereas I do worry that Sadie won’t be a good mother.”

And that was the biggest bombshell of them all.

Kate proceeded to tell Doug that she’d listened to me countless times on the phone over the past six months confess to her how I often felt depressed, hopeless, bitter and alone. I’d done those things of course, because she told me how much she supported me. How much she wanted to help me. And I’d trusted her because she was my mother-in-law and has a degree in psychology. I felt safe telling her my problems and deepest fears.

But she’d taken my dark and private thoughts, twisted them, and somehow formed the opinion that I was going to be a negligent parent. She now feared I was going to end up getting post natal depression if we ever had a child, and then Doug would be stuck looking after a newborn and a depressed wife. He’d have to parent us both. She went on to say that once we have a child together, he’ll be burdened with me for the rest of his life. There will be no escaping me, and I would sap his happiness for the rest of his days. That was when Doug completely lost his cool and started screaming at his mother. She, in turn, had burst into tears and stormed off to the bedroom.

As he relayed these things to me during our phone call, I was too shocked to make a sound, or cry. I was surprised I was even still breathing. I was absolutely stunned. My mother-in-law, who I had a cordial relationship with, who I trusted, who I thought had my best interests at heart….thought I had loose morals? Thought I was sullen and lazy? Thought I wasn’t good enough for her son? Thought I was going to be a bad parent? Thought the best thing Doug could do was escape from me?

I was, and still am, completely devastated.

First of all, it is grossly unfair to assume I will be a bad parent because I have been depressed about my infertility and my miscarriage. As someone with a background in psychology, Kate should know better than that. There’s no telling whether I will get post natal depression or not. Maybe I will. Maybe I won’t. The happiest girl in the world can end up with PND, through no fault of her own. PND does not discriminate.

To also say I will be a bad parent is equivalent to shooting an arrow through my heart. All I desperately want, more than anything in the world, is to be a mother. To suggest that I would do a bad job if I ever were to have a child understandably upset me. I am 100% completely and utterly certain that I will be a good mother. No one in my family or circle of friends thinks otherwise – in fact I’m usually the designated babysitter in our group. I am calm and patient with children, and can get the fussiest baby to sleep. I love having my two year old niece stay for the weekend and she often calls me Aunty Mummy instead of Aunty Sadie. I’m not at all worried about my ability to be a parent, and more importantly neither is Doug.

Furthermore, IVF and fertility treatment is mentally, physically and emotionally traumatic and exhausting. It is without a doubt the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through in my life. Doug has been my knight in shining armour through all of it. We’ve gone through this together.

What Kate also did was speak out loud my deepest fear of all – that Doug would be better off without me. I am dragging him down. I’ve been fooling myself by thinking these infertility problems are ours to share. They’re not. They’re mine. If Doug had married someone else, he would be a daddy by now. I’m holding him back and he’d be better off without me.

I won’t even bother to address Kate’s assertion that I am a tart, or a drunk, or whatever it is that she seems to think. Most young people drink alcohol and let go of their inhibitions when they think they’re in safe places. A lot also do those things when they’re not in safe places. That is something I never did. I never slept around (I’ve only ever slept with Doug and one other previous long-term boyfriend), I’ve never done drugs, I’ve never done anything stupid.

Doug placated my fears. He told me how ardently he had defended me. He told his mother repeatedly that I am the best thing that ever happened to him. I have made him stronger, healthier, wiser, calmer and happier. I have enriched his life in every possible way. I felt proud and relieved that he had defended me. He completely allayed my fears that he believed in any way that I was dragging him down, or that he would be better off without me. More than anything he just regretted his mother had dragged me into the whole mess by texting me her apology. He had preferred I never know any of this.

He calmed me further by telling me that after Kate composed herself in her bedroom and came back to the dining table, the two had talked for a further two hours and the truth behind her truths (if that makes sense) had come to the surface. She didn’t really dislike me. She disliked anyone who she thought had replaced her in her son’s life. You know those mothers who cling so desperately to their grown up sons? She’s one of them and I never even realised. It wasn’t that I’m not good enough for Doug, it’s that no one is good enough for Doug. And once we have children, he’ll be gone forever. He will always belong to someone other than her. Her opinion had been driven by jealously.

He talked her through how harrowing and awful infertility and IVF really is, and she began to sob. She started to feel guilty and awful. She began to realise how terribly she’d twisted everything in her mind. All she really wanted was for us both to be happy, and she understood the many ways I have improved her son’s life in the years since we’ve been together. She confessed she hadn’t even noticed the ways she treated me differently to Rory, but now they were suddenly so obvious. Doug left her house feeling satisfied that Kate’s opinion of me had changed for the better and her attitude towards me would improve in the future.

What he hadn’t banked on was Kate not sleeping all night because she felt so awful and guilty, then eventually caving the next afternoon and alleviating those feelings by texting me an apology.

For the past few days I’ve felt so very torn. I have felt incredibly angry at the things Kate said about me. I am hurt and furious. I can’t possibly understand how she could say those things about me. But I also understand that Kate is going to be my mother-in-law for the rest of my life. She will be the eventual grandmother of my children. We need to maintain at least some type of relationship, for their sake and for Doug’s. I also know she feels terrible, and like she has wronged me. I appreciate those feelings and also her apology, but I desperately wish she’d never involved me in this debacle.

I guess I just don’t know what to think or do. I know that Doug will support me, whatever I decide. I also know from past experience that I don’t tend to hold grudges against people. What I do unequivocally believe is that Kate should never have done this while Doug and I are in the middle of a cycle of IVF. This is most certainly a stress I don’t need. I’m going to take the weekend to think everything over, and see how I feel. I spent the day today just relaxing around the house, and already much of my anger has dissipated. I think I’m still just in a bit of shock that anyone could think those things about me for any length of time, no matter what the real reasons were. I think I’m kind, introverted and good natured.

Doug hopes that time will heal all wounds, and Kate and I will be able to rebuild a new relationship, maybe even stronger than our previous one. I’m still not sure.

Has anyone else had to deal with a horrible mother-in-law before? Were you able to move past it all? I’d love to hear your opinions.

(Also, if you’ve made it to the end of this post congratulations! I know it was extremely lengthy and probably boring, but venting has helped me to organise my feelings on this matter.)