Right now I feel alone, tired and confused. I don’t even know if there’s a point to this blog post other than to find a way to focus my thoughts for a few minutes.
I did everything right this cycle. Honestly, I did.
In the past I have been quite silly during the two week wait. After my last embryo transfer (in November 2013) I went straight home from the hospital and spent the rest of the day painting the front fence in the blistering heat. I painted the front fence! And I still got pregnant! Sure it ended up ectopic, but at least the little bugger implanted.
This time, for the first time ever, I kept my feet warm during the two week wait. I haven’t done that in the past because it isn’t something routinely recommended by my doctor. But I didn’t want to take any chances. I was so sure this was my time, and I wanted to do everything I could to make sure I was right.
Did I mention there was a heatwave in Melbourne during my two week wait? Temperatures got up to 40 degrees (104 Fahrenheit) and everyone was wearing skimpy summer clothing to try and keep cool. And here I was in my socks, sweating up a storm.
I couldn’t wear socks at work because socks don’t really look right in the corporate environment (particularly because I tend to wear suit skirts and heels or strappy sandals) so I wore tights. Can you imagine the stares I received from people on the street when I walked past them in the sweltering heat wearing thick black tights under my skirt?
But then to make sure I didn’t overheat my uterus I was rolling the top of the tights down to sit beneath my pelvic bone. So my skirts had this weird lump in them and I felt super uncomfortable all day.
I also ate pineapple core for the first five days after transfer. I’ve never done that before either because I don’t have too much trust in anything anecdotal that science can’t unquestionably substantiate. But I did it, because I’d never done it before, and I thought it might make the difference for me. I thought it might make my uterus just that little bit stickier and ensure me success.
Then I googled other old wives tales about IVF. Or should I say new wives tales, because none of the old wives ever got to experience the pleasures of modern assisted reproductive technology. Ha…ha…
Doctor Google informed me that that it’s good to only eat warm foods during the two week wait. Thus began two weeks of obsessively eating soup. I mean seriously here I am wearing my socks, and eating soup while everyone else is taking cold showers to try and beat the heatwave. It was so stupid, but I was so determined. I wanted to make sure everything was just right for the little embryos so I checked my temperature regularly throughout the day to make sure I was warm but not overheated.
I also stopped drinking anything that was colder than room temperature. And in a heat wave, that basically means I was only drinking warm water. But not water from the tap! Because I read that the fluoride added to tap water can be counterproductive to fertility. So I was guzzling bottle after bottle of warm bottled water. It was expensive and I was leaving empty bottles all around the house. Because you can’t reuse bottles – they’re not BPA free! And that’s bad for fertility!
I just…don’t understand. I did everything right. I was careful and smart and went above and beyond. I am young. I am reasonably healthy. Why didn’t this work for me? Why me? Why?
Do you know in my four fully stimmed IVF cycles to date I have had a total of 51 eggs picked up. And do you know of those 51 eggs only two have made it to freeze. Four have been transferred back, and two have been frozen. That’s it. Only six of my 51 eggs were decent. 45 of them either failed to fertilize, or arrested after fertilization, or didn’t make it to a developmental stage or quality where they could be frozen.
I am 27 years old. Majority of those eggs were picked up over twelve months ago so they were 26 year old eggs. That is not the kind of result you expect to see in a 26/27 year old. So why has no doctor raised this with me before? Why has no doctor suggested we do genetic testing? Why has no doctor hinted that there could be a problem with my eggs? These are the same doctors who are so happy to just keep signing us up for more IVF, and keep shoving their sticky little hands into our pockets to relieve us of our life savings.
I am so hurt and confused. There is no endless money pit in my backyard. We can’t just keep giving doctors thousands of dollars for treatments that aren’t going to work, because there’s something genetically wrong with my eggs. I don’t feel like any of the medical professionals who treat me have any sort of care about my feelings, or have my best interests at heart. I think they have their own interests at heart. I noticed recently that my doctor has a new sports car. I’m sure my IVF cycles contributed to that little purchase.
In terms of my battle with infertility I’m certainly not winning at the moment. Nor am I winning in the game of life in general.
This morning I was in so much pain when I woke up at about 6am, so decided to take our little toy poodle Arnold out into the yard to play fetch. I don’t talk about Arnie as much as I should, considering the incredible and positive impact he has on my life. Here’s a few photos:
Yes, in that last photo I had dressed him in a yellow raincoat with flowers on it. He’s manly enough to be ok with it, and you should be too. Never mind the sour expression on his face, he secretly loves it. Honest.
Anyway, Arnold loves fetch like an infertile loves peeing on sticks so I knew it would cheer us both up. So off we both trekked into the yard. After about 15 minutes of game time, Arnold was racing back to me with his little green giraffe in his mouth (yes his favourite fetch toy is a little green giraffe – I don’t know how or why a manufacturer found it necessary to produce and sell a green giraffe but he loves it) when suddenly he started shrieking and fell to the ground.
My first thought as I ran towards him was that he had broken his leg. The shrieking was high pitched and ear piercing, and I was sure a neighbour was going to phone the police because they could hear a child screaming. But then he started convulsing in a weird way and I immediately knew he had been bitten by something. My little dog is tiny, even for a toy poodle. He’s barely 2kg (4.5lbs) and I was so petrified that he had been bitten by a poisonous spider. There’s no way he’d have made it to the vet alive because the venom wouldn’t have taken very long to work it’s way through his tiny system.
I scooped him up into my arms and cradled him like a baby so all four of his legs were angled towards my face. He was still convulsing, and had curled his left hind leg in towards his body. I started pulling at his paw trying to look for evidence of a spider, and he shrieked even louder. Seeing no evidence of a bite, I started to shriek myself. I didn’t know what was wrong with my sweet little fur-baby and I didn’t know how to help him or take his pain away.
I ran back across the yard and into the house screaming for my husband. Doug was still asleep in bed, but I heard him upstairs as his feet slammed onto the wooden floor and he raced towards the staircase. When he reached me I was at the bottom of the stairs, still holding our shrieking and shaking puppy.
“What is it?” he cried, reaching for us both.
At that moment, I peeled Arnie’s sore leg away from his body and caught sight of a gigantic wasp that was latched onto his inner leg. Immediately I started panicking, because I am very allergic to bees and wasps. I was thrown into this awful state of conflict. My instincts were telling me to drop the dog and run as fast as I could, because I was in danger by placing myself so close to an angry wasp. The other part of me was crying out to protect my baby anyway I could and just rip the wasp from his little body with my bare hands.
“I can’t touch the wasp!” I screamed, over the shrieks of the dog. “Get the wasp away from me!”
Immediately Doug reached towards the wasp to grab it, then suddenly withdrew his hand. “I can’t see! I’m blind! I can’t see what I’m doing!” he cried, and then raced upstairs to grab his glasses off the bedside table.
When he came back downstairs again he grabbed a wad of tissues and ripped the wasp away from Arnold’s leg before squashing it dead on the kitchen bench. Arnold immediately stopped shrieking, but he was still shaking like a leaf and he tucked his head into my neck as if he was hiding from the world. He just wanted to be comforted.
“It’s ok my baby,” I said, holding him close. “I’m going to make you all better.”
I left Doug holding Arnold, and raced upstairs to get dressed. Then I phoned the vet, who said I would need to bring Arnold in immediately in case he was having an allergic reaction. Meanwhile, Doug put Arnie down on the floor to see how sick he was, and instead of standing up or walking he just sort of collapsed on the ground. He was conscious but clearly in a bad state.
Suddenly it occured to me that I wasn’t going to be able to go to work that day. I would need to be at the vet. Last year I ended up having a huge falling out with my bosses who were not supportive of my fertility treatment, and frequent absences from the office. I started a new job in January (same organisation, different department) and my new workplace is more supportive, but I’ve already had two sick days in less than a month. I couldn’t possibly have another day off. I need to keep them onside, in the hope that my eggs are genetically normal and I’ll be doing more IVF in the future.
All I can say is thank God my parents live less than five minutes away. They were over at the house almost straight away, and more than willing to take Arnold to the vet for me. As I passed him over into my mother’s arms he looked up at me with his big brown eyes and I just knew he was upset that I was abandonning him. I kissed his little nose and promised that nothing bad was going to happen to him, and told him I was sorry that I wasn’t able to rescue him by removing the wasp myself. I felt so incredibly guilty. I felt like a bad parent.
Later on, my father told me that when they arrived at the vet my mother had cried out “You have to help this sick dog! My daughter is going through IVF and this dog is her replacement baby! Nothing bad can happen to him!”
And the vet actually smiled and said “Don’t worry, my sister has just had her first baby after eight cycles of IVF. I know exactly what your daughter is going through and I’ll take good care of her dog.”
And she was true to her word. Arnie had to have a whole bunch of shots to stop the allergic reaction, and reduce the swelling in his leg. He still can’t walk and he’s very lethargic but he was allowed to go home with my parents earlier and he’s resting now.
Honestly I don’t know what I would have done if something bad had happened to my dog. He really is like my replacement baby. I take him everywhere with me (not to work, obviously…), rock him like a baby, dress him up in little outfits and snuggle with him every night. He’s seen me through so many dark moments in my life. I’ve even taught him to lift his front legs when I say “up up” just like a small child so that I can pick him up more easily. He doesn’t even know he’s a dog. He thinks he’s a little boy. A little boy who likes to play fetch 24/7.
I am so incredibly grateful and thankful that my little boy is ok. We will still need to keep a close eye on him for the next few days, but I’m hoping he makes a really speedy recovery.
I honestly can’t take anymore bad news right now. If you have bad news for me, can you hold off on it for a couple of days please? I need a break.