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Father’s Day can go to hell

Today is Father’s Day in Australia.

I have struggled for the past fortnight, in the lead up to this day. Everywhere I’ve looked there have been stark reminders of what my life has failed to become.

Posters depicting happy families sit in the window of every store, advertisements on TV show dads laughing and carefree as they swing their beautiful children into the air, and my friends have been posting tributes to their husbands and fathers on my Facebook feed.

Every night this week I have cried myself to sleep because I’ve been so depressed and anxious about this day. I have felt so torn and conflicted. I have felt more anguish than I normally do on Mother’s Day.

I have been so angry at Doug. Desperately angry at him for leaving me alone. I’ve felt this pain like the stab of a knife straight through my heart.

See those lovely families on the posters in the shop windows? I will never have that. He has taken that possibility from me. He has torn that smiling baby from my grasp, erased that proud husband from the image of my future. What kind of a man would do that to a woman he claimed to love?

I have felt bad, too, for my children. The ones I carry with me in my heart. Because I honestly believe that they deserve better. They deserve a father who loves them, and loves their mother, and did everything he could to take care of his family instead of abandoning us when times got tough.

I really believe they watch over us both, and I have felt so awful because I know he can’t be making them proud right now. They must be so ashamed of him and his disgraceful behaviour toward me.

And then, simmering somewhere in the melting pot of my emotions, is empathy. I have worried about Doug. Worried about how he is handling this day. This day that will always be a reminder of the children he has lost. I worried that he had not surrounded himself with strong people, and that perhaps he was suffering in silence today. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want anyone to feel this bitter turmoil that I feel.

In spite of the way he has scorned me, I love him still. I miss him and I worry about him and I don’t want him to hurt in the same way that I hurt.

So this morning, after much deliberation, I decided to text him. I spent a long time trying to craft a message that took exactly the right tone. My first draft was way too sweet and needy:

Doug, I just wanted to wish you a happy father’s day. You are in my thoughts today and every day. Love you and miss you always, Sadie.

My second draft started off quite neutral, then quickly descended into petty bitchiness:

Hi Doug. It’s Fathers Day. You can stop caring about me and pretend I never existed, but please don’t do the same to our children. Please spare a thought for them today. Just one. They didn’t ask to have you for a father, but they’re stuck with you for eternity now. Sadie.

Finally, I found a quote online that I think summed up the message I was trying to convey better than my own words could manage. So I copied it into a text message, had a little cry, and then sent it off to him:  

Photo: Sending love to all the Dads out there this Fathers day, especially those who haven't got their babies to hold close <3 Jodes & Mel

And then I waited.

I held the phone in my hand, and I waited.

I wondered where he was when he received the message, whether he thought fondly of me and our angel babies, and what his response would be. After all, this was the first scrap of emotion I had thrown his way in two months. A peace offering if you like, even though I was not the one who had wanted the conflict between us.

I spent most of the morning checking my phone every ten minutes, hoping he had responded. Even just a simple “thank you” would have sufficed. Even “fuck off and mind your own business Sadie” would have let me know that he had read my message and reacted to it. But I heard nothing.

I logged into Facebook several times and could see he was also active on the site. The little green light next to his name on Facebook Messenger alerted me to the fact he was both online, and using his phone to access the app. So he had definitely received the message.

At about 5pm this afternoon it finally occurred to me that he was actually never going to reply to my message. I broke down in the bathroom while I was flossing my teeth. I was just so…hurt. 

Why does he treat me like I am nothing? Like I am less than nothing?

The night he left me, he told me that he would always love me. He told me that he would try to take care of me, even though we were no longer going to be together. Did he deliberately tell me those lies so that I would let him go? 

I have done nothing wrong to this man. I have done nothing but love him the best way I knew how.

And I spent three years of my life putting myself through physical and emotional hell for him. Eight cycles of IVF so that I could have a family with him. Because I was so convinced that he was the most amazing man I had ever come across, and he was my soul mate, and I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him and our perfect little family.

Whether he likes it or not I am the mother of those children that he lost. Those children that he clearly doesn’t care about, or think about. It makes my chest physically ache to realise that he doesn’t care about anybody in his family. Not me, not our dog, not our children. None of us. 

I keep thinking about that scene in Gone with the Wind when Scarlett slaps Ashley and screams “I’ll hate you until I die! I can’t think of anything bad enough to call you!” then throws the vase at the wall in a fit of anger. But of course she doesn’t hate him and instead spends the duration of her next three marriages desperately in love with him. That’s the conflict I feel over Doug.

I am crying again now. I am crying so much I can hardly read what I am typing. I am just so broken. I am confused. I am sick to my stomach. I just want to understand why he hates me so much.

Why when he read my message did he not care enough to even respond? Why couldn’t he understand how much thought and feeling had gone into that message? I was offering him love and support that he was not offering me. It was not a spiteful message, it was a message of understanding and empathy. What was so wrong with that? Is my entire life just a silly game to him? 

I can’t write anymore now. I need to go and calm down. All I can say is…

Happy Father’s Day, Doug. 

Thanks for letting your family down yet again. 

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Pre-dawn slime

I think I had an hallucination last night.

Is it a hallucination or an hallucination? Either way I think I had one. And that’s a bit scary because I’ve never had one before.

It was probably about 3am. I can remember checking my clock at 2.30 so I mustn’t have been asleep for very long. But I awoke very suddenly, and I was filled with a strangely disturbing fear even though I hadn’t been dreaming. Panicked, I pushed back the blankets and leapt out of bed.

My dog Arnie, who had been happily sleeping on my stomach, groaned and sat up. I stumbled a few steps away from the bed and pressed my back up against the closest wall. The bedroom was softly illuminated and I could see quite well because I’ve been sleeping with the light switched on in my walk-in wardrobe.

I glanced around, trying to find a source for what had awoken me, but saw nothing. Then I looked up at the bedroom door, which was closed. I could hear a strange sizzling, slurping sound and then I saw this black goop oozing rapidly through the frame of the door. It looked sort of like really thick oil. Seconds later the weird noise stopped, and the black slime retracted to the other side of the door. In an instant it was completely gone.

Clearly my dog didn’t see such a thing or hear any such noise, because he just sat there looking at me like I was some kind of idiot. I stood there for a few more minutes, staring silently at the door and waiting for something to happen. Of course nothing did.

In my sleep deprived state I strongly suspected it was large spiders that were responsible for the black goop. Because, you know, that’s obvious isn’t it? When there’s a highly suspicious black substance seeping through your bedroom door at 3am it’s bound to be caused by spiders. Did you not realise that spiders are commonly known for carrying around buckets of slime?

After a while I figured that there was no way the spiders could get into the bedroom without unlocking the door, so I crawled back into bed and went to sleep. I didn’t wake up this morning until 10am. Good thing it’s Saturday and I didn’t have anywhere to be.

I think that the seven hours of solid sleep did me really good. That’s the most I’ve slept in weeks and I’m pretty certain I really, really needed it.

I conducted a google investigation this morning and surprise surprise – one of the leading causes of visual and auditory hallucinations (apart from the obvious like mental illness or drug induced psychosis)  is sustained lack of sleep. It’s been more than six weeks since I’ve managed a full night’s sleep so that makes perfect sense.

I’m trying so hard to sleep. I really am. In fact I think I might be trying too hard to sleep and hindering my own efforts. I’ve become too conscious of the fact I’m trying to trick my brain into sleeping.

I’ve tried meditation, relaxation music, an app that plays sounds of the ocean, lights off, lights on, more blankets, less blankets, having a bath before bed, warm milk with honey, gym before bed, no gym before bed, reading until I’m tired, sleeping in my husband’s clothes, getting up and walking around in the night, counting sheep, and herbal sleep remedies. Pretty much everything except proper sleeping pills.

When I go to bed at night I miss my husband so much and I just can’t seem to shut my mind off. Sometimes I am so angry at him and can’t stop thinking about how much I hate him. Other times I just lie there and cry and wish so much that I could phone him and beg him to come home. Either way, even when I’m ridiculously tired as soon as my head hits the pillow I am wide awake. I can lie there and wordlessly stare at the ceiling for hours if I allow myself.

I’m thinking I probably do need some hard core sleeping pills, but I’m just not sure of them. I took sleeping pills on the flight to Malaysia earlier this year. I reacted badly to them and ended up vomiting for hours. When I did eventually fall asleep, Doug said I spent hours twitching and violently throwing my arms around (which wasn’t a fun experience for him because he was seated next to me on the plane).

I’m also worried if I take sleeping pills I will be too groggy to get up for work in the morning. The last thing I need right now is to be in trouble at work for consistently being late.

If anyone has had a good experience with sleeping medication I’d love some advice! Or any other ideas to get me sleeping.

As always thank you all for your continued support. You guys are amazing. And I’m not just saying that because I want some advice…

Sadie xx

 

 

 

My Aussie non-Thanksgiving list

We don’t do Thanksgiving in Australia. We don’t have anything remotely similar. In fact, it’s not even Thanksgiving Day anymore here because we’re a day ahead of the USA, so I’m currently enjoying my Friday afternoon (hi from the future, you should see our flying cars!).

But everyone else is posting lists of things they’re thankful for and I feel like I’m missing out on both a delicious turkey dinner and the chance to be thankful. That just isn’t very fair now is it?

Then I realised that this is the internet. There’s no rules here. If I want to post a list of things I’m thankful for ain’t nobody going to stop me! So without further ado, may I present my list of the things I’m grateful for in 2013….

My Aussie non-Thanksgiving list

  • My husband Doug. For sitting by my bedside every time I’m admitted to hospital, even though he constantly reminds me that catheters freak him out and he shouldn’t have to watch me pee into a bag. For changing the television channel when babies or pregnant ladies come on the screen, steering conversations with friends and strangers away from danger areas, and sticking up for me when I can’t stick up for myself. For patiently letting me talk for hours about the merits of different IVF protocols, even when he is clearly bored. For making me laugh, though only sometimes deliberately. For making me happy when I’m sad, making me feel loved, making me feel beautiful. For being my best friend.
  • My dog Arnold. For being my little replacement baby, 2.4kg of black poodle fluff, and the tiny light of my life. For loving me wholly and unconditionally, all of the time. For always falling asleep when I flip him on his back and rock him like a baby while I sing lullabies. For never running out of licks, especially when those licks can be angled so they go up my nose. Because who doesn’t love it when their dog sticks his tongue up their nose? For being my constant shadow, lying on the bath mat while I take a shower, following me up and down the staircase all day long, and sleeping by my bedside every night (and sometimes spooned in front of me when Doug doesn’t catch him hopping up on the bed).
  • Two little pink lines. For allowing me to experience the joy of a positive pregnancy test. Even though those pregnancies have been fleeting, and I have been devastated to see those pink lines fade twice this year, I am grateful that I am now able to say I have been pregnant and hope to be pregnant again in the future. I know some women in this lovely online community who are yet to see those two glorious pink lines appear on a test stick. The unlucky few will never see them. My doctor reminds me that 80% of women who can become pregnant will carry a child to term. Those are good odds, and that’s something to be thankful for.
  • Nemo, Peanut and Butters. For having a small amount of time with each of my three little battlers this year. Even though I lost Nemo at 5 weeks 3 days, he will always be my first pregnancy. From 34 eggs he was my only remaining embryo on day 6 and he was such a strong little AA graded blastocyst. I’m thankful for the few weeks I spent with him, and the hope that he symbolised. And I’m thankful for my little twinnies Peanut and Butters, one of whom I lost before implantation and the other who struggled on to 6 weeks, 2 days in an unknown location. I’ll never know which one kicked on those few extra weeks with me, but I’m grateful to know he/she was such a fighter it took a dose of methotrexate to quell their spirit. I’m so glad I was able to document their short little lives, so that I can remember them and tell my future children about them. My angel babies, whom I loved so deeply despite never truly knowing them.
  • The chance to try again. We have our little Jelly waiting for us in the freezer. I’m so thankful we have another chance to become parents. And I’m also very grateful that the government subsidies in this country mean we can afford to go through another cycle or two of IVF before we run out of money. We aren’t near the end of our journey yet, we still have the opportunity to achieve our dream of having a family.
  • My family. My mother for always being there for me, even when I’m a bitch and take out my hormonal mood swings on her. My cousin Phoebe for sometimes acting as my replacement husband and attending appointments with me, even when they involve vaginal ultrasounds. My father-in-law for caring enough to cry tears of joy every time we have an egg pick-up, and tears of sorrow every time we lose a pregnancy. My brother Alex, who I communicate with predominantly through the use of pop culture references (which still confuses the hell out of my husband who was never a fan of Adam Sandler, Saturday Night Live, Monty Python or Judd Apatow) and for being the only other person on this planet with the exact same sense of humour as me.
  • This online community. I never thought I would find such joy and comfort online. I know none of you personally, but I feel like I know you all so well. And I feel like you all know me. This is such a safe space to express true feelings without fear of persecution. It’s a place to vent and share bitter disappointments, as well as to celebrate achievements and the good times. You are my support network. You get me through the darkness of my infertility journey. You give me the opportunity to express myself. For all those things, I thank you.
  • Chocolate. Thank you to Cadbury, Nestle, Haighs and every other chocolate manufacturer. Thank you to the Spanish for creating the word ‘chocolate’ and bringing it to Europe, so that it could then be brought to Australia. Thank you for the industrial revolution that brought with it machines that enabled chocolate to be hardened and sold en masse in it’s current form. Just…so much thanks. I love you chocolate. I love you.

Happy Thanksgiving guys, from your friend down under!

The grossest thing you’ll ever read on wordpress

I’m a big believer in not tagging my blog posts “TMI” or “don’t read this while eating dinner” or anything similar because, well, it’s my own blog and I’ll write what I wanna write. But this blog post is the exception that proves the rule. Do not read this if you don’t want to be utterly grossed out. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

First off I need to give you guys some context. My husband and I are currently living with my parents. I mentioned previously that we were looking to sell our house (you can read about it here) and although I had to juggle the flu and pneumonia while scrubbing the house from top to bottom for open home viewings, we ended up selling our house last month for a fantastic price that was above our expectations. The only catch that came with the amazing price tag was a super short settlement period. The moment the contract was signed, to the moment we handed over the keys was only 14 days in total. We weren’t banking on being outta there so quickly!

Luckily the same week our house sold we came across a house in our new search area that ticked all of our boxes. Four bedrooms (master bedroom with huge walk-in-wardrobe = big tick!), three bathrooms, multiple living areas, pool, large flat backyard for the [future] kids to play, close to good schools and only 5 minutes down the road from my parents (ahem, free babysitting!). It’s not the world’s fanciest house and it needs some minor renovations and a lick of paint but it was absolutely perfect for us. We were super excited when our offer was accepted and the house was ours! Only problem was, the current owners have 3 small children so they asked for a lengthened settlement period to give them extra time to pack and move out.

It meant there was a gap of 5 weeks between the two houses settling, and because short term rentals are ridiculously expensive and don’t allow dogs, we had no choice but to temporarily move in with my parents. So we crammed ourselves into this tiny house, shoving boxes in every available space, and filling the garage with our furniture. To make matters worse, my brother moved home to Melbourne at almost the same time, having previously been working in a hospital up north. So he also temporarily moved in with my parents. Five adults and two dogs co-existing in a house with one bathroom? Never a recipe for fun.

Anyway, now you know the context I can get on with my story. Last night I was sitting in the living room watching television with my mother, brother and husband when I suddenly felt a gush between my legs. I realised immediately that the flood gates had opened and jumped up out of my chair. To my horror there was blood all over the back of my pants. Before anyone could react I shrieked and ran into the bathroom, which was thankfully unoccupied.

I stripped off all my clothing and jumped into the shower. As I was cleaning myself off, I noticed a weird lump on the outer section of my vulva, on the lower section of my outer lips. It sort of felt a little like a bite or a pimple, but I don’t ever get pimples in that area.  I stopped the water running and put my leg up on the edge of the tub so I could get a better look at the lump. To my surprise it was a huge dark purple raised up blot, maybe the size of my index fingernail. I had never seen anything like it in my life.

I didn’t really know what to do, so I pressed down on the lump. I was shocked to see the lump get even bigger and more purpley. Then I followed my natural instinct and squeezed it. There were a few seconds of tension, then an audible pop and a quick release of pressure.

Suddenly my hands were soaked in blood. The blood gushing from the lump mingled with the blood gushing from between my legs and in a matter of moments there was blood everywhere. Period blood is a mixture of a number of bodily fluids and actually doesn’t contain much pure blood, but the blood pouring from the lump was fresh blood, and that sweet metallic blood smell filled the room and made me so woozy I almost passed out.

Of course my reaction was to start shrieking again and calling for my mother. But it was my husband Doug who was quickest to react and he came tearing into the bathroom. Even after many years as best friends, and then years as something more, and now years as a married couple, I still wasn’t prepared to let him see me covered in a mixture of vulva lump and period blood.

“No! No! No!” I screamed, apparently reverting to my childhood self. “Get out! I want my mother! Bring me my mother!”

Without pausing for clarification, Doug rushed back out and shut the door. Moments later it opened again and my mother appeared, but I could still see my husband standing nervously behind her in the hallway. My mum suffered from severe endometriosis and had an emergency hysterectomy in her mid-30s. so I feel very comfortable sharing anything with her, including period problems. She took one look at me and closed the door behind her.

“Mum!” I sobbed. “I have a huge purple lump on my vagina and it’s bleeding everywhere!”

“You have a what?” she asked carefully.

“A PURPLE THINGIE ON MY VAGINA!”

“Ok.” Mum said, still very calm. “Let me see it.”

I sniffled up my tears and tilted my body so I could show her the huge purple lump from which blood was still flowing freely.

“That’s a huge blood blister.” she said matter-of-factly.

“A what?” I gasped.

I’d never heard of a blood blister before or had one on any part of my body, let alone my friggen vagina. I was horrified.

“You probably shouldn’t have popped that.” Mum said. “But don’t worry you’ll be fine. Why do you have a blood blister on your vagina?”

“I don’t know!!” I squealed. “I just don’t know!!”

Mum had her phone with her, so we consulted Doctor Google. It turns out blood blisters aren’t uncommon in the late stages of pregnancy as the baby is pressing down on the vagina and blood becomes trapped. We also found that it is possible (though quite unusual) for blood blisters to form in and around the vagina in early pregnancy, as the body pumps extra blood to the uterus to prepare for the baby to start growing.

So there you have it. My blood blister was a parting gift from my little embryo, and apparently something I have to look forward to if I ever manage to get pregnant again.

This morning when I woke up I found the blister was much smaller and not very painful, although it was still seeping a small amount of blood. My period has also slowed right down and I expect it will only last a couple more days, so that’s good news all round!

Thank goodness IVF strips away all of your dignity, because my big family in this small house not only witnessed my blood stained pants, they also had to listen to me shrieking and crying about the blood blister on my vagina. It takes a special kind of person to be ok with that! And then write about it and post it on the internet!

And now I feel you all know more about me than you ever really needed to know. I’m so sorry if any of you are unable to sleep tonight because of my horrific story.

But seriously…I did warn you!

The root of all evil

Oooooh vacation!

Mini holiday in the Barossa Valley. Four nights of luxury and relaxation. My first vacation from work that doesn’t involve hospitals in six years. Have I been looking forward to this little trip? Yes, yes I have. Did something go wrong? Yes, yes it did.

On Tuesday night I took our toy poodle Arnold over to my parents’ house. He’s going on his own little vacation and gets to spend the week with them. He loves my parents more than anyone or anything else on the planet, so I wasn’t worried about leaving my little smoochie puppy behind. Doug keeps on reminding me that I need to get used to little beings that I love preferring my parents over me – all kids love staying at their grandmas house.

I was standing in my mother’s kitchen when it happened. I pulled a stick of gum out of my handbag and put it in my mouth. Nothing new there, I chew gum all the time.

CRACK.

Suddenly as I chomped on the gum a burning pain shot up the right side of my mouth and I bit down heavily on something unexpectedly hard and gritty, something that definitely wasn’t gum.

Immediately I screamed and spat the contents of my mouth into my hand: Gum. Blood. Tooth fragment.

For a few moments I just stood there in complete shock, clutching my throbbing mouth with one hand and holding my tooth in the palm of the other.

“Oh my God!” shrieked my mother, who had witnessed the whole thing. “Is that tooth or a white filling?”

“I don’t know!” I replied, starting to sob as the shock wore off.

I felt around with my tongue and quickly found a huge gap in one of my bottom right molars. I raced to the bathroom mirror and could see that the back half of my tooth had crumbled away.

“Sadie don’t cry you’ll make the pain worse.” Mum said. “Let me have a look.”

I turned to her and opened my mouth wide.

“Um…what is the black stuff all over your back teeth? Is that rot?” she gasped. “No wonder your tooth cracked! When was the last time you went to the dentist?”

The truth is, I haven’t been to the dentist since I started seeing my first fertility specialist and had my first surgery, twelve months before we officially started trying to conceive. We’d always known we would have trouble falling pregnant, given my medical problems, and had started preparing and saving years ago. I didn’t want to waste any money at the dentist that could have gone towards funding IVF. Stupid I know, but women who can’t have children yet desperately want them are prone to doing stupid things.

“It’s been nearly four years since I saw a dentist.” I confessed.

“Four years! Well you’ll need to see a dentist immediately for that cracked tooth!” Mum replied.

“Totally out of the question!” I told her. “I’m flying to Adelaide tomorrow morning! I’ll just numb it with painkillers and deal with it next week.”

But after arriving in Adelaide it became pretty clear pretty quickly that painkillers weren’t going to do the trick. My tooth reacted with a zing to hot and cold food, and I barely slept last night even though the hotel bed was super comfy and warm.

So this morning I bit the bullet (not literally…because, cracked tooth…) and asked the concierge at the hotel to help me find a dentist nearby. What fun, I hear you say! A trip to the dentist should be included in every vacation!

My appointment was at midday so I didn’t bother to have lunch before I went, given that my mouth was aching. I figured I could have food afterwards once the tooth was filled. Good plan? Great plan!

The dentist was young and friendly, not at all the way I remember dentists being. I explained to her that I’ve been going through fertility treatment and pushing every cent into that venture, and asked her not to judge the state of my mouth. She agreed not to say a word about any of my other teeth, and just to do a quick fix on the broken tooth. Before I knew it I was lying back in the chair, opening wide and saying aaahhhh.

“The hole isn’t actually that bad. You shouldn’t be having such a strong pain response.” she said, pursing her lips. “Let me do some tests and take an x-ray.”

After all the tests were complete I could tell just by the look on the dentist’s face that the news wasn’t good.

“You have a bad bacterial infection below your tooth.” she said.

“Okay….” I said nervously. “What are my options?”

“We can remove the tooth and either leave you with a gap, or give you dentures or an implant,” she said. “But given your age, I strongly recommend a root canal.”

Root canal? Root canal?!?! Or…..DENTURES?!?!

“The problem is, we do root canals in three stages to allow your mouth to heal,” the dentist said. “I can easily do the first stage here, you can get the second done back home in Melbourne in a few weeks and the third a few months after that.”

It all seemed reasonably straight forward.

“So why is there a problem?” I asked.

“Well first of all this procedure is going to leave you around $2000 out of pocket, which might effect your ability to pay for future fertility treatment,” she said. “Plus each step of the process requires x-rays, and if you’re pregnant in a few months we really shouldn’t be x-raying you.”

I swear my heart started thumped in my chest and my hands went all clammy. $2000?! That was almost half an IVF cycle. For one tooth! I didn’t feel comfortable making that kind of decision about our money without at least asking my husband first, but I knew for a fact he was in the sauna back at the hotel so I had no way of contacting him. I had to make the decision alone.

More importantly, was this one friggen tooth going to set us back in our fertility treatment? What if I fell pregnant in the September cycle? What if I had to expose my baby to x-ray radiation? What if I had to get the tooth pulled out because I couldn’t get the x-ray?!

Then I remembered my last blog post, and how I’d decided to stop living my life for the “what if” and the “maybe” and start being a whole person again. More than anything I knew I didn’t want to be a 27 year old with dentures.

“Ok let’s do the root canal.” I decided.

And a fun afternoon was had at the dentist!

I am now back at the hotel room resting. I am incredibly numb and swollen, yet also in pain where they injected me with anesthetic. My nerves aren’t in the usual places so it took them four lots of anesthetic to finally knock the offending nerve out. I also can’t eat anything until after 9pm. We had dinner reservations for 7.30. Night ruined! Not to mention I’m starving because I had no lunch!

But I still think I’ve made the right decision. I mean, what else was I supposed to do? Luckily my best friend back home is a dentist and he is going to take care of the second stage of the root canal and also clean up the rest of my mouth. He was shocked when I called him to tell him what happened. How shameful is it that I haven’t been to a dentist in so long when my best friend is a dentist…….

I am trying so hard not to be upset and let this root canal ruin my first vacation in six years. This whole day is a write off. I’m hoping that I’m not sore tomorrow and I can actually relax and enjoy myself!

Seriously this has to be the low point of my vacation, right? RIGHT? It can’t actually get any worse than this, can it??? CAN IT?

Ugh…touch wood.

Tests

First of all let me say – wow! What an expensive few days.

Australia offers amazing subsidies for fertility treatment. An average cycle costs around $35,000. Majority of those costs are met by the government and private health insurance companies. For our first round of IVF at our last clinic we paid around $5,000 out of pocket for everything including hospital stays, medications, anesthetists fees, lab fees, storage fees when Nemo was frozen and everything in between.

So far at our new clinic we’re already around $2,500 out of pocket and we haven’t even started the actual cycle yet! The first reason for this is the simple fact that smaller, boutique fertility clinics are much more expensive than the large, production-line type clinics that advertise on the tv and in women’s magazines. Anyone who understands anything about economies of scale will see why. But those clinics don’t offer the same level of care, personalised service, tailored fertility programs and attentiveness that Doug and I really require. So we’re happy to pay more if we get a better service. Secondly, MRIs and ultrasounds are expensive. It’s ridiculous actually, just how expensive they are. But I needed them and I’m glad I had them done. I was actually really lucky that I was able to get them done so quickly.

Last week I was up at the hospital getting my ultrasound (which was routine and boring – how I hate having to fill my bladder!) so I asked to be booked in to get an MRI. The receptionist, an older lady with perfectly manicured nails, frowned and looked through the computer booking system.

“Sorry dear, the earliest we have available is five weeks away. Can I book you in then?” she asked.

“No!” I gasped. “I have an appointment with my doctor on the 27th and I need an MRI before then!”

She smiled sweetly and patted my hand. “I’m very sorry but MRI is only offered at our large hospital radiology sites. I can see their booking systems on my screen and they’re all full-up. We have a terrible backlog at the moment.”

In my mind, the fertility express train I’d been riding on all week slammed on the breaks and slowed to a grinding halt. Another five weeks until I could get the test done? I’d been waiting since April and now I wasn’t going to be able to start a cycle for another two months at least! The driver of the fertility express was throwing my suitcase off the side of the train and giving me the definitive heave-ho.

The receptionist could see me starting to hyperventilate and frowned again. “Why do you need the appointment so urgently, dear?”

“I need to get the all-clear on my brain scan before I can start IVF.” I said quietly. “I just want to have a baby.”

The receptionist bit her lip, then picked up the phone and dialed through to the radiology clinic located at Melbourne’s biggest private hospital.

“Hi Susan, it’s Debbie.” she gushed, suddenly upbeat and perky. “Look I have a favour. I need to fit a young lady in for an MRI. Can you help me out?”

There was a long pause while Susan obviously checked the computer system at her end.

“Yes I know.” the receptionist sighed. “It’s a five week wait everywhere at the moment.”

My heart started to sink. I loved this lady for trying but there was just nothing that could be done. The fertility express was pulling away from the station and I was still firmly on the platform.

“What, you have?” the receptionist said, perking up again. “Can I snatch that appointment? I’d super appreciate it!” and then she gave my details over the phone and hung up.

“My dear you’re the luckiest girl in Melbourne! While I was on the phone the clinic had a cancellation for tomorrow at 7.30pm. Can you be there?”

“YES!” I cried, my stomach doing flip flops. “Thank you so much!”

And in my mind I ran to the end of the platform as the train pulled away, took a deep breathe and jumped, landing expertly at the back of the train. There was hope yet! We were still moving forward on our journey.

The MRI was actually quite relaxing. Am I the first person who has ever thought that? Am I a total weirdo?

Previous MRIs have been scary and noisy affairs. The clunk clunk clunk and thud thud thud of the machine, the voice in my earpiece saying “Hold very still now Sadie. Very still.” and the fact the top of the machine is about 2 inches from my noise, all make for an unpleasant experience. But on this particular occasion I had a radio playing in my earpiece, a warm blanket wrapped around my legs and the bang bang bang of the machine was enough to drown out the negativity that constantly lurks in my mind at the moment. It was a rather peaceful hour in the machine and I drifted in and out of sleep. Still, you’d want it to be a relaxing experience, considering it cost $700!

After the MRI was over, I went up to pathology at the hospital and got my blood work done. The pathologist asked me why I was getting so many tests done, and I explained I was going through IVF. “Oh that’s nice. My daughter is pregnant at the moment.”I wanted to tell her she wasn’t being helpful, but instead I just smiled and congratulated her.

In the end I felt pleased for accomplishing everything I needed to in such a short space of time. Doug and I are heading back to see Doctor B tomorrow and then we’ll be able to make decisions on our next treatment. Let’s hope the test results are good and we’ll be full steam ahead on the fertility express!

(sorry….no more lame train jokes…)

Nemo

Sorry for not updating. It has been an extremely traumatic week for me.

As we feared, I ended up suffering from what the doctor called “moderate to severe” OHSS. I am still on leave and recovering at home. It will probably be at least another week until I can go back to work. I am only just now able to walk again, though I still struggle getting up and down the staircase at home.

OHSS is scary. Really scary. It means constantly feeling like you are gasping for air because of the fluid pushing against your lungs, it is indescribable pain that inhibits the simplest of movement, it is the inability to sleep lying down for fear you will silently suffocate and never wake up, and it is incredible bloating. I have put on 8kg of fluid in a week and it honestly looks like I am about 6 months pregnant. None of my clothing fits me.

Stupidly, the doctor told me I was fine to go back to work last week. I went back on the Wednesday armed with a heating pad and strong painkillers. I made it to lunch time before I was throwing up from pain and unable to walk. I phoned the nurses at the clinic who panicked and told me to get myself to the emergency room at the hospital as soon as possible because I needed to be admitted. I phoned Doug, who works across town, and he jumped in the car immediately and drove to pick me up.

While I was waiting for him to arrive I tried to phone my doctor to inform him I was coming to the hospital, but he was in surgery. I was transferred through to the on-call doctor in the maternity ward and delivery suite. When I told her my symptoms, her response was a very stern “come now darling, come now!”

By the time Doug arrived to collect me I could hardly move to get to the car. I could see the worried look on my colleagues faces as I left, and I knew they didn’t expect me back anytime soon. We raced up to the hospital, where we were intercepted by my doctor. He had finished surgery and had a break before his next surgery would begin.

He performed an internal ultrasound (yay! good to see those are still part of the process even after the eggs are picked up!) and it was shocking to actually see the amount of fluid sitting inside my body. It was like my organs were drowning in a sea of black liquid.

“Yes hmmmmm,” he said, staring at the monitor. “No wonder you are sick!”

“She needs to be admitted.” Doug said. “She’s so ill.”

“No no no,” the doctor shook his head. “We will treat Sadie as an out patient.”

“What!” Doug said angrily. “You have to be joking!”

“Trust me!” the doctor argued. “This is the best way to get her well. She needs to be in her own bed recovering. She will come up to the hospital once a day and I will scan her and make sure she is ok.”

The biggest mistake we made was once again trusting the doctor’s judgement. What I really badly needed was to have been admitted to hospital where I could have received the care I needed. What I really badly did not need was the agony of an 80 minute round trip to the hospital every day, where every bump in the road felt like I was being stabbed. And then of course there was the added problem that Doug had to go to work and I clearly couldn’t drive. My poor mother had to drive me every day and wait on me and take care of me.

My doctor also changed my IVF cycle to what they call a “freeze all”. As the name suggests, any viable embryos are frozen and no embryos are transferred until the patient is well. That was a hard blow to my already fragile emotional state. I lay in bed, unable to move, in constant pain and crying about the fact I wasn’t even going to be able to have my transfer. I knew it was absolutely the right decision to make, given the circumstances, but that didn’t make it any easier to accept.

“Don’t worry!” the doctor assured me. “You have 11 embryos and because you’re young I’m confident your embryos will be good quality, and most if not all will end up being frozen. You will have many chances to get pregnant!”

The doctor estimated there was a 60% chance we would end up completing our family (which we would ideally like to include three children) just from this one frozen batch of embryos. Doug was extremely pleased with those odds, to say the least.

I received a phone call during the week to inform me on day 3 post egg collection that we had 7 embryos remaining. The others had been too slow to develop and “dropped off”. By day 5 (the day they are normally frozen), 4 embies remained but only one had made it to blastocyst stage and it wasn’t a good quality blast. The embryologist wanted to wait 24 more hours to see if any of the others came good. All embryos need to be frozen or transferred by day 6 (they can freeze them on day 7 at the absolute latest but only do that when absolutely necessary as the quality is lessened).

As day 6 fell on a Saturday the embryologist promised someone would still call me to tell me the results, but as the clinic was technically shut (embryologists work 7 days a week but the rest of the clinic doesn’t) I wouldn’t be able to call them. It was a one-way communication system.

After another sleepless night (thanks to both OHSS and a severe amount of worry) I spent the entire day on Saturday with the phone in my hand. I kid you not I checked that phone every 2 minutes.

Have they called yet? No. Have they called yet? No. Called yet? No. Called yet? No. Called yet? No. Called yet? No.

I’m sure if I’d been able to walk very far I would have paced the length of the house until I wore through my slippers. I nearly drove Doug completely insane.

At 4.30pm Doug finally dragged me out of bed to help me have a shower, stressing that if they were going to call they would have already done so. When I came back to bed at 4.55pm guess what? I had a missed call from the embryologist! I phoned back straight away, but of course I only got the “sorry this clinic is closed” voice mail as they told me I would. I was distraught that I would have to wait another night not knowing if any of my embryos had survived. I was an emotional wreck.

Yesterday morning (Sunday) I woke up and tried phoning again, even though I knew I wasn’t going to get through. I couldn’t even believe I was having to endure an entire weekend of this mental turmoil, on top of the physical nightmare that is OHSS.

Finally in the afternoon a call came through.

“Hi Sadie,” started the cheery embryologist, clearly unaware of the nightmare I’d been living for the past two days. “We just thought you’d like to know we were able to freeze one of your embryos yesterday.”

The first thought that popped into my head was oh thank you thank you thank you they got one. My second thought was holy shit I had 34 eggs picked up and only one made it through to freeze. What the hell happened?

The embryologist explained that my embryos had all suffered from late onset fragmentation. Here’s a link to a site that explains fragmentation pretty nicely: http://www.inviafertility.com/blog/uncategorized/david-hazlett/embryo-fragmentation-what-does-it-mean-3

Essentially, a small amount of fragmentation is to be expected, but any embryo with more than 50% fragmentation is too weak to survive a freeze and subsequent thaw. In order to determine whether an embryo is right to be frozen or transferred, they’re given grades. These grades differ from country to country. My clinic grades embryos based on the following criteria:

  • lastocyst development stage – expansion and hatching status
  • inner cell mass quality (whether the cells are tightly or loosely packed)
  • trophectoderm quality (whether the cells form a cohensive layer)

I had four embryos make it through to blastocyst stage. They were graded AA hatched (woohoo a perfect hatched embryo!), CC, CC and CD. Anything less than BB is considered unviable for freezing, though in some cases doctors will still transfer them to a patient if they’re fresh. My CC and CD embies had come to the end of the road. Life was cruel.

When I asked the embryologist exactly why all of my embryos had fragmented so badly, she said it was because I had too many collected. The words were so powerful they virtually echoed through my ears.

Too. Many. Collected.

“Really that many eggs should never have been picked up.” she said. “You’re never really going to get good quality embryos when the eggs haven’t been given enough space to develop in your ovaries.”

It was the doctor’s fault.

He was the one who had told me it was ok to go ahead with the stimming, even though we thought we might need to cancel the cycle. He was the one who had the power to stop the egg pick-up if he thought I had too many eggs. Not only was I suffering from OHSS because of his poor decision, all but one of my embryos were now dead. And to make matters worse he was forcing me to come up to the hospital every day for treatment because he simply refused to admit me! I remembered the way the clinic nurse had reacted weeks before when I’d confessed I was concerned about his level of care. We had trusted him and he had led us astray. Clearly we are not the first patients who have felt this way about him.

I went back to see him this morning for my check-up, purely because at this stage there’s no other fertility specialist who can treat me and I want to know when I can go back to work.

“How did you feel after your egg pick-up Sadie?” he asked, reviewing my file.

“Um what do you mean?” I asked, screwing up my face in confusion.

“Well were you sore after pick-up? Did you get cramps?”

“Um I have OHSS…..” I frowned. “That’s why I am here? You are treating me as an outpatient for OHSS.”

“Ohhhh yes that’s right so I am!” he laughed, like it was some kind of joke.

He had forgotten.

And then he gave me a prescription for a medication I am allergic to. An allergy which is clearly printed in red pen on the front of my medical file.

I want to cry! I don’t know what we are going to do! But I am also trying to stay positive.

We have this one perfect little embryo who has managed to survive against the odds. AA graded! When all their brothers and sisters perished, this embryo fought hard and made it all the way. It was almost like natural selection. This embryo was meant to be our child. We have nicknamed it Nemo, because it is our “one egg” haha.

It looks like at the moment we will need to go through our current doctor to undergo a frozen cycle with our little Nemo, and then hopefully we will become pregnant (touch wood). We can then look to find a new doctor when we go back for our second.

For now I just have to rest and recover. Then, once I get my period (probably in about a week) we will be able to start the cycle for the frozen embryo transfer (FET).

I guess I am in shock at how crazy this whole process has been. Surely doctors have the ability to make it more seamless, or at least less stressful for patients? Or maybe this is just how fertility treatment is for everyone.

I will update again when my FET cycle begins.