Tag Archive | fertility treatment

Miss Not-So-Average

On Monday we attended our post-IVF follow up appointment with Doctor Holiday, who had just returned from her 12000th vacation the previous Friday. It’s what we in the biz (if being infertile is a biz) refer to as the WTF appointment.

Because….WTF? Why did my cycle fail? Why is this clinic so crappy? What are you going to do about it? When do I get my baby? You get the gist.

Normally I attend these clinic appointments alone because Doug has a busy job, but this time he insisted on coming along. Mainly because he was no longer prepared to let this doctor waste our time and our money, and he knows I’m too passive to actually stand up for myself most of the time when it comes to medical professionals.

We went into this appointment with an understanding that we will not be undertaking any further cycles of IVF with this doctor. We have absolutely had enough of her and her bullshit. It’s sad really, because she is one of the top rated IVF doctors in our state and came highly recommended. We were told she was the best of the best.

We have actually spoken to a clinic interstate in the past week. It is one of the top 3 IVF clinics in the world. Yes, the whole world. Their success rate in my age group is 43% higher than the average of all other Australian and New Zealand clinics combined. Those are some pretty decent odds, hey?

We’ve already been matched with a doctor who would suit our needs – a doctor whose areas of speciality are genetic problems, PCOS, and repeated IVF failures. And he has no qualms dealing with interstate patients, and will even do some of the initial consults via skype. It sounds perfect for us. Only problem is, we’ll need to be flying back and forth for procedures because it’s too far to drive. That means there will be added expenses of flights and hotels wrapped up with this clinic.

We have done some serious number crunching this past week and realised that our life savings are almost completely spent. Multiple fertility surgeries and IVF cycles will do horrible things to your bank account.

But we’ve also realised that paying for one or two cycles at this fancy clinic is probably going to cost around the same as multiple failed cycles here in Melbourne with our current doctor. And if we go to the clinic interstate and succeed in one or two cycles, we’ll have our baby a whole lot quicker than if it takes another six cycles up here. Let’s not even factor in how fat and pimply I will be in six cycles time. I’ll be so sick and tired and grumpy. I’d much prefer to get our cycles over and done with now. Get what I’m saying?

Despite all this, we went to see Doctor Holiday for a couple of reasons. Firstly, we wanted closure on our 5th failed cycle (4 failed IVF cycles plus a failed FET equals 5 failed cycles in my book). We wanted her opinion on where we had gone wrong. Secondly, we wanted genetic testing done and figured it would be just as easy for this doctor to order it for us. That way when we see the new doctor (let’s call him Doctor Fancy-Pants) we’ll be able to already provide that information.

Thirdly, and most importantly, we still have one embryo on ice at this clinic. Our little day 6 low quality blastocyst, Jelly. We have a ‘no family member gets left behind’ policy in our household and we aren’t going to move to an interstate clinic and leave Jelly all on his own. So we decided we would try to thaw Jelly and go for an FET cycle before we make our first appointment with Doctor Fancy-Pants.

And now that my rambling introduction is over, let me get back to the actual appointment because I know that’s why you’re all reading this blog post…

“So Sadie,” Doctor Holiday started. “How did the last cycle go?”

“Bad.” I said bluntly.

“No? Not actually bad?” she asked, raising her brow.

“Yes.” I replied. “Actually bad. We didn’t get pregnant and we didn’t get any frozen embryos. No positive outcomes whatsoever.”

Doctor Holiday kept sort of smirking at me after that. Like she was surprised the cycle hadn’t worked, and also surprised that I was being less friendly than normal, and her reaction was to smirk so that the situation was less uncomfortable for her.

We all sat down and she reviewed all of the notes in my file that related to my last cycle. She analysed the embryologists notes regarding our embryo development and after a while stated that the cycle had quite clearly failed because of an egg problem. I mean geez talk about a slap in the face. I understood the news was coming my way, but didn’t expect her to put it quite so harshly.

“So if it’s an egg problem you should fix the eggs.” Doug said, seemingly pleased to have contributed something so useful to the conversation.

My heart went out to my poor husband in that moment. I knew he had about three more seconds of ignorant bliss, before the doctor broke the bad news to him.

“Well actually we can’t fix eggs.” Doctor Holiday explained. “We can work with endo, blocked tubes, PCOS, poor sperm quality, pretty much everything. But we really don’t know anything about poor egg quality and we don’t know how to fix it.”

I expected a whole range of emotions to cross Doug’s face as the doctor’s words sunk in. Instead, I saw recognition in his eyes and then his entire face went blank. He had retreated right in front of me.

“Before we go any further I think I need to be tested for genetic problems.” I said, turning back to the doctor. “How do we do that?”

“I completely agree. We need to do genetic tests.” Doctor Holiday nodded. “Do you know if your previous IVF clinic carried out the tests? Best to check before we order the tests again because they’re very expensive.”

The doctor then made a phone call to the pathology lab, and it was confirmed that I had karotype testing done in 2012, which was news to me. I mean honestly I had so many tests done in 2012 I couldn’t even describe half of them. Plus, the cycles of IVF I’ve subsequently undergone have pretty much killed my memory. Everything upstairs in the old noggin is a little hazy now.

“What did the tests say?” I asked in surprise. “Can I get a copy of the results? What exactly did they test for?”

“Oh they would have done carrier testing.” the doctor said dismissively. “And if no one mentioned it to you two years ago then I’m sure the tests are fine so we won’t even bother looking at the results. If there was a problem with your genes they would have mentioned it.”

And that was it. I wasn’t even given a copy of the results. I have no idea what the tests were for. Was I tested for the MTHFR gene mutation? Was I tested for other genetic mutations? I have no fricken clue, and apparently I never will.

The doctor did order the same tests for Doug though, just to make sure he isn’t a carrier of anything untoward either. I looked at his pathology request form and all it says is “karotype testing – abnormal embryo development” so that doesn’t shed any light for me. Can anyone who has had these tests done, or is a carrier of something that affects fertility tell me how and what the process was? I really shouldn’t have to ask this question on the internet. It’s a shame my doctor isn’t more forthcoming with information.

After we had discussed the tests, Doctor Holiday started saying some very odd things.

She told us that she had just recently been to a conference where IVF doctors from all around the world discussed whether or not IVF is actually working as it was intended to.

She said the fact is that only 5% of the most fertile woman’s eggs are genetically normal. So when doctors are stimulating multiple follicles to grow through the use of FSH drugs, perhaps all they are really doing is stimulating the other 95% of eggs. These are eggs that were never supposed to be ovulated. They are the bad eggs, and there is a reason that the body wasn’t developing them naturally. So when they are removed from a woman’s ovary of course most of them don’t fertilize, or develop as they should, or implant after transfer, or make it to freeze.

She went on to say that even when you get to the blastocyst stage they’ve found only 40% of blasts are genetically normal. So even if you make it that far, there’s still a 60% chance that the blast is genetically abnormal and therefore will not result in a pregnancy. And the problem is there’s really no way to tell. Genetic testing on embryos can search for particular abnormalities, but not all possible abnormalities and for that reason the testing does not significantly increase the rate of pregnancy when it’s carried out.

Then she started going on about how studies have shown that IVF parents make better parents than “spontaneous parents” because they have already been through the horrible physical and mental stresses of infertility. They’ve hit rock bottom already, they’ve seen the worst that life has to offer, so staying up all night with a crying baby is a cake walk.

But then the doctor said that people who are going through IVF and then give up before they get a baby were never going to make good parents anyway. If a person can’t handle the stress of IVF then they weren’t ever going to handle the stress of parenthood. I mean seriously how offensive is that! People stop treatment for a number of reasons. Sometimes people run out of money and can’t afford more treatment, sometimes they’re too old, sometimes their medical problems prevent them from continuing.

How rude to basically infer that those who discontinue IVF are quitters who were never going to be good parents! It was almost like she sensed we weren’t planning to come and see her anymore, and she was trying to indirectly convince us to keep attending her clinic. Like she wanted us to know if we stopped doing IVF with her she would assume it was because we were lousy quitters who were never going to be good parents.

Then she kept on saying that even though my eggs clearly had issues this cycle, they seemed to be okay in the previous cycle. We had 7 eggs picked up, 4 fertilized, 2 were transferred back to me, 1 was frozen.

“That’s an average IVF cycle.” she insisted. “So I don’t think there’s any need for you to stress about this failed cycle, because in your last cycle you were Miss Average. If you hadn’t been average last cycle then it would be major issue. But you were average. Miss Average is good!”

“Let’s discuss ‘Miss Average’ in terms of IVF.” Doug piped up. “What does Miss Average look like? Is she Sadie’s age?”

“Well, no.” Doctor Holiday admitted. “The average female in Australia going through IVF is 37 years old.”

“So because Sadie was over a decade younger than these women when she had her eggs picked-up, can we assume then that she should in fact not be Miss Average?” Doug asked. “And the averages shouldn’t apply to Sadie because 26 year old and 27 year old eggs should be of much higher quality than a 37 year olds? Being average would actually be a poor outcome for her, in this case?”

“Yes when you put it like that.” the doctor agreed. “But let’s not forget, average is good sometimes! And Sadie was average!”

It was sort of like groundhog day or something. Perhaps the doctor had become selectively deaf. It was like she completely glossed over the point that Doug was trying to make.

The ‘Miss Average’ IVF female in the under 30 age-group conceives after one cycle of IVF. Over 90% of under 30s in Australia have a clinical pregnancy after two cycles of IVF. Those are the averages I should be compared to. Not the average of IVF women overall, whose eggs are 10 years older than mine. And even judging me by those averages, I’m still well behind.

“Ok Sadie let me just ask you this,” the doctor said. “Are you ready to go again or do you want to have a break?”

“No.” I blurted out. “No break. I want to go again. I want to try with our frozen embryo.”

The doctor stared at me for a long time, almost as if she was weighing up whether or not she should allow me to actually cycle back-to-back, or if I did in fact need a break.

“Ok.” she finally relented. “What day of your cycle are you on?”

“Five.” I said. “I still have my period.”

We then discussed my options, in terms of FET protocol. Because I don’t ovulate we can’t do a natural FET cycle, so I really only had two choices. One was to take low doses of FSH to stimulate a follicle to grow, and my body to ovulate. The other option was to take estrogren tablets to build the lining of my uterus and progesterone to stimulate my hormones, then do an FET without ovulation. The latter was the protocol we used for my first FET and it is the one I chose this time as well.

Why? Simple. Ovulation is a big deal for me because I’ve never ovulated on my own before. So when I see and feel those follicles growing (albeit thanks to the scientific wonder that is FSH drugs) I feel a great sense of achievement and attachment. The idea of growing an egg and then wasting it just doesn’t sit well with me. I wouldn’t be able to resist the temptation to try and fertilize that egg the old-fashioned way when I eventually did ovulate. Blocked tubes or not, I would still try.

So the doctor wrote me out a script for Ethinyloestradiol 50mcg and instructed me to take one per day. It’s a drug I’ve actually never used before. After eleven days, I will see her again and she will scan me to check the lining of my uterus. Once my uterus lining is looking thick and ready, I will start on progesterone. Then they will attempt to thaw Jelly. We are also going to go for assisted hatching this time around, because Jelly has a super thick shell.

And if the FET doesn’t work, we’re off to see Doctor Fancy-Pants.

All in all I’m really happy with our decision to not return to Doctor Holiday after our FET. She is just too expensive, and we aren’t getting bang for our buck. She’s better than our first fertility doctor, but nowhere near the standard some of you ladies seem to be getting from your doctors. We just want someone we can trust, and someone who we believe really does care about us and our plight.

On the way home from the doctor, we took a call from Doug’s father. The bluetooth in the car picked up the call so we could both hear and speak to him. He’s just the greatest guy, I love him so much. He’s supportive and caring and always willing to help us. But he said something that kind of upset me.

“Sadie,” he said. “I just want you to know that if you can’t ever have children, nobody in our family will blame you and nobody will think you’re defective.”

I know he was trying to make me feel better, but it just felt like a slap in the face. Why would he use the word defective? Had people in Doug’s family been using that word to describe me? I wouldn’t put it past them.

And to be honest, even though majority of our infertility problems are my problems, I’ve always thought of it as a joint struggle. Doug has grade 3 sperm with some morphology problems, which is why we need to do ICSI. I didn’t realise that if we can’t have children people will be solely laying the blame on me. That was a bit of a wake-up call. I know his dad was saying he wouldn’t blame me, but all I heard was the word blame.

“Dad don’t say things like that please.” Doug snapped. “We don’t need to be saying those types of things to Sadie just yet ok?”

To Doug’s credit he got his dad off the phone really quickly and then changed the subject to try and keep me from dwelling on the conversation, but it’s a bit too late. I can’t stop thinking about it. In my mind I’ve turned all of my father-in-law’s words around. I’m defective and I’m to blame.

I just need to stay focused now. My expectations for Jelly are very low, but I am mid-cycle now so I just need to keep going forward. Take every day as it comes. Keep breathing. All that other motivational junk.

After all, I don’t really have much choice…

As always, I’ll keep you updated.

Sadie xx

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Musings, moanings and more dramas

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:

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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.

Sadie xx

A boring summary of my 4th IVF cycle (the final part)

In the past I have been accused (by my husband, doctor and close family members) of being extremely negative during my IVF cycles, and particularly during the two week wait.

I was told repeatedly that if I stressed less maybe the embryos would have a better chance, despite the fact my psychologist has told me directly that studies have shown negative and positive emotions have zero impact on success rates.

But I was still high off my vacation to Malaysia and feeling confident that I’d had my last ever egg pick-up. I was just so sure this time was my time. So the two week wait started incredibly positively.

After my bungled embryo transfer, my mother took me out to lunch to try and take my mind off what had taken place. I was in such a good state of mind. We talked the whole meal about my “twins” as if they were a sure thing.

I also realised I had to come up with nicknames for them. Given that I’d just come home from Asia, and was wearing my ‘year of the horse’ necklace for good luck I decided to name the “twins” after the co-captains of the Broncos – Parker and Hodges.

For those who are unaware that there is a Broncos football team other than the Denver Broncos (yes that’s right I’m telling the truth!) the Brisbane Broncos are one of the most successful rugby league teams in Australia.

I grew up in Queensland (where they are based) so I’ve always followed them and gone to their games when they play in Melbourne. I thought it would be so cool to take my “twins” to football games in the coming years and show them the players they had been named after in-utero.

Here’s a photo of my “twins”, Hodges on the top and Parker on the bottom. Hodges was a grade 2 and compacting nicely but you can see his fragmentation problems. Parker was developmentally advanced for a day 3 embryo, and given a grade of 1.

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After lunch, my mother and I went to some baby stores. Yes, you read that right we went to baby stores. I was feeling so confident about P&H (that’s the twins, in case you didn’t get it) that I felt absolutely no stress or anxiety being in those stores. Sure, I was surrounded by pregnant women and mothers with young babies. But I was going to be one of them soon. I would be joining their ranks. So it was ok for me to be there. I felt secretly accepted.

In one of the stores we found mini football team singlets, and they had a Broncos design! The tiny singlets were in team colours and had the words “Mummy’s little Bronco” written across them. My mother pointed out how strange it was that they didn’t say “Daddy’s little Bronco” because football is generally associated with men. But lucky they didn’t because Doug doesn’t follow rugby league at all. He was born and raised here in Melbourne so he’s an AFL fanatic. Mummy’s little Bronco was perfect.

I took it as a sign from the universe that my little Broncos were definitely on their way. I bought two of the singlets and hung them up in my wardrobe. They looked like they belonged there.

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“I don’t want to rain on your parade,” Doug said as he watched me admiring the singlets. “But I think you’re actually being too positive this time. I can’t be as positive as you. I need to guard myself ok?”

Oh but I didn’t care at all if Doug didn’t want to join in the positivity-fest. Me and the boys (yes I gave P&H genders) had each other and that was all that mattered.

And then, three days after my embryo transfer, I was in the back garden shed unpacking boxes of gardening gear and tools when my phone rang. At the time I was holding a white handled shovel, trying to hook it up on the wall, so I didn’t even check the caller ID.

“Hello Sadie speaking!” I chirped happily.

“Hi Sadie, this is Leanne I’m one of the embryologists at your clinic.”

“Oh hi!” I said, breaking out into a huge grin.

I had been excitedly anticipating this phone call. I was about to find out how many of my remaining embryos had made it to freeze. I suspected two, but was hoping for three. Maybe even four!! These were my back-ups. They were the reason I was so confident I would never have to do another egg pick-up. I was done with IVF. My future children were all sorted.

“I’m so sorry to advise you that none of your embryos were frozen.” Leanne said slowly.

“What?” I asked, unsure if I’d heard her correctly.

“I’m so sorry Sadie.” she said. “It looks like all of your embryos stopped growing after day 3.”

“All of them?” I gasped.

“Yes they all stopped growing at the same time. One of them started growing again last night but it only made it to day 4 stage. Too slow to freeze.” Leanne explained.

“Well why would they all stop growing like that?” I asked.

“Usually when they all stop collectively it’s a genetic problem.” she said. “Usually a genetic problem with your eggs.”

My eggs? They were the only things that hadn’t been tested. I have every other infertility problem under the sun but no doctor had ever suggested there was something wrong with my eggs. It was the last thing I needed. It would take all options of parenthood off the table. Donor eggs arent readily available in Australia.

“Does this mean that the two that were transferred back to me would also have stopped growing?” I asked.

“It’s impossible to tell.” Leanne said. “I’m sorry. I hope not. We’ll have to wait and see.”

After I hung up the phone, I stood alone in the garden shed crying hysterically, still clutching the white handled shovel tightly in my hands.

All my chances were gone. My last hope was already inside me. If I failed to become pregnant, I would have to do another fully stimmed IVF cycle. If my eggs were bad I couldn’t even do that.

Every ounce of positivity instantly melted away and Miss Negative was back. Suddenly I was struggling to cope. I needed to know if P&H were going to implant. I just needed to know. Thankfully, I was having a lot of symptoms. I was getting more pinching and tugging in my uterus than I had with either of my pregnancies. That kept a small glimmer of sanity alive for me.

7dp3dt I woke up in the morning feeling like someone had repeatedly punched me in the abdomen. It wasn’t that cute and hopeful tugging anymore. It was full on menstrual cramping. I was hysterical.

I rushed to the bathroom and took a pregnancy test. Negative.

“It’s ok.” I said to Doug. “With both my other pregnancies I didn’t get a positive until 8dp3dt. It’ll be fine!”

But in my heart and in my mind I was worried it wasn’t fine. It was far from fine. I went out to the supermarket and bought hundreds of dollars worth of pregnancy tests. I figured if I exclusively used the really expensive brands and the digital tests that I would get a clearer result. And by “clearer” of course I mean “positive”. FRER became my closest friend.

But 8dp3dt brought with it negative, negative, negative, negative results. I kept testing throughout the day and that second little pink line was nowhere in sight. No matter how long I stared at the test, no matter what light I held it under, no matter what angle it was tilted to. Negative.

Every day between 8dp3dt and 11dp3dt I wasted at least $40 in pregnancy tests. I’m not even kidding. It got to the point where every time I went to the bathroom Doug was banging on the door shouting “Sadie you better not be peeing on a stick in there!”

I knew the cramping was menstrual cramping. I knew the tests were negative. But I just couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I couldn’t give up. I was in shock, really. At 27 years old, on my fourth fully stimmed cycle (fifth cycle if you counted my FET), and after two pregnancies, this was statistically supposed to be the cycle that worked for me. This was the time that was supposed to be my time.

On 11dp3dt before I went to get my blood drawn I had finally resigned myself to the fact this was a negative cycle. I was mentally prepared and ready to deal with the sadness and move on.

But then I tested at home, and I got a squinter. A squinter! A second little pink line. Definitely not an evap line. Definitely not something I was imagining because my husband could see it too! But still so faint that I couldn’t even pick it up when I tried to take a photo of it. My heart soared and my hope returned. Maybe this was my time. Maybe everything would be all right. Maybe all my worrying had been for nothing.

I was cautiously optimistic as I headed in to get my blood drawn, and content when I drove to work. Maybe, just maybe, I was going to get a nice surprise.

But a couple of hours later the phone rang. It was one of the IVF nurses.

“Sadie,” she said, her voice sombre. “I’m so sorry to tell you that your blood work shows you’re not pregnant.”

And just like that, it was over.

This entire cycle had been a massive waste of time. No pregnancy. No frozen embryos. Nothing. Just thousands of dollars down the drain.

I went to the bathroom at work, locked myself in a cubicle and cried so hard I thought my chest cavity was going to cave in and crush my heart and lungs.

I felt broken. I felt useless. I felt bitter and hateful and angry and devastated all at the same time. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up again. I wanted to tear all my hair out. I wanted to scream my pain to everybody in my office.

Instead I calmed myself down, unlocked the cubicle door, washed my face at the sink and then went and sat back down at my desk like nothing had happened. When you have a failed IVF cycle you don’t even have the right to grieve. Nobody at work cares one iota, and nobody expects you to slack off or stop working. You become invisible. Your pain is invisible.

When I got home from work yesterday I went to my wardrobe and took the two little Broncos baby singlets that were hanging next to my own clothes. I folded them carefully and placed them on the top shelf in the wardrobe in the back bedroom. A place where I will never have to see them, and will never have to think about them. I couldn’t throw them out because they belonged to Parker and Hodges, but I don’t want to be reminded of my failures every time I get dressed in the morning.

I woke up this morning with my period. It is already really, really bad. It is more painful than I ever remember it being in recent years. It is so bad I am having trouble carrying out regular daily activities like walking and eating. But I am at work. And I am pretending that nothing is wrong with me. I feel like I’m wearing a mask to try and hide the fact I’m really covered in slimy scales beneath my clothes. My infertility causes those scales, causes me to be an incomplete person. My infertility is my dirty secret.

For now I want you to know that I am around. I am here. I will try to update my blog and keep my emotions flowing. When I bottle them up I start to sink too deeply into that mud-pit of misery and depression.

But I don’t know whether I will have the energy or the strength to read and post on your blogs. I know of at least two of you who have received great news this week about your own cycles. Don’t get me wrong, I am ridiculously pleased for these ladies. You girls deserve this blessing and happiness more than anyone else I’ve ever come across. But I’m just not in a head space right now where I can soak up the joy of others. I am too low, I am too sad, I am too broken. Please forgive me, I’m not strong enough to smile through my tears at the moment. I will be there to congratulate you as soon as I am.

Today is a bad day. Tomorrow will be a bad day too. Maybe someday in the future I’ll have a good day again. Surely I deserve one? Here’s hoping…

Sadie xx

(You can read Part One here)

(You can read Part Two here)

(You can read Part Three here)

A boring summary of my 4th IVF cycle (part three!!!)

The embryologist phoned me to let me know I had been scheduled for a day 4 embryo tranfer.

I was prepared for this eventuality, and not happy with it. Neither was I planning to go ahead with it.

“Can I ask a question?” I interrupted her as she was discussing the time I needed to arrive at the hospital.

“Sure.” she said uneasily.

“Why am I having a day 4 transfer?”

“Um, well,” she started. “Unfortunately you had your egg pick-up on a Tuesday and that means a day 5 transfer would take place on a Sunday. And we don’t open on Sundays.”

Ah yes, but of course. Never mind what’s best for the patient who is paying thousands of dollars for treatment. The clinic doesn’t open on Sundays. Makes perfect sense.

“”But why am I having a day 4 transfer?” I asked, undeterred. “I mean the embryos are taken out of the incubator on days 1, 3 and 5 aren’t they?”

“Yes….” she said.

“So they were taken out on day 1 to check for fertilization.” I said. “Then they’ll be taken out on day 3 to check for progress, taken out on day 4 to pick the best embryos for transfer, taken out on day 5 to check them again and then taken out to freeze on day 6. What happens to embryos when they’re taken out of the incubator?”

“They’re placed under stress.” the embryologist said. “It has a very small impact on their quality.”

“Right.” I said, happy she was proving my point. “And you’re going to take my embryos out of the incubator four days in a row. That doesn’t seem like a good idea to me, unless you can definitively tell me that there’s evidence to suggest a day 4 transfer improves pregnancy rates compared to a day 3 transfer. Of course I want the best possible chance to get pregnant, but I’m also very mindful of our other embryos. I want to freeze as many as possible and give us as many chances as possible to succeed.”

“Well actually,” the embryologist said. “It’s much harder for us to pick the best embryo on day 4 than it is on day 3. On day 4 the embryos are going through a transition stage and it’s almost impossible to tell which ones will come out of it looking the best.”

“So you’re actually recommending I go with a day 3 transfer?” I asked.

“I’m not allowed to recommend one day over the other,” she said. “But between you and I, if I was you I’d be going with a day 3 transfer. Put two embryos back so you give yourself the best chance at pregnancy and also help your other embryos in the incubator at the same time.”

“Ok that’s great.” I said happily. “Let’s set that up.”

There was silence on the phone for a moment.

“You’re always so smart…” the embryologist suddenly said, in a faraway voice.

You guys, I think I’m getting a reputation at the clinic as someone who likes to interfere with my treatment plan. I don’t know whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing…

As it turns out, Doug wasn’t available to have time off work for my day 3 transfer so instead I elected to take my mother along. The transfer was to be at 11.45am on Friday morning, and it was going to be with Doctor Eventi. That same replacement doctor who had turned up half an hour late to my egg pick-up.

“This doctor is supposedly fantastic.” I explained to mum as she drove to the hospital. “But after my egg pick-up fiasco he has one last chance to prove himself. My own doctor isn’t anything to write home about, but I’m certainly not transferring to this doctor if he isn’t any better.”

My admission time was 11.30am, and my full bladder was just starting to become painful when we arrived at the clinic. The worst thing about embryo transfer, other than the nerves, is the fact you need to have a full bladder for the guided ultrasound. This time around I had stupidly polished off 150ml more water than I was supposed to. 150ml is no big deal unless you leave it sitting in your already full bladder for an hour.

At 12pm, fifteen minutes after my scheduled transfer time. a nurse came out to ask me how I was coping.

“My bladder is stinging, but I’m managing ok.” I said. “How far away is the doctor?”

“We aren’t sure. ” she admitted. “I’m sure he’ll be here soon.”

At 12.30pm, a huge 45 minutes after my scheduled transfer time, they started ringing the doctor’s phone but he wasn’t answering. I was furious. I couldn’t believe he was late again! And this time he was super late.

The embryologist came out and showed me photos of my embryos to save time. Of the seven embryos that had fertilized, we had a grade 1, a grade 2, three grade 3s and a grade 4 in the incubator. The grade 1 was perfect looking and actually developmentally quite ahead and sitting at the day 4 stage. The embryologist was very happy with it. The grade 2 embryo was nicely compacted and also right on schedule, but had some fragmentation. They were the two chosen for transfer.

“Don’t worry about your other embryos.” she said. “From memory last time you had a grade 3 embryo on day 3 and it ended up coming good and was frozen on day 6.”

“Yes that’s right.” I nodded, feeling confident.

At 12.45pm, an entire hour after my scheduled transfer time, the nurse took me into the theatre and started prepping me. She dressed me in one of those sexy backless hospital gowns and had me up on the table ready to go. She said there was nothing else they could do other than wait.

The pain in my bladder was so terrible that I was sure I was going to end up with a bladder infection, and I was concerned about my embryos who had already been prepped for transfer an hour ago.

“All I can say,” the nurse said. “Is that if you pee on the doctor during the transfer then it will be entirely his own fault for keeping you waiting!”

At 1.00pm the doctor strolled casually into the theatre.

“Oh hello!” he said. “You’re already all set up in here? How unusual!”

“Yes we’re trying to be quick.” the nurse said grumpily. “You haven’t been answering your phone.”

“My phone?” he said flippantly. “Oh I lost it.”

Well, great. The guy is an hour and fifteen minutes late while I’m sitting in the waiting room with a full bladder because he lost his phone. Happy days.

“Well Sadie,” he said, turning to me. “The other day at your egg pick-up I was late and you were very cross with me weren’t you?”

“Yes.” I agreed. “I was.”

I was honestly in so much shock I didn’t even have it in me to complain about the fact he was once again late.

“This is the first time we’re properly meeting isn’t it?” he asked.

“Yes.” I agreed again.

“But look at you! You’re just a baby!” he gasped. “How old are you?”

“I’m 27.” I replied.

“27 is too young for IVF!” he said. “Why do you need IVF?”

“I have endometriosis, PCOS, adenomyosis, hyperprolactinemia and blocked tubes.” I said through gritted teeth. “And this is my fourth cycle of IVF. I’m not a baby.”

After that I think he got the idea that I wasn’t really in a mood to chat so we got started with the procedure.

“I always have to remind Doctor Holiday that I have a long cervix so you need to use a longer speculum.” I told him as I lay back onto the bed with my legs in the stirrups.

He began with an internal examination and cleaned the crinone build-up out with saline. After that, we were ready for the transfer to begin.

“Actually I disagree.” he said. “You have a normal length cervix and we will use the normal length speculum.”

So he inserted the instrument and started opening my vagina. I have vaginismus so it was excrutiatingly painful, particularly with my over-full bladder. I was gripping my mother’s hand so tightly it was starting to turn purple. After a minute Doctor Eventi stopped and assessed his work.

“It looks like you were right Sadie.” he said. “We do need that longer speculum after all!”

Just like that! No concern for the pain I was in, or apology for the fact he had ignored my advice and now I was paying the price for it. The nurse rolled her eyes so violently I thought they were going to fall out of her head.

When Doctor Eventi finally got the second speculum in place, my body was starting to go into lockdown. My pelvic muscles were trying to shut up shop so desperately that even with the speculum holding me open he couldn’t get the catheter inside my uterus.

“Your internal organs seem to be resisting…” he frowned, pushing harder to try and get the catheter inside me.

In the end he had to go and get a different type of catheter and wash my cervix with saline again just to force his way inside. Then the two embryos were loaded into the catheter and ready for transfer. The nurse was scanning my belly so we could see a clear image of my uterus on the screen.

“Where is the catheter?” Doctor Eventi asked, looking at the ultrasound screen.

“What do you mean?” asked the nurse.

“I can’t see it in there. Where is it?” he frowned. “I’m going to poke it around and you just shout out if you can see it on the screen.”

Let me tell you if I hadn’t already been lying down I would have fallen over in shock. The man who I was trusting to get me pregnant, the man who was pocketing thousands of dollars of my hard earned savings, didn’t even know where the catherer was. He had apparently lost it in my uterus.

“There!” my mother said. “I see it in the top corner of the uterus.”

“Ah yes!” the doctor nodded. “Good work Sadie’s Mum. It looks like it’s in a pretty good position so I’m ready to insert the embryos now.”

I couldn’t believe it was up to my friggen mother to find the catheter for the doctor! And I couldn’t believe he was being so flippant about the whole thing. A pretty good position? You’d better be damn sure it was in the absolute perfect position if you’re playing with my health, my emotions and my bank account.

As he was completing the transfer, the doctor began to laugh. “These embryos look so healthy. What will you do if they both take? What will you do if one splits and you end up with triplets? You might get triplets you know!”

What kind of stupid question is that? If I get one baby I’ll be ecstatic. If I get two babies I’ll be completely over the moon. If I get three I’ll be completely freaked out, but also thankful. Did he expect me to say that I would selectively abort a baby if we had triplets? That I would adopt one out? I mean honestly what an idiotic thing to mention.

Thankfully, before I had the chance to say something biting or witty I was informed the procedure was over and I was allowed to get up and run to the bathroom. That was much more important than wasting time having a go at the doctor.

“Well congratulations and good luck!” the doctor said. “I’m sure you’ll do just fine because those embryos looked great.”

On the way home from the hospital I called Doug to let him know how everything had gone. He was completely furious with the treatment I had received, but also happy with the final result. We had two beautiful embryos on board, and four more still alive in the incubator who were going to bake for a few more days. Everything was falling into place.

“Doug what will we do if neither of these embryos implant, and none of the other embryos freeze?” I asked quietly.

“Don’t be silly.” my husband said. “That’s not even going to happen. You’re 27. Your embryos looked great. We’ll get many chances. We’ll get pregnant. This is going to be our year! I can feel it!”

If only wishing made it so…

(to be contined AGAIN….only one more part in this long-winded saga, I promise!)

(You can view Part One here)

(You can view Part Two here)

A boring summary of my 4th IVF cycle (part two…yay!)

I awoke at 4.45am on Tuesday morning feeling like I had been punched in the stomach.

Normally I feel sore and crampy before an egg pick-up, but this was a different type of pain. I wondered when I lifted up my nightgown if I would see a gigantic bruise across my torso. Thankfully I didn’t, but I was certainly hurting.

We left the house just before 5.30am and drove to the hospital so I could be admitted. The one thing I love about the hospital where I have my day surgeries is the efficiency of the place. Almost straight away my hospital ID tags were strapped onto my wrists, my weight was checked (I’m up to 77.5kg ugh no I DIE! I DIE!) and I was dressed in my sexy hospital gown.

Before I knew it, I was kissing Doug goodbye and being wheeled by an orderly towards the surgical theatre.

“Have fun!” I called out to Doug as he watched me leave. “At least I get to be asleep for my part!”

I think the orderly got a bit of a chuckle out of that. I’m a funny girl.

My egg pick-up was scheduled for 7am, exactly 38 hours after my trigger shot. I was wheeled into the pre-surgical room where I had a clear view of a large old-fashioned analogue clock on the wall. The type that goes tick tick tick tick loudly enough to give you anxiety. It quite clearly read 6.50am.

The IVF nurses Shirley and Flo came in soon afterwards, all smiling and happy. I was glad to see them. When I am nervous I am often comforted when I see familiar people.

“Hi Sadie! How are you feeling? We’ll see you soon!” they both called to me as they continued into the theatre to prep the room.

Next the anaesthetist arrived. She was dressed in blue scrubs and I liked her immediately. She explained that she was placing an alertness monitor on my forehead because she was using a type of anaesthetic that is best suited for an egg pick-up to take good care of my eggs, but it was also essential to closely monitor patients when under because it created a lighter sleep than more commonly used sedatives??

I dunno really, I was too nervous to pay much attention. All I know is when she placed the monitor across my forehead it felt like she was sticking huge velcro strips onto my skin. It kind of tickled but it wasn’t painful.

“We will wait for Doctor Eventi to arrive,” the anaesthetist said. “Once you have had a chat to the doctor then we can start the process of putting you to sleep.”

So there we were in the pre-surgical room. Me in my backless gown, lying on the hospital guernsey under warm blankets. And the anaesthetist in her blue scrubs. And together, we waited. And waited. And waited.

Then the clock ticked over to 7am.

I looked at the anaesthetist and she looked back at me. Neither of us said anything. I knew we were both thinking the exact same thing – where the hell was the doctor? The replacement doctor who I had never met before. The replacement doctor who was apparently so fantastic my actual doctor was losing all of her patients to him.

At 7:05am the anaesthetist actually bit her lip and checked her wrist watch.

“My eggs.” I said feebly. “My eggs need to be picked up. It’s been 38 hours.”

“Yes I know sweetheart.” she replied. “I’m sorry there’s nothing we can do until the doctor arrives.”

At 7:10am the anaesthetist sighed audibly and shook her head. I could feel the frustration radiating off her, and I’m sure she was feeling my anxiety. Suddenly she spun around, walked over to the theatre door and called her assistant into the room.

“Look the doctor isn’t here but we need to prep her now.” she said. “Right now.”

“But…” the assistant started.

“No this is ridiculous! We need her ready to go or the eggs will be gone by the time we start the procedure.” the anaesthetist snapped.

So suddenly I was wheeled into the theatre and transferred across to the operating table. Then I had a little army of people buzzing around me, checking my vitals and repeatedly asking me my name, date of birth, and reason for surgery. The anaesthetist put my IV cannula into my arm and she was rushing so much she actually hurt me. Normally I don’t mind a bit of pain, but it was actually so bad I had to let her know and she had to readjust where she had set the cannula.

Honestly I was just so grateful that she understood the urgency of the situation. She was truly so fantastic. I so much appreciated the fact she was clearly on my side and doing everything she could to help me. She talked me through exactly what she was doing, and explained the quickest way to get me to sleep.

“As soon as the doctor speaks to you, I’m going to put this mask over your face.” she told me. “When the mask is over your face tilt your head right back and take four deep breaths. The deeper the better. Then we’ll get you off to sleep ok sweetheart?”

Once I was fully prepped and ready to go I looked back up at the clock.

7:25am.

I started to quietly hyperventilate. This was a doctor I had never met! What if the eggs were gone when the procedure began? What then? I kept thinking over and over again I’m going to sue this bastard I’m going to sue him!

Then I could hear one of the IVF nurses on the phone in the pre-surgical room.

“I need you to urgently patch me through to Doctor Eventi’s phone.” I heard her say, and my stomach begin twisting into knots.

Then a few moments later, her voice changed. “Doctor Eventi! Where are you? We need you in surgery you know!”

The clock ticked over to 7.30am. The anaesthetist had her hand on my shoulder, patting me reassuringly and telling me it was going to be okay.

Finally five minutes later the doctor breezed into the room, followed closely by Shirley the nurse. He looked calm and relaxed. Not at all like a man in a hurry.

“Hullo!” he said, breaking out into a huge grin. “We haven’t met before have we?”

“No.” I managed to get out, between my clenched teeth.

“My name is Doctor Steve! Pleasure to meet you! ” he said, holding his hand out for me to shake.

First of all ‘Doctor Steve’? What kind if lame-o doctor uses their first name? Secondly what the hell did he expect me to do? I had an IV in one arm, and they were monitoring my blood pressure with the other. It was almost impossible for me to comfortably shake his hand. Thirdly, why the frig would I shake that man’s hand?? He was over half an hour late for an extremely time sensitive procedure.

He held his hand in front of me for a few moments, then slowly withdrew it. He frowned at me and then shrugged a little, apparently hurt that I had snubbed him. Meanwhile, the anaesthetist was still hovering the oxygen mask inches from my face ready to pounce as soon as she was given the okay.

“What are you having done today Sadie?” the doctor asked.

“Egg pick-up.” I confirmed quickly.

“And how many eggs will we get?” he asked.

“Doctor Holiday thinks maybe 10 to 14.” I replied. “My guess is 10.”

“Can I put her under now? Please?” the anaesthetist asked.

Doctor Eventi nodded and the mask was pushed onto my face. Immediately I started breathing deeply. My final thoughts were that the eggs had better still be there, or that doctor was in deep deep trouble.

When I woke up in the first recovery room, the first thing I did was check for a sticker on the back of my hand that would tell me how many eggs were collected.

10 eggs

The number I had predicted! I was relieved and elated both that we had still managed to collect the eggs, and that we’d picked up 10. I thought it was a great number. Enough to give us a great chance of making a real take-home baby, but not so many that it would give me OHSS again. Perfect!

The nurses in the first recovery room found I was responding really well and hadn’t had any of the dramas I’d experienced after my last egg pick-up when I’d passed out. I was, however, complaining constantly that I needed to pee.

“But the doctor drained your bladder during surgery.” a nurse told me. “You shouldn’t need to pee, dear.”

“But I do!” I insisted.

So they brought me in a bed pan. But ugh I hate those things and just can’t use them. After about 10 minutes of wiggling around trying to get myself at an angle so that I could pee, I eventually used the sides of the bed to haul myself up into a sitting position.

“No no no dear!” the nurse cried. “You can’t sit up like that! You need to rest!”

But eventually, she agreed to release me into the second recovery room, seen as I was clearly wide awake and also determined to find a way to empty my bladder. In the second recovery ward I was allowed to get up out of bed so a nurse helped me to shuffle to the bathroom, wheeling my IV drip beside me, and let me use the toilet. Yep, my bladder was full. My mama didn’t raise no fool.

After that my blood pressure dropped suddenly and I was made to get back into bed again. But I was allowed to eat some breakfast, and also have a cup of tea. I always reward myself after a successful egg pick-up with caffeinated tea. Yep, I’m a rebel. But it was delicious! I also scoffed down sandwiches, crackers with cheese, sweet biscuits and a bowl of fruit. I guess I was hungry…

I also had a chance to peep at my surgical notes as they were briefly left on the table beside my bed. I had 5 eggs picked up from each ovary, which I thought was great. The last time I’d gone through egg pick-up only my left ovary had eggs within the follicles. This showed both my ovaries were still doing something right.

I did notice that the doctor had scribbled down notes about a haemmorhaging cyst. It must have been the endometrioma that Doctor Holiday had picked up in her final scan. Doctor Eventi had written down that it was “large + + +” so obviously it had grown even bigger. And if it was seeping blood no wonder I’d been in so much pain before my pick-up. The doctor had drained the cyst, but made no other mention of it on the notes.

Before I was allowed to go home I had to go through the usual ‘toilet and scan’ protocol. To make sure my bladder was emptying properly after the procedure I had to go to the bathroom, and then one of the recovery nurses scanned my bladder. In order to be discharged from the hospital the reading had to show under 100ml of residual fluid in my bladder. This never, ever, ever works for me the first time. Sure enough, even though I felt like I’d emptied my bladder fully it showed 150ml of residual fluid.

The nurses then made me drink two cups of black tea and go to the bathroom again. When they scanned my bladder I had 200ml of residual fluid. And so began my nightmare.

“Oh my gosh it’s gone up!” the nurse said, super confused.

“It’s fine.” I explained calmly. “The ultrasound is picking up free floating fluid in my abdomen from the egg pick-up. It’s not in my bladder.”

“No it’s in your bladder.” the nurse disagreed.

And then she went off to phone the doctor, who decided I certainly wasn’t allowed to be discharged. Instead I was told to keep drinking and peeing, and then having my bladder scanned.

“But Doctor Holiday would let me go home.” I tried to argue.

“Well Doctor Holiday isn’t here right now.” the nurse scowled. “And Doctor Eventi will not let you leave until your bladder is empty.”

The hours started to slowly pass in the recovery ward, where patients normally spend around 30 minutes before being discharged or moved to a proper ward. Patients came and went all around me. But I kept repeating the same process: drink tea, heat pack on my abdomen, urinate, scan. Each time they scanned me, my bladder was more full than before, even though I knew I was emptying properly.

As the clock hit midday, the head nurse came to visit me and scan me herself. She couldn’t figure out what the problem was, and suggested I walk up and down the ward with a heat pack firmly on my abdomen to try and wake up my bladder. She also told me to completely stop drinking liquid, and start double and triple voiding. She was confident that protocol would see my bladder empty before lunch.

She was wrong. So wrong! Every time I went to the bathroom and they scanned me there was more residual fluid. By 3pm it was above 400ml and I had spent basically the entire day in the recovery ward. The head nurse decided to call down a consulting urologist, and also call Doctor Eventi again because it looked like they were going to have to keep me overnight at the hospital.

Then they decided to try a catheter. I wished they’d just tried the catheter right at the beginning of the day. Last time I had an in-out catheter that’s literally all it had been. They put the catheter in, pushed on my bladder, and then removed the catheter. This time, the head nurse inserted the catheter then tried to jiggle it all around to get the best result. It was super super uncomfortable. When they pushed down on my bladder they got basically no urine out.

“See!” I said. “It’s not in my bladder. It’s free floating fluid.”

But still that head nurse was determined to prove the fluid was in my bladder. She kept wiggling the catheter in me, had one nurse scanning my belly with the ulrasound wand and another nurse forcefully pushing down on my bladder. The three of them tried for about half an hour while I lay there in an awkward position with my legs in the air and completely spread open. When I eventually complained that it was a bit uncomfortable, the head nurse dismissed me with the good old “if you’re complaining about this, how are you going to handle child birth?” line.

But for all of their efforts they only managed to get about 70ml of urine out of me. And only because it slowly dripped out over the course of the half hour, which would be fluid naturally arriving in my bladder anyway as my body digested my lunch.

The head nurse sent one of her assistants off to phone back Doctor Eventi and explain that the catheter had shown there was nothing in my bladder. She returned a few minutes later with a grim look on her face.

“Doctor Eventi says that it’s free floating fluid in the abdomen from the egg pick-up.” the nurse grimaced. “And the patient can be discharged.”

Ha! Victory!

By the time I was released from the hospital it was early evening. I was pretty disappointed, because usually after egg pick-up I like to rest on the couch at home watching movies and eating chocolate. It’s another reward I give myself for a job well done. But I’d missed out on that because the stupid nurse wouldn’t listen to me or take me seriously.

But it hadn’t been all bad. I ended up making such good friends with a few of the nurses they actually walked me out of the hospital when Doug came to collect me.

One of them was only 23 years old and had just found out she has endometriosis and blocked tubes. She asked me for advice on what she should do, because she did want to have children eventually but wasn’t quite ready yet. I talked her through what I had been through myself and how my biggest regret was that I hadn’t started trying for children when the doctors first picked up my problems. She seemed very grateful just to have someone to talk to about her own issues and I felt good that I could give her advice and some things to think about.

As I left the hospital, the nurses said they’d see me next time.

“Nah you won’t.” I corrected them with a big smile. “This time around I’m going to get all the embryos I need so I’ll never need to do another egg pick-up.”

And for the first time ever, I truly believed it when I said it. I felt so positive and happy, like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. This would be my last egg pick-up. My take-home baby was one of those 10 eggs collected. This time I would be successful. I just knew it.

The next morning, the embryologist phoned to let me know my fertilization result. Of the 10 collected, one egg was immature, and one was degenerating rapidly so they had only performed ICSI on 8 eggs. And of those 8 eggs, 7 had fertilized!!!

I was so excited!! It was by far our best result yet. In our first cycle our fertilization rate was 57%, our second cycle was cancelled due to poor ovarian response, our third cycle the fertilization rate was also 57%, but our fourth cycle the rate was 87.5%!!

To me, it just proved my own theory to be true: everything was falling into place. This would be my last ever egg pick-up. We would be able to do a fresh transfer, and also freeze multiple embryos. I would have many chances, without ever having to do another fully stimmed IVF cycle. I was ecstatic.

But sometimes life just doesn’t work out the way you’ve planned……

(to be continued…again…)

A state of calamity

Two nights ago I had a complete meltdown.

It started in the afternoon, after my traumatising experience at the pathology collection centre. I’d suffered a mini anxiety attack in the middle of our city’s busiest mall because I couldn’t stop thinking about the man who took my blood excitedly announcing he was going to become a father on Christmas morning. I pictured the way he would share the news with his family. The imaginary scene played over and over again in my mind like a bad video clip on repeat, and I couldn’t seem to turn it off.

When I returned to work I was unable to complete any more tasks for the day, and instead just sat at my desk trying to keep myself composed and looking busy.

On the way home I stopped off in a nearby suburb to collect a large white photo frame that I had purchased on ebay. I stumbled across it quite accidentally on the site, and thought it would look great in our new master bedroom. I knocked on the seller’s door, and was greeted by a slim, blonde woman in her early 30s.

“Hi,” I said, offering a broad smile. “I’m here to collect the -”

“Shshshsh!” the woman interjected urgently. “I’ll need you to keep your voice down. I’ve just put my baby to sleep. Do you have any idea how hard it is to get babies to sleep?”

My eyes bulged in shock, but I said nothing further. I simply handed over the money and took the frame.

Did I know how to get a baby to sleep? Well yes, actually. I’ve put plenty of babies to sleep. In fact, my friends used to joke that I was the baby whisperer. It was all so different a few years ago when hardly anyone in my group of friends had babies. If there was a baby at a party or social function it would be happily passed around the group for all my friends to coo over. But as soon as it started crying, the baby would be thrust in my direction. My friends were terrified of crying infants, didn’t know how to change nappies, and didn’t want to learn. I was the only one in the group who was willing or able to provide care and comfort. Now it’s so different. Now half those friends have children of their own.

I was relieved to finally arrive home, but quickly realised my relief was to be short lived. Our floors are finally being polished upstairs, and our tiler has started working downstairs. The state of the house meant that we would have to spend the night at my parents’ place. I ducked inside to pick up some clothes and medication. On the way out, I checked the mail box. I was quite surprised to see a letter from my sister-in-law Jess.

I have mentioned in the past that Jess has been quite insensitive and hurtful this year, throughout her pregnancy and the birth of her second child. If you don’t remember you can read a few examples here and here.

I have also previously mentioned that after finding myself unable to cope with the constant baby photos on Facebook I deactivated my account about 7 weeks ago. What I didn’t mention was what happened shortly afterwards. It took Jess a few weeks to cotton onto the fact I no longer had a newsfeed to be clogged with photos of her new baby, so she kindly started texting me through photos that I could enjoy and keep. Yay. Just what I wanted.

“What’s next!” I had lamented to my husband. “Will she start sending me photos of her damn baby in the damn mail?”

But I will admit that I hadn’t actually believed that would happen. No one was that cruel.

So when I peeled open the envelope and pulled out a photo of my two year old niece and her new baby sister dressed in pink Santa hats I was completely stunned. Flipping the photo over, I saw my sister-in-law’s scrawl and the words ‘To Uncle Doug and Aunty Sadie, get ready for a pink Christmas! Love Layla and Amy’.

It took me another few seconds to work out the true meaning of the message – because Jess now had two girls and we had no children of our own, the entire family was going to celebrate a girly Christmas day. The entire day’s celebration was to revolve around Jess and her daughters. Of course.

I was absolutely fuming mad. Was that really the kind of shit I have to cop from someone in my own family, a couple of weeks after terminating an unviable pregnancy and less than a week before the due date of another failed pregnancy? The act was low, and unacceptably selfish.

When I arrived at my parents’ place I decided to try relaxing and watching a comedy movie. Doug was out with a mate for the evening, so I could choose whatever I wanted. Flipping through my parents’ dvd collection I came across ‘This is 40′ and decided it would be perfect. I enjoy Judd Apatow movies (yes I’m a sucker for lame humour) and had never seen it before.

The first half of the movie was pretty good and I chuckled along happily. Then came the part where the doctor surprised Leslie Mann by announcing she was accidentally pregnant at 40. Oh no. Oh, no no no.

Leslie reacted by sobbing, clawing at her face and neck, and wiping sweat from her brow. She was obviously horrified to hear the news. I quickly turned the movie off, realising I couldn’t even watch a comedy without being reminded of my failures as a human being.

When I headed out of the living room I saw that Doug had arrived, and sidled up for a hug. But as I moved towards him I realised straight away that he was angry at me.

“Did you just sit around all night watching television?” he demanded, seemingly ignoring the fact he had spent the evening at the driving range perfecting his golf swing. “You didn’t even bother to pick up some of my clothes from the house when you were there, and there’s no sheets on the bed in the spare room! It’s late! You could have put sheets on the bed hours ago! Now I’ll have to do it!”

I did feel really guilty, especially about the fact I’d picked up clothes for myself but not him when I was at our house. He had completely taken over domestic duties since I had my methotrexate shot. He had been doing all the cooking each night, washing the dishes and doing all the laundry. I could understand why he was angry that I hadn’t even been able to do this one thing for him. I hadn’t thought about him at all.

“I’m sorry.” I spluttered. “I don’t feel well.”

He rolled his eyes and stalked off to find some sheets. Feeling dejected, I headed into the bathroom and started stripping my clothes so that I could take a shower. Peeling off my underwear I noticed the blood immediately. My period had properly begun. Again. My third period in five weeks.

Suddenly I was howling. I went from calm to utterly hysterical in about 12 seconds, having completely lost the ability to control my emotions. There was nothing I could do to stop myself.

Doug rushed into the bathroom to find out what was wrong. I was sobbing so violently I could hardly speak.

“I just don’t feel well.” I managed to repeat.

“I know things are tough at the moment.” Doug said. “But if you don’t feel well why did you watch that movie? Why didn’t you just go to bed? How can I help you if you won’t help yourself? I don’t want to listen to your self-pity.”

That was all it took to send me completely over the edge.

“Get out.” I spat, turning on the shower. “Just get out.”

Without another word Doug left the bathroom and I stepped into the shower cubicle. I washed myself, then just let the hot water wash over my body as I shook and sobbed. Suddenly I could feel my chest tightening and before I even realised it I was having trouble breathing. I started gulping in big lungfuls of air, but I still didn’t feel like there was any oxygen in my body at all. I knew I was having a panic attack, but it felt like I was dying.

I hopped out of the shower, dried myself and wrapped my fluffy towel around my body, all the while gasping for breath. My gasps became quicker and quicker. My hands were on my chest and around my throat. Suddenly the room started spinning. I couldn’t breath. I just needed air. I was going to collapse if I didn’t start breathing. Why were none of my gasps pushing air into my lungs? Looking at myself in the mirror I saw that my skin had lost all of it’s colour, and my lips were turning blue.

I don’t remember how I started breathing again. I don’t remember Doug coming back into the bathroom, or how he calmed me down. But I know that he did. I remember him helping me sip water, dressing me in my pyjamas and putting me to bed.

Then he lay with me on the bed, in the dark, rolling me over so that my head was on his chest, his left arm wrapped around my back, his right arm around my shoulders and his legs locked over mine.

I knew he felt bad about the things he had said earlier. I realised that they had been blurted out in the heat of the moment, without knowing what I had been through already throughout the day. The last few weeks had been hard on both of us, and sometimes when people are worn out they snap. His careless remarks had simply been the straw that broke the camels back.

Doug rocked me gently as I continued to cry, telling me that it was okay to be upset. We stayed that way for forty-five minutes, my tears puddling onto my husband’s chest. Somehow I managed to drift off to sleep.

The next morning I awoke feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. It was almost as if my body had gone into some kind of shock. I was so slow getting dressed for work, missed the bus and ended up arriving half an hour late. Two different colleagues asked if I was okay, thinking I had the flu. One even suggested I go home, but I insisted I was fine.

The entire day I felt like I was on the verge of tears, even though those feelings of anxiety had dissipated. I had severe stomach cramps and indigestion type pains, despite not eating much of anything at all. I kept rushing to the bathroom thinking I was going to vomit, but instead I just dry heaved. I was a total wreck.

After work Doug met me in the city and we went to see a movie. We hadn’t had a date night since before we started our last cycle of IVF, and he was trying very hard to keep my mind off things and make me feel better. I shivered violently throughout almost the entire movie even though I was wearing a thick cardigan. Doug had both his arms wrapped around me, rubbing his hands up and down my biceps. It must have been so uncomfortable for him to stay in that position, leaning over the armrest that separated us, for a two and a half hour movie.

Last night I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and I slept solidly until 11am this morning. I feel so much better today. I’ve kept some food down and my mental state seems to have stabilized. I still have a hormonal headache but I feel like a human being again. I’m incredibly tired and imagine I’ll probably sleep for another 12 hours tonight.

This has just been a really long, really hard year for me. I feel like all the shit in my life has been slowly building for the last few months and my panic attack was the climax. Now I’m hoping I can stay under the radar and just slip quietly into 2014. It would be really great if this year could just end now.

Two days ago I hit rock bottom. But I’m still here. I’m still surviving. I’m taking one breath at a time. I refuse to stay down. I will make it through this. I will.

Today I made a formal complaint

To whom it may concern,

I wish to provide some feedback on my most recent experience at one of your pathology collection centres. While I do not wish to cause any trouble for your staff, I think it’s important for you to be aware of the personal distress that was caused to me today when I was having blood drawn. I do not wish to identify the name of the person who undertook my test or the location of the clinic, I just wanted to make you aware of my experience in the hope that such distress will not be caused to others in my situation.

I had my blood taken today to confirm the successful termination of a pregnancy of unknown location. The specimen collector confirmed this was the reason for my test, asking me if I was currently still pregnant. I told him that I was not. The request form also clearly stated that my doctor was a fertility specialist, and that a copy of my results was to be sent to my fertility clinic.

Unknown to the collector, my unsuccessful pregnancy was the result of my fouth cycle of IVF. My husband and I have been desperately trying to have children for several years, experienced pregnancy loss in the past and were devastated to find we had to terminate our most recent pregnancy because it was not located in the uterus. These are all very personal details that I prefer not to share with others.

While administering the blood test, the collector asked me of my plans for Christmas. He then began to talk about his own Christmas plans even though I had not asked him about them. He told me how special this Christmas would be for him because he and his wife were going to tell their extended family that they were expecting their first child. He told me all about seeing his baby’s heartbeat at their first ultrasound, how excited he was that he could announce the pregnancy to his family on Christmas morning, how thrilled his mother and mother-in-law would be, how unexpectedly wonderful the pregnancy had been, and how he planned to be at every ultrasound and appointment so he didn’t have to miss out on any part of this very special experience.

During the appointment I smiled and nodded because I did not know any other way to react. I was completely stunned that the collector was being so utterly insensitive. Even without knowing that I have been going through IVF, surely he could understand why I would not want to hear such things while I was having blood drawn to confirm the end of my own pregnancy. My husband and I had also planned to tell our families of our long awaited pregnancy on Christmas morning, however that will no longer be a possibility for us.

Undergoing fertility treatment and losing a baby is hard enough as it is, without being subjected to such insensitivity whilst I am having my blood drawn. This incident has been extremely upsetting and stressful for me. After I left the clinic I was very emotional and suffered an anxiety attack. I will now be fearful of returning to have my blood drawn in the future because I will associate those feelings of panic and anxiety with your collection centres.

I wish for it to be known that the staff member who collected my blood was extremely pleasant and cheerful. I thought it was great that he attempted to make conversation while the test was in progress. I simply think that the subject matter he chose was entirely unacceptable and perhaps your staff need to be counselled on how to behave tactfully in the workplace and whilst dealing with patients.

I appreciate you reading my feedback and hope that you will take my comments on board.

Kind regards,

Sadie