Our Great Embryo Debate

{Also featured on The M Word }

Every so often I get asked ‘ So… are you going to try again for a girl now that you have two boys?’

What an odd question. Or am I the odd one? Why would people assume I have a need to have a daughter over another son? We have no plans to try again for any more babies, but if I did, given we have to do fertility treatment I would be over the moon with either sex, but if I’m honest, another boy would probably be a lot handier and more practical seeing as I already have mountains of boys clothes…!

So, no I say, I don’t feel I need to try again for a daughter.. as if my sons aren’t fulfilling enough for me! It really is an odd question, to me at least. Do men get asked if they want to try again for a son if their children are all girls? I dunno, probably. Odd!

However, the question does get me thinking about our little embryos. Every so often something will remind me of them – well, pretty much any time I hear of someone doing IVF or if I see a new baby, I think of them. It might sound ridiculous to some people, but I think of those little embryos like pre-born babies. They exist because of us, they are lives created by us. Ok, ‘lives’ may not be the correct word scientifically, but it’s hard to think of another word to accurately describe them, because ‘bundle of cells’ just doesn’t cover what it is they mean to us, and how important they are.

When you do IVF, you quickly learn that getting to the stage of embryos even existing from the treatment is very far down the line of ‘Things That Need To Go Right.’ It’s not just a case of rocking up to the clinic, producing the ingredients and job done, there are loads of things that have to go to plan first.

And I’m no scientist but it seems to me that a large majority of that is down to luck. Or fate, or whatever it is you happen to believe in. Science only seems to account for some of it, and the rest is ‘let’s just hope’.

We were unbelievably lucky to end up with seven Grade 1 embryos after our IVF treatment – at the time I didn’t really understand just how lucky we were to get those numbers, but they are fantastic results. Thankfully, out of three FETs (Frozen Embryo Transfers), two were successful and are currently almost four and almost two years old… essentially they’re twins just born two years apart! Sadly we had one failure in between the two boys, so that leaves us with our four little ‘frosties’.

And so the question remains.. what to do with them? Currently we pay for their storage at the clinic each year. They’re sitting in a huge freezer in tiny little tubes a bit like the inside of a biro – so tiny you can’t really see them with your own eyes. Four potential PEOPLE – to think of it too deeply just blows my mind a bit.

I wonder about how close they came to existing. When the embryologist opened the freezer on the morning of each transfer, liquid nitrogen spilling out over the sides of the big drum like something out of a science fiction movie, and looked at our little collection of embryos, what made her pick the ones she did? Those embryos she chose eventually turned into Rian and Alex. So I wonder, who didn’t get the chance to turn into people? And how close we came to not meeting Rian and Alex…?

The sheer effort required in even getting those embryos in the first place… how could I ever decide to let them go, or let them ‘expire’? I’m so emotionally attached to them and invested in them, I’ll never forget how hard it was to get them and what we went through, the emotional and physical rollercoaster of it, that I think I’ll still be paying for their storage when I’m 90. To think of not keeping them makes my heart skip a beat with sadness… does that make me sound a bit mad?!

 

I don’t know what the future holds.. at the moment we have two beautiful, precious little boys. Two boys we never dared to dream we’d have, the day we were told we’d need IVF to have any hope of becoming parents.

Part of me thinks am I being greedy to even consider more when the odds were already so stacked against us. We are so happy as a family of four, I don’t feel any pull or need to try for another one… until I think of those embryos and wonder, what if? Or maybe more appropriately… who if?

So I’ll tuck those thoughts away for now and pay the clinic for another year of storage, think about it tomorrow and be so forever grateful for the two little embryos I can tuck into bed and kiss goodnight.

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Living With Infertility

*Recently featured on The M Word*

I think I always knew deep down that when I decided to try and get pregnant, it wasn’t going to be plain sailing. It’s easy to say that now, knowing that did happen in the end, but hand on heart, I always knew.

Somewhere within, I could sense that we’d have to go the long way around.

We never had to have that talk, Gavin and I, when we knew we’d get married and spend our lives together. We never officially asked each other if we wanted children, we both just knew we did. And even though deep down I always sensed there’d be a problem, I still felt shocked when I found out officially – there was a problem.

And strangely, that’s when things started to improve in some ways.

The years of the not knowing, wondering, endless cycles of hoping, then hope being dashed were far worse. I’m not suggesting for a moment that going through fertility treatment is easy, or something you should take lightly, but certainly for me, knowing we needed it brought its own strange sense of relief. At least now we could make a plan. Up to that point it was basically years of mental and physical hardship.

So what is it like to live with infertility?

It consumes you. From the moment you wake up, to the moment you go to sleep, you would think about it in some form or another. The first year or two, for us at least, we just went along, wondering, fairly casually, might this be the month? As newlyweds, we were happy to enjoy just being newly-wed – long weekends away, dinners out, regular cinema trips. Life was great! On the surface we had nothing to complain about. But always lurking was that wonder – why hasn’t it happened for us yet?

People would casually ask us when they might hear the ‘pitter patter of little feet’. ‘Ah haha you never know!’ we’d casually laugh back.

Casually laughing on the outside, silently crying on the inside.

And the paranoia was always hanging around too. Wondering if people were talking about us, wondering if people were feeling sorry for us.

It’s a strange thing really. When you want something really really badly, it’s as if you can’t admit it to yourself, or anyone else, in case you fail at it. That way you can protect yourself by casually shrugging it off and telling yourself, oh well. You can tell those that ask it’s ok, you weren’t that bothered anyway….so what do you fancy doing this weekend? And continue as if everything is normal.

One of the hardest aspects was trying to keep my emotions in check.

Every time someone announced a pregnancy, it was like a kick to the stomach. The struggle of trying to appear happy for your friend or family member or random person on the street, but also trying to stop tears from appearing and giving you away.

It’s not that you are unhappy for whoever is telling you their news, it’s really not. You certainly don’t wish your unhappiness on anyone else – mixed in with all that emotion you’re trying hard to control is genuine happiness for them – but it’s just that you’re also just so so sad for yourself. Then you feel guilty for having those feelings, and you listen to the excitement of due dates and possible names and all the while thinking, just get through this, be happy for them, you can cry when you get home.

Each month of trying would bring fresh hope and optimism. Maybe this will be it, this will be our month. You make friends with strangers on infertility forums, and every now and then venture into the sections relating to IVF, take a look at the scary looking acronyms that frighten the life out of you, and hope you’ll never have to find out what they mean.

You get to the stage of waiting to see if you’re pregnant this time. You convince yourself you might be, then you convince yourself you’re a failure again this month. And of course, it turns out to be true, another failed attempt.

It’s a horrible cycle of constantly building yourself up to get knocked straight back down again. You start to neglect other aspects of your life, for me, it got to the stage after 4 years of this continuous cycle, I started to withdraw further away from my friends and family. I didn’t want to go to christenings or birthday parties to be reminded of what it was I couldn’t achieve. I felt like I was failing as a woman, the thing that women are built to do, that I was failing my husband (who went to great lengths to assure me that wasn’t the case).

I’d see pregnant women everywhere, sitting on the bus. One day I got the strongest urge to go up to some poor woman and look at her square in the face and ask her DO YOU KNOW HOW LUCKY YOU ARE?

But that’s not healthy. It’s not other people’s fault that this was happening to me and to us. Other people shouldn’t have to hide their happiness or hold back from celebrating in front of me, and I genuinely didn’t expect that. Sometimes I could feel barriers going up, people who didn’t and couldn’t understand what it was like, who thought I couldn’t understand them and their point of view, and I couldn’t.

So when we found out eventually that we’d be doing IVF, it brought relief. IVF is a rollercoaster of a ride, it is hard, and exciting, and terrifying. But it is a plan.

We are, for reasons I’ll never understand, two of the lucky ones. From our IVF treatment we have two beautiful boys, both born from the same round of IVF but two years apart – I like to call them my frozen twins. I look at them sometimes and can’t really believe they are here, that they exist, against all the odds.

A few days after we got the news that we’d need IVF, of course it was devastating to hear, and I must have cried non stop for about three days. But then I started writing. I created a blog for myself, I named it The Scenic Route, as that was the road I knew we’d always end up taking. So I just wrote down how I felt. I immediately felt better, just getting it down in words, essentially talking to myself, helped me immensely to deal with it.

Talking to others helped a lot too. People didn’t and still don’t talk very openly about it, for various, and obvious reasons. But I wanted to talk about it! So I was very open about it from the start, with Gavin on board obviously as it affected him just as much. Suddenly, people were approaching me privately, telling me their own story. People I knew were going through this and I had no idea. I am often asked if it was hard to be open about it, for me it just wasn’t. It was good for me to talk about it and good to know that others could come to me and we could help eachother.

How should you deal with it if someone you know is going through this?

Offer support. Tell them you are there to listen should they ever need it. Don’t ask lots of questions all the time, let them come to you if they want to. But just knowing your friends are there and are trying to understand, means the world.

If you are reading this and thinking, yep I could have written this myself….. keep going. Take it in small pieces rather than thinking of the whole big scary picture. One day or one month at a time and remember that every time you try something it is a step closer. If you would like to ever talk about it, just get in touch! There is support out there, sometimes it’s just nice to know that you’re definitely not on your own.

The Babymakers – Thoughts

{ Also features on MummyPages.ie }

Last year, around the time I was preparing myself for our third Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) in an effort to have our second baby, I read online somewhere that TV3 were looking for couples to take part in a documentary series they were going to film about IVF. Last Monday we watched the last episode of the four part documentary, and I have to say I have mixed feelings about the show.

My good friend Will and I had a lengthy discussion about it at work the other morning. He and his wife have been through IVF as well – something that he has openly written about on his own blog. Chatting about it with Will was great as I realised we both had similar feelings about the show. See his thoughts on the matter here.

When I first heard they were going to do it, I was delighted. Obviously I have an invested interest in the topic, but it was more than that. At first I wasn’t sure why, but when I sat and thought about it, I realised I was happy that people might finally get an insight into what it was like to actually go through IVF. It’s a very lonely thing to go through because generally, even though there are two of you going through it,  people don’t want to talk about it. So when you are actually open about it, and people ask you about it, it’s very hard to get across just how tough it actually is. I mean not only tough physically with the injections and drugs – but my biggest issue with IVF services in this country is the shocking lack of mental and emotional backup and support and that’s something that is very much glossed over. So when I heard about this show I just thought, at last, people might understand now just what exactly it was we went through. It also just made me happy that the topic was going to get some coverage if nothing else.

The series focused on a handful of couples attending the SIMS fertility clinic in Dublin. I was under no illusion that the main aim of this whole thing was essentially one big ad for the clinic. It featured a couple from the various basic fertility issue aspects – IVF itself, ICSI, a case with Secondary Infertility, a same-sex couple (IUI with donor sperm), and a couple doing IVF using a donor egg. In other words they were showcasing the various procedures and services that they offered. Fair enough.

BUT.

At no point did they actually explain what is involved in each treatment. Not even a basic overview of IVF. So I was able to understand everything because I had been through it. But chatting to family and friends who had never done it, it just seemed to portray it as something simple you can choose as if you were at a restaurant.

Another inaccuracy if you like, was the timeline. One of the hardest things about IVF is the constant waiting for things to start, things to end, things to try, things to test. Realistically, one standard cycle of IVF would take at least two months to even get going by the time you meet your consultant, do some tests, start preparing your body for the treatment. Depending on what your exact issue is, they decide a plan of action, and these vary from around 10 days to a month or maybe more. This is just the prep, assuming you have had all the basic pre tests done like blood tests, checks on your womb and ovaries, sperm analysis etc. And then you start the actual IVF treatment – egg collection, fertilisation, embryo development, then (hopefully) they replace the embryo and it’s the horrific two week wait to see if it has worked. The impression from watching that show was that things happen much faster than they do in reality.

This moves me on to that two week wait. Without question, the worst six weeks of my life were each of the waits to see if our embryo transfers had been successful. And this is probably where I felt most let down by the show. I wanted I suppose for them to acknowledge what a challenge this really is. If you’re going to do it, at least do it honestly and accurately and as raw as it really is. It was sort of touched on, mentioned once or twice about the fact it takes two weeks but nobody, in my opinion, really was able to convey just how torturous the wait itself is. I don’t want it to seem that I’m critical of the couples taking part, because that took amazing courage to do in my opinion, but I still felt that this just wasn’t portrayed in a realistic way. We saw people getting the results of their tests but not much about the pressure of the lead up.

The thing that constantly surprises me about my experience with IVF is how it has never really left me. It has had such a deep impact on me, it’s something I feel passionate about, something I still get very emotional about. It might be easy to assume that because we were one of the unbelievably lucky ones who had success with it, that I would move on and sort of forget what it was like. And sometimes I think I have forgotten, but then watching this show I found it incredibly hard at times. Despite the things I didn’t like about it, I was glued to it. Parts of it were hard to watch and I found myself in tears when something happened and the same thing had happened to me – when our initial cycle was cancelled was my absolute lowest point in my whole life. Not just because it was cancelled but because I had learned how it felt to really have lost all hope for something that I had really believed in, and the heartbreak that comes with it. So I identified with parts and re-lived things and I think I realised that the experience will never really leave me at all.

In some ways, I think the fact that is was vague in some areas is maybe good. If you are new to IVF, I think in one way it might be good that ignorance is bliss. Less to worry about going into it, and less stress is clearly a good thing. It was great to have the coverage on such a topic that for some reason I don’t quite fully understand is so taboo. Infertility is a medical condition, in my opinion nothing to be embarrassed about. I don’t understand the shame sometimes surrounding it – if I had a kidney or liver or heart condition I wouldn’t be embarrassed. So the coverage was great. But I just wish, seeing as they were going to do it, they had spent that bit more time on the topic and experience itself rather than a showcase of what one clinic can provide which for me, this ultimately was.

 

‘Failure to Thrive’: Breastfeeding & Me

** This post has also been featured on HerFamily.ie & TheJournal.ie**

 

If you’ve ever had a baby, you’ll know you spend a good chunk of time carrying around your hospital chart while you wait for appointments. I liked having a good nose in mine to see what they’re really saying about me. Most of the stuff might as well be written in Greek but every now and then you pick up some interesting bits and pieces. And for some reason, if you’re caught reading your own chart you feel a weird need to apologise as if you’ve just been caught reading someone’s diary! Oh sorry, you caught me reading about my own body!!

After I had Alex, one particular afternoon in the hospital after they kicked Gavin out for mealtimes and Alex was asleep, I had nothing else to do so I decided to have a little read of the chart and see what was new. I happened to open it on a page that had been filled out post birth. Staring back at me were words that would stick in my brain for weeks to come:

Failure to Thrive.

At first I wasn’t sure whether it meant I was failing to thrive, or the baby. In my defence, reality and logic are very very hazy and foggy right after you grow and produce a human. Obviously it referred to Alex in this case, but it actually described me pretty well at the time too.

Before I delve too much further into this topic, it is worth mentioning how divisive a topic it can be. People have their own opinions and experience in this matter and these will shape what they think of it now, and it can shape what they think of other mothers who do or don’t breastfeed too. I want to make it clear that primarily, my intention is not to judge or divide, but to celebrate the fact we all have choices – and importantly to recognise that sometimes we do not have the luxury of maintaining these choices. Similarly, I refuse to be judged any further than I have already judged myself on the matter. And that was a lot.

Before I even had my first hospital checkup with this pregnancy, I had decided I wanted to try breastfeeding again. Why? Because I believe it is the most natural thing to do. A privilege.

I call it a privilege because even though it’s the most natural way to feed your child, it doesn’t come naturally to all of us. For me, my breastfeeding attempts turned into two of the most stressful experiences I’ve had. Why? Well, for a couple of reasons I think.

On my first, I struggled for weeks. On paper, it should have looked perfect. He latched on perfectly, but he just wouldn’t feed. Then he spent two days in the care unit being fed formula (not related to breastfeeding I should point out). In a haze of confusion, exhaustion, stress and based on varying pieces of advice from people who knew what they were talking about, I combination fed with formula and pumped around the clock for the first 7 weeks of his life. At that point, I admitted defeat and moved solely on to formula.

How do you describe that to someone? It’s hard. I wanted to do it so badly. I would sit with the pump – we even rented the big hospital grade pump – and watch while I produced minimal amounts of milk. I felt like a complete failure. Surely I could provide the most basic thing my child needs? His own mother’s milk? Seemingly not. The more I topped up with formula, the less of my own milk I was able to produce and my confidence in my ability to feed him packed its bags and left!

On my second pregnancy, I thought I knew all the traps leading to my failure to breastfeed. This time I was sure it wouldn’t happen again!

As before, the latch was called ‘perfect’ by the midwives. At first it all seemed to be going perfectly. Great, I thought, we’re ok. He was doing everything he should in the nappy department, a sign that all is well. And it was – yes, it was still very much a learning curve of latches and timings and positions, but I was feeling so confident that it was really working this time.

And then the midwife came in with her weighing scales.

Alex was born on a Friday. By the Sunday, he had lost 10% of his birth weight.  This was the first kick.

Don’t worry, I was told, this can be normal. Keep going. So I tried to keep going but the stress was creeping in. An elevated version of it… the memories and stress of my first attempt kept coming back. What if, what if..what if it happens again. I don’t think I can do it. And all the time I kept seeing those words, failure to thrive.

On I went. I had no idea if he was getting anything from me. My milk had not come in yet, but I knew there was colostrum there from doing some hand expressing, so on I went. Requests to see a lactation consultant were almost laughed at – this is a bank holiday weekend and the busiest time of year to give birth (people like getting pregnant around Christmastime it seems!), there’ll be no lactation consultant here until Tuesday.

The midwife was back with her scales and this time she also had a little kit to test his blood sugars. ‘If it’s low, you’ll really have to give him formula’ I was told.

No, I don’t want that. I want to keep breastfeeding him…but she looked at me as if to say, well I want to win the lotto but that’s not going to happen either, is it? She did the tests and weighed him again, and yes, he had lost more weight and his blood sugars were too low. The second kick. She went off to get the formula and I just sat there and cried. Failure to thrive.

At this point I really started to question myself. Was I harming my baby by insisting on this need to breastfeed? Did I really know better than qualified medical nurses? My instinct was telling me to keep going, but my determination was really shaken and I was just full of doubt that I could do it.

By the time I got home from the hospital, when the public health nurse called to check him, he had lost more weight still. And that’s where I started to fear for my own mental health. I spoke to her about my concerns – and they kind of watch you like a hawk those first few days anyway for signs of post natal depression. I don’t think I had that, but honestly after you have a baby,  regardless of how you had it or how you’re feeding the baby, your head is just all over the place. You feel like you’ve been run over by a truck, you can’t move without pain, you’re severely sleep deprived, so you really don’t know your arse from your elbow. I told her I intended to hire a private lactation consultant and as luck would have it, her colleague actually is one, so she sent her in to visit me the next day. Ok, I was finally going to get proper informed help and honestly, I think at this point I just wanted someone to tell me what to do, I wanted the doubt and fear to go away.

Of course I have family and friends who had breastfed and who were still breastfeeding. They were such a massive support, all of them. They all went out of their way to contact me and offer support and solutions, and for that I am so grateful. Just those pieces of support, the calls and texts, were like comforting hugs each time, reaching into my doubt and chipping it away.

Despite all the support and visits from the lactation health nurse, Alex still was not gaining weight. The more weight he lost, the more stressed I got and the more I doubted myself. I started to dread the feeds. I was told my supply was low. I was also told that the fact I was on fertility drugs for so long (two attempts at IVF and three frozen embryo transfers equals a lot of drugs) could have played a part in that. I was pumping and getting virtually nothing. So yet again, the more I had to give him formula, the less I had of my own milk. Your body will only produce what it thinks you need. Alex was two weeks old at this stage, and I had to make a decision.

Did I want to breastfeed badly enough that I continue on this road? Is breastfeeding more important than my mental health, and therefore my ability to care for him in other ways than feeding? Not forgetting I have a 2 year old who also needed me to care for him.

Does that sound a bit over the top? I don’t think so. With Rian, those first 7 weeks are a complete blur. One minute he was born, and the next he was almost 2 months old.. and I had missed it. So caught up with my determination and need to be able to feed him myself. I missed it. I wasn’t prepared to miss out on Alex..those first few weeks when they’re so tiny. The smell of them and the sounds of them. It made me think about what we had to go through to get these two babies. So I decided that enough was enough.

So, looking back, what would I do differently?

Educate myself. My husband was horrified when I said that if we were to ever have another baby (although writing this has brought a lot of it back and at the moment I think this baby-growing shop is firmly closed!!), anyway, if we were to have another that yes of course I would attempt to breastfeed again.

But I would need support. If I’m ever in the situation again, I will hunt down that hospital lactation consultant Liam Neeson style! And I would hire one privately too for when I get home. I’ve read that there is always a breastfeeding solution to a breastfeeding problem. I’m a bit on the fence with this. As I said, I was told I just have low supply. Is this just the luck of the breastmilk draw? Do some women just not have a good enough supply? I should note that in 2006 I had to have a milk duct removed from one breast. Could this have played a part? Possibly. Anyone I asked could’t really say for sure.

But is there always a solution? In other words, did I just give up? I honestly don’t know. I hope not. And I tortured myself for weeks with guilt afterwards. Some might say I took the easier route – I think formula feeding is actually more work with the making of the formula and the sterilising routines – but in a way I did take the easier route for me. There was no more stress, I didn’t dread the feeds any more. My baby was no longer failing to thrive. And neither was I.

I still feel sad that it didn’t work as I planned, but I have gained in other ways. I really think there is a shocking lack of support for new mothers in this country. The midwives and nurses are so short staffed, they simply do not have the time to spend giving the support new mothers need – whether it’s your first baby or not. I’ve learned more about breastfeeding since I stopped doing it than I knew when I was – and there is a shocking amount of misinformation out there.

If you’re pregnant reading this, I would say go forth and breastfeed! For the short time I managed it, it was so precious. But if for whatever reason you don’t end up breastfeeding, don’t beat yourself up. I don’t feel I have any less of a bond with my baby than a mother who still breastfeeds hers. Either of them for that matter. For us, fed is most certainly best, however it happens.

****

I found I got the most supportive advice from friends and family, but also from http://www.cuidiu-ict.ie/index. I contacted one of their support volunteers by phone one day, and honestly could not have spoken to a nicer lady.

There is also a great Facebook group specifically for breastfeeding support in Ireland, if you want the details just get in touch.

 

 

 

Do 1 Thing that Scares You

They say you should do one thing every day that scares you. So I did! Well I didn’t scare myself every day but still, you get the idea.

If you’ve been following the blog at all you’ll have seen that recently some of my articles have been shared on The Journal  and on HerFamily.ie . It has been so exciting for me to be asked to write those posts and have them featured on such widely read platforms and I have loved every minute of it.

But the most surprising thing to come out of having written a piece about my experience of IVF for The Journal, was the reaction to it. I received emails from people thanking me for speaking out about it, and I was contacted by The Ray D’arcy show on RTE Radio 1 to come into the studio to discuss the topic, and also by Midlands 103 to do the same.

So, rattled with nerves, off I ventured to the RTE studios to speak with Ray. Once the nerves settled down, it was so much fun! It was fascinating to see behind the scenes, one or two familiar faces, how it all works, and how many people it takes to make it all run smoothly.

I sat nervously outside the studio with the other guests for the show that day, and then all of a sudden it was time to go on air and I was ushered into the studio, introduced to Ray, and it was down to business.

They told me in advance that I would be on air for about 20 minutes, and I thought,  Oh God how am I going to keep talking for that long? But the time just flew by. Once I managed to forget that I was essentially talking to hundreds of thousands of people, I was fine. It felt like I was just chatting to a friend about it all, Ray was so lovely and made me feel really comfortable about discussing such a personal thing.

RayDarcypage

That’s me!

The reaction to my interview was amazing. I received messages and emails from people all over the country and even further, thanking me for speaking so openly about the topic. Women sent me messages telling me of their own stories and the struggles they’re facing, some told me of their success stories and some told me of how they’re wondering how they’ll ever manage to overcome it and get through it. It was heartbreaking but also full of hope. I was so glad I spoke up.

The following morning I was invited to speak with Midlands 103. As the interview came to an end I was asked, Do you regret being so open about your experience?

Not a bit. I was a bit scared of it at the start, speaking about something so personal and so challenging to both of us, I did question if it’s something I needed the world to know about. The blog was started as a form of self help, a way for me to deal with what we were going through, and it was only after Rian was born that I began to really get into the blog and the posts were leaning more towards parenting and my adoration of him more so about the fertility, although it’s a topic that will always be very important to me. So when I was approached to write for The Journal about it, I wondered, do I need people to know this level of my life? Of OUR lives?

But I am so glad I did. To read the messages from people telling me that hearing my story has given them hope, and helped them speak up about their own experience to their families and friends… I don’t care if I sound cheesy or if I sound like I’m blowing my own trumpet, but I’m proud of myself. And I’m proud of everyone else who has found the courage to face it in whatever way they choose to deal with it.

I hope that the benefits of all this continues to help other couples and that we can get to a point where fertility and infertility are not something to be ashamed or embarrassed about and if you want to talk about it, you can.

You can listen back to the interviews I’ve done here for Ray Darcy (Wednesday 9 March ‘The Scenic Route – An IVF Story) and here for Midlands 103.

 

And the Results are IN

They call it the Two Week Wait. It’s a LIE. It’s a Two Month Wait. Or, Two Decade Wait. Or.. well you get the picture. Time slows down, actually slows down. Forget about those days at work where it seems to be 3pm on a Friday for about a year, that’s nothing in comparison. It was a mentally tough time, no question about it.

Eventually though,the time did pass and test day arrived. They say you should do the test first thing in the mornings. I spent the night beforehand lying awake convinced that it would be negative. I’m not just saying that either, I was so absolutely sure. So I lay there thinking, listing out positives in my head of things I can do again like console myself with loads of wine, and…. well that was all I came up with. Eventually I fell into a sort of half sleep while hubby blissfully snored beside me as if it was any other normal sort of night! That fella could sleep on a washing line through a nuclear explosion though in fairness to him.

I woke up at about half 7 and thought right, lets get this over with. I was shaking with nerves. It was a fiddly sort of test involving a turkey baster type of thing which required the ‘sample’ to be put on a section of the test. I did it. The whole strip turned pink. Seeing as I knew what it would say, I handed it to himself who at this stage was sitting up in bed, excited as a child on Christmas morning. I went into the bathroom to avoid seeing the negative evidence, and 30 seconds later I heard ‘Jen? This yoke has 2 lines on it, what does that mean?’

It couldn’t be.

‘Sorry, what? Are you sure? That can’t be right.’ I rushed back in to see if he was seeing things. Sure enough, there was one line plus another slightly faded line. Surely not?? After a few minutes the line got darker and darker. I checked the little packet it came in. It had a picture of the test with two lines with a big fat tick mark. It was positive.

I stared at it for ages. The test was positive. That meant….we are PREGNANT. I’m pregnant. This is really happening! It took a long time for that to sink in. My first instinct was to go and get another test and do it again, just to be sure. I mean, this is something that we have been trying to achieve for 4 years now, without success at any point. Four years of failure trains you to expect the worst, but against all the odds, there it was, in bright pink evidence. Two big fat positive lines!

It hit me then and I started to cry. I felt like we had won the lottery, like I had just climbed a mountain. Dramatic yes, but this was what it felt like! Over the moon doesn’t begin to describe it, it was one of the best moments of my life.

The other overwhelming feeling I had was gratitude, towards whoever or whatever made this happen, to the family and friends who prayed and hoped for this result with us, to the staff at the clinic who were fantastic (and one girl in particular who was nothing short of amazing). We are so grateful for all the support we received.

The next step is a visit back to the clinic in a few weeks for a scan to check for a heartbeat. So another nervous wait, but oh my God what an exciting time this is.

I made a nervous venture onto a pregnancy website yesterday. I’m considered 4 weeks pregnant, (which I don’t fully understand but they said they time it from the day of your last bleed. I’m not gonna argue!) It says that embryo is the size of a poppy seed. We have a poppy seed! We are still cautious about it now, it’s very early days still and we’re not out of the woods yet by a long way, but we are most definitely officially Pregnant and there is nobody happier than us in the world right now! Hopefully little Embryo will stick around, to us he’s the most wanted Embryo that ever was.

The Two Week Wait

I remember my first venture onto a fertility web forum. This looks nice, I thought, other people in the same boat as us. I started to read the posts and the first thing I noticed were all the various acronyms for fertility world – things like ttc (trying to conceive), tww (two week wait), 5dpo (5 days past ovulation), and I thought, what the hell are they on about. There was a sub forum called TTC with Assistance. One day, with the confident knowledge that I would never need this section, I decided to have a peep in and see what was happening. The acronyms in here were even worse and scared the life out of me. ICSI, 5dp5dt, OHSS, PCOS?? I legged it.

And what do you know, here I am, 7dp5dt in the middle of my own TWW. That’s ‘7 days post 5-day transfer’ for the rest of you. ‘God this week is flying isn’t it?’ a friend said to me on the bus to work this morning.  ‘It’s Thursday already!’ Thursday Already?? ONLY Thursday more like! Flying in? If by Flying In you mean every second is crawling past in torturous slow motion then yes, I suppose it is!

The transfer itself went very well. They said the quality of the embryo after the thaw was as good as the day it got frozen. Great! They showed it to us on a screen before they did the transfer. It looked like a side view of an eyeball. Lovely, it’s the best looking eyeball I’d ever seen. They do the transfer which is like a smear test, and using an ultrasound the doctor can see where he’s putting it and they explain each thing as they go along. Overall it’s a fascinating process. Once it was done I was instructed to take it very easy during the next few days especially. No housework, no cooking, no exercise, no nothing. Jackpot!

At first I was afraid to move in case I disturbed embryo, or knocked him out of position. The first day or two of total relaxation were fun but after that it got a bit…quiet. I won’t say boring because I know the days I’m stuck at work I will be dreaming of duvet days again so it would be against my religion to say otherwise. I started to feel a bit protective of embryo, I know it’s only an embryo, but it’s our embryo, we fought hard for him to even get to this stage. I hope he sticks around.

The wait is nothing but torture. Every twinge I get I wonder does it mean something? I am trying to resist the urge to Google everything and cracked a bit last night under the pressure of it all. I swing from being positive that this might have actually worked, to the next hour being convinced that it hasn’t. I can feel the usual signs that usually crop up when that time of the month is near and that doesn’t help the positivity effort, although I have also been told that cramps can be down to the progesterone medication I am taking.

In a weird way a strange calmness has replaced the total panic of the thought of a failure though. It’s like my mind is gone into autopilot to prepare for a negative test result. It’s impossible to guess your way through this – some women have loads of symptoms, some have none, everyone is different. I know this. I’m trying to tell myself I’m not getting alarmingly fat all of a sudden, I’m bloated from the medicine. It’s a bit like that actually. When you eat a load of crap and know you are putting on a few pounds, but you tell yourself, don’t be silly, sure didn’t you walk up a set of stairs last week, that counts as exercise, you’ll be grand. Eventually you convince yourself of what you want to believe.

Is that what I’m doing? My head says it recognizes these symptoms as my period being imminent, and my heart says that the signs can still mean it has worked, to hold on to the hope that it could end up being a positive result. I wish I knew who to believe. I think the head is winning because it always won in the past.

In the meantime all I can do is wait – after all, why am I surprised – this is what this whole thing has been this whole time, waiting for things.

We’re halfway there now, and all I can do is hope for the best and get through the torture that is the TWW until test day arrives on February 26th. At least, whatever the test says, this torturous wait will be over and some sense of normality can hopefully resume.