Shhhh… it’s a secret!

To tell or not to tell, that is the question… or would have been, if Shakespeare were around today and writing about mid-thirty-something infertile women trying to get pregnant and not about ancient Danish royalty facing confronting oedipal dilemmas.

Conventional wisdom has it that you shouldn’t whisper a word about being knocked up until you’ve hit that magic 12-week mark. Three months in. First trimester successfully navigated, all well, now let’s announce to the world, woohoo! Before then, it’s all shush-up and silence, as if the mere public mention that you’re pregnant, or to step back a tad earlier, going through IVF – gasp! – could offend your fertility gods of choice and make it all not work, or something.

I know the reasoning behind it, of course. There’s a hell of a lot that can go wrong in those first few weeks. Waiting until the 12-week mark means waiting until the pregnancy is safer, more secure. And granted, there are certain realities to be faced – I’m not about to go announcing to my work place that I’m even trying to get pregnant, let alone have managed to succeed thus far. No matter how enlightened a workplace it is, the fact remains babies are still a potential career dampener for women. So my work colleagues won’t hear a single rumour about it until I’m at least four months in.

Well that, or they accidently stumble across this blog. Heh.

From what I can tell, the thinking is if something goes wrong in those first three months and you haven’t told anybody the good news, then you won’t need to tell them the bad news either. Which, okay, makes sense when it comes to managing workplace expectations, or indeed, strangers you barely know.

But if you haven’t told anybody the good news, you’re not going to get any support, comfort or help if bad news comes along, either.

Now, you may have figured it out already, but I’m not very good with secrets. When going through IVF, it is simply the biggest, most emotionally charged thing happening in your life at that time. I wouldn’t know how to go through IVF and not tell anyone. Yet many do. There was a whole page in the IVF magazine devoted to managing secrecy, which kind of stunned me, considering The Partner and I yak on about it in detail to anybody who walks in the door. I even faced a moment some weeks back where a friendly acquaintance looked horrified when I mentioned it and immediately began to declare “too much information!!!”

All I said was “I’m going through IVF at the moment”. That’s it. Not a single gorey detail offered, I swear. I was remarkably restrained, considering that if I really wanted to impart Too Much Information, I certainly had the material with which to do so.

Don’t get me wrong. Silence is a valid choice for many. Some people need to keep quiet about what they’re going through just as I need to blog about it in a completely public forum so all the world can see. And if something goes wrong in the first trimester, some people need space to grieve, not have to face those who were earlier congratulating them. I get that. I really do.

But it’s clearly not the choice for me. And if something goes wrong in first trimester, well, something goes wrong, and no doubt you’ll all hear about it up here on this blog just like you’ve heard everything else.

Still, my writing this blog did throw up a discussion or two for The Partner and I when we got positive results last Friday. Who do we tell? Do we keep such things quieter than we’ve kept everything else? After involving so many in the discussions of our attempts at IVF, do we suddenly go quiet? Obviously, our parents were the first told, as was the other couple close to us who are going through it at the moment also. But beyond that…. Hmmm…. 

Well, by announcing it on this blog, at least I’ll weed out which of my friends actually read this thing, and which just say they do, won’t I?

Heh.

Kind regards

The Patient

Published in: on June 8, 2011 at 10:53 am  Comments (2)  

Pics or it didn’t happen

Let us wander off the garden path for a moment and stop to stomp on the roses.

Remember a few weeks ago when I was going in for egg collection and The Partner had to go in to, *ahem*, ‘do his bit’? You know, visit The Jack Shack? Produce a sample? Get the wrigglers wriggling? You might recall it, because he was determined to live tweet the experience and certainly he documented it with a visual diary of the day.

That is, he took photos. Which I now have. Hehe, wanna see? Here are the Very Important Instructions on the wall from the Little Room in Andrology:

Sexy, huh? Bet that gets you in the mood, hey boys?

There is, of course, “material” provided, for those who prefer a little visual stimulation to get them going and able to fill the little sample-jar cup. Because that’s what Andrology is. It’s the Sperm Collection unit.

So for any boys who might be looking at going down there some day, or for other parties simply curious, this is what you have to aim for – and don’t forget the instructions as per above, 100% must be collected or else there’ll be trouble:

Anyway. The “material”. As I said, there is some. Magazines. A DVD playing on loop. I’ve blogged about this before and no, I won’t be providing any photos of the material. As previously mentioned, the internet does not need me adding to its already vast collection of pool-cleaning-pizza-delivery-boys with bad moustaches in their scanties that are already out there online.

This is not “the material”, but it does appear on the wall of the little room in Andrology:

Now, all this is a lead up to a true story which goes to illustrate the perils of being a photographer. See, in case you didn’t already know, my beloved The Partner is a photographer by profession. He photographs lots of things, weddings, sporting events, pets, families.

Girls.

Can you see where I’m going with this?

Model portfolios make up a large chunk of The Partner’s photography business. That’s where a girl or a guy will want to try their hand at being a model and needs a full professionally photographed portfolio. The Partner does this kind of photography all the time.

Some of these girls and guys go on to work as models. Some don’t. Those who do can go on to work as fashion models or promotional models or catwalk models.

And some, it appears, sometimes go on to work as… adult models.

Oooh, you know what’s coming, don’t you, you naughty things.

The very first time The Partner visited The Jack Shack, he opened a magazine to see a woman he’d photographed before – not his photograph, obviously, but certainly a former photographic subject of his. And a couple of weeks ago, it happened again – but this time on the DVD.

There he was, flicking on the television, checking out the DVD playing… and finding the star of the naked, vocal, rumpy-pumpy show was a woman he knows. He’d photographed her more than once. Several times, in fact. We even filmed her step-son’s wedding.

Ah, the perils of being a photographer, folks. There you are, just innocently flicking through a bit of porn, and finding you know everybody in it.

Here, he took a photo, just to prove it:

Okay, so that proves nothing. But I was upstairs and I did get SMS’d the pics which showed the particular lady’s face – and other parts besides – while I was waiting for him to finish the job so they could whip me in for egg collection. (There’s no point taking me in for surgery until they’re certain he’s produced the requisite goods, after all.) So I can guarantee that, yes, those legs do belong to a woman of our aquaintance.

Which is guaranteed to kill the mood far more than stern instructions on the wall.

So that’s what a trip to Andrology entails, my wee internet funsters. Instructions, wall art and the problematic situation of knowing the girls in the show.

In other news… all quiet on the maternity front – waiting until next Friday’s blood test to check the hormone levels are still on their way up. Will keep you all updated on the progress…

Kind regards

The Patient

Published in: on June 7, 2011 at 12:10 pm  Comments (2)  

4 weeks 4 days

Yes. It’s official. Today, I am 4 weeks and 4 days pregnant.

But how is that possible, I hear you ask as you quickly flip through your quirky little desk calendars with the funky quoted sayings on the bottom of each day’s page. Egg collection was only just over 2 weeks ago and transfer a few days after that.

Ah, well apparently they start counting pregnancy from Day 1 of the cycle in which you fall pregnant. With pregnancy, as with everything in IVF (okay, so pregnancy is everything in IVF, but lets not split hairs), *everything* revolves around Day 1. Day1 is always the first day of your period. You’re not pregnant at that point, of course – well, duh – but the medical profession is a science and science likes hard data and all this means there’s little subjective debate around defining Day 1. So that’s when they calculate it from.

What I’m trying to say is that for the first two weeks of the gestation period, you’re not even pregnant yet. No, really. Day 1 is about two weeks before conception.

The blood test on Friday found elevated levels of hCG in my body. That’s Human chorionic gonadotropin, for those not in the know, otherwise known as the levels which show up in blood tests indicating whether you’re knocked up. They’re looking for a figure somewhere between 60 and 400 and I scored a good, solid 233.

No doubt about it, says Nurse. I’m totally preggas.

One month down. Eight to go.

So let me assure you all that this blog does not end here. I’d be keeping a journal of all that’s happening anyway, so I might as well continue to do it online in as public a manner as possible, with every gorey detail and up-and-down put out there into the cyber-ether.

This blog ain’t over yet, folks.

Kind Regards,

The Patient

Published in: on June 5, 2011 at 4:31 pm  Comments (2)  

Okay, now I’m terrified

Oh my. It worked.

Published in: on June 4, 2011 at 8:43 am  Comments (3)  

Maddening

Had a false alarm the other morning. On the train to work, suddenly felt nauseous. By the time I was walking from train station to the office, I was on the verge of entirely humiliating myself in front of my fellow professional commuters by throwing up over their shoes. I didn’t, but for a second there I was all excited – morning sickness maybe, possibly, yes???

No. I’d just taken vitamins on an empty stomach. I always get nauseous when I take vitamins on an empty stomach. *sigh*

Besides, it’s too early for that sort of thing anyway. That’s usually week three, according to the world expert in everything – Google.

I think I may have said it before, but when you’re going through IVF, Google is not necessarily your friend. Oh, it can be seriously useful and you need that online connection to get as much information as you can – now is not the time to go shutting yourself away from the great information stores of the cyber-verse. But you need to be careful when you go Googling. You need to keep your wits about you. Because just about anything can turn up.

You know Cyberchondria, right? It’s like hypochondria, except where you search on a health issue into Google, any health issue from losing a limb to a hang-nail, and it always, without fail, comes back with Cancer!!! (yes, including exclamation marks).

Googling for IVF information is a little like that. You stick some symptoms or situation or a query in and it comes back with a mass of confusion and guaranteed contradiction. Somewhere in the lot of it can often be something useful, but you have to have a clear head to sort through all the You’re going to die!!!, or in this case, the You’re never going to get pregnant!!!, results which come hurtling back at you first.

And a clear head is the last thing you have when you’re trying to deal with The Two Week Wait.

Hmmm. Not dramatic enough. Let’s try that again:

THE TWO WEEK WAIT mwuhhaaahaahaaaaa

(Yes, that was my attempt at writing evil laughter. *sigh*)

See the bit between Transfer and the blood test to see if you’ve got your money’s worth from all these fun-and-games is about two weeks. Two long weeks. Two very painfully, horribly, agonisingly long weeks. And yes, you sharp-eyed cyber-editors, this is a justified breach of the golden writing rule of avoid-adverbs-like-they’re-a-medieval-communicable-disease, because nothing is more maddening than the two week wait.

Up until the two week wait, there’s been lots to do. Blood tests. Ultrasounds. Injections. Nasal Sprays. Pills. More blood tests. More ultrasounds. Surgery. Every day, often twice a day, often more. You’re never bored during the first half of an IVF cycle, I can promise you that.

But after Transfer… nothing. There’s nothing you can do. Nothing but wait. Just go about daily life. Try to follow the advice of the specialists and just “try not to think about it”.

Yeah, right.

Let me inject a little reality into that ‘try not to think about it’ fantasy – fact is, you never actually stop thinking about it. Ever. Constantly. Until your head is going around in circles. Getting dizzy while analysing every little physical tweak, twitch and shudder to see if it’s A Sign.

And if it is a sign, is it A Good Sign, or A Bad Sign? A sign of bun-in-the-oven or of barren-wasteland-of-a-useless-womb? In other words, does that slight itch at the base of the little toe on your right foot that you never noticed before mean you’re pregnant or does it mean you’re not pregnant?

Because during the two week wait, there’s no conceivable way it just might not mean anything at all.

Or that maybe the mosquito that was buzzing around the night before might have had something to do with it. Noooo. Obviously not. Because it’s A Sign, for sure. The only variable factor is whether it’s a Good or Bad one.

Seriously, the brain starts working in these kind of circles. It’s like those religious hopefuls who see random messiah faces in burnt toast. Everything relates, everything means something, it’s just impossible to know exactly what.

So you start thinking things like: I am getting up to urinate more often during the night, maybe it’s a sign I am pregnant (and not just that I should stop drinking two cups of tea immediately before bed).

Or: I’m feeling far more fatigued than usual during the day, maybe it’s a sign I’m pregnant (and not just lacking in sleep because I’ve been up half the night blogging about IVF).

Or: I have been experiencing headaches, maybe it’s a sign I’m pregnant (and not just clenching my teeth constantly with the stress of all this malarkey).

Or you get the picture.

And it would all be fine, or at least fine enough to not drive one to the point of clinical insanity, except for one teensy-weeny little fact. It’s this fact that turns Google searches into your enemy and your brain into mush. It’s the only fact you can be absolutely sure of during the two week wait.

The fact: the signs indicating pregnancy are pretty much EXACTLY THE SAME as the signs indicating an oncoming period, i.e. not-pregnant.

It’s enough to do a girl’s head in. I think I’m going to go have a nice cup of tea, a good lie down and just try not to think about it.

Kind regards

The Patient

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm  Comments (2)  

Guest Post: The Partner’s Experience

Seems our embryos don’t like making it to Day 3. Got the call yesterday morning around 8am (yes, I was still in bed – hey, it was Saturday) to learn all our embryos except one had dropped off the perch. So it was in for Transfer yesterday, to put our one remaining embryo back into me.

The Partner came with me. And it’s really about time we heard from him. He’s in this journey too.

TP

…………….

The Partner

It’s round 2 at the IVF 2011 ‘Pay and Pray World Series’. Yes, it’s The Partner here, making a guest blog appearance. While we partners play an equal role in the outcome of the game, our on-field participation is much less than that of The Patient. We watch as The Patient prods and jabs herself, undergoing many invasive tests and procedures. Not to mention they’re also the one who gets to ride the emotional roller coaster in the hope the outcome is a win for us.

As men, when we get in the sandpit and play we like to think we have a chance of a win simply by deploying all those manly skills of strength and agility and our well thought-out tactics.  But in this game, even after paying the ground fees (which can be a struggle in itself) and though we have a 50% stake in the outcome with The Patient, our ability to affect that outcome is minimal.

There’s not a great deal of physical participation in the IVF process for The Partner. We get to visit The Jack Shack and provide the all-important component, so it’s not all hands-off, so to speak. But otherwise, we play a far more passive role and just try to support The Patient as best we can.

However, a physical disconnection to the process  should not and does not lessen the connection to the process. In fact, the experience of not being able to get physical in the game drives our emotional connection to another level, often leaving us with feelings of helplessness and even despair. We are used to being able to get in and do things which will help, which will influence the outcome positively. We are not used to being on the sidelines and only able to watch, with not a thing we can do to help.

Which is not to say The Patient does not have similar feelings – there’s a lot of IVF that’s simply out of all our hands – but I’m just offering a view here from the partner’s perspective of this up-and-down game.

Yesterday, I was witness to an embryo being implanted into The Patient. This six cell embryo was the only survivor after all others (five in total) has arrested over the past 48 hours since egg collection. Watching the ultrasound monitor, I was able to see our baby be placed in an environment where it will hopefully grow. Now, I appreciate the debate on the beginnings of human life, but for me this was an incredibly profound experience, right from the embryologist showing us a photo of our six cell survivor prior to the implant.

The emotional connection kicked right in. Later that day, after well over 12 months of participation, I hit the emotional wall. Maybe it’s because I’m a visual player and I witnessed hope, or maybe it was because my thirteen year old daughter was with us and she reminded me of just what we are playing for.

No matter what gets you amped in the game, it is a two player team, supported by a road crew of doctors, nurses and specialists. So maybe The Partner is not always as physically in the thick of it and has a role to support The Patient throughout the journey, but we also have our roller coaster and need for support throughout. Even if this is game for which we spend so much time forced, agonizingly, to sit on the bench.

Regards,

The Partner

Published in: on May 22, 2011 at 6:00 pm  Comments (1)  

It’s a numbers game

And our number seems to be stuck on 5.

Egg collection had some positive results – a good 13 eggs came out of me yesterday. Considering last time we got only 5, this was something of an improvement. Yay extra-hormones!

Today, though, we heard that of those 13, only 7 were mature. And of those 7, guess how many fertilised?

Heh. Yeah. 5.

Still that’s one more than last time (4 were mature and fertilised in Round 1). Right now, our five fertilised embryos are swimming around in their luxury-hotel-like petrie dishes (I like to think they’re like luxury hotels for embryos, anyway, with private swimming pools, complimentary massages and catering), doing backflips and handstands and hopefully lots and lots of dividing.

We want those buggers dividing strongly, darnit.

All going well, I head in for transfer on Day 5 – Monday.

Should we go down the same path as last time, it’ll be the emergency rush-in on Saturday to try and salvage the last weakling of the bunch who was never meant to survive anyway. But let’s think positive here. Unlike last time, these 5 this time are the strong 5, the kick-butt-and-take-names 5. The 5 who want to live and will be doing laps of those petrie-dishes dividing like crazy, growing into strong clusters and just all competing for who gets to be transfered back into me.

Or something.

It’s all out of our hands right now anyway. Can’t do anything more but let those embryonic cells do their thing in the lab and hope.

Update soon, folks. With pictures. Because The Partner took a few when he went in to deliver The Sample yesterday and I’m sure you’ll be eager to see just what goes on when the boys have to do their bit, hmmm…

Kind regards

The Patient

Published in: on May 19, 2011 at 8:04 pm  Comments (2)  

Pulling the trigger

 Last night, I pulled the trigger. This is what the trigger looks like:

It comes in two parts, as you can see. A kind of bang-bang situation. (heh, geddit, geddit? Trigger = bang, bang? It’s a pun, see? Ain’t I just so clever with the words ‘n stuff?) The Trigger is the hormone to trigger ovulation and I get to take it 38 hours exactly before egg collection.

Yup folks, I’m booked in for egg-collection tomorrow. DC (internal ultrasound) yesterday morning showed up a whopping 16 black smudges up on the grey-static screen that is the standard ultrasound display. That means 16 follicles, all of them more than 10mm, and at least ten of them more than 15mm.

Now, for many other women this may not be something to celebrate. But for me, who had only 10 follicles all up last time, most of which were tiny (between 6-12mm in size), it’s a big improvement. And when it comes to IVF, you take your ups where you can get ‘em, frankly. Because believe me, the downs will come chasing you.

So with all going well so far, I’m booked in for egg collection, which means Trigger injections were taken at exactly 9pm last night. Here, I took a picture of me doing it:

And here’s a picture of my thumb after I poked it with the needle when trying to dispose of the buggers:

I was putting the cap back on and the needle poked through and slid straight into my thumb. Luckily I can’t catch any diseases off myself.

Anyway, that’s it for today, folks. Just a quick update just to give you the latest news. Egg collection tomorrow means I’ll probably update on Thursday with the results.

Fingers crossed and all that jazz.

Kind regards,

The Patient

Published in: on May 17, 2011 at 5:57 pm  Comments (2)  

Sharp, jabby things

Needles. Wanna see?

That dripping medicinal stuff coming out the end of the needle in a way that just screams bad-innuendo is the FSH – the Follicle Stimulating Hormone. I’ve been shooting that up straight into the abdomen for a week now, so everybody keep your fingers’ crossed my follicles are all nice and stimulated. I’ll be going in first thing Monday morning to see.

We’re aiming for follicles somewhere between 15-20mm in size, averaging out about 18mm. And lots of them.

Anyway, the needles are fairly simple to use. They come in a big box. Look. here’s one I prepared earlier:

And they’re not so scary when you first take them out of the box, either:

The actual needle bits are separate – see those little plastic things at the back of the box? That’s where the needles live.

You screw them on the end, whip of the plastic to reveal the sharp, jabby bit, twist up the red dial to the correct dose, and viola. Stick it in, plunge it down, and we’re done.

So that’s your instructions on how to stick yourself full of hormones. Not so hard now, is it?

Kind regards

The Patient

Published in: on May 14, 2011 at 12:00 pm  Comments (1)  

One question answered

Just been sent an article by my folks, detailing some IVF research of interest.

See, since Round One turned us up with only a handful of eggs (read: barely any) which didn’t survive as embryos anyway, I’ve been wondering…

Just what is a ‘normal’ number of eggs to collected in any one IVF round, anyway?

It’s the question others have asked me most often, too. I get asked a lot of questions by other people, possibly because I’m happy to talk openly about all this, when not everybody else is. Also, possibly because they’re suffering under the erroneous assumption that I somehow know what I’m talking about.

Of course, it’s the wrong question to ask, what’s a ‘normal’ number of eggs. When it comes to IVF, there is no ‘normal’. There is no usual, no average, no common experience. It’s all only individual.

Not to make you feel like an isolated freak or anything.

But anyway, it seems there is now some research on the optimum number of eggs to hope for in a collection:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1385709/IVF-15-harvested-eggs-magic-number-successful-live-birth.html

It seems to be based on some extensive data – 17 years worth of it –  and has found 15 to be the magic number. Less than 15 and the chances of a live birth decrease. But more than 15 and chances don’t increase for anything except hyperstimulation syndrome, which is the nasty little problem where your body produces far too many follicles and leaves you in pain, suffering, unable to continue IVF, at risk of bloody clots and oxygen starvation, and often in hospital.

It’s interesting research. Though considering I’m not exactly in the hyperstimulation-risk-category, it’s not all fun-and-mungbeans for me. There’s no such thing as ‘too many eggs’ in my world. Last time round, my body struggled to spit out 5 of the little buggers, only 4 of which were mature anyway. We’ve upped the hormones hoping for more this time round, but let’s face it, if I get even close to double figures in egg collection, it’ll be a scientific wonder.

But it does answer the question. What is the optimum number of eggs to aim for. Or hope for, anyway, because there are some things you just can’t do a lot about when your body decides otherwise, believe me…

Anyway folks, if nothing else, it once again goes to prove there ain’t no such thing as ‘normal’ in IVF. There is only you.

Besides, ‘normal’ is only a setting on a washing machine, anyway.

Kind regards,
The Patient

Published in: on May 11, 2011 at 11:38 am  Comments (1)