A Brave New Year - Daisy's Blog #7

Happy New Year everyone! 2017 marks a brave new year for N and I.  If you’ve read my previous blogs you’ll know that we’ve been torn between whether to go private for IVF and if our finances could possibly afford it. We were doing a lot of soul searching at the end of last year when we got an amazing an unexpected phone call. A lovely nurse from the hospital called to say that we were off the NHS waiting list and our treatment was being brought forward. I got the call on my mobile at work and luckily it was just me in the office. 

I was completely overcome with a mix of emotions - elation, relief, surprise. I promptly burst into tears and had 5 minutes to call N and compose myself before heading into a meeting.  I was less than focused during that meeting, I kept wanting to blurt out our news and I was desperate to get home. After what felt like a very long day in the office N and I went for a lovely meal and held hands over the table smiling at each other.

Since then, despite being a self-confessed control freak, it has been delightful to have someone take the logistics out of my hands. We had an appointment a week later with the consultant who talked us through everything with a dry wit which we both appreciated. The nurses at the hospital have all been completely lovely and nothing seems too much trouble. Our agonising over whether to bankrupt ourselves has gone for the time being and we can’t quite believe we’re about to start our IVF journey.

Over the next two months we have appointments to discuss hormone treatments and injections (!), take scans and ultimately start drugs and enter into worlds where words like 'harvesting' and 'blastocysts' are the norm.

Whilst excited, I am trying to be a 'pessimistic optimist' and manage my expectations. I keep telling myself the first try will not work and there’s still 70% more chance it will never work than it will - we are not home and dry yet. I think some friends find this a difficult approach but I’m just trying to be pragmatic to avoid the unavoidable crushing disappointment of IVF not working for us. 

I’m also feeling an increasing sense of pressure. Once we, hopefully, have a fertilised embryo implanted it feels like it’s rather over to me. Having come so far on this journey I worry about the responsibility my body and I have to achieve our dream of having a baby.

Generally I’m an anxious. There’s only so much that reading can equip you for all this. It feels completely surreal to carry on planning work and holidays whilst in the back of your mind you’re figuring out where you’ll be in your treatment cycle. I know in March I’ll either be really happy or incredibly sad, it’s  tricky to prepare for both outcomes. 

We feel so blessed to be given this opportunity, anxious about the unknown and yet excited by what we hope it brings. If anyone has an experience of their treatment journeys they’d be happy to share I’d love to hear from you. I’ll keep you posted as ever of how things progress, and wish you all the best for your  hopes and dreams in 2017.

Daisy x

The Joystick and the TV screen

N and I have had our first adventure in private health care and things did not get off to a brilliant start. N left his bag on the train and had to leap back on leaving me on the platform. We then weaved our way independently, and with the aid of Google maps, through large industrial and residential estates before re-uniting at the clinic. N is fairly terrible when it comes to navigation so I was more than relieved to see him. Objective one, reach destination complete - next time we’ll drive.

The clinic was really lovely. Lots of contemporary furnishings and good magazines. It felt more hotel waiting room than surgery. N and I were separated, him heading off downstairs to do the business and me for my AMH test.

We decided to have the AMH test done to get more information on my egg reserve, with the hope this may reassure me before rushing our bank balance headlong into IVF. The Natural Fertility Centre has an interesting blog about the pros and cons on AMH tests if you want to know more about it.

I’m fairly used to be poked about by now, so quite enjoyed the experience (in an educational way). There was a large TV screen I could watch at the end of the bed, and whilst it could have been off putting given the pleasant nurse had a giant white joystick up my nethers, it was rather fascinating to see it all on screen. Heavens knows how she could tell what was follicle and what was white screen, it looked like bad tracking to me, but she was very happy to answer my questions.

When N and I reunited again I was brimming over with excitement about my follicle sizes. He had not had such a good time. Faced with a bare white room, an en-suite toilet and a pile of porn mags, he couldn’t really get in the mood. He struggled on like the trooper he is but he wasn’t as pleased with the results as the sample we’d smuggled in his puffa jacket in Jan (see Blog Post 2).

The results were speedy, and delivered within the week. Mine gave more positive feedback on my reproductives, however every good report for me weighs heavy on N. The results he got were the worse yet, and he was pretty grumpy and miserable about it the whole following weekend. I think because we’d paid for it he thought they would be better, and provide some miracle insight that said his sperm weren’t so bad. It was rather crushing to discover the lowest rankings to date.

We have our first consultation appointment soon and are desperately trying to make spreadsheets balance to see if we can manage private. The Jury’s still out till we hear what private and NHS timelines look like in the next couple of weeks.

Will keep you posted.

Daisy x

Seeking the Thin Blue Line #5

Public v Private part 1

I was sharing some g&ts with a colleague the other evening when the subject of careers came up and planning children. She asked me what she admitted was a fairly personal question “was I planning babies in the near future?”. My response just tumbled out “yes we’d been trying actually but it wasn’t happening naturally so we were on the NHS IVF waiting list”. It was that easy to say and yet I’ve not shared this information with some of my closest friends.

I’ve found the issue of Public v Private, when it comes to discussing our fertility journey, very problematic. N told colleagues at work really quickly and they were very supportive of him taking the time off he needed. I was more reticent.  Companies rarely take the news of potential pregnancy well, particularly if they’re small like mine. As my boss herself was pregnant it seemed easier to share the news. She was supportive and it relieved the stress of explaining repeated doctors appointments although I’ve not told other colleagues I’m close to. How do you start that conversation over the queue for the kettle? 

N and I have been wary about which of our friends we’ve shared the info with too.  When is it right to tell newly pregnant friends whom we don’t want to discourage from sharing their news with us?  I have a brilliant friend who is a constant support through WhatsApp messages but I can’t bring myself to open up to one of my oldest friends, face to face, yet.

I recently began a conversation with a friend about our difficulties assuming I’d already told her. In finding out I hadn’t, I also discovered she was going through something very similar and that we’d quietly been struggling and feeling lonely in each others company, which seemed so sad and ridiculous.

Why does it feel so taboo to share something that, whilst intimate, is so natural a thing to try and do? Equally when something that seems like the easiest thing in the world to do becomes difficult, why is that so hard to share? That casual and honest confession with my colleague felt so liberating and painless.  Maybe fertility needs to make it into the everyday so it becomes less of secret burden?

Daisy x

Seeking the Thin Blue Line #4

The hope conundrum

The results of a healthy sperm test will fall into the range of figures below:

"Total number of sperm 39 million per sample. A low sperm count is below 15 million per ml of semen." (From:  How To Get Pregnant by Xiao-Ping Zhai)

"For most couples trying to conceive, the odds that a woman will become pregnant in any particular month are about 15% to 25%. But there are some caveats, and different things can affect your chances of getting pregnant."  (www.boots.com) 

N’s sperm count of 6 million sounds like an awful lot of sperm but less so against the ‘healthy’ figures referenced above. It also drops our chances of conceiving naturally to more like 1% (if that).  Not great odds.

However, there IS still a small chance and everyone keeps telling us 'it only takes one'.  And there lies the conundrum, for where hopes resides so also does disappointment.

Every month after I get my period I promise myself next month I won’t think about getting pregnant. Whilst there’s no harm in ‘trying’, it isn’t going to happen. I tell N this whilst also demanding we have sex more and at specific times, recommending he doesn’t drink and reminding him to neck Chinese herbs. For although it’s incredibly unlikely, there’s no harm in increasing those chances right?  But whilst we bicker and I cry at bedtime because we might have missed my fertile window because we’re both exhausted, I am plagued by questions I can’t answer: Is it worth it it? Should we just chill out? We’re on waiting list, let’s just wait? Is there something wrong with me? Are we doing it wrong? 

If we could conceive naturally then we would remove the need for medical intervention, which involves words like 'harvesting', 'implantation' and 'freezing'; where our odds are improved to a 70% chance of not getting pregnant.  And the spectre of my 35 birthday looms....

N, I think has taken the waiting list as a timescale to pregnancy. In 12 months sperm and egg meet, embryo gets planted up in there and bam we’ll have a baby. I’ve read more, I’m cynical (also read realistic), which makes me anxious of even starting a process which I fear could leave us both disappointed. 

So each month I will the symptoms of PMT to be symptoms of pregnancy (a cruel joke by nature by the way that they should match early pregnancy symptoms - how messed up is that?!). The spotting, tender breasts, cramps, nausea - all could be pregnancy this time, they feel different. That swelling in my belly isn’t water retention and trapped wind, it’s a baby. I google signs of early pregnancy. They’re all there, so is getting a period. So even when my period does arrive with a crashing disappointment with my insides literally tearing themselves apart, I’m still holding onto a forlorn hope that this might just be a symptom that I’m pregnant - this time.

I impart the monthly update to N - ‘I’m not pregnant. I said I wouldn’t be’. I just wished secretly I was. No point breaking both our hearts monthly

And the cycle starts again. Temperature check each morning. Period recorded in app. Your next fertile window in +/- 7 days. Come on number 1 sperm just do it for us this month please, it only takes one of you and I’m not ready to give up on you quite yet.

 

Daisy x

Seeking the thin blue line

Appointment Time

We had a three month wait for our initial consultation. Three months is a terribly long time to worry about something when you don’t really know what’s happening. I did research on the internet and read books, including Zita West’s Guide to Fertility and Assisted Conception (kindly loaned to me by NFC) and How to get Pregnant: The Zhai Programme for Successful Conception.  Dr Zhai’s book led us to the NFC where we started alternative therapy in Chinese herbs, acupuncture and nutrition. This gave us something constructive to do so we weren’t just waiting…. I hated being at the mercy of other people’s schedules.

Research prior to our appointment added to my anxiety. For example the list of conditions to be applicable for NHS IVF is long. No smoking, low BMI, how long you’d been trying and also living together. It felt like it had become someone else’s responsibility to decide if we were fit to be parents.

The appointment began to feel like a test to be on the ‘help to have a baby’ list that we could fail. I checked and rechecked dates for coming off the pill, how long we’d been trying, how long we’d lived together, when we bought our flat. I worried what information in our records would be checked and whether everything matched.

I got myself so worked up for that first appointment but actually I’m relieved to say it was absolutely fine. We had a consultant who was patient and informative and I interrogated him with my questions. We were lucky (if lucky is the right word) as we had a clear medical problem (N’s mumps and sperm count) and were put on the year long waiting list straight away.

I was referred for both a Hysterosalpingogram and a Gynaecology Pelvis Ultrasound just to be on the safe side. Whilst N got off with a brief manhandling of his testicles, I donned knitted knickers and had dye squirted up my lady parts whilst a student doctor watched. I was told I have a textbook uterus - I’m adding that to my CV under immaculate cervix. I also avoided an internal ultrasound thanks to my bladder being uncomfortably full (top tip - drink a gallon of water on the way to the hospital) - ovaries present and correct.

So I am good and ready to go, which I’m delighted about obviously, but it isn’t helping me get pregnant any quicker.

Women often get pregnant after the dye test, the result of a reproductive colonic I assume. I had my fingers crossed after that test. When I went to for the ultrasound with cool gel on my belly like on the telly, I hoped there might be something to see. Unfortunately it was too early in my cycle to see anything - “you’d be surprised how many women come in here and it shows they’re three weeks pregnant. You’ll be keeping your fingers crossed your period’s late I bet” said the consultant, and I was. Unfortunately it arrived that afternoon. Life can be cruel, but there’s always a good news story. I’m hoping that we become one soon.

 

Daisy x

Seeking the Thin Blue Line - Our journey begins

Like many other partners, mine (N) is rather resistant to planning. We’d talked about having babies for a while. We’d both agreed it was in our life plan together. We hadn’t agreed on when. 

I had a scare at my regular smear. It was irregular. Abnormal cells were found. I was invited back for further investigations. One of our good friends had only just received the all clear from her second recurrence of cervical cancer at under 35. Wonderfully she got her health but lost her chance of naturally conceiving in the process. The possibilities freaked me out. 

Fortunately I was lucky. Nothing more sinister developed and I have since been told I have an immaculate cervix (I’ll add that to my CV). But that experience put a fire under me. Time and possibilities were not infinite. 

I trapped my partner in a car on a 9 hour journey. By the time we reached our destination the pill went in the bin and we were on the road to ‘trying for a baby’. I spent that trip away in part blissful daydream. N and I were sharing in an exciting secret.

I was almost relieved when the next period arrived. I hadn’t quite got my head round the idea of having a baby yet it felt too abstract

I began sharing our ‘trying’ with a selection of close friends. The weeks passed and turned into months. Friends checked in at regular intervals. ‘Any news for us yet?’ ‘Just relax and keep trying it will happen’. At raised eyebrows I responded with ‘It’s not a baby it’s too many biscuits’ joining the laughter. But it just didn’t happen.

My partner had mumps when he was 21. It was bad. Our GP was great when she added that to how long we’d been trying and arranged for speedy tests.

So it was, that from my initial daydream I ended up on a freezing Edinburgh morning waiting, engine running, outside our flat for N to appear with a sample. When he arrived tub cozied into the pocket of his down jacket I quipped - “I hope you thought about me” “I only watched the ones with the blondes in it” Romance might be dwindling, but humour was alive and kicking. Laughter remains our backbone. If you can’t laugh….

It was the results of those tests that threw us into the brave new world of fertility. Of managed baby making seemingly outside of our control (which I hate!). I’m still struggling to navigate through it and would welcome and any thoughts or shared experiences as I continue to share my story with you.  Daisy

Seeking the thin blue line - Blog 1

I’m 33. My partner and I are trying for a baby. A family. It’s proving much trickier than we thought.

The lovely ladies at The Natural Fertility Clinic are supporting us and they’ve asked me to share my journey with you. It’s a very personal one. It’s not one I’m sharing with many people and I'm finding it lonely. I’d spoken to Rachael about reaching out for support from the Clinic’s community, I let slip that I write, and we came up with this idea.

These are all my own thoughts, my experiences. They may reflect your own, they may not. You may disagree with what I say, how I’m handling things. Or something I write may reach out to you and make you feel you’re not so alone. Ultimately I’m hoping that by sharing something intimate that impacts so greatly on me every day, but that is rarely talked about, that I’ll feel less alone too.

I’ll be publishing this blog regularly so please look out for it and comment, share, like, connect with me - and please be kind - thanks. Daisy