All systems go

So today it was back to the Royal Shrewsbury for more blood tests and another internal scan to see whether my Estradiol levels had come down and to check out my ovaries. The scan is a funny affair. Fellow blogger Pyjamas and Crumpets  puts it well when she talks about the hilarity of a screen to get undressed behind and a modesty sheet – kind of pointless when the nurse is about to stick a wand with a condom on between your legs!! ๐Ÿ˜€

The blood test went as blood tests do – ‘sharp scratch dear’, needle in, blood taken, cotton wool taped to arm, ‘leave that for half an hour and no lifting’ and off you go. The scan seems to be different every time. No small talk this time round, just me and the nurse (the husband stayed home for this one – he feels like a spare part most of the time anyway and I can’t really blame him) and she turned the screen towards me so I could see too and talked through everything she was doing. Fascinating really as it just looked like liquid moving around on the screen to me. I certainly couldn’t make out anything different although she pointed out my uterus and my ovaries, when she eventually found them. I just nodded (probably with a bit of a vacant look on my face). The right one was playing a naughty game of hide and seek and was eventually found tucked away behind my uterus. Tut tut ovary.

Then it was in to speak to the nurse. I was privileged today as I got to speak to the boss. Lovely lady but she did make me feel like I was being a bit of a stress head (which I probably am). ‘Why were my Estradiol levels high?’ was the question I wanted answering. ‘There could be a number of different reasons, don’t worry about it’ was the response I got. Hmmm. ‘I don’t have enough Buserelin to keep up my injections’ I panicked. ‘Don’t worry about it, I’ve done you a prescription. Just pop down to the pharmacy on your way out and collect it.’ Oh, ok. ‘So should I start my Menopur injections this evening or tomorrow?’ This question actually required her to go and get advice from the consultant. This evening apparently. That is unless they ring to tell me not to which means my Estradiol levels are still too high. They won’t know until the blood test results are in and they will only ring if I am NOT to start injecting Menopur. It’s 6pm. Does that mean I start injecting this evening? I guess it does. All systems go then.

I then asked a load of questions specifically about the injections and told them I didn’t have enough needles. I now have enough needles. I think I know everything I need to know now. The only thing I don’t know is exactly when is the best time to do them? I have to do them in the evening so they don’t get mixed up with my Buserelin injections which are done in the morning. So when? I was thinking I’d do them at 7pm each evening as I do my morning ones at 7am but then what if I have something on in the evening. Maybe I should do them at 10pm before I go to bed? Oh I can’t decide. I’d better make my mind up as it’s getting later by the minute. Aaarrrggghhh!

I don’t know why I feel so stressed out about this. I feel fine about it until I have a hospital day. I think maybe it’s the hospital that’s stressing me out. I see all the other couples in there. There’s tension and anticipation in the air. Everyone is embarking on the unknown. Will we, won’t we? Is this our time? Is this your time? Which statistic will we be? It creates stress. I’m sure tomorrow I’ll be fine again.

The other thing that’s getting me down slightly is my loss of motivation. I’m an outdoor instructor. I’m an active person. I usually run a few times a week, get on my bike when the weather is playing ball and swim when I can. I haven’t done anything for over a week now. I just can’t get myself out the door. Elton and I have decided to go swimming this evening. I know it will help, I’m just struggling to actually go. I think having someone else will help. I need to get my running partner on board so she can kick my butt into touch. Exercise is good for the psyche and helps reduce stress. It also gives me something else to focus on.

I’ve decided. 1opm. Right, better get to the pool!!

Update Tuesday 28 February: 

Those Menopur injections are horrible. A real faff to sort out – I’m on two injections of three powders and one ampule per injection which means I have to draw up an ampule, inject it into the vial with the powder, then draw that up, insert into powder number two and repeat. All this without getting any air bubbles in the syringe and maintaining 1ml of liquid (I had to dip into a second ampule to do this). Injecting 1ml is quite uncomfortable, especially in the stomach so after the repeated faff of getting the second injection ready, that went into my leg. Still uncomfortable but not quite as much. Soooo looking forward to 10pm. Not.

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The M Word

I did say that I had wanted to cover the subject of miscarriage in this blog so here goes. It’s one of those subjects that people don’t really like to talk about. It’s hard because it involves grief, very personal grief, yet it is incredibly common. In fact it is believed that around one in six known pregnancies result in miscarriage and many more occur prior to a pregnancy test even being taken. These statistics are astonishing! And in my mind it’s even more astonishing that it’s just considered ‘normal’.

We (women) are encouraged to keep pregnancy a secret until the end of the first trimester (first 12 weeks) because miscarriage is most likely during this time. So at a time when you are excited, scared, nervous, celebratory, overcome with joy, terrified – all of the above – and your hormones are all over the place due to the ongoing changes in your body, you are to remain quiet. Maybe tell a few close friends and family but otherwise zip it. And then, if the unspeakable happens and your body rejects your pregnancy, again, you have to keep quiet. After all, you can’t really go announcing that you have had a miscarriage if you haven’t told anyone you are pregnant…! It’s back to work, back to life, back to whatever it is that you need to do. No time to grieve properly, no time to heal your body. Why??

I had a miscarriage on Monday 6th October 2014. There will be many people I know reading this who had no idea I was ever pregnant although I did tell quite a few people. I felt I needed to tell work as I do a physical job and I also told quite a few friends as we were away for a reunion weekend at Centre Parcs and I obviously wasn’t drinking. Still, there are many people who never knew.

We’d been trying for a baby since Spring 2013. After not having any joy all the usual tests were done. I was aware that at my age (I was 39 at the time) I might be pre-menopausal although I wasn’t having any symptoms. After a series of blood tests the doctor told me that I wasn’t ovulating. I had thought that this wouldn’t bother me. In my mind I just wanted to know whether I could have children or not. If I couldn’t then we’d make other plans for our life. Unfortunately it devastated me. Not the reaction I’d expected.

After a couple of weeks I decided to go and see a different doctor. She agreed to run the tests again and this time I was ovulating. I think because my periods were (are) so irregular, it was impossible to predict the correct time period to check my hormone levels. Anyway, we were back on. The doctor prescribed me Clomid and I was told to use ovulation tests to ensure that we were ‘at it’ on the right days. My first month using Clomid I didn’t ovulate according to the tests. But then I didn’t get my period. I knew I was pregnant. I was getting tired in the afternoon. I kept getting dizzy spells. I was needing to pee more than ever. One Sunday, Elton and I went for a run in Newborough Forest – my usual 10km circuit – and I just couldn’t manage it. I kept getting dizzy and having to walk. I knew.

On Wednesday 3rd September 2014 I took a pregnancy test. I was working away at the time. Positive test. I didn’t know what to do with myself! I rang Elton. So excited ๐Ÿ™‚ I rang my mum. Overjoyed ๐Ÿ™‚ In the morning I told my two friends at work. By Sunday I was starting to get some sort of morning sickness. I got it in the afternoon. It really floored me. It was a confusing mixture of nausea and acute tiredness combined with some sort of allergic reaction. I would be dry retching one minute and then start sneezing and then it would turn into burping or yawning. I also got REALLY itchy palms. Weird I know ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

My boobs were sore, I couldn’t stop peeing during the night, I was over the moon! I wanted to feel it. Every inch of it. I downloaded an app on my phone so that I could see each day what was happening to my baby. I went onto forums to talk to other new mothers to be. It was the most exciting time.

First midwife appointment was Wednesday 17th September. It was a form filling day. That was the first day I felt no symptoms. In fact I didn’t feel pregnant at all. Over the next few days the nausea/tiredness/allergy came and went in differing degrees.

On Monday 22nd I went for a bike ride. I was really sensible and chose a route that was predominantly on the cycle track but then managed to cycle into the back of a car in Conwy. It wasn’t a bad crash, just a bump, but I went to hospital anyway just in case. They booked me in for a scan the following day.

On the Tuesday when I went in the hospital did a pregnancy test. I was convinced it was going to come back negative and that it had all been in my head. Of course it wasn’t. I had an internal scan as it was still very early on in the pregnancy. I was told they could see my little bean but it was too early for a heartbeat yet. Apparently my baby was between 5 and 6 weeks and around 7mm long. Amazing! I was booked in for a follow up appointment in two weeks’ time.

A couple of days later I went to the doctor to get a prescription for some pregnancy safe antihistamines. When I told her about the scan she said that she was worried as the hospital saying my baby was 5-6 weeks didn’t match with my dates and meant that the baby wouldn’t be developing properly. Great. This wasn’t helped by the fact that I had been suffering no symptoms for around a week.

Second appointment with the midwife on Tuesday 30th. She told me that potentially my baby had stopped growing at 5/6 weeks and I just hadn’t miscarried yet. She held off on booking me a follow-up appointment. I was devastated. I started spotting on Wednesday 1st October.

The day it all happened was horrendous. I’d had a bad night’s sleep the night before and felt like crap. I started bleeding in the afternoon and by the evening this had turned into really bad cramps and clotting. I tried to go to bed around 9pm but my cramps got worse and worse. I started having diarrhoea, felt really nauseous and was in immense pain. By 1:30am I had almost passed out. Elton called an ambulance. Before they arrived I think I passed the embryo while on the toilet. I wasn’t really with it to be honest. The paramedics gave me some pain relief and then took me to Ysbyty Gwynedd. I was transferred from A&E to EPU where I delivered the sac with the midwife. The following day I had to go in for a scan to ensure everything was gone. Just what I needed. To be sat in the waiting room with a load of pregnant women.

That was it. All over. The dream gone. No baby. I had to tell work as there was no way I could go in for a couple of days. I had to tell my friends, well the ones who knew. The hardest part of all was not being able to talk about it openly. How do you broach the subject? ‘Hi, how are you? Did you have a good week at work? Oh, by the way, I was pregnant but I’m not any more, I had a miscarriage on Monday’. It just doesn’t happen like that. I went to the doctor. They were pretty much like ‘oh well, it is pretty common you know, especially in women your age. At least you know you can get pregnant’. Helpful. Not. This article from the Observer from 2010 talks a bit more about this.

So what do you do? You move on. You have to. As I’ve said in a previous post, I’m a pragmatic person. I wouldn’t let this take over my life. We’d keep trying. But it ate away at me. Suddenly everyone was getting pregnant, people at work, people in the village, friends. I wanted to be happy for them but inside I was hating them. Every person I’d see walking around with a pram I’d judge. They don’t deserve a baby, they’re smoking. They don’t deserve a baby, they’re too young. They don’t deserve a baby, they already have four children. Why? Why? Why? I needed closure.

My baby had been due on 9th May 2015. We planted an apple tree. She’s a beautiful Bardsey Island apple tree. She gives us the most beautiful blossom in the spring and delicious apples in the autumn. She’s slowly growing, arms stretching up towards the sunlight. Every time I look at her I think of my baby.

I know there are women out there who have had numerous miscarriages and miscarriages way later in their pregnancies but a miscarriage is what it is. It is horrendous, it is sad, it is incredibly personal. But talking about it helps. My advice to anyone going through it would be don’t bottle it up. It can eat away at you.

I’m sorry, I hadn’t originally intended this blog to be a diary log of the events leading up to my miscarriage but it has been incredibly cathartic. If you have read all the way to the end, thank you for listening. This has been better closure for me than the tree, almost ๐Ÿ˜‰

So now let’s crack on with the IVF! ๐Ÿ™‚

Further little update

All change. Just got a phone call from the Royal Shrewsbury to say that my blood test results have come in from this morning and my levels of Estradiol are too high. They would like you to haveย a level less than 200 (200 what I’m not quite sure…) and my level is 765.

So, it’s continue with the morning Buserilin injections for now and have another baseline blood test and scan next Monday morning to see if my levels have dropped. No Menopur injections until my results are back next week. This means the whole process moves back a week.

I’ve been told not to worry. Hard not to though ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Little update

So it was into hospital today for my baseline bloods and scan. Apparently everything from my scan was ok although it took the nurse rather a long time to find one of my ovaries. It was quite funny actually as during the obligatory smalltalk, it turned out that she had been on a trip in a North Wales slate mine last week with a company that both Elton and I work for,ย Go Below Underground Adventures. Small world and all that ๐Ÿ˜‰

Anyway, I digress. We then were able to have a chat with the nurse about the next lot of injections that I am starting, the Menopur. Turns out I don’t have to do six injections every evening (thank f**k for that!!) but just two. I do have to use six tablets though, and two ampules. I got told off for not watching the video of how to do it so I am going to do that shortly!

So it’s one injection at 7am and 2 injections at 7pm for the next six days. My evening injections will then change as I will go down to 4 tablets and however many ampules (I’ll worry about then as and when I have to do it). Next Monday I will have my first of three blood tests and scans to make sure my ovaries are being stimulated correctly and not being over-stimulated. It is important that I don’t getย ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome.

Interestingly a friend asked me how I was feeling about it all today and I really don’t know. I’m not feeling good but I’m not feeling bad. Numb was the only word that I could think of to describe how I feel. I suppose it’s all a process at the moment. I can’t get excited about it and I can’t feel negative. I think maybe I’ve just switched myself off from it a bit.

Next week is going to be a busy one. Back and forth from North Wales to Shrewsbury Monday, Wednesday and Friday and work on Tuesday and Thursday. No rest for the wicked. Lets hope my hormones keep it together enough for me to retain some level of normality…

Track Marks

Well, here I am, five days into my injections, with a line of track marks across my tummy. I have to admit, since the first injection, they have become much easier. Yesterday I even managed to do it in a public toilet while waiting for Elton to set off on his first Ultra Marathon from Brecon. It did feel pretty seedy but I managed it and that is all that matters.

This evening I am getting to grips with the headaches, the tiredness (is that even a symptom or am I just tired?) and the grumpiness. ย Actually, maybe the grumpiness is a product of the tiredness. Maybe the headache is a product of the tiredness. Maybe I’m just tired as it was a long week at work last week and I’ve had a long drive today. Oh who knows? I guess I’m now in the position where it becomes easy to blame the medication for things rather than seek to find alternatives.

I appear to have started menstruating as well. I can’t remember whether this is supposed to happen or not. I was given 23 days worth of the contraceptive pill before I started my injections so I’m guessing that it’s normal. I can’t actually remember being told anything about it although I probably was. Information overload. Maybe that is the reason for my headache. I mean the menstruation rather than the information overload.

Tomorrow morning I am off to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital Fertility Unit for my baseline scan and blood tests. The scan is an internal scan so I’m not really looking forward to that bearing in mind I’m bleeding. I suppose they’re used to it though. I should also be seeing someone to explain to me how to do my Menopur injections which I have to start tomorrow evening. I think these are going to be the complicated ones. I have to mix a tablet into an ampule of liquid and then inject that ampule. I have to do that six times. In one evening. I think I’ve got track marks now… ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

I’m not actually sure whether I have to stop my morning injections after tomorrow or not. My piece of paper just says ‘keep taking until told to stop’. Maybe I’ll get told to stop tomorrow. Maybe not. If not then I guess I will be injecting morning and evening. Fun. I’ll let you all know when I know!

I just wanted to add that I’m conscious I skipped over the issue of miscarriage and this is something I also want to discuss on this blog. Once I’ve got the next few days over with and the injections sorted, I’ll get back to that. Thank you for reading ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Getting to grips with needles

I’m not going to write every day but I think today deserves a little attention. Today was injection number one day. I had this thing in my head that the injections were going to be easy. After all, I’m not afraid of needles, I have had many injections over the years and give blood regularly. Funny then how it took me about 10 minutes to get it sorted ๐Ÿ˜‰

I think maybe I suddenly realised the importance of it all. I can’t get it wrong. It’s not like in a hospital or a clinic where mistakes can be rectified pretty quickly. I can’t have too much, I can’t have too little, there has to be no air in the syringe, I have to put it in the right place, it has to be done at the right time. Oh my goodness, suddenly the pressure is immense.

needles

First of all it was about timing. The injection has to be given at the same time every morning. So what time do you choose? I’m very fortunate in that my colleagues and my boss at work know about this but still, do I want to be skulking off to the toilet to do this? Not really. So that means doing it early. But I’m off for half term next week and going away this weekend. Maybe I don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Still, 7am seemed like the most appropriate time and a time when I can be (hopefully) somewhere sensible every day.

So, 6:30 this morning I was up. It took me about 6 attempts to get the syringe sorted. Back and forth, drawing up the liquid with the big fat needle, flicking the air bubbles down, squeezing the excess back into the bottle. Too much? Squeeze more out. Too little? Draw more back up. Shaking hands, increased heart rate, sweaty palms. This isn’t me. I’m the calm and collected one.

The alarm went off at 7am on the dot (obviously, as that’s what alarms do), large needle swapped for small needle, the patch of skin on my ‘pinching an inch’ section of tummy cleaned with an alcohol wipe and injection done. Phew. These are the easy injections. The tough ones start next week.

I guess I should now think about having breakfast, walking the dog and getting to work. Like I said, life goes on ๐Ÿ™‚

Motherhood… or not.

I’ve never been one for a blog, and yet, here I am, writing a blog. It’s not actually my first blog as I did do a bit of a travel blog many moons ago. Still, it’s my first serious blog so bear with me if it’s not fluid. I’m sure I’ll get better.

I have decided to write this as I’m about to go through what many women go through and yet, it doesn’t seem to be openly discussed. IVF. In vitro fertilisation. I’m not sure why we don’t talk about it. Maybe it’s the uncertainty of it all. Maybe it’s because it means laying bare our inadequacies, our inability to produce a child. Surely that’s what women are meant to do? Have children? Maybe it’s just a lack of understanding. Even as I’m writing this I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it all. The last few years have been a rollercoaster of emotions. Being told I can’t have children, then being told I might be able to have children, then getting pregnant, then having a miscarriage, then not being able to get pregnant again, then being told I qualify for IVF, then being told I’m too late, then being told they can just squeeze me in. As I said, it’s been a rollercoaster. And I’m sure my journey has been fairly easy compared to some.

I think the strangest thing for me is the lack of discussion. It’s funny how women are actively encouraged not to tell anyone about a pregnancy until 3 months. This is because there is a high risk of miscarriage within the first term. So does that mean that we are not allowed to get excited, not allowed to share our joy with those we love? But this also means we can’t share our grief when things don’t go the way we planned. Grief is personal, yes, but a problem shared and all that. How do you tell someone you had a miscarriage if you didn’t even tell them you were pregnant? It’s like we’re not allowed to share. We have to go through the ordeal by ourselves. Ok, so maybe with a couple of other people – husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, parents, etc. but my family is wider than that. My friends are my family. Talking about these things is cathartic. It helps us to heal.

Anyway, I digress, I’m not here to talk about miscarriage, I want to talk about IVF. Before I got signed up I can honestly say I had no idea what it was all about. I imagined men in white coats shaking things around in test tubes and didn’t really think any further than that. Reality hit when the box of medication turned up on my doorstep. Sorry, I say medication… what I actually mean is needles. A massive box of needles. Despite the fact I start injecting myself tomorrow morning, I am still not completely sure what I am injecting myself with. My primitive understanding is that it is some sort of hormone suppressor. I have to stop my body doing what it wants to do, i.e. ovulate, so that in a week’s time I can start injecting myself with another drug to induce ovulation, but on a grand scale. I think that’s pretty much the gist of it.

My body is going to start to change shape, my hormones are going to be all over the place, logistically I have to travel backwards and forwards between North Wales and Shrewsbury for scans and blood tests and somehow, I have to carry on as normal because the world does not stop just because I am going through IVF. And then, at the end of it all, I might not even get pregnant. In fact, if you look at the statistics for a 43 year old, I’m pretty damn unlikely to get pregnant.

So why go through it all in the first place? I can’t not, surely. I consider myself to be a fairly pragmatic person. I’ve accepted that it’s a long shot, but it’s a shot nonetheless. If we get pregnant, we deal with that. If we don’t, we deal with that. Life goes on.

Anyway, I’m not writing this because I want your luck or your prayers (that’s not really my thing) but because talking about it is my way of dealing with it. Being open, being honest, engaging in conversation and sharing my journey is my way of facing the unknown.

8 hours until injection number 1.