Hope & Hopscotch

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Sae's IVF Timeline

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It's such a crazy thing, infertility. I felt like there was this epic sense of urgency and boy, was the learning curve steep. A lot of the posts here are information based - it's all the research I've done for myself and my journey. With that in mind, I thought it might be helpful to share the raw emotional stuff as well as the informational. 


IVF Round #1 - Jan 2015. Ovulated early.
IVF Round #2 - Feb 2015. 2 Frozen embryos.
IVF Round #3 - Aug 2015. 3 Frozen embryos.
IVF Round #4 - Oct 2015. 1 Frozen embryos.


2016 - Turns it out it *was* our year

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It's weird to write this on the other side...

In 2016 I did get pregnant. I found out in January. Ironically not long after I posted that last post. And just so it's clear - it was a spontaneous pregnancy. Not an IVF one. We still have those six, beautiful frozen little blastocysts, and after all four hard, expensive rounds, we conceived *naturally*.  What. The. Hell.

I found it really really difficult to settle in the pregnancy. I was convinced that my infertility had caused some chromosomal issues. So, we did an amnio, and we had to wait till I was 16 weeks, and another three weeks for the results. We found at 19 weeks that our little baby was chromosomally perfect - and that he was going to be a little boy! 

We were over the moon and felt finally okay to tell people at 20w.

Here's the kicker though - despite being chromosomally perfect our little guy inherited an incredibly rare metabolic disorder called Nonketotic Hyperglycinemia. Unbeknown to us, Zee and I are both carriers.

We spent the first two weeks of our baby's life in NICU praying he would live. We spent the next two weeks praying he'd breathe by himself and we'd be able to take him home.

 And sure, we were able to take him home. For about three weeks before the seizures kicked in. After that, it was three weeks at the hospital, three weeks in intensive care and two months in hospice on end of life care.  End Of LIFE care.

Oh, my beautiful baby. 

It's been a heartbreaking, horrid time. We were, eventually, able to come home. And while things aren't rosy (oh hey seizures, and profound developmental delay and constant trips to the hospital) every day that our gorgeous little guy is with us is a good one. 

I blog more openly about our journey over at www.teammikaere.com.  We're fundraising for a cure at justgiving.com/team-mikaere, so if you could spare $10, that would be amazing. 

I probably won't be blogging here as frequently, but I wish you luck, hey. And hope. Got my fingers crossed for your BFP. Maybe this year will be your year too! 

Love,

Sae x

PS - Awkwardly, my name isn't really Sae. It's Elly. And Zee's name isn't Zee, it's Sam. Sae is an acronym we use sometimes - Sam and Elly. I guess this is it - we're out! x

On taking a break from IVF

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So. We've paid for four rounds of IVF out of pocket. I've worked less than 6 months this year (thank goodness I'm a contractor and earn stupid amounts so I can) and... to put it simply we right now can't afford another round of IVF.

My body right now is the best it's ever going to be, with all the diets and supplements and extreme toxin avoidance... I'm also the youngest I'm ever going to be. So to be held back by something like money is just... heart breaking. I would have liked to do at least one more round.

So, we wait. We save. We hope my sad little ovaries won't be too sad on the other side. We'll see. 

Will keep you posted. I'm still hopeful that this year could be our year...

Happy New Year

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The break has been nice, the downtime of eating whatever and finally, what feels like the first time in forever relaxing. Proper relaxing.

That doesn't mean not worrying about TTC, though. Zee and I have being fast and free with contraception. We're in that weird spot of trying not to worry, but worrying at the same time. That epic rollercoaster that happens month to month. We're not trying very hard. It's like we're giving ttc the side eye - I know ish when I'm ovulation. I don't say anything when we BD around that mark, and I know when AF is meant to show. 

We're not trying, but still have that weird moment of both relief and disappointment when AF shows up. 

Relief because our doctor wants to do another round of IVF. At some point. Some point this year. Maybe. Maybe we'll change some things. Maybe we won't. Maybe we'll transfer instead of freezing. Maybe maybe maybe.

Relief because there are so many things to do, and I'm still on the am I ready? Am I not? IVF originally was a back up plan, a just in case. I prepare for the future, but at this point, we've been on this journey for so long that the end goal seems less scary than it did a year ago. 

Disappointment because at the end of it, I want children. It's hard to see the single line on the test. 

We'll see. I'm trying to plan for other things this year, IVF occupied a large portion of my 2015. This year, I'd like to do more, see more. Create more.

Fingers crossed that this year is our year, right? 

Sharing is Caring

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I was asked to talk at my clinics open day. I wasn't sure, exactly what would be helpful. It seems so long ago that I was at that point - not really sure what the next steps were. Still, I had lots to say, so I went. Talked.  It went well, a few couples came up after to pick my brain and ask questions. It was good.


Hi, I'm Sae. I'm a patient here, and have been for the last year or so. Last October I was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve. My AMH, which is my Anti-Mullerian hormone was low. It means that I have less eggs in my reserve than I should at my age. My FSH, my follicle stimulating hormone was high - meaning of what eggs I did have weren't of great quality. Essentially, I'd just turned 30 and I was already at the end of my fertility season. 

I won't lie, it was pretty hard hearing that. I felt all sorts of things. I felt like my body had betrayed me, like my right to be a mother was threatened. I felt guilty - I may not ever be able to give my partner the family he wants. I felt broken. Infertility is hard.

I'm not sure where you are in your journey. I found out about mine with a blood test with my GP. When I found out my results, I essentially called her a liar and started looking for a second opinion. 

I'm a UX designer by trade - which means that it's my job to design applications that meet the user need as well as the business needs, and I do that with data and research. Essentially, I used those skills to find myself the best clinic in London. I did three things.

1. Scoured the Internet for data. Most clinics post their success rates, and I was able to verify rates with what HFEA - the fertility authority in the UK posted. I looked at everything in detail, how many transfers they'd done, for what age bracket, for what kind of infertility. I found my top three - here, lister and ARGC.

2. I then looked for reviews independent of the clinics. This felt a little less scientific. I visited a million forums, reached out on Instagram and looked in half a dozen Facebook groups. You can be sure that all the horror stories you've ever heard are on the internet somewhere, right along with the clinic and the name of the doctor.

3. Lastly, I went and I sat in the waiting rooms of my top three, usually in my lunch hour on a Friday, which ironically was when almost all of the clinics were under pressure. This was the most revealing for me, I knew I'd be spending hours in whichever waiting room I chose. And in person, you can see how the clinic supports it staff. If the front of house and the nurses are frazzled, surely that trickles down to behind the scenes. Did they greet patients by name? Were they polite, friends with their patients? Could you hear private information that perhaps you shouldn't be able to hear? Some waiting rooms were better than others.

Needless to say I ended up here. As you can see this particular waiting room is quite nice. And the front of house staff is pretty amazing. 

I don't know what your story is, or why you're checking out clinics, so it's a bit hard to know what to tell you. In the last year I've been through four rounds of IVF, and I'm hopeful. My hope takes the form of 6 frozen embryos waiting in a freezer downstairs. I'm so hopeful.

In the meantime, I thought it would helpful to share five things I wish I'd known this time last year. 

1. Do your research.
Get your numbers and test results, and then read everything you can. Books, research papers. Do more than Google, or hang out in forums, there is so much more than that out there. You'll get more out of your rounds if you do. First, I'd suggest you read It Starts With the Egg, by Rebecca Fett. Also, check out NCBI PubMed - It's a place where all the research and studies are consolidated with an excerpt. It's an easy way to discover research studies. 

As each round is super expensive - you want to do everything you possibly can to make it successful. From your diet, to what chemicals you're exposing yourself to in paper receipts or perfume. There's a lot out there that affects fertility, it's important to educate yourself on more than just the medical processes, but your lifestyle choices too. 

2. Ask questions.
This follows on from the research. I'm not a doctor, or a scientist. For everything I learnt I'd come back to my doctor with a list of questions to ask. Sometimes Nurse Izzy would roll her eyes at me and ask why I didn't email them ahead of time, but I found It was helpful to talk things out and I was lucky that my doctor always made time for me. You also learn from each round you do, about how your body reacts to the drugs and what you can expect, so asking questions helps dig up other things to try. My first round looked nothing like my fourth round.

3. Find support.
This was the hardest for me, because I didn't know anyone going through it. My friends told me to relax, or just adopt, or did I ever consider not being a Mum and that was hard. I felt well and truly alone until I looked up #ivf on Instagram. There are blogs, forums and a ridiculous number of people going through what you are. I found it infinitely more helpful to message someone who truly understood. It got me through. 

4. Make friends with nursing stuff and receptionists. 
It won't get you special treatment, but it will make your time here easier. Truth is, they're all caught up in our journeys just as much as we are, and you'll find it much easier if you feel like you're among friends.

It's not hard to start conversation either, Nurse R is from NZ and almost always brings up the rugby. Nurse I is a massive frozen fan, and Nurse M is the nicest conversationalist. The front of house staff are equally lovely - J has a great fashion sense, and S and K are the nicest. Even behind the scenes - the anaesthetist T will let you change the location of the drip, and the embryologist will show you the embryoscope where your embyos will be incubated. It makes a different.

5. Be gracious.
Infertility is hard, and it hurts. Sometimes the clinic is busy, and you'll wait longer than you expected. Sidenote: don't try fit appointments into your lunch break - you'll always be late. Often the reason is because something has happened to another patient and the staff are dealing with it. At the time it's frustrating, but then it happened to me. In my very first round, after about a week and a half of stims I ovulated when I shouldn't have. No one could have known and instead of shunting me out at the end of my appointment I was looked after. I was so grateful for their compassion. So when I've had to wait longer than expected I've tried to be gracious. 

So, just a quick recap. Do your research, Ask Questions, Find Support, Make friends with the staff and be gracious. 

That's me done, if you have any questions feel free to come chat.  My name is Sae, you can find me at hopeandhopscotch.com - thanks for listening. 

OHSS + Watching our Embryos Grow/Die

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A few days after my retrieval I expected to be up and about. The previous two retrievals I recovered quick smart and figured it would be the same again. Oh, infertility. I should have realised that any expectations are there to be dashed.

I got mild OHSS (Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome) and let me tell you - that shit is not fun. Urgh. At the clinic I rushed through the boxes I know I needed to tick to get home: drink something, eat something and pee. No problem.

After I'd got home and slept off the meds it was a different story - I was in so much pain. Even more when I tried to go to the bathroom. I read somewhere once the muscles you use to stop peeing are the same muscles you use to push a baby out of your body. Turns out those particular muscles hurt like a mo-fo if you have OHSS. So much so that I fainted. On the toilet. I woke up with a massive bump on my shoulder where I'd hit the tub and a bigger lump on my head where I'd hit the wall. I felt indignant when I came to - as if I hadn't had a bad enough time with infertility, now I had to pass out from pain on the toilet too? Siiigh.

It took me a while to figure out it was OHSS and not just my body being slow to recover. There were a few key ah-ha symptoms:

- Weird bloating and tenderness. I looked like I was pregnant. Really pregnant.
- I couldn't breathe deep. It felt weird to take a big breath.
- I couldn't lie on my side comfortably - I'd almost always roll onto my back.

I did some reading (expect a proper research laden post coming soon) but realised that as we weren't transferring I'm not at risk of it getting worse. As soon as my body realised I'd ovulated, wasn't pregnant and my levels of hCG went down it'll reverse itself and I'd cover.

Which meant that the biggest part of the week was me hanging out in bed, waiting for the daily calls about our embryos.

Of six retrieved, five were mature. Of the five that were mature, four fertilised. 

They cleaved into four cells. And then eight cells. One went off early and became ten cells. We got daily calls, we got pictures. There was that feeling of relief and then I'd get all worked up thinking about the next call. There is just so much hope - so very much hope. 

On Day 5, when we were hoping for 4 beautiful blastocysts - we had 4 compacted morulas. 

Oh. We know that embryos that don't grow to plan aren't always viable, but to have none of embryos make it to blastocyst level is terrifying. The embryologists are as keen as we are for them to grow and gave us another day.

We had one blastocyst (one beautiful, hatching, blastocyst). They said they'd give the other three another day - just in case. Sadly none of them survived.

It's pretty heartbreaking to go through the IVF process. All the drugs, stims, retrieval and OHSS and then spend the week watching all your hard work drop off one little miracle at a time. 

I feel guilty. Like I could have done more. I could have taken the weeks pre-IVF off. I could have stuck to the diet, rather than relaxing it. I could have been more diligent with the morning supplements, and excercised and avoided BPA laden bottled water. Watching my little embyos stop evolving, I feel guilty. 

Because it's my fault - all development at this point is powered by mitochondria found in the egg - the egg quality is all on me. So when they stop developing... that's on me. 

One blastocyst. Oh. I know we only need one, but heartbroken doesn't even cover it. Diminished ovarian reserve - it's horrid. I'm still hopeful, though. That this little guy will be chromosonally normal and it'll all work out. I'm so, so hopeful.

Egg Collection

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October 2015.

It's easier this time - I know everyone, I know how it goes and whats expected of me. This familiarity makes it easier to ask questions and I was surprised to find out how much power I had.

I was terrified that I'd ovulated my eggs away before we could retrieve them. Everyone told me they were still there but I wanted to see for myself. So, with some bargaining I was allowed to stay awake for the first part of the procedure, while they cleaned me up and scanned everything. Sure enough, my follicles were still there. I relaxed, and they sedated me.

There's a new anaesthetist who let me ask questions, and surprisingly, responded with such reassurance and compassion. Unlike previous rounds, I was allowed to move the central line from my hand into my inner elbow (which is why I'm so grateful for the new anaesthetist). I hate having it in my hand, it almost always hurts and swells up and is horrid. I have nice veins on my inner elbow, and as long as they strap my arm down there's no fuss. 

I also managed to negotiate a different form of pain relief - one through my veins rather than up my behind. I'm not sure this was a great idea, actually. The collection went fine, and I rushed through the checklist (Eat something, drink something and pee) that they do before you're allowed to leave. I always prefer to recover at home, so I downed loads of water and forced my body through it so we could go.

Not so clever once we were home. I crashed out in bed almost immediately and was in a lot more pain than the previous rounds. I felt like I couldn't use my abdominal muscles at all. This got even worse when I stood up to go to the bathroom - I made it across the hall, but blacked out while in the bathroom. I now have massive lumps on my head and my shoulder where I hit the tub. I don't know how long I was out for, but when I came around I was super hot, dizzy and nauseous. I made it back to bed but oh, I felt horrid.

There's a six on my hand, from where Zee wrote the number of eggs collected so I could see it when I woke. Six. It's not the twelve from last round, or the three from the first. Six is okay. I am disappointed, though. I feel like if I'd done more - stuck to the diet and been a bit more strict with my lifestyle choices we could have got more. We'll see. They say at least four are mature, so that's helpful for setting expectations. 

We'll see. I'm hopeful all four come through fertilisation and grow into healthy blastocysts. Fingers crossed! 

Counting Down - Four days to go!

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October 2015.

We're on the tail end of this round and everything is getting really hard. I'm super tired (though I've been reassured this is a good thing). The shots are becoming a massive hurdle now - my belly is so sore and tender that it's uncomfortable (more than usual!) to do them. It's often three or four a night and I have to psych myself up and push through - definitely not like at the beginning of the round where you just get on with it. 

I worry that I've overdone myself and planned too many things (we're going away for a 6oth, and I'm doing a favour for my hairdresser), but feel obliged to push through. Zee says I'm handling this round better than the last two - I'm less hormonal, I think? I'm not sure. I'm definitely sleeping more, anyway.

My biggest fear going into egg collection is that I've ovulated all my eggs away. We've been a bit fast and loose this round, and I know, I know we had two cetrocide shotes on the last day but.... I still can't share the fear.

I hate this bit, where everything just gets so hard. Eye on the prize through - we're only a few more days out. We've set a date for egg collection. Only four days from now. Only four more days!

Kick Off - Costs of IVF

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October 2015.

The kick off for this round was tonight. It wasn't so bad, really. Zee and I are pro's at this now. Zee mixed everything up like it was no big deal and we did shots just like we've always done them.

The hard part this time was the cost.  The cost of this is heart breaking - we’re on our fourth round which just feels crazy. I hate worrying about money like this, but this is the first round where I haven’t been able to wave off the cost like it was no big deal. I’m feeling the pinch and I hate this. I’m weighing up the treatments that might give us a better chance (like IMSI with it’s improved fertilisation options) and the cost of it (an extra £1700 on top of already a £6600 price tag).

I just… feel like it’s unfair to have to choose between whats best and what we can afford. We had to borrow from family to cover this round. I won’t lie - my pride has taken a hit. I’m unbearably grateful that we have such generous people in our lives but as an independent asking for money because my body is broken is hard. I hate being in this position. I hate asking for hand outs, but I also feel like this is our only shot at a family.

I’m between a rock and a hard place. Infertility - it’s hard. So many tears.

I asked friends to pray for us today. If this is our last round (which is likely because we can't afford another round) then I feel like we should do all we can, really.

Oh infertility. You're the worst. 

CD2 - Bloods, chaos and practicing patience

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October 2015

Pre-round bloods today. The clinic was chaos. I hate going during my lunch break - everyone else is trying to squeeze whatever they need into that free hour too. 

The receptionist I liked is gone (she’s moved upstairs to behind the scenes) and the replacement is stressed and full of disdain, rather than smiles and gossipy stories. Most of my favourite nurses have left. The nurses that are there are stressed out with too many patients. There was too much going on and the waiting room was struggling with extended waiting times and oh. It was not a fun visit. 

I feel terrible about it now, but at the time I made a bit of a fuss because I ended up waiting over an hour for bloods. I’d forgotten that the only reason a clinic is backed up like this is because something has happened to another patient. A patient that could essentially be me - if anything ever happened I’d hope they’d look after me rather than shunting me out the door to deal with the long line of other patients. I’d like to be better at practicing patience.

My nurse was new, I liked her. She was lovely but very very new. I think it helped that I knew what bloods we were taking - LH, FSH, E2 + AMH, where to go and what coloured vials she needed. I even went as far as tourniquetting myself up and sterilising my inner elbow for her. I was glad that there was no drama, just bloods. She was pretty amazing, the best blood taker I’ve had! Didn’t even feel it.

Truth: I’m not sure that my FSH will be low enough to move forward. It’s been such a stressful month. We’ll see. I’ll find out tonight, anyway.

——

My FSH levels are low (hurrah!), but heartbreakingly my AMH has dropped 5 points since I got it done last December. My AMH is getting lower and lower and lower, and my odds with them. Oh. Sadness. The ups and downs of infertility, hey?

Round 4 - CD1

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Oh. It's always an odd moment, while you're sitting on the toilet having discovered that your cycle has come. That pause when you know that from here, time will shrink into moments. It will be counted out in days, slowing itself down to lots of waiting interspersed with scans, bloods and medication. That the next 15 days till egg collection (fingers crossed I get that far) will be quite emotional ones.

Oh hope. I feel like I'm hoping for a miracle, and I'm scared to hope.  I'm scared to hope that I'll respond well to the meds and will produce many mature eggs. That a large number of them will fertilise well and grow into chromosomal normal blastocysts that survive sampling and freeze well. That's the happy days plan. Fingers crossed. 

If this round goes well, it will be our last round of IVF. After a year of this I'm hopeful that we'll be done, that we can go back to living and happiness and life.  

So, CD1. I've emailed the clinic to organise bloods to make sure that my FSH isn't too high, and then we'll start. We'll see, the next few days will let us know if we're moving ahead, or not. 

Fingers Crossed.

We’re not doing IVF this month. My FSH is too high.

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June 2015.

I cried. I’m devastated - I was so ready to kick off another round. I felt silly being upset though but it meant that I pottered about the apartment and cried.  I was meant to do a girls brunch, but cancelled. The girls ended up coming over after and we cried some more.

I feel guilty. Like I haven’t followed the strictly diet enough, I dropped the ball on touching receipts and got all stressed out over work and now I can’t do IVF. I feel like I’m all over the place, it’s a bit of disaster.  If my FSH levels don’t come down next month, this could be it.  It could be over before it’s even started. That’s my fear.

The flip side is that I know I can do more. So - this next month I’ll be on the super strict diet. I won’t touch any receipts. I’ll take all the supplements, rather than just the little ones. 

Edit - I realised yesterday that all the pans I’ve been cooking with are covered in a non-stick, likely BPA coating. I’m freaking out - anything even remotely bad for me is being binned. To make up for it, I’ve bought super nice, really expensive stainless steel pans. 

Please go down FSH, you’re making me paranoid and crazy.

Back at the Clinic

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June 2015

I’m back at the clinic again. It’s both familiar and reassuring. I’m glad it’s finally kicking off and grateful that I know what to expect. There are a few new nurses this time - a few familiar faces too. I think I shocked a few ladies waiting in reception when I had a rather gossipy, in depth conversation about the receptionists holiday. She’s always been nice to me and catching up after several months seemed like a polite thing to do. I was breaking the unspoken waiting in reception rules though - same as riding the tube: no eye contact, no talking. 

Still, I feel like an old hat at this. It’s reassuring to know what comes next, to know what to expect. I do feel a but prickly about it - IVF is hard and never fun. I’m hopeful though, hopeful for more eggs, and good quality. Possible future babies. I’m so hopeful.

We’re doing bloods, and then we’ll get started with the round! 

The end of round two (an anti-climax)

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March 2015.

I got an email from my embryologist:

Treatment: IVF – Blastocyst culture with PGS for embryo banking.
Number of eggs collected: 3
Number of eggs inseminated: 3
Number of eggs fertilised: 3
Embryos cryopreserved: 2 X Day 5 (3BB & 3BB)

Awaiting PGS result.

Thanks! Have a great day.

Uhm. Okay. So that was a fun way to discover one our blastocysts arrested. We are left with two. Two little blastocysts of okay quality (not great quality, just okay) who have both been sampled and frozen. It feels like a very abrupt way to end what has so far been an insane round of IVF.

I knew this already though – intellectually. I’m heartbroken that we only got two (though my IVF positivity kicks in with ‘we only need one!’ It’s a bit chirpy and is living on hope). We’ll do another round, once my body has had time to recover. I’ll start taking DHEA to improve the number of eggs we get next time and hopefully, hopefully we’ll only need to do this once more. We’ll have many more eggs, and hopefully better quality eggs. And hopefully, hopefully some of them will be chromosonally normal.

And then, I can stop. I can stop the drugs, and the diets and all of the crazy in the details. I will have done as much as I can, I would have done the best I can. No compromise. And that’s as best as I can hope for Plan B, right?

I read that it’s easier to focus on the difficult things, the things that worry you. It’s much more difficult to focus on the positive, but if you practice, you’ll get better at it. So, here’s my small list, focusing on the positive:

Grace in small things:

  1. We’re done with all the invasive horrible things. No almost daily scans up my vajayjay. No more bloods, or injections. No more teams of people looking at all my intimate details. My body has become my own again.
  2. I feel a bit more like me. I have more energy, the bruises are fading and the bloating and tenderness is going. I didn’t realise I’d lost me, but I had. I’m glad to be recovering.
  3. We know now. What it’s like, how a cycle goes and what egg collection is like. The results speak pretty clearly, my diagnosis of low ovarian reserve was not wrong. Power in knowledge, and we have had a good round to learn from.
  4. I can do more. We’re not finished yet, this isn’t the end of the story. I’m grateful that I’m in a position where I still have the funds, and the support and the time to figure out what else I can do. I still have options. I still have hope, and it isn’t bound up in just the two little frozen blastocysts we have.
  5. I have Zee. I worried for a long time that because I wasn’t fun… I couldn’t drink, or eat normal foods, and didn’t have the energy to go out that perhaps Zee and I would go downhill. We didn’t, I’d say it pulled us together more than it pulled us apart. I love him.

Waiting and Wishing

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March 2015

The clinic sends me pictures of our embryos. Day one, they fertilised awesome. Day two all cleaved into 4 cells. Day three all cleaved into 7/8 cells. They've all graded well, and oh man. All of the feelings!

Pride, fear, hope. So much hope.

It feels like from this point nothing could go wrong. I'm feeling better, I have all my energy back and of course our little tiny baby embryos are going to grow into perfectly well formed blastocysts, and they'll all be chromosomally normal. Right?

I'm scared to hope.

Either way, we won't find out till the next round, we'll sample however many make it to blastocyst stage and freeze both the embryo and the sample. Well do the PGS test in the next round.

Because we've decided to do another round.

It feels like such a massive thing. We're doing another round, and I've got three months. Three months of supplements (oh hey Co10 and DHEA, the latter you can't even get in the UK cause it's not licensed - watch me work that magic trick). Three months of insulin spiking avoidance diet (read: no carbs, no sugar, no dairy). Three months of stress free everything, a few thousand pounds and hopefully we'll get more embryos.

And now I'm waiting. For my embryos to grow, for the next round to start. All of the things. We'll see. I'm trying to be patient.

Fertilisation: Through the gate!

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All three little eggs fertilised. What a relief! Typically only 60% make it past this gate, so I’m glad we’re over this hurdle with all our little eggs intact.

I know Zee is relieved that his guys did what they were meant to. This was his bit, and they did well. It’s pretty weird to think that Zee and I have three little embryos together. That we’re kind of parents. This is meant to give us more time before my ovarian reserve is gone, but I can't help but be a little bit excited.  It’s kind of mind blowing. We have three little embryos that we made together.

Next gate: Growing to blastocysts. It takes five days. Tomorrow they’ll split into two and then more until by day five they’re either blastocysts or not viable.

I’ve got my fingers crossed. I feel like there’s a tiny little ray of hope, a tiny little something to hold on to. We’ll see. Five days from now, counting down.

Egg Collection

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What a mindfuck that was.  Here’s what I’m leaning – you’re going to be blindsided at every point.

We went down to the clinic and I was the first patient of the day. We had the embryologist come in and talk to us to make sure that we wanted to wait till Day 5 to freeze, because it meant we may not get any viable embryos. Because I have so few follicles, typically you freeze earlier, because the longer they aren’t in a uterus the higher the chance they’ll be damaged. But… You don’t know if they’re viable until you test. You shouldn’t test until they’re blastocysts because else you’re taking cells that will damage the embryo. 

If the embryos are not viable, they won’t result in a healthy pregnancy anyway, they’ll miscarry or not attach. There’s no point freezing possible non-viable eggs and hoping, better to grow them, and test them and then freeze the viable ones.

So, that was The Plan - wait till Day 5 to see which would grow and then test the blastocysts. I panicked because I felt she was questioning The Plan. In times of stress, things like knowing The Plan give me something to hold on to.  It was not exactly what I wanted right before I went into egg collection. Having her question The Plan had me running all the reasons in my head right up till I was in theatre. 

Another blind side moment - finding out they stuck suppositories up your behind at the last minute (gross). And having the anaesthetist treat me like I was ‘Thursday Morning’ and not a real person.

Also, turns out I don't do so well under general anyway. I was quite groggy and asked the same questions repeatedly, without really being conscious. I wanted to know immediately how many eggs they retrieved. I remember coming to and demanding to know (little did I know that I'd already asked at least seventy times before that moment).

Three eggs.

I got three eggs. I want to cry. I know the odds, I know that it’s a downward pyramid to success, where you lose some at every stage. And our downward pyramid starts with three. It seems almost impossible that we’re going to get through all the gates to a viable embryo…

Next gate: fertilisation. And then growing to blastocyst stage, and then testing for chromosomal normal embryos.

Three gates, where 70% of our embryos are expected to drop off. My body is sore, and I’m cramping and starving and annoyed at everyone for fussing.

And I’m gutted. I’m so sad. Three feels like such a pitiful number… especially when I know other ladies get 20+ eggs, three just feels so impossible, like the odds are destined to fail.

I’m scared that for all the time we’ve spent, all the injections and scans and tears, and all the money (sad face) that we’ll end up with no embryos at the end. I’m scared that even with pumping my body full of hormones for two weeks, we only got three. That if I wasn’t full of stimulants, I’d have none. I’m scared I’ll never get pregnant and have a baby. It’s a terrifying thought.

Phew. All of the fears. 

I was told to try balance the fear with the positive, so here is the other side: I'm grateful that I know now what my body is doing, and not five years down the track when it's too late to do anything about it. I'm grateful that I have Zee who hasn't shied away from any of this, who has been so wonderful and gracious, even when I've broken down. I'm grateful that I at this point I have no regrets - I'll never wonder about what would have happened if we hadn't don't IVF. 

Even if the worst happens, we'll handle whatever comes the best we can. 

Round Two

PersonalSaeComment

February 2015.

I went quiet in this round. I didn't want to talk to anyone, write anything down. After the last round where I ovulated all my eggs away, I feel like I’m being buffeted against waves of fear - constantly holding my breath waiting for something to go wrong.

It went better, this round. Its true when they say they learn from previous rounds. When we got to cycle day 12 we did double orgulatran injections to keep me from ovulating. I also went to daily scans and bloods, just to make sure all was in order and I hadn't ovulated. The extra monitoring made me feel a bit more secure - it's reassuring to know exactly what your body is doing. To see your insides and your blood tests correlating. 

I have a handful of follicles over 10mm. We want them to be 20mm or more for collection, and I have six.

Six follicles. Knowing that my ovarian reserve is low, six feels both like a triumph and an epic let down. I feel like my body isn’t doing what it’s meant to and it’s got to be out to foil me somehow.

Still, with the bloods and the scans we have tentatively set a date for two days time. Which means a whole host of injections tonight, the last of the menopur (the stims) first, the last of the orgulatran (the downregs) an hour later, and the trigger shot (mature the eggs) bang on 36 hours before I go in.

I’m nervous. Excited for this round to be over, but nervous. Bonus though, no shots for tomorrow. I’m very excited about that! The end is in sight and oh, I'm so hopeful! 

Fingers crossed all goes well!

Being hopeful, while also giving IVF the side eye

PersonalSaeComment

February 2015.

We’re a few days into round two… I’m not excited. The beginning of this round was stressful - AF came early while we were in France. I was distraught and furious at my body. Why can't it just do the things it's meant to when it's meant to? I feel so betrayed by my own body. On CD3 we flew back into Heathrow and caught cab straight to the clinic for bloods, scans and meds. They kept the clinic open for us, which I'm so grateful for. Small kindnesses make my heart explode.

Still, I'm not excited about this round. I hate the diet, and the injections and the weird tasting supplements. I resent this round, my body and that I have to do this to have a family.  I’m the opposite of positive and yet forever hopeful. Hopeful that I’ll get some viable eggs. That they will grow to healthy little embryos that are chromosomal normal. That will freeze well. That a little biological family is not impossible.

It’s a massive up hill struggle. I’m sad to be doing it.

I'm beginning to realise only now what we've agreed to. That last round we just dove right in, did some preliminary research, enough to confirm what we felt and off we went.

Now? Since the last round failed? I’ve dug deeper. Started reading books and proper research studies and discovered all the horror stories. Things like the effect BPA has on your cells and how it’s everywhere. In paper receipts and plastic take out boxes and cling film – stuff you touch EVERY DAY.

I’ve been reading about cell make up, and how every little cell has a miniature power factory in it (called mitochondria) and if there isn’t enough power from the factory at the right time, then good bye normal eggs, hello miscarriage, hello failed IVF rounds, hello all the bad things.

Even worse was reading what causes a power outage is BPA (even trace amounts) and insulin spikes (thinking of the high carbohydrate/high sugar diet I enjoyed before this makes me ill).

I've read enough to be scared, but not quite enough to know what exactly I should be doing. About what helps and what hinders.

So I ask questions. At my last appointment I asked about chromosome screening (called PGS). I think by doing so I've just raised the odds (and the costs! PGA is £3k for 8 blastocysts) of getting a baby at the end of this. A healthy, live baby. There are many points in this journey were it could all go wrong, where an embryo could no longer be viable. Considering I didn’t even make it to egg extraction… I’m hopeful, but a bit pessimistic.

This feels like an uphill battle. This feels like a massive undertaking. This feels like a much bigger thing than it did at the beginning of my first round, where all my thoughts were: “no worries! You give me meds, I take them and then you take out the eggs and freeze! Done!” Oh Sae of two months ago.

Now I know I’m going to need more than one cycle. That I’m going to be visiting the clinic with all the scans and bloods every three days for I don’t know how long. That I’m going to be on this don’t-fuck-up-your-eggs diet for the next three months at least. No carbs. No sugar. No dairy. No all of the things that taste amazing. Sad face.

That Zee will be injecting my belly every night again and as I get all teary (because it HURTS) we go through the routine of hugs and silly plasters and down time.

The meds make me tired. The routine makes me tired. This whole thing is hard. I feel like I'm only just beginning to discover how hard. 

This is our Plan B.  It's a lot of effort for Plan B. But it's worth it right? Eye on the prize.

How to be kind to yourself

PersonalSaeComment

February 2015.

It’s been a week. And this week has been slow, and mellow. I’m lethargic, no energy or motivation to do… Anything. I’ve been sleeping more, and spending more time holding Zee, and just…

This is grief. There is this epic sense of loss and I recognise you, grief.

I’m okay to be sad. To take the time to sit and look at ultrasounds, to cry when I open the fridge because all my medication is still in the bottom draw, waiting for the next round.

I also found out that although we didn't get to egg collection, based on the number of follicles I had I'd be considered a poor responder. I think this is the most heartbreaking, because it proves the tests and diagnosis. There is no way to shy away from this - my ovarian reserve is diminished.

I'm sad. 

I'm okay to be sad, though. The world can wait, there is nothing wrong with taking a moment to be sad. It’s been a handful of days… Two since I was meant to do egg extraction, five since the ultrasound… it just seems like everyone is trying to hurry me along, distract me. Lala! Don’t worry about your feelings! Look at this thing, read this thing, eat this thing!

I want to slow down, not speed up. I don’t want to busy away my feelings or be distracted.

I opened a new instagram account (@sae.hopes) and joined a community of ladies in the same boat as me. They use all the acronyms (TTC, waiting for AF, CD2, starting FET, IUI, IVF, BFN… Sad face) and I’m learning them. It’s comforting, having a whole world of these people who are in the same space I am. Watching their heartbreak and longing and happiness all through the Instagram interface. I haven’t opened my old ig account since. It’s not the same.