Transfer day

Transfer number 5 was set for day 22 this cycle: way later than any other transfer I’ve had. When I queried it, they explained that they just schedule you in where they could fit you, and it was a particularly busy schedule for this month! So no scan until day 17 and it felt like I was on the estradiol (estrogen) so much longer, despite it only being 4 more days.

Because of this different timing, transfer day fell in my week off. I booked it because we were hoping to have a holiday, and I also never work on my birthday. And then of course we were getting Maisie, so it was really helpful to have the time at home with her.

 

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It was super weird knowing that we would transfer an embryo, and then 2 days later, I would turn 34. We started trying when I was 30 (a few months shy of 31), and all through this process, everyone has been telling us how young we are, how much time we have. Now we’re suddenly a year away from being “less likely to succeed” in any of this, and with limited embryos/finances to fund more IVF, we are looking at a single child (if that).

However, if that’s the outcome, we embrace it. “Spoiled” single child coming right up.

 

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On transfer day, I channelled the above image: I was calm and collected. I surrendered to the process and believed that the dilatation would make it the eas(ier) transfer we hoped for. I was scheduled later in the morning so that my specialist could do the transfer himself. He wasn’t due to be doing many transfers that day but wanted me on his schedule.

And like an idiot, despite having done this 4 times already, I let myself get distracted by Maisie and didn’t drink all of the water I needed to to get a clear ultrasound for the procedure. I ended up lying on the table for 40 minutes (and drinking some more water), before they had a clear enough view. I was usually an A+ student at this and super full by our arrival at the clinic. I was so embarrassed, but luckily being the last on the schedule, I was able to lie there (albeit in the rather warm room – embryos like it toasty) until we were ready to go.

Unfortunately, it was still difficult. Different catheters and rods were used, my cervix was clamped and pulled down (always fun), and it still hurt. But way less than the others (#4 was particularly traumatic), and with no cramping, and no bleeding. I was deflated but still hopeful.

And the wait began. Oh how I am tired of waiting. But wishing and praying and hoping as hard as I can.

 

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Number five

After what felt like an interminably long wait, my cycle finally started and away we went. The hysteroscopy totally confused my body, obviously, and it was frustrating to say the least.

Back on progynova, it didn’t take long for that familiar exhaustion to set in. I met with my specialist a week in to discuss my surgery, and he was happy with the results and my very quick recovery. Apart from the haze that is general anaesthesia, I had no pain or adverse side effects. Always nice to have a win.

Just under a week later, I turned up for my standard blood test and quickly learned that I was an idiot who had made stupid clothing decisions that morning, having picked a dress with sleeves that don’t roll up. It’s the first (and will now be the last) time I’ve had to undress unnecessarily in a medical office. Luckily the older nurse who was taking my blood was more bemused than anything. “It’ll just have to come off!”, she exclaimed. Well okay, thanks. Off it came.

I think I’ve met everyone at the blood clinic at least twice now. There’s only one same day clinic close to my work, and they open at 7am, so that’s when I go. Sometimes there are 10 people already waiting there (especially on a Saturday as they are the only one open) but sometimes I am the only one there. I’ve gone from a slight needle phobia to just shrugging it off. Which is also funnily enough now my reaction to transvaginal ultrasounds.

Speaking of which, my scan was less eventful. I was at 11mm lining (they like you over 7 or 8) and it had the “triple stripe” appearance, which is best for implantation. We were all set for transfer in 5 days. 5 days til transfer of number 5.

Lucky number 5?

 

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Channeling

I decided that all of this infertility experience and knowledge and pain had to be good for something, so in March/April I took up two new challenges:

I created the Infertility Safe Media Database. I was so tired of being bombarded with hurtful/upsetting content in TV and film, to the point where I’d resorted to watching YouTube playthroughs of horror video games. (Side note: I recommend MrKravin, and John Wolfe).

If every media outlet gives you pain, how do you get through the day? By checking there first. And so far it has been really well received in the infertility community on Reddit and social media. Spread it wide, friends!

I also signed up to be a mentor at Fruitful. It’s a free matching service for people who are relatively close to each other, matching those with¬†experience in infertility to those who need guidance and support. I’ve been matched lately with someone I really like talking to, and it has felt good to share my experience and advice.

They say this affects 1 in 8 people – so the more resources out there the better.

Holding on

So I took a hiatus. From social media, from reading and obsessing, from tracking and counting.

It was good for my heart and soul.

 

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The sadness after transfer #4 was all-encompassing. Going into round 2 we felt so sure that this had all been terrible luck, and we just needed to go again, and pinned far too many starry-eyed hopes on that embryo. The negative result was crushing.

I’d go through my day in a numb haze and then find myself getting into bed at 8pm to cry. I’d try and fill my waking moments with podcasts and YouTube; there wasn’t going to be a moment free to think about the emptiness. My uterus felt heavy and hollow and my chest hurt. Everything hurt.

 

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In early March, I went back to the specialist, and he assured me hope was not lost. He was impressed with our 2 remaining embryos and he felt we had a good chance. But my continued difficulty with transfers was probably affecting our chances, and it was time to do something about it.

We scheduled a hysteroscopy and dilatation. And with my health insurance, we could do it in 2 weeks. It was all go.

Right before I went into hospital for the surgery, we put down a deposit on something very special. And then there was Maisie.

 

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I wasn’t trying to be that infertile woman who gives up and goes and gets a dog, but we decided it was time and we were tired of waiting. Maisie is a spoodle: half poodle, half cocker spaniel, with soft downy fur and sweet eyes. She veers between wild excitement, holding our house hostage with her feistiness, and sleepy puppy. She took over our lives and made us totally forget all of this mess.

Surgery went well and took about 26 minutes, with my surgeon/specialist considering it a success. My uterus looked good, my tubes were clear, and everything was dilated as expected, to help future transfers.

Now, he said, we could get going again. Once my cycle restarted, we’d be back on the drugs. One of these embryos would be thawed and we’d give it all another go.

And so the wait begins.

It’s not fair.

It’s a really hard time for us right now.

We were so grateful and excited to start our 2nd round of IVF last month. I was on a slightly lower dose of medications – the discomfort was lower, the process was easier, and we were blessed to get a good number of eggs again. As usual, we had our typical drop-off, but still had embryos to work with.

Then everything started to crack a little. Despite feeling confident we would be lucky this time, the pregnancies started to happen en masse again. In my infertility group, in my RL friend groups. 2nd children were planned and conceived.

Just like that.

Oh how I envy those with the luxury of being able to plan. Of choosing a time of year that will be convenient for them.

* * *

Almost everyone we know going through treatment is finding success. That magic fix of IVF that they needed? Bam, worked like a charm. First or second embryo transfers, there were the two lines. The positive blood tests. The excited announcements. IVF worked! Like it’s supposed to.

It felt like everyone else was finding it so much easier. And despite our usual: good embryos, awesome lining, responding to everything like a champ? No luck. Embryos just won’t stick. Four in so far, and none want to stay. My transfers are difficult, but the odds surely should eventually be in our favour. Everyone in our team is confused, and my brain is just:

why.

the.

fuck.

not.

This is all we want. We’re ready. We’re trying so hard.

It’s so emotionally exhausting and physically draining. I don’t want to be a negative statistic. Every day I wonder how many cycles we can do it without it just irreversibly changing me.

But then again, I can’t ever stop. I can’t bear the thought of giving up – something has to work sometime, right? We have these frozen transfers, then we try another stim cycle/egg collection, and whatever transfers come from that?

Then what?

Do we pay privately again? Bankrupt ourselves? Borrow money?

Go on the adoption waiting list for the next however many years? (NZ has a tiny number every year).

Try and adopt internationally, for thousands more?

Get an embryo donor? A surrogate?

None of these options feel good right now. None of them feel right, right now.

But the one thing I can’t see myself ever coping with is being childless. I don’t think I could just “get used to” being a couple without kids. Learning to enjoy life without our own family. It’s just not on the cards for me. I don’t want that to be my normal, because it probably will never feel normal.

It’s hard not to feel utterly defeated and that treatment won’t work for us. If we can’t figure out why, then what do we do? Try more transfers and hope it’s a numbers game? Feel like we’re running in circles without a result? It feels futile and heartbreaking and wrong. And so. damn. unfair.

So unfair.

I’m so tired of it.

I’m so scared that it’ll never be us.

We keep being told we’re so young, but we’re 3+ years in and I’ll soon be 34. Yes, we have time, but how much time? How many more years do I mess with my body to try and get just one baby?

* * *

And then the advertising began. I don’t know if it’s my age group or who I follow or what, but instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube… all they serve me are Clearblue test ads, baby lotion ads, nappy ads, and the worst? An ad for my own fertility clinic.

I want to throw my phone in a lake and go live in the woods.

My current plan is a social media hiatus, which I started yesterday. It’s actually kind of refreshing not to be checking and reading obsessively all day. I find myself opening my phone to look and then realising I’ve moved all the apps, and putting it down. Maybe I’ll start actually reading books again.

So for now, I don’t know.

What do I write about?

Everything sucks.

Everything hurts.

We are still failing.

I don’t know what else to do.

But hopefully soon I’ll not feel so broken, and be ready to try again. Right now, no thank you. I am off the hormones, I am off the restrictions, I am off thinking about it constantly.

I’m trying to enjoy life as it comes. I’m trying to focus on work, and losing some treatment weight, and thinking about everything except my empty uterus.

I’m trying to breathe.

Round 2

Here we go again.

Deep breath. In, out. Quiet your brain.

You’ve got some time yet.

Do some yoga.

Drink more water.

Less coffee.

No booze.

Fewer carbs.

More green things.

Try not to worry about the weight you’ve gained in the last few years.

Try not to worry about any other medical issues they may not have found yet.

Try not to worry about getting time off work, it’ll happen.

Try to think of how to write it down on paper. How to express this anxiety that seems to be coursing through everything.

Mute your watch’s heartrate warnings.

Do some more yoga.

Breathe in, out. Don’t forget to do that.

Focus on work during the day, and being calm at night.

Calm. You’re supposed to be calm.

Don’t try to rid yourself of the worrying thoughts. Just turn them down. Lower their volume. You can worry all you like – hell, you’re going to whether you try to or not. Just try and lower the noise.

Think positively. Or something.

Don’t be scared of the negative thoughts, too. It’s normal.

Think about better success rates for round 2. Think about going into it with experience.

Think about the injections being a breeze, the scans being old hat, the ovaries doing their thing.

You’ve done it all before.

You got this.

Just breathe.

Happy new year

2017 was a hard year for us, as it was for many.

There were happy times — friends had lots of positive news to share, we renovated and moved into our lovely home, we spent a lot of time with family, but it was hard. I never expected we’d start treatment in January and finish in September at a dead end.

And now 2018 is here, and we’re set to repeat it all again – but hopefully with better results.

After being back in New Zealand a year, I definitely feel more settled, especially now we have our own home. I’ve spent the last few months trying to put the heartbreak of infertility behind us and out of mind, which is always easier said than done.

In late October we had what some of us call the “WTF” appointment that you have after failure (hate that term though) and our doctor kindly had run further tests to see if there were any genetic/chromosomal abnormalities that he could identify (i.e. are we missing any parts of our chromosomal makeup?) and also ran an antibodies test on me which would highlight some common immune issues. Everything came back clear, and despite it being “unusual” that we would be unsuccessful after 3 embryo transfers, the only real advice he had was what we were expecting: try again.

He said he’d send an enquiry about our position on the funding waiting list, too, seeing as we can’t afford to do another round privately, and he’d let us know.

A few weeks later we received a letter from the ministry funding team. We weren’t up in April or May. We weren’t March. We could start in January.

And now it’s January.

So, my friends, I’ll update when I can, but we’re starting from the top. Stims, scans, egg retrieval, transfer. Hopefully more embryos. Hopefully more luck. Hopefully a baby!

I’m not 100% sure how I feel – why would it work this time when the treatment has done nothing but fail us? But we have to try. Everything we can.

Here’s to 2018. I hope it brings you everything you’re hoping for.