The Easy Bit

 

When it comes to infertility, the male experience is rarely discussed, after all, men have The Easy Bit, right?

The Easy Bit is going to be a feature length documentary about the male perspective of fertility treatment. Ten men will talk openly and honestly about their experiences dealing with infertility and what it is like to go through fertility treatment. They will explain the process step by step, how it effects them and how it changed them personally.

At the end of last year Nic and I decided we would stop trying to conceive and put our Plan B into action. Plan B was a list of all the cool things that we would do as a couple or as individuals in a life without children. We tried to be positive but it was hard, probably the darkest time in my life. I needed something to focus on, I needed something positive to come out of our struggle and pain. I decided to make a documentary that would hopefully help others find an easier way through the ups and downs of fertility treatment.

The Easy Bit was born.

I decided that I wanted to highlight the male perspective of fertility treatment and what the process is like for us. I truly believe that if there was more understanding and support for the men in this process then that would have knock on effect and help them be able to support their partners a lot more effectively through the treatments. I started to work on a format for the film and to think of the best way to capture the emotion and true experience men go through. I was highly driven as I wanted at least some good to come from our unsuccessful story. I suppose at that time it was a way for me to cope with the grief of not having children.

Neither of us were prepared for the shocking twist of falling pregnant. It has completely changed our lives and I am sure it will again when our little girl is born. After we had shared the good news someone asked me if I was still going to make the documentary and there was no doubt in my mind that I would continue.

The Easy Bit is now in preproduction and we have our team in place to make the documentary. Our next step is to raise a budget to make the film, so we have created a Go Fund Me page. On the page you will find more information about the film, including a video of me talking about it, and why we need the money. All donations regardless of size are welcome and very much appreciated, if you can’t donate then please share the link with as many people as you can.

You can find the page here

You can follow the film on twitter @The EasyBitDoc

Thank you for reading and any support you can give this project.

Tom

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An Unexpected Journey

Nic

2016 has been a very strange year. We started the year positively, looking forward to starting our new lives together. We had decided to see a private gynaecologist for advice about my heavy and painful periods, possibly with a view to an ablation or even hysterectomy. Around the same time I ended up in A&E with severe abdominal pains that were thought to be gallstones (very common in patients who have had weight loss surgery), so I was also referred to another consultant for this!

The consultation with the private gynaecologist didn’t really go as we expected! My GP had written to her explaining my hellish periods and the fact we’d been trying to conceive for 11 years and recently had 2 failed IVF cycles. She also explained we had decided to move on from fertility treatments. It appeared to us very quickly that the last sentence had not really registered with the consultant! She went through options for reducing my painful periods that included oral contraception or the coil, neither of which I wanted to try. I asked her about having a laparoscopy, a procedure the NHS refused to do in our years of trying; I wanted to know if there was an underlying cause for my pain, as I had many of the symptoms of endometriosis. The gynaecologist agreed that it would be useful for me to have one. She went on to add that she would do a dye test of my tubes and a cuterage and biopsy of the womb lining at the same time. She went on to explain if she did this and prescribed me clexane, prednislone and progesterone to take after the procedure and for us to “try naturally” I could get pregnant, in fact she seemed pretty convinced I would fall! I felt angry and confused. I didn’t want to try anymore. I didn’t want to take any more drugs or go through the disappointment of BFN tests all over again. We’d been working through grief and were moving on! We left the appointment agitated and felt steam rolled. We didn’t really know what to do or think. But at least I had my laparoscopy booked in for a few weeks time.

Tom

Going into the gynaecology appointment I was very conflicted. On one hand I wanted Nic’s pain and suffering to stop. Every month was a painful and extreme reminder that we would never have children. I hated seeing her in such physical and emotional pain. On the other hand I knew that to truly make that pain go away she would have to undergo a procedure or medication that would completely end all hope of a family. I had been really struggling to come to terms with the fact we may remain childless. It seemed like every advert on TV featured a perfect family, every woman I saw was pregnant or had a child with them. I had to change my route from the tube station to my office to avoid a school that I would often pass as the children were being dropped off. Over the months I had started to come to terms with things. I threw myself into creative endeavours and started to think about making a documentary. The gynaecology appointment completely took me by surprise. I was expecting us to go in and be given some options for Nic that we would then have to think about but I didn’t expect for one minute that we would be told that if she took some meds and we tried naturally that we would get pregnant. She was so sure that it would work that it felt like she hadn’t read our case history or was listening to what we had said. I was convinced it would never work but at the same time we had to try. We had always said that if we were going to be childless then it would be ok as long as we knew we had done everything we possibly could within our means. In a strange way I was resentful that we were being opened up to all the anxiety and pain again but we had to take the chance. I think if we didn’t then we would have regretted it and had to live with that horrible “what if” question over us for ever.

Nic

At the same time, the scan for gallstones showed I didn’t have any! I would have to have blood tests and a gastroscopy. By process of elimination the doctor and I agreed I probably had a gastric ulcer and to start medication to treat this. The gastroscopy was booked in for about a month after the laparoscopy!

We did pick up of the prescriptions for post laparoscopy trying naturally, though we were both skeptical and I really wasn’t keen to try them. The procedure went well with barely any pain. No endometriosis was found. During the dye test, it appeared both tubes were blocked, something that had never showed in previous HSG dye tests! The consultant explained this could’ve been the tubes spasming as they appeared healthy otherwise. The biopsy was clear and everything was healthy. This was reassuring in a way but also made me a bit sad, as there still was no reason for our infertility. Everything was healthy so why didn’t it bloody work!

I was still unsure about the drug treatment post-op. Especially as I had a probably ulcer and both drugs could cause bleeding of said ulcer! I was taking a separate medication (I rattled!) for the ulcer too, so decided to try it out along with our “natural trying” for a few weeks!

After literally a couple of days of the meds, Tom and I talked and decided my health was more important than trying for an unlikely baby. We kept trying through my fertile period but I stopped the meds.

Tom

I was really worried about Nic’s health and especially the effects the drugs for the fertility treatment could be bad for her suspected ulcer. I was doing my best to look after her post operation and making sure she had everything she needed, which usually meant keeping a steady supply of peanut M&M’s to hand. It seemed like it was the only thing Nic could eat and I was hoping that the gastroscopy would find and sort out whatever it was causing her pain. I was completely behind Nic’s decision to not take the fertility medication as I felt that her health was more important than a minuscule chance that we might get pregnant and I figured that if we were supposed to try for three months then we could get the gastric problem out of the way first and still try after that.

Nic

The gastroscopy was booked for Friday 18 March. My period had been due on the 9th March, but I was expecting it to turn up late because of the procedure. I had no thoughts of a positive pregnancy test. As convinced as the consultant was it would work, I wasn’t holding out any hope.

It got to the 15th of March and Aunt Flo still hadn’t turned up. I wasn’t feeling too well and Tom wasn’t at work either. We realised I was late and thought I should probably do a test, just for the sake of it, as I was due to have an anaesthetic in a couple of days. We bought a cheap one from boots.

I went upstairs to do the test. No expectations, no emotion. Tom stayed downstairs and played with our rabbits. I did the test and left it on the side for a bit while I faffed about.

I looked at the test.

I looked at it hard.

What the?

2 lines.

2 strong pink lines.

2.

Not one, 2.

Tears formed in my eyes and I started to shake. A million thoughts and feelings rushed through me. I took the test downstairs, sobbing as I went. Tom asked what the matter was and I showed him the test.

Disbelief.

Both of us in total shock. We hugged as the bunnies ran around wondering what an earth was going on? We didn’t have another test, we’d only bought a single one!

Tom

I was sitting on the sofa cuddling our rabbit Biggles and trying to think of something nice Nic and I could to that evening. I knew Nic thought the test would be negative and so did I but even so seeing a negative test is never nice and I knew that Nic would probably need cheering up. The next think I knew I heard Nic crying and saw her coming towards me in floods of tears. I genuinely had no idea what was wrong, it didn’t even cross my mind that they might be tears of joy. I leapt up from the sofa and ran to comfort her. Biggles was startled and jumped down on to the floor, frightened by my sudden movement. Nic held out the pregnancy test and I just could not believe it. I just stared at it and my brain stopped.

What?

How?

What the fuck?

HOW?

We decided to test again to make sure. I knew I had to go and buy more tests but I just walked around the house in a daze for about twenty minutes before I figured out I needed to put shoes on and go to the shops. I went out and got two ClearBlue digital tests. After getting back and Nic doing the test, it was confirmed.
Peanut-1

WE ARE PREGNANT!!!

WE ARE PREGNANT!!!

WE ARE PREGNANT!!!

Nic

I started the clexane and progesterone immediately. I took the prednislone for a few days but on researching it further, and with the probable ulcer now having to wait indefinitely, I decided as much as we wanted a baby, the risk of internal bleeding was too high.

Our GP was thrilled for us and completed our booking in requesting an early scan, as we’d previously miscarried at 10 weeks and had 2 failed IVFs. We told just a few people our news and we were anxious every day that Peanut (The peanut M&Ms were still high on the menu) might not stick.

The NHS refused to scan early, as we didn’t meet the criteria for our area, so we booked a private scan for 7 weeks and 3 days. At this stage we should be able to hear a heartbeat. I’d had brown spotting nearly everyday, which midwife told us not to worry about but I was convinced there would be no heartbeat at the scan, just like last time. The waiting was excruciating. The other symptoms were good. I had nausea almost every day, very sore boobs, mood swings, but I also knew from our IVF experience that the progesterone can cause similar symptoms, so I still wasn’t convinced everything was OK.

The scan was on a sunday afternoon and we arrived over an hour early at the village it was in! The wait was nerve-wracking and never-ending! The receptionist was friendly and put us at ease. I told her how long we’d been trying and that we were very anxious. Then it was time for the scan! I’d drunk plenty so was busting for a wee! The sonographer was lovely and asked a few questions and I felt at ease with him. I climbed onto the table and waited for the squirt of cold gel. Then I waited for the bad news. A hazy image appeared and then a loud, rhythmic, strong sound. It was peanuts heartbeat and it was strong.

Peanut-2

We saw our little baby come into focus. The sonographer took us through where everything was and that it all looked normal, he then congratulated us. Tom looked in shock and tears rolled down my cheeks. Peanut measured about 5 days smaller than our EDD but we were assured this was fine. We sat in the reception again and waited for our photos, just smiling! We’d never got as far as a heartbeat. It was incredible. I had to keep looking at our scan pictures to believe it was real!

Tom

Before going into our first scan I was really, really nervous. All I could think of was the pain we went through after our miscarriage in 2010 and that I never wanted to feel like that again, especially now after everything we went through to get this positive test. I was very quiet as we went into the clinic as I was trying hard to keep calm. I don’t really remember much about the lead up to the scan I just sat there with my eyes glued to the screen. After watching so many scans over the past I had a pretty good idea of what I was looking for. I knew it would be a small patch of black with a little grey blob inside. I was so on edge and anxious and then all of a sudden my world stopped. There was the black oval of the amniotic sack, inside was a little Peanut and right there flickering on the screen was the beating heart. The sonographer turned up the volume and the sound of my child’s heart reached my ears for the first time and it was the most amazing moment of my life. I looked at Nic and we were both just in shock and awe.

Nic

From there we took each day at a time. We knew the first 12 weeks are a risky time for any pregnancy. Our community midwife was really reassuring and lovely at our booking in. Our first NHS scan had been booked for just over 12 weeks, but we couldn’t wait that long! After loosing our first at 10 weeks we decided to have another scan around this time for our own peace of mind.

We returned to the same clinic, not really knowing what to expect. The receptionist remembered us and we had a nice chat with her. A couple came out of the scan room, the lady fairly heavily pregnant but not looking filled with joy! Nothing appeared to be wrong, but they just didn’t seem that bothered! I thought how much peanut was wanted and was hoping they were still with me and healthy!

We had a different sonographer this time, she also took us through a few questions and then it was table time again! I felt nervous but also excited. Peanut appeared in full view quickly! This time it was clearly a foetus and a very lively one at that! Seeing our little baby kick and wriggle was a moment I will never forget and once again that heartbeat was loud, regular and strong. I had a few tears and lots of smiles. We were amazed at the difference in 2 weeks! Peanut had also caught up a bit with the EDD and was now only 3 days behind. We felt much more positive and hopeful. Things were going well. Peanut is strong!

Tom

I was feeling nervous before the ten week scan but not as nervous as I had been at the last one. I just wanted to hear that sound again. That fast little rhythmic beat that meant everything was ok. The sonographer found Peanut very quickly and immediately I couldn’t believe it. There were little arms and legs wriggling around! I was just hoping to hear the heartbeat and it hadn’t occurred to me that we would see movement so clearly. I was blown away again. I just sat staring at the screen and those little arms and legs. It was a huge relief for us to get this far along. Things started to feel a little bit more real but even so I felt I needed to stay realistic. There was still a long way to go and getting happy and enjoying it felt like tempting fate. It was horrible that any time I felt joy about something that we had wanted so long I immediately felt that I couldn’t let myself feel that way because if I did it would hurt so much more if things went wrong. All this time I was not letting Nic do anything strenuous. I wanted her to rest as much as possible and I was willing to do anything that was needed so that she could just keep Peanut snug and safe.

Peanut-3

Nic

Changes were really happening in my body now. I couldn’t get my jeans on and I had to buy a new bra. Last time I was pregnant this didn’t happen. I felt this was a good sign. My body was changing and peanut was growing. We both felt positive, but still cautious. We are so in love with this little one already. Tom would put his hand on my tummy and send positive vibes and I’d talk with  peanut all the time. Around week 11 all the spotting stopped and the nausea started to diminish too. Everyday there was a few anxious thoughts, and on every toilet stop (which are still increasing!) I would check for bleeding. I’m not sure i’ll stop checking for the next 6 months!

We had decided to have our antenatal care at Princess Alexandra in Harlow. It is our closest hospital and I’d heard good things about the team there. We arrived for our 12 week scan (12+4 to be precise) with excitement more than anxiety this time. I couldn’t wait to see baby again!

We arrived a bit early and sat in the waiting room with many ladies with big bumps! Lots of them looked tired and unimpressed to be there, whereas I was buzzing and chatting away to Tom. After a little wait, we were called through. The sonographer confirmed my details and then it was table time again. She dimmed the lights and squirted the cold gel. That moment of apprehension came across me, but didn’t last long, as what appeared to be a huge baby appeared on screen! Peanut had grown! A lot! In 2 weeks the size had doubled and it was easy to make out arms, legs, feet, heart, brain! In fact, they were now measuring a day ahead of our original EDD! I had a little person in my tummy! “What a cute nose “ said the sonographer! Once again, peanut was lively and had now seemed to have learnt a new game which involved putting their feet on my womb wall and powering themselves backwards (Well, Tom was a high jumper!) I could’ve watched all day! Once again that heartbeat was strong. It does appear, though, that Peanut has inherited our stubbornness, as soon as the lady wanted to measure the Nuchal fold (a check for down syndrome) they stayed very still so she couldn’t get a measurement! Cue mummy having to wiggle hips and cough to try and get them to move.

Nothing.

More wiggling required, only for peanut to completely flip and go upside down! But she did get the reading, which was in a safe margin. We had more photos of our little bubba to take home and now they really did look like a little person!

Peanut-4

Tom

I was surprised at the difference between the seven and ten week scan but I was totally shocked by the development between week ten and twelve. You could see so much and in so much detail! There was a cute little nose and arms wriggling about and some very strong legs. I couldn’t believe the amount of movement, especially when peanut was kicking off Nic and shooting backwards! With each scan there has been something that has left me speechless and to see our little baby developing well and show such strong signs of life is just amazing. Not just that, there was so much character there in that grainy black and white image. Peanut looked like He/She was having fun bouncing about and then that stubborn streak, that both Nic and I have, was very apparent when the sonographer was trying to take specific measurements. Already the behaviour of this little Peanut is making me smile and it is the best feeling in the world. It was at this scan that I realised that I had to enjoy this process. I don’t want to regret spending this time filled with anxiety and fear. If something goes wrong it will be devastating, no matter how much I try and manage my emotions. We are pregnant and it is wonderful, we should be excited and enjoying it. The prints we got from this scan have come out really clear and I love looking at them.

Nic

I had my bloods taken soon after, which is also a test for genetic problems and was so excited I didn’t even feel it! We made our 20 week scan appointment (which seems like ages!) and left buzzing with our photos. Now we could officially break the news. We could tell everyone about peanut!

Everyone has been so supportive and excited, its meant a lot to us. This year has been tough, in fact the last 12 years had been tough. It was hard to let go of hope and change our plans. It was hard to be given a ray of hope again and not know what to do. I guess the procedure and timing just turned out right and gave us the miracle we had been dreaming of. I wake up every day feeling so grateful for this chance and hope peanut is here to stay. We love them very much.

Tom

I was surprised how much I have enjoyed spreading the news of our little Peanut. The response has been amazing and there has been much shock and joy. We know we still have a way to go yet but things are looking good and everything is going smoothly. Nic and I have decided that we will continue to blog throughout the pregnancy. Sharing our experience has been very rewarding for us, even when things didn’t go as planned. We have been incredibly lucky and things have come together under exceptional circumstances. We still have unexplained infertility, we don’t really know why or how this has happened. Every couple is different and no two experiences are the same. It is so difficult to find what is right for you and that magic set of numbers that unlocks the combination lock of fertility. We stumbled across ours through a bizarre turn of events and we have now ended up on this wonderful but totally unexpected journey.

Thanks for reading,

Tom and Nic

Clueless

So we’re just 4 sleeps away from our test day. This cycle has been very different from cycle 1. When we started, neither of us were looking forward to it and we both felt quite negative about possible outcomes after the roller coaster of disappointment last time.

Over the course of the cycle we have both grown in positivity and hope. Again though, it’s been quite a roller coaster; having 9 eggs collected, then 7 mature ones, 4 fertilising and then only 2 embryos left at day 3, the dwindling numbers are pretty unnerving.

Today I’m 8dp3dt (which means in non IVF folk terms, 8 days past a 3 day transfer) Hopefully by now the embies (or at least one of them) will have “hatched” (yes, thats a real thing) and implanted in the endometrium to continue their growth.

Most natural pregnancies are only discovered when a period is late, so most women aren’t aware of whats going on after fertilisation. For IVF couples, this is a luxury we don’t have! We know exactly what our embryo should be doing! This is torturous.

During this two week wait, most women (but not all) will have a variety of symptoms. So far I’ve had cramps, sore, enlarged boobs, nightmares, sex dreams, constipation, fatigue, nausea, hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, hunger and cravings, loss of appetite, wind and bloating.

The trouble with these symptoms is most of them are caused by the hormone we have to take post embryo transfer, progesterone. This lovely hormone can make you feel like the dreaded period is on its way one minute, then certainly pregnant the next. It is a total head fuck! Google is not helpful in this instance. Especially in an emotional state at 3am….

Lots of women decide to test prior to OTD (official test date) but I will stick to Saturday, as tempting as it is to pee on a stick before then! I want to hold on to our embies and our dream as long as I can, and get a definite result. I really do feel full of hope, love and positivity this time. I just hope I’m right. I really do.

Thanks for reading,

Nic

The Dynamic Duo

Tom

On Monday morning Nic and I were startled awake by the phone ringing. Even though we had both woken up from a deep sleep we knew it was Bourn Hall ringing about the embryos.

PANIC!!!

What has gone wrong?!

Are they ok?

Nic speaks to the embryologist on duty. I listen as best I can.

Nic

The Embryologist knew I was worried. I was terrified they’d all stopped cleaving and were not useable. A thousand thoughts raced through my mind. All of them worst case scenarios. She calmly explained that one was an excellent quality 4 cell embryo and the other a good quality 6. The others had divided and then gone backwards, the cells had disappeared again. I didn’t even know that could happen?! She explained these 2 were best off back inside me. I was disappointed we didn’t have the choice to have a strongest one back for a 5 day transfer, as this is generally seen as a higher chance of pregnancy.

Tom

We have a transfer appointment at 12:15

We were shocked. We were told that we would probably have a day five transfer and the phone call would come on tuesday to tell us when the appointment would be. We were also told that no news is good news. I think this is the main reason we panicked and surely this was a less than ideal situation.

Nic

Now I was at panic stations. I needed to start drinking lots as they like a full bladder for transfer. Not easy to drink a lot quickly after a gastric bypass!  I needed to rearrange my acupuncture appointment and try and calm myself. A million more things went through my mind. What if they both take? Why did the 2 others not progress?

I was still in a fair bit of pain from the egg collection and I’d gotten thrush from the antibiotics they give you during the procedure. Great! I’d been hoping if I was having a 5 day transfer I’d have time to get rid of that. I also had the same problem on the last cycle and it makes embryo transfer pretty uncomfortable!

Tom

Nic managed to get hold of her acupuncturist and she has an appointment 2:30.

We would need to leave Bourn Hall at 1:30 at the latest to make it. It was 8:30 now. Nic got up to feed the bunnies and give them a run before we went out. I fell asleep. I don’t know how but I was exhausted and I just needed more sleep. Since the egg collection I have been sleeping a lot. I think  all the stress of the previous weeks has finally caught up with me. Hopefully over the two week wait I will be able to balance looking after Nic and recouping myself. I woke up shortly after feeling refreshed and ready. We left for Bourn at 11:20 and arrived right on time

Nic

I took a couple of paracetamol. We had to wait a while for our transfer, there were a couple of ladies ahead of me. Again, there were a few women having transfer alone, which I felt really sad about. I would’ve hated for Tom to miss our little embies being returned to us! Next it was our turn. Everyone involved with transfer I’d met before which I think makes things easier.

We were taken down to the theatre and had a chat with the doctor who was very reassuring about why they were being put back today. The embryologist then came and explained what had happened. If all 4 had continue to develop, we’d likely had a 5 day transfer but with only the dynamic duo remaining, it was best to get them back to me!

I did feel reassured and now felt quite emotional that the 2 embies would now be returned to us. I did the usual bottom half strip and took up the position in the chair. I held Tom’s hand as the doctor prepared me. The speculum hurt quite a bit as she put it in, as I was quite sore. The theatre sister was trying to find my uterus, but it was being quite tricky and hard to get into focus. Once everything was in place it felt like ages waiting for the embryologist to come back in with the embryos in their little plastic tube! She re-appeared and the catheter was inserted right to the top of the uterus. We watched on the scan as it appeared inside and released our 2 little embryos. I gave Tom’s hand a squeeze and felt my eyes well up as we saw them. They may just be a few cells, but they were ours and I feel attached to them and love them already, as silly as that may sound.

Tom

I would never want anyone to have to go through IVF but sometimes there are moments that are truly special that most couples don’t get to experience. To get to see an embryo transferred into the womb is an amazing achievement for any couple and a moment of great emotion. I am in awe of the science that is giving us our chance and the people who make it possible. Most of all I am in awe of Nic who has to undergo all of these uncomfortable and invasive procedures. Once it is over it is back to the waiting room. Time for a cup of tea.

Nic
IMG_0413

After a bit of a rest, It was time to head off to acupuncture. My acupuncturist gave me a totally relaxing session and I listened to Zita West’s CD as I lay there, focusing on the beginnings of life that had been placed inside me. Sending them positivity, hope, love and light. Visualising them settling in and letting them know how much they are wanted. I felt positive and calm.

The next 2 weeks will undoubtedly have ups and downs and I’m already having plenty of side effects from the Progesterone supplements. My boobs are sore and heavy, I’m moody and emotional, I have a few cramps in my tummy and I seem to be constantly hungry! The symptoms are very similar to pregnancy, but also to being Pre-menstrual, so it’s important to try and ignore them as much as I can. They are pretty meaningless as it could mean things are going either way. I’m also going to try and keep away from google. There’s a saying that our brains are Teflon for positive and Velcro for negative, so anything you heard or read that has a bad ending will stick and cause anxiety.

All we can do now is look after each other during the next couple of weeks and be as prepared as we can for however many lines appear on that dreaded piece of plastic!

IMG_0439

Thanks for reading,

Tom and Nic

The Fantastic Four

I was exhausted yesterday and fell asleep uncharacteristically early, probably due to the GA! I woke up around 7am. Last time we got the call about fertilisation about 8:15am, so I wanted to be up and prepared! So I got up to cuddle our bunnies with a cuppa and the phone to hand and waited…

And waited…

Then I waited some more…

It got to 10am. No news is good news? Or perhaps the embryologist is dreading calling with bad news? The second guessing was kicking in, which is pointless really!

At 10:20 the phone rang. It probably took a few microseconds for me to answer. I confirmed all my details and prepared myself for whatever was coming…

“So of your 9 eggs, 7 were mature for ICSI”

“OK” Thats not bad, I thought. But the next bit is the important bit. I held my breath…

“Of those 7, 4 have fertilised”

“Excellent”

“So we’re looking at a 5 day transfer at the moment”

It’s a sentence I wasn’t sure I’d ever hear! I’m so happy with that result. I just hope they all keep growing and dividing. Unless there’s any change in the plan and some of the embryos are struggling, we’ll get called next on Tuesday for our instructions for transfer! The next few days is us time and we plan to relax and enjoy ourselves together. I think we’ve kinda earned it!

Thanks for reading,

Nic

No Retreat, No Surrender

Nic

Today was the day. I woke up about 5am. I actually felt pretty relaxed and calm. Knowing I was having a General Anaesthetic made a huge difference to me, as I found the procedure so painful last time. Arriving at the clinic, there were 2 ladies ahead of me. The nurses were all lovely , as usual, and the routine was pretty much identical to last time. Blood pressure taken, temperature and a Voltarol suppository. Then change into the gown. The nurse then came to take Tom away with his little pot! It’s a weird feeling when you get separated, and I felt a bit lonely! The anaesthetist came round, who was a lovely chap, just to talk me through the anaesthetic.

Tom

I woke up and was immediately nervous. I have been really relaxed the last few days but today was totally different. Thoughts were creeping into my head and I was letting them get to me. I think it might have been because I am not a morning person so I wasn’t really awake enough to be rational. I kept thinking “What if we don’t get any eggs?” “What if I do something wrong?” “What if I give a bad sample?” Before we left I made sure I drank plenty of water and took my Androferti. I kept thinking over and over “Have I done everything right?” “Is there anything I have forgotten?”. Nic seemed to be in a really good place and I tried to not let my anxiety show. I didn’t want to worry her and effect her mood. We only get two rounds of IVF funded by the NHS and it would be very hard if not impossible for us to go private so I was really feeling the pressure. This could be the last chance and if I do something wrong I will have thrown it away for the both of us. After watching Nic suffer for weeks on end, I have one chance to get my bit right. Something that crossed my mind while we were driving was why don’t men give a backup sample? I would imagine that fresh sperm is better that frozen but it would certainly take the pressure off knowing that if something goes wrong there is a plan-B in place.

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Once we arrived I tried to keep calm and focus. Everyone was lovely as usual and the nurses came round to explain everything and get all the paperwork done. It wasn’t long before I was taken to the room. The nurse treated me like this was my first time and I didn’t mind though, as I felt being shown everything again was a good move. She showed me the hatch and procedure for dropping off my sample before taking me up to the room. It was a different one from before and the main difference was there was no bed, just a chair. She showed me the sink, the soap and the laminated instruction sheet. Once she left I read the instructions carefully and followed them to the letter. The chair made things a little awkward in terms of getting the angles right and spent a little time trying to figure out exactly how I was going to get my sample in the pot. Once I was happy I had a plan I tried to relax and get in the mood, a very hard thing to do when you have so much pressure and anxiety. I managed to get the job done and was fairly happy with the result. I filled out the final bit of paper work and went to the hatch. When I got back to Nic I told her that all had gone ok but then to my horror I realised I had written the wrong time on the form. The time the sample is produced is really important and I had got the minutes right but for some reason I thought it was an hour later than it actually was. Would this confuse the embryologists? Would they wonder how I had produced time travelling sperm? Would they think these sperm from the future were friend or foe? Would we be hunted down by a T-800? Have I watched too much sci-fi? I informed the nurses and they didn’t seem remotely bothered so I assume this happens a lot. They said they would let the lab know the correct time.

Nic

Not long after Tom returned, I was taken away to theatre. It was nice to see some familiar faces and I knew I was in good hands. I was asked my name, date of birth and strapped up to the ECG, BP and Heart rate monitor. Everything was done quite quickly; it was a bit like an F1 pitstop! The anaesthetist put the cannula in my arm with ease for a change, and then just a few minutes later, I felt a cold feeling and then a funny taste in my mouth and then I was asleep!

Tom

I sat alone and my anxiety returned. I had this horrible image of Nic returning and being told we didn’t get any eggs. I don’t know why this was plaguing me because all our scans had been pretty positive and we had some good looking follicles. I distracted myself by looking at twitter and finding games on my phone and going to get tea.

Nic

I started to wake up as I was being moved and it sounded like the nurses were saying the number 9 a lot. I wasn’t fully with it, so it didn’t occur to me they could be referring to egg number. We got 9. What? 9?! What, me?! 9? I felt elated and completely proud of myself (Could’ve been the drugs!) Thats more than double what we got last time and this time we’re having ICSI. I’m struggling to keep from being over-excited, as I know it’s still unpredictable what will happen next; we learnt that from the last round! But I do feel hopeful and I know we’ve done all we can to make this work.

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Tom

When they wheeled Nic back round, she was grinning like an idiot and was extremely spaced out. It was clear that she was barely awake. The nurse was very quiet so I had no clue about how well it had gone. The anaesthetist checked on Nic and they took her blood pressure. Once the staff had drifted away Nic started babbling a little. She was talking very quietly and I thought she said “We got nine”

“What?”

“We got nine eggs”

“Really!? Is that what they said?”

“Nine?”

“Yeah”

“Nine?!”

“Yeah, I love general anaesthetic”

“Are you joking? We got nine?!”

I don’t know why I thought Nic would joke about something like this but I was so, so shocked that we got nine eggs I just couldn’t believe it. The nurse confirmed it and tears were welling up in my eyes. This is the best chance we have had and I am so proud of Nic and what she has gone through to get this far.

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Nic

We both had an afternoon nap and I now feel pretty achy, constipated and still bloated. Hot water bottle, Paracetamol and hope is the plan for this evening! I still can’t believe it and just hope our eggs and sperm are working as a team as much as we have!

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Thanks for reading,

Nic and Tom

A Shot In The Dark

Nic

Today was day 15 of the stimulation process and our fourth scan. There were 4 large follicles above 17mm and my endometrium was over 11mm. At last we were given the go ahead to trigger tonight at 9:30pm, with egg collection taking place on Friday morning.

I felt an emotional release after this news. We’re at the point now where we’ve done everything we possibly can; the rest is down to science! I don’t feel nervous about the procedure, as I’m having a General Anaesthetic and I’ve had several before. I do feel a bit nervous about if the ICSI will work and if whatever eggs we get will fertilise. But there’s nothing either of us can do to affect that.

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The trigger injection itself is very similar to the Gonal F injection. It comes in a single use pen and you have to administer the whole dose at a very specific time, as egg collection will take place exactly 35/36 hours afterwards. The trigger allows the eggs to mature and be ready for collection. I also had to do one final dose of buserelin. Tomorrow there are no injections; these 2 were the last ones for this cycle! Hoorah!

TRIGGER 2

I think mostly, I’m feeling relieved that the end is in sight, whatever the outcome. If we fall pregnant, brilliant, it’s what we’ve been striving for, for almost 12 years. If we don’t, we have so many things we want to do as a couple. I’d like to change career. Tom has always wanted to make a feature film. I’d like to study more. So many things have been put on hold for so long in pursuit of one goal.

We had our final acupuncture sessions prior to collection this afternoon. I felt lots of vibration and very tingly throughout my body and very calm after the session. As I was having my session, I sent lots of positive, nurturing thoughts to my womb and ovaries. A few years ago, I would’ve laughed at these type of ideas, but through my studies in counselling and mindfulness, I’ve appreciated more how the mind can affect changes in the body. I feel confident both of us have given our all and I feel excited about whatever life has in store for us!

Tom

I feel very similar to Nic after today. I feel totally relaxed, peaceful and ready for whatever happens. I also had an acupuncture session today and I would highly recommend it to both partners going through IVF. Not only does it help with stress but it is something you can both experience together which is really important.

Today’s session was a little different to usual. I went in and had the normal “How are you?” conversation. I was then told that todays treatment would be “to help my side of things.” I wasn’t sure what that meant but I didn’t question it. So far I have just surrendered myself to acupuncture and let it do its thing. As it transpired, I had to lie face down and I had needles placed in my feet, ankles, legs and lower back. I was left alone to relax. Then something strange happened. Normally I just feel really relaxed while having acupuncture but I had never experienced the tingling sensation that Nic had talked about. As I lay there, I felt waves of energy move through my body. It was very odd and as I lie in bed writing this, I still don’t understand it or what it does. All I know is that it must be doing something, as I have mildly achy plums.

Thanks for reading,

Tom and Nic

Partners In Crime

It was our third scan today. All the follicles are continuing to grow steadily. On the right side the big one is up to around 17mm and there are a couple of smaller ones tagging along. The left side follicles seem to be at an average of 14mm and all quite even, which is good. They were rather difficult to see though as Nic’s left ovary likes to hide. It was decided that plan A would be to have another scan on Wednesday and that Nic was to remain on a Gonal F dose of 300. Plan B would be based on the results of a blood test and they would ring us to let us know of any change, this is the point I left the room. One part of my roll as partner is to drive home after Nic has had a procedure and the last thing we needed was for both of us to feel nauseous.

After Nic had her blood test we sat in the waiting room while they sorted out her next set of medication. There were a few other people drifting in and out. There was a couple who looked very nervous, they were taken away by the consultant so I assumed they were here for their first consultation. There was a woman who had brought her mother along for support while she had whatever appointment she had. There was a woman who I had seen before, last time she was with another woman that I assume was her sister. They looked similar and spoke to each other like siblings rather than partners but this time she was alone. I honestly know nothing about these particular people or what their situations are but It made me think that I am very fortunate to be able to come to all of Nic’s scans. I want to be there for her every step of the way and I am really glad I can be. It must be really hard for those who can’t take their partners and it must be tough on the partners who are unable to make it. I would imagine that the main reason partners are not always present is due to work, especially on a week day like today. Recently I have been looking into information for partners about what it is like to go through this process but all I find are patronising articles telling you to do housework and “look after” your wife while she is emotionally unstable. I honestly think that if people understood more about what it is like for a partner then we would get more support that would in turn help us support our spouses as they get poked and prodded and suffer with mood swings.

I shall keep looking but if I can’t find anything I may just make it myself.

Thanks for reading,

Tom

That’s No Moon

Tom

Yesterday we had our second scan.

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Things are progressing well and all the follicles are growing at a steady rate. I will let Nic go though the details of the actual scan as she is best placed to talk about the procedure. From my point of view it helped me feel more positive about this round. Everything was as it should be and that is all you can ask for. You can’t second guess what will happen or whether things are working or not, you can only look at each phase, one at a time. Egg collection is fast approaching, although we don’t know exactly when yet, and I am feeling calm, at ease and as prepared as I can be. I am still taking Androferti as a supplement to help increase my sperm quality and our acupuncturist wants to see me within the 48hrs prior to egg collection. I finally feel ready for this round and like I am in the right head space to help Nic as much as I can and be the support she needs.

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Nic

Definitely feeling more positive after our last scan. The follicles looked quite a lot larger and more defined and had a lot of even size which means there’s been some steady growth. My endometrium is also pretty thick at around 10mm. My left ovary has definitely taken the lead this time, whereas the right was in charge last time! The only problem being, the left ovary is quite hard to get to, which makes scans pretty painful. I’m having regular acupuncture too, which I’m finding really beneficial. The day before the scan, my acupuncturist used moxibustion on me, a process of using a warm herb stick over acupuncture points. She did this over each ovary and it felt lovely.

I’m definitely feeling the side effects of the increase in Gonal F. My pelvic area feels very heavy and swollen, I am needing a wee more often, my moods are swinging wildly and my appetite and digestion are all over the place!

Yesterday, I hit a small vein when injecting my Gonal F. It’s very easy to do after 4 weeks of injecting; you’re constantly looking for a new spot on the tummy to inject! It was pretty sore and came up in a little lump and bled for a while. I’d just like to say to fellow IVF-ers don’t worry when this happens. Its pretty inevitable when you’re injecting for so long and for the latter part of the cycle on the long protocol doing at least 2 injections per day!

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Our next scan is on Monday morning so we will blog with another update then.

Thanks for reading,

Tom and Nic