Tomorrow Never Dies

The two week wait is over. It is one of the most testing and mentally tough experiences we have ever endured and it all ends with pissing on a stick.

By the time we reached that fateful moment we were emotionally exhausted. The last few days have been really hard. Despite all the distractions and activities we had the last 72 hrs have been a bombardment of “Will it?” “Won’t it?” thoughts until eventually you are left numb and empty, completely unable to think clearly. The answer to every question you ask yourself is “I don’t know”.

We always thought that this test would be preceded by a sleepless night but to be honest we were so worn out by uncertainty that we went to bed as usually and both slept ok.

We went and purchased a First Response Early Result test yesterday as they have a much higher sensitivity to HCG (the pregnancy hormone) than the test kit the clinic gave us.

This morning I felt quite strange. I felt a sense of pragmatism and that whatever the result we have a plan. We have each other. Everything would be OK.

I decided to do both tests at the same time. When I woke up I really need a wee, so ran downstairs for a suitable receptacle to use!

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The First response is a simple dip test, so I did that one first. The clinic one comes with a little pipette to use, so then did that one.

Then came the wait. At least this one was short.

Both tests showed only the control line. There wasn’t even a faint trace of a second line. Over the last 10 years, I’ve got very used to seeing this, but it never gets easier.

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We were quite prepared for it to be a negative result. The emotions are hard to describe. There is sadness but not as much as we were expecting. Disappointment is probably a better description of the overriding emotion but there is also a sense of relief that we can now focus on what happens next. The uncertainty has gone and we are back in control. We can start to make decisions again, we can plan and we can look at all of the positive things we have learnt and experienced.

We still need to do the confirmation test next week and as we have learnt this process is unpredictable and that there maybe an unexpected twist waiting round the corner, who knows.

Thanks for reading,

Tom and Nic

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Under Siege

The two week wait is widely regarded as one of the hardest parts of the IVF process and mostly because, aside from the administering of progesterone, nothing happens. When I mean nothing happens, I mean nothing. There is no going shopping, no going for a walk, no driving, no spelunking or sky-diving and definitely no triathlons. All you can do is just sit there and count the days, hours, minutes and seconds until that test. That all important piss on a stick day. I decided that I would take the first week off work so that I could be with Nic and we could sit and wait together. The trouble of just sitting and waiting is that all that runs through your mind is

“Has this worked?”

“It probably hasn’t.”

“But maybe it has, maybe this is our time.”

“Are these pains normal?”

“How many days left?”

This just keeps going round and round, driving you mad. We decided that we just couldn’t so that. So we came up with a plan. A whole bunch of distractions that would keep us occupied and make the time fly by. At least we hoped. Before we get to that Nic wanted to write a bit about what she has experienced and how it has affected her.

 

The “Two Week Wait” (or 2ww) is renowned in the IVF community as the hardest part of the “journey”. It’s not really been what I expected. I had expected to have a perfect 5 day blastocyst to be transferred and some quality embryos to freeze. In the end we were very fortunate to get one. Our “Lazy”, the name I’ve given our 3 day, 3 cell late fertilising embryo!

I’ve been taking it ridiculously easy since transfer. And it’s really boring! I’ve been trying to keep myself busy creatively, as Tom will explain, and I have been trying to keep as relaxed as possible.

The Progesterone you take after transfer is nasty stuff. It’s to supplement the endometrium and help sustain any pregnancy. If we get a positive, I have to use this for 12 weeks! I started on Crinone Gel but swiftly switched to Cyclogest pessaries after having a reaction to it. The side effects mimic some of the symptoms of PMT and some of the side effects of pregnancy, which is a bit of a head fuck! Today I’m 8 days past the transfer and so far I’ve had: spotting (light spots of blood), various states of cramping, constipation, massive appetite and cravings, mood swings, sore boobs, weight gain and bloating.  Lovely list, eh?

It’s really hard not to feel anxious at this time and “symptom spot”. Logically you’d think cramping and bleeding is a bad sign, right? Apparently not. Many women go on to have positive tests with these symptoms early on. Social media may be looked down upon by some, but without the lovely people on Twitter and Facebook, I’d be much worse off. It’s so useful to have access to other people who’ve been through what you’re going through, as it can be such a tough and lonely time.

I must say, if I’m honest, I’m surprised I haven’t started my period already. I really thought the odds were stacked too high against us. But now, 8 days on, I’ve become attached to the idea that Lazy has held on and that scares me a bit, because I know i’m going to be heartbroken on Thursday if we get a negative result.

A lot of ladies that go through IVF tend to test before their official test date given by the clinic. It’s a personal choice but I feel this is the wrong thing to do for me. Testing too early will give a negative because there’s not enough pregnancy hormone (HCG) being released in the urine, even if the embryo has embedded into the endometrium. It can also give a false positive if the “trigger” injection hasn’t left the system. This would drive me crazy! I will be testing on Thursday morning. Keep your fingers crossed for me, Tom and Lazy! 10 years in the making – I hope it’s made it. – Nic

 

So where do we start with the distractions?

Movies!

DVDS

Nic and I are huge film fans, as you may have noticed within this blog. We have an extensive DVD and Blu-ray collection as well as subscriptions to Netflix and Sky Movies. We watch lots of different types of films as well as TV show box sets, lately we have been working our way through the Columbo Box set.

In addition to the films and TV shows we decided that we would get creative. The trouble with creative endeavours is most of them require some form of talent. We managed to find a few things that are great creative distractions with no skill or talent required.

I have already mentioned my love of Lego and it is a great       way to unwind. It is fun to build and all you have to do is follow the instructions. I particularly like the movie tie-ins like   Jurassic World, Back to the Future, Lone Ranger and Ghostbusters.

LEGO

Much like Lego colouring in is no longer just for kids. We had heard that there has been a trend recently for adults to relax by doing colouring. Online we found a whole series of colouring books designed to be a relaxation tool. We could easily while away an evening with a season of The West Wing and the gentle sound of pencil on paper. I highly recommend this as a good way to keep your brain occupied. Just make sure if you are doing this with your partner you have plenty of pencils and two pencil sharpeners. Colouring is relaxing, arguing over who broke the cobalt blue is not.

COLOURING

After spending some time colouring in I decided that I needed to take it to the next level.

Painting by numbers.

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In only a matter of hours you too can create mediocre paintings of horses who look a few straws short of a bale. Much like the colouring in, it is a creative endeavour that requires no skill at all. For some reason I prefer to paint horses but there were plenty to choose from. You could paint some awkward looking dolphins swimming towards a dayglo sunset or a lazy eyed tiger trying to look majestic in a jungle scene.

 

Once in the creative zone it was time to break free of the constraints of staying between the lines.

Nic decided that she would like to try her hand at jewellery making. For the last few weeks our postman has been laden down with beads and wire, no wonder he always looks so grumpy. She is currently trying to decide what to do with them all! She has created an Etsy shop to sell some of them and others she will keep for herself.

BEADS

Currently my main hobby is photography and I have a small camera collection of film and digital cameras.

CAMERAS

Some belonged to relatives and others I picked up cheap on eBay. I find it really relaxing to wander around snapping street shots, portraits or landscapes. You can see more of my best photos here:

https://www.flickr.com/photos/tootalltom1313/

but here are a few examples.

My Soulmate

Blossom

Lunch with a Young Dancer

If there is anything you can do to stop yourself getting sucked into that horrible vortex anxiety that is the two week wait then do it. This is what we have come up with and would love to hear about anything else people do or if anyone has any suggestions then please let us know. You can never have enough to do during the two week wait.

Thanks for reading,

Tom and Nic

WE GOT ONE!!!

The last few days have been exhausting.

We have had an overwhelming response to the last blog post with over 1000 views and loads of messages of support. We are so grateful for everyones kind words and stories of success, it really helped us keep focused on the positive aspects of this cycle.

At the end of the last blog I said it would be the last one for a while but in keeping with our new government it appears I was lying through my teeth. Friday started with some unexpected results. Nic and I decided that on Thursday we would watch the alternative election coverage on Channel 4, it was a really good satirical look at the events of our election even if the result was not what we were hoping for, being NHS funded patients after all! We actually ended up staying up all night and it wasn’t until around 7am Friday that we went to bed.

At 9am the phone rang.

It was Bourn Hall.

One of our eggs had unexpectedly fertilised and assuming the cells divided we would be doing embryo transfer the following day. The embryologist said she would call back on Saturday morning to confirm whether the cells had divided and the procedure would go ahead.

Wait what!?

When the embryologist had originally rung on Thursday they had mentioned they would monitor the eggs for another day just in case anything happened but the chances were slim. In fact the chances of this happening are so slim it wasn’t even worth thinking about.

We were shocked and so was the embryologist.

Nic is a born researcher and there is nothing she can’t get information about. She is one of those people who likes to find out everything she can about a situation or procedure so she has all the facts at her disposal. Her natural reaction was to see if she could find any information about this happening and she did, but very little. There is hardly any information out there.

The stories she did find were not overly positive. Most ended with a negative pregnancy test at the end of the two week wait so we have to be very prepared for that.

We were both in a complete daze. We couldn’t sleep and we had no idea what to do. We agreed that we would not tell anyone what had happened until we knew whether embryo transfer would take place. We didn’t want to get everyones hopes up and have to explain what had happened only to disappoint everyone again the following day. We also agreed to look at this as a way to gather information that may help us improve our chances next time. We were neither pessimistic or optimistic but realistic. The odds are really against us but you have to be willing to just go with the flow sometimes. A 1% chance is better than 0% after all.

So what do you do while you wait in a daze? For me there was only one course of action available.

Go and buy some Lego.

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We went out and I bought some Lego and Nic bought some more supplies for her jewellery making.

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We have embraced doing creative activities as a way to help us fill time and keep our minds occupied. I intend to do a full blog on this subject so watch this space!

Once we returned we watched a bit of the Spanish Grand Prix practice session and then the exhaustion hit us both and we went for a lie down until the evening.

We chilled out with a curry and a few episodes of West Wing before trying to get some more sleep.

We both woke up around 8:30 in anticipation of the phone call from the embryologist. We were very prepared that the cell division would not have occurred because it seemed so unlikely. It was a brief call but a surprising one. The cells had indeed divided and we had a three cell embryo that had been classed as “good quality”

It is not the highest rating but considering the circumstances it is very good. Again we were quite dazed as we really did not expect this.

Our appointment was set for 12:15 and we arrived at a sunny Bourn Hall in good time. The Nurse who had escorted me to do my sample was the one who greeted us and went through what would happen. She handed us two pregnancy tests and some information sheets. She was very upbeat and was keen to point out that any chance is a chance and all chances are worth taking.

We were then sat in the waiting room until it was time for us to go through. This time the nurse who came to get us was the one who had taken Nic for her egg collection so we were seeing lots of familiar faces. We were taken through to the transfer suite and we met the embryologist and the Dr. Nic assumed the position and we were all ready to go.

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On the ultrasound Nic’s endometrium looked very good and the Dr called for the embryo. The embryologist then disappears back into the lab before returning with a small syringe with a long thin catheter attached. It was seeing that syringe that had the most impact on me. I was just in awe of the whole process and that potential life could be so tiny and delicate but was robust enough to go through this process. It really made me appreciate the effort and expertise that goes into helping us achieve our dream. They tried with a very fine flexible catheter first but they couldn’t get it to the right place so they had to get a thicker rigid one which was quite painful for Nic based on the amount she was crushing my hand.

On the ultrasound it was very easy to see the catheter and the little puff of liquid as embryo was transferred. It truly was a phenomenal thing to watch.

Once the transfer was done we asked the Dr and embryologist about our chances and if they knew why we might have had a late fertilisation. The answer surprised us a little. Apparently three of our four eggs were mature and one was immature. They think that the sperm didn’t interact with the mature ones and the immature one actually matured in the petri dish at just the right time for the sperm to fertilise. It really highlighted to us how the conditions and timing are critical. They said that they would consider this as late maturation rather than later fertilisation so actually our chances are closer to normal than we thought.

As you can imagine we are totally emotionally exhausted after the past few days and we are just taking each day as it comes and trying very hard not to second guess or plan. We are cautiously optimistic.

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Thank you for reading,

T

A Hard Day’s Night

Yesterday was egg collection day so we decided that we would each write a section of this post going through both sides of the experience. We also decided that we would delay posting it until we had the fertilisation result which you can find at the end.

So here we go,

Tom

I have to say that this is a very bizarre process for the man and I was unprepared for the conflict of emotions and the procedure in general. All along, whenever the egg collection day is spoken about, the sperm sample is often mentioned as an after thought and usually turned into a bit of a joke.

You will get used to hearing the following sentences:

“You’ve got the easy bit!”

“All you have to do is wank/jizz/cum in a cup!”

“At least your bit is fun.”

The reality is far from simple. All you are told is abstain from ejaculating for three to five days before giving the sample. I wish I had been told a bit more about the specifics, so here it is, a balls out account of what happens… literally.

On arrival you have to fill out a form with things like date of last ejaculation, any medication or illness and time of sample. You fill everything in except the time of sample. With the form is a cup with all your and your partners details on. When it is time you are collected by a nurse who leads you away. As I was being shown through the corridors the nurse turned to me and said

“Is this your first time?”

“Er… yes”

“Have you seen “The Hatch”?”

I had no idea what she meant and was wondering if it was a popular TV show or something.

“Er… no.”

“I will show you “The Hatch””

It was like being in a spy movie where I had stumbled into a coded conversation. I will come back to “The Hatch” in due course. I could tell you now but who doesn’t love a bit of mystery hatch action.

Eventually you get to the room and nurse shows you a list of instructions for the procedure and how to work the DVD player in the room. It amused me that both of these fact sheets were laminated. You are also told about the DVDs and magazines at your disposal but I’ll get back to that later. Let me tell you about the procedure. It is very clinical and important that it is all done properly. First you have to wash thoroughly as instructed. There is special soap you have to use and you have to wash your hands and gentlemen parts at least three times. Now washing a man sausage thoroughly without a shower is rather awkward but they have a rather unique solution. There is a sink to wash your hands in and a sort of bidet for your chap. You sit on it backwards facing the wall and rather than a jet it has a standard mixer tap. It is worth spending some time playing with the temperature and getting it right before you start as boiled bellend is not going to help anyone. Once you have washed you need to get your pot and remove the lid.

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The rules for the pot are very strict.

You must not touch the inside of the pot with any part of your body, that includes your todger.

If you miss you miss the pot but hit your hand you are not allowed to scrape that into the pot.

If you miss you must inform the embryologists.

You must write down the exact time of ejaculation on your form.

So you’ve washed your John Thomas and you’ve prepped your pot, you are good to go. Except this whole process is the least sexy, most unerotic lead up to a wank you will ever experience.

To help with this situation you are provided with magazines and DVDs.

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The selection was varied from soft to extreme and appeared to cater for most tastes as far as I could tell. To be honest though it just didn’t feel right to use pornography in this situation. Especially when your partner is about to endure being stabbed repeatedly in the ovary. It makes the whole idea of “pleasuring” yourself rather unappealing.

You really have to work hard to put everything out of your mind and concentrate literally on the job in hand. If I have to do this again I think I would plan in advance and make sure I had something that I knew would make the arousal process easier. To be honest I would rather that side of things involved Nic as she is my soulmate and we are doing this together. I would prefer that any potential child was created with our love in mind and not some random porn DVD.

As for the act itself it can be quite nerve-wracking as it really is a one shot deal. I am a pretty reasonable marksman with a nerf gun but this really matters and requires a particular skill set. After weeks of injections and mood swings and pain and scans I can’t screw this up by missing the pot. Even though I have had to give a sample before and it was in a similar pot it was never under the same pressure. My advice is before you have to abstain, practice. Find a pot of similar size and get a technique down.

Thankfully all went to plan and I hit the bullseye with no issues. The sense of relief was huge in all respects!

Once you are done and have written down the time on the form you take your sample and paperwork to “The Hatch”. This is a hole in the wall with a sliding door and a doorbell. You open it, place your sample inside, close it and ring the bell.

That is it. You are done.

You go back to your partner and wait for them to finish.

Nic

So, everything I’ve done so far is to get to this point. Everything. From the day we decided to start trying. The continuous tests, the weight loss, the hurdles, the injections, all of it. Last night I felt anxious. What if there’s no eggs? Are they gong to sedate me or give me General Anesthetic? Is it going to hurt? Will Tom’s sample be ok? What if our eggs and sperm won’t mix? Will we need ICSI? All these things kept running through my mind. At the same time, I didn’t want be negative; I wanted to be positive like everyone kept telling me to be. On an almost never-ending basis!

I woke fairly early and showered with sanex.  The advice suggests to keep things as unperfumed and chemical free as possible. No make up, no deodorant and no perfume! I wanted to follow all the “rules” as much as i could. My tummy felt heavy and sore.

At Bourn Hall we had a bit of a wait for a bed. Tom found a photography magazine to read but I couldn’t concentrate on anything. The nerves were increasing. And I was hungry and thirsty! Last food was 11pm and last drink 1am.

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We were shown to our little booth on the ward which was really comfortable. The nurse was great and I had my blood pressure & temperature done, pre-op questionnaire and given some leaflets on recovery etc. I got changed into my huge robe and got snug in my dressing gown.

It wasn’t long before Tom was carted off with his little pot to do his duty!

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There were some other ladies on the ward. One of them had a young child with them. I found this a bit insensitive. Of course, it gives hope that IVF works and I don’t begrudge anyone having children, but on the ward for egg collection, feeling nervous and emotional as it is, I found it a little distressing and uncomfortable.

Another nurse came and gave me a temazepan and a diclofenac suppository. I was hoping they’d work, but neither of them did. The doctor then came round to ask and answer questions. It turned out I was having IV sedation not GA (which i’d have preferred). This made me a bit more nervous. I’d heard egg collection was painful and also hurt quite a few stories of sedation not working for people.

Next appeared the theatre sister to collect me in a wheelchair. We went through the pre-op questions again and she checked I was who I said I was! She asked if I felt woozy from the temazepam – sadly not I said! Then we were off. I really wish Tom could’ve been with me. It’s such an important procedure, it would’ve been so much of a comfort if he’d been there to hold my hand.

In the theatre there were 3 other staff. 2 other nurses and the doctor. After getting comfy on the table and reconfirming who I was again, they got to work. The nurse had a go at trying to cannulate my left hand; my left arm/hand are notoriously difficult to get needles into! The poor nurse had 2 goes and gave up and switched to the left which played ball first time. The first bit of sedation went in. No effect. The doctor started by washing my lady garden with some cold alcohol type stuff and then put the speculum in which was also pretty cold and uncomfortable. Some antibiotics went into the cannula but no more sedation and I was still wide awake and aware of everything. Then the doc hit my cervix with the local anaesthetic. Ouch that really hurt. Then the other side of cervix. Still ouch! I made this known to the nurse and she hit me up with some more sedation. Still nothing. This wasn’t working, but I realised there wasn’t much I could do about it now. Lets just get through this!

The probe was passed inside me and the eggs were collected. It seemed very quick, which I was thankful for as it hurt a lot. But I was also worried it was over so quick that they hadn’t collected many eggs. I was right. 4 eggs had been collected. I felt devastated. All this waiting, all these injections, all this anticipation, all those follicles and 4 eggs. I felt a failure and that I’d let us down. I got myself up off the table and there was a lot of blood and I felt in a lot of pain.

I was wheeled back to Tom and told him the news. He didn’t seem disappointed at all, but I got really upset. I was hoping for at least 6.

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I was given some paracetamol for the pain, which didn’t touch it really. They gave me a nice croissant and some jam and Tom had some biscuits.

I just wanted to go home now, so went to the loo and there was still a lot of blood and it really stung! We got ready and left. All I could keep thinking all the way home was what could I have done differently to give us more eggs? I should’ve eaten better. I shouldn’t have had any coffee. I blamed myself. Why is my body so shit, I was thinking?

I announced the news through social media and to family. The usual response; keep positive. I’m trying, I really am, but tonight I just feel petrified that none will have fertilised and we’ll have to start again from the beginning.

I slept for about 4 hours when I got home and then had to do my first application of Crinone – the progesterone gel that helps the lining of the womb. The last thing I wanted to do was put anything else into my poor bits, but it had to be done! After application, its necessary to walk around for 20 minutes, so I paced round the house. The pain was still pretty full on, so I kept my hot water bottle close by!

So that is the egg collection process from both sides We had completed the hard part… or so we thought.

Nic and I had spent so long getting to that point we hadn’t really considered what came next. Everyone had said the two week wait was really difficult because of all the anxiety but no one had mentioned the wait between egg collection and fertilisation confirmation. We tried to distract ourselves by watching films and doing creative projects but at 3am we were still wide awake. We both did manage to get some sleep but it wasn’t great.

Finally this morning the phone rang.

Nic answered it and I watched on.

“Ok”

“Ok”

“Ok”

“right”

“What happens next?”

“ok”

That was it. One short phone call and our world came crashing down, our journey has come to a screeching halt.

None of the four eggs fertilised.

I cannot describe how we feel right now. I don’t know what we will do next. This will probably be the last blog for a while.

Thank you, everyone for your support and thank you for reading,

Tom and Nic.

Scanners

Nic was back in the chair today for our third scan.

The Chair

This scan was a bit like the first one. It was fairly quick and quite matter of a fact but thats all it needed to be. It was really just to check that the rate of growth of the follicles was consistent and moving in the right direction.

Ovary Scan 3 1

The right ovary is still looking good and there has been a couple of mm growth in all the follicles. The rate of growth between the second and third scan is roughly the same as between the first and the second which is good.

Ovary Scan 3 2

Again it was a bit difficult to see the left ovary and the nurse suggested that Nic might need to have her egg collection under general anaesthetic rather than sedation. We don’t really mind how they do it as long as it is effective and as pain free as possible. Nic has had a couple of general anaesthetics before, one for her gastric bypass, another for a metal plate in her wrist, not to mention two hysteroscopys, so she is no stranger to being knocked out. The left ovary is a little bit behind the right in terms of overall sizes still but like the right the rate of growth is nice and steady. Everything is moving in the right direction and to help things move a little quicker it was decided that Nic’s dose of Gonal F should be increased from 200 to 225 for the next two days and we will go back for a forth scan on Monday.

I mentioned in the last post a sign in the waiting room at Bourn Hall, well there was no one else in the around so we grabbed a photo with it as it is a very important thing to remember!

IVF Journey

Thank you for reading,

Tom