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

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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
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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!

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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.

TRIGGER 1

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

The Stimulation Game

Nic

Today was day 7 of stimulation. So far I’ve been taking 225ui of Gonal F. On our last cycle, I started on 150, rising eventually to 225 as my ovaries didn’t respond very well.

I’ve really felt the side effects of the medications this time. The stimms have hit me hard! I’ve had quite a lot of acne, really bloated tummy and a lot of pain too.

So that means it’s working, right? It must be growing loads of follicles, surely?

Today was our first scan. The scan was uncomfortable and pretty painful. The nurse found a small cyst on my cervix but said this was nothing to worry about. She first scanned my right ovary, which was the better responder on our last cycle. She found 3 small follicles. On the left there were more follicles which were a bit larger, but still only 5. The decision was taken to increase the dosage to 300ui and scan again on Friday.

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I felt disappointed, upset, angry and confused. How could it be hurting so much and not working any better than last time? What could I have done better? I should have eaten more protein. I should have taken more supplements.

I got stuck in this cycle for a few hours. I took it out on Tom. I felt useless, a failure. Why won’t my body respond? Why does this have to be so hard?

Luckily I had also booked an appointment for acupuncture this afternoon which relaxed me and gave me time to practice some mindfulness and self-compassion.

Tom

This scan has crept up on us a bit. The last time we were at Bourn Hall was our meeting with the consultant, every other communication has been done via email or phone. It was a little  strange to be back and it made this cycle a bit more of a reality. I really didn’t know what to expect from the scan, all I knew was that Nic’s symptoms have been pretty full on so something must be happening.

Nic was really disappointed, she is really hard on herself and can be very self critical. I think she is amazing, she has sacrificed so much and is putting her body through so much for us. Sometimes she finds it hard to see what she has achieved. It is true that it appears we have less follicles than last time but the ones we have are bigger at this stage than they were last time. We are also having ICSI this time round so that is a big change that will improve our chances. I am starting to realise that even though we have been through this once before, this is a totally different experience and like last time you cannot second guess what is going to happen. You have to surrender to the process and that is very hard to do. I think we are both struggling more with it this time round. Just when you think you understand what is happening or feel you know what is coming next the rug is pulled out from under your feet and you are plunged into a free fall. You have to almost stop planning and purely react to events as they unfold.

I had an acupuncture session this afternoon and it was really relaxing. It is really helping with my stress and helping me cope with the pressures and tough times during this round.

I can’t believe that egg collection could be the end of next week, it seems to have come round so quick.

Next scan Friday. Lets hope the extra dosage works!

 

Thanks for reading,

Tom and Nic