Friday, 31 December 2010

Tis NOT the season to be jolly

If any season brings home the feeling of emptiness, its Christmas time. For every woman and couple who’ve failed to conceive this year, tis NOT the season to be jolly. Tis not the season for rejoicing.

Why? We’ll be forced to listen to the angelic voices of children singing, watch parents and children open gifts and brave the shopping centres filled with prams. Everywhere we turn, children are at heart and this only emphasizes our childlessness.

But this year I survived Christmas. My best survival yet in fact! I listened to those children sing Christmas carols, watched my nephew open his gifts with a smile and survived the shopping centres. My outlook has been altered this year and I’m glad I got to enjoy Christmas without feeling too empty.

As the New Year approaches and I reflect on the year that was 2010, I’m feeling OK. We’ve spent the better part of our year trying to conceive and got nowhere. Sure I’ve achieved some great things this year personally but my biggest dream and goal are yet to be reached.

The New Year brings new beginnings and a new hope. A hope this time next year we’ll be pregnant and this will be the last childless Christmas.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Understanding our story

DH and I made the decision early in this TTC journey to be open and honest about our issues and what we are going through. We had nothing to be ashamed of after all. What we didn’t expect was for our journey to be a topic of conversation whenever we are guests at a social event. Friends and family are not afraid to ask questions or provide advice. (Because let’s face it; everyone has a story, everyone has advice and everyone thinks it’s ok to tell us what we should be doing).

This took some getting use too. Our parents didn’t bring us up to talk about sex, sperm and vaginas at the dinner table. However people are interested in our story so we answer those personal questions as best we can.

Typing my feelings into this blog each month soothes my anger and sadness. I have no idea if we’ll ever be blessed with children or if everything will continue to be a disappointment. What I do know is I want to be able to help others understand infertility.

It ain’t easy living in a society where family is everything. My husband and I are confronted EVERY SINGLE DAY with our inability to have children; whether it’s a Fisher and Price ad on TV, seeing a pregnant woman in the street or the Kindergarten centre across the road from our apartment. All of it has some kind of impact on us as individuals and as a couple.

Instead of preparing for parenthood and buying cute outfits, cots, prams and car seats, DH and I are forced to either save for our next IVF cycle
or pay off the last failed cycle. Instead of turning our spare room into a nursery, DH and I are forced to keep the door shut so it’s not a constant reminder.

We’ve spent over $30,000 on assisted conception and still there is no hint of a stork visiting us anytime soon.

All we want is a family of our very own. Hard for us and easy for others.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Sit and exist

Space. To fill it or find it?

I just finished reading an article about a columnist wanting to find space in her life. Space to reflect on phone calls, emails and even meditation. The columnist talks about people in her life who schedule 15 minutes in their diary after each appointment in order to sit back and reflect on what just happened. This provides space to reflect and decide what your next move.

Space is easy to create though right? I find it incredibly easy however my lifestyle is pretty streamlined. I don’t go to a gym; I enjoy walking my dog instead. I catch the bus to work; this provides me precious reading time. I don’t play competitive sports; instead I enjoy attending the odd yoga session. I’m a bit of a homebody really. I have a lot of time on my hands and this creates a lot of space in my life. Space to reflect. Space to exist. And space to research our next fertility move.

Surely some people would disagree that finding space is easy. Once you’ve got space, it’s a challenge to not fill it with wasted opportunities. I know plenty of people who waste space once they’ve got it. My husband is one of those people. His diary scares me. His days are full of appointments, phone calls, footy training, gym sessions. The poor man never has time to just sit and exist. I’ve sometimes forced him into cancelling engagements so he can relax at home. But my husband was born with ants in his pants. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word relax (unless it involves two weeks holiday and a pina colada). This has created many an argument between us. He thinks I don’t do enough and I think he does too much. It’s tough trying to find a space we can exist and be happy in. Together.

And then a moment is shared. It’s Sunday morning and we decide to grab a coffee and bacon and egg roll before walking along the beach with our pooch. We sit on park bench and fill our space with the smells of coffee, salty air and listen to the waves crashing. It’s our 15 minutes of unspoken bliss. Our spaces cross paths as we sit and exist.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Career vs Fears

How on earth did it take me 21 months to finally jump ship? I clearly remember blogging about finding a new job last summer. So why did it take me this long to shake off the fear of leaving a company I’ve spent nearly half my life at?

What was I scared of? Rejection? Pressure? Stepping out of my comfort zone? Or was it just missing my routine? If I was an astrology believer, than the answer would be that Mercury was retrograde!

I’m a Taurean and part of being born in the month of April is I love routine. I hate trying new things. I’m very much a creature of habit. So finding the courage to quit my job and find a new one is incredibly daunting. Especially when IVF rules your life.

But it dawned on me in late August, if I can try IVF and subject myself to endless invasive tests and surgeries, than surely starting a new job after 13 years would be a walk in the park! One of the reasons I delayed finding a new job was due to location. How silly is that! You see our IVF clinic is located one block away from my office. A pretty easy commute for bloods tests and ultrasounds don’t you think. I figured my life would become far more complicated if I found a new job that was miles away from the IVF clinic.

But you have to jump sometimes for the net to appear.

I found new job. A new job so amazing I’m almost pinching myself. OUCH … that hurt! The interview went well and I had a good vibe about the office, staff and role. And to my utter amazement, I got the position. I’m now Operations Manager for a leading inbound travel operator.

My role will see me travelling internationally, managing less staff and my salary has increased by $20k. And the best part is my office is only 3 blocks from the IVF clinic.

My old fears routine and location have finally taken a hike.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Tick tock of regrets

Ah, regrets. We’ve all got a few but I’m having trouble deciding whether this is one of them; waiting to late in life to have children.

The steady tick tock of my biological clock only kicked in a few years ago and it refuses to stop. It’s the 'tick tock' that keeps me motivated in this quest for motherhood. It spurs me on to research our fertility issues and prove Mother Nature wrong.

Biologically, women are designed to have children in their 20s. I was 26 years old when I got married and 27 years old when hubby and I decided we were ready for parenthood. Society tells us we must find a partner, date at least 2 years, marry and then begin procreating. But I'm beginning to think conformity can be cruel sometimes as can the big guy upstairs. Hubby and I conformed and followed tradition, however tradition has let us down.

Our bodies won’t allow us to have children the old fashioned way. Lucky for us, we live in the 21st century where medical science can assist us. Well, i hope medical science can assist us. But three years on and we’re still no closer to parenthood. The tick tock noise is constantly ringing and I fear getting older. Each time I blow out my birthday candles, I sense another fertile year is lost. It would be nice to rewind the biological clock.

All my research shows that the older you get, the more complications increase. There is an increased risk of miscarriage, a decline in fertility, complicated pregnancies and difficult births. Not to mention the risk of having a baby with abnormalities or Down syndrome.

I don’t believe 27 years of age is old to begin trying for children. In fact, many of my friends would consider this young. It pains me to realise I could be trying for my 2nd child by now if things had worked out at the tender age of 27. But the older I get, the more I think I’ve missed the boat biologically? Maybe hubby and I waited too long. Maybe this is a regret. The pressure to procreate and beat the clock is so prevalent it’s almost palpable.

Regret? My answer is maybe.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Guarantee please

Over it. Over it. Over it. My day has started off with a pregnancy announcement, baby photos on Facebook from 3 different friends AND to top it off, I just received a birth announcement via SMS.

For someone suffering primary infertility, this is a punch in the face. A kick in the guts. A truly ugly day.

And it only gets uglier.

DH and I just saw the FS and were told his testosterone levels are below average. So it’s time for DH to hit the pills for 3 to 4 months and see if there is any improvement with his swimmer count.

What annoys me the most is this pill offers no guarantees. It seems whatever option we’ve chosen over the years in this effort to create our own tribe, nothing has had a guarantee. IVF is a highly effective treatment for many couples however it is estimated that half of the couples who try IVF will not be successful.

Bit depressing ain’t it. I read that sentence over and over again. Half of the couples who try IVF will not be successful. I’m probably crazy for not being scared off but what other options do we have. We can be with child …. or childless.

I really want the guarantee that one day this will all work. Because then I’ll calm down and appreciate the journey a little more. I mean, you can walk into any department store and they hand out guarantees and warranties with just about any purchase. But not IVF! Everything is trial and error. Or worse, failure!

So, where does that leave us? DH will begin the pills next week. If there is no improvement in his swimmer count after 4 months, then we can use our frozen batch.

Or we explore a new avenue. Donor.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Knowing what I know now

Knowing what I know now, I wish we had done this sooner. Two and a half years and it’s still a living hell. It’s been invasive; it’s been confusing. I’m afraid and I’m sad. I feel hopeless, afraid and guilty all at the same time. No one understands the daily struggle and I fear my own reaction to these struggles. Knowing what I know now, we should have done this sooner.

Most of all I feel unsettled and angry. My life constantly feels on hold. It’s impossible to make a decision about my future. I simply cannot make a decision about holidays, career, education courses, moving house, having a dog or eating out. The more I try and struggle with infertility, the less control I have. The more questions you ask, the more you struggle. Should I try the new expensive fertility drug? Should I undergo further expensive testing? Should we attempt adoption? It’s unsettling to have no guarantees.

I’m angry at my body for betraying me and I’m angry at my husbands body for betraying him. Our anger is easily misdirected at times. We fight. We argue. We never seem to be on the same page in this infertile journey at the same time. It tears us apart some days but we’re closer than ever because of it. My anger gets directed at my family. My younger brother has a son. My mum use to tell me when I was younger that she was very fertile and surely I would be too. What a lie! It makes me sad to see my parents show off their grandson. Being the oldest sibling, wasn’t I entitled to bare the first grandchild for them?

I’m angry at my Doctor because she controls our future and charges us for it. My doctor rips me of my dignity and invades my privacy. She also inflicts pain on me. This is humiliating. My husband and I make so many sacrifices to pay the medical bills and our health insurance company barely provides anything in return.

Finally, I'm angry at everyone else. Everyone has opinions about our quest for parenthood. Everyone has easy solutions. Everyone tells you to relax. Everyone seems to say too much.

Someone once old me ‘It’s not the journey, but the destination’. But what if this is wrong? Maybe in my situation “It’s not the destination, but the journey’. Today I begin a new journey. Today I seek my STORK.

One day my struggle with infertility will cease. It will never disappear but it will change me. I yearn for the day I’m not controlled by this struggle but I’ve accepted I cannot return to the person I once was. When it does cease I will be left with a bucket load of empathy.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Our 28 day ICSI cycle

Only a small percentage of people actually know what’s involved in an IVF cycle. The rest at blissfully unaware of the physical, mental and emotional drain it can cause a couple. So I wanted to give you a run down on what’s involved with an IVF/ICSI antagonist cycle.

Day one begins with AF (Aunt Flo) arriving. Normally women all around the world hate this day, but I love this day. It’s a step forward in our quest to parenthood. I call the nurse and let her know the good news.

Day two involves a visit to the clinic for a blood test to check my hormone levels. I leave the clinic with an esky bag full of needles and medication and race to the office to put the esky bag in the fridge. I just pray none of my colleagues open the bag! Just after 2pm, my nurse calls me with my hormone results and tells me to begin injecting 300 units of Puregon tomorrow morning.

Day three and four sees me waking bright and early for my injection. I don’t mind injecting Puregon as the needle is very small and doesn’t hurt too much. I lift my top up and insert the needle between my belly button and pubic bone. It’s over and done in 30 seconds. This medication is known as FSH or Follicle Stimulating Hormone.

Day five sees me back at the clinic for another blood test. My hormone levels are increasing nicely so the FS wants me to remain on the same dosage and come back in four days for a blood test and internal ultrasound.

Day seven and it’s time to add another lot of injections to the daily mix. The chemist charges me $395 for 5 injections; an insane amount of money to prevent ovulation occurring prematurely. (Unfortunately, this medication isn’t on the PBS so there is no rebate). The needle is quite thick so I put an ice cube on my skin to numb the skin.

Day nine is an exciting day. I get to see my follicles on the plasma screen for the first time. How many women get to say that out loud? Ha! Whilst the procedure is totally invasive and your dignity must be left at the door, it’s time to spread my legs and smile politely as the technician rolls the condom over the probe, squirts some gel on it and probes away. In IVF world, this is called the dildo-cam. The results show 9 follies on the left ovary (the largest measuring 15mm, 14mm and 10mm) and the right ovary is showing 10 follies (measuring 16mm, 15mm, 13mm and 11mm). This is a pretty good result for me as I don’t stimulate very well, hence the high dosage of FSH.

Day eleven and it’s back to the clinic again. My left ovary is now showing those follies have grown to 17mm, 16mm, 15mm and 9mm. My right ovary is showing 22mm, 18mm, 16mm, 16mm, 13mm, 11mm, 9mm. I start tearing up and thank the technician. I’m elated my follie numbers have increased!

Day twelve is trigger time. The nurse instructs me to use Ovidrel at midnight. This is the mother of all needles. I hate this one the most. I ice the area and count down the seconds to midnight. My stomach is swollen and tender and I can honestly play dot to dot on it! This injection will trigger my follicles to release their egg in 36 hours. Whilst my follicle count is currently 19, this doesn’t mean I’ll get 19 eggs. Some of the follicles can be empty or the egg will be immature. So I trot off to bed and say a little prayer for a healthy and happy outcome.

Day fourteen is surgery day for us. It’s my EPU (egg pick up) and DH’s TESE. DH and I prepare ourselves for the draining day ahead. DH is first up and prepped for surgery. The FS talks us through the surgery one more time and tells us he’ll make a small incision in the testicle and begin his search for hiding sperm. Sounds a bit like hide and seek. An hour later, the nurse walks me through to DH’s recovering bay. He’s in pain, white as a ghost and crying. No sperm was found. DH offers an apology to me and I start crying. I know he’s feeling like a failure so I cry with him and provide the love, support and care he needs in this low moment we share. The FS offers us his own condolences and states it’s not over yet. We have frozen sperm we can use today – this was always going to be out plan B. Two hours later and it’s my turn. I put on my sexy gown and slippers and walk down to surgery where I’m put under a light sedation. In an instant, I feel like I’ve consumed five glasses of champagne. I’m tipsy and very chatty. A local anaesthetic is inserted repeatedly into the walls of my vagina but I don’t feel a thing. A nurse is holding my hand and tells me to look at the plasma screen. Through my champagne haze, I look up at the screen in front of me and see my follicles being vacuumed out of me. It’s quiet a surreal experience. The test tubes are then handed to a scientist who counts the eggs. My FS has retrieved 12 eggs from 19 follicles. Yippee! This is a huge improvement on my last surgery which recovered only 1 egg.

Then to my horror and my FS’s horror, I begin to have an allergic reaction to the sedation. I pass out for over 5 minutes whilst the FS and nurses race around looking for a shot of adrenalin. Slowly I begin to hear the soft calm voice of my FS and come back to reality. It’s an extremely scary experience but I don’t batter an eyelid over it because I have 12 eggs.

I’m wheeled back to the same recovery bay as DH and I tell him the good news. It’s a bittersweet moment for us. I feel like my body has produced the goods this time round and DH’s body has let him down. But we have a plan B and it’s time to put those wheels into action.

Day fifteen is results day. The nurse calls me just after 10am to tell me the fertilization news. One of the eggs has fertilised overnight. The tone in her voice tells me this is pretty bad result but I can’t stop smiling. We’ve never got to this point before! We’ve never had anything fertilise!

Day sixteen and I give myself an injection of HCG Pregnyl, an injection of human chorionic gonadotropin that is produced by the female placenta during pregnancy. The shot will assist our embryo in attaching to the endometrium wall.

Day seventeen and it’s back to the clinic during my lunch break to have our one and only embryo transferred back inside. The embryo isn’t the best quality but the FS transfers it anyway.

The next ten days are a rollercoaster. I begin the ride with a sense of achievement, a positive outlook and a ‘this is it’ attitude. A few days later and Doubt arrives in the form of cramps and sore boobs. About a week later and my old enemy Fear arrives with all my usual PMS symptoms.

Exactly ten days after my transfer and I’ve had enough of the torture I’m being subjected to inside my head. I wake up early and pee on a stick. I have to know if this embryo wants to stay onboard for nine months or not. Three minutes later and there is no 2nd line. Yes, it may be too early to tell but this is MY sign the cycle has failed. I trot off to work in a somber mood and do my best to start the working day. A few hours later and my most feared enemy AF arrives.

After 20 injections, three dildo cam visits and our pink bits shown to countless people, our cycle has failed and is officially over.