Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Needlework

Last week, before I knew that my IVF was going to be further delayed, I decided that I really should whip myself back into some kind of pre-conception state. So I booked an acupuncture appointment.

I hadn't been punctured since the last failed medical attempt at pregnancy in December (at which time I decided I needed to give my body, and wallet, a break).

I had heard that there were, roughly, two schools of thought when it came to acupuncture. (Excuse my layman's terms here as I try and explain.) One method revolves around filling you up like a pin cushion and leaving you to meditate for half an hour or so. This is the only type of acupuncture I'd had previously and, call me up-tight, but I don't find lying down in a darkened room doing a porcupine impression particularly relaxing. The other type of acupuncture is more frenetic with pins being jabbed in and out throughout the whole session - more like darts. The latter is supposed to be more effective for infertility.

So, when someone I know from work recommended a guy she goes to that uses the short sharp pricks method I booked a session.

It was very different to the previous two guys I've seen. This chap was more like a doctor. Unlike the last bloke who was definitely somewhere firmly on the hippy scale (I have no doubt he smokes something stronger than moxa*) this gentleman wore a shirt and tie and seemed more Doctorial in his manner.

And the questions he asked were different. Previously I've worked out where they were coming from with examinations of my tongue, discussions about my period - length, colour and consistency (yuk) and general health issues. This guy wanted to know about everything from my relationship with my father, to where I'd grown up, what my favourite food was to whether I suffered in the cold.

I found this absolute focus on me a little uncomfortable. But, I reminded myself that he was just doing his job so when he asked about my dog I really shouldn't counter with "And do you have any pets?" (He does, two rescue dogs, but then he swiftly brought the conversation back round to me).

During the two hour session, apart from talking, he held my hand and checked my pulse three times (at the start middle and end of the session) and pronounced himself satisfied that by the end my pulse was rounder and stronger. And he also did a bit of needlework.

He jabbed pins in my back and declared that it was drawing out the bad energy. (I do genuinely think acupuncture is a good and wonderful thing but I find terms like 'bad energy' a little hard to take seriously). Apparently it was just in my lungs and hadn't had a chance to infect the rest of my organs, so he got rid of that pronto. And I did feel a bit more convinced that he might be on to something when the needle that corresponded to my liver stung like hell. Of course it did, the acupuncture was the day after my last miserable doctor's appointment - I'd had a drink the previous night.

For the treatment I had to strip down to my underwear with a thin blanket shielding my dignity. When he put the pins in my back he gently undid my bra strap. For someone who is used, to the point of being blasé, to being penetrated by large medical objects the gesture seemed oddly intimate. Although I didn't feel at any point too uncomfortable - he clearly wasn't doing it for his own gratification.

After the appointment I was exhausted, he warned me I might be, so that helped convince me that it had actually achieved something. He agreed that the delay in IVF meant that I didn't need to come on a weekly basis so I will be seeing him sporadically for the next few months (at which point my bank balance breathed a sigh of relief) until just before IVF when we'll notch it up a gear and book in special appointments around egg collection and implantation time.

So although I've still got a long way to go, it feels good to be doing something positive.

* a little acupuncture joke for you there!


Monday, 26 July 2010

An Antidote to Acronyms

It can’t just be me who finds acronym-heavy posts a little … challenging. I find myself skipping posts on other blogs because, frankly, I can’t be bothered to cross-reference the plethora of letters with the acronym guide.

So I have come up with a solution. I have created my own acronyms - which I find easier to remember - that don’t necessarily change the meaning of these posts:

DH - DickHead
TTC - Tired, Tetchy & Confused
BD - Bonked Diligently
OPK - Over-Priced Kit
BBT - Barren Body's Tantrums
PCOS - Pointless Crappy Ovary Substitutes
IUI - Intimate Uncomfortable Insemination
IVF - InVasive Faffing
RE - Resident Evil
BC - Breeding Cessation

Try it with our story:

DH and I have been TTC for three and a half years. We tried everything: BD timed by OPKs, and charting my BBT, but nothing worked. A few tests showed I had PCOS. So I had three IUI's which failed, I was due to have IVF in the autumn but following some more test results the RE has put me on BC for three months.

Come on, don't tell me it doesn't make for much more entertaining reading.


Saturday, 24 July 2010

Wow!

Thanks so much for all the support, and the lovely, touching, expletive-ridden comments on the last post. I really needed them. And I was delighted to receive comments from people I assumed had long drifted away, folk peeking out of the cloud to wish me well.

Part of me feels a bit guilty at all the outpouring of sympathy for what is only wee hiccup.

It is pause, what is another four months when I've been waiting this long? I'm in a holding bay, not derailed.

I haven't had the heartbreak of a miscarriage that so many of you have suffered. And yet still you generously kick the furniture on my behalf.

I don't even have to do much during this break. I haven't been tasked with shedding weight at a time when comfort eating is really fucking appealing.

I have been forced to wait for my own good, not because of administrative incompetence or waiting lists and I've been on hold for three months before for that very reason.

And, as the husband continually likes to point out, I don't have cancer.

Adele asked how serious the atypia was, to be honest I didn't ask. Last time I had a biopsy it was mild so I'll assume that is still the case. I started to worry about the Doctor's littering the consultation with words like 'priority', 'urgent', 'special case' and 'have you ever had a clear biopsy?'. But I think he used those in the context of reassuring me that I wouldn't be forgotten rather than this was really serious.

I'm not going to go all Pollyanna on you. It is still a bummer. One of the first thing I thought was, 'there goes my chance of a baby before I'm 35,' a depressing through coming just over a week after my 34th birthday. And, of course, I thought about the ever widening age gap between my kids and those of my friends.

Worse case scenario is that the treatment doesn't clear up my womb lining. I'm not sure what the next steps would then be, and I'm not going to think about that.

Best case will mean IVF in December, just over four years after we started trying. So I'm focusing on that.

In the meantime I will still keep blogging, as soon as I stopped last time I really missed it so I'm not going to make that mistake twice.

So stay tuned kids.


Thursday, 22 July 2010

I Knew It

I knew it when I called up last week for the results of my biopsy and was given an appointment in 8 days which, by NHS standards, is warp speed.

I knew it when I went into the doctor's office today and he asked, nervously:
"Are you here alone?" (The husband was delayed at work but turned up two minutes later)

I knew it when he picked up his pen, didn't write anything, and put it down again.

I knew it by the way he hesitantly shuffled his papers.

I knew it when he said, "It isn't good news..."

The biopsy showed atypical (or as mere mortals like to say "not normal") cells. There is something not very reassuring about a doctor telling me "it isn't cancer ... yet".

The medical term is Endometrial hyperplasia with atypia. For those who found this blog because they have similar issues this is quite a good description of what is going on. (And there are some more links from this post).

Together the husband and I sat like obedient school children, wide-eyed and quiet as the Doctor told us what the next steps were.

I am to have the Mirena coil, again, this time for just three months (or as the fertiles like to call this time span "a trimester"). But that is not all, they want to "attack the abnormal cells aggressively" so I also get to take a daily double dose of Cerazette which, apparently is a a progesterone pill.

Expect mood swings and poor sleeping patterns, warned the Doctor. The husband rolled his eyes comically. I just sat, unblinking.

After the three months, he assured me, I would be right back in for another biopsy and, assuming that is clear, I go straight onto IVF with no delay. Hmmm, I've heard that before.

The husband was impressed at how focussed I was. I felt completely numb, but I thought clearly. I asked intelligent questions, like:
"Last time you said I needed to have a month of suppression before starting IVF, will the coil count as that suppressant? Can I go straight from that to egg stimulation?"

I like to think I saw a glimmer of admiration in the doctor's eyes at the question. But still he quashed my hopes, the Mirena coil is too effective a suppressant, so I will still need to wait at least a month after the coil comes out before IVF.

So once again I'm back, waiting for my womb to sort itself out. And again I'm amazed at how apt my blog title is. It was chosen for its pun value only, before I had any idea what might be preventing a pregnancy. But now I do kinda wish I had called it "Ultra-fertile, healthy, slim, beautiful, lottery winner's blog."


Tuesday, 20 July 2010

It's A Kind Of Magic

Palmistry.

Tarot cards.

Crystal balls.

Aching breasts.

What is your preferred medium for predicting the future? As I hurtle towards IVF with the speed of a tectonic plate I can't help but wonder whether it'll be a success. Whether I'll get a baby at the end of this.

But there is no real way of knowing.

Or so I thought.

According to the BBC, Stanford University in California have worked out a way to predict whether IVF will work. My favourite thing about this article is the way the header has the word 'predict' in inverted commas. Like how those cheap ice creams packages proclaim they have 'chocolate' coating. That shit ain't chocolate.

And sure enough when you read the article it turns out that there was a very little that convinced me about the accuracy of the predictions.

We discover 75% of IVF doesn't result in a live birth (which is a chilling way of reminding us that just getting pregnant isn't enough).

We are told that the researchers used data from 1,600 first time IVFers to work out whether a second shot at the IVF apple would work.

And they identified 52 different factors that impact a woman's chances of having a baby. Let me put that into context for you. Imagine a deck of cards spread all over the floor, that is a different reason for each card. (Excluding the Jokers and that poker score card thing).

So this is getting exciting, I was reading the article expecting to find the magic formula for success.

Except there were two tweeny-weeny little things that frustrated my ambition:

1) they can only start their magic prediction once they have the data from your first IVF - so already you'll have an idea as to whether IVF is really working for you

and

2) nowhere in the article does it say how accurate their predictions are. How many of the 1,600 women they thought would have a live birth after their second IVF actually did.

Hell, I can predict whether IVF is going to be successful or not.

Just not accurately.

I call it guessing.

Updated to add:
Areyoukiddingme? pointed me in the direction of this article which gives a bit more information on the accuracy of the calculations. It says: "Their model is 1,000 times more accurate than the methods currently used, which are based mainly on a woman's age." Although you still need to know what the initial accuracy was to work out whether 1,000 times more accurate means 'almost fool proof' or 'Yup, turns out 1,000 x 0 is still 0'.

Also the second article advises us to:
"ask your clinic about how well your embryos developed in the first cycle of IVF, and how many were produced. The staff should be able to tell you how these measure against the norm, and you could keep this information in mind when making your decision."

Which is why I love this community. I mean who seriously, who wouldn't check their crop of eggs and embryos against every other IVF-er they could find to work out whether they were doing well or a cause for concern?

What I really want (are you listening Stanford?) is an app that we can put our own data in and see what the magic eight ball says. I'm guessing "Reply hazy, try again."



Sunday, 18 July 2010

Some Tips For Your Next Appointment

I doubt many of us enjoy the prospect of an internal examination. However, there are ways to inject a little fun back into the proceedings, here are my top tips to help you go about it:

1) Prior to giving a urine sample why not eat large quantities of beetroot to give your urine a warm red glow? Or, if that is too reminiscent of your period, asparagus adds a green tinge which is bound to get the nurses talking in the staff room.

2) Next time the doctor is about to whack a thick rubber industrial-strength condom on the dildo-cam, whip out your own condom and request they use that instead. Pass the prophylactic over whilst holding doctor's eye contact as you purr: "Ribbed, for her pleasure." And then lie back tucking your hands behind your head and prepare to be impaled.

3) Or why not go really classy? Consider investing in a tattoo in the inner upper thigh region. Maybe something to commemorate the number of people that have had a good old peer up your tunnel of love.

I am quite fond of this little number:

Alternatively, forgo the need for an internal examination at all. Simply lift your top and voila! your uterus is there for the world to see:


4) Often I read about how unfair it is that we have to go through so many painful, embarrassing and hormone-unbalancing treatments whilst our men folk simply have to have a slightly awkward wank in a sterile environment. So, next time you have an internal, suggest that your partner shares the experience and hops up on the couch, face down, for his own examination. It is always good to get your prostate checked out regularly so really, it is for his own good. And remember, if your fellow really loves you, he'll be up for it without a whimper.

What's that?

Sorry, I just heard the door slam...

I wonder where the husband has gone.

Hello? Hello?

I think I'd better go and save my marriage, in the meantime please leave any other ideas for brightening up appointments in the comments section.


Thursday, 15 July 2010

The Results Aren't In

The results of my latest womb biopsy were due on my birthday.

I called the hospital yesterday and explained I wanted the results and to book an appointment with the doctor.

“Not a proper appointment but just to nip in for a quick chat with the Doctor.”

The woman I spoke to was somewhat imperious.

“And who EXACTLY said that you could do this.”

I told her who exactly (the Doc and the dude).

She left me on hold.

And was back on the phone five minutes later telling me I had an appointment at 12:30 on the 22nd.

“Of July?” I queried, half expecting her to say, October.

“Yes. July.”

And with that she hung up.

I was so stunned it was only later realised I‘d forgotten to ask for my results. But I reckon I can wait until next Thursday.

(Although, of course, now my melodramatic side is revving up for a big paranoia trip and I am starting to wonder WHY I didn’t get my results over the phone, and WHY I have an appointment so soon and WHETHER that means there is something wrong that they can’t tell me over the phone. But I am sure it’ll be fine. Right?)

On a different note. Thanks for all my birthday well wishes, it really meant a lot to me.


Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Age Cannot Wither Her (Eggs)

Today I turn thirty four*.

I am a year away from that demon age. The age heralded by the media as point at which our eggs hurl themselves off the cliff of fertility like over-ambitious lemmings.

I didn't think I would be here, coming up to four years of our conception campaign with nothing to show for it other than the ability to pee on ovulation tests with an unerring accuracy, even when half asleep. By now, if things had gone to plan I would have a three year old, a one year old and the husband and I would be deciding whether three was a crowd or a brood.

I fully expected to have done all my breeding by the time I reached 35. At this rate I'll be lucky to have given birth to one child by then.

But funnily enough this birthday doesn't fill me with dread. I am not actually worried about aging.

Because I have finally reached the realisation that age is not the problem.

Not all women are created equal. Some can happily pop out children until well into their forties without any medical assistance. Others, despite being manifestly healthy, seem incapable of even starting off one little embryo, let alone seeing it through to birth. I fall into the latter camp.

And although my infertility is unexplained there are certain things that have been ruled out.

I have more eggs than Faberge** and my AMH result was deemed "exceptional" by my Doctor. Indicating I have the ovarian reserves of a woman younger than myself. Careering towards thirty five clearly has less of an impact on fertility than my uninhabitable womb. Sure, age will affect my ability to procreate at some stage in the not too distant future, but it certainly isn't the key inhibitor and hopefully, by the time it does start to have an impact on my egg reserves, I'll have finished any kind of treatment, either with or without success.

And as for the other stuff, wrinkles, grey hair ... dementia that is more of a problem for the husband who has to look at me all day, as long as I avoid mirrors I can still kid myself I'm 24. Certainly I haven't matured since then (as my disgraceful behaviour last Saturday proved).

So today I will celebrate. I've got the day off work, as has my twin sister, and we are going to go to a gallery, have a posh lunch and have a pedicure. So don't feel sorry for me today, if anyone deserves your sympathy it is the poor pedicurist.

*This post is cunningly scheduled to be published at six twenty four - the exact time of my birth.

** Actually a quick google just revealed that there were only around 60 made, so them and all the fakes as well.


Sunday, 11 July 2010

A Broken Woman

Maintaining my virtuous pre-conception lifestyle is tough.

When I was having the three IUI's last year I was probably healthier than I have ever been. No alcohol, acupuncture on a twice weekly basis and the gym several times a week. When they failed I was utterly crushed and, with no physical reason to blame for my inability to conceive, I stopped being so strict. I allowed myself an occasional glass of wine or bottle of beer, rationalising it as a way to maintain some semblance of a normal life.

Over the past three and a half years I have given up booze and then started drinking again more often than Lindsay Lohan (although luckily my loss of willpower doesn't have quite such disastrous repercussions). Last night I fell off the wagon in spectacular fashion.

It was one of my oldest friends 40th birthday (and yes, I do mean oldest in the age sense). I hate it when people regale others with tales of their drunken shenanigans but suffice to say I didn't get to bed until five thirty in the morning and have spent the day utterly broken.

On the plus side though, as if the prospect of IVF in September wasn't enough to encourage me back to my abstemious ways, last night has strengthened my resolve to never drink alcohol ever, ever again (or at least until after the IVF).

I might even restart acupuncture and drag my increasingly flabby arse back to the gym. But one step at a time, eh?


Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Time For My Close Up - Hysteroscopy Number 2

Today I had a tour round my uterus.

Whilst doing the hysteroscopy the consultant turned the monitor round and told me what I was seeing through the teeny-tiny camera that he was wiggling so far up me he almost reached my gag reflex.

He pointed out the entry of each fallopian tube. He found a polyp that looked a bit like that dangly thing at the back of your throat, but he wasn't concerned; apparently it is unlikely to interfere with implantation and so he left it hanging there. He took his pound of flesh from the womb-lining for a biopsy but, encouragingly, said that it all looked healthy and last time he'd been able to see immediately that it wasn't up to scratch (that was when he discovered the endometrial hyperplasia).

So I'll call in a week for the results but hopefully it will be clear. Now when do I have to call, in a week, which would be ... ah yes, the 14 of July. An auspicious date...

Whilst he was up there he threw in an optional extra, and I got my mock embryo transfer. Which essentially consisted of him putting a catheter in and squeezing out a bit of liquid. Very quick, very easy, barely noticeable (in comparison to the steel speculum that was winching me open at the time and distracting me from anything else that was going on).

I managed to remember to pop a couple of the strongest pain killers I could find before the appointment. As a result I was slightly monged. So my drug addled brain couldn't cope when the consultant asked me why I was having IVF. I just gaped at him, lost for words. Why the fuck did he think I was having IVF?! It was only after he explained that I realised what he actually meant was "Have you been diagnosed with a specific reason for infertility or is it unexplained?"

Still, other than turning me into an imbecile, they did the trick and I didn't find the procedures any more painful than middling period pains. Significantly better than last time, although as the evening wears on I am getting more and more uncomfortable.

All being well that was the last test and now I'm on the downward slide towards IVF. Which is all good.


Sunday, 4 July 2010

The Sex*

How many of us have made an oblique reference to our friends' love lives only to be faced with the retort, "Sex? What is that? We don't do that sort of thing now that we have kids."

Oh.

Just me then.

For the infertiles the response is somewhat tweaked. "Sex? Not unless we're ovulating!"

But that of course does a disservice to all the infertiles out there. Because we don't just have sex when we are ovulating. There are plenty of other occasions that force us to disrobe and make the two-backed beast.

Below is my list of The Sex:

The Freshener
Anyone who watched Spitting Image in the 1980s will have been haunted by images of the famously celibate Cliff Richard's sperm wondering around his ball-sack with zimmer frames and walking sticks. Nobody wants that as your conception juice. So a few days before ovulation / any sperm test there is the 'junk the spunk' shag, allowing time for a healthy bunch of young gun swimmers to be spawned and get ready to get a wriggle on.

The "spontaneous" Sex
We all know that trying for a baby means that most sex is timed by a temperature rise or a positive ovulation test rather than the mood. This can cause a little resentment, maybe it can be thrown back in your face during an argument "AND we only have sex when you're ovulating." So you make sure you throw in a "spontaneous" hump, even muttering something afterwards about how it was the wrong time of the month anyway. Word of warning though, the next time you have a row and are accused of only having conception coitus, don't bring out your marked up temperature charts to 'prove' that you had sex with no chance of breeding. (Just the fact that you catalogued it negates the spontaneity).

The Special Occasion Shag
Birthdays, Christmas, Anniversaries. The traditional days when we feel lucky to be loved and, in turn, make love. Actually, these days are more likely to include a hump than previously. You used to go out and get absolutely plastered, and find yourself waking up fully dressed, with a furry tongue and no action. Nowadays, when a special occasion means treating yourself to a single glass of wine, you are actually compos mentis enough to see the deed through to the end.

The "it worked for my friend's cousin's dog-walker" Sex
We laughed when we were initially told about some random friend of a friend who had unprotected sex on the last day of their period that nine months later resulted in a bundle of unplanned joy. But the tale stuck, and started to niggle, and before you know it you are just trying it out. Humping with hope, just on the off-chance that it'll work for you too.

I am sure there are others that I have forgotten. So tell me, we're all friends here. What are your non-reproductive sex tales?

Updated to add
I just had a call about my hysteroscopy on Wednesday. Had I received the information leaflet? Er ... no, is there anything that I should know? Well, explained the woman, the main thing was to make sure that I hadn't had unprotected sex this cycle. 8 days in and I didn't even pause, Nope. Which kinda marks out the footnote as a lie. Sigh.

Up-updated to add
Shit! Just remembered we did have sex a few days ago. Oh bugger, that says a lot for how memorable it was. But it can be discounted as a serious contender for baby making cause it was a bit Leona Lewis. You know ‘Bleeding Love’. Geddit? I’m wasted here, I really am.

*It would be easy to assume whilst reading this that I am speaking of my own love life. Naturally after fifteen years together the husband and I still make rampent, hungry sex on the kitchen floor every night. This is just a generic post about infertile sex.

Obviously.

What?!


Thursday, 1 July 2010

The Post That Makes Me Sound Really Creepy

My brother-in-law calls them "titty-peepers" (charming fella that he is, apparently it is a Scottishism). He is talking about those really dark or mirrored sunglasses that enable him to gaze lasciviously at ladies' jubblies whilst maintaining a veneer of enigmatic disinterest.

I find I'm using my sun-specs for a similar purpose although my gaze is a little further south. No, not that far south; I have no interest in sizing up a male package.

Instead I find myself peering at women's belly-bumps like a rampant, confused, camel. I can't help but check out potential mothers in the vicinity.

Today I saw a complete stranger walking just ahead and as she turn the corner I thought she looked a bit pregnant. But I couldn't quite be sure.

So what did I do? What does any normal, sane person do? They carry on with their little stroll and don't give it another thought.

What does your intreiped, and I'm starting to think possibly slightly unhinged, bloggist do? Yeah, I wacked on a pair of sunnies and started to stalk the woman.

Now I want to be clear. I only followed her for a tiny detour - 20 yards maximum. To be honest I could have walked that way rather than my normal route, the streets were parallel. I had no intention of trailing her for the remainder of her pregnancy and kidnapping her child. But for just a few minutes today finding out whether this woman, who was totally unknown to me, was pregnant became incredibly important.

It was like biting on a mouth ulcer or pressing a bruise. And yes, she was pregnant.

Tell me, am I turning into a crazy infertile?