Sunday, 29 August 2010

This Time It's Personal

I have a love/hate relationship with the gym. The gym loves me because I am one of these suckers who will pay a monthly subscription in the vain, misguided belief that they will use it, whilst not actually cluttering up its posh facilities with their sweat drenched bodies. And I hate the gym.

I do go through phases, last year after joining for a good few months I would engineer whole conversations at work so that I could casually drop into conversation the phrase: "when I was at the gym this morning." I found myself feeling fitter, looking better and thought maybe I had thus gym thing cracked.

But winter, IUI failures and general apathy pretty quickly broke that habit. So now I am starting again.

All last week I tried to get myself motivated, but I just wasn't feeling it.

So what is the solution?

Answer: To throw even more money at the problem.

This weekend I had my first personal training session, and unlike the freebie I got last year I'm actually paying hard cash for this. I have signed up for one session a week for four months. Timed to finish when I should (and who knows if I ever will) be having IVF.

The trainer was a nice guy, very encouraging. Although I am sure I saw a little part of him die behind the eyes when I had to stop my abs exercises because I genuinely thought I was going to faint and or throw up. I blame the progesterone (naturally it was nothing to do with my stomach muscles rebelling after being untroubled for the last 34 years).

He asked me how often I planned going to the gym. Twice a week I thought was achievable, twice a week is the goal I have set myself, twice a week should be ok. So why on earth did I find myself airily saying, "Oh, probably about three times a week"? To which he replied, "Yeah, three or four times a week is about right".

I wonder if this will enable me to achieve a life-long ambition of flat abs just before I achieve my other long-held aim of pregnancy.

Or maybe I'll get neither.


Thursday, 26 August 2010

This Is Getting Boring Now

To paraphrase Benjamin Franklin:

Periods are like fish, great at first but after three days they start to smell.

I mean that metaphorically of course.

I have had the coil in for a fortnight now and those two weeks have been one constant period. Not heavy, but a light continuous seepage. It is like some kind of Japanese water torture instrument. Constant and painful.

Rationally I know that this has got to be good news. Presumably I am shifting the abnormal womb lining which is encouraging for November's biopsy which will hopefully show up a womb-lining thinner than Victoria Beckham and fitter than David.

But it is slightly concerning, surely there can't be much left up there? I'm starting to wonder if the coil has tapped into a main artery by mistake.

On balance though, apart from the cramps, I don't feel too bad. Especially considering I am taking a double dose of a progesterone pill as well. There are a lot of hormones racing round my body so technically I have every excuse for a major dose of PMT - in fact I might just go and shout at the husband now, just for the hell of it.

It's medical, he can't touch me for it.


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Films For Infertiles

In the past I have adapted books, both real and imaginary, for the infertile reader. This time it is films.

Whilst on holiday (with A LOT of people - sixteen of my nearest and dearest) I challenged them to help me with this post.

This (in no particular order) is what we came up with:

Seedless in Seattle
The Hand that Doesn't Rock The Cradle
Mamma M.I.A
Ovary, Where Art Thou?
A Petri Dish Called Wonder
Panic Womb
Briefs Encounter
Doctor Syringelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Womb
The Impregnables
Attack of the Clomid
Born Ultimately?
Along Came Polycystic
Dirty Dozen Eggs
Blood Bothers
Cyst Act
Foetal Attraction
Poke Yer Hole, Miss*
The Sperminator
Womb Raider
Sperms Of Endearment
Octomommy

*Updated to Add*
Point Firing Blanks (Honoured to have had one from @mitchbenn)
St-ART Wars: A New Hope, The Endo Strikes Back, Return of the IUI (Hat's off Hairy Farmer Family)
The Rod Warrior (Are You Kidding Me going off on a porno-bent there)
Broke the Bank Mountain (The lovely Adele - I didn't add a couple 'cause I'd already used them in the Books version and I didn't get the film buff one ...)
Much Hooha About Nothing (Circus Princess knows about Hooha)
The Neverending Probing (The Cat Lady has had more than her share of probing)
For Your IUIs Only (The amazing Dr Spouse came up with loads - see the comments for more - and shows that she clearly only watches Bonds).
Clinic Royale (Dr Spouse again)
Doctor Negative (Hmm ... it is a Bond. Who d'ya reckon this was from?)

Of course some work as they are:
Mission Impossible
Crimson Tide
There Will Be Blood

And from Adele:
Snatch
Groundhog Day
From Here to Eternity

@martinfitz also stuck to 'real' films:
Let the right one in
It happened one night

If you've got any others add them to the comments, or tweet them (hashtag #filmsforinfertiles) and I'll add the best ones (with a credit of course).


* This obviously is in the context of a Doctor and internal sonogram equipment, I had to reign in the group as the films got less infertile focused and more pornographic. I vetoed "Shitty, Shitty, Bang, Bang" (despite the very plausible explanation that if it is a shitty, shitty, bang, bang then they are clearly doing it wrong which could result in infertility).


Sunday, 22 August 2010

Time For My Montage

My summer holiday is now over.

A week of eating, drinking, eating some more, lounging without intent (or internet), snacking, boozing, dabbling in the occult, tippling, nomming, has rolled to it's over-fed conclusion.

This was yet another 'final' splurge, hot on the heels of a delay in treatment. And again, it is time to think a bit more about getting IVF ready.

If my life were to be made into a film (and indeed Mr Spielberg, why the hell not?), we would now be entering into the montage sequence.

The next three months would be represented by snippets of me swimming, gyming, laughing gaily whilst being pinned by my acupuncturist, high-fiving the husband as we simultaneously neck pre-conception vitamins, pushing away a cup of tea whilst virtuously sipping some herbal muck. I'd morph from someone who had lost her zest for life to a primed reproductive machine.

At the end of the suitably up-beat montage tune, I'm thinking M People 'Proud,' you'll see me nervously waiting to have the coil removed, the biopsy performed and fervently hoping that all the hard work has been worth it.

Unfortunately, the next three months can't be condensed into 3 minute 51 seconds. I'm actually going to have to work at this, and I need to strike a balance between achievable and destined for failure.

Some things are a given:
  • The acupuncturist is booked
  • Caffeine is already a distant memory
  • I've done it enough times to know giving up booze is, um, possible
  • The gym - I'm going to aim for three times a week but be satisfied with two
  • Vitamins - are easy. At the moment I have to take birth control every night anyway so adding a couple more pill into the mix is fine.
What else do you reckon I should be doing? What do you swear by? Is wheatgrass really worth the taste? Does your Doctor swear that meditation is the answer? Is there one lifestyle change that you think is vital to turn my body from incapacitated to incubatory?

And I want scientifically tested ideas, none of this waterhole swimming gubbins.

Do share.

Or failing that just suggest a better montage tune, Hollywood is waiting.


Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Chances Are ...

Continuing on the mystic tip from Sunday's post.

I am currently on holiday a few miles from the picturesque Somerset town of Glastonbury. Glastonbury is known for two things; the largest outdoor music festival in Britain and new age hippy nonsense.

The festival was in June.

Glastonbury is a small town but has everything you need if you are of an alternatively spiritual bent. Aura painting, more crystals than Barbie's wedding dress, and a stock pile of incense to rival the Vatican. It appears that you cannot buy an item of clothing that is not hand woven from hemp by fairies - or as they are spelt in this part of the world faeries. Shops are overun with deities, Buddhas are plonked next to representations of Gaia, alien lizards nestle next to carvings of poly-armed eastern mystics. Runes are practically currency in this town.

It was only a matter of time before I decided to test the tarot.

I know, the things I do for blog-fodder.

"I sense a very strong male energy - three generations - your father, your ..." sly glance at the wedding ring, "husband and ... do you have a son?"

"No."

"Do you want children?"

"Yes"

"You will be pregnant with a son; I see that very strongly, soon ... um ... maybe in about four months possibly a bit longer."

So, considering that she didn't know I was due to have IVF in about four months that was an encouraging start.

Her subsequent revelations however had me less convinced:

"Your Dad is a typical 'Dad dad'..." Can't argue with that - he's the only dad I've known so I guess that'd make him pretty typical.

"Your Mum is very involved in your life." Er ... my Mum is dead, it'd be difficult to imagine her any less involved.

She countered quickly, "Ah, well, spiritually she is with you. She is very involved at a spirit level."

Nice recovery sweetheart.

Other nicely generic statements included. "You will move house at some point, to somewhere with more space." What? And I've just told you I want a family, maybe she is right, maybe now isn't the time to downsize.

She told me my job "wasn't the best job in the world, but neither was it the worst." I don't know what the best and worse jobs in the world are, but it would have been a bit of a conincidence if either holders of the aforementioned jobs came to get their cards read by her.

She was delighted to hear that I had a twin. (I had to tell her, she couldn't quite discern that by herself). She felt very keenly that we had a strong telepathic connection.

My twin sister and I have never had the slightest telepathic twinge. But she's the psychic, she'd know ...

Also, apparently in my future is a little girl. Good so she has covered both bases if I do ever get pregnant.

"There is a presence of an older woman in your life, your Grandmother."

Again, way off target with this one, both have been dead for many years. She said I had some very strong auras around me so it was hard sometimes to distinguish between those who had passed over and those who were still living.

mmm ... 'kay.

I didn't leave a convert to the Tarot. I mean it'd be nice if I got pregnant in four months and had a son. But considering 50% of couples under 35 who try to get pregnant manage it in 3 months, and roughly half of those have boys I'd say with her first prediction she is working the stats.

Let's just say I'm not about to go out, buy a purple crushed velvet cloak and start chanting at the moon.


Sunday, 15 August 2010

The Fertile Conspiracy

You know how disheartening it can be when someone who really shouldn’t be able to get pregnant manages it, and you are left flabbergasted thinking: Surely they are too young/old/fat/thin and they drink/smoke/shoot up too much.

How do they do it?

What is their secret?

Well, my dears, today I can exclusively reveal the answer: the one thing that the fertiles have been hiding from us all these years.

The answer was in that most esteemed of publications Spirit & Destiny Magazine. It isn’t a magazine that, to date I subscribe to, but fate guided my hand as I picked up the magazine and it fell open on the letters page.

Ladies, I can hardly describe my excitement as I realised the star letter was entitled: Baby Joy. Vicki from Chichester tells us how she had been trying to conceive for OVER A YEAR but with polycystic ovaries it appeared her quest was in vain.

Take a moment to imagine that if you will.

Luckily Vicki’s friend is a white witch (I really need to broaden my circle of friends). She suggested they tried a “fertility spell based around the colour orange, linked to reproduction and the sacral chakra.”

On a full moon the happy couple made a spell circle with orange candles and sat inside it eating an orange together.

No, I’ve no idea what a spell circle is either. But no matter.

Six weeks later they were pregnant.

But that is not all. Four years later she bought an orange carnelian stone, which she tucked into her waistband. A few weeks later, bang, pregnant again.

Orange.

It is so simple. That is the secret we’ve been missing. Why did we not realise this before?

And think about it, it works.

Who amongst us didn’t think that Nicole Richie was too emaciated to ovulate let alone get pregnant? But look at the colour of her skin.

Christina Aguilera’s umpa lumpa flesh only serves to endorse the theory - the more orange-hued the more fertile.

And mother of three, drinking for four, tango-coloured Katie Price/ Jordan was the final piece in the puzzle needed to convince me of the veracity of this claim.

So, as soon as this coil is out I’ll be dressing like a Guantánamo Bay inmate and be doing all sorts with my sacral chakras. (Which I believe is illegal in 32 states).

Orange you glad you read this post?

And if you’ve heard a more ludicrous claim please do share.


Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Re-coiled

The coil is now in.

I'd love to tell you it was a quick and painless procedure but it was neither.

The Doctor, trying to put me at ease, had clearly been to too many hairdressers. She attempted to distract me from her vaginal probing by asking about my holidays. I half expected her to remark on how well my haircut had lasted since last time, and no, I am not talking about the hair on my head.

Apparently my cervix was "spasming" with pain which meant it took three attempts to get the coil through.

I left feeling nauseous and decided work could do without me for the rest of the day.

The consultant who first briefed me told me something that I guess I have known since this appointment in January 2009, but haven't let myself think about.

It is highly likely that, once I have had my fill of children (assuming I get that far), I will have to have a hysterectomy. I don't know why just writing those words is making me cry. The doctors are going to do all they can to ensure I have my quota of children, and once they are born I will have no further need for my uterus anyway.

I'm sure there are lots of positives. Not for me a long drawn out menopause, or a late in life surprise baby. I'll save a fortune on tampons and if the ancient Greeks are to be believed I'll no longer be prone to hysteria - so I imagine I won't have to be slapped smartly in the face or doused with water on a regular basis. (To be fair I am not prone to hysteria much at the moment, but one never knows how the weaker sex will react in any given situation).

But not thinking that far ahead the good news is I already have a date for the removal of the coil (3 November) and the biopsy. So at least I won't have the same difficulty getting it out as I have had getting it in.

I will mostly be spending tonight standing up my friends I was supposed to meet, curled up on the sofa, eating take away, watching a film and feeling just a little bit sorry for myself. But never fear, I'll snap out of it soon and normal service will be resumed.



Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The Power of the Written Word

I send a lot of emails.

Every day I send emails. My job means that I deal with a range of different people and have to constantly make judgements about the tone of voice I use. Depending on who I am emailing the tone ranges from the impeccably professional to the cajolingly joking; the demanding to the subservient; the apologetic with a sub-text of 'but it wasn't really my fault', to the reprimanding with a 'but don't let this put you off your job forever, you do usually do a great job'.

Today was one of the hardest. And I've done disciplinaries before.

I emailed the clinic about getting this bloody (or will be soon) coil put in (and more importantly the endometrial hyperplasia out).

My wonderful NHS-working twin tracked down the email address of the named individual who is supposed to be booking appointments, so I had the right person rather than simply emailing: "genericaddressthatnobodychecks@fertilityhospital.com"

Every word was scrutinised and re-edited. I wanted to come across as friendly, slightly deferential and worthy of help, but was also keen to point out that this was just the latest round of waiting that would test the most patient of patients.

I agonised about who to cc. As a rule I don't like cc-ing, it makes me feel like a sneak, but in this case I thought that the Doc and fertility nurses should know what I was suggesting. And yes, it might provoke a quicker reaction if they know a Doctor is looking over their shoulder.

And I wanted to be proactive.

I wasn't going to just email "Ugghhh, why won't you answer my calls it is sooooo unfair!" So, thanks to Betty M's suggestion I got in touch with my local family planning clinic and had tentatively booked the next available appointment for the Mirena coil to be put in by them (the 24 of August). I presented this as a easy option for them, "I've sorted out getting it in, which will give you three months to get your shit together enough to book the appointment to get it removed and my womb re-biopsied". Those weren't the exactly words I used but I think my meaning was clear.

At 19.37 tonight I missed a call from the nurses, yes at half past seven in the pm. The message explained she had just picked up this message from last Thursday and she was going to try and get me an appointment but the Doctor was away next week and the week after so it would be after that, in September.

I tried to call back but the phone was engaged.

At 21.22 she rang back. By this time she had read my email.

What a difference that made.

I now have an appointment to get the coil put in at 2pm tomorrow.

Awesome.

And now, I feel guilty that the nurse was at work returning calls at half nine whilst I was in the pub getting my ass whipped at ping pong by Caroline, No.

But it does go to prove the power of the carefully worded email.

And no, I am not going to cancel my appointment with the Family Planning team until the coil is well and truly embedded in my uterus.


Sunday, 8 August 2010

A New Term For Infertility?

I don't think infertility is a joking matter, but I do think it is essential to keep joking about it - otherwise you'll live your life in a wasteland of despair (which, coincidentally, is my pet name for my womb).

One area where I think we could do with a little help is the vocabulary we use to discuss infertility. The terms are either resoundingly medicalised (endometriosis, anovulation, polycystic ovarian syndrome), the quaintly biblical (barren) or the plain stark (sterile).

This is where I think the blokes have it right. They aren't shy of the comedic terms for their downstairs issues, exhibit:
  • Jaffa - a seedless orange
  • Starting Pistol - firing blanks.
So I've been trying to think up with some alternatives for us.

This is what I have so far:
  • Bermuda Uterus - a uterus that has loads going in, but nothing coming out, like the famous Triangle
  • Vegan Breakfast - no eggs
  • Stonehenge Syndrome - for unexplained infertility - also applicable: Pyramid, Big Foot, Loch Ness, Crop Circles
  • Taj Mahal - Looks great from the outside not a lot going on inside
  • White Elephant - no, I'm not referring to a pallid, over-fleshed body, rather an object that costs an awful lot to maintain (you spent how much on acupuncture?!) for no useful result
  • Mule - A naturally infertile beast that spends its days humping (in their case humping stuff around, in our case just fruitlessly humping).

Any other ideas?


Thursday, 5 August 2010

Patience is a necessity. Not a virtue.

I'll start with a question.

If you were given something to do at work, and it was marked urgent, how long do you reckon it'd take you to do?

A) A day?

B) A week?

C) More than a week?

D) A fortnight?

E) Um ... Meh. Dunno. Pass me one of those cakes whilst I check facebook. LOL at those kittens.

If you answered E then you clearly haven't understood the meaning of the word urgent (requiring immediate action or attention; imperative; pressing) or, you work for the National Health Service*.

Two weeks ago my Doctor requested that I urgently had a Mirena coil inserted. The urgency wasn't because I was about to go on holiday, or to placate me because it meant a four month delay before IVF. It was because I have pre-cancerous cells bedding down in the lining of my womb and the coil is supposed to halt that growth.

The way that the NHS works means that there isn't a one-stop shop where I could get this done. My Doctor is based in the Reproductive Medicine Unit, the coil get shoved up by the specialist in the Gynaecology Unit. Physically the two units are separated by a corridor, but practically they are fathoms apart.

I saw my Doctor sign the bright yellow appointment sheet. I witnessed him tick the box marked 'urgent' rather than 'routine'.

And then nothing.

I appreciate that, despite the urgency, an appointment might still take a couple of weeks but I expected at least to get a date for the appointment quickly.

I have rung the clinic and received no response.

I have rung the Reproductive Medicine Unit and was told that the appointment request had been faxed to the Gynaecology unit.

FAXED.

Can I bring to you attention three points:

1. He used a bright yellow sheet of paper to denote the urgency and then faxed it. (For those young enough not to know what a fax is, whatever you send through comes out in black and white.)
2. The clinic in receipt of the fax is less than 30 seconds walk away, you don't even need to go up steps to take it there.
3. It is 2010.

So I ring again. I leave messages. I wait.

Today I left a message on an answer phone that specifies they only return calls Tuesday to Thursday. As I didn't get a returned call I can only suppose that what they actually mean is; they might possibly return a call Tuesday to Thursday, but you haven't got a hope in hell of getting a
response any other day of the week.

So I guess now it'll be next Tuesday at the earliest before I am likely to hear anything. Meanwhile time continues to seep away.

Waiting. That is the worst thing about this whole infuriating process.

No wonder the NHS calls its 'clients' patients.

* Obviously there are many, many wonderful people who work for the NHS not least my twin sister, my step-sister, Eunice, The Doc and The Dude. But seriously guys, a small number of colleagues are dragging down this wonderful institution's reputation.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Smear and a Twang

I had a smear test today.

The nurse was in and out quicker than a virgin on prom night; I resisted the temptation to ask if that was it.

A quick, painless, scrape of my cervix and I was back at work before you could say "That was an abnormally long lunch break."

Do you remember when smear tests were something to be dreaded, put off until you got three or four reminders, and were accompanied by debates about what to wear and worry that the nurse might think your lady bits look 'funny'? (Come on, we've all wondered if it is supposed to look like that. Haven't we?)

Today it felt like a bit of light relief compared to the double-handed foraging that I normally associate with internal examinations.

But what was it that really put the spring back in my step?

Tonight I met up with Twangy Pearl, the Elastic Girl. She was in town for family shenanigans so I took the opportunity to steal her away for a wee drink. She was lovely, and just what I imagined (except, much as I love all her drawings and think she is incredibly talented, she really doesn't do herself justice in her self-portraits).

Internet friends for the win!*

*Although real life friends don't feel abandoned - I love you too.