Thursday, 28 July 2011

I Just Want An Answer

On the 20th of June I felt fairly optimistic.  The Doctor had ideas for my next IVF and there was just one hysteroscopy standing between me and my next shot at getting pregnant. But then nothing, no appointment and no copy of the referral letter (I had requested to be cc-d on all correspondence).

In my quest to discover whether I have been referred for a hysteroscopy I have (in no particular order):

  • Rung my old clinic at the NHS. But as I am not in their system they don't know if I have been referred.
  • Rung the number of the hysteroscopy clinic where, if I have been referred, I would have been referred to. But they don't reply to my voicemail messages.
  • Found another number for the hysteroscopy department and left a different answer phone message on a different phone. Again no response.
  • Emailed my consultant directly to see if he can let me know whether he has, as he said in his letter, referred me. But he hasn't answered.
  • Called the Consultant's secretary at the private clinic, who I paid £200 for an appointment with the same Doctor I saw on the NHS. She told me that he would have referred me in his capacity as an NHS consultant, not a private consultant, so she wouldn't have a record of the afore-mentioned referral.
  • As Wig suggested I've seen my local doctor (GP) but she (the Doctor, not Wig) has had no correspondence from the consultant since July 2010 so - even though I showed her the letter from the Consultant saying he would refer me - she can't refer me.
  • Got the husband to check with his work health insurance (which I am covered under) to see if I can get the hysteroscopy privately.  But I can't as it for an on-going condition.
  • Investigated the cost of having a hysteroscopy privately (£1,375 to £2,130). I could afford it, but not as a precursor to IVF which is likely to cost in the region of £7,000.

I am now completely out of ideas as to where to try next.

The womb-mate, an NHS insider, suggests writing a complaint - but I am reluctant to lodge a complaint against someone who, at some point, will be elbow-deep in my bits.

I am fed up of how much time, and energy, and stress, and patience each step takes, particularly at the moment when work is also doing its best to add to my stress whilst using up my time, energy, patience.

Other than starting again and going back to each person / answer phone and asking the same question, I am at a loss as to what to do next. Anyone else got any bright ideas about what I can do next to try and find out whether I've been referred?

Runes, maybe?

Monday, 25 July 2011

To Dye For

The other day I gave myself a rare treat.

After two years of dull, beige hair I allowed myself a hair dye. I'd sworn off them just in case the chemicals were tipping the toxic balance of my body into infertility.

Being on an IVF-hiatus, and being fed up of my nondescript locks, I weakened. However, this is only temporary - I am not about to embark on the regular dying schedule I'd kept up from 1991-2009, as soon as the IVF starts the bottle stops (in more ways than one). But equally I don't want to condemn myself to terrible regrowth.

How to explain this to the hairdresser?

"I'd like highlights but can you start them at different points in my hair? Because I might not dye my hair for a while and I don't want a stripe of dark roots."

I was that intelligible.

She gave me an odd look and just got on with it.

We stuck to safe subjects. I mentioned my dog, she told me her sister had a greyhound too.

"She got him because she failed IVF" the hairdresser confided.

"Me too!" I squeaked excitedly*. This is a lie - I got him because I'd been trying to get pregnant for over a year and was worried it would never happen. But by agreeing I was telling her, in shorthand, that I had also been through IVF.

And it meant I could tell her really what was going on.

I explained the reason I didn't know when I would next be able to dye my hair wasn't because I was too tight to pay for it, but because I didn't want to do it whilst I was undergoing IVF or was pregnant. (The jury is still out about whether dying your hair has any affect on your womb/ unborn baby - probably not - but if I get that far I won't be taking any chances).

We ended up talking through the whole IVF process. Most unlike me, usually I bury my nose in a book as soon as I sit in the chair and do my best to discourage any kind of small talk from the hair-dresser.

Naturally I can now never go back.

*Turns out you don't need a miscarriage to get the Obligatory Miscarriage Dog. (From Uterine Wars, bought to my attention by Nuts In May).

Saturday, 23 July 2011

What are the chances?

I found an online IVF success rate calculator this morning.

That was depressing way to start my weekend.

According to the calculator I have between a 19.1% and  20.3% chance of success for my next, third, IVF.

The chance varies slightly because I am still not sure what to answer for 'cause' (so I tried 'unknown', 'endometriosis' - I figure this is the closest to my fucked womb-lining - and 'irregular ovulation' - because, well, I do).

Just for shits and giggles of a Saturday morning I also did my back dated results for my previous attempts:

First IVF I had between a 27% and 29% chance of success.

By the time I had my second attempt it had dropped to 22.6%.

The problem I have with the calculator (apart from the pitiful chance it gives me) is that it bases its responses on just nine questions.

There are numerous factors that are not accounted for. It asks for your age, but not your AMH levels (which indicates the actual age of your eggs - whether you are headed for premature menopause or have the eggs of a woman ten years younger).

There are no questions about your lifestyle, if you smoke or whether you are overweight (a fairly obvious oversight I would have thought considering many NHS trusts won't let you do IVF with them until you've packed in the fags and have a BMI of less than 30).

And what about the other things we do to increase our chances of success?  The waiting to transfer a blastocyst rather than a three day old embryo, using extra progesterone, adding blood thinners, resting for three days after embryo transfer, acupuncture, brazil nuts, pineapple, lucky socks, magic talismans?

Do these count for nothing?

If you are interested the predictor is here

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Squeak, Squeak

I've gone all misty-eyed for the halcyon days of my last two IVFs.

Not for the injections, or bloatedness. Not because I miss my morning pessary (or afternoon pessary, or night-time bum-treat) or because I yearn to give just one more vial of blood for that much sought-after heroine-chic look.

What I miss is having a named nurse.

Anyone who has read this blog for a while (and I am gratified that there are a fair few of you out there) might recall the traumas I have had in the past trying to speak to someone, anyone, at my hospital to work out what was going on.

Then I was given a name, a woman on the end of the phone who could answer my queries and knew who I was.

Now that I have used up my free-IVF tokens this support system isn't there. "Shouldn't be a problem" I hear you cry (metaphorically I haven't started hearing voices. Yet) "you are now in the private system surely each phone call tinkles like swiftly falling coins and is picked up faster than a dropped fifty pound note ."

That is certainly true, when I call the private clinic.

However, I am not trying to speak to the private clinic. Despite the NHS trying to alcohol-wipe their hands of me, I am clinging on like a particularly virulent bacteria.

I still need a hysteroscopy (womb scrape for the initiated) before my next IVF.  Whilst this might well be a factor resulting in my infertility, treating it is bigger than infertility, therefore I still get this treatment and biopsies on the NHS.

I was told a month ago I would be referred for the hystroscopy. I am quite well aware that there is going to be a waiting list but I would have expected to have had some communication by now - even if it is for a date well into 2014.

I called my old reproductive unit, of course I'm not a patient there anymore so they couldn't really help.  They gave me a number but when I call it, it is answered by an anonymous voice mail - not even telling me what department I am calling.  Naturally my plaintive messages remain unresponded to.

So today I got back on my squeaky wheel and resubmitted my application for most persistent and annoying (im)patient of 2011. I emailed the head consultant. (Thank you NHS for making every email address a known formula of first name dot last name).

Well, it worked at Christmas so I am hoping for a repeat performance.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Comments Round Up: An Occasional Thing

Can I say once more how much I love hearing from you all?

The plethora of birthday wishes and fist punches on my behalf for getting the time off work helped me get through the day I turned 35 - when, if the media are to be believed, my eggs were busy staging a Wako-style mass suicide.

But down to the business of responding:

Another Wait
Mick said in reference to this post:

  • Did only I notice the 'blow jobs' part?"

To be fair, he was the first, and it was a bit of a relief that someone noticed it as a joke.  Obviously any blow jobs the husband gets are purely consensual (although I'm guessing here - I'm never around at the time).

The Letter
Thalia, wise woman that she is, offered a note of caution:
  • I'll be controversial and say of course they won't fire you for asking, but also that this was totally not the right option for me (of course it may be for you). I have a very full on, high stresss job, and I took 3 weeks off for my first cycle. It was dreadful. I sat at home twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the clinic to call. I obsessed about every little twinge and pull. And of course that cycle didn't work (and to be clear, I'm sure the leave neither made it fail nor made it more likely to succeed). So if you do take time off, do make sure you have some fun things planned for it - just being at home is likely to be not so great.
She is absolutely right.  I was ridiculously bored during both my three day post-transfer when I sat on the sofa and became saturating with those daytime property programmes. I am therefore planning projects and disciplins to ensure that I don't waste six weeks. I might even draw up a colour-coded timetable - like I did for my GCSE revision.

And one of the most random recent comments, by Anonymous:

  • Liz, completely off the subject. Did your mom name you Elizabeth? If so was it after the queen? Dumb question, but inquiring United States minds what to know. Have a great weekend and positive thoughts on the answer to your letter.

Not a dumb question at all. Yes, I was named Elizabeth. Not as far as I am aware after the Queen.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Decision

Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday to me
Happy Birthday dear Lizzie (this is the only time anyone over the age of 3 is allowed to add an "ie" to the end of my name)
And Happy Birthday to the Wombmate too.

I have just met with my boss, hot on the heels of his meeting with his boss.

"I discussed your request" he said, "and of course..."

I waited with baited breath.

'Of course' what?

'Of course it is impossible to grant this request'?

'Of course if it was just up to me I'd say yes'?

'Of course you realise it would be completely inappropriate'?

But he didn't add anything else. and it slowly dawned on me that he just meant:

Can I have the time off?
 "Of course!"

It isn't quite as straightforward as it seems.  I still have to submit a formal request to Human Resources, and the pair of us need to carefully work out the best dates.  But they've said yes and that isn't about to change.

It is unlikely to have a dramatic effect on the outcome.  Recent studies have shown that stress during IVF doesn't have an impact.

But it will help me.

It will be easier to go through the whole process again knowing that I don't have to hope that I won't get summoned for an unscheduled blood test during an important meeting, or drag my aching ovaries from site to site when I'd rather be chilling on the sofa, or concentrating on the sales cycle when all I am interested in is my cycle.

Happy Birthday indeed!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Another Wait

I handed The Letter to the boss last Thursday morning.  My instinct was to shove it under his door at three minutes to home-time and run.

The husband, however, loves nothing more than to force me to do things I don't want to do in the belief that they are character forming. You know the sort of thing: phoning up for taxis, complaining in shops, going up tall buildings, blow jobs... He told me that I needed to hand the letter to my boss in person and explain why I was doing so.

Before I had even sat down and handed my boss the ominously sealed envelop I was gabbling away with an apology, practically retracting what I had written in my letter. "Well, I've asked for six weeks but, you know, if that is too long four weeks would be fine".

I was actually shaking. I have no idea why. I'm not in the slightest bit scared of my boss.

Eventually I calmed down enough to explain what I was asking for, and why.

This isn't a decision that can be made overnight, I knew that, so he asked if it was alright if I didn't get an answer until next week.

"Fine, fine" I acquiesced hastily. Only a week! Man, this is the first time during this whole infertility gubbins that I haven't had a minimum of a two week wait.

So now I'm waiting.  I've checked his diary (like you wouldn't!) and he hasn't scheduled any extra-ordinary meetings with people who wield the power of unpaid leave. But he does have a meeting with his boss on Thursday. So I am kind of hoping that he will raise it then.

Which might mean I get an answer then.

Thursday also happens to be my 35th birthday. (Excuse me one moment *runs down corridor, screams, runs back, acts normal*).

On Thursday I have invited both my boss, and his boss, out for celebratory birthday drinks after work (along with other people - I'm not that much of a creep). So if they turn down my request that could make for a particularly frosty atmosphere in the pub. I hasten to add that I invited them before I decided to request the leave.

Now all I have to remember:

  • If they say "No," don't get drunk and abusive
  • If they say "Yes," don't get drunk and tell them I love them. 

Life was much simpler when I was cycling and therefore not getting drunk.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

IVF Lottery - What do you think?

This week Britain's Moral Outrage (TM) has had but one focus - Murdoch, phone hacking and News Of the World.  This means that other news that would normally have middle England spitting out their Chablis in disgust has gone almost unnoticed.

I say, almost, because their have been murmurings.

The source of this storm in a teacup is the news that an IVF lottery is due to be launched in the UK.

Before I go any further I would like to stress that I have not been asked to write about this, I have no affiliation with the charity that is running it and I am certainly not a shoe-in to win it.


The facts are: from the 30th of July you will be able to buy lottery tickets, priced at twenty quid (approx. 32 bucks) a pop, for a chance to win £25,000 worth of IVF (inclusive of hotel stay, travel, drugs, the works).

Most sensationalist journalists prefer to lead with the line: WIN A BABY!!! - they, and many people who comment on the article seem oblivious to the fact that IVF doesn't always work.

Now I love to be outraged as much as the next person but, frankly, I can't see why I should be.

As far as I can see the whole process of getting pregnant is already a lottery. One that approximately six in seven couples win lottery quite happily just by virtue of being fertile.

The rest of us, in the UK, then migrate onto the state sponsored lottery run by the National Health Centre. Depending on which Health Trust's area you live in your experiences can vary vastly.

Allow me to demonstrate:

My Trust offers two rounds of IVF for people who fulfill their criteria.  I have had these two rounds. If I lived less than half a mile down the road I'd be in an area that, amazingly, funds three rounds of IVF. Where the womb mate lives they have just announced they are cutting their offer from two rounds to one.  Thankfully the womb mate was referred just early enough to qualify for a second round.  We are the lucky ones, there are several trusts who just fund one, or none, or have such incredibly restrictions eliminating many potential IVF-ers.

This lottery is based on ones postcode.

Because of this I really don't see a problem with a lottery to win IVF. It is no more of a lottery than everything else we've been put through to conceive.

Comments on the online articles I have seen about the IVF lottery have range from the articulate, reasoned: "OMG" and "WTF?!!!" to the bizarrely hysterical: "What if paedophiles win?"

Then there is the heart-felt concern that "This lottery is exploiting desperate women. They might spend hundreds or thousands of pounds hoping to win".

Yeah poor us. Although I have just spent £4 on a Euromillions ticket, my plan is to win that jackpot on Tuesday - getting £166 million or thereabouts - which, unless my calculations are wildly out, I reckon would enable me to afford a couple of rounds of IVF with spare change. A much more appealing option than 'just' wining one round of IVF.

I don't feel exploited. And I am not about to spend all my IVF savings on a ticket to win IVF. I might, however, bung twenty quid the lottery's way.

But I want to know what you think. You, calm, rational, intelligent women who actually understand what it is like to need fertility treatment. Feel free to disagree with me. I can tell the difference between a troll and a difference of opinion and I'd like to hear your take on it.

Edited. Further reading here:

You can read various articles about it here:

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

The Letter

Every day this week I have said I'll do it. Every day this week I have chickened out.

The letter is written.

It sits patiently in my desk drawer waiting to be delivered to my boss.

It is clear, and slightly more formal than my normal missives.

It includes choice phrases like "seven and a half years of service", "exemplary sickness record", "endeavoured to ensure my work has not suffered", and my particular favourite "emotionally destabilising time."

It refers to the closest concession to my situation that I can find, after hours of trawling Human resources' website:

Discretionary Leave my be granted on medical or compassionate grounds or in the interests of ensuring the domestic life of the member of staff remains stable.

The letter requests 6 weeks unpaid leave for the duration of my next IVF. I have worked out when the least disruptive time would be for me to take this leave, it means waiting a bit longer than I'd hope for round three (until October / November) but, if it is granted it will be worth the wait.

I am quite scared.

I don't know why. The worst he can do is say no, the best is say yes, and there are various middle-ground concessions that would still make my life a little bit easier.

I am certainly not going to be sacked for asking.

Am I?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Take These 14 Simple Tests Before You Decide To Be Infertile

I don't know if you've seen that meme kicking around: Follow these 14 simple tests before you decide to have children (I've linked to it, but please don't feel obliged to click through, it is an infuriating read for anyone who has made that decision and can't actually follow it through).

I was first alerted to it when someone emailed it to the Wombmate (my twin sister).

Emailed it to her on bottom of the email commiserating on the lack of success in her IVF.

I know!

Who could possibly think that was appropriate?

Anyway, it got us thinking.  Here is our list:

Take These 14 Simple Tests Before You Decide* To Be Infertile

1. Supply all your female neighbours with pillows and get them to walk around with them under their jumpers and follow you on your commute to work. See how you feel about being surrounded by pregnant women.

2. A year in advance, pick three days a month when you will have sex. Do not check these dates against any other external events such as work travel or flu season. Ensure that you copulate on these days, and only these days, it will help if you also get very angry if you partner declares themselves to be not in the mood. Still insist on having sex, but do it grumpily.

3. Scour women's magazines for highly unlikely pregnancy stories (my personal favourite: Teenage girl with no vagina gets pregnant from blow job and stab wound). Stick the cuttings on the fridge to 'trump' people who call to tell you their latest urban myth story.

4. Make sure at least 50% of you female friends are pregnant or have children, and the other 45% are planning a family when you start fertility treatment. This will ensure a happy stream of birth and pregnancy announcements. Aim for two a month.

5. Have daily smear tests and keep the door open to maximise the number of strangers viewing your (formally known as) 'privates'.

6. Get a dice with faces entitled: tearful, sad, angry, irrational, loopy and over-optimistic. In preparation for unexplained mood swings resulting from medication, simply throw the die several times a day to determine how you are going to behave.

7. Do not buy new clothes for at least five years in anticipation of you soon becoming pregnant and therefore growing out of them. Soon all your clothes will be out of fashion, faded, misshapen, full of holes - or, hopefully, all four.

8. Provide all your relatives with wildly over optimistic 'data' on the likelihood of IVF working so they can keep your spirits up if you get a negative result.

9. Practice weeing on ovulation and pregnancy tests by using a q-tip/ cotton bud. But you knew this one anyway didn't you.

10. Once a month carry an onion round with you and every time you think you've stopped crying take another sniff to ensure a whole day of continuous weeping.

11. Get miserable in the company of your partner and when asked what is wrong say, "Nothing, I'm fine". After 15 minutes burst into tears and accuse them of not caring as much as you do about infertility. Do this on a daily basis.

12. Decide when you want to have a baby and sign up to a website that will email you weekly updates telling you how your baby should be developing in the womb - just to hammer home what you are missing out on. Remember, don't give in and unsubscribe or you'll lose nine months of fun!

13. Take to sticking pins in yourself every evening.  Not that we encourage self-harming on this site, but you need to get your stomach / upper thighs ready for all those injections. 

14. Reduce your going-out circle of friends to just single folk. As they couple-off and start to have families, look around for replacements. This gets increasingly hard. But don't worry, after (approx) 15 years your old friends will start to come back as their children no longer need babysitters.

Now you are ready to be Infertile.

*Like any of us actually made that decision, but I imagine many folk who found the kids one hilarious probably didn't so much decide to have children as slipped and fell on an erect penis.

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