Friday, 30 September 2011

Good To Go (Again)

If you thought that all the preliminaries for IVF number three were sorted back in June when my doctor and I sat down and discussed it, then you were wrong.

As, to be fair, was I.

The protocol was decided.

The biopsy was clear.

I rang up the private clinic, where fully I expect to spend the majority of my 2011 earnings, to book in IVF and was told I had to have a preliminary appointment.

Despite this being the clinic where I have previously had two NHS funded rounds I am treated as a brand new “customer”. Right down to being given directions as to how to get there.

I also needed a new customer appointment and to bring along my passport. I had the appointment this morning with a new (to me) Doctor, and she was reassuringly thorough.

The plan hasn’t changed much. I am still going to try the Intralipid treatment. I discuss it here, but in summary, it might, possibly, help combat miscarriage bought on by one's body having an over-active immune system and seeing any embryo as a foreign body that needs to be destroyed rather than nurtured. In one sense therefore, I’m not an ideal candidate. I’ve never been pregnant, let alone miscarried.  But there is a feeling (not proven by science) that it might help implantation.

We decided that it is highly unlikely to do any harm. It might even help. So on that basis we will give it a shot. 

The next thing to agree on was timing. I had this sorted. As soon as I finish my next pill packet, mid-October. The Doctor, however, thought I might need a break from the pill for a cycle as I’ve been on it so long. 

For a moment I was attracted to the thought of a month off contraception. This might be my chance to get that fairytale “pregnancy whilst waiting for IVF” and save myself a few thousand pounds at the same time.

But then we realised a cycle for me could be three months not your normal 28 days.  So we shelved that idea.

Moving on, and using the Intralipid logic of "it won't do you any harm so give it a shot", she is going to get me to have another biopsy in two weeks. But it'll differ from my normal biopsy. (When did I become the sort of woman who has a normal type of biopsy?) They aren't interested in the cells, they just want to rough up my womb lining a bit, as it might (or might not) give an embryo just a little bit more to grab onto.  I imagine it is kind of like when you use sandpaper on a bit of wood or metal before applying adhesive. 

Having agreed all that there then lay just one hurdle between me and and October IVF.

Cysts on my ovaries.

The Doctor glanced at her watch. “If you don’t have a cyst now, and remain on the pill, you are unlikely to get a cyst before your next IVF.”

She considered me again.

“Come on.”

And she whisked me into a scan room, unceremoniously impaled me – I hadn’t even shaved my legs this morning it was that unexpected – and declared me cyst free.

I’m good to go.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Pretty In Pink

Breast Cancer research and awareness is a cause close to my heart, and I am not talking about anatomical proximity. Some of you who have been reading a while might remember this post, about my Mum, who died of Breast Cancer when the wombmate and I were 15 and our big sister was 17.

She was 35 when she first found a lump, the same age I am now.  Needless to say I check myself regularly, a task the husband is always enthusiastic to partake in.

She died in 1992 - almost twenty years later I can’t write that without crying.

Since then treatment has got better and better but with 130 new cases of breast cancer being diagnosed each DAY in the UK alone there is still a long way to go before the C-word is met with anything but dread.

The 28th of October is Wear It Pink day. Whether it is a touch of pink on the or going the full Barbara Cartland, thousands of people across the UK will be getting dressed up and donating £2 each to The Breast Cancer Campaign for the privilege.

I won’t be.

For two reasons:
1)    I don’t own any pink clothes – a serious oversight I know.
2)    My office colleagues are notoriously difficult to persuade to join in - Red Nose Day, Jeans for Genes, Halloween all go unrecognised by our attire.

Instead I am going to tap their wallets in a different way. Chocolate brownies with pink icing at 50p a pop and pink meringues at 20p should extract a healthy sum for the campaign.

But you totally should Wear It Pink - and be part of the cure.

**This is a sponsored post, although proceeds are going straight back to the Breast Cancer Campaign**

Monday, 19 September 2011


Sorry to disappoint if, from the title, you thought this post might be about another cause of infertility. It is not.

The wombmate, my twin, has just failed her second IVF. This year, between us, we’ve had four goes, 43 eggs retrieved, 7 embryos put back and none frozen.

Neither of us are any closer to achieving a pregnancy than we were nine months ago. There is no cumulative effect that will make the next round any more likely to work than either of the two (each) proceeding ones.

Obviously I was pretty upset when I found out it didn’t work for her. (I know - in tears at a pregnancy announcement, in tears at a non-pregnancy announcement – there really is no pleasing me.)

The husband tried to comfort me in a typically masculine way (and I’m not talking about suggesting giving him a blow job might make me feel better). He used logic. He cited examples of other people we know for whom IVF didn’t work the first, or second time but they went on to pregnancy.

It didn’t help.

With the wombmate I am equally as impotent. I feel like I, of all people, who understands what she is going through, should know the magic words of comfort. The unfortunate truth is that there aren’t any. There is no statistic that I can quote to the wombmate that will cheer her up and make her confident that it will, one day, work. There isn’t a magic number or formula that will guarantee results.  The pair of us are just playing the numbers game in the hope that the next roll of the speculum will produce a positive result.

And so once again it is my turn to pick up the baton and continue our bizarre IVF relay. Running a race in which we have no idea where the finish line is, whether we’ll even both reach it or collapse, exhausted, before it is even in sight.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Numerically Challenged

I was always the dumb one in my family.

Both my parents and sisters went to the best (or second best depending on your preference for light or dark blue) university in the country.

I didn't.

I have a vivid memory of fleeing from the dinner table in floods of tears because the four of them were sitting round working out the square footage of our walls and therefore the number of tins of paint that was needed. It was like an exam maths question was squatting at our dinning room table under the pretence of light conversation.

On car journeys we use to be set mental arithmetic challenges.

From a family of mathematicians, engineers and scientists I was the rogue arts person.

But, as a result, I always considered myself better than average when it comes with numbers, just not freakishly good like my family. It has given me a good grounding. When I am amongst 'normal' people I realise that I'm not as numerically challenged as I'd believed in my youth.

Or so I thought.

I've had to reassess this opinion of myself in light of the fact that I failed to calculate correctly how long six weeks was.

It turns out that I counted wrong. I will finish the pre-IVF pill packet not on the 26 of October, but the 17th. But I have already agreed the dates I am off work, starting on the 24 of October. Which is actually perfect as the first week of injections isn't that onerous and this way I should have a week or so break at the end of IVF, when I know the result, to either think about next steps or happily bask in a pregnant glow.

I know, I am an idiot.

But don't worry, I don't feel like the family dunce anymore. I mean one of my nephews can't even read and can barely string together a coherent sentance, and the other can only spell the simplest of words. I beat them.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Head Over Heart

I'm quite an emotionally lead person. My decision-making process is based on gut-feelings rather than rational thought.

I usually get lucky - who'd have thought that the skint wastrel I hooked up with at University would turn out to be such a fine upstanding husband? (Unfortunately he ended up with (regular commenter) Granine but the other one I bagged isn't so bad either).

Again, when I did the non-sensible thing and I quit a job with nothing to go to I landed on my feet with a much better gig.

But, maybe I am finally maturing, because I have just made a decision that rationally I know is right even though every fibre of my emotional being is rebelling against it.

I've decided to wait until the end of October before having the next round of IVF rather than the start. I know there is only three weeks in it but even that seems like a long wait - I mean come on ladies you know how long a two week wait is.

My reasons for wanting to start on the fifth of October were:
1) It is sooner
2) If I got pregnant them my baby would be due on or around the 11 of July (my birthday is the 14th)
3) Did I mention it is sooner?

My reason for delaying for three weeks are:
1) It gives me more time at work to wrap things up after "The Summer of Hell"(TM) before my six week sabbatical
2) It gives work more time to work out how on earth they'll manage without me - I had to wait for my biopsy results before giving my boss dates so I have only just been able to ask for the specific time off (yes, as it happens, I do have quite a high opinion of myself)
3) By allowing myself more time to wrap things I will be more prepared and thus less stressed about leaving work
4) The husband, for whom October looks set to rival my summer in terms of work-load is more likely to be able to find time to nip out and spaff in a jar and hold my hand during medical procedures in early November than mid-October. And he is fairly important, dare I say crucial, to the process. (Unless, Granine, do you want to offer up your husband as an alternative, now that he has a proven track record? No? Hello? ...)

See. I'm becoming Spock-like in my decision making processes.

And I guess on the plus side it'll mean if it does work my birthday won't be over-shadowed by that of my kid!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Am I normal?

I have a luxury.  One that divides people.  Responses that I have received upon admitting to this extravagance ranges from "Yeah, me too, life saver", undisguised envy, to self-righteous "I could never do that, besides I enjoy doing it myself," to utter disgust at my bourgeois indulgence.

But I genuinely think it has saved our marriage. The moment we started to indulge our arguments and resentments were cut by half.

My dears, ... deep breath ... once a week we have a cleaner come round.

I love it. When I come home from work on a Thursday night and open the door I marvel at how she does it.  In two hours she achieves more that I can in a day. How does she make the cushions so plump? Does she iron the bed to make it so creaseless? And she folds the toilet paper end, like they do in hotels.

I've got a tear in my eye just thinking about it.

But it isn't without its downsides.

She tidys the TV remotes away by putting them next to the TV. The one place in the house where they don't need to be. She unconsciously diminishes my husbands sexuality by popping his pink, purple and yellow socks away in my drawer.

And she piles.

My incomprehensible (to anyone else) filing system: To do pile, to file pile, to probably throw away pile, to do something with but not quite sure what pile, becomes one large stack. And she'll incorporate wild cards - the day's post, the magazine by my bed, wrapping paper.

Did any of you spot that?


On Thursday I received a letter from my Doctor with the results of my biopsy.

Today, Sunday, I found the letter. Carefully piled, or possibly maliciously hidden.

I opened it.

It said my biopsy results were:

 "Entirely normal and showed no evidence of the previously seen changes which is very reassuring".

I've not been so relieved to discover I was normal since the day I started my period.

I might have to sack the cleaner though...

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Summer - not lovin'

It is nothing personal, you understand, this lack of blogging.  Rather it is indicative of the kind of summer I've had.

I've known for years that this summer was going to be work-heavy - big, big changes at work. Whilst I had hoped at some point to be cushioned from it by maternity leave, or at least part-time working, that hasn't happened and suddenly it is upon us. Whilst I can work as hard as the best of them what I am finding tough is how responsible I feel about everything. Which means even when I'm not working I'm waking up sweaty-palmed thinking about something that needs to be sorted, a question that needs to be asked, something that no one seems to have thought about.

And everyone is fraught. I've lost count of the number of people who have indignantly shouted at me that they haven't had a holiday this summer. Rather than respond with "Really? My summer holiday was two days off for an operation," I've had to sympathise and cajole them to still do what I want.

On the plus side there is an end in sight. The work and the stress hinges on the first week in October. After which things will have worked, or not, but at least the worst of it will be over.

It has to be.

The first week in October is also when I hope to start IVF round three.  I say hope because I have yet to receive the biopsy results. The reason I want it to start then is because the start needs to coincide with the end of a pill packet so either I start on the 5 of October or 26th of October.

Workwise the latter would make more sense. However, I feel I've waited long enough so I'm gunning for the former.

I. Just. Need. My. Biopsy. Results.

I am painfully aware that this summer, as well as stealing my free time, has obliterated my sense of humour.  I will endeavour to ensure the next post is a happier to remind you why you bother to read this drivel in the first place.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Just another day in the office

Picture the scene: You’re working on a Saturday. It is ten to one. Your office shuts in ten minutes, and it is a beautiful day outside, you just need to make a couple of calls and you are free for the rest of the day.

I’m guessing that this was in the forefront on the embryologists mind when he called the wombmate yesterday. She is in the midst of her second round of IVF (you can read about her first attempt here and here).

On Friday she had nine eggs retrieved. Only three were mature. This morning she found out only two had fertilised. The embryologist rang her up and asked if she “wanted both the embryos put back in on Monday [day 3] or wait until they (hopefully) reach blastocyst stage on day five.” Her husband asked if they could have half an hour to think about it. They were told ‘No’ because they were about to close up.

Eventually they negotiated a reprieve and agreed to call back with a response on Sunday morning.

This might not seem like a big question to ask. But it is.

The wombmate has been consistently told by her clinic that her Health Authority only fund single embryo transfer for a woman of her age (35). They have stressed to her the negative health impact of twins on both the babies and mother.

Equally blastocyst transfer has been held up as the holy grail of IVF - the one thing that she should be aiming for.

To be fair I have no idea if the embryologist was keen to nip out into the sunshine. But I do know that he expected a quick, un-thought-through answer to a question that could have the longest-term of implications.

To him this was just another collection of eggs and a numbers game. “Not many fertilised = get them both in before either stop developing”.

To my sister this is a decision that she wants to think about, discuss with her husband, feel confident in.

In the end, she has decided, to go with a two-embryo transfer on Monday as suggested.

I think this is the right decision - I checked back to see how my embryos faired between day three and five. In round one I went down from 8 viable embryos (initially 12 fertilised) to just two on day five. During my second round on day three there were 13 embryos but again, by day five again only two were left. On both occasions two were put back in, and far from having to contend with twins I don’t have anything to show from either.

But she is disappointed at the way this was handled. And I’m not surprised. To the medical practitioners this might be just another day in the office, but to us it is, literally, about life or not decisions.