Monday, 29 October 2012

Embryo Agony

No agony aunt post from me this week - turns out I've solved all your problems, which is smashing. So instead I am giving you the chance to answer MY problem

Dear Readers 

With four fresh rounds of IVF under my belt (that is a literal, locating, term - you'll probably find your Doctors use it too) I'm not keen on enlarging my aging ovaries to ostritch-egg proportions again to go through another round of IVF. 

 But I'm lucky, I don't have to. 

I have three embryos in the freezer, that is three potential babies right there. When I next do IVF it is going to be courtesy of the little frozen robot babies rather than battery-farming myself up for another crop of eggs. 

If the next three embryos fare no better than the 8 previous ones I've put back then there has to be a time when I admit defeat. Plus, depending on how long it takes to get through the remaining refrigerated batch, the eggs hanging out in my ovaries will be one or two year’s older than the previous ones and, having tipped over that magic mid-thirties mark, their quality is deteriorating faster than a student party with half-price shots and a foam machine. 

 Add to all that haemorrhaging savings and a desire to have a life beyond fertility treatments it feels like we are coming to the end of our attempts to breed. 

 So you've got the background - what is the question? (That was rhetorical - I'm getting there). 

Every IVF so far I've had two embryos put back in. Round one, two and three did nothing. I suspect that, as my womb lining is an inhospitable little bugger, you could have put eight back at once and rather than becoming a Octomom with my own TV series and I'd still be as childless as ... well, as I am now. 

The last round (four) was different. My womb was nurtured and plumped up. It was expertly scarred for added embryo-grabbability (another technical term for you there). 

And what happened? (Easy tiger, that was another rhetorical question - you'll know when I get to your question). 

Both embryos stuck around for a wee while but, I was scanned at 8 weeks and it became apparent that there was no heart beat that was the end of that. And the Doctor talked. A lot. I just wanted to get out of there whilst he went into verbal diarrhoea mode. I can't remember all he said. But I do recall him being quite insistent that the miscarriage was nothing to do with me. There was nothing I should have done in terms of my lifestyle, eating habits or exercise routine that could have increased my chances of a successful pregnancy. He was convinced that there were chromosomal issues with both embryos that prevented the pregnancy being sustained. 

I think about that all the time.

If these little ones had been chromosomally tip-top I'd be seven months pregnant with twins, or if only one could tick-off its full complement of chromosomes I'd have at least one bun in the oven - almost cooked. 

It is also a bit worrying. If two out of the five weren't Ok, how are the other three? Are they doomed before they even have a chance of life?

There is no way of telling. (Or at least there is, but the testing is beyond my budget or needs.)

 All I can do is carry on and assume that they are going to be OK. I don't have a choice.

So the question is:

*drum roll please*

How many embryo's should I put back in next time?

I'm not going to go for all three - I don't think I'd be allowed even if I wanted to. But my Doctor has given me the choice of one or two. And I can't make up my mind.

We have to assume that my womb lining will be a healthy as ever - it better be after my three pill a day ritual of the last few months. So there is a good chance that if one takes both will. Chromosomes allowing of course.  

But I have seen through T just how hard work twins can be - hell I've seen this weekend with the wombmate how hard one can be - I'm thinking one at a time would be best. 

But what if the one chosen is screwed? It'll be over before if begins and I'll be cursing the day I didn't have a back up in utero. 

But then if I put two in and neither takes I will just have one more embryo, and one more chance, left before we call it a day. 

If I put one back and it doesn't take I will still have two more bites at the birthing cherry. 

Oh I just can't work out what would be best. There clearly isn't a right answer. 

What would you do?


Monday, 22 October 2012

Eyebrow Agony

Dear Auntie Lizzy,

I moved to Dubai from New York.  All the Arabic ladies here (and many of the European/American ones as well) are constantly getting their eyebrows "threaded".  My eyebrow regimen in the states was plucking and trimming with the occasional wax.  I have fairly light hair (white blonde when I was little - those were the days!) so most of the errant hairs are blonde and hard to notice. 

My problem is that I can't find a salon (they call them saloons here.  Much to my amusement) that does waxing, and all the ladies I see having the threading are actually crying!  Yikes!  I don't want to go though individual hair pulling agony, but I also don't want to be that girl with the unkept eyebrows that everyone is secretly talking about.  Do I have to submit to a threading


Hopefully not too hairy

Dear Hopefully not too hairy

For those of you who don't know what threading is it is basically the threader will rub a couple of strands of cotton thread against your brow bone as they tangle together they catch up stray hairs along the way. Kind of like when you were a kid and put two elastic bands on your wrist and then rubbed them up and down ripping out your poor arm hairs. Don't tell me you never did that.

Many people extoll the virtues of threading verses waxing. Because the thread is guided against your brow bone it is suppose to give a brow shape that naturally flatters your face shape rather than a curve dictated by however free the beautician is with the wax strips. 

I have never had my eyebrows waxed - unlike almost every other part of my body - mostly because I was put off by my sister who got hers waxed the day before her wedding. Fortunately the bit where the waxer pulled off part of her forehead in an over enthusiastic tug isn't so visible in the photographs. 

Threading however I have done a number of times. I'm not going to lie - it stings - and yes I have also seen tears. But it isn't so much women openly weeping in pain, more that it makes your eyes water. 

With a bit of forethought there are a few things you can do to lessen the pain. Pop a couple of pain-killers thirty minutes before. I'm not convinced this has any more than a placebo effect but if the placebo works go for it. A friend swears by smearing her brows with Bonjela (teething-gel) to numb it prior to plucking, just make sure there isn't too much gunk to catch on the thread. Maybe try and numb them with ice before hand.

The good thing is that the fashion nowadays is for a more substantial brow so there will be less to pluck. Compare and contrast the picture below:

But whatever you do, don't go for the sperm brow, and no it isn't what you might think:

Oh dear.

But the short answer is do it. Embrace this new hair removal technique. It might change your life, or at least highlight your cheekbones.

Yours with a few stray hairs of her own,


Monday, 15 October 2012

Swearing Agony

Dear Auntie Lizzie

I have a friend (yes, really, it is a friend's problem).. she has a 6mth old baby and her husband (stress head) keeps arguing (full shouting and swearing) in front of her baby and she's really upset by it...he says he's trying to stop but what else can she do/say...their relationship is struggling...and at the very least she could do with a laugh from your witty reply!


A Friend

Dear Friend

It doesn't sound great, and I am not sure this is something that I can really make light of with a witty retort.

Swearing in front of a baby I have no real problem with. At a very young age they don't have a clue what you are saying so any word is fair game. Once they get more sentient, and start to parrot their parents it is even better. You have to admit that there is little cuter than a cherubic-looking toddler trying out the word "Bugger" for the first time.

Which reminds me I have been remarkably lax about teaching my nephews swear words, I must rectify that soon.

The shouting though, that sounds grim. Babies might not understand words but I guess they are much more sensitive to emotions. Any stress and upset is going to leak through to that baby like a shit-filled nappy.

A friend of a friend once said that the only reason a couple don't divorce within the first year of parenthood is they are both too tired to do anything about it.  As our fertile friends are keen to tell us, living with a young baby is tough a lot more often than it is cute. So I doubt that your friend is alone in her predicament, but that is no reason to put up with it.

So what is your friend to do? If he is shouting and swearing there is no magic word that will make him shut up and see sense (unless they are indulging in S&M and she uses the safe word), and the chances are, if she tries to make herself heard she will end up screaming and escalate the problem.

Not a helpful place to be in.

I would suggest if things start to get nasty she just picks up the baby and leaves the room. Then, when things are calmer, she tries to talk things through and explain how this is damaging her and their relationship.

The worse thing she can do is let it fester and only discuss it when they are both getting angry; she has to make sure they keep talking or nothing will get resolved.

And if the baby's first word is "Fuck" that'll be a great anecdote for birthdays, weddings, bar mitzvahs and funerals.

Yours with ear plugs at the ready,


I'm out of problems again. So what you've got to ask yourself is not 'should you share your most intimate problem with the world' but rather 'can you afford NOT to ask my advice'? Can you? Huh?

Monday, 8 October 2012

Salad Agony

Dear Aunty Lizzie

The hubby & I have been 'actively' trying for about 6 years now - I'm always careful to state the word 'actively' as I once failed to use the magic word when seeking medical help & had to put the whole thing on hold for a year as the GP was not convinced that we were 'trying hard enough' and sent us packing... (young, female, probably newly qualified & stupidly fertile - no I'm not at all bitter).

I have PCOS & a womb that just keeps on producing oodles & oodles of lovely lining (just the kind of lining you'd like to plant a baby in - ironic) but sadly I don't seem to ovulate! Been through various hormone blowing, emotion accelerating, mad-woman-on-the-edge inducing drugs and treatments but so far nothing has worked. Everything seems to boil down to the fact I'm overweight (hang in there, I'm getting to the point...).

I have been very open with all my friends & family about our little fertility predicament as I find they 'try harder' not to put their foot in it & say the wrong thing - they are all wonderfully supportive & well meaning! BUT... each time I've had a failed treatment they give me a pat on the back, tell me 'my time will come' & start discussing what foods I should consider cutting out!

Now, whilst I appreciate their encouragement, how do I politely find a way to tell them to FUCK OFF?

I spend my life at the gym (ok, slight exaggeration but it's 4 evenings & a Saturday morning out of my hectic schedule while they eat crisps & watch eastenders), I have read all the books on PCOS diets there are, I have joined slimming clubs & cut carbs to the point that the mere sight of a salad reduces me to tears & yet here I am, still a size 20 & childless, being given advice by skinny folk who eat what they like, & who fell pregnant as easily as tripping over & landing on an erect penis!

I know they all mean well, but I may well bitch-slap the next person who offers me 'kind words of support' - HELP!


An infertile salad-dodging blog-stalking fan.

Dear Salad-Dodger

The good news is I am not about to give you any weight loss tips. I have no idea how to lose weight, and lets face it having never met you I have no idea whether you really are as over-weight as you feel or if it is all in the mind. (And if you are basing your size on clothes size then I beg you not to buy your clothes at Topshop whose sizing seem to be based on guesses working from a rake.)

For a start from what you've said, and considering the length of time you've been trying, it sounds likely that dropping to a size ten is not the magic answer. Your weight might not be helping but I'd be amazed if that is the only problem.

I base this amazement not on any sound medical knowledge bit more on the kind of folk - who are way bigger than a size 20 - that I often see waddling on the school run with a couple of kids an tow and a toddler in a puchchair, more often than not scoffing a packet of crisps. (The little'un, not the mum. Actually scrap that - often both).

So don't be too hung up on your weight, the problem is how to stop other people focussing on it.

You say in your email:
"Now, whilst I appreciate their encouragement, how do I politely find a way to tell them to FUCK OFF?"

You know I am going to suggest that a not so polite FUCK OFF might actually work.

I mean, imagine your friend opening her mouth and as she is saying "Have you tried stir frys", you stand two inches from her face, shouting FUCK OFF. I mean it isn't going to enhance your friendship but it will stop them in their tracks.

Possibly this is a little extreme.

Maybe, if they start on the exercise tips, invite them to the gym with you. You might be bigger than them but going to the gym that regularly you are bound to be fitter. Get on adjoining treadmills and ask them to expound on their theories - I give it two minute before they are too out of breath to talk.

Or pre-empt them with a "You wouldn't believe how insensitive people are that they think they can start giving me diet tips, I mean you know how I've tried X, Y and Z. I am so glad you aren't like that." Should make them swallow their words.

Alternatively, a bitch-slap isn't a bad idea either.

See, you already have the answers, it is just a case of putting them into practice without getting arrested.

Although I expect prison food would act as a pretty shit-hot diet. Damn, sorry forgot I said I wouldn't give any diet tips.

Best of luck


Thursday, 4 October 2012

Metformin Agony

I know I said I was only going to do agony columns on a Monday, but they are so much fun and I have a few backed up - so here is a cheeky end-of-week treat for you guys.


I have a question for the agony aunt... I'm about to start my first IVF and have been told I'll have to take Metformin for my PCOS. 

Our consultant made a point to tell us that the main side effects of Metformin are diarrhoea and flatulence. Lovely. So my question is, do you have any suggestions for how I can get out of the inevitable embarrassing situations of the next few weeks? 

Thanks Tracy xx

Dear Tracy

Despite everything that I have done in my quest to get pregnant, Metformin isn't one of them.  I secretly think this might be because one of the side effects many women on Metformin discover is they lose weight, so why would my doctor consider giving me a drug that has a positive side-effect?


Nuts in May recently wrote about taking the drug and I would direct you to her post, not just for what she says but also her reader's advice in the comments.

But you didn't ask me about Metformin directly, you want to know how to avoid the embarrassing situations that may result, and in that I am an expert.

1) Get a dog
In the four and a half years since we first got our dog the husband and I have never farted in the house. If one of us does smell a little air-biscuit that has been artfully dropped we blame the dog. Even in some cases when the dog is in kennels or the rippling parp noise seemed to come unequivocably from the direction of one of the human's bums.  IT WAS THE DOG - GOT IT?

2) Sabotage your Nike Air max
Anyone who has had the misfortune to puncture this popular nineties fashion item will know that as soon as you get a puncture in one every walk will be accompanied by a contented farting sound as you stroll along; providing you time your metformin-induced trouser coughs with the squelch of the shoe no one will ever know your embarrassing little problem.

3) Go to Morocco 
If your experience of Morocco is anything like mine when I went, it won't mask any bottom burps or diarrhoea but it will make any side effects from the Metformin a mere side show to the main, very unpleasant, event.

4) Pretend to develop a coke habit
Chances are you'll be frequenting the toilet a lot more frequently than normal during this ... um ... disruptive period. Your work colleagues may start to notice, and there is little more embarrassing than sneaking back to your desk after a particularly strenuous session on the crapper thinking that all your work colleagues have a mental image of you pooing yourself inside-out. So instead, when you return to your desk be ebullient, sniff a bit, rub your nose enthusiasticly, start every sentence with "Yeah, 'cause, like, when I was five, right ..."

5) Oust your way through it
Always ensure that you carry a spray can of Oust (or other odour-neutraliser) around with you. Then if you must let one off spray your trail so that the strench doesn't travel with you.

I tell you what, this agony aunt thing is great. It just feels so wonderful to know I can help people.

Yours feeling smugly self-satisfied


Monday, 1 October 2012

Sister Agony


Just wondering if you can help me with my problem?

My sister is one of those people that gets everything handed to her. The good high paying job, new car, new house, two pregnancies (both conceived the first month they were trying), raises when she hardly get the picture.

I on the other hand, am the one that works hard and still gets laid off, that had to go through 7 years of infertility and 3 rounds of IVF before getting pregnant, that has to scrimp and save to pay the mortgage. How do I politely tell her I don't want to hear any more about her money problems, (they bring in well over six figures between the two of them!) and how tough her life is! Give me a break already!!


Lurker J

Dear Long-suffering Sister

I would say I can relate, but luckily my sisters are hopeless under-achievers who will never make anything of their lives. (They also read this blog are could be in danger of getting big heads, so let's stick with my version.)

The thing is, you can't tell your sister that you don't want to hear her woes - it won't make any difference. It sounds like she doesn't care if you are listening or not. She just wants to unload. Chances are she also whines to her mates about how you "don't understand what it is like to have to provide for two children and, have no idea how tough motherhood is, and actually infertility is a bit of a blessing..."

But never fear. It doesn't mean you have to put up with this shit.

Whatever you do don't try and 'out moan her'. It'll become like one of those late night scar-sharing sessions when it starts with someone pointing out a fairly innocuous burn and ends when that strange bloke from chemistry takes down his trousers to show everyone where he was gored by an escaped elephant.

That was some night.

The best thing you can do is offer practical advice. When people complain about their circumstances they don't want to hear advice. They want sympathy, maybe a wide-eyed "I don't know how you cope, I really don't", and probably a chocolate biscuit.

So fuck that shit, she starts talking about money woes you whip out a pen and paper and say,

"Right let's sort this out.

"What is your monthly income? And his? And you out goings - any loans, childcare costs, how much do you spend a month on socialising?"

Start jotting down some numbers as though you are about to do a monthly budget plan then and there

I guarantee she will pretty swiftly want to change the subject and will clam up about her problems. Maybe if you want to have a little internal laugh, really push her. Start emailing her links to financial products and going round her house plucking items at random and saying how much you would reckon it would go for on eBay followed with a swift, patronising, "Every little helps. Count your pennies and your pounds will look after themselves." (Or cents and dollars.)

You will quickly become the person that she brightly says, "I'm fine" to when you ask how she is.

Yours in anticipation of significantly more chilled family gatherings,