Everything happens for a reason or does it?

When I hear the statement ‘everything happens for a reason’ my insides start to gurgle a little, my heart rate begins to rise, I feel a bit sick. I try not to let it spin my head around. Being able to truly believe that everything happens for a reason must be amazing. I used to believe it, I used to believe it because it would help me get through some of the crap in my life. I’d tell myself that this shit has happened to me because it’s going to make me a stronger person, a better person, a more empathetic person, more resilient. I can turn these crappy things that happened to me into life lessons. I would be that great oak tree that gets stronger after it gets struck by lightning.

But then life got really shit when it came to growing our family. Infertility and pregnancy loss. And I questioned it. I met some other incredible women who had been through some shittier shit. I questioned it. I always sought the good out of evil…I still do, but I can’t always see it right now. So I settle with, ‘Everything happens’. Period. Full stop. The end.

But what does a mantra like ‘Everything happens’ do to me? Does it make me bitter? Does it make me a fool for not seeing the good out of the bad?

I don’t talk about religion much here on this blog, but when people say ‘it’s god’s plan’, to me that’s even worse. When I was a kid and I was upset about something I used to close my eyes tight and through my tears ask god why? Why me? And god would reason with me. Actually, I was reasoning with myself, I just pretended it was god talking to me because somehow it made me feel a little better. But telling someone when they are going through struggles ‘it’s god’s plan’ is surely enough to make someone lose their faith, because it is so hard to understand why god would let a baby die…because… it’s his plan. It’s hard to understand why god didn’t bless a family with a baby of their own. It’s hard to understand why our loved ones are taken from us before their time. It’s hard to understand why god would let a terrorist kill people at an airport who are about to go on holiday with their children (innocent children) or who are separated from their loved ones because of work. It’s truly hard to understand what the greater good or plan is. If this was true, surely god is evil? I honestly don’t think that would be the case. For me, I think it is probably better to say that it is god’s plan to be with you, if you let him, when shit is thrown your way.

My current feelings are that time spent thinking about the ‘why’ is time spent wasted. Infertility has taught me how to be in the present. It is therapeutic, it’s survival. Although, it could be argued that by saying ‘everything happens for a reason’ and ‘it’s god’s plan’ would actually HELP with living in the present, but I feel it would be like living in the present with your head in the sad singing lalalalala!!

So for now I’ll try to ignore those few words ‘everything happens for a reason’ and live in the present otherwise it will eat away at me, little by little. I’m glad I’m mentally able to do that right now. I know it won’t always be like that.

Perhaps I’m just parking it for another time when I feel like thinking about the bigger why. Or. Perhaps infertility has actually taught me coping mechanisms for shit thrown my way.

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Infertility round 2

Caught between a rock and a hard place is what I would call planning for a second child after dealing with infertility the first time around. And we are not even at the stage of planning number two, we are still at the early stage of deciding whether we want a number two child.

Let's go back to times before we faced infertility. The times when we were naive to think getting pregnant was the easy, fun part, and it was the subsequent pregnancy and beyond that would be the more challenging part of growing our family. I'm pretty sure we would have said that our family would ideally consist of two children, a dog and a cat (or two). Today, if you asked us what our family would look like in several years time, I wouldn't be able to tell you because I just can't imagine it right now.

Today, I can't imagine Aviana playing with a sibling in the garden, showing them how to throw and catch a ball, or holding her baby brother or sister in hospital, asking THAT question 'where do babies come from?' or her poking my tummy and proudly saying to random people that mummy is having a baby. I can't see it. I don't want to see it. Because if I see it, I think it, I feel it and if it never happens, it will tear me up forever. But sometimes my mind does wonder there and I try not to cry over the fact that it is so distant and fuzzy. The future is so murky.

And yet, I am better prepared than I was before Aviana became part of our lives. Today I know I am infertile, I know what the chances of getting pregnant again are, I'm an infertility warrior, this isn't my first rodeo!

Somedays, I'm positive and hopeful….perhaps my hormones have 'reset' and I'll get pregnant without medical intervention, we have a frozen embryo I won't need to stimulate again, I now know all the IVF tricks of the trade, it would be a piece of cake!

And other days, I'm down and negative…I'm getting closer to 40 than 30, my eggs are even poorer quality than they were before, we only have ONE embryo in the freezer-it's got a 50% chance of surviving the thaw, there is a good chance I will have another IUGR pregnancy, we will be doing this with a toddler, I'm not sure I can cope with another IVF stimulation and suffer from OHSS. And then there is the risk of pregnancy loss, An ectopic pregnancy was a cruel experience.

And the negative is winning at the moment, infertility round two doesn't look good to me. I don't want to waste the precious time I have with Aviana whilst she is this small worrying about infertility. I'm not sure where this is going, but knowing I managed to survive that infertility journey the first time and looking back at that mountain, I'm not sure I can do it all over again.

Back again

It’s been a while, but that doesn’t mean I have forgotten about my great pudding club hunt.

Last week I attended our local infertility support group meeting for the first time in well over year and half.  Not because I’m trying to get pregnant again, but because my infertility has yet to be resolved.  It’s on my mind still.  Because I want to help others still in the trenches whilst I have a chance to look at it from a different perspective.  I have lessons I have learned I can share and want to share.

It was a great meeting, I saw some old faces and new ones.  We talked about jealousy and infertile guilt.  We talked about self care as a way to help cope with those feelings better.  I still get jealous of those who can ‘plan’ when they have a baby.  I still get jealous of those with beautiful baby bumps.  I still feel guilty where some of my infertile friends have yet to hold their much wanted babies.

Here is where we are at right now.  We have one frozen embryo from our first round of IVF.  We still have unexplained infertility.  We now have the added complication that because of my unexplained case of Intra-Uterine Growth Restriction (IUGR)  there is a good chance it could happen again, and because we don’t know the cause there is very little we can do to try to prevent it from happening again.

In fact when I went to my annual OBGYN checkup last week, I asked the doctor what they could do differently if I were to get pregnant again.  She INSULTED with the first thing that came out of her mouth – “Well first of all, we make sure you eat well and healthy…” FUCK YOU. It was as if she was saying that I was the cause of Aviana’s IUGR.  She also said that they would do an extra scan at 32 weeks.  But that was all she had to say about it.  Now, admittedly, she wasn’t my OB for my pregnancy and I ambushed her with that question.  But the first thing that came out of her mouth still hurt.  I am questioning whether I will go back there again.

Anyway…the point is that this unexplained IUGR makes us question whether we would even want to risk being pregnant again.  It’s an added complication if we ever want to grow our family again.

Also, I wanted to note that the majority of those who I follow on blogs and instagram have managed to succeed in bringing home their babies.  There are some of you out there who are still fighting, or have taken the path of what a lady in my IF group calls as ‘forced child free’.  I think of you often and wish infertility wasn’t such a totally unfair bitch. XX

I am 1 in 8 speech

For my first international toastmasters speech which is known as ‘The icebreaker speech’ I decided to talk about my infertility. I thought I’d go big or go home! Talking about infertility to a bunch of work colleagues and a few strangers is nerve wracking!! This speech is the first of many I must give to gain my ‘competent communicator’ award. The idea is that the icebreaker speech is 4-5 minutes long and aims to ‘break the ice’ by talking a little bit about yourself as an introduction to your fellow toastmasters club members. Talking about infertility seemed like a bold challenge. 

It was hard to focus a speech that is only 5 minutes long to what has been a challenging part of my life. But in the end here is what I said…

“Ladies & Gentlemen, let me ‘break the ice’!! Let me take you back in time to when I was 9 in a leafy suburb playground of London. I was a bit of a Tom boy. I liked cars and transformers, so whenever I played with the boys, the girls would taunt me with the school playground rhyme…

“Dani & Chris, sitting in a tree

K-I-S-S-I-N-G

First comes love,

Then comes marriage,

Then comes the baby in the baby carriage”

Well ladies and gentlemen, that nursery rhyme isn’t quite so simple as it sounds after all. Because I am 1 in 8. I am 1 in 8 who suffers from the disease that is infertility. A baby in the baby carriage is not always what comes next.

Let me introduce you to Chris, my husband of 5 years….


Here he is winning the District 66 toastmasters humorous speech competition. You can see I have some competition!!!

4 and half years ago we moved to the US to work here. And it was at that point all our friends and family asked us….’so…when are you going to have a baby??!!’ Little did they know that we were trying but not succeeding. After many tests, thr doctors couldn’t tell us why we couldn’t have a baby. We were diagnosed as unexplained. So we tried InVitro Fertilisation or IVF.

Our first round of treatment we created these beautiful embryos…


We named them huckleberry and huckleberina because they looked like raspberries. Just 8 cells smaller than 0.1mm. One decided to stick around and I got pregnant!!! We were so happy! Until we discovered that it had implanted in the wrong place, the pregnancy was ectopic and so we sadly had to terminate the pregnancy as it threatened my life. 

We were devastated. We had to wait a while to try again.

Second time we created these 5 day old blastocysts. At first we didn’t name them because it was too painful. But in the end we did nickname them Petrie and Spike.


But it didn’t work. I didn’t get pregnant. It was very stressful and even Chris didn’t want to try again so soon. But we decided to try again. Third time lucky they say?!? This time we created thee 5 day old blastocysts – and as you can see we got a better photo of them  third time around!


And it worked!!! Today we have our beautiful daughter Aviana who is now 6 months old.


We are the lucky ones. Not everyone of the 1 in 8 gets to take a baby home in the baby carriage. It was a hard journey and involved hundreds of injections and there were many tears. People ask me now that I have a baby when will number two come along, or will we have another baby? But I tell them it’s not quite so simple as that. It’s hard. I wanted to share this with you today as my icebreaker because this is a subject deep to my heart and I hope you have learned something interesting about me today.

Ladies and Gentelemen, Thank you.”

I really enjoyed giving this icebreaker speech. It probably wasn’t what people would have expected as a first time topic. I got a great response from the audience. There was actually someone in the audience who was going through IVF themselves and have done two cycles at the same clinic as we used. They were about to decide whether or not to go for a third cycle and whether to stay with the same doctor. I offered details of our local infertility support group. It was obvious it was meant to be that I talked about this topic for my icebreaker. 

Infertility leaves a scar. I am grateful we were the lucky ones, but it doesn’t suddenly disappear from your heart when you have a baby. For me, continuing to talk about it and spread awareness helps the healing.

Tiny Bump tears

I’d forgotten about the Ed Sheeran song ‘Tiny Bump’ until this morning.  Today I put on the Ed Sheeran album + I bought back in 2012.  It’s been a while since I listened to it and I had forgotten this beautiful song he wrote about his friend who lost her baby at 5 months pregnant.  I just bawled my eyes out.  Actually it also reminded me that I put the entire album on my birthing playlist.  And yes, I think I told Chris to skip it when it came on.  Not the best song to listen to when you are in labour!  If you haven’t heard it, it’s on you tube, linked below.  Just wait to those last two lines of the song and have a box of tissues to hand.

What a difference a year makes

After the second explosion I remember turning around to see an old lady cowering behind her suitcase. The fear in her eyes was immense, she was terrified. OK we all were terrified, but it was her who I vividly remember the most. I asked her if she was OK, was she hurt, but she didn’t understand me – probably because I was speaking English when I was in Brussels airport. 

I remember that moment today one year later after the Brussels terror attacks, not because it was the one year anniversary(?) but because of the terror attacks in London yesterday. I heard today that another person died from his injuries – a 75 year old man. It made me think of the old lady in Brussels. It then made me reflect about how different my life is today one year on. 

One year ago I was also in the midst of down regulation for my upcoming 3rd IVF cycle. The one thing I thought of alongside figuring out how to get out of the airport alive was my medicine…I NEED MY MEDICINE! Looking back now it was daft to carry my bags with me, I should have left them behind. But all I could think of was needing to take my next injection. Not even a damned terrorist was going to stop me from this IVF cycle! And now here I am, one year later back in the UK with my beautiful 3 month old daughter, Aviana, the outcome of that cycle. 

One year ago if you told me my future I wouldn’t have believed you. On the edge of quitting, I somehow felt strength from adversity. I’m so glad I didn’t quit because I can’t imagine my life without Aviana in it.

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have – life itself.

-Walter Anderson

And so Life goes on. I will continue to fight terrorism and I will continue to fight the disease that is infertility with all of you. 

X

Buying a house or building a family? Infertility is expensive!

Today I thought about how lucky I am. I thought about the house we bought last year and how we were financially able to buy the house we wanted. We had been saving the cash for a rainy day for a few years, and a house seemed like a good rainy day investment. But ever since we were diagnosed as infertile we decided that we would probably need to keep that money for future treatments or possible adoption costs instead of a house. We saved that money to spend on growing our family to three. 

Luckily we didn’t need to use that rainy day money. Luckily my insurance covered the three IUIs, various diagnostic tests, surgery, and three IVFs. Luckily the third IVF worked. 

I am lucky. But I shouldn’t have to be lucky, it should be the norm to have infertility diagnostic tests and treatment covered by insurance policies. Being infertile is not a choice. It’s a disease. 

What I can’t get my head round is that companies who DO have coverage for infertility treatment don’t want to talk about it. I was shocked to read that when Resolve wanted to give an award to a fertility friendly company at their annual gala, the charity was turned down by eight different companies-they didn’t want to make it public. How can this be??? Infertility coverage is an amazing benefit and yet these companies didn’t want to celebrate the good they were doing for their employees. We have so far to go in making infertility coverage the norm. 

I am lucky because I got my rainbow baby AND a house. Many people I have met through the IF blogging world don’t get to have both. And sadly, there are even some who don’t get either and walk away with nothing or worse, a huge debt hanging over them.

I haven’t forgotten and I’m not going to forget how lucky I am to have the benefits I have through my work. I won’t stop advocating until infertility coverage becomes the norm.

Does your company include coverage for infertility treatment? If it doesn’t you can write a letter to your HR using a template that Resolve have put together to request coverage…

http://www.resolve.org/family-building-options/insurance_coverage/insurance-coverage-request-letter.html

TTC and no more exams

I thought I was prepared for my 4 week postpartum checkup with my OBGYN, but when I got there I was taken by surprise. 

I had planned a few questions for my doctor….

  1. How to manage my urinary incontinence?
  2. What to do about my milk blister on my nipple?
  3. When could we TTC (try to conceive) again if we wanted to in the future, considering we have one frozen embryo? After all, I’m not getting any younger. Also, as someone who likes to think about the future it would be helpful to consider what is the art of the possible.

But when I got to the appointment, I never asked the third question about TTC-ing. Why? Because I didn’t really want to know. I thought I did, but when it came down to it, I realised I was afraid of the answer. I was afraid of my age being a factor, afraid of retelling my story of how Aviana finally came into our world to a new doctor, afraid of having a date in my head of when we may start another journey when we just finished this one. Plus I should be living in the moment. Well For now anyway 🙂

After my appointment I got in the car and realised I wouldn’t be going back for a while. 

I burst into tears. 

Why did I cry? I’m not totally sure other than assuming crazy postpartum hormones, but the realization that I didn’t need another vaginal exam after several years of showing my hoohar to countless number of doctors, residents, nurses and med students on a regular basis was actually a big relief. 

So it was a cry of relief for no more exams, and a cry for uncertainty to when we would TTC again if we decide to do that. Maybe Aviana is all the family we will want, maybe we will want a brother or sister for her, for once infertility is not on the forefront of my mind. So ultimately it was a cry of relief.

A new blogging adventure

The Great Pudding Club Hunt is over…for now.  But my infertility hasn’t been resolved.  Infertility doesn’t define me, but it is part of my life now.  I love this blog, I love the amazing people I have met through this blog, I love how it has helped me cope with infertility and how it taught me to keep fighting when things got really dark.

But this blog is not about being a parent, in fact it has always been about me not being a parent and dreaming of becoming a parent.  I am now a parent and I don’t want to write about being a parent here, I want to save this place as where I can speak freely about infertility and pregnancy loss.  I wanted a similar place where I can speak freely about being a parent, and that is not here but elsewhere.  So I have set up a new blog…

The Inconceivable Adventures of Parenthood

(https://inconceivableadventuresofparenthood.com)

I’m a little scared stepping out into the parenting world, I’m hoping this new blog will help me explore my thoughts and ideas.  There is so much parent bashing on the internet I am a little terrified!  But like I have used the great pudding club hunt to explore my thoughts, cope with the low times and share the good times with others in similar situations, I hope to use the inconceivable adventures of parenthood likewise.

I hope to see some of you there!!!

I will be posting here still, I am not going away, but it probably won’t be as regular (until our next pudding club hunt anyway ;-p)

Postpartum recovery and pregnancy loss trigger

My postpartum recovery hasn’t been too bad at all. For the first 5 or 7 days I lived in the big stretchy pants with the huge pads that the hospital give you to take home. The amount of blood loss was heavier than my heaviest of periods, but the type of blood was different to a normal period, it was more of a pink and mucousy looking colour. Today, 13 days later and I’m still bleeding (as expected) but the amount of blood is more like a normal period for me. The blood colour goes between normal period type blood and a light pinky color. I’m now in normal pads and normal underwear (my normal period underwear anyway!).

I had a second degree tear inside my vagina that was stitched up, so I haven’t felt too much discomfort from the stitches.  However those damn hemorrhoids I was suffering from before giving birth almost tripled in size and a new one appeared too.  I’ve been using the prescription cream they gave me at the hospital and it has done buggar all.  Well if that is really the worst that I came away with, I am doing well.

So things down there really aren’t that bad.

But psychologically things are a bit different.

The first few days I experienced contractions every time I breastfed. These contractions were not like Braxton hicks or labour contractions. I’ve experienced these type of contractions before – when I miscarried. So every time I felt these contractions my mind wondered briefly about huckleberry (from our first IVF cycle). But I’d look down at Aviana nursing and I’d smile.  It’s funny how life turns out. It’s bitter sweet.

Christmas Day I had perhaps done too much walking around, later in the evening I bent over to pick up something, I stood up and suddenly felt like something squishy the size of a tennis ball appeared in my knickers. I grabbed my crotch confused and dashed to the toilet. There in my knickers was what looked like a huge ball of abloody clot. I freaked a bit, then prodded it expecting it to be soft like a clot, but it was actually a ball of tissue.  I shouted at Chris to take a look (yup, short of pooing in front of each other, nothing is sacred when it comes to all sorts of bodily fluids!).  My mind instantly felt and remembered my miscarriage and passing big clots.  I burst into tears and said to Chris ‘could this be….???’.  Chris knew what I was thinking, and he said no…it couldn’t be, they would have seen it on the ultrasound earlier.  He was right, if it was Aviana’s twin they would have seen it sooner.  But then I thought – they never saw Huckleberry on the ultrasound did they?….

The nurse had said if I experienced clots bigger than the size of a quarter I should phone in.  But then the guidance my OB had sent me home with was if I experienced a clot bigger than an orange.  Whatever this clot like thing was, it was about the size of a small mandarin.  I didn’t have any other symptoms and did not pass any other clots, so I decided not to phone the doctor.  I didn’t want the emotional stress for nothing that is just considered normal postpartum recovery.

I never expected to think about our loss so soon after giving birth 😦