The healing power of Stockholm and my Nobel Prize

As I return from my work travels in Stockholm, I have some down time to reflect upon our recent failed first round of IVF.  I say ‘failed’…it’s actually quite difficult to say with any confidence that it was actually the IVF that failed us.  It is possible I suffered an ectopic pregnancy, but the doctors were unable to confirm it, although they treated me for it with methotrexate to terminate the pregnancy to be on the safe side.  Something was growing, they just could see it.  If my pregnancy was truly ectopic, then it wasn’t the IVF that caused the demise of my pregnancy….the IVF treatment managed to get me pregnant, but my body decided it wasn’t going to succeed; my body simply decided that this wasn’t my time to join the pudding club.

Or it could all simply be described as just terrible bad luck.  Sometimes, there is just no reason known to man why Mother Nature can be so cruel.

Of course, it is natural to blame oneself.  There are several potential causal links to an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy: tubal damage, smoking, age, IVF – all of these increase the risk: approximately 1-2% of pregnancies are ectopic.  But mostly there is just the plain and simple element of unfortunate luck.  You can find on the web doctors who speculate that the risks are higher with IVF because either:

  • a) With a 3-day transfer, the embryo that would ordinarily be in Fallopian tube at this stage, seeks out the more fluffy warm tubes because that is where it thinks it should be, then gets completely lost and doesn’t ask for directions.
  • Or b) the doctor who performs the embryo transfer procedure places the embryos too high up in the uterus; or they are transferred too quickly and end up in the wrong place.

However, my doctor explained to me that statistically speaking, the risk of ectopic pregnancy doubles with IVF because generally there are two embryos being transferred and so that risk doubles from 1% to 2%.    This makes a whole lot of sense to me.  I was just unlucky.

I am thinking through all of this right now because I need to take away something positive from this failed cycle.  I’ve got to get my cup half full again….and so the positive could be that we just needed that extra help from ICSI or the hormones, and I was just one of the really unlucky ones to not stay pregnant this time.  Next time might just be our time.  There is still no reason why it shouldn’t be.

I was feeling a little sorry for myself in my last post.  But the last couple of days have been an improvement, and it is starting to look like our path is finally beginning to flatten out, allowing us to take a breather.

Time to catch a breather before heading off on to the foggy path called infertility.

Time to catch a breather before heading off on to the foggy path called infertility.

I have been kept mentally busy with work, socialising and networking with my colleagues, so I have had little time to think emotionally about the failed round of treatment.  Physically, the pain has dissipated, the bleeding continues (seriously, where does it all come from?!!?), but it is a very small amount that it has barely bothered me.  I still feel exhausted, but jet lag most likely lays claim to the cause of that.  I miss my pre-natal multi-vitamins, I really hope to be allowed to take them again soon.  They help keep my bowels in shape and my energy up.

And I will grow back my positivity because over the next 3 months as we have a plan to get us to our next IVF cycle (hopefully if I get the all clear from my repeat HSG!!).  In short – we have our 2 week, 2000 miles, road trip starting from Las Vegas, visiting various amazing places like Grand Canyon, Zion national park, Bryce Canyon, Monument Valley, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Petrified Forest, Painted Desert, Hoover Dam and a whole lot more.  I have another 3 work trips to Europe to fit in – Munich, Berlin and Brussels/Mons (I haven’t been to Berlin yet so that is exciting!).  We have a consult with our doctor scheduled for late October to discuss the plan for the next cycle.  I need to find some time to fit in a HSG once my period returns (seriously NOT looking forward to that).  I am hoping my body is going to play nice and we can get an IVF cycle in just before Christmas.  It’s also Chris’s Birthday soon and I want to organise a small party for him.  And amongst all that we are going to try and fit in a weekend away to Shenandoah National Park to see the beautiful colours of autumn.  No time for stopping over the next 3 months!!

Stockholm has done me a lot of good (despite the jet lag), I’m feeling mentally refreshed and excited to be moving forward.  However, I was very disappointed to discover that my invitation to pick up my Nobel Prize must have got lost in the post.

No Nobel Prize for me.....But it was beautiful!

No Nobel Prize for me…..But it was beautiful!

But I did get a chance to scope out the building they award them in, the museum my name would be listed in, and the best restaurants to celebrate at….May be someday I’ll be back 😉 bahahahahaha – Keep dreaming Dani!

The Nobel Museum, Stockholm

The Nobel Museum, Stockholm – Something to reach high for 🙂

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The art of clothes shopping when coping with infertility

I hate shopping.  I love having new things!  But I hate the actual act of shopping.  This stems from two problems I face, and more recently, as a direct result from dealing with infertility, a third problem has appeared.

  1.  I hate crowds – I hate sharing a shop with another person as the bimble in front of me or push past me.  I have my personal space….keep out of it!!!! I get quite antsy when I am unable to walk away freely and it ruins the whole shopping experience for me
  2. I have terrible fashion sense and an awkward sized body – small boobs, small waist, tall, big hips and fat ass!  I’m not quite pear shaped, but the majority of clothes do not fit my lower half of body unless they are stretchy or super baggy.  Therefore buying some of the simplest things can take me more than one shopping trip.
  3. More recently, I have noticed how much I hate walking past baby clothes stores, pregnant women and women pushing buggies without looking where they are going.  they are everywhere.  Really I had never noticed just how many baby clothes stores there were, until now.

So why don’t I just internet shop?  I remind you of problem 2.  I have never bought clothes form the internet – that is until now.  I discovered a service call Stitch Fix*.  Several months ago, I noticed my friend wearing a beautiful skirt, after complimenting her on it she told me it was from stitch fix.  So I looked into it some more…basically this is a service where clothes and accessories are selected by a stylist just for you and delivered direct to you.  No shops!! No wasting time sifting through lots of pictures on the internet!!!  No worries.

So how do they know what to send you?  Well you answer a questionnaire that includes your likes and dislikes….you are shown some photos of styles and you rate them, you provide them with all your different sizes (boobs, waist, hips, height etc), you also give them your price points, i.e. how much you would spend on a jacket, jeans, top, trousers, earrings etc.  They use data science modeling techniques to figure out what type of clothes would work best for you.  You also have a chance to write what you are looking for in your shipment of 5 items – may be a special occasion, or a holiday is coming up….or just in general the type of thing you want  A stylist reads any of your requests and selects 5 items based on all this.  And it is a surprise what you get!  Your box arrives beautifully wrapped.

I love receiving surprises in a box!

I love receiving surprises in a box!

You also receive a personal note from your stylist describing why they chose the items they have sent you, then they include little cards to show you how to accessorize each item they have sent you.  It is very neat.

Each card shows you how to style your item, and the stylist writes you a personal message :-)

Each card shows you how to style your item, and the stylist writes you a personal message 🙂

My very first box I kept all 5 items –  a handbag, a maxi dress (I have had so many random strangers compliment me on this one), a pair of jeans (that actually fit me!! How risky was that putting in a pair of jeans in the first box?!), and two blouses that worked for both casual and work.  I was very impressed.  I probably wouldn’t have picked half of these off of the shelf in the shop, but when I tried them on I really loved them!  Chris also helped me decide what to keep/not keep -so he can give his input without having to suffer being dragged around the shops!

(Another thing I generally dislike is shopping with other people, including Chris, because I feel pressured not to spend too long browsing or not try things on – I feel guilty – except with my mum and my friend E, I don’t feel so guilty with them :-p)

You have several days to try the clothes on and if you don’t like them you send them back in the prepaid packaging.  If you buy all 5 items you get a 25% discount.  You can choose how often you receive a package and can schedule one any time you fancy it – may be if you are feeling down!

Today my second package arrived (I chose to have a parcel once every 3 months)….I am very pleased with the stylists choices – again!  Unfortunately, one of the tops was damaged so I will have to send that back.  But I like what they chose for me and will be keeping them!

I will not lie, I am a bargain hunter…and this service is not the cheapest.  Basically I calculated they add onto the price of the items a premium I probably wouldn’t pay for in a store if I picked it up from the rack.   But when we added up the cost of fuel and the saving of hassle, I figured it was worth that ‘premium’.  Another of my friends who tried Stitch Fix after I told her about the success of my first package.  She kept one item – some jewellery.  But the rest she sent back as it either didn’t fit her or was just not to her taste.  She says she won’t be ordering any more from them. So they don’t always get it right!!!  My friend who referred me to Stitch Fix originally has never received a package where she kept all 5 items, but she is happy to just receive a few good things every so often.

So I now get to avoid the ‘crowded’* shops and all those baby stores, but still get the feeling of having new things!  Plus, I get to wear more fashionable clothes that actually fit and suit me!!!

Happy Friday everyone….so excited it is finally the weekend!!

Even Sushi loves Stitch Fix!  Perfectly sized for a cat. In fact on their website they have a section dedicated to cats & dogs in stitch fix boxes!

Even Sushi loves Stitch Fix! Perfectly sized for a cat. In fact on their website they have a section dedicated to cats & dogs in stitch fix boxes!

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*I am not being paid or receiving any reward to write this blog – this is just my personal thoughts on a service I have found useful after realising that shopping can be quite depressing for me at times.  BUT if you are interested in it, then there is a referral system, let me know – but this is not why I am writing this blog post, there are other similar services out there which do a similar job!!

**Crowded for me is more than one other person in the store!!!

A letter to all my friends

Dear friend,

I hope this letter finds you well. At a time when we are feeling our lowest, I am trying to find ways to pick ourselves up, and I realised that all we really needed to do was think of you.  I realised we haven’t sent you acknowledgement of everything you have done for us, you see you are probably unaware of how much of a difference you have made to us as we face difficult times.  What I really want to you today is THANK YOU.  So here we go….

Thank you for being our cheer leaders.  Trying to conceive isn’t easy for everyone, and for some, like us struggling with infertility, it’s a mountain.  We feel lucky that we have you by our sides through this journey.  We are going to get there, and you keep reminding us that we will make it, but sometimes we forget where we are going and consider turning back.  You are there to tell us to keep going, to cheer us on when the going gets tough. Thank you.

Thank you for being sensitive about our situation and trying to understand what it is like for us.  We know that you have been keeping up with our blog so you can understand.  Sometimes you have even helped us look at things from a different point of view.  We can get tunnel vision, reminding us what else is around us is good for us.  Thank you.

Thank you for covering for us at work, we know we haven’t exactly been the most reliable people to work with, but your flexibility is helping us out, and you know we would always repay the favour at the drop of a hat.  Thank you.

Thank you for offering us a hand when the going has got tough.  At times when we just feel like breaking down, you have been there with a hand to help us get up and at ’em.  Sometimes, just your words of offering us a hand is more than enough to get us going.  Your words and thoughts are greatly appreciated – we may not be able to reply straight away.  Sometimes your words are so overwhelmingly filled with love that we are temporarily speechless and overcome that we just don’t know how to phrase a response.  Thank you.

I hope that we can offer you as much love in return that you have shown us on our rocky path.  I can’t wait for the day that we introduce our baby to the world and in that moment we will look to you with a heart full of so much thankfulness that you were there for us when we needed you most.

Thank you,

Your Friend,

X

When life gives you lemons - get a little help from your friends

When life gives you lemons – get a little help from your friends

A letter to my Infertile Friends

Dear Infertile Friend,

I am sorry I started this letter with “Dear ‘Infertile’ Friend”.  I am sorry I labelled you ‘Infertile’, because if there is any one single wish I had in the world, it wouldn’t be ‘I wish I was pregnant with my child’, it would be ‘I wish there was no such thing as infertility’.  I do not wish infertility upon even my worst enemy.  Infertility is not a label, and it doesn’t define you, so I am so so sorry I started this letter in this way.  But….I am differentiating you from my non-infertile friends because you have given me something my non-fertile friends are unable to.  This letter is to say thank you.  Thank you for helping me get to where I am today, yes I am still empty arms, but I am stronger now than I was when I started this winding, mountainous path called infertility.

It doesn’t matter where you are in your infertility journey, you have given me something that has made me stronger.  Whether you have just discovered you are less than fertile, going through medicated treatment, IUIs, IVF, surrogacy, donor eggs/sperm/embryos, adoption, child-free living, pregnant after treatment or living with your rainbow baby – you have amazed me.

To those who have shared with me their intimate stories of struggles, pain and, most importantly – light, you have inspired me to stay strong on my path.  Whether you shared just a brief snapshot into your life or have shared every minute of every step of the way – it has all added up to how I feel today.  Stronger with you in my life.

My friend, you have layed open your heart on the table, exposed it, allowed it to be vulnerable just so you could help me understand what lay ahead of me – so I could prepare for the good, the bad and the damn right ugly.

Please do not underestimate the power of your voice and how it has touched me.  I can’t measure it – but just know that it has.

Thank you,

Your Infertile Friend X

Who am I and why am I here?

My very first blog post was written at 5AM, almost 9 months ago.  One early weekend morning I just couldn’t get back to sleep.  I had so many thoughts whirling around in my head, it hurt a lot.  You see I was facing a mountain, I was just starting my journey to join the great pudding club under difficult circumstance, my journey to overcome infertility.  After I had written my ideas down in that blog post, my head felt calmer, clearer – I felt free.  I re-read my first published post to myself over and over again.  My first post was entitled: “The Beginning?  Or the Beginning of the End?” There was something comforting about seeing the words on the screen as I felt a huge relief begin to slip off my shoulders.

It was no longer a secret that Chris and I were struggling to get pregnant.

But WHO AM I?

Starting with the basics, I am a 32 year old Brit living in Virginia, USA.  I moved here with my husband Chris after we decided we would like to try living abroad before settling down with children.  So I applied for a job with a 3 year contract, and here we are!! 2 years and 9 months later, now with the offer of a permanent contract in our hands, we have decided to stay for a little bit longer.

IMG_2830

We are not done with the USA just yet, Chris and I both have good jobs and we still have a lot of America to see.  A big part of our decision to stay longer is that my job offers excellent insurance coverage, including amazing infertility coverage.  If we returned back to the UK, we would have to wait a long time to receive IVF treatment with the NHS – we could probably afford one round of treatment privately, but that would require taking on debts.

I can tell you that with my blog you will see an open and honest woman, but I am not good with confrontation, so it is unlikely I will be offending anyone anytime soon.  You will read about infertility treatment, infertility research, dealing with emotions, what it is like as a Brit living in the US and maybe I might talk about what has got my goat that day.  However, I can be very emotional – although I am an analyst by profession, I apply emotion to my research – what I really mean is that, yes – I am a scientist, but I’m more of a social scientist, so I tend to challenge the statistics and look for other explanations, I don’t like to follow ‘the algorithm’.  Although I do LOVE a good chart or stat.  Seriously, I have a mug at work that says “I love Spreadsheets”, some of my military colleagues think I’m a big geek.  I also like learning and trying new things, although friends who have known us for a lot longer will tell you that we have been less adventurous over the last 2 years than we ordinarily are, but this is one of the sad effects of infertility.

Why am I here?

Blogging gives me a sense of off loading the whirlwind of thoughts that infertility brings to a couple.  But I have discovered something far more valuable – a community of like-minded bloggers who support and care for each other.  Sure you can find support in forums, but there is something longer lasting about blogging – a personal insight into an incredible journey and a deeper level of love and support.

My blog has also provided an avenue for friends and family to keep up-to-date with our journey, we have opened up a level of awareness to people who had no idea what infertility entails, and this will continue to be another goal of mine.  Infertility is not a dirty word, it is nothing to be ashamed of – yes it hurts so so much, but it can hurt a lot less with the love and understanding from those around you.  I have experienced this myself.  This is why my blog is open to everyone and anyone who wants to understand.  Please follow, and please comment – I am always open to alternative views, ideas and suggestions!