Mega Communication FAIL

I am upset at myself….Chris told me it doesn’t matter, but I can’t help but feel like an idiot about it.

2 months ago I went to my normal physician and had my annual workplace medical (a requirement from my work).  Usually my physician calls when she gets my results and says everything looks good!!  This year she didn’t call me…but I could see my test results online and everything looked OK to me so I just forgot about it.

Roll forward to this evening and I log into my health portal to check some test results after a fellow blogger asked me about my AMH levels.  As I was looking I noticed that my physician had added a note to my most recent work place medical test results that said: “Your labs look good.  You are only slightly anemic.  Just take an over the counter iron supplement if you can.  Good luck!”  (She added good luck because I told her about our upcoming IVF cycle).  So all this time….I could have been taking an iron supplement and I haven’t.  I already take prenatals that has extra iron in it so what would my results have been if I hadn’t been taking this? Ugghhhhh.  I’m annoyed because I wonder if this could have made a difference to our embryos?

My doctor in the UK prescribed me folic acid supplements.  A quick google search and all of this and being slightly anemic is likely to be related to my Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  I wonder….is it about time I go and get all things associated with my bowels checked out again after the IVF?

I can’t help but feel frustrated that I didn’t see this message from my physician earlier!  But at least I have seen it now and that is the important thing (thank you Leslie for prompting me to log into my account!!! I’d never have seen the message for probably another 10 months!!).

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At least you know you can get pregnant

I think I’m quite a tough lady when it comes to receiving mis-informed and unintentionally hurtful infertility advice from the more fertile.  I experience it frequently because I am open about our infertility journey.  I forgive them because I know they don’t understand infertility as a disease and they only mean the best for me.  And I also know they couldn’t possibly truly understand how I feel because it has never happened to them.  Similarly like to people who have suffered from other diseases such as anorexia or depression or cancer, I don’t know what it is like or how it feels…I would never offer my uninformed opinion about treatment options or ways to overcome the symptoms of these diseases.  I won’t offer consolation that attempts to make them feel better about their disease.  Rather, I will offer my ear and my hand.

So why is infertility any different to any of these other diseases in how we talk to other people about them?  Why do so many bloggers end up writing about this struggle?  Is lack of education really the cause of this? May be other disease sufferers experience similar unhelpful comments too.  I really don’t know.

Have you seen that film about depression where friends and family offer their advice about depression, but the recipient of the advice is portrayed as a cancer sufferer?  The point of the video is that you wouldn’t say these things to someone who has cancer, so why would you say these things to people who have depression?  I think it is a great educational video (it’s at the end of this blog post if you want to see it).  Ultimately, I think there needs to be a film in a similar light about infertility.  I know there has been outrage on some forums of comparing infertility to cancer.  I understand that it is outrageous because people generally won’t die from infertility.  Comparing depression to cancer may also outrage many people as well…but depression can lead to suicide, it can kill too, but it is not a well understood.  So what is my point?  My point is that there are helpful things you can say to someone with infertility, and then there are unhelpful, even hurtful, things you can say to someone with infertility.

I have written about things that hurt, what to say, what not to say to someone with infertility many times before (ignorance is bliss, a voice of the child free family, Grow some thicker skin, you are so lucky you don’t have kids, Understanding: #YouAreNotAlone, Reblog from Que Milagro: Pardon Me While I burst into flames).  Today’s post adds to this list.  Today I am writing about one particular comment I have received multiple times since our loss from IVF cycle 1 from both fertile and infertile people:

“At least you know you can get pregnant”

I’m just going to put it out there straight away.  There is nothing consoling about this.

I get that there are many women who have never seen those two pink lines, me being one of them until our fist IVF cycle.  So I understand how hard it is to get negative after negative 25 times in a row.  But being pregnant  and losing a pregnancy is not consoling, knowing that I ‘did get pregnant’. I didn’t stay pregnant.  Maybe they would say “But it’s one step in the right direction”, yes perhaps, but it was then like ten steps back after our loss.

Would you say this to someone after they lost their baby during childbirth?  No.  Would you say this to someone who lost their baby in their third trimester? I doubt it.  Would you say this to someone who has suffered from recurrent pregnancy loss and miscarried 6 times? Definitely not. Would you say it to someone with secondary infertility? For goodness sake, NO.  So why does this need to ever be said at all?  It makes absolutely no sense at all and simply reminds me that we simply FAILED.

I am due to have my first beta test on Friday and in some ways, I am afraid of a positive than a negative.  Don’t get me wrong, I WANT A POSITIVE MORE THAN ANYTHING.  But I am afraid of when the positive comes, I know that even if this is my one successful pregnancy, my journey through the first trimester is going to be a psychological challenge.  If we ended up in a similar position to last time with a slow rising beta levels, pregnancy of unknown location suspected ectopic, yes it will be easier knowing the process the second time around, but it will be bloody damn hard to go through it all again.  And that is why I cannot accept the statement  “At least you know you can get pregnant” as consoling.

exhausted

Two week wait fun times planning

After two years of trying to conceive unsuccessfully I reckon I am getting quite good at this two week wait malarky.  Admittedly, I’m a bit rusty at it.  So in light of my previous post where I declared my new year’s resolution: I will embrace time, I decided to start thinking about my next two week wait for IVF cycle 2.  Now, I know that I will not be doing anything ‘extreme’ or ‘partying like it’s 1999’….but that doesn’t mean I can’t plan for some fun! right??!

Evening Fun Activities (i.e. post work)

Self-Pampering – Mud mask, jacuzzi bubbles bath, trashy magazine, a bar of chocolate (something fancy like) cosy pyjamas and early to bed.

New food (2 nights) – Cook or bake something outrageously random for dinner that requires some new cooking skill!  Like working with pastry or something equally different.  Glug it down with a random new TV programme from Netflix or Amazon Prime. Sadly no alcohol to glug.

Fun with friends – hang out with friends, either invite them over for take-away (take-out) dinner or try somewhere new together.

Fun with family – I can’t really do this well, but I will spend some time writing a couple of letters to my family back in the UK.

Meet some new people – go to one of my local social and sports club nights, make an effort to be sociable!!!

Crafty and creative (2 nights) – do some knitting (including teach myself a new stitch and practice it), start/continue my new painting (it’s a secret what I am planning to paint!!!)

Date night with hubby – Trip to cinema or rent a DVD with lots and lots of popcorn and some BIG SNUGGLES.

Blog focus night – discover some new blogs and write a new blog post (perhaps from my collection of ideas I have left over from NaBloPoMo 15).

Weekend Fun Activities

Well there is potentially only one weekend I will need to keep busy for!

Road trip to Charlotte, North Carolina (to include going to a Basketball game, a walking tour, perhaps a nice meal out and a trip to Lemur Land on way back!!!!).  I am pretty excited about this road trip.  My Birthday present was tickets to see the Charlotte Hornets play the Washington Wanderers.  I don’t support any particular team, I just really wanted to see basketball game!!! It was perfectly planned by Chris.

I looked back at all my previous blog posts that were tagged with the 2 week wait (2WW)…I think the key for me is to keep myself busy, even if it means I am just ‘planning’ to relax and pamper 🙂

Ohhhh I should also mention that I have ZERO home pregnancy tests in the house!  I used them all up last time and did not replace them.  So no sneaky testing will be happening this time around!!!

Do you have any other tips for the 2WW?

Bitter Sweet Days

When logging on to catch up on my daily dose of the blogging world, I get a little bit excited.  I am excited because I love to see that announcement I myself long to write.  Seeing those beautiful two pink lines.  I am inspired by women who have stayed strong through their battles against infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss, they are unaware what their blogs have helped to overcome in the last few months.

But excitement is rarely straight forward in the infertility community.  Parties, ‘champagne’, phone calls, hugs, kisses, messages from loved ones are not always immediately possible.  I get nervous when I log on almost as much as I get excited.  I get nervous for those who the bitter sweet of the two pink lines can be several weeks down the line, who may experience the greatest sadness of their lives.  The happiness, cruelly taken away.  The punch in the stomach.  The pain and headaches from sadness and sometimes even a depressive hole.  I am nervous for them.

There is nothing more I can say about these feelings other than how I find some days to be simply bitter sweet.  I know the old saying ‘When life throws you lemons, make lemonade’, but sometimes life is just not like that.  Those lemons suck.  Really suck.

I wish....

Wishing happiness….

On occasions I forget that there are two of us on this journey

I was really mean to Chris the other night.  I mean really mean and I feel bad about it.  We were in bed together and just about to switch out the lights when Chris asked

“Can I touch your tummy?”.

Now, I hate, hate  hate  my tummy being touched after eating dinner, I just hate the feeling, something probably related to my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  But even so, Chris wasn’t just being polite….so with a slight quizzical look said

 “No!! Why???”

Chris rather coyly replied

“Because…..well….there might be a baby in there!”.

Oh.  I can’t remember exactly what I said next because I had mixed thoughts at the time.  But I know whatever it was, it wasn’t very thoughtful.  I argued that that he shouldn’t get his hopes up because the chances of our success were low.  Then we argued about the statistics of IUI vs natural conception.  And so we rolled away from each other after our mini dispute agreeing to disagree and the lights went out.  After about 30 seconds in the dark, I felt guilty, terribly guilty.  I have been trying to not get my hopes high with this IUI because I’m afraid of them just being put back down, again… so there I was, trying to put Chris’s hopes down too.  In the darkness, I quickly apologized for being mean.  He said it was OK.  I couldn’t get to sleep for an hour or so after this brief incident because I was lamenting on why I felt so guilty.  Really it’s because I realised I had not considered him and his feelings, I was selfish and temporarily forgot that actually there are two of us on this journey together and I am not alone.

Our journey together

This is our journey together

Oh no applicator? Nice one freedom fertility pharmacy…

At my last visit to the fertility clinic I asked the nurse if she had any tips or hints on the progesterone suppositories.  She looked at me funny and said slowly,

‘Well, they are trans-vaginal’.

OK so I got that part, but they look a little awkward to insert?

‘Ohhhh, well it’s easy with the applicator’.

Ahhh, well I don’t seem to have been given an applicator.

‘Oh I am sorry, that’s not really helpful’ the nurse sympathized.

No, not much.  I’ll figure it out.

Last night was the first evening I had to ‘insert’ the progesterone suppository.

Progesterone Suppositories: Greasy little things

Progesterone Suppositories: Greasy little things

I have to take these for at least 14 days just before I go to bed.  These suppositories help to thicken the uterine lining, increasing the chances of a successful implantation.  The suppositories are quite small, certainly no bigger than a small tampon.  They are oily and greasy, feel like a cross between warm candle wax and hair wax.  I think they would melt very quickly if held in your hand longer than a minute.

I forgot to cut my nails.  Mistake #1.

When I started walking it began to fall out, I had not ‘deposited’ it in a suitable place.  Mistake #2.

I am very much aware of the sticky and greasy residue and so have worn a panty liner for most of the day.  When I got home I thought I was done with the leaking.  Mistake #3.

I haven’t had any side effects from the progesterone noticeable as of yet.  I’ve had a sore lower back, but that could be from trying out a standing desk for the last couple of days. Fingers crossed I won’t get any. Ha…famous last words!

The weird science of ovulation, the things I didn’t know

A few days ago when I was curled up in bed wishing my ovaries would stop hurting, I did a google search on ovulation.  I wasn’t looking for information on how women ovulate (I studied that at GCSE biology ), but more about what else happens to a woman’s body when she ovulates.  My google search terms were based on a question I had earlier on whether there is a correlation between the side of ovary a woman ovulates from and an increase in boob size.  So my search lead me to ‘ovulation symmetry‘.

There are two articles of interest I would like to share with you.  The first is an academic paper, the second is a blog post from a website called 1Flesh (advocates for natural family planning).  Both were interesting and got me thinking how much of a dark science ovulation is to the unsuspecting.

I’ll actually start with the 1Flesh blog post, called “9 reasons ovulation is pretty much like witch craft” by Marc (yup he’s a guy talking about ovulation, that’s pretty cool!).  He talks about 9 things that happen when a woman ovulate (links to supporting studies are provided in his blog post):

  1. Women become more beautiful when ovulating – lips, ears, fingers, breasts and other soft tissue parts of the body become more symmetrical, thus making us more beautiful.
  2. Gaydar initiated – the better women become at discriminating men who are a good match for them.
  3. Higher voice – again a more attractive thing to men…apparently!
  4. Smell better.
  5. Naturally want to look their best – in fact women’s self esteem lowers around ovulation, and to compensate for this tend to dress better, put make up on, even sway hips unconsciously.
  6. Spidey senses –  women have an increased ability to spot and avoid danger (I must chart this one in particular!!)
  7. Increased sex drive – unsurprising.
  8. General well being – women are less stressed and have fewer headaches.
  9. Get smart – why didn’t I know this sooner??! I could have made sure I took all my exams on these days!

So let’s go back to the 1st point – women become more beautiful when ovulating.  This is where the first hit on google provides a link to an academic paper, entitled: “Symmetry and ovulation in women”*.  It was the first line of the introduction paragraph

Many primates show visible signs they are ready to reproduce.

Many primates show visible signs they are ready to reproduce.

that got me interested:

“In primates most females show cues to ovulation.  However, among humans it is generally considered that ovulation is not perceived consciously by others nor is it usually perceived by self.”

This is very true of baboons and bonobos – they could not make it any more obvious to the male that they were ready to reproduce.  Why are humans more subtle?  Actually, I think after a year, I can now tell when I am ovulating, the signs are mostly there.  But I am not sure Chris can really tell, though perhaps he can unconsciously from the more subtle signs like the list above suggests.

The paper presents evidence that asymmetry in ears and fingers is lowest at time of ovulation.  The evidence is compelling (but I’d like to see a larger sample size).  Could measuring and tracking the length of your digits be a more effect way of determining ovulation?  Sounds easier than feeling your cervix, peeing on a stick and taking your temperature everyday!  Clearly as this paper was published in 1996 it hasn’t caught on as I assume the differences are very small and requires an accurate measuring device.  So we will just wait out on that one for now…

D.Scutt & J.T. Manning, Symmetry and Ovulation in Women, Human reproduction, vol 11 no 11, pp 2477-2480, 1996.

Purple sperm and a painless IUI#1

Today Chris and I tried to make a baby without touching each other (well later on we will try the normal way too!!).  Totally weird.

Last night I had killer ovulation pain.  Both my ovaries were painful when I went to bed – the timing seemed to be just right, 12 hours before the scheduled artificial insemination procedure.  Thankfully, I woke up this morning with just a dull ache in my ovaries rather than a sharper pain.

Chris worked from home today and I had a day of leave planned.  We headed out to the clinic for our 10AM appointment and we were out of there by 12PM (with a short interlude to Starbucks).  First of all Chris gave his sperm specimen for washing.  He didn’t take long at all!  Then we headed to Starbucks for a quick coffee and catch up on a bit of work.  Chris collected his washed sperm sample and we waited in the waiting room with his purple sperm for about 20 minutes.  Yup it was purple!

Chris's purple sperm

Chris’s purple sperm

The specimen that Chris gave was excellent according to the doctor:

semen volume: 1.7mL

Sperm Concentration: 12.45 million per mL

Percent motile: 64.3%

Number of motile sperm: 13.6 million

After washing (centrifugation)

Number of motile sperm in vial: 6.6 million

Motility:  95.7%

volume of vial: 5mL

recovery rate for processes sample: 49%

It seemed a bit weird sitting in the waiting room whilst Chris held his sperm…but then again I am currently blogging about his sperm, so we are not prudish about it.  It was just weird and I can’t put my finger on why.  We did get a good giggle though from the diagram on the results form. It was more of a cartoon than a diagram because I don’t think it accurately represents a medical procedure of washing sperm.  But perhaps it is, and this is how they wash the sperm, in a nice warm bubble bath.

A highly technical diagram on how sperm are washed

A highly technical diagram on how sperm are washed

I wasn’t nervous about today, just more excited to get it over with.  I was called into the examination room with Chris and the nurse briefed us on the procedure.  Very simple.  A speculum is inserted, without any lubrication (because that kills sperm), then a catheter is inserted through the cervix to the womb.  The sperm are then slowly injected into the womb.  Actually it wasn’t very slow and was over within seconds.  Apparently the doctor pulled a funny face after she removed the catheter.  I didn’t notice as I was concentrating on the picture taped to the ceiling of a happy place – a tropical island beach.  The face was one of puzzlement.  Chris wondered if she was going to say that something didn’t work.  But no, that was it, over and done with in less than 2 minutes.  It was painless and hurt less than a pap smear test.  I was asked to lay down for 15 minutes, and the nurse left a timer.  We laughed about bun making, ovens and timers.  All in all, the process was very easy.  I’ve had cramping for most of the day, but I’d rather that than the sharp ovulation pain I was having any day of the week.

We are now into the two week wait and I have told Chris if he asks me one more time ‘Do you feel pregnant yet?’ I’ll punch him in the face.  Luckily he doesn’t really mean it and we can have a bit of a giggle about it.  No point in stressing, my glass is back to being half full again 🙂

Sporting activities during the two week wait – stupid to do it or stupid to not do it?

Day 12 of the two week wait – and on day 11 I did something which might be stupid.

Chris and I are both keep active and we like to try new sports.  Here is a list of sports we have done over the last few years or so…

  • Rock climbing
  • Hiking
  • Skiing & Snowboarding
  • Yoga
  • Insanity exercise programme
  • P90X3 exercise programme
  • Dodgeball
  • Volleyball
  • Softball

SAM_0997Our favourite sport is anything which involves being outdoors – particularly if it is quiet and remote (much to my mother’s horror!).  We have had discussions about whether or not putting myself at risk from a big fall on a climb was worth it, and we decided to give climbing a break and spend more of our free time travelling to cities and taking the opportunity to do some siteseeing around Virginia.

We have missed climbing a lot over the last year.  We also skipped a couple of ski trips last year too, similarly, not wanting to put myself into a risky situation with a big fall.  But after the last year we looked back and realised that you can’t put your life on hold just because you are trying to conceive.  Although I didn’t wrap myself in cotton wool during the two week wait, I was very conscious about doing something silly in case I was pregnant.

So this weekend we headed west on a ski trip with a few friends.  I decided to ski the easier runs and not put myself in potential danger on the black runs this time round.  This was so much fun, I was in my element, enjoying being outside on the mountain.  The second day, Chris and I decided we would keep going with our lessons to learn each other’s sport.  I took a snow board lesson (my third one) and Chris took a ski lesson.

As I am a beginner on a board I knew I would be sticking to the bunny slopes – little chance of big falls here!  Perhaps a few bruises and bit of hurt pride, but other than that – safe as houses.  This was all until the very last run of the day.  I had two lessons that day, and suddenly snow boarding began to click (hooray! at last!!!!).  Well…..so I thought!  I felt comfortable picking up some speed (but not quite as fast as I ski, so I know what stupidly fast is), and as I came into the flat, I caught an edge and landed heavily on my backside – I was winded.  When Chris hurried over to me, I could barely breathe.  I cried.  I cried because it was such a stupid thing for me to do.  Also, my stomach and back was writhing with pain.  I can deal with bruises – but my abdomen just throbbed like hell, as if I had been punched in the stomach.

I know it is highly unlikely that this fall could cause a failed pregnancy this time – but why would I risk it for my selfish desire to do these dangerous sports??!!  When you try to look at other people’s experiences with these sports, I have not found consistent guidance on whether they should be avoided completely.  The only common guidance I found was to seek advice from your doctor, I suppose because each individual is different.  And this is exactly what I shall do next time I see her.  But I have read that after IUI, strenuous exercise should be avoided, so this could be a mute point if this month is a failure and we proceed with IUI next month.

When I am pregnant then I want to keep doing as much as is thought to be reasonable.  But what is reasonable?  I like this lady’s story about rock climbing when she was pregnant: Anonymous mom – I was a pregnant rock climber (www.mommyish.com) She talks about how she felt during her pregnancy and how people made hurtful comments (unintentionally sometimes).  You have to be a strong person to do this.  I’m not sure I can.

I found two books which I have seen a good few reviews about, these are going on my to read list:

Exercising Through Pregnancy by Dr James Clapp

Fit & Healthy Pregnancy: How to stay strong and in shape for you and your baby by Kristina Pinto

Into the two week wait with a little help

I am on cycle day 19 and 5 days past ovulation.  I think.  I think, because this month I decided not to do any tracking.  I am now regretting this!!

Today has been particularly hard.  This morning after I went to the toilet, I discovered a spot of blood.  I came out of the bathroom beaming at Chris.  I think I might have been a bit optimistic that this was bleeding from implantation.  The rest of the day I have had abdominal pains, and I am now sat here with a hot water bottle, still in pain.  I’ll see how tomorrow goes.

But today got me thinking about the two week wait.  At first they were exciting, and nerve wracking, but recently I have been so busy that I hardly noticed them except for a couple of days before my period was ‘due’.  Today I found this article, which I will attempt to critique from my personal perspective:

9 ways to make the two week wait a little more bearable By Catherine Pearson.

Here’s what Catherine suggests:

1.  Step away from the computer.  Yup, this is what I talked about in my blog post yesterday.  Today I certainly felt a little bit of heightened anxiety looking at some other blogs and articles about implantation bleeding.  When I am done with the blog I will do just that!

2.  Distract, distract, distract (and plan for it).  Usually I do have a distraction – my study for an online course, but I skipped this month’s module because of Christmas holidays.  We have started watching a new TV series – The Americans (love this!), so this has been a great distraction.  However tonight Chris is out doing some photography, and I can’t watch the next episode without him!!! With nothing good on TV, I have failed at distracting myself this evening.  I must be more proactive about distractions next time from cycle day 1.

3.  Write it down.  I’m doing that write now!!! Do I get bonus points for writing about writing it down??!

4.  Name your feelings.  I’ve never tried this.  So today, my feeling is ‘Anxiety’. I want to learn more about meditation techniques.  A few months ago I downloaded an app called ‘Breathe‘ to help me learn some guided techniques.  It has been brilliant at helping me to get to sleep when I have had work going around and around in my mind.

Defining my feeling - I am anxious

Naming  my feelings – I am anxious

5.  Stroll.  Sleep.  Take care of yourself.  Chris and I have started doing more p90x3 in the mornings, getting up earlier, but going to bed much earlier.  So I think this is another tick in the box.  But as of tomorrow, I will make myself go out for a walk at lunch times whilst at work.  I have been bad at this because it has been so cold recently.

6.  Give yourself sad days.  I have done this and treated myself to a monthly glass of wine.  I only recently started to do this because I had given up alcohol almost completely for about 9 months.  A little glass on the first day of my period can’t hurt as a treat.  Chris is also great to talk to, but actually he gets more sad than I do sometimes.  Our partners need these sad days too.

7.  Try an intention.  I do this at yoga classes when I go.  I haven’t been for a while, so I might try and schedule in a few more classes during this time.

8.  Practice a relaxation technique.  I learned breathing techniques at yoga class, and strangely enough, at a presentation skills course.  Thinking about your happy place and connecting it to a sensory point has helped me stay calm before big presentations.  Combining that with deep breathing is an awesome feeling.

9.  Try defensive pessimism.  This is a new one for me as I am usually a glass half full kind of girl, but a little less so recently.  I will try to work on the defensive perspective.

Thank you Catherine Pearson for your article, some great ideas I will put some into practice starting tomorrow.