11 DPIUI and there is a cat on my lap

Sushi my cat is not much of a snuggle cat with me, it’s been about a month since she last snuggled with me. And here she is…lying on my lap.

  

Although I wasn’t pregnant last month and I wrote about cats knowing you are pregnant, there is definitely something strange about her behaviour. Maybe my body temp is just generally higher at this time of the month, but I have to say it there is something weird going on here!

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….

Beer, Beer and more Beer!! Wait – should you really be drinking beer?

Beer – the cool, refreshing, golden nectar.  My first beer was admittedly at a young age of 13.  I hated it, but that’s what everyone else was drinking, so beer it was.  As my palette has grown accustomed to the varieties and tastes I have become a distant admirer of certain beers.  Particularly German Hefeweizen beers.  So during my 2WW it was difficult to come all the way to Germany and avoid the stuff…..so……here I am – two beers in hand!!!

Hofbrauhaus in Munich. Mmmm Beer!

Hofbrauhaus in Munich. Mmmm Beer!

Officially, Chris and I both gave up alcohol almost 17 months ago.  I say ‘officially’ because we have both had alcohol in these months as we have caved on occasion.  However, we have significantly reduced our intake of alcohol to maybe one or two beers/glasses of wine a month, if at all.  The reason?  Because ‘they’ tell us alcohol affects both fertility and the development of the foetus in the early stages.

It is logical, after all, if alcohol is capable of making you do silly things with your mind, then surely it can affect other things too.  I have no qualms in giving up alcohol, plus it saves on the purse, and reduces the calorie intake (never hurts).  There are many conflicting views about the impact of alcohol on fertility.

The UK Government suggests a pregnant woman, or a woman who is trying to conceive should drink no more than 1-2 units once or twice a week (ie one small glass of wine).  Their drink aware campaign (www.drinkaware.co.uk) website is quite informative about alcohol and fertility for both men and women.

One interesting bit of research I read about from Harvard University found that couples undergoing IVF found that women who drank more than six units per week were 18% less likely to conceive, while men were 14% less likely*.  Although this statistic sounds quite high you will only need to drink 3 times a week or more, that is quite a lot.  LAst time I drank that much was at University!!  Generally, I go with the school of thought that one small drink every once in while is unlikely to have any significant impact.  But as the stakes grow higher and more money is invested in our treatment, the more cautious I am about alcohol intake.

So what about that picture above with me holding two beers from Friday night?  Well they actually are not mine, they are the beers of my new colleagues.  BUT! I did enjoy three non-alcoholic Weizen beers!  Obviously the fact that I had three meant I must have enjoyed them.  It was only after one of my German students told me that he was taking a case of the non-alcoholic stuff back to Rome with him that I thought I should give it a go.  Usually, non-alcoholic beers remind me of the bitter taste of Beck’s non-alcoholic that was served when I was on my tours of duty in Afghanistan.  Beggars can’t be choosers, but that stuff put me off it all for several years.  Well at least until now that is.

The non-alcoholic beer definitely doesn’t give you that light headed happiness feeling you would ordinarily experience with the alcoholic version.  But throughout the night I realized that I felt comfortable drinking with my new friends without the pressure of feeling like I had to drink.  In fact near the end of the evening, one of my friends pointed to my glass and said to the waiter “I’ll have what she’s having”, I quickly pointed out it was non-alcoholic.  Obviously he immediately changed his mind, and looked disappointed at me.  He was disappointed because all along he thought I was keeping up with the lads without getting pissed and I was drinking them under the table!  But it was quickly laughed off and nothing more was said.

I think I will try these non-alcoholic options more.  In fact, a fellow blogger (the longest journey) came up with a cracking idea….to put some juice/fizz in a wine glass to give the impression of drinking wine.  Psychologically, that surely has to have the same effect as a non-alcoholic beer.  Well I’m going to try it and let you know 😉

At the top of Kofel in Oberammergau.

Bye Bye Bavaria!  Thank you for the beer discovery!

*Harvard University Website. Alcohol hinders having a baby through IVF, couples warned.

Accessed from: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2009/10/alcohol-hinders-having-a-baby-through-ivf-couples-warned/

The dreaded 2WW and being away from home

Beautiful Bavaria

Beautiful Bavaria

I’m almost halfway through my 2 Week Wait (2WW).  I am currently in another country across the other side of the pond for a work trip.  Despite the beautiful location in deep Bavaria and being kept busy with work all week, I am finding this a very different type of 2WW to any of the others.  Being away from home and the 6 hour time difference has made it hard – on both of us I think – just to talk about things and how each of us is doing.  A break from talking about Trying to Conceive, IUI and other baby making related stuff has been refreshing I will admit.  BUT as I continue to have random pains, and thoughts of what is to be this time next week, I really miss Chris.  Yes, of course, I miss him whenever I go away for work trips, but this time is harder.  This time it is make or break.

With this being our third IUI, this time next week we will either be preparing to be proud parents (and not knowing if it is twins yet!!!) or preparing for a long journey on some other new path that we haven’t talked much about yet.  Woah – scary stuff whatever happens.

As I am currently teaching 36 international students (mostly male, of varying age and backgrounds!) it is very difficult to hide any of the side effects I am having whilst I am ‘up on stage’ in front of everyone. Mostly trying to hide behind the lectern from the sharp pains I am experiencing!!  Ordinarily after my day at work I would talk to Chris about these kinds of things.  So I am talking to you all instead, sorry about that 😉

These pains suck, and I think that they may potentially be getting worse that I am going to have to ask the doctor about it next time.  I really hope I don’t get what happened in my last cycle where I was doubled over in the supermarket, people watching and wondering if I was OK, debating whether I should go to an emergency doctor or not!  I know that if anyone here sees me do that they would make a big fuss instantly, then I would have to explain it.  Fingers crossed that cycle was just a one off.

Count down to make or break T-8 days……scary.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Trying to Conceive

I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).  It is a relatively common disorder of the gut.  The weird thing about IBS is that no one really quite knows what causes it exactly.  Symptoms are variable depending on the nature of the IBS.  For me, I suffer from abdominal pain and diarrheoa.  I’ve had it since I was a late teen.  But I don’t really remember when it truly started, but it got worse at university.  There is no cure for IBS, only treatment of the symptoms.  Approximately 1 in 5 people will suffer from IBS in their lives, some may never realise they have it.  Symptoms vary on scale and nature and is slightly more common in women than men.

I am writing about IBS because last night as I boarded the plane for my transatlantic flight and experienced an awkward situation.  As I sat down the family next to me asked if I could switch seats with their son (about 13yrs old) so they could all sit next to each other.  Sure I said, no problem, I don’t mind moving a row back!  But then they pointed to the dreaded in centre seat.  I had specifically booked an aisle seat because I go to the toilet a lot.  And as this was a red eye flight I would not do well sitting here, I would have asked the person next to me to move at least 10 times so I could go to the toilet.  I looked at the boy, realised he was 13 and thought he would be perfectly fine there, plus one of his parents could always sit on their own if they were worried about him.  So I politely declined to switch seats and told them of my predicament to be near the toilet.  But then the mother told me she couldn’t swap because she had a fear of flying.  Yes I felt guilty, but I was very willing to swap with anyone in an aisle seat.  Eventually a nice lady the other side of the plane volunteered to sit in the boys seat so I could sit in her aisle seat.  But it just reminded me of the hidden side of IBS, even though I told the family my reasoning, they seemed pretty pissed at me.  They didn’t understand.  I know of people with IBS who have disabled toilet keys because when it is bad, it is very bad!!  I don’t have this extreme requirement, but IBS is a hidden disability.

I self manage my symptoms.  I know that stress makes it worse, and eating certain foods such as potatoes and pineapple can give me killer cramps and half a night on the toilet.  I have simply learned to avoid certain foods or when I have a craving, give in and just expect it and manage it when it happens,  I prefer it that way rather than take drugs.  I tried a lot of things at university to relieve the symptoms, but ultimately cutting out the stress seemed to work the best.

In order to diagnose IBS the doctor will put you through a series of tests to rule out something more serious, like Chron’s disease, cancer of the ovaries or coeliac disease.  These are tested usually with blood and stool tests.  For me, the doctor said that there was a possibility of having endometriosis, which can only be detected through a laporoscopy.  But before doing this invasive procedure she wanted me to try an exclusion diet to see if there were certain foods that increased the symptoms.  After several weeks of hunger, cravings and a very large shopping bill, we figured that IBS was likely.  So I never had a laporoscopy to rule out endometriosis.  My current Reproductive Endocrinologist has suggested there is a chance I do have endo, but a laporoscopy can do more harm than good to my fertility if it is just a little bit of endo.  I find it strange that I have no definite diagnosis whether I have one, the other or both conditions.

As I get further into my two week wait and I get pains even a couple of days after IUI, I wonder are they IBS pains?  Or are they related to the IUI and the progesterone? What has IBS got to do with infertility?  Well I didn’t think there was much of a linkage, but as always google shows you something interesting.  There were two interesting conclusions that came out of my, albeit brief, search, in general the research is pretty thin on the ground.

There is no evidence to suggest IBS causes infertility.  A couple of sites discuss this and conclude that there is no evidence of a linkage.

IBS increases risk of miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy.  A research study* looked at 100 000 women who became pregnant during the period 1990 to 2008.  Of these 100 000 women 6% suffered a miscarriage, which is considered to be the ‘normal’ statistic.  Of these 100 000 women, 26 000 women were diagnosed with IBS.  Of these women diagnosed with IBS, 7.5% lost their babies.  That is a significant difference, increasing the risk of miscarriage for women with IBS by 30%.  It should be noted that IBS is linked with other disorders which are also potentially linked to miscarriage, for example chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, therefore it is not wholly conclusive evidence.  The authors wanted to stress that the chance of miscarriage was still small, and that they wanted to highlight the need for more research into IBS and fertility.  I have not been able to find anything more up to date than this report from 2012.  Maybe they are still researching it…maybe no one carried it forward. But I think it definitely deserves some more attention.

*Increased Risk of Miscarriage and Ectopic Pregnancy Among Women With Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Khashan, Ali S. et al. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology , Volume 10 , Issue 8 , 902 – 909

Lost: one unopened clear blue digital pregnancy test

Today was meant to be the day that I unwrapped the ‘highly Gyn/Ob recommended’ Clear Blue Digital pregnancy test.  But it’s currently ‘Missing In Action’, I couldn’t find it…I know it’s in the house somewhere, I just can’t remember where I hid it from myself.  Incidentally, I bought it about 7 months ago.  Do these things go out of date?  Oh well…it doesn’t matter because Aunt Flo arrived anyway.

I would like to thank Aunt Flo for the big glass of Wine I shall enjoy this evening and the trip to Busch Gardens now planned for tomorrow – and I am going to go on ALL the rides, many times over, probably until I am sick and dizzy.

Infertility, you sure do suck, but today I am not pregnant and I am going to enjoy this short time of drug free freedom (except the good good Ibuprofen to help alleviate my period pains).  Yes I cried with Chris early this morning, but now I am more determined than ever – whatever is stopping us from getting pregnant – we will overcome it, together.  Round 3 – Ding Ding!

TTFN X

(TaTah For Now)

Can your cat tell if you are pregnant before you do?

Several months ago I googled ‘can cats tell if you are pregnant?’.  My female 3 year old cat, Sushi, was being overly affectionate just around the time I was coming close to pregnancy testing time.  It turned out I wasn’t pregnant that month, so I kind of forgot about it and didn’t think much more of it.  But two nights ago I had BOTH of my cats on my bed snuggling up to me.  This is very unusual because Diesel, my male 9 month old kitten, tends to push Sushi off the bed as soon as he realises she is on the bed with me.  So as it is close to pregnancy testing time again, I wondered about this question again and decided to research a bit more into it.  So what did I discover? Can cats tell if you are pregnant?

The Research is thin.  It is evident that cats can detect smells and vapours that are invisible to humans, after all they have 10 to 20 times more sensory receptors in their noses than humans (but not quite as many as dogs, who are far superior in this respect).  But I have yet to find any evidence that associates a cat’s ability to detect pregnancy – I could not find anything that even looks vaguely scientific.  I even tried google scholar, but found little of significance.  There is, however, a lot of discussion online about the subject, and is well discussed in forums and pregnancy related websites, the evidence is purely anecdotal.

Cats detecting cancer.  So what can cats sniff out?  Apparently, cats can detect cancer.  It turns out that there has been some research into understanding dogs’ talents in sniffing out cancer, but evidence for cats’ ability to sniff out cancer is again, anecdotal.  This is mostly because you can train a dog, but it’s a lot harder to train a cat!  So research can be difficult to undertake with cats in this respect.  However, there are stories about cats who have detected cancer before the owner even knew about it. For example, Fidge the cat constantly lay on her owner’s right breast for two weeks.  When her owner went to the doctor, they found a pea sized lump in her breast, which may have killed her if it had not been for Fidge.

Amazing stories of heroic cats using their nose.  On my scavange for evidence I came across some other lovely stories of cats who have saved their owner’s lives with the use of their ‘spidey senses noses’.

Oscar.  In time, staff at the nursing home began to rely on Oscar as an “early warning system” announcing to those present that it was time to notify family and increase hospice services for those close to death (More about Oscar here).

Basil.  As gas fumes leaked from the kitchen stove top, Basil began to swat his owner’s face as she lay in bed, trying to get her to get up and recognise the problem.  After an hour of his persistent behaviour, Basil’s nose saved the day.

Tee Cee.  This cat can detect when his owner is about to have an epileptic seizure attack.  Tee Cee sits next to his owner and stares at his face, indicating an episode is about to occur, allowing him and his partner to prepare for the attack in time.

So, my dear cats – are you clever enough to detect pregnancy before my pee stick does?  Just a couple more days to find out for sure…Watch this space!

Diesel - the 'Terrorquisitive kittie'

Diesel – the ‘Terrorquisitive kittie’

Sushi AKA 'lady muck'

Sushi AKA ‘lady muck’

Reflections upon being pregnant in a war zone – what scares me

The big question: why did I write about something that happened way back in 2007?  Why did I open up some old wounds by writing and thinking about when I was pregnant in Iraq? For the most part, it’s because I drove for four hours on my own, so I had plenty of time to think.  Very dangerous, I know!  Thinking AND driving!  But actually, it is because I have a fear, a fear of being pregnant again.  It sounds rather silly writing it down on an infertility blog. But of course I want to be pregnant more than anything in the world, but this fear is about suffering the ‘side effects’ of severe morning sickness like I did before in 2007.

Hypermesis Education & Research Foundation

Hyperemesis Education & Research Foundation

Last time I was pregnant I suffered severe morning sickness (also known as Hyperemesis gravidarum) and horrific abdominal pains (compared to my normal Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) pains, these were what I considered to be horrific anyway!)  The worst of the symptoms lasted for over three weeks and the nausea continued until the end of my pregnancy of 10 weeks.  There was no way I could have worked during this period.  But to what extent were those symptoms as a result of the environment and conditions I was experiencing at the time – heat, exhaustion, stress, poor food quality and choice?

When Chris and I first met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE), Chris asked her if my previous pregnancy could be a clue as to why we were not pregnant yet.  I didn’t think it would be so I hadn’t mentioned the severe morning sickness in my questionnaire.  The RE did confirm that it was not likely to be associated.  But, now that I think about it, perhaps it wasn’t such a silly question after all.  Because quite frankly, any explanation to our fertility troubles would be nice right now.  I’m quite bored of asking ‘Why me??’

Today I am 12 Days Past IUI number 2 (12DPIUI#2), and so far potential symptoms of pregnancy:

  • Short sharp cramps just around both sides of my ovaries
  • Sharp cramp like pains under the left side and right side of my ribs.
  • Sore boobs, but not tender to touch, just achey.
  • Today I have felt a little nauseous, but Chris has had a funny tummy today, so potentially we ate something funny.

And that is it, not much to go by, but the sharp pains reminded me of my previous pregnancy so I have been more positive about this cycle so far.  Just two more days to go til the big test.

I am afraid to be pregnant but want to be pregnant more than anything.

And that sums up my emotional roller coaster right now 🙂 /\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/\/——

IUI #2 off to a better start than #1

Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) round 2 is off to a better start than the first one – we think anyway.

A matter of timing

The first round of IUI was, of course, all new to us.  I had taken an ultrasound on the Friday (Cycle Day 11), took an Ovidrel Shot to stimulate ovulation on Saturday evening, and had IUI on Monday (CD 14).  At the time we wondered whether the IUI procedure too late because my clinic are not open on Sundays we could not do IUI that day, the Doctor had indicated that I needed the IUI procedure early on Monday, rather than later as my follicles were rather large.  I had a positive result from my ovulation predictor kit on the Sunday morning, the day BEFORE the IUI.  I simply thought that this was the Ovidrel in action, and the doctor had everything timed well.  But now we are suspicious that all this meant is that the IUI was too late….

THIS time around for cycle 2 it was a slightly different story.  I had my ultrasound on the Thursday (Cycle Day 11) and I had slightly smaller follicles, but big enough to go ahead with the IUI.  I took the Ovidrel shot on the Thursday evening, and had IUI on Saturday (CD 13).  This time, I got a positive result from my ovulation predictor kit on the morning of the IUI, Saturday morning.  This makes me believe that we were too late last time around as it seems that the Ovidrel doesn’t interfere with ovulation predictor kits.  This cycle I decided to monitor my Basal Body Temperature (BBT) for the first time ever.  Today, Sunday (CD 14) I got a spike in my temperature confirming my suspicions that I most likely ovulated yesterday.  Woohooooo!  This cycle, it feels that the IUI procedure was better timed.  I was also having horrible ovulation pains on the way to the clinic and all day yesterday.  A good sign?

The sperm stats low down

Another excellent sperm sample Mr C!

  • semen volume: 1.2mL
  • Sperm Concentration: 129 million per mL
  • Percent motile: 51.9%
  • Number of motile sperm: 80.3 million
  • After washing (centrifugation)
  • Number of motile sperm in vial: 72.5 million
  • Motility:  86.8%
  • volume of vial: 5mL
  • recovery rate for processes sample: 90.2%

The IUI procedure

As we were a bit more knowledgeable about the whole procedure this time around so the whole appointment took about 20 minutes, of which 15 minutes I was laying down on my back resting whilst the sperm figure out which direction they need to swim in. Chris joked we knew that about 15% of the sperm were just swimming around in circles, confused, not knowing what to do with themselves.

The doctor was a new one for me – a sweet lady who seemed very happy for an early Saturday morning!  I asked Chris later if I had just been treated for the first time by someone younger than me.  Eeeek we are getting old! But he believed she was actually in her mid thirties, so not much older than us.  The doctor was very kind and kept apologizing for any pain she might cause.  She told me she would use the smallest speculum and the smallest catheter possible so it wouldn’t hurt.  This made me wonder whether all this time other doctors purposefully use big speculums and catheters out of choice!  She was good at explaining everything she was doing.  She put the (smallest!) speculum into my vagina (No lubricant because this kills sperm).  She told me she was going to open the speculum up and I might feel some pressure.  Which I did, but it did not hurt.  After this she inserted the catheter into my uterus via the cervix and the sperm was injected via the catheter directly into my uterus. I barely felt a thing and it was over with in less than 2 minutes.  I had no cramping until later in the day.

Here is a short 2 minute 3D animation of how IUI works.

The nurse set a 15 minute timer and I lay down on the bed feeling a bit surreal. This time the 15 minutes went much quicker than last time because we spent it talking about our next holiday – a road trip to the West (Las Vegas, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Santa Fe etc).  We have been planning on going in October, but have been waiting for the last 4 months to see if we were pregnant before we book anything.  This will be the last cycle we wait before we book it.  No more holding off!

Naughty Gift – no not that kind of naughty

The morning of the IUI I decided to give Chris a gift I bought him a few weeks ago.  I have declared before that I believe it is unlucky to buy baby name books, pregnancy books, baby clothes etc before actually conceiving.  But seeing as we have been unlucky so far I thought we cant possibly have any more bad luck so what the hell, I bought a pregnancy book for men.  It’s a slightly funny book with interesting facts about pregnancy.  I couldn’t resist!  But I won’t buy anything else.  I just wanted to get him something we can share together along this journey.

My naughty gift to Chris

My naughty gift to Chris

2 Week Wait and greasy progesterone suppositories here we come!

I need my safe place today

14 days past IUI round 1 and I have one negative pregnancy test in front of me….we were good and didn’t test until day 14.  But I’ve known since Saturday it would be negative because I have been having those well known period pains.  But maybe, just maybe I was confusing them.  But no. I was not.

As it is my first time on all these hormones it has been a very confusing month.  My right breast grew significantly larger after I took the Letrozole (and it’s stayed like that); I’ve had horrible ovary pain around ovulation and a swollen abdomen; then after the IUI, sharp pelvic pains that stop me in my tracks, aching lower back, swollen breasts and nausea.  Damn you drugs.

But now I’ve figured all that out this time, surely, the second time round will be easier and less confusing?

Chris was dying as much as I was to take the test, but I knew already and woke up crying this morning because I just knew.  So Chris made me take the test to resolve it once and for all.  I’m not going to put all my thoughts down about how I feel right now, it would not make for good reading.  Maybe later this week when I’m a little more composed.

My safe place is my ‘anchor point’ I developed on a ‘Presentation Skills’ course.  We were taught to have an anchor point that reminds us of our safe place.  Some people on my course thought it was odd and just didn’t get it.  We were made to sit down on the floor and meditate, thinking of a place that makes us feel warm, safe and happy.  Whilst thinking of this happy place we were asked to hold our thumbs to our middle fingers.  We were guided through this meditation to visualise this happy place, smell it, listen to it and feel the warmth of it.  By associating this happy place with this action of holding our thumbs to our middle fingers, we can easily calm ourselves before giving a presentation.  I learnt this ‘skill’ almost 9 years ago and still use it today when I feel anxious.  Today I’m walking around with my thumbs to my fingers, a lot.

IUI round 1: My Big Fat Negative

IUI round 1: My Big Fat Negative