IVF Diary Vol III 15-20 Mar 16

Medication(s) administered and dosage(s). Ovulation Control Pill (OCP) Reclipsen 0.15MG-30MCG x 1 per day, Lupron 0.5mg (10 units) injection AM.

I started the Lupron injections on Thursday morning.  Although the amount of liquid is tiny and the needle is small, I still freaked out about giving myself the injection.  I tried to do it, but the needle bounced off my skin, so I asked Chris to do it so I could feel how hard it needs to e to pierce the skin. But on Friday, I did the injection myself! It didn’t hurt, I was just slightly hesitant and the needle went in slower than I expected.  Saturday, the needle bumped off my skin again!  I’m sure I will figure it out.  Also, there is barely any blood after these injections so I don’t really need gauze and I can’t tell where I just did the injection which means I am finding it difficult to figure out where to put a plaster over it!  I discovered putting a plaster over the injection site means that I don’t have to remember the next day where I just did my previous injection.

Medical procedures undertaken. Nil.  But – I did have a post op follow up appointment with my Doctor to go over my results from the hysteroscopy.  I knew the biopsy results were good because they come through on my clinic’s app and I am sure she wouldn’t have had told me to start the Birth control pills if there was anything wrong.  However, on the day of the appointment I started to get a bit nervous because I thought if everything was OK, why did she still need to see me?  When I arrived the nurse asked where my husband was?  At first I just joked with her “He’s working – I hope!!!”, but then it dawned on me….should he be here with me because it’s going to be bad news?  I didn’t even think about bringing Chris along.  The nurse did the usual vitals check and took me to the Doctor’s office to wait.  As I was sitting in her office there was one pamphlet on her desk that stuck out – it was about uterine cancer.  My heart started to beat faster!! My head was  racing.  Fortunately the doctor arrived quickly after I sat down.  She cut straight to the chase and said everything looked just fine! Phew.  She took a look at her computer and said that there was just one area of redness of my uterus she had seen on the camera that she thought might be inflammation, but the biopsy did not show any signs of inflammation. So all good!  A very quick appointment, I was in and out in 5 minutes…it was just like being at a doctor’s office in the UK!!!!

What are my symptoms?  I have two symptoms I want to talk about – my upset tummy and my hormones!

At my post op appointment I asked my doctor about my upset tummy.  I told her my diarrhea has been playing up, maybe it’s just my Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) being bad or, is there any chance it could be something related to the hysteroscopy?  The only thing that could cause diarrhea is the cytotec pills I took that ‘softens the cervix’ prior to the surgery.  Maybe it caused a mis-balance of bacteria in my tummy, but it should go away soon.  It wasn’t the most helpful advice I’ve received from a doctor…but as usual not knowing what causes my poorly tummy I am used to.  So I decided to put into practice my knowledge of things to make diarreah go away.  The first is to take some probiotics.  After my appointment I went straight to the shops and looked for a probiotic yoghurt drink.  Now in the UK, there are these little drinks that you can take daily – there are different brands like yakult and actimel, they are very common in the supermarket.  But here in the US, I haven’t ever noticed before until now, they are not common!  I tried looking for a US store that sells Yakult and it’s typical!  The only place nearby is the Commissary!  As a civilian, I am not allowed to shop at the Commissary!! (The Commissary is where the military can buy their groceries at a discount).  Anyway…I did discover something similar in the organic section – Kefir.  Kefir is a fermented milk drink with kefir grains in it.  I wasn’t sure if this would aggravate my upset tummy or the probiotics would do its thing.  There were also some juices with probiotics added, this to my mind didn’t seem the best for my tummy because real fruit juice can make things worse for me.  Anyway either the Kefir has had a positive effect or my tummy is getting better on its own.  The past few days I have returned to normal upset tummy (where I experience diarrhea about once a day rather than 4-6 times a day for the past two weeks!)

My hormones.  I am going to do a separate post on this, but in a nutshell, the Lupron and Birth Control Pills are doing weird things to me.  On Friday evening as I was getting ready to go to the ball (!!!) I was curling my hair and tried to pin it up how I like to.  But for some reason it wasn’t working.  My hair looked awful, I was getting frustrated at it…then I flipped out at my inability to make my hair look half decent.  Like seriously got mad and threw stuff across the room.  I looked in the mirror and I felt nothing, I looked back at myself and felt nothing.  I didn’t feel sexy, I thought I looked hideous.  Chris kept telling me my hair looked lovely down and I should leave it, but I just kept looking at myself and I felt like I was out of my body – I was in somebody else’s body. I felt…..nothing.  It was weird.  I didn’t like it!  Could it be the Lupron doing this to me?

How do I feel today? Chris and I had an evening of sharing our feelings about this IVF cycle.  It got emotional.  We realised we have both been bad at not sharing our feelings, we both made assumptions about things and came to wrong conclusions.  We just didn’t talk enough about what was going to happen this cycle – the changes in my protocol and the uncertainty around dates of key things happening in the cycle like when the Egg Retrieval and transfer might be.  Particularly with the transfer (Day 3 v Day 5).  The difference being that this cycle came around quickly (we both felt unprepared for it), and my period started much earlier than I anticipated.  Because I had been so busy with work, we just hadn’t been keeping the communication lines open…but we re-opened them – that’s good, but it took us a while to figure that out!

Any results?  Other than my post op results being clear!

What’s next? I stop the Birth Control Pills next week and keep the Lupron injections going.  I am off on travels to Europe next week so I have the added issue of figuring out what times to take my pills and injections!  I made a mistake of taking my Birth Control Pills after my dinner, so now in Europe with them being 6 hours ahead at the moment, it means I would need to be taking them at 2AM! Doh!  The Lupron injections won’t be so bad – I can take them at 1PM at lunch time.  I may also have to give myself an injection on the plane as I fly transatlantic!!!! Double doh!

Weight. I still haven’t got on the scales yet!

Waist. NSTR.

Boobs. NSTR.

The Final Countdown!!!

160320_IVF3_Calendar_Countdown.jpg

*Notes.  I take First Response Reproductive Health multi vitamin gummies (pre-natal), 5mg Melatonin at bed time and CoQ10 200mg gummies daily.  NSTR = Nothing Significant To Report.

Advertisements

The dreaded HSG

I am not going to pretend to be brave here.  I am actually a little bit nervous about tomorrow’s HSG procedure.

The Hysterosalpingogram – AKA the HSG – is an x-ray procedure to check whether the fallopian tubes are open or blocked, and if the uterus is normal.  Iodine dye is inserted into the uterus to allow a contrast to be seen on the x-ray.  It allows the doctor to see on the free flow of the fallopian tubes and any abnormal lining of the uterus.  The procedure is relatively quick -about 5 minutes.  But for me it really was painful.  I took 800mg of Ibuprofen an hour before the procedure as instructed – it still hurt.

For my first test I was naive and had no clue it might be painful, so I wasn’t nervous.  But now, knowing what I know now!  I AM anxious!  The crappy thing is that Chris isn’t allowed in with me, there is nothing more I would like than for him to hold my hand whilst the dye is injected and I feel that burning cramping sensation run through my body.

When I called the clinic to make my appointment the receptionist who now recognises my voice (OK so I bet they don’t have that many Brits as patients) asked me why I hadn’t had an HSG already.  I pointed out I had one in January but I had to have another one after the possible ectopic pregnancy thing and how much I was dreading it.  She was very sweet and apologised, her tone also changed to be more somber for the rest of the call.  Bless, it was nice that she sounded to care. It must be a hard job working in a fertility clinic – it must be a bit bi-polar with so many highs and lows everyday.

Perhaps I will do some meditation to help me relax a little before hand :-s

On the positive side about this – once we have the results of this test we can go ahead and hopefully firm up plans for IVF round 2.

My HSG X-ray with my retroverted uterus (it's hard to see because it's hiding behind the catheter)

My HSG X-ray with my retroverted uterus (it’s hard to see because it’s hiding behind the catheter)

IVF round 2 – December/January 2016

We met for our follow-up appointment with our doctor yesterday.  There were no surprises.  Which is a good thing!  So the plan of attack is a fresh round of IVF…get a couple more embryos frozen:

  1. Schedule a Hysterosalpingogram (HSG – if you would like a refresher what this procedure entails, check out my post from last time here) – I will do this as soon as I start my period (who knows when that will be!!!).  It is very unlikely that my fallopian tubes will be blocked, but she wants to be sure.  Fair enough.  However, I am NOT looking forward to this test.  Last time I was completely naive to the potential pain ahead for this particular procedure, now that I know exactly how much it can hurt I’m a wee bit nervous!
  2. Plan to start Birth Control Pills to regulate my cycle in December with an egg retrieval date for early January 16.  There is a period of 3 weeks that the embryology lab is closed over the Christmas period.  Seriously – how unlucky am I?? Last time my cycle was delayed because the embryology lab was being refurbished.  Oh well – I guess everyone needs a holiday.

There is a potential chance we could start Birth Control Pills in November, and do a retrieval before Christmas, but I think it will be close to my 3 month period of ‘no baby making’ because of the methotrexate shot I had affecting fetus development.  I have been researching this, and I would be willing to go ahead a week or two earlier because doctors are overly cautious with this 3 month time stamp.  As long as I keep taking my folic acid I should have no problems.  However, this is something to be discussed once we have a better idea of a) when my period is likely to be and b) assuming my HSG test is all clear!!!

There will be no change to my protocol, perhaps a slight increase in some of the medication dosages to mature more of my eggs.  As a reminder from our first round we had 9 eggs retrieved, 6 of these eggs were mature, 4 of these eggs were successfully fertilised by ICSI, 2 good 8 cell embryos were transferred on day 3, and 1 of the 2 embryos made it to Day 5 blastocyst and was frozen.  Our doctor mentioned that she would consider waiting to Day 5 for the transfer this time around, especially as our frozen one is Day 5 – she wants them to be the same.  We like this plan!

This gives me some time to concentrate on work for a little while, get my body healthy and start growing some strong eggs!  What is amazing is what the horrrorscopes says for me next week…

horoscopes

I was already planning on going back on my sugar free, healthy diet next week! Freaky! Sooooo….which old friend should I Skype on Sunday next week and wants to reveal a long-held secret to me??!!!?!

Surprise surprise!!!! IVF!

Well my blog post title has given the game away, so in summary…our next step will be In-Vitro Fertilisation!

This morning we met with our RE who reviewed our progress so far, or lack there of.  Our tests were all normal, the three IUIs all went according to plan (except of course for the pregnancy part), I responded well to the letrozole with 2-3 follicles, Chris had awesome sperm.  We remain unexplained, but she does still suspect endometriosis.  If my period pains were so bad that they affected my life and I wanted that to change then she would recommend a laparoscopy.  This surgical procedure comes with risk, side effects and can take several months to return to normal, so if my periods were so bad this would be the way forward, however, in my case the benefits are unlikely to outweigh the downsides.  So she recommends we move straight to IVF.  She explained the overall process:

Week 1 to 2 – after menstruation I start birth control pills for about 14 days, these help to control my hormones

Week 3 – start injectable medications to control ovulation and stimulate follicles to grow – many many more than the 2-3 that were stimulated with letrozole in order to get the best chance of retrieving some ‘good eggs’.

Week 4 – continue injectable medications…have ultrasounds every other day to monitor follicle growth, along with blood work to monitor hormone levels.  When the follicles are ready, we will inject the hCG Ovidrel trigger and 36 hours later I go for egg retrieval surgery.  Under sedation my eggs are extracted from my ovaries.  Chris provides his sperm and my eggs are fertilised in-vitro.  After the eggs have been fertilised, the embryos grow for a few days under close watch.  Then if they survive, one or two embryos are transferred directly into my uterus.

Week 5-6 – start injectable progesterone until the big pregnancy test either says – “woohoo you are preggers”! then I stay on progesterone, or…”booooo it’s a BFN my friend”, then we will…..well, let’s not go there right now.

This is everything I expected her to say, except for two things slightly different.

  1. First, I need to go for a hydrosonogram.  This procedure will produce a 3D ultrasound of my uterus.  I will have this last test because I have a severely retroverted uterus they could not see it very well on the HSG X-ray, they want to double check that there is nothing preventing the implantation stage.
    My HSG X-ray with my retroverted uterus (it's hard to see because it's hiding behind the catheter)

    My HSG X-ray with my retroverted uterus (it’s hard to see because it’s hiding behind the catheter)

    I have been promised this does not hurt quite as bad as the HSG.  THANKFULLY!!!!

  2. Secondly, she thinks it would be a good idea to do Intra-Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) because we are ‘unexplained’.  ART_logoThis is a procedure where a single sperm is selected and injected directly into the egg rather than normal IVF where the sperm is placed near the egg.  This procedure is an extra $2,420 so we need to check whether our insurance would cover this or not.

Talking of costs….it is going to cost $9,075 for the IVF which includes office visits, endocrine monitoring, ultrasounds, retrieval, transfer and first pregnancy test.  Plus, it is an additional $400 for the anaesthesia. Medication will be approximately $4,000 to $6,000.  Then the ICSI procedure is $2,420.  Cryopreservation is $1000 then $60 a month for any embryos frozen.  Yikes!!!!  But we roughly knew this anyway, it’s just a bit scary seeing it listed out like this.

So for now, we start the negotiating with our insurance and the diary planning. It’s looking like a late June start.

Ultimately, today I walked away with this one key figure she gave: for us – a 50% chance of success.  In my mind that is pretty amazing.  I’ll take that.  I’ve always been a glass half full kind of girl, lately it’s been half empty, today I think I’ve been topped back up 🙂

Thank you for all your support and kind thoughts so far, I’m feeling pretty encouraged this will work!

The great dismal swamp – not quite so dismal

For the last nine days I’ve had a break from blogging and we are on a break from trying to conceive.  I needed both a bit of mental break and a physical break, trying to catch a breather in preparation for our ‘Next Steps’ appointment with our RE tomorrow.  But taking a break hasn’t been plain sailing.  I have had a couple of ‘break downs’ in the last few days, mostly ending with me snapping at Chris and/or crying as a a snivelling mess.  Why? Because I hate this limbo ‘not knowing’ business.

Unexplained infertility is a sucky non explanation for why we haven’t been able to conceive so far, even with a little help.  There are so many questions I have that may never be answered…and it is difficult to get out of this hole of asking “why?” and “what if?”.  Chris has been amazing, he is strong and can handle my random outbursts of crying, reminding me not to bottle all up.  But I can see it in him too, he has the same questions as me.  I know at tomorrow’s appointment we will not have many of these questions answered immediately, but it will help make the path a little clearer in the next steps.  It’s the baby steps I need to help keep me sane, a break has so far been physically good for my body but mentally it has been hard.

So where better to get one’s self out of a dark hole?  The great dismal swamp…this place can take your breath away, and can be anything but dismal.  The swamp is huge, over 112 000 acres and in the heart of this wildlife refuge is an amazing lake, lake Drummond, that is an impressive 3000 acres.  Apparently it is one of two only natural lakes in Virginia.

Lake Drummond at the great dismal swamp

Lake Drummond at the great dismal swamp

The swamp also has a lot of history steeped in it, particularly as this is where many fugitive slaves lived, under the cover the swamp land.  I’ll tell you something, the mosquitoes are horrific in the summer.  This wildlife refuge is always so quiet, and it is easy to quickly feel like you are in complete wilderness, it is anything but dismal.

This time of year is renowned for rare warbler birds and many stunning butterflies.  So today we took our bikes and got on the trails.  In addition to the many sightings of deer we were pleasantly surprised to see thousands of hairy caterpillars, munching so loudly it sounded like it was raining in the swamp.

Hundreds of hairy caterpillars and wishes too!

Hundreds of hairy caterpillars and wishes too!

I feel refreshed this evening after our mini trip to the swamp.  No more tears, I’ve promised Chris this, for at least a few more days anyway 😉 I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to our appointment tomorrow…..

The wish

Chris got some cracking photos today: The wish

Third time’s a……

Three Times a Charm

I think I am getting the hang of this IUI thing now.  I understand exactly what is going to happen each day, what drugs to take, what side effect will happen and when, who to speak to on the phone, who NOT to speak to on phone, how to ask for what I want, how to make myself understood, how to refill my various prescriptions, what bills to expect, even what emotions I am probably going to feel on this roller coaster of a cycle.  For example, I am on Cycle Day 4, and having taken two 2.5mg of Letrozole last night at 7pm, I knew at approximately 4pm Today I was going to be mega sleepy.  And I was! Where I work, if you have done something more than twice you are considered an expert, so I’m going to declare myself “IUI Subject Matter Expert” on my “CV of life”.  I’m feeling quite chilled out about it all, that is except for one, teeny, tiny, annoying thing.

INSURANCE.

The thorn in my side right now.  Needles have nothing compared to this pain in the….

You may recall before we started IUI that my insurance company wrongly stated that I did not need pre-approval for IUI treatment.  It was only after I started my first cycle all became apparent that we needed pre-approval before any fertility treatment.  Since then, we have been trying to get things straight with our insurance company.  I am not entirely blaming the insurance company here.  I am blaming ‘the system’.

It seemed so simple, our insurance company required copies of our medical records to determine pre-approval for our IUI treatment.  Well that’s easy! No? Fertility clinic – please provide our insurance company with our medical records.  “No problem, we will get the nurse right on that” they said.  Well each week we chased them, they claimed no knowledge of this request, but wait, what is this? …oh there is a note in our records to do this.  Hmmmmmm.  At our last appointment 2.5 weeks ago, the nurse promised us the request to send the medical files was with their business team and they were going to action it that day.  Well it turned out that was all bull.  No medical records were ever sent because we had to fill out a release ‘form’.  And after the number of people we spoke to try to make this happen, not one person mentioned a form.  Things also got complicated when the fertility clinic realised that our insurance’s medical office is located in Belgium.  This would be impossible! Sending medical records abroad – there are different laws for this. They were not quite sure how they are going to do it,  come on, surely there is a form for that too!  How about I google it, I bet google knows the answer.

So after we hit this road block, Chris tried a different approach.  He has given the half completed ‘pre-approval’ forms to our insurance company to chase up with our fertility clinic.  When my insurance company emailed me this morning to say could I please provide them with a contact number for my doctor, oh, by the way we would need approval for each round of IVF….I flipped!  As you can imagine we had dutifully and carefully provided a contact number and address, but most importantly, it clearly stated on the form the treatment was IUI.  I even provided them with a breakdown of all the costs for each procedure and medication.  Aghhhhhhhhh!

I have no idea what is going on right now, but it is all now in the hands of the insurance company and our fertility clinic to figure our laws, methods of handling medical records, procedures, money and what not.  Why couldn’t we have got to this stage two months ago?  At this rate we will probably get our “pre-approval” for IUI after we have finished all three rounds of IUI!

Without pre-approval we have paid for our first round of IUI out of our pockets and hoping we will be able to claim some money back.  Soon the bills will be coming in for the second round of treatment.  It would be nice if they figured it out before then.  My worst nightmare is that they deny the claim because there was a small test we had to do or form we had to complete before we started with the IUI.  There is little advice the insurance company can provide us on whether we are covered or not until they have our medical records.  Similarly, they can’t answer if we are covered for IVF until they see our medical records.  This makes financial planning for the future a little challenging.  But we are planning for the worst, just to be safe.

I should point out that we do have a rather strange insurance arrangement – because my organisation is international, Allianz, our insurance company, provides coverage for all staff across the various countries.  Allianz uses United Healthcare as their service provider in the US to purely deal with admin for claims made in the USA and negotiate in network deals with providers.  This makes things complicated for medical providers here in the US when we try to explain that they have to provide medical records to Allianz, not United Healthcare.  I hope I didn’t lose you there!

Third time...

Third time…

So to sum up today’s post – Insurance sucks and starting IUI cycle 3 is going to be a breeze.  As the saying goes….third time lucky!  Or….third time a charm!  Let’s hope it’s not like the other google search term on the list above – third time out :-s

On Being Pregnant in a War Zone Pt 2

Spring 2007 continued

Finally, two days after discovering I was pregnant, I received my ‘Call Forward’ to fly to a US Military Hospital in Kuwait.  By this point, I had made my excuses to colleagues (An Ovarian Cyst that probably needed surgery), eaten just two crackers, hid under my bed from another five rocket attacks, slept a lot, caught up on several episodes of 24 and thoroughly read up on pregnancy and ectopic pregnancies.  I was exhausted and feeling weak.  I could barely pick up my daypack, body armour and rifle; the bag was packed for only 2 nights – that officially made me pathetically weak.

I waited for my ride to Kuwait in the helicopter departures lounge.  I was the only one there waiting.  A crew member called my name and asked me to follow him, he took my bag from me (he probably thought I was actually a real medevac patient).  My pre-deployment training was running through my head.  How to get on and off a helicopter, depending on the type of helicopter, depends on where you can and can’t load/unload.  This helicopter, a lynx, had its engine off anyway, so it didn’t matter.  There was no chance of getting my head chopped off or sucked into the intakes.  The crew member showed me to my seat, he was overly jolly considering it was 0130 AM.    It looked like I was getting the helicopter all to myself.  The crew member turned out to be the door gunner.  The two pilots arrived shortly after and introduced themselves.  They were HILARIOUS, typical Army Air Corps pilots.  I was given a headset so I could listen in to all their intercom chatter.

As the engines started, I began to feel nervous.  Last time I flew into Iraq, we got shot at and rocketed.  A nice welcome from the Insurgents.  But suddenly my nerves were overtaken by pain.  Pain in my shoulder.  I read about this in ectopic pregnancies.  Just as I started to worry and think the worst, the gunner handed me some night vision goggles.  He pointed out the window.  I looked through the goggles and I could see the shimmering lights of Basrah City, and the oil fields.  It was magical.  It was bitter-sweet.

As soon as we crossed the border into Kuwait, the gunner closed the door and removed his body armour, indicating to me I should do the same.  The comedy pilots debated where they should land in the US base.  Is this not something you would know before taking off??!  We flew over at least 25 parked up black hawks.  Do we even have this many helicopters in the British Forces??  After a few laps of the base we found somewhere to land.  No one was there to greet us. Well it was 0230AM, I wasn’t too surprised at this!  Whilst I received a comedy show, one of the pilots managed to call through to the hospital.  We were at the wrong helipad.  No shit Sherlock!  Of course, this base was big enough to have two helipads.  We were told to wait there and a nurse would come pick me up.  I could have been sleepwalking at this point, the next hour was a blur.

Somehow, I woke up lying down on a hospital bed, trying to answer the doctor’s questions.  I was immediately put on an IV drip as I was severely dehydrated.  Wow, I felt almost instantly better, but it was temporary.  Next was the vaginal ultrasound.  The whole reason I was in Kuwait.  I had no clue what to expect, no one really explained what was going to happen and that the nurse would be male.  The nurse told me I was about 6 weeks pregnant, and he printed out a picture of the ‘blob’.  Because that is all it was, I wasn’t really experienced in ultrasound photos at this stage of pregnancy.  He reassured me that everything looked just fine.  No ectopic pregnancy.  Phew!!!  So what now?

Well I had a few more hours with the IV drip, and I was ‘quizzed’ by one of the nurses – what was I going to call my baby?  Had I thought of names?  Would I name the baby after him?  Would I email him to let me know how the baby was? He was genuinely excited for me.  Bless him, because he seemed to be the only one.  I was given a prescription for the nausea (no idea what the drug was called), some folic acid and vitamin D and told I HAD to eat, for the sake of my baby.

I was taken to a temporary bunk where there was one other British female who was recovering from surgery from Appendicitis.  She was an Officer so I kept myself to myself.  The next day, I was driven to the ‘weekend spa resort’.  This is where battle weary soldiers were sent to from Iraq at least once in their 6 month tour to get a break.  It had a makeshift Jacuzzi (more like a paddling pool), sunbed loungers, massages, decent internet, volleyball, and computer games.  Lots of computer games.  Everyone was in civvies (civilian attire), I had not packed any civilian clothes, so I walked around in my pyjama shorts and a T-shirt.  I felt free!  No, body armour, rifle or rocket attacks.  I still felt nauseous so I didn’t even get to enjoy one of the ‘two cans of beer’ we were allowed.  I tried to eat, I really wanted to, so I took one of the tablets I was prescribed.  That seemed to do the job, and I managed to get half a plate of food down me.  The nurse would be proud of me.  Despite the ‘spa’ environment, it was lonely and I tried to get on the earliest flight back to Iraq, I missed my squadron, I missed my friends and I knew I was letting them down right now.  After one more night in Kuwait and I was back in Iraq, feeling a little better, but the pains were still coming.  This sucked.

Back in Basrah, I had an appointment at the medical center to discuss what next.  I had a completely different doctor, so had to start my story from the very beginning.  I think this doctor was the first to show any compassion.  He also told me that I was lucky to get the prescription for the nausea because it was not allowed in the UK, it was up to me if I wanted to keep taking it.  To date I still have no idea what this drug was because I threw it in the bin after the British Doctor told me this.  Of course the next step was to ‘medevac’ me back to the UK because I was not allowed to be in the theatre of operations anymore, it was too dangerous for my unborn baby.

A total of seven days had passed since I discovered I was pregnant.  The only person who knew I was pregnant was my boyfriend (and of course the doctors and nurses I had met).  As I sat in the hospital’s morale, welfare and recreational area waiting for my pre-flight checkup, I read many letters from random people wishing our soldiers well.  It’s amazing so many people care to take time out of their day to write to ‘unknown soldiers’.  Although the letters were clearly not aimed at pregnant female soldiers, their words were comforting.  But this comfort slowly turned back to guilt.  And the biggest guilt was yet to come.  As I boarded the C-17 aircraft to fly home with the other 20 ‘Medevacs’, I sat down amongst people who had broken arms, missing legs, wounds and scars to their face.  Then there were the two bed patients, one of whom was in a controlled coma so that he could fly back and be with his family.  He was probably not going to live for much longer.

I hadn’t told anyone I was flying back to the UK, I couldn’t; I was shamed, confused and exhausted.  I just needed some time on my own to figure out what was going on.  My life was never going to be the same again.

On Being Pregnant in a War Zone Pt 1

On being pregnant in a war zone Pt 1

Spring 2007

I winced as the doctor examined my stomach.  The pain was excruciating.  As he prodded, he said “feel here…see?”  I felt my own stomach where he indicated – it was hard, not squishy like normal.  I continued to wince as he poked around my tummy.  “This is your poo.  You are constipated.  We will get you some laxatives and you should be better in a few……”.  The piercing alarm sounded.  We both looked at each other and quickly dived on to the floor.  My body armour and helmet were in the waiting room, no chance of me grabbing hold of it in time.  I leopard crawled under the table, it probably wouldn’t offer me much protection. The doctor grabbed his own body armour and helmet just as there was a loud thud and the ground shaked.  As he put his body armour on and quickly threw on his helmet, he mumbled “Here we go again!”  I wasn’t sure if he was trying to make conversation or if he had genuine grievance by the incoming rockets.  The way I was feeling about these rockets I felt it was probably the latter.  After a few minutes of what was probably the last rocket (usually 2-3 at a time), the doctor quickly stood up and said, “I’ve got to go, I’m on call for the crash emergency team.  Wait here until the all clear, someone will be with you soon.”  And he ran out of his office.

As I lay there on the dusty floor waiting for the all clear siren to sound, I felt stupid.  I felt stupid and embarrassed that all I had was constipation. I wondered how it had happened.  For the last 8 days I had hardly eaten a thing, I felt nauseous and I had horrific stomach pains.  These pains were sharp and short, sort of like my IBS pains, but twice as painful as usual. But this didn’t seem like IBS.  I promised myself I would go to the doctor after 7 days of feeling like this.

The all clear siren sounded. I got up and left the office to speak to the corporal at the reception desk. I explained what had happened, she told me to take a seat in the waiting room and another Doctor would see me shortly. I waited for half an hour. All I could think about was that someone must have been injured by the rocket attack, otherwise my doctor would be back by now. This made me very sad.

I was called into the very same office I had been in just 30 minutes ago, but this doctor was different. I explained that the previous doctor was just about to prescribe me something for constipation. He asked me to tell him from the beginning what the problem was and the symptoms I was suffering. He wasn’t going to sign anything until he made his own diagnosis.

He asked me all sorts of questions about my IBS, what I had been eating, how often etc…it all made sense to me. New environment, crappy food, stress from rockets. Usually my IBS presents with horrific diarrhea, but now my IBS was giving me constipation. Not uncommon, right? But this doctor asked me (like the other doctor) “Is there a chance you could be pregnant?” I laughed and said “No, very unlikely!”, he said, “Well let’s be sure, I want you to take a pregnancy test before I prescribe you anything”. “Sure….” I said, but muttered to myself “…if you want to waste our time”. The doctor called in the nurse and explained I was to take a pregnancy test. I dutifully peed in the cup and together we sat down and waited for the results. The nurse tried to make small talk about the recent rocket attack. She proceeded to tell me that a lot of girls try to get pregnant on purpose to avoid deploying or wanting to be sent home. But then her words slowly slurred to a halt, she paused and exclaimed with a look of unexpected shock “errrr you are………pregnant! Ummm, congratulations?!?”.

I could feel the blood drain from my face in disbelief. I haven’t had a period in years after my depo provera issues, how was this possible? What is going to happen now? I’m not ready for this. I’m not one of these girls who purposefully gets pregnant just to be sent home. I volunteered to deploy to Iraq! I volunteered to be with the rest of my unit. Despite the shit getting real with the rockets, I wanted to be there, to do my job, to serve my country.

I could hear in the distant background, the nurse asking me all sorts of questions about if this is what I wanted? Was I excited? Did I need anything? But I was in too much shock to answer her questions other than mumble a no.

The doctor who made me take the test called me back into his office and said “Well, now we can explain the constipation and nausea. But this doesn’t explain your pain. We need to make sure you are not having an ectopic pregnancy. Let’s get you to the Emergency Hospital for a checkup by the specialist. I was hurried out of the doctor’s office, into the back of an ambulance to drive the half mile to the emergency hospital. This was the most embarrassing thing of it all. Being driven into the ER entrance. Pregnant. Not shot, wounded or even sick. Just pregnant.

I had no idea what an ectopic pregnancy really meant. I was prodded and poked all over again by several nurses and doctors. They even checked my constipation and try to help it along, but there was nothing in there. There was no poo. After all, I had barely eaten for the last 7 days. I hadn’t pooed in 4 days.

Finally, my boyfriend arrived at the hospital (yes we were deployed together, we got it together during pre-deployment training). He had no idea why I was in the hospital, he had left me at the doctors only 2 hours ago! He looked panicked. I looked at him and tried to get the words out, but I just started crying. It was the first time I cried since finding out my news. Eventually he got it out of me, and we both cried. We cried conspicuously together as we were not really sure how else to do it, this crying thing.

The hospital facilities on our camp did not have a vaginal ultrasound machine. The closest one was in another country – Kuwait at a US Airforce base. They wanted to check if the pregnancy was ectopic as the symptoms matched. I was put on the medevac waiting list and told to go back to my room and rest until I was called to fly.

I went back to my room, cried a lot, read up on ectopic pregnancy, and asked myself a lot of questions. How will I explain this to my unit, to my boss? Will my boss know already? What are the rules on medical confidentiality? Will they send me home? Will I be discharged from the Army? What if I have an ectopic pregnancy? Should I tell my family? When will I be able to eat again? When will this pain go away? So many questions as I lay in my room, sometimes in bed, sometimes on the floor under my bed as the rockets kept coming throughout the day and night. Get some rest? Ha. No rest for me….

TBC.

Diagnosis – Taking The First Steps

When do we seek help?

The typical time to see a doctor when you are concerned about infertility is after a year of TTC (Trying To Conceive) if you are under the age of 36.  Both Chris and I are 32, we had discussed when we would seek advice, which was of course as per the guidelines suggests.  But ten months in, Chris had a new doctor’s routine physical where he explained our dream of becoming parents.  The doctor recommended a routine blood work up; this is when we found out that Chris’s testosterone levels were very low.  And so as our doctor provided a suggested specialist fertility clinic.

In the UK, things may have gone a little differently.  We probably would have had to wait a year and at least one minute to be able to get any tests unless we had symptoms.

Research….research….research

So after a serious amount of research, including finance checking, we made an appointment with the Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine – this organisation was the pioneers of IVF.  We took the first appointment we could get, and so after 11 months of TTC we were taking the first steps towards a diagnosis.  This was pretty scary.  I was in denial, I really did not want to go to the appointment.  Chris was eager, with his testosterone levels being so low, I understood why it was important for him.  Within the last eleven months we had experienced twelve of the dreaded two week waits.   (Those two week waits deserve a whole blog on their own, so I won’t talk about them right now.)  I can have a very short cycle of 22 days so we were able to pack a few extra chances in 🙂

A bad history with doctors

Why was I so nervous?  Well my history with the doctors in the UK is not a great one.  I spent several years in my early twenties making numerous trips to the doctors to diagnose the cause of my sharp, random, abdominal pains, painfully heavy periods and diarrhea.  After many tests ruling out anything serious, my doctor concluded that my pain was either IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) or Endometriosis.  To diagnose Endometriosis I would require a laparoscopy – the last resort – and not a favoured diagnosis method for someone so young.  Therefore, she recommended I first try an exclusion diet to rule out foods that might cause the pain.  After four weeks of experimenting with my diet I discovered a notable correlation between my pain and eating potatoes, wheat and acidic type fruits such as pineapple.  The pain also got worse with stress a notable IBS symptom.  There is no test you can take to diagnose whether you have IBS or not.  But it fitted my symptoms and so I tried many treatments.  My IBS was very bad at university – I had spent two days out the field training with the Army, eating the Army freeze dried ration packs (packed with potatoes and wheat!!!), this plus a particularly stressful moment tipped me over the edge, the pain was so excruciating I passed out and woke up in hospital.  When I told the hospital I had IBS, they discharged me immediately with no further questions.  And since then I have managed my IBS through diet (and recognise that stress is likely to be a bad day for me!!).

So why do I not like the doctors?  My experience with doctors in the UK has always been one of a feeling that I am wasting their time.  I have yet had the opportunity to experience them here in the US as I have in the UK.  So far so good…..the major difference is that I am paying a lot of money for the doctor here in the US and I have a choice, but in the UK it was ‘free’, and beggars can’t be choosers (although much has changed in the NHS over the recent years, there is more choice available now)!

Our first appointment with the Fertility Clinic

wish

I can tell you that I felt sick to the stomach about going to our first appointment together, I must have gone to the toilet at least three times in the hour before.  I knew it was a ridiculous feeling to be having, but this time I had Chris to hold my hand with me, and after discussing the first steps with our new doctor, it wasn’t all so bad.  In fact, I left with a feeling of huge relief.

The beginning? Or the beginning of the end?

Is this pPathost the beginning of my hunt?  No.  But it feels a little bit like the start. This is my first blog post, and the first time I am sharing with the world that we are on the hunt for the pudding club.  But this is by no means the true beginning of our journey.

Our journey began a long time ago.  It started in 2011 with a trip to the Dolomites, Italy, where Chris romantically  proposed to me at the top of a mountain.  He proposed 2 hours into the start of our four day hike into the remote mountains.  A very risky proposal considering I had been giving him signals that I was not interested in getting married (mis-read signals, I will add!).  It could have been an awkward four days if I had turned his proposal down.  But it was after accepting his proposal on this four day trip, that we spent quality time discussing our future together.  As you can imagine over four days in the wilderness, it was many hours of discussion.  But it was clear that we had similar dreams, goals and desires in life.  Including having children.  I think this was the true start of our journey, our hunt.

We married in 2012 and moved to Virginia USA in 2013.  I had my birth control IUD removed in 2012, but the real deciding moment to make our family bigger was in December 2013.  This was the defining moment when we realised we were on the right path, and this was our greatest dream.  Life since then, for us both, has been amazing, and blessed in many ways.  Our journey has been beautiful, but it is getting tiring.  I am a glass half full type of girl, and recently my glass has been looking a little half empty.

Last week our doctor diagnosed us with ‘unexplained infertility’.  This was a huge relief to both of us.  We have no serious ailments preventing a natural conception.   However, this is a diagnosis given to almost 30% of infertility cases and often all this means is that there is some other unknown cause of infertility.  Pinpointing exactly the cause is very difficult for medical professionals.  The art of conception is an amazing feat of nature.  So the doctor recommended that we focus on treatment rather than causes.  Chris jumped straight in – when can we start?  The answer, was right away.

So is this the real beginning of our journey? Actually, this blog post is the beginning of our journey, for what I hope is the start of my glass returning to being half full.  Maybe the hunt will be over next month, and this is actually the beginning of the end.  But the turns keep coming at us, and so our journey continues for now….