Chris #FlipsTheScript

Infertility isn’t just a woman’s issue, it’s a man’s issue and it’s a couple’s issue.  So when I asked Chris to do this interview he said ‘sure’, but he later let on that he was actually anxious about it.  Even though our story is here on this blog, he finds it hard to still talk about.  So I am very proud of him for pushing through his fears to tell you his story.

Chris, my husband, is here to #FlipTheScript for national infertility awareness week, here’s his story…

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First of all, tell us a little bit about you and your partner….how did you meet?!!

You know a lot about my partner, Dani, this is her blog!!!  But you probably don’t know how we met.  We met at a work event, Dani was organizing a conference and I was a guest presenter.  Although she will swear blind that I wasn’t a presenter, potentially because the amount of wine we had drunk the night before fogging her memory.  We got along very well…the wine may or many not have been a factor.  We married in 2012 and moved from the Cotswolds, UK to Virginia, USA, 6 months later, where we still live today.

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When did you realize that you were facing a diagnosis of infertility, how did you find out and what were the issues that you faced?  

I married Dani thinking that we probably wouldn’t be able to have kids.  It wasn’t a surprise.  But I loved her enough that it didn’t matter.  So finding out we were infertile was more of a confirmation of a strongly held suspicion.  Mind you, we did have a go at it naturally for a year before hand.  It never really felt like a diagnosis of infertility, instead it was an increasing realization of infertility over time.  The failures added up after repeated unsuccessful attempts, we never had a diagnosis – it was just unexplained infertility.  This changed how I felt going into each round of treatment.  The first round of treatment, an IUI, was exciting, we went in full of hope… but by the sixth treatment- our third IVF- each cycle was no longer exciting.  It filled me with a sense of dread, and I went into it wishing it was over before it started.  Some of this was my own personal journey and some of this feeling was because it hurts to see the person that you love go through the physical pain and hurt with all the drugs, surgeries and hormones.

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Where are you on your infertility journey now?

I don’t know.  While that may sound like a strange answer, I don’t know if our journey is over or not.  Is infertility ever really over?  The great news, the wonderful news, is that our sixth round of treatment, our 3rd IVF cycle, was successful and we now have a 16 month old daughter, Aviana.  The reason I am not sure if the journey is over has two parts.  The first is the question of whether we can have a second child, and in part do we want to have a second child, knowing full well the challenges and stress we experienced to conceive Aviana the first time.  The second is that I will always have a nagging question in the back of my mind about whether Aviana is destined to follow the same path as us.  By using science to overcome our infertility challenges, do we pass on our ‘duff parts’ to our future children? So our infertility journey may continue into the quest for grandparent hood.  But having experienced all that we have,  I will never pressure Aviana into having a family.

Oh, and we have one frozen embryo from our first IVF cycle.  Every month we get the $60 bill for the storage of it, a constant reminder of both hope, and the potential for disappointment.  We don’t know what we will do next.

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Has infertility changed your relationship with your partner? 

This was the hardest thing we have ever done. At times through our journey I felt a small amount of hate towards Dani for what felt like forcing me to go on to the next cycle, and I also hated myself for not having the strength to immediately, and willingly, support her.  I thought long and hard before making these statements but we spend so long and so much effort hiding our feelings, experiences and the challenges of infertility that we often put a positive slant on the pain, therefore this is my honest answer, although I must confess it is uncomfortable to say out loud.

The good news is that despite these low points throughout our journey we became closer. It has brought us closer together because:

  1. You have to be close to stab your partner with 200 + needles. Nothing says togetherness like shoving a 2.5inch needle into someone’s body.
  2. You have to be forgiving when being stabbed by your partner (thanks Dani, sorry for the mistakes).

The only way we got through it was as a team. We talked a little and often, we talked in the shower, we talked in the car, we could stop and start the conversations as either one of us felt willing.   Being open, truly open, about how we felt meant being vulnerable and at times brutally honest.  After being so vulnerable and so open, I now feel a level of comfort, closeness and companionship that was more than we had before.

How has infertility impacted you financially? Did your healthcare insurance provide coverage for infertility treatment?

We are very fortunate, we are among the few who have infertility treatment as part of our healthcare coverage in the US.  The majority of our costs were covered by Dani’s insurance and yet we still had to plan and budget for the portion we had to cover.  I’m amazed at those who are forced to self-pay for IUI and IVF treatments because it adds another level of stress to infertility that we didn’t have to deal with.

How have you taken care of yourself physically and emotionally during your struggles?

In the early part of our journey we tried many things to help improve our chances.  We cut out alcohol, we cut out sugar (all good advice that come from ‘It starts with the egg’).  These two acts by themselves served to improve our general well-being and we made a concerted effort to do more exercise.

To be honest, as the journey went on I cared a little bit less about my physical health and focused more on my mental health.   Our first IVF ended in a suspected ectopic pregnancy, leading to us having to terminate the pregnancy of unknown location with the drug methotrexate.   Because methotrexate is to toxic we were not allowed to conceive for at least 3 months after.  After our second IVF failed and as we began our third cycle I began to hate the process, hate the ever present doubt, dread and stress. This was the lowest point for me and where our relationship was most challenged. I didn’t want to do it again, I didn’t want Dani to hurt again and I didn’t want to hurt any more either.  On top of all that, Dani was caught in the Brussels terrorist attack at the airport and was blown up, I didn’t take care of my mental health.  I wanted it all to be over with.  We knew that it would be our last attempt, there was so much pressure.  I don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t get that positive result or we had another loss.  I don’t want to think about it.

How have your friends and family supported you through your journey?  Have you had any experience of lack of support or misunderstandings?  

Overall friends and family have been awesome.  Everyone was supportive, many people asked how they could help.  The flip side of this, which many people going through infertility have probably experienced, is the good intention, but totally uninformed advice and suggestions.  ‘Just Relax’.  ‘My friends tried this…’ ‘Have you tried herbal tea…’ At one point we had received so much of this “advice” that Dani and I started writing a book as a guide for friends and family for what not to do and how to better support loved ones going through infertility.  This is not a criticism, this is a statement of fact, and weeks like this infertility awareness week and #FlipTheScript are part of an ongoing process to educate, inform and raise awareness so that more people know about the challenges faced by 1 in 8 couples. Their good intentions and enormous support and generosity can be coupled with better information so they can truly support the people they love as they go through this truly shitty experience.

What has been the hardest point of your journey and how did you deal with it?  

I can’t and won’t pick one point in this journey.  To do so would diminish all the other moments.  Every part of this journey is difficult.  This whole experience has a price, not just a  ‘$ price’, but an emotional price that we pay for every minute and every day in our struggle to conceive.  Low points come in many forms, the most obvious is the doctor saying we are not pregnant.  The less obvious come when you are sat in a café and look up to see a family enjoying time together, it is just another reminder of what we don’t have.  And in that moment that’s a low point.  As with all journeys there are twists and turns, highs and lows and the journey is different for each of us.  There were some very low points for me, but I’m not comfortable sharing them specifically.  (you may be able to guess some of them from my previous answers 😦 ).

If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself?

None. I don’t think any advice I could give now would change how I felt then.  We had so much advice from so many people, much of it good, some of it not, some of it just plain weird, but when it came to it, what really mattered was how Dani and I felt in any moment and how we handled that together.

As it’s national infertility awareness week, what message do you want to share about infertility to the general public? 

1 in 8 couples are affected by infertility.  Looking around you on a train, in a café, at you work place and realise that as many people are affected by infertility as they are breast cancer.  Charities and support groups have done a great job of raising awareness about cancers like breast cancer….we need to do better to raise awareness of infertility. Talk about it.  Help raise awareness.  Get more research funded.  Help us to bring this topic out from the shadows.  Play a role in removing the stigma from infertility.

Is there anything else you would like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

One final thought, infertility can create some surreal moments that can be laughed about after the fact. For example, there is nothing quite like sitting in an open waiting room at a hospital holding a test tube containing a bright pink sample of your sperm.

Please leave a comment or message of support below for Chris (and me if you like too!!!) 🙂

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What a difference a year makes

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

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

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

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

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

-Walter Anderson

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

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Postpartum recovery and pregnancy loss trigger

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

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

So things down there really aren’t that bad.

But psychologically things are a bit different.

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

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

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

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

My Birthing Story – A Vaginal Birth with Induction and No Pain Meds

PC Diary @ 38 Weeks 3 Days – The Final Entry

20 Dec: Preparing to expand our Family to 3.  My Tuesday 20th December started out with uncertainty – uncertainty as to when exactly I would be admitted to hospital to start the induction process.  Chris took the whole day off work and we planned for it to be our last day together as a family of 2.  It started with a visit to my Obstetrician to check the status of my cervix.  I was still only 2cm dilated and 70% effaced.  This meant that my doctor wanted me to be admitted to hospital later that evening to ripen my cervix.  So Chris and I decided to finally do something we always talk about doing but never got round to doing – take a trip to Cracker Barrel for lunch.  Yes, four years in Virginia and we had yet to visit a Cracker Barrel!  We stuffed ourselves as if it was our last meal ever.

It was very surreal knowing that I was going to start labour imminently.  The final hours before I called the hospital to check if I should come in were beautiful.  Chris and I shared a candle lit bath together and relaxed.  Afterwards we sat down together and put together a birthing music playlist.  We went through all my music, reminised over our various wedding playlists and created a 5 hour mix of chilled out tunes.  This proved to be one of the best things we could have done together.

20 Dec 7PM – It was time to call the hospital – but it was shift change so no one knew if I should come in.  Eventually at 9PM the hospital told me to come in….and to make sure I had eaten because as soon as I was admitted I would not be allowed to eat!!!! We grabbed our hospital bags and got in the car, the 15 minute drive to the hospital was quiet, I noticed all the Christmas lights for the first time.  This was not how I had imagined my labour to begin; I had imagined being in the midst of contractions, sat on a towel just in case my waters broke.  Instead, my head was full of questions about what was going to happen, how my birth story would play out, my head was surprisingly clear.

20 Dec 9PM: Cervical Ripening.  I checked into the maternity unit, I had already pre-registered at the hospital so I just needed to show my insurance card, ID and sign one more form.  I was tagged with various bracelets and shown to my room.  The room was a lot bigger than I remembered from our hospital tour we had taken several months ago.  It had a fancy bed that moved into all sorts of positions, various monitors for baby and mother, a crib with a radiant heater, a shower room and a sofa bed for Chris to sleep on.

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20 Dec 10PM – The nurses prepared me by hooking me up to the baby monitoring system round my belly, and put an Intravenous lock in ready to administer whatever drugs I would need, if needed. They took some basic medical history information and looked over my Birth plan.  It can be summed up as “please don’t ask me if I want pain meds, I will request them” but in general I was flexible and mentally prepared to go with the flow as my labour progresses. As this is my first time, I couldn’t possibly know what is or isn’t right for me, and every birth is different anyway.  The nurses thought that was very practical and good for my mental health.

The nurse put in the Cervadil ripening agent, it was on a string like a tampon.  She wasn’t able to use lubricant so it was incredibly painful.  She couldn’t find my cervix easily because the baby’s head was so low, she had to get around the head.  Once that hell was over, I was not allowed to get up from bed for an hour.  I needed to pee after ten minutes of the cervadil being inserted, the next 50 minutes I spent watching the clock, more hell.  The nurse came in to check my vitals every hour.  It was a sleepless night. Chris got about 4 or 5 hours broken sleep, however I probably only got about 2 hours sleep in sum total.  This was mostly because every time I rolled over baby’s heart rate monitor fell off baby and the Nurse would come running in!  Every time I needed to pee I had to unplug the monitor. I think I got up to pee about 8 times through the night.  Let’s just say I was not feeling refreshed in the morning.

21 Dec 5 AM: A rude awakening.  I woke up at around 5 AM with strong contractions, they were different to the contractions I have experienced throughout my pregnancy.  Things were moving along, there was a good chance that I was actually starting to shift into active labour just from the cervadil.

21 Dec 7AM: Cervix check. It was shift change, so the obstetrician came into check on me, with my contractions getting stronger she said she could do a cervix check and get the cervadil out sooner if I liked.  I felt like things had probably progressed over night because I was really uncomfortable and had to stinger contractions.  Again, not being able to use lubricant removed the cervadil and the OB checked my cervix.  I had progressed only to 2.5cm 90% effaced, she was looking for better progress than that, so she stuffed the cervadil back in me and said it could come out at 10AM – the whole 12 hours since it was inserted.  It felt like she was literally stuffing me with a dry towel, she made me bleed and I cried in pain.  I wished at that point that I could have had the non-FDA approved drug for cervix ripening misroprostol instead because I have used these before for my previous Dilation and Curettage procedures.  Ah well, I digress….

21 Dec 9AM: Active Labour. I started to experience longer stronger and more frequent contractions, about 4-5 minutes apart.  The contractions were becoming more painful and I couldn’t talk during the contraction and needed to concentrate.  These were the type of contractions that we had learned about in birthing class that were the ones I would feel as I would go into active labour and would need make my way into the hospital.  We ummed and ahhed about when to get our Doula, Sharon, to come in.  My contractions started to really need me to move into new positions and I was feeling like we would benefit from her support sooner rather than later, so we called Sharon at 9.40AM, and she arrived almost 20 minutes later.
21 Dec 10 AM: cervidil removed.  The cervidil was removed, I felt massive relief that it was out, but really sore from it being in me and with another cervix check I was now 3cm dilated. I was offered an hours break from the monitoring before starting the next stage of the labour where contractions would be induced from the drug Pitocin –  it mimics the hormone oxytocin which is what causes the contractions to develop.  We decided to take a 30 minute break to keep the ball rolling.  I was taken off the monitor and my ‘break’ consisted of taking a nice warm shower and feeding me up with a breakfast cereal bar, some haribo gummies and some really big glugs of water.  But I was still getting contractions during my ‘break’!  The shower was lovely and warming, it really helped me to relax and feel refreshed, ready to really focus on my breathing and thinking about my baby moving down the birth canal.

When the time came to end my break, I was put back on the monitor, the nurse surprised me and said I didn’t need to go on the pitocin because my contractions were looking strong and good and that I had entered active labour on my own.  I was thrilled at this because avoiding Pitocin was highly desirable for me and my goal to make this birth without pain medication if possible.

Our Doula: Sharon. So we got on with progressing my labour.  Sharon helped us try different positions to get baby moving. Having Sharon coach both of us through this labour was incredible. It felt so natural and she made me feel calm and comfortable with everything that we tried. Sharon wasn’t solely focused on me, she also made sure Chris was ready and prepared for everything that was going on and how he could help me. Her guidance was like a conductor of a symphony orchestra, there was never any hesitation and always deliberate consideration in her coaching style. At no point did I ever think, what on earth is going on or I don’t like what is happening here.  

Chris remembered to put our music playlist on. This was one of the best distractions and ways to keep me focused and relaxed in between contractions. Sometimes I even sang along to songs, maybe not out loud (or maybe I did I cant remember everything perfectly!), but mostly in my head. It helped me with my breathing as I listened to the rhythm of the music playing.

Active labour progresses. We tried almost all the positions possible that we had seen in our handout from the birthing class, and more that Sharon showed us. I think we used every single birthing prop that the hospital owned throughout my whole labour!! I was so grateful for all the effort the nurses put in to getting the things I needed for me. Their support was relentless.

Standing position – I held onto Chris/Sharon’s shoulders and swayed through the contractions.

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Lunging to the side position – I really liked this, it was hard work, but I felt like the deep lunge was helping my baby move with the gravity. I placed one foot on a foot stool and Chris took my weight, with Sharon close by to help as I leaned over him into the lunge.

Sitting on the toilet position – I quickly discovered when I went to go pee that this position was intense on my body. Sharon helped me put both my feet wide apart on two foot steps. 


My contractions here were really painful and deep, but this was a good thing according to Sharon.  I trusted her, but it was one of my least favourite positions. I came to be afraid of the toilet!!! Sharon told me early on that as soon as it gets too comfortable she wants me to change position so we can progress the labour! At this point I really was starting to feel like I needed to poo, but I had pooed earlier in the morning three times already, I couldn’t possibly have any more poo left in me?!

Sitting on the Birthing stool position – With my back to the bed, leaning on Chris in between contractions, Sharon was able to massage my back. Again, another challenging position, but it allowed me to relax in between contractions. Poor Chris was getting a real good work out by this time!!

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Birthing stool in shower position – Sharon could tell I was getting tired and wanted me to take a break. She suggested taking a shower using the Wireless monitor. It was logistically challenging to make sure the wireless monitor didnt get wet but we sussed it. This actually didn’t work out as well as first time I showered because I got too cold.

The Nurses all commented on how warm the room was compared to many other women, yet I was cold a lot, I had to frequently snuggle in my fleecey dressing gown.  It was white and amazingly throughout the whole labour didn’t get any blood or other bodily fluids on it, I think because Sharon and Chris were taking good care of me.

Apparently at around 1PM Chris and Sharon had a discussion on when I’d deliver – Sharon hazarded a guess for 2.30 PM….hahaha my baby had other ideas…

Walking – at 2PM with the wireless monitor still on I was able to take a walk down the corridor. But then my contractions really had started to slow down.  I met my OB in the corridor, she told me because contractions were slowing down she suggested I needed to to go on the Pitocin to move the show on the road.  So I agreed and had another Cervix check – I was still only 3cm dilated.  It was Frustrating to hear this, but Sharon explained how not to get disheartened and how to get over that mental state. I was given IV fluids and the Pitocin was administered. I started with a dose of 2, then every 30 minutes my dose went up by 2…I think the maximum dose I got to was 10, but I don’t really remember. This also meant that I was limited where I could go as I had the drip following me – moving into different positions became a logisitcal nightmare! But Chris, Sharon and my nurse worked hard to help me at every stage. Their support was relentless.

Side lying down position – I took ‘rests’ in side position with and without the peanut ball.  I truly hated having a contraction in the side position even though I was getting rest.

Sitting on Birthing ball – I sat on the Birthing ball leaning on the end of bed, Chris sat on the bed coaching me and Sharon sat behind me, massaging my back.This was a good position for me, I felt like I was progressing my baby girl down but was comfortable on my bum and back.

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Squatting position – Oh this position was painful and hard work, even though all my weight was on Chris as I squatted.  It was lots of Hard work for Chris!  He was getting a good work out!!!

21 Dec 5PM: Transition Phase: The pain was getting really intense.  My Contractions were 1-3 minutes apart lasting a minute and sometimes longer.  I started to really grunt through the contractions, trying not to wail like a banshee and breathe deeply.  Sometimes it felt like I couldnt breathe.  Sometimes I hyperventilated. But Baby was having decelerations at the right times of my contractions indicating that the next stage of labour might be very soon.  I was spotting brown blood – a good sign for my labour progressing.

Soon the baby started to struggle and her heart rate was dropping. The nurse gave me oxygen and that helped baby.

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Sharon told Chris to get dinner before it was too late – he brought back a salad because it was the only thing he knew I wouldn’t be jealous of!

I rested whilst he got dinner, sat up right with feet together and knees out.

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On all fours on bed position. I got on all fours leaning over the birthing ball on the bed in between contractions, and sat upright on my knees wide open during contractions.

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When I shifted back to the birthing stool I felt a warm dribbley gush; I wasnt sure if it was blood or my waters breaking.  It was my waters breaking.  So I had another Cervix check – this time I was 7cm, and still felt really frustrated because contractions were so intense and I felt like I should be closer.

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I really was near the point of no return for pain meds, I wasn’t aware of when that was exactly, but I really appreciated my whole team for respecting my wishes and not asking me.

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There came a point when all I could hear on the monitor was my baby’s heart rate decelerating, I was really concerned for baby and I said out loud – please do what ever it takes to keep my baby safe! – everyone said of course we will!!! Ebony was my nurse for most of my labour, she was wonderful and even wore a Christmas necklace that lit up! It was a shame she had to leave as her shift ended because I was only at it for another two hours, but that’s the way it has to be.

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They started to bring in all the equipment needed for delivery.  Seeing this happen, I began to feel like I could do this, I had renewed energy!!!  But I found it so hard to breathe through the contractions, every time I started to hyperventilate I thought about my anchor point – somewhere at the top of some beautiful rocky mountains. I remembered from all that I’ve read that the end is near when you feel like you are on the edge of almost dying. Knowing that helped me continue through the pain.

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The nurse asked me if I could feel any thing different and that I had to tell them if I could.  But I didn’t know what ‘different’ felt like, I had felt ‘different’ for the past 90 minutes like I wanted to poo and squeeze this baby out!  I was starting to feel frustrated because I couldn’t understand what I should be feeling.  Every other contraction I felt like I was vomiting poo out of my stomach but through my bum.  So it was time to check my cervix again.

Second stage: Pushing – Another cervix check and I was fully dilated.  It was time to push.  Sharon was explaining to me how pushing was going to feel.  I don’t remember how it happened but I was moved to a lying down position and told that when I felt a contraction I could start to push. But that concept was completely Alien to me. I had no idea what ‘pushing’ should be like. Chris and my Doula grabbed a leg each and pulled them almost back with my knees almost up to my head as I held onto my thighs (trying not to squeeze them). I needed to take a deep breathe in and squeeze from my backside, sort of aiming the squeeze downwards, counting down to ten without screaming or making a noise as I pushed, breathing out as I squeezed really, really hard.  I managed this about two or three times per contraction.  It was hard work. After the contraction stopped  my legs were lowered down and I took a breather, using the oxygen because I was feeling dizzy, I needed to keep breathing.

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The room was slowly filling up with various people, I couldn’t tell you how many people were in the room at that point, but now I knew why the room was so big.  I was told not to worry, but the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team were there just in case, because we knew that my baby would be small and could have problems.  It didn’t worry me, it made me feel in good hands.

It was hard sometimes to tell when a contraction was coming, they felt less intense than what I had been feeling for the past few hours.  After several pushes my Obstetrician arrived and she started giving directions.  My baby’s heart rate was decelerating, so in between contractions I was shifted and rolled to my left side because the baby didn’t like me being on my back for long.  It was terrifying.  All I could think of was getting this far and having to have an emergency Cesarean to get her out.  I was so determined to push her out and that is all I could think of as I pushed through the pain.

My doctor explained to me that I wasn’t quite fully dilated so she helped pull my cervix down so that the baby could get it’s head through, it was so, so painful.  She was guiding me how to push every time. Everyone in the room was helping me, counting down from ten and encouraged me to keep pushing hard. Eventually she told me I had just two more big pushes, she needed to get baby out ASAP, so she was going to use the vacuum.  We had seen one of these in our birthing class, so I wasn’t afraid of it, just relieved that baby stood a chance of getting out safely, even if it meant help.  My doctor put the vacuum on baby, the tugging that pursued afterwards was incredibly memorable and painful.  One more really big push, I was struggling to feel the timing of the contractions, I felt a big tug from the doctor as she used the vacuum to help baby come out.

The feeling of my baby coming out was amazing, I could feel everything, it didn’t hurt anything close to what I had felt the past 12 hours.  It was an almost euphoric feeling rushing through me.  The pain was now irrelevant. After 37 minutes of pushing, my baby was finally placed on my tummy, she was so warm, wet and gooey.  I looked at my baby, I didn’t cry like I thought I would, I was in complete awe at what had just happened.  The umbilical cord was prepared and Chris cut it, and the baby was taken quickly to the heater to be checked over.

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I started shaking uncontrollably, I was so cold.  But my doctor said this was normal, it was my adrenaline gone crazy.  I was trying to watch what was happening to my baby.  Chris went to the baby to watch what was going on.

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Meanwhile with another contraction I pushed and delivered my placenta, it came out quite easily. I was then quickly stitched up by my doctor because I had a second degree tear.  All of this was part of the labour far more painful than I had anticipated! Although it was mostly a blur, I was exhausted, but on a complete high.

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21 Dec 9.21PM: Welcome baby!!!  And there she was – she was still a girl!  She arrived into the world at 2112 on 12/21 (or 21/12).  She was placed on me for the golden hour of skin to skin.  I cannot explain the feeling of love running through me, the relief that she was finally in my arms.  After everything we had been through over the past few years to get her here, she was now safe in my arms.

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Sharon and Chris helped me with getting her latched on to my breast and she started to feed.  I was so incredibly overwhelmed to be able to breastfeed in that moment.

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It took us a few hours to name her, but we finally agreed upon Aviana Ruby! 

Thank yous. I would like to say a big thank you to all the staff on duty during my labour and delivery at Sentara Princess Anne Hospital and Virginia Beach OBGYN-this team did everything they could for us to safely bring Aviana to us. And of course Sharon from Hampton Roads Doulas, I doubt I would have been able to do it without her amazing skills and knowledge! Finally, my wonderful husband Chris, my partner in crime and my biggest rock in my life, you were incredibly strong through all of this. Thank you, thank you, thank you XX 

Our little Christmas Pudding has arrived

I never thought the end of my Pudding club hunt would come at Christmas. In the UK we typically have Christmas pudding as our dessert at Christmas dinner. I don’t think this could be the most apt end to 2016 on the Great Pudding Club Hunt.

 Aviana Ruby arrived safely on 21st December at 9.21PM (21/12 @ 21:12!!!!) weighing a teeny 5lbs 1oz and measuring a staggering 19.5″ long!!!! 


I will write my birth story another time but quickly here is what happened. I was admitted to the hospital at 9PM on Tuesday 20th December, to be induced at 38 weeks because the doctors felt Aviana would thrive better outside of my body as she was suffering from intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). I was given Cervidil to ripen my cervix, the doctor likes it to be in for 12 hrs before it is removed (it’s kind of like a tampon thing that hurts like hell). On Wednesday 21st at 10AM our doula arrived and the cervidil was removed. I began labour naturally, so the doctors held off giving me Pitocin, but unfortunately at around lunchtime my contractions slowed down and I had to start the Pitocin induction. 

The contractions got stronger and harder and more painful, but Chris and my Doula coached me through the pain. We tried almost every birthing toy in the box in the hospital and every position possible to survive without pain meds. I started pushing at about 8.45PM. Unfortunately several times Aviana’s heart rate was decelerating dangerously and there were a couple of moments when it looked like C-section was on the cards. At one point all I could think of was do whatever is best for my baby to survive, I don’t care what needs to be done, just save my baby! 

I only pushed for 37mins, but this was mostly because her head was so low already and a lot of amazing work from the team, I was coached to push and she had to be vacuumed out. The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) team were on standby – a terrifying feeling – but they weren’t needed in the end. The feeling of her coming out in the last and final push was euphoric. She was a lovely sticky warm gooey mess and she was placed on my abdomen and Chris cut the cord. Yes she was tiny and super skinny, but her APGAR scores were 8 & 9!! So amazing. We were able to do skin to skin after she was thoroughly checked and NICU team sent away. I was also able to breastfeed within the first hour too. 

On Friday 23rd at lunchtime, we were all discharged from the hospital. Having a pain med free vaginal birth meant I was able to leave earlier than was expected. Many people were surprised at how healthy Aviana was and how quickly we were allowed to leave! When we left Aviana was just 4lbs 12oz. On Christmas Eve we followed up with our pediatrician and she weighed just 4lbs 8ozs, my milk hadn’t come in by then, so we are supplementing breastfeeding with some formula now, hoping she starts to thrive.

Aviana Ruby truly is the best Christmas gift I could ever receive. We have been so fortunate that things have worked out so well despite hurdles thrown at us along the way. My heart is simply full of extreme gratefulness and happiness to finally meet Aviana, AKA Rocky, AKA my little sweet Christmas pudding.


Wishing all of you a Christmas full of love and joy XX

PC Diary: Anatomy Scan & an Echogenic Bowel

The Pudding Club Diary @ 20w3d (16 Aug 2016)

I have been really nervous about the 20 week anatomy scan for the past several weeks.  I was initially worried because of my lack of weight gain, but in the last 2.5 weeks I managed to finally put some weight on!  In that time I have put on 5lbs; I was worried that this could affect Rocky’s growth.  But today, we found out that my worries were unfounded.  Rocky is growing perfectly within the normal percentile and is the grand total weight of just 11oz!

The anatomy scan took a while because Rocky was moving all over the place and the technician had to poke her (very hard!) several times to get her into a better position.  Rocky’s legs, arms, total length, tummy and head circumferences were all measured.  We saw her various body parts, including the spine, heart (including all four chambers!), lungs and bowels. Very cool! Oh and she was completely spread eagle, so Rocky is definitely a girl!!!

Afterwards with the doctor she told us that everything was looking good and that Rocky is right on track.  The only thing that came up on the scan was something called an echogenic bowel.  This is known as a ‘soft marker’ or a non specific finding i.e. it is not an abnormality but indicative that there may be an increased risk of several associations to other issues such as Trisomy 21, 18 and 13, cystic fibrosis, infection and intrauterine growth restriction.  Somewhere between 60-70% of the time an echogenic bowel resolves itself and disappears on the next ultrasound, and 90% of the time there is nothing wrong with the baby when it is born.  So basically, it is nothing to worry about for the moment, especially as the blood test for the three Trisomies came back negative.

The plan is to have another ultrasound in 4 weeks time to see if the echogenic bowel is still there.  Fortunately, we have an ultrasound scheduled with the Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists for Rocky’s fetal echocardiagram (because apparently as Rocky is an IVF baby there is an increased risk of heart related issues)….so we will get them to look at the bowel again then.  Our doctor said the chances are there will be nothing there when we go to the specialist!!!  But at least we don’t have to wait another 4 weeks, just 2 to get a vague idea of where this might be heading.

So all in all, Rocky is doing just fine, most likely.  Of course the scan couldn’t have just been normal!  But I’m not going to worry, if the doctor isn’t worried, I’m not worried. Hopefully. Fingers crossed.

If you would like to see Rocky the scary alien that looks like she might murder you in her sleep, and actually not too bad of a 3D pic of her face, I have put a couple of pics up on my Instagram account here: https://www.instagram.com/thegreatpuddingclubhunt/?hl=en

The PC Diary: A week to remember

The Pudding Club Diary @ 13w4d


I started this blog post a week and half ago, things have been crazy busy that I have now only just had a chance to finish it.  So let’s go back in time……..


It’s a very exciting week! Here’s why…

I heard Rocky’s heartbeat again at my OB appointment!!! I held my breathe as my doctor held the doppler over my belly and there was nothing…it just took a few moments more and there it was!  Nice and strong at about 160bpm. Phew. I also had blood taken for the Non Invasive Prenatal Test (NIPT) and Fragile X test.  We should get the results 7-10 days, so some time next week (including the gender).

We bought a house!!! We put an offer on a house back in April, it was a short sale (which means that the sellers are behind on their mortgage payments and may go into foreclosure or in negative equity and are short on paying back the full amount owed) so we were dealing with the bank, and the bank holds all the cards, and so it has taken some time to complete the sale.  Last night we had the final walk through the property to make sure it was still in one piece (it was), and today we closed (completed) and got the keys to the house!  The house needs some TLC and updating, but it is move in ready once it has been cleaned (it hasn’t been lived in for a year) and re-painted.  We properly move in in two weeks!!!


And this is as far as I got to….I can’t even remember what the other exciting things were  because the next week and a half have been a complete blur.  Or may be I have pregnancy brain.  It was a week to remember mostly because Rocky is still alive as we go into the second trimester and we bought a house.  Or so we thought…..

PC Diary: Heading out of the first trimester

The Pudding Club Diary @ 12w2d

I have been pretty bad at this – I have sooooo much running around in my head right now that I want to blog about but have been so darn tired or busy to type it out.  I need some kind of Dictaphone equivalent to easily extract my thoughts from my head!

Another week on work travels – I am back in beautiful Bavaria, Germany as I write!  My third transatlantic trip in my first trimester.  And they are not kidding, travelling in the first trimester sucks a lot.  However, this trip has so far been easier than the previous two, I’m starting to feel a little less nauseous now.  Whoop whoop, can’t complain about that!!! (But don’t show me a salad leaf just yet!)

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The beautiful view of Bavaria from my hotel room!

I was worried that I might not be able to fit into my work trousers this week whilst in Germany so I decided before I left to go and buy some new maternity work trousers – just in case (I had already popped a button on one pair of my trousers!)  The elastic band trick doesn’t work with most of my work trousers because they have metal sliders rather than buttons.  So off we went hunting for some cheap super stretchy clothes!  I knew there was one dedicated maternity clothes store in town, but I had heard that some chains such as Target, Kohls and Old Navy did maternity clothes so I thought I’d try those stores first.  But everything in those stores were too casual or too summery and so I ended up in the dedicated maternity store anyway.

In the maternity clothes store I bumped into a friend who I didn’t know was pregnant (but had suspected based off a group text message and putting 2+2 together) and so it was just confirmed by her simple being there!  It was a really lovely surprise because she had been told by her doc years ago she may have problems conceiving, so I am really pleased for them because that wasn’t the case in the end!! Whoop whoop – screw you infertility!! AND we are both due within a week of each other! CRAZY!

Anyway, back to the clothes buying…I went a bit overboard and finally thought what the hell, as I am here I might as well buy it.  My reluctance to buy any maternity clothes was based on a fear of losing Rocky.  I overcame that reluctance, and it felt really good to be finally in acceptance of this pregnancy.

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A nice little haul of maternity clothes 🙂

 

And so with this acceptance it was time to do my first bump picture.  I know that I don’t look pregnant to the casual passer by.  I look like I ate a lot of pies!  But seeing the bump for real in this photo – I couldn’t believe it, there are definitely outward signs now of a little baby growing in there!

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Week 12 bump picture

When I saw the doctor at 10 weeks she said to stick with the gentle exercise, like walking and swimming, but for the first time in months I felt capable of doing a bit more exercise.  So I got out the DVDs a friend from work gave to me and did a bit of a prenatal workout.  I did one of the routines with Chris.  It is a 20 minute partner exercise where your partner provides resistance and balance support…it was actually really fun!  However, I ached like hell for two days afterwards.  Not a good idea to start an exercise routine the day you fly for 8 hours on a plane!  My poor back did not like me one bit. Ahh well, it’s all good for you Rocky!

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The prenatal workout DVDs I was given!!

Finally, something that I found a little bit insensitive, and also kind of amusing in some weird typical way that is infertility…my bump app told me that obviously we had sex to conceive our baby, otherwise I wouldn’t be pregnant, DUH, – well actually, this is OBVIOUSLY NOT the case with us! I wish that it had been the case…instead we had almost 17 other people involved in the conception of our IVF baby!

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“You obviously made love before pregnancy (hence the pregnancy)” It’s not always obvious you silly app!!!

A little thought

Before I get into this post I just wanted to say….

I received so much love from you all on my last post I can’t thank you enough for your kind words.  Donald Trump might stupidly say that “He knows words.  He knows all the words.” (Please, please America don’t let him be your next president) But actually you guys have all the words and know how to say them just right -for the whole time I have been blogging here on the GPCH your words have meant that I have managed to get through this journey without going insane.  Thank you so, so much XX

OK here is my little thought….

Someday we will probably show our child their first ever photo.  Chris and I have joked that it would be the best photo for a wedding speech.

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But here Rocky is…with his sister or brother that never made it.  This is just heart wrenching and would probably be a bit uncomfortable for some people who twig that we only had one child.  So perhaps we won’t ever show this photo at their wedding, but I will definitely want to show it to them at some point in their life.

I’m not going to lie, I have struggled a little bit with the fact that one of our embabies didn’t make it. It’s been even harder as there are several ladies in my local support group who recently also went through IVF just after me, all of them have found out they are having twins.  And a few ladies on Instagram who went through their IVF cycles the same time as me also found out they are having twins (two are even having identical twins!).

I know that having twins is not easy, but I can’t help but mourn the loss of Rocky’s brother or sister and ask myself – why?  Sometimes I even get jealous of these lovely ladies and I know that is a terrible feeling to have because I am SOOOOOOOO lucky to have one wonderful baby inside me right now.

Infertility is complicated. I read an article that Resolve published an advertised recently on their facebook.  Reading it helped me put into perspective these kinds of feelings I have. I hope you find it interesting too…

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Read here: “Healing the Wound of Infertility”

The pudding club

It’s been almost a week since I was on here…that’s not like me.  I have been hiding from the world a little bit.  It’s been a really hard week to get through.  My first scan looming over my head.  Would there be a baby?  Would there be a heartbeat?  I’ve had lots of lovely messages wishing me luck – but all I wanted to do was curl up and sleep, avoid polite conversation, time to fly.

Thursday morning I felt numb to the world.  Fortunately I was busy at work so the afternoon appointment came around quickly.  Chris met me at the clinic, he was already there in the waiting room, patiently waiting for me. I felt sick to my stomach.  This was it!  We didn’t have to wait long before we were called back.  The nurse took my vitals (weight and blood pressure), then we went into the ultrasound room together.  I sat up on the bed and before I had to time to wonder more about the possibilities my doctor walked in.  I don’t really remember what she said to me, but like I had been all week I’d had enough with the small talk.

As soon as the ultrasound wand was in me we could see my extremely hyper stimulated ovaries….I had many huge follicles still – like two times the size of the ones I am used to seeing during stimulation phase.  My doctor exclaimed my ‘hyper’ situation, and I said, yes, I have been feeling them 😦 And then she found a sac, zoomed in and there was a little blob on the screen!  I was holding my breath as she found the heart beat – and there it was 144 beats per minute (BPM).  I just cried.  She measured the size of it and it was measuring 2 days behind at 7 weeks 2 days, I was technically 7 weeks 4 days, but she said that was close enough!

As I sobbed, Chris asked what happens next and my Doctor said we now graduate to my OBGYN!  Oh…I don’t have one since we moved to the US and went straight from our family doctor to the fertility clinic.  Then Chris said we need to find one near our new house…to which I corrected him and he said – “no, we got the house today!”  I couldn’t believe it, he was telling me right there that we got the house we wanted and he had the call from our realtor an hour or so before the appointment.  Cue even more tears from me and excited happy doctors & nurse in the room.  What a day for good big news.  I hugged my doctor and nurse and thanked them with tears running down my face!  It was surreal as I walked out into the waiting room with my face red from tears, I am sure people couldn’t tell if it was good or bad news I just received!!  And that was it…we left our clinic realising we wouldn’t be back too soon.

Finally I’m in the pudding club – for real! I’ve been in a bit of shock, but I am embracing the pregnancy now.  I believe it is happening.  This is our time.  We have even agreed to give the blob a nickname – Rocky – our little fighter.  It also looked a bit rock like on the scan 😉

I realised I needed to find an OBGYN quick that works with the hospital we wanted to give birth at, so I did my research and made my first pre-natal appointment in the ‘normal’ world.  My first appointment and next scan will be at 10w2d – a little later than they like, but it was the earliest they could fit me in.  I’ve also been allowed to switch to progesterone oral capsules (but taken transvaginally) – these little things cost over $380 for 1 month’s worth!  Completely different to the progesterone in oil which cost only about $90!!! But I am sure it will be worth it so I don’t have to inject myself whilst travelling again (I’m off to Turkey tomorrow – not looking forward to this trip at all).

This week has been such an emotional roller coaster – and yet on the face of it, it has been easy…we have no complications.  Just when we thought this was the end…

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