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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Knowing what you’re missing

Primary infertility is fearing what you’ll never get to experience.

Secondary infertility is knowing what you’re missing.

These aren’t my words…these are from a fellow blogger who published a post on scary mommy recently (When you are dealing with infertility the second time around).  And these are perfect words to sum up where I am and where this blog is.

I remember saying to someone who was about to go into surrogacy for a second time around…”At least you have your daughter to remind you when you are in the trenches of how success can happen”.  I kind of cringe a little now looking back on that because I said that when I had ZERO children.  I understand differently now, that there is no “At Least…” Every single infertility journey is different and comes with their own individual aches and pains that make it so hard for there ever to be an “At least…”.  There just isn’t.

If someone told me now “At least you have Aviana…” I’d probably politely agree and say “yes, I am lucky”.  Because I AM LUCKY. I know that of course.  But the “at least” part negates or nullifies all the pain of infertility.  A slight of words, an unknowing stab in the heart.

Here’s the thing.  IF I was fertile, I would be happy to wait much longer to try for a second baby.  I would of course be three years younger, so age wouldn’t be of a concern to me.  I would wait because I would want my body to recover from child birth and breastfeeding.  And to ensure that I don’t have two under two – because I don’t have the patience of a saint, quite frankly (Much kudos to you parents that do!).  I would wait so I can catch up a bit on my career…because maternity leave DOES impact it.  I would do more research on IUGR and see how we could prevent it or manage it better.  These are MY personal feelings, Chris has other feelings too about it all, some are similar, some differ, but they are not for me to share with the world.

The option to build my family when I want to is not an easy one.  I know that time is ticking.  My eggs are declining in quality and my body races towards the menopause.

You see, with infertility the first time, it was a genuine fear that I would never become a mother.  It was a completely valid feeling.  What’s different now, is that second time around I do know what I am missing. I know what it is like to carry a baby and to fall in love with it.  Despite all the pain and challenges, I would do it all again.  I’d face those mountains.  I’d be better prepared and I’ll never have that fear that I won’t become a mother because I already am.  So if you see me in the infertility trenches some time in the future, remind me that.  May be it will help.  May be it won’t.  But until I am there I cannot possibly know, because every infertility journey is different.

 

Everything happens for a reason or does it?

When I hear the statement ‘everything happens for a reason’ my insides start to gurgle a little, my heart rate begins to rise, I feel a bit sick. I try not to let it spin my head around. Being able to truly believe that everything happens for a reason must be amazing. I used to believe it, I used to believe it because it would help me get through some of the crap in my life. I’d tell myself that this shit has happened to me because it’s going to make me a stronger person, a better person, a more empathetic person, more resilient. I can turn these crappy things that happened to me into life lessons. I would be that great oak tree that gets stronger after it gets struck by lightning.

But then life got really shit when it came to growing our family. Infertility and pregnancy loss. And I questioned it. I met some other incredible women who had been through some shittier shit. I questioned it. I always sought the good out of evil…I still do, but I can’t always see it right now. So I settle with, ‘Everything happens’. Period. Full stop. The end.

But what does a mantra like ‘Everything happens’ do to me? Does it make me bitter? Does it make me a fool for not seeing the good out of the bad?

I don’t talk about religion much here on this blog, but when people say ‘it’s god’s plan’, to me that’s even worse. When I was a kid and I was upset about something I used to close my eyes tight and through my tears ask god why? Why me? And god would reason with me. Actually, I was reasoning with myself, I just pretended it was god talking to me because somehow it made me feel a little better. But telling someone when they are going through struggles ‘it’s god’s plan’ is surely enough to make someone lose their faith, because it is so hard to understand why god would let a baby die…because… it’s his plan. It’s hard to understand why god didn’t bless a family with a baby of their own. It’s hard to understand why our loved ones are taken from us before their time. It’s hard to understand why god would let a terrorist kill people at an airport who are about to go on holiday with their children (innocent children) or who are separated from their loved ones because of work. It’s truly hard to understand what the greater good or plan is. If this was true, surely god is evil? I honestly don’t think that would be the case. For me, I think it is probably better to say that it is god’s plan to be with you, if you let him, when shit is thrown your way.

My current feelings are that time spent thinking about the ‘why’ is time spent wasted. Infertility has taught me how to be in the present. It is therapeutic, it’s survival. Although, it could be argued that by saying ‘everything happens for a reason’ and ‘it’s god’s plan’ would actually HELP with living in the present, but I feel it would be like living in the present with your head in the sad singing lalalalala!!

So for now I’ll try to ignore those few words ‘everything happens for a reason’ and live in the present otherwise it will eat away at me, little by little. I’m glad I’m mentally able to do that right now. I know it won’t always be like that.

Perhaps I’m just parking it for another time when I feel like thinking about the bigger why. Or. Perhaps infertility has actually taught me coping mechanisms for shit thrown my way.

Infertility round 2

Caught between a rock and a hard place is what I would call planning for a second child after dealing with infertility the first time around. And we are not even at the stage of planning number two, we are still at the early stage of deciding whether we want a number two child.

Let's go back to times before we faced infertility. The times when we were naive to think getting pregnant was the easy, fun part, and it was the subsequent pregnancy and beyond that would be the more challenging part of growing our family. I'm pretty sure we would have said that our family would ideally consist of two children, a dog and a cat (or two). Today, if you asked us what our family would look like in several years time, I wouldn't be able to tell you because I just can't imagine it right now.

Today, I can't imagine Aviana playing with a sibling in the garden, showing them how to throw and catch a ball, or holding her baby brother or sister in hospital, asking THAT question 'where do babies come from?' or her poking my tummy and proudly saying to random people that mummy is having a baby. I can't see it. I don't want to see it. Because if I see it, I think it, I feel it and if it never happens, it will tear me up forever. But sometimes my mind does wonder there and I try not to cry over the fact that it is so distant and fuzzy. The future is so murky.

And yet, I am better prepared than I was before Aviana became part of our lives. Today I know I am infertile, I know what the chances of getting pregnant again are, I'm an infertility warrior, this isn't my first rodeo!

Somedays, I'm positive and hopeful….perhaps my hormones have 'reset' and I'll get pregnant without medical intervention, we have a frozen embryo I won't need to stimulate again, I now know all the IVF tricks of the trade, it would be a piece of cake!

And other days, I'm down and negative…I'm getting closer to 40 than 30, my eggs are even poorer quality than they were before, we only have ONE embryo in the freezer-it's got a 50% chance of surviving the thaw, there is a good chance I will have another IUGR pregnancy, we will be doing this with a toddler, I'm not sure I can cope with another IVF stimulation and suffer from OHSS. And then there is the risk of pregnancy loss, An ectopic pregnancy was a cruel experience.

And the negative is winning at the moment, infertility round two doesn't look good to me. I don't want to waste the precious time I have with Aviana whilst she is this small worrying about infertility. I'm not sure where this is going, but knowing I managed to survive that infertility journey the first time and looking back at that mountain, I'm not sure I can do it all over again.

I am 1 in 8 speech

For my first international toastmasters speech which is known as ‘The icebreaker speech’ I decided to talk about my infertility. I thought I’d go big or go home! Talking about infertility to a bunch of work colleagues and a few strangers is nerve wracking!! This speech is the first of many I must give to gain my ‘competent communicator’ award. The idea is that the icebreaker speech is 4-5 minutes long and aims to ‘break the ice’ by talking a little bit about yourself as an introduction to your fellow toastmasters club members. Talking about infertility seemed like a bold challenge. 

It was hard to focus a speech that is only 5 minutes long to what has been a challenging part of my life. But in the end here is what I said…

“Ladies & Gentlemen, let me ‘break the ice’!! Let me take you back in time to when I was 9 in a leafy suburb playground of London. I was a bit of a Tom boy. I liked cars and transformers, so whenever I played with the boys, the girls would taunt me with the school playground rhyme…

“Dani & Chris, sitting in a tree

K-I-S-S-I-N-G

First comes love,

Then comes marriage,

Then comes the baby in the baby carriage”

Well ladies and gentlemen, that nursery rhyme isn’t quite so simple as it sounds after all. Because I am 1 in 8. I am 1 in 8 who suffers from the disease that is infertility. A baby in the baby carriage is not always what comes next.

Let me introduce you to Chris, my husband of 5 years….


Here he is winning the District 66 toastmasters humorous speech competition. You can see I have some competition!!!

4 and half years ago we moved to the US to work here. And it was at that point all our friends and family asked us….’so…when are you going to have a baby??!!’ Little did they know that we were trying but not succeeding. After many tests, thr doctors couldn’t tell us why we couldn’t have a baby. We were diagnosed as unexplained. So we tried InVitro Fertilisation or IVF.

Our first round of treatment we created these beautiful embryos…


We named them huckleberry and huckleberina because they looked like raspberries. Just 8 cells smaller than 0.1mm. One decided to stick around and I got pregnant!!! We were so happy! Until we discovered that it had implanted in the wrong place, the pregnancy was ectopic and so we sadly had to terminate the pregnancy as it threatened my life. 

We were devastated. We had to wait a while to try again.

Second time we created these 5 day old blastocysts. At first we didn’t name them because it was too painful. But in the end we did nickname them Petrie and Spike.


But it didn’t work. I didn’t get pregnant. It was very stressful and even Chris didn’t want to try again so soon. But we decided to try again. Third time lucky they say?!? This time we created thee 5 day old blastocysts – and as you can see we got a better photo of them  third time around!


And it worked!!! Today we have our beautiful daughter Aviana who is now 6 months old.


We are the lucky ones. Not everyone of the 1 in 8 gets to take a baby home in the baby carriage. It was a hard journey and involved hundreds of injections and there were many tears. People ask me now that I have a baby when will number two come along, or will we have another baby? But I tell them it’s not quite so simple as that. It’s hard. I wanted to share this with you today as my icebreaker because this is a subject deep to my heart and I hope you have learned something interesting about me today.

Ladies and Gentelemen, Thank you.”

I really enjoyed giving this icebreaker speech. It probably wasn’t what people would have expected as a first time topic. I got a great response from the audience. There was actually someone in the audience who was going through IVF themselves and have done two cycles at the same clinic as we used. They were about to decide whether or not to go for a third cycle and whether to stay with the same doctor. I offered details of our local infertility support group. It was obvious it was meant to be that I talked about this topic for my icebreaker. 

Infertility leaves a scar. I am grateful we were the lucky ones, but it doesn’t suddenly disappear from your heart when you have a baby. For me, continuing to talk about it and spread awareness helps the healing.

Same old story – it’s just unexplained

PC Diary @38Weeks 0 Days

The unknown doctor came in, shook our hands and looked at us in turn, he looked concerned.  But after a strange pregnant pause he managed to get the words out….”Everything looks good with the flow to and from the placenta”. Phew…a sigh of relief! From the look on his face, we both thought he was going to say something bad.  Another awkward pregnant pause and he said to us “We don’t know why your baby is measuring small.” (This doctor had very a very strange and awkward bedside manner)

Chris and I had bets on how this appointment with the Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist would go.  We both bet it would be ‘unexplained’, because that just seems to be the way the cookie crumbles with us.  Unexplained infertility has done that to us, it has better prepared us for accepting the unknown.  By the way the unknown SUCKS.  But nevertheless, we seem to be able to handle it a lot better now.  We think that the doctor was expecting us to give him a hard time about not knowing why Rocky is measuring small.  But instead we just said, OK so there is nothing obviously seriously wrong? Although, she was even further behind than our past growth scan in the 3rd percentile (She was in the 5th percentile the week before), but these measurements have error inaccuracies, especially at this late stage of the pregnancy. There was no denying the fact that she is still very small and behind.

The doctor recommended that she be delivered in my 38th week so we can get her out of me and feed her up.  Later that day I went back to my OBGYN for another non-stress test and an ultrasound to check on my amniotic fluid levels.  All was looking good.

It was an emotional roller coaster day of nerves and relief.  We don’t know exactly how healthy Rocky will be when she arrives into the world and what the impact of the growth restriction has been on her, if any.  Perhaps my anemia was the culprit, perhaps it has been my bowel problems not getting the right nutrition to her or perhaps she is just a naturally skinny thing.  We don’t know, but that’s OK, because we are going to meet her very soon and hold her in our arms.

At my next appointment with my Obstetrician we talked about the induction process.  We had been penciled in to arrive at the hospital on the evening of the 20th December to have my cervix ‘ripened’ overnight.  Rocky is currently head down and engaged at Stage 0 right now, and I am still 1cm dilated and 50% effaced, which is a good thing and may mean I don’t need to have my cervix ripened.  If that is the case, then I may be asked to come into the hospital in the morning of the 21st December and they will put straight onto the drug Pitocin (it mimics oxytocin, the hormone which causes contractions).  The doctor warned us how long this process can take 12-24 hrs, and there is no way of knowing how my body will respond.  Sometimes a small baby can be a good thing and time can go quicker and I may have an easier time pushing her out!  Or sometimes not….  they will keep a close monitor on Rocky because sometimes growth restricted babies struggle to keep their heart rate up during contractions.  If Rocky’s heart rate decelerates then there is a very good chance I would end up having a cesarean section.  But the great news is, there is no reason for me to not have a vaginal birth.

My birth plan is that I wish to avoid pain medication at all costs.  However, I am now being induced using Pitocin and this can cause contractions to be a lot stronger and successive far quicker than a natural labor would be.  This means that there is a higher chance of this being painful!  My current feelings are that I will try my dammed hardest to not ask for the pain meds – in whatever form.  Chris is well versed in my desire, and my doula will be there to help me get through it too.  Although I want a vaginal birth, I have spent some time thinking about how to cope with an unexpected c-section.  I am now feeling ready for that moment because I know Rocky’s health is the most important thing to think about.  Luckily I will be on one of my favourite obstetrician’s service that day and I feel like I can trust her.

All this being said, the past week has been strange.  I had some plans for my maternity leave…I was excited to be taking some time to myself and thought 4 weeks before Rocky’s arrival I would have some time to do these things – Christmas dinners with friends and colleagues, executive development program study, knitting, Christmas card writing, email sorting, Christmas shopping, housework, blogging and more.  But with being on ‘rest’, many doctors appointments and not knowing what is going on has actually been exhausting and I have done very little on this list.  Even the things that don’t require me to leave the house for I haven’t been able to focus on, I have just been lethargic and brainless.  It doesn’t help that I am not even sleeping well and having lots of pregnancy related nightmares.  I might be physically well rested, but my brain sure isn’t.

Finally, just one more thing.  Now when people say to me, oh you look so good for 37/38 weeks pregnant…I actually feel bad inside.  I now know that my bump is small and I have put on little weight to the detriment of Rocky.  Until I meet her and hold her safely in my arms, that guilt is not going to stop, no matter how much people will tell me it’s not my fault.

But guys….I am almost at the end of all this…I am on the brink of exploding with happiness about that!

Natural Conception after Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Treatment

Today at work I was putting together a presentation on “What is correlation?” (I know, my work is full of excitement and such geekery 😎 ), and I came across an interesting example of ‘illusory correlation’ from the infertility world that I thought I would share with you all.  I was about using it as an example in my presentation.

Have you ever heard someone say

“Adoption increases the chance of an infertile couple getting pregnant naturally?”

Many people have heard or say this, and many can tell you a story of someone they know/know of that this happened to.  The rationale behind this can be hypothesised as:

Once the pressure is off and the couple is less anxious, it will happen naturally.

But how true is that?

Apparently it turns out there is NO empirical evidence to support such a hypothesis.  Research (from Resolve) has shown that the percentage of women who become pregnant without adopting is no different to the percentage of women who become pregnant without adopting.  What this means is that, while a small percentage of people who were having difficulty getting pregnant do not get pregnant after adopting a child, these are likely the same people who would have gotten pregnant after having difficulty, even without the adoption.  It has nothing to do with the adoption.

So why do so many people believe this myth?  Because many people can tell you of a story of someone they know that this happened to.  But the thing is, most people can only tell you ONE story.  And they don’t tell you all the stories they know about the infertile couples that adopted a child and didn’t get pregnant naturally afterward.  The examples of where it did happen are salient to them, perhaps because they remember thinking to themselves “This couple is going to have two babies within a few months of age of each other!”  What happens when something is salient – or when it produces a vivid memory – is that people tend to overemphasize the likelihood of its occurrence.  And they give it a lot of attention.

This is known as vividness bias.

The vividness bias is supported by what’s often referred to as an illusory correlation – the impression that two variables are related when in fact they are not.  In this example, because of one or two very salient or vivid examples, many people believe that there is a relationship between adoption and getting pregnant, when in reality, there is not.

(Extracted from: Intentional Interruption: Breaking Down Learning Barriers to Transform By Steven Katz and Lisa Ain Dack)

Similar to the case made for getting pregnant naturally after adoption, you may have heard a similar argument for couples who stop assisted reproduction and get pregnant naturally afterwards.  There is research that was published in 2012 that found that 17% of women who became pregnant, and gave birth, from IVF treatment, became pregnant again naturally (NB….within 6 years!).  For those women who were unsuccessful with IVF, 24% became pregnant naturally after stopping infertility treatment.

Other recent research has found that 16% of infertile women conceive naturally after stopping treatment (within 13 years!).  And by the way, let us not forget that a fertile couple’s chance of conception is 20-24% for every menstrual cycle!  So that 16% statistic still SUCKS.  In addition, the original cause of a woman’s infertility made a difference as to the chance of achieving a successful natural pregnancy after IVF – if the infertility was due to uterine, cervical or ovarian problems, endometriosis or infertility in their male partners, the women had a significantly greater chance of achieving a successful natural pregnancy after stopping IVF.  However in comparison, if the couple’s infertility was ‘unexplained’ or the problem was with tubal pathology, her chances of a natural pregnancy decreased 😦

So there are many illusory correlations out there in the infertility world.  And now you know how to respond to people that say to you:

“ohhh you will get pregnant naturally after adopting/stopping treatment, that happened to my friend/friend of friend”

you can reply

“……the evidence is contrary, my dear, and you are suffering from vividness bias”

It’s a whole lot politer, and factual, than – “F*#$ you”.

Survivor’s Guilt

I have a broad understanding of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) I’ve read a lot about it…so much so that even my Instagram advertises about PTSD charities on my feed (weird).

PTSD

this advert about PTSD came up on my Instagram feed

 

There is one thing that I suffer from and that is Survivor’s Guilt.  This is when someone believes they have done wrong by surviving a traumatic event when others did not.  In my case I have double the effect.  Why?  Because I survived a horrifying terrorist attack and second, I survived infertility…all within weeks of each other.

I did not know anyone personally who died in the Brussels terror attacks.  But I saw people who were dead or dying being carried out on stretchers, left alone on the side of the road as I helplessly watched.  At the time I wanted to help, but of course I couldn’t, I was (sensibly) being pushed further and further away from the airport.  I have these images burned into my head of a man with his body broken, dusty, bloody, head with loose bandages wrapped around his head, face indistinguishable and arm hanging out, quietly moaning.  All alone.  But I was behind glass some 20 metres away watching this happen in front of my eyes as more as more people were stretchered out.

I get it.  They have a system of triage, there were only so many first responders who were there in the first 20 minutes after the explosions.  The cordon was set up to protect people.  After all, there was a third bomb in there.  We know tactics of terrorists are to create mass effect by targeting the first responders.  But that boundary, the distance was so close, but so far.  I heard people were saying – I’m a first aider…I’m a nurse…I can help.  But they weren’t allowed to.  I can’t get my head around those very short moments.

I feel guilty for surviving, for not being able to help.  Sometimes my mind is heavy with these thoughts.  This doesn’t outwardly appear to affect me overall.  Well, I don’t think it does.  But I do have some bad dreams (to be expected), not regularly, but perhaps it does affect my sleep.  I wake up very early some days, I tend to put it down to my jet lag, but actually, it could be a symptom of PTSD.  I don’t have problems falling asleep, and I’m not afraid to fall asleep, so I don’t feel like it is an issue.

Then there is my pregnancy.  I am overjoyed we finally achieved our dream, we fought hard to get here!  But along the way, I have made friends with some very lovely women who have struggled with infertility too.  And the feelings I have are that of guilt.  Guilt that I have left them behind.  Similar to survivor’s guilt, and in some ways could be classified as such.  Infertility is traumatic.  I feel like I took the last life boat and rowed away from the desert island leaving you all behind in uncertain conditions.  So some days I haven’t been able to open and read blog updates, Instagram is hard to scroll through.

For those of you who are reading this and now worrying about me (my mum probably!!!) It’s OK, I’m OK.  I am sensitive to my levels of anxiety and sadness, and how that impacts my daily life…and I am OK.  Writing this down is kind of a release to me, and re-reading my writing makes me see things more objectively.  And that helps.

I found some words that are helpful (I think) on strategies to cope with survivor’s guilt:

“Rather than focus on the burden of guilt, remind yourself that you and your loved ones have been given a gift — the gift of your survival. Embrace your will to survive and fight the forces that challenge your way of being.”

Reading these words make me feel happy because deep down I know they are true, I just need to remind myself of this when I start to feel sad or guilty.

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!!!

Not forgetting Huckleberry

Speaking of not forgetting….this week my app ‘Glow’ I use(d) to track my periods told me that my period was due in 2 days!  Well that was a strange thing to say because I had marked “I am pregnant” on the app.  So I decided to open it up and see what was going on.  Glow was telling me I am pregnant still, so  I am not sure why it was telling me my period as due.  Anyway, it came up with a big advert saying download our ‘Nurture’ app, a follow on app to glow for pregnant women.  So I thought, well why not give it a go.  I had already used it once before when I was pregnant after IVF cycle 1 and so downloaded it off my cloud.  Once it installed I opened it up and this is what I was faced with…

huck

 

Are you kidding me???? Oh it was a stab in the gut. Yesterday I was 44 days overdue and Huckleberry was the size of a slightly bigger pumpkin at 46 weeks old!

I haven’t forgotten you Huckleberry. I promise you I never have.  But this was just too much.  I deleted the app straight away as I couldn’t deal with trying to figure out how to reset it.