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Posts from the ‘Pregnancy’ Category

Mar 6 / Caro

It’s Over

Wow, what a difference a week makes. It’s a long way to fall from the top of the world and from this week’s bitter experience, I can confirm that it really, really hurts.

Yes, my pregnancy is over. Over before it even really began. I’m writing this whilst waiting to miscarry.

I really thought that we had done it. That we’d cracked the nut and were truly on our way towards parenthood again. Since receiving the diagnosis that changed everything at the end of last year, I’ve actually been unfailingly positive. I believed in IVF, that we had a good chance of success, even with all the obstacles that popped up along the way. And once I saw the second line on that stick, I suppose, like an idiot, I thought the hardest part was over.

Of course I knew miscarriage was a possibility. It’s not even as if I haven’t travelled this road before. But I suppose I thought we’d struggled enough. I carried Thomas successfully. I really believed that I could do it again.

Life is not that simple though, is it? If only IVF could carry with it immunity to further complications. When you’ve fought so hard just to conceive in the first place, to lose it seems especially cruel. Perhaps that is the hardest thing. It’s not as though we can just “try again” next month.

I’m talking about it now because I don’t have a choice. Having told you all that I was pregnant, it would soon be pretty apparent if no baby bump emerged. But I’m also talking about it because I truly want to.

In fact, right now I’d quite like to carry a sign around with me. That way every mum on the nursery run with their “Baby On Board” badge pinned proudly on their coat, or cradling their newborn in a sling will know that I’m not the parent with an only child by choice. So that every person in the street pushing a double buggy or rubbing a rounded belly can see that I’d trade places with them in an instant.

We’ve been at this for 18 months now. And whilst I know that is not terribly long in comparison to some people, it’s long enough. I’m now dealing with the fact that people who hadn’t even had their first (or second, or third) child when we started trying are now pregnant with their next child. And I can’t help but feel like they’ve jumped the queue.

It’s my turn. Surely, it must be my turn by now?

Amongst all the typical emotions – sadness, grief, guilt and feelings of failure – come some unexpected thoughts. They come to me in the middle of the night, whilst I haven’t been sleeping. Things like the fact that I will now be 35 by the time I have another child. If, we have another child, of course. Having had Thomas at 31, I thought I’d probably be 33 when number two came along and by 35, we’d be looking at number three.

Number three. There is a thorny issue in itself.

We have no fallback position. No frozen embryos from our first cycle. So to have any chance even of number two, we have to start this whole process again from the beginning. And that means throwing another seven thousand pounds at the problem. (Most people assume IVF costs “about three grand”. That isn’t far off the mark. But then you need to add consultations, blood tests and drugs. Then the extras like sperm retrieval and storage fees and the ICSI process. It’s a pricey business.)

Seven thousand pounds and we might still have nothing to show for it.

I’m not sure if I’m strong enough to do it again.

But I’m not sure if I’m strong enough not to, either. My heart hurts every time I consider never experiencing another pregnancy. Never holding another newborn of my own. Never breast feeding again.

Why do I not deserve my happy ending?

Mar 1 / Caro

Shouting From the Rooftops – Why We’ve Shared Our Pregnancy News

I gave the prospect of sharing our pregnancy news this week some thought as far back as when we started our IVF Cycle. I already knew that if I were lucky enough to fall pregnant, I’d be sharing the news with a lot more people a lot earlier than I did when I was pregnant with Thomas, simply because we’d told so many people about our IVF attempt. It would be nigh on impossible to leave all those people hanging for eight weeks without them all jumping to conclusions anyway, whilst watching my every move for clues. Yet I also knew that I wouldn’t be making any general announcements until we were a bit further on. We selected the people we told about IVF, and who hence would know early on about any pregnancy, very carefully. I presumed, correctly, however, that as before I wouldn’t want the whole world to know right away.

But I wanted to share our IVF journey here, on my blog, for reasons that I shared in this post. Which is how I found myself considering the possibility of sharing the outcome on my blog too. And I quickly came to the realisation that in the same way I couldn’t keep my “real life” friends hanging for eight weeks, I wasn’t sure that I could keep up a non-committal front online for that length of time either.

So that is the first reason that I’ve shared this fantastic news here, just a day and a half after we found out ourselves: because I didn’t have the heart to keep it from people who have played a massive role in my support network over the last few weeks and months. It may seem odd that virtual strangers know something so important about me when not all of our friends and extended family yet know that news, but somehow it is easier sharing this kind of thing online. It’s somehow less intimidating to do from the relative safety of the space behind a computer screen. I don’t have to answer any questions that I don’t want to, and I can update everyone in one go with the clatter of a few keys and the click of a button. If the worst should happen – as it is, after all, extremely early days – then I don’t have to face each of you individually with that update.

Ah yes – because that is the oft cited reason for keeping the news to yourself: the fact that there will be a lot of un-telling to do if, like so many pregnancies sadly do, it ends in miscarriage. But not only is it easier online to do that un-telling, I actually think it is something worth sharing. I wanted to write about IVF because there is still a relative scarcity of readable first-person accounts of the process, and still a bit of taboo surrounding infertility outside of the most popular infertility support boards. Why stop there? Miscarriage is also still shrouded in mystery for many people. When I began bleeding during my first pregnancy, I had no idea what was normal, and there was very little relatable information out there. Lots and lots of cold, bare medical facts. Despite its frequency, it is still not something that is widely understood. So if it happens, I don’t want to ignore it.

And I don’t want to ignore it because whatever happens, this pregnancy has existed. Even if it ends prematurely, I want to remember and acknowledge exactly how I’ve felt about it.

Only a few short weeks ago, I didn’t have a lot of hope that I would ever be pregnant again. But now, I am. And for as long as that lasts, I want to celebrate it. I want to celebrate that we beat the odds, creating an embryo from an impossibly tiny number of viable sperm and finding success in our very first cycle of IVF. I want to let everyone know that a diagnosis of azoospermia, alongside my own health issues, now including more than three decades of type 1 diabetes, haven’t been enough to stop this happening. We might not get a baby to bring home – a sibling for Thomas – at the end of it, but for now I’m over the moon that we’re in with a chance. This could really happen. Thanks to the wonders of modern medical science, and to techniques – such as ICSI – that are actually newer to the world than we are.

It’s news that I can’t help but want to shout out loud about. We’ve got this far, and I’m determined to enjoy this feeling for as long as it lasts.

Feb 27 / Caro

To My Tiny Blob of Cells

I’m writing this with a photograph of you in my hand. A photograph taken when you were six days new. Just a collection of cells too small to see with the naked eye, but containing so much potential. So much hope.

Your Dad and I had been through a lot to get you to that point, and I was afraid that once you were back inside my tummy it wouldn’t be enough. That I couldn’t take good enough care of you. I was afraid you would fade and slip away, taking a piece of my heart with you.

But yesterday, ten days after that photograph was taken, I took the most nerve wracking test of my entire life – worse than my driving test or University finals. A plastic stick that would either fulfill or shatter our dreams. It was the test that would tell us if you were still there.

 

photo(23)

And just like that, you made your presence known by a second pink line.

Already you will have grown and changed since we saw you in the laboratory where you started you life. And now I feel full of new hope that you will go on doing so. And I will do my very best to keep you safe, whatever it takes.

When you’re older, and we tell you the story of how you came to be, I hope that there will be no doubt about just how loved and wanted you are.

You are our longed for second child. And I can’t wait to meet you.

All my love always,

Your Mummy xxx

Jul 14 / Caro

Age Gap Obsession

Yes, I’m writing about this topic again. I’m acutely aware of the fact that I must be getting boring now. I’ll be honest that this text-only post has partly come about because my seven year old MacBook has (finally!) suffered a fatal head crash, taking all my photo editing capabilities with it. But I’ve chosen to write about it again because it is something that is so front-of-mind. Mentioning it so frequently here reflects just how often the thoughts of a sibling for Thomas enter my mind. Pregnancy, or rather the lack of it, and the potential age gap between children is something that pops unbidden in to my head countless times each day. Obsession is certainly not too strong a word.Try as I might, I can’t shut it off.

I thought a holiday might help. Break from routine. Take your mind off it. That sort of thing. But then our week away started with disappointment in the shape of a negative pregnancy test, followed fairly swiftly by the arrival of my period. (Come on, you’re used to the TMI in the “trying to conceive” posts by now!) Having taken the so-called “relaxed approach” last month – not tracking ovulation or temperatures, no supplements beyond my standard high dose folic acid – I think I carried it on pretty well and handled it better than the month before. I didn’t cry, so that’s progress.

And then came the news in the middle of the week that an NCT friend, whose son is just days younger than Thomas, is twelve weeks pregnant due on, of all days, my birthday. And then, I did cry. It’s nothing against her, or anyone else who achieves the pregnancy I so desire, because as I’ve pointed out before, it’s impossible to know what struggles others have already faced in order to get there. But I can’t help, or easily suppress, the envy I feel at the situation. Especially the lovely two year age gap.

That’s the bottom line: It’s the age gap that’s really getting me. I don’t feel envious of pregnancy per se, but more the families that those pregnancies will create. I can’t clearly articulate exactly why I feel the way I do about the age gap. Ian thinks I’m simply trying to recreate my own childhood (21 month gap) and perhaps that is true. I can’t help but feel a larger gap is less desirable because they will be less likely to have any common ground at each stage of childhood. Less likely to enjoy shared activities. To be friends. I know that you can’t know how things will turn out or how the personalities of the children will work out, but I want to give the best opportunity I can for my children to be good friends. I look at how much common ground Thomas shares with his cousin, who is older by two years and two months, and then look at the common ground the same cousin has with her sister who is younger by two years and ten months. Those eight months make a massive difference.

It seems at the moment that everywhere I look, there are women with young babies or toddlers who are pregnant again. Or families with children who are clearly close in age. And all this does is fuel my obsession. I can’t help my childish reaction that “it isn’t fair”. I think that each time someone who has been trying for less time gets pregnant. Or each time someone with a child younger than Thomas gets pregnant. And each month that passes I think I’m mourning just a little bit the passing of the dream for my family.

It’s something I cannot, of course, control. I can’t pause time, or Thomas. The longer it takes to fall pregnant, the older he will be when a sibling arrives and I have to accept that what will be, will be.

None of this means I will love Thomas’s eventual sibling, or our whole family any less. I’m sure that I won’t. But it’s hard not to dwell on it. Not to wonder how it will work out. Not to fear that a sibling arriving when Thomas is older will be harder and more disruptive for him that if they were arriving this month or next, as I would most have liked.

I don’t think I’m capable of not obsessing about it or thinking about it each and every day. I don’t think I’m capable of not getting upset by friends’ new pregnancies, no matter how irrational my feelings may be. In the meantime, unless anyone has any magical solutions for dealing with my envy and age gap anxiety, all we can do is keep trying, and hope that it happens soon.

Jun 13 / Caro

The Green Eyed Monster

I think every one of us has an inner green-eyed monster. Or in other words, we’re all capable of feeling jealousy. Some people are just much better at controlling and suppressing it than others. For the most part, I think that fare pretty well at not being a jealous person. By definition, it’s a negative and destructive emotion from which nothing much good can come. A desire to achieve what someone else has can motivate you to do what you need to get it, but succumbing instead to jealousy will only lead to resentment and ill feeling for all involved.

There is just one particular thing at the moment, however, that is successfully stirring my inner green-eye from its long slumber. If you’ve read some of my posts recently you might be able to hazard a guess that it has to do with pregnancy and babies.

It’s not as simple, however, as being jealous of every pregnant woman that I see. Whilst I do understand that anyone who has struggled to conceive must see bumps and babies as a constant reminder of what they do not have, and an emotional response to that is to be expected, I’ve always tried hard to remember that I have no clue about what lies behind those pregnancies. I don’t know the stories of random women I see in the street, what struggles and challenges they have faced or how long they have had to wait to get where they are. And the fact that they are pregnant has absolutely no bearing on the fact that I am not. It is not as though they have somehow taken it away from me. It’s not as though names were drawn out of a hat and I missed out on the prize because I was in the loo touching up my lipstick. Another person not being pregnant would not magically mean that I would be, and with all that it mind it seems ridiculous to begrudge another woman something which I want so badly and therefore know just how much joy it carries.

The jealousy I feel at the moment is a bit more subtle. I’m jealous each time I see a mother with two children with a small age gap, especially any gap smaller than I would currently have if I were to conceive a second child. This extends to feeling completely fine and happy if someone whose child was born two months before Thomas conceives, but irrationally jealous if it is someone whose child is two months younger. And more ridiculous still, whilst I might be happy for someone whose child is one month older than Thomas and has just conceived, if I fail to fall pregnant again next month – which will lead to a bigger age gap than they will have – that will suddenly alter how I feel about their pregnancy.

I know it is ridiculous. Crazy. Irrational. Mad. And as above, someone else not having a small age gap would not mean that I would end up with the age gap that I want. It is unfair to begrudge someone else the very thing that I want when I can easily imagine the happiness it will bring, but I just can’t stop myself.

I don’t even know where this fixation about age gaps started from. I am the younger in a 21 month sibling gap myself, and my husband is the older in an 18 month gap. I have heard that it’s natural to want to recreate the gap you had yourself, particularly if you had a happy childhood, so perhaps that is a part of it. I know that there are no guarantees at all how a sibling relationship will develop, and it depends on the individual children. Close age gaps don’t guarantee friends for life, or that they will have anything in common or enjoy spending time together. But I do think there is a greater chance of family harmony when children are likely to be enjoying the same types of toys, games, activities and holidays, and when the dinner table conversation can easily be inclusive of all. More selfishly, not prolonging the gap means getting through the potentially difficult sleep period again sooner, before I’ve completely erased it from my memory and have to start from scratch!

If I’m completely honest, there is also a part of me that perceives a close age gap to be hard work and I admire mothers who manage two close in age. Being a classic over achiever, and never having done anything in my life the easy way, is also perhaps a motivator for a smaller age gap. Just typing that I’m aware of how silly it sounds, and doesn’t for a second mean I think any less of women with bigger age gaps, or would be any less satisfied with our eventual family if the gap is much bigger.

I want a second child to complete our family. I’d like Thomas to have a sibling who will hopefully be there for him (and he for them) throughout his life. Two is the number of children that feels “right” for us, and how we have always imagined our family. Those are our most important motivators. Whenever another child becomes part of our family, I will, I’m sure, love them as endlessly as I love Thomas. But if I had a choice, the gap would be small, and I just can’t help but envy those who have this thing that I have very little control over trying to achieve for myself.

Jun 3 / Caro

Sperm + Egg = ???

Nothing.

That is what. Big fat nada. Zero. Zilch.

Well, except for a big pile of selfish self-pity and a self indulgent blog post.

It is selfish. I know it’s selfish and self-centred to be moaning about the fact that we still haven’t managed to conceive another baby when the trials facing other people are so much greater. I know couples who’ve only conceived after years of waiting and endless fertility interventions. I know couples who’ve failed to conceive at all. Believe me, I do know how lucky we are to have Thomas. But that doesn’t make my feelings of frustration and disappointment at my inability to provide him with a sibling any less real.

And it really is frustrating. That is the word that tops the list for how I feel right now. I can’t stop myself from getting annoyed that it simply just doesn’t “just work”. If you know that the egg is there, and you’re sending sperm to meet it not only at the right time, but regularly all the time, why on earth has a baby not resulted yet? Especially given that it obviously worked for us before, and we know that we clearly were fertile recently. It’s logical to assume that sperm plus egg should equal baby.

I know that I need to take a step back and remember just how amazing the fact of two sets of genetic material coming together and making a whole new person is. Of course it’s not as simple as it might seem from the outside. Of course it takes time and truly the odds are stacked against all the necessary steps aligning perfectly in any given cycle.

But I can’t help feeling that I’m failing at this, that my body is letting me down yet again by failing to achieve this. I’m known for being hard on myself, but I hate to fail in any goal I set myself. I’m nothing if not tenacious. So the very worst thing about this is how totally out of our control this really is. In other areas of my life I will just work harder and do more , practice more, in order to succeed. But we’re already doing the logical things which need to be done. Without wishing to post all the intimate details of my life online, we’re very definitely having enough sex. And we’re as sure as we can be that I’m ovulating.

So once again, with feeling, why is it not working?

There is no sure fire way to increase your chances, and no shortcuts through the weeks of waiting between cycles and nothing much else we can do at all. We’ve already cut out/down on alcohol and caffeine, we’re eating a healthy balanced diet and taking recommended supplements. I do weigh more than when we conceived before, but my BMI is still in a healthy range.

Please don’t tell me to stop thinking about it, to “just relax” or that “it will happen when it’s meant to”, because I know. That doesn’t make it easy to do. I just want this so much. I want Thomas to have a sibling who is relatively close in age. With every month that passes I feel that dream slipping.

And there is nothing to do but wait. And keep trying.

May 21 / Caro

The Secret World of Trying to Conceive

Secondary school sex education would have you believe that you only have to be half naked with a boy to end up getting pregnant. And (possibly as a consequence) most of the women I know spent the better half of their early adulthood doing everything in their power not to get pregnant. I was certainly one of those women that doubled up on contraception “just to be sure”. (But then, back then I really didn’t want a baby.

I’m sure, however, that I also, remember being taught about the female reproductive cycle in secondary school biology (although maybe it was only at A-Level, or even undergraduate physiology) so I was aware that there is only a very short time frame in which there is a risk (or chance – depending on your viewpoint) of becoming pregnant. But when you’re avoiding pregnancy like the plague, the facts don’t slot together. The mantra “it only takes one time” sticks, and there is no reason to be thinking about which week is the week where pregnancy may occur.

Once you actually want a bun in the oven, of course, everything is different. For most of us at least, the idea of falling pregnant being a case of having a single quick fumble suddenly seems enormously laughable. Months of unprotected sex with not even the merest sniff of a morning after pill still yield nothing, and that fertile week is suddenly all you think about.

The thing is, trying to conceive is ultimately such a personal thing. Sure, there are plenty of forums out there full of women all pursuing the same goal, but they are without exception pretty anonymous. Hardly anyone uses their real name, and being behind a screen makes it easier to be open and honest. But virtually nobody, it seems, talks about this stuff openly in person with people they know.

Surprising as it may seem, given my candour here, I’m no exception. I get asked at least 5 times a week (the joys of working with the public) whether we’ll be having another. And despite the months of trying already behind us, almost without exception I mutter something non-committal like “maybe one day” or “yes, but I’m not ready yet, one is enough hard work”.

The efforts and struggles of trying to conceive are all too frequently hidden away.

Perhaps it is because the act of making a baby is ultimately very personal. It’s about you and your partner, and something you want to do together. Admitting that you are trying can also feel like holding your hands up and saying “yes people, we’re having lots and lots of sex”. We’re adults, and it’s normal and healthy in a relationship to have plenty of sex, but there is nothing that draws attention to it quite so much as talking about trying to conceive (if you discount having actual public sex, but fortunately not many people are in to that, and if you are I’m betting people knowing about it is the least of your concerns!) It is also in no small part because many people don’t want the “pressure” of people waiting and anticipating, or even outright asking if you are up the duff yet, never mind the unsolicited advice to “just relax” (as if it were that simple!).

Behind closed doors however, there are literally hundreds of couples riding this roller coaster without feeling able to talk about it. Living their lives in two week blocks. Two weeks where you know for sure that you are not pregnant, and that start with sadness and end with impatience waiting for the egg to drop. Then the “two week wait” where the “am-I-aren’t-I?” dilemma reigns, counting down the days until you will find out.

There are women out there carrying out personal science experiments in their bathrooms. Peeing on sticks and in plastic cups to find out when their hormones are surging as an indicator that ovulation is imminent. Women whose first waking action is to measure their temperature to see whether ovulation has indeed occurred. These are definitely things most people don’t chat about over their coffee.

And it’s a world which has its own code too – 2WW, OPK, BBT, HPT, BFP. It really is a secret world that no one could have imagined when they were sitting in their school science laboratory hearing all about the facts of life and how not to get pregnant.

And you know something? I don’t think it helps. I think the school student in us probably did have a better chance of making a baby without all the silent obsessing. All the waiting and hoping. All the disappointment. And even all the tools available that are supposed to help. What really is the point of knowing exactly when you ovulated if you are having regular sex throughout your cycle. Do you really need to know the actual day if sperm would have been ready to meet egg anyway?

I think what would help is making trying to conceive as normal a part of day-to-day life as saving up to buy a house or working towards a career promotion, and I wish it was easier to be honest about the journey. Internet forums are one thing, but they are not really a substitute for a face to face discussion about feelings, that doesn’t require a dictionary to translate. Hiding it away isn’t helping.

So in that spirit, I’ve decided to start talking about trying to conceive in real life, away from the web. I don’t want to be told to “be patient” or “just relax”, or to be judged because so many people have been trying so much longer and I should be grateful that I already have a child (of course I am, to suggest otherwise is just plain rude). But I’m fed up of being part of a secret world that does nothing but fuel anxiety.

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