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Posts tagged ‘pregnancy’

Jul 18 / Caro

Baby Lust No More?

Shortly after our third IVF attempt and failure, I wrote this, about how hard it was to surrender hope when I still wanted another baby so badly. At the time, I couldn’t imagine ever not wanting it so fiercely that it hurt from the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep.

It turns out that perhaps there is truth in the old adage that time heals. A bit, at least.

I’ve come to realise in the last few weeks that maybe, just maybe, that fierce devotion to the dream of another child has shifted. It’s in no small part due to all the other crap that has taken my focus away in the last 12 months. But I think that is just the thing that has masked this change in perspective as it happened, and allowed it to creep up on me.

It’s more that I’ve come to accept that I cannot ever have my dream. That ship has sailed. Even if I did miraculously conceive another child, I can never have the “three under five” sort of family dynamic that I once longed for.

And more than that, it would alter our lives so much to go back to having a newborn now. Contemplating that sort of change in our lives is very different to the longing to have been able to have had another baby almost four years ago when we started trying.

The thing is, we’re reaching a stage where our lives are really moving on, for want of a better descriptor. Thomas starts school in September, and though it may win me a bad mother award, I’m quite excited by the prospect of having 9 to 3 free, two days per week. Sure, I’ll miss that time with Thomas, but his school is awesome and I know he’ll be enjoying it. Having some time to get my hair cut during the day, go for a swim, do household tasks without the hindrance of a small child’s “help”, sort out seemingly endless rounds of doctors appointments so I don’t have to drag Thomas to them… The list of things I’m looking forward to goes on. These are things I’ve never had much opportunity for before, as prior to having Thomas, like so many women, I was working full time, 5 or 6 day weeks. You can forgive me for looking forward to it, no? Having a younger child, of course, would delay this point by a while longer. Had I had my last baby last year as I hoped, I’d have three or four more years to wait. If I fell pregnant now, it would be at least another five.

And we’re starting to reclaim more of our own interests too. This weekend we – all three of us – rode our bikes together across the parks and along local cycle lanes to a pub with a garden. We sat in the sunshine and Ian and I had a cheeky pint and some good conversation that didn’t revolve around parenting. Thomas was quite happy drinking apple juice through a straw, searching for the biggest sticks he could find and making friends with the dogs lying in the sun. It was exactly the kind of thing we’d have been doing on a sunny Saturday afternoon if we didn’t have kids. Again, it may win me a bad mother award, but doing things which we want to do as well as things which are more centred around our child is, to my mind, essential for balance. Far from being selfish, I think all parents need to have the opportunity to fulfill some of their own desires and interests as part of rounded family life. But that is only possible as kids get that bit older, and more able to understand the importance of anyone but themselves and make their own enjoyment out of varied situations.

Thomas is now happy to do so many things that we would do without a child to consider, and stuff that is harder with a swarm of kids. Sure, we can’t take him to 18 rated films at the cinema, or to some of the more adult theatre we enjoy, nor is he an equal with whom we can discuss everything. But we’re really beginning to enjoy being a family without it all having to be kid-centric – lovely and fun as those sorts of activities are, and grateful as I am to have the opportunity to do them because I have child with who to do them.

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Last month, I was sure that I’d ovulated. It doesn’t happen very often, but so many years of focusing on your fertility help you to tune in to the signs. And then, no period arrived. Not strange in itself – they often fail to show. But the fact that I was sure I’d ovulated made me just wonder if it were possible. It was a fleeting thought, that I tried to quickly suppress. But with it came a host of confusing emotions. I suddenly questioned exactly how I’d feel if I were, indeed pregnant.

Ecstatic, of course I would. Years of longing for a second pink line that never appeared means it would an irrepressible instinct.

But.

But.

I’m not sure that now is the right time. I think all the times that could have been the right time have passed.

I wasn’t pregnant. Obviously.

But the experience has allowed me to realise that I may just be ready to let go of the thought that it will ever happen. I think I’m at peace with that now. It will always hurt, but I know that it would still hurt just as much that we weren’t able to have a baby back when we were first trying, even if we had another baby now. Managing to separate out the unrealised dream from the bare fact of infertility is a massive leap.

It comes down to this: We wanted a baby. We couldn’t have one. I’ll never really – truly – get over that.

But I’m ready to say that I don’t really want another baby now, anymore.

This is my family.

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 (Okay, okay… minus the mice!)
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

Me and Mine – February 2014

This month’s Me and Mine photo is not, technically, a picture of the three of us. 

Look closely and you’ll see it in my hand: the grainy black and white photograph of my tiny blob of cells. That, and the pregnancy test that told me those cells are still there, growing, changing and becoming a person.

How could I not include that in our photograph for this month? What will hopefully be our second child, and a younger sibling for Thomas. At last. After all the months of trying and waiting and longing, I finally have hope that by the time the final Me and Mine of 2014 rolls around, there really will be four of us in it.

It’s early days, of course. I’m just 4 weeks and 5 days pregnant today. So much can go wrong. But so much can go right too. And as I explained here, I want to celebrate the fact that we’ve got this far, even if we get no further. I want to remember how this felt – and if you see the grins on our faces in this picture, you’ll get some idea. We’re over the moon!

So here it is. Me and Mine and our future family too.

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dear beautiful
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 23 / Caro

For Now, I Have Hope

If I’d allowed myself to think about the two week wait before we started IVF – which I didn’t, for that meant assuming that we’d get enough eggs and sperm, and that they would fertilise and make it to a stage suitable to be transferred, which all made me tear-up just to think about – then I think I may have assumed that I’d be chomping at the bit to pee on a stick and find out if it had worked.

Funnily enough, though, I’m not.

It’s not that I don’t want to be pregnant just as much as I ever have done. Or even simply that I’m afraid of a negative result – although, of course, I am. It’s a more complex truth. At this moment in time I’m possibly as close to being pregnant as I’ll ever get again. So right now, I’m full of hope and optimism for a future as a family of four, with a new baby joining our family before this year is over.

Hope is something that is often in short supply for the completely infertile. By which I mean those couples amongst us where the male partner has azoospermia, or the female partner has completely blocked or absent tubes, or any other cause where the chances of getting pregnant without external help have dwindled to nothing. I don’t envy anyone with a diagnosis of “unexplained infertility” (hell, of course I don’t – I wouldn’t wish infertility of any kind on any person). It must be deeply frustrating to not know why things aren’t working. But at least there is still a tiny glimmer of hope each passing month that his will be the lucky one, the one where something was a tiny bit different. On the infertility forums I’m been dipping in to lately, stories abound of women getting their longed for positive the month before their IVF cycle was due to start. For us, if this doesn’t work, there is no hope of a miracle natural conception to soften the blow. 

As soon as I see the test result, my hopeful state of mind will be gone. A dream shattered to smithereens by a single pink line. Or a sense of hope replaced immediately by fear when a second line appears.

Ah, yes, fear – that familiar pregnancy companion. Fear that it won’t be ongoing. Fear that something – anything – will go wrong. That my blood sugars won’t be good enough. Or some other unforeseen issue will arise. If this works, I know it only the beginning of another journey itself.

For now, I simply have hope. It’s actually quite a nice place to be.

Feb 16 / Caro

Waiting to Fall Pregnant

The last seven days have felt much longer than a week. I can’t believe that it was only last Sunday that I was awaiting egg collection, full of fears and anticipation. I knew it would be a tough week, that there were a lot of hurdles to overcome and potential pitfalls hiding in each new day. I knew there would be waiting that I needed to try to handle patiently. I just didn’t realise it would be quite such a roller coaster, with so much not knowing until the very last minute.

Of our dozen eggs, nine were suitable for ICSI. Of these six fertilised, but one did so abnormally, which left us with five embryos.

So that was Tuesday morning. So far, so good.

Then I got the news that taking Thursday off work was going to be a bit of a no-go, because we had a surprise inspection to contend with. And that kicked off my first proper melt down.

During IVF embryos are transferred back to the womb on either day 2, day 3 or day 5. By day 5 they have typically developed in to what is known as a blastocyst. The advantage of waiting until this stage to transfer them back is that it “weeds out” any embryos that simply aren’t going to make it that far and makes it easier for the embryologists to select the very best embryo. The flip side of that, of course, is the query of whether embryos that arrest in the lab on day 4 might have made it in the womb. In general clinics advise a 3 day transfer if you either have a very obvious front runner from your embryos, or if you don’t have a lot of embryos to choose from. If you have a greater number, the drop off between days 3 and 5 is less likely to leave you with nothing to transfer, so the question of whether they would have made it becomes less relevant.

My embryologist was frank with me. With only five, we were more than likely heading for a three day transfer. She was willing to bet on it happening. On Thursday.

My original work plan had been to call in sick on the morning of transfer. But suddenly that was not an option. Ideally I needed to be there. But if I couldn’t be there then I needed to commit to that on Tuesday to allow arrangements to be made. But committing to anything with IVF is really, really hard.

Several tearful phone calls to the clinic later, we had a plan. They agreed to schedule the embryo transfer at a different time to normal, so that I could work half the day, encompassing the inspection. So I cancelled the afternoon at work, calmed myself back down and set about preparing my paperwork for the inspection.
 
I woke up on Thursday morning mentally ready for my three day transfer. And physically I got myself prepped… lucky knickers, bikini line checked, that kind of thing.

The phone call from the embryologist came as a bit of a surprise. Four of our embryos were “top grade” with nothing to choose between them. The fifth was also good, although it had behaved a little oddly so they were keeping an eye on it. Bottom line: they advised going to blastocyst. On Saturday.

Should have been a relief right? Well yes, obviously I was ecstatic that our little embies were doing so well. And it meant no dashing from work to the clinic in fifteen minutes flat. The only problem was that I was also supposed to be working on Saturday. Wouldn’t you know it? I work one in six. One in SIX and it had to be my Saturday. Obviously I always knew it was a possibility that it could fall on that day, but the call in sick plan had extended to the Saturday. But now, I’d cancelled out a whole afternoon on Thursday, including moving people from that day to… you guessed it… Saturday.

Thursday morning was my major pinch point. I was dealing with the normal stresses of work, plus an inspection, plus trying to liaise with the clinic about what I wanted to do.

And to be honest, what I wanted to do was just get an embryo back inside me. I’d been geared up for it, as well as organised for it and the change of plans somehow hit me hard. Suddenly I was facing the fear of none of my embryos making it to day 5 and being left with nothing to transfer. And I couldn’t for the life of me see how I was going to get through it and still keep my job. It’s easy now to say I was being a little irrational (it is highly unlikely I’d have lost my job!) but between the hormones and the emotions and everything riding on this, I was probably entitled to a bit of a crash.

So Thursday saw several more tearful phone calls to the clinic trying to work out what to do. They were dead set against transferring an embryo “just because”. Initially we discussed an early transfer on Saturday morning which would enable me to head straight to work afterwards, but somehow I couldn’t see myself being able to cope with it. So finally they agreed to do an afternoon transfer, which is not usual for a Saturday. I’m very grateful for all their help and flexibility in sorting it out (although a tiny bit of me also thinks this is what we are paying SO MUCH money for!).

Saturday morning dawned. I got myself geared up again for transfer, but this time with a small amount of trepidation that we’d be getting the bad news that there was nothing left to transfer. 

The phone rang as I was putting on mascara (for work, you ideally need to be make up free for transfer) and I jumped about a foot in the air, smearing mascara across my forehead. Good look.

The news wasn’t bad. All the embryos were still hanging in there. But… none of them were blastocysts yet. So no transfer today. We needed to give them another day.

If only I’d known at the beginning that we would end up with a transfer on Sunday, I’d probably have been a lot less stressed. But this is how it plays out during IVF: you never really know quite what is going to happen. You can plan, but you’d better be prepared to change those plans and then change them again.

I answered the phone to the familiar voice of the embryologist this morning. She asked how I was. “Nervous” I replied.

“It’s OK, I’ve got good news” she said immediately. I felt my neck and shoulders relax as I let out the breath I was holding. “You’ve got one top quality blastocyst, so we’re definitely on for transfer.”

Finally. Finally. Six days after egg collection, my embryo was going back where it belonged and I’d be the closest thing to pregnant I’ve been in a long time.

Where I am concerned, however, there is always a “but”. The less good news was that none of the remaining four had made it to blastocyst. Six days to get to blast is slow, but normal. Longer than that is starting to get unusual. Although I’ve come across some studies that say 7 day blasts can still lead to a good outcome, the stats are no where near as good as for 5 and 6 days blasts. And our clinic policy is not to take them beyond 6 days. Which also means they couldn’t be frozen.

One top quality blastocyst is fantastic. No frosties is a bit of a downer.

But then the embryologist threw out a curve ball. Ordinarily in a woman of my age they would only transfer a single blastocyst, to minimise the chances and risks of a multiple pregnancy. But because the other embryos weren’t actually blastocysts and didn’t have a great prognosis, we had the option to have a second one transferred. And we had about an hour between the phone call and the transfer to make the decision. 

I feel that I need to make it clear that I am not one of these women who dreams of twins. I think parents of multiples are amazing and of course, if we had twins, we would cope and it would be wonderful. But it’s never been something that I’ve wanted to actively seek from our IVF cycle. I wasn’t expecting to have the option of a second embryo, as all along it has been made clear that at my age an elective single embryo transfer is advised. But suddenly we were faced with the option to transfer an extra embryo or let it perish. Knowing that we’ll have no frozen embryos as plan B if I don’t end up pregnant makes us want to do absolutely everything we can to maximise the chances of success. The chances of twins remains small, but it does give us a small increase in the chances of pregnancy too. And the bottom line is that I don’t want to look back from behind a negative pregnancy test and wonder “what if…?”

So we elected to transfer the two.

The transfer itself was straightforward. The procedure was equivalent to a smear test, and certainly less uncomfortable than having a coil inserted. Ian sat to my right and we held hands as a consultant whom I met for the first time this morning squirted our six-day-old embryos in to my uterus.

So that is that. The end of the cycle as far as actual treatment goes. There is nothing left to do but wait, some more, to do a pregnancy test in a couple of weeks. 

I’m not quite pregnant yet, but I very soon could be. Go little embryos, go!

Feb 6 / Caro

Another Day, Another Pregnancy Announcement

Today I heard – yet again – the news that anyone with fertility issues surely comes to dread. Another friend is pregnant.

There is no manual that tells you how to react when you hear the news. And I’ve already learned that there are as many reactions as there are pregnancy announcements. How close the person is, whether the news was foreseen, how it is delivered and what exactly the blasted hormones are doing on that day all influence the response. But I’ve also learned that no amount of practice will be able to completely erase the traces of bitter jealousy from your face. And that sooner or later, the tears will leak out.

In the last six months or so I’ve developed an irrational hatred towards strangers I see in the street with two nicely age spaced children. Or women who are pregnant with a child who is clearly younger than Thomas. I feel as though they’ve jumped the queue, that surely it should have been my turn before theirs? This kind of hatred makes me feel like I’m a nasty, slightly unhinged person, but yet I feel it doesn’t matter too much. It’s a passing expression of my sadness about our own situation, and I don’t know these people. They will never have any inkling of my thoughts, nor of their effect on me.

But when it’s people I know, the same feelings of disappointment and unfairness seem harsh and cruel. How can I, someone who knows just exactly how precious pregnancy is, feel almost resentful of other people’s good news? And especially when these people, and their happiness, is supposed to matter to me.

I suppose the bottom line is that I can’t help the instinctive reactions that I have. I can’t help the way that I feel.

And when the tears have passed, I’ve ranted about the reasons it’s not fair (often related to the fact that they didn’t even want a child yet back when we started trying, and how quickly they’ve fallen pregnant) and enough time has passed to allow the news to settle in, I always feel a bit different. Because deep down I am happy for them. I’m just equally sad for myself. And, initially at least, the negative overwhelms the positive.

I do, too, feel for the people sharing their news with me too – or at least, the ones that know how much I want another child and what a struggle it has turned out to be for us. Because there is no manual for that situation either. No guidance on how to tell someone who has fertility problems that you are pregnant.

Today’s revelation was one of the better ones. Despite the fact that I really did not see this one coming until precisely three seconds before the news hit me, I felt touched that she had opted to tell me ahead of other friends, to let the news sink in, at least a week before any scan pictures will be floating around. She also told me that she appreciated how difficult it was for me, and I really believed that she didn’t expect me to be jumping up and down with joy for her.

She also said that she hoped more than ever now that our IVF cycle would be successful so that we can be pregnancy buddies. Which was lovely. But I still couldn’t shift the lingering knowledge that her baby, due in August, would still be in a different school year to any child we manage to have. I find myself focusing on these silly details that it probably never occurs to people who haven’t struggled to conceive to think about. But I couldn’t shake either the knowledge of just how precarious conception via IVF is, and just how much can go wrong. And with that thought I’m slapped back in to the pits of jealousy, wishing that I was in that happy position already myself.

I hope, obviously, that soon enough I’ll be pregnant myself. But if that doesn’t happen, I hope that I can perhaps learn to handle the fact that other people’s lives are following the plan that I would have preferred for my own.

Or maybe just once hear a pregnancy announcement without crying.

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