Where Did It All Go Wrong?: A Secondary Infertility Diagnosis

Observant readers of this blog may have noticed that I’ve rarely, if ever, used the words “infertile” or “infertility” up to this point. I’ve preferred to refer instead to”difficulty conceiving”. Since we conceived the first one without any difficulty at all, it seemed natural to assume that “difficulty” was all we were having. It seemed unthinkable that things could change that dramatically. However, it appears that not only is it entirely possible to become almost completely infertile in the three years after conceiving one child, but that it has also happened to us.

I don’t particularly want to discuss specifics here, because they relate to us personally and have little relevance to anyone else. Suffice it to say, however, that even my husband, who has no interest in, and little understanding of, medical matters, it’s fairly clear from our results that our chances of conceiving and carrying a baby on our own are extremely tiny.

In a way, this is a massive positive. It seems that IVF does have a reasonably good prognosis and to be honest, I’m happy about the definite-ness of the fact that this is what we need to do. Like, I suppose, many people struggling to conceive, I was dreading getting no answers. Being told just to be more patient and “keep trying”. I was worried that I’d be forced in to making a decision to undertake expensive fertility treatment just to satisfy my own impatience all whilst wondering whether it was truly necessary.

Now, I know exactly what we need to do.

And do it we will. Obviously and rightly we won’t qualify for any treatment on the NHS, so it seems that rainy day that we’ve been saving for has arrived, because I can’t put a price on having another child. Even the unobservant blog readers amongst you have probably picked that one up by now! I feel fortunate that we have the money available to do this and give it our very best shot.

I’m daunted, too. Naturally. I’ve just begun dipping my toe in the waters of infertility forums online and I’m overwhelmed by things I don’t yet understand, and by the many ways this could end up going. Surely no one would choose assisted reproduction if they had a true choice. It isn’t where I want to be, but I know that it is where I have to go.

Something – call it women’s intuition if you want – has been telling me for over six months that something wasn’t right. And so it turns out I was correct to have so many concenrs about our fertility. Even so, I’m still confused about just exactly where it all went so wrong in such a short space of time. But whilst we have answers for why we can’t conceive now, we don’t know exactly how we managed it before. Perhaps we had the same problems back then too. We will probably never know, but I can admit to having hugged my son just a little bit tighter when we arrived home from our appointment.

Never mind IVF, perhaps he, too, is a miracle baby.

Sliding Slowly Off The Wagon

Back in January, I enjoyed a night out with my colleagues, several of whom have firmly crossed the line from “work friends” to just “friends”. It was a fabulous night with good company, good food and more than just a little bit of alcohol. Quite a lot of alcohol, in fact. It was one of those nights where time, and drinks, passed without my really noticing. Adding it up the next day, I realised that I’d consumed the best part of two whole bottles of wine. And boy did I suffer for it, in a way I’ve not experienced for longer than I care to remember. Since well before Thomas. Well before our wedding. In fact, our engagement party was possibly the last time I had drunk anywhere near approaching this amount, and suffered a hangover of similar magnitude. I enjoy alcohol but I’ve never been a heavy drinker, or binge drinker, preferring little and often, accompanied by food and or friends. I’ve never understood the rationale behind going out to deliberately get drunk and make yourself feel that awful. That weekend in January was a shock to my system.

We were already trying for a baby back then. And I’d already made a number of lifestyle changes – not least the move back towards the obsessive glycaemic control demanded by pregnancy, which is something that needs to be done day-in, day-out. It doesn’t work if you only pay attention to diabetes during the two-week-wait between ovulation and a positive pregnancy test your period arriving. Alcohol – well, not so much. I was avoiding alcohol for the latter half of the two week wait on the basis that even if I were pregnant, prior to implantation, alcohol is very unlikely to affect a developing foetus. And it’s not like I was ever drinking more than a couple of glasses of wine at a time, at the very most.

But after my January hangover cleared, I began to wonder if it could be something that was affecting our ability to conceive. After all, feeding alcohol in to our bloodstream is not something which can be deemed “necessary” or an essential contribution to general well being (no matter how much we claim it “relaxes us”) and therefore its absence could definitely do no harm, but its presence forms a rather large question mark.

So beginning in February of this year, I started to cut alcohol out almost completely. There have been a handful of special occasions – weddings, anniversaries, reunions and the like – that have called for the odd glass of wine. And there have, especially more recently, been the “Let’s share a bottle of wine because my period has arrived. Again” moments. But for the most part I’ve avoided it. To begin with, people automatically assumed that I was pregnant. And as the months passed and they realised I was telling the truth that I’d simply cut it out because I wanted to, I realised that when if I do get pregnant, I’ve created the perfect cover. (Not drinking tipped more thank few people off to my first pregnancy!)

But enough time for a full term pregnancy has passed since then, and I’m still firmly un-pregnant. And in the last few weeks I’ve begun a gentle slide from the high driving seat of the road-to-pregnancy wagon. Our glass recycling pile has grown threefold. A wine box has taken up residence in our fridge once more making it easy to accompany dinner with a small glass every night, if I so choose.

And honestly, I usually do.

It’s not the only thing to slide either. The folic acid And vitamin D that I once took religiously has become a little hit and miss. And perhaps most importantly of all, that super tight glycaemic control is no longer as super tight as it once was. The relentlessness of keeping blood glucose levels within such narrow margins, testing, checking, correcting, monitoring is wearing thin. There are never any true breaks in diabetes, but as I’ve said before, the stakes are higher when you are pregnant or trying to conceive and it makes it that much harder when you’re not doing it only for yourself and your own long term health. Right now, I’m running out of rope and although my control is technically “good enough” for pregnancy, it’s nowhere near as good as it was a year ago. Or when I conceived Thomas.

When I dwell on that, the guilt creeps in. I worry that if this is finally the month, that I won’t have been fair to my unborn child and that I won’t have created the best environment or given them the best opportunity that I can to be safe and healthy. That this is another price to pay for waiting so long to get pregnant, but a price that will ultimately be paid not by me, but by the child I long to conceive.

Somehow, though, even this isn’t enough motivation to get me back on the straight and narrow. I feel guilty that no matter how much I long for this baby, it still doesn’t seem to be enough to help me continue to do what I’ve been doing for all these months. Selfish it may be, but I feel a bitter twinge of regret at all the wasted hours of effort. I recognise that I’m burned out, by diabetes in particular. Burnout is nothing new for this thirty year veteran of chronic illness. But I can’t help but wonder if it means that another baby isn’t as important to me as I’ve been thinking, feeling and saying.

Or perhaps this is simply a sign that I’m losing hope.

I’m just not sure where to go from here.

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I’m Sorry You Don’t Have A Sibling

Dear Thomas

Yesterday was your second birthday, and amongst the many wonderful parts of the day was seeing the joy you got from opening presents, discovering their contents and then exploring each one fully. The way you play has become so creative and imaginative in the last couple of months, and your new toys fueled your fire perfectly. A second magical moment was watching you share it all with your cousin, who is just a few weeks beyond two years older than you. Seeing the two of you play together with cars, with the “big bus”, your trains and your new shopping till warmed my heart.

But it also broke it a little too.

You see Thomas, the gift that I’d really hoped to give you hasn’t arrived, and won’t be here any time soon. Mummy and Daddy have been working on trying to get it for your for a long time now, but it turns out that this is more difficult than securing a Christmas must-have or snapping up a bargain in the sales.

What I most wish, with all my heart, that I could have given you (or at least had well on the way) for your second birthday is a sibling of your very own. A playmate. A partner-in-crime. And most of all, a family that will hopefully go on with you in to your old age.

When you’re older, reading this back, possibly with a sibling by your side, you’ll probably be rolling your eyes and telling your old mum not to be so soft. That you didn’t care at two years old. Hopefully that you’re quite happy with how everything turned out. But writing this, the day after your second birthday, we’re not in that happy place yet and, rightly or wrongly, I want to capture exactly how it feels, and to let you know just how much we wanted a brother or sister for you.

People dismiss it all the time. They tell me to be grateful for you. That not having a second child is nothing like as bad as not having a first child. But the person they’re not thinking about when they make these comments is you, Thomas. Of course I’m grateful to have you in our lives and I can barely remember you not being here. Not having you would be unthinkable. I love you endlessly, more than I’ve so far found the words to properly express. But unlike wanting a first child, which is often borne of slightly selfish motivations, having a second child is as much about what is right for the first child as it is for the parents. We don’t just have the two of us to think of any longer; now we’re a team of three.

I know you have the potential to be a great big brother. Of course, you’ll have your share of tantrums, frustrations and jealousy, and I know having two small children will be incredibly hard work. But you’re so outgoing and sociable, loving the company of and interaction with other children of all ages, that I’m sure having your very own little brother or sister, to bring home and be with you everyday, will be a source of enormous joy. You love to fix things, to “help” and to entertain, which will all be fantastic qualities in an older brother. It feels like you were born to be a big brother, to take care or someone younger and help them learn their way.

I have to hide my tears from you when you ask about “a baby” or utter the word “brother”. I think these are things you’ve learned about at nursery, and you don’t really understand. You certainly don’t mention them to upset me, but I’d much rather I could turn those moments into a conversation about the new baby in Mummy’s tummy, on it’s way to join our family. Instead, I pretend I haven’t heard or can’t understand as I divert the subject to something else.

I know these conversations will only get harder in the coming months, as you begin to notice your little friends having siblings and start genuinely asking for one of your own. I’m hoping with all my might that by a miracle of nature or the wonder of medical science, we can bring you that sibling before your third birthday. I hope that you won’t hold it against me if it takes longer, or if the age gap means that your baby brother or sister takes a long time to reach a point where you can actually play together and enjoy the same games. I want you to know that we wanted you to be close in age to increase the chances of you becoming proper buddies. Perhaps it will happen anyway. Perhaps it was never meant to be.

Most of all though, whatever happens, I just hope you’re not lonely.

I love you – every last bit of you. And that won’t change whether you do or don’t get a brother or sister.

Mummy xx

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Two Years: Then…. And Now

Today, Thomas turns two years old.

There is so much to say about my son and his big personality, his infectious smiles and giggles and the new words and skills he is assimilating at an ever increasing pace. There is so much to say about two years of motherhood, how much I’ve learned, and how far I’ve come. There is so much to say about how much I love my boy, how I cannot believe it’s been two years already, but yet, at the same time, how I cannot remember or imagine a life without him.

But for today – a day which has been filled with family, fun, presents, balloons and cake – I leave you with these photos of then, and now.

Happy Second Birthday little man!

That was then: 10/11/11

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This is now: 10/11/13

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An “Oh No” Moment

This weekend I had what can only be described as an “Oh No” parenting moment, which was only redeemed but it’s immense cuteness.

Thomas, like a lot of toddlers, is obsessed by the ride-on machines you find inside shopping centres and the like. The first time he managed to clamber inside one himself, he sat there proudly for a good few minutes, completely and totally satisfied by his accomplishment. The biggest problem we face if is he happens to spot a Thomas the Tank Engine one, since it’s a recipe for a tantrum when we try to pull him away.

I’ve never put money into one, however. And always managed to steer him away whenever someone has put money in to one. I’ve always maintained that they are just for sitting in, and Thomas has never seemed to doubt this. I’ve done this in part to avoid continual pestering, especially as the likelihood of me having change for a ride at any given time is quite low. I’ve done it in part because they are so expensive for what they are. And I’ve also done it because I’ve had a sneaking suspicion that Thomas would be a child who screamed for the duration of the ride if we did put money in.

So, I didn’t think much of it as he climbed in to a car on a miniature Looney Tunes Roundabout at a local shopping centre this weekend. He beamed as he spun the steering wheel and pretended to honk the horn. Then he had a little look around. A big button evidently caught his eye.

A big button marked “Start”.

So he pressed it.

The thing about this particular ride is that you pay for “Two rides”. But someone had evidently missed this fact and, having paid, only pressed the button once. So when Thomas hit “Start”, start it did.

My jaw may have involuntarily opened in surprise. And a small amount of “Oh no, this can’t be happening…” type horror.

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The plus sides are the free ride (who says there isn’t such thing as a free ride?) and the fact that he absolutely loved it. The look on his face was pure, infectious joy. He waved as he went round, then leaned over to pluck the balloon he’d earlier acquired from an unsuspecting trader out of his Dad’s hand.

The downside is the fact that I can never walk through that part of the shopping centre with Thomas ever again. I will have to take a route past a different set of ride-ons. Because it is only that machine that moves. The rest are just for sitting in. Right?

Me and Mine – October

Once again, I’m a little late to the Me and Mine party. But better late than never, right?

October has been a month of changes. Changes in the weather and season. Changes in my work pattern. And changes in my attitude… well, I’m working on that last one, but there is a definite shift towards positivity and it’s a start!

October has also been a month of new things, including a much coveted new camera. Between us we had two Canon 400D cameras, the newer of which was over six years old. One was retired at the beginning of the year due to major auto-focus problems. The other has travelled many thousands of miles, captured many thousands of images and was well loved, but past its prime. The upgrade is a Canon 70D, surprisingly secured at a fantastic price on Tottenham Court Road just mere minutes after we decided on a quick look whilst commenting that “you never get a good deal on Tottenham Court Road anymore”.

This month’s Me and Mine images are still the kind of last minute, afterthought photos that I’ve come up with for every other month I’ve joined this project. But this time they take advantage of features of the new camera that I thought gimmicky before I’d got my hands of them, but now see could be really useful.

My favourite of our two images is a holding-the-camera-at-arms-length type of shot. But rather than randomly guessing on the position and focus, this was taken using Live-View with the fully articulated screen swivelled round to face us. I used to wonder why anyone would need Live View on an SLR, but I’m already finding all sorts of other strange angles I can now capture shots from without the need to lie down on the floor or contort myself in to a painful yoga pose! It’s still rather awkward to hold an SLR in this way, but we only had to take a single shot to get this, rather than taking ten attempts to even have all of us in the frame! It’s still not perfect – Thomas is lightly out of focus – but look at the cheeky expression on his face!

Me and Mine October(This image includes something else new this month – new glasses! These are the first new frames I’ve had in three years, and I like them enough to give contact lenses a rest for a bit!)

The second image was taken last Sunday whilst we tucked in to a roast dinner. Since the weather has closed in, the 5pm family Sunday roast is becoming a ritual. I find cooking a roast at lunchtime eats a lot in to the day, but I love having the opportunity for us all to share a meal before Thomas goes to bed, so this works well. I took this photo using the camera’s wireless feature and the associated phone app which acts as a remote. Unlike the basic camera remotes I have used before, this gives you a full preview on your phone screen and the ability to adjust basic settings. I thought wireless in a camera really was a gimmick, but I definitely love this feature!

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I don’t love this photo. I look windswept and bedraggled mainly because we had been to the park in a gale and I had then spent the remainder of the afternoon in the kitchen. I feel slightly awkward as I’m really just playing with the new camera features. BUT, this is a proper moment of family life. And, as always, that means more to me than anything else!

dear beautiful