The Baby Who is Not Here

I’ve read enough about conception and miscarriage at this point to have come across, over and over again, the sentiment that a baby is real to its parents from the moment the second line appears on the test. Hell, I’ve experienced it myself. When you are desperate to have a child, all your hopes and dreams seem pinned on that stick and its result. When the outcome is positive, it adds colour and flesh and vibrancy to a hitherto merely imagined scenario, even though it may still be tinged with deep, deep caution. Even though you know that it still may not come to fruition.

When you go through IVF, however, the second line is not even necessary. From the moment that your cycle is planned in meticulous detail, you know roughly when any resulting baby will be due, and that is where it starts. Even when you’ve been disappointed again and again in the past. Even when you’ve had positive outcomes that went on to end in miscarriage. Even when you know that all the odds are stacked against you and your rational head wants to overrule your hopeful heart. Still, the idea that a baby could be joining your family all those months down the line is impossible to resist. And after all, you have to believe that it will work in order to keep putting yourself through it.

Arguably you could think that way about each and every cycle that you try naturally. After all, if you have no cause to believe otherwise, there is a chance each month that this will be the one where the stars align and eggs and sperm meet at the right time in the right place and do absolutely everything that they need to do to make a new life. You could, if you were so inclined, mourn every period not simply because it means that you did not make it this month, but because you flushed your potential child down the toilet.

That is going further than I think entirely rational, though. In the end we all know that the chances in any given month are slim. It’s likely that if you don’t get pregnant, no fertilisation even occurred.

And that is how IVF is really different. A full two weeks before anyone could pee on a stick, days before anything is even put in your uterus, you get the long awaited phone call from the embryologist to let you know how your eggs and sperm “got on”. And assuming you don’t face the heartbreak of a zero fertilisation cycle, in the moments of that phone call, the world tips on its axis. What you hear in the call is how many potential babies you’ve made.

It’s more than simply knowing that you had plenty of unprotected sex and could feasibly be pregnant. You can’t help but see these as bigger chances. This is a real, potential child with all of its genetic material right there is that dish. You know exactly when that child was conceived and therefore you also know exactly when it should be joining the world as a newborn baby.

If only everything else goes right, of course.

When it doesn’t work, that loss is far more similar to the loss of miscarriage than to a negative pregnancy test or period arriving after a “natural” attempt at baby making.

I know this, because I’ve experienced it all.

If our final IVF attempt last year had worked, my due date would have been tomorrow. And as a diabetic with a previous c-section behind me, I would no doubt have come under pressure to have an elective section at 38 weeks. Which means that baby would have been born almost two weeks ago, on our fifth wedding anniversary.

I’ve been waiting for this date since that fateful telephone call last October. Still etched across my heart, despite the fact that no baby has been growing in my belly.

I couldn’t erase it. Nor could I ignore it.

It is impossible for me not to mourn that child that might have been. Even though he or she was never anything more than a collection of our genetic material. It never implanted in to the lining of my uterus. Never grew arms and legs or facial features. It never even had a heartbeat.

But it was my baby.

My last chance at another child.

I’ll never be able to erase the sadness of its loss, either.

To the Parents of Children With Diabetes: You Can Do It

I’ve seen a fair few new diabetes diagnoses popping up lately, and a lot of new blogging and tweeting on the subject, from parents who’ve literally just been dunked in the deep end. In my former life as a diabetes-centric blogger I was used to reading diagnosis stories, and tales of all the literal highs and lows of life as a parent to a child with diabetes. There were, and still are, plenty of them out there. What is different for me this time is that these are blogs which I followed, or at the very least was aware of, long before diabetes entered the picture. And something about that fact has really heightened my awareness the sheer smack-upside-your-head-turn-your-world-on-its-axis nature of this kind of diagnosis.

Forgive me. I was three when I was diagnosed. I certainly didn’t have a clue back then and I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated it before in quite the way I suddenly do now, no matter how ridiculous that sounds. I just don’t know what it feels like to go from knowing very little about diabetes to having to integrate it, and all its associated behaviours, in to your life.

What I do know is exactly what living with diabetes means. I know how the specific thirst of a high blood sugar feels. I know what a low feels like, and what the hangover can do to you. I know the fear. I know only too intimately all the bloody frustration. I will never, ever be the person to make one of those ridiculous comments about sugar – or worse – that are all to common. I can tell you that I absolutely understand.

I feel I need to say more, though.

If you are the parent of a child recently diagnosed, or perhaps going through the transitions of puberty, or an adolescent rebellion, I need to say this to you: Diabetes didn’t stop me.

It’s very easy to get bogged down by the minutiae, the day-to-day of blood sugars, boluses and carb counts and not look up, on and ahead. Life is still very much there for the living, and without wishing to trivialise the impact of diabetes, live it you can. Honestly.

Where there is a will, there is a way. Almost everything takes more planning and preparation with diabetes, but I’ve travelled across the globe (alone, at times), gone to University and partied the night away, competed in a variety of sports, lived alone as well as with others. I have a responsible, professional job after years of study and hard work. And most of all I have a wonderful husband and an amazing son. All of it, achieved with – despite, if you like – diabetes. There has been almost nothing that I’ve ever wanted to do thatI have been unable to do because of diabetes.

A diabetes diagnosis changes things, but it doesn’t have to end dreams or goals or the pursuit of a fulfilled life.

I also need to say this to you: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Sadly, we have to face the fact that this could well be forever, for this generation, if not for the next. At some point you have to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Each high blood sugar is not a tragedy in itself. Even a few weeks of high blood sugars is not an automatic passport to complications further down the road. Good control is important, but good control does not mean perfection. I appreciate that there may be an element of luck involved, but if I look back over the last 32 years of diabetes I must have had countless months worth of extreme blood sugars (particularly taking account of that period in time where taking insulin regularly slipped off the bottom of the to-do list, but we won’t go there now) and I’m still kicking. I’ve faced the worst that diabetes has to offer. I’m not proud of my hospital admissions for ketoacidosis, but they’ve happened. I’ve had low blood sugars leading to me passing out and having seizures in public. For the parents of a diabetic child, it’s the stuff of nightmares. I’m not telling you these things to keep you up tonight. And I’m very definitely not suggesting that you don’t try your hardest to avoid them happening. I’m just telling you that I’ve been there and done it – and I’m still here talking about it. Most importantly at all, I’m not some sort of failure because those things occurred. Diabetes, ultimately, is the thing at fault.

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And what you need to remember is that each time you hit the bumps in the road, no matter how bad the numbers seem, they aren’t the only thing that matters. Remember: Marathon; Bigger picture; Don’t obsess over the individual numbers, the single days or even whole weeks. Each time you navigate a storm, you are adding to your metaphorical toolbox – and more importantly your child’s metaphorical toolbox – for the future. Next time you’ll have additional skills to know how to get over those same bumps. Or if you can’t get over them the same way (because diabetes has a nasty habit of throwing curveballs and changing the rules) you, and your child, will have a greater belief that you will get around them eventually.

And having that understanding that you can do it, even if it sometimes takes a while, is the key. It makes an enormous difference.

I need to remind you that you can only do your best. You best is good enough.

Look at me. There have been many times where my best has fallen very far short of perfection, yet I’m still doing it.

And I know that you can do it too.

My words, as always, don’t somehow seem enough. But I see all of you working so bloody hard to keep your kids healthy and safe whilst giving them a normal childhood alongside, where diabetes does not steal all of the focus. And standing here, on the other side, I believe in you.

I really do.

Because you can do it.

You can.

Talking to Thomas About Diabetes

I’ve read a few things from mothers with diabetes over the last couple of years about the conversations they’ve had with their kids about their condition. Some of these people have had much older children, capable of really understanding the ins and outs of diabetes, and from whom it would be almost impossible to hide the tell tale signs of living with it. Others have pre-school age kids, more like Thomas. And it is some of those whose kids astound me with how much they already seem to know.

I have a confession to make on that front. I’ve never, knowingly at least, used the word “diabetes” in front of my now three-and-a-quarter (the quarter’s important dontchaknow?!) year old son. And I’m pretty sure it’s not a word which is in his otherwise extensive vocabulary.

Obviously Thomas has seen my insulin pump, and asked what it is. He’s seen my testing kit, seen me using it and revelled in the fact that it churns out numbers – his second favourite thing after trains (yeah, I’m waaaay down on that list!) He’s seen me chugging Lucozade to treat a low and asked what it is, or what I’m doing. In every single one of these cases I’ve replied with the very generic “Mummy’s medicine”.

It’s an answer he happily accepts. He knows that he has medicine when he doesn’t feel well, but he also knows gets what he calls “medicine” every day in the form of vitamin syrup, so “medicine” doesn’t have purely negative connotations for him. And it’s not an outright lie. These are things that I’m doing, or taking, in order to keep myself healthy and ready for whatever Thomas needs from me.

I don’t really know *why* I haven’t told him more than that. Or, at least, it’s not simple to explain.

To say it’s because I don’t think he would understand would be doing him a massive disservice. He’s a bright boy and, more than that, a deeply empathetic and caring one too. It’s fair to say that I currently have no idea exactly how I would explain it to him, how much detail to include or what words to use, but that is as much because I haven’t given any thought as because it might be hard to do. I’m sure that I could come up with the words if I really wanted to.

I do wonder sometimes if it’s because I don’t want Thomas to regard me as I some way “broken”. Thomas sees me as his Mummy – an absolute, reliable constant. He knows that I give good hugs, always come when he needs me and can kiss almost any bump or scrape better. I don’t want anything to cloud that image.

It’s rather like how I felt back when I was a new mum and was witness to debates about post-pregnancy bodies and “snapping back in to shape”. Back then, I couldn’t actually have cared less how I looked because Thomas didn’t. All he cared about was my presence. All he wanted from my body was its warmth and security and milk – all of which he got in abundance. I want Thomas to go on not caring about my body and it’s workings, or lack thereof, just the person that I am to him. I could argue that I don’t want to do anything to jeopardise the perfection that Thomas sees in me even if I don’t see it myself, no matter how daft that may sound.

And of course, there is what other people might think of me to consider too. If Thomas were acutely aware of diabetes, I have no doubt at all that it would be a daily topic of conversation around the pre-school lunch table. Thomas can’t help but keep re-iterating to everyone there that his mummy wears glasses (and contact lenses). It’s just a fact about me that he’s fond of repeating. But what if I only wore lenses and I weren’t comfortable for everyone to know? And honestly, where diabetes is concerned, I don’t necessarily want everyone to know.

That may sound strange coming from someone who posts the intimate details of her life online (hello, not sharing my full name) and someone who is incredibly comfortable with impromptu advocacy and education sessions when the teachable moment arises. I guess I’m fine talking about it openly once people know, but the letting them know in the first place is awkward for me. I’m never sure how people might react and a lot of that relates to my profession and how people would regard me if they knew I had a laundry list of chronic health problems with diabetes right up there at the top. Chief amongst my faults is caring too much what people think of me, but once that information is out there, I can’t take it back, so I’m hesitant around those who don’t know.

And maybe it really is as simple as that. Maybe I’m just hesitant about letting my son know at all because it’s something I just find difficult to do even when the person in question loves me more unconditionally that anyone else in my world.

Maybe it’s just too hard.

Before I started writing this post, and I wondered to myself exactly what the reasoning was behind my reticence, it crossed my mind that I might be protecting him from a reality that he shouldn’t need to worry about yet. But at the same time I realised that Thomas is about to reach the very age I was when I was diagnosed, and it became not just an abstract idea, or something that applied to someone else, but my very own reality.

Perhaps it’s time to give my son the credit he is due, get over my hang ups and let him process the information in the way I’m very sure he is capable of doing. After all, it may be hard for me to share the story with him, but it must have been a whole lot harder for my parents to share it with me.

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Any tips on how to have conversations that you find hard with pre-school aged children will be gratefully received!

Emotions at Christmas

I like Christmas, just as much as the next person. The festive cheer and the pervading spirit of fun, generosity and love warms me up on the coldest of winter days. Gifts – the giving, surprisingly, more than the receiving – fill me with pleasure. I love the decorations – the sparkle and twinkle greeting me in the darkness at the end of a long day, making everything seem brighter than the time of year should dictate. I love the food – dare I say it, the indulgence. Most of all I love the tradition that is entwined through the season. The memories that cannot help but spring to mind as we navigate the festivities. I love it all.

Yet at the same time, it can be an incredibly difficult time of year. Emotions run high and time is often in short supply, fueling stress and tension. Never has the paradox been more evident for me than during this Christmas season.

This year has been especially magical in so many regards. At just-turned three the magic for Thomas is absolute. His complete belief in Father Christmas was heart warming to watch. He couldn’t wait to make a special mince pie for the man himself. He had absolutely no doubt at all that he would be coming down the chimney, and he was completely convinced that the reindeer themselves were responsible for the mess of reindeer food in our garden, and Father Christmas for the crumbs by the fireplace. At the same time, he had such minimal and simplistic expectations and such carefully marshalled excitement. The anticipation and the magic were almost enough. We didn’t go overboard with gifts, and he was entirely content with what he received. It all seemed so far removed from the tackiness and consumerism that can so easily take over. It was pure fun and a joy to behold.

Yet at the same time, the whole season has been tinged with a feeling a sadness for me. The adherence to tradition has allowed the ghost of Christmas past to sweep in with memories which, whilst not entirely unhappy, have prompted the realisation of yet more things that will not be. Spectres of Christmases future that will not come to pass have hung heavy. I have felt, almost more acutely than at any other moment this year, the absence of another child.

I don’t know what it is about Christmas that seems to heighten feelings of grief, loss and absence. Perhaps it’s because expectations run high and we all seek a bit of perfection, highlighting to ourselves in the process all the dissatisfaction we feel with our lives. Perhaps. But truly I think it’s simpler than that. The focus on family draws attention not only to what is there and the love that we share, but also what is not there. Traditions can feel hollow and cheer can be hard to muster when something is missing.

Taking in Thomas’s wonderment at everything Christmas, I couldn’t help but think back to his very first Christmas, three years ago. Just six weeks old, he had absolutely no clue about any of it, yet he was captivated by the sparkle and lay transfixed by the fairy lights for the longest time, smiling smiles that split his face in half and cracked my heart too. And inevitably I thought of the baby we lost. The baby who would have been a very similar age this Christmas. The baby that Thomas would have lent the smaller of his two stocking to, before helping him or her open a couple of token gifts. I thought too, of what we may have had if things had gone closer to my ideal. We’d have had an eighteen month old toddling around, still not quite “getting it” all, but having plenty of fun nonetheless, old enough to be led in to mischief by their big brother.

Just to type it brings tears to my eyes.

At Christmas, you can’t deny so easily what is missing.

I live with the fact that we won’t have a child every single day now. I suppose slowly, I’m beginning to process it and start the long road to acceptance. To moving on. Christmas, in some ways, has felt like a massive set back in that journey. I’m only too aware of how small our family feels, and how it is shrinking with the generations. I fear for Christmases in the future, when Thomas has no siblings to share them with. No rowdy rabbles of twenty round the dinner table. Tradition means so much to me, yet I can see it all fading before my eyes.

But most of all, I feel incredibly sad for what we so almost had.

Once again, this feels self-indulgent. Self centred. Compared to what others have been through this year, and this festive season, I have so little to complain about.

But I cannot help how I feel.

And how I feel is like the final flicker of a fused fairy light. The last gasp of a punctured inflatable snowman. The crumbs on the mince pie plate.

I feel deflated. Washed out.I feel more than ever as though something is missing.

No matter how selfish it may be, I simply feel grief for the family I will never have.

Low

I didn’t know how I’d got where I found myself. Sitting on the edge of the bed in semi-darkness, the room pitching and rolling around me. I felt detached from body in so far as I couldn’t control it at all, but at the same time I felt completely imprisoned by the uncontrolled and uncoordinated movements I was involuntarily making.

Yet oddly, I didn’t feel scared.

I didn’t feel consciously aware of the fact that this was a low blood sugar. A really bad low blood sugar.

My awareness of the situation seemed to ramp up slowly, like the world coming back in to focus after a long sleep. I became aware of the sounds I was making. They were guttural sort of cries. The fact that they were coming from me took longer to assimilate. All of a sudden it seemed that my face felt sticky and my hair damp and matted. I became aware of Ian beside me trying to help me get Lucozade down my throat. He was asking me questions. I don’t think they were really directed at me, just a stream of consciousness. A verbalisation of the panic of what to do. Use the glucagon? Call an ambulance?

I still felt slightly numb, and detached from the situation. I knew that I hated this. It felt like it would never end. Yet I still wasn’t afraid that it would turn in to anything more. That it would get worse or end in a bad way. I was only existing moment to moment, incapable of true fear.

I knew I was trying to co-operate. I tried to drink, but the jerking of my body sent a spray of Lucozade across the wall. Another flew across the bed, hitting the pillow. More ran down my neck.

Then I was crying, the tears mixing with the sugar and sweat.

Crying always means that I’m coming back. The tears come long before coherent words.

My body seemed to come back in to my control with startling abruptness. The room came back in to focus. I was aware, for the first time, of my heart hammering out a crazy rhythm in my chest, just as it began to slow. I took a more co-ordinated drink of Lucozade.

I noticed the puddles of sugary liquid on the floor and the splatters across the bed. I saw the orange marks starkly contrasted on the cream walls. Marks that will bear testament to this low until we have time to repaint the wall.

I knew that I was coming out of it. And then, there on the road to normality, I finally felt afraid. Afraid for what might have happened. How it might have been different had I been alone. Where I might have gone had I slept on, instead of sitting up in bed and screaming out – the act which startled Ian awake and allowed him to take control.

I remember nothing of that. My memory is blank from the moment I went to sleep. Ian told me later that it had taken him more than ten minutes to get enough glucose in to me to bring me back from whatever place I’d been to. That diabetes had done this to him made my heart hurt.

The clock said 12.43am. I’d been asleep for a little over an hour. The blood glucose meter, when I finally tested said 1.9. I dread to think from what depths it had risen.

This was the worst low blood sugar I’ve had in years. It’s the worst Ian has ever seen. It’s certainly the only time he’s ever contemplated dialling 999.

I’ve spent the last four years in pursuit of the absolute best control of diabetes that I can manage. From trying to conceive Thomas, through pregnancy, then on to breast feeding and then trying to conceive again, I’ve not dared to let the ball drop. In some ways it’s ironic that the worst hypo of all has come after I’ve abandoned trying to be perfect, since it’s well known that tight control raises the risks for severe hypoglycaemia.

But then again, it’s pretty unsurprising. I dropped the ball. I stopped caring. And perhaps the decision to abandon CGM this past fortnight because I’m burned out wasn’t the smartest.

The first thing I did this morning, through post-hypoglycaemic hangover haze, was wash the Lucozade out of my hair. The second was to insert a new CGM sensor.

Diabetes smacked me down last night. Burned out or not, it’s still a beast that I can’t afford to turn my back on. Otherwise this is what it does.

The Roller Coaster of IVF

I’ve been absent from here for a while. First I was busy focusing on the mechanics of getting through our final cycle of IVF – the injections, the supplements, the blood glucose control, not to mention scans and appointments. Then, as the cycle progressed on, in to the agonising periods of waiting, I could hardly bear to come here. Writing too much seemed to threaten my happiness when things were going well. And when the roller coaster dipped, the idea of facing other blogs and social media that seem chock full of pregnant bellies and new babies was enough to drive me offline, in to fantasy worlds of fictional books or television. Anywhere, really, but here.

But I can’t avoid it forever. Aside from wanting to complete the story of our IVF journey, I also know that not writing about it won’t change the outcome.

The cycle started well enough. The first (baseline) scan of my last two cycles has brought bad news: Cysts on my ovaries and a uterine lining that wasn’t thin enough. We’d diminished the possibility of more bad news this time by having a scan the week before, to rule out or drain any cysts at that point. And it all paid off. The baseline scan was perfect and I kicked off that evening with three injections – two different stimulating drugs and a drug to prevent natural ovulation. It was a bit of an unusual approach, according to our consultant, but worth a try in our quest to get more good quality eggs.

Injections

For a week, I carried out my injections at the same time each evening and began feeling some tell tale bloating and twinges of pain in my ovaries. Despite the positive signs, my first scan after a week was still a bit of a shock. Having high-fived me on my “beautiful ovaries” and “gorgeous endometrium” the consultant kept scanning around for a minute, measuring the follicles as he went. He then asked casually what I was doing on Friday, because whatever it was I’d have to cancel: I was already ready for egg collection. My provisional date for egg collection had been the following Monday, but we’d thought it may even go to the Wednesday, and yet here I was being told I’d be back in two days time instead.

I had to take another couple of stim injections that afternoon to “finish things off nicely”, plus my usual ovulation prevention injection. Then, at 11pm, came the trigger shot. No fancy pens injectors this time. Instead of the usual recombinant (manufactured) hCG, I was using a combination of purified natural hCG (collected from the urine of pregnant women!) and a second hormone to force my body to release lutenising hormone – the body’s natural ovulation hormone. Once again, a change designed to increase the number of viable eggs collected. And that was it. the injection phase of our final IVF attempt was over.

Friday seemed to arrive in a flash. Egg collection went well, despite a few issues reaching all of the eggs on my left ovary. The sedation was heavy enough that I’ve already forgotten chunks of the procedure, but light enough that I came out of theatre already knowing we had ten “beautiful looking eggs”.

My anxiety all along – after the last cycle’s poor haul of eggs – had been to see how many were actually mature and able to be injected with sperm. This was soon joined by a second worry.

As usual, we’d supplied a fresh sperm sample in addition to having one remaining frozen sample. The fresh sample was the one that gave me the most hope from our last cycle. It was the one which had a “countable” number of sperm in it. Yes, it had been low, but it was the sample that made me hope that the sperm numbers were going in the right direction. I’d really hoped that this time the sample would be even better. But last time, they’d told us that there were sperm there before I’d even been sedated. This time, the egg collection was complete, and we still had no news. All they could do was tell us to wait. Then, after a while, they informed us that they were thawing out our final frozen sample.

It was an anxious wait, for the sample to thaw and then be examined. All the while I was allowed to tuck in to tea and biscuits whilst Ian remained poised for a possible procedure of his own to try and retrieve more sperm.

I can’t tell you exactly when the news came, but it felt like hours. One of the nurses stuck her head in and told Ian he was free to get a drink. I was sad, and even maybe a little surprised, that the fresh sample had contained no sperm but this feeling was overridden by the relief that we had something. I felt like we were on the climb, upwards. It was all positive. We could do this.

And so then began the overnight wait for the fertilisation report. Thankfully it did not take long for the call to come on Saturday morning and the embryologist immediately told me, whilst I held my breath, that it was good news. In contrast to my zero mature eggs last cycle, this time ALL TEN were mature. And even better than that, EIGHT had fertilised. You can’t argue with an 80% fertilisation rate. It’s fair to say I was elated. Still so far to go, but I felt like my biggest personal hurdle was over. All the experimentation and changing the protocol had worked. All the supplements I’d been religiously taking had been worthwhile. The pay off was ten viable eggs. I was at the very peak of the hill.

If I’d written this post on Saturday or Sunday, it would have been full of happiness and hope. Yes, I dared to hope that this could be it. I thought we’d lose a few, but I figured we might have five embryos by day three and a good chance of several going all the way to blastocyst. I thought we’d have two to transfer for sure. I even dared to hope that we might achieve the holy grail: a frozen embryo.

What I fool I am, to dare to dream.

I should know by now that I don’t deserve hope or dreams. That somewhere along the line I must have done something to anull my right to those things. I should know that happy endings are not assured, least of all for me.

The phone call came early on Monday, whilst I was walking back from the pre-school drop off. I made the walk in a daze, on autopilot, because I’d just been told that seven of our embryos had arrested. They never made it beyond two cells.

I’m not sentimental enough to believe them to be my children at the stage of cells in a laboratory. But they COULD have been my children. They were my hopes. My dreams. My chances. My possibilities.

And just like that we’d lost them.

The one remaining embryo was not exactly top grade either. It was six cells – expected for day three – but its behaviour had been odd with early rapid division, then a long delay. They were waiting for it to divide again to ensure that it, too, had not arrested.

Our choices were to transfer back in to me that day, or to wait it out until day five to see if it continued to divide well and made it to blastocyst stage. The risk in the latter option was that it wouldn’t make it and we’d reach Wednesday with nothing to show for the cycle. Of course, the risk was the same with transferring it, but I simply wouldn’t know about until a negative pregnancy test two weeks later.

In our last cycle, we faced a similar scenario. A single, poor quality embryo.Then, after much discussion and soul searching, we opted to leave it in the lab until day five. I felt, and still do I suppose, that if it doesn’t make it in the lab, it wouldn’t make it inside me either. Transferring it at day three would hence just prolong the agonised waiting to find out. But in that cycle, I always knew, in my heart of hearts, that we’d probably try again. We’d have another chance to get things right. This time, if I didn’t transfer and it didn’t make blastocyst, I would always wonder if it might have been different. And I think I’d have regretted finishing our final cycle in that way forever.

So back it went, despite its odd behaviour. Probably not the embryo anyone would have picked had there been a choice. But there was no choice.

So this is it.

Two weeks of waiting to find out if its stuck.

I have to be honest: I’m all out of hope. If seven of our embryos were so genetically flawed that they couldn’t even progress past two cells, what is the likelihood that the other one will go on to grow in to a baby. It doesn’t just seem improbable; it seems impossible. That call on Monday morning was like the death drop on a roller coaster, and I honestly see no way up.

It’s difficult to get my head around the fact that this is almost all over. We have nowhere to go from here. With my rubbish eggs and the absolute lack of sperm, there will be no “surprise natural pregnancy” following IVF for us. Everything rests on that one tiny embryo.

All along I’ve had an unwavering, deep seated positive belief that we would get there eventually. Even when I miscarried following our first cycle, and even in the moments of despair during our disastrous second cycle, I felt like it was all going somewhere. Our only issue was supposed to be the supply of sperm. I was supposed to have a good chance. I’m only 34 – still considered “young” where assisted reproduction is concerned. I’ve been pregnant before, so we knew it had to be possible. The reason for the acceptance and the composure which have for the most part overridden my sadness and baby-envy in the last year is my private belief that it would happen for us. Yes, it was foolish of me, arrogant even, to assume that the statistics would bend in my favour. Perhaps deep down I realised that all along, otherwise I may have stated it more openly. But imagining, each day, the day where I would hold another child of my own in my arms – seeing it as a real and solid event, not a dream – kept me going.

Now that just seems so unlikely.

Drugs! (Or, Here We Go Again!)

So this week I took delivery of two giant boxes of drugs. The drugs for our third, and final, round of IVF.

Drugs

I’ve been a bit hesitant, over the past couple of months, about sharing the exact details of this round of treatment. I wasn’t sure if blogging it “live” in previously cycles had been more of a help, or an extra source of stress – particularly when things went so badly in cycle two. Certainly I wanted the option to keep it all under wraps until the fat lady (hopefully me, with a big pregnant belly!) sang. But gradually, as the weeks have gone by, I’ve found myself letting information slip out, and actually, I’m comfortable with that. I value the support it brings. (So if you feel able to cheer me on, then please, please do!)

So here we are. Two huge boxes of drugs and tomorrow is a date with the dildo-cam for my baseline scan. After six weeks on the pill, in order to precisely time this cycle to coincide with time off work for me and the availability of our consultant to personally perform all my scans, and assuming that all is well with the scan, tomorrow the cycle kicks off properly.

People keep asking if I’m excited. I’m not sure excited is the word. Of course I’d still much rather be falling pregnant in the way nature intended. I don’t want to have to be doing this at all. Injecting all the drugs and dealing with the side effects, having a painful egg collection procedure and an undignified transfer of the resulting embryos back in to their natural home. And after two failures I’m nervous and apprehensive. Especially knowing that this really is the final roll of the dice. But then, in a month’s time, I COULD BE PREGNANT. This is a chance. Yes, it’s our final one, but no matter how small it’s still a chance. And yeah, that bit is exciting.

It’s fair to say that we’re throwing everything we can at this round. The drugs bill this time started out considerably more than for previous rounds, although with some successful shopping around I managed to shave over £700 off. It’s still a huge chunk of money, and even I was a bit shocked at the sheer amount of stuff. In addition to higher doses, we’ve also added two new drugs, and for most of the cycle I’ll taking three injections a day. I’ll be mixing human (natural) and recombinant (engineered) goandotrophins to stimulate my ovaries, and I’ll be using a mixture of natural hCG and a drug to force my body to release natural lutenising hormone – the ovulation hormone – as my trigger shot. This contrasts sharply against the recombinant hCG I’ve used in the last two cycles and that I strongly suspect may be behind my high numbers of immature eggs.

Our consultant has also agreed to do the entire cycle personally, from baseline to transfer (assuming we get there!). It’s normal for scans to be performed by different nurses, but obviously this introduces inter-operator error. The consistency of having one person who now knows me really well for the whole cycle was the deciding factor in staying with the same clinic. I’ll admit after two failures we did look elsewhere, but none of the other clinics could offer us much different and had the massive disadvantages of being further from home (more difficult and stressful to get to) and of not knowing, or understanding our case, or me as a person.

My consultant, on the other hand, gets me. He fully accepts that my insomnia cure of choice is searching Medline and attempting to learn to do his job. He and I work well together, and far from being offended by me making suggestions, or responding with the arrogant air of one who believes the professional always knows best, he seems to like the fact that I question, and challenge him. Many of the changes we’ve made this cycle have been as a direct result of studies I’ve read and suggested we adapt to our circumstances.

I’m feeling positive about the changes we’ve made, and the fact that we’re not simply trying the same thing again and hoping for a different outcome.

But only time will tell. The next four weeks of time, to be specific.

The roller coaster starts here. Wish us luck.