Cameron McLennan James Marks birth story

As an IVF pregnancy, you have the option to be induced on your due date if you want.

Because I was DONE being pregnant (I loved it, hope I can do it again, and am forever grateful to have ever been pregnant, but was +5 stone, fat, HOT and sweaty: done!) plus the issues that had crept up with my heart, the long, hottest summer in 40-bloody-years and the fact I strongly suspected that I’d probably go the full 12 days overdue and still end up being induced anyway, just fatter, hotter and more fed up and impatient to meet our baby, (I feel like this is backed up by the fact that the first and only time Cameron stuck his foot in my ribs was in labour – as if he was trying to hook himself in!!) I took the induction. So, on Thursday August 30th, off we trotted to Musgrove maternity unit’s Fern Ward to be induced.

Induction can take a while. It’s started by placing a 24-hour pessary inside your vagina to get things going. If that fails, you try a 6 hour pessary, and another if that still fails. If all three pessaries fail to kick start labour, you’re popped on an intravenous drip which it would seem, can’t fail.. I fully expected nothing to work and to be in it for the long haul.. so packed a full 6 books to read throughout the wait…!

As it happened, “mild”, period pain style contractions started within an hour of the first pessary going in. I was given/offered paracetamol and oramorph (morphine) to help with the pain but I eventually realised they were doing buggar all and the best thing for me was heat on that area. Musgrove were amazing and sent me off to Bracken Birthing centre at one point so I could have a hot bath that night, and then my mother in law kindly brought over a hot water bottle, which did the trick more than anything – though I did accidentally burn myself slightly, somehow!

After that positive start, nothing more really happened, so the next day, at 3cm dilated, I was given the 6 hour pessary. For some reason, getting this in was really quite painful, and I kept pushing myself away from the midwife, so was told that if it failed, rather than trying the second 6 hour pessary, I’d go straight to the drip.

Fortunately, this wasn’t necessary!

Reasonably quickly, the contractions ramped up a gear, and although I could still function, I could feel things kicking along a bit now. I decided a walk to M&S and back would do me good with helping to shift things along (you’re encouraged to wonder round the hospital grounds in between monitoring to get things going, and had been walking sideways up and down the stairs of the multi storey the night before!), so off we went. Those of you that know Musgrove, will know that the maternity units are NOT particularly far from the M&S that you spend your life savings on whilst at the hospital. A 5 minute walk maybe… this walk took at least 20 minutes for me to get there. We were stop starting the whole way and bending over when a contraction was slightly longer. There is no way I could have done that walk without James because he was my leaning post!

I’m M&S we stocked up on my latest craving of their apple juice, as well as some other flavoured waters etc, and James grabbed a salad for lunch. Evidently, we couldn’t then carry all this and stop and support me through contractions, so we sat down so James could eat his lunch, before loading his pockets up with all the drinks we’d purchased and him half carrying me back to the maternity ward. My plan had been to pop to the loo and then lie down and try and get some sleep, as I’d got barely any the night before (standard Karen!)…

Well; the baby wasn’t up for that. The baby had decided that if we were going to force it out, then Mummy was not having any more sleep from then on in. As I stood up to pop to the loo, something trickled down my legs… I’d either wet myself, or my waters had broken, and it turned out, with a slight pink tinge, it was indeed my waters.

James will tell you a different story from here on in… and his is more than likely more accurate, but, contractions suddenly ramped right up on the pain intensity scale, and I wanted an epidural right there right then! However, it felt to me like I waited at least 5 hours for this, writhing around in pain, waiting because the midwives were helping other patients/anaesthetists were in surgery etc etc. James says it was about 5 minutes. I still dispute this! However, whenever-it-was, I was plopped in a wheelchair. By this point, I had stripped off and was wearing just a sports bra… 4 weeks post-wax 🙈… I imagine it wasn’t a pretty sight, but I honest to god didn’t care, I wanted the pain gone and the baby out, but my midwife kindly tried to wrap my lower half in a blanket…. which was wasted as my waters then completely exploded before they’d even started wheeling me over to labour ward!

On labour ward, as expected, our midwife wanted to check how dilated I was, but I was so uncomfortable I couldn’t stay still, and frankly, gas and air was doing absolutely sod all! So they said they’d check this after the epidural was in place. I was lucky in this sense, because once the epidural was in place, I was 10cm dilated – I’d probably not have gotten the epidural that late if they’d been able to check before!!

So, naturally it was then time to start pushing. For those that have never given birth before, pushing is weird… a baby comes out of your vagina yet you seem to need to push more from your backside! Thankfully, we had really great midwives who really helped with how to/where to feel you are pushing, otherwise, I’m not sure I’d have ever gotten anywhere with it!

After a while, it became apparent that I was still in some amount of pain, which is when we then discovered that the epidural had only worked to numb one side of my body, the other I could feel. At the same time it appeared the baby and I would need some further help, so off we went down to theatre, epidural was pulled out and a spinal block was given instead, because of forcep delivery didn’t work, I’d need an emergency c-section. I don’t remember a lot – although the gas and air did nothing for the pain, it did seem to succeed in making me completely out of it – I do remember that I was determined not to have a c-section after everything! The spinal block numbed me from my chest to my legs, and with the help of some forceps, with another 2-3 pushes a gorgeous, bouncing baby boy arrived!

I can tell you, it is extremely strange watching someone else push compression socks up your legs when you can feel absolutely nothing!

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OHSS

Bare with me a little, as I’m writing this from mostly notes, 7 months after I experienced Ovarian Hyper-stimulation Syndrome (OHSS).

OHSS is a condition that affects women undergoing fertility treatment. Because during fertility treatment (IVF/ICSI) your ovaries are stimulated to produce as many follicles as possible, your ovaries become enlarged from the extra work they are doing and stimulation they are receiving. Once you have triggered ovulation and had those eggs collected from the follicles, those follicle sacs are left empty. If a successful pregnancy then occurs, the HCG pregnancy hormone floods your body, filling all of those empty follicle sacs back up with fluid.

I never asked but I would assume this does happen to every women when they’re pregnant… but as most women only release 1/2/3/4 (and likely only 2/3/4 if multiples run in your family!) then it goes unnoticed, as one follicle filling with HCG is nothing compared to 20+…!!

The OHSS I experienced was only ever considered mild-moderate. And I was fairly uncomfortable, scared, and poorly. I was hospitalised for two days/nights and placed on a protein transfusion drip due to low proteins in my blood. All fluid intake and outtake was monitored quite strictly which meant lots of peeing in cardboard potty’s!

I had not been a particularly high risk – as such – for OHSS, as at egg collection, 15 eggs were collected. With my clinic (and, I would think/hope all responsible clinics), if any more than 20 eggs were collected a “freeze all” approach would be taken and a fresh transfer of embryo/blastocysts would not go ahead within the 5 days after egg collection, giving your ovaries and follicles a chance to shrink back and return to normal (ovaries) or disappear (follicles).

At my final scan pre-egg collection however, I had been advised that 25+ follicles were seen and thus it was unlikely I’d be able to go ahead with a fresh transfer. I was disappointed to say the least, but now I understand why! And with hindsight, we wonder perhaps if all 25 eggs had been released from those 25 follicles, but for whatever reason 10 or so got lost or weren’t mature enough or what not… but then those 25+ follicle sacs started filling with the wonderful pregnancy hormone. Because… yes! We were finally pregnant!

After egg collection, I was given medication called Cabergoline which I took each evening for 8 days as prescribed. The day I stopped taking the cabergoline was the day I noticed OHSS symptoms kicking in. I was bloated and uncomfortable with sharp pains all over my tummy. After a call to our clinic, one of my favourite nurses advised this was a good sign, as if OHSS symptoms worsen, the chances are, you’re pregnant! It’s a funny position to be in; uncomfortable and ill, hospitalised, but really, it’s all good because you’re pregnant!

By the early hours of the night after, good old V&D had arrived. At 6am that morning I was convinced nothing could have survived the amount of vomit and diahorrea is expelled from my body that night, and that is when I first peed on a stick. Having peed on the stick, I felt like I was about to faint, so I left the test on the side of our sink and belted it back to bed. When I left the test, it was negative. Minutes later I felt more sickness coming so ran back into the ensuite, only to stop dead at the POSITIVE pregnancy test staring me in the face! I couldn’t believe it!

yes, I did SEVEN tests in the end! ❤️

Completely empty, the V&D finally stopped, but the OHSS didn’t disappear. Throughout that day I was progressively just feeling worse and worse – I actually can’t remember a lot as I was pretty out of it! I just remember being quite uncomfortable/quite a lot of pain, my temperature couldn’t be controlled and I felt swelteringly hot, despite it being December – 4 days before Christmas! James eventually called our clinic in a worry and they called us up, which is when it was noticed my proteins were low. On the journey up, I couldn’t have anything touching my stomach – I had a loose fitting dress on and had to hold the seatbelt away from my belly area – for the entire 40 mile journey! I was pretty weak and faint, and when I was finally admitted to the ward – which was literally across a small car park from our IVF clinic, I had to be wheel-chaired over as I couldn’t walk!

For me, I was bloated. Hugely. And that seemed to cause crazy discomfort and heat! That was the most noticeable thing about me. I was 4 weeks pregnant, but I looked 5 months! My ovaries were quite dramatically enlarged, and follicles were filled with fluids. A woman’s ovaries usually measure between 3-4cm. Mine were each 11cm+, covered in follicle sacs which were filled with fluid, some of which were measuring up to 6cm! My belly circumference when I was admitted to hospital was around 38″!! Pre-pregnancy, I was about 27″!

After a couple of days in hospital I was determined to get out for Christmas, but also so we could host our annual neighbourly Christmas drinks! In hindsight this was probably not my best idea as I wasn’t much fun – still bloated and uncomfortable but very glad to have the drip out of my hand and be home for Christmas! The hospital and our clinic were quite pleased with me as I was eating EVERYTHING – no longer a concern for underrating, I couldn’t get enough food, and whilst a high protein diet is recommended for OHSS, they were happy for me to eat what I needed (carbs!). Again as an avid avoider of carbs (particularly white!) pre-pregnancy, this also probably wasn’t my best idea as it would have been such a shock to my system and bloated me more – but that’s all the baby wanted for 20 weeks and so needs must! It’s also recommended that sports drinks help with OHSS, and I have to say – I found the below pictured electrolytes added to water helped me massively – I thought those electrolytes were destined to go out of date as I was no longer running long distances, but they were used up quickly to reduce the OHSS!

IVF

I was recently tagged in a blog post (from someone I don’t know – not sure if it was an accident!) about IVF and how she felt like it was a dark, dirty word. Like she had failed herself and her family and society in being unable to do what we are placed here on earth to do: reproduce.

I have to say, although it is a living hell finding out that it just isn’t going to happen without some help, and I wish upon anything we had been able to conceive naturally and just been able to start our family 3 years ago as per my ideal. I have never, ever, been ashamed of IVF. Quite the opposite – I am proud of it. Fascinated. I could talk about it all day and I LOVE when people have a million questions for me about it! I think it is incredible what the powers that be of science and medicine can achieve. That without their little bit of help we wouldn’t be able to have the family we so desired. That the words “Baron Karen” that always echo around my head, are a thing of the past thanks to science. I forget if it is 1 in 4 or 1 in 8 couples trying to conceive struggle to do so, and do need some help. So those that do need help are far from alone.

A card which my husband received for his birthday that we found funny… and which won’t be true for our children! Another woman knocked me up! 🤣

And I guess – alongside the fact that I appear to be quite the “oversharer”! That this is why I share about it, talk about it, and write about it openly. Because we aren’t alone. When I first started blogging about IVF I had two old friends inform me they too had struggled and had IVF. They are two pregnancies I remember distinctly being announced and thinking that it wasn’t fair – “when is it our turn?” So sometimes not everything is as plain as the eye can see – others struggle too, and knowing we weren’t alone suddenly made me feel better – and bad; for making the assumption!

There isn’t a day goes by when other pregnancy announcements hit me hard – when it appears that everyone else conceives so easily, which is why it was/is important for me to share that for some – it just isn’t so easy, and that really, if we don’t laugh about it, it just makes it all harder.

Spotted on instagram 😂

Thank you, BCRM x

We will never be able to thank the amazing team at BCRM enough for what they have achieved for us. If it wasn’t for them we wouldn’t be pregnant with what felt like the impossible – our first little miracle IVF baby – and we wouldn’t have four potential siblings frozen for future.

But sure – any fertility clinic can likely get you pregnant and achieve the seemingly impossible, right?

I actually only chose Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine over slightly-closer-to-us Exeter Fertility, because my best friend and godchildren live in Bristol; so I figured after any major stress or upset I could nip in on them and have a hug and make it all better…

Except that was never the case, because the team at BCRM really, genuinely care for you. Yes, there is a therapist available for [mental health] support – let’s face it, battling infertility isn’t easy – but, stubborn old me was done with talking to therapists. However, I never needed to see her anyway, because they take the time to find out about you, care for you, and if you need a hug, they’ll give you one. And in my simple opinion – a hug fixes everything! The nurses and HCA’s there are some of my favourite people on Earth now.. I hope they never change and the team stays the same forevermore…! They’ve got tonnes of patients to see but they won’t let you out that door if they feel like something is up with you – they’ll coax it out and you’ll feel better for it…

I am so glad we were squeezed in before the NHS funding was removed from BCRM, as I really didn’t want to move clinics and have a potentially less supportive team!

Extra special thanks to Jane our “named nurse”, Carrie who impregnated us (😂) Anne, Lydia, Jackie and Sue.

All the flowers, cake and words in the world will never be enough, but thank you BCRM, and I hope that you do all know – really know – how amazing you all are xx

I.V.F

Quickly – I think I have done this before; but a quick reminder of the differences between IUI and IVF.

IUI – Intra-Uterine Insemination

With IUI, the women stimulates her ovaries (in my case I injected Gonal-F) to grow follicles (sacs which contain the eggs). Ideally no more than 3 follicles will be stimulated, or treatment will be cancelled and re-attempted the following cycle. This is because if 3 eggs mature and ovulate, and then all 3 fertilise and implant, you have yourself some non-identical triplets… If any (or all!) of those fertilised eggs then split… you got yourself a lot of babies and a potentially high risk and dangerous pregnancy for Mum and babes. A split egg (identical multiples) can happen to anyone, any pregnancy, whereas non-identical multiples are likely to be either a result of fertility treatment, or is something which genetically runs through the female side of a family. Once follicles are stimulated to the right size, a trigger is done to conduct ovulation, at which point you will then be invited back to be “inseminated” with sperm directly into your womb. The idea being the sperm will meet the egg(s) almost immediately in the womb, ready to fertilise and implant. I believe the success rates are around 16-21%. It obviously didn’t work for us, however I do follow a lady on twitter who it has worked for – so some faith is restored! IUI – I believe – is not used for couples where the “problem” is Male Factor Infertility (MFI), as its likely then that sperm have poor mobility and still won’t fertilise an egg.

IVF – In-Vitro Fertilisation

IVF is different in that, in a way, you are stimulating your ovaries with the intent to make them produce as many eggs as possible… within reason..! For us, I wanted a lot so we didn’t have to go through the stimulation part again, yet too many means discomfort, pain, potentially dangerous {OHSS} and may also mean you cannot proceed with a fresh transfer… for those going through the painstaking hell of infertility – any delay is bad! At school you are constantly told if you have sex you’ll get pregnant – & I’d have been in major trouble with my parents as a teen mum (not that I would have wanted to have potentially had children with different Fathers!). However, I have been with now husband 10 years, I wish I’d known contraception was a waste of time – I might then of been a mum already 😰 but I guess everything happens for a reason..!

After completely shutting down ( including inducing a fake menopause!) and having the IVF “take control” of your cycle, you once again stimulate your ovaries (in my case I used Menopur) and are again monitored for quantity and growth, before moving onto Egg Collection. After egg collection your eggs are then fertilised in a dish (!) and watched daily for development. Just a little side note here – if your infertility stems from MFI, then your eggs will probably be fertilised using ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) where basically the sperm is injected into the egg directly, rather than them meeting together in the dish and fertilising on their own. This wasn’t used for us, as we all know my husband is Mr. Perfect and has such top quality sperm seemingly everyone loves it!! Either way, the best sperm are selected to either be injected or placed in the dish with your eggs. From what I have seen, some people have a 3 day embryo transfer, but the ideal stage is to develop your “babies” to blastocyst stage and have a 5 day blastocyst transfer. NOTE; not all collected eggs will fertilise/not all fertilised eggs will develop properly.  Now, if less than 20 eggs have been collected, and you’ve had any develop to the right stages, you will likely proceed with what is called a “Fresh” Transfer, within 5 days of egg collection. This happened for us. If more than 20 are collected, it is likely you will have a “freeze all” approach until the risks of OHSS have reduced….. I think that is enough for now.. If anyone has any questions though feel free to ask if you haven’t quite made it to the “experts” stage (by this I mean the actual trained infertility doctors/nurse/embryologists/HCA’s ETC!)…

Apparently I bruise easily!! Cannula bruise 6 days after it was removed!!

Firstly – obviously no one ever thinks the process of infertility and all that goes with it is going to be easy, I’m sure. But never for a second did even I think it was going to be this HARD. For someone that struggles severely with mental health issues I thought I could handle this a bit better after everything else, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The sheer anxiety is there every step of the way – they collected 15 eggs? Cool but what if none fertilise? 12 fertilised? Great! But what if none develop? 11 developed? So happy! But what if they don’t develop enough! We finished with an incredible 5 great quality blastocysts (so yes, I am *technically* a mum of 5..!) – the best of the best of which was transferred, the other 4 are frozen for future (hopefully siblings, not because we’ve failed) – but oh! It means nothing whatsoever if they don’t stick and become your healthy, happy baby! And what then if you miscarry? Or get further but then have a stillbirth? And what if, that tiny thought that you daren’t think about – but what if your baby survives everything – against seemingly all the odds – and makes it? Your dreams come true and then you keep worrying some more for the entirety of your life for every single step of the way!  I’ve been writing this blog as we’ve gone through the process, because as I said after our first IUI fail, I just couldn’t keep posting live information… despite the fact that if anyone asks me anything then I’ve provided full honest updates.. so basically all my friends and family knew exactly what is going on, when. I’m posting it now, because I do think it’s important to share. Not everyone feels they can be or even wants to be open about what they’re going through, for whatever reasons, and sometimes coming across someone else’s story can just… help… I found solace in interacting with strangers on twitter some days, and others with “old” friends who have been through IVF – “openly” (some friends I didn’t know about until they contacted me off the back of seeing one of my blogs..) or not.. IVF, infertility is NOT an easy process. It is long, and painful and hard to remain positive, and much like everything else in this world, unless you have physically experienced the heartache of something, you’ll never truly know how it feels.

15 soon became 12…

12 soon became 8…

And 8 soon ended up as 5 (hopefully dad doesn’t get eliminated too?! 😂)

It is quite a long blog, but then we were also undergoing “long process” IVF.. I hope you will stick with it and read it through…

I feel like I should add a caviat that I’m not sure my mental health was great.. November appears to be a notoriously bad month for me (3rd year running). I had not had a proper, decent, unbroken nights sleep since we had been on safari in SEPTEMBER, and even then, I didn’t get a long enough sleep. This is the longest in one go I think I have struggled with insomnia. A mix of being unable to fall asleep (in fact, the bulk beginnings of this blog, was started off the back of a 4 hour sleep night, I was exhausted but couldn’t stop writing down all the thoughts in my head – because if I didn’t, I wasn’t sleeping..!), or having entirely insane dreams/nightmares meant I was waking multiple times throughout the night. Or some nights, I’d have the joy of experiencing both in one night. Sleeping tablets don’t always work – in me if I start taking them too regularly then they stop working, so I tried to only take them on nights when I really needed to be “on form” the next day. Fortunately, as I don’t work, that wasn’t often.. at best, the ones I have only seem to knock me out for 5/6 hours at a time. Some people survive off that, but I can’t.. particularly within a long period of time of a mass lack of sleep. I was consistently exhausted and feeling run down, but I do think the medication heightened all that.

I also was convinced that it wasn’t going to work. Despite one lovely dream that I was pregnant – on the same night my best friend had the same dream – with 3(!!), healthy babies, I just could not see myself getting a positive result. I couldn’t imagine being happy or celebrating because I honestly believe it isn’t going to work – after all, the ovulation induction/IUI didn’t..

After a slight hiccup with our hospital, (as we needed to start treatment the NHS funding was removed from BCRM and in true lack of consistency in care, it looked like we were going to be transferred out elsewhere… but, very gratefully, it was sorted by one of THE BEST nurses on earth which relieved a lot of extra stress and anxiety) we were slotted in and began our IVF treatment. I started with Norithisterone tablets on day 19 of my cycle to induce a period. On day 21 I started the Buserelin nasal spray. I’d heard from others, and our nurse did state that it really affects your mood in the second week.. she did mention that as my mental health is such a disaster (NOT in those words!!) that perhaps it would have the opposite affect and make me happier… safe to say that DID NOT happen, and bang on time (although I only noticed in hindsight a day later), I became extra crazy. Easily irritable, emotional about being emotional, in tears for no reason… followed by two days where I was high as a kite, before going back to easily irritable. Up and down up and down.. not entirely dissimilar to my mood on the norm but it did feel faster and more rapid in its changes.. having said that, in an attempt to start weaning myself off citalopram at the same time, I completely lost track of when I had and hadn’t taken it and ended up doing 5 days without. I may only be on a mild dose, but I do feel me missing it so drastically all of a sudden (I had been generally managing to take it every other day, and was easing into every third) made me extra insane in my irritability..

Team IVF Stronger Together 💕

Then I started Menopur. I have only ever heard or read bad things about Menopur, and that, coupled with it feeling like absolutely ages since I had last injected myself (negative IUI was early September, started injecting Menopur late November) left me super anxious and dreading it. I had heard it bloated you, was painful and burned when you injected and left small bruises all over your tummy at the injection sight, but I was lucky to have no bruising or bloating (in fact, I actually felt like my stomach was slimmer and flatter, which for someone who constantly feels fat is saying something!). Our lovely nurse had made it look super easy in our personal planning meeting to open the glass vial of liquid, but we seemed to struggle every night. For the first three nights we shattered the lid into the liquid which only added to my anxiety of potentially a tiny bit of glass also being sucked up into the syringe and then injected into me (yes, I am that paranoid/mental/anxious to essentially imagine absurd scenarios). On the fourth night, I managed to get the lid clean off after much force… only to shred 3.5 of my fingers on my left hand when the force of my right arm pushed the raw glass edge of the lid right across them.. it wasn’t pretty, and was very painful.. and meant the entire vial was wasted spilt all over myself..

However, as at day 5 of injecting, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as I’d heard. I had no needle entry-site bruises on my tummy, and had found the injecting itself quite similar to Cetrotide or Gonal-f (but without it being a pre-filled pen). I felt a slight light burn at the injection site once the needle is pulled out and I start moving around, but it soon passes.

It’s hard to say what is what, especially as my mental health is quite erratic anyway, but I’d say I had only a few mild side effects. I noticed I had a light headache that wouldn’t properly shift and kept returning for a few days, and I felt like when I washed my hair a lot more was coming out than “normal”. At one point I felt like I had diahrrea – but again, is it the meds or did I just eat something funny? My head insists that I have an intolerance to some foods which make me feel uncomfortable, bloated and have diahrrea so who knows if it was just that?! I also noticed both arms felt like I had done some serious weightlifting (I really should!!) for a couple of days, which I later read aching muscles can be a side effect – but again, I’m unsure if that was from doing a bit of painting of a unit, or because I’d had blood taken from both arms after the first refused to give any out on my day 21 bloods, or if it was truly a side effect.. I did also notice I was having to “stretch” and contort my limbs/body a fair bit trying to get comfy in bed, and I found myself with a fair few bruises on my thighs and no clue where they’ve come from (which isn’t unlike me to forget but there seemed to be a lot?!)

The last, but biggest side effect is the additional knock on to my mental health. I have read somewhere before that those with anxiety and depression have a tendency to really feel – more so than those that don’t suffer, and I’d say that was entirely true for me. The simplest of things can overwhelm me and have me in tears – tiny bits of kindness from strangers (I recall an incident when I was signed off sick when still working where a couple gave me the extra 25p I needed to park to walk Rufus, and it both sliced through me and made my day). On the flip side something – that I even acknowledge as being fickle – as an unfollow or unfriend from someone I considered a friend or just generally felt a connection with, also hit me hard – harder I would say, whilst on the meds. There were days when age-old suicidal thoughts returned, alongside some self harm, and I questioned if I even wanted to bring a child into this hideous world with an absolutely insane mother who frequently, literally lost the will to live.. I finally recognised that the restriction and tightness in my chest I had noticed a couple of weeks previously, was indeed the return of panic attacks and nothing to do with my asthma.

I find myself quite often struggling to distinguish between dream and reality, but there seemed to be many more times whilst on meds that this seemed to be happening. With the buserelin nasal spray, you have to take it every four hours (twice at bedtime), one morning, 40 minutes after I *think* I took it, I had no recollection whatsoever if I had or hadn’t.. in part I blame the extra exhaustion. I figured it was better to potentially take too much and took the dose at 8.40, rather than have missed that dosage entirely..

It is safe to say the meds made me crazy. Crazier. I lay awake one night unable to sleep thinking about everything and nothing, in tears, then not in tears, feeling fat and disgusting and telling myself I was not to eat any longer, to find my mind telling me I needed to run. At midnight, after I’d taken a sleeping tablet [which failed to work]. It had been a long time since I felt the need to run like that, at that time of the night/early morning.. nevertheless, by 1am I gave up and found myself outside in the pitch dark of the night, under clear skies and not quite feeling as cold as the 6 degrees it was, running 5 miles. It was so peaceful, so oddly calming and beautiful, that eventually it cleared my head, and I found myself back home at 2am stripping my running gear off, throwing my pjs back on, and falling straight to sleep… I guess I need to listen more to what my body is telling me, because although I doubt anyone wants me running at that time of day, it worked. I’m 30 and I still can’t just trust myself.. I may have got an extra hours sleep if I’d just got up and gone at midnight rather than 1am!!

Everyone says to be kind to yourself, but no one thinks running is being kind to me and would rather I didn’t, but at the end of the day, you need to listen to your own body. Running when I needed to was – is – being kind to me. There is no evidence either way to say running is good or bad when trying to conceive, although I do agree too much (for me at least) isn’t conducive, and I had continually said I would stop in the two week wait (tww), but up until then if I needed to, I needed to. I think it is important to remember that being kind to yourself isn’t atypical and “same size fits all”, it isn’t just spa days and sleeping in and watching all the TV and films and eating everything and anything you fancy – being kind is listening to yourself and what you need. Sometimes I needed a lie in, sometimes I needed a (ok all!) the doughnuts, and sometimes I needed to run at 1am. Although, I will say that I didn’t realise *quite* how dangerous that could have been running with mild OHSS, AFTER egg collection – I stopped when I felt serious pain, but essentially ran right up to our transfer day…!

And what about James, I hear you ask?! I can’t even begin to describe how much of a rock he was throughout all of this.. give or take the odd fuck-up-morning alarm situations/inability to have a clue what was going on despite being at the same meetings as me (#men 🙄😂) – I am the “expert patient” after all…!! I know I am lucky to have him, and he is a true gent always, but throughout all of this he was incredible. He worked so hard to try and “keep the peace” – to keep me calm and sane. He cooked, he cleaned, he worked, he shopped. He was quite consistently in touch with me and checking in. He prepped meds or injected me when I couldn’t. He walked Rufus, and literally held my hand all the way, figuratively as well as literally. He made me laugh, and cracked me up with coining terms (alongside an IVF friend) like “Dildo Cam”/”Fanny Vision”/Uterus-tube/Womb-with-a-view for the transvaginal ultrasound you are subjected to as a woman throughout fertility treatment. I think this stolen image best sums up his part in it all (& quite literally how I am with him after!!) – seriously these illustrations are a perfect sum up of it all!

And so, we did indeed go through with a 5 day transfer with a top quality blastocyst…. there is another blog to come on the outcome (this one is already long enough!) but what I will say, is that, IVF, just like any other fertility treatment we have tried, I felt had failed straight away. As soon as I trigger ovulation my boobs get sore, literally straight away, like they do about 2 weeks before I have a period. The evening of our transfer I had some cramping, and the following day I had some huge cramping just trying to walk the dog and I was constantly light headed. About 4 days after transfer I awoke in the early hours to horrible agonising lightening bolt like cramps flashing across my tummy. Was this implantation cramping? I hadn’t expected as much pain for that – and who knows even now what it was!

EggCollection

Before I start, I feel the need to announce – as a bit of a disclaimer – that I am a real big wimp. Aside from a bit of light self harm (don’t ask) I generally do everything I can to avoid pain or situations where I might end up in hospital/on a drip/cannula/needing surgery… whilst at the same time being a bit of a “I’ll try anything once” daredevil… I guess I enter into things cautiously.. cautious Karen.. my mum has always found it hilarious that I want four children, because I am the biggest wimp when it comes to pain, she thinks I’ll stop at one!!

But, I have to say, throughout our entire fertility journey, pain has really been limited – or really, really manageable. I know of course that everyone is different, but from the worlds biggest wimp to anyone else reading this in fear of pain… it’s ok.

I was super anxious for egg collection. I think it is really why we bothered with IUI before IVF. But mostly I was anxious for the general anaesthetic that comes with egg collection, purely because I’d never had one. Rationally I knew I’d be fine – my mum, dad and brother have all had GA and been fine. But I was terrified I wouldn’t wake up (not that I’d know!) or that I’d be one of those horror stories where you’re seemingly knocked out but you can see (?) and hear and feel everything. I was also anxious that despite plenty of eggs being there, that none would be collected. It was literally the first thing I said when I came round and I was in tears asking because I was scared the answer would be a devastating none. I believe this happens in LESS THAN 1% of cases… so it was pretty unlikely but I became absolutely beyond convinced it would happen to us. Initially I was just sure the IVF just wouldn’t work, but that we’d collect plenty of eggs to keep trying.. then my delightful (anxiety?) brain decided egg collection would fail too… I’m pleased to report, it didn’t 🙃 we were lucky enough to have 15 eggs retrieved.. although I can’t help but keep wondering where the other 10+ I had have disappeared to!

Coming round after surgery!

I’ll add a laugh.. on the evening after our egg collection, I had to stay at a friends for a bit whilst James closed up at work. [All fine, you just aren’t allowed to be alone for 24 hours after GA.] Along with her 2.5 year old son, we sat down to watch “Sing”… there wasn’t really much watching going on because, as much as I love him to pieces, that kid is NON-STOP! Anyway, we did happen to glance up at one point and see this image on the screen – and we were in hysterics because it looks like James and I with our 15 eggs 😂😂 if you look closely, there IS actually 15 piglets in this image 🤣🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷🐷

Back to the egg collection – like I said, it was fine, but here is some more detail.. I was anxious (standard 🙄) about traffic in Bristol, particularly as snow was forecast, so we left early and of course arrived ridiculously early. We were at the hospital for 8.20am, James’ participation was due at 9am… 🙄 – I’d always rather be earlier than late though ☺️. After James had completed his arduous task (🙄🙄🤣) we continued to just wait around at the hospital for my 10am admission. I was nil by mouth from midnight the night before (I’d had an oatcake at about 10pm to “help me sleep” (total fail; I eventually got 3 hours, then woke suddenly just after 2am & couldn’t get back to sleep 😢) and keep my blood sugar even… it is also recommended that you avoid strong smells on the morning of egg collection as they can harm developing embryo’s. So a coffee for James was off the menu too!

We were taken through to theatre on the dot at 10am and settled in nicely.. what we didn’t realise and hadn’t ever had mentioned is that we were looking at another 2 hour wait from there.. I had thought I was going into theatre for 10.15am, so although we were well looked after (the staff at BCRM are all really, really lovely; we adore them) it kind of just added to my anxiety about the upcoming cannula and sedation.. I don’t know if that is normal or if there was some sort of problem/delay. Either way, the time was passed with me snuggled up in the big comfy chair, flipping through a magazine, chatting to James and meeting our anaesthetist/surgeon/theatre staff etc (frustratingly I can’t actually remember everyone’s names.. sorry 😬)… James as is standard even managed to fall asleep briefly despite being sat bolt upright on a hard wooden chair…!!! I started to get hungry (ironic given I’d spent the two weeks prior on meds finding myself never hungry!) but the time did pass fairly quickly and before we knew it it was time to strip off and put the gown of fashion dreams on!! The only other thing I would add – and I don’t know if this is just an NHS thing or if it’s the same privately, but we didn’t ever see my “named nurse”, or even any of the nurses we have previously seen, know and love – other than a brief passing of one of our favourite’s (I have 4) getting a coffee whilst we waited in reception! So everyone that morning was new to us. Like I said – everyone is so super lovely that it’s fine… and maybe (definitely!) it’s just me needing some extra reassurance and love from those that I know 🙃😂

As always, all the staff were lovely, and when we had seen the anaesthetist she had mentioned I looked terrified – so I told her I hated drips/cannula’s (after an awful experience as an ill 14/15 year old with collapsed veins on a drip in a foreign hospital!) and was scared of general anaesthetic.. in general!! So when it came to that, it felt to me like a lot of effort was going into keeping me engaged in conversation whilst they put that in my hand in theatre. Of course I still knew what was going on and could feel it, but conversation was a great distraction! When they popped the sedation meds in, they mentioned I might be able to feel a discomfort as it ran down my arm – and they weren’t wrong! It was a really horrible, odd, uncomfortable feeling. I think I would describe it as slightly painful, but once again all the theatre staff were great at trying to distract. It helped that I had my fab Santa Christmas nails (Thanks Claire!) which everyone loves and my body was sparkly all over from the glitter bath bomb the night before as that engaged lots of chatter! I remember speaking to someone about making their own glittery bath bombs and then ping! Asleep! I don’t remember the last thing anyone said – but I do remember a mask being placed over my mouth and nose and being told to take deep breaths.. I think I managed maybe 3 before my memories stop for sleep..!

I came round from surgery with a bit of a start. I think I came round earlier than expected as there was a nurse stood next to me when I came round who also seemed surprised I was awake – what a shocker, the insomniac still doesn’t sleep properly even with serious sedation!! – I remember saying hello to her (& her back!) and then just wanting to cry. She disappeared (I think to notify James I was awake so he could come through) and when she returned I was sobbing (I must be the only person not to be giggly coming round from sedation 🙃 – and believe me I am GUTTED – I wanted to feel that kind of tipsy-drink, girlie, giggly happiness!!) I managed to choke out asking how many eggs they had collected, to which she went off to check. I wonder now if I was so anxious that the number would be zero that it caused the tears. I was still a bit tearful when James appeared, but it soon ended, and I just felt exhausted and annoyed I’d woken up so quickly!! Frankly I would have welcomed more sedation meds at that point!

I think I took the maximum amount of time they expect to recover and be discharged. A lady in the bay next to me came out after me (I was awake so saw her being wheeled out!) and was up and about and had left before I even had my cannula out! I wondered if she had done that part before as she seemed aware that she had to pee before they’d remove the cannula, and did so quickly! Whereas I asked for it to be removed and was told I needed to pee first – to which I started inhaling as much water as I could to get the hideous thing out of my hand!! It seemed to take forever before I felt the need to pee – and even when I thought I was ready I felt like I was sat on the toilet for ages waiting!

This made me laugh - I’m rubbish at decisions anyway!
Side effects – I struggle to make decisions at the best of times as it is!

I felt bloated, tender and uncomfortable after and like I needed to “pass wind” but nothing was happening! You could clearly see bloating from my pubic bone to my belly button. I hadn’t initially noticed any pain when I was in the hospital until I shifted my legs slightly as James arrived and then it hit me. I was given some paracetamol which didn’t even touch the sides, before having some codeine which sorted everything. I wouldn’t say the pain was horrendous though, much like strong period pain. I took some more of my over-the-counter paracetamol & codeine tablets later at home but they didn’t help – the best thing for me was warmth, and fortunately, my friends who were watching me have two “doodles” – and the warmth from them snuggling into me was nice (two doodle heads resting on my ovaries was lovely!)

Doodle hot water bottles!!
Doodle-warmers!

I also felt nauseous and the longer I stood up for the more sick, shakey and faint I felt. But the worst for me (and I am NOT a big poop talker…) was being constipated… A friend who has a fair few general anaesthetics under her belt now tells me that is a side effect and that it can take ages to sort itself out. Believe me, it did. Constipation is also on the list of side effects for basically everything I was taking as well so I basically got what felt like 75 thousand doses of the joy in one go. I gave in by day 4 of it and took laxatives – knowing that after transfer that wouldn’t be an option, and I am bloody glad I did – that gave me some mild relief before transfer and it all kicked off again. I am finishing writing this blog approximately 9 weeks after our egg collection and I am STILL not quite right now. It is THE WORST, so, my top tip there would be take the laxatives, take ALL the laxatives, every bloody day until transfer. (OK, maybe not all…but make yourself more comfortable!) Clear yourself out! I am not sure if it was all from the op, the sedation, the lack of sleep the night before, or the OHSS!

Now I’m aware I haven’t mentioned OHSS before… Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome. I’ll try to explain what I think is right as the “expert patient”! OHSS is a risk for those that have high AMH/egg count/reserves/PCOS (Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome). It’s never fully been confirmed or denied, so as we understand it, I am borderline PCOS. High AMH means I have plenty of eggs – which is good – but as we know, they just don’t seem to want to do much [ovulating] on their own. So, with the medication that goes with IVF to stimulate your ovaries to create the follicles (sacs which carry the eggs), someone with a high egg count is likely to over-stimulate. It’s quite hard for anyone to predict or control what is going to happen. My initial dose for stimming (menopur) was quite low – so low in fact that for a week, nothing happened. My dose was increased for 5 days and then everything kicked off – and by the time I had my last scan before egg collection, my nurse had to sit me down and explain that I was at high risk of developing OHSS. I had 25+ eggs and if they collect anything over 20 BCRM (although I think all clinic’s are the same; if they maintain some level of responsibility anyway!) won’t do a fresh embryo transfer within the week because of the OHSS risk and dangers. Frustrating to hear, but I do think it shows their responsibility and care as a clinic rather than just powering on through. As we know, 15 eggs were collected from me which was good news in terms of OHSS, and hopefully being able to go ahead with a fresh transfer within the week, but still meant I was at risk from it, so I was given meds (in tablet form, called Cabergoline) to take every night before bed for the next 8 days to reduce the risk. Cabergoline comes with its own set of side effects (some of which I found hilarious, ““Uncontrollable excessive shopping or spending”, {like I need an excuse!!} and “excessive day sleeping” which I certainly seemed to do, particularly on the Sunday!) and I definitely felt like I was suffering from certain side effects (bloating (which reduced massively by Monday, op was Friday), exhaustion, slight pain particularly in right side/ovary* (not sure if that one had produced more, which would make sense), constant hunger, constipation, flashes of light across my eyelids when eyes closed/trying to sleep (almost like the outdoor lights were turning on and waking me up, except of course, they weren’t!) and at times seemingly low blood pressure and felt like I was blacking out whilst trying to sleep (so I sat myself more upright in bed for fear of swallowing own tongue!!?! YES mental anxiety brain!)), but it is hard to place which symptom matched which issue, be it from the surgery, OHSS itself, lack of sleep (I’d had only 3 hours sleep the night before surgery, and about the same the night of it; I was EXHAUSTED by Saturday night!!), or the Cabergoline!

Ironically, the Cabergoline can make you drowsy… but yup, you guessed it; not me on the first night at least – just when I needed it!!

Happily making myself at home at a friends 🙂

We realised, in discussion with our friends that evening as we headed home, that, as long as one of our little eggies sticks when they (hopefully) transferred it into me the next week, that I was technically pregnant right there and then! So weird/funny to think that our little eggs were fertilising and thus I could technically be pregnant right now even though our embabies/blastobabies were 32 miles away in a Petrie dish!!

Received from husband the Monday after egg collection – I like to think it is!

After egg collection you are generally (providing there isn’t a male infertility factor) recommended to use condoms when having sex in between collection and transfer – I believe this is just in case any eggs are left behind and then get fertilised and then them transferring you another 1 (or in some cases 2!) and ending up again with multiple births..

LET ME TELL YOU – don’t bother with the condoms. Seriously; AS IF. I am SO glad we didn’t. There was not a single second in the 5 days between egg collection and our transfer that I even considered letting James near me for sex. Nuhuh, no way, thank you very much. It wasn’t that my vagina felt particularly sore from having a “dildo cam” shoved right up there with a huge needle attached, ready to batter through my uterus to collect the eggs. No, in fact, my vagina was the least of my worries. I felt no pain there whatsoever. I was so dam bloated and uncomfortable and exhausted that there was absolutely zero chance any kind of sexy-time was going to take place…. Sorry husband! In fact, in true Karen-sharing-too-much-information-style, I actually felt like this for about 6/7 weeks (I can’t remember exactly, it felt like forever) after egg collection and transfer… Perhaps that was just me – I had hyper-stimulated and to an extent “over-responded” to the meds which meant my ovaries were ENORMOUS, I was sore/uncomfortable and just dam tired. I think I was asleep by 9.30pm every night for a good few weeks (miracle for me) so basically, it wasn’t happening.

*turns out right sided ovary caused a lot more trouble – will get to that in a future blog!

IVF NHS Funding

Hi all,
I know I post a lot (of pictures!) – But this post is important.
As I’m sure we all know, our NHS is under constant funding review. We all have our own opinions on politics and what and who should be funded – no one is right or wrong – but this one is obviously pretty close to my heart.
There is particularly a lot going on at the moment to do with finding and treatment for fertility patients; aka IVF.
We currently attend BCRM (Bristol Centre for Reproductive Medicine), in, obviously, Bristol!! Bristol or Exeter were the nearest places we could go to continue our treatment for fertility, as unfortunately further options aren’t available in Taunton, simply due to space and staff quantities. Both are roughly 80 mile round trips away… our next nearest would be Plymouth; a 160 mile/3 hour round trip away.. when undergoing treatment I pretty much have to attend every other day for 2+ weeks… it’s not even the cost of fuel or the mileage on my new car – it’s that it’s a boring drive and totally unreal to have to travel that far, in the U.K., in 2017, for NHS funded treatment..
The NHS NICE guidelines recommend that EVERYONE in the U.K. Get 3 tries at IVF. Obviously everyone’s ideal is to fall pregnant on the first go – or even better, without fertility treatment!

In Somerset we get one “go” at IVF. In Berkshire, you get 2. Essex: zero. Currently. Everyone should be entitled to NHS funded treatment – at the end of the day, no one asks to be infertile. 
There are currently reviews under way for BCRM to close/be privatised. Which means we may well be moved somewhere else entirely – just as I’m loving our new team (separation anxiety from the team at Taunton was tough after a year!).

There is also reviews for IVF to only be offered to women aged 30-35. 

Why? 

Why shouldn’t a younger, infertile woman be offered IVF earlier? My ideal would be that we already had 1, or 2 children – I always wanted to be a younger Mum. It’s forever a regret of mine that we didn’t start trying – and thus finding out about my infertile mess of a body (!)- earlier, but I can’t change that. However, I can help to ensure that women who do start this long, frustrating, heartbreaking process earlier, could possibly get their “younger Mum” dream.

Furthermore – why must women be younger than 35? My own Mum was 38 before she had my (younger) brother, and whilst I rip the p*ss out of him (& will regret saying this!) there is nothing wrong with either of them. For those that find love “later”, or simply decide “later” that they want children, then why is 36 to “late” for funding?!

Couples should be offered IVF if needed even if one of them already has children – it’s the same as James and I not adopting because we want “our” child; not someone else’s. 
So, my plea is for you to fill in the form on the link below to support NHS IVF Funding for all.
Thank you xx
https://www.northsomersetccg.nhs.uk/get-involved/nhs-service-proposals/fertility-treatment-eligibility/