Therapy.. and why I’m done

Throughout our IUI/IVF TTC/Fertility journey, we (in particular, me) were encouraged several times – well meaningly – by some of our lovely nurses to see the therapist. And every time I refused. I just do not see the point.

Yes, I was often a crying mess. Frankly, I’m not sure I know many couples where at least one of them is not a crying mess to have gone through/be going through the hell that is infertility. But;

No therapist in the world was going to make me pregnant.

No therapist in the world is going to change my mindset. In my opinion, therapists help but no one can change you.

At the points in which I underwent counselling, CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) and CAT (Cognitive Analytical Therapy), I was just learning to talk about these things. These feelings and emotions and behaviours that had essentially been locked up for most of my life – ALL of my adult life! I had bottled them all up for so long that they caused huge breakdowns in me, and so talking to a therapist felt like the only option. At that point I couldn’t have discussed some of those things with anyone, and the leading questions you are offered from a mental-health trained therapist to get you talking are next to nothing expert level! At that point in my life, that’s what I needed. But now I’ve learnt to talk, and write openly. To not be ashamed or scared of what my mind is telling me. It’s still not always easy but I can discuss things far easier now with those around me, than ever before. But often because, everything I’ve been through is quite open, so everyone knows. Everyone else is now almost-expert at leading questions/being open and accepting of discussing subjects that may not have been discussed before! I’m definitely a pretty open book now – nothing is off limits for discussion here!

Don’t get me wrong, my therapists were great. And some time in the future I may need therapy again. But I’m quite picky about what I need from a therapist and wouldn’t just stick with anyone if it wasn’t right for me. But right now, I’m back to Karen. I’m pretty good at talking to anyone and everyone about anything and everything, so therapy is just not needed here. The question of “will our baby have a severely mentally ill mum?” Has crossed my mind. But for now, I’m good. I’m not worried about post-natal depression, but I know if it happens that support is out there.

A favourite extract from Matt Haig’s “How to Stop Time”. ❤️

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Cut the crap! 💩

Whenever I see or hear something sad about dogs/animals I have to scoop my fur baby up for a big cuddle. This is what happened yesterday. Cellulite and all.

Reason for this post though (the cellulite kind of plays a part here), is because I have just overheard a young girl/teenager on the phone talking about some “miracle cream” – someone had a baby 2 weeks ago and she’s used the cream non-stop since and her stretch marks are “almost gone”. If the girl had hung up I 100% would have turned around to her and told her the truth.

OH MY GOSH I am so fed up with products being marketed like this. That is WHAT WOULD HAPPEN NATURALLY OVER TIME ANYWAY 🤦🏽‍♀️ once you’ve got stretch marks – they ain’t going anywhere (ok maybe they will with some laser surgery or something) – a cream is NOT gonna make them just disappear. Stretch marks stretch and fade over time. As your belly returns to its non-stretched state over time, the stretch marks will reduce and fade. I know this, because not only have I had them on my thighs since puberty, but I’ve been there with every stupid diet pill and miracle cream there is for cellulite/stretch marks (I never even had cellulite until I was pregnant. My dysmorphic brain just thought I did.) I won’t lie – I hate them, but they’re part of life. I moisturise a fair bit anyway, and when my thighs are slimmer [through running] they are fainter. To be fair, they’re quite faint now (considering how slim my thighs ARE NOT 🤣). I am moisturising like a crazy person whilst pregnant in a bid to not gain any more – but if it happens, it happens. They’ll be a mark of what my body has grown. I’ll probably still hate them, but at least I got the chance to finally be pregnant and carry our child: something I never thought would happen. I honestly don’t seem much difference in creams being marketed as a miracle cure for stretch marks much difference to that of bloody Kim KW and her stupid appetite suppressant lollipops.

It. Is. All. Bullshit.

Moisturise, exercise, eat a healthy, balanced diet. Get outside and [safely] enjoy the sun. Don’t waste your hard earned cash on miracle BS.

Love x

Pro-Choice.

As a non-Irish woman, living in England, I don’t know what else I can do other than use my social media platforms to add to the right for #prochoice

I have never had an abortion. As a woman who, without the aid of fantastic fertility clinics and the development of science, would not be able to have children, it is unlikely I will ever be faced with what I can only call a dilemma as to whether or not to abort my unborn child. As a woman who is currently 26 weeks pregnant with our miracle IVF baby, I am grateful for this – because I honestly do not believe it is a choice I could ever make. But a choice which, would be mine nonetheless.

I describe abortion as a dilemma because, not for a second can I imagine that any woman would blindly enter into aborting her unborn child without a lot of reason, thought, and heartache going into it. Aborting a child won’t just end there – with the baby gone; I’d imagine that no matter what circumstances surround the need for abortion, that the knowledge of having done so will live in within you forever.

Physically, it might seem easy. Mentally; not so.

But, as a human being – who doesn’t believe herself to be particularly intelligent, but does pride herself on her common sense – I understand. I understand that whilst we can all be so similar, we also can all be so different, and thus, we need choice. I have never, ever understood why individuals find themselves so worked up and concerned with the matters of other individuals; it does not concern them. Which is exactly why I love this image – if you don’t like/want something: don’t do it. That is YOUR choice. Why does anyone feel they have the right to decide how another person – female or male – should live their life? Lesbian, Gay, Straight, Bisexual, Transexual, In need of an abortion, in need of a home, in need of medication to stabilise your health [i could go on] – by and large – who’s choice should that be but that of the individual(s) involved?

For those fighting for pro-life… I too, am pro-life. However, once more, that is, MY CHOICE. I have never been raped, and thus never fallen pregnant with a child conceived from rape. I am so, so thankful that I am not pregnant with an “unwanted” child. That I am not pregnant with a child so deformed it would not survive labour. I am lucky that I have not had to make the difficult decision of whether or not to abort a child, and I hope that is a decision I will never have to make. For me, the second we knew we were pregnant at 3 weeks 6 days, that was our baby. It was a life, one we had finally created. Our perfect, miracle baby. But, medically, it is deemed an embryo until 8 weeks, and a fetus until birth. Not a baby, an embryo, then a foetus. It is MY CHOICE to consider it our baby from the word go. It is MY CHOICE to consider it a life worth fighting for, or not fighting for. Choice, is what’s important here.

It’s 2018 for goodness sake – why can’t we get on with our OWN lives without consistently having to battle for such simple human rights; choice. At the end of the day, that’s all it boils down to. The same as the choice I make to run. To own, walk, look after and love a dog. To pop to the shops or not. It is my choice.

Food/Eating Disorders/Pregnancy Cravings – we each know our own bodies better.

I was riled, a few months ago, watching a couple of programmes regarding eating disorders – something I always watch if I know it’s on, because I am simply fascinated, still. The first, was the “Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia.” And another with Louis Theroux. I remember, whilst watching, that both James and I were gobsmacked – and I have, from experience, a lot more understanding and knowledge of Anorexia.

What I will say from the offset, is that anyone that can be considered a role model should think very carefully about what they are saying/posting, although I believe if you are going to suffer with an eating disorder (or any other mental health issue), you will probably do so regardless of what you see/hear etc. I think you are pre-disposed within your genetic makeup in the same way some people get Cancer, and others don’t. However, I don’t believe the likes of Kim Kardashian (pains me to even write her name in one of my blogs 😫!) and the idiotic things she – or other similar individuals – say/do/post are going to cause eating disorders in young men/women, but I do think at times they are selling utter shite. If you are hungry, food or drink (not booze people🥂🍾!) will suppress your appetite, not a lollipop 🍭, ladies and gentlemen. In fact, I am currently eating a Chupa-Chups lollipop and am quite sure that once I’ve finished it, my appetite will no longer be suppressed and I’ll simply move onto another snack..

I seem to have this inbuilt part of me that has this need/want to help and support others, hence why I continue to write this blog.

Mark Austin and his daughter Maddy gave an incredibly open, and honest account of life with anorexia (Wasting Away: The Truth About Anorexia). Everything they both said is the exact kind of situation that happens with mental health illness and destroying families. The exact same happened in mine: anorexia isolates you, it makes you cunning and kuniving and it destroys relationships. Parents – or those that have no chance to understand – are angry, frustrated, exasperated. I hope history doesn’t repeat itself, and when I first started writing this – I was also still hoping anorexia hadn’t entirely destroyed my ability to have an embryo/blastocyst implant and carry a healthy pregnancy/birth/child. Thankfully, I have made it 25 weeks in and everything is healthy so far.

But it still hasn’t been easy. Whilst I am beyond in love with the ever-growing bump attached to the front of me, I am not thrilled with how I currently look overall. I stopped running in order to conceive – and anxiety meant I didn’t try again until we were 13 weeks, by which point, all fitness was lost and I was not in a position to push myself for fear of hurting our much-longed-for, unborn baby. Whilst I don’t doubt from other people’s comments that I perhaps still see myself as larger than I actually am (although believe me, I am heavy now!) my thighs, therefore {to me} are enormous. I have craved, and thus eaten non-stop carbs for the past 25 weeks; foods which I would normally reserve for never due to their ability to make me gain weight just thinking about them. I still live with mental health issues that I fight against daily, that no one can ever fully understand, and thus no one can ever fully have an input – especially if it is unasked for – thank you very much!

Recently, I’ve found people telling me what I should and shouldn’t be eating. People that will never be pregnant are included in this (aka men, or those older who have never wanted children) and I spent a drive home from an anxious hospital appointment a few weeks ago in tears, fuming and thinking about it, and the things I’ve done to my body over the years:

When I was 16, upon waking and realising no-one else was home, I leapt out of bed and ran through to my parents ensuite to weigh myself and see if the scales were acceptable to me yet.

I knocked myself out on a door frame/TV cabinet on the way through because I was so dizzy and fainting. In the 5 days prior to that morning, I had eaten just one apple. Nothing suppressed my appetite, I tried everything to be constantly thinner, and as a result of hunger, passed out.

In 2015, over ten years later, aged 26/27 I spent a month barely eating, and sneaking off to throw up everything I did consume. I taunted and teased myself by joining in with others and accepting free hot chocolate the work canteen was offering at the time – throwing it all up as soon as it was finished. Months later at 27/28 I struggled to push myself – desperately – through a 5 mile run because all I’d allowed myself for three days prior was “juice diet”. “Healthy” green liquid or water only. Less than a mile in I could feel my kidneys in pain, my muscles physically unable to run through a full 5 miles from lack of fuel. And yet mentally, I was livid with myself still. Angry at my body at having to run-walk-run as someone who knew they could usually run for miles on end and love it. You cannot function on nothing. Food, is fuel.

I remember lying to my friends that I’d already had dinner/was eating dinner at home later. Lying to my parents that I’d eaten out with my friends. I remember trying to throw up the smallest bit of cheese I’d sucumbed (BECAUSE SUPPRESSING YOUR APPETITE DOESN’T EXIST!!) to eating off my friends pizza, in the Pizza Hut toilets aged 15. I remember flushing food down the toilet or chucking it in the bin whilst exercising for a minimum of an hour every single day. I remember asking my parents for school dinner money rather than food so that at least I wouldn’t waste the food; because, whilst adamant I didn’t deserve food, I still felt a resounding guilt that I was simply throwing food away when there were – are – thousands of starving people in the world. I remember that I wasn’t kidding anyone. I remember it all too well, for someone who’s memory is largely shot to pieces. How can you forget such hideous self punishment?

Having been diagnosed “Anxiety with depression” aged 26, in 2015, I also honestly believe anorexia/eating disorders are a side effect, a symptom, a coping mechanism for wider issues. When I had my first mental health breakdown in March 2015 I had spent the previous 6+ weeks over exercising, marginally under eating and regularly throwing up everything I did eat. It was something I could control. It was a coping mechanism to deal with my heightened anxiety, my low self confidence and self esteem, it was an outlet, but it kills.

So what I don’t understand now, is how anyone thinks they have the right to tell someone – anyone – let alone someone who has been through what I have – what they should and shouldn’t be eating, when they’ve not asked, but particularly through pregnancy. I believe after all these years I am more than aware of what I should/should not eat in order to achieve weight gain/loss. I also instinctively believe I (we: baby and I!) will crave what we need. This pregnancy, that has NOT been salad. And I do love me a good salad. Maybe, if I’m lucky enough for a future pregnancy(/pregnancies?!) perhaps salad will be craved.

Yes – I am eating a lot of (ok ONLY!) carbs. Just because that isn’t considered an “odd” craving to many doesn’t mean it isn’t a craving, and is just an “excuse” to eat them. I have never eaten carbs like this before – I used to avoid them like the plague. I have never wanted or apparently needed carbs like this before. I can’t remember the last time I allowed myself a jacket potato (rather than sweet potato), or white pasta (rather than spelt). Crisps used to make me feel uncomfortably bloated and thus I would still avoid them even at parties when they were laid out as nibbles. The last time I actually ATE a regular breakfast, rather than drinking a protein shake, or smoothie only, (and after running 3/5/7 miles), I was about 10 years old.

So yes, it’s a lot of carbs. Yes, I’ve gained a lot of weight, no, I am not thrilled about it: in fact if I could take scissors to my thighs to cut off the extra chub, I would. But I don’t think I am massively complaining about it – yes I’m calling myself “fat”, a “beached whale”; that’s how I feel right now, but I say it in jest! I am not going to do anything about it whilst I am carrying our miracle baby. I am not entirely stupid – enough so to think for a second all of this weight will just “fall off” the second the baby pops out. I will have to work at it, hard – but does anyone honestly think this is something I’m not prepared to do? Someone who, when working full time would get up at 5/5.30/6am to run, and spent most days ensuring she exercised twice? Someone who is known to have got up during worst bouts of insomnia and run for 5+ miles at 1am?? I am not prepared to risk something we have wanted, and tried for, for so long. I tried to run to keep off some weight, but it’s not for me – not this time, this pregnancy anyway; it’s too late, too hard and therefore too much of a worry to me to keep trying until the baby has arrived. I have never craved, or eaten, carbs like I am doing now, and so, I believe there must be a reason for this, and for once in my life, I am not going to deny what my body – our baby – is asking for.

I have said time and time again that unless you have physically experienced a mental health issue, you will never fully understand – no matter how much training you have had. I had two incredible (NHS) therapists providing me CBT and CAT over the last few years but for both of them I always felt (particularly the first) that you just don’t really get it until you’ve had it – and I wouldn’t wish anyone to have mental health illness. We all have mental health – some of us are just lucky enough not to have mental health illness.

HOW is it, that 23 years ago – yes, you read that right, TWENTY THREE – the incredible Princess Diana opened up and spoke about her mental health – her eating disorder, and yet here we still are in 2018 with still so much stigma, a distinct lack of understanding, and with idiotic products on the market promising suppressed appetites and “miracle” weight loss to those vulnerable and desperate enough to believe them?

Bigger arms, bigger thighs, bigger bum and bigger boobs. But a beautiful, beautiful, healthy baby bump. Oh, and my “appetite suppressant” lollipop.. which as it happens I’ve just finished… time for crisps!

ALSO:

  • Rufus
  • My husband
  • My health
  • My friends and family

xxx

EDIT – to add the below screen grabs that I’ve had saved on my phone since forever, because they make such valid points! Thanks to AliceLiveing for the words!

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!