2 options are better than none

Anti-Valentines-Day-Jokes-07

I actually have no qualms with Valentines Day whatsoever, unfortunately this was the day I found out my options, now the date is forever etched in my brain. So, for me, the message truly applies.

At 20 weeks old (even before you are actually born), you have 2 million eggs, 2 million!  This is just one of the crazy facts that I have learned in the last 2 weeks of my life.  This particular fact I learned during my conversation with my specialist when we were discussing what my results actually meant.

He started off by telling me about egg reserve in general and then told me more about what AMH actually tells us.  He then went on to tell me what my AMH level meant for me.

Most women who do a round of IVF, because of their eggs being hyper stimulated will produce between 16-20 eggs per cycle.  Half of those would be able to be fertilized. With my results it means that I would only produce 6 eggs or less, half of which may be able to be be fertilized.  Not great, however, not nothing.  He also told me that this number could possibly be an indication of early onset menopause….eeekkkk…..let’s not even go there yet!

The specialist then stated that if I was in a relationship, he would tell me to ‘Go ahead, and try to get pregnant’.  However because I am single, it was more of a social (my god, seriously, in this day and age?) and a financial decision.  I had him stumped.  This obviously made my blood boil but being in shock and faced with all of this jargon and the news being relatively new to me , I held it in to process it, all the while thinking ‘If you would tell someone in the same situation who was in a couple to go and try to get pregnant, why wouldn’t you be telling me the same thing?’  Granted I am single but from my limited experience at the time, there are ways around that.  Ways I hoped that he would talk to me about.

That left us with a bit of a stalemate….we went around and around talking about things until I finally was able to get 2 clear cut options out of him.

Option #1 – Egg freezing

This would involve having IVF, retrieving the eggs, freezing them and storing them.  Sounds simple enough however due to my lack of eggs I would have to do AT LEAST 2 rounds at between NZD$11,000 – $13,000 a pop (then you would have to factor in the pre tests and flights home). Also he informed me that when you thaw the eggs they are not as good as ‘fresh’ ones.  Who’s the chicken now?  So if all went well from 2 rounds of IVF I would produce 12 eggs, 6 would be viable and then when I unfreeze them maybe half or all would not be good quality.  Not such good odds there.

The specialist told me this option would obviously be time and money heavy.  I would have to be on the pill so they could control my cycle, I would have to have a battery of tests to ensure everything else was ok (around $NZD2000), then I would have injections to turn off the natural body signals, then injections of hormones.  The whole process taking around 2 months and I would have to be in Christchurch for at least 2 weeks.

I then went on to ask about ‘the oven’.  My worry, after reading a few articles on egg freezing over the summer, was that it isn’t just the egg factor, it is the age of the body factor as well.  Brilliantly I had some great news there – he reassured me that it is overwhelmingly the age of the egg that is the biggest factor not the ‘oven itself’.

The timing issues because of me living overseas and only having set holidays would involve a lot of pre organization – ovulation tracking with scans, counting and planning date for harvesting, more blood tests, pelvic exams, ultrasounds – all the fun stuff.  Luckily I have a great clinic nearby in China, with great staff and fantastic turn around time.  My specialist could send a PDF of the tests that would be needed and I could check with my clinic if they could do it, saving time and ensuring that when I was back for the 2 weeks, all would run smoothly.

The specialist was also quick to tell me that the fertility nurses on staff were amazingly knowledgeable and dealt with a range of scenarios and sorted all the timings so they would be in contact soon.

Option #2 – Sperm Donation

Two weeks in and that still makes me laugh whenever I talk about it or say it because it comes so naturally now and is so weird that I talk about it in regards to me!

It took awhile for my specialist to really put out this option. I had had enough of stories of single women going it alone and it not working out successfully e.g. in the words of him ‘having a romanticized idea of parenthood’, ‘a mentally challenged child’, having to quit work and stay at home etc.  I understand I need to be told both sides of the coin however ‘My god!’, this is the first conversation we are having.  I just need the options.  Save your negative stories and scare tactics for later when it has all sunk in.

After I finally got up the balls to tell him that I really wanted to have my own child and that I wanted to explore all the options I had to do that before I even looked into other ways to become a Mum, he finally started talking.  He told me that this (sperm donation), would be the cheapest option however I would be committing myself to having a child on my own (well, obviously!).  It would involve artificial insemination (AI), I could do it immediately, it would have to be timed with my natural cycle, I would have to be off the pill for 2-3 cycles to check ovulation, then timed for natural egg release…and then it is pretty much for lack of a better explanation as he put it ‘a substitution for intercourse’, (AKA ‘turkey basting’). Lovely.

Because his clinic did not have a ‘back catalogue’ of donations, they could do AI however I would have to find my own donor or use a donor bank (he suggested Fertility Associates).  The problems being: the request for sperm donors is not high, there is a long wait, certain legalities and now donation is open meaning the child can find out about their father later on (this, I really, really liked to hear).

So with 2 options at the ready I felt better prepared and just damn right relieved that I now had a direction to go in and that I actually was a lucky one who had some options.

I also asked him a few questions that some friends had suggested I ask.

#1 – Does the pill effect the result of AMH?

I was told that the pill is not harmful or does not effect the result of the AMH test.

#2 – Is there anyway to improve egg quality?

I was told no, just the usual things like not drinking high levels of alcohol (damn it!), no drugs (easy peasy), eat well (oh man! There goes those yummy Great Leap burgers and it’s back on the Weight Watchers band wagon I go), exercise and to make sure I am getting the right nutrients.  Well that sucks, doctors orders to get healthy, you can’t really argue with that.

One of my final questions was:

#3 – Going off the results of the AMH, when would I have to do something to ensure that I have the best chance?

His answer (and the answer I have had from most specialists over the last few weeks) was:

‘Within the next year, as every 6 months things decrease’

Yay, fun!  Roll on the next few months of playing fact finder, scenario builder and putting the puzzle pieces together to form an answer.  This is not how I pictured my 2016 when I was calling it in on New Years.

I have always wanted to be a Mum but I have to be honest I have always thought I would have a child with Mr Right.

So, over the next few months I really am faced with trying to answer the most monumentous questions I have faced yet, because in reality I have limited time and need to make a decision soon.

Do I want to be a Mum now?

OR

Do I still want to wait for Mr Right?

At this point, who knows.

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‘The Wait’ing game

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A friend took this during ‘The Wait’. My amazing friends in the ‘Yellow Wing’ were my rocks throughout this time. I will never be able to thank them enough.

There are so many different levels of emotions and thought patterns that you go through when you play the waiting game. Probably far too many to count.

At some point everyone has had to wait in agony for something whether it be for something trivial like a text message back from a guy or something more important like medical results or a text message back from that guy. We all know how it feels and you go through different interchanging emotions all the while riding that intense roller coaster.

Of course I am one of those people, seasoned in the game of ‘The Wait’ however I was of the experience of waiting FOR results. What I was not prepared for or privy to prior was the unbelievable, tormenting and twisty turvy world of receiving results and THEN having ‘The Wait’ for them to be analyzed.

I mean, seriously! I’m not sure I have been through many other instances where you experience so many things all within a short space of time. Some I glided through gracefully and others I am not ashamed to admit it that I collapsed into a huge messy, ugly heap.

I had no issue with waiting for the results of the test, I had a strong gut feeling what they would say and being the person I am, my thoughts were that until I HAD to know I wasn’t bothered. The right people had the test, were analyzing them and it was New Zealand summer too so waiting for them wasn’t the issue. Plus let’s be honest it is so blissful to be ignorant of the results and to get back to life at hand before things potentially turn your life upside down or at least shake it up a little.

I was prepared and understood that if the test came back not in my favour I could deal with it and I was quite right…however having that 3 week period of knowing the results and then not knowing entirely what they meant, what things would come next and what options I had or didn’t have was the definition of pure agony. I swear I may have needed to  have been entered into an insane asylum during that period. Hence running off to Penang for the final week of ‘The Wait’.

 I would not wish ‘The Wait’ on my worst enemy.

It’s crazy to think back now on this time as it really was the worst part of my journey so far.  Even knowing what I know now at least I can move forward, research, contact people, find out more, listen to opinions….back then…I had nothing to go on.

So here goes a rough guide of me trying to explain how it felt during ‘The Wait’

Talking myself into calmness

I received the news, my results, on Sunday January 24th in the late evening.  Too late to ring home (as they are 5 hours ahead), and not enough time to process before bed.  I felt panic rise up and so I immediately started talking myself down:

‘Ok, I have the results, there is nothing I can do until I speak to a specialist’

‘I’m sure there are options’

‘I have no idea what this actually means so there is no point getting worked up until I know’

You know, the usual suspect questions.

Unfortunately the questions kept coming and the urge to Google took over.  Before I put myself through something I may of regretted, I knew the best thing to do was to call a close friend.  Luckily that friend answered.

I told her the news and that I was getting upset and knew I could call her to be ‘talked down’.  Best. Call. Ever!  (in both respects).  Sometimes you know yourself really well but also sometimes you also know the right people to call.  Mission accomplished with a few sentences and positive spins (ones I had already told myself, however hearing from someone else seemed to cement my thoughts), and I was off that slippery slope.

Switching off my emotions

Unfortunately the same can’t be done for my brain.  I went about my usual bedtime routine (somewhat in a daze), went to bed, sleep came as normal, however sleep did not stay….my brain would not go to sleep and let the information it had just received rest.  To this day I have not had one night where my brain has let things rest, no matter how tired I am, what I do to try to calm it and no amount of positive talk and calmness during the day has worked.

The crumbling heap

Lack of sleep, tossing and turning on a Sunday night, especially in my profession leads to a teacher who is not so fun, patient and kind.  During the night I realized there is no way I could handle going in to work the next day with a lack of sleep, so many unknowns and not having talked to family about this.

#1 My kids didn’t deserve this
#2 Neither did my colleagues and
#3 Neither did I

I could not face the questions, comments and people jumping to conclusions about why I may or may not be so grumpy or reactive.

Cue one of the only days off I have ever had when not being sick.  I have to admit while living in Hong Kong I had a day off, as I was ridiculously hungover from a night out with the New Zealand 10’s team (I am sure some of you remember that night and the stories that folllowed!).  I also had a couple of days off leading up to when I was leaving to spend time with my then boyfriend who I was leaving behind and 1 in Beijing for when he visited (however that time I was slightly sick too, so that sort of doesn’t count).  I’m a bit of a ‘goody good’ when it comes to pulling sickies or mental health days, however this decision was easy and thank god I did it.

To avoid the entire situation I cleaned the house, sorted out clothes, I think I may have even ironed (if you know me, that is a when pigs fly scenario!), and then finally I called home.

Yup….crumbling, messy, heap.  My poor Dad was amazing…..getting landed with a call during the day from his daughter all the way over in China trying to hold it together and failing miserably, sniveling and unable to talk down the phone….he handled it like a champ.  My Mum was slightly luckier to have my Dad warn her when she arrived home from work, however having already talked about it to my Dad did not help the cause as I had hoped and again I was a crumbling, teary mess.  Again, Mum handled it like a champ.

Why is that you are totally fine and then when you speak to a parent you can no longer hold it together, no matter what you do?   My parents have been incredible over this process and especially during ‘The Wait’.  They called, listened, looked into things, offered advice, contacted people and just generally were there.  I am beyond lucky to have such supportive people in my life and have no idea what I would do without them.

The Zombie or The Robot

After a day spent at home collecting myself, talking to family and a few friends and to be honest a bit of googling, I started preparing myself for the upcoming days of going in to work.  In short I turned into, I am not sure if you would call it a Zombie or a Robot…after reading this, you decide.

It was all about getting through the day in the most ‘normal’ way possible.  I did not want to draw attention to myself, I wanted to appear normal to others and in doing so I felt like every move, laugh, sentence, interaction and reaction was over exaggerated.  I felt like a shell of myself with the inner mantra of ‘just get through the day, just get through the day’ on repeat internally, all the while smiling at the person or small child talking to me.

As I mentioned in a previous post if people asked me how I was or if they somehow saw through the facade I would give them my robot answer ‘But it’s ok…I’m not dying or anything’.  In reality, every time I encountered someone all I was thinking was ‘Please don’t ask how I am, please don’t ask how I am’.

Over the next 3 weeks I flip flopped between feeling this way, being eerily calm and frustrated as hell.  I flip flopped so many times I could not keep up…back and forth, back and forth, back and forth….feeling stomach sick the entire time.

Zen-like

Eerily the Zombie or Robot phase helped me to bring a whole calmness to the situation.  With inner mantras of positivity on repeat and armed with my new catch phrase I was gliding along with a cloud of calmness in my wake.  I am generally a positive person so I knew there really was absolutely nothing I could do about the situation until I talked to a specialist, so what was the point in telling more people than I had too, why would I want to worry them? And what was the point of being upset over something I didn’t really know about yet.  I was able to function really well this way.  I could interact, I could smile, laugh, socialise, talk about the upcoming holidays….I could function like a ‘normal’ person.  That was until frustration kicked in.

Frustration central

If you know me well, you will know that as well as being positive and generally a happy person, I can also be quite fiery and stubborn – thanks parents for those traits!  Being overseas, away from my home country has been one of the main sources of frustration as it creates a whole lot of problems.  Nothing too major but things that can really, really frustrate the hell out of someone.  Unfortunately only being back in New Zealand in summer really throws everything off.

New Zealand is an amazing place and I am incredibly one eyed about it, however everything shuts down at Christmas time and in the New Year so nothing can get done in a timely manner and everyone is away on (a definitely deserved), holiday.  I guess you could totally call it ‘Island Time’.

This meant that the specialist recommended to me was away on holiday.  I totally got that and was ok about that.  I was happy to wait patiently.  Then there were copious amounts of emails back and forth to the receptionist of the clinic to arrange times and days he would look at the results.  Then there were clinic days and operation days and then all of a sudden the specialist was overseas again.  Next, he would be back and get back to me on certain dates and then finally it was me having to give dates and times and then it was ‘he will get back to you on that’.

I get it, I live overseas and it isn’t quite the norm to do a Skype call but seriously……my patience was wearing quite thin!!! Don’t get me wrong, I tried to remain very, very calm however all the positive inner talk about knowing I could not control the situation did not help AT all.

Relief

Finally one glorious day while lounging poolside basking in the hot sun of Penang I received an email confirming some days.  Turns out I was flying on those days so had to send a few emails back to ensure I would be available and have access to the internet and adequate time.  I finally had locked in a day and a very open period of time (anytime after 2pm).  You also have to remember that we were working in New Zealand time and China time so that means it would be anytime after 9am my time.

People….we had finally locked in a day!

Anxiety

Living in China has its perks and draw backs and unfortunately one of those is it’s entry and exit into the country (AKA the airport) and its internet issues.  My plane arrived back on time just after midnight, unfortunately due to the madness of Chinese New Year, limited people servicing the foreigners cue and a horrendous taxi line I was not home and in bed until 4am.  With a wake up call of 8.30am….that ain’t going to pretty.  All I could picture was an over emotional sleep deprived reaction to everything he was going to tell me.  Thank god the reality was nothing like that.  Somehow I managed to hold it together.

The next anxiety moment was if my VPN would work, if the Skype connection would be ok and if we could even connect.  Sunday tends to be a particularly bad day in Beijing, I am guessing it has something to do with people being in contact with their home country and Sunday being a heavy internet traffic day, however I could be wrong.  There were a few issues but luckily after a few blips, calls back and a switch to VPN I was able to sustain a good enough connection to get all the necessary information.

Relief / Null and void

The Skype call has happened, I now have information, I can now move forward, I can now…….never have my brain shut off with the million options, questions, paths, combustions, what ifs and decisions that will influence decisions, immediate and future plans and all else that has come next.

All that matters is that thankfully ‘The Wait’ is finally over – Null. And. Void.

‘The news’

Egg

I know, I know…and it is only the start of my journey…imagine all the gems I will find during the rest of it!

 Four weeks ago today I received the results of my AMH and FSH tests that I had when I was back in New Zealand for Christmas.

Be warned this post will not be fun, witty or quirky…as it is just the plain old facts!  Cue the boringness…

An AMH test essentially tells you your ovarian egg reserve (pretty much roughly how many eggs you have left) and how easy it is to get someone pregnant using IVF.  It does not infer about your egg quality or how easy it is for you to conceive naturally.

Before taking the test my Doctor told me that as it is a relatively new test in New Zealand he was happy to order the bloods but was not happy to analyse the results.  I completely understood, so he recommended a specialist at Oxford Woman’s Health which I was happy about as I had dealt with them in the past.  I got in contact with them to ensure they were ok to receive the results, analyse them and then set up a Skype or phone consultation with me when I was back in China.  It’s always oh, so simple when you don’t live in your home country!

My doctor being the diligent man he is felt that upon receiving the results he had better inform me and since we have an email relationship for the better part of the year (that’s a whole other post!), he of course chose this method to let me know my results.

Here is what I was told:

My AMH “was 2.2.  This is what you would expect if you were aged 40-45.  For your age you should be 8-30. So this would suggest reduced ovarian reserve”

Cue extra long pause for this to sink in, followed by shock (nothing could have prepared me for this), then tears, then phone calls home.

Of course all I wanted to do was GTS, which the sensible part of me shot down pretty much straight away – my inner voice stating ‘I need to talk to the specialist to get the full picture before I start jumping to conclusions and upsetting myself and my parents for no reason’. See, sometimes I can be sensible….but only sometimes!

What I did look more into was the number and what that meant.  With AMH there are 3 bands.  My results put me in at the bottom of the bottom band.  Basically, putting it simply….I’m not going to lie or even sugar coat it…..it puts me in a pretty shitty position.  My only savior was knowing that I was luckier than some others and had options.

What those options were, were still a mystery and unfortunately I was not able to get many answers right away due to New Zealand holidays, clinic condensing and personal events….cue 3 weeks of utter hell also known as ‘The wait’.

I’m not dying or anything…

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I’m not dying or anything….is the line I have been using whenever I am asked recently if I am ok.  This response either catches people off guard, relieves their worry or with some of my closest friends make them laugh, with either relief or nerves.

This response in turn gives me the chance to breath, pause, maybe even laugh along, collect myself (read hold back the stray tear), and mentally prepare myself for what comes next. – ‘The News’.

It also gives people who genuinely didn’t want to know the answer to the question in the first place, the time to move on.

You see if you know me, you will know that I’m a pretty open person, so have no qualms sharing what I am going through and have decided that this time if I am asked how I am or if I am ok that I am going to answer back honestly.  When I was back home on holiday in New Zealand recently,  I was blown away by the amount of personal information I was given from the hairdresser and the insanely personal questions I was asked by the ‘checkout chick’, so maybe it’s a Kiwi thing.

Where ever it originates from it’s an Amy thing, so if by sharing my story here I can help people who are in the same situation as me, people going through something similar, or people who just want to be educated or better understand, then I’m willing to lay it all out here -warts, tears, cross roads, frustrations, decisions, celebrations and all.

All the while staying positive and getting on with life because after all, it’s not lost on me, things could be way worse and….I’m not dying or anything.