My own devastation

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I always remember when the Christchurch earthquake hit, people calling it ‘The devastation’.  I thought I knew what that meant, as I had lost people close to me and also people my own age in devastating ways.  However you really truly do not know the meaning of devastating until you get hit with a full dose of the truth head on.  NO matter how much you think you have prepared for it, it hits you full force leaving you winded and laid flat out on the ground.

That is how I felt at 1.58pm on Friday the 13th….unlucky for some…and that ‘some’ would be me.

2 minutes before my students were back from their PE lesson I was replying to an email from a parent when I noticed my gmail account flip to a higher number.  Knowing this was day 3 after my tests and that some of my test results would be back today, I quickly fired off the email and opened up the email from my doctor.

It started with:

“I tried to call you but there was no answer on your phone.  Unfortunately, I have bad news…”

My heart sank, I read it through, stated “Ok” to myself and afterwards remained eerily calm for the next hour and 20 minutes as I greeted my children, had 7 Middle School teachers (including the Principals), come into my room to observe myself and my students doing ‘Student Directed Learning’ and then played games outside with my kids until I got them safely out the door and on their way home.

Straight away I shut the door, turned off the lights, re-read the email, tried to ring the doctor, it wouldn’t go through, I then tried both my parents and realized that their phones were off as they were on a plane on their way to Wellington, I tried the doctor again, got nothing and then proceeded to have the most adverse reaction that I have had on this whole journey…I burst into tears.  Not the leak out and run prettily down your face kind of tears nor the well up slowly kind….the heavy, can’t breathe, OH MY GOD kind.

I’m an emotional person, I feel other peoples pain easily and process mine calmly (and then sometimes not so calmly…usually that is when tequila is involved), however I am not a huge full on crier, so this caught me by surprise.  Months of uncertainty and waiting and I finally had my answer and unfortunately it was one I did not like very much.  I was truly devastated.

I should have been more prepared and I would like to think that I would have been if it hadn’t been for the doctor telling me that it wasn’t anything to worry about.  I had really tried not to get my hopes up but unfortunately that was easier said than done.  Thoughts had crept in about maybe my next move being to Europe to live for a few years and then going home to NZ or stepping down from my crazy busy role at work and just being in the classroom with the kids 100% and even down to simple things like…this has given me the kick up the arse to try harder with dating and get the confidence up to get out there again.  I had fooled myself and to be honest I really thought I was going to get these results, have a bit of ‘egg on my face’ and actually be ok and have the ‘happily ever after’.

Do not get me wrong, I do not blame the doctor here at all, that is not who I am.  Even when it comes down to the ‘why has this happened?’ question, I am not even interested in finding out the answer to that because what is the point?  All I need to worry about is what I can do now and be thankful that I found out when I have.

Luckily I had plans with a friend to go and celebrate a long awaited win at work straight after school.  I quickly cancelled plans to go a farewell party, all the while landing a friend with a sobbing mess called Amy, until I had collected myself.  I then went and sat next to a lake in serenity while drinking copious glasses of Prosecco and talking about life with my amazing friend.  We talked about everything under the sun except my news until after the doctor had rung, apologizing profusely, and then my parents had rung, and I could tell them.  There were more tears as I explained my situation and how the doctor had told me that they use a different scale of measuring to NZ and that is why she had said what she said.  She also was devastated that she had got my hopes up and even gone back again to check the results that had been sent through from my specialist.  They had no reference to what scale they used so of course she made that assumption and I don’t blame her.

I made it home in one piece watching hilarious Facebook videos – thank you to the people who post those – they really got me through.  As soon as I shut my apartment door, I lost it again, grabbed some wine and then decided to rip off the bandage and send messages to all of the people closest to me who I knew would want to know as soon as I did.

I then sat there, stared at the wall and tried to let it all settle in, while trying to come out of the feeing of numbness that had settled in when I was all cried out.

The AMH level 2.2 on her scale that was “close to 3” turned out to be a 0.37 on her scale….not so close to 3 and well under 1.  Things now have to progress quickly.  My FSH is elevated and my estradiol low both signs of low ovarian reserve.  Thankfully my TSH and LH were normal, which was something less to worry about, so I am grateful for that.  Unfortunately I have since found out that 8 follicles (from my baseline ultrasound), is borderline meaning that it is likely my eggs will not be of good quality, making my prospects worse than initially thought.

Devastating in those initial hours…yes…however there still is hope….it could be WAY worse and all I do is remain positive and extremely hopeful.

In true Amy fashion, I did laugh – A LOT  – when I realized that I had got this news on Friday the 13th.  I mean seriously!!!  Cue the Alanis Morreiste music….’Isn’t it ironic?’.

Don’t you think?

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Stirrups…and not the fun horsey ones!

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Round 2 – definitely NOT the peace sign

Last Tuesday it was off to the clinic for round 2 in China.  Day 3 was upon us and it was blood tests and baseline ultrasounds to be had.

After some initial difficulty about ensuring I was tested on the correct day and rearranging a few schedules, I was in the office and ready to go, legs all up and in the stirrups – not such a great picture, believe me!

Although I did feel like I had to tell her that she was the first women to see me like this.  Throughout all my years of having Pap smears, Colposcopies, my LETTZ operation and further biopsies, it has only ever been men that have done them.  Having a women do this was a very new experience for me!

For those that have never had one, it was a transvaginal ultrasound, meaning that it is what it looks like in all the movies….a long thin thing with a condom slipped over it, all up in your girly bits so it can get a clearer picture of your insides.  In particular for me…the follicles that grow in my ovaries and develop into eggs.

It all felt a bit weird having to do it when I was on day 3 of my cycle….the logistics were interesting….but obviously as she is a complete professional, it went really smoothly and was not too embarrassing – thank goodness for needing to have an empty bladder for the ultrasound.

After explaining the procedure she started to tell me what she was seeing on the monitor.  My right ovary showed 3 follicles but my bowel was in the way, after measuring each one and discovering that that 1 follicle was measuring 8mm, she determined that that was the principle follicle (the one that will develop into the egg), and that it was unusual to see it this early in the cycle.  Fantastic, another frustrating thing to add to my ever growing list of unusual things my body does!  She could not tell me if this was a good unusual or a bad unusual, that would all depend on the entire picture created from all the test results.

As the bowel did not move we moved on to the left side.  The left side was determined to show off to the right and had 5 follicles although they were all very small.  Then, it was back to the right side to try and use some pushing on my stomach techniques to move the bowel but apparently my bowel is stubborn and wouldn’t budge.

I then asked the ‘however much IVF/embryo transferring is going to cost me’ dollar question about what 8 follicles means….Good or bad?  Hope or no hope?

Unfortunately her answer was along the lines of that it seems good however we have to wait for the other tests to come back to really see the whole picture and how it all lines up.

Next it was onto the dreaded blood tests.  Those of you who know me, know I am deathly afraid of 2 things: Snakes and Guns and that 1 thing follows closely behind that: Needles!

For the first time in awhile I took it like a champ – no teary eyes at all! Although the nurse wouldn’t give me a lollipop, so I am not sure it was worthwhile being that brave for it.

For those interested I was tested again for:

  • AMH: estimate of the remaining egg supply
  • FSH: Follicle stimulating hormone, if this is not in the normal range it indicates problems with fertility
  • LH: the hormone responsible for helping to release your egg from the ovaries
  • Estradiol: Estrogen
  • TSH: Thyroid function – this can sometimes be the main cause for an hormone imbalance in your body if it isn’t at a normal level

I was told by the doctor that as the tests are measuring hormones, most will take 3 days to come back and the dreaded AMH would take 5.

I went off to cope, meeting up with friends and enjoying a yummy steak dinner, served outside on a lovely Spring evening in Beijing, washed down with copious amount of laughs and red wine….whoops….I really need to learn about moderation at some point along this journey.
 Cheers to another bout of waiting!

The art of being blindsided

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Take 2: The China Edition

Going through this process and having mastered the art of ‘The wait’ I really, truly thought that any emotional reactions had been beat out of me and being well researched and prepared I would be ready for anything.

Surprise, surprise, I could not have been more wrong, even if I had tried.

Last Friday (now two Friday’s ago), on a bright sunny Spring morning, I walked along the river slightly nervous for my first appointment in Beijing. This appointment would start to get the ball rolling on making sure all my tests would line up and the tests could go ahead on the correct days.  The nerves were coming from the fact that all of a sudden these tests were upon me and here I was on my way to begin the journey of getting confirmation on what path my life will soon take…left or right.

Upon arrival I bumped into a friend – which happened to be a great distraction, especially as he is a boy and talking about girly things like fertility definitely wasn’t going to happen!

A nurse then came to take my vitals and asked me a hilarious question to determine if I needed to be weighed:

“What are you here for?” Hmmmmmm, I wondered,  how to explain that in a sentence or 2? Then she asked me:

“Are you pregnant”  Lol – Well, that’s kind of the whole point of the appointment!  Thankfully I avoided being weighed.

Next it was into the Gynecologists office, a Spanish person and also an English speaking doctor.

After explaining to her why I was there and presenting her with my printed out, organized doctors, specialists and fertility experts notes she turned to me, interrupted and asked:

“But I don’t understand, why you are here?”

A bit taken aback, I said “Well, as you can see my AMH level is 2.2…..”

She cut me off again and said “I can see all that, but I still don’t know exactly why you are here”

Again, a bit miffed, I looked at her in a bit of shock and then she finally elaborated.

To paraphrase she said:

“I’m not sure why you wouldn’t wait a few years to see if you meet someone and then worry about it then.  All clinics interpret these results differently.  My interpretation is that 3 is where your level should be at the moment in relation to your age bracket (she showed me yet another version of the same chart I have seen countless times).  As 3 is close to where your level is (2.2),  I would not be worried. (Hmmm to me 2.2 is not close to 3!).  If your level was under 1, then you should be worried and want to hurry things. I am not sure why you would do further tests with this number however I am happy to give you a referral for a second opinion.  As there is no real fertility experts as such in Beijing, except a guy at BJU (another big and popular hospital here),(she then spouted off his impressive sounding credentials), he sometimes gives appointments about fertility (his specialty/interest), so I could refer you to him”.

As you can imagine my head was reeling.  I have had tears well up before but I have never had tears literally leak out directly.  I was in such shock.  What had just happened?!?!?!

After all this time and from 4 different people I have been told 1 thing and then this interpretation comes along.  I felt completely blindsided.  This was just meant to be an appointment to get all my ducks in a row, not one to completely turn my head upside down.

I walked away in a trance of emotion.

The doctor had gone ahead and booked the tests and I had her personal email so when day 1 of my cycle came along, I could contact her directly to make sure I was able to gain an appointment for the much needed day 3 tests.  If I can give her one thing, it’s that she was extremely straight up and up front with me.

Unfortunately for me, directly after this, I had to go and get my new passport photo taken! Blotched, miffed face and all.

Now, as a couple of my family members have pointed out, this is just one opinion however it is a radically different opinion compared to what I have encountered so far.

I know that in reality this is good news but how do you look at something like this with fresh eyes when for the last 2 and a half months those eyes have only been looking at coming to terms with worst case scenarios and intermittent decisions with weary eyes?

So, what do you believe?  What path do you choose?  How can you make a decision when the same results point to 2 different things?

Well, my plan is to seek another opinion and hope to god that one confirms something OR it is back to the drawing board.

Gut feeling…I think you may be called up for duty again.

The small things – make it work for you

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Who would have thought that I would be this excited about storage containers!?!

Sometimes there are ‘Rabbit Hole’ moments, that’s inevitable, but for the most part there are what become’ regular’ days.  Days were you get a glimpse of normalcy or ‘The new normal’, gliding through life renewing the old feelings and everyday losing a bit of that numbness feeling until one day you realize that you haven’t thought about fertility all day.  Yippee!  And then you go into throws of panic about what you should or should not have been researching into, reading or moderating during the day.  But sometimes, just sometimes you can use this ‘deficit’ to motivate yourself or use it to your advantage.

What I mean by that is definitely NOT the sympathy card or the poor me card, it’s more like a ‘kick up the bum’ card.  I wish that I was meaning this in reference to moderating things in my life, eating healthier, exercising more or achieving more balance but it isn’t.  It is purely for more selfish reasons…shopping!

A friend recently sent me this article:

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/march/trying-to-get-pregnant-watch-your-plastics/

I have been lucky and have a gorgeous group of friends who have been willing to share their knowledge and look into things for or with me.  This is one friend who knows a lot  about fertility and since it was an article as opposed to me actually doing any research, I clicked away and read, procrastinating work for another 10 minutes.

It was an interesting read about eliminating BPAs if you are going through fertility treatment.  Randomly, this is something another friend and I had been talking about a few months earlier – eliminating BPA’s in everyday life (not in regards to pregnancy) and also glass vs plastic etc.  I had been meaning to buy some BPA free containers on Taobao (China’s answer to TradeMe or eBay), however as they are imported from New Zealand, obtaining a usable amount was costly and wasn’t high on my priority list.  I wanted to get them in New Zealand when I was home but again they fell low on my priority list after loading my suitcase to capacity with all my ‘year long’ supplies that I bring back from NZ into China each Christmas.

Enter my fertility issues and this article and wham, bam thank you ‘mam, there were no excuses now, I was onto the Warehouse NZ website, taking a screen shot of what I needed and unfortunately for him, my poor Dad got loaded with the task of locating these things and bringing them up in his suitcase when he came to visit at the beginning of April.  Believe me that was the least embarrassing of the things I asked him to bring – that’s another story.  Thank you Dad and don’t worry I did pay him for them!

So finding not only the positives in this less than fun situation but also the things that will work for you isn’t really so bad.

Out with the old and in with the shiny new…BPA free and all!