The verdict

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Putting a face to the name – introducing Serum

Overwhelmed and shattered emotionally I spent the next day in bed feeling a little under the weather – some mild cramps but nothing too unbearable.  I had felt so good the day of the procedure that I had even organised to visit some friends who were moored at a neighbouring island, however I was incredibly over ambitious thinking I would be able to do this.  I think the fact that with too many orifices being violated, a myriad of pills, being told to do limited exercise and that I couldn’t swim sealed the deal.

Because the day after the egg retrieval was a Sunday, I had to wait until Monday to visit the clinic to find out how my eggs had done and if they had fertilised.

Holy moly – some pretty important things these eggs were going through at this point and I had no choice but to try and relax and watch the hunky men of Chicago Fire (my new found binge watch TV show) to get me through.

2pm on Monday I got up the courage to leave the house and make the journey to the clinic.

An embryologist was called and came down to meet me in the waiting room.  She then started to tell me how they were looking.  The fact that I wasn’t taken away to a room and was talked to in a public waiting room had to be a good thing right?

I’m not so sure about that!!  If there is one thing that Serum needs to work on it is not delivering their news in a public area.

Unfortunately (but fortunately), only 1 egg had been fertilised.  I had a massive pit in my stomach but had prepared myself for maybe having heartbreak so was also relieved that I have 1 fertilised egg – it only takes 1.  I later asked and found out that it had been my natural egg that had survived/ been fertilised – nature is a pretty awesome thing.

Well, no need to further agonise over the decision to put 1 or 2 back. 1 it was.  At least that decision was taken out of my hands.

The embryologist then went on to tell me that they had looked at the embryos yesterday and as they don’t like to pull them out and disturb them very often, they would look at it tomorrow.  This would allow them to see the grading and the transfer would more than likely happen then, as I only had the 1 and they didn’t want to risk it by waiting until day 5 (something they usually try and do).

Grading?!?!  What the hell was that?!?!  She proceeded to then go through that with me (still in the waiting room)

Basically:

Grade 1 – means the embryo is in excellent condition, no fragmentations

Grade 2 – it is usable but has some fragmentations

Grade 3 – it is useless (well, she didn’t exactly say that but it is pretty much a summary of what she said),…they wouldn’t use it.

So, it was a quick chat to the mid wife to confirm which pills I needed to stop before the transfer, just incase it did happen the next day, and an appointment was made for 2pm the next day and it was a dazed walk home to hope and think as positively as I could that that little embryo made it.

I never want to be a Mum that strives to have high achieving children or puts pressure on her kids to achieve but this is one time where I was absolutely in need of nature and that 1 embryo to be high achievers.

C’mon little embryo – you can do it!

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Living life with no regrets

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Right at the start of this journey my gorgeous friend drew this for me and I have kept it on my fridge ever since. Things like this have been super helpful during the very overwhelming times – which have been aplenty.

I woke up the day after having everything confirmed with clarity.  I knew what I needed to do.  It was weird.  Up until the day before I was going back and forward, flip flopping between decisions.  Do I leave it and adopt later if it doesn’t work, would I now consider egg donation if mine don’t work, would I freeze embryos, would I try IUI by myself, would I do IVF but to be honest it all stood on those results as they would give me a clear picture.  And they did – a dire one.

So taking everything into consideration and looking at my wants and dreams.  I knew what was the right thing to do.

I have decided to go ahead with the egg retrieval and embryo freezing (IVF), of which I will need at least 2 rounds (a small fortune).  What I have also decided to do while I am there is to do a fresh embryo transfer as well, as I may not have any eggs or may only have a small number that are viable and I want to have the best chance possible.  In laymen’s terms, I will try to see if i can get pregnant. Eeeeek!

I was going to freeze embryos in October and January/ February but now because of my situation and results my amazing clinic in Athens, Greece – Serum, have said due to my situation it is imperative that we do something right away and have managed to squeeze me in.  They have been insanely incredible.

I was deadly scared to tell my parents – I mean how does that go down ‘Hi, guess what I want to be a single mum?’  Not necessarily the dream they had for me nor me for myself.  It’s funny as I am sure most parents don’t want to see their children turn into teenage parents or even single parents but how do parents deal with something like this that happens to their child when they are an adult?!  I was about to find out.

My parents and I have always been close, as any family we have our ups and downs but I always know they will be there for me.  This situation however, was a little different, I had no idea how they would take it.

 They have really given me space through this whole process and not really voiced their opinions very much, I guess giving me the room to adapt and take things in without other voices intervening.  So it was amazing that when they rung to check in on me the next day and before I had even begun to tell them my decision they asked if I had considered ‘putting one back while I was there’ and that they would support that or whatever decision I made.  I love the way life works sometimes!

Almost 3 weeks on and I’m dead scared.  Not of what people will think but of the fact that it might not work.  This decision was not made lightly, I have had months to think about it, the pros, the cons, the positives and the negatives and the process and I know it is the right decision for me and me alone but I can’t help but feel backed into a corner.

I have always wanted to be a Mum and that has not changed.  Most people get to choose if they do become one or don’t, I can choose that and I know that it will happen for me in someway or another, however most people get to choose when, how or if they are ready.  I don’t have any of those luxuries.

In my eyes, because of who I am, it is now or never.  If I don’t try now I know I will be thinking about the ‘what if’s’ for the years to come and the ‘if only’s’ will haunt me for the rest of my days.  I count myself lucky as someone who has no regrets in my life and I don’t want to start now.

I do feel backed into a corner on this as I can’t choose when it happens and I don’t have some one in my life to create a baby with.  The life of a single mum….I mean who wants that and asks for it?  So to plan and go ahead to try and become one seems a little ludicrous to me.  But I have no choice…I know I want to be a Mum, I have always known.  I know I want to try everything I can to have my own child first before I pursue other options.  So this is it.

If this doesn’t work I will be devastated. At this point I can only imagine the pain I will go through but I need to try.  What is that saying ‘It is better to try and fail, than fail to try’? or the even better one ‘I know that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying’- Jeff Bezos.

However, I am also scared of the fact that it might work!  All those questions – can I do this by myself? Am I strong enough?  Can I provide? Am I ready to give up my lifestyle? Not to mention all of the other questions I am sure most people go through when they consider having a child. But as I said, I have no doubts that to try feels right, no doubts.

So in exactly 3 weeks time, it is off to Athens overnight to get more tests done and decide on a protocol that will best suit me (medications, stimulants for low quality, reduced egg reserve) and then 1 week later back to Athens for 2 weeks to get that ball rolling.

Now, to try and get over my needle phobia.

In the words of New Kids on the Block

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As soon as I was off the phone from the specialist and after a mini break down, I was straight onto thinking about how to best tackle this situation.

I broke down what I needed to do into tiny step by tiny step parts.  Partly because this is who I am and partly to not deal with the enormity and many facets of what I was just told.

From my conversation with my specialist my 2 clear next steps were:

1 – Wait for the PDF of pre tests to be sent from the fertility nurse in NZ (and when I received them I would send them to my local clinic to check if they could do them and the cost)

2 – Write an email to Fertility Associates to find out about my option in New Zealand for sperm donors.

After 4 hours sleep and receiving this news, number 2 was hilarious to me.  It was the most f*%&@d up thing.  So I did what any normal person in their early 30’s would do when just told they may be able to improve their egg quality by eating and drinking in moderation.

I took myself off to the pub (the one with amazing burgers and fries with aioli),with my laptop to write the weirdest email of my life to date, to a place in New Zealand to ask all about sperm.  You had to laugh…as it is super bizarre when the day before you are lying poolside in 35 degree heat without a care in the world and now sperm is high on your vocabulary list.

Believe me a few beers in the sun and being in a public place really helped to damper down the enormity of the news and just helped to make me laugh my way through it.

What I have found during this process so far is that you just get on with it and trawl through each option and I have learned that the best way I can deal with it without actually getting checked into an insane asylum is to compartmentalise the hell out of things and attack things small step by small step.  Things tend to come crumbling down again if I skip a step or start hearing options that are past where I am now…freaking me out, overwhelming me and being way too much.  I think New Kids on the Block had it right all those years ago…..Step by step….it seems to work.

 

In the interest of a little fun…

Yesterday morning being overtired and slightly delerious I was cracking myself up by answering the lyrics to the NKOTB song as I sung it and as I wouldn’t want to put anyone through listening to my horrid singing voice, here’s what I was doing…all the while laughing really hard and also thinking I was slightly insane!!! Haha

NKOTB – Step 1, we can have lots of fun

Me – Hmmmmm, would we call turkey basting fun?

NKOTB – Step 2, there’s so much we can do.

Me – Well, there’s 2 options, I guess that will do?

NKOTB – Step 3, it’s just you and me

Me – Hmmmm, yep, just me on that one

NKOTB – Step 4, I can give you more

Me – Yep, well, I suppose you can but ‘man in a can’ doesn’t come cheap

NKOTB – Step 5, don’t you know that the time has arrived

Me – Well unfortunately I brought that one on myself by finding this out. So, ‘now’ it is!

Dada, dada, dada,dada, done!

You’ve got to have fun in your life and if poking fun at the situation works for me…that’s the road I’m taking….step….by….step.

2 options are better than none

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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.