A mega catch up

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I’ve come a long way in regards to this and truly believe that is why my second IVF round went so differently in terms of my emotions and attitude.

As I have mentioned multiple times, my blog is delayed.  I have done that on purpose to give me the time to grieve or to come to terms with what ever the outcome was from October – good or bad.  Little did I realised that writing once a week just wasn’t going to cut it when so many things happened over the course of the month that I spent there.  These weekly post updates could have gone on for months, leaving you all in too much suspense and I did not think that that was fair.  So this post will aim to be an informative but long one to play the catch up game.

Here goes….this is the post that is probably going to be epically long but it will give you a HUGE catch up all in one to see what happened during the rest of my trip to Athens in September and October of last year.

We last left off with 3 follicles and a next morning appointment that would hopefully be the one where they would tell me that we would be ready for a ‘harvest’.

The next morning

It was all good news as the right side was ‘ready to go’ with 2 eggs and the left side with 1 and 2 smaller possibilities….we were back up to possibly 5, people….believe me…it was a daily roller coaster.

The ‘egg removal guy’ (with so much else going on, all the medical jargon and terms I was learning, not to mention those damn acronyms…can you really blame me for having no idea what his proper professional title was?),  told me that we would aim for retrieving 3 but quite often in cases like this they may be able to retrieve more – 4,5 or even 6.  I have no idea where the 6 came from but I’ll take it.  I was happy with 3 (better than the 2 last time), and starting crossing fingers for any extras.  However we would have no idea of the quality of the eggs until they were removed so it was another ‘wait and see’ situation.  I was very used to this by now so wasn’t too bothered by it – 1 step at a time.  Let’s go 3 – thankfully it’s my favourite number.

It was also my last stimulant day – woohoo! I was also not allowed to take Clexane (the blood thinner),  so was on cloud 9 until I remembered it was all systems go and that I had to go at 10pm that night and get the mammajamma of all injections – the ‘Trigger shot’, not so affectionately known by me as the ‘butt shot’, as it goes directly into your butt muscle and hurts…not so fun!  It had to happen precisely at 10pm to coincide with the egg removal time a few days later at 9am.  Basically it starts the ovulation process making it easier to retrieve the eggs.  There was no way in hell that I was going to do this myself – injections into my stomach fat was all well and good but into a muscle that I could barely reach with a full sized huge needle….no way hose…I didn’t need that stress and pressure, so they gave me a note in Greek and as I had done this before I knew where to go (ridiculously a maternity hospital!), and I felt more relaxed about it.

The next day was a ‘drug free’ day, however not really as I still had to take all the pills I was currently on (6 a day) but no needles!  Still celebrating the small things!

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Distracting myself with lunch and a day out with my new friend

As I finished my appointment I met a new friend!  She is fab and is in a similar situation to me which was really nice to chat with someone with a similar condition.  She is married but was in Athens alone for a bit so I was thankful to have someone to chat with, meet up with and explore with – I didn’t realise how people starved I had been.  Over the course of the next week we ended up spending a lot of time together and she introduced me to another lovely couple and we are all still in contact.  I am so grateful to have met them.

9.30pm I started the 25 minute walk to the hospital and the pain in the butt came right on 10pm – ouch!  The walk home helped though and I had the added distraction that my ‘friend’ from Agistri came over the spend the day with me the next day which was a lot of fun and a great distraction on my ‘drug free day’ – the day before and morning of the retrieval.

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A relaxing lunch out – great distraction before ‘going under’ the next day

The retrieval

It was up bright and early with no food or drink from midnight, sans makeup, perfume and jewellery and onto the metro to the clinic on the day of my retrieval.  It was a bit of a wait once I had got changed into my sexy blue gown until I went in – got to love a wait when you are completely naked and nervous waiting to be put under and have big needles poking holes in your uterus!

Then they were ready and it was time to go.  Thankfully the anaesthetic went in fine this time, so no moving the needle in my hand and no entire hand bruises afterwards like last time.  Unfortunately I reacted badly to the anaesthetic and woke up crying and upset but managed to calm myself down quickly as I had no idea why I was upset or crying.  I have only been under anaesthetic 3 times and once before I had had a really bad reaction upon waking and they thought I may have been awake during it – not a fun feeling.

The magic number was 5!!!  Way better than the 2 from round one and the none from the cancelled cycle!

I finally ate and drank something and felt very woozy and drunk-like until an hour and half after I woke up, which made for a hilarious metro ride and walk home.  I took the rest of the day to rest and made it a lazy day, which was prescribed and needed.  There are a lot of rules on this IVF journey but I was glad for the list that was tagged to this day.

I would have to call the clinic at 12.30pm the next day to see how the eggs were coming along, if they were good quality and if they had started to fertilise or not.  This was always the nerve wracking part for me, as it was totally out of my control, I could no longer rely on my body to help things along or stimulants.  It was donor sperm and my eggs, all having to do this on their own.  Fingers crossed!

DAY 1 – post egg retrieval

It took me half an hour to work up the courage to make the nerve wracking phone call and I had a huge pit in my stomach while doing so.

One day 1, I had 5 fertilised eggs, which had now turned into embryos. This was unbelievable as no one thought that my body, with my condition, would be able to produce that many or it was always a best case scenario/rare chance.  I was hoping for at best 3 but preparing myself for less so I was beside myself.  At this point last time I had 2 eggs and only 1 fertilised.  100% this time – go embryos go!

However again, I had to check myself…this does not mean that they would be of good quality – that was the next check at the Day 3 point.  While talking to the embryologist (yes – I have one medical name in this process down!), she mentioned that they could not see any severe abnormalities, which was great news.

The next appointment was in 2 days time, in person, to see how they were doing and depending on the number and quality, the transfer would happen then or we would wait until day 5.  If we waited until day 5 they would have developed into blastocysts and have a much better chance.  However with my previous situations and limited egg supply it would more likely be a day 3 transfer again, so that was what I prepared myself for.

I obviously would love them to develop to day 5 as you aim for this and getting the best outcome and quality but it was also a catch 22 for me as it would mean more time off work and more money spent on flights and accommodation etc.  But it is a step by step process and we would have to see how it went over the next few days.

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Some people may find it strange that I went to see ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’ while going through IVF but I thought it was hilarious – I needed the laugh!

Celebrating the small things – c’mon wee embryos!

DAY 3 – post egg retrieval

Holy s*#t…excuse the french but this was the exact words I sent on this day to my friends and family and to be honest there really is no other way to describe what happened…all 5 had continued to grow.

3 were Grade 1, 8 cells, meaning they were the best grade and cell number, whoop whoop.  2 were Grade 1.5, 6 cells, meaning they were smaller and had a small amount of fragmentation but were still pretty damn good.

I also had my 7th blood test for progesterone levels, so hopefully they would come back ok.

As the 3 are doing so well, they expect all 3 to get to the Blastocyst stage, so the transfer would happen on Day 5 – the day I was supposed to leave.  You are not able to fly long haul for at least 48 hours so I had to spend the day changing my flight, talking to my boss…eeekkkk…. and finding another apartment as all the ones in the building were going to be occupied – buggar!

My work was amazing and totally understood – all my sick leave was officially eaten up and I was now operating on ‘leave without pay’ – ouch! But so worth it if in the long run this works!  Due to Turkish Airline rules, as I had already changed the flight I had to go in person to the airport desk and change it there and pay a huge fee (better than buying a new ticket by far though!),  and it made for an afternoon adventure on the metro.  Luckily I also found a great apartment with a stunning view pretty much across the road from my current place – gotta love Airbnb!

(Celebrated and again distracted myself with a trip to the Acropolis and an incredible lunch….so good I licked the plate)

DAY 5 – Embryo Transfer

Previous to going in I had to really think about what I might do if all 5 made it, if 4 made it, 3 or even 2.  How many would I put back?  Greek law states that for my age range they would only let 2 be put back as I have a higher chance than others – go the age!  Would I risk 2?  Could I handle it alone if both worked and I had twins?  Again – I had to try and slow my brain and think ‘one step at a time’.  I just had to wait and see what I had got and take their advice onboard too.

Out of the 5, 2 made it to Blastocysts, 2 arrested on day 3 and 1 made it to morula stage and we would wait to see if it made it to a blastocyst the next day and decide whether to freeze it from there.  However it looks like it may have arrested yesterday (day 4) – it ended up that that was the case.

Both blastocysts were AA and one was 3 and one was 4. 6 is the top and means that the embryo has hatched.  This basically means that one embryo was excellent and one was very good.  They expected hatching from both later today, which would be after the transfer.  Pretty cool.

I had to make that decision about how many embryos to put back and as I mentioned above that with the prospect of 3-5 it was very daunting.  However with only 2 and after talking it over with both Penny and the embryologist, I decided to put both back – transfer them both.

In terms of statistics there is a 50% chance of a single pregnancy resulting, which is because of my age and is great news comparatively, as IVF rates are on average more of a 25% or less chance with low AMH, however it is still a low chance.  The twin thing was of course discussed and the clinic doesn’t like dealing with numbers but there is a 30% chance but as the embryologist said, if it happens to me then there is a 100% chance.

(The white dot above my finger are the blastocysts – watching them go in is the coolest thing)

So now I continued to take lots of pills on a daily basis and wait for the 2 week mark to see if the embryos had ‘settled in’.

Oh, and lets not forget the butt shots – I had one Pregnyl injection on the day post transfer and had to expose my whole butt, as it was done during the ‘resting stage’ after the transfer – just stunning.  Now, that one was painful.  I had to do 2 more, one in 2 days before I flew and another on the Sunday when I was back in Beijing.  Thankfully my doctor was working this day and was able to do it for me.  They have a policy that they would not do it unless it is prescribed by them but knowing my situation my doctor was amazing and obliged.

So it was another mandatory 2 days of rest in the hopes that these 2 little guys hatch and started to settle in.

I had had no idea but luckily my new apartment happened to be situated in the tallest building in Athens and the view was just insane!

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Thank goodness I had this view to relax to.

Leaving day

My month in Athens had finally come to an end after 1 cancelled round, 2 trips to Agisitri, countless injections, one miracle, 2 rescheduled flights, 5 accommodation shifts, broken veins, 0 then 5 then 3 then 5 then 2 eggs, unexpected 5 day transfer, new friends and 2 embryos hopefully setting in, it had been one hell of a ride.  Who knew when I left from Beijing for 2 weeks that this is what would have happened.

I spent my last day getting my second butt shot – yay! (sarcasm), and raiding all the pharmacies trying to gather as much Clexane injections as possible as the prices in China were insane and I wasn’t entirely sure I could get them.  I even bought 2 pregnancy tests – such a weird feeling and it was so hilarious when the cashier said me me ‘I hope that you get the result that you want’ – what a great way to say it.  It made me feel quite good ‘So do  I’ , I replied (but it would be a wait!).

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There are 2 injections in each…and this was only half of the loot I picked up

I had said goodbye to my new friends the night before and it was back to Beijing and normal life to begin that dreaded 2 week wait that everyone talks about and that I had experienced once before and that had ended in disappointment.

Back in Beijing – the 2 week wait

Thankfully carrying so many meds and injections went seamlessly and the only thing the airports were concerned about was the ice pack that I was carrying on board that was keeping my last shot of Pregnyl cold ready for my Sunday butt shot.  Thank goodness for the Greek and English letters I carried with me.

Sorting out that third butt shot and then trying to sort the intense amounts of medication that I had to take each day was enough to keep me busy, as was returning to the realities of work and the cold weather in Beijing.

I was on 13 pills a day all spaced out at random times, so it took some getting used to to make sure I had taken what I was supposed to at certain times – luckily time management is my forte.  All going well I had 14 weeks of this to look forward to.  All I had to do was keep the 2 week mark in mind and get myself to that – 1 step at a time.  I also had that blasted Clexane injection that had hardly marked me in Athens but was now making lovely smiley face patterns on my stomach – just beautiful.  The glamours of IVF – maybe that it what I should rename my blog.

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Beginning to fade just in time to start the injections at the top of the smile again

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It took up a lot off my time trying to sort and organise all these babies

The 2 week wait – my old friend…..3 months on and here we go again.

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Cheers, to all I have been through and how I have coped, with a non-alcoholic beer to celebrate the roller coaster of my life and where I ended up at the end of the second visit to Serum

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Donor sperm request email writing 101

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Bath time for Amy -trying to match the donor as close as possible to my features

During one of my initial appointments I had asked how I express my ‘wants’ in a sperm donor.  I was told a simple email would suffice and to send it to her (Penny), and that she would match me as best she could, as she knew them and would try and match to make a good family dynamic.

I procrastinated big time on this email, as let’s face it – it was probably the single most weirdest email that I ever had to write.  I mean, how do you even start that?  Not to mention what do you put in the subject line. Crazy town.

Procrastination on the writing of the email did not mean that I procrastinated the thinking about it and I had already had a few characteristics in mind.

Not wanting to be greedy, I only had a few prerequisites.  If I have to do this alone, or if I am lucky enough for it to be successful, I want the child to look as much like me as possible.

So in the interest of telling it like it is here is the exact email I sent:

Hi Penny,

I just wanted to touch base with you about the sperm donor, as you said to email you about it.

If possible my preference is:
– Olive skin
– Blue eyes
– Brown/light brown hair
– Thick, wavy/curly hair

Weight and height are not so much an issue although I would be happy with 1.68m or above.

Of course kind, charismatic and creative are a bonus – haha!

Many thanks for all you have done so far.  See you Saturday morning.

Many thanks,
Amy Martin

I added the weight/height part in last minute and tried to lighten the mood with the characteristic traits, knowing that they would not even come into it.

Super weird email to write as expected and even weirder getting the reply, although it was a relief to receive it:

Hi Amy,

Thank you for your email and for sending me your preference regarding the donor profile. I am sure I will match you most appropriately 🙂

I will be seeing you tomorrow!!!

Many wishes,

Pennyxx.

And that’s how you write the weirdest email of your life, all the while totally tripping out and asking yourself if you have missed anything or are being too picky!
That concludes today’s lesson on donor sperm request email writing.  Let’s hope there is no need for further instalments.

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.

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.

Down the ‘Rabbit Hole’

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Tired eyes, worn out demeanor, exhausted shell of a person. Felt like I needed to share this picture taken during a ‘Rabbit Hole’ moment. Not glamorous but truth telling.

I’m not going to lie and say that I sail through everyday with my head held high and positive thoughts wafting around in my head, all the while smiling and dealing with the shit hand I have been dealt. That would simply be untrue and I would not be human if I could. I was due to hit the wall and reach the end of my positive thoughts bank soon and at exactly 3 weeks after the diagnosis, the reality of the situation came crashing down around me.

The weight of the decision, the lack of sleep, the isolation from family and friends, the overwhelming amount of information I needed to wade through, the actual emotions of receiving this news at my age, the time crunch, the logistics, contacting people, learning about something I knew nothing about and didn’t particularly want to know about, processing what had, would and might happen, taking on board and seeking others opinions and experiences and holding down a full time job all the while smiling at small children, speaking politely to friends, unknowing colleagues and parents on a daily basis finally won over and pulled me down that ‘Rabbit Hole’.

In total I spent 2 days down that ‘Rabbit Hole’, submerged completely. I was unable to be around anyone, speak to anyone and could not function. I knew the best place for me would be locked up at home sorting through things and distressing myself by having the time to wade through….well….everything.

The first day I couldn’t do a thing. Every time I tried to even attack anything fertility related I shut down. At this point tears had not come although I sat there and tried, I wanted to get it all out, get it over and done with. Instead I turned to housework. If you know me, you know this is weird, super weird! I sorted out clothes, washing, rearranged some furniture, measured things, hung pictures and did a lot of things that had been on my to do list for a while. I did not feel better per say but I felt slightly lighter. At the end of day 1 the thought of going back to work was panic inducing. I haven’t had 2 days off in a row for, I can’t even remember how long. I swallowed that bitter pill and called in sick for the second day in a row.

Day 2 and still far, far down that hole, it was all about the research, contacting people and wading through that information. By days end I felt incredibly relieved that I had taken the day and tears flowed freely. I was able to better function, could reply to messages from friends and was slowly clawing my way out of the dingy, dark hole and back into the light.

Of course there are other times when I am caught in that hole again however it may just be for a few hours or a day but I am able manage it – well, so far so good.

Music is a strong emotive force for me and I can’t live without music around me. At the moment you’ll find me ruining Jess Glynne’s empowerment song with terribly applicable lyrics to help bring me up and keep me balanced:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself girl, learn to forgive, learn to let go. Everyone trips, everyone falls, so don’t be so hard on yourself girl” screeches out from my mouth down the hallways at work, at the same time as whip lash inducing moves are being done. Not a pretty sight but it makes me laugh. I truly pity my poor colleagues.

In all truth, it is incredibly difficult not to be hard on yourself. Most of us want to be tough and brave and being brought up in a household of strong, independent minded people, emotions weren’t necessarily at the forefront of things. You learned to be strong and get on with life, which can actually be a great quality.

Sometimes though, I have to give myself a break and realize “It’s not an easy road and I’m not alone, so I won’t be so hard on myself no more” all the while doing over enthusiastic and exaggerated moves to accompany these words down the hallway of an International School in Beijing.

What ever gets you through!

Looking for normal

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The day of my #escapism while #lookingfornormal. Lunch at the Brown Door opposite the Pearl Market with a dear friend.

Killing 3 months until the next set of tests was no picnic. I needed to slow the tornado of words, questions and thoughts in my brain and occupy it with something else in order to deplete the feelings and control my emotions during this period (which is still not quite over yet).

A friend suggested that I track my cycle via temperature using a thermometer to understand how my body works and incase I need to know more information e.g. when I ovulate, IF I decide to go down the pregnancy route. Although this suggestion did not excite me in the least I decided that every option is worth exploring and went ahead with it. Knowledge is power right? I had nothing to lose.

This turned out to be a bit of a mission.

My first problem was making sure I got the correct kind. Who knew, but apparently there are a variety of thermometers and they are all used for different reasons and some are more accurate than others. Awesome. After figuring out which one I needed (a basal one), by consulting the ever faithful internet and my new trusty fertility forum I was off to find it.

After venturing around Beijing that weekend and visiting 4 different stores which I was reassured would have thermometers, I finally stumbled into a tiny local pharmacy, Google translated my way through a conversation (for some reason ‘thermometer’ is not on my repertoire of Chinese words), and came out with a thermometer that had kindly been dusted off by the lady at the pharmacy.

I went home, lay on my bed and proceeded to try to work out this contraption.

Of course all of the instructions were in Chinese and when I tried to figure it out, by trying it out, not much happened. It only had one button, so seriously how hard could it be to work out? I pushed the button, put it under my tongue and waited, nothing happened. At this point I had worked out from the pictures that it needed to beep at some stage. I put it under my tongue and then pushed the button, still nothing. Again, I used Google and still that particular make’s instructions were only in Chinese. Finally I went down the route of Googling the same make but a slightly different number and it turns out that my particular brand of thermometer, the one that had been collecting dust on a shelf in a tiny pharmacy in Beijing was a top notch ovulation thermometer!! I hadn’t even mentioned ‘ovulation’ to the pharmacist, AS if I knew THAT word in Chinese!

It was great news that I had nailed finding the perfect thermometer however that is where the not so fun part comes in. This now means that every morning the first thing I do when I wake up is to not move and lay in bed, with a thermometer shoved right up, extremely uncomfortably under my tounge for a full 5 minutes, while it takes an incredibly accurate temperature reading of my body. And at this point I say to the woman on ‘FertilityFriends’ that said that she thinks it is super relaxing and drifts back off to sleep until it beeps at her to wake up, “Yeah right! How in gods name is a sharp metal implement poking you inside your mouth, in a sensitive part of your tongue, as soon as you wake up for 5 minutes all the while laying still and holding it in place so it gets that accurate reading relaxing? You are insane lady!” You can see how much I love this whole experience, sarcasm central. I then record the number on my phone and at a later time transfer it to a super geeky excel spreadsheet so I can track my cycle. Super fun.

This is when I knew my life had changed.

At this point I have 2 months of data and I have to admit my friend was right, after I got over the annoying aspect of how my days start everyday (that took about a month), it is interesting to have a small insight to how my body works. Patterns are starting to emerge as my body is weaned off ‘The Pill’ and hopefully this will be an asset later on in whatever process I decide to proceed with.

Now I have never used a hashtag in my life but as I was writing this I felt like I could have written this entire post using them. So, I will finish with this:

After this #biglifechange I counteracted all of this boringness, frustration and #fullonness with a #slightlyinsane handbag, Lululemon and headphone #buyingspree at the market #escapism #lookingfornormal #procrastination #denial.

Stuff dealing with real life when it gets a bit too full on – a shopping spree cures all!

The Mask

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Robotic – a visual representation. At a friends place (after a few drinks and messing around with Venetian masks, 2 weeks after the results), truly mimicked how robotic I feel when talking to people about what is happening.

It will not come as news to you that finding out my results and what they meant was, of course, a big shock.

Aside form dealing with it emotionally and mentally I also had to think about how I would get through the days after, while still processing and operating in life as normal.  I still had a job to do and a life to lead and as I soon abruptly realized that this is no one else’s battle but mine, I had to get on with it.

Unfortunately the job I am in is not one where I can get through the day on fumes of sleep or where I can take myself off to a hidey-hole, to be a recluse.  Nor is it one where I can throw myself into work and that will help.  I have to be 100% most of the time with 21 excited little people to teach and take care of, needing my constant attention and me needing my wits about me 99%of the time, especially with my special ‘clientele’ in the classroom.  Lets not even mention the leadership role that sucks my time and energy on a daily basis.

Truthfully, I had no idea how I was going to deal with this all and function.  Remarkably, going through something like this, something thats means you are in it for the long game with not an easy end in sight, really is a test of who you are.  It was amazing to me how I dealt with it all and I truly surprised myself.

I had no idea how I would be when I talked to someone about what I was going through and unfortunately an unsuspecting good male friend was the first person I encountered who asked me the ‘wrong/right’ question and, me being me, was forced to answer honestly.

Immediately, and I mean immediately it was like I was having an outer body experience.  I felt drunk.  Not plastered, falling over, slurring my words drunk but tiddly drunk.  Glazed over and hazy brained with a slightly removed sense of self, tiddly drunk.  As soon as I started talking about what had happened and what I am going through, I went into completely robotic mode.  I was talking matter of factly, in sentences that included ‘It’s a bit shit but I am being super positive’ and ‘It’s not so cool but what are you going to do?’ all sans tears.  It was like I was projecting from a place next to, and slightly above my own body.  It felt like I was talking about someone else’s story.  To this day, it still feels this way, every time I talk about it. And I am not so sure that it is going to change anytime soon either.

 It’s slightly insane but it’s like a veil comes across me and I go into robotic/ shut down mode, without truly shutting down.  My inner robot comes out, regurgitates the specific information that is needed, matter of factly deals with the conversation and then moves on to the next topic.  And when that next topic arises I miraculously morph back into normal Amy and I am back, in my body and experiencing the conversation in a non tiddly/ robotic/ shut down state.

It truly is amazing what the body does when faced with true stress.

I surprised myself. Reacting this way has truly helped me survive.  My body and brain totally went into survival mode.  I was taken aback at how well I could rely on my body to help me when it really counted.

I am so proud of how I have handled myself when approached, sharing my story or when caught in a conversation about it.  And I am still proud about how I am continuing to handle myself.  Being proud of myself does not come easy and lightly and this is probably the only time you will catch me talking about me being proud of me.  And, I am not ashamed to admit it.

The choices you make shape who you are, especially the choices you make when faced with something overwhelming, tough and life altering.

I am incredibly proud of the choices I have made so far in dealing with this situation and I hope that from here on out I can be proud of the choices that I make in the future.

Elizabeth Taylor….wise words and I am trying, everyday.

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Down with one!

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…or not!

It is incredibly hard for me to write some of these posts and not just because of the what they are about.  I am not sure if any of you have picked up on this but what I have shared so far only happened in that first week of finding out – that was about 6 weeks ago.

As you can imagine a lot has changed since then but also a lot has not.  So many important things happened during that first week and I feel that I need to explain them properly for others to fully understand my story and decisions.  However it is unbelievably hard to write them now, looking back, as what I know now and feel has changed or stayed the same or I am no further forward or I have made firm decisions – don’t worry, not THAT decision….not yet anyway.  This is what makes it incredibly hard to write ,as I am not sure how to approach the posts – from then or now or a mix of both.  Also I have had so many incredible stories shared with me and so many amazing people reach out I want to make sure that everyone understands at least one place that I am at right now. So I will start with a decision I have firmly made.

I have decided that at egg freezing is no longer an option for me.

This in turn rules out New Zealand for a place to help me or have treatment in, as egg freezing is their only option unless I have my own personal sperm to do other options with.  As we all know I am painfully single, so this is not the case.  Also, as you know, I could wait for a sperm donor on a list however that list is 2-3 years long and my time frame is a year, so the math does not add up.  So out with New Zealand.

Obviously this decision has not come lightly however I am just so relieved to have at least one option checked off my list and into the ‘do not want’ pile. Scratch that.  More like in the ‘will not do’ pile.

A friend of mine recommended an amazing website ‘Fertility Friends’ and although incredibly overwhelming (I am still using my mantra of step by step and only looking up small things at a time), it has real people, sharing real stories and really is the best place I have been able to find concrete information, that helps all different people from all walks of life, from all different countries around the world to be informed without doctors and too much clinical stuff getting in the way.

However, there is no escaping the dreaded acronyms!  My god, those things have become my worst enemy, so much so that I now have a fertility acronym dictionary in my notes on my computer.  My god, how life has changed! That page used to be my ‘bars to visit’ list!

Fertility friends has incredible threads dedicated to different things, however the Australasian thread was the most helpful at first.  Long story short, it helped me see that most people with infertility issues in Australia and New Zealand basically said ‘Get the hell out’.  They have gone to reputable clinics in mostly South Africa, the Chech Republic, Bulgaria, Spain and Greece to seek more options and credible advice, that was more affordable.  And by more affordable I mean SERIOUSLY more affordable.  One Australian couple had flown to South Africa, had a few treatments/cycles and flown back and that cost them the same as 1 treatment in Australia.  For me it was a no brainer….start looking into overseas options.

The same friend who suggested this website, had sent me a few threads and as she is interested in this stuff (I am so thankful for that and for her!), had seen that a few clinics were continually mentioned, down to the person who was best to deal with.  I looked up one clinic – Serum in Greece and was amazing by what they could offer.  I submitted a questionnaire from their website, attached my doctors notes and within a day I had heard back.

Wow!  I was completely blown away by their knowledge, efficiency and professionalism.  Most of the knowledge I have now, still comes from those first few emails.  As I had asked about egg freezing (among other things but that will come later), I was given great advice.

Serum do not “offer egg freezing here as it’s relatively unproven as few babies have been born from frozen eggs worldwide except from fertile egg donors.  Increasing numbers of egg freezing cycles are being run for women wanting to postpone having a family but only a tiny portion of those women have gone on to try getting pregnant with those eggs.  The proportion of those women who have extra fertility issues like low AMH is also probably small so it will be difficult for any doctor to give you a robust estimate of what your personal chances to have a baby from 2 cycles for frozen eggs would be.  I think it’s unhelpful to start thinking of  egg freezing as an insurance because it may be that even with several cycles of freezing, the eggs do not give pregnancy when you come to try with them.”

After this email I obviously did some more research and found out the following things:

1 – Eggs have a high water content so can be susceptible to both damage and destruction as ice crystals within the egg can cause it to fracture when thawing

2 – Thawing of the eggs does not have enough research to support successful pregnancy outcomes and during the thawing process (depending on how your clinic does it – oh yes, there are a few ways! More fun knowledge I had to learn about), there are low thawing survival rates.

Laying it all out on the table this would mean because of my low AMH levels, if I did a round of IVF to extract eggs, I would only at best case scenario, have 6 eggs, in most cases half are viable (due to varying reasons), that’s 3, then they would need to go through the thawing process with maybe, again, at best, 1-2 surviving and then subjecting myself to trying to get pregnant with only a small chance of that working down the track, with no proven research to say it will work.  I don’t even want to go down the track of my worst case scenario outcomes or lack there of.  Women with non fertility issues would have a much better chance and the statistics are still against them with low pregnancy outcome rates.

That is a lot, and I mean A LOT of money, time, hurt, energy, life wasted  and a seemingly endless emotional roller coaster for a crappy not scientifically proven way of preserving fertility, that has not even been a great deal successful in the most fertile of women.  Imagine it with the fertility challenged.

I have decided that I am not wanting to waste my life, worrying if it may work, sending myself into crippling debt for a possibility or a maybe or a just not sure.  I want something more concrete than that, even of it is just slightly more.

So egg freezing is struck firmly off the list.

Down with one, what will be next?