A year later – to the day

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One year ago today I was given some pretty confronting and devestating news.  Over the course of this year I have had to do some pretty big soul searching, make some life changing decisions and face some pretty epic emotional, financial and physical roller coasters. But it was all worth it and like so many amazing people kept reminding me – it only takes one…I’m pregnant.

The above photo was recently taken in Greece where I had my IVF journey and where the donor is from, holding an egg, symbolising that it only takes one egg and because I am due in the Chinese Year of the Rooster. The 1 represents the single embryo that took and again to reiterate the fact that it only takes one.

Another long catch up but here is how I found out and how the last few months have unfolded.

The 2 week wait

During the 2 week wait, as I mentioned previously, I had plenty of things to keep me busy however things started to feel different than the first time.  In the second week I felt a stitch like pain in my lower left side.  At first I was panicked and worried about this but with no spotting or blood and after doing some googling (I know googling is bad but it really is the only thing to do apart from bombard the doctor which I was not prepared to do!), I soon realised that this could be a good sign and that the embryo or embryos were attaching themselves.  Fingers crossed!

With the pregnancy test at the 2 week wait, I needed a blood test to measure my HCG levels.  Now, it didn’t just end there, I then needed another HCG test 2 days later to ensure that my HCG levels were doubling meaning it was a viable pregnancy.  Sometimes HCG levels give a positive and then 2 days later have not doubled which can mean a variety of things, all not so good.  The HCG level is what gives a positive pregnancy test.  I also needed my progesterone levels to be measured, as if they were low I needed to have a series of 3 more butt shots to try to (as they call it), rescue the pregnancy – meaning your body does not have enough progesterone to support the pregnancy, so it needs help to do so.

I had been warned by many forums not to do any pregnancy tests prior to the 2 week mark as it could easily give a false positive due to hormones left over in your body from all the stimulants however the day before my test, a Sunday, I did one anyway, thinking that at least if it was a negative or a faint line I could at least be prepared.

This is what I saw:

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Test number 1

HCG test 1 and 2

On the day of the test in the morning I used the second test to make double sure and this is what it showed:

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Test number 2 – just to make sure…darker..woohoo!

So hopeful, but of course in true Amy style -still realistic, I went after work to get my HCG blood test and progesterone test.  On Halloween it was confirmed that I was pregnant with an HCG level of: 256.1

Now I had my fingers crossed for a doubling in the next 2 days.

2 days later and after reminding them that I needed the Progesterone test (they had not done this the first day, so this was another added stress as I was not able to confirm if I needed extra help from the butt shots), I finally had my results from my HCG and they had doubled “as expected”, my doctor here said (Yay, for positive people).  My HCG level was 561.5.

This then lead to lots of speculation and sneaky googling to try and find out if these numbers indicated twins or a single pregnancy.  Unfortunately it was another wait for me as the numbers mean nothing for the number of embryos that may be present.

After a few days and a lot of nerves I finally got my progesterone levels back and my doctor told me that the clinic thought they were abnormally high, so wanted to retest them.  This did not sound like good news to me.  This was 5 days after my first HCG test and the weekend was looming, so I did not get any answers until the following week.  I was super thankful for a forum I had joined for current Serum people and turned to them for help as all the literature about progesterone levels talked about the low side but none on the internet (can you believe that – none!), talked about abnormally high results.  Thankfully they all had great advice and told me that high doesn’t matter it’s the low that is a worry.  So that got me through until finally I was able to have an electronic report and send them through the Penny.  The high number and the great HCG levels meant that I did not need any more butt shots! Celebrations all around – although I have some pretty expensive meds still sitting in my refrigerator!

A good progesterone level for me should have been 29.6 – 109.6 mol/L.  Mine was 385 mol/L, hence the anxiousness from me and the panic!  This was what it should be in the third trimester according to my doctor.

So after Penny’s reassurance I was finally able to relax and try to let the reality settle in that I was officially pregnant.  One step further on this journey than before.  This also meant that because of the IVF process I was now 4 weeks pregnant.  It was nice to have one small short cut in this long and arduous process!

Scan 1 – 7 weeks

After my first official vomit – yay me – I was off for my first scan and hopeful that that was a good sign.  It had hard for me to get excited about anything and it would not seem real to me – a very visual person – until I saw the scan and what was happening.  Also, who knew how many there were!

My gorgeous friend offered to come and at first I was about to turn her down and then I realised that I had done everything else alone, I was not going to do this alone.  She has been incredible and come to every appointment so far.  It has been so wonderful to have her support.

It was all amazing news, everything looked great.  I know what my feeling was about the single or twin situation – my sister had joked that I would end up with twin boys just like I had said I wanted for years and years when I was younger.  I had thought that it may be twins – it would be just typical if it was, however I realised that I hadn’t been that sick and was showing no sign or symptoms really except that 1 vomit and the stitch like pain so in reality I thought it would be just one.  I did wonder how many bets were going on surrounding this scan and if I should of had an ‘in’ on them to make some money! Haha!

It was a transvaginal scan as the embryo is still very small and after a bit of searching and another bladder empty, it was confirmed that there was a single embryo there.  A fabulous little ‘Lone Ranger’.

The Lone Ranger measured 1.1cm (which showed it at 7 weeks and 2 days, gaining time again!), making the due date scan-wise July 7th but IVF-wise July 9th.  We will have to see which was more accurate when the time arrives.

All else was also great – my cervix had closed and measured fabulously and the uterus was looking good.  A few follicles in the ovaries were still lurking around probably due to all the meds I was still taking and would disappear when the placenta kicked in later.  Apparently it had implanted in a great spot too, so wins all around.

The best bit was hearing the heartbeat!!  It was nice and strong at 138 beats a minute (it should be between 110 and 170).  It was pretty cool to see it moving.

I was so relieved and finally able to let myself be excited….well until the next day when I reigned it in a little until the 10 week scan – a high risk point for IVF patients.

My friend had captured a video of it all so it was great to be able to send this to my family and friends.  My parents were especially happy as it made them feel like they were there.

9 weeks

Still early days but the best news ever – I was finally down 2 pills.  So I went from 13 pills and an injection per day to 11 pills and an injection – woohoo!

I had been extremely lucky with no more morning sickness however had been diagnosed with extreme fatigue…lucky me!  I had insomnia, limited appetite and a lot of light headedness.  Plus my F sized boobs had already busted out of my bras – boohoo!  Luckily they weren’t tender though – whew!  Due to my fatigue and insomnia, my low immune system (apparently this is another stunner of a thing you get with pregnancy), had me very sick with a cold, so I was miserable.  Looking back I had no idea how I got through those weeks working full time with no sick days left and no sleep – I had quickly learned how much I cost on daily basis from my leave without pay days, so it was no days off for me, just ‘battle through it’, putting all the energy into being with my kids and all break times and frees trying to hide and recover to do it all over again.  Survival mode people!  No one tells you any of this about the first trimester.  It truly sucks.

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This truly sums up my first trimester and the daily struggle – pregnant women are my new heroes

Scan 2 – 10 weeks

It has arms and legs, it hiccups/jumps and is very squirmy! So super cool.  What a way to end a rough couple of weeks.

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Floating upside down and waving to the camera – my ‘real baby’!

It was measuring 3.29cm, you could see the umbilical cord and the placenta has started to develop.  Again – a strong heartbeat.  I was so taken aback that it actually looked like a ‘real baby’ – I actually say this in the video, as it technically is still an embryo so I expected it to still look more alien-like not baby-like yet!

I had to have 2 more sets of blood tests to finish up testing that wasn’t done through IVF.

I had lost weight but no one was worried due to my illness and because everything was looking healthy.

As I would be in New Zealand for the 12 week scan (it needed to be done between week 11-13 and for that entire time I was home in NZ), I got the run down on  the chromosomal testing and all the things I needed to relay when I was back. My parents and sister were able to come so that was exciting (for me and them), and Christmas eve was the 12 week mark so that was a bit special.

Apparently it will double in size in the next 2 weeks – crazy!  Looks like the start of the bump will come very soon.

I left just feeling extremely lucky to be able to get to this point.

Scan 3 – 12 weeks

It was a bit of a big week in New Zealand.  I was finally off the hard stuff – I had taken my last steroid pill.  Thank god – I had no idea how much it was effecting me until I came off it and noticed so much bloat disappear from my face and body and a bit of the cloudiness dissipate.

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My last ‘little white pill’ – steriod

Having my family at the 12 week scan was great.  6cm long (crown to rump), and all moving and shaking.  It really does not like being pushed around by the ultrasound wand (finally I was up to having on top of tummy scans!).  It all got a bit real for my family, which was really nice to see.

(Laid back and chilled out – hand behind it’s head and leg up)

Visually all looks good in terms of the chromosomal elements – neck measurement, nasal bone, bladder, brain development and stomach are looking amazing.  These are all good indicators for no defects.  I got the bloods done the next day for that extra 10% assurance.  The ultrasound is an 80% assurance.  To this day I still do not have the blood test results back from the NZ laboratories – it is not a test they usually do.  God knows where my blood is and if it has been tested yet!

2017

The first day of the New Year was an amazing one for me as my progesterone suppositories were halved.  Because the China and NZ equivalents were only 100mg instead of 200mg my pills had increased to 17 a day and 1 injection, so halving these was amazing.  It also meant I had to take them twice a day and not 4 times…I could smell the freedom!  I was also down to 6 more injections to go – in 1 weeks time I would be off all meds and the injections, bar 5 (multivitamins, folic acid and baby aspirin – all of which I needed to continue throughout my pregnancy).

I was still ill and getting nauseous during the day but small afternoon naps and carrying around small energy bites helped that along.  Naps are an amazing thing that I have never been able to do – it was the only thing that was helping me to get through my days, so I was loving the hell out of the 10 or 20 minutes I was getting during the day.

A friend of mine calls the baby ‘the parasite’, as it sucks everything out of you.  She was talking about her own pregnancy but I have to agree!  It is seriously what it feel like.  I was a shell of myself in the first trimester.

Along with no more big meds and injections in a weeks time, it also changed into the second trimester…I was dying for things to improve as everyone had told me they would and even having a tiny bit of energy restored to me would be amazing!

Back to Beijing

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It was very fitting that due to timings and time zones, my lucky last injection had to be done in a plane toilet, midway between NZ and Singapore.  No more injections, so I had to get a celebratory photo.  I seriously do not miss those daily buggars!

Thank you

I will be forever grateful for the love, support and messages that I have received throughout this journey, they are what have got me through.  It has been and still remains an incredibly tough journey and all the messages, words of encouragement and advice have helped twofold.  Thanks for being so amazing and supporting me on this roller coaster journey.

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Non alcoholic New Years – cheers to 2017

Here’s to my next adventure – due July 7th

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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!

Harvest time at the farm

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A fabulous way to recuperate – loving the hammock and shady plant filled balcony

It was up and at ’em bright and early for ‘Egg retrieval day’ – bright, bushy tailed and bloody hopeful that they would be able to scrounge 2 eggs from my measly ovary crop.  C’mon egg number 2 – right ovary you can do it (you lazy little toad!)

Feeling naked – no make up, jewellery, perfume allowed – I took the walk down to the clinic to be there by 8.30, ready to be all systems go for my 9am harvest.

On my ‘most bestest day’ I had also been given a contract to sign entitled ‘Consent Form for an unmarried women undergoing assisted reproduction with donor sperm’ – hows that for a mouth full?!?  I had a few questions – namely about not being told any risks yet and also one about the mention of Greek Law – what the hell did it actually refer to.  It stumped everyone – apparently it isn’t asked about often – and they had to look it up and it was a few pages long.  So after it was paraphrased to me – perfectly acceptable – I signed the document.  Resentfully, I skipped the part where they ask you what you want to do with your extra embryo’s – lucky people who have excess eggs!  In my head I had choicer words to say about it.  The law basically stated that it covered me for all things etc,etc.

Again I was up on the 3rd floor, this time stripping properly naked and dressing myself in the beautiful backless gowns you see on all the hospital TV shows – and thankfully I was able to wrap it around enough to cover my behind.  I got versed in the ‘hosptial gown shuffle’ very quickly.

I was taken through to the same room I had my scans in, legs up, this time they were strapped in and heavy booty things were put over my legs to keep them in place or maybe just for the embryologist to lean on – who knows, I was out to it.  The anaesthetist came in, a very sweet women, I had pshsyced myself up for this needle and she tried to put a line in. my hand.  Apparently I wasn’t relaxed enough and she began flicking my hand and wrist to try and get another vein up to put in another line – lucky me.  My yoga breaths came in very handy through this whole process.

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My 2 entry points – later on half of my hand was entirely bruised and stayed that way for a week due to blood thinners.

The embryologist walked in – I’d never seen him in my life and never saw him again, even after I woke up – told me he would do a scan and showed me as he did it.

Did I just see a decent sized egg in my right ovary???  Tentatively I asked how many eggs there were. 2 he said. 2!!!  Woohoo – thank you stimulants!

Next there was an overwhelming sense of ‘woah’ as the embryologist stroked my head and asked if I was ok, then I was out.

While I was out, they retrieved the 2 eggs by a needle going through the top of the wall of the uterus under ultrasound guidance to get to the ovary and follicles, then the fluid in the follicles is aspirated through the needle and the egg/s detach from the follicle wall and are sucked out of the ovary.  The whole process takes about 15 minutes depending on how many eggs you have.  Lucky for me it was only 2 holes and a very quick time.

I awoke with no pain and was helped from the room by 2 people – god knows who and was told to rest in the room I usually got changed in.  I think I dozed, I have no idea for how long and was checked on by a member of staff and my hand was checked as it was still attached to the sedative bag.  Penny came in to check on things and breakfast was brought in as I had to fast from the night before.  My needles were finally removed – the first entry point was extremely tender and in the following days came out in a bruise that covered almost my entire hand – a complete rock’n’roll badass bruise – can you tell I hardly ever bruise!

I was able to sit up and eat my cheese toast when Penny came back in super excited that we had 2 eggs and gave me a huge hug.

I had the next stage of medication explained to me – so not fun!  I had to put pills 4 times a day in places pills should not go and then 2 times a day in another place pills should not go, as well as an array of different pills through out the day. Worse was when I found out that they had already given me one of them while I was under – lovely…I had no idea I had already been violated…that was a worry! I did laugh with the mid wife at that though – if you don’t laugh you cry!

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More instructions for the following days medication and procedures – lucky me.

After getting all the medication from reception and making sure I knew what I had to do, it was a slow walk back and an easy rest of the day, not doing too much and being lazy.  I was extremely lucky and felt fine – no niggles, just the horrendous putting of medication in different orifices.

As the next day was Sunday, the clinic would not be open after 1pm (optimum time to check the embryos), so I had to wait until Monday to check on my embryos and to see if they had ben fertilised.

Fingers crossed!  Come on little donor sperm – you can do it!

 

 

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.