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