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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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

The full story

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Post IVF body, uncomfortable, bloated and pumped full of drugs. Baring all to seek to the positive from a ‘Negative’ day.

While in Sweden having a great time, thankful for the friends and family that surrounded me to take my mind off things, my friend mentioned that she had a few home pregnancy tests in her bathroom and that if I wanted to I could use one.

Initially hesitant, on the morning of my blood test to find out my results (AKA my HCG levels and Progesterone levels ), I gave in to temptation and asked her if I could use one and took the test.

It was quite hilarious. Every TV show and movie that you watch shows the woman taking the pregnancy test nervously peeing on the stick and waiting patiently for the results.  It did not conger up any feelings of that for me.  It was nothing like I expected.  It was almost normal, another part of the process and a small step forward.  Sweet step by sweet little step.  Definitely no dramatic waiting scene here.

A few days previous I had noticed that two of the horrendous side effects that I have been experiencing – bloatedness and terrible face acne had miraculous disappeared (well the pimples had cleared but the belly bloat stayed around for awhile but the feeling of puffiness had mysteriously vanished (I have since found out that those symptoms are caused by Progesterone).  I had mentioned this to my brother and said to him ‘I’m not trying to be negative here but I have a feeling that it might not have worked’.  That bloody gut feeling getting put into play again.

A few minutes later and the stick was showing me a resounding ‘Negative’.  There wasn’t even a tad bit of a faded line or a glimmer of hope.  It was a flat out ‘NO’.

Wow.  That was not what I was expecting…with an embryo actually implanted and copious amounts of pregnancy enhancing drugs in my system I expected at least a slight faded line – the dramatic part of the TV show or movie came into play here.  Much to my surprise, apparently it doesn’t work like that.

It was a crazy feeling to explain, mainly because you are warned that you can have a false positive but you are never told that there is such a thing as a false negative.  Maybe there is a reason for that and that is that maybe it just doesn’t exist.  In my heart of hearts I knew and my poor friend had to see me try to take it in and try to hold it together as I waded through uncertainty.  All credit to her (she is a pretty phenomenal person) and she was like ‘Feel it, let it out, do what you need to do and don’t worry about me or others’.  So amazing.

For absolute clarity we ventured to downtown Stockholm to a clinic to get the blood test.  After a lot of chat in Swedish we were able to determine that we could get the results rushed through and while I was waiting to board my plane to Nantes (via Brussels overnight), I could call to get my results.  We then spent a very lovely afternoon riverside eating amazing Swedish food and then it was off to the airport I went.

My amazing ‘brother from another mother’ sensing my distress after saying goodbye to my actual brother in a flood of tears, jumped on the bus with me and helped me locate the next one to the airport and was there to just help me simmer down and get ahold of my emotions.  I really am so thankful to all of my friends and brother through this time.  It was great to have such genuine and incredible people around me, looking after me, knowing me and knowing what I needed without judgement.  True, true friends that I will always treasure.

Unfortunately at the airport there was a mix up and I was not able to get my results (wrong phone number was given), and I had to wait until the next morning to call.

After a good sleep in Brussels (sometimes emotionally exhausted comes in handy), I stood outside the airport hotel waiting for the shuttle and again was denied my results as they told me they had sent it to my clinic (Serum).

Frantically, before I lost wifi, I shot an email off to Penny to tell her what was happening and that I would appreciate it if she could email me my results asap 1. Because I then would know if I had to organise another blood test in Nantes and also someone to do more butt shots for me and 2. because they were my bloody results!

Arriving in Nantes I was greeted by my bestie’s father and luckily with no wifi, a long drive and me trying to recall my rusty high school French (her father only speaks French), I was distracted long enough to make it to the tiny, gorgeous seaside town on the West coast of France.

Unfortunately for my bestie she was now lumped with me on edge and anxiously waiting for the email that would seal the fate of my first round.

It came in 2 forms.  One from Penny and one from the blood test clinic in Sweden.

Thankfully the sereneness and the fact that I had already had over 24 hours to process the absolute negative from the home pregnancy test meant that I could take it on board a bit more easily.  Not too gracefully mind you but much better than I or anyone around me expected I think.  Don’t worry – there was a side of the road melt down a few days later to prove that I actually am human!

So we did the best thing we could do and that was to take my gorgeous friends wee one down to the ocean, where after 2 weeks of no swimming and following all the other ridiculous rules that I had to stick to, I waded out and dived straight into the ocean.

Celebrate the small things and look to the positive, that’s what I am trying to continue to do.

A toast

 

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A Rose in hand and toasting with them, never a more fitting toast at such a relevant time

In the waiting area of Nantes airport I was catching up on a TV show ‘Kingdom’ and was floored when they did a toast that encaptured exactly how I was feeling. At first I had thought that what I was feeling was just numbness but then after this speech, or in reality a toast (complete with mini bar bottles of spirits), I realised that I was feeling all of these things…except maybe the self loathing part and unfortunately I have no pills to make the pain go away.

The toast went like this:

Woman: To panic attacks…and insomnia

Man: ….and depression

W: ….and rage and loss

M: ….and self loathing

W: …yeah, thats not me, thats you…..but bitterness…

M: I like it, I like it….hopelessness

W: …..oh, fuck, I’m swimming in that

M: …yeah….here’s to all the fuck’n pills that make the pain go away

W: …yes

M: …and fuck you god

Now, I’m not religious so that last part isn’t quite right but I am saying fuck you. I have no idea to who but that’s how I am feeling. I think that is bitterness speaking.

Insomnia and depression are old news, present since the day I found out I had a low egg reserve and a time limit. But rage, loss, pain and hopelessness are all new to the mix. Add numbness and you have Amy Martin right now.

The first round did not work.

Who knows why. I guess there is no use dwelling on things but my mind and body are not in a good place right now.

I seriously was questioning how I could do this all over again. The pain and hopelessness have been at the forefront of things.

Hopelessness has dominated everything and it makes it hard to get to a good place.

I guess with being on holiday all I am doing is looking toward when I get back to Beijing to get my body and head in a good place/space. I’m joining up to exercises classes as soon as I get back to leave no doubt that it was my body that let me down.

I will see a counsellor, no matter the cost, to talk things out, hopefully find acceptance and get my head in a good place.

I will use my obvious easy access to Chinese medicine and start acupuncture (more needles, I know) to help aid fertility – it’s a thing…believe me. Anything to help.

At least then I will have no doubt if it doesn’t work next time that I did everything I possibly could and that it will leave no doubt in my mind that I did everything I could have done to prevent it.

It will work.

See, I can still be positive, even if it is only a timid little whisper somewhere down deep.

I will get to a good place and do it all. over. again. Sometime.  Somehow.

Like a shooting star

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4 days post transfer, overlooking Athens. I finally felt up to venturing out and about.

No matter how much I convinced myself to stay calm and that things were out of my control, I had an incredibly massive pit in my stomach the closer I got to my appointment time.  I tried to prepare myself for the worst case scenario and I had even looked up flights and boats to other places so I could escape Athens and move forward as quickly as possible.

It is a tough situation to be in when all your hopes are riding on something that is completely out of your control and that is for the most part, a right of a womans existence or life.  Unfairness at it’s peak – how do you cope with that while tying to stay positive but trying to prepare yourself for the worst, just incase?

Through this process I repeatedly and truly wondered if I was actually cut out for this.  I constantly questioned myself.  ‘I am not strong enough for this’,  being a thought that was a regular in my head, popping up and starting the emotional train wreck going again.

I had the longest wait yet in the waiting room (always bring a trusty book – though I had to re-read that chapter again later as I had taken none of it in), and then I was taken to have a blood test to check my Progesterone levels – they need to be high – apparently that’s what some of my pills had been doing.

I was getting to be a pro at blood tests now.  The mid wife laughed as she called me for it and as I proclaimed ‘Awesome, fab, can’t wait’, she told me she had never heard that reaction for a blood draw before.  No shit Sherlock.

After another wait – this was incredibly nerve wracking – more so than the wait to see if my meagre number of eggs had been fertilised.  I didn’t have another chance, I was screwed if it was not a good grade.

I was asked to go up to the illusive 3rd floor – that had to be a good sign right? – this is the procedure room floor – no offices in sight.  I went through the same routine as the retrieval with the full gown, although I was pleased I was allowed to have my top half remain covered which made the ‘hospital shuffle’ much easier this time.

The embryologist appeared – and SUCCESS!!!!  My little embryo had continued to fertilise and although it wasn’t at day 5 (which means it would be a blastyocst and have a better chance), for a day 3 transfer it was excellent quality – NO FRAGMENTATION.  Relief flooded me.  I had an internal celebratory dance party and then it hit me, my god….this was actually about to happen.

It was then into the next room and legs up into my “favourite” stirrups and Penny came in and explained how the procedure would go.  She did a ‘dry run’ of the transfer, meaning that after the usual speculum, she inserted a long, tiny catheter which we could see on the screen.  The mid wife and her really ensured that I could see everything so I was able to see how it worked and  they told me what I needed to look for when the transfer happened.

The embryologist was then told we were ready and came in with an identical catheter which contained my embryo.  It was then inserted and I was told to look for the shooting star and it was exactly that.  It was crazy cool – as they transferred the embryo it looked like a shooting star going across the screen/ my uterus.  Super cool.

The catheter was then removed and they took it away to make sure everything had been transferred and it was empty.  Penny rubbed my belly and said ‘C’mon on blue eyed baby, grow, grow, grow.  She then gave me a photo from the transfer where you can see the little light of the embryo sitting there.  I felt pure elation and awe looking at those pictures, it was all a bit insane and surreal.

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My plastic bag filled with needles and pills

I then needed to transfer to a bed and be wheeled into the nearby cubicle to ‘rest’ while I was delivered a thick wad of notes on the medication and injections (oh god, not more of those!!!!) that I needed to do, detailed right up to the 13th week of pregnancy, if I was lucky enough to make it that far.  As I tried to take in the fact that I had to do daily self injections and had 3 more ‘butt shots’ of Progesterone to do, I lay in a daze.  Thank god I was staying in Athens for a week longer and the clinic would do the shots for me (well the ‘butt shots’), – for the daily ones I was all on my own.

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All laid out – it only took up a quarter of my suitcase – lol!  Major resentment!

When I was allowed to stand and get dressed (around an hour later), I went through the pages with the mid wife a few more times, sat and waited for my supermarket bag full of medication and needles (only 1 months worth), and then asked if they would show me how to do the daily shots.  Long story short – they tried to do it, I told them that “no, I needed to learn” and then as I tried to stab myself 3 fingers from the tummy button, I got very upset (was there any doubt), only put it in a small amount and had to pull it out and then finally pushed it all the way in, pushed down and withdrew.  She told me it was like a little mosquito bite – at that point in time, my arse it was.  She also told me that it was a good idea to alternate sides for the shots in a smiley face pattern – at least something would be smiling! They are all preloaded thankfully.

As I left I was told that my Progesterone levels were excellent – another small win and I was off back to my apartment officially inseminated.

Crazy, just crazy.

Bring on the 2 week mark when I would have my blood test to see what was going on and to tell me if I I needed 3 additional ‘butt shots’ of progesterone – luckily I had trips planned and plenty of awesome people to distract me until then.  Thankfully they are fabulous friends and helped me arrange blood tests both in Sweden and France as I needed to have 2 tests, 2 days apart.  My mind could rest a bit easier with that sorted.

Pregnancy test here I come – never thought I’d be saying that being 33 and single.  My, how things change and how life works out

I AM strong enough for this.  It just took some convincing.  What’s llfe without a little (or a lot), of challenge.

 Although, I still would not wish doing this process alone on my worst enemy.

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.