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

Miracle?

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3 in 1 – 3 stimulants into one needle with 2 shaking hands. My handwritten explicit instructions in the background.

On my own and trying to deal with the cancellation of my cycle, traveling so far to no avail and taking the time off work to do it, to make myself feel better I took myself off to ‘shop until I dropped’and to try and process things.

Thoughts of what next, when, how and could I afford another flight and accommodation and would I have time within the time constraints of the year that I was given, flooded my head.  As it stood I may have been able to go back around our Chinese New Year holidays but that would mean more time off work and technically out of the optimum time frame given.  Did I even want to put myself through this again?  Was it a question of want or need?  When is the time you call it quits and look to option B?  What was option B for me?

Shopping helped push these thoughts aside and with a full week ahead of me until my flight and it still being school holidays I decided to take myself back to Agistri to stay at a place recommended to me by some friends to have some r’n’r, to let the situation sink in and to give myself a break from reality.  Pretty much eat, drink, walk and swim my sorrows away.

Before my 3 night escape I needed to face the music and go back for the dreaded blood tests and one last scan (I was getting very good at these now!), and what happened could not have been more unbelievable if I had made it up myself!!  Even 3 months on, I still can’t quite believe it!

The ‘Cyst of doom’ had caused my cycle to restart – it was Day 2 of my cycle! AND there were 4 follicles present, 2 on each side!  I’ve never even entertained the thought of miracles or though about if I believed in miracles but this came pretty close!

Everyone was in complete shock and surprise.  The follicles were all the same size, which has never happened before and this means that there was a good chance they would all progress together at the same rate.

The left side ones had a grey area (literally), around them so could still be the cyst, so I couldn’t afford to get my hopes up too much.

So, packed into my bag for the 3 day trip were a plethora of medications.  I was on 3 stimulants (within 1 injection), a day, 1 Clexane (my old injection friend – a blood thinner), 2 antibiotics, 1 steroid, 1 folic acid and 1 melatonin until the Friday!

You also won’t believe it, due to my fear of needles and my previous history at self administering (or being unable too), but I self administered my stimulants with nurse supervision (and shaking hand), so I was still able to go to the island and come back early Friday for the scan.  It’s amazing what shock and surprise can do for your determination.

When I returned on Friday, we would see if any were viable- best case 4, maybe 2 or worst case I fly home as planned on Saturday and try again another time.

I left the clinic in a daze and went back to my Airbnb massively in shock while madly trying to organise things ‘just incase’.  I had to email my Principal for more time off (not my favourite thing to do and something I am not comfortable doing as I felt awful because the school had been so good to me already), checking if I would be able to make changes to my flight (and how much it would cost), and trying to sort accommodation.  It was just so surreal.  I even started laugh crying to myself hysterically – luckily in private!

The next step was to not think about it too much and to see what Friday brought, all the while trying not to get my hopes up too high but keeping positive, while still being in shock.

So it was off to the islands laden with unexpected meds and injections I went!  Talk about a turn around.

The cyst of doom

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‘Currently getting drunk on Greek Sauv’ The picture that accompanied my message to my friends – at a restaurant recommended to me by Penny during our ‘it’s cancelled talk’.

Unfortunately the gut feeling reins again and it was not good news the next day.

The scan showed that my egg had shrunk and my lining too.  This means that either the egg was bad quality or it was a cyst OR that the cyst in my left ovary caused more havoc than we realised – thanks ‘Cyst of doom’!

I had to have another round of blood tests to see what was going on with my hormones, as my monthly cycle has not stopped and maybe because of the ‘Cyst of doom’,  my body is only starting a proper monthly cycle now.  Apparently, this would actually be amazing, as it would mean that what we had just looked at for the last week wouldn’t count – however that is only a slim chance and highly unlikely.  It is more likely that this cycle is a bust.

It was explained to me that it is normal and that every cycle is different but that this situation that was happening to me was “very strange” and the word ‘weird’ was used more than once.  I felt like telling them that I am a bit strange and a bit weird so that’s not really a surprise!

I had to go back at 1pm to chat about the blood and hormone results and to see where we go from here.

I’m still keeping positive until the Greek lady tells me not to be!

UPDATE****

(as the news I received at 1pm was not so good and the conversation and process was extremely emotional, painful, personal and taxing, I would prefer to share it with you through the message I sent to my friends to keep them updated and keep the more detailed and emotional parts to myself as I am not keen to re-live it again)

‘This round is cancelled.

My oestrogen levels are extremely low – this is bad.

Apparently because of my diagnosis of low egg reserve, cysts are common.

I will go back on Tuesday for more hormone tests to see what my body is doing and then we will discuss my further options.

Always trying to see the good – this does not count towards my second round, so good news on the financial front.

Will let you know how Tuesday goes.

Currently getting drunk on Greek Sauv!’

The vanishing act

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Water seems to be one of the only things that can calm me – swimming, boating, kayaking and even just being near it.  Thank goodness for the gorgeous Aegean sea.

After an incredible night and 2 days away on Agistri (an insanely gorgeous island 45 minutes by fast ferry aptly named the ‘Flying Dolphin’), doing nothing but tanning myself, reading, eating, walking and swimming (all my favourite things), I was incredible well rested (8 hours sleep! 8 hours sleep!  Straight through….can you believe it!?!?!  First time since the summer!!! That Melatonin is gold!) and mission accomplished…relaxed and distracted.

Then Thursday was here.

The good news – the cyst has done a Houdini act and disappeared.  Vanished.  Vamoosed. Gone.  Apparently the medical term or phrase is ‘it has been absorbed’.  However this did not mean that I could now have stimulants, as the follicles in the left ovary (where the cyst had been residing were way too small…no doubt quashed by  what I came to call the ‘cyst of doom’).

The concerning thing…or maybe upsetting thing…I can’t quite decide (as I try to uphold my serene composure), was the amount of arguments that went on in Greek between the cute doctor (a different one but none the less….super cute….British…what is it with this clinic and cute male doctors?!?!).  Luckily I was used to this one from the summer and he was not my be all and end all perfect specimen…however to use my Nana’s words….I wouldn’t mind having his slippers at the end of my bed…sorry, as I write this I have consumed a few Greek wines!).  Anyway….back to the arguing in Greek…..

They could not decide how to proceed with me as the cyst has caused some delays.  Penny was not present in the clinic that day and the cute doctor was arguing with the experienced mid wife, Sonia, someone I was used to dealing with and who I respected a lot (and probably trusted more, as I had dealt with her a lot more…let’s be real here….more like, she had dealt with me and my needle melt downs)

‘Cute doctor’ had stated that they thought that they could remove the ‘lone ranger’ egg on Saturday and give me stimulants to help the follicle/ egg along but after more heated discussion in Greek, they decided that probably Monday was best in order to let the follicle/egg grow more and the lining thicken without stimulants.  I think all the heated discussion was about the fact that they wanted to do what was best for me, as they know it is only a small chance with this egg and don’t want to take any chances.

I had my first needles since being here – a double whammy – damn it, and I thought that I would escape.  I had to have a blood test for my estrogen levels and a shot of Cetrotide in my belly to help delay ovulation.  There was no tears! Yay me!  However, the Cetrotide made my belly super itchy and red…I googled it…apparently that is normal.

I am back again tomorrow at 10.30am (practically a sleep in) – I am back to daily scans and injections…I have not missed them at all.

I still can’t get over how different this round is from last time.  I am trying to take it day by day and find the hilarity in every day – go the cute (but embarrassing doctors).

The accommodation I moved to, that is closer to the clinic, is awesome – super retro and funky and close to lots of cafes, hidden restaurants and the metro.  Close enough to be convenient but far enough away to give me space which is great.

Now, off to dream of Agisitri and hope my scan tomorrow goes well.

Au natural

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A bit of fig ice cream and the gorgeousness of the Plaka alleyways and shops is enough to make anyone feel like they can escape reality

This time round everything felt different. Staying in Plaka meant that I could venture out and go for walks around the alleys and streets, enjoying the touristy and local vibe, eating myself silly and enjoying that amazing coffee. I am more into savoury things than sweet, however if I would have been born in Greece I am not so sure – the incredible sweet offerings are amazing from sticky baklava, to their chocolate croissants, to frozen cream filled Greek-style cannoli, to the incredible lemon pies. Yum!

I had a massive appreciation for Athens and it’s grittiness and funkiness that I had not been able to experience last time. It could be that I was more relaxed, it could be the area I was staying or maybe the way I prepared (having a sort of ‘mini’ holiday before I moved apartments closer the clinic). Whatever it was, I was noticing more, seeing things clearly and truly enjoying life. I shopped, smiled, browsed, discovered, walked and became an accidental tourist many times over.

Doing these things and feeling this way made waiting for that appointment a whole lot easier and when Monday morning rolled around, despite the early awakening (jet lag and dogs), I was very calm and ready for whatever news the scan bought me.

I had resisted googling ovarian cysts and what that meant for an IVF round however at the last minute I decided it was probably better to know and prepare myself. I looked up a couple of things and knowing not to scare monger myself, limited it to ‘well ok but that’s not the same as me’ or ‘enough, I will find out more tomorrow, no point worrying until I know’.

Melina (the amazing driver from the airport), arrived before time and took me to my appointment, all the while making me swear to contact her to let her know I was ok and the exact time I would do the transfer etc so she could send positive energy at that time.

I didn’t have to wait too long and I was back in my favourite cubicle…sans my lovely wrap around….go the skirt….my new favourite IVF accessory (thank god I had brought two)!  I was whisked in and sitting on the examination seat, legs up, when  I was startled as the door opened and in walked an extremely good looking guy. Now, when I say good looking….I mean….phwaor!!! I couldn’t even look him in the eye, I directed every comment and speech to Penny.  I still can’t even recollect his name, as to me he was an almost perfect specimen (by my standards anyway!).  I had never gone so red in my life.  You have to remember that I live in China and my ‘type’ does not exist there at all, not even in the expats, so for me this was amazing….amazing but mortifying!!!

Basically in short, I came out extremely relieved.  I could go ahead with this cycle (I got that without looking at the hot doctor with his hands sticking a phallic shaped thing up my…well, you get the picture).

Unfortunately the cyst was still well and truly there (very dominant….poos!), and my right ovary was now only showing 1 follicle.  Because of this they decided that any kind of stimulant would risk the one chance I have of getting an egg turing into a cyst, so now it was a completely natural cycle for me. No needles, no crazy mood altering hormones, nothing (well, that wasn’t quite the case but that’s what I was initially lead to believe).

My lining was still too thin, so I had to wait until Thursday to go back and have another scan in the hopes that my lining will be thicker and ready to go – AKA accept an embryo!

It was all super weird to me as this is so different to last time and the daily scans and stimulants.  It is incredible how bodies work, you would assume that what happened the first time would be what happened the next…apparently this was another thing I had to abruptly learn.

I was going to have to further preoccupy myself until Thursday morning (9am), in the hope that my egg would stick around.  If it did, when they removed the egg they would aspirate the cyst at the same time – essentially killing 2 birds with one stone and saving me a whole lot of discomfort.

I was extremely elated that there was still a chance that this cycle was not a bust and that there was still a small chance that this could work.  As always, staying extremely positive and having booked a night away on a Greek island to feel a bit normal and to relax and distract myself, was exactly what I needed.

Dr Pain

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Finally over my breakdown and wanting to move forward (and away from my first acupuncture experience), and toward something a lot more affordable, I went with another friends recommendation Dr Lan.

Speaking to someone who knew English on the phone was good but then turning up at a hotel address did cast some doubt, however I pushed through the weird and found Dr Lan’s office.

After being told explicitly on the phone the costs (Y600 for a consultation and Y350 for each session after that), and then seeing it posted very clearly on the reception desk I relaxed knowing there would be no surprises.  They had even told me they would give me a fa piao (an official receipt), for insurance purposes after several visits.

After a very short wait, I was taken through to another room and that was essentially divided up by cloudy glass into partitions where I could see the outline of the person next to me who was being treated.  Oh god!  Here we go again!

I was asked to take off my shoes and lie down.  I refused.  What the hell was going on here?  I could hear everything (including the hysterically laughing lady across the partition), and I did not want a repeat of last time.  What the hell was I doing here?

15 minutes later when I was about to walk out, in walked Dr Lan AKA Dr Pain as he later told me (Holy hell!!!).  I then had to proceed to whisper tell him why I was here….I did not think it was very appropriate to share my life story with the rest of the acupuncture patients plus it was really none of their business!  Cries of periods, infertility and single – did not need to ring through those halls or across those partitions.

As with the last acupuncture Dr, I had to show him my tongue, he felt my pulse and told me my channels were blocked, causing my hormones to be unbalanced.  Awesome.  He then told me that it was all caused by the years I had been on ‘The pill’.  Great, thanks for that and you know what….get stuffed!

He then told me I would need to come twice a week (an improvement from the 3 times a week told to me by the last doctor), that they would do some Chinese treatment first and then he would be back to do some acupuncture.  Ok, at least he was upfront and I knew what was about to happen.

And what happened next was absolute heaven.  It was essentially targeted massage and given hard massage….the kind of massage I love.  Don’t get me wrong it was painful at times, apparently my lower back (where for years I have had problems), was the major target along with all up my inner legs and armpits – all connected to the liver, kidney and uterus (at least I knew the previous doctor had been onto something and they were in agreement!).

Dr Lan later told me (while I tried not to fall off the table in fits of laughter), that the lower back was the epicentre for peepee, kaka (poo), and the uterus! Of course it is!

When he returned he proceeded to put not 20, not 10 but 5 needles in, scanning my body with his hands hoovering over me saying things to himself about channels and straight away stopping at points, pushing and finding spots I had no idea were sore and hurting and then processed to stick needle in them, through my clothes.  Such a bizarre experience but it was quite amazing.

He was very honest with me and said that we would see IF this treatment would work for me – again my legs were the problem spot and he told me that that’s where my hormone channels were blocked.

He then told me that they would be in for ‘some minutes’, great I thought….here comes another 50 minute wait…but it wasn’t so. 15 minutes later and my Chinese treatment guy (AKA awesome masseuse), came to take them out and I was off to pay – the amount stated (no hidden costs), and to book 2 more appointment for that week.

A bit miffed by it all but after a few more appointments very pleased and impressed with ‘Dr Pains’ abilities to see as many patients as he does at the same time, while doing due diligence and always finding that right spot without laying a hand on me to find it.

Over the coming weeks I went to at least 2 appointments per week and Dr Pain was very happy with how my body was progressing ‘You have a very smart body’, which apparently meant my body was listen to the treatment and responding and that my channels were slowly opening up.  This meant a lot of discomfort for me because as my body was adjusting to the treatment I ended up pulling lots of muscles (so weird but true), and with stiff muscles but in the long run could feel the difference and it was totally worth it.

Anything to help the cause – even sessions with a man called Dr Pain!

 

And it all came crashing down

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The aftermath of rock bottom

Sucking up the possible cost and realising that I needed to do this to help things progress and leave no stone unturned, I booked an accupuncture appointment one Saturday afternoon in August.

After not hearing back from an acupuncture specialist recommended by a friend who used her for fertility, another friend recommended an international hospitals TCM department.

I had woken up that morning and felt really weird, a bit off, which is weird for me but not unheard of.  When I am like this I need to either keep to myself or get out and about and do things.  After lazing in bed for a few hours, I decided that the latter was the best approach….hmmmm……wrong move Martin, wrong move!

I was already a bit dark at the hospital as they had not responded to my online appointment request I had done earlier in the week but being the stubborn person I am was determined to forget that and get this started.

After an easy Uber ride over I was greeted by a very stark, hotel like vibe, with absolutely no other patients around.  Very strange, nothing like the private hospitals of home.  I had to ‘check in’ and show my passport, fill in some forms – standard – and then was picked up by a concierge type person and escorted through the hospital and onto the elevator….I think I saw one other person on that journey….and they worked there.

I was told how much the appointment would cost (around Y700), and was happy to pay that to see what would happen.  I was expecting more to be honest.  After a 30 minute wait, I was finally able to see the doctor.

She asked me why I was here, felt my pulse, looked at my tongue and promptly told me that my kidneys weren’t functioning properly and that they are linked with my uterus.  She also told me that my liver is linked with those also.  Ofcourse it is!  She then proceeded to tell me absolutely no alcohol.  I should have left right then and there.

The next thing I knew, I was in the next room, changed into loose clothing and had 20 needles in my stomach and legs.  The ones in the legs hurt the most….apparently my channels were extremely blocked.

I was supposed to be left for 20 minutes……5o minutes later and one very interesting consultation (I could hear everything from the room next door – very inappropriate), she was back and finally removing the needles.  20 minutes with 20 needles seemed doable but 50 was not so fun to a needle phobic.  She was not my favourite person at this point.

The doctor proceeded to tell me that I needed to pair this with Chinese medicine and I was happy to do what she recommended (I was in China, so why not go the whole hog, it shouldn’t be too expensive).

Kindly she recognised that my insurance was about to change and told me that she would charge me for the acupuncture on the 1st and for now I would just pay for the Chinese medicine.  I was so grateful and super relieved – this took a lot of pressure off me and especially off my credit card.

Next I was asked to wait for a short while, while she prepared the list for my medicine so she could tell the pharmacy downstairs what to ‘boil up’ (her words,not mine).  Another 30 minutes later and my patience was wearing very thin.  An appointment that should have taken an hour tops was well on it’s way to becoming 3 hours.

Finally they had it sorted and I was again escorted down to the cashier.  I was annoyed at the time everything had taken but was very thankful for the delay of payment so was happy to pay and get out of there.

The cashier then announced my bill total of over Y2000 (NZD$400).  Wide eyed with surprise I asked him to repeat it.  That poor, poor boy!  I then open mouthed (open and closing like a fishes does), asked him for a print out.  You should have seen the list of ingredients in the medication  AND I have also been charged a fee for the appointment.

Tears welled up and I was DONE being punished.  I had no idea what to do.  This is time that I really felt the effects of doing this on my own.  I had no one to bounce this off to see if I was being absolutely played.  Already feeling the financial brunt of the change in insurances and also not being able to verbalise how I was feeling, everything came crashing down around me.

I managed to collect myself enough to say – “No way” was I paying that.  The poor boy gave me a discount on the appointment price (20% off….what the hell….how can they do that…I found that very weird but took it anyway…usually I would be super embarrassed and say ‘don’t worry about it’….but stuff that!! I took the discount).

 Quickly I realised that maybe the medication was for a month or 2, so after I told them to stop ‘boiling it up’, I went to check with the pharmacist to see and turns out it was only for a week!!!  Later, on reflection, I was very proud of myself that I had said no and not paid for that.  At the time though, I had felt awful about it all and had thought the doctor would think badly about it – god, I need to stop caring about others and more about myself!

On the way out I stopped to try and get good wifi to get an Uber home (that wasn’t happening) and I broke down in the deserted hallways.

Collecting myself I managed to get to the front desk to ask for a taxi – that would take anther 15 minutes, sick of waiting and upset I walked out….onto a busy and congested road and willed Uber to work.  I started walking towards places I knew (I wasn’t anywhere near my house, so that was out).  The best stroke of luck I had all day was an Uber was stuck in traffic literally 10 metres from me and I was able to jump in.  After 10 minutes of being stuck in 200m of traffic, we were on the highway and I was home within another 10 minutes.

Closing the door behind me, I burst into tears and proceeded to hyperventilate and cry.  I had finally reached the pinnacle of what I could take.  I could be pushed no further, I had finally after all this time reached my absolute breaking point.  I now knew my limits and the consequences weren’t pretty.  This was like nothing I had ever experienced before, this was a first for me.

After a few hours of on and off crying and hyperventilating and a call to my sister (thank god for her being able to help pull me out of the pit of despair), I was able to calm down.  I never want to see the bottom of that pit of despair ever again.

All I could think about was why the hell was I being punished for trying to do the right thing?  It’s a hard thing to grasp and to come to terms with and even though I constantly try to see the positive in everything, I’m not sure I ever will understand why.

At least it had happened – I had hit rock bottom and there was nothing to do but climb out.

**On a lighter note – If you know me you will know that the fact that I missed seeing an All Blacks rugby game demonstrates how rock bottom I was that day!

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.

Stirrups…and not the fun horsey ones!

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Round 2 – definitely NOT the peace sign

Last Tuesday it was off to the clinic for round 2 in China.  Day 3 was upon us and it was blood tests and baseline ultrasounds to be had.

After some initial difficulty about ensuring I was tested on the correct day and rearranging a few schedules, I was in the office and ready to go, legs all up and in the stirrups – not such a great picture, believe me!

Although I did feel like I had to tell her that she was the first women to see me like this.  Throughout all my years of having Pap smears, Colposcopies, my LETTZ operation and further biopsies, it has only ever been men that have done them.  Having a women do this was a very new experience for me!

For those that have never had one, it was a transvaginal ultrasound, meaning that it is what it looks like in all the movies….a long thin thing with a condom slipped over it, all up in your girly bits so it can get a clearer picture of your insides.  In particular for me…the follicles that grow in my ovaries and develop into eggs.

It all felt a bit weird having to do it when I was on day 3 of my cycle….the logistics were interesting….but obviously as she is a complete professional, it went really smoothly and was not too embarrassing – thank goodness for needing to have an empty bladder for the ultrasound.

After explaining the procedure she started to tell me what she was seeing on the monitor.  My right ovary showed 3 follicles but my bowel was in the way, after measuring each one and discovering that that 1 follicle was measuring 8mm, she determined that that was the principle follicle (the one that will develop into the egg), and that it was unusual to see it this early in the cycle.  Fantastic, another frustrating thing to add to my ever growing list of unusual things my body does!  She could not tell me if this was a good unusual or a bad unusual, that would all depend on the entire picture created from all the test results.

As the bowel did not move we moved on to the left side.  The left side was determined to show off to the right and had 5 follicles although they were all very small.  Then, it was back to the right side to try and use some pushing on my stomach techniques to move the bowel but apparently my bowel is stubborn and wouldn’t budge.

I then asked the ‘however much IVF/embryo transferring is going to cost me’ dollar question about what 8 follicles means….Good or bad?  Hope or no hope?

Unfortunately her answer was along the lines of that it seems good however we have to wait for the other tests to come back to really see the whole picture and how it all lines up.

Next it was onto the dreaded blood tests.  Those of you who know me, know I am deathly afraid of 2 things: Snakes and Guns and that 1 thing follows closely behind that: Needles!

For the first time in awhile I took it like a champ – no teary eyes at all! Although the nurse wouldn’t give me a lollipop, so I am not sure it was worthwhile being that brave for it.

For those interested I was tested again for:

  • AMH: estimate of the remaining egg supply
  • FSH: Follicle stimulating hormone, if this is not in the normal range it indicates problems with fertility
  • LH: the hormone responsible for helping to release your egg from the ovaries
  • Estradiol: Estrogen
  • TSH: Thyroid function – this can sometimes be the main cause for an hormone imbalance in your body if it isn’t at a normal level

I was told by the doctor that as the tests are measuring hormones, most will take 3 days to come back and the dreaded AMH would take 5.

I went off to cope, meeting up with friends and enjoying a yummy steak dinner, served outside on a lovely Spring evening in Beijing, washed down with copious amount of laughs and red wine….whoops….I really need to learn about moderation at some point along this journey.
 Cheers to another bout of waiting!