A needle phobics guide to injecting stimulants

While doing my second round of IVF in Greece, it occurred to me that to truly try to document this process (without being super invasive), I needed to record not just photos of my medications and needles but I needed to also video what I had to do each day for everyone to get a true picture of what life was like.  Also, if it helps someone like me along the way or someone about to do the same, that is brilliant.

I thought that the best way to explain to everyone exactly what I had to do each day for just 1 of my injections was to film it.  Excuse the terrible filming as it was done by myself (with the help of a pile of magazines, a tv remote and a coffee table!) The things I did during this journey when you are doing it alone – it’s all a bit hilarious!

This is a video of the daily tribulations of prepping and injecting IVF stimulants.  I did not record my 16 weeks of daily clexane, as I thought the stimulants were more of a process and really show what people going through IVF have to deal with…especially if you are a needle phobic like me.

I still can’t quite believe that this was actually me doing this and being so matter of fact about it.  You can smell my fear though!  Nervous laughter anyone?

Enjoy and apologies for all the swear words….I was s*&ting my pants the whole time (and every day and time I did it before and after this).  The ‘Cetrotide’ one at the end is a bit comical as it was the first time I did it and you get my real reactions.

Thanks goodness for no more daily injections!

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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

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

Needle phobia = not so conquered

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The daily self administering mess of 3 stimulants and 1 ovulation procrastinator

It’s amazing what daily scans can do and how much things can change in less than 24 hours.

It was celebrating time again as my lining was according to Penny looking “excellent” – yay!

The 2 eggs that were present on the right side were ‘almost there’ measuring in at 17mm….they need to be 18mm.  Of the 2 on the left side – 1 is ready at 18mm and the other was too small.  From 0 follicles to 5, now down to 3 – I just had to keep my head up and fingers and toes (and all the other crossable body parts), crossed.

So, it was 1 more day of stimulants, although I kind of had a ‘holiday’ from them that day as the nurse did them for me, however when she went to take blood from my bruised right arm (another measure for oestrogen), nothing came out.  This was just amazing (read the sarcasm), for me and for the first time ever, I got extremely nauseous and dizzy and had to smell cleaning alcohol before she could try my even more bruised left arm.  Thankfully it worked.  She made it very clear that she was annoyed at the previous people who had taken my blood because of the bruises they had created and the vein ‘breaks’.  (Even months later, writing this still makes me extremely nauseous thinking about that empty needle in my bruised arm, the broken veins and the sick feeling I had). Again, thankfully after about 10 minutes, I came right with no vomiting.  Needle phobia = not so conquered.  I just had to get through 1 more injection that I needed to self administer later that day.

Once again I needed to go back the next day at 9.30am for what would hopefully be my last scan and then they would give me the ‘mamajamma’ of all shots – ‘the trigger shot’, which would mean that I would be on schedule for a Friday ‘harvest’.

I thought that I had been lucky and had managed to escape too much of a ‘stimulant bloat’ but my stomach had decided to join the party along with hormone pimples and humidity hair (it had decided to rain), so I was left feeling incredibly glamorous.

Rain gave me an excuse to relax and after my work was done, I was able to chill out so I was grateful for that, however I was looking forward to a day out and about the next day before I may not able to go very far.  My Athens ‘plan of action’ that I had put in place before coming did not cover extra time , so I was glad that I still had not gone to the Acropolis or museum again, or picked up the souvenirs that I had planned to get – something to fill the increased time.

Roll on the next injection…

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!’

Same, same but different

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Waiting and waiting in my sexy shoe covers and half naked – looks glamorous I know!

I was back again the next day for a scan to see how things were progressing.  This day was a lot tougher as things were going very differently than my last round and although I had held it together well so far, I felt myself drifting towards a more emotional state.

I was told it was pretty much ‘same, same’ and that the ‘Lone Ranger’ was looking good but still way too small and again my lining was not coming to the party and was still too thin.  There would be another scan tomorrow.

I didn’t quite make it through this appointment as brave and as stoic as the others and after waiting half an hour in a room half naked with too much time to think, watery eyes accompanied my shot of Cetrotide (again to starve off ovulation….again resulting in a rather annoying itchy red rash on my stomach).

I had taken 2 weeks off to do this second round (1 week taken off school and 1 week being our school holidays), and I was 1 week into it with 1 week to go.

Feeling myself about to go down a path I really wanted to avoid, I appealed to my fantastic ‘WhatsApp’ and ‘WeChat’ groups to send me funny pictures, gossip and messages to help keep my mood up and to help combat the boredom.  Treating the first few days like a holiday and then going away overnight had helped but now being held hostage in Athens by daily scans and injections left me bored, as I had done a lot of exploring in my previous week and the weeks I had been in Athens for my first round in the summer.  They were incredible and sent me awesome snaps as they had ‘no more sleeps’ and it was our works October break and I got amazing photos from all over the world.  It really lifted me up and got me through – it’s always the small things.

I ended up making myself feel miles better by going and buying new Italian lingerie – to be honest I couldn’t quite believe that I could fit anything in the store but I found a few!  An excellent distraction for my scan the next day and the feelings of dread that I had begun to have.

Shopping – making people feel better since ages ago.

Preparing for Athens

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This is what I hoped to achieve in the time between my negative result and round 2 (as well as something to live by!). It was the small things like jumping on a trampoline when I really felt down, or going for a walk that really helped too.

So as you can obviously guess from the title of this post and maybe from previous posts – I bit the bullet and booked my trip back to Athens.  Luckily it worked out that my cycle would coincide with my October break, so I would only need to take 1 week off work – a god send to my finances and also to every other aspect of my life.

Coming back after the summer was hard, as I was trying to deal with the failure of my first round, the drastic emotional side effects (in particular my ability to no matter how hard I try, not deal with things until they come crashing down around me), and also coming back to questions from people, wondering looks and a full on full time job.

Before I had left for the summer a friend had asked me a really good question ‘Have you thought about what you will do if it fails, how you will cope?’.  It was a question that I needed to think about and did so in depth.  I knew that counselling would be incredibly beneficial as well as the acupuncture, so this is where I had started.  As well as the health and physical side of things I had realised that it was the social side I also needed to deal with in order to help me to prepare for the second time around.

Last year I had started up F.A.T night (Food Appreciation Time – stolen from an Aussie TV drama!), a group of people who love to cook and meet up and essentially have a competition to see who has the best dish – yes, there is even a trophy involved (which I made).  I had put off hosting it, as my place is a lot smaller than most people in the group and I hadn’t gotten round to finishing off things in my house – all the excuses in the world, mixed with a small amount of anxiety.  So, I bit the bullet and organised the first one – ‘Tapas and Finger food’ complete with welcome Sangrias – perfect for a city apartment. It was a blast and I even won the trophy – hot cheese goodness always wins!

Before a friend of mine had moved to Shanghai, she introduced me to some teachers from another school who had Wednesday night dinners – to break up the week and to try new places.  This is something that is right up my alley and I was so pleased to be invited along to a few of these and really enjoyed meeting new people, catching up with friends, trying new places and venturing out.  It really worked wonders for me and I am so thankful for those people and those dinners.

I used to love throwing parties and for years have been meaning to do so again.  So again, rather anxiously,  I bit the bullet and scheduled a dress up party ‘Through the decades – come dressed as something or someone who has got to do with the era you were born’ (this left it wide open!).  I made the date for the week before I left, knowing it could be the last time I would be heavily drinking for awhile and that I would need a major distraction and good laughs and good times before I left.  I also wanted to find a way to really thank the people that had been there for me from when I had got back until I left, constantly being supports in so many different ways.  I hope that they felt thanked.  I danced the night away, singing at the top of my lungs, having the time of my life!  The police even showed up – twice!  Mission accomplished I reckon!

Some parts of leading up to my departure were more practical, like having to ask for time off.  I am so thankful for where I am, both in geographical location and job wise, as I was extremely supported by my boss and the senior management team and was never made to feel guilty or bad for having to take the time off.  They understood that it is a necessity and has a time restraint and were thankful that I had always kept them in the loop from day one, all those months ago.  As someone who hates to let people down and always feels guilty for even taking sick days, I can never thank them enough for the way they have handled my situation.

Even telling my team at work was really not something that I was looking forward to.  Again, it came down to feeling guilty and feeling like I was letting them down (ridiculous I know!), by having to take the time off plus some knew why and some didn’t and some to this day haven’t even asked why I was away or if I am okay.  I guess everyone is different.  Being away for medical leave is weird thing and I know I have opened myself up to things because I write this blog however there are some people I am happy that they know about my situation and some that I really don’t want to know because they aren’t my friends (and logistically they aren’t my FB friends either).  So even though I am very open about my situation, I went with the party line ‘I will be on leave at this time and blah will be taking over and this is who will cover and blah, blah blah.  Practical, practical, practical.

I won’t even mention the writing of screeds of sub teacher plans I had to prepare – you forget how skilled you get at teaching a 40 or 80 minute lesson from one sentence you have written down in your planner when you have to write the same sentence into a a half a page explanation for someone coming into your classroom….and I had to do that for a week!

With all this going on I had done a lot of reflecting about my first round and how I felt going through it.  I truly believe that with the circumstances surrounding it (first time, being alone, right in the middle of the summer holidays, emotional roller coaster, not knowing the city etc), I did the best I could and coped relatively well and don’t think I could have done it any better – plus there is no sense in regretting things – that, in no way helps.  In saying that, I knew that this time around I needed to make sure I was in a positive and healthy headspace.  I had done all the above mentioned things to ensure that that happened but how could I tackle that while I was there, all alone, going through something that in truth isn’t such a little thing or a lot of fun?  Create a squad that’s what!

#Squadgoals – Taylor Swift eat your heart out!  In summer I had not wanted to burden others with what I was going through partly because I was trying to get my head around it myself and couldn’t explain how or what I was feeling, and partly because they were on holiday and trying to enjoy themselves and they didn’t want to hear from me about bruises and needles and operations and shitty eggs and then big fat negatives.  I didn’t want to be the buzz kill.  I have since had a big learning curve and learned from and through all their support since coming back that they do want to be there, they do want to listen and that they are my friends, here to support me through anything.  It was my issues all along that were hindering me.  So I did something about it.  For my Beijing friends I started a WeChat group entitled ‘Updates from Athens’ and for my friends around the world I started a WhatsApp group with the same name.  It was only a small group of people in each but people who expressed an interest in wanting to support me or be there for me and people who I knew would be incredibly supportive and positive and real – handling all the bad stuff as well as the good.  True friends.  No matter what I say or do they will never truly understand how powerful it was to have them there as I updated them after each step – without any exaggeration I could not have gotten through this second round with out them.  I will never forget that.

Soon, the time came, my cycle started and the all the effort, organisation, time and money had been put in and miracle of all miracles it had worked – I was in an incredibly amazing headspace.  I had prepared myself as much as possible, I had my plan of action, my squad in place and I was starting the preliminary pills that lead up to flying to Athens.

Here we go again…

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!

 

Back to life…back to reality

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Walking back from an appointment – walking seems to help a whole lot and it helps that all my appointments are about 30-40 minutes walk from my house!

…there seriously is a song for every situation.

Being around people was what I had initially needed but then before I went back to Beijing I had definitely needed space.

Space to work through my feelings, to process things and to look toward what was coming next.  I needed to prepare myself for the questions, having to face up to the fact that although this blog has helped me in way more ways than I had expected with all the support; acting as an outlet, eliminating taboo of infertility that I had previously experienced and for the sharing of stories, it has also opened me up to having to share my most personal experiences and answer questions that I may not be ready for or prepared to answer, especially in regards to the negative result.

Coming back to the realities of everyday life in some ways was relatively easy and in some ways it wasn’t.  It gave me an outlet in the form of work and routine, returned the mask to firmly cover the real emotions and gave me a place to hide in plain sight.

I started acupuncture, joined yoga twice a week, swam twice a week, did a meditation APP as much as possible and went to counselling.  I had an appointment or something that I did everyday.  In true Amy fashion I even made a spreadsheet/table titled ‘I CAN do this’ to keep track of everything that I was doing.

I made myself so busy that I was unable to process my feelings, I could not verbalise them and I certainly wasn’t acknowledging them.

This caused many problems as people did not realise that I was crumbling.  To them I appeared totally ok…fine….dealing with it in a positive  way and moving forward.  The simple truth was that I was not verbalising how I was feeling because I didn’t even know what I was feeling.

It took me a long time to figure this out, as I had firmly decided that there was nothing that anybody else could do.  Which to be honest is the harsh but complete truth.  I am the only one who can do things to get myself into a better position to undergo the second round, I am the only one who knows how it felt to be totally isolated and alone in Athens, I am the one that this happened to and am the only one who can prepare myself adequately to go through it all again.

After a particular session with the counsellor I realised that I was completely right.  There was nothing anyone else could do BUT she made me realise that the ridiculous guilt that I was feeling because I assumed I would be ‘putting people out’ by asking them to do simple things when they offered was completely ridiculous.

So taking baby steps I asked my parents to help me locate the stimulants via online sites, I asked people on FB to give me TV series and movie recommendations and I asked people to come to a party I wanted to throw the week before I left, to let loose and to also thank them for all the things they had done for me.

Nothing too crazy but to me a HUGE ask.  The funny thing was the immense feeling of pressure being lifted after asking people to give me suggestions for TV shows and receiving them was incredible.  It lifted so much pressure off my shoulders, meaning I could easily take their suggestions and download them and not have to think, search, look up or ask around.  So small, but so effective.

Along the way I am learning and doing tiny things that can help me prepare and get myself in a good place to go through this all again and I think it is working.

Only time will tell but I am willing to put in the work.