The verdict

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Putting a face to the name – introducing Serum

Overwhelmed and shattered emotionally I spent the next day in bed feeling a little under the weather – some mild cramps but nothing too unbearable.  I had felt so good the day of the procedure that I had even organised to visit some friends who were moored at a neighbouring island, however I was incredibly over ambitious thinking I would be able to do this.  I think the fact that with too many orifices being violated, a myriad of pills, being told to do limited exercise and that I couldn’t swim sealed the deal.

Because the day after the egg retrieval was a Sunday, I had to wait until Monday to visit the clinic to find out how my eggs had done and if they had fertilised.

Holy moly – some pretty important things these eggs were going through at this point and I had no choice but to try and relax and watch the hunky men of Chicago Fire (my new found binge watch TV show) to get me through.

2pm on Monday I got up the courage to leave the house and make the journey to the clinic.

An embryologist was called and came down to meet me in the waiting room.  She then started to tell me how they were looking.  The fact that I wasn’t taken away to a room and was talked to in a public waiting room had to be a good thing right?

I’m not so sure about that!!  If there is one thing that Serum needs to work on it is not delivering their news in a public area.

Unfortunately (but fortunately), only 1 egg had been fertilised.  I had a massive pit in my stomach but had prepared myself for maybe having heartbreak so was also relieved that I have 1 fertilised egg – it only takes 1.  I later asked and found out that it had been my natural egg that had survived/ been fertilised – nature is a pretty awesome thing.

Well, no need to further agonise over the decision to put 1 or 2 back. 1 it was.  At least that decision was taken out of my hands.

The embryologist then went on to tell me that they had looked at the embryos yesterday and as they don’t like to pull them out and disturb them very often, they would look at it tomorrow.  This would allow them to see the grading and the transfer would more than likely happen then, as I only had the 1 and they didn’t want to risk it by waiting until day 5 (something they usually try and do).

Grading?!?!  What the hell was that?!?!  She proceeded to then go through that with me (still in the waiting room)

Basically:

Grade 1 – means the embryo is in excellent condition, no fragmentations

Grade 2 – it is usable but has some fragmentations

Grade 3 – it is useless (well, she didn’t exactly say that but it is pretty much a summary of what she said),…they wouldn’t use it.

So, it was a quick chat to the mid wife to confirm which pills I needed to stop before the transfer, just incase it did happen the next day, and an appointment was made for 2pm the next day and it was a dazed walk home to hope and think as positively as I could that that little embryo made it.

I never want to be a Mum that strives to have high achieving children or puts pressure on her kids to achieve but this is one time where I was absolutely in need of nature and that 1 embryo to be high achievers.

C’mon little embryo – you can do it!

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Harvest time at the farm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Best day ever: Sarcasm at its finest

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The ‘Trigger Shot’ – my hands were shaking even walking with it back to my apartment – icepack and all

8.30am and I was at Serum to get a scan to see how the stimulants had gone with the second egg – not so well and it was another round of stimulants (a shot of Merinol and one of Cetrotide), scheduled for between 3 and 4 pm that day.

Next it was on to the run down of how the egg retrieval would go as that was the next step in 2 days time…

And this is where it all fell apart….

The trigger shot (which helps induce ovulation), needs to be timed so that the eggs can be harvested at optimum time – (36 hours later) and namely be collected in the morning. So that meant that I needed I had to have the shot at 10pm at night and had to do it into the top, right hand side of my butt muscle. Ouch!!!

The mid wife knowing me by now, sensed my panic and her initial thought was to tell me to find a pharmacy that was open until late and have them do it.  Geez – another thing to try and suss out in limited time.  I of course asked her if she knew any nearby – she didn’t as most people come here either with a partner or friend to help them OR do not have an avid fear of needles!  So, I gave in and convinced myself “Amy you can do this”.

Turns out I was wrong and that needle phobia is a thing.

I was completely fine as she told me how to break the viles, draw up the liquid from one vial and then deposit it into the powder vial and then repeat with another 2 vials and then change needle points (to a smaller needle – for my benefit apparently), I even got through the what quadrant of my butt to put it in talk….then as soon as she started talking about putting it all the way into the muscle and then drawing back to check for blood incase it was in a vein….I completely lost it.  I felt like a child having a massive crying/ hyperventilation meltdown.  It came out of nowhere and poor Leah.  I felt incredibly awful.  Straight away she said, “Right, no, I’m going to stop explaining now, you can’t be stressed doing this and someone else needs to do this for you”.

I feel super embarrassed even writing this but I promised myself I would tell the whole story, exactly like it is.  I have convinced myself if someone else was doing it for me or if it was preloaded needles then I would have no issue but I have not had preloaded needles at all so I’m not sure how true that part is until faced with it (I have since been faced with preloaded needles and I am now able to self inject so pretty proud of myself that I called it when I wrote this post awhile back).

So armed with the letter for both the ECG and the trigger shot in Greek I was off (for all I know it read – ‘This great big wimp cannot do this so please give this to her at 10pm exactly!’ lol – but not really laughing so much! haha!)

Leaving the clinic, with poor Leah getting the blame from the receptionist that I was a mess once again – is it fair to blame the hormones at this point?  Are they effective right away? – I was off to suss out where Leto Hospital was.  I was told it was a taxi ride and that maybe I should ring them in advance to see if they could do my ECG before my shot.

Upon getting back to my apartment, super emotional, I called 6 times via Skype on both my phone and laptop with a crappy connection (apparently that is not just limited to China), was hung up on and if I got through no one understood what it was I wanted (there is not many ways to explain ECG apparently). I was again in tears.  I was incredibly frustrated and all alone trying to figure all this out and sick of all the unfairness of this situation and doing it by myself in a foreign country….yes, I still lay blame at NZ’s health system with this one and it definitely came out then.

I decided I need some distraction to calm myself down before I set off to walk to this hospital to sort it out in person, so engaged in some mindless TV show watching.

Luckily, my parents rang at that time – sarcasm at it’s greatest. I was a mess.

Finally I felt calm enough to make the trek to the hospital – a 30 minute walk, so not too bad, unfortunately on arrival the street it was on was full of shops with ‘Congrutaltions its a ___”, bouquets  and baby and maternity shops….turns out it was a maternity hospital.  Just great.

They were fab and right to the point, no appointment needed, I showed them the forms in Greek and the ECG could be done at 9pm and shot at 10pm.  Relief flooded me and joyously I walked back (well joyously is definitely a gross exaggeration…let’s just say I was much happier than when walking there).

Next, it was the wait for my 3pm appointment for my shots (unfortunately 1 actually hurt this time, same spot or increased dose…one or the other.  Once again I am thankful for not having 2 weeks of these), and to pick up ‘the’ shot, which I filled in with grocery shopping – another frustrating feat in itself (turns out I was at a dinky little market and the main one was only one street over! Found it the next day)

Shots went without a hitch – Leah pleaded with me for no tears and preceded to teach another staff member how to prepare shots, which made me feel better that it wasn’t just me that was learning today!  I was given a plastic bag with the needles, vials and ice pack and headed straight home.

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The quickest part of this process so far – my ECG with Greek results – all good!

I cooked to relax (yes, I know that is strange for some) and due to my exhausted and emotional state I set an alarm for 8.30pm.  Another 30 minutes walk to hospital. The ECG was extremely quick and easy, in and out within, I swear, 2 minutes and the results were all good – a super positive as this means I can go under the aesthetic for the egg retrieval. Because that was over so quickly I had a wee wait to dwell on the shot so read my book – clever plan Amy! – and then 10pm came around.  The shot in the upper left quadrant of my left buttock  was quick but oh, so OUCH!!!!! Muscle is not  a fun place to have a shot, bring on the spongy European paunch of a stomach.  Being able to walk it off really helped and it was straight into bed ready for my ‘drug free day’ the next day.

My drug free day literally meant no injections (whoop whoop) but all of the other pills that I had been taking.  Little was I to know that the pill taking would increase by ten fold.  I was just so thankful that my day of being examined, poked, prodded, pinched, injected and inspected in all parts of my body was over.  Next stop – egg retrieval.

Oh my god, I’m back (in Athens) again…

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View of Athens from my hotel on the first visit – not too shabby

…a bit of old school and backstreets boys always helps to lift the mood.

After 6 nights in Berlin, 7 pills for breakfast each day and 2 at night, 1 birthday, 2 gut wrenching and head screwing text messages from my ex and 6 days of my cycle, it was back in Athens to get this not so party started.

No mucking around this time, I had the driver from the clinic come and get me (for a pretty sum), as I landed at 3.10pm and needed to be at Serum by 4pm.  Thank goodness I had done this, as the metro workers had gone on strike that day!  Arriving just after 4pm I was practically the only person there and it was smooth sailing and no waiting as I was whisked up to the 3rd floor, asked to empty my bladder and change into my now favourite left thigh accentuating wrap around.

It was straight into the scan with Penny to greet me – this time only her and Leah the nurse, and I was adamant there would be no tears.  The scan was started and I can’t quite catch a break…

Absolutely gut wrenching – only 1 follicle.  How to hold back the tears with this news?  Somehow I did, I have no idea how but I did – minor win.  There were a few tiny follicles but they wouldn’t be ready in time and one that was borderline so it was no more ‘Mrs Nice Lady’ and we were onto stimulants. Buggar!  Actually, to be honest, as long as someone else was doing it and I don’t have to watch I was completely fine.

Unfortunately I received 3 jabs – 1 blood test in the left arm, 1 shot of Merional and 1 of Cetrotide both in the stomach – thank goodness for the extra paunch I have gotten from all that European food eating, I felt nothing.

With that done, I was handed paper work to look over and told I needed an ECG by the time of egg collection – this Saturday (July 9th at 9am).  I was a bit annoyed at this as I am in a foreign country, have no idea of my way around and had asked before I came if there were any tests that I could do in China before I got here, to eliminate any of this stress and was told I did not need to worry.

I was told to be back at the clinic at 8.30am the next day for another scan to see how the eggs were progressing.

So, I was off, dragging my luggage behind me over the same minute, uneven, cobbled streets to try and find my apartment feeling super weird, slightly like a pin cushion, pumped full of hormones, a little pissed off but more emotional and questioning if I could do this all alone.

What had I been thinking?

A brief run down of how it all works

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A friend was heading to the supermarket one day at work and asked if I needed anything, I told her no. As she was leaving I yelled out down the hall “Actually, can you pick me up some good eggs?!?” We both laughed. Next minute she’s back with these and telling me they are good eggs and it’s even better because they are different. So happy I have hilarious friends!

I have been lucky enough to have a community of support surrounding me both near and far and in-between through all of this.

 I have had a lot of questions about when I am doing this and how it will work exactly.  As I am flying out of Friday to Europe, I thought it best to share on here before I leave as I am not sure when the next post will come.

On the 29th of June I fly to Athens, arrive mid afternoon and head straight for Serum.  On arrival I will have another ultrasound and some tests done so that they can get a clear picture of what they are dealing with and how to proceed.  They will prescribe the medication I need to be on (my ‘Protocol’).  I will then stay overnight just incase anything extra needs to happen – sometimes they need a better look or more information – or if they need to locate the meds from around Athens.  On the 30th I fly to Berlin to meet back up with my parents.

I have been told that on day 2 of my cycle is when I will start injections and any other medications I need.  I am unsure of that day right now as it is up to my body but I am hoping it is when I am around my parents so one of them can pay me back for all those sleepless nights I gave them as a child and inject me!

On July 6th (thankfully I will be with my parents on my birthday and not traveling!), I will fly back to Greece for 2 weeks.  Most days I will be going into the clinic for check ups, to see how I am responding, blood tests, tests etc.  I have found an Airbnb close enough to the clinic to walk but far enough away to separate myself from it – it also has a hammock on the balcony so I am looking forward to that! It’s the small things!

On day 7 of my cycle is when I need to back in Athens so they can start monitoring things and then day 9 is usually the day they extract the eggs, however it may depend on other factors.  These dates are all within the 2 weeks.

When my eggs are ready to be extracted I will be put under a general anesthetic, they will extract the eggs and then start to develop the embryos with the donor sperm depending on if there are any viable eggs.  Once the extraction is made they can then tell the quality of the eggs.

Then it is a wait in the hope that the embryos last 3 days or even better 5 days, as they would have developed into blastocysts.

Once they are ready to go, if there are any viable, I need to go back in for a procedure to implant an embryo.  It is then rest for a day or 2 – roll on the air con and movies!

After that it is a bit of a wait to see how it all goes and if it will work due to the hormones and different levels in my body going a bit haywire due to the medications.

This is obviously a very brief and rough guide to what is about to happen but hope it helps.  Soon I will be a bit more of an expert in it and can talk about it a bit more in-depth.

Let’s hope I don’t turn too crazy on those hormones!  Fingers crossed.

Happy holidays everyone!

 

 

 

Living life with no regrets

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Right at the start of this journey my gorgeous friend drew this for me and I have kept it on my fridge ever since. Things like this have been super helpful during the very overwhelming times – which have been aplenty.

I woke up the day after having everything confirmed with clarity.  I knew what I needed to do.  It was weird.  Up until the day before I was going back and forward, flip flopping between decisions.  Do I leave it and adopt later if it doesn’t work, would I now consider egg donation if mine don’t work, would I freeze embryos, would I try IUI by myself, would I do IVF but to be honest it all stood on those results as they would give me a clear picture.  And they did – a dire one.

So taking everything into consideration and looking at my wants and dreams.  I knew what was the right thing to do.

I have decided to go ahead with the egg retrieval and embryo freezing (IVF), of which I will need at least 2 rounds (a small fortune).  What I have also decided to do while I am there is to do a fresh embryo transfer as well, as I may not have any eggs or may only have a small number that are viable and I want to have the best chance possible.  In laymen’s terms, I will try to see if i can get pregnant. Eeeeek!

I was going to freeze embryos in October and January/ February but now because of my situation and results my amazing clinic in Athens, Greece – Serum, have said due to my situation it is imperative that we do something right away and have managed to squeeze me in.  They have been insanely incredible.

I was deadly scared to tell my parents – I mean how does that go down ‘Hi, guess what I want to be a single mum?’  Not necessarily the dream they had for me nor me for myself.  It’s funny as I am sure most parents don’t want to see their children turn into teenage parents or even single parents but how do parents deal with something like this that happens to their child when they are an adult?!  I was about to find out.

My parents and I have always been close, as any family we have our ups and downs but I always know they will be there for me.  This situation however, was a little different, I had no idea how they would take it.

 They have really given me space through this whole process and not really voiced their opinions very much, I guess giving me the room to adapt and take things in without other voices intervening.  So it was amazing that when they rung to check in on me the next day and before I had even begun to tell them my decision they asked if I had considered ‘putting one back while I was there’ and that they would support that or whatever decision I made.  I love the way life works sometimes!

Almost 3 weeks on and I’m dead scared.  Not of what people will think but of the fact that it might not work.  This decision was not made lightly, I have had months to think about it, the pros, the cons, the positives and the negatives and the process and I know it is the right decision for me and me alone but I can’t help but feel backed into a corner.

I have always wanted to be a Mum and that has not changed.  Most people get to choose if they do become one or don’t, I can choose that and I know that it will happen for me in someway or another, however most people get to choose when, how or if they are ready.  I don’t have any of those luxuries.

In my eyes, because of who I am, it is now or never.  If I don’t try now I know I will be thinking about the ‘what if’s’ for the years to come and the ‘if only’s’ will haunt me for the rest of my days.  I count myself lucky as someone who has no regrets in my life and I don’t want to start now.

I do feel backed into a corner on this as I can’t choose when it happens and I don’t have some one in my life to create a baby with.  The life of a single mum….I mean who wants that and asks for it?  So to plan and go ahead to try and become one seems a little ludicrous to me.  But I have no choice…I know I want to be a Mum, I have always known.  I know I want to try everything I can to have my own child first before I pursue other options.  So this is it.

If this doesn’t work I will be devastated. At this point I can only imagine the pain I will go through but I need to try.  What is that saying ‘It is better to try and fail, than fail to try’? or the even better one ‘I know that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying’- Jeff Bezos.

However, I am also scared of the fact that it might work!  All those questions – can I do this by myself? Am I strong enough?  Can I provide? Am I ready to give up my lifestyle? Not to mention all of the other questions I am sure most people go through when they consider having a child. But as I said, I have no doubts that to try feels right, no doubts.

So in exactly 3 weeks time, it is off to Athens overnight to get more tests done and decide on a protocol that will best suit me (medications, stimulants for low quality, reduced egg reserve) and then 1 week later back to Athens for 2 weeks to get that ball rolling.

Now, to try and get over my needle phobia.

My own devastation

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I always remember when the Christchurch earthquake hit, people calling it ‘The devastation’.  I thought I knew what that meant, as I had lost people close to me and also people my own age in devastating ways.  However you really truly do not know the meaning of devastating until you get hit with a full dose of the truth head on.  NO matter how much you think you have prepared for it, it hits you full force leaving you winded and laid flat out on the ground.

That is how I felt at 1.58pm on Friday the 13th….unlucky for some…and that ‘some’ would be me.

2 minutes before my students were back from their PE lesson I was replying to an email from a parent when I noticed my gmail account flip to a higher number.  Knowing this was day 3 after my tests and that some of my test results would be back today, I quickly fired off the email and opened up the email from my doctor.

It started with:

“I tried to call you but there was no answer on your phone.  Unfortunately, I have bad news…”

My heart sank, I read it through, stated “Ok” to myself and afterwards remained eerily calm for the next hour and 20 minutes as I greeted my children, had 7 Middle School teachers (including the Principals), come into my room to observe myself and my students doing ‘Student Directed Learning’ and then played games outside with my kids until I got them safely out the door and on their way home.

Straight away I shut the door, turned off the lights, re-read the email, tried to ring the doctor, it wouldn’t go through, I then tried both my parents and realized that their phones were off as they were on a plane on their way to Wellington, I tried the doctor again, got nothing and then proceeded to have the most adverse reaction that I have had on this whole journey…I burst into tears.  Not the leak out and run prettily down your face kind of tears nor the well up slowly kind….the heavy, can’t breathe, OH MY GOD kind.

I’m an emotional person, I feel other peoples pain easily and process mine calmly (and then sometimes not so calmly…usually that is when tequila is involved), however I am not a huge full on crier, so this caught me by surprise.  Months of uncertainty and waiting and I finally had my answer and unfortunately it was one I did not like very much.  I was truly devastated.

I should have been more prepared and I would like to think that I would have been if it hadn’t been for the doctor telling me that it wasn’t anything to worry about.  I had really tried not to get my hopes up but unfortunately that was easier said than done.  Thoughts had crept in about maybe my next move being to Europe to live for a few years and then going home to NZ or stepping down from my crazy busy role at work and just being in the classroom with the kids 100% and even down to simple things like…this has given me the kick up the arse to try harder with dating and get the confidence up to get out there again.  I had fooled myself and to be honest I really thought I was going to get these results, have a bit of ‘egg on my face’ and actually be ok and have the ‘happily ever after’.

Do not get me wrong, I do not blame the doctor here at all, that is not who I am.  Even when it comes down to the ‘why has this happened?’ question, I am not even interested in finding out the answer to that because what is the point?  All I need to worry about is what I can do now and be thankful that I found out when I have.

Luckily I had plans with a friend to go and celebrate a long awaited win at work straight after school.  I quickly cancelled plans to go a farewell party, all the while landing a friend with a sobbing mess called Amy, until I had collected myself.  I then went and sat next to a lake in serenity while drinking copious glasses of Prosecco and talking about life with my amazing friend.  We talked about everything under the sun except my news until after the doctor had rung, apologizing profusely, and then my parents had rung, and I could tell them.  There were more tears as I explained my situation and how the doctor had told me that they use a different scale of measuring to NZ and that is why she had said what she said.  She also was devastated that she had got my hopes up and even gone back again to check the results that had been sent through from my specialist.  They had no reference to what scale they used so of course she made that assumption and I don’t blame her.

I made it home in one piece watching hilarious Facebook videos – thank you to the people who post those – they really got me through.  As soon as I shut my apartment door, I lost it again, grabbed some wine and then decided to rip off the bandage and send messages to all of the people closest to me who I knew would want to know as soon as I did.

I then sat there, stared at the wall and tried to let it all settle in, while trying to come out of the feeing of numbness that had settled in when I was all cried out.

The AMH level 2.2 on her scale that was “close to 3” turned out to be a 0.37 on her scale….not so close to 3 and well under 1.  Things now have to progress quickly.  My FSH is elevated and my estradiol low both signs of low ovarian reserve.  Thankfully my TSH and LH were normal, which was something less to worry about, so I am grateful for that.  Unfortunately I have since found out that 8 follicles (from my baseline ultrasound), is borderline meaning that it is likely my eggs will not be of good quality, making my prospects worse than initially thought.

Devastating in those initial hours…yes…however there still is hope….it could be WAY worse and all I do is remain positive and extremely hopeful.

In true Amy fashion, I did laugh – A LOT  – when I realized that I had got this news on Friday the 13th.  I mean seriously!!!  Cue the Alanis Morreiste music….’Isn’t it ironic?’.

Don’t you think?

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!

The power of second opinions

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After receiving my results and diagnosis one friend in particular mentioned getting a second opinion.  She had told me about her experience previously where 2 doctors had told her that she would never have kids, they got another opinion, did IUI and ended up with 3! I was a little apprehensive, as I had been told by my specialist that the results were pretty final but took on her advice anyway, wondering how I would go about it.

With her voice in mind and other friends pumping me with their incredible wealth of knowledge, I fully disclosed all of my doctors notes and results to the clinic in Greece (Serum), when filling out their online form.

Incredibly and much to my surprise, as mentioned in a previous post, I was greeted with realms of facts and knowledge.

The one piece of information that seemed key was the fact that my specialist had told me (and then a fertility nurse), that ‘The pill’ does not effect the outcome of AMH.  So, trusting in the experts I took their word as gold.

Unfortunately or fortunately, whichever way you choose to look at it, I was given different information from Serum.  They stated:

“Your doctor’s letter states that AMH isn’t affected by being on the pill, but the evidence isn’t totally clearcut for this always being true.  Several studies have shown falls in AMH among women who go onto the pill.  It’s just possible that your low AMH was caused by being on the pill and you would want to be sure before taking any big decisions.”

So, there was hope!

Then after another email with me asking a few questions they mentioned this:

“Just to mention that the studies that show AMH not being affected by the pill will have been based on women with perfect ovarian reserve and it’s not so clear how the pill affects AMH for women with more sensitive ovaries.”

Or maybe not so much hope!

They then went on to say in following emails, in round about speak, that they wouldn’t touch me with a ten foot barge pole until I had gone off the pill for at least 2 months and then got retested for my AMH and FSH levels and that I also needed to have a Baseline Ultrasound.  Well, ok then.  I was floored.

I was a little premature in my thinking that ‘The wait’ was over.  As I found out later, at least 2 months off the pill to allow my body to return to it’s normal state, means testing done at the 3 month mark, as it has to be specifically timed for FSH and the ultrasound.

Roll on the end of May when I am finally able to receive more accurate tests and I am crossing fingers and remaining positive for a more favourable result, while still being realistic and researching into all my options to make an informed decision when the time comes.

Believe me, there have been many more adventures on the journey between the results, questioning of the results and now.  And I am in no way blind to the fact that there will be many more before the end of May.

Some adventures have been depressing, some hilarious, some confusing, some hopeful but all of them have been a part of the journey.  My journey.

I am not one to wish my life away but…..bring on May!

2 options are better than none

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I actually have no qualms with Valentines Day whatsoever, unfortunately this was the day I found out my options, now the date is forever etched in my brain. So, for me, the message truly applies.

At 20 weeks old (even before you are actually born), you have 2 million eggs, 2 million!  This is just one of the crazy facts that I have learned in the last 2 weeks of my life.  This particular fact I learned during my conversation with my specialist when we were discussing what my results actually meant.

He started off by telling me about egg reserve in general and then told me more about what AMH actually tells us.  He then went on to tell me what my AMH level meant for me.

Most women who do a round of IVF, because of their eggs being hyper stimulated will produce between 16-20 eggs per cycle.  Half of those would be able to be fertilized. With my results it means that I would only produce 6 eggs or less, half of which may be able to be be fertilized.  Not great, however, not nothing.  He also told me that this number could possibly be an indication of early onset menopause….eeekkkk…..let’s not even go there yet!

The specialist then stated that if I was in a relationship, he would tell me to ‘Go ahead, and try to get pregnant’.  However because I am single, it was more of a social (my god, seriously, in this day and age?) and a financial decision.  I had him stumped.  This obviously made my blood boil but being in shock and faced with all of this jargon and the news being relatively new to me , I held it in to process it, all the while thinking ‘If you would tell someone in the same situation who was in a couple to go and try to get pregnant, why wouldn’t you be telling me the same thing?’  Granted I am single but from my limited experience at the time, there are ways around that.  Ways I hoped that he would talk to me about.

That left us with a bit of a stalemate….we went around and around talking about things until I finally was able to get 2 clear cut options out of him.

Option #1 – Egg freezing

This would involve having IVF, retrieving the eggs, freezing them and storing them.  Sounds simple enough however due to my lack of eggs I would have to do AT LEAST 2 rounds at between NZD$11,000 – $13,000 a pop (then you would have to factor in the pre tests and flights home). Also he informed me that when you thaw the eggs they are not as good as ‘fresh’ ones.  Who’s the chicken now?  So if all went well from 2 rounds of IVF I would produce 12 eggs, 6 would be viable and then when I unfreeze them maybe half or all would not be good quality.  Not such good odds there.

The specialist told me this option would obviously be time and money heavy.  I would have to be on the pill so they could control my cycle, I would have to have a battery of tests to ensure everything else was ok (around $NZD2000), then I would have injections to turn off the natural body signals, then injections of hormones.  The whole process taking around 2 months and I would have to be in Christchurch for at least 2 weeks.

I then went on to ask about ‘the oven’.  My worry, after reading a few articles on egg freezing over the summer, was that it isn’t just the egg factor, it is the age of the body factor as well.  Brilliantly I had some great news there – he reassured me that it is overwhelmingly the age of the egg that is the biggest factor not the ‘oven itself’.

The timing issues because of me living overseas and only having set holidays would involve a lot of pre organization – ovulation tracking with scans, counting and planning date for harvesting, more blood tests, pelvic exams, ultrasounds – all the fun stuff.  Luckily I have a great clinic nearby in China, with great staff and fantastic turn around time.  My specialist could send a PDF of the tests that would be needed and I could check with my clinic if they could do it, saving time and ensuring that when I was back for the 2 weeks, all would run smoothly.

The specialist was also quick to tell me that the fertility nurses on staff were amazingly knowledgeable and dealt with a range of scenarios and sorted all the timings so they would be in contact soon.

Option #2 – Sperm Donation

Two weeks in and that still makes me laugh whenever I talk about it or say it because it comes so naturally now and is so weird that I talk about it in regards to me!

It took awhile for my specialist to really put out this option. I had had enough of stories of single women going it alone and it not working out successfully e.g. in the words of him ‘having a romanticized idea of parenthood’, ‘a mentally challenged child’, having to quit work and stay at home etc.  I understand I need to be told both sides of the coin however ‘My god!’, this is the first conversation we are having.  I just need the options.  Save your negative stories and scare tactics for later when it has all sunk in.

After I finally got up the balls to tell him that I really wanted to have my own child and that I wanted to explore all the options I had to do that before I even looked into other ways to become a Mum, he finally started talking.  He told me that this (sperm donation), would be the cheapest option however I would be committing myself to having a child on my own (well, obviously!).  It would involve artificial insemination (AI), I could do it immediately, it would have to be timed with my natural cycle, I would have to be off the pill for 2-3 cycles to check ovulation, then timed for natural egg release…and then it is pretty much for lack of a better explanation as he put it ‘a substitution for intercourse’, (AKA ‘turkey basting’). Lovely.

Because his clinic did not have a ‘back catalogue’ of donations, they could do AI however I would have to find my own donor or use a donor bank (he suggested Fertility Associates).  The problems being: the request for sperm donors is not high, there is a long wait, certain legalities and now donation is open meaning the child can find out about their father later on (this, I really, really liked to hear).

So with 2 options at the ready I felt better prepared and just damn right relieved that I now had a direction to go in and that I actually was a lucky one who had some options.

I also asked him a few questions that some friends had suggested I ask.

#1 – Does the pill effect the result of AMH?

I was told that the pill is not harmful or does not effect the result of the AMH test.

#2 – Is there anyway to improve egg quality?

I was told no, just the usual things like not drinking high levels of alcohol (damn it!), no drugs (easy peasy), eat well (oh man! There goes those yummy Great Leap burgers and it’s back on the Weight Watchers band wagon I go), exercise and to make sure I am getting the right nutrients.  Well that sucks, doctors orders to get healthy, you can’t really argue with that.

One of my final questions was:

#3 – Going off the results of the AMH, when would I have to do something to ensure that I have the best chance?

His answer (and the answer I have had from most specialists over the last few weeks) was:

‘Within the next year, as every 6 months things decrease’

Yay, fun!  Roll on the next few months of playing fact finder, scenario builder and putting the puzzle pieces together to form an answer.  This is not how I pictured my 2016 when I was calling it in on New Years.

I have always wanted to be a Mum but I have to be honest I have always thought I would have a child with Mr Right.

So, over the next few months I really am faced with trying to answer the most monumentous questions I have faced yet, because in reality I have limited time and need to make a decision soon.

Do I want to be a Mum now?

OR

Do I still want to wait for Mr Right?

At this point, who knows.