Second time around

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My airbnb with a view of the Acropolis and a jacuzzi! Infertility heaven!

I always knew that the second time around would be different but I was not prepared for how much easier it was….well, day 1 that is.

Leading up to heading back to Athens for my second round was crazy busy but to be honest in my job and life -what’s new?  Working right up until the day I left gave me routine, consistency and a busy-ness that I did not have in my previous round, as it had been in the middle of summer holidays.  I still stick to my guns on the fact that I really did everything I could to minimise the stress and overthinking but going into this round I could fell the difference.

Maybe it was the busy-ness, maybe it was the acupuncture, maybe it was the counselling, or maybe I had just got my head in to a better space….whatever it was, I was just super glad.

The day I left I held it together nicely and felt incredibly loved and supported with so many well wishers dropping by my class or leaving messages for me.  It wasn’t until I had to wait 30 minutes in the bank to pay my electricity bill with nothing else to do, that it all hit me like a tonne of bricks….Holy shit, I’m going to do this all over again!  The panic rushed in- my heart raced and I suppose technically it was probably a mini panic attack.  Managing to get it under control with some tough love, I was able to push through it and with the distraction of a dinner date with a friend pre flight and the fact that I had managed to procrastinate packing (a very un-Amy thing to do, which I now realise was on purpose….at the time I thought I was just being either laid back or lazy! lol), I managed to calm down.

The airport was the craziest I had ever seen it and apart from a quick stop at Starbucks for a tea, I had no time for anything else and was on the plane.  Despite not having slept through the night since being back and not managing more than 6 hours sleep (I usually can only function on 8), I was out like a light and in and out of consciousness for a good 4-5 hours.  Major win for me.  Istanbul’s quick change and hideous lines, got me straight on the next flight and again I was out to it, arriving in Athens early with my bag making it all the way through and was the first one out.

My Airbnb host had been amazing and had organised a driver to take me to my appointment straight away , wait for me and then bring me to the apartment.I forgot what Greek people are like and a smiling woman greeted me with a hug and then straight away, after saying she had bad English, began to talk my ear off and worriedly asked me what was wrong that I needed to go to the hospital.  I have since realised that it was not a Maria thing (my Airbnb host from last time) but a Greek thing.  They are the most caring, non-judgemental, passionate people – they are incredible.  I need to either move here or marry into a Greek family!

I was early to my appointment and dare I say it, it was almost like coming home.  I even gave the driver directions to the clinic.  I walked in like I had never left, had a bit of banter with the receptionist, feeling like ‘old-hat’, as I looked around the waiting room at the nervous faces.

Feeling ‘old-hat’ meant that when I waited 40 minutes I wasn’t surprised or bothered and when I was asked to change in the operating room, as they were super busy and needed to get me done quick, it did not phase me.  A stark contrast to the last time I was in that position.  When I was asked to confirm that I was doing a’Natural Supported Cycle’, I knew exactly what that meant.

My favourite skimpy wrap around cloth on and in came Penny, just another day back at the clinic for her, so no big reaction to me being there.  It was down to business, or should i say, all up in my business.

My right ovary had decided to come to the party this time and had 1 (13mm) follicle and a half. Yippee.  They made sure I saw that, as last time the right ovary was not so excited to produce anything.

Next we looked at the left ovary and she asked me to tell her what I was seeing.  It was a big and very clear follicle.  I got excited.  That was incredibly short lived.  Turns out, it really wasn’t such good news, it was too big which meant that is was probably an ovarian cyst.  Crap!

This then meant that if they gave me stimulants there could be too many risks – one, that it would over stimulate and burst and two, that it would compromise my other egg.  Not having stimulants means that my chance to grow that half follicle in the right ovary is pretty much gone.  I now had to wait until Monday at 8.45am (it was Saturday at 10.30am), to see how this cyst was going and to maybe investigate more which could mean a cancellation of my cycle. Crappyity crap crap.

Choosing not to worry until I had to, after a phone call to my parents, it was off to my Airbnb.

They had rushed the cleaning for me and I was able to have access straight away to the house – which was insanely amazing by the way – stunning balcony, view of the acropolis and a spa on the balcony!!!  Just what I needed for those first few days….to feel a bit of normalcy in this ‘not so normal’ situation.

So, it was off to play tourist and wander the streets for the next few days, spending money to make myself feel better, stumbling across ancient ruins and soaking up the sun on that balcony.

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Feeling ‘normal’

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This is actually cheating, as it is a picture of me fresh off a flight from Athens and about to go and have another date with the Italian! However it’s still a date shot!

During the lead up to my departure I went through 2 weeks where my life seriously could have been written as a TV show drama script and sold to the highest bidder.  Looking back I can’t quite believe what went on over those 2 weeks but I have no interest into going into that side of things on here, however, know that every aspect of my life (bar work), was in complete and utter disarray and for someone who hates drama, it was like I was it’s magnet and no matter what I did it was attracted to me.  Thankfully I had already had my meltdown a few weeks before, so handling this only cost me a day of wallowing while nursing a bad, well….atrocious hangover.

It was during this time I happened to meet someone who wanted to take me on a date (well, lets be honest here…I was like ‘f*%k my life’ after more than a few drinks and I had decided to ‘play’ Tinder…usually not my cup of tea at all).

Previous to the date, I had worried of course….what was I thinking, I couldn’t do that to someone, if he asked how my week was, I am the WORST liar…I would stumble and then I would be like “Well, I had acupuncture, I went to yoga and swimming and counselling and I sorted out my insurance and I had to book accommodation and I had to monitor my cycle and send countless emails about my fertility and menstrual cycle and I also wrote a blog post about what I am going though”. Oh yeah, heart throb of the year, right here.  How could you lie to someone about what you have been up to?  Is it lying?  Is it omitting the truth?

Thank god for my brother, who told me “Look, you have had the most shittiest week, there is absolutely nothing else that could go wrong, so why the hell not go out with this guy.  What’s the worst that could happen? Nothing, because all the worst things have already happened” and he proceeded to laugh his head off, with me along for the ride too.

So I dressed up, washed my hair and went along to a place I hadn’t yet tried but had always wanted to, to meet this guy.  As I was crossing the road, I spotted what I thought was him waiting outside the alleyway to the restaurant.  Quickly looking away I began to cross the busy road and as I looked up again I saw him walking the other way down the street away from the restaurant.  ‘Oh god!  Justin – you were wrong….there are worse things that could happen!  He has seen me and ‘done the bolt’.  Jeez….my life!

No!…I thought, proceed to the restaurant and see what happens, worse comes to worst you order a drink, smash it back, pay and leave….no harm done.

Ahhhh, China, that is not quite the way it works here and upon finding my way into the restaurant they did not understand a word I was saying and I was left standing by the bar looking like an idiot.  So I retreated outside and sat down on a small brick fence surrounding a tree and did what anyone else in my situation would do, I pulled out my secret weapon….my cell phone.  Whoops….another China special – delayed messages and there was one coming through from him 10 minutes previous about already being at the restaurant.  About to send him another message back, I looked up and there he was.  It was the guy who had walked away but he was back!

We went in, had a lot of laughs, some fabulous food, got spoilt rotten with free Prosecco and limoncello (he knew the chef) and he even served things up for me!  What a gentlemen.  Then while I was in the bathroom he even paid!  Definitely not used to that old trick!  I was seriously feeling amazing and totally spoilt rotten.  Add to that the fact that when we parted ways he grabbed my hands in his and told me that I MUST keep in contact and the we would do drinks this coming Saturday at a nearby rooftop bar.  Talk about stunned – wow!

I don’t remember the last time I felt ‘normal’.  I could be myself without this cloud hanging over me, this person had no idea what I was going through, I could relax and forget all about what I was having to organise, sort out and deal with on a daily basis and just have fun.  It was glorious.  I don’t think anyone will really understand just how glorious. No pitying faces, no overcompensations, no chat about ‘it’, nada.  I could just be me.

It remains to be seen whether we will end up friends or anything more but just to have that one glorious night of normalcy meant more to me than I can explain.

Thank god for dates with Italians.

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!

 

And it all came crashing down

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The aftermath of rock bottom

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paving the way

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Amongst all the crap I had to wade through I was supported so amazingly by so many people.  I was truly humbled and thankful. Flowers from a lovely friend.

Apparently going back to reality and trying to do all the best things for myself to ‘right’ myself and get myself into a positive place meant that I needed to dish out a whole lot of money.

The good news, working internationally, you have medical insurance.

The bad news, we were about to switch providers, right in the middle of me coming back, getting on track and starting my treatments.  Meaning that the deductible of Y7000 (roughly NZD$1400), I had to meet would be a double header because with the previous medical insurance I had not met the deductible.  Essentially, I was being punished for being healthy.

The worst news – nobody covers infertility.  It’s absolute bullshit if you ask me.  Like my circumstances, some aspects of infertility aren’t a choice, it’s not like I chose to do these procedures, all my specialists have given me a time frame.  It makes me mad but there is nothing I can do about it but deal with it and move forward.

So with counselling being Y1400 a pop (roughly NZD$300), getting medication into the country (NZD$1200), and yoga costing Y100 (NZD$20) each time, adding acupuncture to the list was pushing it but I was determined to do this right.

My medical insurance although not covering infertility still listed 20 counselling sessions and acupuncture appointments as covered (after you have met the deductible).  Preparing myself to be Y7000 out of pocket after just coming back from holiday, I booked appointments and bit the bullet, sucking up the loss for the long term gain.  I got onto the insurance company before we even started with them to inform them of what I was doing, thinking I was doing the right thing and getting it sorted early.

Almost 2 months later and I am still having to fill in forms and justify my decisions and now also release confidential medical records, even though I have been told my counselling sessions are approved.  My god! Nobody tells you about all the hoops that you have to jump through behind the scenes as well as trying to stay on an even keel and deal with the shit hand you have been dealt.

All I am trying to do is do the best thing for me and I feel like I have been ridiculously punished….guess I’m going without a few dinners and wines over the coming months!

Lol – I am counting myself so lucky that that is all I am going without and thanking my lucky stars I am where I am right now and in the job I am in to be able to figure this all out. I truly believe that things happen for a reason and that this is another reason that I am in Beijing at this point in time.

This frustrating financial and annoying insurance hell is one of the side roads that paved the way to rock bottom for me and when I hit it, it really wasn’t pretty.

Money (and insurance companies) suck!

The full story

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A toast

 

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

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

The toast went like this:

Woman: To panic attacks…and insomnia

Man: ….and depression

W: ….and rage and loss

M: ….and self loathing

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

M: I like it, I like it….hopelessness

W: …..oh, fuck, I’m swimming in that

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

W: …yes

M: …and fuck you god

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

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

The first round did not work.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It will work.

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

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

Like a shooting star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My plastic bag filled with needles and pills

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

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

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

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

Crazy, just crazy.

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

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

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

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

The verdict

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Putting a face to the name – introducing Serum

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Basically:

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

Grade 2 – it is usable but has some fragmentations

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

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

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

C’mon little embryo – you can do it!