A year later – to the day

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One year ago today I was given some pretty confronting and devestating news.  Over the course of this year I have had to do some pretty big soul searching, make some life changing decisions and face some pretty epic emotional, financial and physical roller coasters. But it was all worth it and like so many amazing people kept reminding me – it only takes one…I’m pregnant.

The above photo was recently taken in Greece where I had my IVF journey and where the donor is from, holding an egg, symbolising that it only takes one egg and because I am due in the Chinese Year of the Rooster. The 1 represents the single embryo that took and again to reiterate the fact that it only takes one.

Another long catch up but here is how I found out and how the last few months have unfolded.

The 2 week wait

During the 2 week wait, as I mentioned previously, I had plenty of things to keep me busy however things started to feel different than the first time.  In the second week I felt a stitch like pain in my lower left side.  At first I was panicked and worried about this but with no spotting or blood and after doing some googling (I know googling is bad but it really is the only thing to do apart from bombard the doctor which I was not prepared to do!), I soon realised that this could be a good sign and that the embryo or embryos were attaching themselves.  Fingers crossed!

With the pregnancy test at the 2 week wait, I needed a blood test to measure my HCG levels.  Now, it didn’t just end there, I then needed another HCG test 2 days later to ensure that my HCG levels were doubling meaning it was a viable pregnancy.  Sometimes HCG levels give a positive and then 2 days later have not doubled which can mean a variety of things, all not so good.  The HCG level is what gives a positive pregnancy test.  I also needed my progesterone levels to be measured, as if they were low I needed to have a series of 3 more butt shots to try to (as they call it), rescue the pregnancy – meaning your body does not have enough progesterone to support the pregnancy, so it needs help to do so.

I had been warned by many forums not to do any pregnancy tests prior to the 2 week mark as it could easily give a false positive due to hormones left over in your body from all the stimulants however the day before my test, a Sunday, I did one anyway, thinking that at least if it was a negative or a faint line I could at least be prepared.

This is what I saw:

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Test number 1

HCG test 1 and 2

On the day of the test in the morning I used the second test to make double sure and this is what it showed:

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Test number 2 – just to make sure…darker..woohoo!

So hopeful, but of course in true Amy style -still realistic, I went after work to get my HCG blood test and progesterone test.  On Halloween it was confirmed that I was pregnant with an HCG level of: 256.1

Now I had my fingers crossed for a doubling in the next 2 days.

2 days later and after reminding them that I needed the Progesterone test (they had not done this the first day, so this was another added stress as I was not able to confirm if I needed extra help from the butt shots), I finally had my results from my HCG and they had doubled “as expected”, my doctor here said (Yay, for positive people).  My HCG level was 561.5.

This then lead to lots of speculation and sneaky googling to try and find out if these numbers indicated twins or a single pregnancy.  Unfortunately it was another wait for me as the numbers mean nothing for the number of embryos that may be present.

After a few days and a lot of nerves I finally got my progesterone levels back and my doctor told me that the clinic thought they were abnormally high, so wanted to retest them.  This did not sound like good news to me.  This was 5 days after my first HCG test and the weekend was looming, so I did not get any answers until the following week.  I was super thankful for a forum I had joined for current Serum people and turned to them for help as all the literature about progesterone levels talked about the low side but none on the internet (can you believe that – none!), talked about abnormally high results.  Thankfully they all had great advice and told me that high doesn’t matter it’s the low that is a worry.  So that got me through until finally I was able to have an electronic report and send them through the Penny.  The high number and the great HCG levels meant that I did not need any more butt shots! Celebrations all around – although I have some pretty expensive meds still sitting in my refrigerator!

A good progesterone level for me should have been 29.6 – 109.6 mol/L.  Mine was 385 mol/L, hence the anxiousness from me and the panic!  This was what it should be in the third trimester according to my doctor.

So after Penny’s reassurance I was finally able to relax and try to let the reality settle in that I was officially pregnant.  One step further on this journey than before.  This also meant that because of the IVF process I was now 4 weeks pregnant.  It was nice to have one small short cut in this long and arduous process!

Scan 1 – 7 weeks

After my first official vomit – yay me – I was off for my first scan and hopeful that that was a good sign.  It had hard for me to get excited about anything and it would not seem real to me – a very visual person – until I saw the scan and what was happening.  Also, who knew how many there were!

My gorgeous friend offered to come and at first I was about to turn her down and then I realised that I had done everything else alone, I was not going to do this alone.  She has been incredible and come to every appointment so far.  It has been so wonderful to have her support.

It was all amazing news, everything looked great.  I know what my feeling was about the single or twin situation – my sister had joked that I would end up with twin boys just like I had said I wanted for years and years when I was younger.  I had thought that it may be twins – it would be just typical if it was, however I realised that I hadn’t been that sick and was showing no sign or symptoms really except that 1 vomit and the stitch like pain so in reality I thought it would be just one.  I did wonder how many bets were going on surrounding this scan and if I should of had an ‘in’ on them to make some money! Haha!

It was a transvaginal scan as the embryo is still very small and after a bit of searching and another bladder empty, it was confirmed that there was a single embryo there.  A fabulous little ‘Lone Ranger’.

The Lone Ranger measured 1.1cm (which showed it at 7 weeks and 2 days, gaining time again!), making the due date scan-wise July 7th but IVF-wise July 9th.  We will have to see which was more accurate when the time arrives.

All else was also great – my cervix had closed and measured fabulously and the uterus was looking good.  A few follicles in the ovaries were still lurking around probably due to all the meds I was still taking and would disappear when the placenta kicked in later.  Apparently it had implanted in a great spot too, so wins all around.

The best bit was hearing the heartbeat!!  It was nice and strong at 138 beats a minute (it should be between 110 and 170).  It was pretty cool to see it moving.

I was so relieved and finally able to let myself be excited….well until the next day when I reigned it in a little until the 10 week scan – a high risk point for IVF patients.

My friend had captured a video of it all so it was great to be able to send this to my family and friends.  My parents were especially happy as it made them feel like they were there.

9 weeks

Still early days but the best news ever – I was finally down 2 pills.  So I went from 13 pills and an injection per day to 11 pills and an injection – woohoo!

I had been extremely lucky with no more morning sickness however had been diagnosed with extreme fatigue…lucky me!  I had insomnia, limited appetite and a lot of light headedness.  Plus my F sized boobs had already busted out of my bras – boohoo!  Luckily they weren’t tender though – whew!  Due to my fatigue and insomnia, my low immune system (apparently this is another stunner of a thing you get with pregnancy), had me very sick with a cold, so I was miserable.  Looking back I had no idea how I got through those weeks working full time with no sick days left and no sleep – I had quickly learned how much I cost on daily basis from my leave without pay days, so it was no days off for me, just ‘battle through it’, putting all the energy into being with my kids and all break times and frees trying to hide and recover to do it all over again.  Survival mode people!  No one tells you any of this about the first trimester.  It truly sucks.

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This truly sums up my first trimester and the daily struggle – pregnant women are my new heroes

Scan 2 – 10 weeks

It has arms and legs, it hiccups/jumps and is very squirmy! So super cool.  What a way to end a rough couple of weeks.

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Floating upside down and waving to the camera – my ‘real baby’!

It was measuring 3.29cm, you could see the umbilical cord and the placenta has started to develop.  Again – a strong heartbeat.  I was so taken aback that it actually looked like a ‘real baby’ – I actually say this in the video, as it technically is still an embryo so I expected it to still look more alien-like not baby-like yet!

I had to have 2 more sets of blood tests to finish up testing that wasn’t done through IVF.

I had lost weight but no one was worried due to my illness and because everything was looking healthy.

As I would be in New Zealand for the 12 week scan (it needed to be done between week 11-13 and for that entire time I was home in NZ), I got the run down on  the chromosomal testing and all the things I needed to relay when I was back. My parents and sister were able to come so that was exciting (for me and them), and Christmas eve was the 12 week mark so that was a bit special.

Apparently it will double in size in the next 2 weeks – crazy!  Looks like the start of the bump will come very soon.

I left just feeling extremely lucky to be able to get to this point.

Scan 3 – 12 weeks

It was a bit of a big week in New Zealand.  I was finally off the hard stuff – I had taken my last steroid pill.  Thank god – I had no idea how much it was effecting me until I came off it and noticed so much bloat disappear from my face and body and a bit of the cloudiness dissipate.

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My last ‘little white pill’ – steriod

Having my family at the 12 week scan was great.  6cm long (crown to rump), and all moving and shaking.  It really does not like being pushed around by the ultrasound wand (finally I was up to having on top of tummy scans!).  It all got a bit real for my family, which was really nice to see.

(Laid back and chilled out – hand behind it’s head and leg up)

Visually all looks good in terms of the chromosomal elements – neck measurement, nasal bone, bladder, brain development and stomach are looking amazing.  These are all good indicators for no defects.  I got the bloods done the next day for that extra 10% assurance.  The ultrasound is an 80% assurance.  To this day I still do not have the blood test results back from the NZ laboratories – it is not a test they usually do.  God knows where my blood is and if it has been tested yet!

2017

The first day of the New Year was an amazing one for me as my progesterone suppositories were halved.  Because the China and NZ equivalents were only 100mg instead of 200mg my pills had increased to 17 a day and 1 injection, so halving these was amazing.  It also meant I had to take them twice a day and not 4 times…I could smell the freedom!  I was also down to 6 more injections to go – in 1 weeks time I would be off all meds and the injections, bar 5 (multivitamins, folic acid and baby aspirin – all of which I needed to continue throughout my pregnancy).

I was still ill and getting nauseous during the day but small afternoon naps and carrying around small energy bites helped that along.  Naps are an amazing thing that I have never been able to do – it was the only thing that was helping me to get through my days, so I was loving the hell out of the 10 or 20 minutes I was getting during the day.

A friend of mine calls the baby ‘the parasite’, as it sucks everything out of you.  She was talking about her own pregnancy but I have to agree!  It is seriously what it feel like.  I was a shell of myself in the first trimester.

Along with no more big meds and injections in a weeks time, it also changed into the second trimester…I was dying for things to improve as everyone had told me they would and even having a tiny bit of energy restored to me would be amazing!

Back to Beijing

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It was very fitting that due to timings and time zones, my lucky last injection had to be done in a plane toilet, midway between NZ and Singapore.  No more injections, so I had to get a celebratory photo.  I seriously do not miss those daily buggars!

Thank you

I will be forever grateful for the love, support and messages that I have received throughout this journey, they are what have got me through.  It has been and still remains an incredibly tough journey and all the messages, words of encouragement and advice have helped twofold.  Thanks for being so amazing and supporting me on this roller coaster journey.

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Non alcoholic New Years – cheers to 2017

Here’s to my next adventure – due July 7th

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Same, same but different

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shopping – making people feel better since ages ago.

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…

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!

Feeling punished

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Taken right after the negative was confirmed -Sunglasses are an amazing tool, my new best friend.

Celebrating the positive is all well and good in normal life but throw into the mix the devastation of my first round not working, my body coursing with hormones and all those myriad of other feelings and thoughts, it tends not to lend itself to a positive pathway.

That was me, on the corner of a tiny little seaside town in France outside the pharmacy absolutely losing it and bawling at the unfairness of life…actually, it was the unfairness of IVF drug costs but that had just been the straw that broke the camels back.

After letting me know my negative result, Penny told me to take some time to ‘allow myself to come to terms with the outcome’.  Completely ignoring that advice, as I was painfully aware that I had to get onto organising my ‘comeback’ IVF round (remember I had paid for 2 rounds…not quite for the price of one! Haha), I forged ahead with plans and quickly realised that I need to obtain some stimulants.

China and a lot of Asia do not allow single women to partake in fertility treatments and having being in contact with a few clinics in Beijing early on in the year, I had learned that they could only supply stimulants to customers on their IVF programs.  Great, just great.  The only way to get on these programs was to be married – don’t you just LOVE life sometimes.  Ludacrious.

With Serum being on break for the month of August and with Penny out after a hip operation, I was in contact with another gynocologist who told me (in a round about way), that I needed to get ahold of some stimulants, as we would start them asap when my cycle was due.

Panicking I realised that that wouldn’t be able to happen in China, so with only a few days left of Summer vacation and a quick trip back to Athens out of the picture with the clinic closed, I was left with trying to locate some stimulants either online (with a very slim hope of getting them into China), and locating them in France.

Enter into the equation AirFrance’s strike, coinciding directly with my flight to Nice and then to Paris and them not answering any phone numbers in any offices or answering their emails over a period of the 3 days, both on and after the day I received my negative results, I was livid.  Not only was it cancelled flights but it was more money out of pocket and 5 hours plus on the phone with calls unanswered.

I cursed the clinic….to me it made perfect sense to tell someone after their first round, who has made it perfectly clear that where they live has a lot of limitations, to maybe consider purchasing some stimulants to take back with them just incase.  Apparently that is not the way they think and operate because if they had done that I would have bought some.  I mean, why not add a few vials of stimulants to my already drug filled suitcase and carry on. It would not have made a huge difference to me then but the stress that it was causing me now by trying to locate these drugs was two-fold.

My friend being the saint that she is suggested we go down to the local pharmacy and see what they could do.  Having searched online already I knew the generic name for Merional – I still don’t get why they have different names for the same, or almost the same, drug in different countries…makes no sense to me.  The pharmacy had no idea what I was talking about but after my friend took over and spoke in French and we gave them the generic name, they would be able to get it to the pharmacy the following day (just in time before I flew, on my new Jetstar flight – buggar you AirFrance).

The catch of course was I needed a prescription from my clinic, which I had but it was for Merional, not the French version called Menopur.  Ok, I could do this and hopefully we could make it back with the new prescription before 7.30pm.

The second catch – 10 vials would be the equivalent of $3000 New Zealand dollars.  By this stage I had had enough.  Not only were my eggs shit for some unknown reason, my first round a failure, my finances majorly depleted but now I was being punished for wanting children, something granted so easily to others, by being charged ridiculous prices.  In Greece, the stimulants cost  E17 per shot.  Massive price difference.

I was exhausted.  Who the hell was trying to punish me and for what?

At that point I gave up – on the corner of a street, in a little seaside town in France, I bawled my eyes out, pumped full of hormones and grief, on my friends shoulder.

I am so thankful, everyday, for that friend.  Without her I have no idea how I would have gotten through those initial first days.

Never underestimate the power of a non-judgmental, tolerant and ‘there through everything’ friend.  The kind that knows how to be there and how to help without you saying anything.

Long story short – there was NO way I was paying that amount for these drugs and decided to leave them.  It wasn’t worth the financial and emotional stress and if I had to take some more time off to make sure I was in Greece earlier to get the cheaper drugs, then that’s what I would do.

Also, thank god for those following 4 days in Nice – I finally felt like I had had a holiday.

 

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.

Sweet, sweet company

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Maypole – all about fertility – on ‘The island’ in Sweden

After almost 2 weeks in Athens and everyday filled with some medical procedure, drama or other event I was champing at the bit to leave and was starved for company.

The fact that I had stayed the extra time (I had had to guesstimate my time when I had booked my tickets as I had NO idea how long everything would take – a rough idea wasn’t quite right, so I was glad that I had booked the extra days),  meant I was able to head to Serum every 2 days after the transfer to receive ‘butt shots’ (progesterone), that I was unable to do myself.  After 3 shots, I was very happy to leave.

I must say I was pretty damn ecstatic to discover non-alcoholic beer (thank god!), to get me through the long list of rules that I had to partake in:

  • No swimming (this was a tough one)
  • No baths
  • No excess sun (a bit hard when it is between 38-45 degrees each day)
  • No getting dehydrated (again – a bit difficult…my BPA free, squishy, roll up water bottle became my best friend and was attached to my bag everyday)
  • No penatrative sex (well, I wish that was even an issue)
  • Gentle exercise: no running (definitely NOT a problem…although by the end of the 2 weeks I was desperate for any kind of exercise!)

And don’t forget the myriad of pills and that elusive injection that dictated my schedule each day.

So with a 2 week wait ahead of me and the ‘No fun list’ dictating my every move and being something I HAD to stick to, I was so relieved to be heading to Sweden to meet up with my brother, my brother from another mother and some of my gorgeous friends.

It was the best thing for me to be around so many positive, fun, amazing and caring people and to chat about what I had been through (and was still going through), was a relief in itself.  To be around people was the best feeling.

I was lucky to be busy enough to forget about my ‘ordeal’ and to have time to unwind and be myself again, not some person going through something awful.

I was also very fortunate to be around 2 people who had been struggling to get pregnant (a couple), and to talk about it to people who truly understood was such a blessing.

Sweden offered many alternatives to alcohol and I was spoilt for choice – it will be hard to go back to Beijing where there isn’t much in that respect out in restaurants and bars, unless you want fizzy drink.  I always felt like part of the group and never felt left out – apart from when we went to ‘The island’ and everyone was doing amazing bombs off the wharf and swimming.  My wading up to my thighs technique and dunking my hair in and flicking it back to get wet was perfected to a tee.  Not quite a ‘Wella’ ad but it did the trick.

My gorgeous friends had also helped line up a blood test at the 2 week mark (the day I left Sweden), to see if I was pregnant or not and how my progesterone levels were (basically if I needed the 3 extra butt shot injections I was hauling around to each airport with an ice pack attached).

That second week of waiting was exactly what I had needed – thank god for my brother and those amazing friends.  I am truly thankful to them.  If I hadn’t been with them, I think I may have gone insane.

Next stop: results

***On a side note – Sweden (Stockholm), absolutely blew me away – absolutely loved it and would recommend it to anybody!

How do you solve a problem? Meet Maria

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Amazing treats greeted me including home made jam (“You will get pregnant if you eat this jam!”), cheese and home grown and marinated olives!

…Yes another altered song lyric.

Feeling the way I was, I was super thankful that this is when Maria came into my life!

Who could have thought that my Airbnb host would be able to lift my mood, drag me out of the dark and turn everything around.  She had guessed from my message that I was doing IVF as she had many other women stay in the apartment doing the same thing.  She had told me that she had accepted me right away when she had realised.

There was a massive gift basket wait for me filled with homemade delights, wine and everything else under the sun.  The homegrown and marinated olives are too die for and the best I have ever tried.

The apartment is just what I needed – air conditioned, balcony (covered and has an amazing breeze), hammock and table and chairs on the balcony, good kitchen, fabulous bed, washer, great wifi and other small features galore – like all the masses of herb pots that she encourages you to use and “you must make spaghetti”!

She gave me incredible advice on islands to visit for the day and how to ensure I rest up – where the supermarkets were and good homely food that I could take away if I need to or for when I could not cook.

She was a ball of energy and so excited to be helping me along the way.  She claimed that everyone who stayed in the apartment had gotten pregnant and that her homemade jam  would be key to help me get pregnant.

There were plenty of hugs and stern reminders that if I needed anything, ANYTHING I was to call as “doing it alone is not easy and I do not want you to ever, EVER think you are alone”.  After I proclaimed how amazing this all was and that she really did not have to do half of it, she stated “But it’s the way of the Greek’s, there is no other way”

She even works for her sister just down the road, who specialised in holistic treatments – Reiki, massage etc to help get the body ready for accepting an embryo/ pregnancy.

It’s crazy how life works out sometimes.

Thank goodness for Maria.

Anger, depression and grief..oh my!

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Jet lagged and in my head – thank goodness for great art and good filters.

If you had asked me a month ago if I was looking forward to my summer holidays I would not have been able to answer the question.  Of course, any holiday is fabulous and I cannot complain, however with all the craziness of cancelling flights, rebooking new ones, chasing up accommodation, making clinic appointments, finding insurance, chasing up finances, updating my teachers licence, fixing the hole in my roof, obtaining documents, preparing for my trip and wrapping up a school year I really did not have time to think about them, let alone have time to get excited or worry or freak out or build up to it or prepare for what may come in its entirity.

Fast forward to a week into my holidays and not having any life or work distractions has really played havoc with my mind and emotional state.  It has left me plain and simply with anger.  I have nothing to distract me and to mask the fact that I am in grief mode…well and truly. Definitely no denial phase here anymore.

There are many interpretations of the grief cycle however anger and depression have seemed to come simultaneously for me.  The distractions of life and work had helped to keep me positive and even and had helped me to keep that mask firmly in place…being brave and light and airy, enabling me to tell people what they wanted to hear or wanted me to be.

I had allowed myself to think dark thoughts and look at all the bad things that could happen from this situation…I would be stupid not to, however I had never allowed myself to go too far down the ‘woe is me’ path or the dark and depressive path, choosing instead to move forward and try to work out what I needed to do in a positive (Amy) way.

Having no distractions have turned matters at hand on their head, created bad thoughts and carved a deep negativity within myself.  All things that I cannot allow myself to be when the time comes to actually do this.  I need to be in a relaxed and positive state and right now I am not entirely sure how to do that.

Being in Europe is fun and easy and great and I am having a lovely time however I am looking around and all I am doing is analysing everything…families, singles, couples, relationships, dynamics between people wondering how things will work with all outcomes.  I am very much in my own head thinking about all scenarios and aspects, ensconced in an inner turmoil that if I don’t come out of it soon will drive me completely insane.

But how do I do that when everything is looming and I have to do this yourself?  And how do I do it when thoughts are swirling surrounding the fact that I just feel completely backed into a corner and my hand a little bit forced by something beyond my control.  You always assume that you will have choices in life but sometimes that is not completely true, not when nature intervenes.

Someone told me recently that sometimes my blog may be misinterpreted in terms of how I am feeling about it all and dealing with it because it comes across very light hearted…that was nice to hear but not exactly the truth of my situation.  I thought that if I was to do it and everyone going through infertility justice then I need to be a bit more informative about the flip side too.  It isn’t all light hardness, roses and acceptance and yes….I will get to a good place and I will be positive….that is who I am.  However at this point I am unable to see how.

I need to continuously remind myself: One small step at a time.  One foot in front of the other…..and of course…..the wonders, excitement and the food of Europe helps as a good distraction!

Roll on acceptance.