Stirrups…and not the fun horsey ones!

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Round 2 – definitely NOT the peace sign

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For those interested I was tested again for:

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

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

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

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Take 2: The China Edition

Going through this process and having mastered the art of ‘The wait’ I really, truly thought that any emotional reactions had been beat out of me and being well researched and prepared I would be ready for anything.

Surprise, surprise, I could not have been more wrong, even if I had tried.

Last Friday (now two Friday’s ago), on a bright sunny Spring morning, I walked along the river slightly nervous for my first appointment in Beijing. This appointment would start to get the ball rolling on making sure all my tests would line up and the tests could go ahead on the correct days.  The nerves were coming from the fact that all of a sudden these tests were upon me and here I was on my way to begin the journey of getting confirmation on what path my life will soon take…left or right.

Upon arrival I bumped into a friend – which happened to be a great distraction, especially as he is a boy and talking about girly things like fertility definitely wasn’t going to happen!

A nurse then came to take my vitals and asked me a hilarious question to determine if I needed to be weighed:

“What are you here for?” Hmmmmmm, I wondered,  how to explain that in a sentence or 2? Then she asked me:

“Are you pregnant”  Lol – Well, that’s kind of the whole point of the appointment!  Thankfully I avoided being weighed.

Next it was into the Gynecologists office, a Spanish person and also an English speaking doctor.

After explaining to her why I was there and presenting her with my printed out, organized doctors, specialists and fertility experts notes she turned to me, interrupted and asked:

“But I don’t understand, why you are here?”

A bit taken aback, I said “Well, as you can see my AMH level is 2.2…..”

She cut me off again and said “I can see all that, but I still don’t know exactly why you are here”

Again, a bit miffed, I looked at her in a bit of shock and then she finally elaborated.

To paraphrase she said:

“I’m not sure why you wouldn’t wait a few years to see if you meet someone and then worry about it then.  All clinics interpret these results differently.  My interpretation is that 3 is where your level should be at the moment in relation to your age bracket (she showed me yet another version of the same chart I have seen countless times).  As 3 is close to where your level is (2.2),  I would not be worried. (Hmmm to me 2.2 is not close to 3!).  If your level was under 1, then you should be worried and want to hurry things. I am not sure why you would do further tests with this number however I am happy to give you a referral for a second opinion.  As there is no real fertility experts as such in Beijing, except a guy at BJU (another big and popular hospital here),(she then spouted off his impressive sounding credentials), he sometimes gives appointments about fertility (his specialty/interest), so I could refer you to him”.

As you can imagine my head was reeling.  I have had tears well up before but I have never had tears literally leak out directly.  I was in such shock.  What had just happened?!?!?!

After all this time and from 4 different people I have been told 1 thing and then this interpretation comes along.  I felt completely blindsided.  This was just meant to be an appointment to get all my ducks in a row, not one to completely turn my head upside down.

I walked away in a trance of emotion.

The doctor had gone ahead and booked the tests and I had her personal email so when day 1 of my cycle came along, I could contact her directly to make sure I was able to gain an appointment for the much needed day 3 tests.  If I can give her one thing, it’s that she was extremely straight up and up front with me.

Unfortunately for me, directly after this, I had to go and get my new passport photo taken! Blotched, miffed face and all.

Now, as a couple of my family members have pointed out, this is just one opinion however it is a radically different opinion compared to what I have encountered so far.

I know that in reality this is good news but how do you look at something like this with fresh eyes when for the last 2 and a half months those eyes have only been looking at coming to terms with worst case scenarios and intermittent decisions with weary eyes?

So, what do you believe?  What path do you choose?  How can you make a decision when the same results point to 2 different things?

Well, my plan is to seek another opinion and hope to god that one confirms something OR it is back to the drawing board.

Gut feeling…I think you may be called up for duty again.

The small things – make it work for you

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Who would have thought that I would be this excited about storage containers!?!

Sometimes there are ‘Rabbit Hole’ moments, that’s inevitable, but for the most part there are what become’ regular’ days.  Days were you get a glimpse of normalcy or ‘The new normal’, gliding through life renewing the old feelings and everyday losing a bit of that numbness feeling until one day you realize that you haven’t thought about fertility all day.  Yippee!  And then you go into throws of panic about what you should or should not have been researching into, reading or moderating during the day.  But sometimes, just sometimes you can use this ‘deficit’ to motivate yourself or use it to your advantage.

What I mean by that is definitely NOT the sympathy card or the poor me card, it’s more like a ‘kick up the bum’ card.  I wish that I was meaning this in reference to moderating things in my life, eating healthier, exercising more or achieving more balance but it isn’t.  It is purely for more selfish reasons…shopping!

A friend recently sent me this article:

http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2016/march/trying-to-get-pregnant-watch-your-plastics/

I have been lucky and have a gorgeous group of friends who have been willing to share their knowledge and look into things for or with me.  This is one friend who knows a lot  about fertility and since it was an article as opposed to me actually doing any research, I clicked away and read, procrastinating work for another 10 minutes.

It was an interesting read about eliminating BPAs if you are going through fertility treatment.  Randomly, this is something another friend and I had been talking about a few months earlier – eliminating BPA’s in everyday life (not in regards to pregnancy) and also glass vs plastic etc.  I had been meaning to buy some BPA free containers on Taobao (China’s answer to TradeMe or eBay), however as they are imported from New Zealand, obtaining a usable amount was costly and wasn’t high on my priority list.  I wanted to get them in New Zealand when I was home but again they fell low on my priority list after loading my suitcase to capacity with all my ‘year long’ supplies that I bring back from NZ into China each Christmas.

Enter my fertility issues and this article and wham, bam thank you ‘mam, there were no excuses now, I was onto the Warehouse NZ website, taking a screen shot of what I needed and unfortunately for him, my poor Dad got loaded with the task of locating these things and bringing them up in his suitcase when he came to visit at the beginning of April.  Believe me that was the least embarrassing of the things I asked him to bring – that’s another story.  Thank you Dad and don’t worry I did pay him for them!

So finding not only the positives in this less than fun situation but also the things that will work for you isn’t really so bad.

Out with the old and in with the shiny new…BPA free and all!

Down the ‘Rabbit Hole’

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Tired eyes, worn out demeanor, exhausted shell of a person. Felt like I needed to share this picture taken during a ‘Rabbit Hole’ moment. Not glamorous but truth telling.

I’m not going to lie and say that I sail through everyday with my head held high and positive thoughts wafting around in my head, all the while smiling and dealing with the shit hand I have been dealt. That would simply be untrue and I would not be human if I could. I was due to hit the wall and reach the end of my positive thoughts bank soon and at exactly 3 weeks after the diagnosis, the reality of the situation came crashing down around me.

The weight of the decision, the lack of sleep, the isolation from family and friends, the overwhelming amount of information I needed to wade through, the actual emotions of receiving this news at my age, the time crunch, the logistics, contacting people, learning about something I knew nothing about and didn’t particularly want to know about, processing what had, would and might happen, taking on board and seeking others opinions and experiences and holding down a full time job all the while smiling at small children, speaking politely to friends, unknowing colleagues and parents on a daily basis finally won over and pulled me down that ‘Rabbit Hole’.

In total I spent 2 days down that ‘Rabbit Hole’, submerged completely. I was unable to be around anyone, speak to anyone and could not function. I knew the best place for me would be locked up at home sorting through things and distressing myself by having the time to wade through….well….everything.

The first day I couldn’t do a thing. Every time I tried to even attack anything fertility related I shut down. At this point tears had not come although I sat there and tried, I wanted to get it all out, get it over and done with. Instead I turned to housework. If you know me, you know this is weird, super weird! I sorted out clothes, washing, rearranged some furniture, measured things, hung pictures and did a lot of things that had been on my to do list for a while. I did not feel better per say but I felt slightly lighter. At the end of day 1 the thought of going back to work was panic inducing. I haven’t had 2 days off in a row for, I can’t even remember how long. I swallowed that bitter pill and called in sick for the second day in a row.

Day 2 and still far, far down that hole, it was all about the research, contacting people and wading through that information. By days end I felt incredibly relieved that I had taken the day and tears flowed freely. I was able to better function, could reply to messages from friends and was slowly clawing my way out of the dingy, dark hole and back into the light.

Of course there are other times when I am caught in that hole again however it may just be for a few hours or a day but I am able manage it – well, so far so good.

Music is a strong emotive force for me and I can’t live without music around me. At the moment you’ll find me ruining Jess Glynne’s empowerment song with terribly applicable lyrics to help bring me up and keep me balanced:

“Don’t be so hard on yourself girl, learn to forgive, learn to let go. Everyone trips, everyone falls, so don’t be so hard on yourself girl” screeches out from my mouth down the hallways at work, at the same time as whip lash inducing moves are being done. Not a pretty sight but it makes me laugh. I truly pity my poor colleagues.

In all truth, it is incredibly difficult not to be hard on yourself. Most of us want to be tough and brave and being brought up in a household of strong, independent minded people, emotions weren’t necessarily at the forefront of things. You learned to be strong and get on with life, which can actually be a great quality.

Sometimes though, I have to give myself a break and realize “It’s not an easy road and I’m not alone, so I won’t be so hard on myself no more” all the while doing over enthusiastic and exaggerated moves to accompany these words down the hallway of an International School in Beijing.

What ever gets you through!

The ‘why?’

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10 years ago (far out, was it seriously that long ago?!), literally in the middle of my move to Wellington to start my teaching career, I got news that I had irregular cervical cells.  6 months previous I had been told I had irregular cells (CIN 1), but not to worry as they usually disappear or take at least 10 years to develop into pre-cancerous cells (CIN 3).  Interestingly enough my body was some sort of super force and it only took 6 months for them to go from CIN 1 to CIN 3.  I tell ya girls – don’t EVER miss a pap smear!  At the time I was 22.

Luckily I was able to have a Lettz procedure in Wellington and have the cells removed.  This was followed by 6 monthly biopsies for a few years, to yearly biopsies, to the all clear but yearly pap smears, a few bouts of reoccurring irregular cells (that thankfully disappeared), and I was finally home free….well, if you call yearly pap smears for life home free – ‘Hi, welcome back to New Zealand, time for a pap smear!’  Not my favorite part of coming home.

With my history and peer pressure, as well as the inevitable family pressure ‘When am I going to be a grandparent?’ and ‘I’m just worried you will miss the boat’, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

Where I am placed in life, both geographically and in age, some people may say that I have a few years left before I had to worry about this issue, after all, 35 is commonly known as the time when your eggs become known as ‘geriatric’.  I mean, seriously!  How is that fair?  And I am still a few years off that number.  But for some reason, probably mostly based on previous medical history, I had an inkling, a strong gut feeling and it turned turned out I was right.

When I told people that I was thinking about getting these tests, so many of them asked me why I would even think about getting these tests done, stating many reasons ranging from ‘You’re not old enough to worry about that yet’, ‘But you’re single’ to ‘But what happens if it’s bad news, what will you do then?’.

I have always had a massive thing about honesty and the truth.  If someone isn’t honest with me or can’t tell me the truth, that has always cut very deep.  It is the same with knowing things.  I would rather know the full picture, the truth, than sit back and wait when I could have done something about it earlier.  That is what drove me to get the tests done.  That and also being able to put my mind at rest because of this intense gut feeling I was having.

Getting this test and the knowledge to do so, did not just appear from anywhere.   I am lucky enough to have a good friend in my life who I met up with in October when I was back in New Zealand.  My friend and his partner have had some extremely tough experiences and after expressing my concerns to them, they told me about the AMH and FSH tests.  If I had not have talked to them about my fears and they had not shared their story with me, I would never have known about these tests until it was maybe too late and I will be forever thankful to them for that.

Back in Beijing and mulling it over, I thought that what I would do was have the 2 tests when I was home in December and then a year from then, have another set of tests to see the rate of decrease or the difference in the 2 results.  Armed with these figures I could then make an informed decision in a year or so.  Smart thinking….or so I thought.  Life decided to intervene – and we all know how that story goes.

So, in answer to a lot of your questions – the 3 reasons that drove me to get these tests done:
1 – Previous medical history
2 – Peer/family/self pressure

3 – Gut feeling

If anything has come from this whole experience so far, it is that gut feelings can be an amazing thing and from now on I am trusting mine without a doubt.

Always trust your gut!

When timing takes over

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With one option in New Zealand down the tubes (pun intended), I turned to the other: egg freezing.

After emailing Oxford Woman’s clinic to remind them to send the PDF of pre tests to me, that I hopefully could get done in China, I was put in touch with an incredible fertility nurse Kate.  She sent the list of tests directly to me the same day she received the email.

It was a super scary looking list of tests I might add, anything that lists HIV and involves needles is always going to be a heart attack inducing list to me.  Unfortunately for her, she then told me not to hesitate to contact her if I needed any help with the list or anything else.

Big mistake lady!

Because my mind was racing about all the possible scenarios, outcomes, timings and unknowns I replied straight back to her to see if she could answer the following questions:

  • Because my specialist recommended that I have at least 2 rounds of freezing done due to my low AMH level, how long in-between times can I wait until I have the next round?
  • As I only have set holidays, I may be able to come back to New Zealand from these dates (dates listed), would this work for at least the first round?

People often (sometimes a little too much), have me on about the holidays teachers get.  Now, I will not go on to justify why we deserve it or need it or work our arses off for it but what I will say is that unfortunately this means that we are only able to have holidays or take time off at these particular times.  The excruciatingly hard part about this for me now, is having to try to time procedures around these times, which is not an easy feat.  Especially when these timings are also governed by the procedure I choose.

 For egg freezing with IVF I will need to go on  the pill so that they can control things a bit more and that means I then need to count backwards from holidays to make sure that I start the pill at certain times.  If I am not accurate, I will start costing myself money and have to take more days of leave without pay or miss the holiday window altogether.  This implicates flights as well as days off, so, it is best not to screw that one up!

OR if I decide to go with IUI or something similar that means I have to go off the pill and it is up to my bodies timing when I have to be, where I have to be.  Meaning who the bloody hell knows what dates that will be and what flights I need to book and when.

Throw in the time crunch of a year, a useless mathematician (that’s me). and an even more less knowledgeable person about cycles (again…that’s me), and you have a complete scheduling nightmare.  Believe me, it is headache inducing.

Putting it plainly – it is just not a simple thing to plan or organize.  It means leave without pay, when this is already going to be a pretty costly experience in itself, which ever way I go.  Most people only have to factor in tests, meds and procedures which is horrendously costly in itself.  Unfortunately for me, I also need to add to that, ridiculously expensive flights and time crunches.

Luckily the nurse was incredible and I no longer had to deal with 3 week waits.  The very next day she had written an incredibly long and detailed email explaining how we could do the freezing and how it would work, and asking if I could extend some dates as I would need some recovery time before flying…oh yeah…there’s another thing I have to factor in.

As the clinic is closed at Christmas time for cleaning and holidays etc, I was told that I would not be able to do my second round then and as it were, she stressed to me how important it was NOT to wait that long because of the levels of my AMH.

These factors were extremely stressing for me and with people telling me time was of the essence and that they could cater for me during this time (July/August), it seems like this was my only option.

Unfortunately what made me most upset was the fact that I was in the midst of planning an epic trip to Europe to spend time with my brother and when my parents caught wind of the trip they were keen to jump on the band wagon.  3 days before I found out from the specialist the extent of what was going on and the time implications, my parents had gone ahead and booked non refundable tickets to our chosen destinations.

So with most of my family overseas in Europe while I was going to be going through this in New Zealand, it was looking less and less appealing.  With only my sister in town, and she doesn’t know this yet, she was first in line for daily injection duty.

The cost alone was enough to be sending me for the hills and now most of my family weren’t going to be there for support.  This really did not seem like the option for me at all.

 And it turns out I was right.

In the words of New Kids on the Block

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As soon as I was off the phone from the specialist and after a mini break down, I was straight onto thinking about how to best tackle this situation.

I broke down what I needed to do into tiny step by tiny step parts.  Partly because this is who I am and partly to not deal with the enormity and many facets of what I was just told.

From my conversation with my specialist my 2 clear next steps were:

1 – Wait for the PDF of pre tests to be sent from the fertility nurse in NZ (and when I received them I would send them to my local clinic to check if they could do them and the cost)

2 – Write an email to Fertility Associates to find out about my option in New Zealand for sperm donors.

After 4 hours sleep and receiving this news, number 2 was hilarious to me.  It was the most f*%&@d up thing.  So I did what any normal person in their early 30’s would do when just told they may be able to improve their egg quality by eating and drinking in moderation.

I took myself off to the pub (the one with amazing burgers and fries with aioli),with my laptop to write the weirdest email of my life to date, to a place in New Zealand to ask all about sperm.  You had to laugh…as it is super bizarre when the day before you are lying poolside in 35 degree heat without a care in the world and now sperm is high on your vocabulary list.

Believe me a few beers in the sun and being in a public place really helped to damper down the enormity of the news and just helped to make me laugh my way through it.

What I have found during this process so far is that you just get on with it and trawl through each option and I have learned that the best way I can deal with it without actually getting checked into an insane asylum is to compartmentalise the hell out of things and attack things small step by small step.  Things tend to come crumbling down again if I skip a step or start hearing options that are past where I am now…freaking me out, overwhelming me and being way too much.  I think New Kids on the Block had it right all those years ago…..Step by step….it seems to work.

 

In the interest of a little fun…

Yesterday morning being overtired and slightly delerious I was cracking myself up by answering the lyrics to the NKOTB song as I sung it and as I wouldn’t want to put anyone through listening to my horrid singing voice, here’s what I was doing…all the while laughing really hard and also thinking I was slightly insane!!! Haha

NKOTB – Step 1, we can have lots of fun

Me – Hmmmmm, would we call turkey basting fun?

NKOTB – Step 2, there’s so much we can do.

Me – Well, there’s 2 options, I guess that will do?

NKOTB – Step 3, it’s just you and me

Me – Hmmmm, yep, just me on that one

NKOTB – Step 4, I can give you more

Me – Yep, well, I suppose you can but ‘man in a can’ doesn’t come cheap

NKOTB – Step 5, don’t you know that the time has arrived

Me – Well unfortunately I brought that one on myself by finding this out. So, ‘now’ it is!

Dada, dada, dada,dada, done!

You’ve got to have fun in your life and if poking fun at the situation works for me…that’s the road I’m taking….step….by….step.