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Thursday, 28 July 2011

In the Bag

How much pregnant: 12+2
Meds: Met + prenatal combi + fish oil
Outlook: Overwhelmed <3

It's been quite a while since I posted. There are two reasons for this: 1) nothing new to report in terms of the minikin since the last scan and 2) I've been trying to keep myself calm and sane, and I found the best way to do this in the early weeks is to all but ignore what's going on. Perhaps not the most healthy way to deal with it, but it's worked for me. By allowing only very small parts of my brain to scream "I'm pregnant!!!!!" at irregular intervals, I have stopped the large part of my brain constantly going "What's new to panic about?" registering that anything has actually changed.

This week though I have breathed several very large sighs of relief: reaching the 12 week mark, seeing my now mostly formed baby, and finding out that the risks of the baby having any of the major things wrong with it are very slim.

But first let me backtrack a little... On Sunday 26th June at 7+5 we met our mums (and my dad, much to our surprise) in Covent Garden and went for lunch at a little Belgian restaurant. The 'rents were excitedly asking Bubble about his driving lessons, and while I surreptitiously removed last entry's u/s scan from my purse, he asked "So what's everyone doing on 7th February? I think it's a Tuesday...". Of course everyone was baffled, going "February? That's ages away" and such like. And just before any of them had a chance to twig, I swooped (Bubble would say 'slammed') the u/s pic down on the table in front of them whilst trilling (Bubble would say 'shouting') "Because that's when our baby is due!!!!!". Both mothers sat there open mouthed for at least 3 minutes which was the funniest sight before they all launched into congratulations and hugs and a few tears and lots of questions. It was a great day.

From 8-10wks I had what I'm going to very tentatively call "morning sickness", though really it was nothing more than aversions to certain things, of which even just the thought could almost make me heave. But I wasn't sick at all. I've had cravings - mostly bad foods like pizza, lasagne (very cheesy), burgers and salty chips, and normal things that I might eat - cheese (unmelted), water, crackers - have completely turned me off.

On the whole I have to say I've been really really lucky and have somehow managed to get away with barely any symptoms at all. I've not been more tired than usual, no vomiting, boobs haven't hurt since about 8 weeks. I've really had it very easy. And bizarrely I feel I can even say that I understand how some women can be pregnant and not even realise! Because with my totally unreliable cycles anyway, if I hadn't been trying to get pregnant and read up all about it, I probably wouldn't have guessed yet.

From 10 weeks for a few days I felt very sore around my pelvic bone. And miraculously, when the pain subsided I realised a small mound had developed just above it. It's slightly hard and tender there, and feels very full. And from time to time I have what I describe as pinching sensations - like someone is pincer-ing my uterus between thumb and forefinger and pulling slightly. The minikin is growing!

At 11 weeks someone at work guessed I was preggo!! I am quite impressed by this since I don't look pregnant in any obvious way, but she said she saw me walk passed the office door and she just knew - that there was something "different" about me. I have been very intrigued ever since. So now a couple of people know, but I'm going to hold off telling the boss for as long as possible (she already hates me because I'm taking 5 weeks off for my honeymoon slap bang in the middle of the department's busiest period...). Also during this week I ordered and received a doppler from amazon and altogether rather more quickly than I had imagined, we were listening to the baby's heartbeat! It was the most amazing sound, and so reassuring that there was actually something in there and the whole thing hadn't been my imagination.

So that brings us to this week, week 12. At the start of this pregnancy I had very little faith that I would reach this milestone, it seemed so far away and there seemed so many things that could go wrong in the meantime. But we made it =) Today we went for the NT scan and I was very nervous - not just for the obvious reasons but because I drank 2.5 cups of fennel tea yesterday for a stomach ache before finding out that fennel should be drunk with caution in pregnancy because it is a uterine stimulant and can cause miscarriage. So of course I was up half the night upset and anxious that I had ruined everything.

The sonographer was a lovely Eastern European man (complete with hairy mole on his arm that both Bubble and I noticed) who took his time and explained everything to us without our prompting. The baby was there! And it was human! (Tom was rooting for dragon). It was bopping about so much that it actually gave the guy a hard time getting the NT measured, the nose bone located and an accurate crown-rump length. We saw all the major bits: heart, kidneys, arms, legs, brain (slightly odd to see), spine, even ribs! Everything was checked - the pump rate of each individual side of the baby's heart, the rate my blood was being shared with the baby, the size of the placenta, the depth of my birth canal (to determine risk of pre-term labour). Very thorough, and thankfully, everything was normal. I was amazed how, when the sonographer wanted the baby to move and would tap on my abdomen, the baby would actually respond by squirming about! By the end of the scan, worn out no doubt by all the prodding, the baby seemed to have settled down for a nap, possibly complete with hiccups. It was all too adorable for words.

I also had the blood tests done, all of which came back normal. The risk of Down's syndrome is 1/22,000 which is very reassuring. They checked for a few other chromosomal abnormalities too, and the risk of those was equally tiny. Additionally, I am low risk for pre-eclampsia.

So anyway, here are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure!

Minikin laying on its back, all tuckered out after a busy morning of squirming. Heart rate: 153bpm, CRL: 58mm

 Another body shot, this time capturing the leg action and a couple of fingers just above its nose

 Head shot of minikin's cute profile <3

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Deep Inside

How much pregnant: 7 weeks
Meds: Met + Folic acid
Outlook: Thrilled!

So it has been a rough week and a bit waiting for this viability ultrasound, but today we finally got to see what has been going on inside:

This is the beanie as of this morning. We got to see it's tiny heart pumping away at a very solid 140bpm <3 It was the most amazing thing I have ever seen, I started to cry but quickly composed myself as the u/s tech was very matter of fact and I don't think he would've appreciated such an outpouring of emotion. The beanie is measuring right on track at 7 weeks, 7.8mm crown to rump. Bubble was right there throughout, he's also amazed and relieved that everything is ok.

The unexpected news was that there IS a second pregnancy in there. Unfortunately, the gestational sac was measuring only 5 weeks, and all you could see inside it was a yolk sac, so it looks as though that one has not, and will not, develop. I feel sad about that, but I also feel amazingly lucky and happy to have the one that is doing well. I'm guessing that the small one was made out of an egg that was either too mature or too immature, and it would never have had a chance.

The u/s tech was sweet enough to print out 2 pics for us, the above, plus one showing both sacs (just so we can prove it was in fact twins, I imagine), even though we weren't supposed to get any at this stage. He said that chances are, the second non-viable pregnancy will simply reabsorb into the uterus, but if I have any serious pain or bleeding I am to go back. After the u/s I had to go across to the fertility clinic to report his findings, and the nurse was so sweet and happy for us, it almost brought another tear to my eye =) When we said goodbye she squeezed my arm and wished us good luck, and it occurred to me that that's it - I won't be seeing them again now, they have achieved what they set out to do. I'm off to my GP this afternoon to report the pregnancy and get him to refer me back to the hospital for standard pre-natal care, and everything will carry on like any other normal pregnancy now, with the 12 week scan in 4-5 weeks.

I honestly cannot believe all that has happened. To see that I have a tiny life growing inside me was the most incredible, mind blowing thing. I never, ever thought it would happen to me. I feel honoured and so grateful for this chance. Because my symptoms have been (thankfully, I suppose) fairly mild so far, I don't even feel like anything is different, so to see that my (up til now, unreliable!) body is doing it's thing without any input from anyone is a huge adjustment in terms of how I view myself.

On Sunday we are telling our mothers. We have arranged a lunch with them both in Covent Garden, under the pretense of talking about final wedding arrangements and will be surprising them with the ultrasound pictures. I really never thought I would see the day...

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Ups and Downs

How much pregnant: 5+4
Meds: Met
Outlook: Tearing my hair out

So no-one ever tells you about early pregnancy anxiety. I have suffered with various forms of anxiety in my life, so I was kind of expecting something, but it has come as quite a shock.

I think the problem is that before, when I was un-pregnant, I didn't really have anything but a shred of hope each cycle. I expected things not to work. I had set back after set back and didn't have particularly high expectations. I had nothing to lose. I did this to protect myself from disappointment, to make it easier when things didn't go as planned. Suddenly, I have this real, tangible thing to pour my hope into and something to lose in the worst possible way.

The problem is also that suddenly, now I am pregnant, there are only two possible outcomes: 1) I will get what I've wanted for so long, and it will be the best thing that has ever happened to me, or 2) I will lose what I've wanted for so long, and it will be the worst thing that has ever happened to me. There is no middle ground. It's very hard to find a balance between anticipating and preparing for the best, but keeping in mind the possibility of the worst, because they are at drastically opposite ends of the scale. In trying to reconcile these very different possible outcomes, you end up teetering along a narrow string of sanity, veering wildly from ecstasy and amazement one minute, to total despair the next. I wish I could just fast forward through to 12 weeks so that I would know whether this is something to believe in.

I've been taking pregnancy tests every few days, just to check it's still true. I've been reading up WAY too much online about Things You Shouldn't Read About When Pregnant and have sent myself into fits of hysteria. I've obsessed over whether it's an ectopic because I got some twinges on my right side. I've analysed every symptom when it seems like it's fading or changing. I've completely convinced myself that this isn't going to work out and everything is doomed.

On the flip side, I've been looking up maternity and baby clothes, furniture and bedding. I've thought about how being pregnant at our wedding and on our honeymoon will change the experience. I've started a pregnancy journal and taking belly shots. I've enjoyed talking to The Bean and imagining myself with a bump. And I've taken a glimpse of our life after this baby arrives.

I do feel like I've been driving myself mad. I've just woken up this morning and already I'm thinking "Hmmm my boobs don't feel as sore today...that must be a bad sign". I really panicked over the ectopic thing, especially as I read that ovulation induction treatment increases your chances. So I took myself off for an early scan yesterday afternoon (got there at 1:45pm, told clinic opened at 2:30, told there were 3 people before me at 30 min appts each, waited to be seen until just gone 5pm) with Bubble just to check that everything was where it should be.

We didn't see much, but the Dr confirmed there is a sac in the womb (too early to really make out anything inside it), a shadow-y shape that could possibly be a second sac in the womb (but I don't think it is as I don't think my symptoms are strong enough for more than one baby) and definitely nothing in my tubes or on my ovaries, which was amazingly reassuring. I got a look at the corpus luteum too, all big and void-like, and he said it looked like a good strong one.

So that's ectopic ticked off my worry list. But the problem is there is just so much else to worry about, and so much that can go wrong. I have another scan booked for 7 weeks, which is on 21st June and hopefully at that one we will see The Bean proper, and a hearthbeat if there is one. In the mean time, there are plenty of days to fill with fretting and joy.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Mysterious Ways

Cycle number: 11
Cycle day: 35
Meds: Met
Outlook: O_O

It's been a very crazy week. Between Thurs 26th and Tues 31st May, 5 people I know had their babies. The most important of these being my sister and my best friend. My sister and I are still not on speaking terms, but my mum gave me the lowdown: she had a 48 hour labour, then was going to have a forceps delivery, and then after all that had to have a c-section under general anaesthetic. My mum was there throughout and apparently was appalled by the treatment in the hospital (she's a nurse herself) so is going to be making a formal complaint. We later discovered that the hospital is even under investigation for the deaths of two new mothers recently, so that's not good at all. So, given the situation I haven't spoken to my sister, or seen the baby other than a few pictures on a mutual friend's facebook. She was a 9lber so not surprising it ended in caesarian.

My best friend had a very different experience. She was slightly overdue, but hadn't had any twinges or anything all weekend. Monday night at 7pm her waters suddenly broke and she had the little mite by 3.15am, forceps delivery. He weighed 8lbs 1oz. Bubble and I went to visit yesterday and he really is a cute little bundle. It was good to hear all about the delivery as with her first child she had a c-section too.

But now on to the craziest news of all. Last Tuesday, after hearing the news of my sister's baby being born and feeling that I might just be at the end of my tether following the cancelling of the last cycle, I took another pregnancy test. I peed before I got in the shower, left it to get to room temperature while I washed, then when I got out I dipped the stick. Started brushing my teeth, and of course I was too impatient to leave it the whole 5 mins before looking at it, and I thought I saw something right away. It was pretty faint, but suddenly I was all "What?!?!". So I called Bubble into the bathroom and asked casually if he could see anything and he said "Yes I see something". It dried a bit more and there was definitely something there. I started to tear up with the toothbrush still in my mouth. I photographed it and sent it to my best friend (still in hospital after the birth) and asked if she could see anything. She said yes as well.

So I decided to leave it a few days and test again. I was definitely hopeful, but thinking that it could just be because it was a different brand of test I hadn't used before, or because I used an old lemonade bottle for the pee and maybe it had contaminated the sample. Thursday morning I decided to do another one: the one on the left is from Tuesday, the one on the right from Thursday....

I was freaking out by this point, and worrying because I was having a lot of cramps and twinges and I still felt for sure that my period was on its way. So Friday I did a digital:

As you can probably imagine I'm totally shocked and also totally over the moon. This is the first BFP I have ever seen, and I really didn't expect it this cycle at all. After all this waiting, trying, hospital visits, medications, crying, being hopeful, I just can't believe that suddenly we've done it. And it's the weirdest feeling to go from all this active participation, to not having to do anything and your body just getting on with it on its own.

Today I am 4 weeks 6 days based on my last period. I don't know when I ovulated though.

I am dreading the next 2 months - I don't deal well with anxiety at the best of times and the thought that at any moment this amazing thing could be taken away from me is very hard to cope with. I've had trouble sleeping because I just can't relax. Bubble was away overnight last night for a business meeting and I started to panic in case anything happened while I was alone. I need to try to stay calm and keep busy with other things, but after 4 years and everything that has entailed, it's difficult not to invest a LOT in this potential baby.

I called the fertility clinic on Friday to tell them I had got a positive and they didn't sound very happy with me, asking "Well how did you get pregnant?" when the cycle had been cancelled. Hopefully the nurse is calling me back today or tomorrow to schedule my first scan. I'm hoping they will do it next week so I will be 6 weeks and they will be more likely to see something useful. With 4 or 5 follicles we don't know how many may have been fertilised and implanted.

I am so excited and grateful to have this chance, whatever happens.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Sunshine on a Rainy Day

Cycle number: 11
Cycle day: 25
Meds: Met
Outlook: TGIF

I believe I have ovulated. The problem is I don't know when. I've been having uterus twinges - occasionally verging on cramps - for a week now, which is a sure sign. And although my nipples were sensitive anyway because of the Meno.pur, this whole week my boobs have been very sore, feeling heavier and tender, and I noticed some blue veins appearing.

Of course, this got me very excited, and I have been looking at them every night to see if I can see anything else. It could always just be a coincidence, or it could be that the Meno.pur effects are still going strong, but I have a tiny shred of hope.

I had promised myself I would not do a pregnancy test until next Tuesday, but I caved in today and did one - very negative. I still feel hopeful though as potentially I'm only 7 or 8 days past ovulation and there is still time. I'll have to wait now as I've completely run out of preggo tests - need to order some in a moment.

If I did ovulate, the next question is how many popped? There were 4, possibly 5 ripe follies. This has me both very excited and slightly concerned. On the one hand, that many options has got to mean that my chances of conception are higher. On the other, 4 children in one go would be quite a challenge. But like I keep telling people who say "Omg FOUR?!?!", I would rather have four in one go than none at all.

I realise I am probably grasping at straws thinking something will come of this cycle, but it's my way of coping with the fact that otherwise I'm out til July. A little self delusion can go a long way.

After expressing my dismay at this cycle being cancelled in a text to my MIL-2B, she replied "Don't worry about it, I'm sure you have enough to think about, what with the wedding...". I do wish people would stop saying that. Yes the wedding is a big day, and there has been a fair bit of organising, but the world doesn't stop because of it. It doesn't detract in any way from what I feel about wanting to get pregnant. If I'm still able to think about work and shopping and all those other mundane things, I'm sure as hell still able to think about ttc. Wedding organising is not a distraction from something that is the most important thing to me. Besides which, pretty much everything is done now, so if anything I have LESS distracting me than before.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

In the News: Eastenders does Adoption

Yep another In the News post, mainly so I can focus on other things rather than my own situation right now. In the UK we have a soap called Eastenders, depicting the gritty reality in a small community in East London. Now, it wouldn't be the twenty-first century without a couple of gay characters, and this week, Christian and Syed had a meeting with an adoption agency to look into obtaining a child.

I just spent five minutes watching and rewatching the scene with the adoption agency rep because it struck me when I first watched it earlier...:

"Have you got experience of looking after children?...I can see that you love each other. But you know it's not just about that? Adopting is a long, tough process. It's like the Grand National: you get over one fence and there's another one straight ahead of you. We'll be looking into your home, your relationships, finances, we'll do police checks, employment checks, medical checks, we'll look into your hospital records, we will look at everything! By the time we're finished I'll know you better than you know yourselves! We need to know that you've got a strong, stable support network. See that's why we like couples to have known each other for at least 3 years. Ooh and of course we'll need to speak to both your families..."

I think they are trying to make the point, for the sake of a good story, that gay couples face a lot of hurdles when trying to adopt. They've already dealt with adoption once recently, when Jane adopted her husband's son from a previous marriage - and this was portrayed as being as easy as signing a contract. But what I fear viewers will miss is the fact that this is what adoption is like for all couples. Gay or straight. 

Makes me wonder how people can just casually suggest adoption like it's the easier, obvious option for those with fertility problems. I for one resent the fact that my life would require such intrusion, that my right to privacy would be cast to one side, that I would have to prove myself in so many ways to people who are complete strangers. Yet anyone can get pregnant without proving a thing. People who are destined to abuse their children; people who can't care for themselves, let alone a child; people who don't have enough money to look after a family. People can churn out their 8th baby even though they support the rest through welfare alone. They can all just go ahead, for the most part unchallenged.

There seems to me to be something very wrong in a world where the irresponsible get (largely) overlooked when it comes to parenting, yet the infertiles, or people who just want to do good, get scrutinised to within an inch of their lives for daring to try to help the situation. I have always considered adoption to be a real possibility for us, whether or not I conceive myself, but the more I find out about it, the more I feel I just wouldn't have the energy.

Friday, 20 May 2011

In the News: The Telegraph "Infertility...a condition the NHS can ill-afford to treat"

I was alerted to something by a great infertility blog  - although I am in the UK I have never bought or read The Telegraph and was disgusted to read this particular article, arguing that the NHS, with all it's money woes, should not be funding IVF treatment.

Max Pemberton - apparently a "child psychiatrist" (so obviously very well placed to spout about fertility problems) - does not believe infertility is a disease. He is even reluctant to classify it as a medical problem at all. He blathers on that "While childlessness is distressing, it is not associated with long-term disability, morbidity or mortality...Rather, it is about people unable to have something that they want."

Good lord! My sincere apologies, Max. All this time while trying to figure out why my body doesn't work right and coming to terms with the fact that I may never be able to do the most natural thing in the world - have my own child - I thought I was dealing with a medical problem. A condition. An internationally recognised syndrome. After reading your thoughtful article I now see that really I am just a spoilt child in a toy shop, screaming and stamping my feet because my mum won't buy me a Sindy doll. 

I also now see that, far from wanting a child being about my own natural desires, a wish to create something out of the love me and my fiance share, about fulfilling not only a basic, normal human urge but something I want to devote the rest of my life to, actually, I'm just trying to keep up with the Joneses. An "expectation on individuals to reproduce and become parents...childlessness is a status that does not readily fit within society’s cultural norms". I just want a baby because it's what everyone else has got. 

And of course, why am I putting myself through all this when "It’s not as if such people are being denied the chance to be parents at all. Adoption offers them the possibility of parenthood". Why don't I just apply for a child this weekend? Two maybe? I'm sure no time at all I'll forget all my problems!

To cut my sarcasm short, this article is ill-conceived (pardon the pun), badly constructed and downright rude. He is aligning fertility with something like freckles. Some people are born with them, some aren't, and why should the NHS fund giving you an item of such vanity for the sake of fashion? Freckle-less people aren't ill, their lives aren't about to be cut short, and there is no underlying medical problem causing you to be freckle-less. Of course, this is total tosh when applied to infertility. The vast majority of people with fertility issues - even if they are currently under the banner "unexplained" - have an underlying medical reason for that infertility. And - worse than that - increasingly environmental factors are being found to harm the delicate hormonal balances in the human body - toxic chemicals in plastics, certain foods, pestacides.

Let's look at it logically: the human race's ability to reproduce is the reason for our continued existence. If infertility had been rife in our ancestors, we may not have survived as a species. Therefore fertility is the norm; infertility is where there is a problem. Infertility doesn't just "happen" to some people due to "a quirk of fate" as Max so eloquently puts it. It is an abnormality somewhere in our systems. Bodily functions not working as they should. Totally against what our bodies are meant to do. Is this not what constitutes a medical problem?

Max implies that as infertility is not life threatening, it is not as important as "real" medical problems. But what about people with serious burns scars or phobias, or amputees? Reconstructive surgery after a masectomy? People who can't walk or talk because of a stroke? They're definitely not life threatening conditions, so probably shouldn't receive any NHS funding either. In fact, Max, by your own logic, you should be out of a job, because I'm fairly sure child psychiatry isn't one of the leading areas associated with "long-term disability, morbidity or mortality" which apparently is the criteria for determining whether or not you deserve help from the service you pay for.

The fact is, so much of what the NHS funds now could be classified as helping to improve quality of life, instead of extending life. Slot infertility into this category if you will - I see it as something more than that - but even if you accept it as only a "nice to have" rather than "vital" treatment, you align it with a huge proportion of what the NHS offers unchallenged.

Max also seems to imply that those who can't conceive should just accept that it's a natural condition, a quirk of fate. Well, by that logic, people who develop cancer or heart disease should just accept it as a "natural" condition - their body telling them they shouldn't live any longer. Should they be denied treatment too?

Basically, if you rule out treatment for anything that is not life threatening, and anything that just happens to people as a natural "quirk of fate", the NHS would only provide treatment for serious accidents, and a small minority of conditions directly caused by external environmental factors, such as asbestosis or radiation poisoning etc. Everything else would have to be paid for privately. 

Yes, there is only a limited amount of money and resources available, and yes, we have to prioritise. Which is why most NHS Trusts offer a maximum of 1 or 2 IVF cycles per elligible couple. Personally, if funding has to be cut from anywhere, I would much rather see the NHS stop helping people who have actively and directly caused their disease or condition: chronic overeaters, smokers, drug takers, alcoholics etc. - why should my taxes pay for them to receive treatment?

Which brings me to another point. The NHS is funded through my taxes. I therefore have as much right as anyone else to use the NHS to deal with my medical problems. I don't take up resources with my chronic fatigue or IBS, and I've been suffering with anxiety for most of my life without medical intervention. Why should I potentially be denied NHS funding for the one service I would actually pursue and use?

I would love nothing more than for the NHS to put more money into finding a cure for the various ailments that cause infertility, which would save them a hell of a lot of money in the long run. Unfortunately, it is considered to be too expensive, and the money is better spent treating the symptoms of these various ailments - among them infertility - than finding out why it occurs in the first place. If I could do something to naturally correct my PCOS, I would. But I can't, and so I will take all the medical assistance I can get. 

Of course, our friend Max puts a cherry on top by trotting out the old adoption solution, fall back of anyone who is anti-fertility treatment, anti-procreation, anti-life. What these people fail to realise is that wanting to have a child - your own biological child - is an inherent, deep rooted, totally natural urge, not a lifestyle choice, especially for those who can't conceive naturally. Does he think people suffering with infertility would willingly put themselves through intensive treatments, invasive procedures and years of emotional turmoil just so they can be like their friends? NO - this is something that goes through to the very core of what being human is about. Adoption is a fantastic option for some couples, but it isn't the solution for all. And with the ridiculous constraints on adoption, the lengthy and expensive processes and no guarantee of a positive outcome, it is more than many, who have already been through the mill with infertility, have strength for.

Finally I consistently find it baffling that so many consider the prolonging of life more important than creating new life. That intervening to make someone live 1, 5, 10 years more when their bodies have had enough is seen as a societal norm, yet assisting conception - the continuation of the species - is attacked. And then when we get people to live longer they get shoved in a nursing home and treated appallingly. It's a messed up world.

ETA: Ironic that the Telegraph doesn't produce an opinion piece on other, much more ludicrous, means of "wasting" NHS money...see here and here for just two examples that I found in their recent news.

Final edit: And now it all becomes clear. Max is a homosexual male. Max obviously does not see himself having any children naturally, and his article is sour grapes perhaps at the fact that he will have to pay for his children no matter what. Case closed.