Time passes

August 8, 2012

The first 6 months have already been and gone.  They were easier than expected. Or rather easier than everyone told me they would be, or rather, pretty much as I expected and therefore not as hard as all my friends seemed to report.  I think this may be in part because I have looked after a fair few children  in my life, and in part because I know that my little boy is my miracle, and one that won’t be coming around again.  This has made the exhaustion and frustrations and incompetences pale in comparison to the  joy and wonder.

Lest I seem too glowing, I should report that not all is perfect…my old body is cracking up and I notice the difference between myself and the younger mums.  I have just visited the doctor to get a referral for cortisone injections in my wrists and my back is packing it in!    I am in physical pain for sure, but it’s worth it !

My little man is teaching me to look at life anew. I am learning that I am not so important in the world and yet I am everything to him. I am learning to slow down and find little joys and little moments in which to share  discoveries.  I have learned that a tissue is quite as fascinating as the ocean , at least when you are 6 months old.    I am so glad that I did not miss out on this!

Just one of many beautiful moments

Status update

February 3, 2012

So much time has passed and I had many things I wanted to write about:  The private vs public option, the attitude towards cesarean’s, the fears that have evolved over so much waiting time etc. etc.  But all that will have to wait.   It will have to wait because our little one didn’t.

He was born 5 weeks premature.  We spent two weeks in hospital after the birth, having been transferred to another city and hospital with a NICU (neo natal intensive care unit) . We watched while he struggled to breathe, was ventilated, progressed to cpap and then finally learned to breathe and regulate his temperature by himself.    It was an intensely worrying experience but strangely, after all the medical intervention required to get him here, it seemed quite reasonable that he would need more medical help on arrival.

We’ve had him home for 3 weeks now and are getting to know one another.  He is gorgeous and I am happy and exhausted.  The experience is pretty much living up to expectations – which is to say that having looked after my much younger sister when she was born and having spent some time working in long day care centres, there was a lot that felt familiar.  The one thing that I wasn’t prepared for was the worry.  I shall now call this “The Worry”.    It is with me all the time – he’s so beautiful and I can hardly believe that he is alive and well.  I’m not sure if  it’s the experience in NICU or with  the infertility, but I  keep waiting for something to go wrong.  But he is a mighty little boy, who has his own place in the world now.  I am so grateful that it’s with me.

Everyone loves a happy ending

October 2, 2011

I have had a draft of a post about the choice between public and private care  half finished for a few weeks now.  But another issue is on my mind.  That of the “Happy Ending”.

Throughout our 9 years of Infertility prior to pregnancy, there were very few people who would allow us to talk about our situation.  By “allow” , I mean that if we ever began to talk about our infertility in conversation, (when asked how we were doing or when we were going to have kids for example), we were very quickly shut down – usually through jokes or reflections on how lucky we were not to have kids, or directions to appreciate what we had.  I realise that this is because the topic of infertility makes people very uncomfortable.  It was really too difficult for anyone but my sister to handle.  May I say again, “Thank God for my sister!”

Now that we are pregnant the situation has changed.  We have inadvertently joined a club and those who were unwilling to hear of our struggles previously are now ready to listen to the story of how long it took us to have a baby.  Even though the baby isn’t even here yet.  Our story now gives them hope that things really do turn out alright in the end.  Not just things to do with procreation mind you, but things to do with any of life’s struggles.

This really irritates me.  I don’t want to be a poster girl for happy endings.  Yes, this has turned out well, so far.  (Turns out that I probably have placenta previa, so we’ll see).  But this outcome has  not been without sacrifice and loss, some of which are not healed by having a baby.  I would also wish for people to have some understanding that even if we hadn’t fallen pregnant, our lives would still have carried on.  We had, and still have, other worthy pursuits.    We also have a great marriage.  Which is a great blessing for a baby, I think.  But it’s also a great blessing for us.

Finally, the about face attitude change reminds me of that old cautionary chinese tale about good fortune.  Not that I’m comparing a baby to a horse here – just that good and bad come to us all in our lives, and sometimes we can only see which is which in the fullness of time.  This infertility journey has changed my life and my marriage.  For good or  ill, who can really say.   At this stage of my life I think,  perhaps, a little of both.

If I’m truthful, and I do try to be truthful.  I think I just wish that people had listened to our story when I needed them to.  When the outcome was not assured.  When I needed to feel welcome even though I did not have children.  I’ve spent so long on the outer rim of community that I don’t know how to behave now that I’ve been welcomed in. I don’t feel as though I belong.

All this is not to deny that I am grateful and delighted by the possibility of this child and the prospect of my own unique happy ending to this infertility story.

Joy and Guilt

July 25, 2011

I had my 12 week Nuchal Translucency ultrasound last week and felt joy about this pregnancy for the first time.  Turns out anxiety dampens feelings of joy.   Major discovery.   We had fantastic numbers and the counsellor said that they were very happy with the result and would not recommend an amniocentesis  for us.    I cannot express how relieved I was.  I had almost cried when the sonographer was scanning the back of the baby’s neck, thinking that the space that she was measuring seemed so large and knowing that this was not a good sign.  I mentioned to my husband that it looked much bigger than the picture on the brochure that we’d been given.  Somehow my husband’s brain managed to work out that the picture on the brochure was about 3cm X 3cm and the picture we were looking at was the size of a TV screen so that there was every chance the space being measured might look bigger on “our” picture.  But my brain couldn’t managed that complex a deduction and so I lay there for the rest of the scan with tears building as I watched the tiny arms and legs moving around, wondering how on earth I was going to make the decision to risk the pregnancy or to think about termination if something was wrong.

As our cousellor said after I disclosed how worried I’d been,  “Well, now you can go away and process the good news together”.

And that’s what we’ve been doing.  We’ve now told my family that I am pregnant and I’ve been hit with a wave of guilt over my past reactions to my brother and SIL’s pregnancies.  They were so lovely when I told them about the pregnancy and so supportive of the decision to use donor eggs, (which I hadn’t necessarily expected as they are very religious people and I thought they might have some ethical issues).  But they said that they knew we would have spent a long time thinking about it and working through any issues and that there would be no judgement from them.   Bless them.  I cannot express how relived I am….and how guilty.  I actually cried on the phone when I was informed of their last pregnancy.

Guilt and joy.

My life as a science experiment.

June 16, 2011

One of my main concerns in using a donor egg was my fear that I would not feel that  the child was “mine”.  I wondered if I would bond with a resulting child and feared that if I did not then the child and I would suffer enormously. When I first raised the fear with my IVF doctor he shrugged it off lightly and said something along the lines of “Of course you will bond, when you feel that baby growing inside you…”

I felt as though he did not take my concern seriously and so went hunting to try to find articles about mother/child bonding where the child was from a donor egg.  Of the few articles I found, most suggested that there was little difference in interactions and bonding between Mothers and donor egg babies and Mothers and genetic babies.  A few even suggested that the interactions between Mothers and donor egg babies were more positive, intimating that this might be because the Mothers of donor egg babies were more attentive as they felt a need to make up for the shortfall in genetic bonding.    I did find one article that suggested that as the children grew up, the Mother’s of donor egg babies had more difficulty and some sadness to contend with as physical features were commented upon by those in their community.   Comments like “Doesn’t she have her Father’s nose” etc.

So I’ve been wondering what will happen in my own case.  Will I bond easily?  When will I start to feel like the baby is mine?

Not yet, as it turns out.  I’m 7 weeks pregnant and obviously it’s very early days yet, but I’m not feeling pregnant.  I’m feeling very sick with nausea and I’ve been feeling very anxious about spotting, but I don’t feel attached to anything yet.  I am hoping that will change a little at the 8 week ultrasound next week.  For now, I simply feel like a human science experiment.  The other day it crossed my mind that I am a surrogate for my husband’s baby.  I was pretty disconcerted by that thought.

Having said that though, I have been ultra careful with my food choices and terribly worried that I’ve overheated in bed and caused this poor little one some neural damage. So I care about the little one developing inside and am trying my best to support it, I just don’t feel like it’s mine.   In fact, I just don’t feel like there could be a baby at the end of all of this. Now I haven’t ruled out that this could very well be a protective mechanism against the possibility of miscarriage and failure, as has happened so many times before.   But I wanted some record of what I’m feeling now.  It’s honest.

I hope to be able to track a change in my  perception of this little being in the near future.

The long and the short of it.

June 1, 2011

The short: I’m pregnant. I’m spotting. I’m anxious.

The long: Well, obviously a lot has happened since my last post. My Sister started jabbing herself in the stomach for me while I had the easy route and swallowed some pills. She was a darling throughout the whole process. She admitted to being a little scared the first time she gave herself an injection but soon was sticking the needle into her stomach like a trooper. It all happened so fast. I felt quite disconnected from what was going on for most of the process prior to the Egg Collection. I was concerned about my Sister, but found it hard to be excited about the prospect of a pregnancy. That changed on Egg Collection Day.

I was extremely lucky to have been able to be in the room when they siphoned off her eggs. I met my sister at the hospital, sat with her as she froze in an over-sized hospital gown and fluffy dressing gown. I walked beside her down the grey hospital corridors on the way to the theatre and squeezed her shoulder as they drove the catheter into her fragile arm, administering the sedative. I watched with her as the image of her ovaries and follicles appeared on the overhead screen, followed by the thin instrument that sucked the follicles dry. I listened as they called out the number of eggs retrieved. It was a deeply personal experience. My Sister looked so tiny and so brave. She was and is so unbelievably generous. This experience helped me connect to the eggs that were given so freely to me.

And so the waiting began. From 10 eggs retrieved, 8 were fertilized, 6 made it to day 3 and 1 made it to day 5. Blastocyst day. Egg Transfer Day. There were none left to freeze.

The Egg Transfer was a breeze. The doctor and I discussed my Sister’s thesis topic throughout the proceedure. I believe the saying is…”as you do.”

Then we waited again. During the first week after the transfer I was hopeful. I allowed myself moments of excitement. Seconds of joy. Shortly before the two week blood test though, all hope evaporated and I was absolutely sure that it had not worked. I was convinced that my body had rejected this tiny group of cells. I prepared my DH for a negative result. I had no symptoms, other than exhaustion which I figured was probably emotional. None-the-less I was keen to get same day results and so I drove an hour and 15mins to the clinic so I could be assured that I did not spend a night in agony.

After the blood test, I had just finished driving along the 90km zone when the nurse called with the result. (Yes, I had pulled over as soon as the mobile rang – I have miraculously managed to retain some common sense throughout this ordeal). The nurse sounded happy. I began to cry when she announced the result. She said “Congratulations”. I never thought to hear that word applied to my situation. We chatted for a short while and she said that she’d let me go so I could make some phone calls. There were only two to make. One to my husband and one to my sister. We have not told anyone else. No, not even my Mum.

A couple of days ago I had a second blood test and my hormone levels were rising adequately enough. I had some slight spotting and my progesterone levels were only just above what they like to see, so we’ve increased the dosage for good measure. I’m adjusting my mind to incorporate the idea that I’m pregnant. I have found it difficult to accept the delight and positivity in the responses from the nurses. These are very early days and I still feel as though things could go wrong. I have decided not to beat myself up about this though. I think, after 9 years of failed attempts, I can forgive myself a small amount of anxiety.

There is still a long way to go and today the spotting has increased a bit. It increased after I’d done some exercise. I had been exercising aerobically almost every day prior to the egg transfer and the doctor said that I could continue. But I think I might bring it down a level, or maybe even have a rest until the next blood test. This is too precious to make a mistake with. And if it doesn’t work out, I don’t want to have any doubts about how hard I tried to care for this little embryo and its development.

Brandings

May 13, 2011

Do you remember that game we played in primary school where a number of people stand inside a circle formed by other people, whose job it is to throw balls at the people in the middle?  If you are one of the people standing in the middle it is in your best interests to try and dodge those balls which fly at you from all angles and leave tender bruises where they hit.   At our school we called it “brandings”.  At the IVF clinic they call it “counselling for donor recipients”.

We have survived several rounds of counselling. The counsellor herself was very nice.  The questions she was obliged to ask  required that we imagine far into the future of  unborn child. We had to propose strategies for dealing with emotional issues that may, or may not, arise at each stage of our child’s development.  We had to talk about the imaginary conversations we might have with our child, and with the donor, and with our friends and family.  We created a whole new universe in her office – one in which our child suffered no hardship from being conceived in an unorthodox way.  A universe where we knew exactly what to say to our child of, naturally, superior intelligence and calm disposition.   One where none of our friends or family were affected by our decision and one where we, as parents, were 100% positive that donor eggs were the right choice for us.    I can tell you it was a stupendously joyful place in which to exist for all of 40mins, after which we were plunged back down into the reality of childlessness as the cousellor fullfilled her duties by disclosing the very low success rate of donor egg cycles.  About 20%.  Still, that is nowhere near as low as the success rate we were given when we used our own egg. i.e. 1%.

So we have a green light and golden ticket and we are prepared to use it.

An interlude with Pizza

March 16, 2011

In a couple of days time my DH and I will be heading up north for a day jam packed with IVF activities, including one of those most delightful scans with a full bladder ripe for prodding.   You’d think my bladder holding capabilities would be at an all time high by now because I’ve had so much practice. But I still get anxious about this scan.  However I do have to be thankful for the fact that my cycle seems to have occurred at exactly the right time for the scan, despite having been all over the place for the last year.  I am beside myself with joy – my body is actually working to a plan!

One of the interrogations appointments will be with the clinic’s counsellor, so DH and I thought we’d better prepare.  We sat down to  run through the questions and suggested discussion topics sent with the information package, just so neither of us are blindsided by an awkward question that could damage our case.   We needn’t have worried.  It seems we’ve discussed everything all by our clever selves – well, we have had enough time to think about this after all.    Plus we have some back – up responses prepared for any tricky explorations into our motivations or fears.  The main one is; that DH and I have become even closer during this ordeal and are confident that we can deal with any problems or issues that arise from having a donor egg child.  When faced with any problems we will simply do what we do best – talk to each other and love each other.    We truly are that good!

So after doing our donor egg exam prep we headed off to give ourselves a treat, (another fail-safe problem solving technique). We dined at our favourite Pizza place.  They make pizza in the true Italian style – they’ve even got  a certificate from Napoli to prove it!  See…everything you do needs a stamp of approval from a governing body – from pizza crusts in a wood fired oven to unconventional buns in the oven.

 

 

Hurdle No 2 – Fit to be egg recipients

March 4, 2011

Actually this really could be named “The hurdle that wasn’t”.  DH and I drove for 40mins to our fertility doctor’s most local offices for a 10 minute “interview”.  We were really nervous beforehand, expecting a barrage of questions about why we’d waited so long since our failed IVF attempts to start the Egg donation procedure.   I had some good answers worked out, none of which were, “Are you kidding?  It’s taken me years to wrestle with the reality of my incompetent body and broken heart!”

In fact we were hardly asked any questions at all. It seems my Sister and her husband had done such a marvelous job in convincing the doctor that she was ready, we were ready and the whole experience was an expression of uncomplicated sister-love, that all he could do was smile and hand us the bill.  He gave us a little talk about his history in the job, saying that about 10 years ago he’d almost packed it in because positive results (i.e. live births) were so few that he wondered if he’d dedicated his life to devastation rather than creation.  But that luckily the situation had improved to a point where he felt justified in continuing his work.  Which is good to know.

So now we’re on our way to hurdle no. 3 – our big IVF appointment day.  A collection of interviews with the counsellor, the nurse, the accounts department and the clinic, (where I will again subject my body to that most delightful of scans involving the dildo-cam).   I’m actually a little worried about that one, not the scan itself but the results.  These scans are to check my uterine lining.  They are meant to be done between day 3 and day 10 of my cycle.  Normally I could try and work that out but last year my cycle began shortening and this year…well I’m now on day 51.  I’m winding down like a rusty, old bicycle.

We had a couple of  friends over to dinner last weekend and I let them know that we were going to do another cycle, though we’re keeping the “donor egg” part of that close to our chests for the time being.  One friend wished us luck and then let the words of that old chestnut rattle out, “I don’t want to get your hopes up but I have heard of people who’ve gone through IVF and then, low and behold,  fallen pregnant naturally!”

I wonder what age I’ve got to be and how many years we’ve got to deal with infertility, before people stop burdening us with that particular fancy.  I fancy that I’ll try an experiment.  I’ll wait another few years…perhaps until I’m 48 years old and then tell people cheerfully that we’re having one last run at an IVF baby.   I bet at least one of them will say, “We’ll you never know,  you might conceive naturally…”

Hurdle no. 1 – Egg Donor Approval

February 7, 2011

Today I received a call from the IVF Clinic’s counsellor.  She rang my mobile and I answered it in the middle of the yarn aisle at Lincraft.  A truly excellent venue for receiving news about your potential donor egg cycle.  Be that as it may, it seems that we have jumped the first hurdle.  My Sister is approved as an egg donor.  I’m not sure if I’m supposed to be joyful about this.  I have a sneaking suspicion that I’m meant to be grinning and holding my head high as it looks forward to the potential birth of my  potential child.  Instead I have cried my heart out today.

I am a churned up, mushy cocktail mix of relief, terror, hopefulness and grief.   This news unleashed the grief of failed cycles and miscarriages that I have unintentionally stored deep under my skin.  To choose to go down this path is to admit that the other path is closed.  I’m 41 and in peri-menopause. I know it closed quite some time ago, but this draws the truth down from my head to my heart and it hurts.

To choose to go down this path is also to accept help from my younger Sister. The Sister I have previously cared for.  I never expected that she would be called on to give so much of herself to me.  I never expected that she would put herself at risk for me.  I feel concerned for her, though the risk is low it is still present.  It is very present in my mind.

To choose to go down this path is to accept that I will be an older mother who has had so much time to think about raising a child, and so much time to accustom myself to living without one, that I am no longer convinced that having a child will bring meaning, contentment, or happiness.  Through this infertility journey I have found out that those graces must be attained through self development, or self actualization.  They can be developed in all manner of ways – not just through having a child.  Knowing this, I had hoped to make it part- way down some of those paths before being responsible for bringing another life into the world.  I know my failings as a person more deeply now than I did when I first started TTC.    What I do not know is whether this is a blessing or a curse.

To choose to go down this path is to once more open my heart to the possibilities of success and failure.