National Fertility Awareness Week #nfawuk

Last week was national fertility awareness week. I’ve not posted about it as I was enjoying a little break following my month long #captureyourgrief project.

Today though I was thinking about the awareness week and realised that whilst people know we needed IVF for our boys, not many knew the whole story. So here it is. Apologies for the odd style, I wrote it down just after Toby was born, I’ve adjusted it a bit but it may still be wonky in places.

Our journey to having a baby started in July 2006, Matt and I were so full of excitement and expectation, dreaming of the baby we would hopefully have in 2007, how wrong we were! After six months of trying we started to get a bit downhearted, but hoped that we would be lucky soon. As the months went by the nagging doubts and stress crept in. Would we ever be parents? How much longer would we have to wait? Was there something wrong? 

After a trip to the GP and a couple of blood tests which showed a bit of an abnormality with my hormones, we were referred to the NHS. After a year of waiting for appointments and various tests, we were told that I was fine, but Matt had lazy sperm and that we would need IVF. At the time I was too young for free treatment so we went for an appointment at a private clinic. A morning of tests and a consultation in July 2008 (two years after we’d started trying) confirmed that we could go ahead with IVF whenever we wanted – hurrah! 
We scraped the money for treatment together and in September 2008 we started. I was fearful of the injections, but they were fine and I got quite good at doing them painlessly! Midway through treatment a scan showed that my ovaries had overreacted to the hormone injections and there was a high risk of OHSS if we carried on. Our hopes had been dashed, but we did get a partial refund (every cloud and all that).
In January 2009 we started our second attempt at treatment, my drugs had been adjusted because of how my ovaries had reacted last time; we were well and truly back on the IVF rollercoaster again! I was nervous about the egg collection process (google it, it ain’t nice!), but it wasn’t as bad as I had imagined as I was very heavily sedated throughout and dosed up on painkillers afterwards. They managed to get some eggs, slightly less than they had hoped, but some were better than none. The next day we had a phone call to say that not many eggs had fertilised and they would call the next day with an update. The phone call came and I was told to come to the clinic as soon as possible for embryo transfer as only one had survived so the best course of action was to put it back where it belonged! A panicky phone call to Matt and we were at the clinic an hour later. The doctors were trying to be positive, but I knew we were on the back foot already. However, we tried to take a positive view as this was the closest we had ever got to being pregnant. 
A week and a half later my period arrived, we didn’t even make it to the testing day. Our dreams were shattered again. At our follow up meeting we went through the why’s and wherefores of what had happened and decided to have one more go before moving on to another clinic. We had built a good relationship with the doctors and they had got to know how my body reacted to the drugs. 
Our third attempt was in the summer of 2009 and by this time I was a dab hand at injections! Everything went according to plan with a good number of follicles showing at each scan, and about 30 eggs collected. Before going home after the egg collection we were advised that our embryos would have to be frozen as I was again at risk of developing OHSS due to the high number of eggs collected. If they were put back and I fell pregnant, I could end up in hospital. We were disappointed, but looked forward to coming back in a few months time to continue our treatment. 
We went back at the end of October 2009 and had our embryos defrosted to start the process again. A few didn’t make it through the first day, but there were two looking good for a day three transfer. About an hour before the embryo transfer appointment I had a phone call to say that the embryos had failed to develop overnight, they had defrosted two more, but they weren’t looking good either. We were in the same position as last time. We had two embryos put back and the waiting game commenced. This time we made it to the test date, but it was negative and there were no more embryos in the freezer. We were destroyed again. It was early December so we threw ourselves into Christmas and hoped that 2010 would bring more cheer. 
At our follow up appointment, it was suggested we go to a clinic who were doing a treatment aimed at ladies with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), although I didn’t have any outward symptoms, the way I had reacted to the hormone drugs suggested that this could be another factor. Matt and I talked things through and decided that we’d give in-vitro maturation (IVM) a go. This treatment didn’t involve hormone injections to grow eggs; instead, immature eggs were collected and grown in the lab before regular IVF was carried out. 
Mentally and emotionally drained after three and a half years of trying for a baby I needed a break from treatment for a while. We went to lots of concerts and shows, had a chilled out holiday and generally tried to forget the past three years. All the while, friend after friend had happily announced their pregnancies and we were running out of excuses for not going over to see the babies, it was all just too painful. 
At the end of summer 2010 I was ready to start again. We contacted the clinic and commenced the various appointment and tests that they required. The egg collection day arrived and they collected a fair number of eggs, Matt did his bit and we were sent home. The clinic had a policy of doing transfers on day five, this allowed the best embryos to be picked and thus a better outcome could be hoped for. We had daily phone updates and things were looking okay for a couple of days until I had a call to say that all of our embryos had stopped developing, there was nothing to put back. I was crushed. I remember getting angry at the doctor for not putting them back inside me sooner and saying something grumpy when he asked if I had any more questions. The doctor said I had poor quality eggs and confirmed my suspicion that donor eggs may be our only option. A teary phone call to Matt followed and we spent the afternoon consoling each other. 
At our follow up appointment, the doctor explained our results and went through the egg donor process. At the time, in the UK there was a wait of up to two years, possibly longer as the number of donors was so low. The use of a clinic abroad was mentioned as it would shorten the wait considerably. We weren’t so sure about that at first as it seemed a strange thing to do. After digesting the information we decided to book an appointment at our local clinic to hear about their egg donor programme. We were advised of the massive wait for UK donors and again the use of a foreign clinic was suggested. We had already done some research into this and found that waiting times for treatment abroad were practically non-existent and the screening/treatment process was of a similar standard to here in the UK. 
We went away with some information about a clinic in Spain that had an arrangement with our UK clinic where they handle the initial appointments before couples travelled out to have treatment. We were reassured that the Spanish have a culture of giving, and many donors have had families already or just want to help others. Under Spanish law there is a limit on the number of children a donor can ‘produce’ and donors remain completely anonymous. Some more research followed and the clinic in Alicante had an excellent reputation, good results, and their international department meant that we would deal with English speaking staff during our treatment. 
From my own family experiences, I have always believed that ‘family’ is who you live/grow up with, not who shares your genes, so the choice to use donated eggs was easy. I know it may seem selfish to some people to have a baby through donor gametes when there are so many children seeking a loving and caring home, but we both wanted the chance to raise a baby that was ours, and I desperately wanted to be pregnant. I wanted the morning sickness, massive bump and painful labour! It is what I was designed to do. Our UK clinic had put me in touch with a lady who had gone through the process already and she answered my many questions – does your baby look like you, does she feel like she is yours, do the clinic staff speak good English, etc, etc. My fears and worries were set to rest; this was to be our path to parenthood. 
We were assigned a nurse at our UK clinic and a member of the international team at the clinic in Spain, and between the three of us (and Matt) we corresponded and arranged blood tests, scans, medication (no injections for me, hurrah!!). We had to supply photographs of ourselves and complete a questionnaire to tell the clinic what we looked like (height, weight, hair/eye colour, etc.) so they could match us with a suitable donor. We were given a window of possible travel dates and these were only confirmed the day before we had to fly out, the donor had to be checked and if they were ready for egg collection then we were ready to travel (not good for a control freak like me who likes everything to be booked and planned well in advance!). We decided to treat ourselves to the posh five star hotel in Alicante as they gave clinic patients a discount – we thought that we may as well have a nice holiday too! 
On our second day in Alicante we went to the clinic and met with the doctor and a lady from the international team. I was scanned and checked all was well for the embryo transfer later in the week, and hubby did his bit. The clinic was stunning, and the staff were brilliant, very caring and welcoming. There were two British couples attending appointments at similar times to us which in a way was reassuring. We had regular updates about the number of eggs collected, number of embryos and likely day for transfer. In amongst all of this we managed to have a nice holiday and chilled out in the sun – much needed! 

The embryo transfer day arrived, we were nervous and excited and were shown to a room which looked more like a 5 star hotel room rather than a hospital room. The head doctor came and advised us that we had two embryos left, not ideal as there were none to freeze for future treatment, but we had a B and a C grade – more than enough to make a baby. The doctor outlined the tests that the donor had undertaken prior to being selected, explained what would happen during the transfer, and the icing on the cake was a photograph of our embryos! We went through for the transfer and I was wheeled back to our room for a rest before leaving. The last words the doctor said before saying goodbye were, ‘see you in a few years for your next baby’. The plane journey home was quite fun as we kept looking at the picture of our embryos! 

I had to wait about ten days until I could have a blood test to see if it had worked. Halfway through the waiting period I had convinced myself that my period was on its way and that yet again we had failed. I had even started looking at how the adoption process worked, convinced that was our next step. On the morning of 27th May 2011, I went for a blood test and had to wait until the afternoon for the results. When they eventually came I couldn’t believe it when the nurse said we were having a baby! All our hopes and dreams were about to become a reality! We had a further blood test to confirm everything and a scan was booked for two weeks later to see how many babies were in there. 
The day of the scan came and we had one perfect heartbeat – amazing! That little dot turned into our beautiful boy! 
5 years, too many blood tests to count, too many hours spent waiting to see a doctor, a hycosy, a lap and dye, 3 egg collections, lots of samples in pots, 5 treatment cycles, numerous transvaginal scans and £23k and we’d finally done it!
Roll on to 2014 and we arrive at our IVF cycle that made Rory and Henry, that’s a story for another time… 

Difficult Questions

A bit of a ‘normal mum’ post today. Bedtime is usually when the random questions from Toby commence and this evening was no exception! 

First question – where does everything come from? My reply was mainly what do you mean. I managed to get out of the questioning four year old that he meant where does everything in the house come from. ‘From factories’ was not a satisfactory answer and I was then asked ‘where does cardboard come from?’ Aha I can answer this one I thought! Cardboard comes from trees. They make trees into paper in a factory and then make the paper in to cardboard and then it gets taken to the toy factory. He was happy with that answer and I thought I was done.

Until… Mummy, where is the island of Sodor? Now, we’ve had this question before and I’ve gently tried saying that it’s not a real place but Toby is still convinced there is really an island full of steam engines with faces. This evening, after him refusing to accept that Sodor wasn’t anywhere I said it was possibly near Wales. He’s been to Wales so was happy with that. Then he asked when were we going to be seeing Gordon with a real face? My head said ‘fuck knows’, my mouth said ‘maybe one day’. I may need to write to the nice people at Day Out With Thomas to enquire as to when Gordon will be joining the other engines with faces… 

Day 21 Relationships #captureyourgrief

Day 21 Relationships.

I’ve changed, so obviously my relationships have changed.  

My friendship circle is definitely smaller. Some friends have sadly fallen by the wayside as they don’t get me any more or perhaps they’re frightened of upsetting me or maybe they just don’t like how I’ve dealt with my grief. Others I have distanced myself from as they’ve had babies or have children a similar age to that of Rory and Henry if they’d lived. But on the other hand, some have become greater friends and they’ve been there every step of the way. I’ve also made new friends, some from my bereavement group and others through shared experience, I wish I didn’t have a reason to know these people but I’m so grateful for their love and support.

Family is a tricky one, some have just got it and I’m so grateful for their compassion and support others struggle to understand me and that has impacted dramatically on relationships. Some days I wonder if things will ever be like they were before.  I’m certainly more protective of Matt and Toby as they are all I have on this earth and I don’t want them to go through any more trauma and that has changed our relationship, hopefully for the better.

Babies v Spiders

I realised this week that my issue with babies is a bit like my phobia of spiders. To the untrained eye it may seem odd that I cannot cope being around a baby in my in-laws garden but I can go to a local family theme park and be ok with the numerous bumps and babies there. I wondered why I could be able to cope with one scenario but the other turned me into a sobbing mess which lasted well into the week that followed.

Where do the spiders come in? I hear you ask. Those who know me will be aware of my immense and totally irrational fear of spiders, if I see one my initial reaction is to run and hide, my heart pumps and I feel giddy at the sight of even a small spider and faced with a biggun I’m a gibbering idiot. But given my fear, if I see a spider in the garden I’m ok with it being there.  The reason? I’m in the open, I can move away and it won’t hide in a corner and catch me unawares. In the garden I expect to see spiders and can cope – I wouldn’t be running over to touch or hold a spider but I can accept their presence and whilst it is annoying it’s ok. 

I realised this is where my problem with babies is the same. Put in a fairly confined space with a tiny baby, or seeing one where I least expect it to be sends me into a spiral and the anxiety, sadness, fear and stress kicks in and the tears flow thick and fast. But, put me in a situation where I expect babies to be and I can move away easily and I can cope. Again I won’t be running over to hold a baby or start a conversation with their parent but I can cope long enough to extract myself from the situation. Interestingly when I was pregnant with Henry my feelings about bumps and babies didn’t change, I still wanted to run for the hills when confronted with one – totally bonkers but that’s how I felt/feel.

I realise that it makes no sense as a baby is a baby regardless of the location but in my head there is a difference with having to be in the same room/place as a baby with few people around versus being in a public place with people I can ignore or move away from if it all gets too much.

So for me, babies are like spiders!

Graduation Day

Our beautiful biggest boy graduated from pre-school today. In reality Toby is staying on for another 2 months as he doesn’t start school until September but today we celebrated and shared the joy of our 4 year olds growing up and moving onto their next big adventure. 

The day was sunny and bright and I was so excited for Toby to be with his friends in a place he loves (not that he’d admit that he loves pre-school!). At one point a little girl toddled by and my heart pulled for Rory. It is the year anniversary of Rory’s due date tomorrow and we don’t have a little one toddling about, I’m not buying cards and presents and it hurts so very much. Nor did I have a 26 week old bump at the party, there was no one asking if we’d decorated the nursery yet or if Toby was excited. 

I stood there soaking in the joy of the children collecting their certificates as I know we won’t be attending any more parties like this, it is a milestone not to be repeated for us. I am so very sad for the missed milestones but at the same time I am so very grateful that we even get to do this in the first place. Toby didn’t come easily for us and there was a time I never thought a baby would come into our lives. This may be the first and last pre-school graduation for us but it is special and magical that it happened and I am thankful. Thankful for Toby, thankful for the milestones and thankful for Rory and Henry as their absence makes me appreciate the milestones that little bit more.

One year on

I’ve been quiet in the run up and after Rory’s anniversary, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  Part of me couldn’t believe that a whole year had passed since he died and the other part felt it had been a decade since it happened.  A few days before his day I went to our local craft store to buy some bits to make him a card (they don’t make cards to send to your baby on their anniversary so we Angel parents are left to improvise). As I was wandering around the store I saw a birthday card display, my eyes were drawn to the blue 1st birthday section and I thought that if things had gone well I’d be buying one of them rather than making my own card, and then I thought that actually I wouldn’t be buying one of those cards in March as Rory’s birthday was supposed to be in July, and to me that is when is birthday will always be. People don’t really understand my attachment to July but it is what it is and for that reason I could not call 13 March Rory’s birthday as it wasn’t supposed to be the day he was born and he died. Messed up logic but hopefully you get my point. 

Summer babies old and new will always be a reminder of what we missed – sunny birthdays spent under a gazebo, garden games and water fights. Toby is a winter baby so all of the above are not possible. A summer birthday in the family was one of the things I was most looking forward to when we were expecting Rory. I guess it’s just another thing that I will miss about him not being here.

On Rory’s anniversary we were obviously sad but decided a nice day out was in order.  We went to Lepe beach which is about 25 mins drive from our house. It was bright and sunny and we had a gentle time playing in the sand with Toby.  We let off a balloon for Rory with a little tag attached telling him how much he was loved. Matt and Toby had fun splashing in the water until the beach ball floated away (I reckon Rory was being a cheeky little brother willing Toby to kick it further and further until it was too far.

I wouldn’t say the day was happy but it was in no shape or form as bad as I’d imagined. We had some lovely messages from family and friends and felt lots of love for us and for Rory. 

 

Made With Love

Toby’s birthday is in less than two days and I still can’t believe he will be four! A few months ago I had the ‘great’ idea to make him a teepee for his birthday. 

I bought a pattern, then some fabric and didn’t do much else. At the start of December I panicked, contacted my lovely sewing teacher and we made a date to meet. Over the course of two hours she deciphered the pattern and helped me cut the fabric out. We determined that it was going to be a biggun!

I then didn’t do much, life was busy, Christmas happened, upset and miscommunication occurred and I switched off. Then two weeks ago I panicked again and set to work. I sat at my shiny new sewing machine and sewed, unpicked, cursed and sewed some more. Today with the help of my dad who came to drill holes in the poles I finished!

I’m proud of my achievements, the teepee stands up and looks ok. I took up sewing after Rory died as I needed something to pass the time, I couldn’t stand watching TV or looking at my phone so sewing was my escape in the evenings. Off I went to IKEA and bought a cheap machine (I have since upgraded to a Singer) and I played and created.

I realised last night that if it wasn’t for Rory I would never have made something so amazing for Toby. If Rory hadn’t died I would have never discovered my love for sewing. 

There is love for Toby and Rory in every stitch of the marquee sized teepee, I can’t count the stitches as there are too many. The number stitches is just like the amount of love in my heart for my boys – it is unquantifiable and never ending (a bit like the start of my teepee making journey!).

Thank you Rory for helping me to make Toby a very special present for his birthday X