Sunday, April 27, 2008

IVF Cyle 1: RIP Embryos

I'm not pregnant.

I wonder how long my poor little embryos lived.

IVF Cycle 1: Opposites Attract

In 40 minutes time, I will find out if I am pregnant or not.

I like to think that I am a cautious optimistic - a positive person who sees opportunities and the bright side of things, while also being realistic. But really, I am more accurately described as a cautious pessimist.

"Okay", I say to myself. "Everything has gone almost exactly like last time, and I got pregnant last time. I have nausea, I have sore boobs and I am spending half my life emptying my bladder. But that doesn't mean anything at all. It's just the drugs. Don't get your hopes up. You can't possibly get pregnant this easily." Cautious pessimism prevails.

As a white, mostly middle-class Australian born in the 1970s, my life has been very privileged, if you compare it to the majority of the world, with only moderate effort on my part. But I still have a deep belief that the universe hates me.

If I am pregnant, I will secretly assume that I am liable to miscarry at any moment. If I'm not pregnant, I'll assume that I am in for multiple unsuccessful cycles that will leave me physically, emotionally and financially exhausted. For some reason, this makes me feel safe. As if assuming the worst, mentally and emotionally preparing for it, provides a kind of safety net. If something good happens, that's great. If it doesn't, well, I predicted it all along and at least I have the tiny satisfaction of being right.

The Big Dude, on the other hand, with his extensive experience of suffering and serious trauma, is a Pollyanna-style optimist. He is always certain that every aspect of our lives is going well and is sure to improve any moment. Despite more than 15 years of poor health, he goes to bed every morning fully expecting to be well again when he wakes up. He is convinced that the universe is plotting for us. He is sure that we are already pregnant, that everything will go well and that parenting two children will be a delightful experience.

Of course, we are driving each other mad. He can't understand why I am always so bloody negative. I am irritated by his sunny confidence and refusal to join me in seeing the universe as the cruel, brutal place that it really is. It's lonely, being right about everything.

Why do opposites attract? Is it just to torment us?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

IVF Cycle 1: A Little Bit Pregnant

Well, here I am, with two healthy little embryos sloshing around inside me, but probably not implanted yet. Pregnancy isn't complete until at least one of the embryos has cast off its outer shell and implanted in the womb and the beta count starts doubling. We won't know the result until late this week.

Who would have thought that it was possible to have embryos in your womb and still not actually be pregnant. Or maybe the old saying is wrong, and I am actually a little bit pregnant.

Because the fact is that I feel pregnant. I have nausea. I have strange reactions to smells. My stomach is so distended that it's hard to fit into my normal clothes. But the kicker is that, even if it was working, I wouldn't have those symptoms yet so early in the pregnancy. It's just the drugs.

Also, I am behaving strangely. When I was pregnant, I used to chat dreamily to the Little Dude and sing him songs, even when it was too early for him to hear me. I have spent a lot of the last few days chatting to my embryos, basically encouraging them to hang around. "Stay here with mummy", I say. "We have a nice big house and a lovely mum and dad and grandma and a big brother who will love you, so I think you should stay. And have I mentioned we have a sandpit?"

I told you I'm behaving strangely.

Yesterday morning, I was convinced that it hadn't worked and my little embryos were already on their way to the dustbin of history . Then in the evening, I was sure I was pregnant. I was even furiously calculating how we would manage twins. Now, I'm not so sure. I try to be optimistic without hoping so much that it's crushing if it doesn't happen. It's hard to do. No wonder I'm behaving strangely.

Being just a little bit pregnant, but not completely pregnant, will do that to a person.

Friday, April 18, 2008

IVF Cycle 1: Transfer

The transfer seemed to go well. Actually, it was a very nice environment of friendly, warm, chatty women and not painful. One of the doctors had just assisted at a birth, a caesarean, and was in a very positive and happy mood. It just seemed to make the whole process more normal and less icky.

The technician said the embryos looked really good and she was amazed that, during the fertilisation, the eggs had started changing within about 20 minutes. That's a good sign.

Actually, everything has gone almost eerily like last time I did this, which was a success. The apparently low response to the drugs, the two eggs (which last time I regarded as a disaster and this time I regarded as success), the rapid fertilisation and the high quality of the embryos.

The Big Dude says that, since everything seems to have gone much as last time, I had better be all gloomy and pessimistic and certain it hasn't worked, just like I was last time. But actually, I am cautiously optimistic. I know the stats, and hopefully am prepared either way, but I just have a good feeling.

So go, embryos, go!!!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

IVF Cycle 1: Freakery

I made the Big Dude call the clinic this morning. I just couldn't handle picking up the phone, with my hands trembling and my voice shaking.

So I sat in the loungeroom and read my Little Dude a story. Three minutes to go, and we were half way through the story.

Then I heard him say, "Yes, yes, that's good - tomorrow morning, then", and I knew that at least one egg had made it. I dropped the story book and couldn't finish it.

Actually, both eggs have fertilised. Can I just say that again, because I actually can't quite take it in. Both eggs have fertilised. I have two little embryos, doing well so far.

Two days ago, I thought I was going to get nothing. Then I got two eggs. Then both eggs fertilised. I am a statistical freak twice over. This is now a completely viable cycle.

Transfer tomorrow at 8am.

If it's a successful transfer, our chances of a pregnancy are around 30 per cent. Please, God, let me be a statistical freak three times over.

IVF Cycle 1: Waiting

I'm sitting here at 9:26am waiting for 10:30am so that we can call and find out if our eggs fertilised.

I'm very sore from the egg pickup operation, so I'm basically loafing around on the sofa. I'm reading, I'm staring into space, I'm watching TV, I probably look fairly relaxed, like I am having a nice lie-in. But I'm not relaxed at all. I'm waiting to find out if the process I've been thinking about and working towards for the last year is getting anywhere at all.

With all the information about the procedures they give you, nobody ever mentions the waiting.

You wait for the appointment with the specialist, which is booked weeks and months in advance. Then you wait to hear if you can go ahead. Then you wait for your cycle to start. Then you take the first lot of drugs and wait to find out if anything is happening. Then you take the second lot of drugs and wait to hear if your follicles are developing. If they are, you wait until they mature. Then you wait to have your trigger injection. Then you wait for the egg pickup operation. Then you wait to hear whether the eggs have fertilised. Then you wait another day or two for the transfer. Then you wait around for two weeks to find out if you are pregnant. Really, the whole thing is about 90% waiting and only about 10% treatment.

All this time, I am doing things. Working and looking after the Little Dude and the Big Dude and doing housework and volunteering for an emergency service. It looks like I am quite busy. But what I am actually doing in my head is waiting. My whole life feels like it is in a kind of suspended animation with bits of treatment only occasionally interrupting things. Sometimes the waiting kind of weighs in on me and my nerve starts to crack.

My Big Dude says that's what the war was like. Hours of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.

But at least I am waiting to hear if we are creating life and not death.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

IVF Cycle 1: Hooray!

It's been a rough few days. I told a friend of mine about my decision and, although she carefully wished us luck, I could tell from her guarded words that she thought I was crazy to go through with it. She also got two eggs from nine follicles previously, so her expectations for me weren't high.

I felt totally deflated this morning, thinking I might have made a big mistake and I was going to wake up from the operation with nothing.

But I just got back from the clinic, and we got two eggs from two follicles. That's totally beyond rational expectation. I am a statistical freak.

Hooray! You bloody ripper!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

IVF Cycle 1: Worth a Shot?

It was a difficult morning. At this late stage in the cycle, I only have two viable-looking follicles, which is pretty pathetic.

A trigger injection is required to make the eggs finally mature without me actually ovulating, then a pickup operation to collect the eggs. We were scheduled for the trigger tonight, and the pickup operation on Thursday, but it all looks a bit doubtful, now.

The clinic rang today at 10am and said it looked like I needed to be on a higher dose of the stimulation drugs in future. Our specialist said that he would leave it up to us to decide whether to go through with the trigger and pickup operation this week. The chances weren't good, but he was willing to try it if we were. We needed to decide by midday.

I spent most of this morning agonising. Last time I did IVF, I had nine follicles and got two eggs, so who knows if there is anything at all in just two follicles. It seemed like a lot of money and drama to go through for so little chance. If we cancelled at this point, apparently, we would also get a lot of our initial deposit back, as well as avoiding the further expense of a possibly pointless operation.

So I made the rational decision to cancel the cycle.

But with minutes to spare, I found I hesitated to put the call through. I had this small intuitive feeling that I should trust my body, having put it through so much already. I also wondered if I was putting too much emphasis on the money and trouble, and not enough on the opportunity. After all, there may well be one egg and, if it fertilises (the fertilisation rate is about 65% on average), then there is still a small chance for this cycle.

So we are going to go through with the trigger in 30 minutes time. It's worth a shot, anyway.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

IVF Cycle 1: Glamour, Glamour, Glamour

Nothing could be more glamorous than my life at the moment.

This week, I started the stimulation drugs. By day 3, my stomach was swelling out of my clothes, I was throwing up in the shower in the mornings, and I had to leave work early in case I started throwing up on my colleagues.

Then last night, the Little Dude had a stomach bug. He threw up tumultuously approximately every 25 minutes for around 7 hours straight. As I clutched my naked, sobbing little boy to me in the bath tub (sometimes it's easier to stay in there, as there is less clean up), he threw up all over me - in my hair, down my bra, trickling into my belly-button, everywhere.

Vomit is a big feature of our family life at the moment.

I reckon I got about two hours sleep maximum, last night. The Little Dude seems to be fully recovered, but that's more than I can say for me. I am too old for this kind of thing. I'm so exhausted, my body feels like a carcass.

And it apparently responds like a carcass, too. Day 7 of stimulation drugs and I have a grand total of six follicles. Last time, I started with nine follicles and only wound up with two viable eggs. God only knows what we will get down to if we start at six. So I will be climbing wearily into the stirrups later this week, with a sense of the vanity of all human effort.

I think I need to get into my old pregnancy track pants and curl up on the sofa with some chocolate. Gin would be better.

Glamour, glamour, glamour.