Sunday, 25 March 2012

A belly full of eggs and a head full of doubt

I have started writing this blog about five times over the last week or so.  I have deleted parts over and over again trying to put my thoughts into the right words.  I have read it and felt ashamed for being so self-centered, depressed that the words I read are as sad as my thoughts, mad because I want to not have the experience behind the story.  So I have edited it to the following.  This blog isn't written for sympathy, nor is it written for your judgement.  It is simply written in truth, and because of that, I know that we can not be alone in our thoughts, actions, or emotions.  If you don't have anything constructive to say, don't say it, if you can relate to me, please do...

This is our "last chance" IUI.  So basically, we're up to attempt three at this IUI process and if this one doesn't work the chances of it ever working are hugely diminished.  If this one doesn't work then we have one option left, IVF.  We knew this time might come.  It's something we were told we might have to expect, from the day we were told I had PCOS.  Yet, here it is, those three little letters: I.V.F. Which are burnt into our minds like giant, fluorescent lights in the night sky.  We close our eyes and there it is.  We open our mouths to talk and there it is again.  We try NOT to the think about it, but there it is still.  IVF!!  We get it IVF; your approach is imminent!  

And I think because we can feel IVF breathing down our necks, this IUI cycle is destined to fail.  It feels as awful to say as it makes me feel to write the words, but there is no part of this cycle that feels positive.  We "ummed and arrred" and debated heatedly for days prior to insemination day, even with the news that we had four big, fat follicles.  Mostly because we haven't really had time alone together in about six weeks (my shitty work roster and Hubby's other commitments), and IUI just felt like a big inconvenience to us both.  But, ultimately we decided that we wouldn't give up our chance of utilising the insemination process, in case we wouldn't get to see each other again during my fertile days.  Hubby worked the day of the insem. and so I attended the clinic on my own for the first time.  It all felt very unusual and surreal to be doing this alone, especially given the circumstances.  

At the end of the process I lay on the table, waiting for my 15minutes "warming" to be over so I could pay the receptionist and sulk home.  Fortunately my amazing doctor picked up on my low mood, leaned over and gave me a hearty arm rub and offered to wait with me, despite there being a waiting room full of pregnant women anxious for their appointments.  I gratefully declined and instead used my time alone to think.  This is not how I want my children to come into the world.  I do not want to believe it is easier to expect the worse, than to believe in miracles.  We are not those people.  We have waited 18months so far for our miracle.  It has been 18months of trials, tears, experimentation, disappointments, unexpected surprises, lots of friends and family having babies, and so much WAITING!!  And to be honest, we would go through it all again if we had to.  But right now, it's all too much.  I WANT this IUI cycle to work.  I am desperate for it to work.  I don't want to think negatively about the possibilities that this insemination may bring.  But it's all I can do at the moment.  Our brains are so committed to preparing us for IVF that we have totally disregarded this cycle as anything but a time-killer, one final stab in the dark.  And that in itself is enough to make us realise that we have had enough for a while.    

IVF is such a huge commitment in so many ways. If this is your belief too (and I would have to think that for most IVFers it would have to be in some way) that life begins at conception, than IVF is so much more than just me and my husband deciding to have a baby right now.  It's about the creation of life for any and all of our future children.  We are making a decision to create embryos which will hopefully be viable with life.  We are creating lives!  We are transferring those embryos to my uterus and praying like crazy to God that they implant, grow and be healthy.  My brain boggles at that in so many ways!!  If those cycles don't work, we have lost a life!  This is something we talk about so often now, its a more common subject than 'honey, we need to buy bread'.  We would like to have four children, but in order to give birth to four children, how many embryos do we create?  How many eggs do we harvest?  What if they all fertilise, and what if none of them do?  How could we possibly cope with more bad new at the moment?

We don't have the answer to any of those questions?  We have spoken to friends, family, doctors, and still we draw a blank.  We are not ready.  We need more time.  And so, in our jumbled world of overwhelming questions and choices we have made one very simple one.  It is time to stop.  Not permanently.  But for no indicated time frame at this point.  It is time to collect ourselves.  Clear our heads.  Reconnect as a couple and not just try-hard infertiles.  It is time to think about something other than 28 day cycles, temperature charting, needles, symptoms, timed sex, blah blah blah.  It is time to let go of the reigns we have been gripping so tightly for the last year and a half (or the majority of our marriage!).  

Trust me.  I say this answer was simple one, but it was very difficult one to choose.  The idea still makes me feel anxious, sick to my stomach.  Something deep inside me is telling me not to waste more time (probably my uterus), and something else is telling that voice to shut to hell up for a while.  I walk into work on a daily basis, where a number of the staff are now pregnant and glowing with their round bellies resting against their uniform blouses, and my anxiety kicks up a notch.  I want that to be me.  I want to be telling the world we're having a baby.  But I'm not, and won't be for some time to go.  So I deep breathe, rest my head on tables to lower my pulse and ease the red flush in my cheeks, and say prayer under my breath.  That is all the energy I have left for.  So I know, it is time to stop for a while.  I want to be with my husband.  I want us to smile together again.  I don't want life to be a timeline of scan dates and negative pregnancy tests.  I want to feel the warmth and wholeness that our love brings to life, build a fortress around it and prepare for the next unknown.

Until then, I pray that there IS a chance for our four little follies.  I pray that even if we don't know they can make it, someone else does.  I pray for calm.

  But I will sing of your strength,
  in the morning I will sing of your love;
for you are my fortress,
   my refuge in times of trouble. 
{Psalm 59:16} 

Friday, 2 March 2012

Living in the shadows

I saw this poster on Pinterest the other day and I thought, "Gee, how many times have I used that excuse in the past 18 months?"  I haven't personally written a post in about three or four weeks about what's been happening because I don't like to focus on the negative, or bombard people with my sadness.  I find it's really hard to talk to other infertiles about how I'm struggling, because I know that they have their own sad story, their own bad days, weeks, months...  So I have delayed writing about what's been happening, but I am now at a point where I need to debrief, and I know some of you are genuinely interested in where we are at, no matter the circumstances.

Our first IUI cycle was everything it was supposed to be; the injections were scary at first, but we got used to them, I got braver and stopped flinching every single time, Hubby took over on days we were home together, and at the end of seven days, we had three big, fat, glorious follicles.  Hubby's sample was off-the-charts great, and our doc was excited about our chances.  Everything seemed to be going to plan.  

We got to the end of the first week of the waiting period with no cramps, no spotting, big, sore boobs and a real sense of hope.  10 days past, still looking good.  We started feeling really confident.  We had three follicles, surely we'd have a great shot at this working first time around.  I woke super early on day 12 post ovulation to what we affectionately like to call a 'fanny blowout'.  You know, those days on your period where your flow is so darn heavy, and you feel like your whole body could split down the middle from the monster cramps.  Obviously 12 days is so close, and yet still so far away from the end of the wait.

We've lost good cycles before.  We've been so convinced something is working, only to be disappointed before, too.  But this time it felt 100% more personal, more devastating, harder to reconcile.  If we couldn't fertilize three eggs, how would we ever get pregnant?  I have learned over the past 18 months to wait until Hubby is out of the house before I have my big cry.  My big cry is usually loud, uncontrollable sobbing, with lots of face scrunching, bed punching and a LOT of swearing.  I don't wait til he's gone because I'm vain and I don't want him to see my snot face.  I wait til he's gone so that he doesn't see and hear how much this really tears me up inside.  I literally feel, at the end of a failed cycle, like a part of me rips down the middle.  The emotional pain is accompanied by the physical pain of cramping and bleeding, in an all-encompassing body blow.  

Hubby, on the other hand, expresses his sadness and disappointment with a verbal outburst of hilarious profanities. But this time it was different.  For only the third time in our relationship, I saw him cry.  Things had become so low in our home, that even my man of steel couldn't hold it in anymore.  There were no words to make it better, no hopeful little comments about the next cycle being better, absolutely nothing, that could make us feel better.  

Cycle two feels like it came and went so quickly, and without much fuss.  By the end of injection week I was feeling a bit better about the whole situation.  I was ready for the folli scan, and ready to get onto the next IUI transfer.  But the scan left us just as disappointed.  Instead of more big, fat follies, we had one tiny one.  We were sent home for more injections and the wait for it to grow.  Secondary scanning showed our folli at 2cm and ready to pop - thank goodness.  We went ahead with the IUI.  Hubby called this cycle 'the little egg that could'.  

Over the next seven days we spoke about not getting our hopes up, not getting ahead of ourselves, and hopefully preventing the giant let down if it didn't take.  That wasn't too hard to do as both our work schedules had us working opposite shifts.  I was away in the evening, he was away in the morning.  We saw each other for about an hour a day, late at night, and only spoke briefly about if I had any symptoms.  At about days six and seven post IUI, I got quite sick.  I was hugely lethargic, nauseated to the point of vomiting (which I can't usually do), and crazy dizzy.  On a whim on day eight I decided to pee on a pregnancy test, 'just in case'.  It was POSITIVE!  Of course, I freaked out!  I screaming into Hubby, who looked at me like I was a crazy person, then took the test from my hand.  With a slight smile he quickly told me not to get too excited.  I knew he was right.  But there it was, a beautiful, if not extremely faint, second line.  Four days later, I started bleeding.  My doc says it probably was a very late release from the hcg in the trigger shot, or a false positive.  He said not to read too much into it, and that it was probably too early to pick up natural hcg levels anyway. 

So here we are!!  This is us today.  I have restarted my shots, and we rescan in a week.  And cross our fingers again.  I feel better already having got that lot off my chest.  I woke today, 'fanny blowout' in process, unable to sleep, and in a FOUL mood.  I am trying to keep busy in order to prevent that overwhelming urge to punch something, scream, cry and spin into a panic attack.  This cycle failure brings with it two underlying milestones: we are now 18 months into our baby struggle, and as it is now March, our chances of having a baby before yet another Christmas, are becoming slimmer by the day.  (Even just writing it down brings my pulse up to a frantic 100 beats a minute, I can feel the sweat form across my forehead and I want to curl up into a ball.)

Realistically, we have decided that we have low expectations of this third, and final, IUI cycle.  Sadly, we now live in a reality where expecting to fail is easier to cope with, than expecting to be successful.  Sarcastically, Hubby's coined a new favourite catchphrase: "Aim for the ground, it's easier to hit!"  And you know what they say about things said sarcasm!  

How did we get here?  When did the skies become so grey?  When did hope become so difficult to maintain?  When did we stop saying "We can't wait" and start saying "Let's just get through this"?  When will we stop living in the shadow of what's already happened and start living for the possibility of what may come?