Friday, 28 January 2011

Caribbean chocolate...

A non-fertility related post today... We're off on holiday tonight!  A bit of sea, sun, sand and non-baby making-timed fun is just what the doctor ordered.  And the title of this post? Well, that's the colour of spray tan I got talked into having yesterday...  Given that I am, by nature, the pastiest, palest girl in the world, I was a bit concerned (especially given the orange hue of the guy in the salon recommending it). After a few scary hours last night when I wasn't allowed to shower and seemed to be turning more orange by the moment, I finally washed it off at 11pm and all seemed OK. I certainly have more colour this morning than usual, which looks a little odd given the close to zero temperatures. But I'm hoping I'll blend right in with the other western tourists with their usual combo of pasty white and burnt red patches in no time at all!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Year of the Rabbit.

2010 was the Year of the Tiger.. my favourite animal. But unfortunately, it didn't bring the happy event for which we had hoped. But I've been looking forward opimistically to 2011 and the Year of the Rabbit, thinking that we had a really good chance of taking home our own baby this year.

But that now seems extremely unlikely if we won't be starting IVF until April or May, though there's still a good chance of that elusive BFP!  So we're looking at 2012, the Year of the Dragon, to be the year that we finally start our family. So what does this mean? What can we expect for a 'dragon-baby'?!

'The Dragon is the symbol of power and wealth. It would be right to say that people born in the year of the dragon have a natural charisma and are certainly gifted with power and luck. It is unlikely for them to escape unnoticed from a party or to take a second place in a competition. The dragon person has an active mind and shows an unfeigned interest in the world around him/her. This person is also self-confident enough to know how to create a necessary impression. Because they are larger than life themselves, dragon people like to do everything on a grand scale.'

To me, this doesn't sound too bad (not that I really believe in all this completely).. with all that we have gone through and have yet to go through, I wouldn't mind our little one having a big dose of good luck!

'Shhh, my ovaries are resting' OR 'You want to do WHAT to my endometrium?!'

After the feelings of reticence earlier in the week (which I know come from worry - worry about the IVF process and procedures, but also worry that we could go through all this and may still not get that positive result), I decided to bite the bullet and go to the clinic.

It was very quiet today - the clinic clearly aren't starting any new cycles with the New Year holiday fast approaching so there was hardly anyone around.. the nurses were playing table tennis! I was glad they were getting a bit of downtime.. they work like crazy the rest of the time and I doubt they get paid that well for it.

The male doctor that I've seen once before was on duty, which put me on my back foot at once because he's hardly ever there and isn't familiar with my case. But, I had no choice (and he is a nice guy) so went in for a chat. After reviewing my file, he managed to surprise me when I thought I'd prepared myself for all possible suggestions (more IUI, IVF, ICSI...). He suggested an operation/procedure to scrape my endometrium because it's been consistently thin in all my IUIs! I've never even heard of that and, after a year of trawling the IUI/IVF forums, I thought I'd come across everything! I instantly went into defensive-mode... for me this involves one or all of the following steps:

Step 1: Assume that the Dr in question doesn't know what they're talking about/can't really speak English and hasn't explained properly/doesn't understand my file/isn't up to date on current protocols etc, etc
Step 2: Repeat myself, paraphrasing several times whilst trying not to cry and/or raise my voice.
Step 3: Get a 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) opinion from other clinics until EITHER someone says what I want to hear OR I accept the inevitable.

Whilst in step 2, I managed to find out that the alternative is medication (aspirin or Viagra!). To me this sounds like a much better option, but I don't know much about how the methods compare in terms of success rates. Of course, I've been Googling since I got home... wasn't even sure what to search for at first and still haven't found much info, but it seems that Doc did know what he was talking about (of course) and the treatment is applicable in my case (of course) and his English was pretty much spot on (of course).

The thought of more surgery/another procedure involving me in stirrups with things being stuck up my cervix, (on top of what I was expecting in IVF) horrifies me. But I know I need to do whatever will give us the best chance of success. So, I'll proceed to step 3 and probably get a 2nd opinion from the Dr who did my lap/hyst. And then I'll get a 3rd opinion and pursue TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). I was already considering this because studies have shown acupuncture having good results on increasing blood flow to the uterus prior to and during IVF, which I think is what I need.

But back to today.. the other surprise I got was that the Doc wants me to have 2-3 natural cycles to rest my ovaries after the Gonal-F stimulation. This means not starting treatment until April/May! Not what I was expecting! We've been planning everything (me giving up work, time-killing IUIs) around doing IVF in Spring because my clinic gets the best results in Spring and Autumn. But I guess April/May are still Spring, so my minor panic is probably unjustified, though I'd sort-of hoped that we might be able to fit in 2 cycles in Spring if necessary (I know.. 'glass half-empty' should be my middle name!). I had a moment of mild hysteria on the walk back from the clinic.. an image of my ovaries with their little feet up lounging on little, round sofas!

The positive side of this 'rest' is that I can go away with bloke in March when he is attending a conference which just happens to be being held in a tropical beach resort! I thought I'd have to miss it because of daily injections and blood tests, but I suppose 10 days by the pool is not bad compensation for another wait.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

IVF... here we come!

Well my period arrived on Saturday.. 16dpiui, which is exactly when it arrived after our other 2 IUIs, so it shouldn't have been a surprise really! And it wasn't, although I was hanging onto the hope that it wouldn't appear until the very last minute... which was another 'morning dream' early Saturday when the stomach cramps must have been influencing my subconscious and I dreamt that I'd started.

I was sad and had a little cry on my bloke and he said all the right things which helped. Then we went out with a 'new' friend and her husband on Saturday night and I had a couple of glasses of wine (and a couple of vodkas.. and a couple of free shots from the barman ;o). It was just what I needed, though I'm going to stay off the booze as much as possible in the next few months ready for the next step..

Which is IVF, or maybe ICSI depending on what the clinic think. It always looked likely that we would need this treatment and I've been mentally preparing myself for it throughout the lap/hyst and IUIs. And I think I'm ready.. I'd planned to go to the clinic this week and see what the next steps are. We go on holiday on Saturday night for 12 days over Chinese New Year and I thought it would be good to get any blood tests done beforehand.

But now I find myself hesitating.. Maybe I won't go to the clinic today. Maybe I won't go before we leave for our holiday. Maybe I need to take a break.. It's stupid. After so long TTC and feeling out of control, I always feel better when I'm 'doing something', when I'm taking back control. And I know that I'll kick myself if I wait until mid-Feb to go to the clinic and then find out that the blood tests take a month or some stupid amount of time to come back. So maybe I'll go today...

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Sweet FA.. (Folic Acid, that is)

I finished another bottle of folic acid today... each bottle contains about a month's supply, so that makes approximately 30 little bottles of hope that I've used up since this journey started. Luckily, in China, it's very cheap so, as long as I can cope with the giggles of the shopgirls when I replenish my supply in 6 month batches, it's a minor expense and inconvenience in comparison to everything else.

But it's another symbol of how long this is taking.. of how many months I've tracked my cycle and counted the days waiting for my period to arrive, only to be disappointed. Today I'm still in the same boat. Today I woke up with 'normal-sized' boobs after days of swollen, aching ones. Today I had spotting again after nothing at all yesterday. Today I have that sad, tired feeling that always preceeds my period (or at least, the sadness that has been there since starting this journey). Today I have a serious desire to make chocolate brownies or chocolate cupcakes, or perhaps a pasta dish with lots of cream and cheese followed by chocolate cupcakes...

Looks like I'll be waiting a little bit longer. Please let 2011 be my year!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Disappointment, confusion and hopefully acceptance.

I really don't know the real 'message' of this post. I'd intended to write today about the 2ww and how difficult I've been finding this one in particular. Then this morning I had weird half-dreams about taking pregnancy tests, cramping and stuff. I awoke to 'real' cramping and spotting and I'm only 11dpiui. Obviously I was gutted. I decided to POAS just to make the reality 'stick' and of course, it was BFN.

So this post should be about that BFN and how it feels to know our last IUI is over and preparing for the move to IVF. But, as usual, I can't let it drop. I've been Googling 'implantation spotting/cramping' in 100 different combinations all morning.  It's not the first time I've done this and, I know that, until my period starts for real, I won't be able to let that hope go.  Also, I'm having strange, very localised twinges over my right ovary region which are unusual for me, so that is fuelling the fire of my fevered imagination.

I 'know' this cycle is over somewhere inside me, but it's going to take a little while to sink in. I've only cried a little today.. once when I told bloke by SMS and he replied with a lovely message, but including the evil 'B' word... 'baby'. I can only deal with this process if I think of needles, eggs, sperm and hormones and try not to attach it to that magical goal for which we're aiming, as stupid as that sounds.

So, what is the post about? I hope the title says it all

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

I'm being stalked by pregnant women!

I realise that my last couple of posts have been a bit on the depressing/self-pitying side!  Not sure what happened, but this 2ww has been really knocking me sideways. Anyway, feeling much brighter today even though, as the title says, I'm finding it impossible to get away from other people's pregnancies!

I've been making an effort to meet more people who are in the 'same' situation as me - that is, expat women not working during the day, around my age (most women in this situation are much older). It's been going well.. a good turnout for a brunch I arranged yesterday. Except 3 of the 7 of us were pregnant!  I guess there're 2 sides to everything.. not having many friends locally makes it easier to cut myself off from the cycle of pregnancies and births back home, but that's pretty lonely. Making more friends here is great but, at my age, it's pretty likely that lots of other women I meet are likely to have or be starting families.

Anyway, I'm coping with it all better, for the timebeing at least! Really just wanted to post something less depressing! Still anxious about my remaining week wait but know I can't do anything about it, or the result, so trying to take the drama down a notch!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Stuff we're not supposed to talk about...

Infertility itself could be considered to fall into this category.. maybe not that we're not SUPPOSED to talk about it, maybe more that it's an awkward topic, something that people don't really want to think about unless they have to. I'm sure that anyone who's undergoing fertility treatment has endured the experience of telling a friend, colleague or family member about their situation, hoping for support, understanding and empathy... only to be faced with stricken looks, muttering of platitudes and awkward hand-wringing.. and that's a best-case scenario!

But that's not what this post is really about. It's about the feelings that I've been experiencing during this process. Feelings that I feel guilty about, that make me feel like an evil, selfish, uncaring person. These feelings revolve around pregnancies - other people's, not mine, obviously!  I started the process of TTC so optimistically, presuming that, once off the pill, I'd get pregnant fairly quickly - at least within a year or so. Which is exactly how it should happen and how it does for over 85% of couples (95% get pregnant within 2 years). Which is great, right? Of course it is.. if you're one of those couples. And if you're not?..

Well, I made plans that fitted around our TTC 'schedule'. We moved to China 9 months after our wedding and had 10 more months before our insurance would cover maternity - so we waited. I got a job and started work, presuming that my 1 year contract would be the last I'd sign for a while. My boss had just had a baby so he was overflowing with stories about the little one - it was so exciting! I pictured my bloke in those shoes and couldn't wait!

After 9 months we started TTC. I joined a yoga studio, but thought it wise not to go to Hot Yoga, just in case I got pregnant. I gave up alcohol (well, cut down a lot at least!). And we waited (a theme of today if you saw my earlier post!). I signed another work contract and then another. My boss's wife got pregnant for a second time and they had another baby. And I started dreading the emails from friends back home, the Facebook postings, the phone calls...

Because, and this is what people don't talk about, I don't want to know. I don't want to hear about other people's pregnancies. I don't want to see those pictures of tiny babies in babygros and little hats, sandwiched between grinning, over the moon parents and grandparents. I don't want to hear from friends passing on their news of a 2nd baby, all in the time that we've been TTC.

Of course, I don't let it show. Luckily, most of the news comes via the computer. So I can read, cry and then write a suitably congratulatory email. After a while, my bloke would come home, see my face and know I'd received more 'good' news. And with every sick to the stomach feeling of jealousy, I feel bad.. guilty.. ashamed that I can't be happy for my friends.. happy that they don't have to go through what we're going through. 'Misery loves company' as the saying goes and it's true. I feel relieved when I hear that other people are struggling, that it's taking a long time, that they might need treatment.

I hope that all this doesn't mean I'm a bad person, a sick person. I hope that I just need people to understand what I'm going through, to really understand and not just offer those platitudes that do little to help. I hope that it means that I just don't want to be alone in all this. Because alone is so often how I feel. Rationally, I wouldn't wish this experience on anyone. I want to know that my friends are happy, that they've got the families they dream of and plan for. And I do experience happiness for friends as they announce their happy events, particularly those who have undergone fertility treatment. But that sick feeling and nagging voice 'why can't that be me?' never quite go away. Or, at least, they haven't yet.


You start trying to get pregnant and wait, excited, hopeful... maybe it'll happen the 1st month! Oh well, it'll happen soon, you're sure...
Depending on your situation, maybe you wait a year, maybe 2...
You decide it's time to act and arrange to go for tests. Depending on which country and area you live in, your health authority, your insurance cover or lack of it, you wait for an appointment and wait for the results... surely there's nothing wrong with us? We just need to have more sex! Wait a bit longer!...
You decide to pursue fertility treatment and, again, you wait for that appointment...

And then the treatment starts.
You wait for your period to come (all the while, hoping that it won't - that this month will bring that magical, natural BFP that means YOU won't be one of those women, one of those couples who have to go through the stress, inconvenience, expense and emotional rollercoaster that is fertility treatment)...
You start treatment - maybe IUI or IVF.. waiting each day to give yourself injections, waiting for scans to see whether those follicles are the right size, whether your endometrium is thick enough, whether you have any cysts that will stop treatment.
You get to that 'final' step - maybe embryo transfer or insemination.. if in China, you wait in the clinic, for hours maybe, for that 10 minute procedure that could change your life.
And then the 'real' wait begins.. the 2 week wait until you can test or nature tells you 'not this time'...

And that's when your mind goes into overdrive, your imagination runs wild, asking yourself endless questions, examining every physical and emotional 'difference' to spot that sign that will point to a BFP..
'Don't your nipples look a little bigger?' 'Don't they feel a little more sensitive?' 'Aren't you feeling more tired than usual?' 'Aren't you more emotional?' Couldn't that be pregnancy hormones?'  'Maybe those cold symptoms aren't really a cold?.. even though it's zero degrees outside and everyone you know has a cold'. 'Is that discharge implantation bleeding?.. It isn't necessarily your period.. even though your period has always started like that in the past...'

And then your period comes or you test, just to be sure, and that BFN appears.

And you start all over again...

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A typical clinic visit.. well, typical for China!

So, CD8 and I need to pop to the clinic for an ultrasound scan... I leave it until the afternoon because all the IVF girls are there in the morning for bloods and injections so it's always busy. Hoping I can be in and out in 45 mins or so.

2pm: I go up to the clinic on the 17th floor, register then check in with the nurses. I wait to see the Dr... quite a short wait and I'm in within 30 minutes :)  And surprise, there's a follicle at 18mm already!  IUI scheduled for tomorrow.  Now the trek begins...

Get my HCG trigger shot, estrogen and progesterone prescriptions from the Dr, go down to the 2nd floor to queue and pay at the cashier.

Then have to go home to get our passports and marriage certificate because each cycle we have to 'write the file', which seems to involve a nurse sat at a special desk filling in the same forms as last time, taking more photocopies of our passports and having us sign. My bloke will have to sign tomorrow which they don't like, but they've got used to me saying that he can't get off work for the sake of 10 minutes watching someone complete a form on his behalf. Luckily I live nearby so I'm back by..

3.45pm: Back to the 2nd floor to pick up Estrogen prescription. Then back up to the 17th floor to write the file and have the HCG trigger shot... except there's a problem. I get sent back to the Dr who tells me the nurse has noticed some of my tests are over 1 year old and now out of date. I start to panic - are they going to cancel the cycle?  No problem.. I just need to have the tests now. Except it's coming to the end of the hospital's working day and I'm starting to panic again...

So back into the stirrups for a Pap smear.. The Dr gives me the long cotton bud and a slide which presumably has my cells on it. Now down to the 2nd floor again to pay, then up to the 6th floor to hand in the samples (yes, I am wandering round the hospital with a cotton bud and a glass slide looking confused and struggling to find the 3 different counters I need!). 

Now you need to know that the lifts don't stop at all floors.. so, whereas you can go from the 2nd to 17th floor, you can't get from the 6th to the 17th. I take the stairs from 2 to 6... then 6 to 11 before I admit defeat and wait for a lift to take me the last 6 floors.

I'm sweating and out of breath by the time I reach the 17th floor again. I strip off layers so I can have blood taken, which then takes a while to stop bleeding, maybe because my heart is still pumping full speed?! The nurse gives me the HSG shot in my bum and I'm done.. phew!

Home by 4.45pm... not too bad.

Will be back again at 9.30am tomorrow to start all over again.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The life of a TaiTai..

So, after working full time since leaving uni (apart from the odd break when we were moving from country to country), I'm now a Tai-Tai (pronounced tie-tie). In Cantonese, it literally means wife but, in the expat community it has developed somewhat of a more derogatory meaning...

..a non-working wife, a woman who spends her days shopping, having lunch and going to the spa..

Don't confuse this with a stay-at-home mum... a tai-tai might not have children or, if she does, they're at school and probably have a nanny to take care of them full-time.  So that's the stereotype - what's the truth?  There are certainly lots of women who accompany their husbands on overseas postings (trailing spouses) and who are not able to work in their chosen career because of language barriers or lack of the industry in that country. But I can't comment on or judge anyone else's experience but my own.

I left a job I loved to undergo fertility treatment 'full-time'. For the reasons given in earlier posts, it just wasn't possible to work in my profession (education) and do IUI/IVF at the same time. And, when it came to it, the prospect of a family came first and I know I've made the right decision. So, at the moment, I'm going to the clinic approx 5-10 days a month, spending between 30 minutes and 6 hours there each visit. Sure, IVF will be more intense with most injections needing to be done at the clinic and not at home. But, even though time-consuming, that leaves a lot of hours in the day to fill.

So I should feel lucky, right? Because I am. I don't need to work. We can afford to pay for private fertility treatment.  We have a maid to clean the house and do the laundry. I have most of my time free to do whatever I want. So why do I feel guilty?  Why do I constantly try and fill my time with 'productive' tasks?  Why do I feel embarrassed when my bloke asks about my day and I have nothing of interest to say? Why can't I just be content?  Maybe because I always imagined that I would only give up work when I was having a child. Maybe because I feel like I'm not contributing to society. Maybe because I feel like my brain is going soft. My mother calls it 'working class guilt'.. because I come from a family where women always worked because they needed to, not just because they wanted to and my Mum, who's nearly 60, still doesn't know what to do with herself when she has a rare day-off. And did I mention the guilt about not earning any money? About not wanting to do anything that costs anything because I need to ask my bloke for the money to do it? About the hormone-fuelled rows there've been when he questions where the money goes, like a father might? We're working through this because I know the rows are down to me feeling guilty, not him denying me things... he'd give me whatever I wanted.

Sure, there are lots of ways to make your time more productive - charity work, volunteering, language lessons, learn a new skill. But I can't do anything which works to a schedule, because who knows when I'll have to spend 5 hours in the clinic - I'm at the mercy of my cycle and lots of hormone injections on that one. So these things are not options for me right now. Back to reading, writing, surfing, watching TV and meeting my tai-tai friends...

I've just read this post back and I do realise how pathetic I sound! Complaining about being in a position which many women would kill for - how dare I be so self-pitying?  I could delete this post... but I won't. Because, right now, this is how I feel..

2010... it was the best of times, it was the worst of times - Part 3

In the end, the decision to leave work was easy. We were in the lucky (?!) position that my crappy salary made very little difference in the overall scheme of things. And the thought of waiting another 6 months or more to continue down the road to starting the family we so desperately want was too depressing.  I know for a lot of couples, this can be the standard or minimum wait to get an appointment at a clinic or get scheduled for surgery, so I appreciate that, living in China, we're very lucky to be able to get these services, almost on demand. Though we do have to pay for them or fight with the insurance company for them to pay for them.

So I handed in my notice (more or less telling the truth about why...OK, mostly less to the majority of people) and finished work in October. A few more appointments and a lot of emails between me and the insurance company later and I had my lap/hyst in November.  And the results.. all normal!  At last, some good news :)

I'll try to keep it brief from here (you may have noticed that I find that difficult!)...
1 more IUI in December.. BFN :( 
Last planned IUI underway now...

Fingers crossed for this cycle or it's onto IVF for us in Spring and, right now, that sounds OK to me.

2010... it was the best of times, it was the worst of times - Part 2

After the experience at clinic number 1, I started to freak out.  The stress of knowing we had a problem, coupled with a lack of close friends nearby led to feelings of loneliness and isolation I hadn't experienced since leaving home for abroad several years before.

Luckily, one of the best parts of the year was ahead and I managed to connect with a few other women in my position through the internet... also expats, also living in my city, also looking for friends to share experiences, highs and lows.  Through them I found out about a clinic just round the corner from my house with a good reputation and experience with foreigners :)  Following my new friend's detailed directions, I managed to register and get to see a Doctor. Here all the Drs speak English and, although the nurses and admin staff mostly didn't, they were all (and still are) patient with my looks of confusion and queue-jumping when I needed to ask a question. :)

So next step... IUI! Although no-one could decide whether my tubes were clear, we decided to go ahead with artificial insemination during my summer vacation from work, just to see whether I could cope with the process and the clinic. Although this clinic was 100% better than the 1st one, it was still a world away from being in the UK...
  • The waiting times - there are no appointments so you just turn up and wait. My record, a 5 hour wait for a 10 minute scan and consultation!
  • The lack of privacy - the doors to the consulting rooms are always open and it's common for people to wander in and ask questions in the middle of your consultation. The difference at this clinic is that the Dr will usually shoo them away. But, when in the midst of having a vaginal ultrasound behind a thin curtain, hearing a male voice on the other side still makes me close my knees (as if that would cover anything if he decided to poke his head around!)
  • The lack of information provided unless you ask all the right questions..
  • The staring from all the local patients... foreigners from the West are perceived as being so blessed that I think it surprises them to see that we have the same problems, hopes and desires as they do.
Anyway, the 1st IUI was unsuccessful, but went well enough to convince me that I would be happy having further treatment at this clinic.  But further consultations with specialists at different 'western' hospitals were all advising me to have lap/hyst keyhole surgery to check my tubes and dodgy-shaped uterus, so a big decision was on the horizon, as I was due to go back to work shortly and couldn't pursue treatment and work at the same time....

Part 3 on it's way :)

Monday, 3 January 2011

2010... it was the best of times, it was the worst of times - Part 1

Working out how to start this blog (and whether to start it at all) has taken me a while. But the coming of the New Year, 2011, seems like a good time to look back to 2010 and also to look forward to, hopefully, better things to come.

But still, where to start?... 2010 has been for me, not so much the Year of the Tiger, but the Year of the Horse because I have spent so much time in stirrups! Trying to fit all the events of this year into a post that anyone will have the patience to read is difficult, but I'll do my best....

At the beginning of 2010, my bloke and I had been TTC for well over a year but our insurance hadn't covered fertility testing until that point. So the year started with blood tests, swabs, scans and an HSG I'd rather forget at our foreigner-friendly international hospital. Plus sending my bloke to a local Chinese clinic to do his thing into a cup... something he was not that keen on doing.  My bloke's results were not that good, mine were unclear...  So my usual pessimism that had been telling me that something must be wrong seemed to have been accurate.. damn!

The next step was finding a fertility clinic - something that I know is stressful whatever country you're in. But the language barrier of my virtually non-existent Chinese added an extra dimension!  It didn't start well... a packed clinic with dozens of confused-looking (Chinese) couples standing around, women waiting for scans and no-one who could explain to me how to get to the Doctor I'd been referred to see. Eventually the security guard dragged me into her room, because it seemed I was being too British and assuming there was a queue!  As I sat with the Dr and divulged all our most intimate secrets, a patient came in and sat next to me... then another... then another came and stood behind me.. then a couple of male patients came in and interrupted me for the Dr to sign something. I realised that I was clearly quite used to China because it barely fazed me :)  But I knew I wasn't going back there again if I could help it....

Part 2 coming soon...