Tuesday, 28 June 2011

First maternity purchase!

I have bitten the bullet, shrugged off the superstition and made my first pregnant purchase (not counting my pregnancy book). I made an excursion to a couple of maternity wear shops at the weekend whilst having my energy spurt and was not inspired. The Chinese stores were as I feared... radiation smocks and huge, ugly dresses galore. They certainly made it easy not to spend too much/any money! I did find one western brand shop which had some really nice stuff, but I felt that it was a bit expensive... plus I'm just not quite ready to commit to proper maternity pants or skirts with the big elastic 'pouches'.

But a thorough internet search threw up one shop which was rumoured to stock Bella Bands! The excitement! My alternative was to order them from Hong Kong at a vastly inflated price. When I eventually found the store, I was very pleased to see they do stock them... 'them' being the key word - they had 2 in stock! Both were 1 size too big, but my friend persuaded me that one would come in handy at some point, even if it was a little big now. So I did it! I bought one! Haven't tried it on yet as the maid is here and, for some reason, the thought of trying on maternity clothes with someone else in the house makes me feel guilty... but she'll be gone in 20 minutes :)

Sunday, 26 June 2011

No more shots!

Yes, today was the day of my last progesterone shot! I do feel very glad to be done with them, particularly as I accidentally got the last 2 days' shots in the same hip, so am feeling rather sore!  I went to the ER to get it and am sincerely hoping that I never have to go back there :)

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments yesterday. However, it seems I spoke a little too soon about the lack of symptoms, as neglecting to have a nap in the afternoon meant I got really tired and headachy at about 5pm - the now usual consequence of trying to stay awake for a whole day like a normal person! I was asleep by 9.30pm after giving up the fight to stay awake and ignore my headache and slept for nearly 12 hours!  But that's fine with me :) It meant I missed a girl's evening out, but I don't have anything to wear that actually fits anyway!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Feeling good :)

Physically, that is! Not that I'm feeling bad mentally, but I thought I should specify! Today is one of those days when you realise how bad you must have been feeling before, because of how good you feel now that you are back to normal... does that make sense? So, in a large nutshell, I feel normal. As long as I discount the huge, bloated belly which is not subsiding and the enlarged boobs, then normal it is :)

Of course, there are always the niggles at the back of my mind that pop up when symptoms subside - is everything OK? Am I still pregnant? But those are taking a back seat today because it feels so good to feel normal! I haven't felt sick all day. My stomach actually rumbled loudly without the ever-present nausea for the first time since 6 weeks along. And, did I mention, I'm 10 weeks today! Double figures, at last! (even if my ticker at the top of this page stubbornly refuses to move to the figure 10...)

I also have a bit of energy - I've been for 2 walks today, as the weather has cooled down in anticipation of a huge storm that's on it's way. Admittedly, I could feel my thigh muscles pulsating when I got home after my walks - that's the most exercise I've done since I gave up boot camp before my IVF cycle. And these weren't hikes or anything. Just slow walks around the neighbourhood doing a few errands.

Today was also my last visit to my fertility clinic (for now, at least). My last progesterone shot is tomorrow but, as you might remember, I have to go to the local ER to get it on a Sunday. I spent a few minutes sitting at the clinic today waiting for my shot to stop bleeding and taking it all in. It's over a year since I started going there, which is not long by many couples' standards. It's strange how 'at home' I feel in a public institution where I don't speak the same language as the majority of the staff and patients and in which, when it comes down to it, I wish I had never had to set foot. But I did feel at home there. Now I'm just hoping the next time I need to go back is next Spring when I can visit with my baby to let the staff know that all their hard work and patience was worth it :)

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Hot flushes...

I have always loved the heat. We lived in Malaysia for 3 years and I loved every 35 degree day and 25 degree night of it. My Bloke and I's most common fight was over the air-con because I could always live without it, whereas he was melting away into a puddle in a corner. Coming to Shanghai and facing Winter again for the first time in several years, coupled with a lack of heating in most buildings, was not fun for me. Teaching class whilst wearing a coat, hat, scarf and gloves was not uncommon during Winter months. And many evenings have been spent watching TV at home under a duvet whilst wearing a woolly hat. Have you ever tried making a baby whilst taking off the minimum number of items of clothing? Hang on... maybe that's where we were going wrong...

The thought of moving to Seoul where the Winters are much harsher has been the least appealing thing about our new adventure, though I believe everywhere is much better heated which should soften the blow. In short, I have always said I was born in the wrong country and should have been born somewhere tropical.. until now, that is.

The Summer rains have hung around for a while this year and it's been a bit cooler than usual. Of course, I've been complaining about the storms and not being able to go out without getting wet feet. But no more! The rain has stopped, for today at least, and the sun is out. It's 35 degrees outside and I'm struggling. Our house is usually cool and we've rarely needed air-con. (Our central air vents also seem to have been inhabited by rats this Winter, so I am refusing to turn it on at all.) But now it's me melting. I can't get cool wherever I go. I'm sweating and getting little hot flushes every few minutes. I know this is a pregnancy symptom... my body temperature is higher and I guess I just can't adjust to the fickle weather as easily as in the past.

So, until this weather changes or we move to our new place in Seoul with clean air-con, I will be sitting around in indecently short shorts eating sorbet. Now there's an image for you!

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Counting the cost... Part 1

At the outset of this post, I'd like to say that this post is in no way meant to be a complaint. If anything, I have always appreciated that one of the major advantages of pursuing fertility treatment in China is the reasonable cost - at least, reasonable for us considering our decent expat income, though considerably less reasonable for most local people.

So, if you haven't guessed, I wanted to post about the costs of our fertility treatment to date. I was adding up the totals for myself and figured some people might like to see how the costs compare with their own situations/countries.  Our insurance covers infertility testing but not treatment, so the HSG, MRI and lap/hyst, plus some of my basic bloods were all paid for - I might have had to think twice about some of these procedures if they hadn't been! The cost of treatment at expat hospitals out here is ridiculous and I probably wouldn't have been willing to have surgery at a local hospital (yes, I know that sounds like a crazy, contradictory thing to say given that I've been through 3 IUIs and an IVF cycle at a local hospital!).. but surgery seemed like such a scary thing at the time - turns out the HSG was more painful!

We probably could have claimed back the cost of some of our blood tests and my Bloke's SAs done at the local clinic, but we haven't tried - trying to get translations of the receipts, plus expecting our overworked Doctors to fill out insurance paperwork just seemed like it would be a nightmare.

Anyway, here are the costs:

Initial tests at clinic plus non-medicated IUI #1
Chinese RMB 5,129
GBP 492
USD 793

Medicated IUI #2

Chinese RMB 3,783
GBP 363
USD 585

Medicated IUI #3
Chinese RMB 3,575
GBP 343
USD 553

IVF Long Protocol
Chinese RMB 30,437
GBP 2,920
USD 4,705

Chinese RMB 42,925
GBP 4,118
USD 6,636

What do you think? Compared to a natural conception... (30 quid for a bottle of wine and a takeaway?..), yes, it's a lot of money. But compared to other countries, I'm guessing it's pretty good. Obviously this doesn't take into account my loss of earnings since I had to leave work in September 2010 to pursue treatment! Best not to think about that, I reckon!

Part 2 to come in a post about the cost of pre-natal & maternity cover overseas...

Monday, 20 June 2011

Welcome to ICWL!

My story is pretty much explained in the timeline on the right, but I guess this might be a good time for a disclaimer. This blog started as a record of our journey through fertility treatment in China, where we've been living for nearly 4 years.

In the time since I started blogging, our story has moved on... from fertility treatment to pregnancy and soon, from China to South Korea. But, while the title of this blog might seem a little inaccurate, it's not. We're still infertile and still struggling with the hangover of the last 3 years of TTC, whilst trying to celebrate and enjoy this much-desired pregnancy.

Thank you for stopping by - if you leave a comment, I'll come and visit your blog and say Hi!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Starting to feel real :)

Yesterday's OB appointment was a strange, but very joyful experience. I realised that I had not been back to my 'regular' expat hospital since having my HSG and pelvic MRI there about 18 months ago. I opted to have my lap/hyst surgery at a different hospital because of the reputation of the surgeon there and I luckily haven't had any other health issues in the meantime (discounting infertility!).

As I was ushered into the nurse's room for the pre-appt questions and basic checks, I remembered all the times I'd sat there saying that my period was (very) late, but I wasn't pregnant. I remembered all the times the nurses would look enthusiastic and hopeful and say 'Well, you never know!' and then make me take another pregnancy test, just to tell me it was negative. I remembered crying as I told more than one Doctor how long we'd been trying to get pregnant and receiving a variety of answers, including the ever-helpful 'Relax and it'll happen'.

Yesterday was different. The nurse asked why I wanted to see the OB/GYN... 'Just a check-up?' and I got to say those words that still felt fraudulent 'Well, I'm pregnant!'. I got to soak in the congratulations, followed by a concerned frown when I said it was via IVF. Not sure why this was.. maybe they just don't get many IVF patients there. This theory is backed up by the nurse shouting out 'IVF, IVF' several times to the Doctor as she picked up my chart from outside the consultation room I was waiting in!

Anyway, the Doctor was nice. She is German and has the stereotypical brusque nature of this nation, but I appreciate someone who gets to the point and she was kind and listened to me which is all I ask. Before I had time to argue that I didn't want a dozen blood tests and an internal exam after having them so many times at the clinic, she pre-empted me and said she saw no need to repeat all those tests after I'd already been through so much... I was in love with her by now! (Especially as it's a private hospital and I worry about them tacking on extra tests just to make some extra cash.)  She just checked my belly, asked a few questions, explained about the pre-natal tests and got me into the ultrasound room.

I then had my first abdominal ultrasound! It was so ridiculously exciting, not to have to take my pants off... does that make me weird?!  The picture wasn't super clear, but there was definitely a more baby-shaped baby in there! The little one looked more like a baby with a heartbeat, as opposed to a heart attached to a blob!  He/she was also measuring spot-on, at 8 weeks + 5.  The highlight though was hearing the heartbeat. It brought a joyful tear to my eye which I'm sure would have progressed to full-on blubbing, except the technician moved on very quickly, so I was able to recover!

It really was amazing and the combination of that and all the above is finally making this sink in and I'm finally beginning to feel like a real (dare I say, normal?!) pregnant woman. Of course, I know there is still a long way to go and the topic of pre-natal testing is hanging around in the wings, waiting for my Bloke and I to discuss it this weekend. But all in all, yesterday was a good day!

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

OB appt tomorrow...

As the title says, my first non-fertility clinic appointment is tomorrow and I'm staying pretty calm. My symptoms are still coming and going - the morning nausea is a bit better, but I seem to be more tired this week. Napped on the sofa for 2 hours Monday afternoon and went to bed at 8pm last night after being out in the afternoon and missing out on a needed nap. Also felt sick all yesterday afternoon after a rather large cheese omelette for lunch (with extra bacon - please don't judge me!) - I think it was just too much cholesterol and grease for my stomach at the moment.

I still find the change in symptoms disconcerting but am hoping that my acupuncture is partly responsible for improving the nausea - after all, that's what I'm paying for!

My main concerns are now moving onto the issue of prenatal testing. Tomorrow (assuming all goes well) I will find out what kinds of testing my OB offers and we will need to make a decision about which tests, if any, we want. I've been doing some research about the different options, but still feel fairly in the dark about it all. This research inevitably leads on to speculation about what we would do in all possible outcome scenarios.

Part of me wants to know nothing at all.. to have no tests and go for the 'ignorance is bliss' approach. But realistically, that is not really me. Not having any tests would not make me stop worrying about this pregnancy. And I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be my Bloke's choice, though we haven't discussed it yet. I'm sure he would want to know if all is OK (or not). But I also worry about what he would want to do if things weren't OK and whether I would feel the same... but maybe I shouldn't post things like that when we haven't discussed it yet and I really have no idea.

Of course, the best outcome is to have the tests (some of them at least) and be told all is fine and we are low risk. But other outcomes are so possible and so scary. Of course, I am leaping ahead here. Maybe I should just focus on getting through tomorrow with good news and move on from there.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Twiddling my thumbs...

I hope this title crosses the language/cultural barriers of my readers! But basically, this weekend is the first since finding out that I'm pregnant that I haven't had some major milestone appointment to occupy, worry and eventually, reassure me. 2 beta tests and 2 ultrasounds down and I have a weekend free of the rollercoaster of anticipation and panic, followed by relief and happiness. Of course, this doesn't mean that I can't manufacture my own rollercoaster to replace it. After pretty consistent morning sickness for the last 2 weeks, I have been feeling much better since Friday. The joy of not feeling sick is quickly replaced with the worry of symptoms waxing and waning and what that means (probably nothing in my most logical moments).

As for other symptoms, I'm still experiencing dizziness quite often, though that horrible near-fainting episode has not been repeated, thank goodness. I also seem to be randomly developing small patches of spider veins (or spider navi to give them their technical term - sounds like something out of Avatar to me) on my face. Thursday brought a small patch under an eyebrow which was odd, but I thought nothing of it. Only yesterday when I spotted a patch under my chin did I connect the dots (not literally, though that would have been quite fun) and realise that these could be the spider veins mentioned in my new, fabulous pregnancy book.  My Mum claims that she never got them during any of her 4 pregnancies even though they can be genetic. From my reading, it makes sense that they are linked to the change in my blood flow due to the demands of the baby, which is also bringing the dizziness. My Bloke is calling the baby a 'greedy bugger' for taking so much of my blood! (I should mention here that the baby will always be a boy to my Bloke until he has physical evidence to the contrary!).

This post is in danger of drifting into nothingness... basically, my symptoms are coming and going a bit and I still find that stressful. I have my first OB appointment on Thursday and, after thinking that I had mastered this positive thinking and didn't need the reassurance of extra ultrasounds, I'm now planning to ask for one if it's not offered. At 8 weeks and 4 days, there should be interesting stuff to see :)

I still feel in a weird kind of limbo - partly because I still haven't really accepted that there is a new life growing inside me. Also, because our move to Korea is on hold until the end of the 1st trimester, I feel like I'm treading water till we get to that point. Consequently I seem to be spending a lot of time on the sofa, watching bad TV. This is fine most of the time, but kind of embarrassing when our twice-weekly cleaner comes round and I let her clean around me! Though I think she's spotted the pregnancy book with the big naked belly on the front, so I hope she's cutting me some slack!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Going old school...

This morning I almost fainted on my way to the clinic for my daily progesterone shot. I have never fainted in my life and always wondered what it felt like, but now I'd be pretty happy not to find out! I was stuck at the back of a packed elevator on my way up to the 17th floor and feeling a bit nauseous, but that's par for the course these days. Then I started getting weird prickly feelings all over my body, followed by worsening nausea. I was pondering whether I'd need to get out of the elevator early to throw up or if I could make it a few more floors when my vision went a bit odd and I had to keep opening and closing my eyes. The fear of throwing up on the crowds around me and/or dropping to the floor made me push my way out on the 13th floor. Luckily there were chairs by the elevator and I put my head between my knees whilst a cold sweat passed over me.

After a few minutes I felt better and made my way up for my shot. I contemplated finding a Doctor to tell them about it, but remembered reading that dizziness/fainting are a relatively common pregnancy symptom, so decided against it. Just after I got home, my new pregnancy book arrived by courier and that said you should tell your Doc if you feel faint or dizzy! Oops!

I figure that if it happens again I'll tell someone. What do you think? I mean after all, swooning seemed to be a diagnostic tool to tell if women were pregnant in costume dramas so it must be pretty common... or was it wearing a corset whilst pregnant that caused that? To be honest, my trousers were a bit snug so maybe that contributed...

Hooray for a heartbeat!

As you can guess from the title, it was good news at today's 7wk 3day scan! After a tortuous hour-long wait at the clinic, I was into those stirrups in a flash once my name was called and my Bloke assumed his position at my side. As soon as the Doctor got the dildocam in, there was a clear difference from the last scan at 6 weeks. The gestational sac was bigger and you could clearly see something inside it, whereas last time I couldn't see anything at all. The Doc pointed out the heartbeat and it was easy to see and flickering away nicely.. oh, the relief! It seems that they don't do any measurements at this stage at my clinic (yet again.. surprise, surprise - things are done differently here in China!) so there was no measuring of baby or heartbeat rate or any of that. She didn't point out the yolk sac and fetal pole that others have talked about, but said everything looked good.

She then 'discharged' me after giving me my instructions on how to reduce my progesterone shots and other meds over the next 2 weeks. Of course, for the time-being, I'll still be going back there every day to get my shots, so I won't be free of the place for a while yet. But I know this is a milestone and an exciting one!  Knowing myself,  I will probably worry a little when I finally stop those progesterone shots at about 9 and a half weeks, but generally I am feeling much more relaxed than I have been recently.  It's time that I accept that this is happening. I am pregnant. And although it's still early days, I need to start being positive in my actions as well as my thoughts. For me, this means finally buying that pregnancy book and looking in the local maternity stores for belly bands. I know I'll still feel a bit of a fraud in a maternity-wear store, but maybe getting in there and making some purchases will help change that :)

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Another week down...

Tomorrow morning will be our 2nd scan, at just over 7 weeks and it's a big one. This is the one where we need to see the heartbeat to know that everything is OK - I've read the odd story that says some people only see a heartbeat at 8 weeks but I think that's rare and I can't imagine another week of limbo if things don't go well tomorrow.  Generally I've handled this week better than last and am feeling calmer than before our first scan. That's not to say that there haven't been bad days.. I cried over mani/pedis with my best friend here in Shanghai as I told her about the 6 week scan and how hard I am finding the uncertainty of pregnancy after IF. God knows what the salon girls thought but their English wasn't every good, so hopefully they didn't know what we were talking about!

I also managed to spoil a good part of yesterday, one of the two precious days a week that my Bloke and I get together, by crying and getting angry with him.. I'm not even sure why now, but I know I had a good reason at the time! I think it was generally about him not seeming as interested in this pregnancy as I would like. Which I know is ridiculous because, when I'm having trouble accepting that it's real and these changes are happening to my body, how can I expect him to have really absorbed it yet?! I've also always known that it will only really be when he sees and holds our baby that he 'gets it', but I still can't help making the odd dig and jibe at him. Anyway, I'm sure there'll be time for another post on how I take out all my hormones on my Bloke on a regular basis so, for now, I'll leave that topic there!

Physically this week has been an interesting one. There have been definite bouts of morning sickness, though mostly not in the mornings. Mine are definitely linked to hunger. I am still ridiculously hungry, virtually all the time and find that, if I don't eat the moment I feel hungry, I feel really nauseous until I do eat. Lunchtimes have been the worst, though it has happened in the morning and evenings as well. I am also being very picky about what I eat.. I have been mostly eating chicken and potatoes/rice this week in a variety of combinations! I have also ordered takeaway a couple of times because I'm sick of trying to work out what to eat and cook it myself. Oh, that reminds me... one of the things that sparked off my fit at my Bloke... him saying that he didn't mind not going out to dinner if I didn't feel like it because he has to eat out all week in Seoul. Great, I said.. he could cook us something :) The response of 'I'm not spending my time cooking!' didn't go down very well and initiated many complaints about how he should want to take care of me at the weekends because he's away all week and I have to do everything myself whilst feeling sick. Ah, what memories!

Besides the nausea, I've also been having a few little twinges at the sides of my belly in the last couple of days. I'm hoping that this is my uterus stretching and making room for the little one. I'm also hoping that all these things combined might indicate a little growth spurt and give us something 'real' to see tomorrow at the scan. Fingers crossed!