I worried, after yesterday's post, that my omission to wax lyrical on the joys of being newly pregnant might leave you with the impression that I am not appropriately or proportionately ecstatic. This couldn't be further from the truth - I am elated but I am also terrified. I am scared to take our good fortune for granted - we have been incredibly lucky so far and I sense that caution is required to preserve the last of our felicitous allocation; we could still fall folly to 'chemical pregnancy', (which is where you get a positive for a week or two before the embryo dissolves); some sort of quasi ectopic experience, (I had an ectopic pregnancy that lasted approximately 6 weeks about 10 years ago); or, indeed, an ordinary miscarriage, (which we have seen cause terrible suffering to some of our friends). Since we didn't have IVF in the country there is no way for us to confirm that the hcg in my bloodstream is doubling every day as it should - because we are not entitled to standard post-IVF after-care. I don't think my odds of miscarrying are any greater than the statistical average but I do think that I have ridden the bejesus out of my luck to get this far. I also feel guilty... not hugely, horribly or pervasively guilty - just guilty enough to temper any premature rhapsodising - we kicked the ass out of someone else's chances with our positive result and I feel I owe it to them to pay a modicum of heed and homage to the bigger picture. All of that being said, I do not think I will be able to hold onto these concerns for the full first trimester, I can only imagine that with each passing day 'not-taking-it-for-granted' will become an increasingly impossible task but, bear with me for a little longer, while I give in to the futile pursuit of trying to influence the universe with the flimsy, misguided power of my mind. If it illustrates my mental state any, a close friend and my sister both mentioned that, if everything went well, this would be an October baby. I realised when they said this that I had managed to compartmentalise so effectively that I hadn't yet allowed myself to work that out. I doubt you could pull off a stunt of this calibre if you weren't mathematically challenged to the nth degree but I was pretty impressed nonetheless - check me and my self-imposed-ignorance, just imagine all the things I could fail to achieve if I really set my mind to it! As well as a visit to the gynaecologist we also saw the GP yesterday, (that's what we call a day-to-day doctor in the UK); I was nervous going in that we would be subject to more disapproval but he was harmless enough; completely uninformed about IVF and had never heard of OHSS but referred us for the traditional 12 week booking/scan at the appropriate clinic - and then said that we would probably be seen a little bit earlier because I'd previously suffered an ectopic. So no specific dates to look forward to but at least we weren't denounced for daring to jump the IVF queue, (queuing is a British institution and jumping the queue is punishable by death... stares.).
It never occurred to me that there would be any interest in the blog beyond the inevitable cliffhanger inherent to our IVF attempt - but a handful of people have expressed a desire for the blog to go on. I imagine that, in the main, these requests are a manifestation of polite kindness - but, if even one person really would like to be involved for a little bit longer, it would be my very great honour to nurture that attachment - the embryo(s) and this wannabe-Mummy know a precious gift when we see one. Besides, I'm certain it will surprise no one to discover that I haven't suddenly run out of things to say! I am not going to dwell, any longer, on our gratitude for the kindness and support we have received because I don't want to bore you with repetition - suffice it to say that, together you have cast my world in the most beautiful array of my favourite colours and banished some ghosts that had threatened to linger for a lifetime. You may have been mostly silent but, collectively, you have imparted great and powerful wisdom and, as an impoverished scholar regarding the meaning of life, I am forever indebted. Anyway, enough of that - let's get back to my vagina and it's most recent public appearance. We came back from Croatia to find a letter offering us a gynaecological appointment for today regarding an unrelated minor complaint that has long since resolved - but it occurred to me that, rather than cancel, we could use the opportunity to have my ovaries given a quick once over and get some feedback re. the old OHSS. I told Archie that when they found out that we had been to Europe for IVF they would be snotty with us but he was sceptical and I could see him silently filing this under the category of 'progesterone-induced-paranoia'. I should have been grateful to the good lady doctor for making her disapproval so eminently undeniable - it is a rare occasion that I get to prove Archie wrong - but I'd be lying if I said that gratitude was my overwhelming emotion. You would have been proud of me though - I bared my best gritted teeth smile and played dumb as she dangled her tantalising bait. Having explained the circumstances and assumed the pre-scan spread legged position she delivered her exasperated lecture on people going abroad for IVF, (sigh). I applaud her tactical restraint, she could've launched in earlier but she held back until I was at my most vulnerable which enabled her to be both literally and metaphorically below the belt. Pretty impressive you have to admit. The problem with people going abroad for IVF, (sigh), is that they're not under anyone's supervision if there are any complications when they get back, (sigh). I resisted the temptation to suggest that, if her feelings on the matter were so strong that she couldn't help but pass unsolicited judgement, she could always open up an ethically priced clinic, or indeed, commit her life and her income to the reversal of the ageing process so that the 2 year waiting list didn't pose such a problem - and I will similarly resist the temptation to 'inadvertently' email her a link to this blog. Anyway, she was unwittingly disarmed by the state of my ovaries, which were sufficient to merit the beckoning in of a student, thereby enabling her to don the eminently gratifying role of benevolent, all-knowing, superior, (with the emphasis on 'all-knowing' and 'superior'). Before we started the IVF process my ovaries were about 3.3cm wide - they are now 7.7cm wide and filled with cysts - 7.7cm doesn't sound that big but I suppose if my liver or my arm ballooned to more than twice it's normal size I might be a bit concerned. They are a centimetre bigger than they were when we left Croatia and she seemed to think that I must be lying about my level of discomfort - which I wasn't - the pain is not constant, sometimes it's so bad that I can hardly move or breath and other times it is much more manageable, (besides which, I have read about some people's ovaries swelling to 14cm so it can't be THAT bad). She also noted an increased build up of fluid in my abdominal cavity. The upshot is that I am to ignore my internal barometer and desist from all activity forthwith - just because I don't think it feels 'that bad' doesn't mean that I can get up and take the dog out. I am to stay horizontal, keep guzzling excessive amounts of water and take myself to hospital if the pain gets severe for any prolonged length of time, (I am just grateful Archie wasn't given that advice a few days ago). We are to go back in two weeks when we will 'have to be seen by a different doctor due to the timing of her rotation' - obviously we are distraught to miss the opportunity for more moral guidance but we will, somehow, find the strength to endure.
Hi, It’s Archie, I wanted to provide you with the success rates / statistics for our clinic, (I left them out of my earlier post for fear of jinxing the outcome).
Croatia, Zagreb, BetaPlus clinic:
The success rates were worked out by age and number of eggs retrieved
1 or 2 eggs,
women > 37 years old have a 10% chance of success,
women < 37 years old have a 15% chance of success,
3 – 6 eggs,
women > 37 years old have a 20% chance of success,
women < 37 years old have a 35% chance of success,
7 – 10 eggs,
women > 37 years old have a 20 – 35% chance of success,
women < 37 years old have a 35 – 50% chance of success,
> 10 eggs,
the success rates improve, women up to the age of 42 have a 40% chance of success.
3.48am - I have been awake for the past two and a half hours. My OHSS is pretty sore, which I am desperate to interpret as a good sign - but it might just be the phantom product of wishful thinking and a worried mind. 4.33am - I really need to pee - I can't pee in a container and save it for later because the hcg in urine breaks down over time - but I am loathe to wake Archie so early. Lying here with my legs crossed. ...I lasted 'til half five at which point we adjourned to the bathroom and I peed in a cup; I then passed it to Archie so that he could do the dunking. After squabbling over the length of 5 seconds, (one of life's shorter disagreements), I sat on the toilet with my head in my hands and waited for him to say something. A minute passed and still there was silence. 'It's negative isn't it? It's OK. You can tell me.' Nothing. 'Is it negative?' Pause. And then, in his best, newly acquired IVF vocabulary... 'I think we may have a squinter.' 'You mean there's a line? You can see a line? Let me see. Let me see. Oh my God, it's a line!! It's a line! Baby, it's a line!' And, with that, I burst into heart wrenching sobs - letting go of some of the most painful grief I've ever had to hold inside. While I cried the line got a little darker and two more tests came up positive. We are now lying in bed, holding hands - stupid with happiness, stunned with gratitude and, truth be told, a little scared that someone might step in and say it's all a big fat mistake. It appears that at least one of the maybe-babies is still with us. Our little miracle in which all of you played a part. I have to stop now because I am lost for words - which, coming from me, speaks untold volumes. We will never be able to thank you enough to reflect the depth of our gratitude - but it gives me the most pleasure that I have ever had, to sign off this blog with love from Archie, Temora and the little hcg secreter that you helped us to nurture xxx
Traditionally people don't actively publicise their pregnancies before the end of the first trimester because of the risk of miscarriage – sadly 1 in 5 normal conceptions don't make it to 24 weeks. The research indicates that IVF/ICSI pregnancies are no more likely than ordinary ones to miscarry, (which is a massive relief), but, given the nature of the blog and the possibility of recurring OHSS, I feel it would be remiss of me not to mention the facts... (if we are fortunate enough to get a positive result, tomorrow will not be the right time). It's hard to believe that our journey together is coming to an end; please know that, whatever the outcome, your solidarity has been an invaluable blessing. And, child, if you are reading this, then you now know that you are the product of a whole wide world's worth of love.
By last night the OHSS was back to the degree that my abdomen was sore and a bit bloated - but my tummy wasn't rigid and it would take a serious feat of self delusion to claim that it was 'worse than it had been before'. Today it is tormenting me with twinges but, once again, there's no persistent pain and/or rigid distension which is really what we're looking for. I am paralysed by the enormity of tomorrow. I knew this would be tough but I didn't appreciate just how tough; which is, apparently, what makes the 2nd try so much harder than the first - people no longer have naivety on their side. Odds of one in three may not sound terribly good but, when you embark on your IVF journey, you hear about every successful-first-time-attempt known to your circle and you start to think/hope that the figures can't be quite right. Of course, deep down, you know that this is an illusion created by the vast numbers of people having embryos transferred every day, but it's hard to keep this in perspective. First timers are also probably buffered by the fact that their initial try has often been preceded by years of failure; so their odds may not be great but, for a while, they feel comparatively astronomical. Whatever the reasons, I am loathe to admit that, despite the statistics, despite the diminishing OHSS and despite my determined efforts to practise the art of realism - I am still hopeful of a positive. I know that the signs are increasingly pessimistic and yet, if I am 100% honest, I just can't quite wrap my head around the idea that it's not going to work. I have even tried telling people that I think it will be a negative, in the hopes that by writing it down or saying it out loud, I will manage to persuade myself - but, push has come to shove and hope has beaten the odds to emerge the merciless victor - which, I guess, accounts for the paralysis... I have just made the untimely discovery that, somewhere along the way, I seem to have acquired an uncharacteristic, (and infuriatingly stubborn), streak of un-quashable optimism, (Archie, my darling, you have a lot to answer for). In an ideal world I would have managed to genuinely convince myself of a negative result by this time today so that I could approach tomorrow's test sporting a modicum of armour. As it is, I have no choice but to go into battle with my heart on my sleeve. My poor wee heart, I'm so sorry - I tried my best to protect you.
We have reached the penultimate day, which may or may not provoke a profusion of nervous posts but, in the event that I do end up subjecting you to excessive amounts of anxiety fueled drivel, I hereby apologise in advance. You don't deserve it because you have been AMAZING!! When I started the blog I thought we might get a small flurry of interest, followed by a handful of family and super-close friends checking in and out once every couple of days... but we have been blown away by the core of loyal support: 21 wonderful people signed up to receive each post by email and a further 40-60 people check in with the blog every day. On big occasions, like the egg retrieval and the embryo transfer, the visitor numbers have risen upwards of 160 and there have been random days where the daily tally soars for no apparent reason. I can see what countries people are visiting from and I have a fairly good idea who some of them are - I would like to send a little shout out to Australia, South Africa, Canada, the US and the UAE, you don't know how much it has meant to me to see your little flags reappearing day after day - I will never forget that you quietly held my hand the whole way through. We have also had some regular visitors from countries like Romania, Belgium, Thailand, Singapore, Botswana etc., (where we're fairly sure we don't know anyone); this, unexpected, kindness of strangers has been profoundly touching. Britain has, of course, topped the daily charts and we have been relentlessly humbled by the home-crowd - people say that it's 'at times like these you find out who your real friends are' and I had always thought of it as an ominous expression but - as it turns out, we have MORE real friends than we thought - which is such an indescribably heart-warming blessing that I'm at a loss to even try. I have never blogged before and I know that these are not excessive numbers but they are far, far higher than anything I ever imagined and they have been a lifeline. Each one of you has helped me to try and find a little humour and perspective in an experience which is not actually all that funny, (you don't say!), and probably quite easy to blow out of all conceivable proportion, (trust me, I am capable!). Between you, you have encouraged me to put one foot in front of the other with relative grace and I can't thank you enough - my worst fear, besides the obvious, was turning into a terrified, wild-eyed, monster which I am certain I would've done without your support - so you have saved me from myself and you have buffered Archie from a tornado of unchecked hormones. Together you have been 'Team Maybe Baby' and you have been the very, very best team in the whole wide world. I will never be able to think about you without filling up with tears - I will never forget your compassion and I will never stop being grateful. Thank you for the bottom of my heart and beyond.