Pass the tissues

There has been one, modest blessing from all this trying for a baby (apart from all the sex. *glances anxiously at J*): taking pre-pregnancy pills, in all their zincy goodness, for more than a year and a half has meant 18 months free from colds. Hallelujah.

Until three weeks ago, that is, when J had a light sniffle – and two weeks and six days ago, when my face liquified and the contents of my head leaked out of my nostrils. Then, two weeks ago, J gave a gentle cough, and the following day I contracted a mild case of Ebola.

So yesterday, when J touched his forehead and exclaimed “why, darling. I do believe I am beginning to feel under the weather”, I ran. I ran for my life.

It was too late. It is 6pm and I am in bed.

This saga is frustrating for many reasons: firstly, being ill is crap and I thought I had found the glorious secret to avoiding it.

Secondly, I have to present a live podcast, in front of an audience, with people who are actually professionally good at it, this week. My hair is a mess and my roots are several inches long and I have nothing to wear and I don’t really know what I’m talking about and who does this podcasting bollocks as a career anyway? It’s not even a real word. It sounds like something a Teletubby would do.

But lastly, it is crap because this is not the time I am supposed to be ill. I have reserved that time: it is 5 June and the week thereafter, and then the run-up to my IVF, and then hopefully also for three months after my IVF, when I will merrily vomit my guts up before settling into a rosy, pregnant glow.

The period before that, though, is supposed to be our chill-out time, when we go on holiday a lot and drink too much and get so thin people gasp and go “to be honest, I think she’s lost a bit too much weight” and have lots of youthful, carefree sex. Being ill is not part of the plan.

Besides, I literally cannot take time off at the moment – I feel far too guilty about the five-day doctor-designated rest period after the laparoscopy (followed, ahem, by a three-day jaunt to Ireland for a friend’s wedding).

Urgh. Pass the tissues.

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100/100

O hey. Sorry about the radio silence. I have just returned from a week eating schnitzels and regaining all my Christmas weight in Austria.

Our week away was not, in any way, relaxing, for we were accompanied by my entire, extended family of in-laws, including a seven month-old in the throes of cutting her second and third teeth and two boys, aged four and 18 months, who – well, they are two boys, aged four and 18 months. The result was that our trip was soundtracked by a constant, low-level hum, punctuated by periods of intense shrieking.

On one day, as she attempted to quell the screams of her snot-covered toddler, a cousin, the mother of the two boys, confessed her and her husband’s enthusiasm for a third had begun to ebb.

“We decided both to write down on a piece of paper how much, out of 100, we wanted a third, and he had 60/100 and I had 70/100. The trouble is, now he [proffers toddler] is like this [indicates screaming], we’ve both gone down to about 10/100.”

That afternoon, as it all became too much, I dragged J out for a walk up a mountain. Having gazed at the view (some clouds, a motorway) for a few minutes, we headed down through a forest. I had to ask.

“We’re about to go through a difficult period. IVF is going to be horrible. After this week, out of 100, how much do you actually want kids?”

He paused.

“Right now, it’s pretty much at about 40/100. But on the other hand, I 100/100 don’t not want kids. And I think that is enough.”

One to keep in mind when we are the parents of shrieking, snot-covered toddlers.

Coping strategies

I have a strong memory of a trip to the supermarket with my mother and brother that took place when I was but a girl of 12.

At the time, my little brother was five. Because he was autistic, he found it hard to understand why he should be shoved into a shopping trolley once a week and carted up and down the aisles of a grocery store. He screamed the entire time. Screamed. When you’re 12 and a boy you like works at the supermarket in question, it’s not a cool look.

During this particular trip, though, my brother was quiet. We were a couple of aisles in when I figured out why: my mum was feeding him grapes out of a bag she had picked up – one of those ones they weighed at the checkout to determine how much you should pay.

“But mama,” I cried in anguish as another grape disappeared into my brother’s gob. “You are such a moral, upstanding woman. How could you so cruelly deceive the kind, gentle folk who put the food on our table?”

“Coping strategies, dear,” she replied. “We all need them.”

It’s day 23 of my cycle and, despite the blocked tubes and the laparoscopies and the IVF we are currently in the process of jumping through hoops for, the Little Voice of Hope piped up today.

“You’re not PMTing like you usually would be at this time of the month,” it whispered. “You had a dizzy spell earlier. You’re not spotting. You’re probably pregnant. Go on. Take a test…”

But like my mother before me, I am cunning. I have worked out a coping strategy, too. I let the voice whisper its sweet nothings to me. Then, when it is finished, I shout, at the top of my voice, “SHUT THE FUCK UP”. 

And then I get on with my day.

We have an answer

When I was 10 years old I had a tummy ache. I told my mum, a nurse, who in the grand tradition of medical parents told me to stop being such a drama queen and go to school.

Two months later, after a series of doctorly balls-ups, my appendix ruptured in spectacular style and I spent two weeks in hospital with full-blown peritonitis, vomiting through a Mos Def-style nose tube (though it should be noted I didn’t wail like a little girl when it was being put in. Well, not every time).

Fast forward two decades and it seems that ruptured appendix not only gave me a wicked cool scar (which got me off PE for like two years), but the two surgeries also caused scarring to my fallopian tubes such that they are now both blocked. This is what we discovered after my HSG last week.

Knowing this feels… kind of a relief, actually. I’m glad we know what it is. I’m glad it’s not some vague unexplained infertility, which in my head means endless rounds of unsuccessful IVF.

“Ah,” my mother-in-law nodded when I told her. “Dynorod.” Well, yes. I am going to have a laparoscopy. Which is not, as I thought, a minor procedure, but a full-blown lights, camera, general anaesthetic jobbie.

(I know this because while I was busy digesting the fact I may never have to use contraceptives again – there are some advantages to this infertility malarkey – J had Googled the entire procedure.

“Did you know they puff air into you to separate your skin from your organs?” he asked, glancing over casually).

The procedure, which requires you to take five days off work, is a kind of multi-tool procedure, which will a) make sure the blockages are not the product of the radiologist’s fevered imagination; b) attempt to clear them; c) if they can’t, seal off or remove my tubes to make sure no gross stagnant water (I’m paraphrasing) escapes from them into my uterus, which could be dangerous for any embryo that goes in there.

(I asked the doctor if that was the same as tying my tubes. She looked as though I had deeply offended her. Pretty sure it is though babes.)

After that? IVF, probably. Coupled with PGD, genetic screening of the embryos. I was so determined to do this naturally – but the longer we’ve been trying, the more upset I know I will be if we finally get pregnant, only to lose the baby because of J’s translocation.

Everyone has told me how marvellous all this is. “You can relax! You won’t have take your temperature every morning! You can have normal, non-baby-making sex!”

Yes. But if you don’t know when you’re ovulating, how do you know when to have sex?

Other people’s babies

I’ve been up since 6am, stress-eating cheese left over from last night’s dinner party, for today is my godson Max’s third birthday party.

This means not only must I endure a room full of three-year-olds (and quite possibly their younger siblings) – but I have to face his other godmother, who Max’s mum awkwardly informed me last week has just had her 12 week scan. Ooof.

My babied-up friends were quick with the quips about how infertility will feel like a blessing once I’ve spent an afternoon in a room full of screaming toddlers jacked up on sugar and boshing e-numbers like they’re, uh, smarties.

But going to events like this and not being part of The Mum Club is hard. Telling self-deprecating stories about little Ottilie’s latest adventures in bed-wetting is how parents bond at these things. It’s all they talk about.

If you tell them you don’t have kids, they laugh and shake their heads and start to reminisce about late nights and being able to be spontaneous. I don’t know how to respond to that, other than suggesting that, if it’s so galling, they just need to say the word and I will whisk little Ottilie home with me, never to be seen again… No, I thought not.

With impeccable timing, this morning my best friend, who lives in Bristol, texted me to ask whether she, her other half and her 18-month-old can stay in a couple of weeks’ time.

I said no.

Turning my oldest and dearest friend down makes me feel deeply, deeply selfish. I can tell she is annoyed at me. But the prospect of a baby (especially one as cute as Ava) sleeping in our spare room, the room in which our baby should be sleeping? That is too painful to bear.

This part of infertility – the social side, if you will – is one of the toughest parts of the whole, horrible fiasco. Babies are everywhere and the older I get, the more of my friends announce their little bundles of joy. I know I have to suck it up – but being faced on a daily basis with the one thing I can’t have makes the pain worse.

In other news, I have my HSG – injecting my uterus with dye and then x-raying it to see if my fallopian tubes are, er, tubular – tomorrow. I am trying my best not to think about it – particularly as, despite it being day 10 of my cycle, I am still spotting slightly. If it’s still going tomorrow, they might not be able to do the test.

So, yeah. Trying not to think about it…

 

That’s that

Well, I can officially say the Clomid didn’t work: cycle number three reached an undignified end when I burst into our bedroom yesterday morning, covered in snot and tears, brandishing a negative pregnancy test. J was less understanding than I would have hoped. He managed a croaky “I’m sorry” from under the bedclothes. To be fair it was 6am.

Wednesday was also the day we went to see the infertility specialist for the first time. It took us almost six months just to get the appointment, so I guess a part of me was hoping to come out with some kind of miracle – or at least another few rounds of Clomid. Or, you know. A newborn.

We didn’t get any of those. We also didn’t get much eye contact, or much of her looking at anything other than her screen. We told her our entire story – what felt like the 6,000th time we have gone through it with someone in the NHS – and then I started crying, and she had no idea what to do other than push a box of tissues across her desk.

(NHS tissues are tiny, by the way. Each one is designed to absorb a single tear. I used almost the whole box, then I felt bad for wasting NHS resources. Welcome to austerity Britain.)

She referred me for an HSG, a delightful little procedure whereby they inject dye into your uterus and fallopian tubes, then x-ray you to assess whether there are any blockages, and also yet another, internal, ultrasound. (I didn’t even know you could do an internal ultrasound until all this began. Imagine my surprise when they first whipped out the wand…)

When I woke up this morning I felt… bleak. Until now, there’s been a glimmer of hope that we can do this naturally, or as naturally as possible, without more involvement from doctors.

But yesterday the gynae all but told us outright IVF is likely to be the only way forward. That means more prodding, more poking – and months and months more waiting.

It’s the waiting that’s killing me. The earliest follow-up appointment, after the tests are done, is in July. For someone as impatient as I am, 18 months of trying has been a peculiar kind of torture. The suggestion it will be another seven months before we even begin to proceed with the bureaucracy surrounding IVF might just destroy me.