Saturday, December 8, 2012

Some Ramblings

I really don't have time to do this right now - there are about a million things that need my attention - but I fear that if I don't write something soon, I may never do so again. Plus, I'm a terrible procrastinator - all sorts of things suddenly look attractive when there's actual work to be done!

We have made no decision yet on whether/when to go forward with a FET with our DE frosties - I change my mind at least daily. Sadly, since my husband is still only on three days a week at work and there is no certainty that he will even have a job this time next year, money is a huge issue. We took on the house project in the same week we discovered that I was pregnant with our wee boy - we had no idea they would both come to fruition. As a result, we ended up with a huge mortgage and an expensive little bundle - childcare costs the same as our mortgage. If it were my job that was uncertain and part-time, I might consider quitting and taking the wee one out of childcare. But it's not - my job is secure and we need it. I hate the thought that money might be what makes the decision on whether we have another child but I have to be sensible about it. When layed alongside the health and age issue, it does make me wonder whether we should go ahead. Then I think of writing to ask for the embryos to be allowed to perish and I can't face that thought.

I am not enjoying being a mum that works full-time. While I would not make a great stay-at-home mum, I really liked having my Wednesdays with the boy. I think I do my job better, working full-time, but it doesn't make me a better mother and certainly not a better housewife. Our house looks like it's been overrun by dustbunnies and there are rooms that aren't entirely safe to enter, lest a teetering pile overbalance and bury you!

All that said, I feel incredibly lucky. I have an amazing son who said "Love you, mummy!" for the first time last night - words I thought I might never hear. I have a husband that I don't spend nearly enough time with but I do love him (and sometimes even like him, despite the ongoing sleep deprivation and life-stress). My parents live downstairs and, while not in their first flush and with one or two health issues, they are wearing pretty well. And, joy of joys, my sister and her family are moving to our city, to a house round the corner, four along from ours!

My sister and her husband had what I describe as a joint mid-life crisis back at the start of 2012. They have been living in London for about 15 years, maybe more, and have been planning to leave for at least half of that time. In January, they decided they were going to do something about it. In April, they packed up all their belongings, put most of them in storage, bought a trailer to hitch to the car for the rest, made sure the dog had had her rabies shots and set off for France. They had one week booked in self-catering accommodation in the north of the country and then they drove south till they found somewhere they liked and stopped. Their kids - a girl of 10 and a boy of 12 - were put into school speaking no French and have coped remarkably well. There was talk of moving on to Canada, Australia or other far away places. We used all our airmiles visiting them in October, thinking we'd better make the most of it while they were still within reach. Then, the day before we were due to set off to see them, my mother sent me a message asking if I knew that my sister had a job interview in our home city that week. I didn't! She got it and they are moving here in just over a week! 

I love my wee sister and I also adore my niece and nephew - they were born before all our miscarriages and, for a long time, I thought they were probably going to be the nearest thing I got to having my own children. My son thinks they are brilliant and they seem to think the same of him. The thought that he might grow up with them near by makes me feel a little easier with the possibility that he might be an only child.

I am counting my blessings here because it is a very difficult time for a lot of my friends right now - particularly my work friends. They are facing illness, the loss of parents, the loss of partners and partners losing jobs. This last week brought so much bad news in our workplace. It's not the easiest time of year for primary teachers. We don't so much wind down towards the holidays as get wound up, with parties, plays, activities and the general Christmas atmosphere that means that our pupils are overtired and overexcited (never a good combination!). It's extra hard, in the midst of all that, for these friends to be dealing with serious family issues and hard for others to make time to offer them help or a listening ear. But that's what we need to do - just be there for them and try to make things just a little better in any way we can.

Monday, July 16, 2012

DE Subtleties

The ALI community is an incredibly varied one.

I'm happy to say that, in real life at least, my experience of it has been of women banding together and supporting each other regardless of where they are in their journey. Before I came to the stage of looking at donor eggs, I was unaware of the maze I was entering. Sure, I knew that DE was different from DS, and harder to come by. But once we had decided that it was something we could/should do, what a lot of decisions there were! Should we accept the offers of eggs from several friends/family who were, medically speaking, bad bets? Should we approach other friends and family who were younger or had better pregnancy records to ask for their eggs? Should we join a waiting list at our local clinic for an altruistic donor (even though the consultant was very discouraging)? Should we go further afield in the UK for egg-share? Should we go abroad, where the donation would be anonymous but the wait shorter?

In the end, we went to a clinic in our part of the UK - not local, but somewhere we wouldn't have to factor in accommodation for appointments - which was the only one in Scotland doing egg-share and the only one we came across that seemed to have a waiting list you could join for DE (and combined altruistic donation and egg-share - you were offered whatever option came up when you were top of the list). Our donor turned out to be an egg-sharer.

There are some who feel that this form of DE is exploitative of women who might feel this was their only way to do IVF - that did give me pause. On the other hand, our donor had already had a child (a prerequisite for a donor at our clinic) and she'd had him by IVF (male factor, so I'm assuming ICSI), so they'd managed to afford it before and also knew the territory. Plus, there was a part of me that felt pleased that we might help someone fulfil their dream at the same time as trying to achieve ours - she had said pretty much the same thing on her form, apparently.

So I was very pleased to read this blog entry from a co-founder of the UK's Donor Conception Network which seems to echo my feelings on egg-sharing. I'm also wondering - is egg-sharing a peculiarly British thing, or are there other countries that do it to? Anyone out there know?

Monday, July 2, 2012

One Big Good Thing

I haven't done very well at keeping up with my "5 good things" posts - life is busy and that's good in itself.

I have a friend who I met through my main online infertility support group. We met IRL about 7 years ago just as we were both starting IVF treatment at the same NHS centre. She and her DH had already been trying for around 5 years, at that point, to my 2 years. They are the only IF couple that my DH and I have met up with regularly together - the 2 DHs are in the same line of work and get on well. She has tried just about everything alongside her IVF treatments - all sorts of special diets, complimentary therapies, immune treatments, genetic testing of embryos. She had one precious, short-lived biochemical pregnancy about 5 years ago and hadn't done any treatment for a couple of years. She is the same age as me - 43 - and she and her DH have spent every penny they have (and some they haven't) on treatment. They have been stalwart friends to us through our own journey - and even met up with us while I was heavily pregnant, when our son was a newborn and earlier this year when he had just started walking. Every one of those visits must have cost them, emotionally. If babies could be awarded for sheer hard work and dedication, they'd have had one a long time ago.

I got a text from my friend two weeks ago to say that they were abroad and in the middle of a donor egg cycle. I was so pleased - we'd spoken about DE before but they were uncertain. I got a message last week to say that she'd had her first ever positive pee-stick and then another message to tell me she had a really strong beta, then yet another to say the following beta had shown lovely 48 hour doubling.

She is in brand new territory - after 12 years of trying! - and taking things one day at a time, naturally. But I am ecstatically, deliriously, overwhelmingly happy for her and her DH and hoping and praying that this is FINALLY their turn.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

It's All Coming Back To Me Now

I am seriously investigating whether we should do a FET with our remaining embryos. I have also discovered that two of my friends are going through infertility and pregnancy loss and my heart breaks for them. Infertility and loss are back in my life in a big way.

We have three Grade 1 embryos left from our donor egg cycle. If they didn't exist, then my wee boy would remain an only child - no doubt about it. I would not pursue a fresh donor cycle - too much waiting, too much money, adding another thread to our family that may or may not become an issue for any resulting child and the existing one sometime in the future.

However, there are some real considerations as to whether it is wise to try for another baby - mainly to do with my health. My DE pregnancy was high risk - I have glucose intolerance, hypothyroidism, high blood pressure and not one but TWO clotting issues. I am also over forty. I spent a lot of time in the hospital during my pregnancy and took a lot of medications, some of which are not usually advised during pregnancy but the risks of not taking them outweighed the risks of taking them. As it turned out, the pregnancy itself went remarkably well. The birth and its aftermath, not so much. None of the other issues have gone away and I can now add slightly odd heart rhythms (so far benign) and prolapse, front, back and middle to the cocktail - and I'm more than two years older. My mother has also had a DVT - she has the same clotting issues as I do and this is significant - the medics will have a different attitude to my Factor V Leiden now that I have an immediate relative with it who has had a clot (especially as it was spontaneous and not related to flying or surgery). Emotionally, I did not handle the early days of motherhood too well either and work-wise, it's tough-going even now.

When you also consider that my husband's working hours (and therefore his salary) have now been reduced because of the recession and that we also have an enormous mortgage on our new property, both of which mean that I HAVE to work full time from August, you have to wonder whether an addition to the family makes any sense at all.

These are the negatives - very real and rather risky. Let's face it - losing a real mother in pursuit of a hypothetical sibling would be a pretty bad deal for my boy. But the positives - far less concrete and practical - are also huge. We always wanted two children - back in the days where we thought we could have any at all in the normal fashion. We gave up on the idea fairly quickly but it was always the ideal.

I love my sister dearly and having her in my life is one of the best things about it - why would I not want to try to give my son that joy. And there's another, deeper, vein to the sibling thing - it would be a full sibling to my son - someone who is the same as him. I don't know how he's going to feel about being donor conceived but it's possible that having a full sibling is something that would make him feel more part of something (same goes for the sibling of course).

Then there's the embryos. Oh the guilt! On the cycles with our own eggs, before all my medical issues bubbled up and when I was under 40, extra embryos would have been so welcomed. Now they feel like such a mixed blessing. Like I said, if they didn't exist, there would be no dilemma about a sibling. We'd be living our lives, grateful for our son, slightly wistful about the absence of a sibling but knowing there's nothing we could do about it without significantly disadvantaging him in another way.

And I love those embryos. Unlike the unused embryos from our failed cycles, which were very poor quality, clearly not going to turn into babies and already failing by the time any decision on freezing came up, these ones are not just cells to us - they are our sons potential brothers and/or sisters. I cannot bear the idea of having to allow them to perish. We would love to have donated them (and we had a particular couple in mind), but because of the laws around donation in this country, we can't. Donation is anonymous when it happens, but the donor has a responsibility to update the clinic with any significant medical changes, any house moves etc because when our son turns 18 he can contact her. This was very important to us and it was why we waited to do DE here rather than abroad. But it does mean that we can't pass our embryos on to a third party - the contract was exclusively between the donor and us.

Let me be very clear - I know how lucky we are. After all our years of trying and losses, we have a child - a wonderful, amazing son. AND we have 3 great quality embryos in the freezer. I know there are people out there who would LOVE to be in our situation. I am incredibly grateful for our boy, but the existence of the embryos is bittersweet.

I just don't know what to do! My husband feels it is up to me - the risks are mainly mine. I think he leans to the side of not trying again but he can see the advantages to our son of having a sibling. I am trying to get an appointment with our high risk OB to see whether she thinks it's reasonable to go ahead. I spoke to her before our DE cycle, because by that time we knew of all the medical issues I was facing going into pregnancy. Now I need to go back to her and add the new ones and see if she still thinks pregnancy is a good idea for me. If she says no, I think that will make my decision - I'm not keen on dying and the idea of taking an unborn baby with me and leaving my son motherless - or possibly leaving two motherless babies to be cared for by a grieving father and grandparents - is appalling.

Unlike before the birth of my son, I don't know where to go for emotional support and a chance to discuss the feelings behind this decision. I cannot go along to an infertility or miscarriage support group and whine about not knowing about what to do with spare embryos when there are women who still haven't had their first child or their rainbow baby.

As far as I know, there isn't a support group for infertile-recurrent-miscarriers-who-have-a-baby-and-don't-know-whether-to-risk-having-another ;-). Don't suppose anyone out there fancies setting one up with me?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Feeling a Bit Sad

I'm finding it hard to find 5 good things just now.

My sister and my niece and nephew came for a whirlwind 24 hour goodbye visit. They are off on their exciting adventure to places unknown and for an indefinite time - possibly permanently. I am going to miss them terribly. My niece and nephew were born before we started trying to conceive and their existence has been untainted with the jealousies and bitterness that made it hard to be happy about new babies after that. For a long time, they were the nearest I thought I was going to get to having my own children. And they are fantastic cousins to my wee boy - he has such fun with them. Because of our huge mortgage and our small (totally worth it) drain on our resources, it's going to be hard for us to visit them - wherever they go.

So, on that theme, here are my 5 good things:

1. - it's what kept me in touch with my wonderful friend while she was literally on the other side of the world and I'm counting on it to do the same for me with my sister and family.
2. Email - my nephew and niece have got their own email addresses (they're aged nearly 12 and nearly 10) so I can keep up with them that way too.
3. Touch - an instant messaging app that they also have - my niece, in particular, likes to send me funny messages on a Friday night. Another good way of keeping in contact - though I don't think it'll catch on as a verb in the way Sky,pe has ;-).
4. Modern transport - as long as they don't go TOO far out of the way, we should be able to see them in real life very occasionally (as long as we save like crazy).
5 Family - I'm reminding myself that this wouldn't hurt so bad if I didn't have such a wonderful sister, niece and nephew.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

5 Bad Things That Turned Out Good

So . . . yes, as predicted, every day posting was a bit much to achieve.

Looking back over the past couple of days, though, the good things began to take on a theme: stories with a bad beginning and a happy . . . not ending, that's not right . . . a happy new beginning.

1. A very minor one to start with - after a long, hard week at work, I summoned up my courage, told my boss I was not going to the "optional" professional development course on Friday afternoon and caught up with some routine stuff instead. Not an easy thing to do just now, but I'm glad I did it, because it meant I came home with a lot less work than I might have done and had time to spend with my boys.

2. My wee boy is on the mend, having been very poorly all week. Major vomiting, not keeping anything down - even fluids. We got to the same point that we did just before Christmas when he had the - syringing fluids into him in 5-10ml doses every 10 minutes. He has lost weight, visibly, making him look fragile and somehow older. CM and I took turns to have days of work and take care of him. We took him to the GP twice and the consensus seems to be that it's an ear infection that has vomiting as a side-effect - antibiotics were prescribed. The sickness was so frequent and we got to the point where we rolled up the living-room rug, put towels on the sofas and wore our scuzziest old clothes. We cancelled our trip to the Don.or Conce.ption Netwo.rk meeting today and spent the day hanging out at home together, getting fluid into him and giving him little bits of very plain food. Thankfully, tonight, we put a much happier, healthier baby to bed. I feel so much better now that I feel he's on the mend. After our journey, we're probably a bit jumpier about the wee one being under the weather and we take nothing for granted.

3. Related to number 1, my mother LOVES my wee boy. She called first thing this morning to say that she had been searching ear infections and sickness on Google last night because she was so worried about her grandchild and that she reckons the doctors were right and that he'd be fine. After all that reading, she was able to sleep. I think she literally spent hours researching the topic. The previous night, she had heard him crying pitifully in the early hours and texted me then and there to check he was ok and ask if we needed help (they live downstairs now, remember?). CM and I took a long time to come to our decision to use donor eggs and it was very much our decision. Our families did not make a decision - they were presented with it. I did have some faint concerns about whether they would embrace a donor baby - CM's because they are religious and have some pretty strong feelings about some issues and mine because they are not genetically related to our son. They knew about our plans and had always been verbally supportive - we would almost certainly have been given pause about our decision if we felt we were bringing a baby into an unwelcoming family. This morning's conversation brought home to me just how very much he is loved and wanted by his whole family - genetics are irrelevant when it comes to love here, it appears.

4. Rebecca, over at Which Way to Baby? welcomed her beautiful baby girl to the world a week ago today and, yesterday, there were photos! I have a lot in common with Rebecca - a list of health issues that may or may not contribute to our infertility/losses, the same number of pregnancies, a love of dogs and now, finally, motherhood. She had such a long, hard road to this point and was incredibly kind and generous with her comments while I was pregnant, which I really appreciated. I am beyond happy that she is a mummy now.

5. A very dear friend is coming home. I say "home" but it's not her home - that's about 800 miles east-north-east of here. By a happy coincidence, she was living in the tenement next door to our's when we had our babies. She is an academic, funded by her home university to gain expertise abroad to bring back eventually. She had been working in South America, about to move to the Antipodes when she became pregnant. As a result of immigration laws, she had to delay her move to her new workplace and needed someplace to have her baby and continue her work. Her home university has some contacts here and got her a place in a lab. We were in the same NHS antenatal classes, but didn't get to know each other then. We bumped into each other, each of us heavily pregnant coming out of our front doors just before Christmas. We commented on the coincidence and went on our ways. After we had our sons - her wee boy was born 10 days before mine - we kept bumping into each other and ended up going for coffee. It turns out that, despite differences in our languages, ages, professions and paths to pregnancy, we were having remarkably similar experiences of the difficulties of first-time motherhood - hard! We bonded in that quick, powerful way that you do when you meet someone in intense times - my best friend and I bonded in a similar way right at the start of university in Freshers' Week. For nine months (is that significant?) we saw each other about 3-4 times a week, our babies played together and our partners got on too. And then they had to leave to take up that post on the other side of the world! We stayed in touch by email, sk.ype and text, missing each other and talking about our lives happening as far away from each other as it's possible to get. Then she told me that things weren't as they should be at her new lab and she felt she had to leave - the USA was a possibility (and I started checking out air-fares!). This week, it became definite that her new lab would be back here and that she and her partner and son would be moving in to a flat round the corner from our new one. I am delighted and looking forward to having sunny evenings chatting and drinking wine on our terrace while our little boys play together again and our big boys put the world to rights :-).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Struggling For 5 Good Things!

It has been a long day.

My wee one is still not well and is very clingy and totally out of his routine, sleeping badly (and only if he's in bed with me or on my lap) and is vomiting. So I have spent most of the day trying to get fluid into the wee soul and to do washing with a small person clinging to my leg in between changing clothes on him and me and cleaning various bits of furniture.

Hence the difficulty in finding 5 good things today - but here goes:
1. I got an ok night of sleep - no 2 hour periods of wide-awake baby.
2. It was a beautiful day here - blue skies and warm sun (which is unusual for March!).
3. Two visits from my dad - he came to deliver messages from my mum but stayed to play.
4. A nice cup of coffee and a donut at my local cafe.
5. At above cafe, wee boy was much admired by several other customers - lots of smiles.

Hope that we have enough of a recovery to make the Donor Conception meeting on Saturday! We also have a 2nd birthday party of double donor twins to attend on Sunday :-).

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Five Good Things

A few years back, I had what, in retrospect, I think was a mini-breakdown.

I'd had the sixth miscarriage in September, discovered a lump on my ankle in October that turned out to be a tumour (thankfully benign), started to have some serious stomach issues in January, my dad was diagnosed with high grade Non-Hodg.kins very suddenly in March and a week later I started being investigated for possible bowel cancer. Between all that and a rather unfortunate series of miscommunications with and within the medics involved in my case, I became extremely worried and it turned into full-blown anxiety/depression.

All I wanted to do was sleep but as soon as I woke in the morning, the anxiety kicked in and I just couldn't. Nor could I drag myself out of the bed. I know now that activity is the key to busting anxiety. Basically, your body is in "flight or fight" and pumping adrenalin and the worst thing you can do is remain still. My dad - who was going through chemo and was 71 years old so, really, I should have been looking after him - would take me for walks with the dog in the afternoon and by the evening I would feel quite human but by the following morning, I was a gibbering wreck again.

My GP recommended Cogn.itive Beh.avio.ural so I gave it a go. It wasn't my thing - as I said to the therapist, if I had a irrational fear of lampposts, this might be the very way to kick it but, when you're being checked out for cancer, fear of cancer is actually pretty rational. Plus, he was a bit patronising. He assumed that my fear was of death and pointed out that we all have to die (Really? No way?!). I said that I wasn't afraid of death at all - I assumed that there would either be something better afterwards or nothing at all - I was afraid of the pain and suffering that precedes death. Again, not irrational, to my mind. So we parted company.

The one thing that I liked about CBT and that really did help was the practice of finding 5 good things about your day. When I was feeling really down and negative, it took some serious effort to find 5 good things and they were usually pretty small, like watching a TV show I liked. But it made me see that there were good things in my life. As time went by, every day one of the things on my list would be my walks with dad. Not knowing how his treatment was going to turn out, I began to treasure that time - they fixed him, thanks be, and I still treasure that time and any time we have together now.

Recently, things have been tough - not tough like they were back then, but not great. My husband's job is at risk, my own job has been very stressful, my wee boy has been poorly a lot, my sister and her family and my much-loved sister-in-law and her family have both announced that they are leaving the country, probably permanently, taking the nearest thing that my wee one will probably ever have to siblings with them, an old (but too young) friend died of cancer at New Year and another (even older but still too young) friend has just started chemo. My husband has been very low about it all as well and we're not doing a great job of cheering each other up. I also have an.xiety/depr.ession (or more likely, my tendencies in that direction have been tipped by tiredness, stress and hormones).

Following all the recent upheaval over PAIL etc, I am going to be totally honest - being a parent is wonderful in many ways and I am very lucky to have my son but it does not fix everything else in life and it's a bloody hard job which brings with it a whole new set of problems. Intellectually, I knew this before I had my son but the combined desire and inability to become a parent can make the negatives of parenting seem trivial. Admitting that it's not all joy and happiness can seem like a betrayal of those still in the trenches or like ingratitude for the amazing gift we've been given. Equally, I'm feeling like I need a reminder that there were times that I would have given anything to be where I am now and that life is basically good. I told my husband about the 5 good things exercise and recommended it to him, then thought I should take my own advice.

So, I'm going to use my blog to list 5 good things from the day - though it almost certainly won't be every day but just as often as I can as I don't want to turn it into another stress-inducing thing.

Today's 5 good things:
1. Lots of cuddles from my poorly wee boy.
2. Mum brought up casserole and apple crumble so we don't need to cook tonight.
3. I found out about the details of a local Donor Conception Network meeting happening this weekend.
4. An email from my best friend.
5. "" starts on UK TV tonight!

I'm thinking that the DCNetwork meeting might bring up some blog-worthy stuff . . .

My "always" good things.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Happy Birthday, Baby!

My best boy is one year old today - how did that happen?

How did I go from wanting a baby, to losing babies, to struggling to conceive a baby, to paying a fortune and taking stupid amounts of medication to try to have/keep a baby, to nearly giving up on ever having a baby, to finally having a baby, to having toddler? However it happened, I am eternally grateful. I NEVER take it for granted. When it's hard going, I always remember that there are women out there who would give anything to be cleaning up baby vomit, getting woken at 3am or changing the pooey nappy of a screaming, wriggling boy. It's easy to remember, because one of those women used to be me.