On a lighter note…

Warning: this post contains Game of Thrones spoilers for the new season

I feel like my posts have been all doom and gloom lately…mainly because when it comes to IVF there’s not been a lot of fun stuff happening (is there ever I hear you ask?!)

Anyway normal life has been ok, I dare to say even a little fun recently. We had a great weekend away with my husband’s family in Scotland and I’ve been doing loads of exercise and generally trying to get on with life.

And in the spirit of this happier mood I couldn’t help laughing somewhat when I saw the first episode of the new Game of Thrones season when the Red Woman takes of her necklace and turns all wrinkly and old….that’s exactly how I feel when I start getting pumped full of hormones….I get a big belly and lines around my eyes and on my forehead.

Anyone else think the same???

Before IVF (well ok I’m nowhere near that pretty…but you get my gist)

During/immediately after IVF

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Update after hospital appointment

I had my hospital appointment on Friday morning. Sorry I didn’t have time to write an update straight after as we had to rush to get on a plane to go to northern Scotland for a long weekend (a much needed relaxing break after all the recent stress).

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Scotland this weekend: freezing but beautiful

The appointment had been fitted in between other appointments and as a result it was pretty rushed. What I picked up from the high speed Italian was that I can proceed to do the next FET with our remaining genetically normal embryo on our next cycle (starting around 18 May). For the antinuclear antibodies they prescribed me low dose aspirin daily to start taking from now and also heparin shots which they told me to start taking if I get a positive HCG beta.

On the way back home after the appointment I realised that I was pretty frustrated with how things went and have three issues…

a) The beta date for my last embryo transfer (which resulted in a chemical) was VERY late: 14 days past a 5 day transfer so 19 days past ovulation. The HCG level was only 89 and then lowered on subsequent betas which makes me think that the miscarriage happened before the beta day (i.e. the HCG had already peaked before and was already lowering by beta date). So if that happened again then starting the heparin on beta day would be WAY too late. To remedy this I’m just going to take matters into my own hands and start peeing on sticks from earlier on, and if I get a positive I’ll start the heparin early….frustrating but at least I can manage this issue myself.

b) They tested me for the MTHFR gene mutation and I came back as heterozygous for this which they seemed to think didn’t matter at all. I had read online about how taking synthetic folic acid is potentially bad for those with a MTHFR mutation but they just looked confused when I asked about it so I had to just give up on that. I’ve ordered some methylated folate supplements online and will start taking them when they arrive.

c) The final issue is the most worrying to me: almost everywhere online where I have read about antinuclear antibodies (ANAs) refers to taking low dose Prednisone as a treatment before and during the embryo transfer to suppress the immune system. There was no mention of this in the appointment, and as we were so rushed (and it was in Italian) I didn’t have time to ask.

I’ve emailed the doctors ask about the MTHFR mutation and also the ANA issue….but they aren’t guaranteed to respond (this is public sector not private and so they are not obliged to respond). If they don’t respond by the end of the day I am going to book in a private appointment with them to ensure that I can get my questions answered before the next cycle.

So progress I guess, but feeling pretty frustrated. I can’t begin to explain to you how stressful this all is when it’s so complicated and in a foreign language and rushed. I’m not feeling comfortable at all about it at the moment….but will continue to fight for some answers before we take a chance on our last little embryo.

 

 

Exercising (and talking) the pain away

The last few days have been a series of ups and downs…

I picked up my immunology blood test results last Friday (see last post) and have been waiting since then to have an appointment with the hospital to discuss the results and next steps. The appointment was meant to be yesterday afternoon and I had done a good job of keeping myself busy and distracted through the weekend. S and I had a last minute trip to Turin with two friends (which was spent mostly walking, talking and eating).

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The house where we stayed in Turin this weekend

But on Monday my patience broke down when I received an email from the clinic to say that my appointment had been moved from Tuesday to Friday (to a time that I couldn’t do). This small hiccup was enough to send me over the edge as I had received these very worrying test results last Friday and was expected to wait probably at least another week to get some sort of conversation about them with a medical professional.

I had a good cry for a couple of hours, screamed at the world and then pulled myself together (well, what else can you do?) then took myself off to a new boot camp club that I had signed up for. There’s nothing like a bit of lactic acid, lung burning exercise to distract yourself from your emotional misery. I came home broken (both physically and emotionally) and passed out in bed…

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This is not me by the way, I look waaaay worse when exercising

Yesterday was spent recovering from the boot camp and waiting for a new appointment. I asked my husband to call the doctor directly and put some pressure on them as I find it hard to have complex nuanced conversations like that in Italian on the phone (I worry that I’ll come across as too direct or too nice or just lose the thread of what they are saying without the visual cues to help me). Late yesterday I found out that the hospital have fitted me in first thing on Friday morning (a huge relief!)

Yesterday I also had my first appointment with a British based infertility counsellor via Skype. It’s been something that I’ve been meaning to do since my last FET failure. I was offered counselling here in Italy and went to one session but as it was all in Italian I found that my brain was too busy processing the language to actually feel any kind of emotional engagement to the session.

The British counsellor was kind and patient, we spent the first session mostly talking about my back story. I feel positive about her and hope that she can help me manage my anxiety through my next FET (whenever that might be).

 

How many issues can one person have?!

Ok so today has been an unexpectedly eventful day and I’m still not sure how to feel about it. I’m trying to see the positives, but it’s hard…

I started spotting very lightly late yesterday and was really really hoping to be able to do my next FET on my upcoming cycle, so started panicking that my period would arrive before our scheduled hospital appointment on Tuesday.

The date was set for Tuesday because on Monday I was due to receive the results for some blood test results done after our FET with a chromosomally normal embryo (that ended in a chemical pregnancy). Late yesterday I decided to call the blood test centre to see if the results were ready early, and indeed they were. So this morning I rushed over to the centre to pick up the results with the aim of trying to move our hospital appointment to today.

For some reason I wasn’t particularly concerned about what the results would say…I assumed that they would come back normal and I’d be ok to go straight on to do the FET if I could just get hold of my doctor. So I grabbed the results and called the hospital and got told everything was fully booked. Dejectedly I trudged home and only then, about 30 minutes later, did I actually open the results.

It was not what I was expecting….

In addition to my Balanced Translocation, my low-ish AMH/high-ish FSH and my husband’s borderline/low sperm it seems that I have not one but TWO more issues…

Firstly, I have what is called a gene mutation called a MTHFR (its not an acronym for a swearword…honest!) From my frenzied Googling this doesn’t seem TOO bad…it means that I need to ditch taking folic acid and vitamin B complex (which I though had been helping in fertility, but seem to have been having the opposite effect for me). I might have to take aspirin as well.

Secondly, I have anti-nuclear antibodies present in my blood and it looks as if my body produced them in response to our embryo. The thought that my body killed off our embryo with an immune reaction is pretty heart-wrenching to be honest…it’s making me a bit teary to think about…so I’m trying not to. It seems like there is hopefully treatment for this, but it looks like we might need more tests first to work out which drugs I’ll need to take.

It’s hard to know where my emotions are right now…

On the negative side I’m feeling pretty sorry for myself…how can one person draw so many short straws in the fertility lottery?

On the positive side I’m trying to look at this as progress: more issues identified hopefully means that they can be treated and can get us one step closer to our goal.

As I couldn’t get an early appointment with my doctor I’ve emailed him the results and am hoping he’ll magically have time to reply in the next hour or so before he goes home for the day (but I doubt it as its not a private hospital). So it looks like I’ll probably have to wait until our scheduled appointment on Tuesday.  And so the chances of doing our FET on the upcoming cycle are looking very very slim indeed.

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Green fingers (or lack thereof)

I really don’t have much to blog about at the moment as I’m just waiting.  In terms of IVF we have our next appointment at the hospital on Tuesday next week. My period is due around the same time and so I’m really hoping that it doesn’t show up a day or two before because we’ll have to wait until the next cycle to start.

The waiting is more difficult that usual because of my recent work issues which means I am confined to the house at the moment for most of the day and am not working and so steadily getting more and more bored…

I’d like to get another job to keep myself occupied but am reticent to because for me a new job often equals stress which wouldn’t be good for our FET (especially after I got fired during the previous FET). So it’s pottering for me for the next few months…

To occupy myself I have taken up gardening (which I am totally USELESS at…over the years I’ve killed countless numbers of previously healthy plants). This time I’ve researched which to buy for the weather conditions and how to look after them. I’ve even bought some tomato plants and a lemon tree and I’m determined that something in this house will be fertile in the next few months (even if it isn’t me…haha!)

Below is a shot of my kitchen balcony. The lemon tree was already bearing the fruit when I bought it so I can’t take the glory for that unfortunately. Considering buying some herbs as well…hmm any ideas?

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I hope everyone else’s little seeds (human or plant based) are developing and growing well today…

 

The strength to say ‘no’

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I came across an interesting piece this morning on one of my favourite websites about the strength of saying no to IVF.

I like the writer’s attitude, though I am envious of her age and so her ability to be able to say ‘no for now’. I’m 38 and my husband is 42 so we don’t have that time unfortunately.

Sometimes I wonder if we should have started trying sooner. But I quickly dismiss that thought, as I don’t find it useful to ruminate on decisions that were made in the past. We can only focus on the decisions that need to be made now or in the near future.

For the last 2.5 years we’ve been on project ‘make a baby’ and we don’t have an end date in sight, but we do know that we can’t keep doing it forever. It sometimes feels like we’re living that phrase “the definition of madness is doing the same thing and expecting a different result”. At some point we may have to say ‘no’.

For me the first ‘no’ may be looming in the not too distant future. That’s the ‘no’ to trying with my own eggs and so instead moving to donor eggs. It means ‘no’ to the chance of having a child that is genetically related to me…but perhaps on the flipside saying ‘yes’ to a much higher chance of success and a real baby…

So at what point do I feel comfortable with saying ‘no?

Hmm…

 

(photo sourced from Flickr)

Appreciating the little things…

The last few days so has been fairly relaxed compared to the last few weeks (well there have been no major disasters anyway).

I’ve been to yoga five times in the last seven days and have been running twice. I can feel the muscles in my body starting to strengthen and my flexibility improve. But the main benefit of all this yoga and exercise has been to help my mood. Objectively things haven’t changed in the last week. I’m still unemployed and infertile after three failed IVFs….but I’m okay with that right now.

Yoga helps ground me and give me the tranquility to appreciate the little things…which brings me onto Italy…

As some of you may already know, I live in Italy, and to be honest, I have a love-hate relationship with the country.

I hate the complex and unfathomable bureaucracy and the byzantine rules. These things aren’t apparent to tourists, but once you live here for more than a month or so they start to wind you up something rotten. Simple tasks (e.g. posting a letter, or paying a bill) become near impossible challenges that can take hours and hours to sort out, and are sure to send even the most level headed people insane.

I also hate the loneliness I feel when I’m broken by IVF and all I want is for a close family member/old friend to give me a hug, or when a doctor or nurse is babbling away in Italian and I’ve completely lost the thread of what they are talking about.

But, on the flipside, I love the beauty, the landscape and the history of the country. It’s jaw-droppingly stunning (the below photo is just a couple of minute’s away from my house for example).

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I love the more sensible work-life balance (where everything stops for lunch) and the fact that the first thing people ask in small talk with strangers isn’t ‘what do you do for a living?’

I love the new friends that I have made, and the support and understanding they have shown me.

And of course, most of all, I love the food. I eat like a king every day here (well everyone does). Poor quality food is just not acceptable. And even better it’s not expensive.

This morning for example I walked over to a nearby Saturday street market and bought these tomatoes for just 2 euros (which do taste as good as they look in case you’re wondering). I cycled back in the sunshine on my battered bike with my fruit and veg in my basket and thought yes….this is okay…this is more than ok…

Happy Saturday everyone.

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Making friends with my body again

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Last week I posted about my raging emotions and then a much needed day or two of calm. I would love to say that since then I’ve been a zen-like being….but that would be lying.

My emotions relating to the failed FET have now, finally, settled into a sort of acceptance. I understand that failures of genetically normal embryos happen. We were only given a 50-60% chance of success which is, admittedly, much higher than our previous attempts, but it’s still not 100%. I do feel particularly unlucky that we had a chemical pregnancy, as that only occurs in 5-7% of cases with PGD/PGS tested embryos…but hey, as they say, sh:t happens…

I’ve also been dealing with work issues, which are particularly difficult here in Italy. The country is still economically depressed meaning that unscrupulous companies can take advantage of their workers, safe in the knowledge that there will always be others to willingly take their place. I have heard many nasty stories of treatment here (in addition to my own recent experiences) that definitely take the shine off living in the land of La Dolce Vita.

Anyway, in more cheerful news (which relates to the title of this post), I managed to go for a decent run yesterday for the first time in a loooong while. Afterwards I went to a yoga session and midway through felt a most unfamiliar sensation rise up from my stomach. I can only describe it as a burst of joy and excitement. I know this was probably due to the endorphins that were pumping through my body but nonetheless is was a much needed and long awaited feeling. It made me realise that I haven’t felt happy for a long time.

I’m feeling pretty broken today as a result of the exercise but am very keen to experience some happy endorphins again. My aim is do a daily yoga session and run 5-8km every other day from now on (well until I get to the next FET).

I may not be able to control my fertility and I may not be able to change the working conditions/opportunities in Italy, but I can control my fitness level. So that’s what I intend to do: lose the extra weight gained by the IVF drugs, look ok in a bikini for the summer and feel good about what my body can do, instead of hating it for what it can’t do….

Photo courtesy of Flickr