Nights out in Italy vs UK

Ok just a quick update before I go to bed ready for my second lining check at the hospital tomorrow morning.

I went out tonight to meet up with some girlfriends in the city centre as my husband is already in Scotland preparing for his sister’s wedding (I hope to join him tomorrow, see previous post).

I’m British and like most of my fellow countrymem I absolutely love drinking. Not in an alcoholic way (well ok maybe in a slightly borderline lush sort of way…my nickname for years was Patsy after all).

Since trying for a baby the alcohol has pretty much been reduced to zero (and especially now as I’m in my FET cycle).

Luckily I don’t find it too hard being out without booze in Italy as people here only have a couple of drinks and make them last all evening. This means that people don’t notice me cradling the same glass of red wine for hours at a time.

The downside of nights out in Italy is that everyone smokes. I was sat on a terrace this evening with 4 friends and every single one of them was smoking. It’s not that I mind if there’s a bit of wind…but at one point they were all lighting up at the same time and I was surrounded by clouds.

I hate being the boring one. Before this babyquest I used to smoke and drink and get up to all kinds of mischief. But instead tonight I did the sensible thing and ducked out early leaving a my lovely friends to their fun.

Instead I consoled myself with a cycle ride home through the city’s lovely cobbled streets (see photo below) in the warm late spring evening.

My life is a shadow of what it used to be. But I’m ok with that for a few week’s longer…but definitely not forever…

Happy nearly Friday everyone

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FET#2: first monitoring appointment

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It’s dildocam time!!

Today is cycle day 9 and I was up early and at the hospital for my first endometrial lining check.

As I was sitting in the waiting room one of my favourite doctors walked past and gave me a wave. I waved back and all the other women waiting around me turned to look. At that moment I realised with a slight sinking feeling that I have now become one of the old timers at the clinic. All the staff know me there: partly because I am a ‘difficult case’ (with BT and three IVFs to my name) and partly because I stick out like a sore thumb being foreign and about a foot taller than the majority of their patients (Italian women are extremely short and petite, I am very much the opposite).

The doctors work on rotation for monitoring appointments at the hospital so I get a different one each time. Annoyingly this time I got my least favourite doctor who always rushes through the appointment at incredibly high speed. After a quick dildocam session I found myself stood by her desk still pulling up my trousers whilst she was telling me important information about my drugs. Since I’m an old timer these sort of things don’t panic me like they used to and I am weirdly proud to say that I have mastered the art of conversing in a foreign language about drug schedules whilst  pulling on my underwear or tying up my laces…(not a life skill that I ever pictured myself acquiring).

It turned out that during my previous appointment (which was also rushed) one of the other doctors made a mistake on the drug schedule and I should be on a slightly higher dosage of estogen pills per day by now. It’s not a big deal and doesn’t affect the FET (apart from making the process slightly longer) but it’s pretty annoying as I’d emailed the previous doctor to check and she had confirmed the lower dosage. Grrr…

From today my dosage has been upped to 4 estrogen pills a day. In my previous FET this dosage made me feel generalised anxiety (tight chest, churning guts, general dread feeling). I’m hoping that this time around (without a stressful job) I will feel better. The next appointment is on Friday morning and if the lining is thick enough then I’ll be starting progesterone pessaries for 5 days before doing the transfer.

A complicating factor for this cycle is my sister-in-laws’ wedding which takes place this Saturday in Scotland. We’d booked flights from Italy to Scotland for Thursday evening but today I’ve had to change mine to Friday evening. We’ve now got to keep everything crossed that the hospital doesn’t need to see me again on the Saturday morning (an unlikely scenario I think, but you never know).

The timing is very irritating, and I’d asked the clinic whether I was able to take birth control pills on my previous cycle to time my period and therefore avoid this issue but they told me that it was bad for my body before a transfer cycle, so we’re stuck in this rather difficult situation. My husband’s family are very understanding but it’s not an ideal scenario. Oh well….deep breaths…

Happy Monday everyone.

FYI – this FET I am taking…

  • Prometrium progesterone pessaries 3 x day
  • Progynova (estradiol) 4 pills a day
  • Prednisone 5mg per day starting from transfer
  • Aspirin
  • Vit D
  • Methylated Vit B9 & 12 (as I have a MTHFR mutation)

Loneliness…

Up until yesterday I’d been having a pretty good couple of weeks emotionally. Probably partly due to the exercise and sunshine. I even organised a surprise baby shower for a good friend (who struggled with infertility for 5 years and did IVF). It was a lovely day and great to see her so happy.

Unfortunately I had an unexpected crash yesterday. Something small set it off, as it often does. As I mentioned in my earlier posts I was made redundant from my work (2 days after my embryo transfer). I decided to take long sick leave for the remainder of my work and notice period (which finally finishes this week) as I couldn’t face seeing my nasty boss again. This means that I have been at home, mostly alone, as I’ve had to stay at home for the majority of the day in case the health board come to check up on me (a long story but in short is due to ridiculous rules here in Italy).

These long periods at home alone have been lonely but bearable, due to the exercise and occasionally seeing friends. I’ve made my life small so that I can manage it and overcome the stress that was crushing me before.

Yesterday I was out with my husband and some friends and my two female ex-work colleagues (who are good friends and part of the small ex-pat friendship group I have here in Italy). One of them left our work on Friday and is starting at a new place on Monday….so obviously emotions are flying between the two of them for that reason.

I feel embarrassed to say it but I had the most horrible sense of jealously about their constant hugging and closeness during the weekend and particularly yesterday. It made me feel so left out (and I’m sure it wasn’t meant that way, but I couldn’t help my emotions which ended up coming out in tears like a looney person).

My departure from work was so sudden (I didn’t even have time to say goodbye to anyone). Since then, due to aforementioned logistics, I’ve not seen much of either of them and so I feel quite cut off from them now. It doesn’t help that they are a few years younger than me and obviously have more in common with each other than me, and of course they both don’t have infertility struggles so can drink at parties (which is something I really miss, having been a big party girl in my time).

I feel like I’m struggling with loneliness on three fronts at the moment…

  1. Living in a foreign country makes my friendship group is naturally smaller. We’ve only lived here for 3 years and moved in our mid 30’s so its harder to make loads and loads of friends, and many of them are younger, which can make things harder sometimes. The language barrier also makes things harder, and the fact that many Italian women are very different from me and can be very reserved.
  2. Not working at the moment, and therefore not having daily regular contact with people. This means not having relatively easy chances to make new friends or keep current friendships strong. I am in two minds about working again in the near future due to my the upcoming FET and the stress so am stuck in limbo at the moment.
  3. And of course, infertility, with the disconnection with friends who are mothers and also from single friends who are out partying and drinking (which are of course off limits for me). In addition the sadness of infertility knocks my overall happiness and ability to go out and make new friends.

I know that I’m a resourceful person…but at present, when it comes to this situation, I’m all out of ideas…the combination of these factors seem to be sucking the life out of me right now….

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

The much needed calm…

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After the raging emotions of the last few weeks I have finally managed nearly two days in a row without any sort of anger or crying fit. This could be because I currently have a cold which has filled my head with cotton wool and is preventing my mind from thinking about anything else apart from how much it hurts. But whatever…I’m calling it progress anyway.

Yesterday S and I visited the psychologist at our fertility clinic. We only had to pay 20 euros and so we thought it can’t hurt so why not give it a go. I was sceptical about the appointment, not because I don’t believe in psychology (I studied psychology at university in fact), but because doing the session in a foreign language was not an enjoyable prospect.

As soon as we got into the room with the kindly looking man we asked him if he spoke English and he looked a bit sheepish and mumbled that he wasn’t very confident in it, so we had to push on through in Italian. My husband, who is totally fluent in Italian, began recounting our long story. He had to hand over to me after only a couple of minutes to explain the IVF procedures in detail (I always think that it’s strange that his brain is able to accommodate 4 foreign languages perfectly but seems to flatly refuse to store any knowledge relating to IVF procedures…haha…oh well).

I managed to bumble on through the rest of explanation of the three failed IVFs in Italian. The psychologist then asked me about my emotions and I attempted to explain as best I could. I tried to feel sad and angry (which represents my overriding emotions for the past 10 days) but found it rather challenging as my brain was actually enjoying the intellectual challenge of speaking at length in Italian to a new person. Afterwards S said that I smiled too much…but I couldn’t help it, a stranger was being kind and patiently listening to our problems in my bad Italian and I couldn’t help feeling a wave of gratitude towards him.

We explained the treatment by my employer: the firing two days after my embryo transfer and other things that I won’t go in to detail about here. He said that my boss was ‘mobbing’ me (a word that Italians use to mean ‘bullying’). He also said that the way women are often treated in Italy relation to children or fertility treatments is ‘medieval’ which definitely struck a chord. In addition to my treatment I have also heard other stories of behaviour that would be totally illegal in the UK and all of this has definitely added to my recent fragile state.

Overall we got some support from the session, and hopefully some help in helping to resolve the work issues at least. I’m not sure whether I will return to him as the language challenge makes things difficult. Instead I’ve found a couple of counsellors in the UK who may be able to provide Skype or telephone counselling for us.

So in summary, yesterday we made some small steps in a positive direction. S is being amazingly supportive through this, and we’re holding on to each other for dear life right now…

How we got here part 5: IVF #3

After our holiday from hell in Barcelona we came back to Milan and returned to work and vowed to move on as quickly as possible…

Luckily we had seen a doctor at our original hospital in Milan in July before leaving for Barcelona and we had booked in a third IVF (all funded by Italian health service except for the PGD/PGS) as a back up in case the second didn’t work.

So I put my head down and kept busy with work and yoga and generally tried to relax as much as possible in preparation for the next cycle which was scheduled for October.

I went into this third cycle feeling much more calm. All the things I had been worrying about (i.e. all the worst case scenarios) had already happened, and so I didn’t really have any hope left, and so anything to worry about. It was just a case of going through the motions: the daily injections, the visits every other day to the hospital, the egg collection, the waiting for results…

This time the doctors, having reviewed our two previous cycles, decided to add daily Luveris injections into the mix which can apparently help with egg maturation. They also upped the injections of Gonal F, starting from 350/day and going all the way up to 450/day by the end of the stimulation phase. On the 9th day of injections the doctors decided that 6 out of the 12 follicles were large enough and so didn’t want to wait any longer for the others to catch up as they thought that the best embryos were likely to be the fastest growing ones.

So we triggered and went ahead two days later. 7 eggs were collected and 6 fertilised. As we were on the public health service we didn’t get and update between fertilisation and day 5 when potential biopsy would be, so it was a long nervous wait. Finally the doctor called to say that 2 embryos had been biopsied on day 5 and frozen and the biopsies had been sent to Rome for preimplantation genetic testing (PGD/PGD).

The results took around 4 weeks to come back and when they did they were emailed through to me which I wasn’t expecting. I read them on my phone on a crowded bus surrounded by schoolchildren with an agonising painful mouth a day after a very very painful wisdom tooth extraction.

I couldn’t believe it….BOTH EMBRYOS WERE NORMAL/BALANCED!!

This was almost as good as finding out we were pregnant! I was leaping around for joy and ripping my new mouth would open by smiling and squealing too much. I texted S and my parents immediately and despite the agonising pain (which continued for another 3 weeks…it was its own kind of hell) felt hopeful for the first time in a long while…

How we got here part 2: IVF #1

Before I get into the details of our first IVF I should mention something that has added an extra ‘dimension’ to our infertility journey…

My husband and I are both British but we live in Italy having moved here the year before getting married. Living in a foreign country brings extra challenges like struggling through important medical appointments in a less than fluent foreign language as well as dealing with huge amounts of unexpected and mind numbing bureaucracy and delays.

There is, however, one positive of living in Italy: we have been able to get a lot of treatment for pretty much free…if we are prepared to wait for it. We were completely surprised when we discovered this as, being a Catholic country, we assumed that policies related to IVF would be draconian. Indeed they were 10 to 15 years ago, but in response to a rapidly ageing population the government has provided fairly generous funding for IVF. This has helped ease some of the stress and challenges that I know others (particularly those in America) really struggle from. And for that I am thankful.

So back to our IVF #1 story…

As mentioned in the previous post, we had the initial appointment for IVF in late 2014, but due to delays and bureaucracy here in Italy we were able to start our first IVF cycle until May 2015. It was a long and frustrating wait.

We finally kicked off on 4 May, with daily Gonal F 300 injections  combined with Orgalutran to prevent ovulation. After 13 days of injections and several monitoring appointments we were told that we had around 12 follicles of a good size and I triggered on 16 May with Gonasi. Two days later we had egg collection (or ‘Pick Up’ as it is randomly called here in Italy) and 4 eggs were collected. Waking up from the anaesthetic to news of just 4 embryos made my heard sink, but we carried on hoping.

After 3 tense days we were called and asked to come in for the embryo transfer. We were over the moon that we had anything to transfer, even if it was only a 3 day transfer.

We rushed into hospital excitedly and the doctor transferred two embryos and we were feeling optimistic (even talking excitedly of twins). Just before leaving we were given the full report of our embryos and we discovered that they were both only C grade, the lowest grade possible at our hospital, which made my stomach lurch.

We went home and carried on trying to be optimistic (whilst I googled the hell out of grade C embryo success stories) and sat tight for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, despite being on progesterone pessaries, I started bleeding the day before the beta HCG test and knew it was over…