Dumb and Dumber – Have you met them? (Those insensitive people who comment on childless couples childlessness)

This whole infertility journey has been an eye opener in more ways than one. We have only told immediate family and a couple of friends about our struggle for a positive, not because we are ashamed or embarrassed! Far from it! Our choice to keep it quiet has been purely for self preservation. The reason? Well the more people that know, the more people might take it upon themselves to provide opinion (often misguided), advice (even more likely to be misguided) and/or suggestions as to how we might overcome our situation (I don’t need to say anything about this one, you know what I mean!).

We don’t need this kind of help!

So from the start we trusted our journey to those we knew would be supportive yet honest when we needed them to, the people we know, know us really well and who we know will not catch us off guard or do any of the following. For us this has worked. Everyone is different.

But even though very few know our struggle, we have found that there are those who take it upon themselves to comment on our childless state or make insensitive comments about their own parenting woes or child rearing issues. These people vary in age and gender (there seems to be no pattern as to who says these things). They just wait for a moment, or in some cases there is no opportune moment so they will randomly drop the bombshell of advice/observation at a time where it was not related.

My hubby and I have firstly categorised these people into two main types: Dumb and Dumber. Then each category have subheadings: Stealth and Lancaster Bomber.

Let me provide definitions for these categories and subcategories!
Main Categories:

Dumb:
Often well meaning, no malice intended. Tend to use fragments of randomly obtained information to create own conclusions (usually wrong) or jump to own conclusions from very brief observations carried out themselves. Usually those who have no background information about us e.g. friend of a friend/parent’s friend who only know us through parent updates/random stranger (such as someone you end up sat with at a wedding and after brief conversation decide to share their thoughts on you).
Quite easy to deal with at the point of bombshell comment as will probably not see/meet them again or for a long time.

Dumber:
Often less well meaning. Should know better! Often are those who have known us for a while via a direct friendship/work relationship, but not necessarily close friends, but there are exceptions to the rule. Mostly have first hand and up to date information about us and know about our lives (apart from actually knowing we are struggling with infertility). Due to closer relationship with us, are easily misguided in feeling they have our permission to talk about our childless state. Usually add an uncomfortable ‘laugh’ onto the end of bombshell as they want to comment but pretending it is ‘jokey’ apparently justifies them saying their piece . Hardest to deal with as should know better and are encountered socially on frequent occasions!

Further to these main categories there are these subcategories:

Stealth Bomber: Catches you completely off guard. You don’t see/hear it coming so cannot take cover or avoid. Also, no lead up to bombshell being dropped in the conversation, comes out of the blue. Drops the bomb then moves on quickly.

Lancaster Bomber: See and hear it coming a mile off. You know the bombshell is inevitable and whilst you can’t escape it, you can at least take some cover. Often makes several attempts to drop the bomb but can’t quite get an accurate drop site in conversation, so will circle and keep trying until finally they see the target.

Over the last 3 years we have encountered many Dumb Stealth Bombers, Dumb Lancaster Bombers, Dumber Stealth Bombers and Dumber Lancaster Bombers.
We have concluded that the Dumb Stealth Bombers are the easiest kind as its over as quick as it started and you don’t have to see them again. The Dumber Lancaster Bomber is the hardest as you encounter them regularly, you know it’s going to happen, but there is nothing you can do. But whichever of the four we encounter, they all drop the bomb and the aftermath and fall out afterwards is the same!

So, we have established the categories and sub-categories.
Now for the ridiculous things they say. Admittedly, some of these we have been witness to rather than on the receiving end of (we have two friends who are openly struggling to conceive and talk about it with others). But see what you think:

* You must not really have wanted to have a child or you would have one –
Really?!? So our childless state is a choice. OK, two initial issues with this.
1. If we have decided not to have children, you are judging us for that choice and you think it’s wrong!? What business is it of yours?
2. You are telling us that if we are trying to have a baby and not succeeding that it because we don’t want it enough!?

* You must have some psychological block that is preventing you from getting pregnant –
OK, so in biology and psychology it follows that my ovaries are directly linked to my mental state!? I am guessing that means Jamie and Britney Spears are totally free and clear of psychological issues. Good to know. I will book my psychologist appointment now.

* If you quit trying, you would get pregnant – Oh, I see! I didn’t realise that having regular unprotected sex with my husband on a regular basis was not conducive with a successful pregnancy! We will make sure to try less!

* God has another plan for you, he wants you to be in service and with a child you wouldn’t be able to do that – Words fail me! I’m not even going to go there!

* This one came from a heavily pregnant acquaintance whilst we were sitting with a group of friends who all have children except me – “Ahhh, you must feel left out all the time as you haven’t got a baby yet! It’s ok though I suppose, our baby showers must be keeping you feeling involved in baby stuff – Oh thanks, what would I do without you!? Living my dreams through you guys makes up for it though…NOT!

* You can be a mother to your friends kids – No I can’t! I love them dearly, but they have their own mothers!

* You are soooo lucky not to have kids – No we are not! You are lucky to have them though!

* You need to relax – Ah that’s the golden nugget of advice we have missed. With that gem our troubles are over!

* You should just adopt – We have considered that yes, but it is not your place to suggest it.

* You maybe shouldn’t have children, you may pass on the infertility to them – I’m speechless!

* Have you tried getting drunk – There is very little we haven’t tried! But wow, that one is sure to be the answer to our prayers! Where’s the bar?

* Oh I got pregnant and didn’t know, I got leathered so many times in the first few weeks! – I cannot speak! You should be so proud!

* If you want, You can take one of mine – No thanks! But so glad you love your precious miracle gift(s)!

* Just enjoy the time you have together now! – We are, thank you! But it doesn’t make infertility any easier!

* At least you can go in holiday and to the cinema without needing a babysitter! – Wow, those two things are such comparable compensation for not having a child! Each time I look at a child from now on I will start to calculate how many missed cinema opportunities they have caused to their parents! That will give me perspective on how much I want one! Silly me!

* Oh just you wait, once you’re in labour you’ll be thinking twice about wanting a baby! – Probably, but the joy afterwards will be more than worth it!

* We got pregnant the first month, we didn’t even have to try – Well you are very fortunate because the pain I feel daily I would not wish on anyone! You are clearly superior to me! I bow down!

* Being pregnant sucks, you’re so lucky, i’d kill for a glass of wine – Oh I see! So as well as missed cinema opportunities, I also need to calculate the missed glasses of wine opportunities! So now I have two ‘how worth it a child is’ calculations to carry out before we really decide we want a child. I am enlightened!

* Kids are so expensive, once you have them you’ll have no money. You don’t know how lucky you are! – I think you need to see how lucky you are! Money cannot buy the happiness children bring!

So, with these new categories, why not start to enjoy categorising those you encounter! It helps me and my hubby no end! We often send texts to each other on the sly with observations “dumb stealth at 12 o’clock!” It helps us get through and helps us smile rather than cry (well at least until we get home).

I wonder if the Dumb and Dumbers are aware of the devastation they cause with their social bombs!? ….. I doubt it!

A letter to my 18 year old self…..

So, as we are getting ever closer to our first IVF cycle I have been spending quite a bit of time looking back at our journey so far. This has involved ALOT of thinking! This was furthered by Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win today. You may think I’m bonkers saying that, but I read an article in the paper this week where sportsmen and women wrote a letter to their 12 year old selves about what they would face and advice on how to face what was coming. Andy Murray had written one to himself as a 12 year old and it got me thinking….

The different experiences my hubby and I have gone through in the last 3 years have made me think about what I would say/if I would say anything to my 18 year old self if I could get in a time machine and go back and speak to her knowing what I do of the last 15 years! To be honest I get quite choked up at first thinking of the carefree 18 year old me that never contemplated the journey she would begin 11 years later and I know she would have laughed it off in disbelief. I knew life was not easy, but this! This! I never would have guessed it!
I have imagined what my reactions might have been at 18 years old if I had found out then that my body was broken and the only way I would ever have a baby would be with medical support and intervention. I have laughed at the thought of my 18 year old self being relieved at being told that the reason I put on weight by even just looking at or smelling sugary foods is because I’m insulin resistant and my body can’t process sugars so turn it straight to fat! I cry thinking about my 18 year old self being shocked to find out that whilst I would have the joy of getting pregnant using a specialist drug that would try to make my ovaries work, that this joy would be short lived and I would then subsequently experience the hardest ever day of my life. A day that would stand out above any other. After all of this imagining and supposing, I quickly decided that I’m very glad I only discovered all that I have in the last 3 years from the age of 30 and not at 18!
The reason? Well, if I had known all of this at 18, it would have completely consumed me! Knowing me, as I do, I know that every life decision I would have made from that point onward would have been based on this life changing blow! It would have changed everything! There is absolutely no way that my stubborn self would have allowed me to fall in love with the man who is now my best friend and love of my life; I’d have been worried that I’d be stopping him from ever achieving his dream of being a Daddy! I would also have stopped myself from living my life and gaining the character and life skills that would eventually help me through some of the hardest moments of my life! In fact I would have probably avoided all relationships for that reason and so be utterly miserable with no partner and no baby by this stage of my life! So, actually, I am glad I didn’t know all this then! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I’ve got all the answers, or that I deal with infertility well all of the time at the age of 33!! But the fact I found out when I did at 30 years old, means that its impact has been very different to how it would have been at 18!

Out of interest, I have then wondered, if I was going to advise her without giving away what was hong to happen, what would I say? So, like Andy Murray (ha!), I decided to put it in a letter.

Dear 18 year old me,

Well, where do I begin? I have lots I could tell you, warn you about and advise you on. But to be honest, over the next 15 years, you are going to have to learn to trust yourself on the journey ahead that is unknown to you! You need to make the mistakes you will make, succeed in the things you work hard in, have the relationships that are not right so when you meet the one that is right you will know the difference! Your journey ahead will shape who you are. So I would never intervene. But there are a few pointers I can give you!

I know you’re a quietly stubborn person and that you refuse to back down. This has landed you in some situations already, of your own doing, but you’ve learned from them and I won’t lie, there are a few more to come! I also know that things that scare you make you all the more determined to overcome them. Well, bearing these two things in mind and if, out of this whole letter you only listen to one thing, please let it be this; one day this determination to overcome the things that scare you will be one of the best characteristics you will own! Your quiet stubbornness will be the key to you not giving up when things get hard, it will rescue you on those days when you are not getting the answer you need or when you feel you can’t keep going! This quiet stubbornness and determined nature will help you no end. Better still, by the time you need to use these two character traits to your advantage in situations, you will have become much better at applying them to only specific circumstances where they are needed; as opposed to now when you are applying them to most things things in life whether you need to or not!

You will deny this, because you tend to bury your feelings (you do get a bit better in this area), but I also know that at the moment you look in the mirror and you’re not that confident in what you see, you feel very uncomfortable in your own skin. Only those closest to you know this! To anyone else, you have it all together! You are outgoing, funny, you get involved with things, you tell strangers what you think, you get in arguments in bars. But it is a front! You know it, I know it. But one day, you’re going to learn that you really need people and you need to know that they genuinely think you are brilliant and worth listening to! So get practising at talking about how you feel, letting people know when days are hard and being honest about when you can’t do it on your own! Because this will be your lifeline when you need it! You will need it!

You are mature for your 18 years, you often don’t feel it, but everyone you meet says this to you at the moment! I know you don’t feel this at all and it actually makes you want to be the opposite. I know you want someone to look after you for a change rather than you always looking after others. Well, take heart because that person you long for who will be your equal and who will look after you as much as you will look after them exists! In fact, you will meet him in this next year! But, you also need to know that nothing will happen with him this year. He will be a very close friend, your friendship will be amazing and you will care deeply for one another. But you won’t fall in love with each other for another 9 years! In fact, you also need to know that after this year you will move away to different places and then lose contact with each other. Don’t despair though! This is a good thing, because in those 9 years you will both grow a lot and when you finally get back in contact you will be very different people in some ways and at this point you will know it is right! Not only that, but the experiences you will both have had in that 9 years will stand you in good stead for what you will face together once you find each other again!

You will also learn quickly about what and who matters in life! Those moments now that seem huge and like you’ll not get over them! Well you will! Not only that, but the skills you develop in dealing with them, will be the foundations for much more important and genuinely huge situations you deal with later on. But you must learn these lessons for yourself!

Everything you do in the next decade or so is going to shape you, mould you and lead you to a place that when you face hard times (and I’ll be honest, you will have some that you will genuinely feel are drowning you), you will be capable, strong enough and more than able to come through them. You will have some battle scars at the end of it, but you can do it! There will be days when you see, hear, say, feel and do things that you will never imagine having to see, hear, say, feel and do . But it will be ok! You will be fine! I promise!

Enjoy the next decade, and beyond. Remember this: there will always be hope! You are able to do this!

Lots of love from me x

I’m not tired! I’m actually just very, very sad.

A few weeks after losing our baby I realised something. I had said to a lot of people who’d asked if I was ok, that I was very tired.

Now only our close family and a couple of friends know about our baby journey. This was a choice we made early. The reason for this was not to be secretive or because we were ashamed (far from it!). It was a decision we made to help ensure this battle did not consume us too much. By being in control of who we trusted with the information, it allowed us, on our rare good days, to not have a ‘caught off guard’ moment where someone suddenly reminded us of what we were facing. The other reason was that I didn’t (and still don’t) want pity! For me, pity is the worst thing someone can give me!
Genuine feelings of sorrow, sadness, understanding for someone who is struggling to conceive, or have just miscarried is brilliant, but pity is such a condescending thing for someone to feel. But also, I’m quite capable of having a full on pity party of my own doing where my hubby asks if he needs to buy balloons! Though I must add, he has quite good pity parties of his own too where I offer a cake!
Anyway, this was what led to us limiting who we told, to avoid bandwagon jumpers who actually wanted to wallow with us, rather than be in it with us. For me personally, in the way I deal with things, I’ve found there’s a fine line between solidarity and wallowing. I need to go with how I feel in the moment, but know that it won’t be a feeling I have forever. I have to be careful not to permanently tip the balance the wrong way!

Anyway, the fact I was saying I was tired to lots of people didn’t even pick up on their radar as anything other than I was working too hard or not sleeping enough. My job is very pressured, involved lots of travel at the time, and we also own our own business that my husband works full time doing. So being tired is ‘normal’ for me at times and people didn’t have a clue it was anything other than my normal everyday life draining me of energy. Even I convinced myself that I was very tired!

Well, that could have been true. I do get very tired, as does anyone! But there was something about this tiredness that was strange. No amount of rest or sleep shifted it. It was a sapping of energy that was right through to my bones! When I woke up in the morning I still felt tired, I was ‘exhausted’ but at the same time, I was not really that busy at work or burning the candle at both ends.

It was another couple of weeks before it dawned on me! I had been bleeding for a month following my miscarriage and I began to wonder if I was anaemic or run down. One evening I went into our kitchen to look for my iron tablets and caught a glimpse of myself reflected in the window. It was then I saw it!

I was not looking at a tired face, I was looking at an incredibly sad face! I was not tired, I was sad to my deepest core. Each part of my face was etched with sadness, loss, grief, despair, lost hope, disappointment.
That was what I was feeling!
It was disguising itself as tiredness really well, but my lack of motivation and lack of love for life was the issue, not a lack of sleep. Upon realising this, I cried! A lot!

It then all came out as I sobbed. I wanted my baby back! I wanted to feel sick in the mornings. I wanted to be at the same stage as others I knew would be pregnant and therefore due when I would have been. I wanted a scan picture to put on my shelf. I wanted to hold my baby in my arms.
But instead I was empty, in more ways than one. I didn’t want this! It wasn’t fair! I hated this and I hated we had to go through it.
There was absolutely nothing I or we could do to get back what we had lost. This was the hardest thing!

Not such a jubilant jubilee, but the day I learned to breathe

In the UK we had a long bank holiday weekend at the beginning of June 2012 for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. On the Friday night we went to some friends for a quiet meal and had loved the fact that all evening we had a little secret that we knew and they didn’t. We were going to have a baby. When we got in the car to come home we laughed about the fact that my hubby, who is terrible at keeping secrets, had managed all evening to not say a word! When we got home I was really tired and fell asleep very quickly, but I was feeling really, really happy.

But in the early hours of Saturday 2nd June 2012 I woke up in absolute agony. Immediately I knew what was happening! My fear was coming true! I was losing our baby. The bed was a state and I was filled with fear for our baby, but there was nothing I could do! I also knew that I was losing a lot of blood and I was very scared. My hubby woke quickly hearing my sobs and cries of pain and as he turned the light on we both knew what this meant for us.

The next few hours are a blur to me to be honest. I know he rushed me to A&E, he had no idea what else to do. They were fairly helpful, but not specialists in early miscarriage. We sat in the waiting room full of drunk people who’d been out in town. I sat and cried whilst the horrific waves of pain gripped my stomach. When we were called in and explained what had happened, the nurse basically said that because I was so early on that there was nothing they or I could do. As I was under an infertility consultant I was to contact them on the Wednesday (after the two bank holiday days) and ask them about next steps. They felt that my body was doing what it should to ‘sort itself out’ (yes they were the nurses words) and I would have to wait until after the bank holiday for a scan to make sure there was nothing left so that I was not at risk of infection. I was to go home, make a hot water bottle, take paracetamol and let nature take its course.

That day was the hardest day of my life. Never had I gone from such joy to despair within the space of a few hours. I was no longer carrying our baby and I was in agony. We got home, my hubby made me a hot water bottle, I climbed back into bed, pulled the duvet over my head and he held me for ages while I cried and cried. I could not believe it. I just repeated “I’m sorry” while he repeatedly told me it wasn’t my fault.
I’m not going to be graphic in detail about my miscarriage. There are some things I will never share as there is nothing to gain from it. But that afternoon my baby was gone. What was I meant to do now? Shout for my hubby to come to the bathroom and share my grief? That wouldn’t be fair. So I sat on the bathroom floor and sobbed. Sobbed for the baby that was no longer going to be a part of our future, for the lost dreams, the lost hopes. I could go on, but suffice it to say, that day was very, very, hard!

I listened as my hubby phoned and explained the situation repeatedly first to our parents, then to each of our siblings what had happened. Each time he said it I realised more and more what had happened. I also felt bad that I couldn’t stop crying long enough to help him make the calls. he was having to do it all. But this was huge. How would we ever recover? I just lay there looking into the darkness wondering why this had happened to us. Why such hope and joy could turn into such utter sadness and grief. This wasn’t fair!

The next morning I woke up and for a moment I forgot, then I remembered. But I had a choice. I needed to try and hold it together, for my own sanity. That’s not to say that I was going to ignore my grief or overlook my loss. Our baby was a part of our family and will always be acknowledged as our first child, but I needed to find some firm ground to stand on or I was going to lose it completely. I needed to get a grip on this or it would grip me.
The rest of that weekend was the national jubilee celebrations, we were meant to be going to a big outdoor screening of the concert at a large national trust house on the Monday night with my parents, my brother, sister in law and newborn nephew. I decided I wanted to go. I needed to be around people and be reminded of the positives of my life. My husband needed to be around someone who wasn’t crying all the time. That was it, it was decided, we were going.

We sat on deck chairs, with bunting, flasks of tea, sandwiches, cake and biscuits. We wrapped ourselves in blankets when it got cold and we laughed at the funny bits, sat in awe at some the amazing singers and joined in with the crowds singing the familiar songs. In the silent moments I remembered my sadness, every so often my hubby gave my hand a squeeze or his arm around my shoulder. But in between those sad moments was fun, laughter, family and moments of joy. This was by no means pretending nothing had happened. It was a way of trying to start the chance to heal a little.

There was something really important and significant I realised in my ocean of sadness that weekend. When you’re drowning, you need to snatch as many breaths as you can to keep yourself alive. For me in my ocean of grief and sadness I needed to catch breaths as often as I could to keep me alive that weekend, and have done again in many moments since. That weekend, by exposing myself to those ‘moments’, I was able to snatch a breath. I still make sure I deliberately snatch them regularly now too.
These ‘breaths’ are moments where I am reminded of the joy and hope in my life; the love and support of my wonderful hubby, a kiss, a cuddle, a smile, a lovely story of hope, the love of my family, a moment of laughter, a moment of enjoyment, a moment of kindness, a moment where I am reminded there is hope in the world, that I am ok. I am convinced that this is what kept me going whilst I was bobbing up and down in my ocean of despair that weekend. Without those things I know I would have gone under.

What makes this even more special is that I have our baby to thank for the fact that I learned this life lesson that weekend. It has completely changed how I view our journey since that day. There are still days/hours/minutes when I am consumed; where I feel like I’m drowning and I can’t breathe. Like this week, a year on, I have found myself treading water in my sadness ocean remembering my pain, but a snatch of breath through a moment of fun, love, laughter, hope, a cuddle with my nephew, a smile from a stranger, a touch from my hubby, those ‘breaths’ keep me ‘alive’ during those moments and rescue me.
So I no longer feel guilty for catching those ‘breaths’ because I know those moments are a life saver (and sanity saver too!).

May 28th 2012 – A day I will never forget

I’m sat here this morning, thinking back to this date a year ago. It was a very significant date! Let me explain.
When I woke up that morning to go to work (it was a Monday – bleugh) I felt REALLY rough. This was very weird for me, I am normally fine getting up for work even on a monday. To be honest that weekend had been a sad one as we had found out in the Friday that we were going to have to have our cat put to sleep, but we had to wait until the Tuesday for the appointment. It was horrid, each time I looked at her I felt guilty knowing what we were going to have to do, whilst at the same time knowing her kidneys were failing, she was very old, very ill and very sad at not being able to eat or drink. Still, I had cried uncontrollably about it most of the weekend.
So I decided this emotional few days was why I felt out of sorts. Well, that was the reason I stuck to all day when people said I looked a bit pale.
But in reality there was another reason nagging in the back of my mind that I was ignoring. I might be pregnant!

Now, for those that don’t understand, let me explain…. For most women, this thought is the most exciting thought you can have when trying for a baby. But for women going through infertility it is a thought we dare not let ourselves entertain.
The emotional torment caused by that one phrase ‘could I be pregnant?’ makes a woman suffering with infertility become very cautious in even letting it briefly flash through her mind. Because for those with infertility, the truth is, that thought cannot briefly flash through your mind. Once you think it, that is it! The floodgates of thoughts begins until you know if you are or not:
For example, my flood of thoughts would go like this:

I think my boobs do hurt a bit – it’s a sign
I think I’ve been feeling a bit sick – it’s another sign, I think I might be!
I’m very moody at the moment – I pretty much definitely think I am.
My period still hasn’t come (even though my cycles can be 65 days long and it’s day 32), this definitely feels different – ooo, I really must be!
My ankles look a bit swollen, I think – oh my days it’s another sign, I am pregnant, I know it!
I’ve been so tired the last week or so – that’s it, I’m definitely pregnant! I’m doing a test!
You do the test – 3 minutes feels like 3 years – you peek through one squinty eye and
NOT PREGNANT stares back at you. At that precise moment your hopes hit the ground with an almighty smash as little pieces of your soul are lost forever in that moment of dashed hopes and despair. You then spend the next few days feeling stupid and angry with yourself that you ever let yourself hope and decide you’re never going to let that happen again, which of course you do! Then the whole thing repeats itself month after month, year after year.

THAT is why we don’t let that phrase enter our mind!

But the morning of Monday 28th May 2012 I thought it! We were on cycle 4 of using Clomid and I was sure it wasn’t working. My cycles were still really long and I had been using ovulation prediction tests on all Clomid cycles to date and hadn’t had a positive yet. So I tried desperately hard all day to ignore my silly thought, but I couldn’t shift it! But the floodgates of thoughts opened! The day before we’d been for a meal for a family member’s birthday and I’d felt really travel sick as a passenger in the car, I’m never travel sick! Additionally, I could barely open my eyes that morning, not like me. My alarm goes off and I’m awake, it’s just the way I have always been. But the final thing that had triggered THAT thought was that I’d woken up in the night as it hurt to lie on my stomach. I have always slept on my front and it had never hurt! So, the nagging dreaded phrase haunted me all day. I didn’t want to do it, but when I got home from work, without saying what I was about to do to my hubby, I went straight upstairs and found the cheap pregnancy test I knew was in the bottom of the bathroom drawer. I didn’t care that it said to wait until the morning. I had to get this over with.
I did the test and waited. During that few minutes, knowing the disappointment that had occurred every month for the two years before this time, I gave myself a really serious talking to and totally convinced myself that I was going to be disheartened any minute. Trying to protect my heart and soul from the impending pain, I even repeated the phrase “this will be negative but I’m ok” about 30 times to myself.

After three- ish minutes I looked down at the strip and before me were TWO pink lines!
TWO????? WHAT??? No! Surely this was a faulty test?
I flew down the stairs so fast that I’m surprised I didn’t fall and I burst into the living room and flung the test in the face of my hubby who took a moment to register what was going on! He looked at it and a confused look spread across his face as I said “I’ve done a test, it says I’m pregnant! But I don’t believe it! I need to get a test that will let me see it in words!”. He remained calm (he’s good at that) and so, off we went in the car to boots to get a digital test. Well, we bought four! I drank lots of water that night and a little while later did another! There was the word we had been waiting for: pregnant!

Without sounding dramatic, words cannot describe how elated we both felt that night. It was like Christmas x 100 had arrived early. After 2 years of trying and 4 cycles of Clomid, our turn had finally come. I checked my dates. I was 7 weeks 3 days pregnant. I felt a little silly that I’d not noticed earlier, but never mind, we felt fantastic! After all, the consultant had told me not to do a test on day 28 anymore, so how would I have known!?

We were cautious, as everyone is in those early days, but we did start to allow ourselves to have those conversations we had never allowed ourselves to have before. Things like potential names, dates, plans, nursery furniture, when we would tell people etc. The next morning I did two more tests. Five tests now lined up in the bathroom all said the same. I was pregnant!

Our dream had come true, finally! We had the positive we had been struggling for! I couldn’t believe it!

Clomid – hormone madness in a little tablet with a potential silver lining of hope

After all the tests our consultant prescribed Clomiphine Citrate – often known as Clomid (for more info see http://www.nhs.uk/medicine-guides/pages/MedicineOverview.aspx?condition=Infertility&medicine=clomifene%20citrate&preparationClomifene%2050mg%20tablets)

PCOS means that my enlarged ovaries are full of eggs, but something does not work properly with my hormones and so there’s never the surge of the correct hormones to mature or release any of them. No eggs = no babies! I describe it as being a badly functioning chicken. I don’t lay eggs!

The way that Clomid works is to induce ovulation. It blocks hormones at the beginning of your cycle to make your body produce more oestrogen and FSH to encourage your body to release a matured egg. It is also used to regulate cycles. You can be given 50mg/100mg/150mg doses depending on your body/hormone levels. Some consultants want you to take it from day 2 for 5 days, others from day 3 for 5 days. Sounds simple and a miracle worker in theory doesn’t it!

My consultant started me on 5 days of 100mg daily, starting on day 2 of my period through to day 6. I was then to have blood tests every day 21 to monitor my hormone levels to see if i had ovulated. Then, regardless of the length of my cycles, I was to do a pregnancy test every day 28. If it was negative, I was to wait for my next cycle and on day 2 take the tablets again. Again, sounds simple huh!?

Well my first problem came on my first cycle taking it! What on earth was classed as day 2? I’ll explain why this was a problem for me. As most of you may know many ladies, especially these with fertility issues do not have regular cycles, but furthermore you don’t always start your period at the start of a day. Added to this is the fact that my ‘day one’ can sometimes be a little misleading! Let me put it like this, for some of my cycles, the first day is very light. Enough to know I’m on, but is that enough to class as day one for taking Clomid?
So my first dilemma was, was my period heavy enough to class as day one? But also, I started in the evening, so was this still day one, or did a day in relation to deciding when to take fertility medication mean a whole 24 hours of bleeding? Oh my days, it was a minefield! I googled to see what others had said but this didn’t help. So just had to trust my instincts!

The second issue with this responsibility for taking this ‘miracle pill’ that I had placed all of my hopes on, was how it made me feel. The consultant had warned me that every woman was affected differently. Some women it very obviously affected others had no side effects at all and everything in between those extremes. Just as women’s bodies are so different from one another, their reactions to Clomid vary tremendously too. Some women experience virtually no side-effects. Others do, usually of an emotional kind. But as with any tablet, he could not guarantee how it would affect me. The leaflet that came in the box with mine said this:

Other side effects can occur but are rare. If you experience very bad nausea; vomiting; abdominal bloating/ discomfort or pain; problems with your sight (yellow vision) or other visual disturbances; hot flushes; depression; insomnia; breast tenderness; headache; inter-menstrual spotting, menhorragia (heavy periods); endometriosis; convulsions; weight gain; rashes; dizziness; or hair loss; then you should stop taking the tablets and see a doctor.

For me, the fact this pill could give us a baby we longed for meant that I was prepared for any side effect. I would walk over hot coals, over mountains or through valleys. To be honest, without sounding like obsessed weirdos we’d do anything to add to our family. But I must admit I suffered really badly with headaches and nausea from day 2 – 6 each time I took it. If you talk to my hubby it made me VERY grumpy too! I can’t say I noticed, ha! But it was more obvious to him as I don’t suffer with PMT (I’m very fortunate) but on Clomid it was like PMT x 1000.
Still, we pinned our hopes on this small little tablet, so we rode it out. After 5 days once I’d stopped taking it for that cycle, all went back to normal as far as my headaches, nausea and grumpiness was concerned. Which was good as then it was the fun part, hoping I’d been a good chicken and laid an egg and so trying to make a baby.

At the end of cycle 3 we went back to the consultant and he seemed unconcerned with my side effects and fairly pleased with my day 21 blood tests. He also helped with my concerns about when day 1was and assured me that I was doing the right thing. But he wanted to up my dose to 150mg and move my blood test to day 26 as my cycles were still very long.

Life carried on and we continued to try and to hope. The trying was fun, the hoping was getting harder as the months continued to pass.

Continued from – When is a test not a test?

Continued from previous post…….

Stage Four – Hysterosalpingogram (HSG)

Official description: Radiographic contrast (dye) is injected into the uterine cavity through the vagina and cervix. The uterine cavity fills with dye and if the fallopian tubes are open, dye fills the tubes and spills into the abdominal cavity. This shows whether the fallopian tubes are open or blocked.

What it was like for me –
I arrived for the appointment and signed in and filled out a questionnaire, answering questions regarding allergies to medication etc. They took us to sit in another waiting room and there we waited for me to be called through to get changed. I was called through to what can only be described as shop changing rooms (each hospital is different). You are provided with one of those lovely gowns! Well, at my hospital the nurse was lovely and gave me two, one to go on backwards (with the big gaping hole at the back,) and then another to go on like a dressing gown so I felt more comfortable (the kindest thing he could have done). This was proven to be even kinder than I initially realised as I then had to walk back through the waiting room in these gowns whilst still wearing my socks and shoes, as they were worried people might slip! I’m sure this would only happen at my hospital!

The actual hysterosalpingogram only took about 10 minutes to perform. However, the test was done in a specialist room within the radiology department and it is good to point out here that it feels a bit like an operating theatre so don’t freak out, theres definitely no operation! You should have quite a few nurses in the room, I had one whose job was to talk to me the whole time and make sure I was ok. She also told me what was happening at each step. Also be aware that they are taking x rays all the way through the procedure so they are all in what looks like armour! Don’t freak out – you are safe, it’s only because they do this all day so need protecting from permanent exposure to radiation.

As I walked in the room there was a bed that looked like an operating table. Above the bed were three large tv screens up on the ceiling to show the doctor all the x ray images during the procedure. These were positioned so I could also see them, so if you’d rather not look you might want to close your eyes during the procedure. I loved watching my womb and tubes fill with dye and found it totally fascinating, but I know others would freak out.

I was asked to lie on the table and to place my legs into the stirrups so I was in a frog like position (a bit like you did in the old version of the smear test before they changed it). You feel like the whole world can see everything and you feel a little vulnerable, but you’re ok. I still had my shoes and socks on, so this also felt a little strange.
The doctor then came into the room, introduced himself and explained the procedure. He then cleaned me with iodine to ensure I was not at risk of an infection as it is a very intrusive procedure. I will be very honest, I found this to be the most undignified part of the very undignified procedure! He then placed a speculum (as they do in a smear test) in to the vagina to open it up so he could locate my cervix. Everyone is very different in that region, so be prepared that they may ask you to move a little or to have a cushion placed under your bottom at this stage so they can find your cervix if it is quite far back. Once the cervix was located the doctor then got a soft, thin catheter and pushed it through my cervix and into my uterus. This was quite painful and made my eyes water, but was tolerable. Contrast (dye) was then slowly injected through the catheter into my uterus. I will be honest again here, this made my uterus start cramping immediately! It was not at all pleasant and instinct made my body want to push my legs down and pull away. The nurse talking to me helped a little, but I found it much better to focus on my breathing and this helped me more.
X-ray pictures were taken as my uterus filled and then as additional contrast was injected so that the tubes filled and dye could begin to spill into my abdominal cavity. More x-ray pictures were taken as this “fill and spill” occurred. It was at this point that I was asked to roll very slightly to one side and then to the other to ensure the dye had the chance to get through each tube. I watched on the big screens as images came up of this happening.
The procedure was now complete and the instruments were removed from the cervix and vagina. I could then out my legs down so I felt comfortable as the doctor then showed me the x rays and told me there are then that my tubes were clear and that my womb looked healthy with no fibroids or polyps (an additional bonus result of this procedure). I remained on the table for a few minutes to recover from the cramping caused by the injection of the contrast and was then given what can only be described as a mattress (a hospital issue sanitary towel) to catch any dye as you stood up to walk back to get changed. It was now I was glad for massive gowns so no one could see it! I went back to the changing rooms, got dressed and was immediately free to go home as soon as I had done this. Once home I no longer required a pad as no more dye came out. The body absorbs it anyway, it is not harmful.
They say you can go back to work immediately. My appointment was 9.30 a.m. and I went back to work at lunch time and was completely fine. The cramping did carry on for the rest of the day, but nothing awful, it just felt a bit like occasional period pain.

So, there’s my account of my tests. As I say, you can’t revise to change the outcome, but hopefully this information will help you be better prepared. I know I wish someone had told me before I went.

When is a test not a test? When no amount of studying will help you.

Warning: this is going to be a very frank and honest explanation/description of the tests I had following our referral to the hospital. The type of person I am means I like to have all the details of everything to feel most settled knowing exactly what to expect. I did not have this luxury myself going into these tests, which made them so much worse for me as I didn’t know what was going to happen!
But, if you’re the type of person who doesn’t like gory details then please don’t read this, but if you’re like me, it might be just what you need to know…

Now, whilst trying not to sound pretentious, I need to convey my approach to tests. Throughout school/university I have always felt quite positive about tests. I have a very visual memory and this helps me revise in a way that helps me build a picture of the information. Added to this, I don’t really get nervous in a way that stops me functioning, my only issue is that I can’t sleep when I’m nervous. You may wonder why I’m going on about my academic approach and sounding like a big headed know it all. Well, it is because whilst in school I could influence my own outcomes, but when it came to infertility, well these tests are NOT at all the same! The playing field is completely levelled and theres nothing I could do to alter the outcome. If they found the issue that was causing my infertility, then absolutely nothing I could do would affect the outcome in the test, it would be whatever it would be.

Here’s why:
* I couldn’t change the situation by revising
* there is nothing I could do to change the outcome
* I couldn’t resit them

This was my first hurdle in these tests. I don’t function very well when I am out of control of a situation (my hubby calls it being a ‘control freak’, I like to call it ‘liking to be prepared’ ). But this is one thing on this journey that I have found the hardest. I’m still not great with it, but I’m getting better.

Ok, now for the details:
Please note, this information relates to my body and are what my consultant told me. Consultants vary greatly, so don’t use this as a self diagnosis tool – use it to broaden your understanding of how our bizarre and very clever bodies work!!!

Stage One following referral – hormone blood tests

If you want to know what these hormones do, go to this site http://www.wellbeingofwomen.org.uk/your-wellbeing/your-health/hormones/

Ok, so I had many, many blood tests, mainly on days 3 and 21 – but here’s what I was told:

Day 3 blood tests: looking at –

* Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) – Expected ‘normal’ level – 3-20 mIU/ml
FSH is often used as a gauge of ovarian reserve. In general, under 6 is excellent, 6-9 is good, 9-10 fair, 10-13 diminished reserve, 13+ very hard to stimulate.
In PCOS testing, the LH:FSH ratio was looked at for my diagnosis. The ratio is usually close to 1:1, but if the LH is higher, it is ONE possible indication of PCOS.

* Luteinizing Hormone (LH) – expected ‘normal level’ less than 7 mIU/ml
A normal LH level is similar to FSH. An LH that is higher than FSH is one indication of PCOS.

* progesterone (P4) – expected ‘normal level’ less than 1.5 ng/ml

My day 3 results were:
FSH – 5.1mIU/ml
LH – 17.6 mIU/ml
Progesterone – 1.1 ng/ml

Day 21 blood tests: looking at –

* Progesterone (P4) – expected ‘normal level’ is greater than 15 ng/ml
A progesterone test is done to confirm ovulation. When a follicle releases its egg, it becomes what is called a corpus luteum and produces progesterone. A level over 5 probably indicates some form of ovulation, but most doctors want to see a level over 15 in a cycle.

My day 21 results were:
Progesterone = 1.2579 ng/ml

This meant that I was definitely not ovulating and that my ratio of LH exceeded FSH on day 3 suggested PCOS as the blood tests by my GP had also suggested.

Stage Two – transabdominal ultrasound to check state of ovaries in relation to PCOS indication from blood tests.

Some consultants prefer to request a transvaginal ultrasound (internal), but my consultant requested a transabdominal ultrasound (external) to view my ovaries.

Things to be aware of:

1. The place I had to go to have the ultrasound was the same place as all the women who were in the blissful state of pregnancy and awaiting their 12/20 week scans – I don’t know why I hadn’t realised this would be the case but it was a mixture of surreal, painful and heart wrenching all at the same time. Never have two women with such opposite extremes of feelings sat next to each other than myself and the 20 week pregnant woman next to me on that day.

2. You need a very full bladder for a transabdominal ultrasound, but as with any hospital appointment, they are not always running on time! So go easy on the water – when I eventually had my scan, 45 mins later than planned, and she had to push on my stomach I actually thought I might wet myself! Funny in hindsight, horrific feeling at the time.

My results were as expected for my blood test results:
Classic symptoms of PCOS – enlarged ovaries with many small cysts/follicles but no dominant/ruptured follicle.

Stage Three – after consultant had received both sets of results, he confirmed PCOS.

Next course of action was treatment. The consultant decided on an ovulation inducing drug called Clomid. However, before he could prescribe it I was required to have one further procedure. They needed to check my tubes were clear. There is no point in inducing ovulation if your tubes are blocked.

Continued in next blog….

Long story short – infertility sucks! You don’t know that at first, but that’s the reality

To cut a very, very long story short, once we were referred to the hospital and had our appointment through we felt a little more positive. That sounds odd I know, as a referral to the hospital would normally make people feel worse. But the fact that someone was going to take us seriously (we always felt the GP was helpful but didn’t really acknowledge our issues), then investigate the issues and then provide a possible solution/plan made me feel much better.
Before you chortle with a knowing noise that knows different, I’ll have you know that hindsight is a wonderful thing! I even roll my eyes at my former naive self, but oh, how I long to still hold so little knowledge of infertility as I did back then! I am actually jealous of the time when I had no idea about FSH, LH, progesterone, oestrogen levels at various stages of my cycles (and that reference to information only scratches the surface, more of that later). But to have thought that our referral was going to solve our infertility woes and we would have a baby soon now seems so naive, but that was what we thought.

We were correct that we were to be taken seriously and our situation fully investigated. The consultant we were referred to at our local hospital was honestly amazing! Whatever people say about the NHS in the UK, we felt very fortunate to access such specialism, genuine kindness, interest, honesty and integrity in the service we had provided to us.
What we hadn’t anticipated was that our investigations would show things were bleaker than we would imagine, but even in that revelation we felt carried, looked after and that things were explained really well to us.
Anyway, before I get to that, I want to explain our tests. I know that I would have loved someone a step ahead of me to explain what was about to occur without all the negativity. I’ll be honest, they were not pleasant, but I’ll be honest so you have a better expectation of what will happen and why, how to prepare and how you might feel before/during/after.

People are going to label you. It’s how you overcome those labels. That’s what matters. – Anonymous

After the waiting game for the day 21 test was over and my results were finally confirmed, the results had shown that I required more in depth blood tests, on various other days of my cycles. Easier said than done. But finally, when they’d decided I had been a human pin cushion for long enough and they had all of my various day and specific type of hormone focused results, we were called back in for an appointment with the GP for the verdict.
As we sat together with the doctor he announced, with a tone of voice I imagined to be not too dissimilar to one he would use for someone with a throat infection, that my results suggested that I had PCOS. He followed that life changing label with the fact that it was now in a realm of infertility that was out of his hands.

I started to panic. Firstly, I had absolutely no idea what the acronym PCOS was, so I had to ask him to elaborate. He broke it down for us; Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Nope, still none the wiser. The only bit of that phrase that gave some clarity was the word ovary. Ok, so now we knew it was something to do with my ovaries, but I had still never heard of it and still felt scared as he followed that revelation with the fact that we now would need to be referred to see a ‘specialist’ at the infertility clinic at the local hospital. My mind was now beyond overdrive, I was now at the stage of conjuring up all sorts of wild thoughts. Did I not have any ovaries or were they damaged or malformed? How had I gone my whole life not knowing this? Or even worse, was it something that I’d just developed and had I done something that had caused it?
My silly musings were getting me nowhere, so I asked him to explain more; what exactly was wrong with my ovaries? He hesitantly explained that PCOS meant that my ovaries were probably covered in lots of cysts. CYSTS?! Again, my mind flew into over imagining what this meant. The only experience I’d had of cysts on an ovary was a friend of my mum who had an ovarian cyst removed in emergency surgery and they discovered it was the size of a small football.
Now the GP was saying my ovaries were covered in them. What if mine were that big? Was I in danger, would I need surgery? I asked him again to elaborate as to exactly what this meant for us. By now, I think he was running out of answers. So he asked us to wait a moment, turned to his computer he started typing and the printer started churning out paper. He lifted the paper off the printer, separated it into two piles and gave one copy to us. Then, referring to his own printed out copy, he started to read. Yes people, he had searchedPCOS on the NHS website and then read it to us!
It turned out, that the ‘syndrome’ I had just been labelled with was most probably affecting the way my body dealt with sugars and insulin. Therefore as this was out of balance, it would be negatively influencing my hormone levels and was firstly preventing any eggs from ever maturing and then stopping them from being released. Again panic ran through me like millions of little tiny people trying to escape a dangerous situation. What did that mean? So, was I now diabetic as well as infertile.
Brilliant! Just brilliant! Not only were my fears confirmed, I had now been given a label and no further definite information about the consequences of this label. We were left with more questions than when we had arrived. But I gave up asking questions at this point, I’d heard enough. The bottom line for me in that moment was that it WAS my body was failing us. The concern I’d been growing for weeks now had just burst into glorious flower.
Just before we left, brains in a fuzz of information that we didn’t understand, the GP tried to reassure us with the following ground breaking advice “try not to worry.” We smiled politely and left.