Saturday, 19 December 2009

The tale of the egg collection

Thanks for all the good wishes ahead of Tuesday's egg collection - every one was much appreciated and brought me support. Here's the story of how the day went.

I was nil by mouth from midnight the night before, and had assumed I'd be too anxious to sleep, but in fact I was exhausted by 9pm and retired early to a surprisingly decent night's shuteye. I woke at 6, lay for an hour contemplating what was ahead, then rose.

I'd bought special organic unscented shower gel and deodorant for the day of the egg collection and embryo transfer as we'd been advised both by the clinic and by friends who've been through IVF that strong perfumes should be avoided.

I showered, stared for a while at my hideous, gnarly unpainted toenails and then got dressed in the exact same outfit, down to the socks, that I wore for my HSG so very long ago. My logic was that a) the garments in question rank among the most comfy, cosy clothes I possess and b) I survived that so, in the same way that I always tie the exact same red ribbon on my suitcase handle when I fly because so far every plane has landed safely, I'd survive this.

My mum arrived to collect me absurdly early - I inherited this trait from her - and we arrived at the clinic well in advance of my 9am slot. I had started to sense a flutter of panicky nerves during the car journey, but sitting in the waiting room I could feel my body determinedly relaxing in the way it does immediately before trauma. My most pressing concern was the amount of pain I was by now in from the bloating caused by so many follicles. My stomach was hugely distended and uncomfortable, and I felt like I needed the toilet all the time. I could not wait to get those eggs out of me and into petri dishes.

Hubby and I were both summoned into a consulting room by a nurse I hadn't met before. I didn't really warm to her: she tried to make jokes, and I suffer from sense of humour bypass on aeroplanes and in distressing clinical situations. When her cheerful remark that the drug they'd give me was so nice she'd "like to get some for the weekend" was met with a blank stare, she shut up and gave us the facts: they were running a little behind, so we'd need to wait in reception some more before going through to prep me for theatre.

This we duly did. I wasn't irritated that they were behind schedule - these things happen in hospitals - but I do remember glancing at the clock when it reached 9.45 with something like despair, as I'd assumed I'd be nearly done by then. Fool that I am.

It was gone 10 when we were eventually escorted to the ward and introduced to the ward sister, who I immediately liked for her warm but no-nonsense manner. There are four beds in the ward - amazingly, the clinic perform five egg collections each weekday - and I was the fifth and last patient of the morning. That meant I didn't get a bed to prep in, because there were two beds in use by recovering women, one awaiting the imminent return of the current operatee, and one with the girl before me in it. We were therefore shown to hardback chairs immediately adjacent to the curtain around my predecessor's bed.

It was fine at first but my abdominal discomfort started to increase - I guess the timing of the hCG injection means your eggs start to mature right before the collection - and sitting on an unyielding chair was no fun. Hubby was doing what he does in airports (I'm terrified of flying): reading a book and studiously ignoring me. The girl in the bed next to me started to complain about her own abdominal pain, which irritated me because at least she was lying down.

The sister then returned and went through the paperwork. She gave hubby a pot with his name on it, and me a credit card thing with mine. We then had to go over to the computer and scan both - they each had a barcode - to "lock us in" to the system and make sure everything that either squirted out of him or was gouged out of me was assigned to us.

After that the sister explained that the doctor - head honcho consultant, I was pleased to learn - would come and put a portacath in my arm ready for the administration of the drugs once I got to theatre. She asked if I had a problem with needles and was rewarded with a hollow laugh.

Hubby was then dispatched to produce his sample. I sat chewing my nails, fully expecting his sheepish head to emerge from the wank room and announce he couldn't get hard. I had a variety of waspish responses ready should that eventuality occur. My favourite was "You need to get a grip - literally".

He was back surprisingly quickly and sufficiently flushed and furtive to suggest that his endeavours had been successful. I asked as much and he announced that they had.

"Where the fuck's the sperm, then?" said I. He explained that there's a little window in the room - sort of like a dumb waiter - where the man puts the pot and then presses a buzzer when he's done, presumably to spare him the mortal embarrassment of walking out into the ward clutching his juice. How very thoughtful of the clinic. Shame stirrups don't come in embarrassment-free models.

Hubby returned to his book looking decidedly pleased with himself. The sister returned, congratulated him - yes, really; blokes need so much bloody encouragement - and then told me to get changed into a theatre gown, over which I was allowed to put the dressing gown and slippers I'd brought along.

I ducked into a tiny changing room furnished with lockers and a load of theatre clogs, presumably for girls who forget their slippers. Luckily I'd brought with me what I lovingly refer to as my "fluffy feet" - a pair of whimperingly soft and furry bedsocks which I wear nightly on my return from work until they get up and walk to the washing machine themselves.

The theatre gown was similar to the one I'd worn for the HSG: press studs in the back of the neck, then loose ties at the shoulders and waist, and otherwise open to the four winds. I was very glad of my dressing gown as I trudged back to our seats.

At this point, the girl in the next bed really started to get on my tits. The doctor was with her when I returned, putting in her portacath. I have sympathy for people who are afraid of needles, I really do, but for fuck's sake. I have no idea how she coped with the daily injections. Anyway, she was squealing and weeping and just generally overreacting in a highly vexing fashion. Hubby saw the expression on my face and his lips curved with amusement. After it was in, she immediately - immediately, mark you - started giggling and claiming to be hysterical, until the doctor pointed out wearily that she hadn't actually administered any drugs yet. At that moment my - and I like to think, the doctor's - mind was made up: drama queen. And she didn't even appreciate that she had a bed.

A few minutes later a new nurse came to collect her. I couldn't see through the curtain but I soon heard the nurse say, "No, sorry, you can't wear that - we need to be able to talk to you. Didn't you bring a CD?" and I knew that she must have not read the admission notes, which expressly forbid iPods, properly. "Nooooo," wailed Norma Desmond. "I need my music!" I mean, I ask you. The nurse sighed and said, "What were you planning to listen to? We have a few spare CDs if you'd like to choose one." The response, uttered whiningly: "Some chuuuuuurch muuuuuusiiiiic.".

After she departed I knew I had probably about half an hour still to wait. I was hoping they'd transfer me into Norma's bed, but they didn't. By this point my stomach was really hurting - it was like having horrendous wind - and the only way I could get comfy was to slouch back in the seat and prop my feet on the low magazine table in front of us. This was fine until a man arrived, presumably to produce a sample, and elected to sit in the chair DIRECTLY opposite my naked vagina. I was less than thrilled.

By this time it was nearing 11am - a lot longer than I'd thought the whole process of checking in would take. I started to worry that I'd ovulate the eggs and ruin everything, but hubby assured me that they wouldn't allow this to happen. Finally, Norma was wheeled back into her cubicle, blessedly quiet now, and the doctor came to say good morning and insert my portacath.

It went into the vein in the crook of my elbow fine, no worse than a blood test really despite what I've heard, and was taped securely in place. The doctor flushed some saline through it to make sure the liquid was going into me and then said it'd be just a few minutes more.

Shortly after that, a new nurse appeared and introduced herself as the theatre nurse. She took my CD - Sarah McLachlan, about the most soothing artist I own, with the particular album chosen for the presence of a song with the line "it'll all be worth it, worth it in the end" - and, after a quick peck on the lips from hubby (for me, not the nurse) led me down the corridor to the theatre.

At first glance it looked like a torture room from one of Eli Roth's less palatable films. There was a low sideboard spread with heinous implements, including pliers (what the FUCK could they possibly need those for? screeched my brain) and an ominous bed upholstered in black leather on a sort of raised dais in the middle. I had to walk to the end of the room, with another nurse beckoning me like a floor manager in a TV studio, and was instructed to insert my barcoded credit card into a reader. A voice then spoke to me from the wall. If I was a religious woman, I might have thought it was God, except it said "Hi, I'm Emma, the embryologist, can you confirm your name and date of birth please?" which doesn't seem like the sort of thing God would say.

Having duly confirmed my vital statistics, the nurse took my dressing gown and slippers and I was asked to clamber on to the bed and lie down. I was wearing my glasses, having sensibly left my contacts at home in case the drugs made me fall asleep, and the nurse said I could keep them on if I wanted to. This relieved me as things are always scarier when you can't see properly. I had to confirm I didn't have any allergies and wasn't wearing any nail polish (which, surely, they could have seen for themselves.

Once I was in position, though not yet in the stirrups, my blood pressure was taken. Next, a clip was placed on my left forefinger and an oxygen mask over my face. The doctor was bustling around with who-knows-what at the business end, and the theatre nurse told me she was going to administer the pain killer now, and then once it had taken effect, the sedative.

I didn't feel anything for about a minute but then suddenly it was like this warm, woozy sensation flooded me, starting in my legs and soon taking me over completely. The best way I can describe it is like being very, very drunk, but without the queasiness and room spin that often entails. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't quite pleasant. But one thing about it was that I knew I was no longer in control of my faculties; that I probably couldn't leap off this bed and run away if I wanted to, and that was a bit freaky.

Happy it had taken effect, the nurse started pumping in the sedative. And then it seemed things started immediately, although time sort of took on a fluid quality so perhaps there was a delay. The doctor said she was going to examine me, and I felt an icy cold speculum being cranked open inside me. It twinged a bit more than a speculum usually does, which made the words "Oh, fuck" scoot across my mind. Then that was removed and the scanner put in its place, which wasn't so bad.

"We'll do the right side first," the doctor said, and then there was a terrible pain. It was brief - it lasted maybe 15 seconds - but it was bad. It would have been the needle penetrating my vaginal wall and going into my right ovary. I must have gasped, because they all told me it was OK and how well I was doing.

I don't really remember much about the eggs on the right side coming out, just a feeling of intense pressure, slight crampiness and the sense that a lot of implements were rummaging around very deep inside me. Then I heard the dreaded words, "And now the left side" and braced myself for that stabbing pain again.

I remember nothing after feeling that. They said I might not remember any of the procedure - I like how I remember the pain of my wall being perforated but not something boring like being put on a trolley - and I certainly don't recall it ending, the scaffolding being dismantled and me being put back on the ward.

I woke up after what I assumed was only about ten minutes. I was in bed, in a curtained cubicle, in the recovery position, no longer wearing my glasses. I stared for a while at the curtain until I could focus and noticed that it was printed with images of bridges and famous buildings from the city where I live. I then became conscious of awful cramping pains in my lower tummy, and flipped on my back to ease them. A nurse checked on me just as I was doing this and told me I needed to lie on my side in case I was sick. She helped me roll over and then told me to sleep. I lasted about a minute on my side and then flipped back again. I'm nothing if not disobedient.

I dozed for a while but it was noisy on the ward - I had the sense there were throngs of people milling about - and I wanted my mum. I must have been woozier than I thought and whimpering as much because after what seemed like only a few minutes, the nurse was back asking if I wanted anything. "My mum," I said, so she went to get her. The sound of my mum's voice asking, "Is she OK?" as she was led down the corridor was music to my ears.

It turned out I had slept for nearly an hour and a quarter. Mum got a bit freaked when the first thing I said was that the bridge was on my curtain, until she looked and saw that it was true. She was with hubby, and they each took one of my hands, my mum chafing the one she held between her own as if I'd just come in from the cold. She put my glasses on me and the nurse propped up my bed so I was sitting. The cramps were still bad but subsiding and I started to feel better quickly.

I was given toast with strawberry jam, orange juice and coffee. I hadn't imagined I'd be hungry in a million years, but having not eaten since dinner the previous night I found I was ravenous. My mum read out a checklist of the things I needed to demonstrate before being discharged: namely, sitting up, eating, drinking, walking, and urinating. Anxious to be home, I did all of them.

The embryologist came to see me and told me they had got ten eggs, which she said was really good. I was told to phone at 10.30 the following morning to check fertilisation, and with that was sent on my relieved, if not merry, way.

The only issue on the way home were speedbumps, which jarred my tummy something rotten. But once back in my house I spent the afternoon snoozing in bed and on the sofa, and by evening felt as right as rain, if still a little bloated and sore.

I'm still tired and feel like I've written my fill today, but I'll be back tomorrow to tell you about embryo transfer - all ten eggs fertilised, and we ended up with three good embryos, one of which is now (hopefully) nestled inside me. All in all, it's been a dramatic week.

Monday, 14 December 2009

IVF, weeks 4-6

My egg collection is tomorrow morning at 9am.

How do I feel? There's a scene in the film Armageddon where one of the astronauts about to take off answers that same question. His verdict is: "98% excited, 2% scared. Or maybe it's more like 98% scared, 2% excited - it's hard to tell but that's what makes it so intense." That sums up my mindset this rainy, chilly evening.

I managed fine with the injections in the end. I got to be quite the dab hand with the old liquid siphoning by the finish. Inevitably on my last day I performed the maneouvre perfectly. Had my last morning injection been a gymnastic routine, I finished on the equivalent of a perfect en pointe dismount.

I managed to escape with only a little bit of thigh bruising and several sliced fingers, and the side effects haven't been as bad as I feared. I've suffered with migraines in the past so I was pretty well resigned to having one of those once the hormone cocktail kicked in, but I've avoided them so far. There was a thudding headache every day between day two and six, but a headache is very different to a migraine and I was able to cope.

The nerves I felt going for my first scan were about as jittery as anything I've experienced throughout this process. Because of my high FSH level I'd convinced myself there was a chance I might not respond at all. My big dread was the monitor revealing two stubbornly small and flaccid ovaries which had refused to produce so much as a pimple.

There was no need to worry. To be fair, the secret voice in my brain which is currently insisting that this whole thing might just work had told me I had nothing to worry about because I'd felt my ovaries kick in round about day five. It was the same feeling I had on Clomid - a sort of low ache, almost like you have wind, worse on the right side.

The head doctor at the clinic did my scan with her trademark - and actually increasingly appealing - no-nonsense style. The hell with KY jelly and easing it between my lips - the Renault was rammed, bammed and thank you mammed into me with very little in the way of opening pleasantries. Which suited me fine as I was burning to know what my pesky ovaries had been up to all that time. Despite the twinges I'd felt, it still seems weird that a little jab in your thigh flab every morning can make eggs grow there.

Immediately the doctor murmured "Oh, this is good," and I craned my neck to look at the screen. Even I could see them - oval, shadowy follicles clustered on my right ovary. She counted five, then twirled the Renault and located seven on the other side. Withdrawing the scanner with similar gusto to that with which she had introduced it, she proclaimed this to be excellent progress and sent me on my merry way with a view to presenting myself for a final scan on Saturday gone.

The jabs got a bit sorer after that, presumably because there wasn't much expanse of thigh flab left that hadn't already been skewered and injecting into a bruise isn't much fun. But I persisted and as I did the windy ovary pain got a bit worse each day, and my stomach started to bloat.

Saturday's scan went like a dream. I now have 14 follicles, seven on each side, all of which the doctor deemed to be the perfect size. I administered my hCG injection last night - it stung like a motherfucker, being cold out of the fridge, and the injection site on my beleaguered thigh flab is puffy and inflamed, but it is done and I now have no more needles to deal with. Hurrah and huzzah. I felt like cracking open the champers but since I've sworn off alcohol for the duration of this - might as well treat my body like a temple being the logic - I had to make do with water with lemon.

I've felt emotional but not as much as I feared. I imagined I'd be breaking down in tears at adverts, or howling in anguish on the train platform when I'd just missed one (both of which are exhibitions of myself I've been driven to previously by fertility woes).

But since the first scan revealed all was well, I've actually felt happier and more positive than I have for a while. It has to be said that this is down to some fairly wonderful caregiving by my legendary best friends, mind you. Friday night saw me not fretting and angsting over the next day's scan, but instead munching pizza, sipping peppermint tea and giggling in my PJs on their sofa. To be distracted, taken care of and amused during this nightmare has been wonderful.

So now. A short description of my physical state.

My stomach is distended like a malnourished orphan and I fancy that I can feel every one of those 14 follicles jostling for position on my ovaries.

I have unpainted toenails, as instructed by my egg collection admission form, which also forbids me from wearing makeup (unthinkable; surely a slick of mascara won't harm my eggs), deodorant (but cunningly, I have bought an odourless organic one - a girl doesn't want to be smelly), perfume or body lotion.

(It is worth pointing out that I have not had unpainted toenails for longer than it takes to remove one coat and apply another for at least 15 years. I always thought I had quite pretty feet but it turns out it was the varnish making them so. They are butt ugly naked. My nails are a sort of pallid yellow colour - as a result, one imagines, of nearly two decades of continuous varnish-wearing - and they look bigger, ganglier and sort of masculine. I hate them. My mother - from whom I inherited my obsession with toenail varnishing - was appalled.)

I now need to pack my bag - I'm instructed to bring a dressing gown, slippers (with which I can hide my unattractive feet, thank fuck), a toilet bag and a favourite CD with me. Then it's early to bed in the hope of some sleep. I'm not allowed to eat or drink after midnight, because of the sedative they'll give me. I'm to be there for 9am.

I'm told I may not remember the procedure - I bloody hope I don't - but I'll do my best, tomorrow or as soon as I feel well enough, to describe what I do recall here.

I very badly wish all this was over. But while I'm anxious, I know this is just another hurdle I need to get over in my quest to get what I want more than anything in the world.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

IVF, weeks 1-3

So. I started Synarel nasal spray on Sunday November 8, after a training appointment during which we were taken through the whole process in blow-by-blow detail. I've taken it every day, twice a day, since then.

I thought I'd have blogged more during the first weeks of IVF but it's surprised me how tired I've been and how little I've had to say.

I think one reason I haven't written anything is that there's not an awful lot you can say about taking a nasal spray. The bad things are, in no particular order:

1) remembering to take it at 9am and 9pm every day. This is inconvenient because I leave for work at 8 so most days I need to take it in the office toilet. There are days when I've been busy, distracted or just forgotten and then been stricken with panic at 11ish and forced to hare along the corridor to do my sniffling.

Taking the evening dose isn't much better. So far I have inhaled it during a ghost hunt at a castle in a rainstorm, sitting in the cinema during a film, at a salsa class, and round the side of a theatre ahead of meeting a moderately famous comedian.

2) sometimes when you snort in the wrong way, it goes into your sinuses and stings like when you were a kid at swimming class and inhaled chlorinated water. It also tastes bitter and unpleasant when it trickles down your throat, a bit like chewing aspirin without water.

3) the side effects haven't been too bad for me, limited chiefly to the odd hot flush in bed at night, several medium-strength headaches and one fainting episode (but that was when I was poorly anyway with a virus, and I'd just stepped out of a hot bath). One odd thing is that I seem to have low-level heartburn all the time in that when I eat or drink I feel a slight burning sensation in my throat and chest. But, like I said, no side effect so bad that I can't cope with it.

The good things are - well, there aren't any, unless you count the fact that I've responded to it. I had a scan on Tuesday which revealed two very subdued, deflated ovaries - and so they bloody should be, for what they're putting me through - and an empty womb with minimal lining. Everything as it should be after nearly three weeks on the spray. I now need to keep taking it up until the egg collection at which point I can replace this daily activity with the delightful alternative of ramming a pessary up myself.

So I was given the go-ahead to start the injections. I had a training appointment with my favourite nurse after my scan. To say it went badly would be to do injustice to the word 'bad'. I am completely ham-fisted and clumsy at the best of times. Dealing with tiny, fiddly-as-fuck vials and needles while under a reasonable amount of strain and immediately following a vaginal probe did not improve my dexterity.

For my first trick, I shattered the tiny glass vial which contained the dilutant solution. WHY do these need to be so small? I get that there's not a huge volume of liquid and we are living in an age when minimal packaging is considered environmentally sound, but for fuck's sake, I'm not a member of the Sylvanian Family.

And another thing. Why do they have to be glass? It's not like they can be recycled - they get thrown in a sharps box and incinerated as clinical waste, so make them plastic and easier to handle! I cut my hand in four places trying to snap one open in front of my initially amused and then anxious nurse. I left the clinic with four elastoplasts on one hand and another on my arm where I'd had my blood test. I looked like I'd made an extremely bungled suicide attempt.

I'm on four amps of Menopur because of my higher than average FSH levels, so having eventually opened a dilutant vial and sucked its contents into a syringe, I had to be shown how to pierce and dissolve four separate (glass) vials of powder. Each time, you have to squirt the contents of the syringe into the vial, dissolve the powder, and suck everything back up again. Fiddly doesn't begin to cover it.

After that you detach the big fuckoff needle and reattach a smaller injecting needle before easing the plunger up to 1ml, getting rid of the air and then doing the jab. For this you need six hands because you have to pinch your skin, insert the needle, depress the plunger and withdraw it all at virtually the same time. All I can say is thank fuck it's women who do the injections during IVF, as we all know men can't multitask.

At the clinic, I injected myself with a bit of saline solution to prove I could do it, then my first real jab was yesterday morning. I had set everything out the night before, like a cook before a big dinner party, and barely slept because I was so nervous about being able to manage without the nurse. But it went surprisingly smoothly - which, as I discovered this morning, was beginner's luck. It reminded me of the first time I parallel-parked my car after my driving test: it went in first time and I sat stupefied by how this could possibly have occurred. The next time, it took 40 minutes and involved tears, howls and a prang on the bumper.

Perhaps this morning's disaster was because I hadn't slept a wink, having spent the entire night convinced a demon was hiding in the wardrobe after watching Paranormal Activity at the flicks. I knew things weren't going to go well when I immediately sliced my forefinger opening the glass vial. I bleed a lot even from small cuts so was seeping all over the assembled sterile apparatus, but feared I'd be even more bumbling wearing a plaster so I left it.

The next problem was that I couldn't get the frigging syringe to suck up the fluid from the first vial of powder. I kept pulling it up too far and running out of syringe and then leaving a load of liquid in the bottom. If you're not superhumanly quick it seeps out the end of the needle anyway, and for a while I was making absolutely no progress. Time was ticking towards when I needed to leave for work, despite me allowing 20 extra minutes for the injection, and I began to get flustered.

Chanting "fuck, fuck, fuck" in a low but urgent voice, I eventually got all four vials of powder sucked up through a manoeuvre that combined the speed of a panther with the cunning of a fox (essentially, just tilting the vial, ramming the needle in the corner of it and twirling it quickly to attract all the liquid).

However, I had created loads of air with my epic syringe endeavours so the resulting mess looked a bit like a bubble bath by the time I was ready. I started remembering all the films where a murderer injects air into a person and causes a clot that kills them. So I had to tap the syringe for ages to get the bubbles to clear.

After all that, it seemed cruel that I still had to get through the painful bit. I was on my right leg today, which means as a righty that the angle and needle trajectory is more complex, so it hurt more than it did yesterday and I've developed a bruise for my trouble.

All this snorting spray and stabbing needles would be a lot easier if only I were a crack and heroin user. But what am I saying - if I were, I wouldn't need IVF since drug addicts get pregnant at the drop of a hat.

I needed comforting after all that and since hubby had fucked off to work long before I even began my endeavours, I decided waffles, maple syrup and blueberries were the way to go. They were good. But then my car wouldn't start. It has been making a low but insistent beeping noise for a bit now and I've been studiously and foolishly ignoring it. Having consulted the manual and talked to my stepdad, I knew all that was needed was some water in the radiator, but rather than sorting this out at the weekend when I had bags of time, I'd left it till a few minutes before my weekly 50-mile drive to the office I work out of on Thursdays.

I'd never topped up my radiator before but figured if I could inject myself with hormones then surely this couldn't be beyond me. So rather than driving to a garage where I'd be mocked for female incompetence and probably charged for the privilege, I decided, unwisely, to tackle it myself.

Well, I couldn't get the cap off, could I? I tried everything - pulling, twisting, tearing, even prising with my key - but it was all to no avail since my car was manufactured by safety-conscious, obsessive-compulsive Volkswagen. (I believe I howled "Come on, you German bastard" at one point.) Eventually, defeated, hormonal and weeping hysterically, I phoned my mum and yodelled for help which was provided - bless him - within ten minutes by my stepfather.

It remains to be seen what tomorrow will bring. I guess there's a knack to it and that you get better every day. I also think a good night's sleep will help. But the trauma has stayed with me today and I've felt extremely weepy. I suppose it's only natural, given I'm suddenly flooding my system with hormones after suppressing it for nearly a month, that I should feel odd.

I think, though, that being reasonably au fait, if a tad incompetent, with the concept of sticking a needle into my thigh after two days is testament to the fact that you can do anything if you put your mind to it, and want it enough. I think I'll leave it on that reasonably positive note.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Gaining the IVF drugs and losing my furry friend

Holy sweet smoking shit at sunset.

My mum collected my IVF drugs today. The two SACKS thereof. I came home, saw said sacks sitting on my coffee table, with a note to say there was more in the fridge. I unpacked them and set the assembled goods before me in growing disbelief. It was like Christmas morning in the mad scientist's house. I then hastily repacked the sacks and forced down the ratatouille hubby had whipped up before I lost my appetite.

Hubby and I just spent half an hour in the spare room - the coolest, darkest room in the house, being as it is a forlorn place where a baby should reside - with the drugs and assorted paraphernalia spread before us.

It's just overwhelming. It's overwhelming. There are:

- two boxes of nasal spray
- five boxes of crazy glass vials with some kind of liquid-and-powder combo
- fifteen small needles in orange packets
- fifteen scary ass huge motherfucking needles in green packets
- about 250 (looks like) syringes
- a "sharps box" which looks and sounds like it should feature in Saw VI
- a packet of pessaries made of VEGETABLE FAT
- a partridge in a pear tree

I have so much to say right now and yet the terrifying nature of having these drugs ACTUALLY in front of me has rendered me virtually inarticulate.

The biggest news - and the reason I've been away for awhile even with IVF plans proceeding apace - is that my cat died.

I'm still not ready to talk about it in detail. Regular followers might remember I nursed him through cancer 18 months ago. We knew his time with us was limited as he had been diagnosed with kidney failure, but I was hoping he'd see me through my first cycle of this hell.

However, fate moved against us and he started having daily seizures ten days ago. Hubby had taken me away for the weekend as a sort of last ditch romantic break before IVF, but we had to cut our trip short and rush home so my mum and I could jointly make the decision that it was time to let him go.

The vet came to the house last Monday and my darling furby died in my arms on his favourite chair. It was the worst thing I've gone through to date. We buried him in the garden and since that awful day not a second has passed when I don't miss my best boy. Not having a furry companion has made the loneliness of infertility bite even harder, but any notion of getting another cat makes me feel unfaithful. I guess right now the pain of losing him is still too raw.

That said, I have written all of this so far without crying. It's all about crying less each day and I'm impressed I've managed to tell the story - badly, but I've got the words out - without dissolving. I think the fact I am still bug-eyed with horror about the sacks of drugs lurking next door may have something to do with it, mind you.

So that happened. Then my relative who'd just had two embryos transferred had her pregnancy test, and it came back negative. She started bleeding the next day. I know I said last time that I was jealous - and I was, fuck me, I was green - but I never, ever wanted her cycle to fail. She is hurting so much right now and my challenge is to be there for her as best I can while making my own final preparations.

So on day two, a fortnight ago, I visited the clinic for my bloodwork. Turned out my FSH is 11.7, which is a little higher than they'd like for IVF (though not off the map) but a lot higher than it should be for a 30-year-old. I'm told stress can play a part, and with my cat and various other factors I suspect that's had a significant effect, but the clinic did say it may also mean my ovaries are struggling and that in turn may mean a higher chance of a cancelled IVF cycle or indeed a total failure of my body to respond to the drugs. They've prescribed me a higher dosage of Menopur - four ampoules rather than three. Whatever the fuck an ampoule is. Up until this month I thought it was something to do with plugs. I guess I was off sick the day we covered this shit in school.

So I got my treatment schedule, and they want me to start the nasal spray a week on Sunday. I get to attend the clinic on Friday for a "teaching appointment" to tell me how to take it. I'm not sure exactly what kind of imbecile doesn't know how to take a nasal spray - I mean, what, am I going to stick the bottle in my ear? - but there we go.

I'm not squeamish about needles but some of those motherfuckers are big. My relative tells me the last one - the one with the HcG in it - is the worst, because that's been kept in the fridge and is icy cold right about when you start flooding it into your thigh. If my hormones fuck up we may not even get that far. Right now, this autumn just looks like one long track of increasingly steeper hurdles, each one of which may constitute the end of the road.

I also may jest about being intellectually evolved enough to figure out a nasal spray, but I'm clumsy, bad-tempered, impatient and liable to hurl small, fiddly things that don't comply with my wishes at the wall. How in the world I'm going to manage with the selection of Sylvanian Family-sized glass bottles, dinky vials and stabbing instruments currently shoved hastily in a chemist's carrier bag on my spare bed is anyone's guess.

The side effects freaked me out, too. I mean, obviously chest pain, decrease in breast size, vaginal bleeding, migraine, shortness of breath, vaginal dryness, hot flushes, night sweats, muscular pain and abdominal swelling are every girl's dream, but we've all read about the scary stuff associated with IVF. By which I mean the cancer. That's a c-word that puts all my fears about what's going to happen to and in and around my other c-word into perspective.

I'm particularly looking forward to the pessaries because I've always imagined what it would be like to shove a lozenge of vegetable fat up myself and wait for it to ooze stickily into my pants. Every night for fourteen nights.

My timings are such that the egg collection will happen shortly before Christmas, which works well in terms of holiday from work and rest potential. What potentially sucks is that if things go well and we get eggs, then embryos, my pregnancy test will take place New Year's Eve. Kind of a bum start to 2010 if it fails, no?

I have the word DAUNTED in block red capitals in my head, but it doesn't do justice to how I feel right now. I think a more accurate summary is that I feel a level of terror and anxiety sufficient to almost - but not quite - anaesthetise the pain of losing a 19-year furry friend. I so hoped my little kitty would see me through this.

And here are the tears.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

A Daniel Powter of a period day

God, I just feel awful this evening. I had a broken night's sleep, one of those awful pre-period nights where you're too hot and wake up hourly, bathed in sour sweat and just waiting to feel the telltale trickle between your legs.

Why do I persist in continuing to hope in the face of compelling evidence that my period is imminent? I have been in this nightmare for nigh on four years and yet not a cycle goes by without me trying to talk myself into the brown stuff being implantation bleeding, the swollen gut being the start of a bump and the sore boobs being caused by pregnancy hormones.

I think the dangerous hope fairy was spurred on this month by my scan at the clinic, which clearly revealed a follicle out of which an egg had recently popped. How can you not hope when you see that with your own two eyes?

But oh, god, it was hideous this morning when that dastardly trickle did start up, accompanied almost immediately by wracking cramps. I was at work, as I usually am when this happens to me - of course my body wouldn't be so considerate as to commence menses on a weekend when I'm free to hide under the duvet and howl to my heart's content.

No, I bottled it up as best I could - a feat made more difficult by a colleague bringing her new baby in for a visit (bad timing obviously not her fault, but I hid anyway).

I also had no Tampax in either my desk drawer or my bag - I only had one crappy Asda tampon from a packet which hubby once bought me because he "thought the box looked the same". They're bigger and somehow unwieldier than the plastic-coated Tampax Compaq that I favour (although you'd wonder why I have an issue with large tampons given the vast array of bulbous implements that have probed my nether regions in recent years). So I had to do the horrid drippy walk to the ladies' knowing I had a shitty tampon situation going on as well as being horribly devastated at our last-chance disintegrating into dust.

So after all that, I kind of expected I'd start crying as soon as I left for home but by that stage in the afternoon it was all buried too deep. It has taken a bottle of beer, a bath and a lot of thinking on the couch before it all splurged snottily out just now in a very weepy phone conversation with my mum. It just hurts so bad to fail, and fail, and fail, every month, despite trying so very hard.

I'm clinic-bound in the morning for my final day two bloodwork before IVF. Hopefully they will have the results of hubby's latest sperm sample, which he produced last week, and I can finally talk dates and get some concrete understanding of how things will progress from here on in.

A family member has just had two good embryos transferred following her first cycle, and god help me, I'm jealous. I know how hideous that makes me - she has tried just as hard as I have and for nearly as long, and I honestly thought I'd be a better person and find it in my heart to be happy for her if she had a good outcome.

Please don't think I'm saying I wanted - or indeed want - her to fail. I don't mean that. I just guess I underestimated how hard it would be to be bombarded with texts from her describing her emotions about her two living embryos, about which she tells me she already feels maternal, when we are still in limbo.

I think I also overestimated my own decency. Sometimes I worry I don't deserve a baby.

Nothing for today but to write it off as a reeeeeally bad job. I need, in no particular order, a hot water bottle. A cuddle. A glass of wine. My mum. My kitty. Bed. A bit more of a cry.

I also need hubby to stop irritating me. I am weepy right now, so most of the impotent fury has leaked out of my tear ducts, but I am also really angry with our situation, and there's nowhere to direct it other than at him. He has done absolutely nothing to comfort me this evening - he sat and fucked around with his iphone while I was crying on the phone to my mum right next to him on the sofa - and right now he is making an infernal racket searching for a bulb for my bedside lamp - it fused this morning as part of what has generally been a shitfest of a day.

At times like this I just wish he'd get out of my sight until I've done my monthly grieving and can interact with other humans again. Because right now even the sight of his socked feet is enough to enrage me.

In addition to my list of needs cited above, it goes without saying that I need to feel I am making some kind of progress through this hell. I'm losing my mind here. Guess I'll have to wait and see what tomorrow morning brings.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Awards galore (good on a period day)

Aw, you guys! I can't believe I've been nominated for two awards by fellow readers battling their way through the unending nightmare that is infertility.

I really am touched and a wee bit teary - in a good way - at all the amazing comments I've had recently. I wasn't going to blog tonight - after spending the day in a trying-not-to-be-but-fuck-it-I-am-anyway spiral of hope because of it being day 29 with no bee-yatch in my pants, I got home and promptly exuded several millilitres of brown sludge. So it's coming. The fact my stomach resembles a beach ball and I want to knife everyone I meet should really have alerted me to this fact. Perhaps one of these relentlessly marching months I'll learn.

But when I checked in and saw the comments and awards mentions I just had to say thanks.

Really, honestly, heartfelt thanks to Hope Springs over at Moving On To The Next Plan for this:

And to Illanare at My Words Fly Up, My Thoughts Remain Below for this:

Now for the revelations - my OTT award first up, for which I have to answer a series of questions using just one word:

1. Where is your cell phone? Bed
2. Your hair? Red
3. Your mother? Lifeline
4. Your father? Difficult
5. Your favorite food? Curry
6. Your dream last night? Unmemorable
7. Your favorite drink? Wine (I know, I know)
8. Your dream/goal? Motherhood
9. What room are you in? Study
10. Your hobby? Comedy
11. Your fear? Arachnids
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Fertile
13. Where were you last night? Sofa
14. Something that you aren’t? Patient
15. Muffins? Waitrose
16. Wish list item? Daughter
17. Where did you grow up? England
18. Last thing you did? Bathed
19. What are you wearing? PJs
20. Your TV? Downstairs
21. Your pets? Cat
22. Friends? Essential
23. Your life? Unfulfilled
24. Your mood? Lousy
25. Missing someone? Cousin
26. Vehicle? German
27. Something you’re not wearing? Contacts
28. Your favorite store? Shoe
29. Your favorite color? Green
30. When was the last time you laughed? Today
31. Last time you cried? Today
32. Your best friend? Legendary
33. One place that I go to over and over? Clinic
34. One person who emails me regularly? Dad
35. Favorite place to eat? Curryhouse

And for my Honest Scrap award, here are ten things you didn't know about me:

1. I hate cheese. I mean, I REALLY fucking hate it. Can't be in the same room with the stuff when it's melted. I make hubby keep his (inevitably, he loves it, especially the blue mouldy veiny shit) in a sealed box in the fridge.

2. I think laughing really, really hard is better than any sexual move any man or machine could ever perform on me. I always have thought this, and I always will.

3. If there was a really big spider in my home and hubby wasn't around to deal with it, I'd have to call the police once I'd exhausted the options of male friends and relatives.

4. I'm such a big pain-wimp that I've never had my legs, eyebrows or anything else waxed and blanch at the thought. Yet I have handled an HSG with only a smidgen of braying hysteria.

5. I am the most irritable person I have ever met, except for perhaps my father. Hubby sniffling is enough to make me bark out insults with feeling.

6. I'm an unusually good cook for a woman who's quite slim (I flirted with bulimia aged 19). I make a lentil curry that hubby goes wild for and which I believe is restaurant-quality.

7. When I arrive at a pedestrian crossing to find someone already waiting who has failed to press the button, I mutter "Works better when you fucking press it", increasingly audibly. Ditto lifts.

8. It is only a matter of time before I make an error of judgement and end up in hospital as a result of the above action.

9. There is a place in Canada, on the water, where I feel truly at peace.

10. Right now I am looking at a framed photograph of Bruce Springsteen, who I have loved since I was 13 years old.


1. MK at An Infertile Blog, who's about as pissed off with this whole shitty process as I am, and who got a laugh out of me the first time I saw her brilliant use of a pregnancy test image.

2. Melissa over at Stirrup Queens, who has awards galore but who provides an absolutely amazing and essential service to those of us facing this battle (and who gave me a big boost with her welcome back after my long summer absence this week).

3. Rambler, at My World, My Ramblings, for her recent post that puts very eloquently what I didn't know then and wish I didn't know now.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

The barren woman's hate list: item #9 - Pregnancy vitamins

It amazes me that I have not yet mentioned how much these little puppies vex me.

Let me first say that I believe they are extremely valid and important. I would advise any woman trying to conceive to make sure she at least takes her 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, even if she doesn't want to go the whole hog with the Omega-3 oils, because the advantages proper folic acid consumption give a growing baby are immense and proven.

But hell. My problems with pregnancy vitamins are manifold.

For a start, it's the marketing. Every brand is the same: a smug, beaming woman grinning beatifically and yet with some measure of surprise at her bump, as if mildly astonished to see it there. I start every day by waking and wishing I had a child. To then trudge downstairs and be confronted with said woman's joyous countenance before I've even ingested orange juice is sometimes more than I can stomach.

Secondly, the price. These vitamins are at least a third more expensive than regular daily multivits. If you go for one of the super-duper Omega-3 brands - "for brain and eye development!" sings the packaging, as if any wannabe mother plans on having a brainless, blind child - you're talking £10 to £12 for a 30-day supply.

Fair enough if you're one of the blessed souls that produces offspring using the following maths: select preferred month of birth (hmm, spring baby or autumn baby?), count back nine months, mount husband on appropriate day.

However, that's a lot of money every pay packet when you've been trying three years or more.

Yet still, doggedly, one almost feels pointlessly, I take them. Every day. Religiously, with my cornflakes and OJ. It actually bothers me if I'm away from home and forget to bring my vitamins with me. "What about the brain and eye development of the big fat fucking nothing that's growing inside you?" my inner voice yells.

I'm on Pregnacare at the moment. It's always either those or Sanatogen Pro-Natal, depending which are on special offer. (Both fulfil the brain and eye criteria, so it's an even toss.) I hate Pregnacare especially because they come in truly inconvenient blister packs, with a purple oblong folic acid tablet in one and a bulbous oil-filled brain-and-eye capsule in the other. The blister packs don't quite fit in the box with the instructions, which tend to get crumpled at the bottom and take more room than they ought, meaning you end up ramming and cramming the blister packs back in the box while pounding the whole lot off the kitchen counter (smug pregnant lady facedown, obviously) for good measure.

And this is how I start my days. Is it any wonder I'm losing my mind?

Monday, 5 October 2009

First IVF consultation

So it has come to this.

Last Wednesday hubby and I attended our first IVF consultation, thus formally acknowledging on our medical history that infertility has beaten us and we have reached this juncture.

We met a lady who I hope will be our doctor from now on, though you can never tell who you're going to get at the clinic (in which respect it's a little like Forrest Gump's chocolates). I'd not met her before but I liked her manner instantly and by the end of the appointment she'd stared into my innermost recess with interest so I felt we'd bonded.

The session took way over an hour in total and, as is typical of visits to the clinic, wasn't what I'd expected. We first reviewed our progress, or lack thereof, to date and then discussed the fact that despite my cycles having righted themselves post-clomid, we're still not pregnant. I've tested for ovulation these past three months using home predictor kits and have had a positive each time. We've had sex bang - if you'll pardon the pun - on the right days. And yet we're still not pregnant.

Our doctor said that in an average month, consisting of average sex (is there any other kind? I nearly quipped but thought better of it) between an average couple with nothing much wrong with their average bodies, there is a 20-30% chance of a pregnancy. However, once said couple have been trying for more than three years, as we have, this probability drops to just 3% due to the likelihood of there being an as yet undetermined problem. Happy thought, isn't it?

Anyway we agreed that while we could wait interminably for a couple more years, this is not an option for us emotionally and that we need to move on. That leaves us with the option of IVF.

I knew all this from the previous discussion with the clinic's professor, of course, but the purpose of this meeting was to go through it all in glorious technicolour. And inevitably to stare up my bits once more. It'd be rude not to.

Yes, I had another scan with my old buddy the Renault Espace. This was because it has been nearly two years - which is appalling, in a passage-of-time sense - since our first consultation and my first triple-S session of Swabs, Smear and Scan. Quadruple-S if you then add in Sore. Or Shitty. Or...I'll stop now.

I forced hubby to come in with me as I think it's about time he started confronting some of the realities of this process rather than sitting in blissful ignorance thinking that the most traumatic thing any infertile person ever has to do is wank in a cup on demand. He wasn't happy but he acceded to my request and hovered uncomfortably at the edge of the room looking dubious while the doctor rummaged around looking for my ovaries.

I had a moment of vindication - all summer hubby has doubted my claims to be ovulating independently - when she identified a recently burst follicle out of which an egg would have popped about six days previously - on the day I thought I'd ovulated, and on my right ovary where I'd felt the telltale jabbing pain.

I very nearly shouted "Hah!" in hubby's face but revised my decision at the last second in case it cast aspersions on the robustness of our relationship. I had to content myself with looking smugly triumphant - or at least, as triumphant as it's possible to look with a remote-control-sized doppler hanging out of your undercarriage.

The scan checked out - both ovaries looked good, I'd clearly recently ovulated and was starting to form small follicles for next month, and neither looked polycystic, firmly placing the opinion of the very first doctor I saw at that clinic in the category of utter bollocks. My womb looked fine also, and was half-filled with normal-looking endometrium consistent with that stage in my cycle.

BUT WHERE IS THE FUCKING BABY, I hear you cry. Or at least I hear myself cry, on a daily basis. I have no idea what is preventing us from conceiving, and not knowing is frustrating beyond words.

I got dressed and we returned to the consulting room where the doctor took us through the seven weeks of the IVF process in elaborate, terrifying detail.

Three weeks of nasal spray to "control" - for which, read "shut down" - my natural system.

Two weeks of daily injections, self-administered in thigh or tummy, to pump me full of eggs.

Scans to look at said eggs. Lots of scans. (The local authority where I live is building a new road tunnel beneath the river to ease traffic congestion. Said tunnel will be able to be closely modelled on my vagina by the end of this process.)

The dreaded egg collection, or "harvesting". (And on that, why so many fertility terms are quasi-religious is beyond me. This word always puts me in mind of a choir of small children singing "We plough the fields and scatter the good seed on the land".)

This involves being sedated, strapped up and plumbed with the Espace, which this time will be accompanied on its journey by a needle which will pierce - and there's a word you don't want associated with your bits, unless you're a body art fan - my vaginal wall and pop into my ovary to extract the baker's dozen eggs I will be filled with.

At this point in proceedings, hubby has to have his wank. In, like, the CLINIC. In some shitty private room with no, like, windows or anything. Into a POT. I mean, the trauma of it.

They look at the outcome of said wank and if the sperm are decent sorts, mix them with my eggs and put what you have to imagine is the resulting gelatinous mess in an incubator overnight, the idea being that by morning several sprightly embryos will be jostling the sides of the petri dish in their eagerness to become kids.

But here's the rub: you might have fuck all embryos. You might - and by you, of course, I mean ME, the poor, beleaguered woman - go through all of that only to discover that for some unknown reason, your eggs and hubby's sperm just don't like each other (much like you and hubby on bleaker days). You might also have crappy embryos which would never, could never become successful pregnancies and just have to be binned.

If all goes well and you have at least one good-quality embryo, you go in the day after to have it transferred back into your womb via my old chum the balloon-toting catheter. I already have all the literature from the clinic about these procedures and weirdly on the day of the embryo transfer you're not allowed to wear perfume, body lotion or strong deodorant as "strong smells can be detrimental to your embryos". Who knew that?

You then basically cross your fingers, toes and legs and wait for a fortnight to see if the embryo(s) implant. If you haven't bled by the two-week mark, you go for a pregnancy test, and if it's positive, you presumably bellow with joy all the way home and then return in three further weeks for a scan. If all's well with THAT, you're turned over to the care of your local GP who will arrange a midwife for you. I cannot imagine the word "midwife" ever applying to me at this point.

If things fail at any of the stages mentioned above, you presumably cry until your lungs fall out your nose and then the clinic give you six weeks or so to "heal" physically and emotionally before you have a review consultation to discuss where it all went wrong, and next steps if any are available to you.

It's huge, scary as shit, deeply traumatic and life-changing. Where I am right now is terror - not of the process itself; I think I can handle that after everything I've been through already - but of it not working. I know I can drag my body through all the physical trauma and survive, but I can only do that because of the shred of hope that it will work and that this is just what I personally have to go through in order to become a mother. What I can't countenance is putting myself through all of that and failing.

The clinic want more early-cycle bloodwork from me - fuck knows why, they've taken blood at least 1,100 times; I swear to you, they're vampires - and more sperm from hubby, which as you might imagine he is overjoyed about. He goes on Thursday, actually - he's going to have a dry run, as it were, of doing his sample in the clinic to prepare him for what he genuinely referred to as "the trauma of the day". I told him I'd share his pain and that he could share mine by allowing me to inflate a cocktail umbrella inside his shaft when we arrived home.

Once the results of this final batch of tests are in, we can start. Nasal spray is likely to be November - I have no confirmed dates yet, which makes me feel a bit like I'm in limbo - so the egg collection/embryo transfer process is likely to be just before Christmas. This is bittersweet - I hate Christmas anyway so the prospect of spending it with sore bits doesn't really bother me - but equally it's an emotive time of year and I'm likely to be in pieces. On the other hand it will coincide with holiday from work so I'll have plenty of time to rest up and recover from the op - which, by all accounts, only takes a few days.

It's so weird. I suppose a tiny part of me - a part that's nowhere near my vagina, I can tell you - is excited because this might actually be it, after all this time. But a much bigger part is want-my-mum petrified.

All I know is that it's autumn now. Cold, crisp weather descended the minute the calendar flipped last week. This has been the most difficult year of my life.

There are days when I'm not doing so good, and days when I cope OK. The balance would be very much in favour of the former were it not for certain key things and people - encouragement from those who comment on my blog; the candid and frank relationship I have with my wonderfully supportive mother; an interesting and challenging job; a cosy home and a husband who knows how to do comfort food; my darling cat, who is on his very last legs but keeps plodding on for my sake; and most of all, the distraction, silly times, late nights, shoulder-cries and belly laughs provided by my dear best friend, who knows who she is and to whom I am eternally grateful for helping me pick my way through this mess.

And amid all the terror, this glimmer: I may end this year with a tiny embryo in my womb. That's a pretty amazing thought, and getting there justifies all kinds of nightmares en route.

It seems extremely lofty and pompous to use a quote from Paradise Lost to describe my ordeal, but fuck it, I watched Seven the other night and it's in my head, and I don't imagine I'm the first person to feel this line has a resonance with the battle of infertility:

"Long is the way, and hard, that out of Hell leads up to light."

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Crying at the movies (again)

I watched The Time Traveller's Wife on Friday night. It's one of my favourite novels and I was excited to see the film, though my not-as-good-as-the-book reaction was inevitable.

I expected to cry - it's a tearjerker and I've been known to weep at a TV advert in which a cartoon mobile phone is abandoned by its owner. For context, when I was reading the last few pages of the book, hubby banished me from the marital bed because my rasping sobs were keeping him awake. However, I underestimated how much the baby-related section of the story would get to me, now that we are where we are.

I first read the book four or five years ago, during a time of my life now reflected on as BGBFFN (before great big fucking fertility nightmare). Then, it was the romantic tragedy of the story that affected me - the concept of star-crossed lovers being parted by death.

I reread it about two years ago, by which time I was weepy at the end but now faintly irritated by the couple's persistent and excessive drooling happiness. At that time I remember crying more at the part where the main female character has repeated miscarriages because the baby shares its father's time-travelling gene and keeps travelling out of the womb before it is old enough to survive the journey.

In the cinema on Friday, this bit got to me so much that I could do nothing but sit and attempt to stifle what wanted to be great gulps of misery, while tears ran down my neck and saturated my T-shirt. There is a scene in which the newly pregnant heroine is told, by her husband who has travelled into the future and met their daughter for the first time, that it's OK, that this pregnancy will endure and that everything is basically going to be all right. Happy tears and hugs all round ensue, and I thought my chest was going to rupture.

My best friend, who was sitting next to me, wordlessly reached for my hand during this and the birth scene it segued into, which helped, but I couldn't recover. Most of the time I manage to get through the days and weeks and months and years of this intact but there are moments - and they're getting more frequent - when there's nothing for it but to howl.

So that's what I did when I got in my car after the movie. All the while thinking thoughts along the lines of "you stupid, stupid cow, it's just a story", but unable to do anything about how bad I felt. Because that's what I want more than anything else: for someone to look into the future and tell me I'm going to have a child.

I wouldn't mind if it's years away. I wouldn't care about whatever physical pain and trauma I have to endure to get there. If I could just be told, for certain, that it will all work out, that I will not die childless and alone, that all this misery will not ultimately end in more misery, that I will not be this unhappy forever, I'd be OK.

We are dealing with a challenging situation caring for my elderly grandfather at the moment. He is physically well but mentally not, and he requires constant and sometimes quite frustrating care. We're glad to do it, of course, but during the course of some of these ministrations both my parents have made jocular comments to me regarding how difficult they plan to be when they reach their dotage.

It perhaps reflects the morbid state of depression and despondency in which I now find myself that my reaction to these observations has been a sort of deep, cold dread. At the root of this is my horror - because horror is the only word for it - that by the time I reach my eighties, if we remain barren, I will have nobody to care for me or even spend time with me. It's a selfish and extremely negative viewpoint. But it's one of the things that scares me most.

It's been a tricky few days. I got my period on Sunday, a day early. That ticks off the penultimate "last chance saloon" month in which I might conceivably - fnarr - have got pregnant just before IVF.

(And on that subject, I am bone-achingly, stomach-clenchingly, mortally SICK of hearing tales about people who this happened to. I wish sometimes that I wore a badge which reads:

"Hello. I am infertile and about to start IVF. Please do not share with me 18 separate anecdotes about friends' cousins' colleagues' dolls who magically found out they were pregnant immediately before they started this process. I DO NOT CARE AND DO NOT WISH TO SHARE IN THEIR SMUG FUCKING JOY. Thanks."

I mean, please. Why do people imagine I would want to hear this? It does not give me hope. It does not give me cause to imagine I may be granted a similar heavenly reprieve. It just pisses me off and cements in my mind the notion that I must have been a really wicked bitch in a previous life to deserve this level of shit in my current one.)

Anyway. This means I may not actually have another cycle to call my own before we begin. We attend the clinic on September 30th to sign consent forms and collect drugs. I had assumed I'd then need to wait for day one of a new cycle before commencing the nasal spray to shut down my system, but a relative I saw over the weekend who is presently a fortnight into her spray said no, you can start the day you get the drugs, no matter where your cycle is.

In some ways, I suppose, it takes the pressure off. We know now, categorically, that any baby we might have will not be conceived in our home, in our bed, as a result of a natural act of love. Instead our child will be conceived in a petri dish in a clinic and replaced in my womb by a catheter. So it takes all focus off sex, and perhaps means we can attempt to rekindle a normal physical relationship.

In other ways, as I have alluded to before, there is a certain measure of utter despair that it has come to this, mingled with terror that I will go through all that only for it to fail.

I also found out this morning that a friend who has been battling with her own fertility woes is ten weeks pregnant. I'm pleased her nightmare is over but it hit me like a sledgehammer to the face.

What a miserable, bleating entry this has been! I should say that all the wonderful comments left by people who have missed my absence mean a great deal to me. To know that there are people out there who have been wondering how things were going for me, and who care and empathise that they've been going shit, is of so much comfort. I don't know what I would do without the support and catharsis afforded to me by this blog.

But in typical style I am going to end on a sad note, because I feel so very sad today. I've been listening a lot to Kings of Leon after watching them live at a festival this summer. The lines that resonate most at the moment come from their lovely song Cold Desert:

"I never ever cried when I was feeling down,
I've always been scared of the sound.
Jesus don't love me, no-one ever carried my load,
I'm too young to feel this old."

That just about sums it up for now.

Monday, 7 September 2009

A huge blow, a summer and a referral

I've been away for a really long time and I'm sorry. I have so much to say that I might have to split my update into a few parts. I'm even unsure which part to tell you first. I guess the headline news is that we have been referred for IVF and will start in October. But I'll come to that.

The reason I haven't written for so long is that something happened at the end of my third clomid cycle that upset me so much I felt unable to write about my experience until now. I decided afterwards that I needed a couple of months off - well, not off, as we infertile women know there's never REALLY a month when you stop trying - but at least off the clomid and away from the blog.

Since it was the start of summer and I had a lot planned - the weddings of two very dear friends, associated hen parties, a trip to a comedy festival and another to a music festival - I figured I'd have the warm months off and see where I was come autumn.

So what was it that happened? Well, I finished my third cycle of clomid knowing from the pain and general symptoms that I'd ovulated. I attended the clinic for my day 21 test and then the next day hubby and I headed up north for our wedding anniversary. We'd planned a lovely, romantic couple of days, the first staying in the castle where we had our wedding reception four years ago.

We were about 15 minutes from said castle when it suddenly struck me I hadn't called the clinic for my results. As if by magic, my mobile started to ring. I was driving so hubby answered. It was the clinic.

When they realised they were speaking to the husband, they gave him the message that was the reason for their call and then hubby attempted to relay this to me in the shambolic way that only a man can achieve.

The following conversation ensued:

Me: Well? What did they say?
Hubby: They said something about your blood being too high.
Me [IMMEDIATELY vexed]: What? What does that even mean? My blood's too high? What am I, a vampire?
Hubby: The hormone. The hormone was too high.
Me: WHAT hormone?
Hubby: The one with "ogen" in it, I forget.
Me: THERE ARE TWO! For the love of God, there's oestrogen and progesterone. Which was high? It should be my progesterone. Do you just basically NEVER listen when I talk about this stuff?
Hubby: Progesterone. That's it.
Me: Did they actually say the words "too high"?
Hubby: Well, they said high.
Me: High is good. High is what we want. TOO high is bad. TOO high means that basically my ovaries are about to rupture and fall out of my arse.
Hubby: They want you to go in on Monday.
Me: Oh my God, they really MUST be going to rupture!

By this point we'd reached the castle - what was supposed to be a slow drive up the scenic entrance track, pausing to reminisce when the castle came into view was actually spent shrieking at each other. Ho hum.

We parked up and I rang the clinic back and talked to one of the nurses. She laughed when I said hubby had reported it as "too high". No, she said, my progesterone was just really high - so high, in fact, that they were pretty confident I'd conceived.

I've replayed this conversation many times in my mind and I don't think I overestimated how much confidence she claimed they had. She was at pains to stress that both my progesterone and my oestrogen were elevated to such an extent that conception was very likely. She asked me to come in on Tuesday (day 28) for a pregnancy test - she said they didn't want to wait - and that "hopefully it would be good news".

Well, we were stunned. We weren't quite stupid enough to be happy, to be celebratory, but we checked in to that hotel with a definite sense of relief that this fucking nightmare might just be over. I barely registered saying hi to the clerk - who was the same guy who'd served drinks at our wedding - and only realised we'd been upgraded to the next best suite than the bridal one when we opened the door of our room.

I called my mum who wisely told me to tone it down - this was not a positive result, not yet - and enjoy the weekend away. She even said the words "put it out of your mind" - as if that was possible! Then I started unpacking and noticed the hotel had gifted us a chilled bottle of champagne.

A conversation ensued about whether I ought to drink any. I wanted to - the dark voice in my soul was piping up with "Of COURSE you're not pregnant" at this stage - and didn't want to at the same time. Either way I knew I'd regret it: if things turned out well I'd worry for the entire pregnancy that those glasses of fizz might have damaged the baby, and if they didn't I'd be bitter about ruining my anniversary for nothing. (I'll bet you've guessed how it turned out...)

In the end I compromised with the worst of both worlds: I had a glass and didn't enjoy it. I then laid off the wine during dinner, just in case, but other than both of us being low-level excited the whole time, we had a lovely weekend. It was sunny and warm, we walked lots and ate good food, we held hands and talked, and things were good. We didn't have sex but it wasn't a pointed not-having-sex, it just honestly didn't occur to either of us after three months of relentless babymaking attempts.

On the drive home, we stopped in to visit my best friend from university, who was at the time six months pregnant with her second. I really wanted to see her and was determined not to let my bitterness spoil the visit. It didn't - there was the inevitable pang when I saw her bump, but that's almost as natural to me as breathing these days - but I did rather foolishly share my potential news with her. She's followed my progress through this with compassion and interest - the original plan had been for us to be first-time pregnant together - and she was excited too.

Then it was a case of counting the seconds until I could visit the clinic for my test on Tuesday morning. I didn't sleep a wink the night before and the whole way there on the train, all I could think was that this might be the last day of infertility misery. I let myself dip a toe into the danger territory of imagining telling my nearest and dearest - imagining coming home and telling hubby - and I'm sorry to say I let myself hope.

The nurse at the clinic wasn't the same one I'd spoken to over the phone but she was equally as
encouraged by my results. My progesterone was well over 175, but my oestrogen was also high and she said that was a sign of conception. She drew my blood and said to call at 4pm for the results. Her parting shot was "fingers crossed"!

Well, you can imagine what the interminable wait between 8.30am and 4pm was like. But time always passes, even when you thinkk it has stopped, and eventually I was ringing the clinic from my failsafe private spot.

It works like this: the receptionist answers the phone, takes your name and puts you through to the nurses' station, where you sometimes (as was the case on this day) have to wait on hold for a minute or two while a nurse pulls your results. I was hopping from foot to foot. This could be it, I kept thinking, this could be the moment when everything changes.

I knew as soon as the nurse got on the phone. I knew by her voice. And to her credit, she didn't pull any punches. It went like this:

Nurse: Hello, I've got your results.
Me [I knew at this moment]: Yes.
Nurse: Sweetheart, it was negative.
Me [crying too hard to speak audibly]: OK, thanks.
Nurse: Are you OK?
Me: No. I was just really hopeful.

I apologised and hung up because I actually couldn't form words any longer. I then had the challenge of being at work and needing to get through the rest of the day before the howling that was coming erupted. I cried and cried for a few minutes, then pulled myself together and did what I do: I coped.

When I was calmer I called the clinic back, apologised for getting hysterical and asked them how on earth could my results have been so good and yet the test still be negative. They said they didn't know and that I should make an appointment to come to clinic and discuss next steps.

It was on the train home that I started losing it. I hadn't phoned hubby with the news as there was no way I could have recovered from that conversation. I walked home from the station basically wailing in the manner of a crazed person and then actually fell in the front door. Hubby emerged from the lounge and just crumpled too, and then we cried together for ages.

So, after that, I was done in. I cried so much that night that my eyes were puffy and inflamed for the next three days. I know other people go through much, much worse with failed IVF, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies and all manner of other horrible endings, but for me this was the lowest point in my experience so far.

I had the option to continue with clomid over the summer but after considering it carefully I decided not to. Partly that was because I felt my body needed a break, and that all the headaches and ovulation pains were it screaming at me to give it one. Partly it was due to stress I was under in other areas of my life. I was also interested to see if I'd ovulate on my own after three cycles.

And that's what happened - I ovulated, if home predictor test kits are to be believed, twice over the summer. And hubby and I did the deed whenever possible, with a little help from some viagra for him on a few occasions. And no, I'm still not pregnant.

We had out clinic consultation a couple of weeks ago, and I'll talk about that and the plans for our first cycle of IVF next time. I just wanted to post something so all the people who've been kindly asking after me know that I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, although there have been moments when I've felt close.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Operation turkey baster

My sex life plumbed new depths last night after I inseminated myself with a turkey baster.

Hubby and I had done really well by having sex every single day around when we thought - based on the last two months of clomiphene experience - I'd ovulate. We assumed I'd ovulate on Monday, as it was day 14 and for the past two cycles I've ovulated relentlessly on day 14. So we did the bad thing Saturday, Sunday AND Monday. For us, this is an Olympian achievement. Hubby even went to the doctor and got the viagra. And it worked.

But ain't life a bitch. I had some ovulation pain Sunday night/Monday morning, but nowhere near the level I've had the past two months. I thought perhaps this was due to my system being more saturated, it being my third month, and tried not to worry.

Wednesday dawned. Day 16. Way past ovulation time, you'd think. No. At 11am I was suddenly, out of nowhere, racked with low down, one-sided stabby pain so bad I thought I was going to be sick. I spent much of the afternoon either biting my own face to keep from yelping or trotting to the toilet to sit bent over my own knees in despair.

I went home - inconveniently, to my mum's rather than actual home, as she is on holiday and we're catsitting for my beloved and increasingly decrepid moggie - and informed hubby that the diary had changed, all our hard work had been for nothing, and today was the day.

He acted as if I'd suggested he donate me a kidney. "But I'm not in the mood," came his initial response, met with the riposte of a hollow laugh and the truthful assurance that I have not been in the mood for nigh on two years.

We left the argument and had dinner, with me seemingly secure in the knowledge that he knew what was expected of him and wouldn't baulk at the last hurdle after all our effort, and after I'd spent a day at work in insufferable pain.

Hmm. We got into bed and he turned decisively away and switched off the lamp. The following conversation ensued:

Me: What's going on? We need to have sex.
Hubby (petulantly): I'm not in the mood.
Me: My ovaries feel like they are rupturing. Do you imagine I am in the mood?
Hubby: We did it on Monday. Maybe there'll be some sperm still alive from then.
Me: I have been in mortal agony since 11am. I have now gone through this three months on the trot. I'm not prepared to take the risk that your sperm - which, let's face it, if they take after you are not exactly go-getters - might have survived my poisonous vagina for a period of days. Let's be having you.

A dismal attempt at sex ensued. It didn't work.

Hubby: I can't do it. It's too hard.
Me: On the contrary...
Hubby: Oh, just fuck off!

He then went to look at porn. (On my stepdad's computer. The shame of it.) I lay there and pondered how my life had arrived at this juncture. I heard him typing frantically and assumed he was either writing his own erotica or emailing one of his friends to complain about what a nagging bitch he'd married.

He eventually sloped back into the bedroom with a semi, and mounted me with the enthusiasm of a dead slug. It felt not dissimilar to shagging an overcooked piece of penne pasta. Eventually he dismounted with a flourish and wailed "This is so fucking awful!" before retreating back to his online porn. I followed him.

Me: Yes, it's awful for you. Now, if you can, imagine for one second what it is like for me. Sort it out.

I then went downstairs to assess whether my mum had a turkey baster of her own. (Inevitably, we'd left ours at home, still in its wrapper, so I figured if she had one we'd use it for the deed and then replace it with our own unused one.) She didn't.

One more diabolical shag attempt later, and I began to dress.

Hubby: What are you doing?
Me: I'm going home to get the turkey baster.
Hubby: Don't be ridiculous.
Me: I'm being far from ridiculous. Ridiculous is taking a horrible, side-effect-ridden fertility drug for three months and not having sex at the right time. Ridiculous is knowing for a fine fucking fact that there are eggs in me RIGHT NOW and not making ANY effort to fertilise them.

I didn't have my car - we'd come in hubby's - so after dressing in jeans with no knickers and a completely incongruous smart work jacket (the first things I grabbed), I snatched his car keys. As I was making my final preparations to leave, donning shoes and unlatching my mother's Fort Knoxian front door system, hubby appeared at the top of the stairs, in his pants, hopping ineffectually from foot to foot.

Me: What the fuck?
Hubby: You won't be able to work the steering lock.
Me: How hard can it be? (Then, unable to resist) Sorry, you're not best placed to answer that, are you?

A few minutes later I was back, having wrestled with the aforementioned frigging steering lock to the point where I considered attempting the drive with it still engaged. Hubby looked what can only be described as triumphant - that is, as triumphant as a man in his pants who is unable to sustain an erection in order to impregnate his desperate, sore wife can look.

Hubby: You couldn't work it, could you. It takes ages.
Me (hurling his car keys at his feet and snatching my mum's from the rack): Life's too short. I'm taking my mum's car.

And I did. It's new and she'd go bananas if she had any inkling I'd driven it, but hell. At this point it did occur to me that if this were a movie, the song playing during this scene would be "Ain't No Mountain High Enough".

Arriving at my darkened home it occurred to me that now might be a good time to cry, but I staved off the urge. The car clock read 11.33 and I figured that by midnight I could be horizontal, in the dark, weeping silently into my pillow. I sustained myself with this thought and grabbed the turkey baster from our kitchen drawer. It occurred to me to grab hubby's viagra at the same time - at this moment I was still envisioning an eleventh-hour reprieve in which we'd manage a shag and not have to resort to the plastic. However, the chemist's paper bag in which the tablets had previously resided was empty.

Back at mum's, I unwrapped the turkey baster and noted with dismay that it was not as I imagined it. Despite appearing to all intents and purposes like an oversized science class pipette, the plastic part was really hard and unyielding, and the implement itself extremely long (about 30cm). I began to wonder how I'd get the sperm into it, never mind into me. The packaging also said "WARNING: Contains latex!" and I had in my head that latex was a spermicide, so I washed it in warm, soapy water while hubby looked on in dismay.

Eventually I dispatched him back to the study with a cup. I busied myself looking for Vaseline with which to smear the end of the turkey baster. After the penne experience, I imagined I was in for a long wait. Soon hubby reappeared.

Hubby: How will you get it in?
Me: You worry about getting it out, I'll worry about getting it in.

Could I find Vaseline in my mum's toiletry cupboard? Instead I had to make do with a fingerful of her tiny pink pot of "magic fairy cream", which she used to use to rub on my grazed knees when I was a kid. It looks and smells like Vaseline but she somehow decants it into this tiny, battered Oriflame pot which I swear she's had for 25 years. I bet she never imagined it'd be used for this purpose.

Hubby emerged from the study brandishing aloft his glass of sperm. I say that. I've done more voluminous sneezes.

Me: Is that all? For fuck's sake.
Hubby: That's all there ever is!
Me: And we wonder why I'm not pregnant.
Hubby: How will you-
Me: Just piss off and leave me alone.

I took off my jeans and unscrewed the bulbous end of the baster and tipped the glass into the tube, careful to keep the implement horizontal for fear the sperm leak out too fast. I slightly misjudged the viscosity of it, but got most of it in. Then I covered the narrow end with my thumb and did my best to keep it relatively flat while I rammed the bulb back on the end. Everything in place, I lay on the bed, spread 'em and tilted my pelvis up. All the while, a lyric from a Tori Amos song kept repeating in my head: "This is not - this is not really happening".

I gingerly inserted the thin end of the tube into myself and pushed it as far as it would go without hurting. This was less than easy, because as you might imagine I was less than aroused. Never has George Clooney featured more prominently in my mind. When I decided the angle was as good as it was going to get, I tilted the tube more vertically and hoisted my hips higher, the better to allow the sperm to trickle in a downward trajectory.

I then made a fairly serious mistake. Without thinking the action through, I squeezed the bulbous end of the baster, exactly as if it were a pipette. However, at 30cm in length and with a bulbous end the size of, well, a bulb, I misjudged the strength of the air gust that ensued. (I also misjudged the fact that the baster was in my fairly sensitive vagina and not a fucking inanimate test tube at the time.) Never again, is all I'll say.

Hubby arrived just at the point when I had decided that as much sperm as was going to dribble into me had now been given the opportunity to do so, and extricated the device.

Hubby: How's it going?
Me: Fucking swimmingly. This is every girl's dream. Get my pants.
Hubby: Which pants?

Me: The pants I put on the nightstand when I assumed we were going to have sex, before I realised I was actually going to have to fuck a plastic tube!

He passed me them, and we switched off the lamp and curled up for the night without another word. Except for this:

Me (in the dark, after a few silent minutes of contemplation of what just happened): I have a question.
Hubby: What now?
Me: Where the fuck's your viagra? I was going to bring it.
Hubby: I already have it.
Me: And yet, when I got home and said I was ovulating, it didn't occur to you to take any.

I lay there, on the one hand strangely satisfied that, against all odds, I'd managed to get sperm inside me; on the other, fuming and sad that it had actually come to this. Nearly 24 hours on, I don't know what to feel. The ovulation pain has gone so this really is a waiting game now.

But never let it be said that I didn't try.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

I got my period on Wednesday morning.

It was due on Monday, and despite my best intentions, I fell into the heartbreak of hope on Tuesday morning when it hadn't appeared, since last month clomiphene made me so 28-day spot-on regular. I lasted all of Tuesday doing the awful thing of praying, actually praying to a deity I'm not sure I believe in, every time I went to the toilet.

The clinic had said to attend for a blood pregnancy test if I hadn't bled by Wednesday. But even while I hoped, all the time I was conscious of having no discernible symptoms, of not "knowing" or feeling anything. Then, walking home from my train on Tuesday evening, I felt a telltale squirt and just thought, No, please no.

I rushed into the house, hurled my laptop and handbag to the ground, charged past a baffled hubby and into the bathroom and there it was. Brown spotting. The indisputable, never-changing precursor to my fucking hellhole period.

I considered trying to pretend nothing had happened, that maybe it was implantation bleeding and nothing to worry about. I didn't even say anything to hubby to explain my dramatic entrance other than that I had been desperate for the toilet. But when I was treated to a more definitive reddish splurge as I was getting ready for bed, I knew the game was up and the cycle was over.

Well, I lost it. I lay on the bathroom floor and sobbed like I have never sobbed in my life. I cried to the point where there is no way of discerning where the tears stop and the phlegm and mucus begin on your face. I cried until my chest ached and my throat burned; until my eyes were piggy and swollen. And then I cried some more.

Eventually staggering into the bedroom, hubby's face just crumpled as he worked out in a glance what was up. I then lay down on the bedroom floor alongside my bed - why, rather than sinking into its comfort I know not - and wept some more, to the point where he considered calling my mum as he didn't know how to calm me.

I'm ashamed to say that's when I got nasty, blaming him for lack of sex since I knew from the clinic that I'd ovulated and had really good hormone levels after day 21. We didn't fight so much as carp, though, and I ultimately fell into an exhausted and miserable slumber.

Next morning the brown stuff had disappeared, but about 10am my period proper descended, all cramps and gore and guns blazing. I was just floored by the cramps this time, perhaps because it was the middle of the day on a workday rather than a weekend when I was dealing with the worst of them, and perhaps because clomiphene equals worse periods. I sat in a meeting at 2pm that day feeling physically sick with pain and almost blacking out when a particularly wrenching one bit.

I called the clinic at 4pm and told them in a shaky, breaking voice what had happened. I had considered a break from the drugs this month since I have a lot of other stuff going on, but they talked me into sticking with it as it's better to do your three clomiphene cycles concurrently and then take next steps from there.

Which is why I currently find myself queasy on day three of the pills, day four of my cycle proper. And I feel like this really is the penalty shootout in my football-match-analogised effort to conceive my baby in my own bed, rather than in stirrups in a clinic.

Hubby and I went out for lunch today in an effort to do something nice amid our despair. We had a nice meal but it took place in a shopping mall which seems to be a magnet for heavily pregnant women and new mums. Hubby started to look bleak when I uttered the sentence "There must be some sort of fertility ley line running through this place, maybe we can get us some of that". A few minutes later, after walking past the third set of identical twins dressed in matching outfits, I couldn't help but articulate that "it's like the fucking Shining in here; what's with all the twins?"

I hate being that woman, but I am, intrinsically, her until this nightmare is over.

After our lunch hubby and I went to the supermarket for our usual weekly shop. He appeared in the canned goods aisle grinning inanely and brandishing, I shit you not, a turkey baster. I had threatened to buy one earlier in the week when I informed him that, come hell or high water, I would be getting sperm into me for four consecutive days around ovulation this time, and that if he couldn't ejaculate it into me himself I would find another way.

He now clearly feels he has a get-out-of-jail-free card for performance anxiety, and while this seems a tad defeatist to me, at least we do have another option this month. The turkey baster is positively slimline compared with some of the equipment I've had to accommodate during the course of this, after all.

There was also something almost funny about the sight of him - a vegetarian, like me - bringing such a bizarre item to our trolley with such aplomb, even though the humour was more of the "has it really come to this?" variety.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

An egg but no soldiers

When I got home from work today, hubby announced that his sister had given birth to her second son this afternoon.

I accepted the news relatively graciously (I bit back "Oh fucking DID she"), and was and remain glad that mother and baby are both healthy and doing well. However, it has obviously been difficult to digest, not least because I went to the clinic this morning for my day 21 tests and have been feeling gloomy ever since.

The nurse rang with the results at 4.30 this afternoon and it turns out I have ovulated again, as I knew I had from the pain two Sundays ago. My progesterone levels are apparently really good. But the clinic has said that if my period comes - and let there be no mistake, it will - they want me to come in to discuss where we go next before embarking on my next course of clomiphene.

It was the nurse who vampirised me this morning who said this. I asked her why I couldn't just have my third go before the next-steps consultation, and she said if clomiphene is going to work it usually does quickly. Just dandy.

So then I come home to the news that fecundity abounds north of the border in hubby's family, and pardon me for not being over the fucking moon. Hubby has been impatient with me all evening and eventually pulled me up on my "mood". I asked him whether he would like me to jump up and down about how happy I am that his sister has two babies and I have none. At this point his phone beeped with the latest of the 870 slideshows and videos she - and she should NOT be using a mobile phone in a hospital - has decided we would like to see.

A fight ensued, mainly about my frustrations with him being unable to perform at the critical point in the month, which if I am honest is driving me to despair. He has approached his doctor about it and has been offered a prescription for a well-known erectile stimulant to help matters along, but he refuses to take it because of - get this, it's good - potential side effects.

Yes, that's right. It's fine for me to pump myself full of hormones and chemicals like a frigging brood mare, to have a headache and feel sick most days as a result, and to have stabby, jabby pains during the forced ovulation of however many fucking eggs this drug is making me produce, but will he take one little blue pill a couple of nights a month so he can get it up? Will he fuck.

Eagle-eyed readers will notice I am somewhat less chipper than I was in my last post. That's because right after those four days of fun, the entire world started to go wrong. My grandmother had a stroke. My beloved eighteen-year-old cat had a fit and was diagnosed with kidney failure; he has since stabilised but the condition will ultimately and shortly cause his demise. And a whole heap of other shit happened that has just left me exhausted and faintly curious to see what happens next.

I guess I should be hopeful after being told today that I've ovulated. But that happened on the Sunday and I just don't think we had enough sex. We did it on the Wednesday night, then on the Saturday afternoon, and that's it. We attempted it several more times but he couldn't deliver. The Saturday shag does stand us in reasonably good stead as I've read it's best the day before the egg pops out, but if it had been up to me - and I say this purely out of the urge to get as much sperm into me as possible, rather than any joy or desire for the act itself - we'd have done it Thursday, Friday and Sunday too.

Add to that the stress I've been under in the past fortnight and you do not have a scenario conducive to conception. I'm certain, absolutely certain, that it hasn't worked. A small part of me dares not hope after the utter wracking devastation my last period caused. But the majority of me already knows this cycle is a doomed deal.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Second clomiphene cycle: mid-cycle report

It's been a really weird couple of weeks.

In several respects things have been rotten, but in the space of the past few nights I've had more fun than I have the whole rest of the year, and that's kind of made up for all the stuff that's gone wrong.

I got my period in the middle of the night of my last post, and cried so much that my eyes resembled those of a pig. It was a nasty one, with bad cramps and really heavy for the first two days. But I picked myself up and dusted myself off the following morning, and went to the clinic to get my new prescription, hoping that I'd manage to get hold of an ovulation enhancer rather than an anti-psychotic.

They gave me the correct drugs this time, and I spent the next five mornings taking the little tablets as directed. I actually felt a lot less bad this cycle than the first cycle. I was going to use the word "better" there and realised it wouldn't be quite accurate, as I did feel weird, but I escaped the daily headaches and didn't feel sick at all this time round. I wonder whether taking it in the morning made a difference?

Although I've got on with my next course, though, I've been really downhearted about the failure of the first cycle. During the early part of last week I was more dispirited than I've ever been. I was really stressed out and got to the point where I just couldn't imagine this ever working; couldn't picture the scenario where all this is over and we have a child, or even a bump. I was getting through the days and basically coming home every night from work and bawling.

Then a concentrated dose of fun happened and it has done me so much good. On Thursday night I went to watch one of my favourite stand-up comedians, Ross Noble, and had a blast as he put on a great show. He's the kind of performer where the show is completely different every night because so much of it is based on his random chats with audience members. So on Friday, I kept thinking how much fun it would be to go again that night, and how I deserved it after a shitty week and a failed cycle. I ended up calling the box office at 4pm and getting two returns in the first couple of rows, which was so lucky.

Having roped my best mate into coming with me, and into pizza before the theatre, we proceeded to have one of those brilliant, spontaneous evenings where it's all the better for the fact that when you woke up that morning you didn't know you'd be having so much fun just a few short hours later. The show was 75% different from the night before, and best of all, he did 20 minutes or so on fertility tests, which he hadn't even mentioned the previous night.

I watch a lot of stand-up comedy - it's my favourite thing to do - and I'd always wondered what it would be like to watch a routine about fertility issues. I figured it'd either be extremely entertaining because it would strike so many chords, or that it wouldn't be funny and would actually be quite difficult to watch because it's too close to home.

I'm happy to report that the former theory was on the money. I don't think I have ever laughed harder at a comedy routine. The focus of his material was going for a sperm test, based on his own experience, and the way he described it was genuinely hilarious, so much so that I was struggling to breathe. The whole audience seemed to love it but I felt I'd earned the right to enjoy it that little bit more - there remains something heartwarming about the image of myself howling with laughter at a subject that has caused me so many tears over the past three years.

As if that wasn't enough fun for one week, hubby and I then proceeded to have a splendidly silly barbecue evening round at said best mate's house on Saturday. Lovely food, far too much wine, sunshine, karaoke games and pure daftness ensued, and it was all just what the doctor ordered.

The only blip this weekend has been that I have ovulated. Which obviously is a good thing, but boy has it been painful. Last month I had a day where I was wracked with these stabbing, almost trapped-wind-like pains really low down in my tummy, and wondered if it was ovulation. When I asked the clinic about it they said it was and that clomiphene can cause pain during egg release because of the fact that the ovaries have been over-stimulated.

Yesterday saw me spending time crouched on the floor with my arse in the air as it was the only position in which I could get any relief. But the pain is fading now and we managed to have sex - only just, mind you, as hubby is struggling with performance anxiety AGAIN - at the right time.

Now it's a case of the dreaded two-week wait. I will not allow myself to get as hopeful as I did last time. The disappointment is too hard to bear if you have let yourself hope. And anyway, I actually don't think it will have worked this time, whereas last month I was absurdly confident it might. I've had a lot of stress and upset in the past fortnight, and I just can't see how that would be conducive to success.

Mind you, there's a lot to be said for happy hormones. If they play any part in aiding conception I may have some thank-you letters to write to my lovely friends - and to Ross Noble!