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.