Category Archives: Surgery

The day we’ve all been waiting for…

Well boys, this is it, the big day. We’re both super nervous but also excited as we drive into the hospital. Kings of Leon “Sex on Fire” is playing on the radio and I sing along to distract myself from the momentous event that is set to occur later today. It’s been touch and go as last night there was only one bed available in the NICU nursery so there wasn’t space for us. Things are looking more positive this morning and despite nothing being available just yet we’re told to come in anyway so that we’re there and ready to go should space open up. Our obstetrician says not to rush, it’s looking more like a 1pm slot now rather than the 10:30am one we were booked in for.

I’ve been on a “no eating” order since midnight last night and have only been allowed to drink water up until 10am today. On top of that I’ve had to take two Ranitidine tablets (one last night and one this morning) to reduce stomach acid. I’m hungry by 8:30am….oh dear, hopefully the adrenalin keeps the hangry at bay.

We arrive at the hospital at 9:30am and head into ORDA, the day surgery unit. We’re met by very friendly staff and told that NICU can guarantee us beds after 1pm so we’re definitely all go for today, woohoo! They’ll try and fit us in sooner if they can. I’m given approximately 2cm of water in a styrofoam cup (the maximum I’m allowed to drink) and we’re told to head of for a walk, have a tea or coffee (for my husband only) and to come back to unit at 11:30am.

We pop downstairs where hubby grabs a coffee and we settle in at a table by the window. Suddenly it hits me that today is the day we meet our boys and I can’t stop crying. I can’t believe this is actually happening after so many years of trying to get here. There goes that tiny amount of water I was allowed!

We hang around the couch areas of the hospital until 11:30 then make our way back over to ORDA to get prepped. We run through the questions on the pre-op questionnaire, and I have my pulse, temperature and blood pressure taken (funnily enough it’s high). I’m so nervous. I change into gowns, and my husband into scrubs, and we sit to wait anxiously on the chairs provided. We laugh and joke and I try my hardest not to think about what is about to occur in order to restrain my nervousness.

Our obstetrician turns up, runs through the last little bits and pieces, and we sign consent forms. He mentions that the op will most likely occur around 2 or 3pm as an emergency caesarian has come through from ED that needs to be completed first. Then he’s off again. The next time we see him he’ll be dressed in greens and designer white gumboots.

Eventually we’re moved from the waiting room to a pre-op bed. I’m getting nervous and am still desperately trying not to think about things. We meet our anaesthetist who is absolutely lovely. She tries to get my IV line in but because of our operation being delayed I’m extremely dehydrated and my veins just don’t want to cooperate. She tries my right hand and falls, instead causing a massive swelling of my vein that looks like a tiger slug bulging out of my hand, it’s pretty cool but then I’m into mildly gruesome things like that. Next we try the left and again no luck, I spurt blood in a big gush as she removes the lure though so we’re close! My hands get wrapped up in warm saline bags to try and encourage the veins and she leaves us for a few minutes. Back again she manages to get a line in and not long after we’re walking through to theatre. Here we go!

I slip off my shoes, the one thing of mine I’m allowed to wear into the operating room and perch on the side of the bed ready for my spinal. Just as we get in position the anaesthetist is called away to an emergency, apparently one of her earlier patients is having difficulties. Off she runs to tend to them and we wait another five to ten minutes or so as she sorts them out and returns to be re-sterilised. What a drama, but on with the spinal.

I’d managed the perfect position in my practice run at my pre-op assessment earlier in the week but now one of the boys has moved further up under my ribs so is making the “hunch” is near impossible. I keep being told off for looking up and am being instructed to hunch more, but it’s so hard when a) I’m propped up with pillows and b) I’m so frickin uncomfortable like this. Eventually they remove some pillows and if I hold my breath I manage to hunch a little more. After three attempts the spinal is in, thank god as I was terrified that they were going to have to put me under general anaesthetic meaning, not only would I be totally knocked out for the operation, but my husband wouldn’t be allowed in theatre either. The thought of neither of us being there/conscious for the birth is too much.

My legs start to tingle as they’re lifted by others on to the bed. They feel warm and weird and then I can’t move them at all. Such a bizarre feeling. The anesthetist is running an ice cube up each leg to determine whether I can feel cold or just a slight pressure. I’m just telling her I can only feel a pressure up to my armpits where the cold suddenly kicks in, when in walks our obstetrician in his designer white gumboots. We’re ready to go.

Our obstetrician is great and talks us through each step as he’s doing it. Making incisions, what layer he’s up to, what he can see. And then all of a sudden he’s pulling out our baby number one, bum first into the world. The anaesthetist and nurse have lowered the curtain that divides my head & shoulders from the rest of my body but I desperately wish I could see more.  N (our obstetrician) is holding up our first little boy, his arms spread as if to hug us, for me to see. He’s gorgeous and I smile at him as they whisk him away for his check-up. In the background I hear his little cry and my body relaxes in relief that he’s ok as N starts on our second child.

I’m loathe to call them Bumble and Bee at this stage as they’re both the Bumble for whom we were waiting, neither more important than the other, but for the sake of this blog I will. With Bee safely getting the once-over all our attention is on Bumble, and he’s proving a little harder to catch than his older brother. He’s wedged himself right up under my ribs and despite our OB trying to keep a poker face for the sake of everyone’s wellbeing, I can see him getting a little more stressed as time ticks on. “It’s like trying to get a crayfish [lobster for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere] out from under a rock” he jokes, but I hear the room get a little quieter as he slowly wrangles Bumble out, and I start to worry. Bumble is the reason we’re in theatre right now as his growth had slowed enough to warrant an early operation.

I find out later that Bumble was extremely difficult to remove (that would explain my painful ribs in the days to come) and that his cord was wrapped around his neck, thank god we didn’t try for a vaginal birth! He’s initially deemed to be ok and is held up for me to see, again arms wide and looking both smaller and paler than his brother did, but otherwise perfect. Like his brother he’s whisked away to be weighed and checked, and we hear him briefly cry before he gets into respiratory difficulty and they treat him with CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) – basically a machine that keeps Bumble’s airways open, not breathing for him but allowing him the opportunity to breath for himself by using positive pressure to keep his airway free.

While Bumble is being worked on Bee is bought over to my head, wrapped up warm & with a little hat, and I pat his cheek and kiss his forehead as we pose for our first photos together with my husband. Meanwhile my poor little Bumble is put into an incubator and positioned briefly by my head for introductions before he’s ferried away to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), no time for photos with him. It’s distressing watching him go but I know it’s for the best. Looking back at the photos with Bee now I feel sad, knowing that one of our family members is missing from them. The photos themselves are lovely but for me they’re bittersweet.

My husband has a quick cuddle with Bee before leaving with Bumble (both of us desperate for him to have family company in this strange new world) and I’m slowly stitched back together layer by layer. Before I know it I’m being transferred to a ward bed (1,2, 3, lift – just like on TV) and wheeled into the recovery room. The operation’s over in a flash, and just like that, we’re parents. My Mum, who’s been waiting outside with my brother and his partner, is called into Recovery so that I have some company, and my little Bee is placed in my arms before being encouraged to latch onto my breast for a feed. It’s so surreal. I still can’t feel my legs, and won’t for a wee while yet, and here is one of my darlings in my arms and feeding from me! After all these years I’m finally a mum.

A while later my husband pops in, assuring me that our little Bumble is doing ok. He’s in level two NICU – medium risk – but is doing fine. Another photo then it’s time for me to head to the ward. Mum pops out to find my brother and I’m wheeled off holding my baby, my husband alongside. We get smiles from onlookers as we’re wheeled through the hospital corridors, and I’m all smiles myself despite feeling a gaping hole where my other baby should be.

As I’m placed in to the Ward (96, room 7 – a nice private room to myself), the midwife on ward duty pops in to introduce herself. “I know you!” she says, and my face lights up. It’s H, the wonderful midwife who first checked me into the ward way back at 26 weeks when I had my first bleeding scare. She is the most amazing person and was already my favourite midwife in the place. I’m amazed that she remembers me but of course, being the person she is, it really shouldn’t surprise me in the least – I can’t emphasise how amazing she is…something she somehow manages to build upon over the week I’m in there.

After the midwife’s visit my Mum, brother, and his partner come in bearing presents (including two helium bumble bee balloons), and a mountain of food. Along with the salmon sushi my husband has bought, it’s most of the things I’ve been missing while pregnant, and I gorge myself on soft cheese, deli meat, and a tiny glass of champagne, all of which I manage to bring back up again an hour or so later. I’d been warned by the medical team to take it easy with food as my gut had taken a bit of a bashing during the c-section, but I was so excited to eat real food, and even more ecstatic to not feel nauseous (believe it or not the food nausea stopped pretty much the second I gave birth) that I didn’t listen, and hence following the meal filled two massive containers with puke. Still, it was totally worth it! My parents-in-law also stop by and we get a little telling off from the midwife for having so many people in the room. Everyone begins to head home for the night and I settle into my first night as a mother. Let the first night alone begin!


The final countdown

And the roller coaster never ends. Monday we get given our C-section date and my blood pressure is high. Wednesday I have a Doppler scan to check the umbilical cord blood flow. Thursday we get the not so good news. And Friday I’m back in hospital. But I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s start at the beginning.

As mentioned in my last post, on Monday the 7th, we had an appointment with our obstetrician and he surprises us with our C-section date mere minutes before taking my blood pressure. It’s high which then puts us on pre-eclampsia symptom watch. Obviously this is not so fun, especially when my first cankles experience shows up later that night adding to the worry and nervousness around symptoms. Personally I think it’s just the timing of having my blood pressure taken and spending too much time on my feet that has caused the symptoms but after going through so much to get where we are I can’t help but worry.

Roll on Wednesday and the cankles have pretty much gone (I’ve been trying my best to rest and keep my feet up). I head in for my Doppler scan praying I have a different sonographer to last time. Alas, it seems that no one is listening to my prayers today as the same lady comes out and calls my name. Doh! She seems slightly more competent this time but still flusters at the beginning and just can’t seem to get her head around the simple fact that our twins have swapped places, so the one who is now our leading twin (the one nearest the birth canal) is actually titled “twin 2” while “twin 1” who USED to be leading has now taken a backseat. Again it takes a while to get what we need but at least we don’t have to do growth measurements this time. The Doppler readings look ok to me, and the amniotic fluid, although borderline for our leading twin, is acceptable so off I trundle home again.

Thursday. On getting back to my car after lunch with a friend there’s a voice message from our obstetrician on my phone. “Not too urgent but can you give me a call back.” Oh-o this can’t be good. I return his call and am transferred straight through to him. That never happens so now my heart is racing. Turns out it’s not so bad (I must have just caught him between patients) but it’s not good either. Apparently the Doppler scans show the blood flow to at least one baby is becoming compromised. While not urgent at the moment, this will require much closer monitoring so I’m booked in for twice-weekly visits to the Day Assessment Unit at the hospital. Not so convenient unfortunately as it’s 20 minutes drive away (rather than the 5 minutes to our usual scan place) AND I’ll have to pay for parking (exorbitant prices versus free). None of this matters though, as long as our boys are safe.

At each visit they’ll do a CTG to check out the boys heartbeats, a Doppler ultrasound to check blood flow, my Obs to keep an eye on blood pressure, and every fortnight (although realistically this probably means only one more) a growth scan ultrasound to measure the boys growth. Theoretically this should all fit into roughly an hour, yikes! Our obstetrician has booked me in at the Day Assessment Unit the following Tuesday (for CTG and fluid/blood flow check) and the next Friday (for CTG and a growth scan) – it’s all go and I cancel my pre-booked growth scan at our private radiology clinic (yay, no more useless sonographer!).

Friday. I’m not sure if it was the events of the previous day but one of our twins has decided not to really move for a good 24 hours. I’m sure everything is ok but it’s hard not to worry, especially with the ups and downs we’ve had lately, so eventually we call our obstetrician and head back to the Women’s Assessment Unit for some monitoring. I arrive pretty promptly and am hooked up to the CTG. Bee has still been quiet so I’m still stressing but of course within 10 minutes of the sensors going on he’s wriggling around like a fish. Typical. I feel bad for wasting everyone’s time but it’s better to be safe then sorry. My blood pressure etc. also look good so I’m out of there again just over an hour later. Talk about dramas!

The weekend is pretty uneventful and we truck through a few more of the things on the list in order to get the house ready. On Tuesday I head into the Day Assessment Unit for my first monitoring session. The fluid around each baby looks ok, still a little marginal for Bee but better than the scan we last had at our private clinic. The CTG is eventually fine too although it takes a while to find the two boys as the midwife (who I later find out is just helping out due to a busy day) is a bit hopeless…she actually blames her incompetence on me a little saying “it helps when the mother knows where the babies are” – um, you try having twins, especially ones who have already swapped places, and then let me know if you can tell me which way they’re lying! Anyway, the good midwife who usually runs the clinic manages to get the monitor to pick them up and after about 45 minutes (someone wouldn’t stop wriggling!) we have a reading. Although the scan report hasn’t come through yet I’m allowed to go knowing that our obstetrician will call later in the day with the results.

He does eventually call, the scan report took AGES to come through, and the rollercoaster hits a dip again. The fluid is marginal as we knew but it’s also looking like the blood flow to the babies might be becoming further compromised. I’m advised to skip breakfast on Friday and take my hospital bag in with me when I attend Friday’s monitoring session, just in case they need to do an emergency caesarian on Friday afternoon. Oh my god I’m not ready! I mean my hospital bag is pretty much ready to go but mentally I’m not prepared for the boys to arrive that early. At 35 weeks on that day I know they’ll be in reasonable shape but I have my heart set on getting them just a little bit further.

Turns out I needn’t have worried as Friday’s scan and CTG results are great. The boys are still measuring a little small for their gestational age, with one at approximately 1800g and the other around the 2kg mark (3lb 15oz and 4lb 6oz) instead of the recommended 2250g (4lb 15oz) but they’re not too far off. I ask our OB about the weight difference between the two but he’s not concerned. They only worry about a difference of 20% or more and that’s ours is only 10% so we’re ok. The fluid looks good – the boys have moved a bit allowing better fluid measurement (Bumble, although not the leading twin anymore, is head down, and Bee is breach, bum first) – and the blood flow looks fine too. The CTG takes only 15 minutes, it seems everyone is behaving today, and my obs are fine too. All in all a great result and a good day! Up goes the rollercoaster again.

And then it plummets once more when on Saturday evening I notice some tinting when I go to the bathroom and by Sunday morning I’m spotting again. Will this drama never end?!? It’s old looking and there’s not too much of it but my hubby suggests we call our obstetrician just in case, so we do. He’s not too concerned and thinks it’s probably just left-over from my last bleed 5 weeks ago. He’s happy for me to stay at home and keep an eye on it, especially given our latest monitoring results were good. I’m happy with that, I’ve spent enough time in that hospital lately and it won’t be too much longer before I’m back in there for the big event with just over two weeks to go until our scheduled c-section.

It turns out that time is actually much shorter than we anticipated.   We have friends around for a Sunday afternoon tea and my husband’s phone goes with “No caller ID” displayed on the screen. He silences the call and goes to put the phone back in his pocket. “It might be N” (our obstetrician) I say so he ends up taking the call. I hear our obstetrician on the other end of the line confirming that it’s indeed him but then I hear no more. It’s torture to only hear half the conversation and I feel my skin prickle and my hands and feet sweat with nervousness. Our poor friends having to sit through me anxiously waiting to see what he has to say, I feel a bit rude but I can’t think straight until I know what’s up.

My hubby gets off the line and says “Friday.” My heart races. WTH?!? Apparently our OB has been reviewing our notes and with the spotting occurring this weekend he thinks it’s a good idea to pull our c-section forward to the next available elective slot this coming Friday. While I think that’s true I also think it has something to do with him being out of town on holiday the following week, secretly wanting to be the one to deliver our children (seeing as we’re his freakishly young USA donor egg patients – he’s never had anyone like us before) and not wanting to chance me needing a c-section from one of his off-siders while he’s away. He’s going to be on holiday the following week too but being back in the city was going to pop in to do our caesar on the 5th….see what I mean by I think he wants to deliver our babies!

Oh my gosh, I’m seriously sweating now and have gone into shock. Our friends think it’s funny and I guess it is. All that comes our of my mouth for the next wee while is “Oh my god” and various swear words, before I finally pull it together enough to return to a normal conversation. Our mates depart and I return to my panic. There’s still so much I want to get done before the boys arrive…not much that HAS to be done but definitely things I wanted to have crossed off my list purely for my piece of mind and satisfaction.

I start to work through the plan for the rest of the week and we let our parents and siblings know what’s going on. We decide not to tell our friends for the moment (other than the ones who were there when the news broke obviously, as there was no avoiding that), partially because it’s not guaranteed that the operation will go ahead on Friday – it depends on whether my scans continue to look good, on whether all the necessary staff line up, and whether there are spare beds for the boys in the hospital nursery (all things that will be confirmed later in the week), and partially because we want it to be a surprise for them. There hasn’t been much we’ve been able to surprise them with over this journey so it will be nice to be able to make the phone call/texts/emails that other ‘normal’ new parents get to make after the boys arrival.

Keeping it secret proves harder than I thought. Honesty is a value I hold dearly so feeling like I’m lying to my friends really grates me. I make a point of not outright lying to anyone as I just couldn’t handle that, but more skirt the tricky questions and answer in more general terms. “Next monitoring session on Friday?” gets a reply of “The Day Assessment Units monitoring days are Tuesday and Friday”, “Any chance they’d let you go longer if things are still really good a week from now?” gets “No, not a chance, our OB doesn’t want to risk anything.”, “Want to catch up next week?” = “Sure!” (I just won’t tell you it will be a catch up in hospital! I still feel bad doing this but for some reason I just need this to be a surprise.

I guess it’s a little to do with wanting to feel ‘normal’ and a little to do with buying ourselves some extra time to bond with the boys. I know how excited everyone is, how desperately many of them want to meet the twins, and understanding this (as well as being excited for them to meet the boys too) I know I would be hopeless at trying to delay people coming in. It’s a momentous occasion that hubby and I need to fully experience and accept without anyone else around. We’ve waited years for this.

The monitoring session on Tuesday goes well again; even more fluid around the boys (they’re obviously moving around), good blood flow, and a great CTG; and I think our obstetrician is slightly second guessing his decision to pull the c-section forward. In the end he decides it’s still the right call, we’re trading off a little extra prematurity (not too much at 36 weeks) for the boys arriving safely, and I tend to agree. The spotting isn’t really letting up, although it isn’t getting worse either, and I don’t want to risk anything going wrong at this late stage.

Following the monitoring session I’m booked into a pre-op admission session at the hospital across town so make the mad dash there for that. I meet with a nurse who measures my blood pressure (a little high from my dash across town), weight and height, and takes me through what I need to do the evening before and morning of my operation. Take a Ranitidine tablet (to reduce stomach acid) Thursday evening, nothing to eat after midnight, another Ranitidine on Friday morning, water only until I arrive at hospital, and be at the hospital day surgery unit (ORDA) at 8:30am. I can handle that.

Next I see the anesthetist. She’s not the one who will be there for my c-section but she performs all the checks and writes copious notes for the one who will be there on the day. She’s really lovely and walks me step-by-step through the operation including the people who will be there, how and when they’ll administer the anesthetic, what to expect in the operating theatre, and what will happen afterwards. She demonstrates how they find the correct place for the epidural/spinal and makes me feel better by commenting on how good my back is for finding the right spot.   She details post-op pain relief, possible side effects, and likely length of hospital stay, and I leave feeling pretty comfortable about everything.

Blood tests on Thursday to check that I’m ready to go and to identify the details they’ll need should I require a blood transfusion in theatre, and all that’s left is to await the confirmation call from my obstetrician to let us know that it’s full steam ahead. My husband and I head out for a nice yum cha lunch (probably our last for a while) and to check out a part of our local museum that they’re closing down and was always my favourite when I was a child (on a sidenote for Aucklanders – can you believe they’re actually closing the Colonial Auckland exhibit?!? Especially after all these years!)

The call from our OB comes around 2:45pm and we’re still all up in the air. There’s one spare bed in the nursery but not two. This could of course change overnight, for better or for worse, so he’s going to call again tomorrow and give me an update then. So the ideal plan is no food after midnight and it all goes ahead as we hope but, failing that, he’ll admit me to hospital for daily monitoring and we’ll take the first slot we can once beds are free. Plan B is far from ideal but I guess it’s a matter of whatever’s best for the boys (lucky we didn’t tell everyone it was tomorrow!). I’m disappointed. I like the 25th of September as a date, and I’d really like our OB to deliver the boys before he goes on holiday, but whatever will be will be and I just have to roll with it. The rollercoaster’s not quite done with us yet.


Could this be your birthday?

I’m totally freaking out. We’ve just arrived home from an appointment with our obstetrician and, assuming we make it that far without me going into labour first, we have a birthday for our boys. I feel like I’ve taken some kind of illicit substance. My heart is pounding, my blood is pulsating, my head is running at a million miles an hour.  I’m excited and nervous and completely overwhelmed all at the same time. Ok, I’m TOTALLY shitting myself and all of a sudden have cold feet.

Am I fit to be a parent? How can I be trusted with these two little people’s wellbeing? I don’t even feel old enough to look after myself sometimes! Am I too selfish to be a mum? What if I can’t do it? Will I be able to breastfeed? And how in the hell do you even pick up two babies at once?!?!

We’d received our pre-admission appointment paperwork in the mail last week (basically an appointment to meet the anesthetist and talk through any pre-op questions we may have) so we knew something was in the pipeline, but I still wasn’t entirely prepared for getting a birth date today. Our obstetrician has been so chilled out I guess I just thought it was still a while away….or maybe I didn’t, I guess I just hadn’t really thought at all.

So, after having that bombshell dropped on us at the beginning of the session he proceeded to take my blood pressure, which of course was sky high – Um hello! You’ve just told me when our babies will definitely be here by, of course my blood pressure’s going crazy! He waits a minute then takes it again and it’s dropped at little (145/87) but is still not ideal. I’m sure it’s just because I was excited (read ‘freaking out’) but it’s enough to switch me from a fortnightly to a weekly check-up.

Next he has a look at the boys. As previously mentioned, our scan last week was a bit of a concern with both boys growth rate having dropped off a fair bit. We talk him through some of the things our sonographer had said at the scan and mention that we didn’t have much faith in her. That seems to relieve him a little and when he measures the leading twin (who has actually been twin 2, or Bee, up until recently) he relaxes further as his measurements put Bee around 1900g rather than the 1400g the sonographer had measured. 1400g means only a 50g per week growth rate whereas 1900g is much closer to the 200g per week expectation. Unfortunately our other little munchkin was hiding up under my ribs so too hard to measure given the short timeframe of our appointment.

Our obstetrician gives us a quick run down of the c-section process – with one breech baby and one transverse baby it’s still a c-section regardless at this stage – and gives me forms for scans and blood tests. We’ll continue our fortnightly growth scans but are now adding in a weekly Doppler check to assess the blood flow/placental function and make sure the boys are still being nourished.

And then we’re done. We book in for a longer appointment with him next week to discuss our birth plan – something that will be somewhat different to a normal person’s given our current situation, but will give us an opportunity to chat through a c-section in greater detail and note down our preferences on the few things we DO have control over.

As we hop into the car to head home the reality begins to sink in and my ‘high on drugs’ and ‘totally shitting myself’ feelings explode. I need to get a grip or I’ll be sending myself into premature labour! Oh, and the magical date that’s caused this tailspin? Monday the 5th of October. In non-American date format that’s 5/10/15 which appeals nicely to my organisational (read OCD) tendencies. Ignore your mum’s freak-out boys, I really can’t wait to meet you…..but please not until the 5th of October.


The ultimate in online shopping (written 21st October 2014)

Ok, so I haven’t been entirely honest on this blog. We’ve actually been more in contact with one of the American fertility centres than I’ve let on. After telling what seemed like the world about our last DEIVF cycle we decided we wanted to be a little bit more discreet, at least initially, with this one. Admittedly I’ve blabbed more than I had intended as it’s just so hard to keep quiet when you’re so excited about something, and my thin disguise has probably been extraordinarily see-through, but at least I’ve tried.

So, feeling frustrated at our lack of progress, the day after we get our failed cycle result we start investigating American fertility clinics. I’ve heard good things about San Diego Fertility Center (including a friend who is pregnant with their help) so we start there, but also check out Shady Grove in Washington DC too. Less than 24 hours later we’ve registered with San Diego’s donor database (as well as with Egg Donor America), which you can do without actually contacting them for treatment. It’s a bizarre thing. I feel like a complete stalker scrolling through the donor databases, it’s like online shopping but for people rather than things. It’s just a surreal, almost sci-fi experience, and we eventually find ourselves getting so hung up or comparing the smallest and craziest things that we have to take a step back and remind ourselves that these are real people we’re debating, not what colour underwear or socks to buy.

After a small discussion (basically me pushing my case) we decide on a donor. Just like that. It seems nuts that it can be done so easily that but this girl just feels right. She looks a little like me, she’s smart, down-to-earth, caring, and the things she writes in her profile sound like things I would write myself. I’m sold.

Two days after our failed donor cycle we email our doctor here in NZ to try and speed up the scheduling of our WTF appointment and seek his advice on next steps, including his thoughts on treatment in the States – our clinic works closely with San Diego Fertility Center so we’re hoping he has some valuable insight. It takes 4 days to get a response, which is pretty impressive given he’s on leave, and we have an appointment locked in for his first week back (three weeks from our failed result).

Hedging our bets we express our interest with San Diego a couple of days after we email our NZ doctor, via their online queries form. They’re super quick, less than 12 hours later we have a reply from them, with more information than we could ever have dreamed possible and our preliminary paperwork (new patient form and medical history) all ready to complete and return. The donor coordinator there is absolutely lovely (not to mention she’s been through DEIVF successfully herself so understands what this is like) and we fire questions and answers back and forth easily. We mention that my husband potentially has a work trip to the States planned in December and that if at all possible we’d like to be able to work with that to save on airfares. She’s unfazed, says that that timeline is totally achievable, and matches us with our donor! Matched, meaning she’s ours and no one else can nab her (but we can also pull out if we decide we don’t want her as our donor or decide not to proceed with treatment). Wow, mind-blowing. And it continues…less than a week later (although it could’ve been even sooner if we’d got our act together) we’ve got a phone appointment with the coordinator and the ball is well and truly rolling.

Over the phone we chat about what’s involved and what our options are, an easier conversation than most as we’ve just completed a donor cycle so know what to expect, and she’s booked us in for a phone appointment not only with one of their nurses but also one of their doctors too, AND the calls are only a week away! The speed at which they move is astounding! I thought I would be freaked out about how fast things are progressing but I’m excited. We don’t feel pressured by them at all and it just feels right.

Then comes the bad news, our donor has just started a new job and doesn’t want to take leave so early in her employment. Although we ask about potential timelines of when she would be able to complete a cycle, she’s unable to give any indication, so it looks like we’re back to the drawing board donor-wise. We have a few donors on our favourites list and there are more donors popping back into the pool everyday so hopefully it won’t be too difficult finding a replacement. We push on.

The call with the nurse and the following day the doctor, go smoothly and quickly. As with the donor coordinator, our recent donor cycle makes things so much easier. The nurse fires us through more information as well as an indication of the drugs I’ll be on, and a list of the pre-work required before we can start a cycle. This includes blood tests for both of us for everything under the sun (Blood Type/Rh, TSH, Varicella, Rubella, Prolactin, HTLV I and II, HIV, Hep C, RPR, Hep B Surface Antigen, Cystic Fibrosis Carrier Status), another semen analysis for my hubby, a request for an updated hysteroscopy for me, and another psychological consult for us both to make sure we’re all over the implications of not only a donor cycle but also one that could potentially be anonymous – something that’s not really approved of here in NZ.

Did I say the ball was rolling? Well now it’s a growing snowball! We sign consents to get our notes sent from our clinic over to San Diego, and it’s all on, we’re really doing this! Time to call the bank for that loan (which they thankfully grant us)! Nothing like the feeling of adding $50k to your mortgage for a chance at what most people can get for free. That’s the one bitter pill to swallow through all of this excitement. I hate owing money and to have to increase our mortgage so significantly really irks me. Still, it will hopefully all be worth it in the end.

So what next? Well, due to the tight timelines of when a hysteroscopy can be performed and where I currently sit in my cycle, I change our scheduled WTF appointment to a theatre booking for my hysteroscopy instead. There’s no going back now, especially as we pay our fee to the NZ clinic for their part in this process. Sheesh, less than two weeks since we approach San Diego and the decision is not only made but in full swing. It’s amazing, exciting, and overwhelming all at the same time.

We go back to the donor drawing board and with a bit of consultation decide on another donor but again there’s a hitch. While her profile indicates she’s available from November, due to the late arrival of her period from her last (and first) donation, she won’t be able to donate until early in the New Year. We’re just not having much luck with this! We go back to the database but after a bit of discussion decide that we just don’t want to compromise that much on a donor. The universe is trying to tell us something and we should listen. December is just not right for this process. We opt to wait for the New Year and stick with our second donor choice. We’re matched. She’s ours and we’re hers, for this cycle at least. According to our donor coordinator this donor is absolutely adorable and one of her favourites in the system, she’s “gorgeous, bubbly, enthusiastic, and just so grateful to be given the opportunity to change lives” which makes me feel really good about this choice. Let’s just hope nothing else goes wrong!

So onto the serious stuff. My hysteroscopy. As previously mentioned there is a tight timeframe on this as it needs to be completed between days 7 & 12 of your cycle. The date of our WTF appointment (that I switch to my hysteroscopy appointment) is day 12 for me so there’s no time to lose. Unfortunately it’s also the first day of our annual work conference which I’ve been helping organise for the larger part of this year. Timing couldn’t be worse but thankfully the conference team is made up of some pretty amazing women who completely ‘get it’ and don’t hesitate in telling me to continue with the appointment. So after an insanely early 5:30am breakfast (no eating for 6 hours pre-op just in case) and some last minute conference stuff in the morning, I head off to my operation. For the first time in our whole fertility process I’m off to a big appointment alone. My husband has a major part to play (presenting to 300 people) at the conference so, despite desperately wanting to be there for me, can’t make it along. I’m just hoping like hell I can make it back to the conference in time for his presentation! They say the hysteroscopy should take 30 minutes so I should be ok, but if it gets too painful and they have to sedate me, I’ll be stuck there longer and might miss him present.

Well painful? It was the most excruciating thing ever and I felt like I was about to vomit through a fair chunk of it. On instruction I’d taken three paracetamol tablets an hour before and they’d hoped this would be enough to control the pain. It’s not. My legs go up in the stirrups, ever so dignified, plastic is guided under my back to “catch the fluid”, mmmm delicious. First they insert a speculum much like a regular smear, followed by an internal rinse of the area and the insertion of a little camera. It’s a little uncomfortable, with some mild period-like cramping, but overall not too painful. That is until they get to my cervix. My cervix won’t sit still and keeps running away so they’re forced to clamp it to hold it in place. There’s a little pinch and a shoot of pain but at least it now stays put. And then the excruciating agony begins. I get the cold sweats and honestly feel like I’m about to throw up. I can’t believe people are able to do this without pain relief, and my pain threshold is (or at least used to be) pretty high. I want to cry and actually come close to blacking out – or at least being so much in pain that I don’t really remember what was happening in the room, and the voice of the nurse telling me to take deep breaths seem fuzzy and miles away. Halfway through they dose me up with painkillers, just a small dose so it doesn’t take the pain away but it does help. Apparently I have a tight cervix, great. What else can my body do to make this a nightmare for me.

And then it’s done. I feel weak but relieved it’s over, and so so grateful for the amazing nurse (both of them were really lovely and supportive but there’s one in particular, who’s our favourite at the clinic) who was simply fantastic, held my hand and talked me through the ordeal. I couldn’t have done it without her. They keep me there for observation for another 30 minutes or so, feeding me toast and tea, before I’m allowed to leave. I’m not permitted to drive after the drugs they’ve given me but my amazing friend C (one of the fabulous conference girls) has offered to pick me up and race me back to conference. She drives like the wind and we make it back just in time for my hubby’s (magnificent) presentation. I’m stoked we made it and insanely grateful to have such wonderful friends. I kick into two days of conference and socialising, desperately trying to hide my cramps and other side-effects of the treatment. The physical stuff I can handle and hide ok but it’s the emotional stuff that takes its toll. It’s hard to be happy and social (especially around so many cheery fertiles – “I’ve also got a successful breeding program at home”, yes, that came up in more than one speech to the attendees) when you just want to curl up and cry at the unfairness of the world. I miss one of the functions (more to extreme tiredness than anything else) but manage to make it through pretending it’s all ok.

And here we are another week on, blood tests were ticked of the list this morning, counselling appointment is booked for two weeks time, and evaluation cycle will start with my next period. Hold onto your hats kids it’s full steam ahead, I can only hope that we’ll get the result we dream of at the end of the ride.

 

 

 

 


Happy New Year

And here we are in 2014.  It’s a sunny day and we’ve said goodbye to a devastating 2013 with tears and fireworks.  Good riddance.  I’d love to say the new year will be our year, that things can only improve, that it’s going to be better than the year just gone, but I said all that 12 months ago and look where that got us.  So 2014.  It’s a brand new year and whatever happens will happen.

I’ve had a few comments that this blog is sometimes a hard read, that it’s depressing, or negative, so I thought it time to write a post that somewhat addresses this.  My life is most definitely not a hard slog all the time, like nearly everyone else I have good times and bad.  However this blog is not a documentation of my life as a whole, although who knows, one day it might serve that purpose.  It is a documentation of our struggle to have a child, and that journey is hard, way harder than I ever thought it would be, so naturally (that is if I’m doing my job right) what you read upon this page is sometimes hard.

You sit down to a nice relaxing breakfast, I’m on my way to yet another early morning fertility appointment.  You take a sip of that delicious coffee (the one that I can’t drink due to its potential impact on my fertility), I’m on a hot date with dildocam.  Yep, dildocam, I’m sure you can imagine what that involves if you don’t already know.  Having a nice night out with friends? Check out the non-alcoholic drinks on that beverage list (the list of drinks us infertiles often have to stick to)…..9 out of 10 times there won’t be one.  Now think of the one thing in your life you’d really love to achieve but for reasons outside of your control can’t, and imagine everyone around you talking about how they’ve achieved that very thing, how easy it was, and how fantastic the results are.  Relaxing on a beach or in a park? Take note of how many families are there with their kids and imagine how you would feel if that was all you wanted but couldn’t have.  Feel good?

This journey is physically difficult.  During treatment it involves a hundred and one appointments with specialists, invasive (and sometimes painful) tests and ultrasounds, surgery, constant monitoring and blood draws, and piling multiple chemicals into your body – often accompanied by hideous side effects of some description or another.   And that’s just the beginning, for some of the more unlucky amongst us this voyage involves even more.  I, thankfully, have not had the experience of that ‘more’, and hopefully never will.

Outside of treatment time, we’re trying to give our bodies a fighting chance of being able to conceive.  That means trying to ensure your body is in the best possible condition fertility-wise.  Exercise (but not too much exertion – quite a hard balance to find), eating the right foods at the right times, taking a multitude of supplements, alternative medicines such as acupuncture, the list goes on.  It all may seem excessive to the fertile community reading this but when your body doesn’t perform as it’s supposed to you try everything to bring it back to ‘normal’, often on the recommendation from the medical community.  Now try fitting all of this in around your job and the rest of your day-to-day life.

Yet the physical is the easy part.  As well as being physically challenging, it’s also a complete mind-fuck.  You know when you buy a new car and then suddenly you start seeing that make and model everywhere you drive?  It’s like that with kids.  Everywhere you go there are children, babies, pregnant people, and when I say everywhere I mean EVERYWHERE.  It’s inescapable.  We took a walk to a waterfall miles from anywhere in the middle of the bush, there’s a pregnant lady there at the waterfall.  Out to the pub for New Years Eve, a pregnant woman…and what’s worse, she’s drinking, a lot, vodka and energy drink no less.  To a ‘normal’ person that’s horrifying – we’ve been conditioned to know this is bad for the baby – to an infertile it is heartbreaking.  Why is this woman who is abusing her baby before it’s even born allowed to conceive yet we, who would give that baby everything it could ever need, cannot.

You’ve just sat an exam, one that the rest of your life depends on, and you’re awaiting the results.  Now let’s say you can’t do many of the things you enjoy because they could potentially effect the results of this exam, and this exam is going to dictate whether you get to have the life that you want or whether you’re destined for the sidelines to watch from the outside.  You have two weeks to wait until you know what path your life will take, and all the while you’re surrounded by those who have already passed the exam and are living the high life while unintentionally bragging about it.  Welcome to the two week wait.  The torturous two weeks following treatment (or ovulation) in which you wait to find out if you’re pregnant or not.  You try to distract yourself but it always comes back to the same point, will I have the life I want for myself or will I need to heartbreakingly change my dreams.

For infertiles, everyday things become a challenge.  Meeting new people comes with questions of kids, time is measured by appointments or treatments rather than days of the week, even going to work comes with the constant reminder of what you don’t have – colleagues funny anecdotes about their children, or the thought of ‘if everything had gone to plan I’d be on maternity leave/planning a kids party too right now’.  Your mind is your worst enemy.  The smallest of things can trigger an emotional response, and sometimes it all gets too much.  I was negotiating a change to my job recently and things didn’t entirely go to plan.  Rather than my usual response of ‘take a step back and reassess’ I had a complete meltdown and cried for half a day.  Now on the surface this looks as though I’m an overemotional nutbar, overreacting to what is a seemingly normal job transaction but what the majority of people don’t see is that this job transaction comes at the tail end of another failed IVF cycle (one with atrocious side effects), a cycle that has ended the dream of a biological child for us, a cycle that cost us nearly $12,000 and, because of my defective body, we weren’t able to complete.  Imagine knowing this is all your body’s fault and not being able to change anything.  It’s like building a house of cards or a Jenga tower and slowly pulling out the foundations one by one.  The job hiccup was the last piece that caused the house/tower to come tumbling down.

I don’t know too many infertiles in the flesh but I sure know a plenty online, via Twitter and this blog, and they are some of the strongest and most resilient people I know.  They’re survivors.  So next time you feel like saying we’re a bit negative or the tales of our lives are hard to read, spare a thought for the people actually living this reality.  No, it’s not our entire life summed up in these pages, but the haunting reality of what’s written here has an impact on everything we do, and on who we are as people, good times or bad.  These words are merely our outlet, a way to cope


Alternatively alternative, the foray into natural medicine part 1

I’m taking a lot longer to recover from my laparoscopy/hysteroscopy than I thought I would.  The last time I went under general anaesthetic (admittedly over a decade ago) I bounced back within a couple of days.  This time I’m finding it a lot tougher.  I still get tired easily and one of my four incision holes is still quite sore, not helped by the fact that it is positioned on my tummy podge so bounces when I walk.  I can only imagine how painful a C-section is!

The next question I am facing is whether to jump back into alternative treatment or not.  In January of this year a friend suggested I visit her naturopath to see if that would increase our chances of finding Bumble.  I’d always been a bit of a sceptic when it came to things like that.  Not so much so that I wouldn’t give things a go, and I definitely saw a benefit in some alternative medicine.  I’d been bought up with a small amount of natural remedies, but was I ready to jump head first into something that wasn’t entirely me?  The short answer is yes.  I think when you’ve been trying a while with no result you get to a point where you’d give absolutely anything a go.  If someone had told me painting myself blue and running backwards around a flower garden by moonlight would improve my chances I probably would have considered it….well, no, not really, but you get my point.

So, an appointment was made and I went along, with the fantastic support of my fabulous friend, not quite knowing what to expect but prepared to give it a shot.  An intensive questionnaire and a chat to the lovely naturopath and I’m kitted out with a concoction to take morning and night, plus a selection of capsules to pop (fish oil etc). I’d already been taking Elevit which I have to say wasn’t so suited to me and made me feel quite revolting.  According to the naturopath Elevit can be a bit strong in certain vitamins for some women so the concoction she created to replace Elevit was essentially the same thing but tailored to suit my needs.  She thought my thyroid may be under-functioning slightly (though not enough to be cause for concern, proven via blood test) so gave me something for that, as well as a capsule used to help with the various cramps I felt throughout the month.  Take those and I’ll see you in month.

I’d love to say that this was a quick fix but like most things to do with trying to conceive it’s a gradual step-by-step process.  I made monthly appointments and each time my herbs were altered a little to try and improve my lot.  The cramps, my low temperatures, and my late ovulation seemed to be the main obstacles and we managed to correct one or the other for a short time but not for good.  Chances are it was just my body doing some of that naturally anyway.  I did feel better, I had more energy, my skin was looking better, and my temperature was now consistently over 36 degrees.  So something was working.  Trouble was, we didn’t really know what.  Eventually a stale-mate was called and my naturopath said there was nothing more she could do, it was time to take the next step….surgery to see what was up.  That was the good thing about the naturopath I went to, she worked in collaboration with conventional medicine, using one to compliment the other.

Since my last visit to the naturopath a couple of months ago I’ve been taking the same combination of herbs and capsules.  I had to stop for a week before my surgery, and I didn’t start taking them again until a week after.  The question is, do I keep going?  I’d love to say yes I’d do anything that gave us more of a chance, but unfortunately it’s an extra expense, on top of the other alternative thing I’m doing (more on that later), and I’m not sure it’s something we can afford to continue.  We’ve been able to up until now but the multiple alternative routes we’re trying are taking up most of our extra cash and there is a lot of work on the house left to do.  My husband thinks I should give up one – the naturopath – and keep doing the other.  I just don’t know….I kinda feel I should give them both a chance now that my endometriosis has been attacked and am worried that to give one up might hamper our chances.  I’m sure that’s more of a superstitious thought than a certainty but I can’t help but think it.  Perhaps I just keep it going until after my post-op appointment with the fertility specialist when we see what the deal is and what our next steps are.

So after 11 months of naturopathy do I recommend it?  Would I do it all over again?  I have to say, the concoction of herbs does take a bit of getting used to.  The first time I took it it made me gag, though I did get used to it eventually.  My second variation on the mixture wasn’t nearly so bad and was actually bearable.  And the latest tastes a little like tequila and warms your throat.  That’s not so bad if you’re a fan of tequila, or for the evening dose of the liquid, but ‘tequila’ for breakfast just isn’t my cup of tea.  On the other hand, I do feel better than I did 11 months ago when I started so there is definitely an upside to taking it all.  On the whole, I think if you’re open to it then naturopathy is a viable route to take if you’re trying to get your body in a good state to stay healthy and conceive (not even a single cold all year!) but if there’s something more serious going on, such as major endo, then it’s not necessarily going to help you.  My take on it is much like my take on most things, moderation is the key.  A combination of the natural and the conventional could just be the perfect mix.


Out the other side

Sorry guys, I haven’t felt much like writing for the last couple of days, bit sore and sluggish – my brain’s not quite functioning at full speed so apologies in advance if this ends up being a shambles of a post.  Op went well on Monday and they cut a fair bit of endometriosis out of me as well as giving my tubes a good flushing out , so on top of having less painful periods from now on, we should have a higher chance of conceiving, fingers crossed!

I need to be careful about getting my hopes up though….my first thought on Monday once I discovered what they’d found was, “awesome, it’s going to happen straight away now”.  Luckily I quickly came to my senses and realised that that most probably won’t be the case and I need to be a bit more realistic about this.  There’s no way I’m going to let myself go back to major disappointment and tears each month when discovering we’re not pregnant – I’ve come way too far for that and have built my defences up to a comfortable point where I can deal with the frustration at not succeeding.  Hopefully I’ll get a nice surprise one day soon but I’m not going to get hung up on it.  As a very wise friend mentioned earlier today, this op has put me back at “normal”.  I now have the same chance as any normal person trying to conceive, which means it may happen pretty soon, but equally as likely could take months.

It’s funny what you come to think of as normal.  I’ve had painful periods for most of my life (although admittedly they had been getting worse since coming off the pill 2 years ago).  To me that was normal and it never occurred to me that other people didn’t experience that.  I remember being a little surprised at one of my initial fertility consultations having been asked if I took painkillers for my painful periods.  I admitted I did but tried not to as I found if I took them too much they weren’t so effective.  The next question the doctor asked was “would a normal person take painkillers if faced with the pain you have?”  I was a bit taken aback at that as I’d always considered myself relatively ‘normal’.  I know have a reasonable pain threshold but it had honestly never occurred to me that what I was experiencing was anything outside the norm.  In a strange way I feel validated now, like it was ok that I was in pain each month because it’s now a fact I did have/do have endometriosis – which just seems so odd as a week ago I was dismissing the fact that endo was a possibility.  I was actually a little scared that they’d do the op, find nothing and everything would turn out to have been in my head.  So crazy how the human mind works sometimes.

Other than my realisation of ‘normal’ (or more to the point ‘abnormal’), another thing highlighted to me this week is just how lucky I am.  My husband and I have a reasonably comfortable life, we both have pretty good jobs, and a place of our own to call home.  We may not have a Bumble (yet), but we are truly blessed with fantastic friends and family.  The amount of support received both before and after my op has really astounded me.  It just amazes me that so many people care.  I know that probably sounds silly but I honestly don’t think we stop often enough to appreciate all the wonderful people we have around us.  You guys are absolutely fantastic and I know we wouldn’t be where we are today without you.  You know who you are, and we love you all to bits!  Your support and kindness really IS appreciated and treasured.

So, onwards and upwards.  I have an amazing ‘support team’ and four little holes in my belly – soon to become ‘battle-scars’.  I have less endometriosis, and a higher chance of conceiving my little Bumble.  Not long ago I was afraid of scarring my stomach, now I will look on my scars as just another step along the path to the beehive, road markers of how far we’ve come both physically and mentally in the last 20 months.  Positive, but not too positive, I look forward to just being ‘normal’.


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