Other stuff about women starting a business

May 16, 2013 § Leave a comment

So this whole journey has made me re-evaluate a lot of things in my life. Work has been one of them. This little treasure that I see on a daily basis fills me with joy every time I watch her accomplish something new. It seems such a waste of this precious time for me to return to an office environment and not witness her flourish, so I’ve decided to stop work and concentrate my efforts on starting a new business instead, in the hope that I can find that elusive balance in my life.

The IVF chapter of my life is over. Thank you for reading.

9. She’s here, she’s healthy and she’s sleeping in my arms

October 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

So its been a while since I posted here but an update is well overdue. During the pregnancy, it just felt too much like tempting fate to put in writing forever about the imminent arrival of my baby.

I was fortunate enough to have a healthy, uncomplicated pregnancy and a straightforward birth. And so she is here. We had a baby girl!

I could write an essay on how I feel right now, but I will keep it simple. She’s beautiful, she’s perfect. I am blessed. She’s curled up in the foetal position on my chest at the moment, and she’s asleep. I can sit here in the silence and listen to her little breaths and occasional sighs. It is pure joy and pure love.

IVF was worth every second and worth every penny.

One for sorrow…..

March 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

When I was little, my grandma use to recite this nursery rhyme to me:

One for sorrow

Two for joy

Three for a girl

Four for a boy

Five for silver

Six for gold

Seven for a secret never to be told

I always remember this little rhyme when I see a lone magpie pecking at the ground or flying into the branches. I never see more than one. I’ve wondered if perhaps magpies just don’t travel in groups or whether the universe is simply laughing at me.

Seven days have passed since my embryo transfer. My so-called ‘symptoms’ are slowly disappearing one by one, and my body feels normal. I am miserable. I sit and torture myself with the fear that has been kept so far hidden in the back of my mind for months, but is fast coming to the surface: this hasn’t worked.

My heart feels like it is being slowly ripped out of me.

I go for a walk to calm myself, but as I breathe the air just feels heavy and thick, and tears roll down my cheeks like sorrowful silent protests of everything that is wrong in the world. My entire being feels in a complete state of suffering and I want nothing more than to be put out of my misery, and fast. I change direction of my walk to the local chemist, wiping away the tears and gaining enough composure to purchase pregnancy tests at the counter without looking like the mad woman I feel.

Strictly speaking it is still too early to test – early enough to produce false negatives, and I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. What good are promises though when you feel like this? Another four days of this misery and suffering? No thank you. I have seen negative results before; I can look at them again. And then I can begin the long slow process of recovery.

My house is on three floors, so I take the test on the top floor, leave it there for the allotted three minutes and run down the stairs to the ground floor. It’s like a bomb. I don’t want to be anywhere close to it.

I know the drill: I have been through this routine dozens of times, during every normal cycle where some flurry of symptoms or a slightly delayed period gets my heart in a flutter. I have vivid memories of every single test I have looked at after those three minutes. One bright pink line, to tell me the stupid sodding test has worked, and a vacuum of cruel white space where the positive line should be, dashing my hopes and re-writing my future in nanoseconds. Each time I see it, I actually feel my shoulders sink. It’s like my hold body just melts in front of me, heavy with sadness, sinking into the floor and beyond as it weeps away the disappointment.

This time I prepare myself. The three minutes is up. I count to ten and head back up the stairs. I take a deep breath. The sobbing has stopped, because I am too numb now. I just want to see that result, quieten my tortured soul, and start my grieving.

There it is, sitting innocently on the sink. This little white plastic fortune teller. My nemesis. I pick it up and make myself look at the results window.

There is a second pink line.

I drop the stick, and clasp my hand to my mouth to stifle the sobs. I leave the test there in the bathroom. This time I’m not sinking into the floor. My body feels light as a feather and I float down the stairs in a euphoric daze.

I’m pregnant.

Days go by and the news sinks in. I go out for a walk in the fresh air and think about all the exciting plans forming in my head for my future role as a mother to this tiny little baby growing inside me. I look down at the ground and spot a magpie several yards in front of me, and a second magpie by its side. Two for joy, as the rhyme goes.

Playing Rachmaninoff to the embryos

February 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

The nurse said the embryos would appear on screen during the transfer ‘like a flash of light’. I can’t think of a more beautiful way of putting it: these two little 3 day old cluster of eight single cells, the potential start of human life, appearing to me for the first time like a flash of light.

I guess I fell in love with them then.

Once I had rested from the embryo transfer, my mind turned to how to nurture and grow these little glimpses of life.

Some history: Years ago, when I first played the 2nd movement of Rachmaninoff’s 2nd piano concerto, in my clumsy amateur way, it grabbed me as the most perfect sequence and chords of notes I had ever heard. I have heard the piece many times of course, but never played by my own hands, never listened to with a pianist’s ear. It was perfection. It was sheer beauty. Those notes seemed to fit together as if they had always  belonged. It was as if that piece had existed for all of eternity, constructed with the same mysterious and perfect logic as the earth itself, only to be discovered by a composer in the twentieth century.

Twenty two years I have played the piano. That was, until I stopped playing about a year ago. I shut the lid, and my music books caught dust sitting on a shelf high out of my sight.

You see, I hadn’t the heart to play. I was full of sorrow, full of despair that my dreams of becoming a mother would only ever belong in the dream world. Playing the piano engrossed me and sent me flying away with my thoughts, and I didn’t want to be in the company of my own thoughts anymore. So I stayed away.

Now my precious 4 day old embryos were back with me, back where they belonged, and I willed them to find a home there. So I played that piece, in the belief that those special embryos enclosed in the warmth of my womb would be surrounded by a sound of beauty and perfection. Of course, I’m not foolish enough to think that a bundle of cells can hear sound; of course not. Nevertheless there is a mysterious and overwhelming desire in me to nurture these little cells into a living and breathing soul. I water them like a seed in the soil, growing them in an atmosphere of love, warmth and all that is wonderful about life.

Lazy days

February 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

If you ask a woman about to do IVF what scares her, my bet is that number 1 will be the injections, number 2 will be the egg retrieval.

(Number 0 of course, the ultimate fear – that it won’t work. Let’s push that to one side for now).

Have you ever noticed how hectic life is sometimes? The perfect woman is supposed to hold down a great career – 12 hour days, cook an awesome meal from scratch (delicious but healthy, low in calories, fat), go to the gym, do pilates, yoga, socialise with her friends, be well read, have a hobby, spend quality time with her husband. Phew. I could go on. Life is busy, and I am constantly full of guilt for all the things I haven’t been able to fit into my day. My attitude was this: how welcoming that I had a few days in front of me of doing nothing but resting.

Egg retrieval is a straightforward procedure. You enter the clinic in the morning, and they talk you through the procedure and give you lots of drugs. Painkillers and sedatives. Woozy! That was fun. The procedure itself is little more to me now than a hazy confused memory from the sedation; some women actually sing through it (I’m told I did not). I vaguely remember seeing one of my eggs appearing on screen to my side, and the doctor shouting 11. 11 eggs – what a result!

Afterwards they tell you to rest. Instructions, by the doctor no less, to Do Nothing. It was fabulous. My husband was on hand to bring me any food and drink I desired (yes! I could finally have chocolate again!), and I lay on a sofa bed in the lounge and watched comedies, films, and any other TV show I had seen advertised but never had the time to watch (laughter is linked to success in IVF, so my TV list consisted of anything funny). Bliss. The TV was also a welcome distraction from the nervous wait for a phone call from the embryologist with all the facts and figures. Here was mine: 11 eggs, 9 mature. 6 fertilised, and 5 were growing on days 1 and 2. By day 3, the decision had been made to transfer 2 perfect looking 8 cell embryos which the embryologist thought looked really promising. They looked ‘textbook perfect’, he said.

I won’t lie. Once the painkillers from the procedure wore off, it was pretty sore down there and my priority was getting into a comfortable position that didn’t put too much pressure on my abdomen. It got better though, and I manage to sleep through the night and get through the next few days of recovery without a single painkiller.

Stabbing myself with needles

December 5, 2011 § Leave a comment

Control freak by nature, I was bubbling over with enthusiasm and excitement to attend my IVF planning consultation. Finally – dates in the diary, eggs at the ready!

We sat at a desk opposite a softly spoken nurse who talked us through the treatment. In front of her was an impressive array of forms. Sign here. Sign here. Sign here. What do you want to happen to your eggs if you die? Can your partner still use your sperm if you die? Can your partner still use your eggs if you die? Will you allow your embryos to be used for training purposes? Major life decisions hastily discussed agreed between my husband and I, we moved on to talk about the subject I had really been wondering about.

“So, how do I inject myself?”

Cue 20 seconds of demonstration: Here’s the needle. Pretend this screwed up tissue is your belly, measure out the medicine to this line, and push the needle in.

Easy, no?

Day 1 of injections: I place the needle just above my belly and push down gently. It indents into my skin, and through sheer force I push the needle through. Now it’s actually in, I’m just looking at my belly with a needle poking out. I’ve completely forgot what the bloody hell I’m supposed to be doing, and I start laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. In fact, I’m laughing so much my belly is shaking and the needle is moving along with it. My husband has to take over the responsibility from his misbehaving wife and pushes down the plunger so the solution goes in. Score: 4/10 – 8 points for bravery and minus 4 points for silliness.

Day 2: Well, I don’t know what the hell I was thinking today. After deciding that my approach yesterday wasn’t firm enough, I raise my hand high above my belly before bringing the needle down, like an axe falling on a guillotine. And then I bring my hand up again. Yes ladies and gentlemen, I have stabbed myself in the belly and then withdrawn the needle straight away without injecting myself with the medicine. I don’t know if I should have children anymore given the risk they might inherit my clear lack of common sense. Second time around, the needle stays in and I manage to get the solution in, with the skill set a 5 year old would be proud of. Score: 2/10 for treating my belly like the cellophane on a microwave meal. I’m full of holes.

Day 3: Ooh, straight in, straight out, no marks, no pain. Well look at little old me, managing to inject myself properly. 10/10 for first class effort.

Day 4: Ok, so perhaps I was a little cocky yesterday. Smug as a politician, I tried to repeat my success today. Again I try the ‘repeat stabbing of belly’ approach to IVF injections. I must like it. 4/10 for being so smug.

Day 5: I managed to inject myself without fuss, but the cat stares at me throughout. 11/10 – 10 points for a painless injection plus a bonus point for not getting put off by the cat.

Day 16 (day 1 of stims): OH MY GOD. I’ve just opened the pack of Menopur and pulled out the needle. It’s bigger. Yes, yes I know. I’m a pathetic wimp.  But the god damn thing won’t go it. Turn away now if you are squeamish. I just keep pushing the needle in, and its like a bouncy castle being trampled on by some wild kids. The needle isn’t going anywhere. (10 minutes later). ARRRGGHHH – STUPID BLOODY NEEDLE. WHY WON’T YOU JUST SODDING WELL GO IN YOU BLOODY SPIKY THING. (15 minutes later). Ah ha! 16 days and I’ve finally figured it out. I’ve been lying flat for these injects, which has stretched my belly flat and the skin tight. This time, I sit up and my skin is looser and easier to get the needle in. Horrah! 7/10 for my sleuth-like efforts.

Day 22 (day 6 of stims): Nope. Still not got it right. I know the technique now, but my mind is now playing ‘let’s play chicken with the needle’. It is NOT a fun game. I pluck up the courage to push the needle in, and just as I draw it down I get an attack of nerves and slow down, thereby letting the needle just sit at the top of my skin. 2/10 I am officially a wimp and I have put shame on IVF ladies up and down the country.

Day 26 (day 10 of stims, and day of trigger): My trigger tonight, and I can’t get this wrong. I’m nervous. Boo to a scary looking needle! But hurrah to a very sharp needle! It goes in like a dream. See? That’s all I needed: Sharp needles. 8/10 for getting to the end through my injections in one piece and having only 3 bruises on my belly.

Now onto the egg retrieval….

Losing my femininity

November 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

My embryologist’s car number plate reads SPERM.

Now there is a sentence I never thought I would write. Nonetheless, it is a fact.

So last week we visited the clinic where we plan to do our IVF. They had an open evening and showed us around their brand new, amazingly high tech facilities. The staff were warm, friendly, patient and extremely knowledgeable. I have a lot of confidence in the place and I’m glad I researched clinics so thoroughly before we chose one, because I had a whole list of questions to ask them. Here they are:

  • Does the clinic do a mock transfer before the real thing?
  • How far in advance do we need to book the treatment?
  • What is the ICSI success rate for the clinic for my age group?
  • What is the percentage of women pregnant with twins or more?
  • What is the fertilisation rate (should be 75%+ apparently)
  • Do they use ultrasound embryo transfer techniques?
  • How do they determine how many embryos to implant?
  • Do they implant embryos on day 3 or leave them to develop as blastocysts?

They answered my questions like a grade A student. The organised tour showed off their high tech gadgetry, their lab where real embryos were currently being grown, and the room where the egg retrieval and embryo transfer takes place. The room is painted orange, the colour for fertility. The lab has yellow filtered light, which apparently the embryos prefer. They showed us the bar code system they have for all the dishes and pots the sperm and egg go in, so that there are never any mix ups (an alarm goes off if mismatched ones get too physically close. Pretty cool, huh?). Best of all it is only a 5 minute drive from our house (which is great because I’m not good with traffic jams at the best of time, so wired on hormones I might get myself a ticket of some sort). I left with a glow, excitement and confidence that this clinic was going to grant us our dream.

So I wasn’t prepared for the dark emotions that followed several days later.

I loved the first few months when we were trying to conceive. Once I was off the pill, I noticed weird and wonderful differences in my own body and how it changed throughout the month.  I read up on ovulation and how to detect when you are ovulating. I watched a documentary that tested the attractiveness of a woman at different times of her cycle. According to their tests, she is most attractive to men right before ovulation. Of course; that is nature’s way. I felt sexy. I noticed a curvier silhouette to my body, heavier rounder breasts. I felt womanly. I loved strutting around naked in my super fertile state and letting my husband’s gaze follow. It feels pretty empowering as a woman to know what your body can do, and see all the subtle but amazing changes happen throughout the month. All of that! Just to procreate!

Herein lay my heartache. Of all the areas of IVF I thought would scare and upset me, I hadn’t imagined this. The drugs, needles, sedation and tests I had prepared myself for over and over; they didn’t raise my heart rate in the slightest. After all, when a woman gives birth what she goes through is much worse than that. It is all in a good cause. What I hadn’t expected was how IVF would make me feel about myself.

I felt stripped of my femininity. Procreation wasn’t sexy anymore. I was no longer the curvy, fertile woman strutting my stuff. I would be bloated from my overgrown follicles. Dotted with bruises from the injections. I would be laying – sedated – on a table at the clinic. My eggs would be in a lab next door, and my husband would be in a windowless room aiming his sperm into a little plastic cup.

I’m still excited about IVF and the clinic has filled me with so much confidence that a year from now I will be carrying my baby in my arms. However, I am human and I have my down days and this is one of them. Infertility isn’t fun and sometimes part of me still grieves for the loss of my natural fertility. I wonder if fertilty couples realise what a truly magical gift they have.

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