Monday, 29 August 2011

Strike Three

I can't believe we are here again, with another failed ICSI cycle under our belt :-(

There was no third time lucky for us despite our perfect looking blastocyst.

I think we're still in shock, we feel numb and incredibly sad that it's over, again. I'm unable describe the disappointment or understand why we continue to be tortured for over 3 years now, it's incomprehensible.

I cannot believe 'this' is my life, surely this is just a nightmare and I'll wake up sometime soon.

 

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Blast Off

 

Amazingly, we have 'blast' off,  what a ball of nerves Mr Moon and I have been this morning . . . worrying, wondering and waiting. There is no call on Day 4 and no call on the morning of the transfer so we arrived at the clinic this morning completely in the dark as to what awaited us. It wasn't until I was lying in the operating theatre that the embryologist told us the progress of our embryos -


DAY 5 UPDATE
  • 1 good blastocyst - transferred
  • 2 not so good blastocysts (not suitable for freezing)
  • 3 embryo's pre blastocyst stage / morulas (will be checked on Day 6)

A huge sigh of relief to have finally made this stage to blastocyst for this first time. In cycle 1 we had a Day 5 transfer but our best embryo had only made it as far as the morula stage, in cycle 2 we had a Day 3 transfer.  

We had the good blastocyst transferred and now we wait some more, but for the time being we are enjoying being happy :-)

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Wake Up Call

After our miraculous 100% fertilisation:

DAY 2 UPDATE
  • 9 embryos growing
  • 7 are very good


DAY 3 UPDATE
  • 7 embryos growing
  • 3 are good, 4 are average


Mr Moon and I were so anxious waiting for that call this morning! So so so pleased that we still have some embryo's in the running, as there are 3 that are 'good' the clinic suggest a Day 5 transfer as they can't decide which one has the most chance of success. As this cycle is a funded cycle and the latest rules for our Primary Care Trust are in effect we can only transfer one embryo this time round.

Yesterday I suffered some unexpected pain episodes from my egg collection procedure from 2 days ago. On my drive into work I experienced some pretty sharp intermittent stabbing pains and I struggled to get into the office. It was all a little scary at the time but after a while the pain subsided to a more constant pain but much less intense. I rang the clinic as this hadn't happened on my previous cycles, they suggested paracetamol and more water and to come into the clinic if it got worse in the afternoon, luckily it started to subside by the evening. I'm left with the odd painful twinge and so hopefully it's passing and never to return!

Although this is turning out to be our most promising cycle so far, we are both feeling very cautious about the whole thing, but I guess that's to be expected after our last two cycles. it's hard to let your mind imagine that we can get to the next stage, we can't take things for granted, we can simply hope for the best.

To re-cap on our last cycles in terms of Day 3 vs Day 5 transfer:

Cycle 1 (Bourn Hall Clinic) - We had a Day 5 transfer, after starting off with 8 embryo's by Day 5 none had progressed to the blastocyst stage, the best we had was a morula so it was a few hours behind and we had this one embryo transferred. No embryo's survived to freezing quality.

Cycle 2 (Herts & Essex Clinic) - We had a Day 3 transfer as there were 2 of the 6 embryo's that already stood out from the rest and so the clinic advised to have the two put back that day, we'll never know for sure whether these embryos progressed to the blastocyst stage, but we assume not. No embryo's survived to freezing quality.

We won't receive any more wake up calls now and my Day 5 transfer is scheduled for Saturday, fingers crossed that when we arrive at the clinic there is a moon-blast waiting for us to come home.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Ten Out of Ten

Top marks for us, I really can't believe it, we had our fertilisation report today -

DAY 1 UPDATE
  • 11 eggs collected
  • 10 mature and suitable for ICSI
  • 10 embryos!
After a sleepless night, I feel a tad silly now for worrying that this cycle had produced the least number of eggs as we now have the most number of embryos at Day 1 from all our cycles and 100% fertilisation. Our last two cycles have been around the 60% fertilisation mark, so this feels like a bit of a miracle.  The embryologist also mentioned that Mr Moon's sample was borderline normal, yay, another first. So we're happy for today :-)

It's really early days, and I remain cautious as we're still not sure what will happen at Day 3, will our embryo's deteriorate like our past two cycles, or could we be third time lucky?

Egg collection yesterday was uneventful, I was super nervous beforehand like usual but all went fine with the stabbing of the ovaries! I didn't have the anaesthetist Mr Smooth this time, instead we had Mr Smiles . . . what is it with these anaesthetists, are they all on happy drugs?  I'm still a little tender today but taking it easy, hopefully this will have passed by tomorrow.

So we wait, worry and wait some more. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Fried or Scrambled?


It was trigger shot time last night, all went smoothly and hopefully I'm cooking up some good eggs in there. I used ovitrelle again for my trigger injection, and just like the last two times we had the momentary panic about the huge air bubble in the pre-filled syringe!! but it was fine, we moved the air bubble so it was closest to the plunger and then injected, and I lived to tell the tale.

In the hope to promote good eggies, I've had eggs for breakfast two days in a row now (breakfast in bed too - thanks Mr Moon), you can't mark me down for effort!

Today is my drug free day, woo hoo, and tomorrow morning I'll be back at the clinic ready to put on that lovely hair cap for egg collection. C'mon eggies! I'm still feeling pretty anxious about it all . . . one day at a time though.

In other news, we went to see Horrible Bosses at the cinema yesterday, not too bad if you're thinking of seeing it. We're still getting through Season 5 of Grey's Anatomy too, jeez what a sad season :-(  Only two more episodes and we're on to Season 6 where I hear we'll meet Avery, oh yes, hello Avery :-)

Friday, 12 August 2011

Tick Tock

I was back at the clinic again today, Spy Moon got a photo of my chart when I was left alone for a moment, if I was being watched on any cameras I can imagine they fell off their chair laughing watching me get out my camera phone super quick :-)

All seems to be going fine and I will do my trigger injection on Saturday with egg collection on Monday as planned, eek. My menopur dose has been dropped down again, now to 75 IU for my last dose which I took this morning. In total for this cycle I have had down reg injections (buserelin) for 27 days, and for the last 11 days of that I've also had stimm injections, way too many needles to count, but only one bruise! 



I have fewer follicles than my last two cycles, but I'm hoping trying Menopur this time may give me some better quality eggs. Looks like I could be on for about 10 eggs overall, with maybe 7 of those being mature enough for ICSI.

So my trigger injection (ovitrelle) is scheduled for 10:45pm on Saturday night, rock n roll.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Keep Calm and Drink Tea

What an interesting week so far, what was supposed to have started out as a peaceful demonstration has turned into widespread riots across the country, it’s been going on for days now and I’m truly shocked at the destruction these mindless people are causing . . . the rioting, looting and violence is still continuing today, it’s madness.

That little squirt from Big Brother, Sam Pepper, has set up a facebook group and has got #OperationCupOfTea trending.  It’s kinda cool, the idea being that we should make tea, not war. People have been posting photo’s of their cups of tea! it’s the number one trending topic on twitter at the moment, tea solves everything right, I like to think so :-)

In other pressing news, I had my first monitoring scan yesterday . . . these new waves of nausea I’m experiencing these last few days are not too pleasant, I’m sure the nerves didn’t help though. Thankfully, all was fine, one side is responding better than the other, c’mon sleepy ovary.  I’m responding a bit quicker than last time so the menopur is affecting me slightly differently and I’ve noticed that in my symptoms too. To slow things down a little and to give my smaller follies a fighting chance they are reducing my dose down from 225 IU to 150 IU, and I’ll be back there in a couple of days for another monitoring scan and egg collection is pencilled in for early next week as planned.

Dr Angel tells me that I must practice being ‘open’ and not kid myself I’m being open when I’m not really feeling it inside, so that’s this week’s task (just a small mountain to climb then!), she’s got me sussed out.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Auntie Moon

I’m on my twitter break and I have to say it feel a little weeeird, I haven’t decided if it’s a good or a bad thing yet, it’s probably a good thing as my tweets would have just been too whiny! I’ve been struggling somewhat in my down regulation phase this time, I have an array of aches and pains and generally feel pretty exhausted and down with what life continues to throw at me.

Technically I am now an auntie, my brother/crazy SIL had a baby boy a few days earlier than expected. Over the past week I have had some limited contact with my brother and I’ve been hearing filtered information through my mum, bless her, she is stuck in the middle of all this too.  As always, I am the bigger person, I haven’t mentioned the stunt my SIL played the other week that I mentioned in my last post, instead I passed on my congratulations and sent a card and gift. My parents are visiting their first grandchild right now, I don’t expect to be included but it still makes me sad as there is no resolution to this horrid situation right now.

I found out earlier this week that my dad has been told he is diabetic and is now on medication to help control this. Who keeps throwing these things at me!

I had my baseline scan earlier this week (a good old date with Mr Wandy again, oh how I haven't missed you), despite all the odd aches and pains there is nothing untoward happening in there thankfully and I started my new stimulation medications that same day. I’m trying Menopur this time (rather than Gonal F) just to see if it makes a difference to our embryos. The mixing of the powder and solvent seems quite straightforward, although some days I’m having 3 injections to be able to get the right dose from multiple bottles, ouch!  I’m having quite a bit of injection site pain, especially as the day goes on as my IVF bloat is now reappearing and stretches my tummy area!

I’m hoping I’ll start to feel better now that I’m on the Menopur, hopefully I’m growing fabulous follies inside.

Goodie Bag

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Unplugged

I’ve decided to take a little break from twitter, I plan to return soon but in the mean time I still hope to blog through my third ICSI cycle . . .

I’m doing this in an attempt to stay as sane as one can be in a treatment cycle and I think I need to unplug for just a little while.  I’ve been struggling with all the stresses in my life recently, they are all getting on top of me and I guess everything is becoming too much. Even being on twitter from time to time can increase my anxiety which is ironic, as before this is the first place I would turn to. I hope my friends on twitter understand that I need to take a break for a little while and concentrate on this cycle and do what I need to do to get through it, it feels a little selfish but I’m finding it hard to read about other people’s stories at the moment – both those with good and not so good news, all are making me feel more anxious.
My counsellor advised that I have to let go of something, at the time I had decided that I would let go of my brother/SIL situation ('You Can't Choose Your Family'), this only lasted a week or so unfortunately. Right before leaving for my bridesmaids duties he texted out of the blue after not being in touch for about 8 weeks. I won’t go into the details but I wasn’t best pleased with the tone of his texts and I realised he is not the brother I miss, I miss who he used to be.  Since the wedding he has made an attempt to resolve the situation with my parents given that their first grandchild will be making an appearance into the world any day now and he wants them to visit as soon as the baby arrives. He has also been in touch with me again to say he’d like to speak to me this week, I’m not sure how I feel about this as I have enough on my plate but I guess if he makes the call I will hear him out.

I have already accepted I won’t be meeting my niece/nephew anytime soon and I’m acutely aware there is no quick fix to this, but this doesn’t make it any easier to handle. Actually breaking news from Tuesday is that the crazy SIL has contacted my mum to pass on a message to me, to ask me not to contact my brother at the moment, I took 10 steps back in my quest to stay sane when I heard this. Seriously, I give up, they are causing me more grief than I can handle right now.
In terms of my cycle, I’m 12 days into my down reg phase, the injections are going fine, but unlike last time I am struggling with how they are making me feel, I'm literally having to just take one day at a time and I’m trying to be strong. AF has also made an appearance, as expected during down reg it was just a day or so late like last time, yet again no miracle baby here!  The pain has been awful at times but I’m getting through it. So I’m all set for my baseline scan in the next few days and then the plan is to try a different stimm medication this time, one that’s more fiddly and requires mixing so I’ll be having a demo next week.
Both Mr Moon and I are struggling a bit this time round, we feel so alone which is making us hide away a little, probably not a good thing, but it’s becoming increasingly difficult to just ‘pretend’ everything is fine and we are normal when we couldn’t feel further from it. It’s difficult to be full of hope when we don’t understand why there were no real answers in Mr Moon’s recent tests. I saw Dr Angel for my acupuncture this week and she gave me a lot of useful advice, she asked me to keep an ‘open mind’ about this cycle, she’s so sweet, she didn’t tell me to be more positive, she didn’t tell me to less negative, instead something about the way she described just about being ‘open’ to the possibilities made me feel brighter.
I know many others are going through difficult times too and it makes me sad to think there are people out there just like us, feeling these same emotions, I wish I could fix it for them. I wanted to give a little shout out to one lovely lady, @ladyisis, her latest post made me cry and I can relate to a lot of her emotions, we seem to be on the same wavelength, this is the one good thing about twitter, I have found some people that I can truly relate too. Here is her blog with her latest post, please send her some support . . . Don't Look Back

On a positive note, one thing that has helped last week was meeting two tweeps, @ivfchronicles and @lilytaj, in London for the day. I can’t describe how it felt to meet two lovely ladies who know exactly how I’m feeling right now, I felt connected to them straight away. I’m so pleased @lilytaj stopped by in London on her holiday (she lives in Oz) which gave us all a reason to get together and eat cupcakes, yum yum.



Tuesday, 26 July 2011

My Sperm: A Brief History

A guest post from Mr Moon . . .
Around 2 years ago, and after TTC for a year I was tested to rule out any potential male factors before we could be referred for fertility treatment. The news that came back from the initial test organised by our GP was pretty devastating. I was diagnosed with low count, motility and morphology and what followed was a period of anger, confusion, guilt and helplessness, all of which carry through to today to some degree. This amazing article by Paul Ford which puts all of this into words far better than I can ...

No camp Saunas allowed
Following the initial test the usual things were prescribed, cut the alcohol, saunas, hot baths, and eat a good diet - and come back again in 3 months for a retest. 3 months came and went and the results were very slightly improved, but nothing near normal.

By this time we were on our way to ICSI #1 at Bourn Hall where my the results were slightly improved but still not near the minimum required for standard IVF, let alone a good chance of TTC naturally. 'Normal' seems to change depend on who you talk to, but the current World Health Organisation range is 15m per ml though this seems to be regularly revised downwards, with the minimum being 50m back in 1999.
Here is a good Q&A on the WHO numbers and why they should be taken with a pinch-of-salt.

F
or ICSI #1 we had a good number of eggs and fertilised embryos, it was all looking good. But at Day 3 our embryos started to degrade and none reached the blastocyst stage by Day 5 when we were booked for Embryo Transfer. On Day 5 we transferred a single embryo which was at the compacted morula stage. It was our only option as all other embryos had not developed.


Onward to ICSI #2, this time at Herts & Essex. They performed another test on my swimmers, more improvement, so something was working but the outcome for ICSI #2 though was very similar. At our Day 3 transfer everything looked very good and we put 2 embryos into Mrs Moon. Another devastating failure followed although this time we had a pattern (I am a glass-half-full person), again none of the other embryos reached Day 5, again no blastocysts. We of course don't know if the transferred embryos survived to Day 5 and failed thereafter - all we can go on is the embryos which were left to grow in the lab. 

D
espite the agony of another failed cycle we have realised that there is no point in looking for anyone to blame or to be angry at, all we can do is carry on and salvage some hope, so it was time for more research.


At Day 3 an important event occurs in the embryos development, the Sperm DNA is activated within the embryo and the male genome merges with the female DNA (as you may guess I'm not a biologist), so degradation at or after Day 3 may point to some low level issues within the sperm, specifically DNA Fragmentation, Aneuploidy or Chromosomal faults.

It was also clear that there were many vitamins and supplements which various studies have shown to help improve sperm quality and quantity. Up to now I was only talking Wellman conception so after collating the results from Dr Google we settled on the following concoction:



Our House.
MORNING
Vitamin C
Vitamin B complex
L
-arginine

Vitamin E
Pyncnogenol
Omega 3

EVENING
Wellman Conception
Zinc
Selenium
Omega 3
Co-Enzyme Q10
Maca
Vitamin C
Vitamin E
Folic Acid
Pyncnogenol
L-Carnitine
Alpha Lipoic acid
This lot will take 3 months to show any results, so there is nothing more to see here at the moment ...

At our WTF2 appointment we discussed the Day 3 issue with our consultant, he agreed that there was a pattern and talked about a new technique, beyond ICSI, that can filter out damaged sperm. Essentially the embryologists use a super high powered microscope that can actually see into the head of the sperm, this is coupled with a different medium which attracts the good sperm for interrogation. This process is called IMSI and PICSI.

We also talked about tests for DNA Fragmentation, though our consultant dismissed these as no matter what the result the treatment recommended would be ICSI (Herts & Essex do not provide IMSI). As Mr and Mrs Moon like to have all of the info we went for the tests anyway.  
Firstly, in true Mrs Moon style we have a spreadsheet tracking all of the standard tests I've had performed, here are the results:


And here are the advanced tests. 


DNA Fragmentation
= 25.4% (Moderate)

5 Chromosome Aneuploidy = 1.00 (Normal)
Chromosome Karyotyping = Normal
Anti-Sperm Antibodies = Normal
ROS Oxidation = 0.15 (Very Good!)
Sexual Health Screen = All Negative

For once there was some good news here - my ROS value was very low at 0.15 - yay for me! 


Finally there was the dreaded Physical Checkup with a Urologist…drop your trousers and cough, well it's a more lengthy grope and prod to be honest. The doc is looking for evidence of
varicocele, undescended testicles or any other abnormalities in 'the area'. He's also looking for evidence of hormone imbalance (lack of testosterone), for example moobs, lack of bodily hair.

S
o in summary: 

- My sperm DNA fragmentation is a little high (still within normal range).
- At the last sperm test my count, motility and morphology are still below par.
- Everything else genetically is OK and I don't have any weird STDs.
- My balls have descended and my moobs are caused by not enough visits to the gym rather than a lack of testosterone.

For those of you that have made it this far and looking for some magic answer....there isn't one. I've now seen three consultants at two IVF clinics, a Harley Street Andrologist, a Harley Street Urologist, had my crown jewels poked and prodded by a posh middle aged man, and had every type of bodily fluid extracted and tested. The result being that we are a few thousand pounds poorer and none the wiser. The same 'treatment plan' remains:

a
) Reduce Heat...fairly easy.

b) Reduce Oxidation by taking supplements and eating/drinking healthily.
c) Reduce General Stress...Not easy when living through infertility.

In about 4 weeks we'll find out if any of this has made a difference. The best case scenario is that ICSI #3 will work and we won't care about any of this. If we have another failure I can only hope that all of this has made a difference and we can hope for a miracle naturally or with a procedure that is less stressful and invasive for the brave Mrs Moon.
The toughest part of dealing with this is that Mrs Moon that has to go through all of the pain and stress on her body when the problem lies within me. After nearly half a year of avoiding most social situations (they nearly always involve alcohol), making up stories to avoid seeing people during treatment, and generally leading a sheltered life it's very easy to think of giving up...but doing that is just self defeating...we have to go on, stay strong and be there for each other...


Mr Moon.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Book Worm

Mr Moon and I have recently read the book, Test Tubes and Testosterone by Michael Saunders (also know as @theIVFdad) and we thought we'd post our reviews here in case you've heard about it: 

Mr Moon

This is a well written book which is unique as it tells the story of fertility treatment from a male perspective. It is very easy to read and does touch on a great number of topics in a short space of time.

Being in the same situation myself much of the detail I already know however it’s comforting to hear that the experiences (i.e. rude staff) and emotions (i.e. manliness) we go through are common.

This would be a great book for friends and family of a couple that are undergoing IVF as it’s not too technical, distressing nor depressing but does hint at what an IVF couple have to go through…I would not like to give a friend a copy of Zita West.

Not only that if gives rare insight into some of the daily goings on in an ‘IVF home’, even the logistical things that the clinic do not tell you, such as the Ovitrlle injection is harder to insert!

It’s also a good story of hope for anyone embarking on IVF.

Mrs Moon

It’s so nice to read an IVF related story from a man’s point of view . . . I’ve always wanted to know more about what the ‘other half’ thinks when their wife is subjected to many invasive ‘wandy’ procedures and stabbing themselves with needles, this book is a honest and moving story that I would recommend to any couples about to embark on fertility treatment and any family/friends that want to understand more.

It’s a very quick story to read, humorous along the way, delving into just the right level of detail at certain key points. We hear of all the usual ups and downs that any couple doing IVF face and gives an great insight into what it feels like, all made better by that cup of tea!

This is a great read for men or woman and it’s comforting for me to read of another couples story and feel more ‘normal’ again.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Stuck in the Maze

It’s nearly two weeks since my last post . . . where have I been?
  • In hiding (yep I’m hiding from ‘my’ own blog, hilarious but true)
  • In counselling
  • In shopping malls
  • Watching Greys Anatomy
  • Tying ribbons to confetti cones
I’ve had another tough couple of weeks, my only way through seems to be retract from some aspects of my life and take one day at a time. I’ve been back on twitter a little bit and so some of you may already know what I’ve been up to lately, I’m getting there slowly, but still stuck in the maze running from that black cloud.

Mr Moon has been taking good care of me with flowers and gifts, anything to bring a little smile to my face.




I am happiest at home when we’re in our cocoon where everything seems safe and I can convince myself I can do this, one step out of the door and that confidence quickly fades though. Ms Mellow, my counsellor, is trying to help me with this and is convincing me that I am indeed coping, maybe not as well as I would like (always a high achiever!) but this is ‘coping’, I have not yet fallen into a heap and not got back up again.  I’m keeping up the acupuncture with Dr Angel and I’m still doing the yoga, so keeping my head above water, just.

I’ve also kept myself occupied with bridesmaid activities, my dress is being collected today and the celebratory activities have already started last weekend, only one more day at work and I’m off, yay. I have made some beautiful confetti cones with bits of ribbon tied around them in bows, if you know me in real life, each one has been meticulously made, checked and double checked for perfection.


In other news, Mr Moon has a new job (woo hoo) so this is great to have some good news amongst all the bad. We had our chromosome karyotyping results back too and these are all clear. We’re just waiting on one more test for Mr Moon and then I’ll ask him to write a blog post on all the latest results he’s had.   In celebration of Mr Moon’s success I treated myself with Mr Moon’s money (ha haa) to a shopping trip to the
Pandora shop and have a new bracelet with charms, I find a girl cannot have enough charm type bracelets :-)


I’m getting closer and closer to cycle 3 . . . the day after the wedding we will rush back home so I can administer my first down reg injection, how’s that for timing!  I wanted to start after the wedding so I could shift that horrid IVF bloat and have some bubbles to celebrate on the day, the way the dates have fallen means I literally start the next day. I haven’t given it much thought yet, guess I know the drill now, I’m sure the nerves will settle in on Sunday though.


By the way,
@toofriedeggs posted this great article on twitter today about The Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Paul Ford, an alternative view on this whole IVF business, a good read if you fancy a peek.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

It's Good to Talk

Hmm, I haven't written in a while . . . kinda feel a bit in limbo some days . . . a bit lost, I seem to have no new words really, just the same old same old, so it's taken a little while to drum up some inspiration. One of my last posts, Three, was a bit sad, I still feel like that but I've made some steps to help find some zen in this maze I'm stuck in.

I had my first ever counselling session and met Ms Mellow . . . I wasn't really sure what to expect so I went with an open mind, some tissues and hoped for the best. The reason I have sought counselling is that I have reached a new level of stress, it's difficult to pretend I'm fine all the time when about 75% of the time I'm actually not ok, I'm just acting, it's easier that way.

She summarised everything I said back to me and instinctively picked up on a lot of the emotions I had felt at the time, she 'got me', which was nice, sounds silly but it actually made me feel relieved that she didn't think I was a loony. What she actually said was that she was surprised I was still standing given everything I had been through . . . right from our first investigations, to frightening tests and results, serious family health issues, my office closing and starting a new job, losing my brother through my SILs false accusations, all the waiting and the small matter of going through IVF twice, pumping myself with drugs to only find that neither cycle worked with no real answer why and no clear way forward.

Ms Mellow said something has to give, that I can't continue with all this on my shoulders. I think I'd come to this conclusion myself, as the thing I have already let go is the brother / SIL saga, I don't have the energy for it and as hard as it is, I have to accept I have lost him for now. I still cry about it at random times, even today still, but I guess this will get easier with time and hopefully I will get to meet my future niece/nephew some day.

One thing Ms Mellow said that really resonated with me is that it seems whenever I talk to anyone about my troubles or how I am feeling, whether that's Mr Moon, my friends, or my mum, that I am always thinking of them and what's going in their life too and by doing this I'm not truly saying how I feel, just skimming over it.  For instance, I guess I don't want to tell Mr Moon all my fears because it will upset him too, I don't want my mum to worry about me even more than she already does and I don't want to be a burden on any of my friends too much, they have enough going on in their own lives. So I sometimes I tend to skim over details, avoid topics, or be distant and hide away, I guess they are coping mechanisms. She explained that by speaking to her I don't need to temper what I'm saying or worry about what she thinks as it's one place I can speak freely, a safe place.

Cycle 3 is right around the corner too, I'm not sure what I think about that though, I'm not sure if I'm ready (will I ever be ready to put myself through another fresh cycle?) and so I'm on auto-pilot. Before that I'm lucky enough to be a bridesmaid for the first time in just over two weeks and so that's something to look forward to and focus on.

In other news I have been to two Hatha Yoga classes now, I like it!  I found this cute picture, it's the Half 'Moon' pose, hope I get to do this one soon :)
I even went for a run the other day and have started daily sit ups (can you tell I'm on the bridesmaid final countdown!).




Oh, I've fully immersed myself into Greys Anatomy too (thanks 
@ivfchronicles, @lilytaj and @ladyisis). I'm already onto Season 3 and LOVING it, makes me laugh and forget about my worries for 45 minutes, so it's no wonder I'm addicted to watching them back to back, it's kinda nice to escape.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday

Lombok, Indonesia - AKA 'paradise'

Friday, 10 June 2011

Three

-courtesy of google images-

It's been 3 years this week since we began our TTC journey. Wow, I can't believe it's actually been this long . . . we've never seen those magic two lines, not once :-( makes you wonder can it ever happen for us. I'm sad to write that as I know it's a sign that I'm losing hope, it's inevitable I guess, but I'm still clinging on, just about. 
As it's been so long I thought I should update the About Moon page and Our Journey page links in the top left corner of the blog, so check these out if you want the latest on our treatment plan.

After my magical weekend away I came back to earth with a bump. Ahead of our third ICSI cycle my consultant recommend that we have the chromosome karyotyping test for peace of mind and that I should be able to get this on the NHS through my GP, failing that we can pay for it and have it at the fertility clinic, easy? well you'd think so.
I called my GP last week, she seemed a bit put out, she had never been asked something like this before, it's not protocol apparently, I'm to go direct to my NHS consultant (I've named him Mr Moody) who she referred me to initially. I was a little upset by this but I guess it made sense. I called my NHS consultants secretary (Moody Sidekick) . . . she was just plain rude to me, a nasty nasty lady. She said she didn't have my fertility clinic's follow-up letter in front of her so she didn't know what I was talking about (go get my file?) and so she couldn't help me. Errr what? She didn't know what test I'm talking about and they couldn't possibly do anything like that for me! In the end she made me fax her a copy of the letter which she would show the on call consultant. She rang me back the next day (the first day of my escapism weekend), she continued with her disgusting attitude and told me that as I hadn't seen the consultant in the last 2 years, as they had referred me on to a fertility clinic, that I no longer was 'their' patient (cue outraged hysteria), apparently I am 'discharged' from them and if I want to see/speak to the consultant I have to start again by seeing my GP and getting a new referral.

WHAT???

After a crying hissy fit, a quick chat with Mr Moon (btw OH's new name, I kinda like it) I was back on track and decided to park it all until after the weekend. I called my fertility clinic at the beginning of this week to arrange to have the blood tests privately, easy? again, you'd think so. Apparently as my next cycle is NHS funded (my last cycle was self funded) they are unable to carry out the test for me and the consultant shouldn't have told me that they could, this is only allowed for private cycles (cue more tears).
One brick wall after another, how frustrating! I tried to persuade them that the test is independent of next cycle and it was recommended by a consultant at their clinic. Luckily, by the end of the day Mr Moon had fixed it, he had recently seen an andrologist in London and we can have the tests through her instead this weekend. Why is nothing simple?

Since then, I've been having a tough week, feeling like a yo yo, up one minute and down the next. I'm struggling with carrying on with normal life whilst I have this great big black cloud following me around. The culmination of reaching 3 years of TTC and the brother/SIL-gate is just too much, I'm completely cracking under the pressure now *tears*
I don't want to burden anyone with my troubles too much, they're too consuming and it's not fair on them, I have some lovely friends who try to support me but I'm just letting them scratch the surface and trying to put on a brave face when they ask after me.

After a tearful evening, I made the first step earlier this week and have contacted my employee assistance programme, through work I am eligible for a few sessions of counselling. I've had a initial clinical assessment over the phone last night and needless to say he approved my request and so I'm awaiting to be assigned a counsellor. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction.

Thankfully my acupuncture sessions with Dr Angel change from fortnightly to weekly again next week and I've decided to try yoga again in a new class starting in two weeks. Bring back the zen.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Escapism


That's what Moon did this weekend, I escaped and it felt good. 

With a partner in crime I helped plan the most fabulous hen weekend for my gorgeous cousin, for those who know me, I LOVE planning (sad but true), I think I may have missed my calling in life to produce colourful, multi-tabbed spreadsheets all day long.
We had fun from beginning to end and it took me back to my care-free days before all 'this' started. So, instead of my usual TTC related blog posts (no panic, they'll be back real soon) I thought I'd share my weekend with you and a few photo's for a bit of light relief.
I found the most amazing loft apartment to rent for the weekend in Islington . . . absolutely perfect for the glorious sunny weekend we had, and the ultimate party pad (pat on the back for Moon). Floor to ceiling windows, mezzanine, balcony over a private canal and even it's own piano?!!



On the Friday we met the bride-to-be for lunch and led her to her first surprise . . . to The Blow Bar, a blow dry salon in Islington's vintage haven - Camden Passage. We'd booked their private room to have our hair styled and make up by a professional artist whilst supping champagne and strawberries, bliss! (this is the life). A fab idea to pep you up for a night on the town. That evening we headed to Momo's Restaurant, an intimate Moroccan restaurant (food here was yum yum in my tum) and then onto Zenna Bar, a cute little indian cocktail bar - cocktails with a spicy kick! I'd recommend visiting these places if you're in London for a night out.
On the Saturday we took a morning speed boat on the Thames from near London Eye pier, muchos fun!! It lasts about an hour, you get to see a few sights at a leisurely pace and then off you go speeding through the river, blew the cobwebs away and got us all over our hangovers quick smart :-)  After lunch on Southbank we headed back to our apartment for civilised tea and cakes (check out the cupcake toppings, ha haa).



The evening activities started with cocktail making at our apartment, a cute little man comes in with all his gear, shows us his tips and tricks and splits us into two teams to compete with yummy cocktails. No idea how much alcohol I consumed in my 'taste testing' :-)
The rest of evening was spent in Islington for dinner and then onto a cool bar with sharing cocktails! I danced like I was young and carefree again.


Escapism, I recommend it.

Monday, 30 May 2011

You Can't Choose Your Family

Along our TTC journey I’ve shared little tit-bits about the up’s and down’s with the sister-in-law (SIL) situation, it hasn’t been pretty (that’s an understatement) and I tried not to write too much about it on my blog as the ‘situation’ clashed with the failure of our first ICSI cycle and throughout our second ICSI cycle so there was more than enough to deal with. Instead I’ve mentioned it on twitter and here on my blog but probably not enough detail to put you in the picture, one of my tweeps, @saleschick, suggested I blog about it, and I think the time is right.

I could write for hours, but I’ll try (!) to summarise, if you have any advice, I’m all ears.


My brother is my only sibling, we are (were) very close, he’s 5 years older but I guess I acted more like the older sister. We don’t live near each other but talked on the phone 2 or 3 times a week depending on what was going on.
I didn’t share much detail of our TTC journey with him over the years, just key milestones . . . when I had suspected endometriosis, being referred to our consultant and then I shared a bit more info as we approached our first ICSI cycle.  He met my SIL maybe 3 years ago now, they have an incredibly volatile relationship, always breaking up and then getting back together. In the first year or so my brother would ask me for advice ALL THE TIME, he wouldn’t go into much detail but I would give the female perspective and help him work out a way to move forward with her. As time went on, they became more serious, got engaged, it was all moving quite fast. We got to know my SIL more and more, a little difficult at times as they were forever falling out / breaking up and we would just have to pretend that everything was fine. OH and I would try to stay out of any awkward situations and as difficult as it was I would shy away from conversations my SIL would try to draw me in to moan about my brother. My SIL resented that my brother spoke to me quite so openly, so in the last year or so we talked less in general, and definitely less about ‘them’, this was much easier all round.


Anyway, after numerous break-ups they decide they want to get married, and quickly too as they found a venue with availability in 11 weeks (interesting logic there), my parents and I expressed our concerns at the rush as they hadn’t proven they could even live together for any duration of time, he assured us it was fine so we supported them. I had always hoped I could be a bridesmaid for my brother, but seems that my SIL had other ideas, call me paranoid, but instead she proceeded to exclude me and definitely give me the sense that she didn’t like me much. I was hurt, there is no denying that, but I did what any sister would do and I continued to support my brother and helped with the arrangements he was responsible for.


Whilst they are on honeymoon and we were in the midst of our first ICSI cycle, my dad suddenly fell very poorly and was admitted to hospital.  OH and I spent a lot of time up North with my mum, ferrying her to and from the hospital, my brother and SIL also made frequent visits. On one of their visits, there was a tense atmosphere, she ignores us all, packs her bags and walks out of the house. Naturally we’re concerned and for the first time in a long time we ask my brother how are things with them and what’s going on?? He says that we wouldn’t believe it and he’ll send me a copy of a letter she has written to him later that night. The letter is shocking, it basically says that she wants marriage counselling after being married a month, otherwise maybe they should get divorced!? The rest of the letter seems like lots of tiny things that are blown out of proportion that don’t seem that important (we all didn’t know at the time that she was indeed pregnant at this stage). We decide to stay out of it, my dad was our priority and so we encouraged my brother to look into counselling. 


Lets fast forward to the outcome of my first ICSI cycle in Nov 2011, the day we realise that it’s failed I let my brother know as he happened to call, in the very same call, he decides to tell me that my SIL is 5 weeks pregnant and phrases such as ‘we didn’t realise it could happen this quick’ are muttered . . . so after being married for 3 months they are already pregnant, fabulous, I’m congratulatory of course but it was a little hard to hear on that day especially. We took the first ICSI failure hard, it was heart-breaking, I felt I couldn’t look to my brother/parents for support as they had happy news to focus on.  We decide life goes on so put on our brave faces and tried to enjoy a pre-planned family night on the town about 2 weeks later just before Christmas. We see my brother / SIL and congratulate them, I manage to keep my distance from my SIL until near the end of the night, eventually she plucks up the courage to speak to me. I speak honestly as she asked ‘how am I’, I tell her it’s hard, especially with my the problems with work earlier in the year and also my dad’s recent health problems and now the BFN it just feels like one thing after another. She says a couple of comforting remarks along the lines of talking to my mum more for support . . . then somehow she manages to transcend into a conversation about my brother and how difficult things still are (how do I get trapped in these situations!). I don’t say much as I’m in shock really, I let her talk at me for quite some time, eventually I excuse myself for the bathroom at which point I’m a crying mess as she suddenly made the conversation all about her AGAIN, I didn’t want to listen about their problems right now as I had enough on my plate.  OH rescues me and not before long the night is finally over.


A couple of weeks later we see them again at my parents for Christmas day, we notice that they are both being a bit weird with us but put it down to the fact that it’s an awkward situation for all, we just had our BFN and they are pregnant.  Move forward to a phone call in early February, I’ve had a 3 week break away on holiday and I’m feeling stronger so I mention to my brother that I’ve realised I need more support from my family as the ICSI cycles are really tough. Surprisingly he is quite abrupt back and we get into a heated conversation where he basically says - what did you expect when I told my SIL that hearing about their pregnancy was like a ‘slap in the face’. Obviously I’m outraged and in tears, this was a phrase I’ve never used before and suddenly I’m being accused of this and also lots of other mixed up things that have either been blown out of proportion or untrue. Over the next few couple of weeks there are a series of emails exchanged where I try to explain that is not my recollection of the evening, I maintain my dignity in it all, I don’t lower myself to her level and I don’t go into any detail as I can see it’s not going to get me anywhere. I also find out that she has read all of my private emails, chat messages and texts with my brother!? Randomly she texts me one day with disgusting and vile comments about how she will be making my parents grandparents first and that they have made a 'baby out of love' and that I have 'wrecked the family', basically rubbing our infertility situation right in our faces, completely unforgivable. Again, I do not lower myself to her level and I don’t reply.


I eventually persuade my brother to meet with me, it was awkward at first but then it was good to have a chat and see him. I clearly explain that I have done nothing but support them and suddenly I am being accused of numerous lies. He’s in a tricky situation, it’s clear to me what she is doing, but not so much to him. She is of course having the worst pregnancy which is not making any of this easier. I leave it with him to discuss it with her to decide a way forward. Instead of moving forward we take ten steps back, over the next few weeks sends more abusive texts to me and also calls my mum on several occasions dragging her into it all and being very rude to her about her issues with me, wtf?! Again, I don’t reply to any of her mad texts.


At this point, we’re at a complete loss of what to do and we are approaching egg collection for our second ICSI cycle, OH speaks with my brother and asks that he give me some space for the next two weeks minimum until I get in touch. Our second ICSI cycle also failed, again another heart-breaking and difficult time for us both. A few weeks later I make contact with my brother (by text during the day, apparently I’m not allowed to call him in the evening in case ‘she’ is there), we agree a date/time to talk properly which was last week. The call was hard, I still ask after her and the baby (am I a mug?) . . . I’m only really interested in my niece/nephew, they have decided that the only way forward is for my SIL and I to talk about the conversation in December . . . I have to remind him that this is so much more than that ‘conversation’ now, she has since dragged up so many many other things, yet I have not retaliated and said what I think of her and her behaviour over the years. I know what she wants to do, she just wants an opportunity to have her say to my face, this won’t get me anywhere because if I say one little thing about what I think about her actions she will surely just come back and say you can’t speak to your brother (which is her ultimate plan anyway). Judging by her recent behaviour I will just have to sit there whilst she shouts and tells her ludicrous lies to my face, I’m not strong enough to deal with that right now, especially when I don’t get my brother back, I explain this to him and he hadn’t really thought about it from my point of view. We have a family wedding approaching where I will be a bridesmaid to my cousin who has been more of a sibling to me of late (and which I am so grateful for) . . . my brother and SIL would like to come to the wedding even though my SIL will only be 2 weeks from her due date and it's a about a 7 hour round trip (ludicrous right? she just wants to put her belly in my face I’m sure and ruin the day for everyone). I’ve asked my brother to think about how this is going to work with the situation with me and also my parents with my SIL, it just seems like madness.


I just want a relationship with him for now (realising that it can never be how it was, but I would like to be able to speak to him occasionally) and maybe time will heal the rest, but he explains that can’t work as she won’t allow separate relationships. The call just ends with tears and he said he’ll have a think about things.


So that brings me to now. I’m grieving for my brother as I've lost him for now.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

3 Mooncat Years

Many moons ago :-) OH bought me Mooncat, she has been with us 2 years today (my best birthday gift ever) making her 3 moonyears old. This is just her pretend birthday as she was a rescue cat and the cattery estimated her at 1 year when we met her, she had been abandoned or lost her way when pregnant and we took her in to our home. She's such a cutie pie, full of cuddles whenever you need them.

Happy Birthday Mooncat

Monday, 9 May 2011

Pill Poppin'

OH and I are slowly on the mend, we tried to do some fun things this weekend and ended up in London for a nice walk along the South Bank, we had chance to have a good talk too and get a few things out in the open to help each other through it.
Yesterday we even visited our friends who recently had a teeny tiny baby girl, and oh my is she tiny and I loved holding her. She was super cute, I was a little nervous beforehand but it was really lovely (gotta keep my eye on the prize), OH thought it was the happiest I had seemed for days which is pretty ironic!

So I made it in to work today (progress), ugh, can't concentrate much, but I made it here so that's step one complete, so I'll aim to do something productive tomorrow :-)
 
This weekend, OH has started popping the pills, there are hundreds of them. this is the plan for the next 3 months but we're left wondering what the side effects could be :-/  It all seems a bit drastic (and desperate maybe?), but OH has researched it and there are many people doing something similar with positive effects. I'm not sure what our other options are before heading in to our next treatment cycle as we are at a loss of how to improve our chances so I guess it's worth a try.

Some tweeps have asked about what vitamin regime we have planned as many of you are doing something similar or plan to, here's the list, let me know if there is something missing, or alarming!

MORNING
Vitamin C 500mg
Vitamin B complex                
L-arginine 500mg
L-Carnitine 500mg
Vitamin E 200mg
Pyncnogenol (pine bark) 100mg
Omega Fish Oil 1000mg

EVENING
Wellman Conception 1 pill
Zinc 2 pills (30mg)
Selenium 200mg
Omega Fish Oil 1000mg
Co-Enzyme Q10 30mg
Maca 1000mg
Vitamin C 500mg
Vitamin E 400mg
Folic Acid 400mg
Pyncnogenol (pine bark) 100mg
Tablespoon of Tomato Puree (lycopene)*

*hmm this one doesn't sound too pleasant, think we change this to a tablet form.
Fingers crossed it does the trick.

Friday, 6 May 2011

WTF 2

Shucks, this is so hard, I cannot begin to describe how we’re feeling right now, other than heartbroken. Yesterday we had our WTF appointment for our second failed ICSI cycle, amazingly this clinic gave us an appointment only two days after I called them, our first clinic had us waiting a torturous two months.  

I’ve tried to summarise our appointment with the consultant in the hope that it may help some of you in a similar situation and also you may have suggestions for us that we haven’t thought of yet, believe me we are at a loss right now and so all suggestions are welcome! In TTC for coming up to 3 years soon, we have never had one positive pregnancy test, with have 2 failed ICSI cycles under our belt, no frosties ever, and we have never made blastocysts before. Herein lies our problem, if we cannot make blasts then it ain’t gonna work, full stop. So why don’t we make blasts and are we wasting our time . . . are you sitting comfortably?


I thought I would be seeing the same consultant as at our first appointment, instead we saw the new guy, I was a bit sceptical at first but in the end I was pleased we saw him, he has only been at our clinic for 3 weeks, prior to this he was the medical director at The Bridge Centre in London. He sussed me out within seconds after asking me if I studied Biology at school, I held my head up high and said I studied it as my degree, ha!


On the whole our second ICSI cycle did seem to go well and just like last time after Day 3 our embryo’s pretty much deteriorate.   Here is how Cycle 1 and 2 compared:


CYCLE 1
15 eggs collected, 13 mature, 8 embryo’s. Day 5 single embryo transfer (morula not a blast), no frosties.
CYCLE 2
13 eggs collected, 10 mature, 6 embryo’s. Day 3 double embryo transfer (1 excellent, 1 good), no frosties.

 
He said the cycles in terms of eggs/embryos were comparable and he is happy with the numbers, the quality of the embryo’s this time around were better than last time, but the same deterioration happened post day 3. The sperm sample on the day was the best OH has had since we started on this journey so we think the multivitamins he has been taking and lifestyle changes may have had an effect. In essence we are told that the sperm sample can fluctuate a lot and so there is just no knowing how it will be on the day, but it is going in the right direction. Now that I have had two cycles he will admit there is a pattern forming  but it’s not possible to say whether it is the egg or the sperm (or both) causing the problem, it’s likely to be the sperm but impossible to say for certain.
We discussed Day 3 vs Day 5 transfers, his preference is to get the embryo’s back as soon as possible if there are clear front runners, if it’s not possible to choose the best ones then he would opt for a Day 5 transfer. It is possible that the embryos could form blasts within me but not within a petri dish, he has seen the poorest quality embryos work before so you just never know (I know I know, it only takes one).  However for us, if we’re not producing blasts then it’s possible there is a genetic issue.


We discussed various tests that we could do to help diagnose or influence how to do our next cycle . . . he thought there was no point in seeing a urologist at this stage, it’s unlikely they will be able to tell us anything given the improvement in OH’s sample over our ICSI cycles. We discussed chromosomal karyotyping, this is a pre-requisite for some clinics before starting IVF/ICSI, it’s unlikely this will show anything for us both as it only detects major chromosomal defects but it may be worth doing for peace of mind. With regards to other tests, DNA fragmentation and Sperm Aneuploidy, he didn’t think these were worthwhile as these figures can also fluctuate, if we were to go ahead with these we have to be aware of the limitations of the results in that they look at a snapshot of the sperm at that time, on the day of ICSI the sample could be better or it could be worse, it will not help us in choosing better sperm. This was a little hard to hear, before we saw him we were adamant that we should do this type of testing before progressing, but we can see his point, it won’t help our upcoming cycle or change our situation (as we’re not going to give up just yet) and so should we bother? He said that the results of a DNA fragmentation test will only help determine whether to do ICSI or conventional IVF, as we’re already doing ICSI it won’t tell us anything new, he asked us to think about what we will do with the results, will it stop us from doing another cycle? I guess the answer is no.
 

We also discussed PGD (pre-implantation genetic diagnosis) and CGH (comparative genomic hybridisation), these are expensive options we could do in the future, unfortunately for us though it only helps in choosing the best embryos (or eggs) so this may not be useful if we can’t also select the best sperm in the first place to make the embryo. For this the latest technique is IMSI (intracytoplasmic morphologically selected sperm injection) as opposed to ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection). It’s just like ICSI but uses a higher degree of magnification to choose the sperm, it’s thought that the fertilisation and success rates could be higher for people in our situation as they are hopefully choosing sperm that is less fragmented right before injecting into the egg.  I had looked up IMSI briefly before our appointment, I could only find one clinic near us (in London) that does this, it seems to cost a few hundred pounds more which is not much more in the grand scheme of paying for a treatment cycle. IMSI is not available at our current clinic, but the consultant offered that if we decided to pursue this in the future, he would be happy to link us up with a satellite clinic abroad (possibly France) for the egg collection/transfer part of the cycle. This seems like our only option moving forward in the future. Other tests we could do are full chromosome karyomapping and SNIP technology, I’m not sure what this would tell us but it’s something else to add to our list of research for the future. We discussed immune testing briefly too but given that we can’t seem to get to the implantation stage yet (we need to make a decent embryo first) he thinks we should hold off on this for the moment.

Our first ICSI cycle was NHS funded, we are lucky enough to be in the right postcode area to have funded cycles but have a restriction of 6 months between cycles, this is why we opted to privately fund our second ICSI cycle to bridge the gap. This means our next cycle will be NHS funded which is great but means we can’t do any extra fancy stuff, so we’ll take the NHS cycle and give it another try and ramp up OH’s vitamins based on some of our own research we have done, if this doesn’t work we can then perhaps pay for an IMSI cycle afterwards.
In terms of other lifestyle factors, the amount of alcohol we have (not much) he thinks is absolutely fine, he said just be sensible, no binge drinking and advised that during treatment I don’t drink. Eat a sensible diet, have my vitamins, continue with acupuncture if I find it relaxing and the OH should try to keep his stress levels down.


So we agreed a plan:

  • Chromosomal karyotyping – he will write to my GP to see if they will fund this test for us both, it’s just for peace of mind (I’m persistent).
  • Change my stimulation medication from Gonal F (recombinant FSH) to one from natural sources, such as Menopur or similar, just to see if it makes any difference.
  • Agreed to transfer two embryos even though it’s an NHS cycle (did I mention how persistent I am)
  • Keep up the good diet / lifestyle / mind & body relaxation.
Are we filled with hope, no not really, but we have to try again and in the mean time we’ll research IMSI and simply hope for the best. We might proceed with the other sperm DNA fragmentation tests anyway, he understands that we feel helpless and just want to gather as much information as possible. In the meantime the hundreds of vitamins keep arriving through the post box!

We felt relieved after the appointment to draw a line under it and to look ahead, but it didn’t last long. By late evening, I went in to a serious meltdown when I got home, we both did, so much so that we both could not go to work today and face people. I put on a brave face about 90% of the time, it’s impossible to sustain and stay positive and pretend everything is normal, we’re so far from normal that I’ve forgotten what normal is. I don’t want to burden anyone so I find myself distancing myself more and more, who’s interested in someone going through their third cycle or however many more we might need?!


Today is a new day and we do feel a little better, but our life is the same still and we have no choice but to keep putting that brave face on and keep going. 


Apologies for my longest post ever (zzzz).