Ta da! Ladies and gentleman, we have a heartbeat.

See the black cucumber? Well that’s my uterus apparently. Not the giant black thing on the left, the one right in the middle. In that cucumber, is an 8mm long embryo. Hooray! and Gumby has a heartbeat. From the second the magic wand went whoosh today, there was a little flickering light, very fast, very persistent. It was pretty cool to see. It probably is not as exciting if you didn’t grow up watching a 70’s television with bunny ears antennae that lost reception every 25 seconds. The picture quality was pretty familiar to a child of the 70s.

God I was nervous. I was so worried it would be a blighted ovum, an empty sac, a collapsed sac, ectopic. Anything but really real and going forward. I have managed to sleep the last few nights, in a patchy fashion, hard to think about anything else. My lack of symptoms were a sign things were wrong. My symptoms (cramping! dizziness! sleeplessness!) were a sign things were wrong.

I mean, I haven’t upchucked yet, but I don’t like the smell of bacon cooking. Or pork crackling. And the christmas pudding had me running for the hills (though I still managed to choke some down. Good work you battler). So clearly something isn’t right. It turns out I REALLY AM PREGNANT.

This is a cool thing.

Tonight we’re off out, and I (slightly) wish we were taking to our couch. We’re going to see Neil Gaiman, the writer, and a cool string quartet called Fourplay who do things like Metallica covers. It should be relatively low key.  I have that “end of exams” feeling, that feeling like when you’re so incredibly relieved something is over you can’t even be happy about it. Just exhaustedly relieved. I thought about crying in the ultrasound, but I didn’t. I didn’t even look at poor hub in boots, who was up behind my head also staring up at the screen. Even Captain Optimism got the wobbles in the face of the actual room and the actual scan. He looked terrified, and went very very quiet. As the scan progressed I was so transfixed! Even with the magic wand stuck up my you know what while they had to change the paper in the printer. Ah it’s funny when the pragmatic intrudes on the profound. Somehow, I could see more than I thought today.

Bring on the expensive doctor with the 3D ultrasounds, which he emails to you from his room.

Even when the magic wand was doing its work, I was waiting for the doctor to say “but…”. The whole visit I was waiting for the “but….”. And all he said was you’re another step closer. Down to about a 20% miscarriage risk, from a previous 30-40%. Their booklet says 10%, but we’ve had the scan a little early because of his holidays. I can wear 20%. Just.

He’s very kindly given me a referral for another ultrasound in case I’m sweating prior to the Obstetrician’s visit. He said they normally offer weekly ultrasounds, but he’ll be away. It’s only 2.5 weeks until we meet our Ob, and I’m sure he’ll do a scan too.

Here is another angle, just in case you missed it.

Grover arrived for hub in boots at christmas and has been eagerly reading the “What to Expect when you’re expecting” book. He’s up to month 8. He has also read the “You’re pregnant too, mate” book, and enjoyed it’s male perspective on the whole pregnancy palaver.

As you can see Grover is keenly studying the ultrasounds and is quite glad Project Supergrover has lift off . He is quite insistent on my following a healthy diet, and so is cooking hub in boots and I some snapper and salad for dinner. After the celebratory two ferero rochers and a full leaded cup of tea (oh the craziness in this house. Will it ever end?).

Still finding it hard to believe there is something in there, something with a heartbeat hiding beneath those post christmas bulges. It’s an exciting time. And the nurse, Carmen, came out and spoke to us as we were waiting for the doctor to copy some tests, and said “I know it’s nerve wracking, but make sure you enjoy this time. And don’t panic about the symptoms. This is when your body makes the most changes. Not when you’re huge. Now. All the ligaments are stretching and everything is getting into place. This is the hard work part”. And she’s completely right. And I do want to enjoy it.

But feel free, at any stage,  to punch me if I become a smug pregnant woman.  Grover’s going to keep an eye on me too.

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Life by a thousand cuts

While I type this, I am listening, on a loop, to The Ship Song project. It’s a remake of Nick Cave‘s iconic song by the Sydney Opera house. It’s beautiful. Make sure you watch it. With tissues. http://youtu.be/bG7wbAfcKUI

One day, I hope I’ll be singing this song to our unborn baby. I’m going the funky lullabies.

But when our gumby can hear is a long way away. And this is life by a thousand cuts.

Currently gumby is the size of an apple seed. And gumby has maybe a 30% chance of miscarrying at this point, per our doctor. As of next wednesday, if we get the ok, that drops to 10%, but it’s still a very real number.

When you’re going through IVF, the odds are stacked against you. At my age, 40, its a 25% chance of conceiving in any one cycle. It’s 15% odds of a take home baby. Its 10% odds of frozen embryos in any cycle.

We have beaten those odds, all except that crucial 15% take home baby.

Next we have round 2 odds…the ones you don’t look at when you start handing over wheelbarrows full of cash to the medicos. At my age, 1 in 240 women has a baby with downs. 1 in 64 have some chromosomal abnormality. If you have amniocentesis to diagnose this, I’ve read varying odds of 1 :200 to 1:500 chance of an amnio related miscarriage. If you have chorionc Villius sampling (a week 12 biopsy of the placenta if you’re revealed as high risk in the scan) that’s 1:100 chance of miscarriage. More if they have to have a couple of goes at getting the tissue. My mantra of the week is “I am not a statistic”.

So people sharing how early they miscarried in their pregnancy, people telling me to remember it’s still high risk at this stage, people reminding me nothing is certain, ummm I get it. These numbers are in a chorus line in my head. They’re doing high kicks. They are a constant background soundtrack to my life. It isn’t easy, but I will hum along until we’re out of the woods.

And yet, and yet, and yet. In my mind I am singing this song at 27 weeks to our little gumby. I am painting a nursery. At the same time in my mind I am preparing for how to deal with miscarriage, thinking about when we would start IVF again, how it would feel, how we would recover.  Perhaps this is why I am bolt upright in bed at 3-4am EVERY morning, unable to sleep. Either that or the hormones.

I am not a silly girl with magical thinking, people. I understand the reality of our tightrope walk here. I understand you’ve been through a miscarriage and you want me to be cautious. But I also know this may be the only time in my life I am pregnant, and even if it doesn’t last, I want to enjoy it. I want to celebrate it.

It is life by a thousand cuts, because at every stage, the odds could kick in, and our little apple seed could disappear into nothing. And we can do nothing. It is life by a thousand cuts when you have the STUPID notion to pee on a second stick a week after the formal test results, and hit a flat panic when the line is very very faint, and run to the clinic for an extra blood test, only to fine your HcG levels are 2500 and they only need 1200 to be comfortable. Ah, those cuts.  It is life by a thousand cuts because even though you are not supposed to overinvest in a 6 week long pregnancy, you have to book the hospital and the doctor NOW! So you are simultaneously treating it as VERY very real, and very very precarious, just a notion, just a possibility at this stage. A posibility with a hospital booking.

And still. We sit around the lounge room for two hours on separate computers shouting out possible baby names and laughing. I shout “Holly”. Hub in boots says “Holly Molly!”. I say “Iggy”, and hub in boots laughs his head off, then goes “wait! That WORKS!”. Audrey is still a finalist. Evan is up there. Jethro was another one we laughed at but kind of like in a rock and roll way.

Don't worry, we're broke. We're only renting....

We sit on the jetty and watch a seagull nearly attack a fisherman on the wharf next door, only to look at the deck yacht she’s just flown from, and hear and see two fluffy grey seagull chicks, tweeting and chirping and running up and down the deck. We watch the sunset, and as the wharf rocks, we hope one day there will be a little person sitting down there with us. We move the essential food to the middle shelf of the fridge so I don’t get more headspins getting them out.

We make lists. This is because I can’t leave the house with deodorant on and having cleaned my teeth. So far I have not forgotten underpants, but I am thinking it is only a matter of time. I have to write EVERYTHING down. My IQ has dropped maybe 80 points? My head is a sieve, leaky, unable to hold information. Basic tasks are too hard. I feel stupid!

And all of this is good. When i feel a bit odd, or crampy,  or dizzy, or tired, hub-in-boots gets worried.

“I’m sorry you’re feeling bad.”.

“I’m not. I chose this. I am glad.”

I even embrace all the odds and risks. Give it to me. I take it willingly.

Not looking our prettiest getting robed up prior to embryo transfer....

This morning I was thinking about hub in boots. About his relentless optimism, which has become a bit of a joke between us in recent weeks. Because of course, so far, as much as it pains me to admit it, he’s been right. When we first set out on this, and christened it Project supergrover, then Project supergrover mark II, he sent away and bought SuperGrover T shirts. He bought them in two sizes. One for when we were on IVF, and one for my growing belly when I became pregnant. Now THAT’s optimism. And it was a gesture, a nod to our future, that I’ll never forget. That future is now a very real possibility.

We wore them to egg collection, he wore one to embryo transfer both times from memory. And Supergrover has lift off.  If all goes according to plan, I will actually be needing the larger sized one by about March or April. As long as Grover doesn’t crash into a wall.

I think about all the people that had us in their prayers, all the friends, all the colleagues, all the not-so-strangers on an internet forum and blog. About all the lit candles around Sydney, about all those quiet can’t quite get to sleep moments, where I sent out hopes to a higher power to bless us. And I know that every little bit, every little gesture, text message, phone call, blog comment, test, referral, doctors hunch, carried us to where we are now, waiting. Excited, nervous (nexcited), and waiting. One week to that cruicial first find a heartbeat scan. Two more weeks to the first Ob visit. Four more weeks til the screenings for Downs. Four more weeks to possible amnio. Then breathe out.

Come sail your ships around me

And burn your bridges down

We make a little history, baby

Every time you come around.

Come loose your dogs upon me

And let your hair hang down.

You are a little mystery to me

Every time you come around.

We talk about it all night long

We define our moral ground

But when I crawl into your arms

Everything, it comes tumbling down.

Come sail your ships around me

And burn your bridges down.

We make a little history, baby

Everytime you come around.

Your face is falling sad now

For you know the time is nigh

When I must remove your wings

And you, you must try to fly.

Come sail your ships around me

And burn your bridges down

We make a little history, baby

Everytime you come around…

Bubbly, (almost) all round!

6:15 am  “Do you think we’ll have a positive?” “I don’t know”

6:20 ‘I just can’t understand this cramping. It’s a bit weird.’ ‘yeah’

6:25 ‘I can’t wait any longer’ “It will be over soon enough babe”

6:30 ‘do you think it will be a positive?’ I hope so’

8:20am “so there’s about 4 hours to go” “yep”

8:25am “there’s 5 minutes less now” “yep” “I think it will be a positive. I feel like this cramping is weird. I’ll be surprised, I’ll be so disappointed if it’s bad news. I’m sure it’s positive”.“we’ll know soon babe”

8:28am “another three minutes have gone” “uh huh” “do you want another coffee?” “nah I’m ok, got the jitters from the first one”. “I think I need a biscuit. A biscuit would help.” “you can have a biscuit babe”.

They read some of the newspaper.

8:58am ‘Twenty minutes have gone! What time should we ring them if they don’t ring?’ “12:30. I’d ring at 12:30 if they haven’t rung”

9:02am  “should we go somewhere? Do something?” “It’s up to you babe. What would you like to do?” “I don’t know”.

Another two hours pass, just like this. It’s a bit  like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Or groundhog day.

At 11:22 the phone rings. We’re still sitting in the cafe. I’m demented. Really really demented. It is a blocked number. Which means it’s the clinic, or it’s my mum.

“Joanne?” ‘yes (in a very small voice)’ “We have some good news for you. In fact it’s very good news! (I start thumbs up gestures at hub in boots. His mouth drops open. He has no facial expression whatsoever) Your test shows you are pregnant! So with the hormone levels, we look for over 100 at this stage, and yours were good, very good in fact, 147. So we’re very happy with this test.”

really?”

really. We’d like you to come back to the clinic, and get more progesterone supplementation, as I said to you this morning, just for the few weeks til the first scan. Today or tomorrow”.

sure sure. We will come in shortly.”

“You were very quiet this morning!”

I know. I was just, I thought i was pregnant, since saturday I’ve been changing my mind and thinking it’s a positive. And I didn’t want to say anything because I didn’t want to get my hopes up!”

I get off the phone and shout we’re pregnant! And hub in boots shouts WHAT? Like he hasn’t noticed IVF has been occurring. It is a complete shock!

And then we do the jumping up and down hugging each other dance, and hub in boots is shrieking, and his Panama hat is bouncing up and down… and then our mates who run the cafe repeat this with larger and larger group hugs every time.

It is a happy day. I know it’s too early to celebrate. I know we have a long long way to go, to consider it a viable pregnancy. I know all this. But I am delighted. Hub in boots is delighted. We drove to the grandma’s houses, and THEY are delighted. There has been lots of shrieking on the phone. Even the egg that won the lottery is celebrating.

the eggie is getting down with the good news

As I write this, hub in boots is cooking tea and drinking Moet. MY birthday Moet! Alone! But that’s cool . At least HE has a designated driver this silly season.  It hasn’t REALLY sunk in yet, and it’s been a long long few days. Time has NEVER gone so slowly. He is the most patient man alive. And RELENTLESSLY, sometimes TORMENTINGLY positive. He is going to make a wonderful wonderful Dad. (Though he gets wiggged out with me calling him Dad !!! Not quite mentally ready! That goes for both of us. Thank goodness for gestational time to get your head ready)

Our first 6 week (almost 7 week) scan is on December 28, and we’re hoping for a heartbeat and a nice round healthy gestational sac. It’s a long way away, but we’ve made it this far.

Lastly a word for those out there who are still trying to conceive. I know the feeling of joy you get on another’s behalf when you read their good news, how it ignites your hope in the possibility, but how you don’t want to over-invest in what can sometimes seem an impossibility. I also know how you analyse what this means for you, and your chances, and how we compare to each other, and you wonder how your future will look, and you feel like life is on hold while you wait. I hope that my blog does not rub salt in your wounds, I hope that all it does is make the possibility alive for you. I can honestly say I hoped like hell, but realistically I knew our chances were slim. And that is bloody hard to deal with. I also know we are by no means out of the woods yet, but we are one step further down the yellow brick road. And it feels just as good as you think it might. So even though it’s dangerous, keep hoping.

Can I have some thinking music?

Well in 12 hours time, I will have had the blood test. In 15 hours time or so, we should have the results of IVF (ICSI) #2.

The last three days have been impossible. I have entered a fabulous level of cramping unknown to me in all my years of painful cycles, aided only by panadol…which are about as effective as smarties. And the time! It just CRAWLS. There is no way of forgetting what’s coming, because everytime I move IT HURTS. Which is a pretty clear smack in the face reminder. The days pass quickly and slowly at the same time. I feel like I’m walking in waist deep mud. I’m tired, and time is sucking me dry. I am absent from everything, and my brain isn’t working right. My short term memory at present is extraordinarily bad. Thank goodness I don’t have to work tomorrow.

Cycle number 1, which was running on the same days of the week, I was bleeding like a stuck pig (sorry, too much info) on the Friday prior to the monday test, exactly two weeks after egg collection. There was no question of the outcome of the cycle.

This cycle, Friday came, and Friday went. I was terrified ALL day.

Saturday came, and Saturday (a bloody long Saturday) went. I was even MORE paranoid. Trips to the loo are ridiculously confronting. The simple things are impossible.

Sunday came, and thanks to a bbq (with 200 sicilians that made my insane family christmas look like a meditation class), plus a neighbourhood street party, Sunday has just about gone. Now I’m just confused.

And nothing.

Now I know I had a “booster” shot of Ovidril pregnancy hormone monday as my progesterone levels hit the floor, and I know this probably has the ability to delay my period. I also know that with a 25% chance per cycle, there is ONLY a one in four chance this cycle has worked. That’s three out of four phone calls being a big fat nuh tomorrow. And only one in four being a yes.

My hope has increased as the days have gone on. I wish it wouldn’t. I feel like my chances are better now, yet they’re not. My brain won’t shut up, analysing the degree of cramping, the level of boob soreness, a little wave of nausea, jumping on every little thing. The longer wait this time is going to make bad news just that much harder to bear. But how can I be pregnant with this level of cramping? And how am I going to feel if I get my period whilst waiting for the results phone call?

I know this time will pass. I know I’ll go to bed, and wake up, and go to the clinic. And I’ll hope and hope and hope my period doesn’t come, like I can think it away and think our embryo into life. Which I know is ridiculous. If I just concentrate……

For some reason I feel that if I could just get to that phone call without getting my period, I’d feel better about this cycle.

We’ve been warned there’s three possible outcomes tomorrow: yes, no and come back Tuesday. Sometimes if your HcG levels are low they can’t tell the difference between an early miscarriage / ectopic pregnancy/a slow going real one, and they have to retest, sometimes up to four days running.  That sounds like fun.

Tomorrow will be a very confronting day, whatever the outcome.

The monkey trap

bananas
Image by Fernando Stankuns via Flickr

In some asian countries, legend has it they use monkey traps. There are no claws or teeth or hinged mechanisms, just a simple basket tied to a tree with a narrow opening. Inside the basket is a banana. The monkey smells the banana, wants the banana, and sticks its little hand in through the narrow opening to get it. But the monkey cannot resolve the dilemma. To get its hand out, it must release the banana, and it just won’t let go of that piece of fruity goodness. It can’t have freedom and a banana. It keeps trying to get its hand out holding on tight the banana. It won’t fit. So the monkey gets stuck there until the hunter comes, hours later, trapped only by its desire. That’s how you trap a monkey.

IVF is a little like a monkey trap. And the bait is your hope for a child. It is really hard to let go of, so you get stuck. Stuck in an unnatural situation, your life dictated by vagaries of science and patient care protocols. Today, I’d like to get out of the trap of this particular cycle. I want the test done. I want to know its over. I know it hasn’t worked. I know we’re going to have to go again, if we choose. I want to put it all behind me. But I can’t let go of that bright yellow hope.

So I’m stuck. Cramping (oooh, the cramping). And waiting. And waiting. Figuratively tied to a tree and just waiting for the big fat no again. I want this over with, this cycle. I’m tired. And the little bit of bright yellow hope at present is so real and so near I can taste it. I know I and we are tough enough to go again. I know I’ll cope and we’ll cope. But the last taste of hope before you get caught with bad news, it’s just cruel.

Bugger

Ah I love it when the nurses ring and they have that tone of voice. The hello I’m being sunny and friendly because I’m about to give you bad news tone of voice. I’ve had it a few times, and I’m a bit over it.

Yesterday, I was in a supermarket. It was that tone of voice, so I dropped the basket and ran outside to hear better. The chipmunks christmas soundtrack they were playing in the tinned food aisle just didn’t seem to be the right mood music.

They are monitoring my progesterone levels this cycle. On transfer day: 372, very good. Yesterday, 5 days post transfer? 54. Ouch. “So how soon can you get in here? We’d like to see you for a booster shot.” As it turned out, 45 minutes. Hell, if it needs doing, it needs doing.

But I know what it means.

It means we’re stuffed. Again. And it’s a bit early for bad news. I just wanted a few more days in my half hopeful fog. A bit of good news in time for christmas. And I am flashing forward, thinking, you know, if I’m not pregnant by March, there’ll be no baby next Christmas either, and I’ll be 41, and…… yeah, you get the picture.

Come on baby, check out my eyebrows

I’ve had my eyebrows done today. And my hair done yesterday. Its the once a semester beauty update. So I’m ready to assume the glowing pregnant aura, plus I’m well groomed enough now to qualify for motherhood. If someone would just co-operate & implant.

So on Wednesday we had one embryo “put in the oven”. It looks happy, so let’s just hope it cooks!

As an added bonus, we’ve had two embryos put into the freezer, or as the forums call it, two “frosties”. It means the next cycle, if we need one, will be surgery free. It also means we’ll go to hell, for not respecting the sanctity of human life, but what the hey. These guys look happy enough don’t they?

Of course, no one really explains what happens to the other NINE embryos, but apparently they didn’t progress as planned, so they don’t make the grade. Sad but true. (hell, I tell you).

I don’t have a lot of witticisms ready for the blogosphere this week (blame the Crinone progesterone, it gives me a foggy brain), but I’m feeling pretty ok and tomorrow I’m making my return to boxing, bun or no bun. Late next week the nervous time really kicks in, and Monday 12 Dec is the big test day. Cross your fingers we’re cooking!

Photos of the nine eliminated contestants to follow. We’re just thinking up the appropriate dish. Suggestions welcome…..