Experiencing Infertility PTSD (part 1 – pregnancy)

You would think that the joy of being pregnant would erase the traumatic ordeal that had been infertility.

It didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong.  I was overwhelmed with happiness that I was finally pregnant, but I was also consumed by fear.  I’m aware that most women experience fear of loss. Pregnancy is scary.   However, I truly believe fear is compounded when you’ve had a loss or gone through infertility (or worse, both).

The desire to be a Mother was so encompassing that I couldn’t imagine living without realizing this dream.  Every ounce of my future happiness was dependent upon the growing life inside of me.  It was hard to shake the thought of something happening to my baby.  I feared what I might become if I experienced another loss.  I was out of funds, energy and hope.  If I lost this pregnancy I knew that I’d become bitter, hopeless and depressed.

There is a weird limbo to being pregnant after you’ve fought an infertility diagnosis.  You have a foot tentatively in both worlds.  Until there’s a baby in arms, it’s hard to get your mind out of the world you’ve just left.  You’re so used to being entrenched in it.

In spite of this, I LOVED being pregnant.  I embraced my changing shape.  I documented each month by going to a local photographer.  I wore the most figure hugging clothes.  I embraced the light whilst silencing the black fear that lurked beneath the surface.  I was conscious of being as positive as possible to infuse my future son with as much bright energy as I could.  And I was genuinely happy.

I didn’t equate being pregnant with having a baby though.  I know this sounds insane.  It felt like it was happening to someone else, not me.  Ultrasounds were an out of body experience.  That baby was actually inside of me?  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  And while I loved being pregnant and was beyond excited to be a Mother, I didn’t believe it was going to happen until I was on the operating table waiting for him to be born.  There is nothing like a surgeons knife to give me a reality check!

Before that flesh and blood boy was placed on my chest I had fully pictured him only as a cartoon character.  A Pinocchio of sorts.  Like I was the Geppetto wishing for my real boy and never computing he was there all along.

Once my son was in my sight I knew him.  It was him all along.  I knew who he was and I loved him beyond anything I felt possible.  The relief… now I could see him, touch him and hold him it felt like I finally had control.  Infertility was behind me.

It’s one of the hardest things to explain to anyone other than a person who has lived through it.   I named it infertility PTSD but have since discovered that its a recognized syndrome.  I was never diagnosed with having it but there’s no other way to describe how it felt than this.

I thought these feelings would disappear once my son was born but in a strange way they actually just changed shape.  I think they’ll always be with me in some form.

I’d love to hear from others who have had these feelings.  How long did they last for you and did you feel like they changed once the baby was born?

How to announce you’re pregnant via a sperm donor.

I spent three years deciding whether or not to become a Mother on my own.  During that time I worried a lot about how I would tell people that I had gotten knocked up by a sperm donor.  The words stalled in my brain.  I worried what people would think and what they might say.  Worse still, I worried what my child might think of me.

Anyone who knows me would be surprised to hear this.  I’m generally a person who doesn’t much care what other people think.  It was so alien to me to be spending time on these thoughts.  Normally I’d be a ‘do it now, worry later’ kind of gal.  This was too big for that kind of impulsivity.  I also work in a restaurant and as such have a lot of people that I’d have to explain a pregnancy to.  That’s a lot of reactions to worry about!

In the end I turned my thinking around.  How would I feel if I was never a Mother?  If I didn’t do this would it be my biggest regret?  Would I become a miserable spirit in the afterlife, hovering around babies cribs??!!

I wasn’t sure how I’d field the questions but I was sure that I needed to be a Mother.  Nobody wants to haunt babies!  I stopped worrying and started trying.

And as you know, it took a long time to get pregnant.  During that time I sincerely wished I hadn’t spent so long worrying about other people.  I was so mad at myself for doubting my path.  I was terrified that I had blown my chance at being a Mother by spending too long thinking about whether or not to do it.  Thankfully it finally worked out and by then I was so happy to be pregnant that my original fears no longer mattered.

At 16 weeks pregnant, my wardrobe options were running out.  I’d gone from wearing figure hugging clothes to baby doll dresses.  It was time to tell work (and the general public!)

I told my work colleagues first.  I was so nervous.  I’d gotten very fond of my giant secret.  I got my co workers in a room and told them together.  The response was amazing!  I received hugs, congratulations and so much love. I was very honest about having conceived on my own and the struggles I’d been through.

“I’m having a baby on my own.  I used a donor and conceived via IVF. I am so ecstatic, it took a long time to get here and I can’t wait to be a Mother!”

I put the tight clothes back on and started telling my customers.  Some people asked genuine questions and all said they thought it was great.  A lot of women said they wished they had done the same thing.

The one demographic that I sometimes got a defensive vibe from was older men.  They would ask questions about the donor (which I would decline to answer as they were often too personal.)  I wondered whether their egos were slightly bruised at the thought of a woman not needing a man in her life to get pregnant.

After 3 years of thinking and researching I felt that the sooner I became comfortable with my story, the better it would be for my child.  It felt super awkward the first few times I told people I don’t know so well that I’m a single mother by choice who used a sperm donor.  It quickly became easier and these days I quite enjoy telling people (when appropriate.)

That said, it’s amazing how infrequently I’m now asked about the other parent.  Once your child is born nobody really cares how they got here.  Our society is so used to broken homes and single Mothers that we just blend into the crowd.IMG_8170

I have however already started telling my son where he came from.  As soon as he was born I made him a book that explains his story to him.  It has a lot of pictures of us and our family.  We read it together about once a week.  Right now the words mean nothing to him but before too long they will begin to make sense to him and become a starting point for his questions.

These days I’m so proud of our story.  I can’t imagine it being any other way.

The Sunshine Blogger Award

Whilst this is the second time I have written a blog, it is the first time that I have confidently put a blog into the world to be followed by all and any.  In this respect I am seriously new and somewhat shiny.  I am therefore honored to have been noticed and nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award so early in my musings.  Thank you @Sharna for the recognition.

The Sunshine Blogger Award, for those that don’t know, is an award created by bloggers for bloggers to celebrate one another’s hard work, dedication, and community spirit.

So, how does the Sunshine Blogger Award work?
1.      A previously nominated blogger is given the task of nominating 11 more bloggers.
2.      The previous blogger asks the 11 nominated bloggers 11 questions relating to their blog.
3.      The 11 nominees all answer the questions and nominate 11 more bloggers.
4.      And the cycle continues over and over again!

So, without further ado, here are the answers to the questions posed to me by Sharna:

1. What is one thing you’d love to accomplish in 2018?
I would like to start making money from my computer via social media marketing / blog creating / making landing pages.  My dream is to travel with my son and World School.  This is a way that would afford us such a lifestyle.  If anyone reading has any tips I’d be happy to listen!

2. If you had to describe yourself in 3 words, what would they be?
Honest. Loyal. Direct.

3. How did you get into blogging?
Initially I started a blog to document my journey to become a single mother by choice.  As that developed into infertility I struggled with the blog.  Once my son was born I abandoned it altogether due to the memories it brought up.  I decided to start this blog as I feel that I have a story to share and want to make it easier for others to share their struggles with infertility (and parenting!)

4. What would you probably be doing if you weren’t blogging?
Blogging doesn’t take up too much of my time – my son is my priority so I fit it in around him.  I’m entertaining him as I’m writing this too!

5. What is one random fact about you?
I had my child using a sperm donor.  Best decision I ever made.

6. What is your
favorite song right now?
Rex Orange County – Loving is Easy

7. If you acquired a time machine and had the opportunity to transport to anywhere in the world, past or future, where would you go and why?
I always say that my biggest regret is not having my child when I was younger but then I wouldn’t go back and change it because then I might not have this, perfect child.  Instead I’d probably have to go back in time and check out some dinosaurs.

8. What is your go-to for inspiration?
My son is my inspiration for everything I do.

9. If you could learn any language, what would it be? Do you speak more than one language already?
I am not fluent in any language but I can speak Spanish.  If I were immersed in the language I’d be pretty competent within a couple of months.  I also understand Italian and French and can make myself understood in restaurants and shops.  I’d love to learn Thai or Lao!

10. What is your ultimate favourite movie?
The Wizard of Oz

11. Finally, where would you like blogging to take
you?
Eventually I would love to earn a little income from my blog so that I can world school my son.  Its going to evolve to talk about infertility, parenting and home schooling.  I’d love to get guest bloggers in once I’m more established.  I want this blog to feel like a safe space for anyone to air their thoughts on any of these subjects.

I’ll tweet my nominations and ask them to post their links in my comments for your enjoyment!

Questions for you all:

  1. What has been an unexpected perk of blogging?
  2. How long have you been blogging? 
  3. What inspired you to start a blog?
  4. If you could go to any country and live there for a year, where would you go and why?
  5. What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting a blog?
  6. What is your favorite memory from the last year?
  7. Summer or Winter and why?
  8. What is something that you wish you knew more about but just don’t have the time to study?
  9. Snakes or Spiders?
  10. If you could pick two famous people to swap jobs, who would they be?
  11. Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.

Happy blogging everyone!  

 

 

 

 

IVF for the 3rd time.

After my miscarriage and the subsequent discovery that it had been a ‘blighted ovum’ which was not compatible with life, I started dreaming of ways to do one more round of IVF.

I was in the process of selling the house I owned with my Mother (but didn’t live in) and buying another property where we could both live in separate abodes.

This certainly wasn’t leaving me with any disposable income but what it did do was to clear my debt.  In order to qualify for a mortgage I had to roll my existing debts into my new mortgage.  My fertility loan had a very high interest rate due to lack of collateral… they can’t very well take the baby away if you fail to make payments and in my case there was no baby.  It was a relief to do this.

So there I was, with a new home and no debt.  It seemed like the perfect time to get back into debt and try again!  I made an appointment at the bank.  I remember the loan officer asking me if I was doing home improvements with the money.  I told her that a baby most certainly would be a home improvement for me!  Luckily I qualified and within 6 weeks of buying a new home I was back on the IVF train.

I’m telling you this because people are often mystified as to how I afforded IVF.  The answer is that I worked my ass off, picking up as many shifts at work as I could. After 2 rounds of IVF I rolled my debt into my mortgage.  In addition, I burned through all $15,000 of my savings doing IUI’s, buying sperm and meeting my health insurance deductible.

IVF Round III

This time I decided to come at it a little differently.  I decided to do PGD testing.  This is where they take a few cells from a day 5/6 embryo and test the chromosomes to ensure that the embryo has the best chance of viability.  There’s definitely some controversy to it but I wanted to try to reduce my risk of miscarriage if possible.

I was sure it wasn’t going to work and had steeled myself for the phone call with bad news that none of my embryos were viable.  It took almost 3 weeks for the results during which time I did my resolute best not to think about it.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I sent an email to the PGD coordinator asking if she had any news.  I remember the day so vividly.  I was about to attend my end of season work party.  I opened my email to the news that I had one, viable male embryo.  I happened to be with my heavily pregnant friend moments later.  My lost child would have been born within 2 weeks of her imminent baby.  I had missed her baby shower and she had been unaware of my pregnancy as I didn’t want to make her feel bad.  I explained all of this to her that night along with the wonderful news in my email.  We both shed tears of sadness and joy for each other.

I decided that I was going to wait for 3 periods/cycles until I transferred my perfect embryo.  I ate well, took good care of my body, rested and made space in my heart to receive a boy child.  I let myself imagine him (something that I’d never allowed myself to do before now.)

During this time, the relationship I had been in all year abruptly ended which was a blow.  He had been a great source of support and comfort during my miscarriage and a big distraction from the craziness that is infertility.  Whilst upsetting, I hadn’t been sure that I wanted his influence around my future child so I did my best to see it as a blessing.

I went to see my abdominal massage therapist and told her that once again I was preparing to accept a child into my womb.  She helped me to free the tension I had been carrying there since the loss and the break up.  We visualized my child.  I was finally ready.

On Tues Dec 8th 2015 I transferred my last hope into my uterus.  It was the most traumatic and uncomfortable of all the transfers but once done was declared to be ‘perfect positioning’!

I went out for celebratory dumplings… I wanted the first meal I had as a potentially pregnant woman to be a delicious one.  I kept the chopsticks for his memory box.

I swore I wouldn’t test early.

5 days later I caved and peed on a stick.  It was 7am and a squinter of a line appeared on the stick.

I awoke my mother to tell her!

Later that day I met with two friends who had also struggled with infertility and were miraculously both pregnant too!  I told them the news.  It had been my dream to be pregnant at the same time as these women and it had happened!

After more than 2 years of fertility treatments I was finally pregnant and this time, in spite of the fear, I felt like I might actually bring home a baby.

 

 

more IVF and a Loss….

First off let me start with a trigger warning because Loss is mentioned and I know that can be hard for a lot of women.

 

My RE was perplexed as to why I wasn’t getting pregnant.  He decided he would do  ERA testing.  This is where they take a scrape from your uterus and send it off to establish the ideal time for transferring an embryo.

At the time I did this, it was in early stages and my sample had to be sent to Spain for analysis!  I remember thinking it was very strange that now Spain was involved in my fertility.  It came back that we were doing everything right.

During this break I went to see an acupuncturist whom my Mother used to work for.  After an extensive list of questions she told me that she didn’t think that acupuncture would help my fertility.  She gave me the name of a woman that she thought would be able to make a difference to my story.  This woman practiced Maya Abdominal Massage.

I went to see her right away.  It was very emotional and quite strange.  Its a very gentle practice but you can definitely feel something happen.  It connects you mentally with your uterus which is something that I’d never even contemplated beforehand.  I left with exercises to do at home.

A couple of weeks later I had another embryo transfer and miracle of miracles… a positive pregnancy test!!

My betas were strong and they doubled, then doubled again.  I went for an ultrasound and immediately my heart sunk.  A perfect yolk sack but no fetal pole.   The embryo was measuring behind.  I had seen others go through this.  I knew what this meant.  They made another appointment for a week later and told me to be pessimistically optimistic.

What an awful week.  I couldn’t justify taking the whole week off from work to wallow so I carried on as if nothing was happening.  I went to work, I went to friends dinner parties.  I didn’t drink.  I faked it.

Sure enough a week later the worst was confirmed.  At nearly 7 weeks I had lost the pregnancy.  I had options on how to proceed but I knew I needed answers.  I chose to have a D & E so that they could analyze the embryo and hopefully discover why it had happened.

The day of the D & E was one of the worst days of my life.  I felt utterly hopeless.  I had told myself that I was done trying and that this would be my last attempt.  I cried all day long.

Then the results came back.  The embryo had not been compatible with life.  It had the most common genetic errors for miscarriage.  It was not due to my age.  It was nothing I had done wrong.  My RE told me that this is the same reason that 25 year olds miscarry and that in so far as it could be, this was a good thing.

I found such solace in knowing this.  Light started coming back into the edges of the dark corners of my mind.  I felt empowered by knowing that my Uterus wasn’t broken, that it could maybe nurture a life….

I needed to find a way to try one. last. time.

A Guide to Understanding IVF

While every protocol for IVF is different there are some steps that are pretty much the same for everyone.  If you’re just starting out here’s what you can expect;

  1. Initial consult with RE to discuss protocol
  2. Wait for start of period. You may already be taking estrogen/birth control pill.
  3. Vaginal Ultrasound to assess baseline
  4. Start injections
  5. Another Vaginal Ultrasound to see how you’re doing and to tweak meds if necessary
  6. More injections
  7. Another Ultrasound, maybe add in another shot to stop you ovulating.
  8. More injections until they finally tell you to do trigger shot.
  9. 36 hours after trigger shot you have your egg retrieval
  10. A day after egg retrieval you find out how many eggs fertilized
  11. Maybe a day 3 transfer, maybe a day 5 transfer.  You might choose to freeze all or have embryos tested.

Here’s my experience...

When I started on the journey to have a child I remember naively saying that I wanted as little intervention as possible.  I was against taking drugs.  I said I would never do IVF.

Health insurance back then did not cover fertility treatment for single women.  You had to be married.  I was paying for everything out of pocket and none of it was cheap!!

In order to boost my chances I tried a couple of rounds of clomid.  RE’s often like you to do a ‘clomid challenge’ to see how you respond to drugs.  What clomid does is it makes your body produce extra follicles, which is where the eggs grow and mature.  I responded well but didn’t achieve a pregnancy.

I threw out my no intervention and no drugs rule.  I took out a loan and moved to IVF.  I had found an RE that I liked.  I went to a consultation where I asked 5000 questions and then waited to start my cycle.  I remember being terrified but also confident that it would work.

IVF is not at all glamorous.  You’re constantly undressing and having vaginal ultrasounds.  It becomes so routine that when I was pregnant I once got undressed only to have the doctor tell me it wasn’t necessary anymore! (embarrassing!)

I had one last hurdle to overcome.  I was terrified of needles!  I wasn’t sure how I was going to find the courage to inject myself!  The sheer volume of meds and equipment was terrifying.

meds

I swear that first shot took me half an hour to prepare and inject.  To my surprise it didn’t hurt in the slightest.  I think the adrenaline and fear of doing it wrong  makes you not even notice the needle going in.

About 10 days in I started feeling quite delicate.  I used to say that my lady balls were swollen.  I found myself being a little more cautious as I sat down and stood up.  Imagine your ovaries as a golf ball and usually they have a little marble or two in them each month.  Now imagine that you’ve put 6+ marbles in there.  That golf ball is turning into a tennis ball… or maybe even bigger.  That’s what I was feeling.. I couldn’t wait til retrieval day.

Once my follicles had reached their goal size I was brought in for my egg retrieval.   It was a little scary (isn’t any surgery?) but over quickly.  I felt a bit sore for a day or so after my first one but nothing major.

Then I waited to see how many had fertilized… then how many made it to day 3, then to day 5.  I was lucky and was about to transfer one and freeze the rest.  It didn’t take.  Nor did any of the frozen ones.

There’s a lot more research now that points to frozen transfers being more successful.  Taking a break gives your body a chance to get rid of all those nasty drugs and find its equilibrium.  In hindsight I wonder if taking a break between tries might have brought my child to me more quickly…. I was on the train, month after month and I wasn’t going to give up until I got my baby! (Or went bankrupt.)

I did a second round of IVF and got even more good looking day 5 embryos.  I did a fresh transfer which didn’t take.  I did more Frozen transfers that failed.. and then I took a much needed break.

to be continued.  

The Importance of Finding the Right Fertility Doc for you.

Once I had picked a donor, done a couple of IUI’s, had the HSG and had a couple more failed IUI’s I came to a realization;

I couldn’t stand my RE!!!

I had thought that all you had to do was find a Reproductive Endocrinologist and they would unlock the secret to getting you pregnant.  This was not the case.  I didn’t feel like I had an advocate in my RE.  I felt like I was walking through glue.  After 6 months of this I was ready to move to IVF and a new RE.

This time I did some research aka: I googled.  I called a couple of clinics and rejected the ones who would only accept applications via fax. (I’m supposed to have faith in your state of the art reproductive technology yet you won’t accept my emailed application?  No thanks… )

I loved my new RE.  He was a wealth of information.  He was encouraging.  He was never too busy for questions. He was up on the latest technology.  He never let me lose hope.

He eventually got me pregnant.

 

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:

These days it’s much easier to choose an RE thanks to a great new website called Fertility IQ.  You can use this site to research the clinics and REs in your area.  These are verified reviews from people who have actually used the clinics/RE’s.  I have submitted my reviews and I urge others to do the same OR to use this resource when choosing their RE.  I’ve heard so many horror stories of bad RE’s – especially from single women.  Fertility IQ will help you avoid them.   Incidentally, I am not affiliated with them, merely think it’s a service that everyone should know about!