Revving Gently

The effect of immersing Harry in a mainstream peer group has been fairly apparent. The ‘Neh-neh-ne-NEH-neh’ derisory hum – you know the one – suddenly emerged in his limited musical repertoire, and the day is punctuated by frequent utterances of ‘Why’ and ‘What’s dat?’. We get into a stickyish loop with ‘what’s dat?’ in particular, because he hasn’t yet acquired the vocabulary to do justice to his thoughts, and finds it easier to extend a conversation by simply repeating it ad-nearly-infinitum. However, having the ‘What’s dat, Mummy?’ conversation when he first wandered into the kitchen and found me jabbing needles in myself was a bit of a trial, and I was eventually obliged to tell him that Mummy was poorly and needed medicine.

Which isn’t exactly untrue: I eventually bared my poor suffering tonsils in mute appeal at our practice’s seemingly permanent locum young GP early today – he seems to have flowered a fair bit since the hip-dysplasia-Googling incident – who asked me lots of questions about heartburn, said throat appeared ok-ish really (and it does, I’ve looked. How can there be so much pain and so little inflammation!?), recommended salt gargling, doubted that an infection was still hanging on in there after this length of time, but cheerfully slid a prescription for amoxycillin across the desk anyway. Hellloooo green crap and thrush! I stoutly denied heartburn to him, but now I’m actually sat down, I realise that I do, in fact, have it slightly. Hmm.

Today’s scan went well: my left ovary has emerged from whatever ligament it was cowering behind, and has achieved glorious parity with my right; I have 7 follicles on each side that are starting to edge shyly into the teens. I had bloods taken on Monday that apparently decreed that I should stay throttled back at 225IU Gonal F per day; they are tentatively talking about retrieval next Monday. I am on course, they feel, to beat my previous egg record (10, of which 9 fertilised). There will be triumphant clucking from the Hairy henhouse if I find 12 or more in the nesting petri-dish when I wake up, and indignant squawks if I don’t.

I have just commented to John about my memory of him – quite spontaneously – reassuring me as soon as I’d woken up from egg retrieval: that they had managed to snare 10 eggs. ‘It wouldn’t have entered my bleary head to think about it that soon after coming round, but I was really grateful to know!’

John, with a level stare, ‘You asked about it 35 times in the first minute. And several times a minute for the next 35 minutes. Then you told me about something at work you hadn’t done. Then repeated it again. And then some more. Then you started asking about the eggs again.’


Fun times coming for him on Monday, then.

Mine Goes Up To Eleven

S’gone 11pm. I think, as a consequence, we’re on bullet points.

  • The weather has been delightful. I have spent this week making a wedding cake. The very-wondrous-indeed TwangyPearl sent me a picture she had drawn. Harry has been a chatterbox. I have not felt overly hormonal this week. All these things are excellent, and I have been Cheerful.
  • I have had a sore throat, followed by a chest infection, for well over a month. I am so used to my GP telling me that things’ll get better by themselves in a few days, that for the first fortnight I didn’t even think of consulting him. The third week I began to get exceeedingly cross, and mutter about taking absurdly expensive prenatal vitamins in order to get myself into the peak of reproductive health when I am also unable to swallow without groaning, and so utterly wiped out by the collateral germ burden that I am unable to function past 9pm at night. The fourth week it sank into my chest, and I have coughed up things that really belong back in the primordial swamp. I have seriously considered antibiotics this last few days, but really, I asked myself, how much longer can it last before my white blood cells pony up and recognise the goddamn villain, FFS? They can spot an embryo as an imposter the moment the poor thing lights onto my endometrium like a worried butterfly, it seems, but can they spot galloping plague when they encounter it? No! Bloody things. Anyway, I was convinced yesterday that I was feeling a tiny tad better. Which lasted until about 8pm last night, when John, Harry and I all fell victim to an entirely NEW germ, which has left us all feeling bleurgh.
  • It is our 7th wedding anniversary today. We have cancelled our looked-forward to lunch at posh restaurant, because John was hot and achey and I was cold and achey, and also: my nose is now the never-ending porridge pot of mucus production. Booooo.
  • I have interviews for full-time jobs later this week. I do not want full-time work, really, but I can’t work from home a moment longer, either, so something has to give. There’s too much else going on all the time for me to work productively, plus the work I was doing for an old outfit of mine has come to a natural hiatus. So, I have still been pottering about happily selling my cards, and although I enjoy having my own business project, I just can’t maintain the drive and application that you need to make a significant sales success. Time was: I could do it, liked it, and was manically busy enough to stay thin into the bargain. I was single then. Now, everything is… harder. Shinier. More distracting. Consequently, I have been looking for Something Different that A) I will enjoy, B) will not tax the aforementioned drive and application too hard and C) that stays at work when I come home. These jobs tend not to come in family-friendly hours, nor do they overly pay well, but I am in a compromising mood currently. IVF bills do that to a girl.
  • This afternoon, while feeling grotty, I also began to lose mood-(hormonal?)altitude. I then burnt my fingers on the oven, and I have blisters and feel sorry for myself, AND my mouth is all swollen and ulcered for some reason AND my tongue has a sore on the very tip of it. Wahhhh!
  • Apropos, it is time for me to learn how to stop continually swearing like a pirate. This week, Harry has parrotted both ‘shit’ and ‘bloody’. Eeep.
  • IVF is going stonkingly, except that when I went for a day 6 scan yesterday morning, the new-to-ultrasounding-my-innards sister on duty couldn’t find my left ovary at all. Vamoosed. Lord Lucaned. Dissolved. My right ovary, on the other hand, had eleven follicles on it, so I have been told to reduce my dose a little to avoid over-stimming. (ME! Over-stimulating! Jesus H Christ.) At least, I think I have eleven. The ultrasound machine had a Funny and there was a little confusion regarding precisely whose print-out of follicle measurements I was given, but I’m going back tomorrow for a planned search party to locate my left ovary and perform a re-count in any event. I have no problem in believing that it is currently concealed so well because it is dead as a doornail and producing nada.
  • I wonder if having one duff ovary and one sprightly one would give me a weird AMH result?
  • As I was completing my first pituitary-coshing stomach injection today, John wandered into the kitchen. A brief expostulation in re: men-have-it-easy ensued. John demurred. ‘We have to wank into a pot under very difficult circumstances!’ (Untested for several years, John was recently obliged to comply with their demand to double-check that things à la testes were still Going Swimmingly. He complained feelingly about the diminished quality of the in-house porn, saying that the magazines were all FHM/Maxim-type publications. ‘It’s all very well having a girl on one page, but there’s usually a bloody footballer on the other!’) I enquired frostily whether poor-quality porn was the entire tally of his reproductive troubles, and he replied roundly that it was not: apparently the only chair in the room is ridiculously, absurdly and unstoppably squeaky. I suggested he take in some WD40 on egg retrieval day and repair it, before it struck me that the waiting room at large might put a rather different interpretation on a chap sauntering into Andrology carrying industrial lubricant under his arm.
  • Speaking of injections: the Gonal F is the usual tiny needle and, although the pre-filled drug cartridge is fiddly to dose-load, it’s a straightforward enough jab into the leg. The Cetrotide is a traditional syringe-and-separate-vial arrangement, although the needle provided is an off-putting inch and a half long, wider-bore, goes right into the belly, and itches like a proper bugger afterwards. Dissolving the powdered drug into the solution is not a task for the impatient, either.
  • Specialist in recurrent miscarriage I saw a couple of weeks back – the Professor – was a delightful lady whom I took to enormously. She said hello, told me she’d been reading my file – and promptly face-planted her desk in wry despair and said that she wasn’t sure how much help she could be. Ahh, lady! You’re a realist! She agreed that, in my recalcitrant case, just throwing everything they have at me (although no mention of steroids: I obviously don’t fit her research model) is the way forward. Aspirin and heparin remain our weapons of choice, with lots of added progesterone in the first trimester.  She heard my tale of under-supported stress, worry and woe from my pregnancy with Harry sympathetically, and offered to be my obstetrician for any subsequent pregnancies. I nodded keenly. So: I have a Professor to hold my hand. That will probably do.

I Hear The Blues A’Callin

Some of you may be aware of the consternation generally experienced by a hen who has been given duck eggs to hatch, when her pseudo-chicks plunge happily toward water and leave her clucking on the bank. I have a vaguely similar feeling myself, in that things should not be happening this way. Something has gone subtly, dischordantly wrong. I am, in short, feeling quite repulsively sorry for myself.

I was planning to have a last-ditch month-long brutal weight-loss prior to IVF. Well, that was before they put my sorry carcase on Loestrin. I have eaten, scoffed, munched, snacked, foraged, nibbled, scarfed, gobbled, bolted, devoured and gorged myself to a half-stone weight gain. In a month. The reason I have not exploded through sheer Mr Creosote-like excess is… actually, there IS no reason, and I’m not altogether sure why I haven’t popped like a light-sabred Tauntaun. I still may!

In the rare intervals that my mouth has been empty enough of food to frame speech, I have also been complaining of continuing and unpleasant nausea – which may sound a little peculiar after my description of the everlasting convoy of provender leaving the fridge, but, for the love of God, don’t dare question me on it, because I may just offer to send you home in an ambulance. Pal.

I am, frankly, unbearable. Shrieking harpy simply doesn’t do me justice, and I would even like to be further away from myself. The slightest reverse can alter me, toute de suite, from a cheerful being to a murderously revengeful maniac. This is not helped by the fact that my brain cogs appear to be struggling against an application of what feels like particularly viscous treacle. 

I was reduced to tears of frustration and fury… actually, several times this week, but the most galling and humiliating instance was when I absolutely couldn’t figure out how long to roast a chicken for. 20 mins per 500g, plus 20 mins = I understood. The chicken weighed 1.35kg = I understood. And… I stalled. I stood there for a number of minutes, staring hard at the label, my mind freewheeling helplessly on the slippiness of the maths, trying and failing unhappily to hook even a single mental cog into a multiplication notch. Eventually I gave up on precision, and, by guestimating on my fingers, worked out that 75 minutes would obviate both food poisoning and carbonisation, but I was still frustrated that I couldn’t work it out. I peered again at the label, which, most unreasonably, hadn’t changed to provide any clearer instructions. I even directed a particularly poisonous glare at the chicken, the architect of my misery. I tried 20 x 1.35 /100.  I tried .33 x 135 x 100. I tried 40 x 100/1350. I tried, in fact, any combination of numbers I could think of that might bear some vague connection to the dimensions and cooking time of this cursed fucking chicken, with zero, zero idea of just what the bloody hell I was playing at.

Now, all my nearest and dearest will tell you that I am abnormally poor at mathematics (my very nearest and dearest is getting himself started on a OU physics degree, however, so you must take into account the wild discrepancy in our respective abilities) but even I can, on a good day, with a following wind, figure out that if you divide 1350g by 500g, you get 2.7. Multiply that by 20mins and you get 54 minutes. Add another 20 minutes and you have 74 minutes. It’s a calculation I regularly follow in order to cook meat. My brain, in its current state of addled imbecility, could not even begin to scale these unsurmountable peaks of calculus, so I simply sobbed with diffuse shame and rage into the potato peelings instead. And when John, upon arriving home and hearing of my personal Hodge Conjecture at full-blast, was unwise enough to actually attempt to instruct me on the correct calculation to use… well. I had to go and have a quiet sit down; or as close an approximation to quiet as one can have in any building that also contains our son.

If I was taking this hell-potion drug purely for anti-reproductive purposes, I would, naturally, shove it up someone’s arse request a change of prescription. It’s bloody useless. I was 12 hours late taking the thing a few days back, and I am now paying for it with breakthrough bleeding (Yay! More bleeding! After a whole fortnight off!). I also had what looked suspiciously like very fertile *ahem* mucus a week ago, although I’m assuming that not even the low-dose pill could be quite that inadequate – not when faced with my mighty ovaries of puissance and potency! As it is, I have 5 more pills to take. I reckon I can stagger as far as Friday, if I can just avoid being jugged for some fearful temper-lapse involving both my hormones and a blunt instrument. 

To compound my self-pity issues, I have a tonsil infection which has laid me holistically and grumblingly low for the best part of a week, and has progressed to Sneezing. I am also proding my lymph nodes morbidly, Googling toxoplasmosis, and cursing myself for a pillock, as, with the kind of impulse-control I deplore in my offspring but limply condone in myself, I went into a lambing pen and delivered a labouring ewe of a vaguely troublesome second lamb earlier this week. It was a decision borne of nothing more than seeing a ewe who, having got as far as expelling the head inside an unburst membrane, wasn’t doing much else – and wanting to help. I like lambing. I like the happy lambings, anyway. John was only in the other shed, and was easily summonable. The ewe, come to that, wasn’t particularly distressed. It wasn’t urgent. I just… yeah. Climbed over the fence.

I had forgotten how startlingly and pleasantly warm the … ahh… shall we simply say ‘innards’ (or Google will punish me with endless profferings of the depraved, especially in conjunction with my ‘cursed fucking chicken’ back in paragraph 5) of a sheep are when you have bloody cold fingers on a chilly Spring morning. The lamb had a leg back, which was what was delaying matters, and when I’d corrected the presentation, the ewe would likely have got on with things herself very shortly, but I pulled the lamb for her to save her the effort, and also for the sheer pleasure of seeing the little creature start its life. I deposited him in front of the ewe’s nose as soon as I’d pulled him out, and cleaned some of the fluid away from his head with a wisp of hay. He duly did the decent thing and began to breathe, which is behaviour I always approve of in a newborn. Mrs Ewe seemed chuffed with events, judged by her low-pitched chuckles, and bestowed an enthusiastic licking. I felt in no hurry to move, despite the fact that I was soaked to the knee in blood and amniotic fluid, and by the time John came along to see where I’d disappeared to, I was experimentally squirting a very satisfactory jet of milk out of her udder, and dragging lamb number 1, who had been rather neglected during the appearance of his younger sibling, towards that part of his mother that was serving the drinks. I had even, as John remarked, managed not to leave my unregarded wedding rings (designed flat & smooth for just this sort of eventuality) inside the sheep. Result.

Well, my hands  had a good dose of iodine – accidentally, I might add, it’s dreadful staining stuff – and I was very conscientious with the nailbrush and handgel, and washing my clothes. I don’t deserve toxo after that, and I’m sure my risk is no more enhanced than it already is, but I haven’t deserved the previous 4 miscarriages either, and life’s not like that. 

On the recurrent miscarriage topic, I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon with this Consultant, who has just started a research project based at my clinic and the local university. I have naturally Googled the living hell out of her, and Ooooh, look what she’s done!

A study to investigate the vasculature of the uterine endometrium artery blood flow in women with idiopathic recurrent pregnancy loss.

I shall have Much To Say. I feel for the person booked for the appointment after mine. However, I have a nasty feeling that she is going to set out her medical wares concerning steroid treatment for RPL, which I believe is being trialled on a larger-scale than previously. I’m not over-keen A) on what I’ve learnt about steroids so far and B) in participating in a randomised double-blind trial, because the prospect of injecting placebos on top of jabbing myself with gonadotrophins, cetrotide AND the wide-bore-needle-heparin doesn’t quite enthrall me. But I shall go in with an open-ish mind, nevertheless, because the possibility of this IVF not working at all is looming hellish large in both John and I’s minds, and I think the time for hokey woo-woo remedies, let alone NHS-sponsored Experimentals, may not be far off. Paying out thousands of pounds (I have taken delivery of both my drugs

and my credit card bill

) does tend to put the pressure on, rather.

I rejoiced vicariously for Liz at Womb for Improvement when she recently had a stunning 21 eggs retrieved, of which 12 fertilised, most of which went on to make significantly better quality 3-day embryos than any of my paltry 10 eggs (my 2006 IVF) did. She now has two very likely-looking candidates on board, with which I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing her the very best of luck; none of her ‘spares’ made it through to freezing. And this has brought it hard home to me that if we pin our hopes on a single blastocyst transfer, how very unlikely it is that we will have anything left to freeze. I completely get the argument for the extra couple of days of petri-dish maturation to blastocyst. None of my 4 transferred IVF embryos – 3 of which stuck around, albeit briefly – made it, which implies that either A) I clotted & killed ’em all or B) they were genetic mince.

For those of you who are, happily, clueless about all this esoteric gubbins: a fertilised egg (hopefully!) develops into a 4-10 celled embryo in 2-3 days. It’s difficult for the most eagle-eyed embryologist to predict at this stage which ones are most viable, hence the traditional Each-Way hedged betting – and replacement of a small assiette of the best embryos at the less-than-10-cells stage. After another couple of days, the embryo develops into what is termed a blastocyst, of about 120 cells – or, equally likely, turns up its toes altogether. The rationale behind a single blastocyst transfer is that an embryo which has failed to reach the blastocyst stage would be unlikely to have resulted in a pregnancy anyway, and a blastocyst gives a rather better idea of the competence of an embryo and has a higher chance of implantation than an earlier embryo. However, embryos of a significant percentage of patients will not develop into blastocysts. Which is not necessarily to say they were all genetic mince: a petri dish does have its maternal limitations.

I very much want to avoid transferring genetically scrambled eggs. Tiresome, tiresome, tiresome. Pain, angst, et-miserable-cetera. With a fair dollop of cognitive dissonance, I also very much want to have something to transfer, damnit! I am grimly contemplating the thought of paying All. This. Money. in order to struggle horribly to stim my poor ovaries, have a bare handful of eggs retrieved, and for all of them to lose the will to live on day 4 and die a sad and bitterly expensive death. 

P.S. Harry waved very nicely indeed to the Queen. This is the best photo I managed: jeer at my photography skills at will. Harry was so grief-stricken, though, at having no flag ‘No flad, Mummy. Sad! Me had flad? Me, Harry Hairy, had flad? Teeez?’ to wave, that I was obliged to purchase a Union Jack for him, and wait the 3 blasted hours until she left so that he could wave it at her. He now points her out excitedly on every coin, note and stamp he sees, and wants to go and visit her in her palace in London. If anyone reading can swing this one for him, I will, of course, add you to my Christmas card list AND you can have any of my left-over blastocysts. Apparently they don’t freeze well.

Feed Me, Seymour

I’m on day… what… 13? of the low-dose pill, and I have rather fallen out of love with it.

I stopped bleeding only this morning; the cramping continues, and I feel that a fortnight’s (moderate yet nastily persistent) pain and generalised discomfort is a trifle excessive. Low dosage hormones, it seems, are woefully inadequate for holding my wilful endocrine system in check. Not man enough for the job.

Loestrin is a TM175

 when I evidently require a T9040.

Although there’s definitely an argument for not bringing something that big and beefy anywhere near me at present, because I am liable, Hungry Caterpillar-style, to devour it.

The last two weeks? If it moves: I have eaten it. And its friend. And damn near the plate it was sat on, too.

And it’s a funny thing, but I’ve spent half the time complaining about acute nausea, too. You know, in between the continual snacks I keep inadvertently making for myself. 

So, what with indefatigable cramping, unassuageable hunger and abiding nausea, it’s exactly like being pregnant sans the demented agitation. All the fun of the fair!

God alone knows what hormonal uprising is taking place in there, but I am refusing point-blank to worry about it. I will turn up for my baseline scan in 18 days and simply make wry faces at them if I have plumped up follicles; I once grew a lustrous 20mm one during supposed pituitary downregulation, so anything is possible.

I’m actually quite excited at the whole prospect of this cycle, when I’m not being overly-cognitive or Han Solo about it. I am peeved that there isn’t a prospect of – or at least, a great deal of point to – making repeated assays with my beloved peesticks: I have ordered a trigger shot of 10,000 mIU of hCG that will bugger the playing field right up for them. Waiting on the vaguaries of a nurse’s workload to deliver quantitative beta results is not quite My Thing, though, primarily because I am a savage control freak and hanging about for phone calls that never arrive when they are promised is anathema to my stress levels. I am also aware that my clinic, although kind, clever and industrious people, are, like all their NHS infertility compadres, patently very overworked; as a result, they are quite spectacularly and monumentally dreadful at answering the goddamn bastard pissing motherfucking phone. This was bitter vexation to me when the NHS was picking up our treatment tab 5 years ago; the issue has become noticeably worse since then – and now, just for good measure, piling insult onto fiscal injury. I would rather pay a little more, I think, in order to be irritated a little less.

Rapidly changing the subj., before I lose my calm: the Queen is coming to Stratford tomorrow to reopen the Royal Shakespeare Theatre,


which has been a tedious and untidy time a-rebuilding.

She is going on a walkabout afterwards, and Harry’s school have been offered places in the goat rodeo crowd of posy-profferers. It was probably the thought of committing to a long wait with an attention-span-challenged 3 yr old that put me off – but there is also the mildly alarming thought of the inevitable lèse majesté that Harry would doubtless attempt to commit. Harry is a lightning-quick and tenacious Confirmed Cuddler – and sticky bears are ninepence. The royal apparel would likely suffer.

I think we shall proceed unofficially to a less favoured but rather more relaxed position along Waterside, and content ourselves with waving. Unless the antiquated treasure that is the Duke of Edinburgh wanders our way, of course, in which case I shall elbow down to the front, as he is one of the few people whose utterances I hang on with almost as much delight as Harry’s – albeit with a slightly different sensation during.

If they lock us up for accidental treason tomorrow, you’ll hear about it in more places than here.

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