Half Life

There is, without a doubt, something going on in there.

My left uterus is making a proper old grumbly fuss.

Annnnd so, to a lesser extent, is my right.

It absolutely feels as if my period is likely to kick off any minute; I keep scurrying nervously to the toilet.

A few days of that sensation, sans blood, is what normally sends me to my peesticks. They are usually positive.

I have POAS for the last 5 days (What?! What?! I needed a control group!) and the 10,000 mIU hCG trigger shot I took 8 days ago has dwindled from Initially Not Very Dark Anyway (at what must have been at least several hundred mIU. WTF, 10mIU Innernet Cheapy Sticks?) to Practically Invisible for the last two days. Like: utterly unphotographable-type invisible. Nothing I can read about Pregnyl’s half life quite accounts for this, but anyhoo, my system is evidently fairly free of it, and any subsequent stick-darkening will be… well, absurdly inconclusive, but it won’t stop me trying. 

I hate this bit.

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Bête Noir

‘Well’, said John thoughtfully. ‘It’s impregnation, after all, so it seems appropriate that someone should work up a sweat at some point.’

Sadly for my Consultant this morning: it was him.

Ehh. It didn’t go well. In fact, it damn nearly didn’t go at all.

Let me remind you, firstly, of my uterus didelphys anatomical layout.

I have spoken before about the morphing of the geography of my two neat cervixes, from a double-one domino appearance

to a giant, baby-dilated cyclops that renders all other cervi effectively invisible. Cyclops-cervix belongs – of course – to my right-hand, Harry-housed uterus, i.e., the one we have spent thousands of pounds on IVF to avoid conceiving in. Although my consultant said she found the small one ok when I was under sedation for my lap, my local practice nurse certainly can’t see it anymore, and neither can my GP. Today: my altered topography caused horrendous problems.

It started off well: I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I spotted the Consultant on duty; I had been terribly anxious that I’d encounter a rookie, but I recognised one of the very senior chaps and relaxed immediately. There was also good news about my blastocysts – 2 of them were simply surging ahead, and measuring 2CC and 1CC respectively – although the embryologist hastened to assure me that the ‘CC’ was merely because they were still forming, and by the time they actually got around to replacing 2CC – hours later – it had moved on nicely to become, and I quote, ‘beautiful’. I was also insufferably smug to learn – with the best will in the world, curtains are impossible not to overhear through – that, of all the Monday retrievals, I had the most advanced blastocysts in the ward; everyone else had piddly compaction-or-cavitating ones. I have, until now, had zero opportunity to put on dog regarding any kind of reproductive triumph, so I lay back on the bed and basked in my petri-dish prowess.

I was last into theatre, because they know I’m their bête noir. I went in feeling fairly reassured: I had discussed with Senior Chap the importance of PATIENT’S LEFT LEFT LEFT NOT RIGHT – and I knew I had a good consultant, a good embryologist, and the nurse was the same lovely soul who had rubbed my leg consolingly during my 2006 IVF transfer. (And exclaimed in wonder ‘Oh God! Look at that!’ when she was shown my domino cervi by my then-consultant. I remember the exclamation kindly, she still remembers it with pronounced guilt for the unguarded comment, apparently, poor lass.)

Even with a good team, it was still bloody awful. Speculum after swab after probe after catheter. The consultant, a sincerely delightful and lovely man, was profusely apologetic for the ordeal-by-FordCortina-sized-speculum he was putting me through.  He scurried out of the theatre twice to obtain obscure gynae instruments. I was tilted head-down at an angle which kicked off acute oesophageal acid indigestion to add to my woes. Embryo transfer generally takes a little upwards of 10 minutes; at the end of an hour I was still there, tipped-up, strapped in, occupied, covered in ultrasound gel, and endeavouring to sustain small talk with the nurse and embryologist, who had taken up station on either side and were making profoundly sympathetic and encouraging noises to me. I could feel he was being careful – I have encountered more speculum drivers than most – but after an hour, my insides felt pretty damn punished.

I was agitatedly aware that Harry, currently being fed a slap-up fried breakfast in the hospital canteen – alright for some – was becoming absurdly late for his very-time-dependent Grandparent playdate. I was sinkingly aware that the nursing staff had expected to have everyone blast-transferred and departed by 10am, and it was now well gone 11am. I was inescapably aware that my insides were Presenting A Big Problem. Stress City.

Eventually, Consultant called time for tea and biscuits bladder relief, as he was horribly conscious that I’d been keen to go before I went in. He assisted me off the contraption they term a ‘bed’, explained again the difficulties he was having, and that we’d have a short break for a re-think – but that general sedation was looking a likely option. I had no idea quite when he was thinking of knocking me out, but I was fairly certain he didn’t have a tame anaesthetist in his back pocket on Saturday morning, and Monday morning would be Day 7. All sorts could happen by Day 7.

I trudged off despondently for a painful pee ‘don’t worry if there’s a little bit of blood!’ and sat there, groaning gently. Just my luck. A great blastocyst, but no way to get the bugger back in.

5 minutes later, we all trooped back in for another go. My stoicism and endurance were praised (although I’m always sadly suspicious of that sort of compliment. What else are they supposed to say: For the love o’God woman, will you not stop flinching and ouching? Do you WANT this bloody baby or not?) and I was strapped back in. Tipped up even further. More lights. More equipment. More, I sincerely hope, overtime pay for the 3 poor souls who were spending a glorious Saturday morning struggling with my recalcitrant goddamn cervix.

Eventually – about 90 minutes after I’d first walked in – there was progress. A dummy catheter had already been inserted through Cyclops to clearly mark it as out of the running, and now a second catheter had been successfully passed into a second cervical os. This os was apparently discovered partially within the outer circle of Cyclops and initially looked unlikely, as the two catheters seemed to run too closely side by side – but then the new catheter took a sharp turn to the right. The ultrasound must then have picked it up in the correct place, as there was suddenly a palpable carnival atmosphere, and the embryologist scurried off to fetch 2cc – which we have, of course, christened Turbo.

Turbo then managed to get retained in the catheter first time around (John later attributed this to its rapidly-increasingly girth) and needed another rinse through before taking up – I pray – residence in the correct place, at the correct time. I was finally ushered back to bed by my mightily relieved Consultant – he even dived for my slippers, replaced them on my feet, bounded up to Harry – tummy down on my bed, waving his feet in the air, watching his iPod –  shook his hand, asked him all about his shark t-shirt, and took our drinks order. Kind Nurse ate even further into her unexpectedly-extended working morning by bringing said drinks, and letting Harry choose 3 whole packets of NHS biscuits. He liked her. Embryologist came to say goodbye and good luck; we’ll hear from her again Monday.

When the NHS gets it right, it really does get it right. 

I feel a thank-you card coming on – probably with a picture of John Wayne on the front, as that’s who I left the unit walking like.

And now: we wait.

The Game’s Afoot

Ye Gods, I’m on fire with this blogging business. Me again! Feeling rather a lot better today, thank you; I’ve been out for a little drive and, importantly, tackled some laundry before the family trouser situation became sub-critical. I might even have vacuumed the pot of gold tooth-destroyers dragees that Harry had previously knocked over the kitchen floor, but John beat me to it early this morning, and promptly broke the Dyson. (Or, at least: he was the designated operative when it ceased to function – which is generally a sufficiency to have me blamed for causing mechanical disasters.) The smell of twin-cyclone putrefaction wafted up the stairs to where I, still cowering under the duvet, emerged like a Bisto kid 

to smell the expense. This Dyson’s had more retirements than Sinatra. After a prolonged, luvvie-like expiration some months ago – I feel a sock-snaffling incident was an eventual catalyst – John finally took it apart and replaced everything customer-replaceable. It was pleasingly restored in wind and limb and we have had trouble-tree dust extraction – until the motor entered a plea of nolle prosequi this morning. I declared its demise on BaceFook, but it appears I was premature: John has ordered a new motor, and is planning to raise it from the dead early next week. Zombyson may yet continue.

I am enormously grateful for all your support, and am hugely appreciative of your concern. I puffy-heart the internet, or some such phrase; you are all invited for high tea and cake, in any event. (Or does high tea already include cake? I’m never sure. I must go back to my Blyton to check.) I have duly taken note of the popularity of Harry’s bon mots, and started to record some of his more comical utterances. I’ve been meaning to write a post on his improved speech for ages, but the camcorder footage I shot is… um… still on the camcorder. It’s coming, honest. The post and his speech both. Suffice to say: this week we have really hit the ‘why?’ and ‘what’s that?’ stage. I am a little boggle-eyed, and it’s not all OHSS pressure.

Anyway. The embryos! Are doing very well. All 9 have moved on from Wednesday. Day 4: we have one 7-cell and one 8-cell; the others are all showing signs of compaction (first stage of blastocyst) or beyond. Two of them have gone a step further and are cavitating. I made delighted noises at the embryologist, although, until I internetted, I had only the foggiest notion of her meaning. I expressed bright hopes regarding spare freezables, but although she conceded we were doing well, she didn’t want to be drawn, as apparently only 10% of cycles have good-quality blastocysts to freeze.

(I would, incidentally, like to type ‘blasts’, because I’m not the world’s best typist and abbreviation is always easier. But if I give ground on ‘blasts’, then it means the thin end of the wedge for ’embies’ – and at that point, I will have to fall on my sword.)

I am taking the best back on board at 9am tomorrow. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more…when the blast of war blows in our ears, then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood – and make damn sure the doctor aims for the correct fucking uterus.

Malaise

I am so, so thoroughly cheesed off with illness.

Harry, the sorry little soul, having crusted the last of his chicken pox blisters, has promptly come down with the most godawful cold, and is propped up next to me on the sofa, as fast asleep as it’s possible to be while coughing, choking and wheezing every few seconds. The child is rotten poorly, and directly after the tribulations of chicken pox: deserve this, he does not. 

Anti-histamine delivered no benefit regarding his chicken pox rash – possibly the reverse – and a particular lowlight of last weekend was the long hour he spent inconsolable, emitting continual thin, tearing screams of distress, hysterically attacking his own itches and fighting us off whenever we tried to approach him. We knew what was exacerbating his illness and fever – extreme exhaustion and sensory overload – but working out what to do about it was awful problematic. I ended up fleeing, shamelessly leaving John to it, and departed to sob in the kitchen for a while, because there was absolutely nothing I could do for him. Maternal function return: void.

Eventually, his exhaustion won, and he submitted, first to giving his bleary attention to endless repeats of his ‘Bouncy Fun’ Pingu DVD, and subsequently to sleep. He awoke in the small hours, blessedly cooler and calmer, and immediately spotted me lying on the airbed in front of his sofa-sickbed. He insisted on wriggling inside my cocoon of duvet, and was naturally delighted with the discovery that airbeds go boiINngg. The rest of the night is a confused and semi-conscious un-fun memory of Pingu and bouncing, both off- and on-screen.

I wish I had my child’s powers of recovery – although he’s welcome to keep his susceptible immune system; it took me 30 years to harden mine off slightly. I am in roughly the same state I was in Tuesday morning, albeit able to move a little easier. Given that I hadn’t improved much, I dutifully trotted off to hospital yesterday. John did his best to avoid the bumps, but it’s 31 miles there, and I hung on the Jesus-strap the entire way, howling dolefully whenever the tarmac became more corrugated than usual. The last time I did that – well, apart from returning home last Monday – was when I was in reasonably advanced labour. Out of those three journeys, I’m not sure which I’d rank worst.

Cut a long story short: I have OHSS (quel surprise) and a bonus added extra: a UTI. I suppose being dehydrated to the point of brown pee (I kid you not: it was quite a sight) can do that to a girl. I was revolted and horrified by the gynae ward’s method of obtaining urine samples: you are sent off to the toilet, which serves a dozen or more beds, and told to leave your named pot of urine on the floor by the toilet for the nurse to collect. I have a reasonably high tolerance to grot, but that exceeded my comfort zone by several miles. When I immediately questioned the (senior) nurse on the practice, when being presented with my pot + instructions, she told me defensively that they were very busy on that ward, and that was just how they did things. When I emerged from the bathroom, having been treated to the edifying sight of someone else’s heavily, heavily bloodsmeared pot of piss sat at my cringing feet, I complained to a (junior) nurse, who assured me she would scurry off to collect them straightaway. I hope the unlucky woman got there before some other poor bugger kicked them over and trod in it all. If there was a little box, or special shelf, or just SOMETHING designed for the purpose in the toilet, I can see how it might improve infection control and cleanliness, but a little collection of repellent (gynae ward, people) pots of piss underfoot is not how I expect things to be done. Harrumph.

Anyhoo. I’m taking my antibiotics. I’m making a mess of my underwear with progesterone pessaries. I’m trying to rest.

The embryos are doing OK. As of yesterday afternoon, there are nine that are still going strong; of those nine: seven are at the expected 4-cell stage, one is a 5-cell, and one is a 6-cell. Four of them are Grade 2, the rest are Grade 3. (1 excellent, 2 good, 3 average, etc, 6 worst) The industrious 6-cell is one of the Grade 2s, so I am already thinking approvingly of it, and planning which grammar school I should put down. They all went into blastocyst culture yesterday afternoon, and I will hear again from the embryologist tomorrow afternoon.

I have been chewing my lip a bit at the prospect of becoming pregnant – on past data, I am rather expecting IVF to succeed temporarily, at least* – and finding that my OHSS becomes severe again. Linked, as it is, directly to levels of hCG, (see, I’ve read up on OHSS now. I know it’s triggered by the… well, the trigger shot… and everything) I am fairly apprehensive of returning to the state I was in Monday evening, in a couple of week’s time. Do Not Want, etc. They shove a drain in your abdomen if it gets bad bad – which I would have welcomed, sans anaesthesia, with open arms and an eagerly exposed expanse of belly on Monday night. Eeep.

*an expectation equivalent to wearing wet copper armour and shouting ‘all gods are bastards’ on a stormy hilltop; I know, I know.

But! But! It generally resolves after the end of the first trimester: hollow hurrah! Right about the time my other pregnancy symptoms would be receding: I am a confirmed sufferer of the nausée-fatigue-misérable type until about week 14. A ridiculously colourful cocktail of Hell, No! in short.

But there’s nowt much I can do about it, so I shall continue to chew my lip, look anxious, and try to bloody well get better. Which task would be made a damn sight easier if our poor unlucky child was a little better at dodging germs, and able to go to nursery.

At present, Harry wants to be either a doctor or a hairdresser when he grows up, having been in contact with both types of professionals recently. He’s already a mean hand with scissors, but we don’t think much of his bedside manner yet.

In the bath with John, upon spying a (innocent) red mark on his leg, in a quietly satisfied tone. ‘Daddy! You’ve got chicken pox.’

Upon being shown that Mummy had a poorly, swollen tummy that was too full of water, in awed tones: ‘Yes! It’s enormous!’

Which Would You Like First?

The good news: 14 eggs. 11 fertilised normally, with one further one showing ‘faint’ partial indicators of fertilisation. They are Pleased, and going for blastocyst culture.  

The bad news: I have developed OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome) and have spent an exceptionally wretched half-day and night, before recovering significantly this morning. I didn’t realise you could develop OHSS after retrieval, and so spent the night wondering fearfully what the hell was wrong with my innards, and just what on earth this whole can’t-breathe-properly thing was about.

I managed to faint after staggering to the bog yesterday afternoon, coming round – damply – on the floor of our ensuite, which I subsequently made a promise to myself to clean far, far more often. It was an elbows-and-knees trip to the bedroom phone to summon assistance back into bed – where John had installed me earlier in the day, rather less ill, and sleeping off what we supposed was sedation-after-effects, before trotting off with Poxy (who was very poorly indeed over the weekend, now greatly improved) to farm.

I have to confess, whilst lying on the bedroom floor struggling to dial for help, I wondered if my time had come. I did feel so awfully, awfully wretched. ‘You’ve only fainted, you fool!’ roared the sensible half of me in disdainful contempt, whilst the other half merely whimpered and worried what the funeral director would think of me for being lightly urine-soaked and wearing only my oldest, most moth-chewed Wallace and Gromit t-shirt. It’s not quite how I pictured myself going, somehow.

John supervised my return to bed, medicated me with pain-killers, attempted to hydrate me – which I neglected to drink, purely because it hurt to extend my arm as far as the bedside table, and then proceeded to twiddle his thumbs while looking nonplussed. Although meaning as well as the next husband, John can’t really be bothered with nursing poorly people; he evidently feels quite sorry for the Wifey plight, but these feelings are battling against his fundamental belief that pain is simply weakness leaving the body, and a decent bracing jog up and down our hill would do me no end of good. Having googled OHSS, and realising that one could – and probably had – develop it post-retrieval, he became a little worried over my breathing difficulties, and proceeded to exhort me to Drink Water and Walk About; I am obediently trying to comply.

When my clinic got around to ringing me back from my message this morning (you have to leave a message. My clinic Does Not Answer telephones, the under-funded, infuriating buggers) the nurse told me that lots of ladies have these symptoms after retrieval, and I shouldn’t assume I have OHSS, and how many eggs had I produced, and how did I really feel now? I was irritatingly reminded of the midwife who told me I was mistaking Harry’s skipped heartbeats for my own abdominal sounds (yes, yes, she really did say that) and I weakly huffed stroppily at her (which I had no right to do, because I knew I was ill almost as soon as I came round from yesterday’s sedation, and should totally have either not left the unit at all, or re-admitted myself last night to the emergency gynae ward, but the thought of another sat-upright jolty 30-mile car-ride was utterly unthinkable, and I was absolutely buggered if I was calling an ambulance) that I was/had been in acute pain, producing brown urine, extremely short of breath, ribs were being forced outwards by the pressure of my incredibly distended abdomen, and my shoulders both hurt like billy-o.

She conceded that I did, indeed, have classic-sounding OHSS, which satisfied me, and said she would like to have me looked at. However, as I would far rather be ill at home than hospital, and as I am feeling decidedly more human this morning, and as I can now move around in/out of bed without fainting/screaming, we finally agreed that I should admit myself only if my discomfort and breathing fails to improve further by this afternoon. My mother, who understands John’s disposition towards invalids, has arrived to mind both Poxy and I (not only did she buy me, her spoilt middle-class brat treasured only child, an iPhone 4 on Sunday, but she is currently busy washing the crocks from the Mothering Sunday roast dinner I cooked her…!) and I am off to drink more water and shuffle about the place looking rotund, pale and interesting.

Oh, and have a small triumphant crow, too, for my eleven fertilised + one maybe.

Cock-a-doodle-cluck! Or something.

He Kicked Like A Mule & He Bit Like A Crocodile

This week, I have been mainly:

  • Listening to Johnny Cash, to whom I treated myself to a digital update of recently. A resplendent mixture of song and audiobook.
  • Exchanging suppressed snorts of delight with John at Harry’s increasingly lengthy (a few 6-word sentences emerging this week), endearingly deluded and uproariously pompous declarations.
  • Gurgling appreciatively at the Bronx Zoo’s escaped cobra‘s twitter account;

very injudiciously, the snake in question let himself be recaptured earlier today.

  • Being rejected, despite May‘s kind coaching, for library jobs (plural!) which paid abysmally, and for which I was overqualified. On that scale, I am not looking forward to the magnitude of a potential employer’s recoil from me if I ever apply for a well-paid, suitable position; although I admit those last two terms may be mutually contradictory in my current case.
  • Thinking that perhaps I shouldn’t wear a confederate flag bikini with beer hat outfit to interviews in future.
  • Noticing the odd, sore crusty spot behind Harry’s ear yesterday bedtime, as he began to pop a fever.
  • Welcoming a migratory, fiery little 39°+ form into our bed at 2.45am – immediately prior to cleaning the vomit out of it at 3am.
  • Dosing Harry with analgesic – first into one end; then, when the Calpol came immediately hurtling back, into the other.
  • Peering every 15 minutes since at the tiny spots that are proliferating, very slowly but inexorably, from Harry’s ear to knee.

          

(The domestic jury is still out on a formal Chicken Pox diagnosis, as all but two of his blisters are either teeny-tiny-minuscule or already crusted because he has furiously scratched them off almost before they form – but I’m confident it’s varicella. Half his nursery has succumbed to it in the last couple of weeks, plus fever, diarrhoea (which he’s had for the last two days) and vomiting are all classic early symptoms. Most of his classmates’ mothers reported barely noticeable symptoms. Once again, I feel as if Harry – and I by default – have been handed a shitty horrible piece of the stick to hold, because the poor child is still on fire and Not Well At All.)

  • Contemplating a week of Pox quarantine.
  • Rejoicing because hey! my sore throat is completely better! A belated slap on the back for that Alexander Fleming, there!
  • Discovering this morning – during a rushed 60 mile round race while John babysat Harry – that I have 3 mature follicles, another 6 that will be ripe for the plucking by the time Monday rolls around, and various others that are still in the race.
  • Widdling myself laughing at Father Ted.

Busy, busy, busy.

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