Tuesday, 15 December 2015

No Womb For Improvement

Seven and a half years ago I started this blog because I was finding it difficult to get pregnant.

Since then I have documented 3 Intrauterine Inseminations (all failed). Five rounds of IVF starting from scratch and three frozen embryo transfers add that to countless months of inability to procreate the natural way. I've miscarried, I've had three babies, I've moved house.

I always wanted three children, the husband wanted two. Having twins means I won that argument. However we are both agreed we've had enough now. I have one last frozen embryo but we won't transfer that one. My breeding days are over.

This blog was started to help me make sense of why I couldn't get pregnant. It was a way of not feeling so alone amongst my fertile friends, it helped keep my fertile friends aware of what was happening with me without having to repeat myself, it enabled me to remember what treatment I'd had and what drugs I'd taken.

Now, however it is no longer relevant. As I no longer want to get pregnant I might still be physically infertile but that is immaterial.

The majority of the people who started reading this blog did so because they were also trying to get pregnant. Many of those now have also managed to have children, I'm sure that many also have not. I don't want to morph this blog into a parenting one, it feels a betrayal of the very reason I set it up - to get some respite from the seemingly easy breeders I knew in real life.

At the moment I am completely content with my lot.

I have three beautiful girls, who I could not love any more that I do. I am healthy. I am happy.

Using one of my Grandpa's favourite phrases; I can't think of anything to complain about.

There is no room for improvement.

So this seems like a good time to say goodbye.

I'm going to leave this blog up in case it is helpful to others starting IVF but I won't update any more.

Some of you have read this blog for years and I really appreciate all the support you have given me. Even if you have never left a comment seeing the number of visits this blog has had encouraged me to keep writing and reassured me that people were interested in what I had to say and, I hope, found it useful and entertaining.

So thank you, and goodbye.

Liz x




Thursday, 26 November 2015

The Birth


I had the twins at the same hospital I’d had Olive two years ago. It isn’t my closest hospital but it has a great reputation and I’d had such a positive experience there with Olive I didn’t want to go anywhere else.

I was very aware that with twins and an induction things are pretty unpredictable so didn't go into the birth with a very specific birth plan - I didn't want to be so wedded to one option that I'd be disappointed if the plan changed at any point.

My brief was "I'd prefer a vaginal birth with an epidural but just do whatever seems safest for the babies (and me) at the time"

Induction was due to be on the fourth on Nov with a phone call in the morning telling me what time to come in. I ended up ringing three times during the day as I'd heard nothing. I kept being told someone would call me back but no one did. At one point I was asked why I was being induced and I said I was having twins who shared a placenta but this didn't seem to concern anyone.

Eventually at 10:30pm the husband called and was more forceful. He mentioned the sharing a placenta thing and was told that wasn't of concern but they were more interested when he told them I’d had preeclampsia during my previous pregnancy. Suddenly they assured him someone would call first thing the next day.

Which they did at 7am asking me to come in that morning.

The midwife also told him I hadn't been on their initial list - I've no idea why as I was in the room when the midwife added me to the list, maybe he forgot to press ‘save’.

Once I got in at about 9am, we hung around a bit but were put in our own room and at about midday a pesserary (that looked a bit like a tape worm) was shoved up me. I was dreading this bit as when I was induced for Olive the midwife first of all made me doubt her medical credentials by saying she was going to put it up my "frou frou" but also it hurt when it was in, I felt it all night like a badly inserted, fully taxed, tampon. This time the insertion wasn't exactly pleasant but once it was in I couldn't feel a thing.

For the next few hours we just hung out in the room and at about 4pm went for a wander down the local shops, the joy of a hospital in central London. We even found a sofa that we liked so I'll keep an eye out for that in the January sales, but not a lot else happened.

At this point I really regretted not going for an elective caesarean. I kept thinking that if we'd gone for that I would have been done by now and wouldn't have the fear of labour of an unpredictable length looming.

I started having some contractions at about 8 tried some co-codamol which did almost nothing. And don’t get me started on gas and air (is that tautology?) it just made me feel a bit dizzy and sick, I really don’t get it.

By midnight things were very painful but the midwife declared I was only 2cm dilated and they wouldn’t take the pessary out until either I was properly dilated or it had been in 24 hours.

She offered me diamorphine.

I wasn’t about to turn down my first opportunity to try an opiate in a legal, monitored environment so I accepted eagerly.

My daytime midwife, Edna, was brilliant as was the one the following day (Amy). But this night one I didn't warm to, and the fact she didn't tell me her name is indicative of her bedside manner. She spent a lot of time getting annoyed because the twins kept moving so it was hard to get a constant trace on their heart beats (which meant rather than being hooked up to the machine for half an hour at a time I was on it for about 3 hours - not great when you can't move and are contracting).

When she offered me diamorphine she didn't really tell me anything about it. I thought it would ease the pain. I didn't realise until afterwards that a common side effect is it stops contractions completely.

But it did.

I felt really pissed off like the last few hours of contractions had been for nothing and I was going to have to start from scratch again once the drugs had worn off.

Then the diamorphine kicked in.

Paddy knew it had kicked in because I started talking about Marty Pellow from Wet, Wet, Wet being a smack addict and now I understood the inspiration for that line in his song "I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes ..." Because I could feel it in my fingers and toes. Turns out folk are boring on drugs to those who aren't on anything, in whatever circumstances they take them!

It was lovely, I felt really chilled. I didn't sleep because I got an oddly itchy face, but it didn't stress me out I just felt very zonked out and content.

At about 6am the drugs were wearing off and I began to panic that my previously incredibly active babies hadn't moved for ages. I asked the midwife - the same one I hadn't warmed to - to check their heart beats and she was really dismissive of my concerns saying that was I should expect them to stop moving if I’d just taken diamorphine. She did check them but I felt like I was being really paranoid by asking. But hey isn't paranoia a normal part of a opiate come down anyway?

It was now Friday the 6th of November.

The contractions started again at about midday. Thankfully a shift change had also bought the most lovely midwife Amy who was then with me to the end.  

At about 2pm I was 5cm dilated. Things were hurting and the epidural took its time coming as there had been an emergency so anaesthetists were hard to come by. But eventually one was sourced and I got my epidural.

Bliss.

The difference was immense. From being in agony I couldn't feel the contractions and had to be told that they were still happening and when.
At 17:30 I thought my waters had broken. But when I asked the midwife to check she said they hadn’t so offered to break them for me as I was getting very close to actually giving birth. There must have been a lot of pressure building as it burst and I soaked her. To the extent she had to go and change her scrubs. I know they’ve seen it all before but that was quite embarrassing. I mean Amy was brilliant but I’m sure she would have rather I verbally gushed all over her than physically.

Twin one was head down and perfectly poised so on the dot of 8pm, with the midwife telling me exactly when to push, how long for and when to catch my breath I delivered little Iris with just me, Paddy and the midwife in the room.

Twin two wasn’t quite so easy. She was lying length ways and whilst we’d hoped that the birth of the first might encourage her to shift head down. It didn’t.

Suddenly loads of people were in the room checking me and the baby whilst Paddy held Iris. They decided to take me into theatre in case I needed a c-section. I worried a bit as they asked me whether I wanted Paddy to come with me or stay with Iris. I said I wanted him to stay with Iris as I sort of imagined her being left by herself in the room otherwise. But I did also want him with me.

They laughed at me when I said I didn’t want Iris just to be left by herself.

In the end Paddy wheeled Iris into the theatre in her cot whilst everyone else milled around me.

The consultant decided to manually try and turn the baby so manipulated my stomach and managed to get the second baby into a slightly more deliverable position. A bit more pushing, which wasn’t painful thanks to my constant topping up of the epidural but was totally knackering, and Edith came out bum first at 20:47.

I didn’t even register the placenta coming out.

From start to finish the whole process took 35 hours way longer than a c-section would have. However the best thing about it, from a recovery point of view is that I didn’t have any rips, tears or stitches.

The staff were mostly lovely, and even though I was inconsiderate enough to give birth over the 20:30 shift change everyone hung around to see the end result. Throughout the whole birth I didn’t feel worried – even when taken to theatre but like I was in really good hands and safe.






Friday, 13 November 2015

My Girls

Turns out having twins makes you quite busy!

I've been home from hospital since Tuesday and today is the first opportunity I've had to update you all.

The birth story will have to wait.

The names caused us a nightmare. Remember I told you we thought we had the names sorted and then a quick google search showed that the names we'd chosen were a low rent lingerie brand? The names were Iris and Edie. See: http://www.debenhams.com/lingerie/iris-edie

So we tried to find something else.

Iris was the name that we both agreed on. So we struggled to find a name that would work with that (and Olive).

I liked Esme. He didn't.

He was keen on Lily but I didn't want all the girls to have a theme of plant names.

We were very, very close to Ellie before we realised that if Olive's name gets shortened to Ollie (which some of her nursery staff have already started to use) we'd have Ollie and Ellie.

Eventually we decided on Iris and Edith and yes, Edith is already being shortened to Eadie.

I guess I've just got to hope the pants brand is short lived and soon forgotten.

But you don't want to hear about that - here's the money shots of my babies.


 Iris and Edith



Olive and Edith

I can't tell you how happy, content and in love I am. 




Sunday, 8 November 2015

They are here!

The twins arrived on Friday the 6th of November.

Since then time has changed. In some ways flown as I've tried to snatch moments of sleep between their feeds and other needs, and also dragged as I've waited in hospital for help, advice, test results. And desperately missed Olive who is being looked after by the husband's parents.

The twins, my little girls, are genetically identical but at the moment don't look like each other's carbon copy as I'd feared. They look different but it is only now 31 hours in that I'm starting to recognise them as little individuals.

They aren't named yet, though we've got our short list down to three so just one more name to knock off the list and we are sorted.

We are still in hospital because of a few health issues common with early, little babies - low blood sugar, one had a touch of jaundice, both are on antibiotics. I'm confident they'll get the care they need and a clean bill of health soon so we can take them home to start to be a proper family. Even though each little set back has me in tears I know that is as much the tiredness and hormones setting me off than the loss of a wee bit of colostrum or a slight dip in blood sugar levels than it initially appears.

Hopefully I'll be better placed to write more soon, and work out how to add a picture of the little ones.







Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Remember, remember ...

For months, since my consultant appointment in July, I've had the 29th of October in my mind as my induction date.

This is because he said that he wouldn't let me go beyond 36 weeks pregnant. Every consultant has different ideas about when twins should be born and how. The 36 week deadline for me was based on a few things - mostly that my clones share a placenta and so there is a balance between wanting the babies to stay in long enough to be healthy when they come out and whipping them out before the placenta starts to deteriorate.

Turns out when he said I shouldn't go beyond 36 weeks that means anytime before 37 weeks.

When I went back last week for my final appointment we talked the nuts and bolts of delivery.

Firstly to decide how to give birth.

Much as I admire the women who want a natural childbirth with no pain relief I am not one of those women. And, throughout this pregnancy, conscious that twins can be early/ high risk/ unpredictable I have tried not to be wedded to one mode of delivery.  I want whatever is going to be safest.

The consultant and midwife asked the husband and I how we wanted the babies. We looked at each other. Surely they, the experts should tell us?

Nope.

So we asked what was safest for the babies.

There is no such thing as a risk free birth but there are two main complications that they'd worry about.

With a c-section the babies lungs don't get the final squeeze as they are pushed through my vag. So some liquid can remain in the lungs. There's a slim risk, but it is a risk.

With a vaginal birth the main issue is the distribution of blood. The worry is when twin one comes out and the umbilical cord is cut there can then be an uneven distribution of blood going to twin two (waiting patiently in the queue). Again, it's a risk but the Consultant was talking about a 5% chance.

So that didn't help our decision.

Next we asked which would be safest for me.

With this the consultant was unequivocal. Vaginal birth.

So that decided us.

"As long as", I asked timidly, "I can have an epidural."

"Absolutely"  the consultant whole heartedly agreed and with that he scribbled a few things in my notes and was off to his next patient, leaving the husband and I with the midwife to finalise the actual date for induction.

That was one of the most bizarre conversations I've had.

"So what day that week."

"Umm... "

The husband whipped out his phone like he was going to slot the birth in between meetings. Not surprisingly his diary was pretty clear that week - given we thought he'd be on paternity leave by then anyway.

So the midwife asked if there was a date we wanted their birthday to be, baring in mind that the birth was likely to happen the day after induction.

In the end we have decided on Wednesday the 4th of November. There are several reasons for this:

1) It pushes the birth back to right at the end of my 36th week giving the babies as much womb time as possible.
2) My in-laws are coming down on Saturday so they'll have a few days to get reacquainted with Olive and learn her routine before the husband and I go off to hospital leaving them in sole charge.
3) If I'm induced on the 4th the chances are they'll arrive on the 5th of November. That is Guy Fawkes night in the UK, which has an accompanying rhyme "`Remember, remember the 5th of November ..." So we figured it'd be easy to remember their birthdays.

So as easy as booking in a haircut (with a not very in demand stylist), I've got my induction date.

A week today.

Assuming the babies don't decide to put in an early appearance...








Thursday, 15 October 2015

A Little Bump And Grind*

Being heavily pregnant invites comment. This doesn't bother me, after years of averting my eyes from pregnant women I find it a bit odd that people want to engage me in conversation about my impending motherhood, but I don't mind it. I mean it is an opportunity to talk about myself and who doesn't enjoy that?

This is how a typical conversation goes:
"You're pregnant" (To be fair I already know this so I don't feign shock but agree that yes I am).

Then I'll inevitably be asked either:
"Is it your first?"
or
"Do you know if it is a boy or a girl?"

To which I reply either "No it is my second ... and third"
or
"It is two girls - I'm having twins".

Once they've gone through the normal, "You are blessed, it is going to be hard work" bit I usually get:
"You don't look that big ... for twins"

I'm not exaggerating last week I was told every day that I wasn't do big for twins. This is by people who don't even know whether I'm 20 or 30 weeks pregnant (33 at that point) but I don't really know what folk expect a twin pregnancy to look like - arms and legs poking out of my belly?

I think I look pretty massive:



And the grind? No I'm not talking about sex - you lot are obsessed. I mean work. It has stopped.

I finished two weeks ago and have now had more pre-baby maternity leave that I ever did with Olive thanks to her being induced early due to my pre-ecclampsia. I am ridiculously lucky both living in the UK and working for the public sector that I can take a year off work without it being an issue (not all paid sadly but my job will be kept for me). So I haven't had to wait until the last moment before starting my maternity leave in order to get the most time with my babies.

I stopped work at 32 weeks. I didn't really know when would be best to finish and, in retrospect, maybe 30 weeks would have been more sensible as by the last week just walking the ten minutes from the station to the office was leaving me breathless and reaching my computer over my bump (it really doesn't feel that little) was a struggle.

Since finishing work I've managed to pack my hospital bag and most of the rest of my tasks have remained untouched. I'm mostly sleeping on days that Olive is in nursery and running waddling around after her on days she is not.

I'm also getting a bit forgetful. Call it baby-brain. So I forget to do things like reply to messages. This, it seems can induce panic in some of my friends I didn't reply to a Whatsapp group thing the other day. Panic, it seems, ensued and when I did reply they sent me a screen grab of their text conversation that made me laugh so much it did - almost - induce labour:





I can't promise guys, but should I go in to labour and can't type a response I'll try and send at least a red faced/ puffing emoticon to indicate just why I'm otherwise engaged.

But I am impressed they remembered that yes I should be induced on around the 29th (two weeks today) - I'm just waiting to be sent a letter with the exact date, apparently my hospital is quite booked up that week.

*This title is the first and will, hopefully, be the last time I ever quote R Kelly. But it seemed apt.





Sunday, 13 September 2015

29 Weeks

I keep having to tell my Dad and Step-Mother that no news is good news.

Having scans every two weeks doesn't generate the same level of excitement as two or possibly three precious opportunities to see your growing baby throughout a 'normal' pregnancy. So I keep forgetting to update them on the latest news.

And the latest news is brilliant, but dull. Namely that the babies (now at 29 weeks and three days) are both growing consistently well at at the same rate (there is a 9% difference in size) and my blood pressure - which was a sign of the pre-ecclampsia I had with Olive - is normal.

In many ways this pregnancy has felt easy. I've been tired. Knackered. But that's to be expected and I usually manage to sneak in a quick nap whilst the husband cooks supper once Olive is in bed.

I've also discovered the sick room at work. To anyone else it might look like a starkly lit box with a plastic bench in the corner, to me it is a place of ultimate sanctuary where I can sneak off to for a strategic fifteen minute nap and no one is any the wiser.

With (hopefully) six weeks and four days until the consultant wants the babies out and just three weeks left at work things are feeling manageable.

I'm getting excited about meeting the little blighters.

In fact the thing that is concerning me most is names.

Again.

And you know me I can't help but veer towards the names that have a punchline.

We've used the middle-name Frances with Olive which is lucky because otherwise Ivy F would definitely have still been in contention. One of my goddaughters is called Pheobe - which is helping me resist the temptation of using that name for twin two (Free-be, geddit?).

A mate once told me if he had twin girls he'd call them Beatrice and Tabitha. Nice names. But, obviously, Beer and Tabs for short. (If that doesn't translate across the ocean; Tabs are slang for cigarettes).

Naming one child is hard enough but when you need to name two it gets tricky.  I don't want names that match, but equally there has to be some kind of continuity. So I couldn't call, for example, one Clytemnestra and one Helen - because one is so unusual and long whilst the other is short and relatively normal - no offence any Helen's reading this.  (And if you get why I picked those two random names - award yourself an extra geek point).

And then you have to throw Olive into the mix. I'm not going to name these next two after plants/ trees or all three written down together would start to look like the index of a horticultural tome. And my sister made a valid point that all three should have different initials so that letters to Miss O. XXX don't cause confusion.

I thought I'd got it. Names that my husband and I both loved. They were of a similar length and vintage and worked well together without rhyming or being alliterations.

So I googled them.

Just to check.

Turns out an underwear brand stocked in a department store found in every town in the UK had come to the same conclusion. I'd now no sooner use those two names together than Dolce & Gabbana.

As tricky dilemmas go it is a fun one to have, and I can't help but scan the credits of every TV show for ideas. But we've yet to reach any conclusions.

Which is fine.

I've got plenty of time.

Gulp.





Sunday, 9 August 2015

Twin are freaky

Full disclosure: I am a twin. I love being a twin. In general I think twins are great.

However, the thing that has been freaking me out most since I found out I was having twins was that these ones are identical.

I pretend it isn't. I talk to people about how I am going to get any sleep, or leave the house with two babies and a toddler but these are (comparatively) short term problems. That whole sharing DNA thing is going to stay with them forever.

In many ways the family I am about to have will mirror my own. I have a sister who is two years and three weeks older than my twin sister and I. Assuming I make it to my induction day Olive will be two years and 3 months older than her twin sisters.

My sisters and I get on brilliantly. We've always fought but tended to do it in rotation. Two would gang up against one. But not always the same two.

Growing up I was always pleased that my twin and I weren't identical. We were compared enough as it was, despite being markedly different in personalities and looks, if we'd looked the same I knew that people would completely fail to see us as individuals.

I want these little babies to become people in their own right. Not half of a whole.

I don't want Olive to feel left out of the "special bond" that people always claim twins have. (I am as close to my older sister as twin).

That programme, The Secret Life of Twins I mentioned last post, I found quite disturbing just how dependant some of the twins seemed on each other. I am sure many folk watched it and thought it would be brilliant to have their own special friend who will always be there. I just found it sad that the majority of the twins featured seemed unable to form relationships by themselves.

 *Spoiler alert* Look away now if you intend watching it. The most heartening story in the programme was the identical twins where one of the girls first came out as gay before realising it was more than that and realised she, now he, was transgender. The other remained a heterosexual female. Vive la difference.

What will be, will be. My twins might end up with a secret language and live in a cave together requiring no other human intervention. Or they might do their own thing and develop in such a way that they rarely seem identical.

However here are some pledges that I will make to them now:

  • I will not dress you the same. (Except for halloween obviously because that costume is a godsend). When people give you identical outfits, because they will, you will wear them on different days.
  • If you are very similar when born I will dab a bit of nail varnish on one of you (toe) so that I don't get you muddled in the early days.
  • I will not give you the same birthday and Christmas presents.
  • I will encourage you to develop your own hobbies
  • Wherever possible I will get you into different classes at school.
  • I will get to know you as individuals.
  • I won't call you Stacey and Tracey. In fact, all rhyming names are out.





Friday, 31 July 2015

Twins are special

Twins are special.

I assumed that people would be blasé about the idea of twins as everything I read states that they are on the increase. The reason for the surge in the number of twins isn't just IVF. Hyper stimulation followed by Intrauterine Insemination is likely to force more than one egg out of your ovaries and thus more chance of multiple births. Also, intriguingly, as women approach menopause their eggs go all lemming-like jumping off a cliff (or ovary) with gay abandon, so again they are more likely to release two eggs in any given month.

So don't just assume that an older mother with twins has gone down the drugged-up, medicalised route that I've opted for.

Despite all this twins are special.

I know this because of the attention that I receive every time people realise I'm not just pregnant but pregnant with twins.

Even from people I wouldn't expect.

As I queued amongst a plethora of other pregnant women to book my next scan the bored receptionist took my referral without even looking up. He started to type in my details when he suddenly perked up. "Twins clinic?! Congratulations."

Three people sent me a link to this twin photo.

Three different people texted me within minutes of The Secret Life of Twins starting on ITV.

No one ever sent me a link to information about single babies when I was pregnant with Olive (or Doug/ Dymphna as she was known then).

Also, a few weeks ago I met a guy in a park.

Not like that you filthy minded bunch.

He was hanging out by the swings with his adorable nearly three year old twins. We got chatting. On the downside he confirmed what I had feared, I will not sleep for at least two years. But on the plus side he has given (GIVEN!) me their now redundant double buggy. It would have cost about £600 new and approximately half that second hand but in selfless display of twin parent comradeship he has just given it to me knowing that every saving counts.

Yesterday I accosted a woman I had never spoken to before and within moments I had got her phone number. She is a mother of twins at the same nursery as Olive and I grabbed her at drop off and asked if I could have a chat with her sometime about twins. To you Americans this might not seem like a big deal but we Brits know you don't swap phone numbers until you have been on nodding acquaintance for at least three months followed by a good six months of weather conversations.

But twins are special.

So we've already got a playdate planned.

And my twins are doing well. I had a scan on Wednesday they are still a very similar size (one pound, two and three ounces respectively). Apparently if twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome is going to manifest itself it usually does so by 24 weeks. The latest scan being at 22 weeks and six days is therefore incredibly reassuring.

My twins are special.



Sunday, 12 July 2015

Non-Bucket List

I turn 39 this week.

A year before the big four-oh (little explanation there for the more mathematically-challenged amongst you).

Traditionally this is the point when people panic and start writing endless lists of everything they want to achieve before they hit forty.

Or before they die.

I've had a good long think about this and decided it is time to be honest about what I am never going to do, either in the next 365 days or however long I have left on this planet.

These were things that I always sort of assumed I would do but have now come to the conclusion I won't, and I am perfectly happy with that.

So here is my non-bucket list:

I will never make it to Glastonbury festival
I won't run a marathon
I'm not going to get a tattoo
I won't grow my hair long (I have done this once before, so I don't know if it technically counts but I have come to the realisation that hair any longer than my chin just doesn't suit me).
I won't do a bungee jump
I will never be fluent in a second language
I am not going to acquire a taste for whisky

But there is one thing I really want to achieve before I turn forty, and now unlike just a few years, or even months, ago it now seems eminently possible.

I want to become a Mother of three.

What's on your non-bucket list?



Saturday, 4 July 2015

Gender Reveal

According to Pinterest I'm supposed to bake a cake with either a pink or blue inside and have a big party where friends and family gather to watching the cutting of the cake and gasp in amazement when they discover the babies are boys or girls.

Let's face it the sex of the babies is only really of interest to the parents and even then its not a massive surprise they are going to be girls or boys. (And don't start getting indignant on behalf of the transgender community at this stage genitalia is the only clue we have).

We told the sonographer we wanted to know the sex right at the start of the scan and spent the next 45minutes waiting to be told what we were having whilst she seemed more interested in minor things like blood flow to from the placenta and checking the hearts had the right number of chambers.

As she went through she told us what she could see and also spoke to her colleague tapping away on the computer behind her. She used exactly the same tone regardless of who she was speaking to say it was difficult to know when we were supposed to respond or keep quite. The more technical terms I assumed weren't meant for us whilst the stating the obvious "and there is the cerebellum - which is used for balance" was for our benefit.

At one point I thought she casually told us the gender as I heard her murmur "and there's two boys", at the same moment the husband heard "and there's two balls" it was only when she pointed them out that we realised she said "and there's two bones [in the leg]".

Right at the end she said with a flourish "And now to find out the sex".

She wriggled around and got one of the babies to give her the money shot.

"Girls."

I know I shouldn't have a preference.

But I did.

I do.

And I am delighted.




Monday, 29 June 2015

Endless Scans


I said before one of the benefits of IVF is those early pre-12 week scans that you get (and pay through the nose for). I can’t imagine the agony of having to wait until 12 weeks before knowing, for sure, there is a heart beat in there (or in my case two heartbeats.)

Twins, it turns out, is the gift that keeps on giving. 

I have hundreds of scans – and this time they are on the NHS so free. God, I love the NHS. I remember hearing Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes bought a scan machine so they could keep an eye on young Suri in situ. I bet even that didn’t give them the frequency of scan I have lined up.

I had my 12 week scan, then a 16 week one. On Wednesday I have an 18 week one and my schedule promises further scans every two weeks.

The downside of these scans is that they are there for a reason, not simply because everyone loves a twin and wants a peek.

My little dudes share a placenta. The possible complications relating to this is that they have one source of blood so are at risk of twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, TTTS (yeah I noticed there aren't enough 'T's in the acronym too). Which basically means one hogs all the blood and they grow unevenly.  They can also take an uneven share of the placenta.

In addition having had pre-eclampsia last pregnancy they want to keep any eye on that (risk factors of pre-eclampsia are - having had it before, check; being over 35, yup; and having twins, uh-huh). 

So far it is all good though. The twins (the twins!!! shit, it still gets me) are almost exactly the same size  - 1.5% difference - and my blood pressure is good. Maybe I should be more concerned but I feel pretty confident in the care I am receiving. If things are going wrong I think they'll pick up on it quickly.

And, excitingly, it means that on Wednesday we should get to find out whether we are having girls or boys.

Which do you reckon they'll be?



Saturday, 20 June 2015

Finding Out


I had absolutely no clue that I was pregnant with twin prior to my first, six week scan.

A friend of mine told her Mum that I was pregnant through IVF. “Twins?” asked the Mum. “Liz wouldn’t be so stupid” was the response.

And I wasn’t.

I had two embryos left. I could have put two back in but I didn’t. Partly because I wanted two chances at a second child so decided to try them one at a time, but also because after having just one child the idea of twins was petrifying a risk we didn’t want to take.

An anonymous commenter predicted twins when she saw my beta numbers. Yes, it was high but this didn’t prepare me either as they were eerily close to my numbers with Olive. You know, my single, first child. In retrospect I now wonder whether Olive started off as a twin too. I bled a fair bit in the very early weeks after that positive test. Maybe I did lose a twin then.

Everything that I initially told you happened at the six week was true, just not the whole truth. This is what happened where the last post left off…

The sonographer, after finding the precious heartbeat and I had relaxed, continued rooting around.

“and I think …” she paused as another blob appeared on screen “yes… you have twins. Another good heartbeat.”

“What?!” I yelped.

Now, I don’t claim to be a genius – but hey should you wish to saddle me with that title who am I to argue? – but the speed with which the thoughts rushed through my head on finding out was reminiscent of that scene in Short Circuit when Number 5 reads a whole encyclopedia in seconds.

This is a fraction of what I thought:
Twins.
Fuck.
They are going to be identical.
Identical twins are a bit odd.
What if I can’t tell them apart?
Will I ever be able to get them to sleep at the same time?
Will I be able to leave the house?
I’ll need a double buggy, plus Olive – a triple?
I won’t be able to get down the steps at the tube station.
Creepy identical twins.
We’ll need to get a car.
How can we afford a car and twins?
The husband will have to learn to drive
Can we afford driving lessons and twins?
Will I go back to work?
Will work cover childcare for three kids? Or will I have to pay for the privilege of keeping a job ready for when school kicks in.
Identical twins … shit
What will the husband say [he couldn’t make the appointment]
Its like my own family, two year old then twins.
My poor Mum
I always wanted three kids
Just not at once
The husband wanted two.
I win.
But identical?
How will I get them all downstairs in the morning?
I’ll need another moses basket…
And cot…
At least I already have two boobs.
They’ll be premature, won’t they.
This is going to be a high risk pregnancy
I hope I’m alright.
I hope they are alright.
Oh shit.

I’m conscious that my initial thoughts were not the overwhelmingly positive ones that you would expect from an infertile about to have more children that she'd ever hoped for. I’m sure many of you who are still waiting for their miracle struggle to read how ungrateful I was. Things have changed since the shock of finding out has worn off, but I wanted to be honest about how I felt.

Now I am just over 17 weeks pregnant - halfway through my pregnancy (the consultant told me he won't let them go over 36 weeks). I still have doubts about how I will cope with twins - or tell them apart - but I am pretty thrilled at the idea of them.



Saturday, 23 May 2015

Telling Work

I have been quite militant in the past about how to announce a pregnancy. Back in 2008 I decreed the best way was by email, I detail it here but in summary it was "By email. A short, happy one, not too full of details."

I decided to tell my work colleagues this time in one shot - rather than it becoming a whispered rumour, and risk missing people I thought I'd send an all office email. I still remember a colleague casually asking a heavily pregnant, normally very slim, workmate if she "was up to anything this summer." He'd missed news of her pregnancy and was trying to subtly ask if she was actually up the duff.

Unfortunately one of my self-imposed rules broke was I had to send it to people's work email address.

This was the email:


From: Me
Date: Thursday, May 21, 2015
To: Team
Cc: The Boss
Subject: Buns in the oven

Dear All

It seemed appropriate to announce my latest pregnancy by doing some baking so there is cake in the usual place.

So that we can get over the small talk – you don’t feel obliged to ask, I don’t have to repeat myself here is the conversation we would have had:

How pregnant are you?
13 weeks today

I can’t do the maths, when are you due?
In theory 26 of November but given that Olive was three weeks early and twins are usually premature I’m guessing October.

Twins?! Seriously?
Yes – note the plural in the title of this email

Do you know the sex?
If by that you mean do I know the gender not yet, I’ll find out in a couple of months. But I will find out rather than wait.

If you mean something else, I decline to comment.

Have you thought of names?
At the moment we are thinking Stacey and Tracey for girls or Romulus and Remus for boys. 

Really?
No.

What if they are a boy and a girl?
They won’t be, they are the creepy identical type.



OMG!!! Its going to be hell. My cousin had twins and she had a awful time …
Please can we change the subject now? What are you doing this weekend?

Liz




The cake went down well and the email went viral (my boss forwarded it to three people).

It'd be fair to say I don't work in a massively corporate environment.



Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Secrets and Lies

The scan on Tuesday showed a healthy, happy embryo. In fact it showed a bit more than that.

I really didn't mean to keep anything back this time.

After last pregnancy's time shift I felt a bit guilty about keeping you in the dark so this time the plan was to tell you exactly what was going on, as it happened.

But I didn't count on one tiny little flaw in my plan - a bit of news that would completely throw me and I'd need time to digest it before disseminating it across the world. To be honest it wasn't so much you lot that I wanted to keep it quiet from it was those real life friends and family that read this blog that I didn't want to find out immediately.

So whilst I haven't exactly lied to you I have been keeping one small detail back. At the start it was a tiny detail but as the weeks have gone on it has grown. This detail is now approximately five and a half centimeters long.

This detail is a twin.

A second baby.

A wombmate hanging out.

That one embryo I transfered clearly didn't want to be lonely so decided to clone itself in my uterus.

All going well I'm going to go from being an incredibly lucky mother of one near-miracle baby to a mother of three.

Which is frankly an embarrassment of children.



Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Approaching the second trimester


I have a week (6 days and 12 hours to be exact) until my next scan.

The 12 week one which I consider my graduation one, launching me into the second trimester. It isn't done at the fertility clinic but at the hospital where I will give birth, and it is done from the outside  - through the belly. I told a friend that my scans to date are all done up through the vag.

She was appalled;  "How embarrassing!"

I don't need to tell you guys that she hasn't been through IVF. I hardly notice an internal scan these days, you need to scrape out half my womb lining to get so much of a flinch out of me nowadays.

I haven't had a scan for three weeks so I'm getting increasingly jittery.

I don't feel like things have gone wrong.  I'm being sick and getting noticeably bigger - but the latter has less to do with anything growing in my womb but more to do with the only thing that eases the nausea is to eat.

So I am.

Constantly.

I've always been fairly short and had hairy toes but now I have added a second breakfast to my hobbit-like traits. (And mid-morning snack, late morning snack, lunch ...)

Still it helps fill the time.

I wonder how much I can eat in the next week.




Wednesday, 6 May 2015

A happy ending?


A couple of weeks ago I had my final intralipid treatment.

At the risk of repeating myself - a quick summary of the treatment:

Intralipids is a two hour infusion that seems to suppress the immune system.  I don't know if I need it as the test for an over active immune system - which can prevent embryos implanting - is way more expensive than the treatment. My gut feeling though is that it has made all the difference.

Anyway, back to my last intralipid treatment; I was parked for two hours on a drip directly opposite the production room.

The production room is the euphemistically named cupboard where the gentlemen go to have a wank to produce the sperm needed for their 50% contribution to the embryo.

It was really hard, with nothing to do but sit with a drip in your hand, not to judge the men who went in and out of that room. So hard that I, of course, didn't hold back.

Four chaps went into that room during my treatment. They all took pretty much bang on (or banging on) ten minutes. Two out of the four stuck the label on the bag rather than the pot and were reprimanded by the nurse (with a fifty percent failure rate I think you have to question the nurse's explanation).

The last chap went in with his missus. He took a bit longer than the others - maybe twelve minutes. But it just goes to show you don't know what goes on behind closed doors, and the door was most certainly closed. To look at them I wouldn't have guessed that either he'd need a helping hand or that she'd insist on giving one.

I don't know what a couple who do need to go into the producing room together looks like, but they didn't look like it.

This whole thing reminded me of something that happened several years ago. I didn't blog about it at the time because it didn't seem fair on the couple - what if by some coincidence one of the two in question were anxiously googling success rates for IVF and came across this blog detailing what had happened to them that day. So I kept quiet but now, many years later, I have to share.

It was egg collection day for me at my clinic.

There were half a dozen couples in the ward, all neatly screened off from one another, and all ws silent other than the swish of the curtain as various doctors, nurses and embryologists pop in and out of the cubicles. I became aware of a bit of a commotion in the bed next to me. The couple urgently whispering to one another and then calling the nurse.

More discussion and then the nurse says, in a stage whisper that would shame Brain Blessed, "WE COULD TRY VIAGRA".

"shhhhhhhh" the couple said in a panic.

"I WAS WHISPERING!" the nurse assured them. And the rest of the ward.

It turned out the woman's eggs had been collected and there is a short window for the sperm to get in there. A window that was getting ever smaller whilst the chap couldn't raise his old chap.

Talk about pressure to perform.

The resolution was to prescribe viagra, but they don't stock it in the clinic so he had to go out to a pharmacy. Not, you'd think, a problem in central London except it was a Sunday with only a few emergency pharmacies open.

The poor guy had to leg it ten minutes up the road, get the pills, come back to the production room, do the most high pressure wank in the world and hand over the goods. All within (by this time) forty minutes.

For research purposes only, I've just been googling "how long does viagra take to work". Apparently about an hour.

I had to leave before the story reaches its climax.

So I am afraid I can't leave you with a happy ending.

But just a reminder, yes we women have to go through an awful lot during IVF, the drugs, injections, hormones both natural and artificial.

But I've never felt that kind of pressure.



Wednesday, 22 April 2015

9 Week Scan

If I'd told you how often I've googled "missed miscarriage after heart beat" and "I just knew I'd miscarried despite no blood" over the last week you'd be backing away from your computer in alarm right now.

As it, is my spectacular  track record of having no feminine intuition has held firm and I have most definitely not  miscarried. The scan showed a baby with a strong heartbeat, tiny little buds of arms and legs, and even a little wiggle for the camera.

I continue to take the drugs for another week then begin to drop some and wean off others. The steroids take the longest to wind down from as you have to decrease the dose over four weeks. The bum and belly jabs - thankfully stop in a week. Though the nurse who gave me the remainder of my medication explained she couldn't split a box of medicine. Which means I've come home with 6 more stomach injections than I need.

"You can keep taking them until you use them all up if you want, it won't do any harm." Said the nurse enthusiastically.

Call me profligate but I'm not going to take one more jab than is strictly necessary - it's a shame it is illegal to give away drug that have been prescribed to you but those left overs are going in the bin. (By which I mean will be responsibly disposed of by returning them to my local pharmacy.)

So I was waved off by the clinic, hopefully, never to darken their doors again.

They are a great clinic ,but I truly hope my days of fertility treatments are now done. 



Friday, 10 April 2015

First scan

There is a lot that is shit about IVF, but the one thing that is brilliant is not having to wait 12 weeks for your first pregnancy scan. Mine was scheduled for 6 weeks and 6 days - last Wednesday.

I was petrified about this scan. I've had a missed miscarriage before, when to all intents and purposes everything seems fine - no blood or pain - but the scan then reveals no heartbeat. Given all the progesterone and other drugs I'm taking to keep this embryo in place it felt perfectly possible that the same thing may have happened again but the drugs prevented any physical manifestations.

I was actually shaking as I lay back on the bed to be scanned.

The sonographer told me she wouldn't keep me in suspense and would tell me as soon as she saw anything. Almost immediately she pointed out the sack and feotal pole then there was a pause whilst she waited to see a heartbeat. I know it can't have been more than two minutes because I didn't breath whilst we waited and  I would have passed out if it had been that long. It was probably only five seconds, it felt longer.

But there it was, a tiny white flash on the screen and proof that this is more than a chemical pregnancy.

I have a new favourite pregnancy web page.

Here Spacefem has a page that shows the statistical likelihood of a miscarriage in early pregnancy. It isn't faultless and there are more factors that should be considered given my age and history. BUT it is encouraging. It shows how quickly the likelihood drops within the first eight weeks to pretty much the same odds a the magic 12 week marker.

It certainly helps me feel more confident that I've cleared some significant hurdles already and the fact there is a heartbeat is convincing me that I might have another baby far more effectively than the positive test which just felt like another step in the right direction rather than an goal in itself.



Saturday, 4 April 2015

Stress and IVF


This IVF was supposed to be the least stressful IVF ever. Before I go any further, let me assure you that so far I have had nothing tangible to stress about with this ... gulp ... pregnancy. Everything seems to be going to plan. 

This IVF was not make or break. It wasn't about whether I would ever be a mother. I have a child, and not just any child. Olive is brilliant - happy, funny, bossy - I'm going to put it out there, she's in definitely in my top ten of tiny people that I like.

Ok - top five. 

This also wasn't my last chance of becoming a mother of two. I had two frozen embryos left; putting one back at a time meant that after this round I still have one more opportunity to try to get pregnant without starting from scratch (or egg collection).

The run up to IVF was so smooth. Too smooth.

What happens after the transfer is crucial. The problem is no one seems to know what you should do to aid implantation. I have read, extensively, on the topic and there seem to be a whole raft ideas based on nothing more than a bit of guesswork or personal experience.

I read a book where the author advised against leaving bed, suggesting a bed is set up downstairs so you don’t disrupt your burrowing embryo if you do have to leave your nest for an emergency. 

It even suggested to try not to poo – all that pushing could dislodge something. (I guess that could explain why the husband has never managed to successfully conceive.) 

My doctor specifically cautioned against being too static. Whilst she warned me against anything too strenuous, she wanted a bit of movement just to ensure that the blood keeps circulating. 

But some things seemed like more of a no brainer. 

Stress for example. 

You’d want to avoid that, right?

My theory is that, back in our hunter gatherer days if the tribe was under extreme stress – being worried by a mammoth, or running from a creeping ice cap - the last thing you’d want is to get pregnant. It’d hold everyone back. So surely stress has to inhibit implantation, right?

Wrong apparently. 

This study shows that stress doesn’t impact on IVF working.

I am also able to endorse this.

Whilst the run up to my IVF went like a  dream, everything seemed to go tits up once the transfer was done. 

The transfer was on a Wednesday. 

On Thursday I had the day off work and Olive was in nursery. 

This was the first day I have had home alone since she was born. Luxury, but also a little bit boring without my pint-sized commander-in-chief telling me to sit down, or put my coat on, or read her a book, or that she's done a poo.

I got a call at about 10:30 from Olive's nursery saying she'd fallen and bumped her head and had a nose bleed. Nothing to worry about but just letting me know.

When I went to collect her in the afternoon she seemed fine. The nursery handed over their standard "head injury" leaflet. Look out for headaches, blurred vision, vomiting. I shoved it in the pram and went home.

Jump forward to one thirty in the morning and, after a perfectly normal evening, Olive woke up screaming. She'd been sick. 

I cleaned her up. 

She was sick again.

The husband joined us as we pondered whether this was a bug or head-injury related chunder. 

We decided to seek help from the experts so phoned NHS direct to ask what we should do. We should have known they'd tell us to take her to Accident and Emergency. The slightest whiff of a head injury and they are all about the Emergency Room.

We got a taxi to the hospital. She barfed in the cab, of course.

Then from 2am until 5am, after a brief inspection from a nurse who was demonstrably unconcerned, we waited with a pukey-smelling, wide-awake baby whilst the husband and I took turns trying to coral her into one area of the waiting room.

Eventually she was seen, given a clear bill of health and we got home to bed at 6am. Not the most restful post-IVF night.

The next day (or the same day I guess as this all happened in the early hours of the morning) was Friday the 13th. 

This is where I have to pause.

I blog about some of the most personal and intimate experiences that happen to me. As a blogger I think you make a pact with the reader to tell the whole truth, unflinchingly. But sometimes things happened that affect me but aren’t about me. When I write about other people on here I generally get their permission and often give them an opportunity to read what I’ve written before I hit publish. (Yes, the husband signed off on the poo gag above).

The next thing that happened on that Friday wasn’t directly about me. It was about one of my nearest and dearest and it was horrendous and horrible news. Three weeks later and I’ve got tears in my eyes writing this.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you more, I haven't asked the person involved if I can write about it. They've got enough on their plate. So there are no more details, this isn't mine to tell, but rest assured that Friday – and the days that followed – were a mess. I didn’t sleep again on Friday night.

On the plus side it put the outcome of IVF for a second child suddenly seem a lot less important.

These were key implantation days. I knew they were implantation days because over the weekend I felt sharp twinges in my urterus and I didn’t know if this was a good or bad sign.

Subsequently I know they were good, I got pregnant didn’t I?

So there you have it. I don’t know what works or what doesn’t when in comes to implantation but don’t stress about it – or rather do – it doesn’t matter. That won’t affect the outcome.

And as for the straining when pooing thing? I’m taking buckets of progesterone, which has a side effect of constipating one. That doesn’t seem to matter too much either. 

Now I wait for my first scan next week, to see if things are continuing to progress.