My Busted Stork

The travails of an infertile…and no, I won’t just relax!

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My first IVF cycle Part 2: Egg retrieval and OHSS hell!

First, a disclaimer: I am not a professional on any part of this procedure and although I have tried to understand the science behind everything all I have to arm me is my experience and what I have read or been told. I hope none of what I write is misleading!

So there I was, happily jabbing away. On CD8 I had my first scan with Doc and he counted 12 eggs growing nicely in my ovaries. On CD9 I also introduced Cetrotide to the the morning jab routine. This drug prohibits the egg from being released from the follicle before it is ready.

I scanned on day 10 and 12 with Doc again. I could feel my ovaries like 2 big bunches of ripe grapes and that is exactly what they looked like on the ultrasound. It felt good to think that one of those grapes could hatch a little baby at some point.

I was scheduled for Egg Retrieval on Day 15, a Monday and so 36 hours before my appointment I took another jab, this time a “Trigger” shot called Ovidrel. This shot triggers ovulation so that the timing is perfect for when the eggs are released so that the doc can suck them all up.

The Egg Retrieval procedure was a little more “big deal” than I had anticipated. W drove me to the clinic along with his sperm sample tucked between my boobs – one happy family…sort of. (W can produce a sperm sample in under 5 min. It’s handy, if not a little perturbing. A party trick we best keen under wraps…) He handed his sample into the lab and I got deposited into a nice comfy chair to wait for the arrival of the anaesthetist and my nice Doc all decked out in their surgical scrubs. At this point I had nice Greys Anatomy day dreams. Then I had to get into my really unattractive backless hospital gown which puts an abrupt end to all sexy Greys Anatomy day dreaming as my fat ass is exposed to the world. I then shuffled into the sterile surgery trying not to offend anyone along the way with the view of said fat ass. Someone tried to get me to sign some documents which was virtually impossible while still trying to hold my stupid gown closed at the back – so embarrassing! Eventually I climbed onto the surgical bed thing and then everyone got all busy attaching all sorts of monitors and drips and gels to me. I made sure to tell Doc he had to get all 12 eggs out and that I wanted a good result. He agreed! Lovely Mr anaesthetist said good night and I said hello dream world.

I woke up back in a cubicle feeling a little drowsy but otherwise fine. Doc was very chuffed with himself as he had got not 12 but 13 lovely eggs and we were ready to rock and roll.

That afternoon I started to cramp. I thought it was all part and parcel of that morning’s activity. It just started as a dull ache which carried on to the next morning. I went in to work but by mid day they had become full on cramps and I went home, took some ibuprofen and cuddled a hot water bottle. But I kept feeling quite positive, especially since I got the call that 8 out of the 13 eggs had fertilised. Apparently this is an average to good result which was good enough for us!

The next morning I went in to see Doc because I knew the cramping wasn’t good and that it might be OHSS (Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome). It is a risk after ER. Basically your ovaries are large and disstended from producing so many eggs. The Ovidrel trigger (which is actually pregnancy hormone) can have a negative reaction and cause the ovaries to fill with fluid. Sometimes this fluid seeps into the abdominal cavity causing cramping and bloatedness in mild cases and sometimes more serious repercussions if the fluid gets into upper abdominal cavities where it can affect your diaphragm, lungs and other organs. Doc scanned me both internally and externally and saw I did have some fluid but that it was only in some areas surrounding my ovaries and nothing higher up. There is no cure or medicine but Doc said I could carry on taking ibuprofen. He mentioned that he was a little worried that if it didn’t clear up then embryo transfer could make things worse but that he was sure it would clear by then.

That afternoon things got worse and I was not a happy camper. I am pretty sure that if you suffer from IBS then it is likely that this will flare up and double the pain. It’s almost as if the pressure is exerted onto your bowels and your bladder. When you try go to the loo there is a sharp pain shooting either up your rectum or your vag (sorry for the TMI!) which is agony! I couldn’t straighten or stretch out my body and basically I just lay there curled up feeling sorry for myself. My stomach was so bloated that I looked like I was 4 months pregnant. Oh the cruel irony!

After 2 days at home I eventually started feeling better. And at the end of the second day I got the news that all 8 fertilised eggs had grown into 8 cell embryos and were looking good. We were A for away! Our Embryo Transfer was scheduled for the Saturday morning. It was all becoming very real and very exciting.



This made me cry

As I am semi-anonymous online (blog and forums) I tend to bitch about friends who have at times been ignorant and insensitive to my situation. All of my friends have babies now so besides W I don’t have too many people to bitch to in real life so I pour all my hurt and frustration out online whenever I need to. Although I know my friends love me I know that they don’t understand me and I completely forgive them for that because how could they? But once in a while, besides all the platitudes and the “it will happen one day” a friend can really cut through with a REAL message of support.

An old friend of mine sent me a letter with a poem attached. She had actively searched online for something meaningful to say to me and what she found really touched my heart. This poem might be widely known in Infertile circles but this was the first time I had read it.

I suppose some people will be offended by the sentiment but right now I don’t care.

Thoughts on Becoming a Mother
(author unknown)

There are women that become mothers without effort, without thought, without patience or loss and though they are good mothers and love their children, I know that I will be better.I will be better not because of genetics, or money, or that I have read more books but because I have struggled and toiled for this child.I have longed and waited. I have cried and prayed. I have endured and planned over and over again. Like most things in life, the people who truly have appreciation are those who have struggled to attain their dreams.

I will notice everything about my child. I will take time to watch my child sleep, explore and discover. I will marvel at this miracle every day for the rest of my life.

I will be happy when I wake in the middle of the night to the sound of my child, knowing that I can comfort, hold, and feed him, and that I am not waking to take another temperature, pop another pill, take another shot, or cry tears of a broken dream.  My dream will be crying for me.

I count myself lucky in this sense:  that God has given me this insight, this special vision with which I will look upon my child that my friends will not see.  Whether I parent a child I actually give birth to or a child that God leads me to, I will not be careless with my love.

I will be a better mother for all that I have endured.

I am a better wife, a better aunt, a better daughter, neighbor, friend, and sister because I have known pain.

I know disillusionment, as I have been betrayed by my own body.

I have been tried by fire and hell many never face, yet given time, I stood tall.

I have prevailed.

I have succeeded.

I have won.

So now, when others hurt around me, I do not run from their pain in order to save myself discomfort. I see it, mourn it, and join them in theirs.

I listen.

And even though I cannot make it better, I can make it less lonely.

I have learned the immense power of another hand holding tight to mine, of other eyes that moisten as they learn to accept the harsh truth and that life is beyond hard. I have learned a compassion that only comes with walking in those shoes.

I have learned to appreciate life.

Yes, I will be a wonderful mother.


My first IVF cycle Part 1: Numb Robot versus Tinkerbell

Ha ha. I just read this post and had a good chuckle to myself. This is so typical me – I was all indignation and resentment but it didn’t take me long to get over that and start scheming how to get on this IVF train. We have been waiting for my Gran’s estate to come through and so as soon as we had the money we went to see the doc, which was last month.

In June/July this year we had an amazing overseas holiday, also paid for by my inheritance. My Darling brother got married on a beach in Scotland and it was one of the most special times.

Gypsy bride!

Then W and I went off for a dream-come-true week in Italy. We didn’t have too much money but we had the best time. It was so good for us. We laughed, drank, ate, got lost, nearly died on a moped, swam in the Med and soaked up everything.


We both thought that with the amount of romance in the air we might even have a little Italian baby on board (we would name him Sergio!) but OF COURSE NOT! What overcame me to be so uncharacteristically optimistic, I have no idea.

So we came home to money in our bank account and decided to bite the bullet. It actually took me a few weeks to make my first appointment. I really think that in the last year I have had to harden my heart. I withdrew from the broodiness and the yearning and the “why me!”. I would grimly face visits with friends and their kids and either climb into the nearest bottle of wine or else clam up and look for the closest exit. I knew that I didn’t have the resources to face things. And then my best friend, the last one standing, fell pregnant unexpectedly. But I soldiered on and to be honest it really worked. I had moments of despair but I felt so numb that after a short time everything returned to normal.

Intro The Numb Robot. A friend remarked on how I didn’t seem that excited or positive about doing IVF. I just matter-of-factly decided we were going ahead. I think I am so immune to getting my hopes up after years of having them dashed.  So a battle ensued –  The mean Numb Robot against the tinkerbell fairy daydreaming about pink booties.  Squash! …fairy dust.

So I made the appointment and we went to see our Fertility Specialist. He had a quick look and remarked on how healthy everything was looking and said we should go for it. A few days later I got my period the doc gave me a whole freakin cooler box full of drugs, needles, you name it. It was a formidable sight.


But it was a challenge I took head on. My first time injecting myself was a metaphor for how I have approached this whole thing. There was a bit of fumbling around with the syringe but when it came to jabbing that needle into my flesh (thanks to the Numb Robot) I didn’t stop to think and just went for it.

I started almost looking forward to my morning jab. For the first time in many years I could DO SOMETHING to getting a baby. I suppose it was the same mechanical, pragmatic approach that I used to sometimes view sex when we were “trying” (You know , that really awful awkward sex when you would rather scrub the toilet bowl with a toothbrush rather than touch each other. The sex is like scraping your nails down a blackboard. But you do it to get it done. Oh, those blissful times.)

Heroine addicts had nothing on me. I jabbed away with 3 amps of Menopur started on CD3 (Cycle day3) for about 10 days. I embraced the pin cushion inside of me.

More to come!


Houses, Moms and weird, scary baby dreams

We are in the process of buying a house which is very exciting. We weren’t planning on doing this until the end of the year but when we got notice from our landlord we decided to look and see. We didn’t want to move into another rented house. The first house we looked at we really liked. Then after looking at several more we saw the first house again and then loved it because compared to the rest of the crap it was a real gem. So we put in an offer and was accepted.

But the downside is that the house is small. Only 2 bedrooms and the second one is small. I have to try and visualise a baby living in that room at some point otherwise I why would be putting myself through all this hell. And it will be fine for a baby – who needs guests if you have a baby!

I would say that the last few months have been much darker than times before. I have had times of feeling utterly hopeless. In my dreams I sometimes have a baby in my arms but it isn’t my baby and I never know how to look after it. Then in each dream I always have this weird realisation that babies need to eat and I haven’t fed it at all. The baby is always fairly chipper and chilled out so I stuff it down the front of my shirt and carry on with my day – isn’t that weird? I wake up feeling like some sick freak who doesn’t deserve to ever have a child.

But I have to pour myself another glass of Chardonnay and put a smile on my dial and get on with life because…what other option do I have? When people say “you are so strong” it always leaves me asking what choice I have other to grin and bear this. That’s just the point – I don’t have a choice.

I flew up to see my Mom for the weekend. We went on a long walk and had a good chat. What I realised is the reality of her own hurt and pain about my infertility. Yes, she has 3 kids and she knows she is lucky and although she can’t really put herself in my shoes she feels pain because she sees the pain I go through. She is a really strong Christian and believes in the power of prayer. She wanted to take me to a famous pastor who has prayed for quite a few infertile couples and seen all sorts of miracles. I am also a Christian although my faith is fairly low-lying at the moment – but I will try anything! Being prayed for is a lot nicer than being poked and prodded and pumped full of hormones. We didn’t get to see the pastor but I know Mom prays for me daily.

She mentioned that she had a run-in with a good friend of hers. The friend came to stay and showed my mom hundreds of pictures of her new Granddaughter. My mom was feeling a bit strained after it all but was polite. Then her friend said some kind of sanctimonious crap about how God gives life and he takes life away – and that’s when my Mom hit the roof. She turned on her friend spitting fire and demanded that she take it back and how dare she imply that God ‘favoured’ her daughter more than me. Even my quiet step-Dad jumped in and told the friend to be more sensitive – hilarious! The next day there were all sorts of apologies from the friend and then my Mom actually sent her the Vita Alligood piece on Infertility Etiquette! It felt so good to know how much my Mom cares and how she feels what I am going through as much as she can.

All I can hope for is that one day I will have a bouncing baby who will squeeze into the tiny room in our new house and be surrounded by joy, laughter and a fiercely loving Granny!


A day so low I can’t even think of a better title!

I am feeling really low at the moment. My grandmother’s funeral was tough but a good family time and everything regarding TTC finally got put on the back burner for a few days UNTIL I got my period. Yup, debilitating cramps and sleepless nights thrown in.

I was really hoping for my miracle this month. We did everything right and I thought maybe God was going to give something back after taking Nana away. Even W was hopeful – he kept asking me when my period was coming. Getting my period was a kick in the face but I had to put it out of my mind. I did the Eulogy at Nana’s memorial service. I was also worried about my mother and step-mother being in the same house for the first time since my wedding 6 years ago (another post for another day) But now that all that is over and we are back to real life I have to face the big black baby shaped hole in my life.

What is really getting to me today is that I have never had not one single BFP. I am not saying that infertiles that get BFPs and then miscarry are better off. The pain of MC must be way worse. But it makes me feel dead inside, abnormal, deformed, hopeless. And the fact that they can’t find anything wrong with me is even worse because maybe the problem is at a far deeper lever which no one will ever figure out or be able to pin point.

I am continuing with acupuncture but my heart isn’t in it. My friends don’t understand. My husband is…I don’t know, either too fragile or too distanced and these days when I bring up the subject I get eye rolls and sighs. The loneliness of all this is the worst.

Nothing interesting or insightful to say further. I thought blogging might help me today but I don’t think anything can.



Starting to make up with my body

I started acupuncture sessions on Monday morning. It feels pretty strange to be doing things like this when I have already gone down the logical ‘western’ medical route because, lets face it, acupuncture is a little more vague when solving infertility issues. But I really believe that if it can somehow improve my health then it can somehow improve my chances.

I arrived very frazzled after being stuck in traffic and half hour late for the appointment. The lady is a well known acupuncturist in Cape Town and I was expecting some dreadlocked hippy, all tie-dyed and shit. But this was a very quiet,gentle and unassuming woman with a lovely house in the suburbs.

For once I felt…listened to. She asked me all about my lifestyle from how heavily I sleep to how often I poop. This is what matters! I often feel that small indications tell me that my body is not functioning at maximum capacity. Like the fact that I often feel very bloated or that my period stops for a full 24-36 hours in the middle of my flow. But this is something dismissed by regular doctors all the time.

After answering about 8 pages of questions she stood very quietly and felt my pulse. She didn’t take my pulse, like time it and write it down, she listened to it as though it was telling her something. And apparently it did tell her something. She said that my body is beyond exhausted but my brain doesn’t know it. She said that because my demeanor is upbeat and outgoing I don’t know that my body is not living up to what my brain thinks it is. My energy resources are low and it’s screwing up all the balances in my body.

It might be bullshit, but it felt so good to hear it. It felt good to have something identified and explained to you in such a gentle way. It was almost like a someone dead talking through a psychic and telling me it was going to be OK. Sometimes I feel that my body is the cause for so much of my unhappiness. My body image around weight has always been messed up and I have no idea if I am really fat or not so fat! I get angry with my body because it never responds to diets or exercise the way other people’s bodies respond. And in the last 4 years it has seriously let me down. It is not fulfilling it’s end of the bargain! I have been doing everything right and something within my body to revolting against me and refusing to co-operate and freaking conceive already!

But here was someone with my interests and my bodies interest at heart breaching the gap in communication and it was almost like a reunion, tenuous, but a start.

I just read this back – fuck! I am turning into one of ‘them’, aren’t I?

But just to end off. Isn’t it great that my infertility treatments now end up with me feeling like I have just been to the spa instead of the science lab? This I can deal with!


The Ugly Little Devil

Nana, I will miss you!


I haven’t written for a few weeks as I have been battling to keep my head above the water, never mind my sanity intact.

In my last post I mentioned that we went away for my Father’s 60th birthday with him, my step-mom and my Gran (Nana). Well, the day we left Nana had a fall and that began the slippery slope to her death last Monday. It turned out to be a series of strokes that wrought havoc on her 85 year-old body. It made me so angry that our family had to go through more damage due to stroke. The stroke is an evil thing, as evil as AIDS and Cancer, it’s difference is that it kills a part of your body and leaves you hanging there with no hope of recovery and no definitive end as a stroke does not always offer you the peace of death. She was looking at a bedridden future until the Thursday when the doctors didn’t think her body would pull through and she ended up dying of lung infection. I took the 6 hour journey back to spend the weekend at her bedside. I am so lucky to have had that time with her as she battled with the idea of dying but to see someone you love stripped of every dignity is heartbreaking. I had to leave on Sunday afternoon and she passed away on the Monday morning.

Just a little note on my Gran: Nana was a strong, independent but loving woman, although God bless her, not the cleverest nor the most sensitive. Ours is a family full of strong women with strong views and her and I often clashed. I think it becomes a right of the aged to stop trying to empathize with the young. It’s almost as if your many years on this earth distances you from any current reality differs from your experience and you are entitled not to extend this understanding. Nana never experienced the stress of career balanced with the yearning for children. We always got into arguments about this. You had to choose one or the other. It would be much simpler if this was a reality in today’s world: choose 1 thing and do that well. But we have to work kids and a job into our life equation: otherwise the human race would be in quite a pickle! Anyway, this was a theme for some of our run-ins. But that aside we were close. As a midwife sister she gave me my first bath when I was born. As young children we often lived with her for periods of several months when my Dad changed career paths yet again. She loved my Mother deeply and was devastated when my parents separated. My brother and I were her only grandchildren and so in many ways we are all the family she had. So begins the journey of life without her.

But even in the turmoil of grief that little devil rears its ugly head and pokes and prods the wound. That nagging, little son-of-a-bitch called infertility, who will never let you focus on something else for a any amount of time. Oh no, you will go through the pain but it will make things sting even more. Besides the obvious idea of the cycle of life that you become so acutely aware of there is also dear Aunt Meryl (Nana’s sister) “Isn’t it such a pity you never gave her great-grandchildren”. But that is easily pushed aside as the ridiculous bleatings of the old.

Then W decides to throw me the curve ball that after a month of detoxing he has actually started smoking again. Yes, folks. The dirty habit of filling your lungs with tar and rat poison, also known as the biggest cause of male infertility! Oh, and don’t forget that Nana died of lung infection caused by the stroke because she never recovered from being a smoker 30 years ago. It is an understatement to say I lost it. Hysteria ensued and I had no ‘off’ switch. For the rest of the day I was overcome with anger and bitterness. So much so that I didn’t have room in my head for grieving the loss of my Gran. Is that sick? I felt so betrayed, I felt diminished, as if all my pain and agonizing over this has washed over W and not had any impact at all. That something so small as a nicotine craving could have more of an impact on his actions than my (and what I thought was shared) pain. I know none of this is rational, that cigarette craving is even less so but the equations in my head ran amok and left me shattered. After several hours of hysterics he caved and said he would quit again then and there. Immediately I felt like I had him back, that he was the person I thought he was. I was so relieved.

Cut to several days later. After a very busy week of travel for work, baby-making time popped up and we dutifully worked it into our very busy schedule. Saturday felt like a dream as we had no travel and no commitments other than a braai (bbq) with good friends (also Infertiles). Sunshine and my best friend, wine was in abundance. It seems the detox had one affect on W and that is 0 to drunk in 60 seconds. Luckily he is not often a belligerent drunk. After a shocking game of 30seconds the conversation moved to the dark side where we talked about death and loss. And for all 4 of us the waterworks were turned on. But that can be fairly cathartic and we moved on feeling released of some pressure. But later the ugly little devil worked his way back into our space and the old topic of IF came up yet again. It was good to talk as they understand what we are going through and lately it feels like the only space I feel safe to talk in. But from left field came W’s strange and emotional outcry. “We will never have kids and we need to start accepting it.” And then, “it’s all my fault and there is nothing I can do” and then “we need to give up now, I can’t do this anymore”. I know that men are not in touch with their emotions. I know my husband is even less so. But sometimes you forget that anything actually goes on deep down. Just because they are not in touch with what they feel it doesn’t mean that don’t feel anything. I was pretty startled, I must admit. But there was also no sense I could make in that conversation. He eventually went to bed stricken from the affects of too much beer and too few defense mechanisms. When he woke up he was a bit embarrassed about the melodrama but it was good for us in the end. It was good for me to be the quiet, still one and not the hysterical one. It turned the tables only for a moment but that restored some balance to our collaborative effort in dealing and processing all of this.

And so we are back on track –  maybe a little more worn and fragile but nonetheless on track. Track to…what?