Monthly Archives: November 2011

Positive thinking and Realism

Yesterday, on day three after retrieval, one beautiful 8-cell embryo was transferred to its natural element :-).

8 cells is as it should be on day 3 they told us and they estimated that this one has 30% chance of making it and implanting. It was a clear winner amongst the 6 eggs that got fertilized out of the 8 retrieved. We had decided on a single-embryo transfer even before we began the IVF process and the IVF clinic also favors it generally in initial attempts.  The remaining 5 embryos will be assessed today to see if they are good enough for the big freeze.

It was quite amazing to see the microscope picture of our little embryo that can’t even be seen with the naked eye. Magical.  The doctor who did the transfer was just so sweet and calm. She is like an angel really. I expressed my appreciation and she got all touched. The whole experience was quite beautiful despite the stirrups and the bleak hospital room next to a lab…

Now I have officially entered the realm of the two week wait and the battle between hope and fear is commencing. At the moment I still feel quite positive and at peace. I’m trying to hold on to that, while also trying to accept and surrender to the fact that what is going on inside me is entirely out of my control. Nature is at work for better or for worse and all I can do is avoid interfering. I’m a realist. Statistically there is about 30% chance of success and this means a bloody big chance of failure.

As I’m pondering on these not so promising success rates, I hear that voice in my head. The voice of current dominant ideology, i.e. “positive thinking”. Believe it and it will happen. This dogma of thinking positive isn’t just a helpful suggestion to make you feel better, but seems more like a moral obligation. You have to think positively! Negative thinking will create negative outcomes. What you fear you will draw to you etc. etc.

This is one obligation I can certainly do without at the moment.I need to remind myself that I truly do not believe that neither positive nor negative thinking will make any difference with regards to the outcome. To that end, I love watching the animated version of Barbara Ehrenreich’s dig at the positive thinking dogma in “Smile or die”. Click here to watch on YouTube. It’s fantastic.

As she argues, it is cruel to suggest that people going through difficulty in life have themselves created it with their minds. Or that for instance cancer or infertility can be cured by way of positive thinking. Indeed it would be cruel to myself to think that my chances of becoming pregnant within the next two weeks should in any way be influenced by my ability to think positive or not. Realism gives me the freedom to feel however I feel at any particular moment knowing that the outcome is entirely beyond my control.

In this way I embark on my two week wait armed with a healthy dose of realism, mixed with some non-obligatory positive thinking for general well-being. It might make the wait more bearable and less characterized by premature suffering. I will suffer soon enough if the blood test is negative on the 9th of December. Until then I can allow myself some happy spells by thinking of the tiny little seed of life inside me :-).


There is hope

The embryo transfer has been scheduled for tomorrow. Never had I imagined that that piece of news would make me so happy. And amazingly relieved. It means that it’s possible for my eggs and my husbands sperm to make new life together. Being diagnosed with unexplained infertility, and never having had the slightest indication of a pregnancy, this feels like a major milestone. We knew that there was always a chance that our problem could be to do with fertilization. But that’s not it! We were dancing around in the living room after the call – we have embryos!!! It means there is hope.

We won’t find out until tomorrow how many and how they have developed. All I know is that 8 eggs were retrieved on Friday and that there is as least one embryo to transfer tomorrow. At the moment that is all I need to know.

The Slow Movement

Finally it’s almost time for egg retrieval. Friday is the big day and tonight the final injection; the Pregnyl trigger. I was beginning to think my ovaries had decided to join the slow movement. 24 days of injections feels like an awful long time (13 of them on Gonal-f), since normally my follicles have tended to grow quite quickly. I even ran out of drugs in the fridge and had to get an extra Gonal-f pen.

The latest ultra sound yesterday showed a few more follicles, in addition to the 5 main ones that have been with us the whole time, but they are probably too small so we will most likely end up with quite a small number of eggs. So now we are just hoping that it’s a matter of quality over quantity… after all slow is meant to be good, right?

Although I really liked Carl Honoré’s “In Praise of Slow. How a worldwide movement is challeging the cult of speed“, and could easily be convinced to subscribe to the mantra that slow is beautiful, I can only say that this definitely does not apply when it comes to the process of fertility treatment. I just want it to be over. Quickly please. The long IVF protocol is painfully drawn out and around the corner is (hopefully) more waiting. There is only one thing to do and that’s to try to accept and embrace the tempo of the body and this process.

I’m feeling a bit nervous about the retrieval though – especially since I will be awake during the procedure. That’s how it done here in the Netherlands. They just give you a sedative to keep you calm and morphine for the pain. But they keep assuring me it’s no biggie, so I guess I will have to trust them on that and take it in my stride.

Side(lined) effects

I’m 6 days into the stimulation phase on Gonal-f (300 IE) plus Decapeptyl and feeling like crap to be frank. The headaches are non-stop and so is the tiredness, but the worst has been the spells of dizziness and nausea. Especially in the morning. Sunday and Monday I could not get out of bed, because the room was spinning out of control.

Out of control, that is how I feel too. I called the IVF center at the hospital on Monday to ask about the dizziness and nausea which I found worrying. Only to be told that these are not known side effects of Gonal-f. “Maybe you have the flu”, the woman helpfully suggested. Hmmm… “No this does not feel like the flu”, I replied. She did not know what to say. But did suggest we could always abandon the mission and stop the treatment. No no no… that’s not why I called. I just wanted to discuss the side effects I’m experiencing. I’m of course not going through all of this only to stop half way because of whatever discomforts. But I would like to be properly informed about what this is doing to me and reassured that it’s ok. Not to mention taken seriously when I’m experiencing side effects and have a qualified discussion about the issues. So far there has been none of that. Possible side effects of the drugs necessary to make IVF possible has never really been discussed at any point in the process. As if they were entirely irrelevant to the process

Today I went for my first ultrasound after starting the Gonal-f injections and again it was pretty much the same story. Dizziness? No we have never heard that before. But at least she did ask if I have felt anything unusual with regards to my heartbeat, because apparently it could be a problem with my heart rather than the drugs per say. Well, no my heart seems fine. Nothing unusual there. Ok, then maybe you have the flu… Again I explained that this does not feel like a flu – quite frankly I have never had a flu which presented as dizziness and nausea in the morning up until about 11am and then disappeared only to return again the next morning…

To top it all off there appear to be only 5 follicles coming along at the moment. I know it’s early days, but I’m disappointed. While putting up with the side effects you would at least like to see more of the desired effect as well.

Back to the side effects, Google at least could provide me with a bit more useful information, but not nearly as much as I expected. The most useful being on where both nausea and dizziness is indeed mentioned. Tellingly there seem to be only sparse information about Gonal-f side effects from the pharmaceutical company producing it. Apart from the obligatory note inside the box and here dizziness is not mentioned while nausea (and vomiting) is in rarer cases. There also seems to be hardly any information about side effects on the countless websites of fertility clinics all over the English speaking world. Why the silence? Why are the unintended and undesirable effects so utterly sidelined and ignored?

It’s well-know of course that IVF is a rough ride, but what this means exactly is rarely discussed by the professionals who offer the treatment and the companies who produce the necessary drugs. The real picture of what it is like going through IVF is only to be found in the accounts of people who have experienced it, i.e. on blogs and forums. Thanks to everyone who is sharing their experiences this way.


Life of Needles

One of the things that define a close encounter with fertility treatment is needles. Lots of needles which have to be used to inject yourself day after day with drugs from the stash in the fridge.

On one hand it’s no big deal really. You get used to injecting yourself. Take a deep breath and just do it – get it over with. Then at least there is a whole 24 hours before it has to be done again. On the other hand, I sometimes stop and think – what am I doing, this is plain crazy and just totally surreal. I never ever imagined I would be here needle in hand. That, however temporarily, my life would become one defined in part by needles.

Worse of course are the side effects of the stuff I am injecting myself with. At the moment I am still in the down regulating phase which in my case means Decapeptyl injections (i.e. triptorelin acetate). Since I started these injections I have been feeling tired more or less constantly, had quite some headaches and generally just not feeling quite like myself. Particularly feeling a bit down for no apparent reason.

But again I think it’s not really as bad as it could have been. So far at least. I’m happy I decided to get off the rat-race for a while and take a career-break. Although it means financial worries, it also means that I can just go with the flow of what the drugs do to me. It’s not really that big of a deal to feel tired is it.

On the other hand however the whole thing makes me wonder time and time again what I am doing to myself and how it has come to seem perfectly logical to do so. Going through fertility treatment seems to imply a particular logic which is hardly questioned. It’s a drive to succeed in our endeavor which has taken on a life of it’s own. The more treatment, the stronger the wish for success becomes. The needles are physical, material artifacts in the technologies of artificial reproduction which play a decisive role in making this life of treatment what it is. They manifest the structuring and disciplining of my body. But with everytime I’m there, needle in hand, it seems less of a big deal and more normal.