Life of a Mum

Bad days…..

Where to begin…… and that’s the thing I think; it’s so very hard to explain to someone that hasn’t experienced it.

Constant uncontrollable worry, mind working overdrive, daydreaming, overthinking, panic, doubt, anger, annoyance………. just wanting to hide away.

Sometimes there’s a clear reason why it happens; an argument, a bad day at work, a particular stroppy toddler, or just me judging or critiquing myself too harshly.

My anxiety feels as if everyone in the world is waiting for me to trip up, so that they can laugh at me; it makes me second guess my every move or decision. I therefore overthink everything; I critique myself so heavily- and also I take others comments to heart, a simple statement from them I manage to turn into a criticism.

Imagine…….

You are walking down the stairs carrying a pile of washing, your foot slips- the feeling of being about to fall! That’s the feeling……. the breath grabbing, heart pounding, ‘oh shit’ feeling…..the feeling over and over, and over. For no real reason; I can be having a good day and then it comes.

Throat tightening….

Heart pounding…..

Hot and sweaty…..

Can’t breathe……

It’s bloody awful.

And then there’s the fears and horrid thoughts….

This began when Dorothea was tiny; I used to worry that something horrible would happen in the night. Often I woke- convinced she was tangled in the bedcovers, or that she’d fallen off the bed, I’d rolled on her etc. Etc.

So many nights I‘d wake hot and panicked; stretch out to told her and be convinced; even if just for a moment, that she was cold- the poor child would generally grumble under Mummies prods- but I would sign relief and try and settle to sleep once again.

This has been happening more and more recently……

That same feeling of dread; suddenly waking and thinking something horrid has happened to her. Or other feelings of dread; being woken to a message or call of bad news, having irrational fear of weird things (cranes, driving under train bridges, overtaking lorries…)

And I’m so flipping tired!!!!

No not tired; it’s fatigue- it’s a tiredness that sleep won’t resolve. Not that I can sleep- although I’d love to (I’d take a week straight)- when I do sleep I have the funkiest dreams ever! And when I don’t sleep I visit the kitchen and eat custard and drink lemonade.

I feel exhausted; tired of thinking, tired of feeling nervous, tired or being ‘on alert’ and tired of that feeling of impending doom. Being able to rest would be a real treat.

All this seems to be driven by my thoughts, anxieties and self critique; but then there’s the very real physical symptoms!

– regular headaches; always behind one eye, they make me take myself off to bed.

– racing heart/palpitations/chest tightness

– throat tightness and difficulty breathing or talking

– flushing/overheating/sweating

– hormonal imbalance; disappearing and then heavy periods, mood swings, loss of libido

– bladder issues; peeing more with increased urgency

( I’m a nurse so I get that although these are actually very real physical symptoms- they are very stronger linked to my mental health).

I feel lost; unappreciated, silly, foolish- I take comments and criticism too harshly. Somedays I feel I’m useless at everything; others I can see my talents and strengths and have confidence.

But it’s how to take control?????

– I know I’m not everything I sometimes judge myself to be

– I know I have skills, knowledge, gifts and areas of expertise

– I know I’m appreciated, loved, cared for, trusted and wanted

– I know I’m kind, honest, genuine, social and loving

But how can I be all that…….. how can I be everything I know I can be, at my best…… when right now I feel at my worst?

For now I need time…..

time to rest

– time to be selfish and prioritise me

– time to think AND time not to think

– time for family and friends

– time to make decisions

– time for fresh air and exercise

– time for talking, for listening, and for being quiet

– time to make the right decisions for me

IVF

IVF- the beginning…..

Well it’s May- the month that always reminds me of IVF! It was the May 2016 was month Dorothea was created. But our journey started long before that.

As an ‘older’ couple we didn’t want to hang around waiting for the ‘right time’ to try for a baby. So we decided early on in our relationship to come off contraception and let ‘nature’ run its course. And we waited……

Nothing happened- so we decided to be a little more planned; using a Fertility app and peeing on ovulation sticks (oh and obviously having sex) – but still nothing. A year had passed.

So we visited the GP and had some basic fertility checks; blood tests and a semen analysis. We were referred for fertility treatment April 2015 after tests revealed malefactor infertility; analysis showed a near normal count but low ‘normal forms’- meaning that although natural conception was possible, it was unlikely.

Following some more tests; more bloods and tests ruling out STDs and other infectious diseases, specialist fertility blood tests and ovarian scans- we were played to go ahead with a funded IVF cycle.

We were referred to a local fertility clinic to commence the process. I was told my AMH levels were high (indicating a good reserve of eggs)- but that this possibly indicates PCOS. Further sperm analysis revealed a range of figures- which confused us an didn’t seem related to any health or lifestyle changes. Due to sperm quality we were told we needed to have ICSI- this is when the sperm and egg are not simply put in a dish to do their thing- but that the selected speed is actually injected into the egg.

Our cycle started in October 2018- a few days after a lovely holiday and my birthday. I felt stressed- I wasn’t feeling optimistic or positive, I felt badly prepared and was having increased responsibility at work increasing my stress load further. I hadn’t done that much research and was just trying to ‘go with the flow’. Every appointment was met with nervousness and anxiety from me- my partner tried to help relax me- but there was a lot of tears.

IVF treatment can involve a range of drugs/treatments- from self administered injections, to tablets, nasal sprays and vaginal pessaries or rectal suppositories. The box of drug supplies for a cycle is overwhelming- a huge amount of unfamiliar drugs with a scary amount of needles and syringes! I was fine with the needles and drugs; I’m a nurse, so this part of the process didn’t bother me at all.

It was the mental side of it; after wanting to be a mum for so many years I was so nervous it wouldn’t work. Anxious at every stage and felt it was hard to relax and get rest.

So the injections were ongoing (to grow the follicles and mature the eggs) at each appointment they were counting 30-40 follicles! This was a high number; and they said I was at risk of OHSS ( ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome)- and wanted to monitor me closely- they reduced my dose injected stimulation drugs to help reduce the risk. (Normal amount of follicles is expected to be approx 10-20). I can not describe the feeling of huge fluid filled ovaries; it was certainly weird and uncomfortable!

The nurse told me ovaries are around the size of walnuts- but after 7 days of stims mine were now the size of large oranges. When I walked quickly I could feel them ‘bouncing’ inside me; and I was told no running or activity due to a risk of torsion.

So I had a scan and blood tests in a Friday; and was due to return on the Monday, on the Monday my scan revealed a shock- massive follicles! The nurse was shocked and said she was unsure how they’d grown so much on a reduced dose- I was surprised, I’d had no dose adjustment. It turns out they left a voicemail that I never received- to half my stim dose!!! I was told to stop stims and await blood results; a call came later that my hormone levels were dangerously high- they were 21,000 and should be less than 17,000. I gad to return to the clinic- I was given a drug called cabergoline to counteract the effect and hopefully stop the likelihood of hyper stimulation syndrome. I took the drug- but was scared; and I had to return to work.

I quickly felt very unwell; I collapsed vomiting at work in the corridor, Nick had to come fetch me. I had such severe vertigo and sickness that I could only lie flat or crawl; I’d never felt so ill. The clinic said it was a severe allergic reaction to the drug; and that I needed to try and drink 3-4litres of water a day.

After 2days of being poorly; with severe sickness and inability to drink- I had egg collection. We retrieved 20 eggs from 31 follicles. To retrieve the eggs they insert a dildo like implement into your vagina- poke a needle through your vaginal wall and into each ovary; sucking out the contents of each plump follicle. In my clinic I was sedated, so don’t recall a thing; afterwards just a little period type pain and spotting of blood.

After the great news of 20 eggs- 17 were mature and yet only 7 fertilised. This was gutting!!!! We had hoped to get at least 50%. Then came the wait; we had to wait for a call, hoping that day by day our cells would divide normally. The aim is to get them to a 5 day embryo; called a blastocyst.

On day 3 we had a call- we only had 3 embryos left in the running- and they were not brilliant quality; we were advised to come in for transfer. The risk was if was waiting til day 5 there would be no embryo to transfer. We were gutted.

I remember crying en-route to the hospital. Nick played my ‘relaxing IVF app’ but it didn’t help- I was in pieces. So two embryos were transferred; a ‘good’ 8 cell embryo and a fragmented 10 cell (you can tell from the pic that the top embryo looks more equal and the cells are similar sizes).

I remember Nick asking the Dr what we could do to improve our chances; should I rest etc.- she replied ‘either you get pregnant or you don’t’.

Then came the dreaded two week wait- the most awful time; questioning every potential symptom- do I have sore boobs, any pain, is my period coming. 11 days later we got our answer.

We returned to the clinic to have our thoughts confirmed- it hadn’t worked! A urine and blood test confirmed this cycle had not worked. We went home to cry.

Not only had this cycle not worked- but it was our only funded cycle- our only chance of getting pregnant on the NHS. What millions of couples take for granted- having a family- we were going to have to find thousands of £££ for.

Yes- infertility sucks!

It affects you mentally, physically and financially. It challenges your relationship, can make you seriously ill and makes you feel like a total failure! Why can’t I do the main thing we were put on this Earth to do. I just wanted a baby- a family!

Our Ivf fund