Brain Overload

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So much has been going on. Gahhhhh. Our embryo was transferred on Saturday. It was an uncomfortable but bearable procedure. But now my mind is swirling with possibilities, daydreams, hopes, fears… the works!

The good news was that the embryo was really good quality and received a high grading. It was already starting to hatch and the embryologist was very pleased with it. However that doesn’t mean it will work so isn’t particularly reassuring. The bad news is that none of the other embryos were worth freezing which means this is our only shot from this cycle. I’m really disappointed about this as I had hoped we would have a few to freeze so that we had a few chances. Now the pressure is really on. It had all been so promising when we collected 18 eggs but turns out this cycle wasn’t wasn’t very successful.

I keep having to stop myself from thinking about the outcome. Could I be pregnant? After the previous two embryo transfers I remember being certain that I wasn’t pregnant. I felt totally normal. I don’t know what will happen and I will have to wait another week until we return to the clinic to find out the outcome. All I know is that if this doesn’t work I will be gutted. I would absolutely love to have another little one. But at least I am fortunate to have a beautiful baby already. His lovely face will cheer me up and make me feel incredibly blessed if things don’t go how I hope.

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The Definition of Love

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Recently a mother who has undergone IVF posted a picture of her beautiful baby girl lying asleep in the middle of hundred of syringes. Why? To illustrate the physical and emotional turmoil experienced by people who go through IVF. The child’s mother finally succeeded in becoming pregnant after more than a year-and-a-half of cycles.

It was shared more than 3,000 times as parents around the globe have opened up about their stories of trying to conceive a baby biologically related to them.

The baby’s mother told couples trying to conceive to “hang in there”.

“The needles were the easy part. It was the emotional struggle, the ups and downs, that really took a toll, I waited a long time for a husband to come. And then by that time it was difficult to get pregnant.”

What a poignant image of a gorgeous miracle baby.

McPregnant

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Another week and another celebrity couple to reveal that they have undergone IVF. McBusted star Harry Judd and his wife Izzy have publicised that the baby they are expecting in January is the result of IVF. Talking of their struggle to conceive and the heartache of a miscarriage from their first attempt at IVF last year they explained…

“You feel like you are never going to be the ones who get to say, ‘We are having a baby’. That is why we feel so blessed now,” 

“In an ideal world when you’re ready to start a family you hope you will conceive in the first few months of trying,” says Harry. “We were like, no, no we won’t need IVF, it won’t be us. IVF was like something you didn’t talk about. We thought it would be fine.”

“Every baby is a miracle but we do feel so very lucky,” says Izzy, 31, who was diagnosed with polycystic ovaries in her twenties.

“I never wanted to stop believing that we would have a family,” says Izzy. “But you do feel like someone has pressed pause on your life and you can’t go anywhere.”

The couple lost count of the number of times people asked them if they wanted to have a family. “This was always so impossible to answer and felt like my heart was breaking every time,” says Izzy

If you are struggling to conceive this must echo how you feel, and if you are going through IVF at the moment I hope you are as successful as they have been.

Does having an IVF baby change your parenting?

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For most of my adult life I was a laid back, stress-free kind of person. Honest! So it is quite bizarre to me that as a mother I am more of a worrier than I ever could have imagined.

My pregnancy neurosis (following our previous pregnancy loss) evolved into a less stressful but equally real anxiety surrounding the well-being of our little boy. Now admittedly that is largely down to the fact that my son is a terrible feeder who would happily exist solely on air! Perhaps if he had a greater appetite I would stress less. However it doesn’t take a genius to realise that given our history and the fact that my son is the product of IVF, I view him as even more miraculous and special than perhaps I otherwise would. I wonder how many other women feel that their parenting is influenced by their route to motherhood. Do the challenges faced in conception impact on the way we view our IVF babies?

Most couples with an infertility problem wait for a long time and undergo lengthy procedures before they finally get their much-desired baby. In recent years, several studies have been published comparing the parent–child relationship and the child’s psychosocial development in families with children conceived by IVF and families with naturally conceived children. The results are not conclusive, and most of the measures in the studies revealed no significant differences in the quality of the parent–child relationship between IVF families and families with naturally conceived children. However in my experience I certainly feel both that little bit more blessed and scared that I have my gorgeous baby.

Unless the IVF has nothing to do with it. My dad is totally neurotic and over-protective so I could just take after him!

Happy Gay Pride

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This weekend the streets of London were filled with fun and excitement as Gay Pride was held in the capital. I realised that I am yet to post a single post that acknowledges that gay couples also struggle to create their families. They undergo IVF to conceive and have for decades. So how does it work?

  • Lesbian couples often “share” the cycle. One partner undergoes stimulation of the ovaries and egg retrieval and the other carries the pregnancy. It is also possible for lesbian couples to undergo simultaneous embryo transfers and carry concurrently with the same due date. Subsequent pregnancies using frozen embryos can be carried by either woman.
  • Gay men need the help of either one or two women to complete an IVF cycle. The same woman may be the egg donor and the surrogate carrier, or different women may fulfill each role.
  • There are currently no procedures that permit a same-sex couple to conceive in a way that combines their own genes. The closest approximation is when a lesbian couple uses a brother’s sperm for insemination of his sister’s partner’s/wife’s eggs or when two men use a sister’s eggs, fertilized by her brother’s partner’s / husband’s sperm in a surrogacy cycle. This is also done by heterosexual couples in IVF who need donor eggs or sperm.

Ugh IVF is both a stressful ordeal and an absolute miracle. If you are going through IVF at the moment, whether you are straight or gay, good luck!

No Laughing Matter

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Last week I happened to catch an interview on This Morning with TV presenter Julia Bradbury. She talked about her grueling IVF experience which happily resulted in the birth of her twins. She discussed the disappointment and failures she experienced during the five cycles she undertook and the added obstacle of her age (44).

Most fascinating was her reference to an Israeli study about the importance of remaining positive during embryo transfer. The research found that women who were made to laugh during IVF by bringing clowns into the surgery were statistically more likely to conceive than those who weren’t entertained.

This is not the first I have heard of this. My husband excitedly regaled this to me following our embryo transfer, during which, for reasons unknown to me, I got the giggles. Proper tear inducing giggles. I was laughing so much my husband had to turn away from me in an effort to stop the laughter. Perhaps it was nerves, or embarrassment at having my legs wide open, but that laughter clearly didn’t hurt as the outcome was a positive pregnancy. So have some jokes at the ready!

22 Things You Should Know About Fertility

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My husband stumbled across this comprehensive list of all the MANY fertility issues you may encounter on your journey to pregnancy. Woah, it’s a miracle any of us are here when there seems so bloody impossible to get pregnant!

Take a look: http://tinyurl.com/ku7xxz3

Acupuncture & Reflexology

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In parts of Asia, acupuncture has been used for centuries to jump-start labour. But does it work? Research is inconclusive. One small study at the University of North Carolina found that women who got acupuncture were more likely to go into labour without a medical “push.” The study included 56 women who were 39.5 to 41 weeks pregnant. Half of the women got three acupuncture sessions, while the other half did not. Seventy percent of the women who got acupuncture went into labour on their own, compared to 50% who received standard care. The women who got acupuncture were also less likely to deliver by cesarean section — 39% compared to 17%.

9 months ago, to accompany my IVF treatment, I used acupuncture. I found the process very relaxing and positive. It was calming and restful, in fact I fell asleep! So last week I decided to give it another go as there are suggestions that it can be a a safe natural way to help bring on labour.  I was told to have two sessions which combined acupuncture and reflexology. The first was in week 38 to prepare the body for labour, and the second, scheduled for today, to induce labour. Watch this space!

Eat Yourself Pregnant

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Zita West, a midwife and fertility expert, believes a good diet ‘forms the bedrock of getting a woman’s body baby-ready and a man making healthy sperm’. In her new book, Eat Yourself Pregnant: Essential Recipes for Boosting Your Fertility Naturally, she explains which foods can help with conception. Fascinated by the role nutrition takes in every couple’s ability to have a baby she came to the conclusion that micronutrients play a big role in getting pregnant – both naturally and through assisted conception – with deficiencies having significant effects on fertility for both men and women. When meeting a couple she investigates their digestion and gut health, toxicity, immunity, and how much their states of mind are affecting their bodies. But don’t worry this book does not eliminate bread, chocolate, cheese and dairy. It is not a faddy diet. The focus is on nourishing the body in a positive, sustainable way.

She explains that mood, weight and hormones can change rapidly according to where a woman is in her cycle. It is possible to support your body’s monthly shifts through your diet. Here are her rules for your cycle.

Phase 1

On the first day of your period when you may feel lethargic enjoy warm, nourishing foods and a diet rich in iron and vitamin C, as these nutrients help to replenish the iron that you lose with your period. Good sources of iron include lean red meat, pumpkin seeds, beans and pulses, dried apricots and raisins, shellfish and dark green leafy vegetables. For B-vitamins include whole grains, lamb, beef, poultry, shellfish, eggs, and dairy products, leafy green vegetables, yeast extract and nutritional yeast flakes. Most fruits and vegetables will provide good levels of vitamin C particularly citrus fruits, berries, kiwi fruit, leafy green vegetables and red pepper.

Phase 2

During phase two of your cycle oestrogen is on the rise as your body prepares for ovulation. This is usually a time when you’ll burst with energy. Foods rich in capsaicin, isoflavones and L-arginine (such as spicy foods, tofu and watermelon) encourage the body to make nitric oxide (NO). This compound helps to dilate your blood vessels, easing blood flow through your whole system, which is good news for your reproductive organs. During this phase, stock up on your B-vitamins, which are important for hormonal balance. B-vitamins also help with healthy cell division. Lecithin will help to keep your cell membranes healthy. Keep eating the vitamin-C-rich foods as this vitamin is thought to increase the amount of water in your cervical mucus, making it more plentiful. For healthy implantation of an egg, the immune system needs to be strong. For this reason, stock up on vitamin D. Exposing your skin to sunlight is the best way to get your body to manufacture this vitamin, but it is also present in salmon and sardines, and in shiitake mushrooms.

Phase 3

Next is the luteal phase of your cycle. The corpus luteum, that produces progesterone to thicken the womb lining, close the cervix and maintain a pregnancy, contains a high level of betacarotene. During this phase, try to include plenty of betacarotene-rich foods, including butternut squash, carrots, collards, kale, spinach, potato and mustard greens.

Phase 4

Lastly, in stage four, if no fertilisation has occurred, your hormone levels start to fall. During this phase you may begin to feel more lethargic again and crave sweet foods. Allow yourself the odd treat, but try to keep your blood sugar stable.

Finally do not forget that substituting foods containing fat with low-fat products, to avoid weight gain is a bad idea as these products often contain trans fats, sugar and sweeteners. Ovulation rates were 38 per cent better among women who used whole milk, a study found.

Wow some pretty amazing advice there. Happy fertile eating!

Always Our Baby

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It has been 1 year since we lost our precious first baby. Bizarrely it feels like it was a long time ago and yesterday all at the same time. The traumatic experience of terminating the pregnancy (for medical reasons at 21 weeks) and the sadness that filled our lives was so heartbreaking that I cannot believe we survived it.

However a year on we are different people. We still carry the pain but it is not raw and crushing like it was. We still talk about what happened and we still are in disbelief about what we and our baby went through.

A year on and our life is different too. We are two weeks from expecting another baby. The experience of losing our first baby has made pregnancy a difficult time. But the hope of a new baby has helped us heal and restored our faith. This baby will never replace the baby we lost and there will always be a profound sense of loss for what could have been.

So today, like everyday, we think of you and the love that will always exist between us.

Countdown

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Time seems to be moving at a painfully slow pace. I have an app on my phone that displays a daily count down. Today it reminds me that there are 18 days to go – under 3 weeks. As if I need reminding. I am a professional day/week counter now. 18 days may seem like a remarkably small amount of time but I am a phenomenally impatient person. Waiting for the IVF to begin was torture. Waiting for the anomaly scan was pure hell. So you would think this should be a doddle!

I am well aware that we are on the home stretch. The finish line lies ahead. But my apprehension and desperation to get this baby out safely is astonishing. I have a horrid feeling that the baby will be later than my due date and then I will be climbing the walls!

Those with children remind me to enjoy the calm before the storm. To rest and relax. But I don’t want to, I want my baby here safe and sound so that the pregnancy anxiety is over! We are so close now. But a niggling fear that we could still lose the baby prevents me from the excitement and relaxation I should be experiencing. Come on time!!

Yikes

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It’s all a bit mad. The wallpaper is up. The baby stuff has arrived. The antenatal class has been done. Now we wait, hope and pray we are blessed with a baby.

On Sunday we attended an antenatal class at the hospital where we received lots of useful information to help us prepare for the labour and the first few days of the baby’s life. My husband went a little white when shown some of the images of placentas. Most notably, the midwife said that since this is not my first labour it should be quicker. Second and subsequent labours tend to be much quicker because the cervix tends to dilate more quickly than it did the first time. She also believes that it is typical that first babies arrive late, but that since this is my second it is more likely to be on time or early. Hopefully this little one will come soon! Not this weekend though, as my husband is on a stag weekend (eek!). Furthermore the fact that this labour is only one year since the previous one should mean that my body remembers how to prepare for labour. Silver lining I guess.

Unlike most I am actually excited about the labour. When it finally happens I am sure I will be a little anxious but I don’t feel scared. It cannot be worse than last time. Maybe I used up all my anxiety during pregnancy so none is left for labour! I don’t want to sound ungrateful to anyone desperate to be pregnant but given what has happened I am ready for pregnancy to end and motherhood to begin. Until then I won’t feel like we are out of the danger zone.