15 July 2012, by Tan Yi Lin
I’m sorry if my previous post came across as slightly morbid. I’m not unhappy or on a search to self-inflict some emotional pain or anything. I think most of the frustration stemmed from a case of writers’ block and trying to relocate that little bit of soul that has been missing from this blog recently.
Maybe the key to finding meaning in writing is to acknowledge that I actually like writing about infertility and IVF. It’s about putting the truth out there. About the things that really matter.
Don’t get me wrong. This U-turn isn’t meant to spiral this blog down into self-pity and negativity. IVF is not a negative or unhappy process. I’ve never been unhappy because we have to turn to IVF to have a baby. In fact, I’m pretty damn grateful that we have the opportunity to do it, because not every couple out there who longs for their own child can “just try IVF lor”, which is what most people don’t understand. I feel eternally blessed that our attempt at IVF has yielded one beautiful daughter, who is sleeping peacefully beside me as I write this, because even with IVF, babies don’t happen overnight. And I salute those courageous couples who nevertheless soldier on, try after try, because they don’t give up.
On the other hand, it’s also not about approaching IVF with false positivity. Positivity, yes, and hope. But not empty cheers of “I am a positive person, so if I think positively, I can do it.” Sorry, no. It all comes down to the luck of the draw. Science and happy shiny thoughts can only do so much.
Confused? Well, so am I. Sometimes I feel slightly schizo. But then, who doesn’t?
We started planning for our second baby even before our first arrived. Yes, call it counting our chickens before they hatch, but after our first round of IVF (which failed), we learnt what a long-drawn and time-sensitive procedure IVF could be and knew that we didn’t have the luxury of time on our side.
The countdown to start trying for Baby No.2 started with Coco’s arrival. While we revelled in the joy that our newborn daughter brought, it was always at the back of our minds that the clock was ticking. I treasured the six to seven months when I breastfed her because I knew that we didn’t have the luxury of time to keep going until she was one or to let her decide when she was ready to wean. I needed my period to return so that I could prepare my body for the next IVF cycle. So yes, to the breastfeeding zealots who read my entry on Weaning and tut-tutted at my decision to stop at six months: THIS is my personal reason for doing so. Can?
All this calculated planning may come across as methodical. Even clinical. Call it what you want. To us, it’s simply what we have to do. But whatever we did, it wasn’t without love. It was done with more Love and Hope than I can ever put into words.
The process so far:
Since we had completely used up our stash of frozen embryos, we would have to start a fresh IVF cycle all over again.
Early MAY: I visited my lovely 3-in-1 gynae/obstetrician/IVF doctor for our first IVF consultation. She ordered a Sonohysterography to check the condition of my womb, to be performed after my next menses has ended and before Day 10 of the cycle. She also checked the IVF queue at the KKH IVF Centre. We were in luck: there were seven vacancies for the programme starting in June. I told her to book me a slot.
She asked how many embryos I would like to have transferred into me for the next round, assuming that I had more than one good embryo.
“Two,” I said, without hesitation.
“Are you sure?” she asked.
I replied: “Yes. Bring it on.” 🙂
Immediately after, I headed to the IVF clinic to get some blood tests done and sign the registration forms for the IVF programme. I also made appointments for Dan’s blood test and semen analysis test on his behalf. New IVF cycle meant a new round of tests to be done.
I left the hospital with one important date and task to remember: to call KKH on the first day of my next period to make an appointment for the sonohysterography procedure.
11 MAY (Period Day 1): I completely forgot to call KKH. I only remembered 3 days later and called in panic, worried that I wouldn’t be able to secure a slot within the next week. While schedule at KKH was chock-a block full, the nurse managed to find me a slot on 18 May (thank you, thank you, THANK YOU NURSE!)
18 MAY (Period Day 8): I turned up at KKH for the sonohysterography test. Since I had already gone through a hysterosalpingogram before our first round of IVF, this sonohysterography was just to check the condition of the uterus to make sure that there were no stuff like polyps or weird growths that would impede our chances of conceiving successfully through IVF.
I was told to remove my underwear and don a pink gown and robe for the procedure. The changing room was located a distance away from the radiology rooms, which meant that I had to parade down the hallway, across a public waiting area, panty-less. Yes, the whole IVF process is very undignified. Leave your dignity at the door, thank you very much.
A sonohysterography is similar to a hysterosalpingogram, in that saline or water is slowly injected through a tube through the vagina and cervix, and into the womb. However, unlike the latter, the fluid is not pumped into the fallopian tubes. Mild cramps may occur in the lower abdomen. The doctor examines the womb in detail with the help of ultrasound. After the procedure, the tube is removed and most of the fluid will be discharged through the vagina. Other than cramps and possibly mild spotting, most patients don’t experience any side effects from a sonohysterography.
IVF leaves a certain legacy in its patients: tenacity and to a certain level, blaseness. A sonohyseterography is nothing compared to needles and drugs. I chatted with the doctor and the nurse who conducted the procedure. They asked me if I was scared: I replied, no. I told them that I had already been through hysterosalpingography and IVF. I didn’t wince a bit. They praised me for being their best patient ever. I felt like a war veteran, wearing my battle scars with pride.
My gracious cervix complied and let the tube through easily; my gorgeous ovaries posed sexily for the camera and my humble hardworking womb was given the all clear by the doctor. Stage 1 – COMPLETE!
24 MAY: We saw my gynae again with the results of the sonohysterography test, our blood test results and Dan’s semen analysis report. We were all set to start IVF once my next period came.
14 JUNE (Period Day 1): At the first sign of blood, I messaged my husband and wonderful IVF support group sistas the good news: “HOORAY! PERIOD CAME! CAN START IVF! WOOT!”
We IVF-survivors think it’s amusing that we no longer get upset at the sign of a period (unless, of course, it’s after the dreaded Two-Week Wait). We no longer shed tears of disappointment alone in the bathroom and think, “No, not pregnant. Yet. Again.” Having a period is a GOOD sign that we CAN do IVF. For those who think that this blog smacks of negativity, how’s this for a ray of positivity? IVF isn’t exactly a sunny holiday, but we do try to look on the bright side of life. Like I’ve said many times before, when I’m not under the relentless siege of fertility drugs, pregnancy hormones and post-natal angst, I really do think that we lead a blessed life.
I called the KKH IVF Centre and was told to turn up on Day 21 of my period, anytime between 10am and 4pm, to collect my IVF drugs and start injections.
4 JULY (Period Day 21): I visited my dentist for a regular check-up and then headed down to KKH. How many people can calmly have their teeth cleaned before collecting a stash of IVF drugs? Just another sunshiny day in the life of an IVF patient! All in a morning’s work. La la la!
I collected a prescription from the IVF clinic, queued for my drugs at the KKH pharmacy then headed back to the clinic where a nice nurse brought me through the process of injecting myself with Lucrin. It felt strangely familiar, and yet too long ago to remember clearly how the injections were to be administered.
Then, I headed home. It was Wednesday. As part of my telecommuting arrangement with my boss, I still had to get home on time to do some work. But not before picking up a little something from the hospital toy store for Coco:
5 – 15 JULY: I have been jabbing myself with a daily dose of Lucrin for the past twelve days. This round is very different from the first. I was very mindful of my daily jabbing routine back then. Now, with Coco to tend to, I keep forgetting to do the jab and pop a folic pill before I go to work. I get distracted by early morning diaper changes, milk feeds, her insistence on brushing her teeth along with me, etc. I have resorted to setting a daily reminder on my phone.
Just last week, less than a week after I started on Lucrin, I came home one evening to be greeted by a tiny glass bottle of clear liquid sitting on my bedroom table. A row of expletives fired through my mind. “&(#$*#)@*$!” In my morning distraction, I had forgotten to place the Lucrin back into the fridge after I had used it. I was incredibly upset with myself but was all prepared to blow another $100+ on a new bottle. After all, who knew what state the drug had morphed into by now. Injecting myself with it may give me green eggs and glowing mutant babies capable of joining the X-Men.
However, when I called KKH for advice, the nurse reassured me that as long as the bottle was kept out of direct sunlight in a cool shaded indoor place, it was safe to continue using the Lucrin. Ok. I really hope that she’s right.
UP NEXT: 18 JULY (Day 15 on Lucrin): This is when I head back to KKH for a blood test to check my “egg hormone” levels, which will determine whether I’m ready to start my second daily jab – Puregon, which will stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple follicles, and hopefully, multiple eggs.
With my previous fresh cycle, I experienced slight headaches and discomfort while on Lucrin. I can’t tell if it’s been the same for this cycle. Coincidentally, I came down with a cough and sore throat on the very day that I was due to start Lucrin. Over that week, I visited the GP twice, who gave me a cocktail of cough syrups, antibiotics and other meds. Including Lucrin, Clarinase and Panadol, I was popping a sickening cocktail of ten drugs over the course of my illness. Thankfully, the super strong antibiotics worked and I’ve fully recovered, but not before they left me feeling stoned and spaced out like a zombie for the five days that I was on them.
I noticed that this time around, being on Lucrin has completely killed my appetite. I haven’t felt hungry in days. I still eat when it’s time to eat, simply for the sake of eating. Dan asked whether the doctor could prescribe him some Lucrin too to help him in his mission to lose weight. LOL. I love my funny husband.
In any case, nothing is going to stand in the way of us giving it our best shot (pun unintended) to conceive again.
If that damn stork isn’t going to bring us a baby, we’ll just have to grab that bird by its neck and get one ourselves.