…and A Merry Christmas Was Had By All

December 2010

My 2 week delay for surgery ended up being a nice reprieve. Except for the fact that the pain from the fibroids got worse over the fortnight, I was able to enjoy my birthday and wedding anniversary and finish the all-important Christmas shopping. Santa is just not as reliable at getting it all done as he was when I was 5.

As the date drew closer I realised I was really nervous about the surgery. Nervous about several aspects of it: the resulting pain was one, but for some reason the actual prospect of going under anaesthetic and  maybe having something go wrong became a real fear. I have had several surgeries over the years, but this was the first time I was gripped by that fear.

The hospital, different to the previous stay, was about 20minutes further away, so we were up at 5.45am and on the road. I was shown through to a waiting room to be processed, admitted, and meet with the anaesthetist. With Christmas 10 days away, the waiting room was full with surgical patients all waiting for their pre-festive season snip. 4 hours later, it was finally my turn. The anaesthetist came in to prep me and the next thing I remember I was in my room waking up from the surgery. That was really strange. All the surgeries I’d ever had before, I was awake when being wheeled into the operating theatre and did the count-down backwards from 100. I felt a bit ripped off! I always liked seeing how far I could get before I zonked.

The first night, I had a drip with fluids and pethedine with a self-administering clicker. I was aware that it’s good to stay on top of the pain and not wait until the pain starts before having pain relief. I’d never used a clicker before, so everytime I woke through the night I gave it another click so I wouldn’t wake up in pain. The night seemed to go on forever, so by the time the sun rose, I realised I’d probably been waking up every 15 minutes or so and having another hit of meds. When General Melchard (surgeon) came to see me, the nurse pointed out that I must have had a rough night as I’d clicked an awful lot. Needless to say they removed my clicker!

I had a fabulous view from my room. It was extremely therapeutic for someone who lives on a boat to have something beautiful to look at while recovering. I even took photos of the sunrise while I was coming out of my pethedine haze! In fact, everything about the hospital was top class. The nurses were great. The food was gluten and dairy free, and yet tasty! A physiotherapist came to see me first thing in the morning to help me get out of bed and have a shower. That was quite an experience with all the tubes and drips hanging off me. Just after, the doctor came and ordered everything to be taken out, including the drainage tube that was stitched into the wound. If childbirth is anything close to having a 20cm tube of rubber removed then give me a puppy cos that was so painful I went into shock. I couldn’t stop shaking.

The next morning I woke up with random sore muscles. I updated my Facebook status with “I need a massage and a cup of tea”. 5 minutes later, my friendly hospital physiotherapist popped in, gave me a massage, took me for a walk, and made me a cup of tea. Uncanny!I wish I’d asked for chocolate and cash instead!

The rest of my hospital stay was uneventful aside from trying to get the right combination of pain relief for when I went home. I didn’t like taking endone, also known as hippy heroin, so I switched to panadeine forte followed by nurofen. Except for a headache I suspected was coming from my neck from lying in bed too long, I was ready to be discharged on Day 5.

The night before, Hubby decided to get our hosueboat ready for my return by taking it to the nearby marina to fill up with water and use the shore power to vacuum. Awwww, you might say. What a sweet thoughtful husband. Well yes, except that while he was at the marina, a very strong wind picked up suddenly, making it impossible for him to weave back to the mooring through the other boats, for fear of hitting another boat or getting beached on the sandbar. By the next morning, the wind had not abated, so he was still stranded in a little cove nearby taking shelter. I rang his mum to come for the 90 minute drive to collect me. He was stranded until 8pm that evening. Not entirely his fault, but not his finest moment either!

My recovery at home was fine except for the headache that got progressively worse over the next 2 days, by which time, it was far worse than the pain from the surgery. As I am medicated for high blood pressure, I decided to check what my reading was – 149/97. Not good. I assumed that was the culprit, as the hospital had taken me off my BP meds while I was there. My sister, a nurse, and my GP both agreed it was a rebound headache from the panadeine forte. With a history of low back pain, I had practically lived on panadeine forte for years. Now I realise that I was probably getting treatment for neck pain and headaches that were being caused by the codeine that I was taking for the lower back pain. It has certainly made me realise that plain old panadol isn’t the lightweight you think it is.

Throughout my recovery, I haven’t given any thought at all as to whether this operation will enable me to fall pregnant. At this stage, I’ve decided it’s quite a low priority. The fibroids have made me feel so unwell and I’ve already gone past my cut-off age for trying to conceive. I was looking for something that would help me make the decision to close the door on this chapter of my life and it’s going to be 3 months before I can try to conceive anyway. By that time, hopefully, I will have made my decision either way.

So Christmas has come and gone and I am trying to get as much rest as possible as I have a big singing engagement on New Year’s Eve. I need to sound great, look fabulous, and most important, be upright.


The H Word

October 2010

As time marches on, and I drift closer my use-by date, I think about when I will call it a day. What day will it be when I will say, “That’s it, the time has come to move on”? I have moved that date a couple of times already, and have thought that it would be so much easier if the decision was taken out of my hands.

Be careful what you wish for.

I headed into the city to see my friendly surgeon – driving 40mins, taking a half hour train trip, then walking further than I needed to, only to find myself sitting in the waiting room for over an hour. It’s good to be able to take the time to relax and catch up on 12 month old magazines. I stumbled upon a story about being a mother in today’s world. Some of those interviewed were high profile women and some were everyday, you-and-me type women. One that grabbed my attention was Deborah Hutton. She is, according to her own website, one of Australia’s most acknowledged and respected media personalities. Apparently, Australians look to Deborah Hutton as a barometer of good taste, style and professional achievement. So, of course, I read on. She married late…even later than I, and had a baby at 47. My heart leaped. This article gave me hope. It put a smile on my face and a spring in my step as I sauntered into the surgeon’s office.

I explained to him about the pain I had experienced in the last month and showed him the scans that had discovered 5 sneaky fibroids. “Well, that is very disappointing”, he sighed. I felt like a naughty schoolgirl being reprimanded for not doing an assignment.

He then started writing down my options on his pad.
1. Laproscopic Myomectomy – the same surgery I had last year. Just go in through the belly button and whip the biggest fibroid out. 6 weeks recovery, then try getting pregnant again.
2. Myomectomy – no lap dance this time. Open up the uterus and send in the troops to hunt and kill every fibroid it can find. Give the place a good vacuum and a lick of paint while you’re there. 3 months recovery, then see if you still care about ever having sex again in order to fall pregnant.
3. Hysterectomy.

Hyster-what? Feeling a little hyster-ical. Did I just hear you right?

I wasn’t expecting that. I was still high from the Deborah-Hutton-Did-It-You-Can-Too pep talk I gave myself in the waiting room. I was expecting words of reassurance. This is no big deal. There’s still plenty of time. Not the H word!

A hysterectomy is very final. Try getting pregnant after that one, and you’ll be right up there in the miracle stakes with Saint Mary MacKillop.

I burst into tears. Dr Friendly-Mustache went quiet and uncomfortable for a few moments and started doodling on his note pad while he waited for me to make the next move. My head swam with the overwhelming thought of having a hysterectomy at 42-ish. This is it. This is the decision being taken out of my hands. “I’m not ready to go there” was all I could muster in reply.  He suggested we (meaning I) don’t rush the decision until he has another look to see exactly where the fibroids are located. I booked in for another scan at which he will be present.

He also suggested the same trial drug Dr Baby-Maker suggested, which has had good results in stimulating ovaries into action. It takes 3 months to work. I could start that, have the 2nd option surgery, then perhaps have another IVF cycle. Damn that carrot! I thought I had made that decision already. No more drugs. No more invasive procedures. I told him I’d give it some thought, but I really don’t think I could handle it. Mentally and physically, I am spent. I am drained. While the rest of my life is beautiful and relaxing and generally stress-free, I think I would crack if I went through that again and failed.

I pulled myself together and left the office, walked to the station, caught the train to my car and drove to my gig, put on some lipstick and a smile and dazzled a group of high schooler’s at music camp. As a musician, as with any job, you leave your personal dramas at the door, and do what you have to do. My husband, also on the gig, was bursting to hear what had happened, but I made him wait until I was safely home.

After talking it through, I rang my IVF buddy. She’s the one who explains all the big words I don’t understand because I didn’t listen properly or read any of the manuals. And then I made a big mistake. I rang my mother.

My mother means well. You’ve heard that before, right? I’m sure yours does too. A few weeks before I had the surgery to remove the fibroid last year, she had one too. Obviously I must have inherited looks, charm, big boobs, lack of tact, and fibroids from her. When they removed her fibroid, they took the lot. She had a hysterectomy. So when I explained what the latest news was, she became the expert on what was the best thing to do. “Oh just have it all out. It’s no big deal”. My mother is almost 80. She had 5, mostly ungrateful, children, of which I am one. I am one of the nice ones, so should be treated with care and affection, as I could turn at any moment. I often have conversations with my dear mother that, once in the middle of them, I regret bitterly. This was one of those conversations. I tried to explain that there’s a big difference between having a hysterectomy at 80 with 5 children under your belt, compared to 42 and batting zero. “Perhaps it’s time to give up all that stuff.” Yes, “that stuff” is trying to have a baby. She just doesn’t get it, and I should stop expecting her too. It only ends in frustration and a call for legalised euthanasia. Instead of getting angry or upset, I just changed the subject.

What I did realise out of that conversation, is that it’s not so much that I’m not ready to have a hysterectomy, but that I haven’t dealt with the probable reality that I have missed my baby-making time.

Beware: Crazy Woman Looking for Chocolate

September 2010

They were both wrong.

It’s now September which I don’t consider to be the middle of the year, and as my husband has conveniently gone interstate during this ovulation time, it will be October/November before we have another crack.

Since having the first miscarriage in 2009, my periods have gone from normal, manageable, to very heavy and highly unreasonable. (Too much information?) PMS has gone from a couple of days of allowable snapping at my husband, to being filled with absolute dread at what the next few days will hold.

I totally understand why Dr Baby-Maker suggests going on contraception too. This is my monthly mind-set, and I assume it’s similar to anyone trying to conceive.
Day 1-5 – get through your period without killing anyone.
Day 5-15 – think about how you’re going to find the time/energy to have sex as many times as possible whether you want to or not (ah…romance) and curse your husband for taking a tour out of town right when you might possibly be ovulating.
Day 16-21 – wonder whether you got it right. Were you both too tired? Was it worth making your husband drive back from Bathurst for 1 night in the pouring rain on icy roads worth it?
Day 22 – What was that twinge? Was that a sign? Is my period coming? Do I have wind? Meanwhile husband is making advances for more sex. Is he crazy? I’m not even ovulating!
Day 23 – Is it too early to do a test? If it’s negative I can just get on with things and put it out of my mind.
Day 24 – I’m not doing a test. It’s too risky. I might get a false positive and be disappointed again. Just wait a few more days.
Day 25 – My wrist is hurting. Carpel tunnel? It’s back. Surely that’s a good sign.
Day 26-27 – Do the test? Don’t do the test?
Day 28 – Hmmm…no period.
Day 29 – still no period.
Day 30 – spotting. That’s not necessarily a bad sign. Could be implanting blood. That happened before.
Day 31 – Period. Where’s the chocolate?

As if to mock me, not only have my periods become extremely heavy, but now they are regularly late. Just to annoy me.

Psychic, Psychosis, Psychotic, Psychotherapist…

April 2010

I got through New Year’s Eve. That was my due date. Thankfully, I was busy singing with my husband at a big event on the harbour. As we watched the fireworks explode over the Harbour Bridge, the passing of the date did not go unnoticed. How lucky I was to be with the one I love that night.

My appointment with Dr Baby-Maker was as I expected. My husband was working so I went alone. I was relieved to be going alone. She agreed with me that it was time to draw a line in the sand. Give it til the end of the year, then switch off. The best way to do that is to go back to using contraceptives so that your brain stops thinking there’s a chance. She didn’t recommend another round of IVF as I hadn’t had good results, although we hadn’t tried since surgery. She wasn’t keen and neither was I. She suggested I look into 2 other drugs that would be worth a try. One can do more harm than good, and the other sounded like it would turn me into a freak ready for the circus. No. I was done with pumping chemicals in my body. It was up to fate now.

I had a good cry in her office and she suggested I have some counselling.

My next appointment for the day was with my chiropractor/kinesiologist. I had been having lots of trouble with my back, an old on-going injury. As he was treating me, he touched the side of my thigh. I flinched. It was tender. He asked whether I was having any period problems. That’s not something that normally comes up at a back appointment. I gave him a brief rundown of my “period problems” over the previous year.
“That makes sense. That tender spot is nothing to do with your back. It’s related to the reproductive system and can indicate a problem”. He suggested having a hair follicle test to determine what I was lacking. By this time, I was open to miracle cures, so I did the test. The results showed I had a high level of copper in my system and copper blocks the absorption of minerals vital to falling pregnant. And there I was blaming myself for forgetting to take my pre-pregnancy vitamins. It was the crappy old house we were renting that was to blame! I started on a course of something powdery and tablet-y and pricey, and like anything else, I soon stopped taking it.

Around this time, we decided to move. This was prompted by the fact that we were broke and were putting our rent on our ever increasing credit cards every month. Not a good foundation for bringing in another mouth to feed. Most people would do the logical thing, (find something cheaper, smaller, move in with their parents/in-laws) but we decided to buy a houseboat. Yes, you did read that correctly. We bought a houseboat. To live on. Not full-time – that’s not allowed. We travel a lot with our work, so we could live part-time on the boat and part-time with my husband’s parents. (That’s a whole other blog if you’re interested – lilpeagreen.wordpress.com) Things got packed and misplaced and I got out of the habit of taking all the different pills and potions. Besides, if it didn’t happen overnight…

My next stop was to visit psychic #1. She lived nearby and was recommended by a couple who had just had IVF twins. She started the reading by discussing in very general terms about the past year being full of grief and loss. I was starting to think she was a kook, as I hadn’t lost anyone close in the past year, when she said “but a baby is on the way soon”. Perhaps my last year was full of grief and loss.I hadn’t thought of it like that before. She didn’t pick up that we were living on a houseboat (I thought that might stand out as something unusual in someone’s life) but she said I would conceive in a very peaceful place surrounded by water. I would know I was pregnant by the middle of this year. She said a few other things that hit the mark, but I refused to get carried away by what I heard.

I have been going to psychics for a very long time. I don’t live by their readings. I listen to what they say and store it away or ignore it completely. For me, it’s more about being entertained for an hour by someone clever. Sometimes I have friends or relatives who have passed who make themselves known in no uncertain terms, and sometimes the reading is based on things they pick up from me. In other words, I don’t get sucked into it. A few years ago, I was an avid watcher of “Crossing Over with John Edward”. I booked into see him live just for the fun of it. I had to work that evening and I wasn’t sure about what time the show finished. As I fell asleep, I had a little dream about having to leave before it ended, and as I walked down the stairs, John Edward called out “Wait! Someone stop that girl walking down the stairs. I have a message for her.” I chuckled, and fell asleep. At the show, I was sitting on my own right up the very back of the Entertainment Centre. After doing a few readings to people in the audience, I noticed he was going to people who had suffered tragic losses in their lives. Tales of murder, plane crashes, long battles with illness. I found it all quite compelling. After a while, he took a break from reading, and opened up the floor for questions. I took this opportunity to duck out to the loo. As I started walking down the stairs, John Edward stopped abruptly in the middle of answering a question and said “Wait! Someone stop that girl walking down the stairs. I have a message for her.” I kid you not! I was so dumbstruck, I apologised and said “Sorry, I needed a pee!” He asked me if I had recently lost a father figure (I had lost my uncle), and then he asked if I was pregnant. I was single at the time – and quite slim, so I was deeply offended. No! He kept on. Are you sure? Yes I’m sure!!!! Who’s the “J” in the family. I’m the “J”. Well if it’s not you, there must be another “J”. After the show, my nephew rang. He was there. His partner is a “J”. No, she wasn’t pregnant…she didn’t KNOW she was pregnant yet. 3 weeks later, the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. But I digress. That story has absoutely nothing to do with what I’m talking about, but I thought you might enjoy it.

Now, back to me.

Psychic #2 is someone I regularly go to back in Adelaide where I lived before moving to Sydney. She is (usually) quite amazing. As I opened the door she looked at me strangely and smiled. During the reading, she asked if I was pregnant. I get this a lot as I have piled on the weight in the past year or so. I thought it was unusual for her to take a stab in the dark from appearances.
“When I opened the door I thought you were blooming. I’m sure you are pregnant and you just don’t know it yet. And they keep telling me it’s twins. And if you’re not pregnant right now, you soon will be”. As with psychic #1, she said I’d know by the middle of this year.

Time would tell.

The Meaning of Life

December 2009

The start of December saw the passing of my 2nd wedding anniversary and my 42nd birthday. I was supposed to plan something for our anniversary. It was my turn. How could I follow up a balloon flight in the Hunter Valley? If things had gone to plan, I would have been expecting the greatest gift of all, but it wasn’t to be. Dammit. Now I had to come up with the goods. I don’t remember what I did, or bought, for my husband. I think I was in slow motion. For some reason, turning 42 meant the end for me. Not the end of my life or anything as dramatic as that. I just had this block about having a baby after 42. It seems the risks get higher every minute. I was looking for a reason to stop trying, for someone (ie Dr Baby-Maker) to say “It’s time”. I wanted the decision to be taken out of my hands.

Christmas came and when my husband gave me electronic/tax deductable items, I had a meltdown.

On Christmas morning.

In front of the children.

Now, I’m not blaming my problems entirely. My husband has seen the error of his ways and over the past year I have traded the gadgets for things I actually want. Still, I had to do something.

I rang for an appointment to see my IVF doctor but had to wait almost 2 months. I thought was going to have a breakdown. I had to do something drastic.

So I went to a psychic.

Actually, I went to 2. You should always get 2nd opinions.

Caution: Speed Bump Ahead

August 2009

The surgery took quite a while to recover from. If I wasn’t a professional singer, it may not have been that noticeable, but I use my abdominal muscles to brace and they all felt traumatised. Getting through a handful of songs was a huge effort.

My surgeon suggested a 2 month break before trying to fall pregnant again. Fine by me! Although you can’t escape the ticking as another birthday looms. We weren’t trying. We weren’t NOT trying. But somehow I was pregnant again, 3 weeks after the surgery.

I was very cautious this time. My period wasn’t even late but I had an inkling and did a home test anyway. I rang my IVF doctor to arrange a blood test. The nurse rang to give me the results. Yes you are pregnant, so congratulations, but your doctor wants to speak to you. I bit my lip and waited til I was able to call. Once you fall pregnant, the pregnancy hormones rise rapidly with each day, and this gives them an idea of whether it’s a viable pregnancy.

Mine was not a viable pregnancy.

It made me think that perhaps if we did early pregnancy tests every month, that there would be a lot of false alarms. I resolved not to do any more early tests. I would wait until my period was well and truly late.

I realised that in the space of a year I’d had a laproscopy, 3 rounds of IVF, 2 natural pregnancies, 2 miscarriages and 1 surgery. I was hurtling towards my mental cut-off age of 42 and I was starting to get a bit scared about trying anymore. If, according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, 42 is the answer to the meaning of life, then for me at this moment, it was feeling like a prophecy. If I could jump back in time to age 35, 30, 25, and was in a position relationship-wise to fall pregnant, would I have had the same problems with fertility? Would this have happened anyway? Was the universe telling me that not only had it sent me a fabulous husband, but he came with 3 lovely children as well, giving me the family I wanted? Perhaps.

Back to Square One

June 2009

The wonders of technology meant that I didn’t have to make too many phone calls to give my sad news. All I had to do was write something cryptic on my facebook  status, and those in the know could guess.

So back to the old drawing board. I made a call to my surgeon and booked in for surgery at the end of June.

The fibroid was about 7-8cm by the time it came out. The IVF drugs had really kicked it into gear as it had been 3cm for at least 3 years. My stay in hospital was not fun. It was a fancy schmancy private hospital that had cut back it’s staff drastically, and I had aterrible time staying there.

I had advised them that I was gluten and dairy intolerant, but at every meal I was served toast, sandwiches, yogurt, flavoured milk and ice cream. I was starving, but the kitchen staff refused to bring me anything else to eat.

The surgeon came to check on me and said the catheter could be taken out. 12 hours later, it was removed.

I asked for pain meds which were listed on my chart, and the nurse gave me Voltaren, an anti-inflammatory, which should only be taken on a full stomach. As I hadn’t been eating anything, it made me violently ill.

The nurse suggested I have a shower and told me to ring if I needed help. I collapsed in the shower and rang and rang and rang the alarm but no-one came. The patient in the next room could hear me crying and managed to get someone to help.

This was not good care. When I got home I received a feedback form so I wrote it all down and also rang the surgeons receptionist to let them know, as that is his hospital of choice. The head of the hospital rang and listened to me explain in detail what had happened. She was very sympathetic, but didn’t offer to waive the $200 excess I had to pay!!!

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