I’m Done

April 2009

The first week or so of our trip to New York was spent trying to liaise with my 2 doctors for a date with the scalpel. The earliest date meant waiting 3 months. When you’re 41 and the ticking is getting louder, you know that every month is precious time to wait. I managed to get a cancellation a few weeks after we returned.

On the flight home I watched a few movies as usual. One in particular was a fairly benign comedy called “Four Holidays” with Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughan. It was about a couple who were living together and were not ready or interested in taking the next step to getting married and having a family. A Christmas storm cancelled their flight to an island paradise and they were forced to visit family. During their visits, Reese’s character realised that she wasn’t happy with the “selfish” life they were living and that she did want marriage and babies after all. As she was coming to this conclusion, I started to cry. (Yes, I know! During a comedy!!!) It could have been because the script was quite bad, but I had to admit that I was getting very emotional. I stopped the movie to think about why I was crying and I realised it was because while she decided she wanted a baby, I decided I was done. I wanted my life back. I wanted my body back. I wanted to have non-conceptual sex with my husband and not care about what day of the cycle it was. I wanted to plan for the following year without wondering if I would be pregnant during that time. It was time to switch off.

We got home and I told my husband about my rom-com revelation, and while it is a decision we both need to make, ultimately it’s my choice. After a whirlwind 6 months of handing my body and dignity over to strangers, we would call it a day and be thankful for the children we already have in our lives.

4 weeks later I discovered I was pregnant.

I was so excited. I rang my husband to tell him the news. He was obviously surrounded by people and couldn’t talk, so gave a fairly unexcited response like “Oh that’s great. I’ll talk to you later”. That was not going to placate me. I had to tell someone who would be excited for me. Here’s a tip – the Woolies home delivery guy is not that someone. Nor is the Australia Post guy. In fact, most people look at you kind of strangely if you blurt out “I’m pregnant”. After all thousands of women around the world find out they’re pregnant every day. If I’d said “I’m pregnant and it’s octuplets…an alien…yours…”

When you’re going through the trials of IVF, it’s good to have a support network of friends and family, so of course, I wasn’t planning on waiting the requisite 3 months to tell them all. I couldn’t even wait 3 hours. I rang my IVF doctor’s office and organised for a blood test to confirm the result.

I was then in full baby alert mode. I needed to find an OB/GYN and get booked in. I called a midwife friend of mine and got some names. I adopted a similar system that I had used in finding the IVF doctor, only this time, I wasn’t too fussy ¬†about male or female. I also found that many of the OB’s were not taking on patients who were due on New Year’s Eve!!!! Hey, if I, as a professional singer with a professional drummer husband, can take the night off from the best paying gig all year to push this kid out, the least they can do is get off their yacht to come and catch it! I managed to get an appointment with one and got onto the internet to see what sort of feedback was on forums about him. When my husband came home and I told him who I’d booked in with, he started laughing. At first I thought perhaps this was his ex-wife’s OB. But no. They went to high school together! I should have known. Every time we need a service, for our wedding, boat, car, he went to school with someone who works in that industry who might be able to help us out. I told him he would not be coming to the first appointment in case I didn’t like him. If I like him, then I’ll tell him who my husband is, and we can discuss mates rates!

My body started to change instantly. I don’t know if they were psychosomatic changes or were really happening. I felt very bloated and my abdomen turned to jelly. I also got carpel tunnel in my left wrist, which I have heard is very common in pregnancy. It was so painful I had to put it in a brace. I bought a pregnancy book and looked in the index to see which bits I needed to know – with my history, what made you think I’d read it from the beginning?

A couple of weeks later, we flew to Mt Gambier to work. At the airport, my wrist was so sore I had trouble getting my laptop out of the case to go through security.I had been feeling fine and was just bursting with excitement and trying to calm down a bit. Otherwise it was going to be a very long 9 months. The next morning, I started spotting. Nothing to worry about, I told myself. That can happen. But it got heavier. I started to panic. It was a very calm, internalised panic. If I’m going to miscarry, then there’s nothing I can do about it and this pregnancy was not meant to continue for a reason. The people we were staying with called a friend who is a GP with a gynaecological specialty. He saw me straight away and sent me for a scan. I was almost 6 weeks but the scan showed less, which was an indication that things weren’t going well.

I didn’t cry. Well, maybe a little one. It was meant to be. And, as if to send me some symbolic message, the pain in my wrist was completely gone by the next day.

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Round 1

October 2008

The amount of literature you get to read about the process of IVF is so daunting, I did what any self-respecting woman about to embark on a life changing experience would do – I didn’t read any of it. It was just too much to take in, so I decided to just go with the flow and wait for each instruction, like some covert spy.

After collecting my drug of choice (don’t ask me what it was called, all I remember is it was over $400 for a little vial) I then tried to decide whether it was going to be better to get my husband to stab me or to do it myself. It’s quite hard to inject yourself in the butt, but it’s better than the alternative. The sperm donor (that’s all he was at this stage as I was still annoyed at his level of participation) had a couple of goes before I thumped him. He stuck the needle in and when I said Ow, he took the bloody thing out without injecting the drug!

I was told, in my spy briefing, that I had to inject at the same time every morning. Of course I took this literally and would bound out of bed to make sure I was right on time. I am not a morning person, so trying to put the correct amount of drug into the syringe through bleary eyes was quite a task. I had a trip to Adelaide booked and when I realised I’d be mid-flight at precisely the time I was to inject, I got into a bit of a lather. A phone call to IVF HQ calmed me down and I managed to inject in the airport carpark once I’d landed. Oh, I had also learned by this stage that I could inject into my stomach instead of my backside if that was easier. If only I’d read those pamphlets….

After a few days of injecting, I was horrified to learn I had to go for blood tests and scans every 2nd day. It wasn’t the tests that were the issue, it was getting up at some ungodly hour and battling peak hour traffic to get into the city on time to have the tests done! I repeat – I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON!!!

Here’s a couple of things you may not know. Not everyone who works in fertility clinics is kind, caring and compassionate. Not everyone who is employed to take blood can find a freaking vein. When you arrive at the clinic, you write your name on a list and the blood takers come out and call the next on the list. There was one particular girl who hurt like hell, so I would pretend I hadn’t heard my name called and wait for the next one, leaving some unsuspecting victim to be left with a dead arm for the day. Then you go upstairs (or was it downstairs? I was always getting confused in that building and visited every floor on a daily basis) for your scan. This was an internal scan to check the size of all the follicles that were growing thanks to the drugs you were injecting. The women working in this particular clinic were not homely and comforting like I’d had before. They didn’t care that this was my first scan and I didn’t know what the paper and pencil were for! (It’s for writing your numbers down…What numbers?…cue loud sigh…The numbers I tell you to write down). They didn’t ask how I was feeling or if I had any concerns. They didn’t even laugh at my jokes! One morning I slept in and then got caught in horrendous Sydney traffic. The cut-off time was 8.15 (yes, A.M.) and I rang the clinic to let them know that I was on the way. They receptionist told me to go straight up for my scan. 3 floor checks later I arrived at the clinic, smiled at the receptionist (she must surely have been expecting me) and wrote my name on the list. I was the only one there. I sat, and I sat, and I sat. One by one the scanning staff were coming out, ordering tea and coffee, and discussing the latest content of Woman’s Day. One of them even smiled at me as she shared a laugh with the girls. And still, I sat. Finally the receptionist glared at me and said “What are you doing here?” I told her I was there for my scan. “Scanning has finished for the day” she snapped. Two can play this game, I thought. Well, I’ve been sitting here for ages. You saw me come in. You know that feeling you get when you complain about food in a restaurant and send it back? Then you’re not sure whether you’ve offended the chef and shouldn’t eat the food? With the same sense of foreboding, I followed a very grumpy young woman into a room for my internal scan.

Once enough follicles have reached a good size, about 20-22mm, it’s time to go in for collection. Apparently you can choose to have this done under a general anaesthetic, but Dr Baby-Maker said that wouldn’t be necessary. She didn’t go into detail as to why not. Perhaps she assumed I had read the literature…

No need to fear. It wasn’t too bad. A bit of pushing on the abdomen and a needle suctioned out the eggs into a petrie dish. I discovered that some women will have 15-20 eggs to collect. I had 6. Not much pain, but should I feel inadequate? Had I failed? Was it due to that day I did my injection upstairs in the bedroom with no airconditioning and then left the vial on the bedside table all day as temperatures soared to 43C? Maybe, but I wasn’t going to openly admit to that. I’ll just stick with the “quality over quantity” line and see what happens.

The embryologist came in to let me know how things were looking. I didn’t understand a word she said, so I just smiled and nodded and took in the fact that she would call me in the morning. Meanwhile, I had a nap while the sperm donor went off to have a beer and watch a dirty movie in the little private room downstairs.

The next day the embryologist rang to let me know that only 4 made it through the night. That bitch! Don’t let her look after your fully formed kids, whatever you do.

On day 3, I had a call to come in straight away as it was time to implant. Only 1 was looking good (hmmm…does that mean brown hair, brown eyes and straight teeth) so best not to wait til day 5. There’s nothing you can do but drop everything and high-tail it back into the city. Sperm donor was away of course. Nothing works completely to plan! This procedure didn’t involve him anyway. Dr Baby-Maker simply got the fertilised egg and catapulted it up into the fallopian tube. I could see it all happening on a big screen TV on the wall. Fascinating stuff.

And now? We wait. Wait a couple of weeks until you either have your period or miss your period.

I got my period.

Lap Dance or Laproscopy

August 2008

All the medical terms involved with IVF are rather long and arduous. It is easier to give them another name.

I was booked in for my lap dance with 2 surgeons. Dr Baby-Maker would be assisting Dr I’m-a-Man-But-My-Daughter-Is-An-IVF-Baby. I felt at ease. Dr Baby-Maker has a cool-ish bedside manner and doesn’t get any of our jokes. You can tell she was always head-down-bum-up at school and was probably dux. She’s thin and attractive and clip clops around the ward in heels, while everyone else shuffles along in sensible shoes covered with paper booties. I ask her if she has children. She has twin girls – natural. Karma.

The lap dance is straight forward as they are just going in for a little look-see to make sure the fibroid isn’t in the way of anything important. It’s fine, they assure me. Best to leave it where it is and not cause any unnecessary scar tissue. I’m sent home with a heat pack, panadol, and a terrible case of constipation. Must have been a bit nervous after all.

Next step is to enter IVF World – not necessarily the happiest place on earth, but the rollercoaster rides are most definitely the wildest.

Legs akimbo

July 2008…I think

Anything medical specifically for a woman involves a complete lack of dignity. They might hand you a “modesty sheet” but really, who are we kidding. Once you put your feet in the stirrups you may as well swing your bra over your head like a lassoo and yell “giddy-up”.

After a quick chat to my GP, I was armed with a list of IVF specialists and started making calls to get an appointment. My plan was to ring them all, get the next available appointment booked in, then start the cull. I decided to start with my wish list. First on the list of criteria was that I wanted a female doctor. Now, I have always had male GP’s, so it’s not that I’m shy or a prude. And sometimes male doctors are far more sympathetic to a woman’s needs and concerns than a female. I have no real reason to offer. I just wanted a female doctor. Second on the list, and I’m sorry if this comes across as racist, but I wanted someone who didn’t have an accent. I figured that I was going to be bombarded with lots of new information, technical terms, and big words with lots of syllables that I would have trouble spelling. I was just trying to make things as simple as possible. My third requirement was easy parking and the fourth was an actual appointment within 6 weeks. Was that asking too much? Things were going to get a lot more complicated and I knew many things would probably be out of my control. The least I could do was control these 4 things!

My lovely female IVF specialist with the Australian accent and convenient (but expensive) parking was able to see me in 3 weeks. See? I did it!!! From this point on, I have absolutely no control over anything that happens.

My husband (the one with the 3 children) and I were sent off with a thick pile of orders for tests. My tests (plural) involved needles, swabs, probes, scans, gel, very early mornings, and resulted in bruised arms and no desire to ever have sex again. My husband’s test (singular) involved a speciman jar, tissues, a magazine, and resulted in a big smile on his face.

The first scan was done at a “women only” clinic. Pastel decor with comfy chairs, floral wallpaper, and staff who all looked like they wanted to give you a big hug. Interestingly, not all my scanning experiences would be this comforting. After getting into my gown (examination, not evening) and climbing into the stirrup chair, they pulled out the probe (dildo) and covered it in a condom and gel. I nervously joked that they should at least buy me dinner and take me dancing first. They laughed like they had never heard that one before. Bless!

All the tests came back “normal”…whatever that means. The only blip was a 3cm fibroid that I had discovered about 3 years before. Dr Baby-Maker decided we should do a laproscopy (one of those big, multi-syllable words I had to look up) and check it out.

And so starts the journey of extensive prodding, poking, stabbing and, most painful of all, paying.

The Journey Begins…

I had always wanted kids. When I was 35 and single, I went to my doctor to investigate how to go about having a child on my own. He suggested I have all the hormone tests to make sure everything was normal. And then he told me his brother-in-law was single. There was an awkward silence as he realised that was probably an inappropriate thing to say to a patient. Nice of him to think of matchmaking for me though!

I took his advice to have the tests and stored it away for later….then promptly forgot to do anything about it. Meanwhile, I looked through the profiles of sperm donors on the Australian Sperm Donor registry and realised that having a child on my own wasn’t exactly what I wanted. I wanted a family, and more importantly, I wanted someone special to share the whole experience. In the meantime, I would stick with a dog.

Three years later, I decided to move to Sydney. I had dated all the single men in Adelaide and the pickings were becoming decidedly slim. I was entering the stage of dating the ridiculously young or the recently released….from marriage, that is, not prison. You know the guys in their 40’s who have teenage children and are kicking their heels up and having a good time. They are not interested in sticking around to have a baby!!! They’re not even interested in sticking around to have breakfast! It was time to move on. Within 2 weeks of making the interstate move I knew I was getting married. It was one of those “stop looking and you’ll find it” kind of moments. He came with all the red flags attached – recently separated with 3 young children – and yet, he was perfect for me. 16 months later we were married and trying for a baby of our own.

It was exciting and scary at the same time. Could I adapt to being an insta-mum to a 9 year old boy and 2 girls, aged 6 and 2? We have shared care so our lives are pretty full as it is. I think making that leap to having your first child is always a bit daunting, no matter what your situation is. It’s the fear of the unknown. 6 months later it was becoming apparent that it was going to be more difficult than anticipated.

Ticking Clock – An Emotional (and Humorous) IVF Journey

I got married the day before my 40th birthday. I started trying for a baby soon after, only to discover the ticking of the clock was extraordinarily loud. It wasn’t my choice to wait this long. I hadn’t put it off to work on my career, or travel, or party on! I just hadn’t met Mr Right. This is the story of my journey to add to the instant-family I married.

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