And so it begins

FullSizeRenderThe way IUI works is that they take over your natural cycle so they can control exactly when you ovulate. You close down your system with one drug, Buserelin, and super stimulate your ovaries with a Follicle Stimulating Hormone, Menopur. Then, there’s Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG), the one I was given was Pregnyl, and you store it in the fridge. This drug completes the development of your eggs and triggers them for release. Lastly, there’s lots of lovely pessaries up until your pregnancy test, and for 12 weeks after the deed, if it is successful.

So, if all goes to plan, more eggs, and their release is timed exactly with the placement of a washed sperm sample (something the man in your life makes earlier). The best of his best are parachuted in right next to your eggs at the optimum moment, cutting out the need for the sperm to travel any distance, and, ultimately, upping your chances of getting pregnant.

There are a lot of injections to get your head around. We were invited to attend a workshop where you practise mixing up the various drugs, flicking the syringe to get rid of any lethal air bubbles and then stabbing these concoctions into a fake thigh you strap onto your leg. Both of you have the chance to try it. Several times. There are handouts. I took lots of notes. It’s something you don’t want to bugger up.

And it’s another surreal experience. Emotionally charged. Full of tense couples making awkward conversation with each other as you sit at a little table amidst the phials and sharps boxes. Practising something that is meant to be deeply intimate in front of strangers. Small talk is forced in an enclosed hot hospital room. Some people try to break the ice with the odd jokey (who knows?) comment. You put a lot of pressure on yourself to get it right. You feel clumsy and ill equipped to manage on your own and scared about what will happen if you can’t do it properly. It feels quite overwhelming. At one point, it all became to much for one woman who ran out in tears. It is hard. It brings it home.  Everyone is going through the same shit, or worse.

I managed the injections okay. When push came to shove, I wanted to do it my myself but I know plenty of people who got their partners to stick it in them (so to speak). It’s personal preference, and like everything, you just do what feels right for you. T did help me mix up the drugs though, especially at the beginning, as I was paranoid about air bubbles, and another pair of hands does take the pressure off a bit. You have to take them at different times of the day and you just work it around your schedule. The more you do it, the more confident you become about what you are doing. I used to work away in London a couple of days most weeks, and it was fine, with a bit of preparation.

After six days, we were called in for a vaginal ultrasound to scan and measure the follicles, check how it was all going, and find out whether we were on track.

We sat in the waiting room at the Ocean Suite, and I remember an episode of Doctors was on the TV. The story was about a couple who weren’t sure whether they were ready to have a baby so were given a crying dolly to look after. You really couldn’t make it up!

Our first round of IUI was abandoned. It didn’t work. By the time, we had our check up, I’d already ovulated. My body had responded super fast to the drugs. Nothing more to be said. The ship had sailed. Crushing disappointment – we hadn’t even made it to the money shot. Cue the long wait until you can try again. You aren’t allowed to keep doing the treatments one after another. You need to have a natural cycle in between to allow your body to recover. Then, we found out the Ocean Suite was closing for refurbishment for four weeks. Then, it was Christmas. All in all, it was about a three month wait until we could go in for round two.

Tying the knot

2C555961-804F-4053-862C-07FA883031A5Our six months turned into about a year because at Christmas, T asked me to marry him. Atop a mountain, clad in head to toe waterproofs, in the sideways sleety rain in the Highlands of Scotland. And, reader, I said yes.

I have never been a weddingy person. The white dress dream with all the froth and frills isn’t my thing. We had no intention of following the traditional path. We’re not anti-weddings but on the list of priorities it comes well below buying a house, doing it up, and having kids. But best laid plans… Life doesn’t always work out the way you think it will. Somewhat ironically, we ended up doing things conventionally. And because of the insecurities trying to conceive stirs up, I found I needed it in a way I had never really envisaged. My shell wasn’t as hard as I thought it was. This official seal of love and support gave me strength and security.

We got hitched in the Summer, on our ten year anniversary, and it meant a huge amount. Much more, I think, because of what we were going through. We were saying to each other for better, for worse. We will weather this. Even if we can’t have a baby, we want to be together and celebrate this moment.

But planning a wedding did put the mockers on other proceedings. Neither of us wanted a long engagement, our reason being that we’d never get around to doing the deed. We decided to take time out rather than trying to juggle it all. Going through fertility treatment at the same time would have been too much. Wedding planning does not exactly put you in a relaxed, stress free frame of mind either. Besides, we wanted to have fun at our wedding! Drink champagne. Let our hair down. Have a massive party with all our family and friends. Plus, thinking practically, we wanted to go to Borneo for our honeymoon which meant jabs and long haul flights. So, one thing at a time. We took this time for us. You only get married once. We took our lives off hold.

That said, of course optimistic (and romantic) me was still hoping for it just to happen. A secret part of my mind kept thinking, it will happen when you least expect it, when we’ve practically given up. Then it will be such a nice problem to have! What an amazing wedding present it would be! But zip. Not on our holiday in the Summer. Nor our trip to Scotland. The months ticked by. I remember, cruelly, my period was late and it was the day before our wedding. I was hopeful. We were prepping the venue and I looked down and I had bled through my shorts. It was horrible, a crushing, exposed, vulnerable moment but I borrowed some spare trousers that my Mum had in her car and kept going. Maybe a honeymoon baby. But it wasn’t to be, and as soon as the malaria tablets were out of my system, we headed back to the Ocean Suite in the Autumn just over a year later.