2018 – Didn’t We Almost Have It All?

Usually at the end of the year, I write a month-by-month summary of the things we got up to, places visited, etc. Clearly I’m not going to do that this year… mainly because I wouldn’t have a single good thing to say about October. But I do still want to do a recap of the year, just for closure. Or something. Apologies in advance if this gets long.

Even after all that happened, I can’t just write off 2018 as a terrible year. Yes, it ended horribly, and yes I will be glad when it’s over and we can start a new chapter, but before everything went wrong, I had a few short weeks of genuine happiness. Basically, the entire year has been a roller coaster.

To start with, in January we switched fertility doctors, which meant going through most of the same tests again (I did get to skip one though). I am so, so glad we made that decision though… I mean, the clinic sent us a sympathy card when we lost the boys! I can’t even imagine the first doctor doing that! Plus they have done a much better job of explaining everything throughout… although my final diagnosis still ended up being “unexplained infertility”. *Sigh* The testing went faster this time around, and by May we had made the decision to pursue intrauterine insemination (IUI). Since we were going to the UK at the end of the month, I was put on progesterone for slightly longer and we ultimately ended up starting hormonal treatment in June, with the actual insemination taking place towards the end of the month. On 7th July 2018, I found out it had worked… then two weeks later I had my first ultrasound where we discovered it was twins.

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Me at my friend’s wedding in England

While all that was going on, things were also happening with Jan’s job. Towards the end of last year (I don’t remember exactly when), a colleague of his who also happened to be a friend of ours announced he was quitting his job. He was just one in a long time of people who had left, which was rather worrying… we were both slightly concerned that the company was going to fold, sooner rather than later. So at that point Jan decided that, while he didn’t want to start actively looking for something new, he would at least make a linked in profile and put out some feelers to figure out what was even out there. This led to him being contacted by a company based in Zurich. I don’t even remember exactly when that was, but I do know while we were in the England he was supposed to have a phone interview with somebody at the company, which then ended up falling through. He had definitely been in contact with the person doing the recruiting for at least a month at that stage, but it was the end of July when he finally actually signed the contract. So that in itself was a bit of a journey. As it happens, the old company managed to replace all the people that had left and currently seems to be doing okay, but so far the new job is also going well (still early days though) and there are definitely a lot more perks!

SIA-ANna Atkins
I was around 10 weeks pregnant here, but most people had no idea.

I spent most of my first trimester waiting for the other shoe to drop. After everything we had been through, I thought there was no way everything could be working out so well… not just one but two babies, a new job for Jan. Something had to go wrong, right? But with every ultrasound that still showed two babies and every week that passed I started to feel more confident. Once I reached 13 weeks, I told the team at work (bosses already knew), gave my mum permission to tell the extended family, and finally announced the pregnancy on my blog. I still had a lingering fear of something going wrong, but my fears all centred on the third trimester… premature babies, a stay in intensive care, possible complications from that. The second trimester was where I finally stopped feeling nauseous and started to actually enjoy being pregnant. My mum, her friend and my brother came to stay and we had a really nice few days. I started working on some cross stitch for the babies’ room and I even bought them their first book. For those few weeks I actually allowed myself to get excited about what was to come. This was going to be it for us… we were finally going to be an actual family.  Then I started spotting.

October ended up being probably the worst month of my entire life. We lost the babies, my grandma died (exactly a week later), my other grandma had to have a pacemaker fitted (which went well, by the way, but at the time it just felt like more bad news). And on top of all the bad news I felt physically terrible for a few weeks thanks to the blood loss, residual hormones and for the first ten days also the antibiotics. A few good things did come of it… I had so much support and learned just how amazing the people in my life are, and Jan and I had some really intense talks and I honestly think the whole experience brought us closer. But all in all it’s not a month I want to remember… although I of course never want to forget my boys. While I would  obviously prefer it if we had never lost them – by this stage I would have been able to feel them moving inside me and thinking about that still makes me sad – I am still so glad I got to experience being pregnant with them. Even with the sad outcome I cannot and will not say I wish they had never existed.

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In November we said our final goodbye to the boys, laying their ashes to rest at a memorial for babies born too soon. Jan’s last day at the old job was on 31st October, then we had a few days together before he started the new job with a three-week trip to the US (and I have to say I am very glad I didn’t lose the boys while he was over there… I absolutely could not have coped with it all without him by my side). Another family member also got a not-good diagnosis while Jan was in the US, because apparently the universe didn’t hear me asking it to please just stop! Once Jan returned, he started properly at the new company, commuting to Zurich every day and staying relatively late for the first few nights while he got settled in and set everything up. That combined with 5(!) choir performances and the associated rehearsals meant I barely got to see him for about the first third of December. I also worked a lot in December… right up until almost the very last day (when I luckily didn’t have too much left to do as our system failed completely and I was only able to complete the few translations I had left because one co-worker could access our team email inbox and forward me the corrections from my proofreaders). Christmas was relatively quiet, just the two of us, which was what we wanted and Jan went back to work on the 27th. And now the year is almost over. Just a few more days and then it will be January and the dawn of what I hope will be a better year. Although maybe I shouldn’t say that given I ended last year’s recap post with the words “Bring it on 2018. I’m ready!”. I’m not sure I actually was ready for what 2018 brought…

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The unknown is scary…

Queenstown

Recently we had a meeting with the doctor at the fertility clinic and were able to put a plan in place. Basically we’ve agreed that, since it worked so well last time, I will try the same procedure again. Same hormonal injections followed by insemination. I’m not going to tell you exactly when we’ll be trying again – partly because I want to keep some things private. I don’t really need dozens of people waiting to hear the results of my pregnancy test! But also because I don’t know myself exactly when we’ll be able to try again. It all depends on how quickly my body gets back to normal after the loss. Since I was nearly 17 weeks along and there were two babies, its slightly different to a “normal”, early miscarriage. I do know I have to wait two cycles, so it definitely won’t be happening this year. Much as I would like to finally be able to hold a baby in my arms, I’m okay with that. After everything that’s happened this year, I’d be happy with an uneventful rest of 2018. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past three years, it’s patience. When baby-making doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to there is a lot of waiting involved. Waiting for the right time in your cycle to have certain tests, waiting to see whether it’s actually worked this time round, and waiting for the right time to start treatment. I’m used to waiting.

One of the worst things about having to start this process all over again – apart from the obvious fact that my boys deserve to still be here – is not knowing whether we will ever end up with a living, breathing baby that we can actually bring home with us. I was very lucky that I responded so well to the hormones and the IUI worked first time. That’s now what usually happens, and the doctor has already prepared me to not expect that again. We have two tries left and after that…. who knows. I am hopeful that things will work out for us, but it would be a lot easier if it was possible to look into the future and see that, if we just keep going, one day it will all have been worth it.

And breathe

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This morning my family said goodbye to my grandma. I couldn’t be there, but I was in spirit and I had one of my cousins read something out for me at the celebration of life. We will miss grandma always but we all have so many memories that will live on forever.

Meanwhile, yesterday was our follow-up appointment at the hospital. Pretty much as expected they have no idea where the infection came from. All my swabs were negative, so I definitely didn’t have any vaginal infection. They found traces of infection in the placenta and the babies though (the boys were otherwise perfect – no physical abnormalities/defects that would have caused a miscarriage). The most likely explanation is that some bacteria that’s naturally present in the vagina made its way into my uterus and developed into an infection there – a random event that couldn’t have been predicted and was undetectable from the outside, other than via a blood test. Next time I will be in a different risk category and if I start spotting again they will happily do a blood test even if I have no other symptoms or anything that indicates an infection. If there is a next time…

I have alluded to this, if not in blog posts then certainly in replies comments, but now I’m just going to say it outright. Our babies were conceived using fertility treatments. Not IVF (I know that’s where everyone’s mind goes first!), but the hormones I had to inject myself with were the same. We were incredibly lucky that it worked first time and resulted in not just one but two babies. I have no idea whether it would work a second time. Right now, I don’t even know whether we automatically get to try a second time or if my health insurance will have to approve the procedure again. We were originally approved for three tries, but the remaining two may have been cancelled out when I actually became pregnant. All I do know is that it’s highly unlikely I will ever become pregnant on my own. And I’m 35 now… time is not exactly on my side. And, whatever happens I have to wait two cycles to allow my body to physically return to normal before we can start trying again.

For now, we at least have some kind of closure. Perhaps not as many answers as I would have liked, but reassurance that it was nobody’s fault. Not ours, Not the hospital’s. We were simply the victims of bad luck. Now it’s time to heal. Then we will pick ourselves up, take a deep breath, and join the infertility roller coaster again…