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[personal profile] shiraphant
I've been posting to a very small group of people over the past months about fertility treatment.

In order to save time and faffery, I will post an edited version of the first post I made to them. I apologise if you're on my icsi filter and have already seen this, feel free to skip.



Some of you will know that since I was seventeen, the thing I have wanted more than anything else has been to carry a healthy baby to term and become a mother. I started actively trying for this when I was twenty. I won't go into detail about the countless appointments with rude, condescending, disbelieving and sometimes downright abusive doctors - I'll just say that I very soon came to regard an appointment with anyone medical as something to be feared; I expected nastiness and to leave the clinic/hospital in tears of anger and frustration. I was almost never disappointed in this. I have had seven miscarriages, the most recent of which was in December 2004. Nobody would help me or even believe that I needed help.

Finally in October 2006, I was diagnosed with lipoedema so I had a concrete explanation for my size and weight, and I got married to a thin, well-spoken man, which makes an infuriatingly large difference in how I am treated. We scraped up the money to see a specialist privately, and from there got to have some "help" from the NHS.

In June 2007, I was all set to have ovulation induction by some time in October, and all that was left was for James to have the routine checks on his fertility. We figured nothing could be wrong with him, he'd got his ex pregnant years ago. Except, of course, there was - we got a phone call saying that James' sperm count was extremely low - too low for us to be able to conceive without ICSI. Then a second test looked far more promising and it seemed that IUI - much less invasive and complicated, and crucially, available to me on the NHS - might be a possibility, which was arranged (after my specialist argued my case with the hospital committee, who apparently needed two hours of persuading because of my weight, even after having lipoedema explained to them), but the three subsequent tests showed that there was no way IUI would work, and IVF - probably with ICSI - was our only option. Which of course, we could not have on the NHS as my BMI is way above their cut-off of 30 - it didn't matter to them that it was due to the lipoedema. I don't actually mind that the NHS wouldn't fund it for us - it's an overstretched resource. I minded the fact that they were so incredibly rude to me about it.

James was also diagnosed with a grade 3 bilateral varicocele - veins supplying blood to his testicles had become varicose veins - so he was booked in for an operation to fix it. We were told that it wouldn't improve his fertility, but it would slow the deterioration. The varicocele was so large and so severe that it damaged testicular function and was causing atrophy on one side. The operation went well enough, though James' poor sperm count and quality couldn't be explained by the varicocele, and all the other parameters were normal, so the urologist had no idea why James was so very infertile. The urologist said that without a doubt, ICSI is the only option we have.

The gynaecologist in Cambridge, to whom we had been referred because we obviously needed ICSI and we couldn't have it done in London where we'd previously been seen, told us we couldn't have IVF or ICSI, we had to have IUI. This was despite letters from two different doctors explaining that IUI was not an option. The gynaecologist also told me to lose weight, despite having said that she'd read the document on lipoedema and the impossibility of weightloss sent to her by my GP. So we were pretty much stuck.

Then my dad told us that my Grandad - who died in December - had left some money, for Dad to do with as he saw fit. Dad divided the money equally between me, my sister, himself and my two first cousins on that side. There's a lot of drama and history involving my family so I won't get into it, but my sister felt that she couldn't take all the money, and gave three-quarters of her share to me. James and I already had a quarter of the money needed for one round of ICSI from an insurance payout from a crash we had two years ago, and my mum and new stepdad offered to give us the remaining money needed.

Obviously we were utterly ecstatic and made an appointment with our nearest fertility clinic - we had to wait a month for it, which was agonising - and I took a letter from my GP explaining lipoedema. We had to wait another two and a half weeks to find out if they would consent to treat me, having been told it was highly unlikely due to my weight, the unknown nature of lipoedema (which isn't in medical textbooks yet), and my unusually strong adverse reactions to hormone drugs (for example, ten days of the drug I used to take to bring on a period would result in three months of intense, suicidal depression, me shuffling around aimlessly like a zombie with no short-term memory and going from screaming violent rages to whimpering self-harming despair and back again in a day, becoming obsessed with things in an unhealthy way, and self-loathing all the time, wishing I was something beyond dead).

Thankfully, we were told that the two fattest doctors at the clinic were prepared to treat me - the others objected strenuously, but one of the fat doctors was the Medical Director so the others had to shut the hell up.

I shall fast forward through my five months of treatment; basically it was awkward and things kept going wrong, and I developed Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome which can be fatal, but thankfully in my case was mild but necessitated two extra months of waiting while my ovaries calmed down a bit. The anaesthetist had refused to attend my egg retrieval because of my BMI (43), and I can't take painkillers of any variety for various reasons, so I had my egg retrieval - a painful procedure which involves needles being inserted through the vaginal wall and into the ovaries repeatedly, and which is usually done under general anaesthetic or local with sedation - with no anaesthetic, pain relief, sedation, no drugs of any kind. This is unprecedented. Many people were not happy about it.

I got 26 eggs. 20 were suitable for the ICSI process, in which an individual sperm is injected directly into each egg. 15 of them survived that process, then they all had to be frozen because of my OHSS. Nine of the embryos survived the thawing. Three of them survived the blastocyst culture. By the time I got into the lab to have a blastocyst transferred to my womb, only one was left. It did implant. I became pregnant.

I was six weeks pregnant yesterday, which was my brother's birthday. My due date was determined to be May 7th, my mother's birthday and also her dad's birthday.

Today I started bleeding, and my latest blood test result showed that my hCG levels have dropped. I am having my eighth miscarriage and will never be able to try for another baby. I will never have a child. Adoption is not possible, and in any case to me it wouldn't have been the same. I wanted to bear my husband's child. I wanted to be pregnant, carry to term, give birth, see my husband's features and mine in our child.

That's never going to happen for me, so to all of you who have kids or are waiting for them to arrive, good luck, but please don't be offended by my complete inability to read about your families. I haven't got anything to "throw myself into", and I am not going to be ok.

I may not be around much, particularly over the next week; I'm flying to Dublin with James on Sunday where I will get to spend the week bleeding out my eighth and last baby in a strange man's bathroom while my husband has to try and cope at work.
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December 2010

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