March and April 2012
The months carried on and my periods still hadn't returned. My life had begun to revolve around taking ovulation tests and taking pregnancy tests. I spent an awful lot of time on the internet obsessively searching for proof of women who had found out they were pregnant inspite of a negative ovulation test. I couldn't concentrate on anything else. I naturally have an obsessive personality and have a strong need to be able to control things. Here I was, in a situation that I had absolutely no control over. Taking the tests felt like a small way that I could glean back a sense of control but every single morning when I saw the 'negative' symbols on either an ovulation test or a pregnancy test I felt like I was experiencing loss all over again. I felt like every ounce of hope was snatched from me when only a single line showed up in the display window and the rest of the day would be spent obsessing over whether I had taken the test too early/late in the day, whether my urine sample was big enough or whether the tests were working properly. I couldn't bear the thought that my body might not be working properly.
With the support of my counsellor and friends I decided to stop taking the tests. To try and hand over the control. It felt like I was trying to shake an addiction and I would feel uneasy at the thought of not being able to take tests. I tried hard to throw myself into other things and give myself a new focus. I spent a lot of time crafting, taught myself to knit and began making a scrap book. I would put Sam to bed for his nap and sit down to carry on pursuing my new hobbies. At the time they really did keep me sane!
In addition to the crafting, I started thinking about how I could snatch back my sense of purpose. I knew that I couldn't get a job as I wanted to be home with Sam but liked the idea of volunteering. Every job I had had in the past revolved around working with children and families and this is where I felt my strengths lay. There was a lunch meeting at church about undertaking training to facilitate parenting courses so I decided to go along and get a bit more information. Jenny and another lady, Rachel, had been facilitating the courses for a couple of years and were leading the meeting. As they spoke about what the training involved and what their vision was for rolling out the courses I felt a sense of excitement that I hadn't felt for months. I knew that I wanted trying for a baby to be my main focus and I knew that I didn't have much head space for anything else at that time but I really felt, at that moment, that undertaking the training to facilitate the courses was what I should be doing. I put my name down and at the same time added a little explanation about how important it was for me to be able to focus primarily on growing my family. For the first time I didn't feel the familiar sense of panic at the thought of filling my time and throwing my energies into something that wasn't trying for a baby! Suddenly I had a focus. I came home from the meeting feeling a sense of excitement that was almost tangiable. The training would be in the September.
Mother's Day was looming and I was dreading it. I knew that I was still a mother to Sam but I felt like half the mum I had expected to be at that time. We decided to go away to center parcs for a week, to escape and spend some time as a family. The get away did us all the world of good and Sam particularly enjoyed having some activities that were specifically for him. We made some really special memories that week and learnt that we could enjoy being our little family of three. Inspite of this, however, there were some really painful moments during the week. I especially found the swimming pool very difficult to cope with. Seeing women with swimming costumes stretching over their baby bumps was almost more than I could bear and I would find myself looking a little too long at tiny babies who lay in their mother's arms whilst their siblings splashed in the pool. My own flat stomach seemed to be mocking me and I eventually decided that I couldn't bear it any more and John took Sam swimming alone.
My first mother's day without Emilie was bitter sweet. We were still at center parcs together and I woke up with the familiar sense of emptiness. As I had done previously with other 'celebration days' I took a pregnancy test on waking. I remember thinking how wonderful a testimony it would be to have found out I was pregnant on mothers day. Again, it was negative. I threw the test in the bin and decided to try and enjoy the rest of the day. John did his best to try and make the day special for me. He and Sam bought me a 'cake pops' book. Another hobby to pursue and something that would go on to fill a lot of my time over the coming months. I did not want to be sat with other families over lunch time so instead we went out for lunch the day before and spent time in our lodge together on mother's day itself.
Finally, a few days after returning home, the 8 weeks - and a couple more - that I needed to wait before starting fertility treatment was over and we found ourselves heading back to the hospital to attend the fertility clinic. I had attended this clinic a number of times before; before Sam's pregnancy, before Emilie's pregnancy and following Emilie's death. It was nothing new but the sense of desperation I felt to begin treatment was new. We discussed all our options with our fertility consultant. My problem wasn't getting pregnant, as such, it was releasing an egg to be fertilised in the first place. The doctor explained that if they could get me to ovulate, I should be able to get pregnant. It sounded so simple; take tablets, ovulate, get pregnant. Time everything perfectly. However, the problem would be how to keep me pregnant once I was pregnant but that was a bridge they'd cross as and when I was pregnant. I would have every medication I needed thrown at me in the hope that I would get pregnant and would stay pregnant. But my lack of periods was a problem. As it had been over 8 weeks since my miscarriage the doctor agreed to induce a period in order to get the treatment moving. I I had never had a bleed induced before and didn't know what to expect. Was it an injection? Would I be given tablets? Would my period start that day or would it take a couple of days?
I waited to speak to the nurse hoping that she had the magic formula to get things started. She gave me two prescriptions; one for clomid and one for norethisterone. I had to start the clomid on day 3 of my cycle. I couldn't wait! However, I was then shocked to learn that inducing a bleed asn't as straight forward as I had hoped it would be. I had to take the norethisterone for 7 days and a period would start 3-5 days later. This doesn't sound like long time at all but I had already waited for so long, I couldn't bear the thought of having to wait another 10 days before getting a period. I tried not to cry. As an after thought, the nurse said 'make sure you take a pregnancy test before you start the norethisterone. If you take it and you're pregnant you will miscarry'. And so started my next obsession. I spent the next couple of weeks terrified that I might be in the early stages of pregnancy ....that it would be far too early to show up on a test but that taking the norethisterone would kill my (hypothetical) baby. Once my period began, I looked out for signs of miscarriage. I was incredibly anxious and obsessed about whether the clomid would work or not if I took it straight after an (imaginary) miscarriage. I was a wreck.
And then I started the clomid.
I had carried my clomid out of her he hospital holding it as if it was a precious gift. As far as I was concerned at the time, clomid was my pass for a new baby. I spent the time leading up to being able to take it checking over and over that it was still in the cupboard. I obsessed as soon as I had started taking it at day three of my cycle over whether I had taken it at the right time of the day or not. Had I swallowed it properly? Had I remembered to take it at all? Fertility treatment is not easy for someone with an obsessive personality. There is far too much that is out of your controls and far too many possibilities to consider.
The side effects of the clomid started virtually straight away and were so severe that I was certain it was working. My head became stuffy and fuzzy and I couldn't think straight. I was taking paracetamol to try and clear the headaches. I felt like I had the worst PMT that I had ever experienced and became incredibly short tempered. But worst of all was the hot flashes. I would be sitting watching TV, or getting on with my daily activities when all of a sudden my temperature and pulse rate would soar. I would feel as if I couldn't breathe properly and would need to strip off my top layer of clothing to try and cool down; not good in public. I found this incredibly uncomfortable and unnerving and this was for me, the worst side effect of taking clomid.
At day 10 of my cycle I attended the clinic for an ultra sound to assess the growth of the follicles on my ovaries - which should grow to release an egg. I felt so awful that I was certain there would be a healthy follicle growing ready to release an egg. However, the nurse very bluntly explained that there were a number of tiny follicles (very common in PCOS) but that there was no dominant follicle that would grow to release an egg. I expected her to ask me to come back in a couple of days, having given the follicles a chance to grow a bit more, but instead she told me that this cycle would be cancelled due to lack of dominant follicles needed for ovulation and I was to begin the norethisterone again at day 21 of my cycle and then take double the amount of clomid I had started with on day 3 of my cycle.
I was once again devastated but this time was also shocked at the clinicalness and coldness of this method of trying to get pregnant.