Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Trying to make sense of it all

Well we have just received our blood test results by post. Unfortunately the earliest appointment we could get for a phone consultation with the doctor is in six weeks so for now we just have to try to interpret what we can ourselves. The results are several pages that list items tested next to the ideal range. If something is above or below that then there is a little arrow beside the value and sometimes a paragraph with some info from the doctor.

The main result is that I tested positive for natural killer cells. My initial reaction was to curse to be honest! I had really been hoping that our results would show that everything is fine and that we could just go ahead with IVF round three. I know some people might see this as a good thing that now we have something to treat but at the moment it just raises loads more questions for me. For instance, have I always had this? Could this also be preventing us from getting pregnant naturally? Does that mean my body basically killed the three little embryos that were transferred during round 1 and 2 IVF (as opposed to it being a chromosome issue with a pregnancy that would not have continued anyway). The thought of that makes me sad... And I also have questions about the treatment for NK cells. The whole area is still very controversial like I mentioned before and because of that treatment wouldn't be covered by my health insurance so could be expensive.

And I am wondering if there might be some other underlying issue causing it. My T4/T8 index was also elevated which according to the info below means either an auto immune disease (!!) or an allergy. So maybe I have some undiagnosed allergy which is causing an inflammation and then the natural killer cells get activated. In which case maybe I need to do more allergy tests to see if I could find the issue. Maybe I will need to change my diet too. I already try to avoid dairy when I can and I haven't found that easy (since I was diagnosed with lactose intolerance early this year). The idea of having to try to restrict what I eat even more doesn't sound fun!

The results also mentioned that I will need to get a second test to find out if the natural killer cells are just in my blood or also in my womb. I've made an appointment with the doctor at our fertility clinic to see if I can get that done there and just to talk about the results and what it means for us going forward. My vitamin D level is also too low so I'll need to take supplements. My AMH value was in the normal range but only just about. It looks like it has gone down from when I had it measured last time, which also concerns me!

Right now we just feel confused and overwhelmed. The one thing we know for sure is that we need to put our plans for the the third IVF round on hold until we can figure it all out. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

The green room #MicroblogMonday

There's a room in our new house that we painted green. I thought that would be a nice neutral colour for our future kid's bedroom. Right now we have some book shelves in there and might use it as a guest room in the meantime. Is it just wishful thinking and possibly a little delusional even that we both still feel so hopeful that we will be able to have a baby despite the low IVF odds?

Since we've bought our house, questions from people asking if and when we are going to have kids have been more frequent. And some of the comments can actually be a little hurtful to someone who is trying to have a baby and struggling. We generally just say yes that we would like children since that's the truth but just wanting them isn't enough unfortunately!

We recently had some relations over to show them the house and they commented that it's too big a place for just us but ideal for a family of four. That stung. I know they meant it in a nice way as they assume having kids is just something you choose to do when you are ready.

The actual choice we face is how many rounds of IVF to go through before giving up. And how will we save enough to afford our mortgage AND a fourth round if this one doesn't work out. However, I have decided that it's ok to still be hopeful. Our "maybe baby" journey isn't over yet. We are not out of options so we will keep going, hoping the green room won't remain empty for too much longer.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Maybe Baby update

Well I gave an update on our new house a few weeks ago, maybe it's time to give an update on project "maybe baby" which is what I've nicknamed our journey to hopefully start a family on this blog. Several weeks ago after our second IVF cycle failed we decided to do extensive blood testing to see if there might be a reason for the two early miscarriages after a suggestion from our doctor. It took a few weeks to get things clarified with our health insurances but they agreed to contribute towards the costs (so we will only be charged a few hundred euros as opposed to a few thousand!). It ended up being about twelve vials of blood from me and about eight from the hubby. Timing wise since I knew we would be busy with the house, I liked the idea of getting the blood testing done since it can take about two months anyway.

So far we have only gotten some partial results back. Both our chromosome blood tests came back fine and it also showed that I don't have a blood clotting disorder. It's nice to be able to rule those issues out. The rest of the results will probably take another few weeks. I'll be tested for the MTHFR gene mutation which is where your body doesn't absorb folic acid properly unless it's in folate form and has been linked to miscarriages. And natural killer cells which your body produces to get rid off any foreign bodies like diseases but the theory is that in some women the antibodies work too well and can kill a growing fetus. There is treatment you can get apparently to help fight this problem. Hubby and I will also be checked for some vitamin and mineral levels. For instance I've read if you have a B12 deficiency it can cause infertility and miscarriages! Since I'm lactose intolerant and don't eat so much dairy and I'm also not a big meat eater then it is possible that my values are low.

Once we find out our test results we will be able to plan plan when to do IVF again, ideally before the end of this year. It's not that easy to plan though as over the next several months there'll be Christmas and several weddings of family and close friends that we would ideally like to travel back to Ireland for. During IVF I wouldn't be able to fly and afterwards if I get pregnant I would also be too nervous to fly in the first trimester. I suppose I should cross that bridge and figure that out *if* I manage to get pregnant. If that were to happen I would be so happy. I love travelling though and I already often feel like I miss out on so many big moments back in Ireland by living here in Germany so I would love to go back for the weddings, especially my brother's next Summer. It's less than a two hour flight to Ireland but apaprently IVF pregnancies are considered high risk.

We'll know more in a few weeks. If the blood tests come back with no issues then we could plan round three IVF quite soon but if there are any problems discovered then we would have to wait several months anyway probably to get treatment. So it's all quite up in the air still. I feel ready enough for the physical side of it all, the injections, egg retrieval etc, but I do worry about the emotional side which I always find really hard going. Especially if it were to fail again.

Having the house has been a great distraction for sure. We love the new place and are settling in well. We still have loads of boxes to unpack and lots of stuff to get done but we've been able to enjoy German Summer in our new garden now and then which has been great.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Shortlisted #LWIBloggies2016

Today I had a happy surprise when I found out my blog made the shortlist in the Irish blog awards in the Diaspora category. It's always nice getting some positive feedback! There are lots of great blogs linked on the site worth checking out and you can vote for your favourites here.

I started this blog six years ago when I decided to move to Germany. It was quite an adjustment for me at the beginning dealing with culture shock and life as an expat, learning German and making friends but I really like living here now. The south of Germany is a great base for travelling and I love all the various festivals and traditions. And now since we have recently bought a house, I guess it looks like I'm here to stay!

Monday, August 8, 2016

House Update #MicroblogMondays

Things with the house have all been moving very fast. We signed the contract and then got the keys just six weeks later. They say buying a house is one of the most stressful things you can do and the last few weeks have certainly been extremely busy!

First there was all the paperwork and sorting things out with our mortgage. Then all the bills started coming in (taxes, realtor, insurances...) which wasn’t fun! The next thing we had to do was get in touch with various people to get quotes for renovation work. Of course August is prime holiday season so it’s been difficult with limited availability. We also had to decide which work on the house we would consider urgent before we move in and what we can put off for now. Not to mention the huge task of all the boxes to pack.

This past week we got the keys and the renovations have started. Pretty much any spare moment we have spent at the house and we have also started bringing things over from our rental apartment so as to not leave everything for the moving day. We have even been able to eat meals in our new kitchen already and enjoy the garden.

It's all been quite overwhelming at times! It t feels a little surreal still that this will be our home. There's always so much to get done and becoming house owners is a major responsibility. But it is also exciting. And even though there is a lot of work involved, there is something very rewarding when you know you are helping improve your future home. I am really looking forward to the end of this month once we will have all our furniture moved over and can really start to settle in to the new place!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Girl on the train #bookClub

The last novel we read for my book club was „Girl on the train“ by Paula Hawkins. I would describe it as a thriller. The story centres around Rachel who takes the train every day to work in London and while doing so looks at one suburban house in particular and imagines stories about the couple who live there and their “perfect lives”. She then witnesses something strange one day. Shortly after she finds out that the women, Meghan, has gone missing. She soon finds herself getting more and more involved in the case as she tries to help solve it.

The main character, Rachel, is an unreliable narrator. We find out she is an alcoholic and dealing with the breakdown of her marriage. She experiences blackouts caused by her drinking. The book also has sections written from Meghan’s point of view in the time leading up to when she goes missing. Another woman’s point of view in some chapters is that of Anna, the new partner of Rachel’s ex Tom. The book deals with some upsetting themes such as violence and abuse. It certainly doesn’t show alcoholism in a rose tinted light but rather the harsh reality. So I could well imagine that some people might find it difficult to read.

One of the criticisms in my book club was that none of the female characters were likable and that they were also very weak. Take Rachel for instance whose life revolved around her husband and falls apart after their marriage ends. She treats some people badly and generally her life is mess. Anna, her ex’s new wife, had no problem breaking up a marriage. Personally I still felt sympathetic towards Rachel and was rooting for her. The reason given for her turning to alcohol was that she and her ex husband had dealt with infertility issues and had an unsuccessful round of IVF which I know is very difficult for anyone to go through.

The book gets compared to “Gone girl” a fair bit and there are certainly many similarities. Both are action-thrillers, involve a mystery around a woman going missing and have twists and turns. So if you liked Gone Girl you probably would also enjoy the Girl on the Train, although overall I would say I didn't find it quite as good as the former. One of the things I enjoyed about the book was the fact that I suspected every single character at some point of being involved and there were also some clever twists. Once I got further into the story I found I was really eager to find out what going to happen next and I devoured it quickly.

Overall I liked the book, though as I mentioned it might not be to everyone’s taste. I’m looking forward to watching the film which stars Emily Blunt who I've always found to be a really good actress. The trailer is out already. I do think it’s a shame that the location has been moved to New York instead of London though.

Have you read Girl on the Train? Will you go to the film?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Stronger together - grateful for the online community

Recently a few people both in real life and online have commented that I'm brave to write so openly about our struggles with infertility. It wasn't something I always felt comfortable sharing. In the beginning when I just started going through it I felt a lot of shame. Over time after coming across a whole world of others online opening up about their stories, I started to change my attitude about it all. We shouldn't feel ashamed or embarrassed that we are struggling to have children, and if someone else is judgemental towards us then that is their issue, not ours. So many people (1 in 8 couples) are dealing with infertility these days and it helps when people can be open about it so that we all don't feel so alone.
One of the main things that has helped me to cope has been the amazing resource of blogs written by others going through it. The whole community is so supportive of each other which is really great. I also get very involved with everyone's lives and feel upset when they are struggling but am delighted for them when things are going well. I admire their strength and honesty. It's such a personal topic and I do feel quite vulnerable at times sharing some of our fertility struggles online but hopefully it might help other people and reduce the silence around the subject.

Anyway what I'm trying to say is thank you to everyone who has read my blog, whether you have commented or not but just sent some virtual support. You all rock!

Monday, June 27, 2016

Brexit and the aftermath

By now unless you live under a stone, you will have heard about Brexit. On Thursday the 23rd of June the UK voted on whether or not Britain should leave the EU. I really thought that the "remain" vote would have the majority and when I went to bed that night it was looking that way but then I woke up to a different and somewhat bleaker world Friday morning.

The decision won't affect me that much directly since as an Irish citizen I can still benefit from being an EU member. In my case this has meant freedom to travel to Germany, another EU state to live and work. My university master degree was also mostly subsidized by an EU grant.

The majority of people in Scotland voted to remain in the EU but because they belong to the UK that means they will also have to leave so now they are planning to have a referendum to potentially gain independence. A similar situation is happening in Northern Ireland. Even though I find the idea of Ireland finally being one united country a nice one, I worry that a referendum about independence from the UK could be very bad for the relatively recent peace in that area and it could cause things to become volatile again.

The Brexit campaign was also filled with a lot of lies and xenophobia. There has been mass immigration all over Europe the past few years by millions of refugees and I understand that a lot of people have some concerns about how this will affect their country but leaving the EU in order to "close the borders" is not the way to go about it. It's not fair for Britain to enjoy the EU freedom of movement by having its citizens travel freely around Europe but then prevent people from going there. It scares me that some horrible racist views similar to things Trump would say have also been gaining power around the UK.

It even turns out that some people were misinformed and didn't fully understand the implications of what they were voting for. One of the main arguments used by the for Brexit crowd was that Britain sends 350 million euro to the EU per week and if they were to leave the EU they could instead give that money to the NHS, the UK health care system. I can understand why that idea would appeal to a lot of people. But it was a lie! After the Brexit vote Nigel Farage was interviewed and admitted saying that saying such was a "mistake" and he cannot guarantee the money would go to the NHS.

There have been some people who voted for Brexit who now say they wish they could take it back! There is even a petition online to have a second referendum, and as I write this it currently has over 1.6 million signatures. After the voting results were announced the top searched for item on google was "what is the EU?", which clearly shows a whole lot of people who were not so sure about what they were even voting about! Some people have said that choose leave but only as a protest vote, not really thinking that their vote would count.

Since Brexit the British pound is down by 9% crashing to its lowest level in 31 years. Shares and pensions have also been negatively affected. The implications of Brexit is being felt by everyone around the globe. What a mess!