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!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

What next

After a failed IVF it is typical to have a follow up meeting with your doctor, often nicknamed the "WTF meeting" in the infertility circuit. It's a chance for you and your partner to ask loads of questions, discuss what went right or wrong and what could be done differently next time. I mentioned that we have been considering getting a consultation at another clinic which is unfortunately a lot further away. We phoned them and the earliest appointment we can get there is end of August! I would also need to take time off work just to go to it which is quite awkward. In the meantime we had our follow up appointment at our local clinic and actually it went a lot better than we had been expecting. Better that is in the sense that the doctor took loads of time to discuss things with us at length and answer all our questions, not necessarily in terms of our future chances which are still hard to say.

We have a few things working against us. My one confirmed blocked fallopian tube and the other one which seems to not be working hence the need for IVF in the first place. And now it turns out I'm classed as a "poor responder" to IVF hormones. My body doesn't make as many follicles as it should. And even when they do grow, some of them are empty so that doesn't help! The doctor has a theory now that maybe some months I'm not producing an egg naturally and he thinks this is part of the reason for our not getting pregnant naturally. For all I've researched into "empty follicle syndrome" (which is what it's called when you have less eggs retrieved at the egg collection procedure than the number of available follicles) I have never come across this theory.

If it were correct I've been trying to work out what that would mean for our chances trying naturally. The first IVF round I had six follicles but only two eggs. The last round three follicles and one egg. So that would mean a one in three rate of eggs approx. So in a given year, twelve months, I would only have about four eggs, that is only four months with an actual chance. Given that one fallopian tube is definitely blocked that would half it to roughly two. So only two months out of a year when there's a chance of conceiving. Add that to missing the "fertile" window one month if our timing is off and that would leave only one month per year. So that could explain why I haven't gotten pregnant naturally before now IF his theory is true! Hubby was wondering afterwards whether we should have tried naturally for longer before pursuing fertility treatment when he heard that. But if both tubes aren't working at all then it would never happen naturally no matter how long we wait.

Anyway. The doctor says we could try the antagonist protocol next time which might work better for me. Hopefully. But he also said I don't have to rush as the few eggs I do produce are great quality and he's not worried about my age. He suggested we take about six months off. He also said it could be a good idea to do some further tests before going "blindly" into the next round. He suggested we get our chromosomes checked and to test me to see if I might have a blood clotting factor (although last round he prescribed me baby aspirin after transfer just in case).

There is also a lab where you can send your blood to for more thorough tests and they check for natural killer cells. This is a very controversial area. The idea is that some women have overly effective immune system response cells which attack the embryo thinking it's a foreign body. There are meds you can take to suppress this response. Our doctor said that some doctors don't believe in it at all and think it's just a waste of money whereas others thinks it's really great. There was a conference in Biel in Germany apparently where there was a presentation and any of the doctors who went there were convinced. He said he's also had some patients who were helped. But it's up to us whether we want to go down that avenue or not.

I figure it's worth getting the tests done their anyway. They also test your vitamin levels and any gene issues. The problem is it takes about three to four months for the testing and we also need to try to see if our health health insurance will contribute towards it first so that will take some time sorting that out. With health insurance help it might just cost a few hundred euro here but without help it would be closer to 3000€ in which case we wouldn't be able to afford it right now!


If we're going to be busy with our new house over the next few months anyway, why not get these tests done and give round three our very best shot. Especially since the third round is the last round our insurance will pay towards and what with the new house and bills, we probably wouldn't be able to afford any more rounds after this. Yes the third round will most likely be our last whether it works or not since that is what we had agreed beforehand and at some point we don't want to just keep throwing money at something if it looks like it's not going to work. If it did turn out that the next round were to fail hubby and I differ somewhat on how we would proceed. He thinks at that stage we should accept kids aren't for us and try to move on, whereas I would probably consider looking into other options like mini/natural IVF with less hormones and less costs before being ready to accept it. We've had some difficult conversations about it all. I try to think positively in general but after two failed IVF cycles I am starting to really worry more about why it isn't working and what the future holds.

Apart from all that life has been great lately. It's very exciting that we've found new house and we'll probably be moving in just a few months; job wise things are also going great, I recently even got a small promotion! Now that I'm not currently going through fertility treatment I've had more energy for my social life and it's been fun meeting up with people more often and drinking wine again! I have also become friends with a new Irish girl living here which has been great since over the past half year several close friends have moved away. And I'm very happily married; it'll be our three year anniversary this August. So a lot of things are going really well and I'm very happy with my life...I just hope there will be a baby in our future.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Good news in Baden Baden

Recently we both took some time off work and decided to spend a few relaxing days in Baden Baden in the Black Forest. It's a beautiful town where a lot of Germans go when they retire and it's not hard to see why. There are loads of thermal baths and spas there so it's a really nice place for some chilling. The weather was generally nice while we were there and it was a perfect few days after the stressful month we'd just had. We went to Caracalla spa one afternoon, got Thai back massages, ate lots of really good food and enjoyed some nice walks. 



However the best part of the trip was yet to come. We had made an offer on a house we viewed the previous week and while we were at the spa we had gotten a missed call from the realtor. We went and sat down on a bench overlooking the river feeling nervous and then had some trouble reaching the realtor as when we phoned her office we were told she had already gone home for the day! This was on Friday and we were worried that we might have to spend all weekend not knowing the outcome! Luckily we found her mobile number on her email and were finally able to get through...


And the great news is that our offer has been accepted!! It was so nice to receive a phone call with good news for a change. Hubby and I are feeling both extremely excited and quite overwhelmed at the moment! We went out that night to celebrate of course, and since we were in Baden Baden we did it in style by going out for dinner then to a nightclub and on to the casino! Actually the nightclub wasn't so great, the music was quite cheesy and it was pretty empty but we had fun anyway. I can't believe we are going to be house owners soon!




Sunday, June 5, 2016

Could this be our dream house?

We have been house hunting for several years now. We even came close to buying last year. Recently we saw an ad for a nice big house in one of our desired areas. It was expensive and a little above our budget but we decided it was worth a look anyway. We weren't able to get a viewing immediately as the house was popular which is typical for any nice place for sale here but we managed to get an appointment for last Wednesday.

The house is lovely! It's the end terraced house with a nice little garden and it's spacious. It was built in the early 90s but it has a newish kitchen and bathroom and generally looks very modern. So now we've decided to make an offer. We are going to the bank early next week to figure out how much and to apply for mortgage pre approval. We will have to offer a little less than the asking price probably as it's just so much, especially once you add on the taxes here and the realtor fees.

The only problem is that the house owner is already in negotiations with another interested party so we will have to hurry with our offer. I was hoping we would have time for a second viewing, maybe with a surveyor. If our offer were to be accepted though we could then still get a surveyor just to make sure the place isn't about to fall down before we would sign anything official! Either party can back out here until the notary appointment.

I love this house and really want it to work out but if not then I hope we would find another equally great house soon. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Day after the result

I'm feeling a little better today. Still very sad of course but I continue to have hope for the future that one day it will work for us. I just pray it will be on the third IVF round and soon (or ideally it would just happen naturally but I've more or less given up hope now that could happen). Hubby and I had agreed before we started this whole process that we would only do three rounds max. For most people if it's going to work it would normally work by then. I hadn't thought that I would end up having two failed rounds.

I was talking to a friend today whose friend is a doctor and she said that with only one egg my chances of IVF working were really low, like only 3%. I had no idea it was that unlikely! The doctor did ask me if I wanted to keep going when it looked like I wasn't responding to the meds but he didn't mention that the chances would be so low and I thought that since I only had two eggs the last time but had gotten briefly pregnant that I would still have a chance with one.

I am wondering whether it is time to get a second opinion at another clinic. There is one that is meant to be really good but it's located over an hour away. So trying to go to appointments there before work would involve getting up at an inhumanly early hour. However I do want to give us the best chance of it working. We are thinking about trying to get a consultation appointment there to see what they might suggest.

I have also been thinking about how long I would wait before we might start the third round. I hate the idea of going through all the injections, the egg retrieval, and the horrible emotional rollercoaster again. I would say about 2-3 months maybe, possibly 4. We would also like to plan a trip to Ireland this summer though which could be awkward if it clashes with when we would start treatment so maybe it would make sense to wait until after. 

Hubby and I are planning a mini break together next weekend, a spa hotel or something. Getting away sounds really good at the moment.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Heartbroken

This morning I went in for the blood test at my clinic. They said they would phone between 12pm and 2pm with the result. I had done another pregnancy test at home which looked like a very faint positive this morning. So I thought that it meant I am pregnant but possibly the HCG level is low. I went home at lunchtime hoping I would be there for the call but they didn't ring and we couldn't get through to them. So then I went back to work knowing they had hubby's number.


Once I got in the door this evening and saw his face I knew it was bad news and I just burst into tears. He hugged me and then told me the news. Not positive. Not even a little bit. I was firstly sort of in shock as I was so sure that I was pregnant. We're heartbroken.

It's just so disappointing. We had so much hope this time and it did seem like it was going well! We had the scratch, our embryo was great quality, I wasn't stressed... The home pregnancy tests I did that showed very faint positives must have just been showing leftover HCG hormones from the shots. But then again only having one egg this round didn't give us great odds at all I guess. 

We are trying to plan a little trip next weekend, maybe a spa hotel or something, we just need to get away for a few days. In a few weeks we have an appointment with our doctor to discuss what went wrong. I'm not sure when I could face going through it all again, I just need a break for now.