Hysteroscopy: “It might be a little uncomfortable.” Oh, REALLY?!

I was referred for ‘Hysteroscopy and Endometrial Pipelle Biopsy’ as part of my RPL tests. I knew about the camera bit but I think the doctors omitted to tell me about the biopsy part. For good reason.

More on that in a bit…

In my experience, I’ve always heard pretty quickly about when the appointment is but there’s a number of weeks wait between getting The Big Date and attending The Big Appointment. But 5 weeks on, nothing. Consultant Secretary couldn’t chase because it’s a different hospital entirely so they could only give me a number to call. No answer. Tried a different number. Wrong department incidentally but that lady gave me another number of someone who was the line manager of the other number at which there was no answer. Tried. No answer. So I left a message.

24 hours later, I’d heard nothing, so I tried again next day on original number about 3:15pm. Answered! She was absolutely lovely, said my situation had been brought to light (by the line manager), they apologised profusely for the wait in receiving an appointment time and that I was looking at 5-8 weeks until the actual procedure. Then she asked me to hold, came back and said, “How’s 9am tomorrow morning sound?” There had been a last minute cancellation and because they were literally due to close for the day, the first appointment of tomorrow would simply go to waste. Unless, of course, some over-zealous, crazy woman, counting down the hours since the referral went through, called at the precise moment the cancellation was realised and at the last available quarter of an hour in which said cancellation could be filled.

That’s me! *waves*

I realise sometimes cancellations are absolutely legitimate, but more than often they’re not, and pushed-to-the-limit services like NHS aren’t notified prior to Stupid Time-Waster Patient not turning up (see any GP wall for a poster outlining wasted time due to patients just not bothering to attend) which means hours and hours of one-to-one time with healthcare professionals are lost, all the while, poorly people are being told there’s no space available.

But however this cancellation came about, this miraculous little empty appointment on a day that I could make it with minimal work disruption, I am so ridiculously thankful that I phoned at that moment. Now, there’s no appointment wasted, no professional time wasted and no anxious 5-8 week wait for me. I usually maintain that I’m unlucky, but with this, I was the complete opposite. High five!

So 17 hours later (and getting through the worst traffic known to man), I arrived. The Nurse Practitioner doing the hysteroscopy was brilliant and the Student Midwife with her is clearly going to be an asset to the profession. Everything was explained clearly – with the use of a ball point pen and a few fists… :-O – where an instrument would be inserted through my cervix and scraped down the lining a few times to take some cells…fun! And in we went. Only one moment of ‘Oh crap!‘ was when she described the discomfort I’d feel for the biopsy, informing me that it’s usually done under general anaesthetic so if it hurt, I wasn’t being weak (good old NHS cuts, suspending this option unless emergency surgery…). And now I quote:

“It’s quite uncomfortable. It will make your toes curl and you’ll want to kick me. But please don’t.”

*cue nervous laugh*

Uncomfortable? The saline flooding my uterus: yes, uncomfortable (period pain). The camera fiddling around: ow, yep, that’s uncomfortable (tugging/pushing feeling). Endometrial Pipelle Biopsy, i.e. Claw Your Uterus Like An Angry Tiger Claws Its Prey: ouch.

Normally, I chat utter nonsense throughout all uncomfortable procedures. But this was akin to the sting of a needle drawing copious vials of blood, the heat of when you hold your palm above a candle and it feels ok but then suddenly burns you, twinned with what I imagine dragging a fishing hook down bare skin would be like, all this right through your very middle. No small talk about, “Ooo, isn’t it nice to see some sunshine!” or “Going on any holidays this year?” could distract me from this. It honestly was pretty rough.

But I’ve felt fine since; no discomfort, just a bit of stomach ache now and again but nothing really. After-effects of sunburn is worse, ha. Yet another thing that wasn’t as quite as bad as Dr Google told me it would be.

And anyway…for the sake of a few seconds of “OW!”, it WILL be worth it…right? Course it will.

It was good news in that I have a wonderfully healthy and symmetrical uterus with no problems that she could see (pretty amazing to see my insides on a tv!). So structurally, my abdomen is the uterine equivalent of a supermodel, an athlete, a goddess, possibly all three. Whether she’s a toxic one of these, we’ll soon find out when the biopsy results come back but right now, I’m basking in the glory of having a photogenic uterus and, to quote my GP nurse, “a cute and perfectly formed cervix”. (Note: must add that to my CV…)

Counselling: how to drop the act of, “Everything is GREAT, thanks!” ??

Next week holds the counselling session through our clinic, to help us through the upset of the last few months, as well as being there to show us support when we get our tests results back, whatever they hold. This is great, it really is.

But I don’t know myself which ‘me’ I’ll be when I arrive; the one who smiles and says that it’s not easy but really, I’m coping, all said with a huge, beaming smile.

Or the me who is utterly crushed and struggling, still, to see where we go from here, who has crazy thoughts about flicking pregnant women when they moan about being pregnant (I’m sure it’s no fun being pregnant but I would take their discomfort, pains and the sleeplessness over my discomfort, pains and sleeplessness ANY day). I don’t want them to lock me away, but I need them to see I’m finding life hard, like really hard.

But talking is tough. Really tough.

I’ve never found it easy to say how I feel about things. Whilst writing that, though, I can almost hear my husband falling off his chair, laughing incredulously, and even my dog is raising his eyebrow with an expression that reads, ‘Really? Like, reeeeeeeally?!’.  Ok. So in certain circumstances, I am very skilled at it. If I’m angry, or something is unjust or unfair or someone’s been taken advantage of, I will go to town and defend the wronged party to the death. If there’s something I disagree with policy at work, I’ll call them up on it and back my opinion up with research, in-the-field examples and clever-sounding words (that, if I’m honest, I sometimes wince in case I’m using it in the wrong context, but they sound GREAT – so far). I sign petitions and write letters of complaint and tweet support and meet politicians to tackle local issues and enlighten my friends/family/anyone who will listen on the plight of animal and human injustices. I am brilliant at stating my opinion and backing it up irrefutably.

And with all that, I have earned my reputation as a girl who says what she feels, speaks it as it is and doesn’t coat the truth, albeit nicely.

But when it comes to feelings, to the ‘inner me’, I don’t say a lot. I smile and say, “I’m great, thanks for asking!” to anything I’m asked. I don’t know where this came from, it’s just always been there. I just don’t find conversations about personal life easy. No siree! I am a ridiculously independent and, I suppose secretive, person and with that, the people I talk to about my life and the ‘real me’ face-to-face are so limited, I can count on the toes of a camel.

So admitting we were trying for a family was impossible. I don’t do that, telling people personal things. I fear the prying questions, the knowing glances, the people who know we’re trying thinking about it, them wondering if we’re actually pregnant but aren’t saying yet or when we say we’re staying in tonight, that almost imperceptible wink of, “Oh reaaaaally, you kinky little devils!” – I HATE it. So other than our two absolute best friends (a couple), we told no one.

Then I was referred to the fertility clinic, which required a couple of hours out from work here and there. To avoid telling them why, I constructed an elaborate web of cover (or lies, if I if I’m being honest…) of how my periods had stopped and they were doing tests and it was accepted by them, no questions or prying. At home, I had to (obviously) hide every trace of anything in my home in case anyone dropped by… letters with the NHS logo on them, folic acid, basal body thermometer by the bed, injection bags, sharps box, raspberry leaf tea and other herbal remedies I was hoping would have a that *woohoo!* miracle effect upon my lazy lackeys called ovaries. I guess it’s akin to Monica in that brilliant episode of Friends, attempting to keep her junk cupboard hidden… padlocked away, for no one, EVER, to see…

Once, we were late home from holiday and my mum was already at my house. To occupy herself, she cleaned and tidied so it’d be nice for when we got back. Yet I was gripped by the weirdest panic, knowing full well that the bathroom bin was full of pee sticks that I hadn’t had time to get rid of before going away, praying that she’d just vacuum and dust… “You don’t understand,” I’d say to the husband, “She’ll see IN THE BIN!”, him all the while attempting to look mildly concerned whilst his crazy wife goes mad about bin violation… And she did. Oh no. No short cuts today! The bin was emptied and I felt angry! And as I type, I’m actually laughing out loud because I know, I hear how absolutely insane that sounds! Hardly crime of the century, bin-emptying…

But it was OUR secret. No one else knew. I didn’t want anyone to know.

Then August came and it happened. Baby! Any woman who has ever struggled to conceive will understand the utter, all-consuming, overwhelming joy that that day brought. We told my work (I work with violent pupils, so needed to tell) and our family at 6 weeks but asked them to keep it quiet until the second scan at 12 weeks. We’d told them that it wasn’t straight forward to conceive and, luckily, the questions we’d dreaded went unasked, because the journey there didn’t matter anymore.  But then the 7 week scan showed no heartbeat. A week after that, a heartbeat thudded away but baby was too small. Another week later, our baby was gone.

And with it, we were exactly where we never wanted to be – yes, the miscarriage, but now came those questions. My family, like families do, tried to get me to talk but they couldn’t understand that I just don’t want to.

And so ‘The Elephant in the Room’ was born.

Then I miscarried again, then again, making it 3 in exactly 3 months. We didn’t tell anyone we’d conceived again and as a result, wouldn’t have even told anyone the babies had gone if I hadn’t had been hospitalised. And because we had to tell, that feeling is there again. That tension in the stomach, that twisting. Yes, We’re going through recurrent miscarriage tests – that’s all I want to say. Don’t ask me how I feel, don’t ask me to elaborate, don’t expect an answer, don’t push me to talk because I’ll snap at you.

Yet, I don’t find talking to complete strangers intimidating at all. I don’t find writing it down and sharing it with the world intimidating, so long as you don’t know who I am. I’ve been kept sane by the online community and their advice. Therein lies the reason for this blog. It’s my thoughts, my absolute anguish and joy (I hope, maybe one day) laid on a plate, without the pressure of having to see you face to face.

The counselling next week will be tricky. Talking about my feelings is so hard but I know it will help me. Perhaps I should just rip off the proverbial band-aid and try it. Maybe putting a blanket over my head while I talk or type to her the next room would work best…

Wish me luck.

Searching for a reason, by just another (in)fertile.

In February 2015, it became 1,051,200 minutes since ‘Let’s make a Baby!’ began. After 5 years of marriage, it seemed the perfect time. Since that marvellously naive moment, there have been 6 months of nothing, nada, zilch of fertility signs on my part, 18 months of fertility support, HSG test, 2 prescriptions for Provera, numerous early morning wake-up calls to take my temperature, 5 consultant appointments, smears and swabs and pee sticks and more pee sticks (and more pee sticks, if I’m totally honest…) and countless hours partaking in scouring-the-internet-for-help-because-that-twinge-must-mean-something, not to mention 50+ encounters with *that* probe.

It’s included hope in the form of Clomid and, later, Puregon/Pregnyl injections, hope perpetuated by the smiling promises of nurses, hope when seeing other (in)fertiles conceive, and the times when my body seemed to know what it was supposed to do (joy of joys!).

But it’s contained more tears than I could ever count: the weeks and weeks between appointments where nothing could be done because my body wasn’t ready; the appearance of tennis ball sized cysts following Clomid, which took 9 weeks each of bleeding to disappear; the first miscarriage at 9 weeks (baby died at 6+5), just when we dared to whisper that, really, truly, this *might* be it; the second miscarriage, detected only because of a blood test and an unusually heavy and painful period; the third miscarriage at 5 weeks, just a day after it was confirmed… and more recently, the tears that have flowed whenever another couple posts their smiling faces and that oh-so-famliar-but-never-had-one-myself black and white scan and the accompanying announcement which seems to scream to me, “WE’RE SO FERTILE AND YOU’RE SO NOT!”. NB: Of course no one has ever implied this, but when your head is screwed after dealing with the recurrent misery that is recurrent miscarriage, the world tends to skew, and innocent Facebook posts morph into something you feel is aimed specifically at you, and not the other 496 friends they’re posting to.

And there’s the blame thing. When people find out that you’ve somehow lost the baby (termed in the same way as though you’ve simply misplaced it in a moment of inattentiveness), they don’t blame you, but they ask you everything; did you take folic acid? Did you drink coffee? Did you run too much? Did you get enough sleep? Did you forget to kiss the green Mystic Tropical Plant of Fertility seven times on the first full moon of the month? And the answer is no. No, I didn’t forget to take the tablets I’ve been taking since ‘Let’s make a Baby!’ began. No, I didn’t drink coffee. No, I didn’t run too much. Yes, I did get enough sleep. But then it makes you question everything yourself. DID I run too much?  Did that one singular normal cup of tea (rather than my caffeine-free tea) make a difference? Should I have gone to bed earlier? Was it because I had a glass of wine around about the time implantation would’ve happened? Did I lose it because I had one negative thought on how life might change once a baby is in our life?

And the list goes on. And then the thought process takes over: it’s my fault. I couldn’t protect the baby. I didn’t grow it right. I’m just unlucky. I MUST have done something to deserve it. Maybe I’m just a really horrible person and this is karma?

I know it’s stupid. I know it’s not my fault. I know I couldn’t have done anything differently. But in questioning myself, I feel as though I might find a reason and that this might help us understand why. And then I can put it right, right?

Right now, we’re going through tests to find out just why I can’t seem to grow babies. All the blood tests are done so I’ve just a hysteroscopy to get through (after which all the results will be available) and we’ve been referred for counselling should we wish. It makes me feel calm, knowing things are being done, although the accompanying wait is frustrating.

Yet after this, there’s still only a 40% chance of finding the answer to that pesky, elusive little beast called WHY.

I just hope it’s an easily-solvable why.