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Blue Sheets and Orange Underwear

Written by Lisa Cibich

Now, I am not a writer and I’ve had minimal training in writing narrative pieces, but this feels like the best way to tell a story about a short bump in the road, when really the desire was to have my own bump, a baby bump.

Bumps in the road can be taken in many ways, fast and inflight, dealing with the consequences after.  Slow and steady, approaching the bump and steadily going over the top nice and easy. Sometime there’s the little of both.

This to a certain point, this describes my journey to have a child; and at the time I felt physically broken, emotionally unstable and unable to fill the void of emptiness.

After numerous conversations, my darling husband and I believed it was time to start a family; we were free of upcoming events, had no overseas trips organised, I was happy to give up alcohol and have a break from work and the desire to have our little baby was pulling at me strongly.

So, I stopped taking the pill, started getting healthy, taking folate as well as all other forms of supplements.  Why on earth did I think that in the first month of unprotected love making, that we would be pregnant is beyond me, it’s such a naïve way of thinking.  I’ve read all the books and blogs and knew the chances were small of this happening, but it didn’t stop me thinking that I would be different. It probably has to do with my upbringing?  I grew up in a community in which unprotected sex before marriage would usually lead to pregnancy! Now, as a married woman and it being socially acceptable to do the nasty, why wasn’t I falling pregnant?

Three months passed by, I was monitoring my ovulation times, had sore boobs, was spotting and excited by all these symptoms that were signs of pregnancy.  Then comes Day 28 of your cycle, secretly you are wishing that little bit of spotting is ‘implantation bleeding’ until the next day you get a full period and all that excitement fades into disappointment.

Generally, there is no need to see a doctor until 12 months of actively trying has not resulted in pregnancy. One Saturday morning, I’m out and about and see these ovulation kits, well let’s give these a shot.  They are marketed as the holy grail of helping you get pregnant by pinpointing your exact ovulation day, it sounds simple enough and just like anything to do with getting pregnant and being pregnant, you are required to pee.

After buying the kit, I read the instructions and follow them to a tee. From Day 10 to Day 16 of my cycle I had to pee on a stick, if a smiley face came up, I knew today was the day, so go for it!  We did as instructed and then did some more…. But then Day 28 came along and so did my period.

The more internet research I did, the more I learned about how crucial ‘ovulation’ is. I learnt how long it lasts for and what it can feel and look like. Like anything to do with a woman’s body, it usually involves some sort of cramping, sticky discharge and mood swings as well as the urge to mate, which really is so primal and animal like!

One month the ovulation kit didn’t show any smiley faces! The signs were all there though, so I decided to track my cycle.  This included taking my temperature each morning and recording that down and plotting a graph, which really appealed to me being a Maths teacher. After two months of tracking and seeing my temperature drop at around Day 28 I knew I was going to be expecting my period to visit shortly.

Coming up to 9 months of trying and the concern and strain is starting to show. My husband gets tested and his results come back normal and healthy. It must be me. So, we get a referral to a gynaecologist with accompanying blood tests.

The same old questions, are you regular? Have you ever been pregnant? Etc.  I was sent for more testing and they found was the left fallopian tube seemed to be blocked. Sitting back in gynaecologist’s rooms with all test results in front, we hear what I call now the ‘triple threat’:

  1. You have low egg count (cause unknown),
  2. A blocked fallopian tube and,
  3. Endometriosis.

Next step – time for a laparoscopy. It’s a routine key hole day surgery, with about 4 days of recovery.

I woke up from surgery to a searing pain in my stomach and the strongest need to go to the toilet. The relief when I let myself pee is amazing, except when I see a blood soaked pad…oh the dignity… A nurse helps me get dressed, places me on a recliner and gives me something to eat; but I am too tired so I just close my eyes. I hear the voices, I feel prodding and my pulse is being taken for what seems like the 10th time. They do a blood pressure test and then the panic sets in for the nurses.  The resident doctor comes in and wakes me and says that they are not happy with my pulse and blood pressure and my lack of consciousness and want to do an ECG, by this time I hear my husband coming in and not long after that my sister who is on the phone to my mum telling her to grab my pyjamas as I am staying in overnight. WHAT?…WHY? A nurse explains that during the surgery when they tried to put dye through my fallopian tubes; apparently my body reacted and the anaesthetist had to give me more anaesthetic and in doing so I was completely out of it.  My body was reacting to the anaesthetic causing low blood pressure and a weak pulse so I would be spending the night in hospital.

I was wheeled into a room, a twin room with an old woman suffering from dementia, this was not ideal! I close my eyes and open them to see my husband, sister, mum, dad and sister’s boyfriend all staring at me. At least they had brought me food!!

My gynaecologist rings me, now it is at this time I should tell you that my husband had spoken to the gynaecologist the previous day and he interpreted that the surgery went well, they were able to remove the endometriosis and they unblocked the left fallopian tube and all was good. No, No husband, that’s not what she said! She said, “there was a lot of endometriosis and they were able to remove it but the left fallopian tube was blocked and they didn’t want to try and unblock it in case they caused more scar tissue which could cause even more damage” so I ask her the question,” what are my chances for falling pregnant”, she says that when I come into her offices in two weeks’ time she will refer me to a fertility clinic to begin IVF treatment.

The tears flowed, the dreaded acronym that I didn’t want to hear sounded just as bad as RIP.

Hope is an amazing thing, or do we mix hope up with want? or do they just go hand in hand? ‘We hope for what we want’. There was obviously still a small chance that we could conceive naturally, so between the recovery of the laparoscopy and beginning treatment for IVF, I began Acupuncture and visited a lovely South American man as recommended by a friend.   In his presence, you couldn’t help but feel calm, relaxed and positive.  He used the best Chinese medicine to get the body ready to have a baby. Not only did this include feeling like a pin cushion, but also involved some chicken broth soup with Goji berries amongst other ingredients and homeopathic treatments of salts and vitamins to help the body. So, with all of this plus the temperature taking and the bedroom stuff, there was still no sign of a baby!!

This is where the blue sheets and orange underwear come in! Old Wives Tales are those useful tidbits in getting a stain out of a white blouse, or not crying whilst cutting onions or making love after eating lemons to ensure a baby girl is conceived.  It’s amazing what you find on the internet, there was even the farfetched wives tales in trying to get pregnant that included sleeping with your husband on blue sheets and wearing orange underwear! I had hit rock bottom, guess what I did… I went out and bought a beautiful baby blue sheet and new vibrant orange underpants, which I wore on our first visit to the fertility clinic.

We went to the fertility clinic with heavy hearts.  We meet with a professor and he was great and went through all my notes and then explained what we would be doing. It was information overload, but my confidence was growing, however it only lasted a short time.  I was starting to worry about whether they would be able to extract any eggs, if not we had to think about whether we then turned to my sister or an unknown donor for an egg or eggs.  Then came the explanation for the hormone injections that I needed to take each day for two weeks at approximately the same time. I was teary but the nurse stopped me and reminded me that many women have to do this and it was not a time to start crying but to be strong and make a baby. After working out days of my cycle, we went home and waited for Day 1 to come along so I could begin the injection process.

The first injection I iced my tummy and I injected myself.  This same routine was repeated each night; some nights were easy and others I held the injection close and it would take all my strength to push it in.  My husband offered to do it for me but I wanted to do it, almost like if I did this I could do anything!  About 10 days later I returned for a blood test and an ultrasound to see if any follicles were present that could then be removed, yes there was and two days later we were back for my operation or egg extraction. While I was under getting my eggs extracted, my husband to a certain point was going to ‘enjoy’ himself as we need his deposit! In what felt like no time at all, I was lying in recovery. I straight away looked at my hand and saw the number 3. This meant that they were able to extract 3 eggs; I was crying and a nurse came up to me and was trying to console me, I told her “these are happy tears, I was just hoping for one”. My husband came in and hugged me, we were happy with the 3 eggs although he was looking sheepish almost ashamed at what he had just done and enjoyed.  But hey, this is what we had to do to get our first baby!

Upon returning home we received a phone call from the embryologist who said that they had successfully fertilised two eggs and we had two embryos growing! Wow what a thought, we had two babies growing!! Two days later we returned to the clinic for the implantation. We were in the implantation room, my husband next to me, I am lying on a bed with my legs up in the air, a vaginal ultrasound taking place for the ‘professor’ to find the best spot to place the embryo; the embryologist had shown us a photo of our embryo, they had chosen this one out of the two as this embryo had eaten faster than the other one; the other one had been frozen. We decided to call this embryo the one living in the freezer!   Back to implantation and the professor picked up this tool that contains our embryo, on a screen we were able to watch the embryo being placed inside close to my uterine wall; it’s there!! I finally have an embryo inside of me! The hope was the embryo would attach to the wall and begin to multiply just the same as if it would happen naturally! We then went home and I stayed on the couch almost too scared to stand up and walk , like it may fall out!!

Thus, began the TWW, another acronym used by many bloggers.  TWW was the Two Week Wait.  During the two week wait, you were to carry on as normal, eating well, drinking well, taking the vitamins, exercising and praying that no period would come! It was now November and a Monday morning, I woke up and felt funny, almost like a period was coming, I had cramping and spotting and I was so sad, it hadn’t worked. My blood test was going to be on Wednesday unless a full period came before. Monday mid-morning we rang the fertility clinic and told them what was a happening, the nurse said that it could just be spotting and nothing else but I had to wait it out. Tuesday came and no period yet, so that bit of hope was creeping back in.  I felt like a crazy woman as every time I went to the toilet, I was going on the hour, I was checking my underpants praying “please no blood please no blood”.  Wednesday morning finally arrived and we were back at the clinic for the blood test. The nurse seemed very positive but I was refusing to smile. The night before I had been at the acupuncturist who as usual checked my pulse, tongue and eyes and he turned to me in his gentle way and said he felt a baby pulse. I didn’t tell anyone this; I was not going to let myself believe this just in case there was no pregnancy.

After the blood test, my husband and I return to work; I was in a meeting with our Deputy Principal when my husband came and knocked on the door I walked out and he said “the nurse just called and the test was positive, so its ok, it worked you are pregnant and we are having a baby”. I was in shock nodded and walked back into the office, finished my meeting. By this time it was recess so my husband and I found an empty classroom and spent the most part of recess calling the family. They were overjoyed and cried as they too without me realising had also been on this journey; keeping faith, hope and encouraging us to go on. Part of me was just relieved that there was not going to be anymore internal vaginal ultrasounds as down there had more contact with that wand in the past three months than my husband, a slight exaggeration!

At 7 weeks pregnant, we returned to the clinic and they asked how I was feeling?  I said I was feeling great but just so tired. They said that tired was a good sign that as the  pregnancy was continuing I might start to feel sick, uh oh I was worried. Little did I know that I was having another vaginal ultrasound, to look for the baby and see and hear a heartbeat. So, I proceeded yet again to get on the bed, legs in the hair and husband next to me and together we watched the monitor and saw our little baby with a strong heartbeat.  The joy was just shocking despite the position I was in!! After the ultrasound and our pictures in hand, I had to have more blood tests, by this stage it didn’t hurt anymore and I watched my blood travel into the tubes! The next day I woke up and threw up, what a great feeling!

Three years and nine months later, our daughter is about to turning three and can’t believe where that time has gone. When our daughter was 10months old, she didn’t want to be breast fed anymore and I thought ok, onto the formula, I was happy. It was around this time that I was awaiting my needless period which never came. Panic set in, was I going through premature menopause? I had diagnosed myself and with all my reproductive problems that could be the answer.  This was strange for me, apart from the 9 months of pregnancy and then the first 5 months of my daughter being born, I had always had a period every 28-32days since September 22nd 1995.

About a week later, my husband and I discuss that I take a pregnancy test, it came back negative, so after another couple of days, I decided to make an appointment to see the doctor. The night before my doctor’s appointment, I took another pregnancy test just to rule it out, it came back positive. In just one session that month, my husband had knocked me up, wow my body does work, I am a normal human woman capable of getting pregnant, I was crying.  We were going to have two kids under two, I was going to get fat again. The waves of emotions were ridiculous, I had come to terms that I needed help getting pregnant that we had another baby in the freezer that we were paying rent for and we wanted to implant that baby later that year. Why had I still not realised that nothing goes according to plan!!

Went to the doctors and all confirmed, and within 12 months I was back to the obstetrician with pretty much an accidental pregnancy, although there is nothing mistaking our precious son born 8 months later, he is a beautiful soul.

Cutting a very long story short, we will use our freezer baby soon, I just need to find myself again under all the poo, wee, spew, dirty clothes, laughter, cuddles, kisses, unconditional love and joy. The blue sheets and orange underwear must have worked eventually; and it is at this time that I think of those couples in the waiting room with me and the many other people I have spoken to trying to have children, wanting to expect and I hope that they have been successful and found happiness in their lives as I have.

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