Less than a week to go …

Jane's bump
Jane’s bump at 36 weeks and 3 days. (Used with permission from Jane!)

Scan #9

Yesterday Jane and I drove the now very familiar road to Dundee, to Ninewells Hospital, for our last babies scan.

We’re now at 36 weeks and have a confirmed date of Tuesday 18 November 2008 for a scheduled Caesarean section. The end is in sight, ladies and gentlemen of the World Wide Web … and the beginning! What a journey we’ve been on this past year.

On the wall of the scanning department waiting room is a display showing various ultrasound scans of singleton babies from 7 weeks to 28 weeks.

I remember sitting nervously in that room for our first scan at 6 weeks and how delighted we were with the little dots that we saw on the monitor. We commented then that there was no 6 weeks scan on the wall display, and commented again yesterday that we were now eight weeks beyond the last scan displayed.

We’ve now had nine scans — they certainly look after pregnancies of multiples at Ninewells. Once again the scan showed that the boys are doing well. We’re now all set for meeting them in person on Tuesday.

37

Yesterday (Tuesday) was my birthday; I was 37 years old. Next Tuesday will be their birthday; they will be 37 weeks old!

Of course, they will be thirty seven weeks old for a short while. And then someone will press their age reset buttons and we’ll have to start counting again from zero. Perhaps we should keep track of these different ways of counting their ages in parallel.

Getting ready

A few folks have asked us if we’re ready. Here are a few photos as way of an answer.

iCandy Pear
iCandy Pear pram parked in the hallway.

Two sleepsuits hanging on a cupboard door.
Two sleepsuits hanging on a cupboard door in the living room.

Cots
Two cots, made up and ready. Note the different colours!

Baby monitor
Tomy baby monitor on top of an empty bookcase.

Nursing chair
Reclining glider nursing chair from John Lewis.

Waiting

Now we simply wait patiently.

Jane’s hospital bag accompanied us to Ninewells and back again yesterday. Just in case. The car is filled up with petrol (92.9p per litre), the camera has new batteries and an empty xD card, and I’ve booked my paternity leave starting on Tuesday.

What a blessing this is from God. At times during the last eight years we’ve wondered if we’d ever get to this point. We wondered if we would ever be able to give life to one child, and here we’re expecting two. God is good.

If it’s your discipline, please do remember Jane and the babies in your prayers, for a safe delivery on Tuesday, that Jane will recover well and quickly, and that the boys are in the best possible health. But most of all that we’ll get lots of sleep, before we forget what that is!

Week 32 ultrasound scan

Left twin at 32 weeks
Amazing, almost 3D photo of left twin taken at today’s ultrasound scan

Jane’s in bed at last. Sleep hasn’t been the easiest thing for Jane during this pregnancy but last night was the worst to date with only about 30 minutes. Certainly not enough to function when you’re in the best of health let alone pregnant and carrying twins!

Scan day

Today was another scan day at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee. Jane managed to drive as far as St Andrews (about 10 miles) where she met me and I drove her the rest of the way.

It feels like a very familiar road now, not least because that’s the road we take to Newport-on-Tay for church; I was there on Sunday for Harvest Festival, which was a lovely experience complete with Asperges (blessing the congregation with holy water). The theme was water too, which was fitting.

We’ve been going up to Ninewells more frequently over the last couple of months — we were there for weeks 19, 26, 28 and now 32 — for scans and visits to the twins clinic which is held in the ante-natal clinic on a Tuesday (as far as I know).

The waiting room

It’s been interesting to see the variety of people waiting for scans. Some (I assume) carrying singletons, others with twins (or perhaps more); I only know that because we see them later waiting at the twins clinic. Today we followed an obviously middle-class, professional couple and an Asian — I’m going to guess Muslim — woman in a long flowing dress with scarf over her head. Behind us in the queue, a girl who looked like she was college age, sitting with her friend, and beside her a young black woman.

When we came out from the scan — which lasted longer than usual because … well, we couldn’t really work out which baby was which (I’ll come back to that) — there were lots more people in the waiting room. It turned out to be, as far as I could tell, two groups.

First there was a young girl (mid- to late-teens, I would guess) sitting with her mother and boyfriend. The boyfriend looked bored, perhaps embarrassed? He sat staring into space. The females were totally blinged up! Imagine that Jimmy Saville and Mr T are related, and they have a couple of cousins in Scotland. That was them.

The other group comprised a young woman (maybe 18 or 19) with her boyfriend and an older man, whom I presumed was the father of one of them, though I’m not sure which because he didn’t seem to speak with either of them. Oddly, I seemed to recognise him, though.

A wonderful cross-section of Scottish society in that one room.

The scan

Back to the scan. Our usual doctor was on holiday so we were ushered into a room by a midwife that we’d never met before, but who seemed nice. The warmed-up lubricating jelly was smeared onto Jane’s tummy and the midwife set about with the scan.

Until now the scans appear to have been quite straight forward — says me, who’s never done an ultrasound scan in his life! Today the twins were obviously playing up. Right twin has his head down (that’s the right direction for a baby at this stage); left twin is the other way up (that’s called ‘breech’ and is the wrong way up for a baby at this stage).

To further complicate things, right twin has his spine following the shape of Jane’s bump while left twin has his spine at the back, so essentially facing the same way as Jane. They’re like Yin and Yang. They are not exactly tangled up in each other, but not far off it.

They certainly made it very difficult to take measurements, and we were completely unable to get an image of right twin’s face, though we got two amazingly good images of left twin — one of them (above) was almost 3D in its clarity.

The midwife said that she was going to use one of her life-lines and chose to “phone a friend”. She went off to get a doctor to see if she could make sense of this ultrasound festival of limbs. I think the babies must have moved when Jane sat up to wait for the doctor’s arrival because she managed to get the required measurements and confirmed that everything appeared to be as it should be.

She still couldn’t get an image of right twin’s face, though.

Twins clinic

We were soon upstairs in another waiting room; this was the twins clinic. The chairs there are oddly arranged into three rows like a small cinema facing a huge window and a tiny 14″ TV, the picture on which was mostly static and interference. The chairs are all high-backed anyway, so unless you’re sitting at the front or on the end you can’t actually see the telly anyway!

The young woman, partner and father soon joined us. The partner’s social norms were obviously different to ours. He stood at the front and fiddled with stuff. There was an information display all about alcohol awareness week. “Aw look! He said, you can drink up to 2 units a day … you could get the baby drunk!”

There really should be a third read-out on these alcohol unit ready-reckoner wheels: male, female and pregnant. The pregnant read-out should simply say “none … none … none … none …”. It’s really not worth the risk, which is what the poster at the front said in bold letters. You can choose to say no to alcohol, your baby can’t!

Our next visit there is going to be in three weeks time (week 35) when we’ll speak further with the staff about the possibility of an elective Caesarean section. They were saying that it might be around 18 November, give or take a week or two.

That feels at once no time at all and ages away … particularly when a full night’s sleep is so hard to come by for Jane. But it is exciting.

A day of Metallica on TV, visitors we never saw and Jane in hospital

Bucket in a well
Nice bucket!

Well, that’s been an interesting day. It began with me staying up far too late (past midnight, no less) to watch Metallica perform at the Reading and Leeds Festivals on BBC 2 and ended with me leaving Jane in hospital in Dundee overnight for observation.

I woke this morning with a start. Somehow (unconsciously?) I was aware of Jane sitting on the edge of the bed. She wasn’t moving much, except for the gentle rocking of someone crying. She had a pain at the top of her bump, she’s had it for a few weeks now, but this morning the pain was more searing than ever, ‘excruciating’ you might say if you could spell it.

Once I got Jane to her feet and she started moving about, slowly the pain began to subside. Jane called the hospital’s emergency number for pregnant ladies: 0800 MY-BUMP-SAYS-OUCH! They listened, pondered and asked her to call back at 14:00 for an update, at which point they decided that Jane should be seen, just to be on the safe side.

The visitors we never saw

Now, in the meantime, my brother Eddie had decided that they’d like to visit, and estimated their arrival at 14:00. “Sure”, we said assuming that the hospital would say “Look, I’m sorry you’ve had a bit of a pain in the bump, but since it’s eased off now there’s no need for you to come for a check-up, sit up with a good book and ask your husband to cook dinner tonight.”

Of course, they didn’t. They said “Come in!”

So I called Eddie. They were on their way, but could make a detour through Dunfermline to buy a hair-dryer.

We’ll be just a couple of hours, I assured him. We’ll be back in time for tea and tiffin. I’d bought tiffin specially, even if my spell-checker wants to call it ‘griffin’.

A couple of hours later I phoned him again. They’d just pulled up outside our house. By this time Jane had had various scans and lots of medical staff poking and prodding her, and they had decided to keep Jane in for 24 hours for observation.

The good news was that Jane’s BP and pulse was good, and the babies appear to be okay, with good strong heartbeats and a propensity for kicking each other! They needed to get to the bottom of the painful bump.

Operation Bags Packed

Eddie had keys so let himself in and I guided him around the house while he and Rebecca packed an overnight bag for Jane … once I’d flipped between the phone and Notes mid-call on my Xda Orbit. With the bag packed and left in the hall I then phoned Jane’s Mum.

“Erm, there’s been a change of plan!” We were meant to be going there for dinner this evening, could she erm … instead pick up the overnight bag that’s standing in our hallway and drive up to Dundee to visit Jane in hospital, please?

They arrived about half an hour after we’d been shown up to the post-natal ward (as there was no room at the inn!). It was lovely to see them. Jane was in a ward bay. The two beds closest to the door were occupied, the one on the right by Jane, the one on the left by a girl who’d clearly had a baby girl. How could we tell? Balloons! Tethered next to the bed were about 1,000 helium balloons that would have made the Montgolfier brothers run away in terror.

Half an hour later Jane’s room in the ante-natal ward was ready and we were moved. And what a lovely room — there was more room there than in our £130 per night hotel room in Inverness the other night! And it had a DVD player.

Prayers of the saints

When I’d nipped out of the labour suite to call in support from Eddie and Jane’s folks I’d also sent a quick Twitter update: “Jane is being kept in overnight for obs; prayers please. xx”.

I stepped out of the hospital around 20:00, switched on my phone and was greeted by a text message and some Twitter updates (some from as far away as Florida) assuring me of their prayers. The wonders of technology and Christianity coming together in harmony.

And that’s where we’re up to. I prayed with Jane before I left the hospital, asking God to hold Jane and the babies. Neither of us were particularly worried to be honest, and Jane was actually more upset about not getting steak pie at her Mum’s for dinner tonight than about having to stay in hospital overnight! But that’s why I love her: because she’s willing to put her love of pie before her health!

And on that bombshell … thanks for the prayers, good wishes and love. Hopefully we’ll be welcoming Jane and her bumps home tomorrow afternoon.

Update

Thanks for your prayers, folks. Jane got out of hospital on Sunday, shortly before midday.

Waiting for buses …

London buses
Non-identical buses

So, the observant amongst you will know that I’ve not been blogging quite as often as I used to, or would like. We’ll here’s the reason: I’ve been waiting for a bus. Of sorts.

This is the blog post that I’ve been longing to write for ages, and it even has a neat twist. But before I get ahead of myself, here’s the good news: the IVF worked!

For those of you watching in black and white and haven’t a clue what IVF is, Jane is pregnant.

Today we had the 12 weeks’ scan, which was our own personal non-disclosure deadline and so we can now share the great news with the world … albeit admittedly those citizens of the world with Web access.

The longest wait

I’ll probably blog later about my/our reflections on the IVF procedure, suffice to say here that the staff at Ward 35 (Assisted Conception Unit) at Ninewells Hospital were absolutely wonderful; we couldn’t have hoped for better.

We had the embryo transfer on Wednesday 19 March which was followed by the longest 17 days wait we’ve probably ever experienced.

Six weeks

On Saturday 5 April Jane took a pregnancy test and to our delight (and, to be honest, amazement) it showed that Jane was pregnant.

Twelve days later we had our first scan at Ninewells (still at Ward 35). This was a six weeks’ scan. I’ve no idea how these weeks are worked out. It would appear that doctors use a different kind of maths to the rest of us!

(Update: actually I do know, I was just teasing. As far as I can ascertain it’s so that the total pregnancy adds up to a nice round 40 weeks!)

Week 6 scan

The midwife who was doing the scan told us that she’d get her bearings and then show us on the monitor what she could see.

She sat down, got her bearings and told us that she could see the monitoring machine.

“Have you been drinking?” I asked. No, not really. I’ll get back to the proper story now.

“Will we get to see it’s heartbeat?” Jane asked.

“I’m not sure,” said the midwife. “Sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t.”

And then she showed us our baby on the monitor. It was 6mm long.

And then she showed us our other baby. It was 4mm long.

“You’re having twins!” the midwife said.

We were so delighted. We’ve been joking since about 2000 that we’d have twins. In the previous couple of weeks I’d been joking that it was quads. So the news of twins came as a delight and some relief.

The really amazing bit was that we could indeed see their heartbeats and sat watching their tiny, two-chamber hearts beating away; it looked like a really fast flicker on the monitor. Amazing, and reassuring.

Seven weeks

A week later they had us back in for another scan just to make sure that everything was going well.

It was. Both twins had grown to 10mm. They looked a bit like seahorses at this point.

Week 7 scan

Both embryos/babies were doing well with strong heartbeats. We could relax a bit and allow Jane to enjoy the next five weeks of so-called ‘morning’ sickness that is actually all-day sickness! We’re informed on authority that the symptoms of multiple pregnancies are generally worse than for singletons.

Except Valerie Singleton.

This was our final visit to Ward 35.

Twelve weeks

And so today we were back in Ninewells, this time at the Antenatal Clinic for the twelve weeks’ scan. Which looked like this:

Ultrasound scan of twins

They now look a lot more like proper babies. And not like Roswell experiments, as somebody kindly pointed out!

So, meet the family! At the moment they’re called Left and Right, but I’m sure we’ll come up with better names before December.

Both looked well, with strong heartbeats, and it really was absolutely amazing to see them moving about. “Baby Right” was doing somersaults, which was really impressive but he/she was probably just showing off cos he/she was on the telly.

Typical! Just like buses: you wait ages for one (in our case, eight years) and then two come along at once.

But how cool is that, and how blessed are we! Praise God (and the lovely staff at Ninewells Ward 35).

The last three months

Sun behind clouds

How can it be the end of March already?!

It’s not just me, is it? Easter felt infeasibly early this year. I happened before the clocks went forward (from GMT to BST). In fact, it happened before it had even stopped snowing!

And now that Easter is passed, Jesus has risen again (Alleluia!) and in a strange way I feel as though I’m emerging back into the sunshine. Have I been hibernating for the last few months?

I’ve certainly been fighting more bugs than is healthy in the first three months of any year. I don’t remember any other year when I’ve been inundated with so many illness bugs, and viruses and the like. Just as soon as I’m getting over one the next wave of attack hits me. It’s not funny … I want it to stop. Please!

In many ways the last couple of months have been a whirlwind of activity and emotion, which has largely been responsible for the dearth of blog posts here this year.

I’ve pretty much been doing the following:

  1. Waiting
  2. Coding
  3. Reading

Waiting

When the calendar clicked over to 2008, a couple of months ago, and we got (another) green light from the hospital to say that our IVF treatment would begin (again) this year a strange thing happened: I felt a though I began to retreat into myself.

I’m not entirely sure why, except that I guess I wanted to protect myself and from the relative safety of my ‘inner cave’ examine how I felt about this enormous step we were about to embark on (again!). It’s not an all-together bad thing to do, all things considered. In some ways, quite responsible. (Perhaps this means that I must be a grown-up now.)

One of the hardest things about the whole IVF programme (so far) is the waiting.

There’s a lot of waiting.

And unlike many of the procedures involved in the In Vitro Fertilisation process it’s something that the man can do equally well as the woman. In fact, it’s something that they can do together … since they can’t do any of the other things that are normally involved in trying to start a family!

So we’ve been waiting. And waiting some more. And in between the waiting … well, actually it’s mostly been waiting if I’m honest.

At times it’s been quite unbearable. We just want to know. One way or the other.

Coding

For the last few weeks I’ve hardly known what to do with myself. I’ve felt like a kid waiting for Christmas.

Jane started on the IVF drugs in July 2007 and it dragged on and on and on. One more month, another month after that … and then in December it was cancelled. Brought to an abrupt halt.

We could have had a child in that time!!

So in order to distract myself I’ve been bringing work home with me. I’m currently working on a recoding of the University’s website. And with the recoding a bit of a design tweak here and there.

Bringing it home has given me something to focus on. Something consistent. Something that has a beginning and an end. Something that I have been able to create.

I’ve been really enjoying it too, which has been the important thing.

Reading

And when I’ve not been sitting in front of my monitors I’ve been reading. Sometimes curled up in bed, other times on the sofa keeping Jane company.

Here are a few of the books I’ve been waiting through.

So I’m still alive and well, just keeping my head low just now.

IVF update: forms and needles

Syringe

This afternoon Jane and I drove over (drover?) to Dundee to Ninewells Hospital to sign consent forms and give a blood sample for screening (Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV) prior to our IVF treatment beginning sometime this year.

Seemingly we were supposed to have done this preparatory work a few months ago but with the complications and Jane’s operation the paperwork got lost in favour of treating Jane. Which I think strikes the right balance: people before paperwork.

The nurse who talked us through the forms and extracted some blood from us was lovely. She was friendly, fun and made us feel quite special which, not surprisingly, made us feel quite at ease.

With that done, and assuming that the blood tests are okay (and we have no reason to believe otherwise) we now just wait for the process to carry us through to our first cycle. More on that in a minute.

What happens with IVF

For those who don’t know what the procedure is, here’s how having a baby should work (assuming that all goes well):

  1. Man and woman have sex. (Drugs prior to sex are entirely optional at this point, but not recommended.)
  2. Man and woman have nervous wait.
  3. Woman takes pregnancy test.
  4. Couple celebrate, like it’s 1987.
  5. Nine months later woman gives birth to a healthy baby.

Now, here’s how it (roughly) works with IVF:

  1. Woman goes on drugs for a few weeks to reduce the size of her womb lining. Drugs at this point are entirely compulsory.
  2. Woman has baseline scan to make sure all is well.
  3. Woman begins ovarian stimulation to (hopefully) produce more than one egg. More drugs, again compulsory. More scans too (probably).
  4. Woman goes into surgery for oocyte retrieval, a small operation to remove the eggs.
  5. Man goes into a room with a pot to produce a sperm sample.
  6. Scientists mix the retrieved eggs with the pot of sperm to fertilise the eggs. (They don’t use an egg whisk, I’ve checked.)
  7. Scientists analyse fertilised eggs (embryos) which are selected for quality. (It’s a bit like Min Div, but different.)
  8. Woman goes in for another minor operation for embryo transfer. In other words, a maximum of the two best embryos are placed in the womb.
  9. Man and woman have nervous wait.
  10. Woman takes pregnancy test.
  11. Couple celebrate, like it’s 1987.
  12. Nine months later woman gives birth to a healthy baby.

As you can see the two procedures are almost exactly the same. Except for the intervention of scientists and the clinical environment in which it all happens. And the operations. And extra drugs.

Ethics

During the last few months I’ve been doing some reading on the ethics of IVF, which has been really helpful. When a couple has sex naturally there is usually only one egg, and one embryo, and if that dies then it dies.

But with IVF there could be 10 eggs and 10 embryos, each with the potential for life. Only two at most are transferred back into the womb. The question then is what you do with the other eight, assuming that they all survive. Do you let them perish? Do you freeze them? If you freeze them, for how long? Do you allow others to use them? Do you allow them to be used for research?

Similarly, only a small amount of sperm is used to fertilise the egg, so what do you do with the excess? Do you let them perish, freeze them, donate them, allow them to be used in research?

These are the kind of questions that we’ve been pondering for the last few months. Today we had to give our answers, to say what we wanted the hospital to do with our biological material, our building-blocks of life. I think we made the right decisions for us.

Next

I’m not going to blog much about the process as we’re going through the first cycle, whenever it begins — and we’re assured that it can’t be that much longer (surely!). This is to protect Jane as much as anything. It’s going to be an emotional and physical roller-coaster.

Prayer

I have an online-friend in Pakistan, Arsi; he contacted me on MSN Messenger to ask a Psion-related question or two about a year ago. Last year Arsi went on Hajj, the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. It’s not just a pilgrimage. Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam, all able-bodied Muslims who can afford to do so must carry out this pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime. This was a big deal.

And yet, there he prayed for us. For Jane and me, that we would have a child. When he told me this on MSN I had tears in my eyes. I felt truly blessed and really touched. He didn’t have to remember us on this most important of journeys for him, we’ve never even met, and yet he did.

If you pray: please pray for us — you don’t necessarily have to travel to Mecca to do so; if not then please simply hold us in your thoughts. We really appreciate your love, concern and support.

I’ll write updates as and when I can.

Jane’s operation today

Surgeons in an operating theatre
Photo by asterisc21 at stock.xchng

Today is St Andrews Day — patron saint of Scotland and Russia. Which, this year, means one thing in our house: it’s the day for Jane’s IVF-related operation.

For those who don’t know: we’re on an IVF programme at Ninewells hospital, Dundee and a few months back during a routine scan the doctors discovered something – they’re not 100% certain what it is (a lump? a cyst? something else?) but know that it shouldn’t be there. Today they plan to investigate and remove it.

I’m taking her over to Dundee for about 08:00, then I need to get back to St Andrews for a meeting with the Director of Admissions, whom I met for the first time yesterday. I can then call the (an) hospital around 14:00 for a progress update and see if I can get my (fixed but presumably sore and drousy) wife back.

Delayed

A letter yesterday confirmed that it looks highly likely that our IVF treatment will be postponed until Spring 2008. But we’ll just have to wait and see what the surgeons discover and how quickly Jane recovers from the operation. The doctor told her to expect to be off work for three weeks.

Prayers please

Your prayers and thoughts would be greatly appreciated today, for Jane, for her family who will naturally be concerned, and for me too — not least cos my PC is playing up at work and I have an RSS feed to debug!

Update: 14:15

I’ve not long ago phoned the ward and Jane’s fine, still sleeping and they’ve asked me to go pick her up in a couple of hours time. I just have to wait to find out what they did and what they discovered, if anything. Thanks for the prayers folks.