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!

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.

That was the week that was

Kidney bean
Kidney beans don’t get high blood pressure.

Bill e Bob left a comment on my last post “PC absolution” saying “Enough of this techno-geekery, where is your devastating review of the rugby? I think in the words of our more aggressive football-supporting brethren, ‘It’s all gone quiet over there'”.

It’s all gone quiet for one special reason: I’ve been so busy this week that I’ve hardly had a moment to sit at my PC and write anything. Which is why I’m now up at 05:30 sitting in front my PC staring at an empty blog post. Honestly, the sacrifices I make for you guys! ;)

So here’s my run-down of the past week:

Sunday – Argentina v Scotland

Having reached the quarter finals in the Rugby World Cup Scotland met Argentina on Sunday. The great thing about being a Scotland rugby fan is that you are always living with a sense of hope. It does wonders for your faith!

The first half wasn’t a particularly pretty game, from a Scotland point-of-view. About an hour into the game (rugby comprises of two halves of 40 minutes each) Argentina were ahead by 19-6.

And then … from somewhere Scotland just shone. They were incredible! I’ve not seen that kind of exciting, dynamic rugby from Scotland for ages — it was a magnificent effort. In places they reminded me of The All Blacks (when they are playing really well, not — guttingly — being knocked out of the RWC). The forwards drove the ball, the backs used the full width of the pitch. I was literally on the edge of my sofa.

And Dan Parks … well, his kicking tactics led to a charge-down and an Argentinian try (which arguably lost Scotland the match), but to give him his dues, during the last 20 minutes of the match I was his biggest fan. I’ve never seen him play so well, he almost couldn’t do anything wrong. He kicked the game of his life in that final quarter: accurately placing the ball exactly where he intended and the team needed him to.

But crucially he didn’t just boot the ball up the park every time he got his hands on it, and that allowed the game to flow and demonstrate what Scotland are capable of.

Frank Hadden (the Scotland coach) is a hero.

Update: Scotland lost, by the way, “Bill e Bob”, 19-13. (See Rugby World Cup website for more details.)

Monday- Working late

This was always going to be a long week. In order to leave work early today (Friday) in order to drive up to Inverness for Mark Strange’s ordination as bishop of Moray, Ross and Caithness I knew that I was going to have to put in the ‘overtime’ hours.

Monday I stayed in the office until 19:00. When I got home I got a call from the Christian Fellowship of Healing (Scotland) asking about the progress on their website.

The answer was, unfortunately: no very much.

Tuesday – IVF clinic

That’s what you need first thing on a Tuesday morning: a drive to Ninewells Hospital in Dundee for a 09:00 appointment.

Disappointing news as we learn that Jane’s operation still hasn’t been arranged. In fact the doctor hadn’t even notified the department will carry out the procedure. That’s been two weeks. More unsettled waiting ahead. More tears.

On my way home the police had closed off Church Street (my route home). There was a man standing on the roof of Holy Trinity Church, South Street. He was protesting in a Fathers For Justice stylee. All I could read of his banner was “Full custod…”. I assumed that it said “Full custodial sentence for me please”.

Wednesday – Renal clinic

As if one visit to Ninewells wasn’t nearly enough, I had my renal appointment on Wednesday afternoon.

On one hand the doctor was pleased with my weight loss: I’ve lost over 2 stones so far this year, and my waist size has gone down from (an embarrasing) 44″ to 38″. On the other hand, my blood pressure is still too high — it was 141/101 at the clinic.

So, I’m now resigned to have to go onto blood pressure tablets: perindopril — it’s an ACE inhibitor whose side-effects include reduced blood pressure.

I sat there feeling rather dejected and a bit of a failure. I’ve worked hard on my weight-loss and was really hoping that it would also bring my BP under control.

“Now,” said the nice lady doctor, almost as though she could read my mind, “don’t feel as though you’ve failed. You’ve put in some good, hard work on losing weight: well done!”

I returned to St Andrews and worked until 19:15, and let the news sink in. I walked to the biology car park, where I usually park, and then remembered that I hadn’t parked my car there today.

D’oh!

I’d parked in the nearer car park at the Bute Medical School … so that it wouldn’t be quite as long a walk. It turned out to be an even longer one. But at least I could laugh about it: ha-ha ha-ha ha …. ha!

I came home and rewrote someone’s website. It’s a site that’s comprised of 100% images. No text. No alt attributes. Nuffink! So I recreated it in 100% validating XHTML and CSS. I hope they like it. (Even if they don’t it was good practice, great fun to do, and a good stress reliever.)

Thursday – Not going to see Dream Theater

I began the day with Morning Prayer at Holy Trinity Church, South Street, St Andrews, and caught up with the minister Rory McLeod, with whom I was at St Mary’s College (across the road from Holy Trinity!).

Another productive day at the office. I’m currently working on improving the XHTML/CSS code for the main University website, so that it displays consistently in more browsers (particularly Firefox 1.x, Netscape 7 & 8 and Internet Explorer 5.5).

With my earphones in my head, and my head in some code, I was listening to Dream Theater‘s latest album “Systematic Chaos” when there was a knock on the door.

It was Chris from IT Helpdesk, and his brother, coming to see if I wanted to go see Dream Theater in concert in Glasgow — someone had just pulled out and they were about to leave.

It was a sign!

Actually, it would have been had it been next week. Instead I had to go home and see my parents-in-law, go out for a delicious meal and then come home and fix some code.

I crawled into bed a little after 22:30. That’s the kind of rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle I lead!

Conclusion

It feels like it’s been such a long week. We’ve had our ups and downs, but on the whole it’s been a really good, productive week.

If it’s in your discipline to pray, please remember

  • my Mum (Rosalie) who is attending an eye clinic in Edinburgh today for the her first (of many) monthly treatment for wet macular degeneration. This involves injecting a new drug directly into her eye.
  • Jane — that she gets the date of her operation soon.
  • Mark Strange — that God will bless him and through him will bless the United Diocese of Moray, Ross and Caithness.