Tag Archives: parenting

Where To … Part 9: Appreciation and Sharp Reminders

I’m married to the most remarkable man I know. You’re probably thinking “Duh … that’s why you married him!” … and yes whilst that’s true, at the time we got married, I can honestly say that I had absolutely no idea just how remarkable he was and would turn out to be. Lets not kid ourselves our relationship has been put to the test many times in the 3.5 years we’ve been married, with our journey to hopefully having a family of our own. On this note, I’d like to congratulate LH for making it to the summit of Kilimanjaro last month! Proud of you Babe!

As part of my voluntary work in animal welfare, a little 7 day old kitten (Johnny Bravo) entered our home last week Thu – rescued as an orphan from Khaylitsha (a poverty stricken township near Cape Town International airport). The last time I bottle fed and cared for an orphan this young was in November 2010 with our ‘twins’ who remained with us as “failed fosters” and are turning 3 in October. It was during those dark and desperate weeks and months following the loss of our beautiful daughter Stella that the ‘twins’ came into my life and literally saved me by giving me purpose – that of saving their lives.

Having Johnny Bravo in the house, is a reminder of how we would dearly love to have a family of our own, of how prepared we have been to take this next step in our lives for some time now and the anguish we feel of not being able to do so. LH generally tends to steer clear of the fosters that come and go, because he gets too emotionally invested and has difficulty letting go when they leave for their adoptive homes at 9 weeks of age or older. As the caretaker of our fosters, I’ve learnt to cope emotionally with saying goodbye, with the knowledge that we are able to help the next lot coming through our door. Recently I’ve been asked a number of times how many we’ve fostered up until now … I’ve yet to count, but I think it’s quite a number. So it was unusual to be able to photograph LH tenderly holding little Johnny Bravo whilst I was sorting out a hot water bottle for the little guy over the weekend. Little did I know the emotions that this photo would evoke within me … If LH, as a 6ft2inch man, can be so tender and loving with a tiny kitten that’s barely bigger than a mouse in his hands, just imagine how amazing he would be with a baby of our own. Knowing that I can never give LH the son or daughter he so desires really tears at my soul and is nothing short of excruciating. Being at the mercy of strangers in the hopes that one day we may have a baby is simply soul destroying, but we continue to live in hope.

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IVF VIII – Part 2 “Who’re you calling grumpy?”

It’s come to the attention of certain people that I can be a bit of a grump. Ok, so admittedly I can be a little grumpy every now and then. Who can blame me with all these hormones coursing through my system month after month? Before we embarked on this journey, I had no idea what affect hormones could have on one’s system, mood and general state of mind – its hellish … but at least now I know who my friends are! My friends are the people, who instead of looking at my moodiness as a flaw, celebrate it, look past it and continue to support me ratty mood swings and all in the dream I’m striving to achieve.

Well we started the trickle doses of Gonal F on the weekend preceeding my 40th birthday which was on 27th February. In celebration of the BIG 4-0, LH took me to what must be one of the most romantic destinations in South Africa – hidden away in a valley on the banks of the Sabie River in Mpumalanga. A place called Timamoon. I celebrated my 40th with mixed emotions, with the realisation that yes … I would need a fire extinguisher to put out all of the candles on my cake … yes I am getting old … that I’d failed to reach my milestone of being a mother before turning 40 … and that yes I will be one of the older mothers dropping our kid(s) off at school … perhaps even overhear their friends yell “Your granny’s here to fetch you” … LOL!! … but I also realise that I am loved, have the support and encouragement from fabulous friends, family, some special people who barely know me and others that I’ve never met … I’m also blessed with an incredible and extremely patient LH and a quirky fur-kid family who see past my moods and are always happy to be with me.

However I digress … once we returned I went for a scan on the following Monday 5th March, anticipating to see little developing follicles – instead I saw 2 enormous follicles in the left ovary that looked more like cysts than follicles and 1 tiny budding follicle in the right ovary. Murphy’s Law also meant that LH for the first time ever wasn’t with me, our trusty Doc was away in India presenting at a conference and I was feeling particularly grouchy, bloated and achy – like I was at the end of my cycle, yet I was meant to be at the beginning?? Had something gone wrong? Was my body finally objecting strongly to all the hormone injections, tablets and poking? Doc’s colleague didn’t seem so sure of himself – follicles? cysts? follicles? … no maybe cysts?? So eventually I tentatively asked him whether our trusty Doc was contactible and if he was planning to speak with him. Well … I may as well have set a fire cracker up his arse as he justified his experience and spluttered about how he didn’t need to speak to our trusty Doc. Quite honestly at that moment I didn’t know whether to launch myself at him with talons and fangs bared, burst into tears or give him a pacifier. I opted for the latter by stroking his ego and assuring him that I wasn’t questioning his ability. Argh!!! Where is LH and our trusty Doc when I need them??? Finally after another blood test it appeared as if I was actually at the END of my cycle and about to ovulate – so what we were seeing were follicles and not cysts. LH and I made a hasty decision to trigger ovulation and make use of the 2 visible follicles. After hurried rescheduling of our week’s meetings and plans, I went into theatre for egg retrieval on Wednesday 7th March … only to yield … 0 … big fat ZERO! Over the edge grumpy!!

Trusty Doc is back this coming week, so we have a meeting with him on Monday and another blood test on Tuesday.

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IVF IV Part 0.4… In response to the comment from “me”

In answer to the comment to my previous blog post which read:
“You know, adoption is cheaper and a lot less selfish as it helps a homeless child. Why can’t people that claim to be sooo desperate for a child see that?”

Forgive me if I’m not very well equipped to handle your flippant remarks, but I will do my best. I will start by saying please think before you speak and consider that we are going through a very tough time. Perhaps your opinion may be a luxury and actually not worth much at all, because your children are biological and were easy to conceive. Your tone indicates to me that you have not personally experienced losing a pregnancy, a child or lost the ability to conceive, as anyone that has been through such experience could not possibly be so brash and inconsiderate. Until you have personally known what it is like to lose your uterus, almost lose your life, be left in ICU holding your tiny dead baby in your arms following an emergency Caesar, trying to commit to memory every detail of her face … her hands … her feet … you could not possibly know or relate to the subject. I’m guessing you probably tell your friends who’ve experienced a miscarriage, “well you can always have other babies”. Well, it’s not other babies they want! It’s the one that they have lost!

You speak of adoption as if it’s like popping down to your local shelter and simply selecting one from a myriad of cribs and saving a little soul in the process. If you took the time to research the topic of adoption before callously commenting, you would understand this is not the case at all. For your benefit and for others who have the misfortune to come across your sadly uninformed wrath, let me briefly educate you by firstly addressing your comment in the hopes of introducing some compassion into your communication style:

1. “You know” … having been down this avenue and researched the topic, yes I do know – only too well. What differentiates me from you however, is that I also understand.
2. “… adoption is cheaper …” – Whilst this isn’t about ecomonics, adoption isn’t necessarily cheaper and has its own merits and pitfalls. There is an extensive screening process that normally involves orientation meetings, interviews with social workers, full medicals, marriage and psychological assessments, home visits, police clearance and references. Once the screening process is complete, which can take anything from 6 months to a year to complete, applicants are placed on a waiting list for a child. The official placement of the child with the adoptive parents is a legal process, carried out through the Children’s Court. All of this, not surprisingly, costs money.
3. “ … a lot less selfish …” – Adoption and IVF both carry financial, medical, and family dynamic risks. Neither could therefore be considered a more selfish or selfless act than the other. Don’t get me wrong, adoption is an awesome and fantastic choice for couples and their extended families who reach that decision together. Then again, so is having a child that is genetically linked to you.
4. “ … as it helps a homeless child …” – I have to ask how many homeless children you have helped in the last 3 months or in your lifetime … and I don’t mean sticking your hand out of your car window at a traffic light with a few coins. Or better yet, how many homeless children you have adopted? I would guess that it’s probably none. I won’t bore you with the details of how many homeless, abandoned and abused children we have helped over the years and continue to help through a haven for abused and abandoned children that we are closely linked to.
5. “Why can’t people that claim to be sooo desperate for a child see that?” – Adoption is a beautiful path to parenthood for those who chose that route. Adoption however is not an easy fix and not a cure for the pain and hurt that comes with infertility and the loss of a child. Adoption is also not an easy fix for the children who have been put into the system through no choice of their own. Adoption has its own share of heartbreaks and hurdles, with some couples waiting years to receive a placement. Adoption is a journey that in itself requires preparation, not just for the adoptive parents, but for the extended family as well. In short, adoption is a lot harder, expensive and time oppressive than it seems.

Additional factors to take into consideration when adopting are:
- There is a cooling off period of 60 days in adoption in South Africa, during which the birth mother may change her mind and reclaim the baby.
- It takes a long time, anything from 2 to 5 or more years for a placement to happen.
- The deficit of genetic markers and possibility of not being able to ‘relate’ or connect.
- Adopted children often experience issues relating to abandonment, loss, rejection, trust, intimacy, guilt and shame, mastery and control, and identity.
- The role of genetics in potential disorders and future issues of the adopted child. We know and understand what our genetic make up and history is, however that of an adopted child remains a mystery.

Ultimately it’s all about personal choice and respecting that choice. For now LH and I are yearning for a baby that is biologically and genetically ours. We have discussed and are in agreement that we will consider the option of using donor eggs, should we get to that point. Whilst these are choices that we have made, adoption will always be an option, but one that we will need to carefully consider, taking our personal circumstances and family dynamics into consideration.

So in the meantime … shhhhhh … reserve your harsh and uninformed comments. Just a hug will be fine thanks.

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IVF IV Part 0.3… Thoughts and ideas – a Surrogacy NPO

Our journey to this point has been a perilous one. There is a saying that ‘knowledge is power’ and nothing could be truer when it comes to surrogacy and IVF. Deceit is around just about every corner. There are unscrupulous agencies, lawyers and doctors all salivating at the prospect of enriching themselves at the expense of emotionally vulnerable couples who are unaware of the confines of the laws and the process that needs to be followed. The surrogacy world is a bewildering minefield filled with pitfalls, sharks, back-handers and hidden agendas created by people who openly advertise their services under the pretences of being sympathetic and wanting to help supposedly within the confines of the law, but reality shows otherwise. Their main question is, “What’s the colour of your money?” This is despite the new surrogacy laws that were introduced in South Africa in April 2010. Interestingly enough, none of these organisations or individuals are affiliated or are themselves registered non profit organisations, despite what the law stipulates. Equally interesting are the number of agencies that closed their doors as a result of the law changes. Their motive was purely enrichment, without which they weren’t interested in helping anybody. Of those that remain, a large majority continue to enrich themselves through illegal and underhanded ways. They make some professional conmen look like amateurs.

To this end, LH and I have been talking of opening a registered bona fide non profit organisation whose sole purpose will be to:
- build a database of suitable surrogate mothers
- provide introductions between commissioning parents and surrogate mothers
- facilitate the surrogacy process
- provide information on the correct procedures and process to be followed
- provide information on the current laws
- provide access to a selection of trustworthy and experienced professionals
- give commissioning and surrogate parents a clear pathway without pitfalls and traps

Having been through the initial process ourselves and knowing others with their own horror stories to tell, we have learned who to trust and who to steer clear of and feel it is our responsibility to inform and protect future commissioning and surrogate parents.

At this stage it’s merely a thought … something to ponder and think about … so I’m putting it out there in the universe. For now however we’re focussed soley on creating our own family with the help of our awesome surrogate mother. Once our dream of a family has been realised … I would like to be able to “pay it forward” if I can.

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IVF IV Part 0.2… Taking positive action amid chaos

This week I officially turned down the great job offer that had presented itself from one of the top global IT companies in the world and felt more at peace with my decision. Truth be known it did much to restore my very battered self esteem and self worth. For once in a long time, I actually felt worth something and useful. Without imparting too much personal information, I let them know that my reasoning was based on current ‘travel restrictions’ due to personal reasons. Although they made an attempt to accommodate my travel restrictions, I again gently turned them down.

On Monday morning I bundled our new addition to the family (a rescue kitten from Aniwell) to Stellenbosch to be sterilized with the appointed organisation. As I really love Stellenbosch, I decided to make a day of it and invited my mother to join me. We had an awesome time together having a leisurely brunch and then pottering off to do some wine tasting before picking up a very groggy Sweetpea and heading home. From Tuesday onwards, I concentrated on:
- preventing Sweetpea from yanking out her single little stitch (until I found an Elizabethan Collar in a cupboard)
- advertising the empty stable I have available at my yard from the end of this month
- making progress on my home based business (PetPickings.com)
- going for my scan to check where I am in my cycle

As I write this:
- Sweetpea still has her little stitch in place, albeit bashing everyone with her e-collar
- I think I have filled the empty stable – hopefully finalising everything tomorrow
- On the PetPickings.com front:
– I’m one step closer to partnering with a registered vet in order to offer over the counter medication through my
business PetPickings.com.
– I may have finally found an experienced graphic design company to work with (albeit in the UK) thus bringing our
launch into view!
- according to my cycle we’re scheduled to start around mid August with IVF IV

All in all, a successful and productive week! Feeling victorious! :-)

On a more sombre note, my sincere condolences go to the 80+ families that lost children in Norway on Friday. Most of the kids attending a summer camp were aged between 14 and 18 years old. Whilst I’m sure justice will prevail, it won’t bring them home.

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IVF IV Part 0.1 … Taking back control

Common sense prevailed and got knocked into me especially after my tumble today from my beloved pony that was seeing monsters in the forest. After much introspection over the last few days, I have come to realise the main reason behind my yearning to go back into the corporate world is to regain some sense of control. For anyone who has been through losing an unborn child relatively late in pregnancy and who has then had to resort to IVF through a surrogate will understand where I’m coming from. From the time I started experiencing problems in my pregnancy with Stella, which was almost exactly 1 year ago, I have had little to no control over the events that have unfolded in my life. I’ve been on a runaway rollercoaster, complete with highs, lows and adrenaline pumping moments for the past year. The only stabilizing factor has been my LH. For a control freak … that’s an overwhelming situation to find myself in. The result is, I end up grasping at the fragments of my life that I can control … which is dismally little at the moment.

After much persuasion to provide me with his view, LH let his feelings be known that whilst he will support me in what ever decision I make, he would prefer that I focus on my home based business PetPickings.com in the interim whilst we are on our journey toward a family of our own. This way I will have the flexibility to attend doctor’s appointments, feel crappy and grumpy whilst loaded up with hormones, take a day off for each egg retrieval procedure (which actually takes me out of circulation for 2 days) and to endure the anxious filled days of waiting for results without the added pressures of a corporate job with US$ based targets to make and big responsibilities. The corporate world can wait for me. In the meantime PetPickings.com will keep me busy on my terms and if the industry rumblings are correct, could end up being a very successful venture that I can and will continue once we have a family. That has always been our intention with PetPickings.com.

With the IVF specialists consistently reminding me that I’ve almost past my ‘sell by date’ in the realms of fertility, I have to wonder when my expiry date will pop up the IT industry. I used to be really good at what I did and gained an enormous amount of respect in the industry as a result. The IT segment has always been so fast paced that it is very easy to become outdated if not directly involved in it. In my mind however, with the help of LH, I have now come to terms with where I am and will focus on my home based business and producing healthy eggs, resulting in healthy embryos … and not worry about expiry dates … except with the occasional science experiments I have going on in the refrigerator, but that’s a whole different story!

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IVF IV Part 0 … Junctions & Crossroads

Here I am drifting around – feeling a little lost – taking a break from IVF as recommended by our Doc. Make no mistake, I’m really enjoying the break after 3 back to back months of it, but its also frustrating the living daylights out of me. Being an instant gratification kind of girl, I want things here and I want them now. During this break I spend about an hour every morning where my brain refuses to focus, because it’s convinced I’ve forgotten something … then I remember … my jabs! Oh … hang on … we’re taking a break duh! Then the inner voice screams aloud … “tick-tock … wasting time!” Shut up already!!!!

You’ll notice that I’ve also set up a Facebook page for Absolute Barrenness to encourage people to interact – let’s see how it goes :-) I’m trying to make myself useful … in some way … My career once upon a time defined much of who I was and how people identified with me, IVF has filled that gap … well kind of … ok, not really … but you get my drift. But now that I don’t have IVF this month … who am I? My LH tells everyone I’m a housewife … whilst it’s painfully true … it grates the hell out of me … especially as people then assume that I’m either a bit thick and therefore unemployable or that we have children.

So this morning once the internal brain battle had subsided, I decided to take advantage of the fact LH is working from home today (yay! babysitter for Bruno our pit bull) and to run a couple of errands – pop in at the stables, go to the shops, get some stuff altered etc … without having to rush like a mad woman. On my return, I’m sifting through emails, sorting out PetPickings.com business emails (my new venture that’s also taxing my instant gratification fetish) and bam! There it is. An email sent directly from a renown and pretty awesome global IT company … they are looking for an account manager to head up their Manufacturing, Retail and Distribution vertical in CT. What do I do???? A part of me is saying go for it!!! Another part is saying … think carefully.

The pros:
- I’ll be financially independent again!
- I’d be back clinching multi million $ deals again, renewing my sense of achievement and battered self worth (yay!)
- I’ll have $$ to do some spirit lifting car shopping :-) :-)
- I would be working for one of the top global IT companies in the world

The cons:
- Managing a potentially stressful full time job and IVF ups and downs
- Fitting injection timing in with meetings
- There would potentially be some travel involved away from home … but limited I’d imagine
- Resigning if / when we eventually succeed with IVF and have a bundle or two (positive thinking) to take care of

I mentioned it to LH. He’s keeping quiet on this one – not saying a word. What to do????? HELP!!!

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IVF III Part 11 … The interlude

Wrapping up what has been an almightily crappy week consumed by the degeneration and death of our 6 embryos, today is the 14th anniversary of my only sibling’s death. Crikey … bring it on why don’t you? My big brother was taken from me very suddenly and tragically in what was termed an “accident”. Whilst we had our differences, I always knew my brother was there for me – big brother protecting his baby sister. 10 years later I lost my Dad, which absolutely devastated me and left me feeling completely isolated and alone. I would no longer have a strong male figure to look out for me … to defend me … to protect me. So over the years I’ve learnt to deal with challenges, tragedy, loss and disappointment in my own way, alone, without overburdening those around me. Even now in my married life, although my LH is my rock and my pillar … my ‘soft place’ to fall, I was poignantly reminded by a friend recently that I shouldn’t overburden LH with all my s*** as he has enough s*** of his own to deal with – our embryos, our businesses, customers, staff etc … without adding my lot to the pile. I’m still pondering that one.

So again, I find I’ve entered what I call my ‘self preservation mode’ trying to sticky tape my emotional self back together again so that I can scrape myself off the floor in more-or-less one piece and continue with what we started, with reasonable sound mind. So what does self preservation mode mean exactly? It means surrounding myself with those people who are caring and selfless enough add value to my life at this point in time … and excluding or ignoring those that have all but disappeared or conversely choose to appear only when they want something from me, draining my flagging energy or those that simply add no value at all. By value, I’m not talking monetary value … what I mean is those who have taken the time to be genuinely concerned about my state of mind … those who have been caring enough to pick up the phone and ask “How are you?” and who have openly listened to my response without jumping in about their woes or their children’s woes etc … those who have thoughtfully penned inspiring emails or sms’s (and no, not the copy & paste type mails that have been forwarded a gazillion times around the world) … those who are unselfish enough to spend one on one time with me over tea or lunch in their busy schedules, distracting me, making me laugh and sometimes just allowing me to have a good cry. Those who are reading this blog, will know who they are and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart. I will always be there for you in times of need. I have received support and encouragement from some very surprising avenues and likewise have received vacant silence or empty thoughtless words from other equally surprising sources much closer to home. I guess this is turning out to be a greater learning experience than I ever imagined.

Under normal circumstances I would have thrown myself into my work, but we all know what happened to my career as an executive for a multi national IT company. With rose tinted glasses I gave it all up in pursuit of a family … happy days … white picket fence …. morning walks with baby in stroller and pooch in tow etc … a family of my very own … a family I have failed to produce. My other ‘quick fix’ would have been to go shopping. My version of shopping used to be somewhat different to the norm. My version of shopping would be to buy a suped up new car – my last melt down was when I bought my Beemer 330d. Can’t do that now can I? I don’t have a career any more, let alone a job nor my very own money. Little did I know I would end up career-less, job-less, baby-less, financially dependant, sticking needles into my gut every day and just about off my rocker. It’s quite pathetic really. Well at least for now I have a bit of a break from the endless needles until the end of the month.

A relatively new but incredibly dear and supportive friend, whose been through a similar but thankfully less treacherous journey, said to me during the week, “Sometimes the people you least expect or closest to you, say or do things that are thoughtless and hurtful … Just tell them all to f*** off! You’ve been through enough … and if you think I’m talking rubbish you can tell me to f*** off too! I really won’t mind. You’ve got every right to look after yourself now girlfriend and everyone must just understand. Surround yourself with all that is positive and if it helps … as a release … run naked through the forest screaming … I’ll even join you!”
Thanks Beth … now that’s the sign of a true friend :-) . Jeez can you imagine, I think we’ll have to put the baboon monitors into therapy … and the baboons … well they would have run for their lives over the border – two totally crazy scary women in their back yard!

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IVF III Part 10 … When failure is your middle name

They say practice makes perfect … well in my case it seems as if my version of perfection is dismal FAILURE … either that, or the universe thinks I still need a whole lot more practice before I get it right. I’m not sure which one it is. All I do know is that our last remaining viable embryo failed the second lot of PGD tests and died during the course of late morning today (Day 5) … the dreaded phone call came in this morning at around 10am … and we find ourselves back at the beginning. Over the last few days I feel as if I have aged by 10 years and am looking haggard … I know this because someone I’ve known for some time, but who has no knowledge of what we are going through, asked if I was ok when she saw me as I looked tired (diplomatic way to say haggard). Not surprising as my sleep patterns have all gone down the toilet due to the anxiety I’m experiencing with this process especially after egg retrieval.

The doc had asked us to come in today to discuss the way forward. For the first time ever, we had to wait a while before seeing the Doc, even though we had a scheduled appointment. We later heard that he had been asked to assist another doctor, at the last minute, with a complex procedure. Turns out whilst in theatre, the doc he was assisting mentioned me, almost out of the blue, as a case he had dealt with briefly involving a uterine rupture in the second trimester. The doc in question was one of the OBGYNs we had seen and called on the fateful day we lost our daughter. It’s really strange how the universe works… that the subject of my crappy uterus and the death sentence it brought upon our daughter, should come up between doctors who had no idea of the connection. So anyway, after a detailed meeting with our Doc, we have decided to give my body and mental state a month’s break before continuing. I think our surrogate mother will be grateful with this decision, as she too is affected.
Ironically our file at the Doc’s rooms is looking about as battered as I feel – very tattered and torn – so we got a ‘new’ file for our rapidly growing archive. As they were transferring the mounds of records into the crispy new file, I was left thinking … pity I can’t just have my uterus and eggs replaced with a new ones.

In the meantime, we’ve got to pick up the pieces as best I can, try to regain some kind of normality for the month ahead before diving back into the needles, syringes, vials, pills, doctors, labs, probes and the emotional cesspit that forms part of IVF.

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IVF III Part 9 … Anxiety and long waits

The phone call from the lab eventually came through at around midday yesterday. I had been anxiously waiting for it and wondering whether to call them, as I was eyeing the phone nervously. With my heart pounding I waited for the head of the lab to give me the news. The remaining two embryos of the 5 that had fertilized had been PGD tested, looking at chromosomes 18, X and Y. The results … 1 abnormal and 1 normal.

Today as I type this updated, I’m battling to concentrate properly. I’m expecting a call any moment to tell me what the remaining results (chromosomes 21 and 13) are for our 1 remaining embryo. If all is fine, embryo transfer will happen at 12:30 today.

So whilst I’m waiting next to the phone, our angel surrogate mother is also expecting a call to hear whether we’re good to go.

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