Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Long Story Short

I've been a bad blogger lately... this I know - and for that I'm sorry (insert feeling of shame).

But hear's a brief (and probably somewhat taboo) update regarding our first round of IVF (to catch up on the process leading up to my transfer, check out this post leading up to my egg retrieval... this post and then this post on my actual egg retrieval... and finally this post leading up to my transfer)...

So regarding the update, here it is in a nutshell:

We were pregnant... and then we were not...


More details to follow in a future post of the emotional roller-coaster (again) surround all of this. But for now, that's the Cliff's Notes version :( 

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Power of Infertility

Infertility can change you.

Really, that's an understatement. It does change you... at your core. It has the capacity to inevitably rewrite so much about your life. About who you are. About how you see things. It has a strength that can become all consuming.

All of this starts out as the excitement for wanting to start (or grow) your family, but then slowly morphs into a desire... and then into a longing. A longing to be pregnant. A longing to have a baby. And before you know it, that longing can begin to take a painful turn.

It can become a nagging pain... and then an intense pain, that you seem to be reminded of often. Reminded of at many innocent moments when you're least expecting it. Those moments when you're driving down the street and a pregnant woman walking down the sidewalk catches your eye. The moment when your searching for a parking spot and excitedly begin to pull into an open one near the front, only to realize it's reserved for "Expectant Mothers." The moment when your colleagues begin talking about all their weekend plans with their children, and you are starkly reminded that you don't have any children... Or that awkward moment when someone asks you, "Oh, do you have kids?" and when you politely say no, they proceed to ask, "Do you want any?"...if they only knew...

If they only knew how badly I want a child. How much I'm struggling to try and have a child. How much I have gone through, and continue to go through, to have a child...

If they only knew that I think about not having a child, and about the child we had to loose, more times a day than can probably be counted...

If they only knew... then they might begin to have a glimpse into exactly the power that infertility can have, and how it can rob you of oh so much. It has a strength to begin to change the way you view the world around you, and yourself for that matter.


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All that we have gone through in our battle with infertility has definitely reshaped me at my core. It's changed the way I think, the way I feel, the things I see and notice, the things I do everyday... It's changed who I am.

But the beauty in all of this...

I still have a choice.

I can choose to let it break me, and tear me down... Or I can choose to keeping moving forward and embrace it.

Embrace it?

Yes, I have chosen to embrace (and accept) my infertility. Trust me though, it hasn't always been easy, and it's undoubtedly been a long and arduous road to get here (and truthfully, I'm probably not even here on some days).

But as I look back to the early days of this journey, I'm reminded of where I started -- of the woman I was almost 3 years ago, who was in complete denial of the dreaded word: INFERTILITY. I not only didn't want to accept it, I whole-heatedly refused to accept it. It wasn't me and I didn't want any part of it.

But that's the thing about life - no matter how hard or how much we try to ignore reality, it's still there... and it will continue to be there until the moment we're ready to turn around and face it.

So that's what I did and that's what I choose to continue to do. I've accepted that this is our reality, and now I'm learning to embrace this path we've been set on. There's no sense in denying it or fighting it, or trying to refuse the reality of it... it just is.

At every moment, I have the choice to embrace or the choice to deny... I chose to embrace. And as I embrace, I continue to fight and look forward. Fight for the family I know we will have one day. Fight for the memory of the little peanut we had to say good-bye to. Fight through all that it continues to take to one day grow our family... and look forward to the moment when that comes to fruition.

As I continue to fight and look forward, I just have to focus on those things around me that I can draw strength from. My amazing husband who has been and continues to be my rock... and really, the one person who can understand exactly what this journey is. Our supportive family and friends, who continue to fight with us.., cheer during our celebrations and cry with us during our heartaches.  And most importantly, the foundation upon which I'm able to stand while going through all of this: my faith... and trust in Jesus.

In fact, my faith even reminds me of the promise that good can actually come, even out of the most difficult of circumstances, because God always does have a purpose... and although I may not be able to clearly see exactly what that purpose is right at this moment, I still know it to be true.

Even "in oceans deep, my faith will stand"... And that, is the one thing that I continue to hold on to through all of this...

Monday, February 13, 2017

Becoming One with the Needle... Again


The process to prepare for the upcoming Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) has slowly begun. At this point, we're looking at about two months out (give or take), so I recently started birth control pills again (I swear, the irony of that one will be something I never get over!)... and also ordered the different medications I'll need, and those arrives the other day.

Among them is, drum roll please... (and cue music signifying "impending doom"):

The dreaded Progesterone in Oil - also known as PIO shots.

Ahhhhh...

As I look ahead to having to give these injections, all I can think about and all that keeps swimming through my head is the horror stories I've heard...

In all that I've been through up until this point, for some reason, I swear the thought of these shots scares the heck out of me! I'm literally terrified...

What's so bad about them you might ask, well, let's start with the fact that they are intramuscular injections... In laymen's terms, this means a really big needle that must go through the muscle when you inject it. Yikes! Up until now, most of the shots (at least the self-administered ones) have been subcutaneous, meaning a small needle that basically just injects the medicine right below the surface of the skin into the fat, and then your body absorbs it from there. 

I've had a few intramuscular shots before when I've taken my HcG trigger shots, but the intramuscular ones were done in Dr. M's office by one of the nurses, so we've never had to give them ourselves (I say "we" because my husband is amazing and helps me with pretty much all of the shots).

The second frightened aspect is the fact that I will literally be injecting oil into myself. I don't know why, but for some reason this just seems weirdly unnatural... then again, what part of any of this process has been "natural"?

In addition, I've heard numerous stories that the shots are painful, the oil hurts when going in, the oil can be tough going in, there can be irritation or swelling/ lumps that form at the injection site, all kinds of fun stuff, ugh.

Of course, I've never been one to be afraid of needles or put off by a little pain or discomfort, and again, at this point, I'm pretty used to all that... but for some reason, these darn PIO shots are really psyching me out.

I have my consultation appointment set up for first thing tomorrow morning, where I'll go through some different consent forms and information to prepare for the upcoming transfer, and then will have a training session on exactly how to administer these shots - - so we'll see how that goes. I'm sure I'm just getting myself worked up into a tizzy about this for nothing, but for some reason these darn little shots are already taking me for a ride and I haven't even started them yet... What fun.

Ladies who have been down this road before, any thoughts? Advice? Experiences? I know I've seen, heard, and read little tips and tricks here and there before, so any advice is more than welcomed... until then, I will just sit here and continue to stew over the fear of these radical little shots :) 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Drama on ER Day... and My Popsicles


After my egg retrieval (ER) surgery a couple weeks back, I'm all recovered up at this point... and for the most part, everything went well. The surgery itself was quick and went as expected. The hubs and I arrived to Dr. M's office bright and early for our 6:30am appointment. We checked in, and not long after, we were called back to our room to be prepped and wait for the procedure.

After signing some more consents, getting an IV started, and reviewing what to expect with the nurse, we had a slight hiccup of drama right before I was scheduled to head back into the room for the ER.

Because of my over-response to the hormone injections this cycle, and the elevated risk that put me at for Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS), one of the nurses had told me a few days prior that they were calling in a prescription order of Ganirelix for me, to my mail-order pharmacy. I've used this pharmacy a number of times in the past, and typically every time Dr. M's office calls in an order, the pharmacy then calls me within a day or two to confirm and finalize the order for delivery. So when the nurse mentioned this, I didn't think anything of it, and just figured the pharmacy would call me as they always have.

Long story short, on the day of the ER, as the nurse was reviewing everything with me prior to the surgery, she mentioned that I would be starting the Ganirelix later that day, and would continue on the daily injection for a total of 7 days... "Uhhhh, I don't have the Ganirelix" I said to her.

And she looked at me with what I would describe as a slight look of terror...

"What do you mean you don't have it yet?  We called in the prescription for you?  It's important that you absolutely start on this medication today!" she said.

"Well, the pharmacy never called me and when I spoke to the nurse the other day, she just mentioned it in passing, and never specifically told me when I was supposed to start so I didn't know I needed it today. I was just waiting for the pharmacy to call me about it like they always do."  Miraculously, I was still somehow staying clam at this point.

The nurse said she would go and check to see if they happened to have one dose of it on hand in the office that they could give me for that day, but mentioned that she was doubtful they would... and mean while, I proceeded to get on the phone with the pharmacy to raise hell.

For the entire 15min. prior to being whisked into the procedure room, I spoke with numerous pharmaceutical representatives, and managers, and pharmacists, and customer service reps., literally having to explain my situation over and over again (while continuing to throw in the line that, "I'm sitting here about to go into surgery in a few minutes, and I need this medication today in order to prevent some post-op. complications that I'm at risk for ")... as if that would somehow magically help the medicine fly across the country from their warehouse to my front door.

Basically, it took 5 different people to finally get a straight answer: "The earliest possible time we could get this medication to you would be tomorrow morning, with overnight priority shipping."

"Wellllll, that's not going to work..."

Awesome.

Looks like we'll have to figure out a Plan B and cross our fingers that another local pharmacy has it in stock AND that insurance will cover it, or else we're choking down the $189 for one dose.

At that point... it was time for the ER.

And the Ganirelix drama was not the stress I needed at that moment.

Literally, always something...

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Regardless, the retrieval did go good... and the next thing I knew, I was back in the room reunited with my husband, apparently saying the same things over and over again and not remembering, because of the anesthesia :)

Immediately after the ER they told us how many eggs they were able to retrieve, and the next day we learned how many fertilized... and then a few days later we learned how many made it to the blastocyst stage.

All of it was, and still is, a very surreal experience.

(Ok, ok, at this point I know you're dying to know the meat of this all and what the ER stats were, so I won't make you wait any longer...)

I went in with approximately 30 follicles, and we were able to retrieve 25 eggs... Whoa.

Of those 25, 18 eggs were mature.

One a side note: Once the hubs and I had learned a few days prior that I was over-stimming, we, along with some guidance from our team at Dr. M's office, had decided that we may potentially not attempt to fertilize all of the eggs retrieved (just depended on the number we got), because we wanted to be conservative and limit the number of embryos we had (I know, not your typical IVF approach... and again, a post for another day). So we had gone into the ER with a maximum number of eggs in mind that we would attempt to fertilize.

Now back to our stats...

So we had 18 mature eggs, and of those 18 we had decided to try and fertilize 12 of them, using ICSI (our clinic uses it for all cases... It's basically where they inject the sperm directly into the egg, rather than just placing the egg and sperm together and letting fertilization attempt to occur on it's own).

Therefore, because of our choice, we were also able to freeze 6 of my eggs (obviously, unfertilized)... So this is nice to have as a back up plan down the road, if needed.

Of the 12 that we attempted to fertilize, 10 actually did fertilize.

And of those 10... 6 made it to the blast. stage and were able to be frozen. So at this point, we have 6 little popsicles in the freezer... and we're hoping to be able to transfer sometime in the next couple of months.

Until then, my heart belongs to my 6 popsicle babes... until the day that I can give each one an opportunity to come home...

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Is Today Like Easter?



Here we are, the day of my egg retrieval (ER)surgery, and as I sit here at 5:30am, preparing to leave the house soon, I can't help but have the random the thought, "Is today like Easter?"

I mean, Dr. M is going to go around inside my ovaries looking for and scooping up as many eggs as possible?  That's pretty much what little kids do on Easter, right? Go around and collect eggs (not the "inside my ovaries" part)?

Ha.

Come on, I need to still be able to find some humor in all of this... so this is my attempt.

At least I made myself laugh (well, more like chuckle) this morning. And being in good spirits before going into the ER has to be worth something, right? I think so.

At this point, I'm ready to have these eggs out of me... all 30+ of them (yup, that many... remember, I hyper-stimmed, blah). So, I'm pretty bloated, uncomfortable, and it hurts to just sit down sometimes, and also trying to be very careful not to inadvertently do something to accidentally twist an ovary (called ovarian torsion).

So, we're about to be off... and get this Easter party started...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Red Light, Green Light... Red Light


Sooooo, it's been awhile (again) since my last update and continuing to go with the trend of my infertile life, it's been a ride...

After getting through and working to move past the devastation of the ectopic pregnancy that we faced (which began back in August), we had a consultation with Dr. M. to discuss recommended next steps.  In a nutshell, Dr. M. said that the first step would be to re-run a hystero-sonogram to check if my tubes were still open.  From there, we could again repeat an IUI using injectibles because, in his words, "After all, it did work this last time and we did achieve pregnancy... it was just in the wrong spot"... Or, we could consider moving to IVF.

Long story short - we decided to do IVF (perhaps another post in the future with more details on us actually making that decision, because it wasn't easy).

But I digress.

So we began moving forward towards IVF in early December.  Because of some of my labs, levels, and diagnostic testing, Dr. M. decided to put me on the long Lupron down-regulation protocol (or something along those lines that it's called). Anyways, bottom line is that Dr. M. put me on both Birth Control (BC) pills and Lupron injections for a few weeks prior to the anticipated start of my cycle/ the start of the hormone injections... The irony, right?  BC pills for someone who is not only trying to get pregnant, but having trouble getting pregnant?! Yes, sometimes that's just how it works.

Anyways, my new cycle was expected to start a few days after stopping the BC pills, so we waited for that to happen so that we could start the hormone stimulation injections. And we waited...

And waited some more...

And then waited even more for my cycle to start... and it never did. Ugh.

So a couple of days before the cut-off of when I would be able to start an IVF cycle (Dr. M's office doesn't do IVF every single day, so there are certain times throughout the month when you're able to start a cycle... Annoying, right?! Yes, I agreed!), they decided to just bring me in for baseline blood and ultra sound... just to check and see if maybe I was ready. They explained that sometimes the Lupron injections can really thin your uterine lining and cause you to not have a full cycle, or sometimes even just spot.

So I went in for the baseline blood and ultra sound on a Thursday, and when they called me later that day with the results of my tests, they said my body was definitely not ready to start the stim. injections.  All my levels were still extremely high and my body was no where near starting my period.

Man, so frustrating... Why can't my body just cooperate? Just once? Is that too much to ask?

At that point, the nurse said that Saturday was the last possible day to start, so they wanted me to come back in on Saturday morning to re-run the baseline tests, in case by chance, my body happened to be ready at that point. So I scheduled that.

The next day, on Friday, I had to chat with one of the IVF nurse coordinators regarding a few questions I had, and during that conversation she proceeded to tell me that she had reviewed my case with another nurse and they had determined that there was no way that my levels would drop that significantly from Thurs. to Sat, so I should just cancel my appointment (as to not have unnecessary tests done), and just wait until my period fully started to reset everything, and then we could restart the IVF cycle during the next round the following month - - RED LIGHT.

So I canceled my appointment... another blow. SOOO disappointing.

The next morning on Saturday, lo-and-behold, what do I wake up to??  Good ole' aunt flo'.

A big UGH... why couldn't you have arrived just a day or two sooner auntie??  Darn you for being so late.

So as instructed, I called Dr. M's office and left a message just to let them know I had "officially" started my cycle... and then I headed out to meet two of my good friends (who I hadn't seen in a few months) for a much needed, long-overdue breakfast date.

In the midst of breakfast with my girls, just as our food was being delivered to the table, I randomly looked at my phone and noticed I had a voicemail from Dr. M's office... So I listened to it.

The message was from one of the nurses who semi-frantically was instructing me to "get into the office right away this morning, before 9:45, to have some blood drawn" since my period had started.

What?!  Seriously? Come on... didn't we just go over this? My levels were all so high on Thursday so even though my period started, there's no way they would drop so quickly to be able to start. Besides, you typically aren't started on stims. until a couple days into your cycle, so what are the chances that I would be ready so soon?

Begrudgingly, I cut my much-anticipated breakfast date with my girlfriends short to crazily rush over to Dr. M's office... had my blood drawn... went home... waited for the voicemail with results... got the results... and heard the nurse say, "All your levels are great!  They all miraculously dropped and you are good to go and start your injections tonight"... WHAT?!?

Seriously?! Talk about a miraculous turn of events! And something positive for once! Praise God! - - GREEN LIGHT.

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Fast forward a couple weeks worth of injections later, and that brings us to yesterday. I went in yesterday morning for what we anticipated would be my last blood and ultra sound monitoring before the egg retrieval, and then I waited for the results. I got the voicemail towards the end of my afternoon as I was getting ready to leave my office for the day.  The first thing that I hear the nurse report out on was my Estradiol/ Estrogen (E2) level. It was almost 5,700... then I hear her explain, "Please just note that with an E2 level that high, any embryos will be frozen because it's not an optimal environment for implantation and pregnancy..." WHAT?? Again, is this really happening??

In a nutshell, my body over-stimmed (yet again, similar to one of my IUI cycles). My estrogen shot through the roof, and I now have 17 follicles on the right side and 13 on the left. AHHHHH!!!... So they canceled the transfer and we need to now wait to do a future frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle, until my levels can return within normal range - - RED LIGHT... AGAIN...

I'm still scheduled for my retrieval surgery bright and early tomorrow morning, so we're hoping that all goes well. And also hoping, and praying, that my body can stabilize itself afterward, since I'm now at an elevated risk for OHSS (oviarian hyper-stimulation syndrome), a nasty complication that can occur after retrieval.

And that's that folks. A big, long update to try and recap the last couple months of life... and our big step forward into the terrain of IVF...