Big F’in Negative


Making Baby Sonne: IVF Round 2

I’m not ok (right now) and that’s ok.

On May 20th, a minuscule droplet of fluid that contained our beautiful embryo was transferred “home” back into my body via catheter. For ten days I went on with my life with the warm and wonderful hope that our baby was growing inside of me. However, about 6 hours ago, I received a call from a nurse whose tone alone while saying, “Is this Nicole?” told me everything I needed to know.

My second round of IVF has failed. I did everything I was supposed to do and it didn’t work. My uterus and lining were “perfect” and it didn’t work. I took my shots, pills, patches, gels, and vitamins as instructed and it didn’t work. I lost 18 pounds, ate healthily (Paleo), slept well, tried not to stress, got acupuncture, and stayed thoroughly hydrated—all this and it didn’t work. Jacob was a great support, kept me laughing, and helped me keep my mind off things as much as possible; while he did an excellent job, it had no bearing on the embryo implanting and growing. I had lucky socks and stork leggings, but these symbols weren’t of any consequence in the eyes of fate. Friends and family also wore pink and blue socks to support me and Jacob through the transfer; while this was an awesome showing of love and support, unfortunately, none of it helped to sway the outcome. Most importantly, our embryo was normal and healthy and received good grades, yet this second round of IVF didn’t work.

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                                                         Our Round 2 Embryo

I don’t know what will happen next. I’m not sure when we’ll have another frozen embryo transfer. I’m not sure of anything, really.

These are the only words I can muster right now. When I try to talk about it or when someone tries to comfort me, I only cry more. I know you all are still praying/wishing/hoping/sending vibes and baby dust. I feel like I’m just stringing you all along on this ridiculously impossible road with no end in sight. I feel guilty for involving so many people and making you hopeful. I do appreciate all of your support more than you know. Thank you for reading, as always.

Egg Factory: The Sequel

Making Baby Sonne: IVF Round 2: Egg Retrieval

Well, hello there. This is a long post. I wrote this as the days went by and I did not really edit it down. It’s a true account of my feelings (physically and emotionally) during egg retrieval and the days that followed.

Day 0: Egg Retrieval– Friday, March 17

With no food or coffee in our bellies, we left the house on a balmy St. Paddy’s Day morning. I cried in the car on the way to the fertility center. I was sad that I had to do this again, scared of the possible complications, and extra nervous that it might not work again… This wasn’t exactly where my head should have been. Somehow Jacob talked me out of being completely miserable (which is pretty difficult to do these days) and I tried to focus on the possibilities. Jacob and I arrived around 8:15 and filled out our paperwork and consent forms (this part takes longer than the procedure). I had the chance to talk to the doctor again before the retrieval and he comforted me. He said if we couldn’t get to my ovaries vaginally (because they hide), we would go through abdominally. He told me this time would be different; it would be better. I believed him and calmed down a bit. I was then visited by the lab people who told me to take care of myself by eating salty food and drinking a ton of Gatorade; in return, they would take care of my embryos. Jacob and I took some silly pictures of me in my hospital gear to commemorate the day. We’re really mature.

Soon, they came to get Jacob. They let him eat some food and get something to drink because he was being nice enough to not eat or drink in front of me all morning. Then he went on his merry way to contribute his half of the embryos. I waited a little while, having nice conversations with good people, before they came to get me. It was my turn to contribute my half of the embryos. I was introduced to the nurse and the anesthesiologist. I got comfortable on the table, put my legs in these awkward holsters, the nurse wrapped them up with blankets, and was told to lay back and relax. That’s the last thing I remember before the nurse was helping me into a wheel chair. I immediately started crying because I didn’t understand why they decided to not go through with the procedure. They tried to explain to me that it had already happened. My nurse helped me up and into a wheelchair and I finally realized, to my shock and amazement, that it was already over. I was really out of it. When the nurses were helping me move from the wheel chair to the recovery chair, I kept putting my arms up slowly. They would put them down and I would slowly raise them back up again. I said, “Why do my arms keep going up. I can’t stop them.” Hah! I also cried a lot back in my recovery room. I truly don’t remember most of that recovery hour. I do remember, however– very clearly, being told that they were able to retrieve 17 eggs this time! That’s ten more than last time. I was really pleased. 17 eggs on March 17, 2017! Luck of the Irish, perhaps? That has to be a good sign. That also means that only about 7 possible usable follicles were not able to be reached (as opposed to the 29 that were left behind last time). After the recovery hour and my goodbyes to the team, I left my eggs and Jacob’s swimmers in the hands of the professionals. I would know how many embryos we had the very next day. Upon walking out I almost fell—I was super dizzy. Even so, I already knew I felt better this time over the last time. I could walk without much pain and wasn’t sore (yet).

When I got home, I took the three flights of stairs really slowly. I had Jacob prop me up good on the couch and slept for a few hours. Later, my mom and dad made a corned beef brisket and brought me some for dinner. I was surprised how “not horrible” I felt. I was able to sit up and eat and slowly (very slowly) walk back to the couch. I was, at this point, thinking very positively. I had a good number of eggs retrieved and already felt pretty good.

Day 1: Post Retrieval— Saturday, March 18

This entire day is blurry to me. I was truly out of it—a sweaty, painful, bloated mess. Man, oh, man. I wish that positivity from the day before lasted longer than 12 hours or so. I woke up and couldn’t really move at all. My entire torso was extremely sore as if it were black and blue all over. There was no hope of getting up without major assistance from Jacob. I tried to walk and the only way I was able to was to be hunched over in half. At one point, for a good couple hours, my stomach pain was so intense it was taking my breath away and I wanted to writhe around, but I was physically unable to do that. I was hopeful that this was my body getting rid of some of the side effects of anesthesia… Without getting too graphic here, I took some stuff that might help me in the tummy department. It took a few hours to work, but eventually the constant sharp pains and utter discomfort became a bit more bearable. I was sore and miserable all day and couldn’t eat… I had important instructions to eat salty food and drink Gatorade, though. I was able to get the fluid in, but eating a meal didn’t happen. My IVF nurse called to tell me that 11 out of my 17 eggs were fertilized. I couldn’t be unhappy with that number—that’s 6 more than last time. Even so, I did have higher hopes. While on the phone with her, I told her about my “problems” and this early on she said it all seemed pretty normal. I slept on and off all day (and drank Gatorade).

Day 2: Post Retrieval—Sunday, March 19

I woke up and to my surprise the intensity of my pains had decreased. I wasn’t fuzzy and out of it like the previous day and I was *almost* able to get up by myself. My entire abdomen was still really sore, but sore like I did a bazillion sit-ups the previous day, not sore like I had surgery. The bloat was getting worse, so I weighed myself. To my horror, I gained 6 pounds. 6 pounds in two days. I had to email my nurse because I was told to inform them if I had a 2 pound gain… I was of course thinking the worst (OHSS). I had some major symptoms: weight gain, dizziness, bloat, sweating profusely, etc. I thought I should get checked. The office said they would see me the next day. While I was worried about the weight, I did experience some improvements though. I was able to go to the bathroom, I got up and walked around a bit, I was able to eat a paleo sweet potato and egg breakfast (good for increasing my protein, potassium, salt), and I got up from sitting on my own a few times. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was something! I was still very sleepy, so Jacob and I watched Harry Potter movies on and off all day and slept a bunch. Jacob has really been taking such good care of me and my dumb ovaries that don’t work on their own.

Day 3: Post Retrieval—Monday, March 20

I woke up at 1:45 in the morning with a little, smelly dog literally trying to climb into my face. There were really loud thunderstorms and hail causing a ruckus and poor Norbert is petrified of storms. I’m not a huge fan myself, and since I slept the whole day away before and had a scaredy dog on my hands, I didn’t fall back asleep right away. The storms lasted for hours. I maybe fell back asleep at 4 in the morning, which felt like a waste of time since I had to leave the house at 6:40 to make it to the IVF doctor by 8am. When I arrived, they saw me right away. My ultrasound tech looked around, checked all my surrounding cavities for fluid and examined my ovaries. The cavities were empty of fluid (awesome news), but my ovaries were still huge with many large follicles. This is to be expected with all the stimming meds still coursing through my veins. It will take a while for them to dry up and shrink back to normal. We’ll have to keep an eye on things, though. This is only 3 days post retrieval and I didn’t have cysts burst with major pains and OHSS until day 6 Post retrieval last time. My instruction were to keep on keeping on—business as usual: drink all the Gatorade, eat salty foods, rest, weigh myself, and don’t let myself get too constipated. Later in the day I got a call from the IVF lab. Surprise! One of our fertilized eggs was a slow grower, but it started dividing! We had 12 embryos instead of 11! We’ll find out on Wednesday how many make it to blastocysts. The rest of the day was more of the same. I slept on and off all day, I ate small meals of salty snacks, and drank my Gatorade. Me and Jacob’s binge-watching redirected to Lord of the Rings because we finished all of the Harry Potters. Nerds.

Day 4: Post Retrieval—Tuesday, March 21

I woke up early as heck and took my meds and tried to eat some breakfast. I didn’t last long before I was sleeping again. Surprisingly, I was still pretty worn out. Sleeping until noon wasn’t part of the plan, but that’s exactly what happened. When I got up for good, I had a panic moment. My right ovary was stinging and twinging. I tried to stay still and immobile until it let up. I didn’t want to have a cyst explode. That did no good. The pain never let up. I took my Tylenol with codeine in hopes that would help and it did not. My nurse said there’s nothing to do at the moment because I don’t have fluid building up and I’ll just have to wait for all of this to subside. I’m going to ask for further monitoring if I still have the pain tomorrow. I know it’s painful because the ovary is swollen and huge. It’s so huge, it feels tender to the touch as if it were pressing up right under my skin. I also know it’s huge because it’s pressing on my bladder, which makes me have to run to the restroom frequently. I thought I’d feel well enough to go back to work tomorrow, but it is pointless to push it. I don’t think I am ready to be on my feet all day with the kids. In the long run it is just not worth it. Last time I pushed my recovery and ended up in an ambulance and an ER on my brother’s wedding rehearsal day. I guess right now I just have to be happy I don’t have this pain in both ovaries. So, after I made the decision to not go back to work I realized I just made my life ten times more complicated. I was planning on teaching a very specific lesson and now I had to modify for a sub. Sometime making sub plans is more of a hassle than going in. BUT… I work with some of the best people in the biz, and getting everything together for tomorrow was made easy by some of my amazing coworkers who are always there for me. I love my job and my English peeps! I spent the rest of the night drinking my Gatorade and trying to be still as to not rupture a cyst.

Day 5: Post Retrieval—Wednesday, March 22

Today was my last day to lounge. I’m so glad I took it; I needed it. In the morning I had pain in my right ovary left over from the previous day. I was getting to the point I thought I’d need to go back to the office for monitoring again to see if anything has changed. However, by the end of the day I felt a little more normal than I have felt in days. I was able to do the dishes, walk up and down the stairs without much pain, and I even had a bit of a laughing fit (due to Jacob being his usual goofy self) without too much pain. I also got a call from the IVF lab. I was informed that 7 embryos were good to go (they were biopsied and frozen). 4 of them were still developing, but they were slow to grow. It was still up in the air if they were going to make it to blastocyst stage (which is where they need to be). I am a little disheartened by this. I had 17 eggs. This was reduced to 15 because two were not mature. Then our numbers dwindled to 11—then we unexpectedly jumped back to 12 for a minute… and then poof. Seven. That is only 2 more than my previous disastrous egg retrieval. I know this is how it works. This is how it is for everyone. Each cycle is different and sometimes the cards are in your favor and sometimes they are not. I was hoping/wishing/praying for better. I really hope those four still growing get their acts together.

Day 6: Post Retrieval—Thursday, March 23

This was a difficult day. I woke up early so I could get a close parking spot so I wouldn’t have to have a nice, brisk, long walk to the building. I had meetings and a bunch of administrative stuff to do before teaching and before I even saw my first class I was wiped out. I never really realize how much crap I carry around and how heavy it all is. Man, I am sore and tired! My students were pretty nice to me today… nicer than usual. I think they missed me. Some kids were actually overjoyed to see me. Haha! I don’t know if it was genuine yet, but I am thinking yes. I had to even run to the store after work because I was out of Gatorade. I probably did too much too soon today, but I didn’t have much of a choice. Spring break is around the corner and there are things that needed to be done before then. I also heard from the lab today. The four slow growers stopped growing. We have 7 embryos. It only takes one, so hopefully my future child is in this little group. Only time will tell.

Fast Forward to Day 12—

I’m feeling much more normal now. Every once in awhile, if I move to quickly or the wrong way, I’ll still get a twinge or a stab of pain in the ovaries, but I am practically back to normal. I’m still following my post-retrieval instructions of salty food and Gatorade because I just don’t want to chance it. I am not out of the woods yet. My ovaries still have follicles on them from stimulation and if I’m still tender, that means they are still a little enlarged. I don’t want to take any chances with cysts bursting. I have, however, traded in one type of pain in my reproductive organs for another. I’m currently experiencing ridiculous cramps from having my period. How wonderful and joyous it is to be a woman.

As far as next steps are concerned, I’ll know more about my 7 embryos soon. However, I won’t be having my transfer until late May. I’m going to recuperate and prepare myself for Baby Sonne, both physically and mentally.

As I’m writing and editing this, a few last thoughts are trying to escape my brain and jump into this post—

My first thought is that I hope people who are going through fertility struggles or IVF actually stumble upon this blog and gain some comfort in reading it. I want them to know they are not alone. I want them to know that I am not any more brave than they are. You don’t truly realize how much courage you have until you’ve already been thrown into the thick of it and by that point you don’t really feel brave because there isn’t another option. Battling infertility isn’t about being brave; I’m scared all of the time. This battle is about perseverance. For me, there’s no choice other than to persist.

My second thought (the one I am more hesitant to write) is for those reading who are not experiencing fertility struggles. I hope you read this and truly value and appreciate your circumstance (#blessed). Something similar to this whole two weeks of shots and stimming and this entire egg retrieval process happens quietly, naturally, and unassumingly within your body, unbeknownst to you, every month—whether you conceive that cycle or not. While the comparison isn’t 100% accurate, it is stark. I know you are more than grateful for your children, but I’d like you to appreciate the true miracle of the “behind the scenes.” Whether it took you one month or several, your body and hundreds of other factors all lined up for this one glorious moment in time when everything fell into place to achieve the unlikely event of fertilization. I’d like to hope that from reading this you’re able to be more sensitive—no, wait. That’s the wrong phrasing. I’d like to think that reading this will help you use common sense and a little more empathy. Consider that one-third of women you talk to didn’t have it as easy as you, for one reason or another. That’s a lot of women who might be feeling inadequate that you could possibly be alienating. Be mindful.

Update: We have four embryos. We do not know how many will be transferred yet, but we have a transfer date of May 20th! Wear mis-matched pink and blue socks for us on that day! #SocksForBabySonne

Try. Try Again.

Making Baby Sonne: IVF Round 2, Stimulation

As I look back at my first round of IVF, I can still feel the excitement as I found out I had nearly 40 follicles. I feel the intensity of my heart dropping into my stomach when I found out they only retrieved 7 eggs. I remember the sting when I heard only 5 of them became fertilized. I can still feel the sheer joy of finding out that 4 out of the 5 half-Jacob and half-me little buggers made it out of the woods and all received excellent grades. I remember like it was yesterday when only ONE of our little embies were able to be used for transfer. And I couldn’t forget if I tried how my heart broke in half when I heard my transfer failed. I had a baby in there for what… a couple days? A few? And it didn’t stay, it didn’t implant, it didn’t grow. I’m not sure if its possible to experience that rollercoaster first hand and still know, without a doubt, that our miracle will ever happen.

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Retrieval– July 16, 2016

It’s really hard to define my feelings having to go through IVF for a second time. I never really thought I’d be here again, so I find myself a bit unprepared. I keep flip-flopping from positivity to despair. I do know that I was feeling much more hopeful the first time around. I can feel the difference now. Idealistic, dreamy me has had a wake up call. I’ve lately been wrestling with a scary thought. What if IVF isn’t the answer? I used to be able to envision what the future held because I was telling myself that the end result of IVF was a big ole pregnant belly, an intense labor story, and at the end of it all we’d have an adorable tiny human to show for all of the hard work. I’d raise that tiny human to be an awesome full grown human and I’d be happy with my little, yet loving and complete family. Now the picture seems a bit more unfocused….

I haven’t given up all hope. I still think about the possibilities of what my life would hold with children, but I have had my eyes opened to a new possible future—one without kids. This is a real possibility for me. I know it doesn’t mean the end of the world—in fact, I think it broadens my horizons beyond anything I’ve imagined for my future self. I think of becoming a world traveler (a passion of mine that was ignited long ago when I took my first trip abroad at the ripe age of 17). I think maybe Jacob and I would move wherever our lives lead us without family worried about “never getting to see the grand babies.” I think of all the typical parental complaints (that us reproductively challenged people do not see as burdens)– us never having to clean up poop all of the time, never being confined to a sleep schedule, never having to spend a ton of money on diapers and all of the other necessities, never feeling pressure to be part of a PTA or coach little league, and how we could still go out on dates all of the time without getting a sitter. I think maybe I could possibly feel like I had never been held back from something adventurous or bigger or better because of the children. Of course, these things don’t have to be one or the other, black or white, all or none, but I have to tell myself some of these things to ease the dread that creeps in.

Regardless, I’ve decided that while the acceptance of this possibility is necessary, it needs to remain in the back of my mind somewhere for now. I need to stay focused on being positive and hopeful. I already know how treacherous this process can be (only 0.12% of people with OHSS get fluid in the cavities of their hearts and lungs and require a thoracentesis—lucky me!). I need to try to make this one less stressful and do everything in my power to be successful! I need to get my mind right!
PROTOCOL: “LONG-LUPRON”

Leuprolide acetate (keeps me from ovulating)
Gonal F (follicle stimulating hormone)
Menopur (follicle stimulating hormone and luteinizing hormone)
Doxycycline (antibiotic)
Dexamethasone (glucocorticoid to treat inflammation)
Prenatals (vitamins)
Ovidrel (HCG trigger)

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Gonal-F and Menopur

Sunday, March 5, 2017
Day 1- 150 iu Menopur, 5 units Lupron, 225 iu Follistim:
I’ve already been giving myself shots of Lupron for days and I’ve been feeling twinges and jabs in the ovary area—especially the right side. I’m concerned because I’ve been having major muscle cramps and spasms in my obliques. This is exactly what happened last time… you know… before my follicles burst and I ended up in the hospital. It’s a bit too soon for all of that, but I don’t think anyone can blame me for being a bit paranoid. Also, I found out today that my protocol has NOT been changed to a Lupron trigger (which was supposed to reduce the chances of OHSS). I don’t know why it was changed and that makes me a bit nervous, too. I need to relax and trust my doctor, but I was really hoping for an easier time than before. I hope this works and I don’t hyperstimulate. Anyway, I took all of my shots and I’m ready to go. This is the easy part. Yes, playing chemist, mixing powders and fluids in syringes, and jabbing myself with multiple needles is the easy part. Around 11:30 pm I got a horrible headache. I’m afraid to take anything, so I suffered through. I experienced the muscle spasms all night, too. Not a great start. Googled it—Lupron causes headaches.

Monday, March 6, 2017
Day 2- 150 iu Menopur, 5 units Lupron, 225 iu Follistim:
I’m not experiencing cramps and spasms in my stomach/side muscles today (well, not as much or as intense as yesterday). I am definitely aware of my ovaries. I can feel them. It’s a strange sensation. I think this is probably good. Grow follicles, grow! As far as the injections are concerned, I’m feeling like an old pro. I guess that can be a silver lining of sorts (if I don’t think about the why behind the fact that I’m an old pro). The hormones are doing their job, too, apparently. I was emotional twice today…. once for no reason, once because later in the day I received some somber news about one of my students. Two days down… as far as stimming is concerned, so far so “good.”

Tuesday, March 7, 2017
Day 3- 150 iu Menopur, 5 units Lupron, 225 iu Follistim:
Today was difficult. One of my favorite students (yeah… I know… I’m not supposed to have those) was in a tragic car accident and was injured pretty badly. In the same accident his father and sister were gravely injured and his brother passed away. The boy who passed was only a freshman—a young, smart, sweet, polite, warm, friendly, passionate, and athletic young man. I can’t even imagine what the family is going through right now. My student will be ok physically in a few months, but the emotional pain he’ll be going through is something I cannot fathom. The gravity of the situation had a profound effect on the student body. It was not a “business as usual” kind of day. My students, one period in particular, were highly emotional. All in all, today was a trying day—lots of emotion, lots of sadness. My injections, muscle spasms, and hormone levels seem irrelevant.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017
Day 4- 150 iu Menopur, 5 units Lupron, 225 iu Follistim: MONITORING DAY
I got up extra early and left the house at 6am to go to the doctor this morning. When I got there the doors were still closed and the lights were off. I thought I had the wrong day for a minute and was ticked. But then the door opened, the lights went on and I was in ultrasound within 5 minutes. Whew. My ultrasound usually takes awhile because my left ovary hides behind my uterus. That wasn’t the case today. We found both ovaries quickly, but the movement of the wand was actually kind of painful. To me that just means I am already tender because my ovaries are enlarged. I hope it isn’t too early for that.

When I got to work (early, actually) I made a bunch of copies and prepared for my pre observation conference with the English curriculum director and the Principal. It went really well. I always get so nervous for these things; I need to learn to relax and be more confident. By the time the meeting was through and 1st period was over, I was ready to call it a day… but the show must go on. I taught my classes by trying to provide my grieving students with a little normalcy, and soon after received the call.

The nurse on the other end of the call informed me that I had a bunch of little follicles and one measurable follicle (11 mm). My estrogen level was 198 (last time on this day it was at 400+ and I’m not sure if that’s relevant.) I was told to continue the same protocol for at least the next two days and to make monitoring appointments for both Friday and Monday. There may be a need to see me over the weekend, but we won’t know until Friday. As far as side effects and such, I’m already feeling super aware of where my ovaries are. I’m not exactly bloated, but I know my ovaries are growing. The feeling is strange, for sure. Lots of twinges and jabs and pangs, too. I’m getting impatient to get the egg retrieval over with. I’m very aware that I shouldn’t be feeling anxious, but its starting to really hit me that I could AGAIN get OHSS, fluid, cysts bursting, hospitalization, etc. I’m psyching myself out! Ahhhh!!

Thursday, March 9, 2017
Day 5- 150 iu Menopur, 5 units Lupron, 225 iu Follistim:
My head is pounding (day 5 of this now). Pounding isn’t the right word because it’s a constant ache and it makes me dizzy sometimes. Also, you probably don’t need to know this at all, but fertility meds make me constipated like crazy. This is a problem because I think my full intestines hindered the egg retrieval process last time. Ugh! And my ovaries are so full that I’m running to the bathroom every five minutes to pee. Just lovely, really. Oh, the joys of being an egg factory! Today at work I was observed for a “formal” by the curriculum director. It went really well considering it was my period full of “challenging” students. I don’t know how it happens, but the kids that are the “most fun” to work with are always in the same class. Can we work on this? Like, can we spread them out to make all of the classes a bit more balanced? Hah! Anyway, It was a crazy day from start to finish—just busy, but I think being busy is a good thing because it takes my mind of the worrisome issues for a bit.

Friday, March 10, 2017
Day 6- 150 iu Menopur, 5 units Lupron, 225 iu Follistim: MONITORING DAY
Headache? Check. Constipation? Check. Peeing constantly? Check. More fun symptoms to add to the list are starting to reveal themselves… I’m so sore that the wand again hurt like hell during the ultrasound (I don’t think this is normal). Going upstairs is a pain because lifting my knees is directly affecting my apple sized ovaries… And I have to be careful about getting up quickly from laying or sitting. I’m sore and exhausted. I feel like I did much better handling all of this last time. I was working the Taste during my last stimulation phase, so it’s a bit surprising I felt less pressure/pain during a more physically demanding job. I’m going to go back and read my blog to see if I had so much swelling and difficulty with bending and stairs during my last stimulation. According to my numbers, I’m in a very similar position to my stimulation phase from my previous round. My estrogen is 563 and I have 8 measurable follicles, but about 24 all together.

Saturday, March 11, 2017
Day 7- 150 iu Menopur, 5 units Lupron, 150 iu Follistim:
Bloated. Just bloated. And tired. These ovaries feel like they’re growing by the minute. Zaps and zings and twinges! I didn’t do much of anything today except rest up.

Sunday, March 12, 2017
Day 8- 75 iu Menopur, 5 units Lupron, 50 iu Follistim: MONITORING DAY
Jacob and I got up early to go to the River North office to get me some monitoring. I had a very pleasant experience with the ultrasound tech. My left ovary is always hard to find. Not only did she not hurt me while she was looking for it, she tried a few new/different methods to get to it… and when that still didn’t quite work, she did an abdominal ultrasound over the top and found it immediately. She then made notes in my account to help others find it for next time. They called me within a few hours with the results. I have a few follicles measuring in the 20mm range, but most are still 15-12mm. My estrogen jumped to 1,567, so we have to watch carefully and lower my meds a bit. I’ll probably be monitored every day this week. Cheers!

Monday, March 13, 2017
Day 9- 37.5 iu Menopur, 5 units Lupron: MONITORING DAY
The late winter snow storm made for a difficult drive to the doctor at 6am. The roads were not plowed yet and were really slippery—the kind of slippery that has you sliding as soon as you press lightly on the gas… There were not many people out, so I wasn’t late for my appointment, but it was a nerve-wracking drive that I do not want to attempt again tomorrow. I hope the lake effect snow holds off until I’m already safe and sound at work. My ovaries are still growing and my symptoms get a bit rougher as the days go on. I asked for a print out today of my ultrasound because the images looked so crazy and full of follicles. Picture perfect, I would say. I’m exhausted and it hit me today hard during 7th period. I almost made it a full day without too much complaint. But right before the class began I felt an overwhelming need to lay down and close my eyes. I’m ready to get these follicles mature and get them the heck out of me. My estrogen was 2246, which was a pretty big jump. I am to decrease meds to only one half menopur- no follistim.

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Follicle Factory (ovaries)

Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Day 10- 5 units Lupron: MONITORING DAY
Happy Anniversary to me and Jacob!! Today has been a day. It started off with a snowy drive to the doctor at 6am. It was slow-moving to say the least. My ultrasound didn’t go smoothly. Both of my ovaries were hiding… there was a lot of pressing and pushing trying to get the images. My tummy is already really bruised from the shots, so this was pretty unpleasant—especially because of the huge ovaries. When I left the doctor, the snow had become much worse. Driving down Lagrange and Harlem was just dangerous. I couldn’t see a few feet in front of me. When I arrived to Shepard, I couldn’t even see the building. Just your run of the mill, mid-March, a-few-days-before-spring-break-Chicago-style Blizzard. By the time first period was over, I was ready for the day to be done. I barely made it to 7th period… And needless to say I felt bad for my last two classes of the day. I was just cranky. When I got the call from the doctor’s office, I was surprised to hear that my estrogen went up again (even though I didn’t stimulate much) to 2927. I now have 32 follicles; 20 of them are measurable. When I got home, I took a good nap. Then Jacob and I went out for dinner for our anniversary. At least the crazy day had a pleasant end. This night I was instructed to do no stimulation meds—lupron only. Can’t ovulate just yet!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Day 11- 5 units Lupron: MONITORING DAY
The drive to the doctor today was much more pleasant—blizzard over. Thank goodness. We did not have an easy time finding my ovaries again. It seems the bigger they get, the more they hide. Ugh! I don’t think that bodes well for egg retrieval. At work I couldn’t help but think, “Get these eggs out of me, please! I am sore” all day. Again, I was able to keep it together until I hit my 7th period wall. I do not teach from sitting at my desk—I stand and walk around and circulate, so this is getting more and more difficult. I just need to be lounging around in the pool like I did on the days before egg retrieval last time. After school I spoke with a nurse about my instructions and numbers. Estrogen climbed to 3133 and I have 21 measurable follicles and about 11 still growing. I also got to speak directly to my doctor. The doctor said that he WOULD do an abdominal egg retrieval if my ovaries couldn’t be accessed vaginally… This is cool, but also scary. He’s an expert, so I trust him, but abdominal egg retrievals are a little more intense. There are more potential complications… I’m trying not to dwell on it too much. I’m taking the “we’ll just have to wait and see” approach. I also got the green light for the trigger shot! Egg retrieval is scheduled for Friday! Signing off– Full, bloated, sore, and immobile….

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After I recuperate, I will update! Pray, send vibes, baby dust, positivity, etc! We need it! Thank you, as always, for reading and for your support. If I help just one person, I know sharing our story is worth it.

Blastocyst Blues

I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile because, frankly, I didn’t know what to say. I’m tired of having nothing but bad news. I’m afraid anyone who reads my blog will stop reading because it has just become a laundry list of let-downs, set-backs, and negativity. I’m not even sure I’m ready to write it all out because I haven’t fully accepted the ramifications of everything this piece of news encompasses….

My first round of IVF failed. It didn’t work. I am not pregnant. We must go back to the drawing board and start all over again. The process that I’ve been pouring my heart and soul into since the beginning of July has all been for naught. It has been one month and 4 days since our embryo was placed into my uterus for safe keeping, all in hopes that it would implant and grow into a little bundle of joy. I did everything I was supposed to do, my uterus was lined perfectly, and the embryo was of excellent quality—and it still didn’t work.

The day of the embryo transfer is kind of a blur because it all went so quickly. As Jacob and I drove to the fertility center I was excited at the possibilities the day held. I wasn’t nervous. Jacob was a calming presence; he held my hand as we waited to be seen and assured me that we would be ok, even if we had to do it all over again. When we walked into my pre-transfer/recovery room, we were instructed to change into our gowns and put on hair nets. I drank a bunch of water and took my prescribed Valium for the procedure. We snuck in a quick pre-embryo-transfer-selfie and we were off into the procedure room. Jacob sat next to me as our embryo, magnified x1000, was displayed on the screen for us to see. Our hatching blastocyst was perfect, survived the thaw like a boss, and was ready to go back “home.” I weeped when I saw the little ball of cells that was half me and half Jacob. The ultrasound technician joked that he was ready for me and gave me some tissues. Jacob squeezed my hand a little tighter. The image was then zoomed out and it became a small speck. We watched as the little speck was sucked into the catheter and placed into my uterus. And that was that. It was all over in just a few short minutes. I was able to walk out of the procedure room and change back into my clothes immediately. We chatted for a bit with the staff—hugs and tears all around. When we got into the car I told Jacob I was surprised that I didn’t feel anything from the Valium. I expected to be knocked out. Within just minutes of making that statement, I was fast asleep. I slept the whole way home. Jacob took good care of me for the rest of the day.

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The next two weeks were pretty unsettling. I tried as best I could to not think too much, to not work too hard, to not stress out, to not over-do it. Easier said than done. I was being observed at work by two administrators, I had a lot of grading to do, and two competitions to prepare for with my dance team. While I did have a lot of work to do, I considered it all to be a good distraction. Keeping occupied was better than stressing over the pregnancy test. I was feeling all types of early pregnancy symptoms when the date of the test drew near. I tried desperately not to think too much into any of them because the hormone shots I was taking all give side effects that are pretty similar to pregnancy symptoms. The day of the test was agonizing. I took the blood test at 6:30 am and didn’t get the results until nearly 6pm. Longest 12 hours of life. Ever. I’m not really sure anyone ever gets used to getting that call, even if it’s the 7th time.

After over a year of trying normally, several rounds of Clomid, then Femara, 4 IUIs, and a round of IVF, and here I am still explaining how it didn’t work and that I have to try again. I’m not sure what it’ll take. I’m not sure how much I have left in me. I’m not sure how many more friends and relatives will start trying, succeed, have baby showers, pop out little ones, and get to experience this pure joy and love I feel I’m missing before it’s actually our turn. To see how normal and natural this whole thing is for so many just shines a light on how draining and gut-wrenching this whole process is for us. It has been a long and arduous 5 years (in January) and it isn’t over yet—not even close.

I recently had a talk with my new doctor about our plans. He said my last doctor went in hard with the stimulation. He’ll ease up a bit. We’re going for quality, not quantity. I also will not be using an hCG trigger shot because that’s one way to reduce the chances of developing ovarian hyperstimulation. He also doesn’t want to rush into a new cycle. I had such a hard time with the last egg retrieval and it’s probably a good idea to heal for awhile and get back to “normal.” The hormones and steroids made me gain a good amount and I’d like to get most of that off before going back into the trenches. Also, I still have pleural effusion on my right lung. I don’t know what it’ll take for that to go away, but a little time won’t hurt. I hope to get into see a lung specialist and maybe have another thoracentesis. I’d like to be 100% before going through all of this again. The new doctor agrees and also wants me to choose a time that makes sense during my busy schedule. I’ve chosen to wait until dance is over for the year. This coincides with the doctor’s schedule for March. So, Operation Making Baby Sonne is on hiatus until March 2017…. and life goes on.

The Four Month Cycle

I’m not even really sure where to begin. The last several tortuous months have been filled with confusion and disappointment. To make this seriously convoluted story a bit less complex, I’ll try to be brief…. Eh, that’s probably not going to happen. Here it is anyway.

Some relevant context: On July 16th, I had a not-so-successful egg retrieval because my ovaries were positioned a little higher than usual and “hiding” behind my uterus. They were difficult to reach so we were only able to obtain 7 eggs out of nearly 40. I had a long recovery from this retrieval because I had developed fluid in the surrounding cavity. Additional fluid compounded the problem when I had some cysts (over-large follicles) burst on July 22nd. Slowly but surely I was on the mend. I thought I was healing, and so did my doctor. Everything was looking as if it were in order and I was starting to feel normal again.

We started the process of preparing my uterus lining for my FET (frozen embryo transfer) on September 4th. We scheduled our transfer for the 24th and were just thrilled.

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I had to inject Lupron every day (a shot that suppresses FSH and LH, so that the body can create estrogen to grow the lining in the uterus). This is an “easy” subcutaneous injection. No biggie. I also had to use estrogen patches—two of them, every other day, for the entire cycle. The estrogen is something else! Talk about emotionally unstable… I could cry for any reason at any time. A few days into the patches, a co-worker asked me how I was doing and just the thought of answering that question made the waterworks flow. Just ridiculous. I cried listening to Beyoncé sing, I nearly bawled when asked “why I became a teacher,” I became misty upon seeing my dance team’s new professional team photo, I sobbed when I found out a fellow IVF friend became pregnant, and lost my damn mind when Vanilla Ice got all choked up on Dancing with the Stars. The only other meds on the schedule were nothing too intense and were all familiar to me from previous treatments– progesterone inserts, baby aspirin, prenatals, a small dose of steroid, and a mild antibiotic for when the transfer drew near. Besides getting all emotional, the side-effects were minimal. I did, however, have some intense back/side pain in the same region I had pain when my cysts burst. It had been pestering me for quite some time, weeks maybe, but it wasn’t anything significant. I only had the pain at night while lying down trying to fall asleep. I thought it was muscle-related and nothing to worry about too much. I was wrong.

Six days before my scheduled embryo transfer, I got out of bed and immediately thought I was dying. When I sat up I had severe stabbing pain in my right side that traveled up to my chest. It was the same pain I had at night while trying to fall asleep, but it never traveled up to my chest before. I tried not to freak out and hoped that it would just dissipate. It didn’t. I was soon having difficulty breathing. I chocked this up to asthma and tried to treat this by using my inhaler. That did nothing. I was freaking out a little because I was alone. Jacob was at his Sunday morning softball double-header and I didn’t know what I should do. Google to the rescue. I began looking at the side effects of my cycle meds, any matching symptoms, and possible drug-interactions. And there it was. Pulmonary Embolism (related to estrogen hormone supplementation). The symptoms matched: shortness of breath and chest pain (typically worse when bending, stooping, or lying down). I called my doctor’s office and the nurse told me to go to the emergency room. I was preparing to drive myself to the ER, but Jacob walked in just in the nick of time.

The ER doesn’t mess around with chest pain. Within minutes, I was hooked up to an EKG. Nothing looked out of the ordinary and I wasn’t, apparently, having a heart attack. Good news. My oxygen was good, blood pressure was just fine (maybe slightly elevated due to the pain), and so they began my typical ER routine—IV fluids, solumedrol (IV prednisone), and breathing treatments. I didn’t have to wait too long before they took me in for a CAT scan of my chest. The results were in—no pulmonary embolism—it looked like I had developed pneumonia. This made no sense to me because I hadn’t had any severe cold or respiratory infections lately, but if they saw it on my lungs, that had to be the case, right? Well, needless to say, I was admitted and in my own room before the day was through. How could this be? I was seemingly fine one minute and the next I was being admitted to the hospital. As a teacher this is worrisome. It is more work to be out for a day or two than it is to actually go to work! I had to scramble to make plans for a substitute and I was freaking out a bit because I was scheduled to be formally observed at work the very next day. Everyone at work was so helpful and understanding, so I didn’t have to worry about any of that for too long. With this on my mind and with people in and out of the room all night, I didn’t sleep much at all.

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The next morning, bright and early, a team of doctors came in to tell me that I didn’t actually have pneumonia. A general attending physician, a pulmonologist, and a cardiologist all visited my room to discuss what as happening. The cloudiness around my lungs on the scans was actually fluid gathering on the outside of my lungs and heart. They were extremely concerned and puzzled because I was too young to have pleural and pericardial effusion. I didn’t have pneumonia. I wasn’t experiencing congestive heart failure, I didn’t have liver disease or lupus, and I didn’t have cancer. Geeesh. I didn’t even know that was on the table! They informed me they would have to perform a bunch of tests.

Hearing this news made neurons and synapses fire off connections in my brain. I remembered back to when I had my egg retrieval and I was given a medical consent form that was comprised of a laundry list of possible side effects from the procedure. I distinctly remembered reading that if enough fluid collected in the cavities, it could cause pleural effusion—fluid around the lungs! My friend Gina, who is studying to become a nurse practitioner, backed me up on this. She sent me scholarly articles from a medical journal that named OHSS (ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome) as one of the causes of pleural effusion.

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This idea was a hard sell to my doctors. They were unfamiliar with OHSS and have never experienced a patient with pleural effusion caused by something other than the norm. I explained everything to them as best I could and persisted until they agreed to let me have a consult with an attending OB/GYN. Even so, they would still continue with their battery of testing to determine the cause. They also scheduled a thoracentesis to remove the excessive amount of fluid on my right side pleural cavity. That, my friends, is no fun.

Imagine the thickest, scariest needle possible. Imagine that needle pressing firmly into your back, through the skin and muscle in between your ribs, and what feels like right into your lung. All of a sudden you feel like the air is being sucked out of your body through that needle and into a catheter. When that sensation stops you look to your side to see a giant glass jar filling with amber-colored fluid! Ahhhh! So strange, and so gross, but I had to watch. That wasn’t even the worst part. When it was over, my lung was working extra hard to expand back to its normal size. I couldn’t breathe at all. I felt like I was hyperventilating and having a severe asthma attack at the same time. I could feel stuff moving around in there! I was wheezing like I’ve never wheezed before, I was short of breath, and my heart was racing. The pain from the day before was back in full effect. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed that, of course, I was not going to be the patient that feels immediate relief from removing the fluid. Of course I wasn’t. I wouldn’t get the results from testing the fluid for days, so I had to hang tight.

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Before and after the thoracentesis I had chest X-rays. I also had ultrasounds done on both legs to check for blood clots, what felt like millions of blood tests, an echocardiogram, and like five pages worth of other tests (seriously, the list is five pages long). All of this to figure out what I had known since my first full day in the hospital…. OHSS was the culprit and I had been living with this excessive fluid in my body (causing me nightly pain) for two months, and finally it had spread/shifted to affect my breathing and my heart.

The icing on the cake? My frozen embryo transfer on the 24th was cancelled. While I knew it was for the best, I was devastated. A whole month of preparing my body for a baby was wasted. All of the (expensive) meds, all of the emotions, all of the hope built up for what could finally get that little embryo growing inside of me…. All of it was wasted. And all I could do was sit around in a hospital bed thinking about it. I tried to keep myself occupied, but it wasn’t easy. I cried a lot—again I was mourning the loss of something that never was. But Jacob stayed with me the whole time and that helped. While it may seem that I’ve been down in my luck lately, I sure did luck out with him.

A couple days went by and the doctors were still unable to pinpoint the cause of the fluid. I was finally given the consult with the OB/GYN. After explaining everything to him about my fertility treatments and procedures, he believed that it all fit together and assured me that OHSS can most definitely cause pleural effusion. On Thursday, 5 full days after rushing off to the ER, I was finally sent packing.

I tried to go to work the next day and immediately regretted that decision. By the time I walked from my car to my classroom, I knew I made a mistake and tried to do too much too soon. My skin, from the medicines, was hot and bright red, I was having a hard time breathing, and the pain in my back/right side was screaming. I was a little dizzy and my legs were like jello. I had to go home and take things a little slower. I was going to be missing yet another day with my students, the homecoming pep assembly performance (this big performance that my team, assistant coach, and I had been working so hard for), the parade, the game… everything. I was not a happy camper, but I knew I was just not ready. Thankfully, I had support from so many wonderful people and was able to take the weekend to recuperate from my long hospital stay.

The next week I was much more myself, even though I was still experiencing some pain. I went back to the doctor for a follow up X-ray and was told I looked and sounded like a completely different person—almost unrecognizably so. And even now, this past week I felt even better. It has taken some time, but I am back in the swing of things and I am finally feeling healed.

I have been cleared to start another month of preparing for FET. In fact, I’ve continued the Lupron and have already begun using the estrogen patches. I was apprehensive to start all of this again. I didn’t want to push it just to be told we’d have to cancel. However, after being monitored last week by the fertility center and by the same doctor who saw me in the hospital, I feel confident that I am ready. I just hope everyone around me is ready for another month of weepy, emotional Nicole because she’s just around the corner!

While it’s not even close to being over, by any means, this has been a ridiculously complicated and trying time in my life. I’m not a quitter, though. I know that I want to be a mother some day. I know that I want to have a baby with the man I love so dearly. I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing that I didn’t do everything I possibly could.

I’m telling you guys…. I hope Baby Sonne turns out to be one grateful and appreciative child!

Joy and Pain (Like Sunshine and Rain)

Making Baby Sonne: IVF, Part II

This is a long post, folks. Grab a cup of tea and a comfy chair.

Day 0: Egg Retrieval– July 16th

Going into the IVF center, I was extremely hopeful (nervous, but hopeful). I was armed with over 36 follicles and I was hoping that most of those follicles contained mature eggs. However, I also went in knowing that my high number of follicles wouldn’t necessarily equate to the number of eggs I would end up with—and not even close to the number of embryos I would eventually have.

Jacob and I were taken to the room in which I would eventually recover when the procedure was over. We went through instructions for the protocol I was to follow after my retrieval and other paperwork that explained every inch of the process in great detail. I was also informed that I would know exactly how many eggs were retrieved before I went home to recuperate. I changed into my hospital gown and tried to relax a little with Jacob before going in. We were visited by my doctor, members of the staff, and even the embryologist (who explained in detail what would happen with my eggs, Jacob’s sperm, and the growth stages of our eventual embryos. He also discussed the reality of the situation—not all eggs would be mature, not all embryos would make it to the desired stage, and not all that make it would be healthy/high grade). While I already had an idea of all this, it was helpful to hear from the actual person who would be handling my precious cargo. Also, it is good to have realistic expectations, so I was glad to have had this chat.

It was finally time to go in. Jacob and I went our separate ways. I was going to be placed in a twilight state while being poked and prodded and Jacob was off to watch some dirty movies….

Once in the operating room, I was greeted by a wonderfully experienced and enthusiastic team. Most of the people in the room have been doing their jobs for over 20 years and it’s easy to tell that they’re passionate about helping women get their babies! I was in good hands. I was instructed to lay back, put my feet in the holsters, and relax. We joked about how, during IVF, there’s no such thing as modesty anymore. I was then given an IV in my hand. The anesthesiologist again told me to relax and joked that he would see me in a little while. I didn’t get what he meant at that time, but that’s the last thing I remember. All of a sudden I was up and aware and was instantly confused. I was being wheeled out of the room, but I hadn’t had my procedure yet. I asked the nurse if we were ready to get started. She giggled and told me it was over already and that they had retrieved 7 eggs. I couldn’t believe it was over before I even knew it began. We pulled into my recovery room and reality hit me pretty quickly. I was helped into my recovery recliner and I was intensely sore. I was still groggy and said a few strange things to Jacob and was crying a lot for no reason. He tried to get me to drink ginger ale with a straw, which was comical because I forgot how to drink. I was just sitting there with the pop in my mouth because I was afraid to swallow! The staff hooked my IV up to some fluids and some pain medicine to ease the pressure and soreness I was already feeling, and by this point I was slowly coming out of the haze.

I was all at once relieved and immensely sad. It was comforting to know that I made it out of the operating room with no major issues, but I was crushed that they were only able to get 7 eggs. After all, I had over 36 follicles. Where were the rest of my eggs?! Well, in typical Nicole fashion, my body didn’t feel like cooperating. Because my ovaries had grown so much, they shifted slightly and were both positioned in a way that made them difficult to reach. The ultrasound technician and the doctor tried several different strategies to try to move them around. They considered some other options, but did not want to risk piercing an organ other than my ovaries. So, we had to settle for 7. Some women only get a few, some get zero. I had to be happy that we had any at all and that my doctor wouldn’t risk causing me harm.

My instructions were simple enough. Go home and relax. Get the princess treatment. Increase my salt intake (to dry up the fluids in my empty follicles), replenish with electrolytes (overdose on Gatorade), and increase my protein and fiber intake, too. Simple enough, or so I thought. While leaving, I realized I had underestimated what I would feel like. Just walking to my car was agony. Every bump in the road on the drive home was excruciating. Sore isn’t the right word. I spent the rest of the day in bed getting the princess treatment. I did as instructed. Sleep, relax, drink my Gatorade, repeat.

Day 1: Embryo Count — July 17th

If you ever find yourself mentally preparing for egg retrieval, I want you to know right now that if you end up being the woman who can get right back to normal the next day, you are one of the rare lucky ones. While the process itself was not painful for me at all (because I was knocked out), the aftermath was not easy… not easy one bit. Be generous and give yourself days to recover. Days!

I spent most of this day being afraid to laugh, cough, sneeze, go to the bathroom, sit up, bend over, or move my mid-section in any way. I felt like there was a giant balloon in my stomach, too. The bloating was unreal.

I received a phone call from the lab and was told that two of my 7 eggs were not mature and unable to be fertilized. However, I had 5 gorgeous embryos growing away! FIVE mini, microscopic Nicole-Jacob combos growing in a dish!

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Day 2: Cell Division– July 18th

The lab doesn’t call on day 2, but everyone was hoping that the embryos were doing their job in the incubator. Today the fertilized eggs begin dividing in what’s called the cleavage stage. Grow, embryos, grow!

At this point, I was still feeling pretty miserable. I was getting around better, but not much better. I spent most of the day trying to stay comfortable. Unbelievable bloating and TMI, but anesthesia + digging around in ovaries = unimaginable constipation. Lovely!

Day 3: Cell Division– July 19th

The lab called to tell me that my little ones are still thriving and growing. One embryo was at 8 cells, two were at 10 cells, and two were at 12 cells! Ahead of the curve! Good job, little embies!

Besides the happy news, there was nothing good about this day. I still felt utterly awful. I was being asked by the medical team to push the fluids and eat frequent small snacks, yet one sip of Gatorade had me bursting at the seams. Sitting was no good because any pressure on the mid-section is unbearable. Lying on the side was no good because the pressure had me feeling like my muscles would spasm. I was so uncomfortable; I decided to reach out to my IVF nurse to see if this all sounded normal. She told me to come in the next day for an ultrasound.

Day 4: Pre-blastocysts– July 20th

The lab doesn’t call this day. We just had to sit back and hope for the little ones to continue to grow.

I drove to the IVF center to get a check-up. They performed an ultrasound to rule out ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS). My ovaries were definitely enlarged, still containing many huge follicles. I also had a small amount of fluid in the cavity behind my uterus. This is what was causing the horrible bloating feeling and the pressure, but none of it was too out of the ordinary. No cause for major concern. I cried for two reasons when they told me this: (1) my hormones were running rampant (2) I was concerned because feeling this horrible just couldn’t be normal. However, my people are experts, so I was able to put my mind at rest. I just had to keep following instructions and eventually I would be on the mend.

Day 5: Blastocyst Stage– July 21st

I did not hear from the lab this day, but I expected as much. They told me they would call me on day 6, unless something occurred out of the ordinary.

I was feeling a little apprehensive because I had to pack to leave for Wisconsin. My brother was getting married in two days and I wasn’t healed/fully recuperated yet. I was still way bloated, I couldn’t get around really well, I was still pretty sore with the slightest pressure on my mid-section…. Needless to say, I was worried about how my body would handle a two-hour drive and all the jam-packed weekend activities of wedded-bliss that were to come! By this point, I really thought I’d be better by now—but everyone is different and each time people respond in different ways. How was I to know that 6 days wouldn’t be enough recovery time for me (especially when some people just jump right back into their daily lives)? On this day, I also had to go to the school board meeting to meet the administration and the school board members for my new teaching position. This is when I had a horrible realization…. I had to actually get ready, look presentable, and wear REAL clothes. For days now I had been living in yoga pants or leggings, so to my horror, I didn’t realize that my real clothes didn’t fit! I mean, I got them on, but they were oh-so-snug. I became a little paranoid that my bridesmaid dress (that I had to wear in two days) wasn’t going to zip! Panic moment! Anyway, I went to the board meeting, met some cool new staff members and the board, packed up the car with Jacob and the girls, and headed off to Mikey and Chelsey’s wedding weekend in Wisconsin! It was a treacherous ride in a severe thunderstorm on winding, dark roads, but we made it safe and sound.

Day 6: Blastocyst Stage/Freeze– July 22nd

I received a call from the lab pretty early in the morning, which is unusual. My heart dropped when I saw the number. Nothing to fear– only good news on the other end. Four out the five embryos were now fully developed and were either hatching (grade of 5) or fully hatched (grade of 6)! For those of you who know embryo grades, we received a 6AA, 6BA, 5AB, and 5BA. This means that none of them received a C grade (which renders them unusable). It also means that they are strong and healthy-looking under the microscope. The last embryo didn’t reach full blastocyst stage yet, but we were still going to watch him/her. There was still a chance for the little guy/gal to catch up. So far, so good. 4 out of 5 were frozen and waiting for me to be ready to transfer.

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I was feeling pretty good to start the day. We went out for breakfast and I was actually able to eat a real meal without feeling like I was about to explode. We went back to the resort and got our bathing suits on. We all went swimming and met up with cousins and other friends and family in the pool area. The boys played bags and my mom and I got a little sun. Mikey and Chelsey finally arrived and everyone went for a cruise around the lake and took turns tubing. That wasn’t in the cards for me. I mean, just a little bumpy car ride hurt like hell. I didn’t want to risk it. I stayed back and got ready for the rehearsal dinner. I wasn’t feeling great, but I wasn’t as bad as previous days. I was thinking that I may have overdone it with the fun in the sun earlier. Too much too soon? Perhaps.

When we were all ready, we headed out to the Gazebo for wedding rehearsal. It was beautiful and I cried. Watching my brother take this momentous step in his life was overwhelming (and it was only practice)! Hearing him say “I do” tripped me up. In the back of my mind, I could still hear his cute, little baby voice that would mispronounce every other word and it made me miss being a kid and a big sister that he looked up to. I was sure to be a wreck at the actual wedding.

The wedding party and family then had a lovely barbeque on the patio and Mikey and Chelsey showered the participants with awesome gifts and keepsakes to thank everyone. It was all going so well.

I was sitting at a table talking to my girls when, out of nowhere, I started having these horrible pains on my right side/flank. It was radiating up and down and constricting, taking away my breath. I thought I was having muscle spasms, so I asked someone to go get Jacob for me. I could not even wait for that person to start walking away. I got up from the table and proceeded straight to my room. By the time anyone else got there to see what the hell was going on, I was writhing around in pain.

It was so intense and scary. I had no idea what was happening. Each time I took in a breath, the pain shot up and grabbed my breath away. I was nearly hyperventilating because I couldn’t get in a good breath. I was swearing up a storm, crying out in pain, and no one knew what to do. Was it the most intense back spasm ever recorded? I had no idea, but I knew it wasn’t right. I tried lying down, sitting, bending over the bed, kneeling, twisting—everything I tried intensified the pain. It was pulsating, crunching, swishing around. Jacob tried to massage it away and I nearly punched his face off. I tried the heating pad and it made it worse. By this time, a bunch of people were in the room, but I couldn’t see who was in there because my glasses had fallen off somewhere along the trail of pain. I looked up at who I imagined to have been Jacob and said, “I need to go to the hospital.” They called the ambulance and it was all downhill from there.

I was officially leaving my own brother’s rehearsal dinner in an ambulance. I was mortified—but I had no time to dwell on how horrible I felt for causing such a disruption to the joyous occasion. The pain was all-consuming. On the ride to the hospital, they had me strapped in. This almost gave me a panic attack because I needed to be able to move to ease the pain; I needed to stand up (which is a no-go in an ambulance). They did their best with me, even though I imagine I was hard to handle (I was swearing and fidgeting and writhing around and gasping for breath). They finally got an IV in and gave me morphine. Twice. It did nothing. When I was finally in a hospital room, I was able to get up and move, which calmed me down to the point where I felt I could breathe a little easier. The doctor asked me a bazillion questions. He was almost sure I had kidney stones and they sent me up to get a CT scan. No kidney stones.

Back in the room, where Jacob had been waiting anxiously, they set me up with an IV and gave me Dilaudid. This finally started to ease the gripping sensation of the pain. It was still there, but it was no longer constricting me. I also became pretty out of my mind. I was talking about crustaceans and insect wings and all sorts of random things. Jacob got a laugh out of that, for sure. I was messed up. After talking to my IVF doctor, an OB surgeon came in to tell me they think my ovary may be in torsion. This was not good. If the ovary twists, it can cut off the blood supply which could severely damage or kill the ovary. I would require immediate surgery. He also said I could have ruptured cysts. While still serious, that was the best option at this time, as surgery would not only keep me from missing my brother’s wedding, but it would also make conceiving a child that much more difficult with one less ovary! They took me for ultrasounds.

While on the table, I passed out. I had some crazy opioid dreams and woke up as the technician was asking me to get back in the wheelchair. My ovaries on the screen were so swollen, they were touching. I had never seen them that huge. However, neither was in torsion, according to the technician. She had to bring the images up to the radiologist before confirming anything, though. When I got back to the room, it was only moments before the doctor came in to tell me that I had a few cysts (or follicles) burst. It seems weird, but this was good news. No torsion! I have never seen Jacob so relieved before. Color flushed back into his face in an instant. However, we weren’t out of the woods yet. I was told this could continue happening. Many of my follicles were still very large (37+ mm). They like them to be no greater than 25 mm. My one ovary was 17 cm, which is comparable to a cantaloupe! And that was just the right one! Anyway, I was relieved I didn’t have to have surgery and that I wouldn’t be losing an ovary, but the blood and fluid from the cysts bursting (which was causing the pain) was still in there and would have to dissipate on its own. What would that mean for me on my brother’s big day (which was now only hours away)?! They prescribed some pain meds and sent me on my way. It was now 2 am. I was to be up and at ‘em at 7:30 am to begin wedding day preparations. What a night!

Day 7: Blastocyst Stage/Freeze– July 23rd 

NEUHAUS NUPTIALS! WEDDING DAY!

I got up around 8 am and meandered over to the suite where Chelsey and the girls were beginning to do hair and makeup. Chelsey told me to go back to sleep and to come back a little later. I was so grateful.

I got a call from the lab around 9am to say the last embryo did not make it. Four. Four is my number. I’m putting all of my eggs into this basket of four– literally. For the next month or so, I will be hoping and wishing and praying that these embryos survive and that one of them will be our baby, our child, our bundle of joy!

Eventually I made it back to Chelsey to get ready. I felt like a nuisance all morning. I was groggy, slow-moving, and still in a bit of leftover pain. The girls didn’t seem to mind, but I still felt awkwardly aware that I should be doing more, contributing more, giving more, and being more present. I felt guilty for not being able to do that in the way I had envisioned and wanted to. As the day continued, I started to feel a bit more myself. Finally, we were all ready and set to go. It was time for Chelsey to get that dress on and get hitched! She was a vision! A beauty! The most breath-taking bride! It was time!

Oh, but then! It began to rain outside. Understandably so, this caused a bit of panic because the ceremony was set up outdoors. However, the staff was amazing and pulled off the feat of getting everything set up indoors within a half hour or so.

The ceremony was beautiful. My brother and Chelsey were married! I cried, he cried, everyone cried. It seemed in an instant my brother was now a man. And I had a new sister!

The bridal party ran around outside and took as many pictures as we could before it started raining again and then it was off for an evening of celebration and fun! Everything was gorgeous and the day turned out to be perfect. I did not have any cocktails and was unable to bust a move on the dance floor, as I usually do, but I was able to see the people I love all under one roof and ring in the new addition to my family, which was very special and heart-warming.

I left the festivities about an hour ahead of everyone else, just because I was so absolutely drained. My legs (from my hips down) were swollen like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. It was quite a sight! Fluid collection/pooling is something to see! While it wasn’t the easiest mission, considering the circumstances, I made it through the whole day after being in the ER the night before. I was so ecstatic I didn’t miss anything and that I was able to be present for Mikey and Chelsey.

Fast forward:

Today is Day 12, post egg retrieval, and I am still battling the bloat, the swelling, the discomfort, and the pain from the cysts rupturing. I’m taking it one day at a time, and getting better.

Baby steps. Pun intended.

The Follicle Factory

Making Baby Sonne: IVF Part I- Stimming

Years ago, the very first day I was prescribed clomid to aid in conceiving a child, I knew deep down it would come to this. I knew I’d have to withstand this complicated and overwhelming process.

I have endured those crazy pills, a plethora of other medications, many procedures, and IUIs—each time putting all of my hope and positivity into the process and praying it would work, even though I’ve always known I would conceive only through IVF. And here I am in the thick of it.

I have been stimulating my ovaries to grow a whole bunch of follicles and maturing them in hopes that they will soon be embryos and that eventually one of them will be growing inside of me for nine months. This is all just so emotional and insane. Science can be so awesomely breathtaking.

The timing of this cycle’s stimulation meds was a little rough. Some might wonder why I didn’t wait until the craziness of this month dies down. Here’s the thing, though. I can’t keep delaying the process because of timing. If I wait for a perfect moment, that day may never come. We were ready, my body was ready, my doctor was ready, and the insurance kicked in at the exact moment we needed it to. Sounds like perfect enough timing to me. Regardless of my philosophy here, this month is nuts. On top of all my summer dance team coaching obligations that pop up throughout this month, I run the Eli’s Cheesecake booth at the Taste of Chicago summer festival. The Taste takes up only 5 days, but they’re long 13+ hour days.  I also have many family parties, showers, graduations, etc. And then there’s the main event— my “little” brother’s wedding. It’s extremely difficult to plan anything around IVF because everything depends on how well and how quickly you respond to the medications. I won’t know when my retrieval will happen until two days beforehand. I’ve been assured it will be scheduled days before Mikey and Chelsey’s big day, though, so hopefully I’ll be fully recovered. I’m living on a hope and a prayer that I won’t have to miss any of my other scheduled happenings.

Starting my shots the day before the taste began was intense. I felt like I was under immense pressure to get the hang of it immediately. I was reluctant. Would I have to do these shots outside? In front of a bunch of people? Is that even sanitary? It all worked out though, and I did not have to worry about any of that. I took my morning shots at the hotel before we left and my evening shots when we came back to go to sleep. I was worried about being away from home and having to go through all of these new processes. Again, I didn’t have to worry. I had great support from Jacob, Meghan and Haley, Cynthia, and my parents through the whole thing. Jacob calmed me down a few times when I felt like I just couldn’t be tough anymore. Meg and Hay were really great helpers during the Taste (and were actually pretty well-behaved and awesome), and then there’s Cynthia. My right-hand woman. My rock. She’s just the best. I mean, could there ever be a more helpful, genuine, reliable, and trustworthy person? I’m so incredibly lucky to call her a friend and little sister. And then there’s my mom and dad. Twice they had to bring me meds to the festival—one that the pharmacy forgot to send me and one I left at home in the fridge because I didn’t think I would need it yet. I was also able to call/text a close family friend (more like an aunt, really) with tons of questions because she’s kind of an expert on this stuff. I also relied heavily on my girls who have been through all of this before. Kristie, Heather, Nichole—thank you for putting up with me. How lucky can a girl be that she has so many outstanding people in her corner? #blessed

OK, so now for the nitty-gritty.

I’d like to preface what you’re about to read by saying this isn’t for everyone. Many of you probably aren’t too interested to read what giving yourself shots is like. Most of you probably don’t care to read a laundry list of side effects or my complications with mixing medications. And that’s ok. I am writing for women who are going through this with me and for women who are searching for answers. Maybe I can help or encourage another infertility or PCOS patient. That is my hope, anyway. It is important to know you’re not alone.

Below you will find a chronicling of my In Vitro Fertilization stimulation days. This is the beginning of my IVF cycle.

Protocol:

Menopur— combo of hormones that stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs

Gonal F— a purified form of follicle-stimulating hormone that is manufactured by extraction from human urine and then purified to remove various proteins and other substances

Cetrotide— can prevent premature ovulation in women undergoing fertility treatments with controlled ovulation.

Dexamethasone—treats inflammation

Doxycycline— can treat and prevent infections

Pregnyl— (trigger) used to cause ovulation and to treat infertility in women

Leuprolide Acetate— synthetic gonadotropin-releasing hormone

 Tuesday, July 5th

  • Stims Day 1- 225 IU Menopur, 300 IU Gonal F

 I had a great deal of trouble mixing my first shot in the morning. I’m going to try to link to a short video here, so you know what I’m talking about.

http://www.freedommedteach.com/eng/videos.html?play=menopur_draw_up_qcap%2Cmenopur_sq

I had to mix three powders in with one cc of sodium chloride and fill the syringe for injection. It doesn’t sound difficult, but it is definitely a process you don’t fully understand until you have to do it. Regardless, I made it through and I did it successfully. I wasn’t nervous at all when I was actually giving myself the shot— just a quick pinch and a bit of stinging after. The mixing is the tricky part and I didn’t want to mess it up. Pressure! At night, I had to use Gonal (Follistim) and that’s easy peasy. I’ve used it before in my IUI protocol, so I was familiar. It’s a cool pen-like thing that clicks to the desired amount, and then you just inject. I felt fine all day, so I was motivated to continue and to grow ALL the follicles!

Wednesday, July 6th

  • Stims Day 2- 225 IU Menopur, 300 IU Gonal F

 The second day of mastering the art of injections was much more successful. No nerves. However, I was starting to feel the effects of taking shots in the belly…. My abdominal and oblique muscles were cramping (like a middle-of-the-night-Charlie-horse-in-calf-muscle sensation). Horrible pain. And nothing really helps it go away. It just eventually eases up. Also, I felt bloated all day. Some of my IVF buddies thought it was weird that I felt so much so early on, so I put a call into the doctor. I was told that everyone is different and each cycle is different. Since I would be monitored on Friday, they were not concerned and thought my complaints were normal. Cool! Keep going!

Thursday, July 7th

  • Stims Day 3- 225 IU Menopur, 300 IU Gonal F

 No nerves! I was already a pro at this point. I was, however, becoming very aware of EXACTLY where my ovaries are in my body, their exact size and shape, and that they were working over-time. I felt like I could feel everything growing in there. Very strange! I was really bloated and just kept drinking water, which only made me feel more bloated, albeit hydrated. I tried to relax as much as possible, but managing a booth at the Taste of Chicago is not the most relaxing atmosphere. I put my feet up on a water cooler in the back of the booth whenever I could.

Friday, July 8th: MONITORING- blood work and ultrasound

  • Stims Day 4- 225 IU Menopur, 300 IU Gonal F

 I followed my Menopur protocol that morning and headed out of The Palmer House hotel off to the doctor at River North. I embarked upon my first solo Uber experience. My driver was uber friendly and followed that with a pleasant morning of blood work and ultrasounds. I would get the call later that I had grown 26 follicles!! Wowza. My estrogen was at 418, which was ok, but they want that number to go up. The doctor added another medicine (an antagonist to prevent ovulation) into my protocol and changed it up a bit. Later that night, I was feeling extremely bloated and uncomfortable… or so I thought.

Saturday, July 9th

  • Stims Day 5- 225 IU Menopur, 0.25 mg Cetrotide, 300 IU Gonal F

 I did not know I could be even more bloated and uncomfortable than I was the previous night. All day, from stomach to pelvis, I felt swollen, sore, bloated, bruised, and just worn out. I cried a little thinking about why it had to be so difficult, but then I stopped feeling sorry for myself and decided to change my outlook. My child is going to know exactly how much he/she was wanted and loved way before he/she was even growing inside of me. I think that is really something special. I really have to work hard for this— it’s going to mean the world when it all falls into place. All of this will be worth it, in the end.

This day was kind of a mess for me. The new shot was tricky. When mixed, it creates little bubbles and you’re not supposed to use it when bubbles are present. I waited for the bubbles to subside; I followed the instructions, but couldn’t get rid of one larger air bubble. I finally decided to use my Q-cap (an easy way to mix and transfer into syringe) and it worked out for me. It was nerve-racking. Again, you wouldn’t fully understand unless you’re actually doing the mixing and preparing the shots. It seems so easy, but it isn’t until you get the hang of it.

This was also the day that Jacob had to go to the IVF center for a semen freeze. These swimmers will be used for IVF only if the sample given on the egg retrieval day is of no use (which is unlikely). He’s being a trooper, but let’s be honest—his job his pretty easy. Ha!

Sunday, July 10th

  • Stims Day 6- 225 IU Menopur, 0.25 mg Cetrotide, 300 IU Gonal F

 Tired. All day. From start to finish. Just wiped out. This could have been because of the meds or because it was the last day of five consecutive 14 hour work days at the Taste of Chicago. Either way, Sunday was a rough one. The day was busy, yet it lasted forever. I was sure I had grapefruits for ovaries; I was really feeling them twinge and swell up. I was just feeling generally uncomfortable. I contemplated lying down in the grass behind the booth to take a nap, but thought that might be a little irresponsible as a manager. Around 3 pm we started to get a ton of business and became pretty busy. I didn’t have time to sulk or feel crappy, so I forced myself to get a second wind. We didn’t get home until 11 pm or so. Needless to say, I went right to sleep. Making follicles and slingin’ cheesecake is tough work.

Monday, July 11th: MONITORING- blood work and ultrasound

  • Stims Day 7- 0.25mg Cetrotide, 150 IU Menopur, 300 IU Gonal F

I woke up bright and early to go get blood work and ultrasounds. I felt really good this morning—maybe it’s because I was finally able to sleep at home…  or maybe it’s because I got to see my Norbert pup… or maybe it’s because I didn’t have to take Menopur this morning! Either way, the results looked really good. My 27 follicles (TWENTY-SEVEN) were coming in around 14-15 mm (well, many of them, not all). That means they are growing (last check-in they were around 10 mm). I also grew an additional follicle from the last ultrasounds, so that’s cool. The more, the merrier (to an extent). My estrogen was at 1,100, so that level almost tripled since the last visit. While it was supposed to go up, that is a big leap—this will need close monitoring because estrogen in excess of 6,000 can mean ovarian hyper stimulation. I was told to come back the very next day for more monitoring. I was getting a lot of twinges and pangs through the better part of the day, so I was very interested to see what the next day’s results would be. I was finding it really difficult to bend at the waist without feeling extra pressure on my ovaries, so I decided to keep relaxed for the day and went in the pool. Ahhhhh, summer. Both of my shots at night stung badly. I wonder why that is.

Tuesday, July 12th: MONITORING- blood work and ultrasound

  • Stims Day 8- 0.25mg Cetrotide, 150 IU Menopur, 300 IU Gonal F

 This day was a roller-coaster. After my antagonist shot in the morning (Cetrotide- the one I do not like), I felt really awful. I was super sore and having that feeling I might cramp up all over my abdomen again. That’s just not fun. I drove to my monitoring appointment feeling really hazy. The sensation that I may pop any moment was strong and it’s extremely uncomfortable. However, when I was having my ultrasound, the technician offered to print pictures of my ovaries to take home. This cheered me up. Later, after I received the results, I found out that I had 32 follicles growing (the biggest one being 20 mm) and that my estrogen was 1600 (so it did not double or triple, as we feared—which was great news). Hearing all of this and having the images to show for it made me feel much better, though. I have been responding really well and that keeps me going for now.

Wednesday, July 13th: MONITORING- blood work and ultrasound

  • Stims Day 9- 0.25mg Cetrotide, 75 IU Menopur, 100 IU Gonal F

 I was really not feeling well this morning. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what didn’t feel well—it’s just a general sense of crappiness. I didn’t want to drink any water, I wasn’t hungry, I felt bloated and sore, and could barely keep my eyes open. Just blah. My veins didn’t want to cooperate and I had to have blood drawn from my hand, so now I have bruises on my belly, arms, and hands—all from needles. Fun stuff, you guys. My cetrotide shot went smoothly this morning and did not hurt, which surprised me. I usually hate that one, so that’s a plus! I awaited the call from my IVF nurse with baited breath. I was hoping she’d tell me to take the trigger shot tonight, so that my retrieval would be Friday, but that was not the news I received. She said my follicles were still growing, but only one is large enough at the moment. She said we will probably stimulate and monitor for two more days (Thursday and Friday) and maybe retrieve on Saturday or Sunday. We won’t know anything for sure until the next day’s results. My Estrogen level jumped from 1,600 to 2,751, which is quite a jump. So, even though we still want to stimulate growth, we have to back down on dosage. I’m dropping to 100 IU of Gonal and 1 vial of Menopur. My nurse said I must take it easy, stay off my feet when I can, limit stairs (I live up three flights, so easier said than done), and to keep replenishing electrolytes. I am extremely full and bloated. I cannot even wrap my brain around this feeling. I feel it when I’m sitting, when I’m standing or moving around, when I have to pee, when I hit slight a bump while driving, when I sneeze, cough, or laugh…. I feel like an over-stuffed pressure cooker.

Thursday, July 14th: MONITORING- blood work and ultrasound

  • Stims Day 10- 0.25mg Cetrotide

What a day. I woke up full. No desire to eat or drink anything, which is not good when you need to replenish electrolytes. As I drove to the doctor, I cried when James Bay came on the radio. Ha! Estrogen! While getting my blood taken, my veins were uncooperative. While getting my ultrasound, my ovaries were uncooperative. My body is just like, “please leave me alone, people.” Later, while trying to relax and not sneeze too hard, the IVF nurse called me to tell me the good news. I am ready to trigger. I have 36 follicles total! There are only ten small-ish ones, so the rest should be pretty good (mature). My estrogen jumped up again. Yesterday’s 2,571 is nothing compared to today’s 4,030! The danger zone is nearing (6,000). I hope I don’t have another jump tomorrow. Tonight (well, technically tomorrow), at 12:30, I will give myself the hCG shot in the butt. I will also use Leuprolide Acetate (which is a new shot for me). I must say I’m extremely relieved my retrieval is Saturday. I’m getting super-duper uncomfortable over here and that makes me antsy. Let’s hope for a bunch of eggs!

Friday, July 15th: MONITORING- blood work only

  • (No) Stims Day 11- 2000 units Pregnyl (hCG), 80 units Leuprolide Acetate (twice, 12 hours apart)

I got myself a little worked up about the trigger shot in the bootie. The needle is bigger and it is intramuscular instead of subcutaneous. However, I pulled up my big girl pants and got on with it. I was freaking out for no reason. It did not hurt at all. In fact, the smaller subcutaneous needle for the other new shot I had to take (Leuprolide) hurt worse because there was much more fluid going in and it stung a little (plus, that one was in my belly and the whole area is already bruised and sore). It is good to know now that the shots in the butt aren’t as bad as I thought. The needle is deceiving! I did it! Twelve hours later, I took my last Leuprolide shot at 12:30 pm and it stung, but I did it!  Stimming done! Now I have to hope, pray, and wish for a smooth retrieval that yields really great, healthy eggs that become grade A embryos (and brace for the supposed pain and suffering after retrieval)!

And that, my friends, is a first timer’s experience with IVF stimulation meds/shots and a wrap on IVF Part I. After I give myself a bit of time to lie around and heal after the retrieval, I will write all about it. I’m assuming it will be MUCH shorter than this post. Thank you for reading and thank you even more for your support and encouragement.

A New Day, A New Protocol

Who would have thought making one tiny little human Sonne would be this difficult? I guess I don’t have to tell you, but our last IUI didn’t work. I had to hear the “we’re so sorry, we don’t have good news for you today” phone call AGAIN. This one was really hard. I was feeling so optimistic. It felt different this time.  I had to give myself a bit to grieve the loss of a child that never was… What an inexplicable thing.

There is a ray of hope off in the distance, however: a new protocol!

Here we go! Heavy artillery time (and I’m not talking about automatic or semi-automatic assault rifles— #enough).  I’m talking about Menopur, Follistim, Ganirelix, Doxycyline, Minivelle, Dexamethasone, HCG, Leuprolide Acetate, Valium (haven’t figured out what this one is for yet), Tylenol 3, and Endometrin.  Wow. That’s a mouthful. On July 5th I begin my drug protocol for In Vitro Fertilization.

I’m over the moon at the moment because while IVF could potentially cost tens of thousands of dollars, Jacob’s new insurance covers the procedures and most of the meds. The timing of the new policy kicking right before we begin IVF is just MAGICAL. TREMENDOUS. REMARKABLE. EXTRAORDINARY.

Technically, I’ve already started. I’ve been on birth control pills (seems so opposite of the point, right?) for a few weeks to bring all of my hormones back down to a beginning level (start of a cycle/period). I will stop the pill in a few days and have my baseline testing (blood work and ultrasound). These tests will tell me if my ovaries, uterus, and hormones are all on the same page and ready to begin. I then give my body a few days to get back to normal (have a period) and begin the medicines on July 5th. I have to take several pills (including an antibiotic and a corticosteroid), one shot of Menopur in the morning, and one shot of Follistim in the evening. After a few days, I will go in for monitoring. They will check to see if the protocol and dosages are working by checking my hormone levels and having a good look at the follicles on my ovaries. Hopefully there are a bunch of follicles growing. I will follow this process and continue to be monitored until it looks like most of the follicles are getting bigger (they like them to be around 21-23mm, but they will take smaller ones, too). I will then give myself a shot of HCG (pregnancy hormone) to trigger the release of eggs. Approximately 36 hours after I take the trigger shot, my eggs will be retrieved.

The retrieval is the scary part to me. I will be under a “twilight” anesthesia. I’ve never been under before, so this is unnerving. I’ve also been told that I will be extremely out of it and super sore for a while after this. A day, maybe two… it could be more if I’m unlucky. I was told to warn Jacob that “the princess treatment” fill be in full effect. On the day of retrieval, I cannot drive and I will have a hard time doing mostly anything. He’ll have to be at my beck and call. The potentially WONDERFUL part about this day is that the doctor will be able to tell me how many eggs she retrieved. The doctor hopes for 7 or more eggs—the more, the better (hopefully without hyperstimulation— which can cause another whole set of issues I don’t even want to think about at the moment).

After the retrieval, the eggs will meet up with their soulmates (Jacob’s swimmers) in a petri dish and become embryos. They will hopefully experience cell division and then continue to grow for a few days. Some will thrive and some will not make it. The ones that thrive will be graded A, B, or C. A’s are great. B’s are ok, too. And while the grade of a C is not too shabby, on the grading scale of embryos they fail and are not to be used. At this stage in the game, because I am “young,” only embryos with the grade of an A will be used. These little guys (or gals) will then be biopsied. This test will determine the most viable embryos. The microscopic little tykes will then be frozen.

Hi, little fellers. <3

Hi, little fellers.

For a few different reasons, I will not be having a fresh transfer. The main reason is because of the testing. If I chose to do a fresh transfer, I would have to do so on day 3 or day 5. The biopsy requires embryos to be at day 7. The other reason is that my doctor believes that doing a frozen transfer, instead of fresh, will allow my body time to heal. I’ll have the embryo(s) transferred into me during the next cycle and it won’t be nearly as invasive or stressful, which is an awesome thing. Apparently, with some women, frozen is the way to go…. So I will not argue with this…. And I have just knocked on wood as to not jinx anything.

And so it begins….

 

 

TWW: Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Warning: TMI ahead. If you are squeamish or a boy that cannot deal, stop reading.

 

Operation Making Baby Sonne, Part Two, IUI #4:

I am in what we call the “two-week-wait,” or TWW, also known as hell. That is the typical 14 days in between ovulation and the arrival of a period or, even better, a missed period. I am ten days past my first IUI and 9 days past my second. I have three more days to go until my quantitative blood test that will tell me if I have even the slightest hint of HCG in my system. If I do, you know what that means. If I don’t, well, you get the idea.


tww joke
My brain right now is fried. I am feeling all of the feels. Every minute of the day, I am wondering if this time is THEE time. Every twinge or every pain is processed in my mind as a sign. Any stereotypical thing you may have heard about early pregnancy symptoms, I am most likely experiencing them. Sore, painful, and tender breasts (check) slight pressure or dull cramping (check) bloated (check) fatigue (check) emotional or weepy (check). All sounds good, right? It seems as if my body may be experiencing some early pregnancy symptoms. And that’s what my brain keeps telling me, too. However, you and my brain are wrong. Even if I were experiencing these symptoms, there would be no way to tell for sure. Why, you ask? The answer is simple—a little hormone called progesterone. Supplementing with progesterone mocks symptoms of pregnancy because it truly is the “mommy” hormone. This hormone supports pregnancy and is needed in particular amounts and it is extremely important to the survival of an embryo as it implants and grows. It makes the lining of the uterus a nice, safe, and cushy environment, so that the little bugger can flourish. Because I’m battling infertility and PCOS, I have a tendency to not produce the right amount of any hormone. I have to take progesterone supplements just in case I am actually pregnant. If you don’t have enough, like me, you must supplement. Lucky me! This is the fun part. Three times I day, I have to use a progesterone vaginal insert tablet. It is just as lovely as it sounds. You place the horse-pill sized tab on an applicator, and to put it mildly, proceed like you would with a tampon. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Sure. But when that large white tablet starts breaking down and seeping out, it becomes another story entirely. It becomes quite the uncomfortable mess. For a visual, because I know you’re dying to have one, picture your period—only white and chalky. Fun times! Are you wishing you didn’t click the link to this blog yet?

Alright, fine. Enough with the gross stuff. That’s not the worst part anyway. The worst stuff happens in my brain. One minute I am filled with hope and positivity. The very next minute my stomach drops as if I were waiting on a rollercoaster and I’m at the top, a millisecond away from the big drop—this happens when the hope flitters away and despair creeps back in. Finally, when I’ve had enough doom and gloom, I start the search for answers. Google to the rescue! There’s this devilish little website called Countdown to Pregnancy. You’re able to look up symptoms by number of days past ovulation to see what actual pregnancy charts have revealed. They have actually compiled data on symptoms of pregnant women, made charts and graphs on the data, and posted it to play infuriating mind games with other women who are trying to conceive. And do I avoid this site? Nope… because I’m a glutton for punishment, maybe?

It is empty and strange when you feel less than—less than healthy, less than a woman, less than a wife, less than a mommy, less than capable of fulfilling my own dreams, less than human. Because in order to accomplish what most women can do quite easily, and have been doing since the beginning of humans, I have to take pills and injections, seek out specialists, have blood drawn weekly (sometimes more), continually be monitored by ultrasounds, and be inseminated artificially. No romance, no fond memories of the day when dear daughter or dear son was conceived—just petri dishes and microscopes and needles and catheters.

Honestly though, the absolute worst part about it all is that I’m ready to go through it all again if I must. If this round doesn’t work, I will be back at it next month, and the month after, and the one after that.

Some people might say that “going through all of this is a choice.” Some people might say, “know when to say when.” Some people might be sick of hearing me complain about it or maybe they’re sick of hearing about my infertility in general. Some people might say that “maybe it isn’t meant to be.” To these people, I might say stop reading my posts, please. I’m not asking for a pity party or sympathy from anyone. I write to express the feelings I am trying to work through and I write for other women going through similar situations. This is a lonely and debilitating process; I’m coping the best I can. I may share a lot of what I’m going through on Facebook or WordPress, but what I share doesn’t even cover the half of it. It’s a knock-down-drag-out fight. And after I fall, I immediately want to get back up and give it another go—despair and emptiness in one minute, hope and promise for the future in the next. Words cannot describe it effectively. The only way to really understand this mess is to experience it, and I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone…. Except Voldemort, maybe.

And that is my brain on the last leg of my two-week-wait.

 

Half Agony, Half Hope

Operation Making Baby Sonne, Part 2, Round 2:

Yes. Jacob and I did two more IUIs. Sorry we didn’t tell you.

To be honest, I didn’t tell anyone about this round besides my parents. Last time, with the big fat negative pregnancy test, I just felt I was letting too many people down. Don’t get me wrong, I am very thankful for having so many of you supporting me through this. However, this time, I conducted an experiment to see if I would feel less stressed not having to talk about it. It didn’t help. I was not less stressed, nor was it any less difficult. In fact, I ended up spilling the beans about treatment to a bunch of people anyway. I’m an open book and have a super difficult time pretending otherwise…

So, let’s break down this round from the start.

Soon after my last negative test, I had a phone consultation with my doctor. We agreed to begin another round and do the same meds, same timing, same monitoring, and same procedures as last time. No big deal. I did it once; I could do it again. I started with the letrozole pills to get those follicles growing. Nothing, nada. The only thing the pills grew were several little zits all over my chin and cheeks, which is upsetting because I never have pimples. Ever!

pimples

What the heck, man?

The doc said to try five more pills. This time I grew seven big follicles, one fully mature and ready to pop. That night I did the HCG trigger shot. I continued with back to back IUIs, just like last time. They fell on a Saturday and Sunday, so I didn’t even have to miss any work. It was awesome. Jacob and I got hang out downtown, go out for breakfast, and not have to worry about rushing around. Next up is the dreaded two-week wait. So then we wait…

And wait…

And today the long-awaited blood test arrives…

The result are in…

Negative.

Every time I do this, I know I have to become a little stronger, a bit braver, and a little more enthusiastic. I have to keep talking myself into it—don’t give up—remain calm— think positive thoughts. But each and every time it just knocks me on my ass. I feel absolutely broken. I’m not sure how many more times I can pick up the pieces, throw on my brave face, and just keep trying. I honestly just don’t know anymore. I know I’m strong, but this is verging on torturous. I create another deeper wound before the other even heals. There’s only one thing able to heal these kind of wounds, and that may never happen. I truly have to begin facing the demoralizing fact this might not happen for me. I might not be able to become a mom… ever.