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PCOS Pity Party: Coming to terms with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

If you’re reading this, it means I’m finally feeling comfortable enough to share my struggle with the world.  That’s not an easy feat for someone like me, who prides themselves on keeping things close.  But the thing I find most frustrating about what I’m going through right now, is that I can’t find anyone that shares in my pain.

I’ve found blogs posted by other women and some of them are wonderfully uplifting.  I’m not in that place yet.  I’m not going to “Let go and let God”.  I don’t know that I believe God exists.  And if he/she does, why would so many deserving people have such a problem building a family and so many shitty parents seem to have no problem?  The news is constantly littered with stories of child abuse and neglect.  Why do those parents get rewarded with one of the most beautiful gifts in life, one that they clearly take for granted?  It’s not fair and that fucking sucks.

The point of this blog is to share the journey as my husband and I navigate through IUI and IVF in an attempt to start a family together.  I hope you’re able to take something away from my story; whether it hits home or close to it, I hope that it will provide insight into what some couples go through to build their happily ever after.

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If you’re wondering what the hell the title of this blog post means, it’s IVF-speak for 3 days post day 5 day transfer.  That’s how all the cool kids going through IVF talk, so I figured I’d give it a try.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity the last 8 days.  Last Wednesday was our egg retrieval and it was just as I remembered; painful as shit.  You see, they give you some painkillers, but they have to use them sparingly, as too much can hurt the eggs.  Then, a needle is inserted into the uterus to remove the follicular fluid as well as the egg from each follicle.  After, the follicle is void of fluid and egg, however, it doesn’t deflate right away, so it feels like having an abdomen filled with air.  Actually, it felt exactly like this:

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Thursday, I went back to work in a fair amount of pain and feeling fat as hell, but tried to keep myself busy.  The day after the retrieval is when we would find out whether our transfer would be scheduled 3 days or 5 days after the retrieval.  You see,  after the retrieval, my eggs are married with Lee’s sperm via a procedure called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection).  All of the eggs are injected with sperm and then left untouched for roughly 20 hours to fertilize.  At the end of that 20 hours, if a couple has four eggs fertilized or less, Dr. Corfman schedules a 3 day transfer, the idea being that the woman’s uterus is a better incubator than the ones in the lab.  If there are more than four eggs fertilized, a 5 day transfer will be scheduled.  A 5 day transfer allows them to watch the embryos more closely and better determine which ones might result in a pregnancy.  Day 5 transfer success rates are a bit higher than 3 day transfers for that reason.

We didn’t find out how many fertilized eggs we had on Thursday, but we were scheduled for a 5 day transfer.  We chose not to ask how many eggs we had, as anything can happen in those 5 days.  We didn’t want to be told we had one number and then find out a bunch didn’t make it to the 5 day mark.  We did find out, however, that Lee gave one of his best samples for this cycle.  Not only was that something to celebrate, but it was sort of a feather in my cap as well:  Proof that all the nagging I did to change bad eating and increase exercise worked.  At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Monday morning was our transfer.  They give you a little report card when you show up that let’s you know what you’re working with.  The report card stated the following:

17 oocytes retrieved

15 oocytes ICSI’d

14 oocytes fertilized

13 viable embryos

First off, those numbers are pretty fucking incredible.  By the time a woman gets to my age, 40-60% of her eggs are considered abnormal.  One of the great things about aging!  We knew I would probably have a high retrieval rate because of my PCOS, but the number of eggs (oocytes) that are considered normal is always going to be a crap shoot.  On our last cycle, I had 26 eggs retrieved, 19 of which were considered normal.  Because I work in accounting and numbers are my favorite, I’ll have you know that 73% of my eggs were considered normal with our first cycle.  I was pretty jazzed about that  way back when.  But look at my numbers this time.  17 retrieved, 15 considered normal – 88%.  My eggs jumped a a full letter grade and a half.  We were awestruck.  Though they retrieved less eggs this time, we actually had more viable embryos.  We left the retrieval, still cautiously optimistic, but finally, maybe, just a little more optimistic than cautious.

But we still had one more hurdle to clear.  They don’t freeze embryos until day 6, so we had to wait one more day to determine how many embryos would be freezable and allow for future cycles, in the event that this one is not successful.  So we waited anxiously for one more day, fairly certain that with the numbers we put up this time, at least a couple would make it to the freezing stage.  NOPE.  What’s inside me is what we’re working with.  We’ve experienced this before, but that doesn’t make it any easier to hear a second time.

The good news, is that Lee didn’t take this news lying down.  He did some research because, frankly, we were dumbfounded.  How on earth have we had 25 viable embryos between 2 IVF cycles and yet, we have no back up?  Well, it turns out that only about 20-25% off eggs make it to day 6.  There are plenty of cycles that don’t produce freezable embryos but still result in a positive pregnancy test.  So currently, that’s the glimmer of hope we’re holding on to.  That, and Dr. Corfman told us that my uterus had an A+ rating.  I’m basically a uterine valedictorian.

So that’s where it stands.  We’re currently in the dreaded two week waiting period, where we try to keep ourselves busy and not think about anything baby related, all the while secretly counting the hours until we find out the results.

 

Wholly Unprepared

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I’ve been staring at this empty page for what feels like ages.  I’m just not sure what to say.  Our retrieval has been scheduled and I’m feeling entirely unprepared.

We went in for an ultrasound and blood draw on Sunday morning.  At last count, I’ve got roughly 30 follicles, roughly half of which were at about 12-14 mm. The others were all under 10 mm.  At that point, the nurses weren’t quite sure whether they would try to bring me in for one more ultrasound or if they were going to schedule the trigger shot.  Sunday afternoon we received a call letting us know it was time.  We would do one more stimulation shot, two more follicle maturing shots and 3 more anti-ovulation shots.  The HCG and the Lupron trigger shot (designed to keep my ovaries from hyper stimulation – common in women with PCOS) were scheduled for 10:30 p.m. on Memorial Day, with the retrieval scheduled for exactly 36 hours later, at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday.

If it seems to you that things are progressing a lot faster this time around, that’s because they are.  We had 12 days between our first shot and egg retrieval on our last cycle.  This time it was only 9.  I don’t honestly know if that’s a good or a bad thing.  It just is what it is, I guess.  What I do know, is that everything seems different this time.  I don’t remember feeling bloated and achy last time, until the day of the retrieval.  This time, I feel like the fricken Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. I haven’t gained any weight during this cycle.  If anything, I’ve dropped a couple of pounds, but I’m so bloated that I feel as though I look like I could already be pregnant.  I also don’t remember being this sad.  I’m sure it’s mostly hormonal, but I can’t seem to shake it.  Most days have been fine, but the last couple have been pretty terrible.  And I can’t quite figure out why.  Maybe because I have no choice but to be ready before I truly feel ready.

That’s all I know for now.  Our transfer date won’t be determined until after the retrieval and will be contingent upon how many eggs successfully fertilize.  At this point, we know it will either be Saturday or Monday.  I’m desperately hoping that we have better luck with that this time.  If you remember our last retrieval they took 26 eggs.  One of their technicians even mentioned that she’d never seen so many eggs get collected at one time.  That left me feeling pretty amazing.  Sore as fuck, but incredibly proud of what my body was capable of.  Of the 26 eggs, 19 were considered normal.  Again, great news and higher than average numbers.  Of those 19, 12 fertilized normally.  Lee and I were overjoyed at the these facts, feeling pretty confident that we would be an IVF success story.  And yet, none of those 12 ended up being viable embryos.  I honestly don’t know if I’m strong enough to endure that kind of pain again.  And I don’t know that I’m ready to find out.  But I don’t really have a choice anymore, do I?

I’m going to go underground again for a bit.  Call it self-preservation, if you will.  To those of you that have followed along through our journey, thank you.  To those that have felt compelled to reach out, just to let us know you’re hoping for the best for us, I can’t even begin to describe what your thoughts and kindness have meant.  Know that I’ll be carrying those thoughts with me tomorrow, all the way through our transfer, up to our pregnancy test, and beyond.  I hope this story finally gives us the happy ending (beginning, really) that we’ve been hoping for.

 

 

Europe 2k18

Well, this should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, but surprise!  Lee and I are planning another Europe trip.  5 months from today, we’ll be on our way.

How can we afford this you ask?  Skymiles.  You see, roughly 5 years ago, when Lee and I were planning our wedding, I suggested that we sign up for the Delta Skymiles Card.  While we had some money set aside for our wedding, I figured if we were going to have the party we wanted, it was going to involve some debt.  And if we were going to incur some debt, we might as well get some credit card perks to go with it.  As we planned our wedding, we would put all purchases on the credit card, and then pay it off as soon as possible.  We managed to amass a fair number of miles this way, but not quite enough to pay for a honeymoon.  That would have to wait.

Then 4 rounds of IUI and 2 rounds of IVF happened.  We’ve got miles coming out of our ears at this point.  So many, in fact, that we’re able to pay for both of our flights with miles and still have enough leftover for another trip.  I guess that’s our silver lining?  Thanks inferility!

We’ll start the trip in London as usual, because that’s our favorite place in the entire world.

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Why do we love London so much?   The history is definitely a huge part of it.  Walking through a city with over 1,000 years of well-documented history is pretty awe-inspiring.  Also, the food is pretty amazing.  Don’t let anyone tell you that Brits don’t know food.  That’s false.  London is a melting pot of culture, so there’s something for everyone when it comes to food.  The last time we were there, we had great pub food, but we enjoyed fantastic Italian and Turkish fare as well.  The walkability of the city is another reason to be obsessed.  There’s so much to see in London and most everything is conveniently accessible by foot, tube or train.  Finally, the hotel company I work for has such great hotel deals over in Europe that it allows us to stay in luxury without breaking the bank.  As long as they keep offering such a generous perk, I will make sure to take advantage.

After a fun-filled 4 days in London, we’re heading to Amsterdam!

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Neither Lee and I have ever been to Amsterdam, unless you count an hour-long layover at their airport.  There’s so much to see in the Netherlands!  We’ll be spending 3 days there, and so far have plans to do a half-day trip out to the countryside as well as a trip to the Anne Frank museum.  Other than that?  We’ll do what we do best on vacation.  Walk around and take in the sights.

We’re hoping to take the Eurostar out to Amsterdam, as they now have a direct from London.  On the way back we’re planning on making a stopover in Brussels.  Depending on how long we have in Belgium, Lee would like to make a quick trip to Bruges as well.  One of his favorite movies is the dark comedy “In Bruges” so Lee’s looking forward to channeling his inner Colin Farrell for an afternoon.  (I’d personally prefer that he channel his inner Colin Firth, but that’s another discussion altogether).

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Bruges is known as one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so I’m looking forward to taking in the history!  After a quick trip through Belgium, it’s back to London for a couple more days to wrap up our vacation.

Naturally, we’re hoping for a big fat positive at the end of this cycle, which would make this vacation a pretty epic babymoon.  In the event that we don’t get the outcome we’re hoping for, we’ll need something to look forward to.  While I don’t know that there’s anything that will quell the sadness and disappointment we’ll be experiencing if this round doesn’t work, spending some time in our favorite place will probably help to ease the pain; at least for a little while.

Keeping up the cautiously optimistic attitude in the meantime.  T-minus 4 weeks until we learn the outcome.

 

It Begins…..Again

We hit the ground running today.  Ready or not, the time has arrived.

Our first ultrasound took place this morning.  My endometrial lining is right where they want it, all of my cysts are under control, my ovaries look good.  I was instructed to go ahead with my first dose of hormones.  We should be excited, right?  Well, we are, except for one thing:  We’ve been here before.

It feels like we’re walking an emotional tightrope this time around.  We get good news and feel on top of the world.  But then we remember we’ve heard this good news before and didn’t fall pregnant, which brings us right back down to earth.  Naturally we want to stay optimistic, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves.  If our cycles had an underlying theme, this one’s would be “cautiously optimistic”.

My focus this time will be a little bit different than it was during our last go around.  Last time I was very focused on healthy eating, exercise and all that jazz.  While I still plan on keeping a healthy lifestyle, this time around I’m going to be laser-focused on my attitude and stress levels.  My emotions have been a veritable smorgasbord, much, I’m sure, to Lee’s dismay.  Emotions have been heightened for the last few months as I’ve tried to come to terms with our last cycle as well as attempting to mentally prepare for this one.  The stress and anger have been a little too much at times.  And I’m letting things that normally shouldn’t bother me throw me completely off-kilter.  I really need to focus on not letting the minutiae of every day life get to me as much as it has the last few months.  Try as I might, I can’t control everything.  I can only control how I react.  And my reactions need to chill out a bit.

The good news is, it’s almost impossible to be upset in Minneapolis in late spring.  Spring started off like an evil joke this year, but we’re finally getting the mid 70s and sunny days that keep most of us Minnesotans in the bold North.  It’s also a short week for me!  I’m two weeks from my 2-year anniversary at my job and have a few vacation days to use or lose.  I’m choosing to enjoy a 5-day weekend this week.  And I’m trying to ensure I make enough time this week to do the things I enjoy.  I have 3 books on loan from my local library, and my goal is to finish at least one this weekend.  Other plans include drinking tea on my deck, planting some flowers and enjoying the beauty of the season.  I’ll also probably spend an exorbitant amount of time with my husband.  Did I mention how much I enjoy his company?  I feel like I might have casually mentioned it once or twice on this blog.  A long weekend with my main squeeze sounds like the perfect way to spend a holiday.

I have no doubt the second cycle will seem to go much faster than the first one.  We’re excited and scared, hopeful and nervous for the outcome.  The time has arrived and now we’ve got to put our game faces on and get ready for a whirlwind of a month.

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Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is always a funny day for those of us that struggle with infertility.  If you dare to go on any form of social media, you will no doubt see pictures of mothers with their children and sappy, albeit beautifully written posts from sons and daughters touting the super women they are lucky enough to call mom.  And while you’re so incredibly happy for the outpouring of love that every mother is receiving, there’s still a part of your heart that breaks if you’re not a mom but want to be.

So you know what?  I might not be the mother of another human, but I’m most definitely the mother of three amazing animals.  This is my mother’s day tribute to them.

Omar

Omar is an 11 year-old Rat Terrier.  I got Omar when he was just an adorable little 6-week old puppy; practically small enough to fit in the palm of your hand.

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Omar is an incredibly well-behaved little dude.  He never wants to be too far away from Mom and Dad and prefers when both Lee and I are home together.  If one of us is missing from the homestead, it’s safe to say that Omar will be laying in our bedroom, completely morose until we return.

Omar believes that he should be the center of our universe.  He doesn’t appreciate when we pay too much attention to the cats, and he especially doesn’t like it when Lee and I pay too much attention to each other.  In his mind, his spot on the couch, in bed, and in life should always be right between us.

Omar loves car rides, human food, wearing clothes, and an early bedtime.  Yet, for as excited as he gets to go to bed at a decent hour, he still has so much life and playfulness in him.  He especially loves to put on a show whenever we have friends over.  He parades around with his squeaky toys, daring our guests to play tug of war.  He’ll drop the toy at their feet, almost as if he’s offering a welcome present, only to snatch it back up and growl playfully as they try to wrench it from his mouth.

Omar has forever spoiled me as a dog mom.  The love that he puts forth is so pure, so unconditional.  I’m most definitely a better person for having been his mom.

 

Gladys

I refer to Gladys as my “angel princess”.  Named after my paternal grandmother because of her beautiful green eyes, Gladys is extremely cuddly and affectionate girl.  She expects pets and head scratches first thing when you walk in the door, and she expects a lot of them.  So much so, that if you even think about walking away from the pets before she’s had enough, you can expect that she will try to hook your hand with her paw to get your attention.  Don’t be surprised if she also tries to bite you to get her point across.  The good news, however, is that half of her teeth were removed last year due to a mouth infection, so when she bites, you won’t feel a thing.  If she really wants to get her point across, she’ll just climb right on top of you and make herself comfortable.

Gladys enjoys pets, rubber bands, playing with her mouse toys, waking us up with meows in the middle of the night to let us know she’s playing with her mouse toys, dry food and me.  She will accept affection from her father, but she’s a mama’s girl through and through.  Gladys’ dislikes include playing with our other cat, Roger, and when any of the neighbor cats walk through our yard.  Gladys spends many nights sleeping on my pillow, right above my head as if she’s my very own cat hat.

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I’ve said before, in this blog and in daily conversation, but I’ll say it again:  Gladys might very well be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.  Gladys greets me at the door every day when I get home from work, ready for affection.  Whenever I’m having a bad day, Gladys is there to make me feel better with cuddles and nuzzles.  Cats can often be such finicky creatures, but I really hit the jackpot with this one.

Roger

How do I explain Roger?  He’s just a super chill little dude.  Actually, he’s not all that little.  The fact that he helps himself to Omar’s food and attempts to steal food from Lee and I has given him a little bit of a pooch.  He’s not fat per sé, but the vet has advised not to let him gain any more weight.

Roger came to us when he was 8 weeks old.  He and Gladys took to each other initially, because he was an adorable helpless little kitten who needed a mom.  However, he soon grew out of his cuddly phase and has been rocking the tormenting little brother phase for the last 5 and a half years.

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Roger lives for food and naps.  He also enjoys making space for himself in places where he doesn’t quite fit.  He’s the most malleable cat I’ve ever met.  You can pick him up, move him around, make him dance, whatever.  He’s never bothered.  And while he’s just as affectionate as Gladys, he’s not nearly as needy.  Mostly he just wants a comfortable place to take one of his 500 daily naps.

He’s a creature of habit, following us to bed every night and staying with us straight through until morning.  He takes turns sleeping between my legs and Lee’s but he’s definitely a “bros before hos” kind of cat.  Most nights, Roger can be found “bro-ing” out with his dad and watching TV.

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As I write this blog post, my heart is filled with such pride.  While I hope our family isn’t done growing, I do have to say we are a pretty amazing little family of  5.  These 3 (and Lee) are my absolute world.  I’m so thankful to be their mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you amazing women out there.  Whether you’re a Grandma, Mom, Mother-in-Law, Mother-to-Be, Cat Mom, Dog Mom, Aunt, Sister, or just one hell of a woman, you deserve to be celebrated for all you bring to the table.

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After my last breakdown, I received the following message from a friend, one who knows the struggle all too well.  I’ve been ruminating on her message for the last few weeks, and about what her kind words have meant to me.  It is so beautifully written, that I felt I had to share.

Even though my journey ended with 3 beautiful gifts from God – it doesn’t mean, for one second, that my heart isn’t with you.

I know your pain.  Your anger.  Your frustration.  Your exhaustion.  Your hope.  Your prayers.  Your tears.  Your anxiety.  Your desperation.  I know all of it.  The financial struggle, the energy to keep going after so many disappointments.  The feeling of why her?

My heart is with you.  And while our journeys may be different – please know I pray for yours everyday.  Every single day.  Every time I look at my gifts from God.  Every time they make a mess or won’t sleep.  Each time they make me want to hide in the closet with a back of Reese’s.  I stop – and pray for you.  You yearn for the “bad toddler” days.  I know you do.  Because I yearned for them.  For years.

So I am here to tell you are justified in EVERY emotion you feel.  Except loneliness.  Please, please promise me you’ll keep reaching out – to me, to a support group, to anyone who will listen.  If a baby is the desire of your heart, then you have to walk this road – but you don’t have to walk it alone.  And I promise you – I promise with every fiber of my being – it’s all worth it.  Every last bit.

Her message got me thinking, specifically about friendship.  I’ve tried to stay off the grid the last few weeks, as I deal with my anxiety over the impending cycle.  Yet, there have been a small handful of people who refuse to let me go it alone, despite how much I’ve tried to evade all human contact.   And this post is, in small part, a way to thank them for their kindness and friendship, as I go through the hardest thing I’ve ever endured in my life for a second time.

To my best friend, my ride or die, my PIC.  Who has refused to let me go through any of this alone.  Who has called after appointments, shot me up with fertility drugs, held my hand and wiped my tears.  Who oozes enough positivity for the both of us, so on the days when I feel particularly hopeless and self-deprecating, I know she’ll carry me through until I can stand on my own two feet again.  Who understands that sometimes I just need to be alone and never takes it personally, but instead, keeps calling, texting and sending me funny memes just to let me know she’s thinking of me.

To the girls in my book club, who always make a point to ask how we’re doing every time I see them.  They make me feel comfortable with talking about where we’re at and how I feel.  And after my last breakdown, a card and beautiful little plant showed up on our doorstep.  It was such a nice little pick-me-up and both Lee and I appreciated the thought and kind words.

To the friends, going all the way back to elementary school all the way up through college and beyond, that have reached out and sent messages filled with kind thoughts from all across the country.

To the friend who listened to me vent as we walked 3 miles around the lake and then took me out for sushi afterward.

To the friend who came over so we could co-celebrate our April birthdays with cake that we wouldn’t have to share with anyone else.  The same friend, who, every time I see her, asks what she can do to support me.

The friend who’s going through enough of her own personal issues right now, but still sends the occasional text telling me that we’re on her mind  and my personal favorite, that she “believes in my uterus”.

To my two coworkers (friends, really) who ask how I’m doing and give me a safe space to be vulnerable if the need hits me mid-workday.

I can’t even begin to describe what each and every one of these kindnesses has meant to me in the last few weeks.  Ever since I went public with our struggle,  every now and then, I find myself wondering if being so public and vocal about our infertility was the right thing to do.  It seems to make some people uncomfortable.  But I hope that whoever is out there reading this blog, that you have managed to find something to take away from it.  Whether you’ve recognized the struggle because you’re currently going through it, or perhaps, you’ve watched a loved one endure the same pain.  If anything I’ve shared over the last year has made a difference to you, then I’ve been successful.

To those that have reached out and been supportive, especially those that have helped us gear up for our second round, I am forever grateful.  I might not have the biggest support system, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got the best one.

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Parade Raining

Pardon me, while I fall off the face of the earth for a while.

Today has been a stressful day and it’s only half over.  I sit at my desk trying to focus on work, when what I really want to do is eat and drink my feelings.  Or escape this reality for a little while.  Anything to take my mind off the next week.

Our IVF down payment is due next Tuesday.  We are prepared for this.  We owe $11,735 up front to cover the retrieval and transplant.  All other appointments will be billed separately with the final payment due 30 days after all is said and done.  I looked back at how much those appointments cost last year and it ended up being about $2200.  Not cheap, but we’ve got some time to save and pay those off.  I’m not worried about that at all.  After all, I work in finance, so money is kind of my thing.

What we were not prepared for, however, was the ASTRONOMICAL cost for the fertility drugs,  Remember, if you will, that when we went through this last year, I had already met my medical deductible due to my gallbladder surgery.  When we ordered our medications, I only had to pay for one drug, due to my insurance not covering that particular one.  Our drug treatments costs a whopping $450.  I knew we were lucky; I had done some research on how much fertility drugs would cost and ballpark was $3-5k.  Staggering, right?  Well, let me tell you, that even if you’ve done your research and you feel like you’re mentally prepared to handle the cost of these drugs, you’re not ACTUALLY prepared to handle the final total.  This round of medications?  $4,612.86.  To my knowledge, that doesn’t include refills on any of the medications.  Just let that sink in for a second.

I’ve been trying so hard to work on my attitude this last week.  Just yesterday, I volunteered at a place called Open Arms in Minneapolis.  Open Arms is a non-profit organization that delivers free healthy, nutritious meals to people with life-threatening illnesses in the Twin Cities.  As I worked alongside my co-workers, I was struck by how lucky I am.  I have my health, my husband, a roof over my head.  It could be a lot worse.  Then I get hit with this fertility medication total and I’m pissed off at the world again.  It shouldn’t be this hard.  It shouldn’t cost this much.  Terrible people have kids everyday and yet, all my husband and I want is to have one (seriously, we’ll settle for just one!) child of our own and the universe says “fuck you.”  You want this to happen?  Well, we’re going to make you work really fucking hard for it, and we’re not guaranteeing shit.

We’ve got the love.  We’ve got the desire.  We’ve got the money.  We’ve got the space.  We’ve got everything we need to welcome a child into this world. Apparently, that just isn’t enough.

So excuse me, while I ponder the unfairness of it all.  Because, right now, I’ve had about enough of this bullshit.

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It’s All Happening

It’s been a weird week.  I think most Minnesotans would agree.  It’s the middle of April and we just got hit with a two-day snowstorm that left over a foot of snow in the Twin Cities area.  Spring has been an elusive slag, with temperatures averaging about 15 degrees below normal.  While I’m sure these meteorological issues aren’t the sole reason for the depression that barreled at me this week, I’m sure it didn’t help matters.

It started with insomnia on Sunday night.  For whatever reason, insomnia is a common side effect with PCOS.  There’s no real evidence that I’ve found to explain why it happens, but insomnia seems to occur frequently with my fellow cysters. For me, there’s no telling how many consecutive nights I’ll be subjected to sleeplessness.  Sometimes, it’s just a night, sometimes it can last up to a week or more.  Unfortunately, this time around, it lasted for a solid 6 days.  Each night, I’d wake up at roughly the same time, and turn on the TV, tossing and turning, hoping the voices would lull me back into a fruitful REM cycle.  Yet each morning, I would get out of bed more delirious than the day before.  By Thursday, I was so exhausted that everything took too much effort.  I went radio silent, refusing to answer text messages or phone calls.  When Lee got home, I told him I was sorry, and that I wasn’t mad at him, but I needed him not to talk to me.  Lee was a trooper, and just let me be.  He sat on the opposite couch all evening being silent, his presence so very appreciated.

By the weekend, I started to recover.  I was finally able to fall asleep and stay asleep Friday night.  I still wasn’t ready to be too social, but I slowly felt like I was becoming myself again.  The blizzard was almost a blessing in disguise, really.  I often spread myself too thin on weekends and I didn’t have the opportunity to do that.  The blizzard almost kind of saved me from myself this weekend.  I was able to lay around, be lazy and really focus on listening to my body and what it needed.  My amazing husband took care of all of the shoveling and laundry, and even made a mid-snowstorm grocery run, so that we’d have snacks on hand for the impending snowpocalypse.  By Sunday, I felt as though I was finally back to my old self.  And just in time:  We have a big week ahead of us.

We didn’t get the good news we were hoping for with Lee’s sperm sample.  We didn’t get bad news, per sé, but it wasn’t the news we were hoping for.  Lee’s sample has not improved.  It’s frustrating for both of us, but especially for him.  I see him trying everything he can think of to improve his health and lifestyle.  He had such a good feeling about this analysis, but unfortunately, it just wasn’t great.  Oh well.  I told him we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.  No reason to derail just yet.

I have another fun procedure on the docket today of which, I’m sure you’ll all be extremely jealous.  Have you ever heard of uterine scoring?  Me neither.  But it’s a procedure that Dr. Corfman suggested.  There isn’t a lot of evidence to support uterine scoring, but he said that theoretically, it makes a lot of sense.  It’s where they go in and actually scrape a small portion of the uterus to help with implantation of the embryos when they are placed in the uterus during in vitro.  I’ve been struggling with whether or not to agree to this procedure for the last month or so.  It’s like I have the proverbial angel and devil sitting on my shoulders.  The doom and gloom version of me wants nothing to do with this procedure.  After all, it seems that I’d be undergoing this procedure based on hypotheticals.  The procedure is only going to work IF we get viable embryos.  Last time none of our embryos ended up being viable, so why would this time be any different?  However, the positive version of me is screaming at the doom and gloom through all of this.  Just because we didn’t have any last time doesn’t mean we won’t this time.  There’s no harm in trying, right?  It’s not that expensive and Dr. Corfman thinks it might help, so shut the fuck up, Doom and Gloom Katherine, and give it a shot.

After that, Lee and I have to sit down to go over our medication plan with the IVF coordinator.  That will take place over the phone, so I will have time to go home after the procedure, change in to comfy pants and make a heating pad my bitch before we dial in.  As of right now, our IVF plan is on track, with the my next retrieval estimated to take place at the beginning of June.  While it’s very surreal that this is all happening again, I anticipate that it will sneak up on us yet again, almost as if out of nowhere.  Spring weather does appear to finally be on the horizon and I’m hopeful that it will bring with it, the desire and motivation I have been lacking this time around.

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Diving In

My attitude’s gotten a little bit better over the course of the last week, if I do say so myself.  Putting our decision to try again out in to the universe made it real.  Now that it’s out there, I’m putting my game face on.  And not a moment too soon.

I had my first blood test last week.  My estrogen and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) levels came back normal, which is good.  My AMH level came back high, which is what I was hoping for.  AMH, or Anti-Mullerian Hormone, measures a woman’s ovarian reserve.  A normal AMH level ranges from 1.5-4.0.  My AMH level is 9.0.  In layman’s terms; your girl has a lot of eggs left to be harvested.

Women with PCOS often have high AMH levels, which actually bodes well for IVF.  While the AMH level can’t predict how many of my eggs will be considered normal before harvesting, it does generally correlate with the number of eggs that will be retrieved.  And of course, we all now that the more eggs retrieved, the better the chances of harvesting normal eggs.  I’m considering that a win.

It’s important for us to hear these tidbits of good news, because time isn’t exactly on our side right now.  Lee is about 6 months away from turning 42.  Our doctor generally doesn’t use the sperm of men over 42, as it is believed there is a significant jump in children developing autism with older parents.  Our doctor has made exceptions to this rule, but we can’t count on that.

I’m also now on the wrong side of my mid-30s.  As women age, so do their eggs.  Eggs that were once considered perfectly healthy, start to develop abnormalities.  The number of abnormal eggs a woman has in her ovaries jumps to roughly 40-60% around the age of 35.  That number will go up roughly 20% in the next year or two.  The good news, is that with my AMH level being what it is, I’m probably closer to the 40% abnormal number.  But I won’t be for long.

After we received the good news about my blood tests, it was time for my Sonohysterogram.  It’s a rather uncomfortable procedure, so I was thankful that Lee not only drove me to the appointment, but treated me to breakfast afterward.  It’s the least he could do, really.

**Pro – Tip:  When your wife is being subjected to speculums and ultrasounds, do yourself a favor and buy her some pancakes.  It’ll make her considerably less crabby (at you)  when she’s dealing with the aftermath of the procedure.**

We received more good news at the Sono.  My uterus is still “nice & healthy”.  We’ve officially received the green light to proceed with IVF.

Up next is Lee’s semen analysis.  We’ll be waiting (im)patiently for the results.  Lee’s already got a sample on ice, but we’ve told the lab that if Lee’s next sample looks better than the one he currently has frozen, we would like to replace them.  Even though they rarely use the frozen sample for IVF, it will still be nice to have a back up (hopefully better) sample, should an issue arise.  You know, like Lee turning 42.

So that’s where we’re at.  It doesn’t quite feel real yet, but it’s getting there.  I’ve been travelling a lot for work later (which I’ll cover in another post), but I’m hoping that once I’m done with this assignment that I’ll be able to get back home and truly focus on the things that will make me feel good as we head into this time of uncertainty.  Until then, I’m trying to keep my head up and my eye on the prize.

CAT EATS CAKE BORED PANDA ANIMALS
Cake = PRIZE.

 

Déjà Vu

Well, the day that I have not so secretly been dreading has finally arrived.  The process officially starts again tomorrow.  How am I handling it?  I’m a little fucked up about it.   I’m sure you just read that and thought ‘why on earth would you put yourself through it again?’  Because I’m clearly a goddamn masochist.

Alright, enough negativity.  I’m doing okay.  Not great, but okay.  As I explained to Lee this morning,  I’m having a really hard time wrapping my head around going through this again.  No woman in her right mind would choose to go through IVF for the hell of it.  It’s tedious and emotional and exhausting and scary.  Yet, here we are again.

After my tearful confession, Lee asked if I want to do this again.  And after looking into his eyes and seeing the emotion that rarely ever escapes him, and the hint of fear that I might say no, I told him of course.  Of course we’ll do it again.  It’s going to suck, but I’ll manage.  I’ve endured far more painful and emotionally taxing situations than IVF and came out relatively unscathed.  I’m sure this will be no different.

I go in for blood work tomorrow to check my hormone levels.  On Friday, I have to undergo another Sonohysterogram, as the results of those tests expire after 6 months. A sono is a procedure in which fluid is injected into the uterus in order to get a more detailed view than a normal ultrasound would show.  The results of my last sono were great; I had a “beautifully healthy uterus”; a compliment that would sound serial killer creepy from anyone other than a reproductive endocrinologist.

Then, the birth control pills start-up again, which sounds counter-productive, I know.  But, even with some of the healthy lifestyle changes I’ve made over the last year, the timing of my period is still slightly irregular – about every 34 days.  And frankly, they need my body to be on a particular cycle, so I’m just going to go with it.  The actual retrieval and transfer will be sometime in late May or early June, I believe.  We’ll know more once we receive the calendar from MCRH later this week.

For his part, Lee has to give another sperm sample.  He’s currently got one on ice, but it’s a pretty bad sample, so we’ve given MCRH the instruction that if the analysis of this sample comes back better than the previous one, we’d like to do the old switch-a-roo (something that you probably shouldn’t joke about when talking about sperm samples).  We’re hoping for some considerable improvement.  Lee’s coming up on one year smoke free, rarely drinks and has worked on eating cleaner.  Will any of this make a difference?  We have no idea.  But at least we can say we tried.

So that’s where it stands.  I wish I could say I was excited and hopeful, but I’m not. Not yet, anyway.  I’m trying to get there, but that might take a little more time.

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