The Elephant in the Room

There’s an elephant in the room that I had no idea existed until recently.  I thought I would address it so that people can stop feeling uncomfortable around me and my husband.  I can only speak for the two of us though.  Other couples struggling with infertility may be different.

We are perfectly capable of being happy for people who are pregnant.  If you want to post a cute picture on social media of some baby shoes or a picture of your dog with a sign saying they’re going to be a big brother/sister, I’m going to like it.  You deserve to have the love and support of all of your friends and family when you announce something so exciting.  You might want to refrain from posting ultrasound pictures, however.  Not because you’ll offend me, but because you’ll offend another friend of mine who firmly believes that uterus photos belong on your fridge and not on your Facebook timeline.

Our fertility struggles are no one’s problem but our own.  We’ve chosen to share them with you to raise awareness for something that affects at least 10% of all couples.  I’ve said it before, and I will say it again:  I guarantee that Lee and I are not the only couple you know that are struggling to start a family.  We’re not trying to make people feel uncomfortable or as though they have to walk on eggshells around us.  We’re trying to start the dialogue so that other couples feel comfortable discussing their concerns as well.  Infertility has been such a hush-hush topic for years now.  Many men and women had to suffer silently through their pain because it was not publicly discussed.  I’m trying to do my part, however small it may be, to change that.  But let me make one thing abundantly clear:  Our issues don’t stop us from being over the moon for any of our friends and family members that happen to be successful starting a family.  Please give us a little more credit than that.

I’ve been through far worse shit than infertility and I’ve survived.  No, you know what?  I haven’t survived.  I’ve thrived.  I will not let my fertility struggles define me.  I won’t let it define the relationship I have with my husband.  And  I would prefer if you didn’t define me in this way either.  I have a lot of things to be thankful for, the most important of which is the love of my husband.  If there’s an upside to all we’ve been through, it’s that we’ve developed a deeper love and appreciation for each other than we even knew was possible.  This latest setback may have bruised us a little bit, but we are far from broken.

Lee and I are going to keep living our lives, loving each fiercely, and hoping that our dream of starting a family eventually becomes a reality.  If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t.  It won’t change the love we have for one another, or the excitement we feel for our loved ones as they start their families.

If you’re struggling with some form of infertility, do not be ashamed.  Know that there are plenty of people in this world who understand what you’re going through, and when you’re ready, share your story with the world.aa6172156fab1a5a0d2b82c2c0c32150

 

 

Dad’s 60th Birthday

Today would have been my dad’s 60th birthday.  If heaven exists and marijuana is legal, I have no doubt that he’s celebrating by talking music and sharing a joint with one of his favorite artists and one of heaven’s newest arrivals, Tom Petty.

When I found out that Tom Petty had been removed from life support on Monday, I was an inconsolable mess.  Yes, I’m sure some of that pain can be attributed to our IVF failure, but a large part was due to my love for Tom Petty.  I grew up on his music. My dad was the kind of person that would play a record to death so I’ve probably heard “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” more times than anyone else in this world, save for The Heartbreakers.  And yet, despite the repetition, I’ve never tired of Tom Petty, as a solo artist, part of the Heartbreakers or part of the Travelling Wilburys.  Since my dad passed away in 2011, I’ve made sure to see Tom Petty in concert every time he’s come to the Twin Cities area.  It’s always an emotional experience for me-seeing him live brings me a step closer to my dad, if only for a few hours.  I won’t ever get to experience that again.  Losing Tom Petty felt like losing a little piece of my dad all over again.

Even though my dad has been gone for almost 6 years, it doesn’t seem to get easier.  Every milestone that he misses, every success, every failure, brings his loss back to the forefront of my mind.

My dad would have wanted to be so involved in our fertility journey, probably to the point where I would have to tell him to reign it in a little.  When he got sick, his mobility became limited.  Being a homebody and having so much time on his hands made him an internet search guru.  I don’t doubt that he would have become an expert at infertility.  My sister and I like to imagine what it would be like, and our conversations normally end in a fit of laughter.  There’s just something about envisioning our dad asking about endometrial lining that proves to be a little too much for us.  But yet, despite how embarrassing and personal his questions would seem, we know that they would be asked with the best of intentions.  He would want this baby so desperately for us, that I know he would do whatever was in his power to help us be successful.

When my dad went to his doctor’s appointments, they always asked him what it was he was living for, what he was working toward.  His response never wavered:  his goal was to walk his daughters down the aisle and to be able to hold his grandbabies.  He didn’t live to accomplish either and that makes me really fucking sad.

That’s not to say that he didn’t try.  He fought a good fight, but lung disease is a sonofabitch.  While I’m still so very sad that he’s gone, I’m happy to know he’s longer suffering.

Today will be a day of reflection, thinking about my dad and finding ways to celebrate him.  His copy of Tom Petty’s Greatest Hits is already loaded up in my car.  My sister and I will have a cocktail this afternoon in his honor.  We’ve tried this before with his drink of choice, but it turns out that Bacardi is terrible, so I imagine we’ll have to make an exception there.  And finally, I plan to eat some cake.  After all, what birthday celebration is truly complete without cake?

Happy Birthday, Dad.  This world just isn’t the same without you.

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If hopes and prayers could make babies, with your help, I’d probably be on target to become the next Octomom. Unfortunately, it also takes a little bit of luck, and that is just not something I seem to ever have a supply of.  Our IVF was not successful and now Lee and I are at a bit of a standstill wondering what to do next.

There is literally no reason that anyone has been able to give us to explain why we’re having such a struggle.  Sure, I have PCOS, but women with PCOS get pregnant all the time.  It’s not an infertility death sentence.  And yes, Lee’s sperm count is a little low.  Not exorbitantly low!  It’s not like there’s just a lone sperm hanging out in each sample.  I have no blockages, a healthy uterus, two healthy ovaries, and my body responded amazingly well to all of the hormones.  Yet here we are again, staring down the barrel of another dashed dream.

So where do we go from here?  Good question.  We don’t know.

When we got that call that the transfer had failed, we sat down and attempted to work through our next steps.  We determined that it was best for us to just relax for the rest of the year.  Give my body and our hearts time to heal.  Beyond that, the rest is up in the air.

We’ll have a follow-up appointment with our doctor to discuss the cycle and see if there’s anything that he noticed that would warrant the difficulties we’ve been having.  Then we have to decide whether we have the emotional stamina to try again.  While the next IVF cycle starts in November, Lee and I have agreed that we won’t be opting to try again this soon.  From an insurance standpoint it would make sense, as we are only $3700 away from hitting our out-of-pocket maximum for out-of-network coverage, so it wouldn’t actually cost that much to try again.  That being said, while our insurance recognizes infertility and does cover the procedures once the deductible has been met, it’s only a $10,000 lifetime maximum.  Slightly more than half of one cycle.  If we’re not emotionally ready to try again, this benefit would be wasted.

So perhaps we try again in 2018?  The downside of this is that the cycle will be more expensive as my insurance deductible will have reset.  We won’t get the same break on medications as we did in 2017.  The upside is that it will give us more time to save to try again.  But we’re working on borrowed time.  Our doctor will not use sperm for an IVF cycle if the man is over the age of 42.  That means we have a little over a year to get pregnant or I can’t have Lee’s baby.  At least, not if I continue to see the same fertility doctor.

People have asked about donor eggs and donor sperm and whether we would be willing to try one of those routes to have a baby.  The answer is unequivocally no.  I don’t want just any baby.  I want to have Lee’s baby.  If I can’t have Lee’s baby, then I’m not interested.  I want a baby with his sweet blue eyes and devilish grin.  I don’t need to be pregnant just for the sake of having a child.  There are plenty of children in the world that need love and a good home and if it comes down to it, we’d rather adopt than use the eggs and sperm of people we don’t know.

So how are we doing?  As well as can be expected, I guess.  Yes, we’re sad and even a little defeated.  How could we not be?  Feeling like your body is broken is one of the most heart-breaking feelings you could ever imagine.  The one thing making it bearable right now is that despite our misfortune, we have a lot to look forward to this week.  Lee’s little sister is getting married and we’re both so very excited to be a part of her special day, surrounded by the friends and family that we love so very much.

We’ve also made some healthy lifestyle changes this past year.  I alone have lost 26 pounds since January 1st.  It would be incredibly foolish to allow this devastating setback to derail all of the hard work I’ve put forth this year.  If anything, it’s challenging me to keep the momentum going.  How will I do that?  Well, with the help of my best friend Erin, I will be focusing my effort on preparing for my first 5k this fall.  It might not sound like much, but I hate running, so this will push me to focus my efforts on something else for a while.

We’ve also got our London trip to look forward to.  We need it now more than ever.

We’ll be down and out for a bit, but we’ll get through it.  Because we have each other.  And as much as this all fucking sucks, there’s still no one I’d rather go through this with than my one and only.

I’m sure some of you might be wondering what you can do to help us heal.  I’m afraid I don’t really have an answer for that.  But I can tell you what we don’t want.  We don’t want pity.  We don’t want to hear about how you had a really hard time making this one thing happen at one point in your life, but how it all worked out in the end.  All we want/need from you is to know that you’re here for us, that you think it’s super shitty that our luck fucking sucks so bad and that if you could punch infertility in the face, you would.

Thank you for following our journey thus far.  It appears that it’s quite far from over.

 

 

 

24 hours to go…..

Tomorrow’s the big day.  Tomorrow we find out if our lives are going to change forever.

To those of you that have been involved in our journey, there are no words to describe just how grateful we are to have you in our lives.  And to those of you that have gone out of your way to check on us and let us know that you love us and will be here for us no matter the outcome, it’s meant more to us than you can possibly imagine.  These last two weeks have been teetering on the edge of terrible, but having your support has made it somewhat bearable.

Now comes the hard part:  If you’re planning on checking the blog this weekend for news on whether or not the transfer was successful, I’m afraid you won’t find it.  Lee and I are taking the weekend for ourselves.  I’ve booked a place on Airbnb that’s on a lake outside the cities so that Lee and I can just, be.  If we are pregnant, it’ll be a celebratory affair.  If we aren’t, it will provide a much-needed weekend to recharge and determine what we do next.

In fact, while I still plan on doing some writing, it’ll be a while before I’m ready to talk about how the transfer went.  If the transfer failed, it’s going to take a while to process that information.  And if it was successful, we’d only be in the first trimester, where a lot of things can still go wrong.  We’ve worked so hard to make this happen.  I hope you understand our need to take care of ourselves and our (potential) unborn babies before we broadcast the news to the world.

Until then, thank you again for your support.

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Christmas in London

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Surprise!

I’m planning another London trip.

The idea came about when we were in London for Lee’s 40th birthday trip last November.  The Christmas decorations were going up for the season and I was awestruck.  Anyone that knows me knows that I am a little obsessed with Christmas.  From the music, to the decorations to the food and time with friends and family; I am enamored with all of it.  Being in London and walking through department stores like Harrod’s and Selfridges filled me with such childlike excitement that I knew I had to come back and experience Christmas at full tilt.  Thus, the plan for London Christmas Vacation 2K17 was born.

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Pictures from our London trip in November 2016

Our friends Charlie and Gareth, who live just outside of London, travel every year to Cologne, Germany right before Christmas to check out the Christmas markets.  Neither Lee or I have ever been to Germany so naturally, the idea of tagging along on their annual Christmas pilgrimage sounds like a dream come true.  We could travel out to London, meet up with them, travel to Germany, have an amazing time, and be home in time for Christmas with our families.

Given everything else we’re going through, it may seem like we’re overextending, but I feel like we need this.  As I’ve explained to those who know of our travel plans, if our IVF cycle works, this will be the last time we’ll have an opportunity to visit the UK for quite a while.  If our cycle doesn’t work, we’ll need something to look forward to.  I can’t think of anything more enjoyable than spending the holiday season in our favorite country with some of our favorite people.

And think about it:  If we are pregnant, it’ll be our bump’s first transatlantic vacation.  If I’m not, I can drown my sorrows in delicious UK whiskeys and ciders.  It’s a win/not quite a win, but somewhat bearable situation, really.

While we wait to see what’s going to happen over the course of the next 9 days, this will be the thing that keeps my thoughts otherwise engaged.  And if, for some reason, this round of IVF does not work, this will be what allows me to heal, recharge and come back ready to kick some infertility ass.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Transfer

We had our embryo transfer this past Friday.  The transfer portion of this whole experience is WAY easier than the retrieval, let me tell ya.

For the transfer, we were brought in for intake, where the nurses had prepared a report card of sorts from our retrieval.  Of the eggs that were retrieved, 19 were deemed healthy enough to try ICSI.  12 had successfully fertilized and as of Friday, 12 were still considered viable embryos.  We were over the moon.

Then we were brought into the transfer room where we met with the embryologist.  She told us not to celebrate yet; the eggs weren’t quite ready to freeze yet.  She wanted to watch them for one more day as she was concerned about where they were in their growth stage.  This left me feeling a little dejected, but Lee remained hopeful.  After all, how could we have produced so many embryos just to have them not end up being viable?

After careful deliberation, Lee and I had chosen to transfer two embryos.  Best case scenario:  Twins!  Warmly welcomed second scenario:  One healthy baby!  Worst case scenario:  No baby.

The transfer itself was quick and painless.  Our doctor wished us luck, but told us to keep our guard up.  Even with everything going as well as it has for us so far, that still doesn’t guarantee a positive.  I tried not to think too much about the additional embryos whose fate was still undecided, but was still holding out hope that in the event that this pregnancy doesn’t take, we’ll have frozen embryos to try again.

Well, I just heard from our doctor’s office.  Unfortunately, none of the other embryos made it that additional day.  This is our one chance.

The silver lining?  They chose the two best embryos to transfer, so we remain hopeful that at least one of them will have the ability to result in a positive pregnancy.  We’ll know for sure on September 29th.

Please keep us in your thoughts.  I have a feeling the next 11 days are going to crawl by.

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After the Retrieval

For those of you waiting who are waiting with bated breath to find out how many viable embryos we have:  I don’t have an update.  Sorry.

What I DO have is a transfer date.  It’s this Friday.

On Monday, I received an update from one of the MCRH nurses.  While she didn’t tell me how many growing embryos we had, she did tell me that we qualified for a day 5 transfer.

This is incredibly good news.  But before I get into how that happened, let me explain a little more about what happens post-retrieval.

Once the eggs have been retrieved, they meet the sperm.  Our doctor uses a procedure called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection) in which the sperm is injected directly into the egg.  Once that has been done, the eggs are incubated for a period of 16-20 hours.  It’s after this incubation period when the embryologist will determine how many of the eggs have undergone normal fertilization.

If few eggs have started the fertilization process, the embryologist will opt to do a day 3 transfer, the idea being that a woman’s uterus is a better incubator than the one they have at the lab.  If quite a few eggs have started the fertilization process, the embryologist will schedule a day 5 transfer.  This allows the embryologist to monitor the embryos more closely, and allows for selection of the best quality embryos; the ones they think will culminate in a successful pregnancy and live birth.

Day 5 transfers also have a higher success rate than day 3 transfers, thereby increasing our chances for the positive we’ve been waiting for.

The fact that we had enough eggs start the fertilization process to qualify for a day 5 transfer is fantastic news.  It also lends to the idea that we might have extra embryos left over after transfer, so if, for some reason, this round of IVF doesn’t work, we’ll have options for trying to get pregnant again.  Or, if this round of IVF is successful, we’ll have the opportunity to give this baby a brother or sister in the future!

Rest assured, once I know how many embryos we have, you’ll all be the first to know.  Until then, we’ve definitely got a lot to be hopeful for.

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The Retrieval

Yesterday was our retrieval day.  All the work we had done, all the shots, all the pills; finally, we were going to see if it had paid off.

On Friday night, at exactly 9:30 p.m. we took our HCG shot, quickly followed by what’s called the Lupron trigger shot.  The HCG induces ovulation, while the Lupron trigger, prevents ovarian hyperstimulation – a problem that often affects women with PCOS when undergoing ovarian stimulation.  Then, we waited.

Saturday was uneventful.  There were no shots to take, which was a nice respite after about a week and a half of 2-4 shots per day.  Mostly, I was tired and sore.  I could start feel my ovaries getting ready for ovulation.

Sunday morning, I had to be up by 6:30 to drink 16 ounces of water before the procedure.  By this time, my ovaries were so sore and I couldn’t stand up straight.  Our 8:30 appointment couldn’t come soon enough.

Once we got to Dr. Corfman’s office and got situated, they gave me some valium to calm my nerves.  I didn’t feel particularly nervous beforehand, but I cared much less after the valium.  Between my doctor and the nurses, they explained the procedure at length.  An ultrasound probe with a needle attached would go into each one of my ovaries to remove the fluid and any of the eggs that were floating around.  Dr. Corfman explained, that while each one of those follicles would contain an egg, only about 80% of the eggs on average would actually detach from the follicle wall.  He told us not to be surprised if we didn’t get the exact same number of eggs as we had follicles, but assured us that based on the number of follicles I had produced, he was confident that we would get some good ones.  He also assured us that we would know how many eggs were retrieved before we left the office for the day.  With that, Dr. Corfman promised Lee that he would take good care of me and we left to get started.

Once I was in the procedure room, the Fentanyl started flowing.  Dr. Corfman explained that they walk a fine line with administering painkillers with this procedure.  Naturally, they want you to have painkillers so that the retrieval isn’t too terribly ucomfortable, but the administration of the drugs can hurt the eggs.  They administer the painkiller right at the start of the procedure and will administer more as needed, but then it becomes a bit of a race against the clock before the drugs make their way to the baby maker.

I brought my phone into the procedure room with my “Chill the Fuck Out’ playlist ready to go.  The nurses laughed at the name, loved how family & friends had helped me to build it and asked for a copy.  They said anything on the playlist would be better than the terrible old country music that Dr. Corfman normally listened to.

When the procedure was over, Dr. Corfman brought me back in the exam room where Lee was waiting.  He had good news; the average number of eggs normally retrieved is 7-10.  My retrieval produced 25. Twenty-fucking-five!

We’re not out of the woods yet.  We won’t find out until sometime today how many are viable.  Given my age, on average 40-60% of my eggs are considered abnormal.  (Add that to the list of injustices in the difference between men and women)  Our transfer date is entirely dependent upon the number of viable embryos that we have.  It will be sometime either Wednesday or Friday this week.

Thanks to everyone that offered well wishes to Lee and I this weekend.  It means so much!  We truly felt the positivity surrounding us.  If you don’t mind keeping it up for just a little bit longer, we’d appreciate it.   We’re halfway there, but the rest of the way is straight uphill.  We’ll keep you posted as we know more!051a19d614fcc275750619005673277faefae1

 

 

 

 

 

Week 2

We had our 5th and final ultrasound this morning.

We had 16 follicles measuring at  15 or more, 9 follicles measuring between 10 and 15, and another 14 follicles measuring at less than 10, for a grand total of 39 follicles. Follicles generally need to be between 15 to 20 mm in diameter to be considered mature enough for retrieval.  My body has responded incredibly well to the stimulation and maturation drugs and there is a correlation between IVF success rates and the number of eggs retrieved, so we’re hopeful that these are all good signs.

Even with all the good news, there’s still a part of me that wonders when the other shoe is going to drop.

If my body is so primed and ready to make a baby, why hasn’t it happened yet?  Every month we tracked ovulation, every failed IUI attempt; why did we come up empty-handed each and every time?

My biggest fear going into this weekend is that they’ll retrieve my eggs and each and every one of them will be worthless.  And then what?  What’s our next course of action?

I know I need to be positive, and believe it or not I am.  I’m over the moon about our ultrasound this morning.  I am so excited that this is all finally happening.  Months of preparation and hard work are hopefully about to pay off.  But there’s a part of me that knows I also need to be prepared.  It might not work.  And if for some reason it doesn’t, I’m going to be more equipped to deal with it if at least some part of my psyche prepares for a negative result.

Tomorrow I’ll be taking an HCG shot to trigger ovulation.  Our egg retrieval will be on Sunday.  If you find yourself with a little bit of downtime this weekend, please send some good juju our way.  We’ll take all the positive vibes we can get.

 

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Week One

I have become a human pincushion.

I had my first ultrasound last Tuesday.  Everything looked great and we were given the go ahead to start medications.  I had my first injection at 6:30 Wednesday morning.  150 units of Follistim, twice a day until Friday morning, when we had our next ultrasound.

Second ultrasound looked good.  They counted 38 follicles.  Our medication outline changed at that point.  I would still be taking the follicle stimulation drugs in the a.m., but would now be taking a follicle maturation drug as well as an ovulation suppressant in the pm.

We had our 3rd ultrasound on Sunday.  Of the 38 follicles they measured about 13 that were growing at the same pace.  We were told to continue the Follistim in the morning as well as the Menopur and Ganirelix in the evening.

Ultrasound #4 was this morning.  We’re now at about 19 growing follicles, with another 5 that could potentially mature enough by the time we trigger ovulation.  I’ll still be doing a follicle stimulation shot in the morning, but I’m now adding an ovulation suppressant shot each a.m. as well.  So, I’m up to 4 shots per day, and will be until we have our next ultrasound Thursday morning.

The shots aren’t so bad.  I’m bruising a little and you can see the needle marks for each shot, but it could be so much worse.  My arms are a different story, however.

At the start of each ultrasound, they have to take a blood sample so they can check my estrogen levels.  My veins are small, hard to locate, and I bruise like a peach, so needless to say, the track marks on my arms look pretty sexy.

Our egg retrieval will be scheduled some time between September 10th & 12th.  I’m assuming we’ll know when on Thursday.  Until then, we’ll keep our heads down, focusing on doing what has been outlined for us in the hopes that we get our desired outcome.

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