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).

palace of the Liberty of Bruges -3

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.

 

One Last Try

My husband was a little more on board with this attempt than he had been with the previous three, which I appreciated more than he probably knew.  We gave our livers a break for the entire month of January and hit the ground running with our 4th attempt in February.  I will say that this attempt seemed to be easier than the previous ones.  Since I had broken the habit of a nightly glass (or bottle) of wine, I found it easier to be social than I had with our past rounds.  I was also choosing to be far more open with this round than I had the previous ones.  The majority of my family knew we were giving it another go as did my two closest girl friends.  Any one that knows me knows that this was a major turning point for me.  I’m a fairly private person and have kept the majority of this struggle close to my heart.  The thing is, I don’t want to!  I don’t want to be quiet about what we’re going through.  I want everyone to know about it.  Not because I want sympathy or pity, but because I think fertility issues aren’t talked about enough.  It’s estimated that 1 in every 10 couples suffers from infertility, so chances are you know a few couples who are feeling less than adequate because of their child-bearing issues.

When it came time for the insemination, we were met with some rather disappointing news.  My husband’s sample was less than ideal.  The nurse tried to find a nice way to say it was the worst specimen he had ever given.  Unfortunately, there’s not really a nice way to say that.  Only 15% of the sperm in my husband’s sample were motile.  That still gave us 1.5 million healthy guys, but my doctor’s ideal sample is 2 million or more, and we had never fallen below the magic number before.  This information nagged at me pretty consistently however.  I would later find out all the ways my husband’s sperm count can be affected and believe me, that’s been the hardest thing to reconcile yet.

I was so thankful for the support I received from my friends during this last attempt.  I received a lot of texts and phone calls and a promise of whiskey to drown my sorrows if I wasn’t and sparkling cider to celebrate if I was.  I took the day of the pregnancy test to work from home, so that if we received bad news, I would at least be in the comfort of my own home.  I went in, took the test, and waited patiently at home with my husband for the results.

When the phone rang, I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and answered.  She didn’t even have to tell me.  I heard it in the tone of her voice again.  Our last attempt was not successful.

This brought us to the proverbial fork in the road.  What do we do next?  Do we start looking in to adoption?  IVF?  Or do we scrap the family plans and continue living our childless existence?  My husband was adamant that he wanted a family and while he’s not opposed to adopting, he wanted to give IVF a try first.  With an anticipated start date of August 2017, the next 4 months will be nerve-wracking and frankly, I’m scared.  I know I can handle it, but this is not a journey I want to tackle alone.

Thank you to my friends and family who have been such a source of strength for me these past couple months as we’ve come to this decision.  Your support means so much more to me than you know.  It’s going to be a roller coaster of emotions for me the next few months, I’m sure, but I’m so glad to know I have all of you on my team.

 

Three Strikes

So, the first attempt didn’t quite go as we had anticipated.  Well, neither did the second.  Or the third.

It’s almost as though there’s a spotlight on newlyweds.  The ink hasn’t even dried on the marriage certificate and people are asking when you’re planning to start a family.  Naturally, when you’re in our position you don’t really feel like telling friends, family members, or the rude ass acquaintance that you barely know that you’ve been trying for quite some time and haven’t succeeded yet.

For three months straight we attempted IUI without success and we managed to have a family wedding right in the middle of our two week waiting game each month.  I wasn’t drinking at these weddings because I didn’t want to risk it and it seemed like everyone noticed.  It was a very uncomfortable situation to be in.  I wasn’t ready to fully go public with what my husband and I were going through, but it really didn’t matter.  People that know me know I can drink most anyone under the table, so when I’m refraining from alcohol, everyone assumed I was pregnant.  I ended up coming up with excuses such as being on antibiotics, saying it was my turn to be sober cab, anything I could come up with to get people to abandon the idea of pregnancy.  I don’t know if it actually worked, or if they’d heard all of these excuses before and figured that I was, I just wasn’t ready to tell them.  All I know is that I wanted so badly to prove their suspicions were right and yet I just couldn’t make it happen.

 

False Confidence

I was so sure that the first round of IUI was going to work, that I never actually prepared for the possibility that it wouldn’t.

I had done some research on PCOS up to that point, and after seeing all of the symptoms, I was convinced that I didn’t have it nearly as bad as most other sufferers.  Sure, depression and weight were things that I had struggled with for years, but I had Metformin on my side now.

Metformin is a drug used to control blood sugar in diabetes patients.  It’s also used in conjunction to treat PCOS, as it helps to combat insulin resistance.  I immediately lost 15 pounds on Metformin, so I was feeling better than I had in a few years.  Even before I lost the weight, I wasn’t THAT overweight.  I had been flirting with the BMI charts line between overweight and obese for a few years, but if I ever stepped over the line into obesity, I was back in overweight land within a few days.  I was convinced that those 15 pounds would make the difference.  And losing the 15 pounds made me happier, so I felt like the depression was a bay.  Plus, as I stated in my previous post, I had just celebrated my first wedding anniversary.  The powers that be would have to reward us with a positive pregnancy test, right?

I treated the day of the test as if it was any other day.  I work up early, went in for the blood test and went to work.  I found it hard to concentrate as I waited for the call.  I wondered what I was going to do when I got confirmation that we were expecting.  When my phone rang, I hopped up and headed towards an empty office to answer the phone.

I knew it was negative the minute the nurse said my name.  There was just something about the tone of her voice.  Not quite pity, but not far from it.  I tried to hold back the tears as she told me to stop taking the estrogen and progesterone I had been prescribed to make sure my body was ready for a baby.  My voice started to crack with each confirmation I gave to all of the information she was giving me. “Okay. Okay. Okay.”  I was informed that I would most likely be getting my period shortly, and to call within the first three days of menstruation if we wanted to try IUI again.

I tried to compose myself so I could go back to work and finish out my day.  I sat back down at my desk, but the tears wouldn’t stop.  I looked up, hoping that nobody had noticed the complete wreck of a human I was at that moment.  My boss was in a meeting, and I didn’t want to interrupt it, but I also knew I couldn’t be there anymore.  I walked in on the meeting, and as my boss looked up, his face dropped.

“It didn’t work.  I have to go.  I can’t be here, ” was the last thing I said before I became completely inconsolable.  I gathered my things, called my husband on my way home and drank myself into an afternoon stupor.

I took the next day off to regroup.  It was a Friday, so I figured a nice three day weekend would be just what I needed to get my mind centered around trying again.  My husband and I decided that a second time couldn’t hurt.  I vowed to take even better care of myself for the second round.  Not a drop of alcohol, no caffeine.  Nothing that pregnant women are supposed to stray away from.  Surely, the first time was just a practice run.  The second time it would produce a positive pregnancy test.

It had to.

 

IUI

After we got the PCOS diagnosis,  our doctor decided that it might be helpful to try a round of IUI.  IUI, or intrauterine insemination, is the process of placing the sperm inside the uterus in order to help with implantation.  It’s considerably less expensive than IVF, but not as successful.  It tends to be successful for many couples with PCOS or other unexplained infertility issues and our doctor thought that we would be good candidates.

We embarked on our first attempt at IUI shortly before our first wedding anniversary.  The process for IUI is quite regimented.  It actually starts about 6 weeks before the insemination.  I was put on one cycle of birth control to regulate my ovulation schedule.  Once I got my period, I called to schedule what’s called a baseline ultrasound.  Performed within the first 3 days of menstruation, the baseline ultrasound is typically performed on people with known issues such as yours truly.  They perform the ultrasound to make sure that the uterus has mellowed out enough to start the IUI cycle.  More specifically, they’re checking for cysts.  If there are cysts present, they are looking to make sure that the cysts are too small to affect the cycle.

Once my uterus was deemed calm enough to start the cycle, I was put on Letrozole, a drug that inhibits the production of estrogen.  Seems crazy, right?  You would think that extra estrogen would be a good thing as a woman trying to get pregnant!  In fact, Letrozole suppresses ovulation which then tricks the brain and pituitary gland in to creating more FSH, or follicle stimulating hormone.  The increase in FSH helps to develop follicles on the ovary that will mature to produce an egg.  Letrozole is taken for 5 days to help the follicles mature.  At that point, another ultrasound is performed to track follicle growth.  Once the follicles reach about 12-13 millimeters, ovulation will be induced via one shot of HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).  HCG stimulates the ovaries to release an egg (or multiple in the case of multiple follicles.  The insemination takes place roughly 36 hours later.

The insemination is a tag team effort between husband and wife.  The husband goes in for his appointment first.  There, he will be escorted to a room with a chair and a couch, a TV and VCR and a variety of assorted “reading materials”.  Once he’s made his deposit (and yes, that’s what they call it), he’s done.  The sperm is then examined for volume, count, structure and motility.  The sperm is “washed”, meaning that the sperm is separated from the seminal fluid.  At that point, any abnormal or immotile sperm are removed from the sample.  My doctor aims for 2 million motile sperm per IUI.  They will do the procedure if there are less, however, 2 million or more is optimal.

Once my uterus was deemed calm enough to start the cycle, I was put on Letrozole, a drug that inhibits the production of estrogen.  Seems crazy, right?  You would think that extra estrogen would be a good thing as a woman trying to get pregnant!  In fact, Letrozole suppresses ovulation which then tricks the brain and pituitary gland in to creating more FSH, or follicle stimulating hormone.  The increase in FSH helps to develop follicles on the ovary that will mature to produce an egg.  Letrozole is taken for 5 days to help the follicles mature.  At that point, another ultrasound is performed to track follicle growth.  Once the follicles reach about 12-13 millimeters, ovulation will be induced via one shot of HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin).  HCG stimulates the ovaries to release an egg (or multiple in the case of multiple follicles.  The insemination takes place roughly 36 hours later.

The insemination is a tag team effort between husband and wife.  The husband goes in for his appointment first.  There, he will be escorted to a room with a chair and a couch, a TV and VCR and a variety of assorted “reading materials”.  Once he’s made his deposit (and yes, that’s what they call it), he’s done.  The sperm is then examined for volume, count, structure and motility.  The sperm is “washed”, meaning that the sperm is separated from the seminal fluid.  At that point, any abnormal or immotile sperm are removed from the sample.  My doctor aims for 2 million motile sperm per IUI.  They will do the procedure if there are less, however, 2 million or more is optimal.

Guys don’t get to have all the fun, though!  Their female counterpart gets to experience a fun, papsmear-esque prodedure.  I’m talking, naked from the waist down, feet in stirrups, butt hanging off the end of the exam table fun.  A catheter with the sperm sample is inserted in to the uterus and that’s that.  The procedure itself takes less than 5 minutes and then you’re on your way.  Sounds pretty easy, but the worst part of the process is just beginning:  The two week waiting game.

There’s really nothing you can do to make the process more successful.  I mean, it would probably be frowned upon if you did a keg stand immediately following the procedure, but there aren’t any steps you can take to make sure it works.  You just have to be patient.  Well, I suck at being patient.  Yes, patience is a virtue and blah, blah, blah.  I don’t have it.  Never have.  And I probably won’t develop it until I’m forced to for the sake of my children.

So the two week waiting game begins, and I do my best to maintain my composure.

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My Body is an Asshole: A Love/Hate Story

I always knew there was something wrong with me.  It took years for me to get actual proof, but I could just feel it.  Call it woman’s intuition if you will.

I got my first period at the ripe old age of 10.  Seriously.  10 years old.  I don’t care how many programs you sit through in your elementary gym class, nothing truly prepares you for your first period at the age of 10.  You know what else it didn’t prepare me for?
Mind- numbingly painful, want-to-rip-your-uterus-out, praying-for-death-because-anything-is-better-than-this-hell menstrual cramps.  Thus, the love/hate relationship with my body was born.

As I got older, my menstrual cycle issues got worse.  Uterine cramps, back cramps, heavy cycles, nausea and the occasional bout of vomiting have become commonplace.  I took these concerns to my doctors at every annual appointment and they always got dismissed.  There was no discussion about what could be at the root of all of these problems.  It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I even had a doctor mention Endometriosis or PCOS.  That’s what pisses me off the most, I think.  Had my concerns been validated in my teens or twenties, I might not feel as desperate as I do now.

It wasn’t confirmed until I was 33 years old that I had PCOS, or Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  By that time, my husband and I had been unsuccessfully attempting to start a family for close to a year.  Before that, we hadn’t been trying, but hadn’t necessarily been preventing.  I was secretly hoping for a happy accident, I suppose.  Knowing deep down that this wasn’t going to be an easy road ahead for me, I kind of hoped that if I only half-tried but didn’t think about it, I would be rewarded.  Well, years of trying and not trying didn’t produce a thing.  Not even a scare.

I spent almost 22 years with a syndrome that went undiagnosed, so I think it’s safe to say that it’s going to take a while for me to fully come to terms with how much it’s fucked up my life.  And yet, all of this anguish could have been avoided with a simple blood test.  That’s the most fucked up part of all.