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.

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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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New Year, New Decisions

We’re 5 weeks in to 2018, and while I don’t make resolutions, per se, I do believe in assessing areas of “opportunity” within my life.  What am I doing well?  What can I be doing better?  How can my life improve?

I’ve had some time to reflect over the last few weeks and determine how I want my 2018 to look.  And while the majority of my resolve is focused on my career and my health, we do have a gigantic elephant in the room that needs to be dealt with.  Lee and I need to figure out what our course of action will be if we want to try, yet again, to start a family.

I’ll be honest; I’ve had a lot of doubts.  Until you’ve been though infertility, you have no idea how draining it is.  Do I really want to go though that again?  4 years of trying, 4 failed IUIs and now a failed IVF cycle.  Am I a masochist?  Not only that, our Europe trip also made me realize how much I love the freedom of being able to travel.  Lee and I currently have the resources to travel to Europe every year if we want. I love that freedom.  And I’m not quite sure I’m ready to say goodbye to that lifestyle yet.

I’m also concerned about Lee.  On our first IVF attempt, I was convinced that I was the problem.  I busted my ass to get in shape and become the happiest and healthiest version of myself.  I did it because I wanted to make sure that if our IVF attempt failed, that I would have no regrets.  And I didn’t.  But after all was said and done, we found out that I wasn’t the problem.  Will Lee be able to put forth as much effort as I did?

And finally, it’s going to take a lot to get back into the mindset of trying IVF again.  The hormones, the shots, the procedures; they’re physically and emotionally taxing.  And life is so boring during the process.  We’re bound to our schedule.  Sure, we can make plans, but we need to be home at the same time every night to take a shot.  And we can’t even think about making weekend plans, because chances are, we’re going to have at least one ultrasound.  Am I ready to upend my life again?

All of these items were up for discussion when Lee and I sat down to talk about the new year.  After some back and forth regarding our (read: my) reservations, we came to a decision.  Lee and I are going to try again.

The plan for now, is to try again in May.  That should give us a few months to work on our meal and fitness routines and should (hopefully) give me enough time to wrap my head around the particulars of another cycle.

It’s not going to be easy, in fact, this time around I anticipate it will be much harder.  The stakes seem higher, somehow, and I’m not sure why.  They just do.  But I find solace in the fact that I’ve got a small but powerful support system next to me cheering me on the whole way.

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One Month Gone

It’s been a little over a month since we found out our IVF cycle didn’t work.  What a lonely month it’s been.

Our phones have been oddly silent since we found out.  Sure, there were the initial “I’m so sorry” and “we should get together soon” sentiments.  But those stopped a few days after we went public and we’ve been twiddling our thumbs ever since.  If it hadn’t been for both my best friend Erin and my sister being the driving forces behind our social lives these last few weeks, the loneliness of the last month would have been downright unbearable.

This post is not meant to shame anyone who hasn’t reached out over the last few weeks, but is merely to let you know how these last few weeks have been for us.  It seems that the most common reasons we’re hearing for radio silence are because people don’t know what to say.  Or they’re waiting for us to bring it up.  Or they figure we’ll reach out to them when we’re ready.  Whether people realize it or not, it’s those viewpoints that help to contribute to the shame we’ve been trying to avoid by making our story public.  The idea behind going public with our struggle was to normalize infertility.  We’ve been so open and honest about what we’re feeling and thinking in an effort to make people comfortable with the subject.  And yet, now that it didn’t work, it seems no one wants to talk to us.  While I’m sure it’s no one’s direct intention to make us feel this way, it feels like everything we went through doesn’t matter.  Our feelings since we found out don’t matter.  We don’t matter.

Imagine if you lost a loved one and no one was there to help you get through your grief.  Sure, you have a lot of  initial support after it happens and you feel surrounded by love in the days leading up to the funeral.  However, once the memorial service ends, most of those that helped you mourn your loss get back into the swing of daily life while you’re left trying to figure out how to live now that a piece of your heart is gone.    That’s how it feels right now.  We had so much support leading up to the day we found out the results.  After that, not so much.  While the grief of a failed IVF cycle is not the same as losing a living, breathing member of your family, it’s similar.

We went through a procedure that has the highest rate of return on achieving a successful pregnancy and it failed.  We had our dreams of having a child in 2018 all but destroyed.   Yes, we can try again, but we also have to entertain the idea that it just may never happen for us.  When you lose a loved one, most people don’t necessarily question what you could have done to keep them alive.  Yes, there are oftentimes things you wish you would have done differently, but you aren’t the reason they died.  In a situation like mine however,  I’m questioning everything.  Did we do everything right?  Could we have done more? Maybe if we would have been just a little bit skinnier or a little bit healthier.   Maybe if I would have been more concerned about eating organically or cut out coffee just a little bit sooner, the outcome would have been different.  All the shoulda woulda couldas are a little bit overwhelming at times.

If I end up being the only person you know that has gone through IVF and a subsequent failure, then I consider both you and your friends incredibly lucky.  It’s a pretty shitty thing to have to go through and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.  But, if by some twist of fate, you have to watch someone else go through the pain and suffering of infertility, please remember this post, swallow your uncertainty and reach out.  It might seem like such a small gesture to you, but I can guarantee it will mean the world to them.

 

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The Follow-Up

We had a follow-up appointment with our doctor yesterday to discuss what, if anything, they noticed that would have contributed to an unsuccessful cycle.  I’m putting it quite mildly when I say I didn’t want to go.

It’s hard to believe that our cycle ended a little over two weeks ago.  It seems like so much longer than that.  The bruises, both physical and emotional, have faded and we’ve been so busy with getting back into the regular swing of things, that our IVF attempt almost seems like a dream; the kind of dream, or in this case, nightmare, that immediately fades from your memory the minute you wake up.  I wasn’t looking to relive that nightmare.

I know this sounds a little cliché, but I’m so glad we went.  We now have some answers and can use them to determine our next move.

First, the good news.

I responded incredibly well to the stimulation and our doctor said that it was obvious based on our testing, that we were taking the medications as prescribed.  It seems like that should be a no-brainer, right?  Dr. Corfman said we would be shocked to know how many couples do not.  My endometrial lining was also right where it needed to be; ready for implantation.  My uterus was healthy, my fallopian tubes clear.  And my eggs were great.

Women are born with all of their eggs.  Sounds crazy, but it’s true.   And naturally, as we age, so do the eggs.  As the eggs age and are introduced to illness and toxins, they become abnormal.  For a woman my age, it’s expected that 40-60% of my eggs are now abnormal.  There are a lot of other factors that go into egg abnormalities, but it’s not uncommon that when couples suffer from infertility, it’s because of egg abnormalities.  That was not the case with us.

At our retrieval, they extracted 25 eggs.

20 were mature enough to be used for IVF.

19 were considered healthy enough to fertilize.

12 fertilized normally.

Those are incredibly good numbers.   This means my eggs are on the higher quality end of my age bracket.  I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief.

However, as Dr. Corfman stated, that means the sperm are the problem.  Yes, Lee’s sperm are a little lazy.  Or as Lee put it, the good ones are like gingers with blue eyes; incredibly rare.

This might sound odd, but to me, this is great news.  It’s so much harder to work with bad eggs than it is to work with a lower quality sperm sample.  And his motility hasn’t always been as bad as it is now, which tells me that if we make some changes, we can get back on track.  We can work to fix his sperm quality.

I’m not going to lie; he’s going to hate it.  No more processed foods, no soda.  Just whole, organic, hormone-free foods.  And I’ll be pestering him to hit the gym with me again.  It’s not going to be easy, but it to boils down to whether or not he’s willing to incorporate lifestyle changes to increase our chances of making our adorable, incredibly rare, blue-eyed ginger baby dreams a reality.  And while I know my husband might shed a single tear over saying good-bye to some of his favorite foods, I can guarantee that he wants this family as much as I do.  If there are things we can do to improve our chances, I know he’ll do whatever is in his power to help.

We’re still going to take the rest of the year to relax and enjoy ourselves, but there are plenty of positive lifestyle changes we can start working toward immediately.  Doing so will only make us more successful when and if we decide to start the process again.

Before I end this update, I want to personally thank Lee for allowing me to share our results from yesterday as well as our entire story.  It takes one hell of a strong man to not only feel comfortable with what I share, but to encourage me to do so.  You continue to amaze me every day.  ♥

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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

 

 

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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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