Monday, April 29, 2013

Holding to Hope

It's harder to remain hopeful today. I have a lot of cramping, and it's difficult to think it's anything different than what I experience every "normal" month. I've spent some of my morning in the Psalms, reminding myself of God's goodness and faithfulness throughout history, praising God for how great He is. I came across Psalm 113:9, which says, "He gives the childless woman a household, making her the joyful mother of children. Hallelujah!" I love this verse, even though I know that not every childless woman gets to become a joyful mother. But it still shows a truth about our God: He cares for the broken, and He loves to redeem. And often, He does grant the barren woman her deep desire! I'm holding to this today.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

IVF Meds {4}

This is the last post on IVF medications. After my final injection, I only had to worry about pills, patches, and suppositories. That's a little easier to manage than a self-administered shot!

After the aspiration and transfer, I took the antibiotic Erythromycin (which always makes me nauseated!) and Medrol, a steroid, for four days. The day after the aspiration, I began the progesterone suppositories (Crinone and Prometrium) in the morning and before bed. Lastly, I stuck on my Vivelle Dot Patch (Estradiol). I'll continue these along with vitamins, baby aspirin, and Ovomax (a DHEA supplement) until told to stop.

What do these do to me? I become a hormonal crazy person. I also am constantly sick to my stomach and super fatigued. Yes, I'm a bowl of fun these days. Who wants to hang out? :)

Friday, April 26, 2013

2WW: 1WD

(Translation: Two Week Wait. One Week Down.)

Our little embryos are one week old today! Only one more week to go until we find out how they've done with me. Part of me wishes May 3rd would just get here already, and part of me wishes I could stay in this bliss for a bit longer.

Overall, I've done well...except for coming down with the stomach flu. At first, I was slightly excited, thinking maybe it was an early (albeit crazy early) pregnancy symptom. I had a low fever all day and just felt a bit ick. That turned into a miserable night of the flu, which I am still struggling to get over. The worst is past, though.

Besides this horrible and disgusting past twenty-four hours, the week has been focused on resting and positivity. Usually, when I've had my IUIs, I sink into a depression almost immediately after the procedure. I feel like there is no more I can do and no more reason to hope. It either has worked, or it hasn't. When any tiny cramp comes along, I swear it's all over. The IVF felt different. Part of it was knowing that the embryos actually existed and were inside of me (that was amazing), but part of it was also the mindset we told ourselves we would have. We decided before the procedure that we would be hopeful and positive. We would trust that God was using this for his good, and that He was going to give us a family. We wouldn't discuss plan B's or what-ifs or buts or any of that. God has directed us to this, and there is no reason for us to hold on to some negative end result. And anyway, I know from experience: preparing ourselves for disappointment doesn't really help. It doesn't. And it just makes that 2ww a sad time when it could be a joyous time.

So, I'm full of joy. (I'm also full of saltine crackers and chicken broth. Ew.) I'm grateful for what I have, right here, right now.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Flowers of Hope

I've shared before how our garden has been a source of hope and encouragement for us. It has become this present and daily reminder of God's grace and God's redemption in our lives. So today, we were overjoyed when our peony (a lovely gift from Debbie) finally opened!

The truly amazing thing about this peony is that we have had it for nearly four years now, and it has never bloomed! Never! I guess some plants like peonies take a few years to settle in and finally flower. And so, to have it blooming now, and to have it with not one but two buds is just more than I can handle. (Remember, I'm overdosed on hormones over here...anything makes me cry!)

I've prayed that God would allow me to remain hopeful and positive. What a gift today!

Join the Movement...Be Brave!

On Sunday, my husband and I went to the hospital to have our first IVF embryo transfer. Quite coincidentally, Sunday was also April 21, the first day of National Infertility Awareness Week 2013. Although we didn't plan it to happen that way (as usual, we were at the mercy of many situations beyond our control), I did smile to myself as I read the email from Resolve. We were already in our hospital room by that time, me with my blue gown and cap and conspicuous lack of make-up (infertility isn't pretty, guys), waiting for our doctor.
While we waited, we watched the video and I read about the Bloggers Unite opportunity. The theme this year is "Join the Movement..." It's an opportunity for us to share how we've spoken up, shared our stories, and tried to break the isolation that so many infertile couples experience.

I wasn't always open about our infertility. It's not exactly the jolliest topic of conversation, and it has to be one of the more personal, intimate, even embarrassing struggles to share. And anyway, I was sure the moment I "made a big deal about it," I'd get pregnant! Then I would just look like a dramatic fool.

For years, then, we told no one. We barely talked about it with each other. I cried alone often in those early days, dreading each month's cycle that would remind me that I couldn't do such a natural human thing, heartbroken over the baby I couldn't have. I made excuses and ignored it as much as possible, but with each passing month, I became closer to having to face the truth. Something was wrong.

Finally, and I'm not sure what even propelled me to do this, I called my OB. That was the first step for me, once I recognized the problem. When the "easy" fixes didn't work, she referred us to a fertility specialist, and that was the beginning of our nearly four years with them.

I was still very closed off at this point, but as infertility became more and more our life, we began to open up, and I became braver about sharing. We told family and close friends first, then key people in our church, and then it slowly expanded. I began this blog in January of 2010 just as we were preparing for our first IUI. It started out as a private, read-only-by-invitation thing. Somewhere along the way I made it public. And then on Monday, completely overwhelmed by the IVF process we had just gone through and the positive support we had received, I linked it on Facebook.

Honestly, I thought that by now, most people either knew or at least guessed we were infertile. I couldn't believe the response! So many people contacted me, saying they had no clue we were struggling with this, offering prayers and love and support. Hundreds of people were reading our story, many of them wishing we had told them earlier.

"Join the movement" sounds like such a huge thing. It sounds like I need to buy t-shirts and run races and hold forums. (These things are going on, and I'm so grateful for those who do this!) But joining the movement can also be much simpler: it can be stepping out in courage when we'd rather hide away, being brave and willing to share when we'd rather stay silent.

It's true that with sharing our story, some may not understand. Some may think–as I've feared all these years–that I'm just a drama queen. Some may even say to us those things we infertiles hate to hear. But I think that's the minority. I think the majority wants to lift us up, carry us, bear with us, love us. Actually, I don't think this at all. I know this. And I know that as we open up and as we become braver–because it's scary, friends, to bare our deepest heartache like this–, knowledge and understanding will increase.

As I've already said this week, just by listening and caring, you have joined the movement! How else can you gain knowledge and spread awareness? You can:

  1. Read Infertility 101 to learn the basics.
  2. Read about National Infertility Awareness Week.
  3. If you have a story, share it, even if you've had the joy of growing your family already. How did infertility affect you? How do you see it still impacting you and the way you live your life and connect with others? Grab the badge and be brave!
  4. If you don't struggle (or haven't struggled) with infertility, you can still be a supporter! Share how you've seen infertility affect others or how your understanding has grown. (You're welcome to share about us.)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Long Wait: Day 5

I basically have one thing (or is it two things?) consuming my thoughts. That being said, I wanted to see images of what these little embryos could potentially look like. I found this video on YouTube. So amazing to see the changes that take place in even five days!

At approximately day 5 (sometimes a day or two later), the embryo is called a blastocyst because of how it has changed. At this point, a greater chance exists for the embryos to continue growing and implant. This is why transferring a blastocyst has a higher success rate. But for us, that wasn't an option. We only had two, and one wasn't even dividing as well as it should, so we needed them in soon! The hope is that they will do better with me. I'd like to think so :)

You can check out the video here.

National Infertility Awareness Week: April 21-27

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and no, we did not plan our IVF to coincide perfectly with this. We know there are no real "plans" on this journey!

If you've been following us and our story, you already are "joining the movement" -- helping to raise awareness of infertility and to encourage compassion and understanding toward the infertile. We may be one of many couples you know struggling to become pregnant, or we may be the first. One thing is for sure: we are not alone. Statistically, 1 in 8 couples are infertile. I've done the count myself, and this is a pretty accurate stat for what I see among people I know, recognizing that some journeys may end sooner than others.

What can you do this week? Pray for those whose hearts are broken as they struggle with infertility. Share our story, or if you have your own, share that one! Read the links below to learn more about infertility and NIAW.

I know from experience that the infertile couple often feels lonely, isolated, and misunderstood. Thankfully, those feelings no longer plague us because of the support and understanding of those around us. I hope that all couples will get to experience that love in their own lives.

What is Infertility?
About National Infertility Awareness Week
Resolve: The National Infertility Association

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Transfer

Just over twenty-four hours ago, I arrived at the hospital for our embryo transfer. It was eerily quiet. Apparently, outpatient is pretty much shut down on the weekends, so the only patients there were those undergoing IVF retrievals and transfers. We stepped in the elevator and onto the second floor, where only two days before we had received our news of our five follicles. A nurse met us, took us to our room where I changed out of my clothes and into the lovely and modest gown, and gave me water to drink to prepare for the procedure.

And there we waited.

There were perhaps three or four patients, and since we were last, we listened as each received their instructions and were rolled out. While we waited, we talked, laughed, prayed, and happily read messages and texts from friends and family. A fellow IVF-er had told me to try and enjoy the moment, and so we did.

Finally, it was my turn. My doctor came in and in his very matter-of-fact way said that we had two embryos: one of them was good, and one of them "so-so". I cringed slightly at hearing that one wasn't doing well, but relief also swept over me. Both were alive. Both were ready. And both would be placed inside of me. All of the night before, I had slept restlessly, waking up constantly and praying for them, asking God to protect them and keep them safe. That morning I awoke at 5 am to tears -- I must have been crying over them in my sleep! The hours before we left were spent praying for them.

Our doctor left and our nurse came in. A sweet nurse named Missy (which is the name of the nurse I love at our clinic) rolled me away into the same room where the egg aspiration had taken place. She got me into position, turned on some music (how could I not love her??), and covered me up with warm blankets. Other nurses came in to help move me to where I needed to be. Once prepped, it was time for my doctor to come in.

The procedure was uncomfortable, of course, but in all honesty, I've experienced much worse. In fact, the most uncomfortable part about it was that I had to pee the whole time thanks to the full bladder they insisted I had. My doctor narrated a bit about what he was doing, and finally said, "Okay, I'm going to place the embryos in your uterus now."

A few minutes later, he helped the nurse with the ultrasound and directed me to the screen so I could see. He showed me my uterus and pointed to a light blob near the bottom. "And there are the embryos," he said.


And that was that. He directed me to continue my medications no matter what and take the pregnancy blood test as instructed. He gave a final word of hope and luck, and left.

I stayed in the room for awhile, trying to follow my instructions of no moving whatsoever ("wet noodle," the nurse had insisted), then was put back on an inclined bed with my feet in the air. The nurse took me to recovery, sweetly chatting about how she hopes this works for us along the way, and soon Robby met me there. After about an hour, and after every other person had left except two nurses, we finally got to go home.

I'm nearly finished with my 24 hour bed rest...which has not been as fun as it sounds! Hanging out in bed is one thing, but having to lie on your back with your feet elevated for 24 hours is just plain uncomfortable! Visits (and treats) from my parents, sister, and Robby's parents helped. And of course my incredible husband waiting on me isn't so bad, either :)

I'm so grateful for the experience I've had. I keep holding my abdomen and praying for the little embryos inside of me. I am anxious for the day of our pregnancy test to come, but I also want to stay in this moment awhile longer. No tears. No disappointment. Just hope.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Two are waiting :)

On Friday morning, I went to the hospital for my egg aspiration (retrieval). This is an ultrasound-guided trans-vaginal "surgery" where the follicles (and therefore eggs) are removed from the body. If you recall, I had three decent and two dinky follicles at my Wednesday ultrasound. On Friday, they were able to get all five out! Amazing!

This afternoon, we found out the result of the retrieval and fertilization. Out of the five eggs, only four of them were mature, and two of them were able to be fertilized! I know that compared to other couples going through IVF, this isn't many. But for us, it's great news. Both of our little embryos will be placed inside my uterus tomorrow morning. We hope and pray that both continue to grow and make a happy home with me.

This day has been a bit of a roller coaster of emotions. One minute I'm smiling, the next I'm crying, the next I'm in total shock about the fact that OUR embryos are hanging out in Clovis at this very moment. More than anything, I want them to live. I desperately want them to live. I love them already...could that be possible?...and I want them with me.

You have all prayed fervently. Please persist in your prayers and bring our plea before the Almighty.

IVF Meds {3}: A pain in the bum!

Wednesday night (or more accurately Thursday was 1 am), I had my last injection. You may recall that typically the last injection is the hCG shot or "trigger shot" -- the medication that triggers a woman's ovulation to occur. Whether a pregnancy is happening inside or outside of a doctor's office, the timing of ovulation is key. You could have a perfect amount of beautiful follicles, but if you miss that small window when the eggs are released, conception simply cannot occur.

In IVF, timing of ovulation matters even more because one is paying thousands of dollars to surgically have those eggs (which are there thanks to more thousands of dollars) removed. How sad would it be if after prep and sedation, it turns out the little eggs have already moved down the fallopian tube?! This is why our shot wasn't at a normal time: one in the morning would have to do.

Every other medication thus far has come with a 1/2 inch needle that is injected into my stomach around my belly button area. They're not fun, to say the least, and I've learned I should never be a phlebotomist based on the bruising I have caused. This hCG injection came with a 1 & 1/2 inch needle! That's huge! This one is may have guessed by the title...into my bum. Of course, since I can't safely inject a giant needle into my backside, it was my hub's turn to be nurse. Surprisingly, I hardly felt the sting. In fact, I felt a little pinch, and I thought he was chickening out, so I said, "It's okay! Just do it!!!" He laughed just slightly. "I already did," he said.

I went to sleep just fine and then woke up with the right side of my lower backside (lower backside is a nice way of saying bum, you know) totally in pain! All day I couldn't "rest" myself as I normally would and had to sit a bit lopsided. Three days later, I'm still sore.

The good news is the rest of the medications do not come with any sharp points. They're still gross and will no doubt cause annoying side effects, but my stomach and bum have nothing to fear.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Is this really happening?

Today I left work early because I'm sick. Right now, I'm on the couch, trying to soothe a sore throat with hot tea and settle an upset stomach with saltines. Even though I am achey and uncomfortable, it also feels normal. Just a normal cold. A normal afternoon. A normal weekend ahead.

But then I remember, nothing is normal right now. Tomorrow, as in less than 24 hours from now, I will go to the hospital and have the tiny eggs inside of my body taken out. They will quickly be fertilized, and on Saturday, we will wait for a call to tell us how many embryos we have. In the nearly eight years Robby and I have shared together, never have we anticipated such important news. I can barely comprehend how amazing and huge this is, and any attempt to truly grasp it just leaves me a sobbing wreck.

It doesn't seem real that this is happening, but it is. :)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Moving Forward!!!

We are going ahead with IVF! Today's appointment was one of the most positive appointments we've had in a very long time. We met with our NP who was visibly excited to tell me my Estradiol levels were rising as hoped! (This was one of the key hormones that was not up to par at the last IVF attempt, which was a main reason why the cycle was cancelled.) Estradiol should register at about 200 for each follicle at this point, and my level was over 800. The ultrasound showed growth, as much as 5 mm for a couple of the follicles. For sure the three main follicles are growing just wonderfully, and the other two may even be ready in time for the aspiration (retrieval).Woo-hoo!!!

We entered the appointment with trepidation, thinking that a cancellation was still likely. It was so great to talk with our NP. She said they didn't expect to get dozens of follicles out of me -- they are happy with the result thus far! That feels so good to hear! Yes, I may be a 30-year-old woman whose body thinks it's 50, but today, for the first time in a long time, I felt strangely normal.

I think Robby and I are still in a bit of shock. Good shock. There's not a whole lot of time to let this sink in, though. Friday is the egg aspiration, and by Saturday, we'll know how many of those eggs were fertilized successfully. From that point, the doctors decide when the transfer should happen, as it can be anywhere from Day 2 to Day 5 of fertilization. It all depends on what is happening with the embryos. 

Thank you for your prayers. I have no doubt that God is working and is responding to our pleas. He is so good, and I thank Him for even this next step!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

One step closer

If we have learned anything from dealing with infertility, it is flexibility. How many times have we planned or expected something, only to arrive to our appointment and get thrown a curve ball? This morning, we went to our appointment hoping to get a clear yea or nay in regards to continuing with IVF. That wasn't the case at all. We're still in that waiting room phase.

At our last IVF attempt, I had four follicles, but two of them were too small to count, so really, I had two. One of them was significantly larger than the other, which sounds good but likely means that one will mature and release an egg before the other one can do so. This time, I had five follicles, two dinky ones and three decent ones. The three are all around the same size, which means we hope they will grow at about the same rate and all be ready together. The two tiny ones have potential--with these meds, they just may get the boost they need to mature.

This all sounds like progress, and indeed it is. The problem is that this is still less than what is needed to move ahead with IVF. When we last talked with the doctor, he said ten good follicles is the best worse case scenario, if that makes sense. When we pressed him further, he thought five good follicles could be possible. That would mean that four are retrieved successfully, and out of those four, two could be fertilized. (This is all based on statistics, of course - 80% and 80%). At that point, the chances of implantation are about the same as with any pregnancy. 

Right now, I am not at that minimum minimum. It is likely that we are looking at three getting to the point of releasing an egg. Today I inject myself with super doses of the medication, and we hope and pray that each one of those tiny eggs grows. Tomorrow, I will have a blood test and ultrasound to see the progress. If there are five, then the next step is easy--IVF! If not, then we have to make one more hard decision. Do we push for an IVF, knowing our chances are minuscule but chances nonetheless? Or do we recognize that we've done everything we could and try one more IUI before letting this all go?

This weight is heavy these days. Robby and I talked awhile last night, trying to sort through all the emotions we feel. The truth is we're exhausted--physically, mentally, and emotionally. Even spiritually, we feel empty, not because God is not near us but because we barely have the strength to pray or read. We're drawing on what is hidden in our hearts, thankful that God is present and faithful regardless of where we are, grateful that others love us enough to intercede for us. We reminded each other last night that even if we don't have words, the Holy Spirit does, and He is praying for us. If that doesn't bring hope and peace, what else can?

So we sit one more day in the waiting room. Thank you all for waiting with us and for being hopeful and positive even when we don't have the strength to be. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

IVF Meds {2}

For this second IVF attempt, the docs changed up my medications slightly. In addition to Gonal-F and Menopur (which have been increased), I have been injecting Lupron every morning and night for the last week. A short Lupron (leuprolide) treatment is used to help initiate follicular growth, and since I began this earlier in my cycle, we're hoping this will help produce more follicles. More follicles equals more eggs which equals a chance at IVF!

Tomorrow, we find out if this new protocol has made any difference. We hope it has!