Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Running in circles

As much as I need the comfort of family and friends right now I can't bear to face anyone.  Sobbing isn't going to make our situation any different and that's all I can do right now.  Face to face I always have a hard time coming up with the right words to say.  I've always been that way.  My mouth works faster than my brain I suppose.  But I've never had much of a problem with written words.  I enjoy writing and I think I'm actually pretty good at it sometimes.  But today I find myself at a loss for words.  I have so many thoughts racing through my mind and none of them seems to make any sense.  Since I can't seem to be around anyone, using my blog as a form of "therapy" is all I have.  I just want answers to questions that can't be answered.  Why me?  What did I do to deserve this?  It's incredibly easy to feel angry at the world, resentful towards others and sorry for yourself when a life trauma is thrown over and over in your face.  I can't say I'm not guilty of feeling this way.  I've played life by the rules, think I'm genuinely a good person, and these are the cards I've been dealt?  I know there's people whose life circumstances are far worse than mine...I try to be grateful for the life I have, yet it seems so pointless because I don't feel it's complete.  Why does it seem so easy for others?  Why do people seem to take for granted what's right in front of them?  

I'd be lying if I said I was ok.  In fact, I'm far from it.  I know that my pain will lessen with time but my scars will always remain.  The only cure for me is to have the child I so badly want and even then this will still always be a huge part of my life.  At one point I was happy we were one in 8 couples struggling with infertility.  You may ask why.  I always thought we'd beat it early on and have our kids, but that's far from true.  I was happy because I felt our struggles with infertility were shaping me into being a better person.  I'm learning compassion and empathy firsthand.  I'm learning not to take simple things for granted.  I'm learning how good some people really are.  I thought these struggles would teach me an important life lesson and that I would value and cherish my children more than the average person once I had them.  It would make me be a better parent.  But now I'm not so sure.  Infertility is ugly.  It's bringing out the negative side of me too.  I'm angry at God (if there is one) and the world.  I'm resentful towards people I love because they have what I don't.  I don't want to be around people with children because that reminds me what I can't have and what a failure I am.  I don't want to be around people who are happy because I'm miserable.  I don't want to hang around friends that are younger than me because I'm mad they have time on their side.  It's selfish and it's not fair to them.  As if living with infertility isn't bad enough, it makes me feel like a horrible person for having such negative emotions towards people who are important to me.  I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy and never in a million years did I think I'd be where I am today.  I imagined my life very differently.

For some strange reason I had a sixth sense that this trial of IVF failed.  I had a gut feeling and I don't know why.  I did my best to stay cautiously optimistic.  I was scheduled for my beta (pregnancy blood test) this past Tuesday....exactly 2 weeks after the egg retrieval.  Every day I took a pregnancy test, knowing very well they aren't accurate this early in the was alluring because sometimes they are.  I imagined how I'd tell Chris we were about to have our dream baby, running to show him my first double lines.  I imagined how I'd tell our parents they were going to be grandparents.  That never happened.  Each day I kept getting a negative, only to convince myself tomorrow would be the day.  Monday morning was my last home test and I knew time was running out.  I knew many women had already gotten their positives by now.  I was at work Monday and was scheduled till 6:30.  It was supposed to be another busy day of patients but luckily I had a few cancels at 3:00 and 4:00 so I had a few free hours.  Then it happened.  I went to the bathroom and started bleeding.  At first a little but then (sorry if this is tmi) it was gushing.  Obviously something was wrong.  You aren't supposed to bleed that badly if you are pregnant.  I was also taking progesterone supplements and you aren't supposed to get your period while on them.   I knew I was losing the pregnancy...if there even was one.  I'll never know.  I called the doctor's office and got the voicemail.  I called back again and explained the situation to the secretary.  I asked to speak with the emergency on call doctor because something clearly was wrong.  Her response:  "well....first of all this isn't an emergency.  I'll transfer you."  She transferred me to the same voicemail I already called.  I was horrified and still can't get over how I was treated!  I was losing my entire life's dream before my eyes and there was nothing I could do!  But what could I do?  I had 5:00 patients.  I have already been missing work for doctor's appointments and just can't risk losing my job.  It pays my bills and afforded me my first IVF trial.  I wanted to cry SO bad but I work with all male coworkers....none of whom know what's going on.  I couldn't leave and couldn't cry in front of patients.  This was the hardest thing I've ever had to do.  But I did it....I stayed and completed my day.  The minute they all left I cried and pretty much continued this pattern since Monday.  I didn't sleep at all Monday night.  I took the test Tuesday because the doctor (who I did end up talking to) said I should. I worked Tuesday, choked my tears back for a few hours then came home to receive the call from the doctor's office with my if I didn't already know.  I STILL have yet to speak with my doctor.  In fact, I probably never will.  Apparently he's "slowing down".  I spoke with his colleague and briefly discussed my concerns I was having with the clinic.  Monday we have our post IVF consult to further discuss what could have went wrong and I will continue to express my concerns.  Friday I made an appointment with RMA for second opinion.  I am nervous and anxious to get some answers.  

I'm not at the point where I can give up yet but this struggle is so hard.  At times I don't know how I'm going to survive, how I'm going to make it through the day or even the next hour.  Simple tasks take great effort.  Getting dressed and going to work seem insurmountable.  Life isn't supposed to be this unhappy.  I know that if I don't try again I'll always regret it.  In 2 months my chances of conceiving statically drop about 15%...pretty scary since we already have had so many failures.  How will I handle another?  Our first step is to find some answers, get a few more opinions (at another cost I'm sure...each consult runs about $350) and then chose our next doctor carefully.  I have to remember I'm interviewing them.  They just got paid thousands of dollars that I earned just to give me the period from hell.  After that our next hurdle is to find the money (again) to pay for it all.  It does come at a price. We paid around 11,000 of our own money for IVF and used a 2,000 grant I won from BabyQuest for medications.  The remainder of the medications were covered under insurance however my benefits ran out.  We drained our savings and are starting from scratch.  Time isn't on our side and I feel like I am in a race to come up with it.  For all you reader out there, any suggestions are helpful.  I've thought of it tacky to have a fundraiser and ask for money?  At this point short of begging, if it gets me closer to my dream I'll do it.  

Monday, March 25, 2013

I'm writing this blog with a very heavy heart.  As everyone knows, Chris and I have been pursuing our dream of a family for over 30some plus months.  We've been under the care of a professional for well over a year and have tried everything under the sun....even herbal remedies and old wives tales to get pregnant.  We've failed 4 procedures prior to our recent IVF trial and have had our hopes and dreams come crashing down on several occasions.  However, as hard as it was, we did not give up.  There were times when I didn't think it was humanly possible to make it through this alive, times when I became severely depressed and discouraged.  We painstakingly saved for the past year for this one shot at having a baby.  At one point I worked 3 jobs, one which I absolutely HATED.  We scraped up every bit of money and gave up alot of things.  We did it thinking there'd be an end in sight and that all our hard work would be rewarded.  It made every bad day at work and every struggle we had during that point seemingly worth it.  Infertility is stressful enough, worrying about money makes it that much harder.  

I knew going into this there were no guarantees, but if we wanted a family of our own, it was the ONLY way.  I went into this cautiously optimistic.  Some may have classified me as being a bit of a pessimist.  I'd get so angry at people who told me to have if I didn't?  Hope is ALL I ever had.   Never would I have threw myself under the bus, drained my bank account, and made myself vulnerable if I didn't have hope.   The people telling me this weren't the ones who had to live through months and months of heartache - procedure after failed procedure.  I did.  I lived through it all and no one wiped my tears or hugged me when I sobbed.  So please don't tell me to have hope.  

As you've probably guessed from the sound of this post, our recent IVF was a big fat failure.  We got what the infertility crowd calls a BFN (big fat negative). I've had a pretty good sixth sense about all my procedures and pregnancy attempts.  Sadly this was no different.  I don't know why, but I just knew it failed.  I just knew. I have put every ounce of hope, mustered every bit of strength for this, and I came out the loser.  We have no money left and it takes alot of it to have a baby when you're infertile.  Things most of you reading this have taken for granted.  I can't tell you how angry I am at half of you reading this right now.  You all are living MY dream and have NO idea what a day in the life of this is like.  All I ever wanted in life was a family of my own.  I worked so incredibly hard to have a good life.  I went to college, was responsible, saved money...all for nothing.  I am no better off and feel little desire for life as it is now.  It hurts so bad I can't breathe.  

I just wasted $16,000 on nothing but a freaking period. I took absences from work and put my body through hell for nothing.  It's easy for anyone who's not in my shoes to say remain hopeful when they aren't the ones going through painful, embarrassing and expensive procedure, stabbing themselves with needles, taking time off work, and going through hormonal changes on a day to day basis.  It's not easy.  So the room next to ours still remains empty.  I would have been due December 3rd.  Again, Christmas will be with empty arms.  I'm going to spend another mother's day childless while the rest of the world carries on.  I may never know what it' like to be pregnant or to read my child a bedtime story.  I don't know what will happen next.  I thought I prepared myself for this scenario but I was dead wrong.  Nothing can prepare you for this.  Sadly, other than maxing out our credit cards we don't have the money to try again.  Is it worth that for the chances of another potential failure and heartbreak?  Then we could be bankrupt and still childless, paying debt for years for something we don't even have.  Chris is in his 40's and in exactly 2.5 months statically my fertility drops another 20some percent.  Unless someone has very good advice how to acquire money, is willing to donate it or has some guarantees, please don't offer advice.  I do however appreciate all your love and support throughout this ordeal.  My wounds are only getting deeper and my scars will never completely heal.  No matter what this pain will always be a part of me.  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Surviving the 2ww (barely)

It's been over a week since egg retrieval and embryo transfer.  Getting through each day has been difficult and I can honestly say this has been the longest week of my life.  Monday, after I recieved the phone call from the lab that our remaining embryos didn't survive, I was devastated.  But I still had to be at work within the hour so I didn't have  much time to process the severity or grieve.  I've felt over the past few months that I've been taking alot of blows with this whole trying to have a baby dream.  Despite 30plus consective months of failures and 4 failed procedures, we got back up on our feet to try again.  We saved months for one shot at IVF and here we are.  I swear God is really trying to mess with me and it's cruel.  Monday, after the phone call I was walking down the hallway with a patient.  I work at a medical center.  We were deep in conversation and I wasn't even paying attention to where we were walking until I looked up.  I was right in front of the office window for prenatal testing.  I saw many seemingly happy very pregnant soon-to-be mommies waiting.  I'm waiting too.....just to get pregnant.  I nearly had a breakdown but had to pull it together rather quickly since it's embarrassing and unprofessional to cry in front of patients.  

Fast Forward to Tuesday:  Our secretary gets a phone call asking if we can treat low back pain in pregnant women.  I was choking back tears as I told him the answer.  I would kill to be in her shoes.  I also couldn't even imagine how I'd possibly be able to treat this woman on my caseload.  I'm sure I'd end up crying everytime. 

Fast Forward to Wednesday:  I dreamt I was old.  Alone.  I was in a small room.  I seemed sad. I grew old, without making a legacy for myself and without anyone to care if I was alive or dead.  I dreamt of lonely holidays...Christmastime without anyone.

Fast Forward to Thursday:  I was on facebook and saw yet another newborn announcement, countless posts of friends' children, and an unwanted advertistement for DisneyBaby stating: "10 miraculous things you didn't know about pregnancy." This was the night I was up half the night because of severe stomach pains.  I was doubled over in pain contemplating going to the ER.

Fast Forward to Today:  I am taking a continuing education course this weekend that was planned way before we scheduled IVF.  As bad of a weekend for it to be, I used it as an opportunity to get my mind off least that's what I thought.  There's a pregnant woman in the class waaaay younger than me.  I overheard her giggling about with each of her pregnancies her husband has gained the same amount of weight as her.  I was so incredibly jealous....she's oblivious and so lucky that she even can get pregnant.  Then an hour into the class the instuctors started talking about pregnancy.  It's a mobilization class for the neck and we were reviewing precautions.  What could have been 2 sentences, turned out to be THREE stories about their wives pregnancies.  Everyone laughed...but me.

I've been trying to pass the time and stay optomistic.  I'd say I've succeeded by about 50% of the time.  The other  half is filled with obsessive internet searches about thing IVF related, boredom,  worrying and praying.  I've tried think about how I'd react if the test is negative.  Each time I either end up crying or have to change the subject in my head.  It's too devastating.  But I NEED to be somewhat prepared, if that's even possible.  I've tried to think about doing this all over again.  HOW could we afford it...COULD I even handle it physically and emotionally again?  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Putting all my eggs in one basket: VENT SESSION

It's 3:00am and I can't sleep.  It could be from my cat who's surprisingly snoring louder than my husband, but most likely it's from everything that's on my mind.  This morning was hard.  I got the call from the lab that all of our remaining embryos, what I considered future potential babies, died.  Friday, they weren't doing so well as they were only 4 cells and should have been 8.  I was skeptical then, but still hopeful.  Still - it hurts to hear that news.  Even though these embryos were only a few cells and a few days old, they were still mine and held the only ticket to my dream of parenthood.  Now they are gone. Did you know that as soon as an egg is fertilized, the genetic DNA already dictates sex, looks and even mannerisms?  I'll never know what they could have been.  All that love and work and they are gone.  I read a few days back that usually only 30% of embryos actually survive.  Despite that I was still praying and hoping that I'd have something left to freeze in case this cycle fails and I don't get pregnant from the two that are inside of me now.  It's SO disappointing.  I'm so angry at my doctor.  All along, they had me believing I'd have tons of embryos...even alluding that I'd have some to freeze for future brothers and sisters.   There's nothing more hurtful than false hope. I wish they'd have prepared me better for THIS.  It was never mentioned.  Clearly I've never done this before so I rely on them.   That's why they get paid the big bucks. 

Like anyone waiting for life changing news that could potentially be the best news ever or the worst ever, my mind flip flops back and forth between hopeful and hopeless.  I make stupid deals with myself and God about what I'll do and the kind of person I'll be if this works.  Silly.  Everyone keeps telling me to think positive but they aren't the ones who have to live with the devastating consequences if things end badly.  Also, these are also the people who already have children and can in no way relate to this pain.  Who's gonna pick me up off the bathroom floor this time from a sobbing mess?  NO ONE wants this more than me.  No one.  Hope is all I have.  I know there's only a 40% chance of me being pregnant with this cycle and I'm hanging onto every ounce of hope there is.  But that being said, I need to be prepared if this fails.  We have NOTHING left.  We have no more saving and no other options.  Saving money for this IVF cycle was painstakingly slow and I've already waited so long... and we are only getting older.  I simply can't bare to wait again.

I know I have 2 perfect embryos inside of me now.  Chances seem great since they are formed so well and my body is in good shape reproductively speaking.  But as I've learned the hard way more than several times, NOTHING is guaranteed.  At one point the doctors had me convinced my IUIs would work and all my friends and family were positive too, but look where we are now.  Reality is that things don't always go as hoped for and I know that better than anyone telling me to remain positive.  I've cried thousands of tears and not one person who's told me to remain positive has been there when I'm nothing but a hot mess and not one of those persons can guarantee me what I want so badly.  So while I'm trying to remain positive that this cycle is going to work, I also need to be realistic for sanity sake.  

Nothing is guaranteed and I get the impression that everyone that knows we are doing IVF thinks it is.  No one has provided me any advice or comfort about what to do if things end badly, yet people seem to have no problem getting my hopes up talking about my future children.  That's more cruel than dangling a piece of steak in front of a starving person.  Who does that?  I've done everything right with this cycle, listened to doctor's orders strictly and have hoped and prayed to God more than a nun prays on Sunday.  But life isn't always fair.  If this were guaranteed just because I'm a good person and have tried so hard, explain why I'm not pregnant yet after nearly 3 years of relentless trying and yet crack moms can have kids? And many couples who'd make fantastic parents try and try for children....and nothing.  This just proves that it could go either way and mentally if I'm not somewhat prepared for the worst I don't know how I'll pick up the pieces.  This one cycle alone cost upwards of $16,000....not an easy task to save for on our salary or for most people.  We DON'T have the money again and that scares me to death.  It's not fair that my potential to have a family is solely based on my salary.  Unless you are willing to give me $16,000 please don't be condescending and tell me to think positive. 

On another note, I wanted to politely ask to refrain from asking when I'll know the results.  While I've made my battle very public, but this is something that is private between Chris and I.  I don't need to feel pressure to tell people we are or aren't pregnant.  There's so much pressure already.  While I'm happy that everyone is pulling for us, we need to deal with the results as a couple matter what happens.  If it's positive I want the joy of telling people in my own way.  Afterall, I've waited SO long to give good news.  If it's negative, I need time (lots of it) to grieve and to think of a back up plan (if there is one).  There's nothing worse than having to tell a million people your biggest dream failed...50 times.  I can't possibly relive the nightmare each time I tell someone.  I only want to say it once because it's just too hard.  

Again, thank you all for supporting us.  I know this isn't the most positive post but it's how I feel about what's going on. I appreciate all the kind words and prayers.  

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Our beautiful 3 day old embryos

I'm on 1dp3dt (1 day post 3 day transfer).  Basically that just means I transferred a 3 day old embryo yesterday.  Along the way, I've picked up a lot of infertility lingo.  It's amazing what I learned over the past few months, not only about infertility but about myself.  As far as procedures go, this one wasn't too bad.  I arrived at 9:30 and was on my way home by 10:00.  What basically happens is you go into the surgical room, see your embryos in the petri dish through a TV screen to confirm they have the right ones (God I hope :) so), they do the speculum thing and insert a "test" catheter through your cervix to  make sure there will be no complications.  Once this is completed the real catheter, with our embryos inside, is inserted and then they are released.  All this is seen and guided via traditional ultrasound through my stomach.  It was amazing that Chris and I could see this entire process on the screen and actually watch them be released into their new home.  It was surreal....we nearly cried and would have if others weren't in the room for our big moment.  In order to make the ultrasound picture higher quality, you are required to have a full bladder.  While this doesn't seem like a big deal, it is.  I obviously drank TOO much water and thought at one point this was some sort of medieval torture technique.  At times it was quite painful but it didn't last very long thankfully.  Remember, even though my eggs were retrieved three days prior, the ovaries stay swollen for quite some time, often the size of a softball.  Needless to say there's not alot of room in there so even small amount of liquid in the bladder is awful.  I now know what it's like for pregnant women to feel they have to pee all the time.  Actually I'm still experiencing this but it gets better each day.  After the transfer you lie still for 10 minutes and then are discharged home for modified bed rest for a few days.  After I got home, I made myself comfortable on the couch that has been my home these past several days.  Throughout the day I was experiencing intermittent sharp pains in my ovaries....I relate it to the time I had appendicitis but not quite as intense and long lasting.  That too gets better each day.  I wish someone would have told me all the side effects IVF can have (especially the emotional ones).  However, I still would do it a thousand times over.  Sometimes ignorance is bliss, other times not so much.

The past few days have been nerve wracking.  We didn't get word until about a day later that 10 of 14 eggs were usable and 7 fertilized.  We had to wait until Thursday to find out how they were growing.  This was NOT a fun time.  Just because they fertilized doesn't mean they'll grow.  In fact I read that usually only 30% make it.  This had me horrified since that meant only 2....I was SO praying to have some to freeze in case this fails.  Thursday (at work) I got the call that we had 2 four celled, 1 three celled, and 4 two celled embryos.  At least they are made it, but we were (and still are) not out of the woods yet.  Unless by the next morning we had 5 eight celled embryos, we would have the transfer on day three instead waiting until day 5.  Again....more waiting.  I got the call at promptly 7:30am that I should arrive at 9:30 for the transfer.  The secretary called and therefore I was unable to see how the embryos were doing.  This really scared me.   It was the first time I really felt like a are my "kids"?@!!!   We arrived, had the transfer of the best looking 2 embryos (2 perfect Grade 1 embryos), and then were told the fate of our other 5 potential babies.  As of yesterday all were still only at 4 cells (7 to 9 cells on day three is what we are aiming at for viable embryos).  They said anything could happen so not to worry.  That's quite easy for them so say.  Sometimes bad looking embryos take off and grow beautifully while good looking ones just stop growing.  We will know Monday morning the end result.  They must make it to blastocyst stage (a certain stage in embryo development) in order to be considered viable and be frozen. I am hoping and praying for some to make it, but God it's incredibly nerve wracking.  

Some clinics wait until the embryos are 5 days old, while others transfer earlier at day 3.  There are many factors involved.  First, if you only have a few, the sooner they can get them into you the better.  Our womb beats any petri dish in a lab.  If you wait too long, they may die and you may take the risk of having nothing to transfer.  But if you are lucky enough to have alot, many times they wait until day 5 when the embryo are more robust and capable of implanting.  We were not so lucky, but either way viable pregnancies can happen with both.  In our case there was no question what to do and which embryos to choose.  What I've learned is that even poor looking embryos can develop into beautiful babies and sometimes even the best looking ones fail to implant and cause pregnancy.  You just never know.  

The two embryos we had were perfect Grade 1's.  That means that by day 3 they were between 7 and 9 cells, all cells were equal in size, and there was little to no fragmentation (pieces that break off and float around).  There are different grading systems and criteria embryologist use to grade the quality....I've learned it's an art, not a science and can vary clinic to clinic.  While having 2 text book, picture perfect embryos is great news, we still have no guarantees which rocks me to the core.  I'm on modified bed rest until Monday morning, so I have nothing to do but think.  

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

BEFORE egg retrieval
AFTER egg retrieval

Yesterday was the big day for egg retrieval.  9 days of medications and 30 needle sticks later (most self inflicted)!  We arrived at the hospital (my hubby and my sister) around 8:30 for my 10:00 surgery.  Strangely, it was pretty anticlimactic; funny since I've waited 30 long months to get to this point.  I checked in and waited for a bit to be taken back to change into my hospital get-up.  My sister and hubby had to wait in the waiting room while I had the nurse take my vitals, start my IV (ouch!) and for the anesthesiologist to talk to me and take my history.  I was in the room with another woman but she was behind a curtain....There were 3 egg retrievals scheduled that day and I was the last.  After all that was finished, my other half and sister were allowed to come into the room to help me pass time.  I waited for about 45 minutes or so until the lady that was next to me was finished in the OR and for my antibiotic to drain into my IV.  It was nice to have my big sister there for moral support, otherwise I'd probably let my mind get the best of me and would have been a basket case.  I figured that nothing could be worse than the hysteroscope I had....(and it wasn't!)  Surprisingly I wasn't nervous about the pain, but more the outcome:  would they be able to retrieve enough good eggs to make this work?  Just because the ultrasound shows nice follicles, doesn't mean they all contain good quality usable eggs.  Until now it was a mystery if I even HAD good eggs.  About every other day while taking the injections, I had internal ultrasounds to check the size and number of follicles.  Here's what it looks like:
Each black circle is a follicle:  a fluid filled sac that contains an egg inside.  At the time of egg retrieval, each is about 20 mm in diameter.  

my stomach after injections

At 10:00 it was my turn and I said my good lucks and good byes and walked myself into the OR.  I did some more waiting, lying on the table (staring at the weird machines). I was waiting for the anesthesiologist to finish her prep and had to wait for the doctor.  It wasn't my usual reproductive endocrinologist but another doctor in the practice that I've never met.  That made me a bit nervous but I had to deal.  I saw the infamous "window" they spoke of.  There is a window pass through (like a drive through window!) that connects the OR to the lab.  After each egg is collected, it is immediately passed through the window, to the lab, for them to work more magic.  I was SO ready to have this done and over with since my ovaries were about to explode and were killing me.  After the doctor arrived I was asked to assume the usual position for all these procedure:  in stirrups...that's the last I remembered.  I was given the MJ cocktail of propofol, benzodiazepine and maybe something else.  

Every woman's experience with infertility and egg retrieval is different.  We all have different journeys but share a common goal.  I've read reviews of horror stories with egg retrieval as far as pain is concerned.  Others barely feel it.  I was somewhere in the middle I suppose.  I was in the OR about an hour but the actual procedure itself is only about 15 minutes.  I woke up with moderate pain but it was helped once I filled my Tylenol with codeine script.  My stomach was sore and it was very painful to sit for obvious reasons.  Walking was also a challenge. Occasionally I'd get super sharp pains but they didn't last long.  On the way home I was a little nauseous but this passed quickly and I was even able to go to a restaurant to eat.  After I got home I slept most of the day and woke up this morning at 8:00.  Today is much better as I only have a little soreness. Tomorrow I return to work.  

So you may be wondering, how they collect the eggs? A large needle is attached to an internal ultrasound probe.  Once they find a follicle, the needle is inserted through the vaginal wall (ouch!) and into the follicle.  Once the needle enters the follicle, suction is applied and the fluid in the follicle is aspirated, taking the egg with it.  They repeat this for each and every follicle.  

After the eggs are collected, they are passed through the window and into the lab.  Since we have male factor infertility, letting the sperm and egg do their thing alone in the petri dish is a bad idea.  Our sperm can't seem to get it together enough to do the job. We opted for another procedure called ICSI (intracytoplasmic sperm injection)....the embryoloist takes a small needle and manually inserts the sperm into the egg. This alone added another $1500 to our bill

OUR RESULTS:  We retrieved 14 eggs (a good number is between 8 and 15)!   As of yesterday that's all I knew.  It takes several hours for the lab to do their thing and call back with results.  I received the call this morning that 10 of the 14 eggs were mature and usable.  7 were able to be fertilized.  Each day until the transfer I will receive a call from the lab to learn how our embryos are doing.  Usually not all survive and not all may be good quality.  I am hoping for the best.  I should have the transfer Friday or Sunday and am hoping all embryos survive.  We will only transfer 2 and hope to have some leftover to freeze in case this fails.  If not, our journey may be over and we will have to consider living childless.  

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Almost there!

Steps of IVF:
  1)  Control ovarian hyerstimulation (taking hormones which produce eggs)
  2)  Egg retrieval 
  3)  Fertilization
  4)  Embryo Transfer

I'm still at stage 1.  Today is "stim day" 10.  I started Gonal F and low dose HCG (injectable hormones that help produce lots of eggs) last Friday.  Being a needle phob I am quickly getting over this fear.  I've learned to stick myself in the far 20plus times in one week.  I had follow up with the doctor last Monday, Wednesday, Friday and yesterday for ultrasound monitoring and bloowork.  My arms are toast.  Thursday I started the third kind of injectable medication (Ganerelix), which prevents premature ovulation so you don't lose the eggs.  It also keeps them around longer so they grow into mature eggs....immature eggs are incapable of being fertilized.  I had good news at all follow ups that my follicles (the thing that holds the egg) are growing nicely and steadily.  At my last appointment I had about 10 to 12 follicles around 17mm (average is 8 to 15 follicles).  By now each ovary is the size of a grapefruit whereas normally it's between 3 to 5 cm.  Needless to say I've felt quite uncomfortable the past few days!  The first 6 days on hormones I felt side effects at all.  However since Thursday I have become increasingly uncomfortable (bloating and weight gain) and am having mood swings.  The injection sites are also sore and bruising.  Tonight I will take my last shot called a "trigger shot".  It's a medication called HCG which will help the eggs to undergo final maturation.  Timing is vital.  If the shot is given too early, the eggs will not be mature and are incapable of being fertilized.  If given too late the eggs are "too old" to fertilize.  Egg retrieval MUST be completed precisely 34 to 36 hours after the HCG shot is administered for viable eggs.

Tuesday is the big surgery date for egg retrieval.  I'm nervous and excited all at once....while I've done my research I'm still not s sure what to expect.  Of course Chris will be there and my sister from New Hampshire has offered to come down.  I'll be out of commission for a day or two so it's a big help.  Weirdly, I'm not as worried about the pain or discomfort, but more of the outcome.  Not every follicle will contain an egg and not all retrieved eggs are capable of being fertilized.  My main worry is not having enough because we can't afford to do this again....and my body is slowly having a nervous breakdown.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I was recently browsing the internet and came across someone else's blog about their struggles with infertility and thought I'd share bits and pieces.  It's a letter someone else has written to their friends and family.  It about sums it up for me.

Dear Family and Friends

I want to share my feelings about infertility with you, because I want you to understand my struggle. I know that understanding infertility is difficult; there are times when it seems even I don't understand. This struggle has provoked intense and unfamiliar feelings in me and I fear that my reactions to these feelings might be misunderstood. I hope my ability to cope and your ability to understand will improve as I share my feelings with you. I want you to understand. 

You may describe me this way: obsessed, moody, helpless, depressed, envious, too serious, obnoxious, aggressive, antagonistic, and cynical. These aren't very admirable traits; no wonder your understanding of my infertility is difficult. I prefer to describe me this way: confused, rushed and impatient, afraid, isolated and alone, guilty and ashamed, angry, sad and hopeless, and unsettled. 

My infertility makes me feel confused. I always assumed I was fertile. I've spent years avoiding pregnancy and now it seems ironic that I can't conceive. I was hoping this was going to be a brief difficulty with a simple solution such as poor timing.

My infertility makes me feel rushed and impatient. I learned of my infertility only after I'd been trying to become pregnant for some time. My life-plan suddenly is behind schedule. I waited to become a parent and now I must wait again. I wait for medical appointments, wait for tests, wait for treatments, wait for other treatments, wait for my period not to come, and wait for pregnancy. At best, I have only twelve opportunities each year. How old will I be when I finish having my family? 

My infertility makes me feel afraid. Infertility is full of unknowns, and I'm frightened because I need some definite answers. How long will this last? What if I'm never a parent? What humiliation must I endure? What pain must I suffer? Why do drugs I take to help me, make me feel worse? Why can't my body do the things that my mind wants it to do? Why do I hurt so much? I'm afraid of my feelings, afraid of my undependable body and afraid of my future.

My infertility makes me feel isolated and alone. Reminders of babies are everywhere. I must be the only one enduring this invisible curse. I stay away from others, because everything makes me hurt. No one knows how horrible my pain is. Even though I'm usually a clear thinker, I find myself being lured by superstitions and promises. I think I'm losing perspective. I feel so alone and I wonder if I'll survive this.

My infertility makes me feel guilty and ashamed. Frequently I forget that infertility is a medical problem and should be treated as one. Often others forget this too.  Infertility destroys my self esteem and I feel like a failure. Why am I being punished? What did I do to deserve this? Am I not worthy of a baby?  Is this the end of my family lineage? Will my family be ashamed of me? It is easy to lose self-confidence and to feel ashamed. 

My infertility makes me feel angry. Everything makes me angry, and I know much of my anger is misdirected. I'm angry at my body because it has betrayed me even though I've always taken care of it. I'm angry at my partner because we can't seem to feel the same about infertility at the same time. I want and need an advocate to help me.  I'm angry at my medical caregivers, because it seems that they control my future. They humiliate me, inflict pain on me, pry into my privacy, patronize me, and sometimes forget who I am. How can I impress on them how important parenting is to me? I'm angry at my expenses; infertility treatment is extremely expensive. My financial resources may determine my family size. My insurance company isn't cooperative, and I must make so many sacrifices to pay the medical bills. I can't miss any more work, or I'll lose my job.   Although I may joke about infertility to help myself cope, it doesn't seem as funny when others joke about it. Please don't tease me with remarks like, "You don't seem to know how to do it." Don't trivialize my struggle by saying, "I'd be glad to give you one of my kids."It's no comfort to hear empty reassurances like, "You'll be a parent by this time next year." Don't minimize my feelings with, "You shouldn't be so unhappy." For now, don't push me into uncomfortable situations like baby showers or family reunions. I already feel sad and guilty; please don't also make me feel guilty for disappointing you. Finally, I'm angry at everyone else. Everyone has opinions about my inability to become a parent. Everyone has easy solutions. Everyone seems to know too little and say too much.

I feel hopeless; infertility robs me of my energy. I've never cried so much nor so easily. I'm sad that my infertility places my marriage under so much strain. I'm sad that my infertility requires me to be so self-centered. I'm sad that I've ignored many friendships because this struggle hurts so much and demands so much energy. Friends with children prefer the company of other families with children. I'm surrounded by babies, pregnant women, playgrounds, baby showers, birth stories, kids' movies, birthday parties and much more. I feel so sad and hopeless. My infertility makes me feel unsettled. My life is on hold. Making decisions about my immediate and my long-term future seems impossible.The more I struggle with my infertility, the less control I have. This struggle has no timetable; the treatments have no guarantees.  It feels unsettling to have no clear, easy answers or guarantees. 

Eventually I will be beyond the struggle of infertility. I know my infertility will never completely go away because it will change my life. I won't be able to return to the person I was before infertility, but I also will no longer be controlled by this struggle. I will leave the struggle behind me, and from that I will have improved my skills for empathy, patience, resilience, forgiveness, decision-making and self-assessment. I feel grateful that you are trying to ease my journey through this infertility struggle by giving me your understanding.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Day 4

Today is day 4 of injections. I'm still on 300 units of Gonal F and 10 of LDHCG, prenatal vitamins and aspirin.  I'm getting used to the injections and "just do it" because I know this is what I have to do to have a baby.  Some people just have sex...I have to poke myself with hormone filled needles, have surgery and be poked and prodded by strangers.  Any woman who has gotten pregnant the "normal" way has no idea how hard this is, has no right to judge and has no right to give me advice.  Words can't describe what this feels like, physically and emotionally.  

Being afraid of needles, pain and blood I had no idea I'd be strong enough to be able to give myself injections.  I am proud of myself. It just goes to show that if you want anything bad enough, you'll do  ANYTHING to get it.  

 I had my first appointment post-injections this morning.  Luckily all my appointments so far have been before work, allowing me not to miss.  This has been a stress in the past and I've been lucky enough to avoid it.  My check up went well.  I didn't receive a call from the office which is a good thing as my bloodwork must have come back with good hormone levels.  My ultrasound already showed about 10 follicles forming (5 on each ovary)....after only 3 days on medicine.  10 is a good number but I am hoping for more...alot more.  Each follicle has the potential to hold an egg inside. I think I read that only 80% of follicles actually contain an egg and not all are mature or good while 10 seems like a good number, it's making me nervous.  If this fails we can doubtfully do this again.  I've been doing pretty good up until lately.  I'm starting to have some anxiety....not about the surgery for egg retrieval.... but about my eggs. Will I have enough?, will all become fertilized?, will the fertilized eggs grow (not all do)?, will I have enough to be frozen in case this first attempt fails?  These are all thoughts I recently have.  Luckily retrieval is only a few days away so I don't have long to think about it...but it seems like a lifetime.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Ever wonder what over $5,000 of medication looks like?  It's hard to believe that most of this stuff will be going into my body in less than two weeks.  Chris and I saved and paid for IVF with alot of hard work and patience.  While I don't want to advertise the exact amount we paid, it was in excess of over $10,000....not exactly extra pocket money for our tax bracket.  We were luckier then most when it comes to the medication.  Unlike most people, I had some insurance coverage which covered all but about 1,500 in copays.  The remainder was donated by a non for profit organization called BabyQuest.  It also sounds like they may be able to help us with our medication copay which would really help.  While this journey is extremely taxing emotionally and physically, it is also quite expensive so any amount helps.  If we are blessed with children we do not want to start off on the wrong foot if possible.  We would like to be responsible and not deplete our entire savings.   When you want something SO incredibly bad, that's a hard choice.  A few months back I entered a contest to have assistance with the financial aspect of IVF.  We were upfront and honest about our struggles and finances.  While we make a good living, it's still expensive.  We knew if we were patient enough we'd be able to come up with the money eventually, however we've already waited over 30 months.  They helped us achieve our goal quicker.  When dealing with something so emotional, time is not friendly and has a way of wearing on you.  I am forever grateful for this gift and hope to someday be able to repay them in some way.  Sadly, there are many people who are probably much worse off than Chris and I.  Sometimes it seems that only the wealthy can have babies with IVF.  I encourage anyone in our situation to take a chance and reach out to organizations such as BabyQuest because you just never know.  There are good people out there who are willing to help and you may be the lucky one.  

Yesterday was my first official day of injectable medications.  I had my initial ultrasound and bloodwork and everything looks fantastic.  Last night I started two injections daily:  one of a medication called Gonal F and another called LDHCG(low dose HCG).  I've been getting pretty good at giving myself injections, although I still don't like it. Monday I go for another checkup and blood work and will possibly start a third injectable.  I'm also taking my prenatal vitamins, a round of azrithromycin, and have a baby aspirin daily as part of my protocol.  Currently the medication I'm on now is a FSH or follicle stimulating hormone that helps the ovaries to produce more eggs...hopefully LOTS of them so they can later be harvested.  THe LDHCG helps to prevent OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome).

Here's some things I learned about IVF medications.  THEY'RE EXPENSIVE!!!  I recommend that anyone without insurance coverage call around and check with pharmacies what their "cash price" is.  Just like with anything, you shop around.  I've found that the pharmacies that only deal with infertility medications really were my cheapest route versus a bigger pharmacy such as CVS or Walmart.  I've also learned that there are many different drugs to choose from.  For example Gonal F, Follistim and Bravelle.  Essentially these drugs do the same job but may vary in cost by hundreds of dollars.  I've also learned about a place to receive medication from the UK at quite a bit of a discount (  

So far I'm holding up great.  I have some pretty supportive friends who've helped me along the way and  act as my cheeleaders.  My attitude and frame of mind has been positive and I'm doing my best to eat healthy and exercise.  In a little over a week I anticipate having surgery for egg retrieval.  In the mean time I'm just taking things a day at a time.