A 1:45AM alarm clock

What do a Nebraska Gas Station, an Orland Park movie theater, and a Denny’s parking lot have in common?

The precise timing of injections is one of the key components of a stimulation cycle.  For this round, my injections must be given exactly 12 hours apart.  For me, I chose the 8 o’clock hour as the lucky time when I’d have to give my shots.  At the time, I didn’t think of all of the things that I’d be in the middle of at 8AM or 8PM:

  1.  Watching Beauty and the Beast at a movie theater with my family and friends.  Nothing like having Mariya give me three shots (in the dark) while singing along to the Prologue.  “…..Bonjour! There goes the baker with his tray like always…”
  2. Driving on our road trip to Denver, it was awesome giving myself a shot in the car while at the gas pump.  “Babe!  We need to pull over now!  The alarm on my phone is going off!”
  3. Giving myself shots in the bathroom at school before classes start in the morning
  4. Excusing myself from night school classes in order to give myself shots, again, in the bathroom at school.
  5. Leaving the dinner table with friends in order to go to my room and give myself shots.

The list could go on for, well, weeks worth of injections.

The good news, is the shots and medication are working.  At our doctor’s appointment yesterday, numerous follicles had finally reached the ‘magic’ 20mm+ size.  At this size, they are each (hopefully) filled with one tiny egg that can be extracted during surgery.  As mentioned in a previous post, one of the medications that I am currently taking prevents my body from ovulating and releasing those eggs.  In order to induce ovulation, I have to take an intramuscular shot that is perfectly timed with my scheduled surgery time.  For this go around, the time of that shot had to be at 1:45AM.

Yes, 1:45 AM.   I really can’t describe the immense pleasure of setting an alarm clock to wake you up at 1:43AM so that your wife can give you a shot with a 1.5″ needle in your hip area.  I would say that it was a definite highlight of my life — something akin to stubbing your pinkie toe on the coffee table.  🙂

The upside you might ask?  SURGERY IS SCHEDULED AND I AM DONE WITH SHOTS…..(for now).  Please pray for us and for my surgeon tomorrow.  Surgery is scheduled to start precisely at 12:45PM (Mountain Time) on Tuesday.  Please, please, please let there be multiple eggs that are all mature and ready to become our lucky embryos!

A Herd of Turtles

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When you are preparing yourself for egg retrieval surgery, there are a few weeks (or more) of preparation.  At the beginning of it, you are given a calendar with all of your medication doses, days that you’ll need ultrasounds and lab work completed, and a day when they anticipate your surgery will take place.  For the past two egg retrieval procedures, the estimated surgery day has been pretty spot on — or within a day of what was listed.

This time around, my body is responding great to the medication.  Instead of 6 or 7 follicles, we’ve been looking at the double digits!  The downside to this cycle, you might ask?  For some reason, my follicles are taking their sweet time absorbing the medication and growing.  As my nurse put it a few days ago, it is like moving a herd of turtles.  It is great that they are all in the race, but OMG, please just grow already!  My surgery date was supposed to be yesterday (Thursday), but has now been pushed out to Monday (at which point, we will literally be leaving the surgery center and driving immediately to Kansas so that I can be back in classes on Tuesday!)  I’ve been asked if the surgery is tough.  I’ll be honest, I’m asleep for it, so I have no clue.  I can tell you that the recovery period afterward is…..uncomfortable?  I mean, you don’t expect getting a needle poked through your vaginal wall multiple times to suck out eggs to be painless, right?

Our turtles earlier this week:IMG_4758Hoping that one of those little follicles listed above grows into the angel that we have been waiting for!

Here We Go Again

I’m sorry for not writing much recently.  I’ve had a little bit of a hard time convincing myself that there is nothing I can do to make this situation any better.

After deciding to push ahead with another round of retrieval, I’ve tried to focus on the little positives with this whole situation.

1 — My fear/aversion of injections has disappeared.  Seriously, giving myself an intramuscular injection in my “love handles” with an inch and half needle has convinced me that I can handle any shot/IV without flinching an inch.  Ha.

2 — I’m appreciative of being born when I was.  My grandmother had problems getting pregnant for years – 14 years to be exact.  In the end, she had a miracle pregnancy at age 37, resulting in my mom (her only child).  Since then, incredible advancements have been made in the field of infertility.  I’m glad that I have access to those, both financially and physically.

3 — My relationship with my wife has become stronger.  The vulnerability that we feel, together, is just another thing that we can share in our marriage.

4 — I’ve reconnected with friends that I had lost touch with.  There are so many of you reading this blog that been on the same road that we are heading down.  You’ve reached out, shared your stories, given your support, and, most importantly, shown the love that you have for us in our journey.

Our journey over the past two weeks hasn’t been terrible.  I went to visit an acupuncturist twice before driving to Denver.  There isn’t a ton of evidence that acupuncture works for improved retrieval rates, but honestly, I’ll take any hope at this point.

Additionally, our doctor has put us on a new protocol — one that involves many more shots (5 per day).  It is a careful balance between a hormone that promotes follicle growth and a second that diminishes my ability to ovulate (to protect my ovaries from ovulating early and releasing all of these eggs prior to surgical retrieval).  It is a slow and steady race — but we are looking at 15 follicles right now!  This is amazing for my body.  To compare:

IVF #1 — 5 follicles grew, 4 eggs retrieved, 2 fertilized and transferred (no pregnancy)
IVF #2 — 7 follicles grew, 6 eggs retrieved, 3 fertilized, 1 grew to Day 5 but was abnormal

With 15 potential follicles, we will hopefully get more eggs to work with, and maybe, just maybe a normal embryo that we can transplant back in!

Thank you again for the prayers, thoughts, messages, and love.  Please cross your fingers (and your toes!) that this round goes better for us!

The Little Engine that Could…..Couldn’t

M and I decided to push ahead with another round of IVF, despite it causing us to stretch our finances seriously thin.  This yearning that we have for a child and a family is so strong that, at this point, we’d do anything to achieve it.

As part of the preparation for the next round, I had to have an ultrasound and labs done here in Kansas today.  I had to laugh because my ultrasound was scheduled for a day when I had to wear my “fancy” uniform to school/work, and I was on a tight time schedule, so I didn’t have time to change before heading off to my appointments.  Trying to finagle my way out of my pantyhose (clearly invented by a man….), my spanx (because, honestly, what woman doesn’t wear these nowadays….), heels, and uniform in order to get my ultrasound done made me chuckle……getting dressed again made me chuckle even more.  It really made me appreciate the leggings that I seem to wear on a daily basis when I’m sans uniform.

As I was driving home from the ultrasound/labs, relieved knowing that the ultrasound looked normal, my fertility doctor called to let me know that our one little embryo, the “little engine that could”…..couldn’t.  It came back as abnormal.  Our one little hope from this last cycle turned out to be hopeless.

Needless to say, tears were shed in the car.  I ugly cried most of the way back to school.  Cried because my body was failing me — failing us.  Why was this not working for us….again?

Missing Out

Precision.  Lots of precision.  And luck.  Preferably luck of the good kind.  Those are probably the two words that describe this whole ordeal best.

When I look back over the past two years and think about the heartache, the majority of the thoughts that come to my mind all relate to the fact that we are not holding a baby in our arms (or in my body!).  But there is an entirely different side to this heartache that most folks don’t think about.  The heartache that comes with missing out on events — all tied back to the “precision” that goes into the process.

I can think of three distinct times where baby-making won out over events and experiences that I will never get back.

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Beautiful Ravinia — great place for a concert!

In August of 2015 — my birthday to be precise — we spent the weekend in Chicago at a Ravinia concert with my mom and stepfather, Paul. Unfortunately, while we were at the concert, my grandfather fell ill and had to be rushed to the hospital.  We didn’t know it at the time, but this was one of the last times we would get to see him and spend time with him, as he passed a few weeks later.  I wish I could have stayed at the hospital with him longer — heard one last story, seen one last smile.  Instead, we rushed back to Louisville because my trigger shot had already been given and we needed to complete our IUI at a precise time (intra-uterine insemination, for those unfamiliar with the term).

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Really wish I had seen this wedding rainbow in person!

In June of 2016 — my beautiful wife stood up in our good friend’s wedding in Denver, CO.  The scenery was breathtaking, as were the brides.  At least, that is how it looked in the photos.  I was stuck home in Louisville, feet propped up, after undergoing our first (failed) attempt at IVF. Travel was out of the question as we were not risking anything after spending thousands of dollars on this future ball of cells.

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missing a sibling or two…..  😦

Most recently, a few weekends ago, we were happily on our way to Chicago for my sister’s surprise 30th Birthday party.  While on the road, we received a call from our doctor in Denver.  Apparently, a scan earlier in the day showed a sizable cyst on one of my ovaries.  Although this would normally not be a cause for concern, as women get these all of the time throughout their lifetime, this particular cyst meant that we would have to cancel our IVF cycle completely.  With our ever-looming move to Korea in the future, we are on a somewhat tight timeline now to get pregnant.  Our only option in order to save this cycle was to turn around, return to Kansas, and catch an early flight to Denver in order to undergo a minor procedure to drain the cyst.  I’m sorry for missing your party, lil’ sister, but your future niece or nephew will hopefully make up for it!

You don’t really think about the ripples that extend out from infertility, but they really do reach parts of your life in unimaginable ways.

The Little Engine That Could

I might be guilty of doing the Carlton dance in my living room about five minutes ago.  The embryologist called and our last little embryo made it through the night and is a 6BA.  Now it is just the waiting game on receiving the chromosome testing results.  For my age, there is a 62% chance of the embryo being normal.  If it does come back abnormal, it will come with a report letting us know what was wrong — i.e. Down’s Syndrome, Trisomy 13, etc.  Any abnormal embryo will be ineligible for transfer and either destroyed or else we’ve agreed to let testing/research be completed on the embryo.

If you aren’t familiar with the grading of embryos, there is a very helpful explanation here.  The grade of an embryo doesn’t equal success — there are 3CCs that go on to become healthy kiddos and 6AAs that turn into negative pregnancy tests.  It really is just the luck of the draw.

 

A visit from my favorite FedEx man

First of all, thank you to everyone that has reached out to us in the past 24 hours to show their support. It has really been wonderful and appreciated and humbling. Our world might be a big place, put the common thread of humanity that we all share really does weave a wonderful, supportive web during some of our darkest moments. For that, I’m so very thankful.

Today starts another round of medication, hopefully leading to a retrieval in a few weeks that will give us better results.  Thankfully, today was an easy to swallow pill and the injections don’t start until tomorrow.  But, to gear up for those injections, I had to wait for my favorite FedEx man to arrive with medications that required immediate refrigeration. Last month, we missed his delivery and ended up having to drive 45 minutes to Kansas City to get our package. I wasn’t going to let that happen this time around. Thankfully there was no school today, so I was able to sit here in my pajamas and devour a box of Samoas while waiting for the doorbell to ring.

Yes, a box……minus one little cookie that I’m trying really hard to save for later. Whatever, I’m hormonal.

Finally!

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Ignore my embarrassingly large stash of cookies, but they are my happy place during all of this

Unpacking the box of medication feels like Christmas, until it sinks in that I’m going to be injecting myself with all of this over the next few weeks.

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Yup, that’s all getting injected in the next two weeks….ouch!

There is a definite bonus to going through all of this — we have definitely acquired a ton of free ice packs!  The nice ones that have a block of foam on the inside!

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Yay for free freezer packs!

The downside to all of this medication?  The cost.  Definitely the cost.  This box contains about 2/3 of our medication for this one cycle.  The other box will arrive next week — at a cost of $1,100.00 for two medications (Saizen and a microdose Lupron).  I’ve been trying hard to not think about the cost of all of this and instead focus on the light at the end of the tunnel — a sweet, sweet little bundle of joy.

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Ouch! This might hurt more than the shots!

Devastated

I feel like my life has been an overall lucky one up until now. I’m the one that wins the lottery scratcher out of the group, the one that has had certain things fall into her lap, the one that wins door prizes and raffles.  But I am definitely not winning the war against infertility.

The embryology lab called today as I was driving home from school. Thankfully, our class had been released early today because those big, fat tears would have been pretty hard to hide from my 14 testosterone-producing classmates. Out of the three eggs that fertilized normally, two didn’t grow at all and the last one is slowly growing but doesn’t look promising. They are going to give that one an additional day to see if it improves. If not,  we are left with zero. Nothing. Nada.

I know that phone call wasn’t an easy one for the embryologist to make.  I definitely held myself together on the phone — even told her to have a good day.  I was numb. Empty. Feeling like a barren old soul that waited too long to enter the race to parenthood.

There is a Facebook group for the clinic that I’ve found some solace and support in, along with a few close friends that I know have struggled with this journey, too. I’ll admit, it is really hard to see pregnancy, birth, happiness, and joy around me when they are all things that are out of my reach, no matter how hard I try.  Facebook is great and man, I am seriously in love with all of the photos, videos, and quips that everyone is posting about their families — but it is often just a reminder of things that I can’t have.

Adoption is becoming a bigger reality, which is fine. I know quite a few families that have adopted and are flourishing. That process, though, is going to be extraordinarily difficult with our looming move to Korea. Adoption definitely doesn’t happen overnight, nor is it any cheaper than another round of IVF.

I start the next round of medication tomorrow. More shots, more pain, but hopefully better results. Please pray for us. This part of our lives is one that we’ve kept to ourselves for two years now. I can’t keep it in any longer.  If you are experiencing infertility, or have gone through rounds of IVF, please feel free to share any words of wisdom. We could use it right about now.

Three

Woke up to a voicemail this morning letting me know that the the little egg that could pulled through. That last egg that wasn’t mature on Day 1, matured and fertilized normally. So now we have a total of three little embryos that have to grow this week. We won’t hear anything back from the lab until Thursday.

Fingers crossed that they grow, divide, and are all normal!

Trying to Remain Optimistic

Yesterday morning was retrieval day. For those of you unfamiliar with the process, it is done under general anesthesia (i.e., I’m asleep), and the doctor uses a needle, guided by ultrasound, to puncture each follicle with the hopes of aspirating an egg out. In the end, the doctor was able to retrieve 6 eggs.  Although that sounds like a great number, the natural attrition rate that they will go through left me in a very sad mood.  When we got back to the house, I was still groggy from the anesthesia and spent most of the day sleeping on the couch.

This morning, we got a phone call from the lab letting us know that only 2 (!!) of our eggs actually fertilized properly. There is a third one that was maturing a bit slower than the rest. They were going to try fertilizing that one today in the hopes that we’d have 3. However, they still have to grow this whole week before reaching the phase where they can be tested for chromosomal abnormalities and there is almost always some sort of attrition that takes place. I’m so incredibly sad and disappointed.

The phrase that keeps being mentioned to us is “It only takes one!”….which is great if we only want one child.  But we don’t. And although it only takes one embryo to get pregnant, it is going to be even more difficult to get pregnant two years from now with my (apparently) non-agreeable eggs.

I was really hoping for a miracle call this morning — one where the lab called and said that all six eggs fertilized and were looking good.  I feel like we are in the same boat that we were in last June (4 eggs retrieved then and only 2 that fertilized normally).

Please keep us in your thoughts. We’ve been told by so many people that we’d make great parents. Now God and these little embryos need to get on board so that it can happen.

If we can’t get pregnant with our own eggs, we are open to adoption, too. We have a friend here in Kansas that was very lucky in adopting newborn twin boys via private adoption without the use of an adoption agency. It is definitely something we need to do a little more research on.