May Cause Hope

I’ve been pretty quiet throughout this IVF process because I felt so unprepared. I had big plans that involved IVF shirts, IVF socks, IVF bracelets (merchandising! merchandising!) and then suddenly we were doing it and there wasn’t much going on beyond a myriad of emotions. The shots were bearable (Menopur burns – use an ice pack beforehand, Ganirelix left me sore) and the retrieval went smoothly (beyond my swollen abdomen and shuffling-walk I developed). I was even pretty textbook in my stim cycle – ten days of injections, estrogen levels around 1900 day of trigger, 10 out of 15 follicles expected to be mature. Everything looked good. I began to dream about shopping for baby clothes and I pinned announcements and I hoped – which means it was the perfect time for everything to go to shit.

The day before my egg retrieval my RE called to “discuss a few things with me” (another bad sign), and I waited to hear how they discovered I already ovulated or how they can’t find my uterus on my ultrasounds anymore. Instead, she brought up my progesterone levels to not say that I ovulated, but to say that they were “kinda high”. 2.19 level high. If you take this search to Dr. Google, as I most certainly did, you’ll soon learn that a lot of practices believe you have lower success rates if your progesterone is high before trigger day – and high for some means above 2, over 1.5, or even anything higher than 1. I raked my mind and can guarantee that this progesterone cutoff was not mentioned during our IVF bootcamp when we discussed everything that could possibly go wrong. So, my uterus was getting ahead of herself and would then be in a different stage of my cycle than a 3 or 5 day embryo would be. Hell of a time to decide to be an overachiever.

My uterus made up for it though, by making sure that she then underachieved on my lining. A measly 6mm (triple lined)  after being flooded with estrogen (and yes, the estrogen boobs are back – silver lining), and the belief that “this is the best I’ll get”. So we’re just going to go ahead and ignore the fact that on most of my baseline scans my lining was still above 7mm, which means I clearly get there eventually. It’s just a matter of when. Most clinics refuse to follow through with a transfer unless it’s over 7mm, or sometimes 8mm – even 9! But I’ve been hearing for months now how “studies show that lining might not even matter that much”, to which I say “seriously?” You’re also supposed to have the thickest lining you’ll ever have during a stim cycle, which I guess you can say 6 is an improvement from the 3 and the 5 I had during my last IUIs. I was told that regardless of the toxic uterus and anorexic lining, we should move forward with a fresh transfer, and that if we decided to do a FET instead, it would mean months of canceled cycles as they attempted to genetically engineer my lining to thicken up on command. It sounded a lot like being told “this probably isn’t going to work, but we’re gonna do it anyway!”Read More »

We Picked Wrong

IVF Bootcamp should be renamed to IVF Day Where You Hear The Same Things From Five Different People. After reading through the multiple packets they gave us on “what we’re going to make your ovaries do, then what we’re gonna do, and then you’re suddenly pregnant” I wondered what else could there be to this? Turns out: nothing really. IVF is…pretty basic? The infertile part of my brain is too far developed for me to even be able to remember what I thought IVF entailed before I discovered my uterus was pretty useless, but I know I always thought it was way more intense than it is. Don’t get me wrong, multiple injections on a daily basis and a fifteen minute nap where they use a mini vacuum to suck out your eggs is no small feat, but it’s not the big scary process that everyone makes it out to be (check back with me when I’m a week in and my ovaries are the size of oranges to see if I feel the same way). With the exception of the cost (yes I know it’s going-back-to-college expensive, without the added fun of jungle juice), IVF is pretty much just an amped up version of an IUI. Have you done IUI with injectables? You’re basically one step away from IVF – and you could be getting an extra bonus of someone fertilizing your eggs for you. It’s about damn time that someone else did the hard work around here! But first: “BOOTCAMP”. Most fertility clinics require a (half) day’s worth of IVF For Dummies, and our office is no exception. Within four hours we met with the following infertility experts:

  • A financial consultant, who explained that everything is covered by insurance (yippee!) with the exception of PGS/PGD (which we aren’t doing anyway) and egg freezing ($500 a year is manageable when you think about the fact that they’re giving your embabies a nice frozen home – that’s cheaper than rent)!
  • My RE, whose sole purpose for the day was to review everything that could go wrong while also saying how unlikely all of those outcomes were. To which I responded, “Well, I like to beat the odds, so let’s go back to the part where you tell me that my ovaries could explode and what the warning signs are.”
  • My main nurse, who went over everything I cannot do (no working out, no alcohol, no sex – like the methotrexate drill all over again) and who provided an unhelpful calendar that stopped after Day 3 because they have no clue what exactly my protocol will look like until I start being monitored. She did say that the longest it should take, from day 1 of stims to beta, is 28 days which is more than bearable.
  • Their pharmacist showed us what all the shots look like (the Follistim comes in a cool pen that my husband got to play with) and I felt free to zone out during much of the explanations because my husband has been promoted from cup masterbator to shot administrator, so it’s one less thing for me to worry about. (Side note: everyone seemed so shocked every time I said that my husband was going to be getting all the shots ready and doing my injections. How is this not normal? Men literally have one job, might as well put them to work! I even made him pick that shit up when my shots were delivered. Pic of the whole gang together below!)

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  • And then after hours of reviewing that this process (still) involves injections, antibiotics, an egg retrieval, ICSI, a transfer, and lots of waiting…Psychologist Angela came along and changed my damn life.

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Happy Ectopiversary

I hadn’t expected to care when the anniversary of my ectopic rolled around. I always assumed by that time I’d be severely pregnant and the harshness of the day would have faded to a bitter memory. A mark on my already messy road to conceiving. As this day inched closer though, I felt a tear in my wound – I didn’t think I’d see September again so soon, and so bumpless. Where’s the baby Doctor Kate promised I’d have by now? “At least we know that you can get pregnant. You’ll be changing diapers and having sleepless nights in no time.” More like changing blue liners and, well, she nailed it on the sleepless nights. A year later and I’m drenched in anger wondering, how is that all we get? I was given the smallest taste of pregnancy to hold me over for the next twelve months. What a tease. Then there’s the fact that if there are any future pregnancies, this experience will tinge those first weeks with fear. I’ll have to live the rest of my (in)fertile days hoping it isn’t happening again, struggling with a “15% of the time it happens every time” type of mindset. It doesn’t make sense, but phobias rarely do.

That’s the real trouble with ectopics – there’s never any true closure because it doesn’t come with answers. There’s still no ‘why’ or even a ‘why your tube will probably take another embryo hostage now that it happened once’. Once a tube implanter always a tube implanter, I guess. Traitor. My tubes are almost comically open to the point where I have to assume this was some intentional evil plan acted out by my own body. Because it was my body that did that to me, and I punished it with the harshest chemical that had ever entered my system. Call it even?Read More »

Where’s Preggo

My life is one big Where’s Waldo of pregnant women and I win every. time. Pre-TTC, I noticed and appreciated the occasional bump, but once I started my own Quest for Two Pink Lines: pregnant women were everywhere. They’re walking down the street in packs like lionesses, squeezing into seats on the bus, prancing around in commercials about stretch marks and insurance policies. I try to shield myself from the Bump Assault – I’ve stopped going on Facebook and refrain from gazing out my living room windows (because why wouldn’t I live across from a hospital where I’m eye level with the delivery rooms?), but I still find myself victimized by pregnant bellies on a daily basis. There are the obvious about-to-burst bumps demanding to be noticed, the newer bumps that are shyly poking out, the soft rounded stomachs that recently evicted their eight pound tenants. When I glance at each belly I try to think “that will be you someday” but instead the words get mixed and jumbled inside my head and they come out as “will that be you someday?”

I can only imagine how incredibly unsettling it is for women I’ve just met who notice my eyes immediately dart to their stomachs – trying to determine if they are currently, or ever have been, “with child” (my least favorite saying in the world). When my gaze does glide over a protruding bump, I have to keep myself from grabbing their ruched tops and asking, “How long were you trying to conceive? Did you do anything different? Do you have any idea how lucky you are?!” Then I wonder – does it really matter? Knowing that it took someone two months or two years, whether they have one ovary or PCOS – that’s not my story. This is. I imagine this is something that my future therapist will refer to as a “break through” one day, but what feels more similar to a breakdown. Am I one more hopeless event away from shaving my head Britney Spears style?

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My close-but-not-close-enough-to-join-in-my-infertility-awareness friends have started to join the bump crusades, and they’re so open and optimistic about trying that they may as well be banging me on the head with their pre-seed. “Pulled the goalie!” “Better drink up while I can!” “At least I won’t have to worry about the weight I’m gaining anymore!” I’m choking on their excitement – their untainted beginnings being rubbed in my face. Was it ever that fun and exciting for me? All I can recall is stress and anxiety and slivers of hope mutilated by a lonely pink line. The extra fun thing about friends who are open regarding their fertility is that they expect you to repay them with your own TTC tales. Listen friend, just because you want to yell from the rooftops about your monthly prescription switching over to ‘no refills’, doesn’t mean you can then turn to me and say, “What about you? Anything brewing in your uterus?” “NO BUT DON’T WORRY MY TUBES ARE ALWAYS DOWN FOR SOME IMPLANTATION, THANKS!” Infertile me is aggressive, hence why she has to stay hidden until pregnant me can take over (IF there’s a pregnant me). I wonder how long this resentment will last. Will I still be flashing my friend’s belly dirty looks when we’re both 8 months and taking bumpfies? (Is that what they really call bump selfies? Because if so, I hate it.)
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Meet The New Acronyms

Trying to conceive is confusing initially because everyone told you that if you have sex you will get pregnant; so you swallowed pills and fumbled with condoms and pulled out and prayed more often than you care to admit, until you were more than ready to start trying and then all of a sudden…no baby. Then, when you first go online to ask your very own “what the hell is going on” question, you’re thrown into a world of acronyms where you get the impression that we’re all speaking a foreign language. “TTC for 2.5 years with OPKS, got positive on CD12 with EWCM and BD with DH but now it’s 14DPO with no sign of AF and got a BFN on a HPT (it was FRER too) but I didn’t use FMU and my CM is watery so maybe it’ll turn into a BFP if I POAS on 15DPO? This TWW is driving me crazy! FX for me ladies!”  …WTF?!

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The confusion doesn’t stop there though. Acronyms are commonly used in the medical field, and for good reason too: who wants to say that they had a hysteroscopy polypectomy after their saline infusion sonohysterography showed a polyp and their intrauterine insemination was canceled? (which is, of course, exactly what happened to me in March.) When you visit with your RE to discuss the big IVF (you know, In Vitro Fertilization: the thing where you walk into your doctor’s office and request that they make a baby for you), they’re going to bring up some brand new acronyms now that you finally just got comfortable with the online lingo. Nothing to worry about though – because I’m here to make sure you can walk into your appointment and wave off your RE like the infertile queen you are when they start to explain what ICSI is.

PGS/PGD

What it is – Preimplantation Genetic Screening (or Diagnosis). The screening is more like a check mark to say “yes, this embryo looks generally healthy” chromosomally speaking, whereas the diagnosis is testing for genetic conditions like cystic fibrosis (which is the only real example my RE felt like giving me).

Why you might need it – If you know that you and your partner are carriers of genetic abnormalities that you do not want to pass on to future babes, then this might be the test for you! For instance, if you do genetic testing and you find out that you both carry a certain abnormality (and don’t be surprised when you test positive – we all have something, which is the only thing that gets me through the day sometimes), then there’s a 25% chance that a child you conceive could have that abnormality as well. This testing (PGD) can check your embryo for that specific gene prior to implantation (hence the ‘preimplantation’ part) and you can avoid invasive testing later in your pregnancy. PGS may be a good choice if you have RPL (Recurrent Pregnancy Loss), as it will be able to determine if the embryo has the usual amount of chromosomes and therefore should have a higher chance of resulting in a successful pregnancy. Depending on where you’re having your IVF procedure done, your RE might strongly encourage this screening if you’re (*gulp*, don’t hate me!) “older”.

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Why you might want it – PGS can also determine the male/female embies, so when they hand you your Baby’s First Embryo Photo you can turn to your husband and exclaim, “She has your eyes!” (Side note: my RE’s office doesn’t take pictures of embryos before implantation and I feel like I’m seriously missing out.)

Things to consider – per my RE, the results could take 6-8 weeks to get back. Also, most insurance companies don’t cover this genetic testing, and even if you’re paying out of pocket already – it could be a hefty additional cost (like, a per embryo cost). The time and financial commitment may be enough to deter you, but there’s also the fact that you could end up wasting perfectly good embryos due to the biopsy damaging little embies, or being performed at the wrong time and therefore giving an incorrect result.  Read More »

The Tale of The Disappearing Follicle

I know what you’re thinking: “You haven’t updated us on your progress much, what’s going on there?! Are you growing a forest of polyps? Also, why are you still so butthurt over this polyp thing? It happened one time!” Well you will all be happy to hear that there are no additional polyps setting up shop in my uterus. I know this for a fact because the ultrasound tech thought she saw a polyp and just to be safe – I was subjected to my second SIS. They might as well just sign me up for a bi-monthly internal scrubbing at this point (side note: these get less uncomfortable with time, and I hate that I know that). Being declared polyp free is good, but finding out that it wasn’t the only thing to disappear this cycle was…not so good.

We all know that IUIs are all about the follies and the lining, of which both went from kinda there to completely missing within two days. Literally, I had an okay looking 14mm on CD13 and then by CD15 – POOF, gone! And no I didn’t ovulate, which is what would happen to any other normal woman, but not this Infertile! My RE said that my ultrasounds looked like they were from two completely different women, so at least I’m not failing to continually impress people with my bizarre uterus.

Here’s where things get really fucked up: this was happening in July. Now I know that initially you’re like “damn girl, what do you have against July?!” But it’s not just about it being July (except I am starting to miss the comforts of winter – aka the season of carbs). It happens to be the same month that my body freaked out last year and I conceived my ectopic. What the hell kind of pattern is that?! Now I had to hope that the lovely little 14mm wasn’t secretly released and strolling through my tube, waiting to lure an unsuspecting swimmer to be used in ectopic #2. Note to self: going forward, July needs to be the birth control month because Mars must be in retrograde or some crap that makes my body go ‘NOPE’.Read More »

Am I Relaxed Yet?

Welcome to I’ll-Try-Anything #427: Acupuncture! I’ve heard a lot of amazing (and expensive) things about acupuncture and since all of my dollars are going toward making a baby this year, I decided to give it a shot. The place/parlor/office/whatever-you-call-it I chose specializes in infertility treatments, and even has an infertility yoga class that I won’t be attending (let’s not get crazy now). There are rumors out there that acupuncture can fix egg quality and assist with implantation – both of which sound pretty good considering those are my main issues (for now). Not to mention that it’s also supposed to help with: anxiety, stomach issues, insomnia, headaches, backaches, all-aches, “facial pain” (I hope that includes RBF), and a whole list of pregnancy related issues that I know nothing about (one thing at a time, ladies). They should update their slogan to, “Acupuncture: if it annoys you, we can fix it!”

I’m always intrigued by people who claim they can tackle my anxiety – they might as well declare that they can remove my arm by blinking (“good luck” – in ‘Taken’ voice). But the prospect of being anxiety-free and having some sexy looking eggs is enough to draw me in, so I gave them all my money for the month and prepared to meet with what I hoped would be an elderly Asian woman with 50 years of experience in curing infertility who sent me home with a bag of magic herbs and teas at the end of each session. NOPE! My experienced elder turned out to be a blonde woman named Emily who is probably younger than me (which doesn’t matter but like…it matters), and Emily wants to ruin my life. Okay maybe she doesn’t really want to ruin my life, but all I’m saying is the two months I followed through with my acupuncture treatments are the same two months where everything went to shit. Acupuncture Month #1: She turned my egg into a cyst! Acupuncture Month #2: She made my almost-mature follicle disappear! This would all be fine and dandy if I was at the world’s weirdest magic show, but I can’t justify the means (cash) for these ends (cysts and missing follies).

She also seemed to be real stingy on the needles. I imagined I would be made into a human pincushion – covered from head to toe, when really Emily must’ve been told she has a maximum of ten needles to use on each patient and had to pick and choose where to put them. What I really wanted to say each week was, “You know, there’s a hell of a lot of things wrong with me other than infertility, might as well just stick me with the lot!” But I’m afraid of what would happen to my body if Emily covered me in needles – would all my organs disappear? Grow new appendages? What is this madness?! And don’t even get me started on how she didn’t bother telling me what any of the acupuncture points she chose were for (the control freak in me needs answers, dammit!) …I’m starting to think I might be high maintenance.Read More »