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Today I Ate a Burger

Of the veggie variety, of course.  No one panic.

This may seem like no small deal, but I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am about it.  Last Tuesday was the last day I ate somewhat normally, and that evening I started feeling very uncomfortable in the abdomen.  It’s been one rough week since & I wanted to offer an update here which I will try to keep brief.  It is quite detail-y, so no hard feelings if you want to skip this one.

I chalked it up to GI issues related to the meds.  Our transfer was Wednesday but by Thursday afternoon I was really struggling, with severe upper abdominal pain in addition to extreme bloating and was even having some shortness of breath.  I checked in with my doctor about these symptoms and she wanted me to go to urgent care, where they were concerned about my high heart rate and could not rule out a blood clot (which one is at a higher risk of on these hormones), and so they sent me to the emergency department.

After blood work and some concerning results there (i.e. high white and red blood cell counts), an EKG, and CT scan the blood clot was ruled out but they discovered fluid in my abdomen.  They gave me some good IV fluids and meds and chalked the heart rate and breathing issues up to related dehydration and the fluid in my abdomen pushing up on my heart and lungs.  We left around 1:30 a.m. & had an appointment at 7 that morning with Dr. C.  Three hours of sleep for us!  Hubs was a trooper through it all.

I’d also like to give myself a little tip of the hat…have you had a CT before?  They inject one substance in you that gives you a rush of heat throughout your body, then you have to concentrate on breathing normally which is harder than it sounds, then they inject you with another substance that makes you feel like you peed in your pants (but you didn’t) and then you have to hold your breath for ten seconds.  After signing a consent saying they will do their best to not harm a potential fetus with some hardy shields, if s/he has stuck around since Wednesday.  And of course all the while they are calling me pregnant which I’m both thrilled and terrified by.  In the IF community there is a slang term, PUPO, Pregnant Until Proven Otherwise.  I suppose they were following this line of thinking, but I couldn’t help but correct them in my mind each time, They may just be all wrong.

Although my hormone levels and other tests were within the normal range and I didn’t have many of the symptoms for it (some lower abdominal pain but not severe, normal estrogen and albium levels, no problems urinating), the next morning Dr. C diagnosed me with OHSS (ovarian hyper-stimulation syndrome).

Some of my numbers had improved and I was able to force myself to eat and drink despite feeling so full that I didn’t want to, so we thought I was on an upswing and left it up to me whether they would “tap” me or not.  Tap = insert long needle into fluid pocket and drain it.  Because she thought I was improving and because it involved a rather long needle and the word “paracentesis,” I gladly declined.  She put me on a strict diet of high sodium and high protein foods and I ate my approximate body weight in dill pickle chips and guacamole (not together) in the subsequent days.  It was fun at first.

My abdomen expanded increasingly, however, and by last night it/I was gigantic, I really did not want to eat or drink, and it was very difficult to get comfortable.  Basically what happens is the hormones cause your blood vessels to become leaky, directing the fluid into your abdomen and around the uterus instead of to the kidneys.  This leads to the bloating but also to dehydration.  I broke down and googled OHSS and allowed myself one professional site (Mayo Clinic) and one lay site (some IF forum).  I learned on there that the full, pressured feeling can last 2-4 weeks, more if you’re pregnant, and that many people feel instantaneous relief from the tap.  Tap, it is.  There is just no way I could take this for much longer.

We went in today and — lo and behold — they drained almost 2 liters of fluid!   My apologies for the gross detail (I will tell you what it looked like upon request).  Also, because of the proteins in it, the fluid apparently is amazing for your garden but we politely declined the offer although we’d just gotten ours going this weekend.  The procedure was a bit painful, but not terrible and compared to all the IF involves and relative to the ongoing pain of the last five days, it was totally 100% worth it.  I highly recommend it for anyone with OHSS.  They also threw in some IV fluids, my first and third IV all in a week.  And I had room to eat a burger tonight!  High salt high protein, yippee!

Dr. C and the nurses urged me to take advantage of the window of feeling hungry because — get this — often the fluid comes back and additional tap(s) may be necessary.  They also urged me to wait as long as possible between taps.  The fluid can return in women who are not pregnant, but is even more common in women who are.  How will I not overanalyze this in the coming days?  One of the wild things about OHSS is that it is triggered by the hormone HCG.  This is the hormone contained in the Ovidrel shot that triggers ovulation pre-retrieval and also the pregnancy hormone, what the Beta test will detect to determine pregnancy on Friday.  Last Friday my HCG/Beta level was 7, so the Ovidrel was almost out of my system but not completely.  So there is a possibility that my OHSS symptoms weren’t resolving because I could in fact be pregnant — a possibility Hubs found assuring.  I was more skeptical.  However, I am a total freak and secretly hoping that the fluid madness returns.  Oh, the things IF does to you.

Lastly, neither of our two final embryos made it.  It still is so hard to believe, and hard to accept that we only got two viable embryos out of this process — especially after how awful the past week has been.  We are pressing on, though, and actually feeling fairly accepting at this point, although I fear that will all come crashing down if it is negative on Friday.  Of course we are praying like crazy for Friday and I’m hoping to have more energy to devote to that now that I’m feeling more normal.

Here’s something I got in the mail last weekend from my beautiful sis.  One of my mantras through IF and she made it into a canvas.  In our bedroom for now, but one day a nursery.

My sister is brilliant.

My sister is brilliant.

In honor of feeling a bit spunkier today, return of visual hilarity for you…

Reading for my Psychoanalytic Development class last Tuesday, the night before our embryo transfer.  What are the odds?!  Needless to say, I did not participate very much in discussion that night.

Reading for my Psychoanalytic Development class last Tuesday, the night before our embryo transfer. What are the odds?! Needless to say, I did not participate very much in discussion that night.

And Dozer the Dog — a fitter version of our little meatball, a YouTube video my sweet in-laws sent for entertainment over the weekend.

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For Today I am Pregnant

However short-lived, this we do know today.

We got a text from our doctor this morning letting us know that of the four embryos, two were healthy blastocysts, the other two were at earlier stages.  At the appointment I first had an acupuncture treatment (yum), then Dr. C and the embryologist came back and showed us a picture of the to blasts.  They were beautiful (in my humble opinion).  I asked why they were oblong — more like a figure 8 than a circle — and the embryologist said it is because they already have begun to hatch, even better!

The other two are still hanging on, but one seemed to be stalled in its growth and would not result in a baby, and the other they are going to let grow through tomorrow morning and then check in.  If it has reached blastocyst stage (they estimate about a 50/50 chance) we will be able to freeze it for a later transfer.  You know what I’m praying for.

So, in the end, having two healthy blasts, we decided to transfer one and freeze one for a later transfer.  Both Dr. C and the embryologist were fine with whatever we wanted to do but felt more comfortable transferring one.  The likelihood of either of them becoming a baby is the same whether they’re transferred at the same time or separately.  So transferring one does a couple things for us: it reduces our likelihood of multiples, it gives us more than one transfer (praise God!!), and the second transfer may even be slightly more optimal than this one because the uterine lining tends to be healthier when your body has not just undergone stimming and retrieval.  This second transfer could always even be for our second child down the road, if all goes well this go round!

All in all, the disappointment from the low fertilization rate has been quelled a bit and we are very grateful to likely get to have one other transfer from this IVF/retrieval process.  I have to admit, physically I feel pretty cruddy right now.  No one warned me how rough it can be post-retrieval!!  This is the worst part by far!  My ovaries will continue to be enlarged for another couple weeks, my digestion is whack thanks to the anesthesia and progesterone (which was so high it didn’t register on the clinic’s machine — just what they want to see), I’ve been sleeping terribly thanks to those symptoms and the side effect of the steroid, eating isn’t sounding so great but I’m guessing is kind of important for staying pregnant, and I overall feel like I just might pop.  Of course it is all worth it to give the little pearl babies a fighting chance but I will say I am glad I’m taking off the remainder of the week from work to rest and recuperate.

So tonight I am more pregnant than I ever have been (or known I have been) before.  Our embryo is with us, the beginning of a baby.  I’m imagining it continue to hatch and slowly make its way to a comfy spot in my uterus to hang out for nine months.  (We will know a week from Friday.)  I’m connecting with it and praying for him or her.  Trying to be at peace and in the moment in this emerging relationship.

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Today Commences My Leggings-a-thon

We did it folks.  First injection!  (100 IU Follistim, 75 Menopur.)  Our amazing friend Monika came over to walk Hubs through it and they both did wonderfully.  Monika is a newer friend who has adopted me as her IVF friend after she saw the process through for our mutual friend Laura (referenced in my last post).  She is the sweetest and so generous with her time and listening and baking skills just because she wants to offer support and because she is addicted to hope.  She is the epitome of how to be a good friend to an infertile person (maybe I’ll have her write a guest post on the topic sometime.  You up for that, Mon?).

I used to be nervous about the injections but thankfully I’ve gotten over that-ish and now I’m just really eager for our first monitoring visit later this week.  I know the next few days I’m going to be thinking, “What is going on in there?”  I’m feeling good about it all and ready to get this show on the road after all of the waiting and preparing.  I’m sure there will be many emotions and not all so optimistic, but I’ll take the good cheer for now.

Speaking of good cheer, leggings are my comfort clothing and what I plan to unapologetically don for the duration of stimming as my ovaries progress from almond-sized to peach-sized (according to the nurse at our training last week).  Except for going to work, which I think is lame that I have to continue doing, but, whatever.  Yesterday was Hubs’ birthday and so I wore my tightest pants possible out for our night on the town with our buddies, bidding them farewell for the next couple weeks as we welcome the peaches.  And hopefully for longer if this all works out.

I’m going to try to blog daily-ish through IVF with brief updates, and they probably won’t be very profound, I’m just accepting that now.  But I think it’s worth chronicling a bit of what a couple experiences in this process.  I’ve also decided to include in each post some form of hilarity procured from the internet because of its power to help me step back from IVF tunnel vision.  Feel free to share any that you love in the comments section; that would make me really happy.

Happy Lenten season!: 

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Today is Next Month

It’s February 1st, as evidenced by the new red candlesticks out on the dining table (hip hip huzzah for Crate & Barrel Christmas clearance and gift card from my dad).  I’ve never been one for cheesy, illegitimate holidays, but this year I’ve been waiting eagerly to put these bad boys out and I’m guessing it has something to do with the abounding eagerness to get going with IVF that’s up in here.  In my mind and conversations with others, the phrase “We start IVF next month” has been on repeat.  But today, next month is here.

IMG_0349

We finally got off of the questioning roller coaster — IVF, adoption, IVF, adoption… — in mid-January and I was ever so ready.  The toiling and uncertainty were taking any potential restfulness of our “break” right out and I again found myself crying in inappropriate places like acupuncture.  We landed on IVF and were talking just tonight about how comfortable and at peace we feel with our decision.  Not because we feel especially hopeful that it will work — although as he pointed out, the odds at 45-55%/cycle are the highest they’ve been since trying to conceive — but because we’ve become increasingly certain that we want to give IVF a shot.  (I needn’t note pun intended.)  If we didn’t give it a try, I think I would always look back and wonder and ask “what if?”  And because the best predictor of IVF success is age, the best shot we can give it is now.  It feels really good to have sat with this decision and continue to feel at peace with it.

I’d like to say that, since then, I’ve been zen- and mother earth-like, but in all honesty it’s been more like an exhibition of failed nervous energy management.  Mainly in the form of trying to find something I can actually do during the wait like scheduling appointments and looking into a potential lower-cost option for meds, but also of course unnecessary baking/cooking and celebrating that Downton Abbey is now airing in the States.  (Nevermind how horrific the last episode was re: the poor infertility advice offered.  Although, I will say, if DA is taking up male factor infertility as one of its themes, I give it kudos.  Also, I forgive you, writers, for betraying me with Cybil’s pregnancy after all she went through last week.  May she rest in peace.)

So here’s our IVF timeline.  Of course this is all tentative and I’ve learned that with IVF you must expect the unexpected.  As someone told me the other day, it has a way of taking on a life of its own so the best thing to do is to expect it do so and roll with it.

Feb. 7: Predicted Day 1 of cycle
Feb. 9: Day 3 of cycle, start birth control for ~14 days, during these two weeks do testing (I have to repeat the saline ultrasounds, nooooooo!!!), nurse training, order meds, etc.
Feb. 24: Day 1 of Stim Phase (injections & every other day monitoring/ultrasounds)
Feb. 27: I turn 31!  Guess who’s getting a $12-15,000 birthday present this year?
March 5-9 (somewhere in there): Retrieval
3 or 5 days after retrieval (depending on embryo growth): Embryo Transfer
2 weeks after retrieval (approximately March 19-23): Blood test to learn the results

So, February is here and we’re a few weeks out from the real start of it all.  My acupuncturist gave me great advice today to enjoy the last week of a medication-free body and not paying attention to all the details that come with IVF.  Also, our trip was never able to happen so we’re doing a stay-cation next weekend and checking out a great local spa, so lots of good, relaxing distractions in place.

And now, in the vein of distractions, I share a YouTube submission by my dear friend and IVF supporter, Jess.  Some people have been asking how they can bring a meal or otherwise support us during IVF, which is so kind and thoughtful.  Jess will be sending out emails and coordinating that for us and we’re very thankful to her for that.  (I’d be curious to hear from others who have gone through this what kind of support they found helpful or wished they’d had, if you want to leave a comment.)

From Jess this evening: “Hoping you are having a Buttermilk the Goat type of weekend – well, except for the knocking your friends over part…”

And the same goes for you, my friends.

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Today I’m Rich

“And He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” -Rev. 21:3

This verse is giving me great comfort today, as I’ve realized lately that much of my questioning and struggle boil down to the question, is God good?  Scripture says it outright countless times, yet I still find it hard to believe.  Believe at a heart level.  I question how a God who is sovereign and good could allow the kinds of suffering that I see and that I experience myself.  My own suffering pales in comparison to some of the horrors occurring in others’ lives and around the world.  How do sin and the fact that we live in a fallen, broken time and place factor in?  It feels easier to swallow that sin and brokenness are the default for now but that Jesus is entering into it and redeeming it all even now.  It somehow feels more compassionate — but perhaps just easier to swallow — that this suffering isn’t what the Lord wills, that He wants something different for us, wants us to not have to anguish for the past two years, wants our bodies to be working, wants us to be parents already, wants to take away the pain, is crying with us and wants to wipe our tears.  Can He be as good and as compassionate if He is willing this suffering and this situation for us?  For others around the world?

Not easy questions, not ones I am really trying to answer here.  And maybe it doesn’t even matter.  If I play with the ideas in my mind, I tend to think so — think in my head — but in my limited human-ness it seems to break down somewhere, leaving me wondering about a sadistic god who would will such pain for greater good.  I hate to even write the words.  Could there be a greater good?

For the longest time that has felt impossible and at the very least, trite.  But I dare say I’m beginning to experience some of it.  See it, taste it.  Taste and see that the Lord is good.

I’m coming out the other side.  It sounds crazy to say when we haven’t even started IVF yet, we haven’t a clue what the outcome will be.  I’m feeling more like myself again, only a more mature, seasoned version.  A little deeper, a little more dimensional.

My friend Katherine, someone I’ve grown closer to only through this time of suffering, is one of those people who just gets it.  I can pick up with her and instantly feel understood, not to mention less like a crazy person.  Katherine wrote me after our final IUI attempt failed and I asked her if I could share it here on my blog.  It is just too beautiful to keep to myself and I hope some other infertiles can find it useful.  Her words encouraged me greatly at that time and continue to as I’m beginning to experience some of what she talked about.  (As an aside, her email is also a perfect example of how to be an amazing friend to an infertile.  I keep it in my inbox and about five other cards in my journal, all containing priceless words my amazing friends have sent me the past year.)

Hey –
Just wanted to drop you a line and let you know that we’re thinking about you guys.  [My husband] told me that you came in for prayer about next steps, which was sad news (since I was a little behind on the blog and hadn’t heard about this month yet) and also so encouraging that you guys are doing things like getting prayed for.  I can think of about 1000 times we should have done that but it never occurred to us.

I am so sad to hear that your little one did not arrive this last month.  We really mourn with you, my friend.  Such an exhausting and grueling process. It’s very exciting news that you’re moving forward with IVF, though.  On to a new adventure.  🙂  I know it may not feel like it, but you are in the thick of something big in your life.  If you were to graph your growth over time (the inside kind, of course), it is taking a steep upward turn these days while you gain a treasure-trove of experience, wisdom, future empathy for other women going this path, and all sorts of other things that you might not have wanted, but are getting nonetheless.  Count on it – if you hang in, you will get your baby one day – and unlike all those other lamos who got pregnant on the first try, you’ll have that treasure trove to go with it.

Needless to say, I hope and pray that you have both of those things very soon.  🙂  We’d love to see you guys sometime soon.  We can talk and lament over this stuff, or just ponder the final scene of DA.  Either is fine.  🙂

How beautiful is that?  (And great that she deeply empathizes, mourns with us, has faith for us, and relates to the feeling that super-fertile people are lamos. 🙂 )  I replied to her that I would hang on to this image because, at that moment and for a long time before, I was not feeling an ounce of growth or feeling God’s nearness.

I am beginning to get a very real sense of this treasure trove, though; I think that day is coming.  I’m increasingly aware of a feeling that I’ve gained something the past two years.  In a time that has felt so dry and agonizing and empty.  I think that depth and dimension are exactly what she was talking about.  Maybe He can use this — whether He willed it or not — maybe this treasure trove is worth the suffering, and that He, in fact, in all His goodness helped me in the suffering and brought and is bringing this treasure into fruition without an ounce of my own effort.  I never thought I would say that and really mean it — not as a defense against my pain and confusion — but I don’t think I imagined what and how good the treasure could be.

We still await a child.  We still do not know how or when the Lord will bring him or her to us.  We wait and we wait.  We wait and are in anguish and are comforted.  We wait uncertain and fearful and aware that He desires to wipe away our every tear.  We wait, praying He continues to build that treasure trove, praying that above all on the other side the treasure is good and that we will know and taste His goodness.

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