Tag Archives: #infertilitywaiting

Today I Did My Hair

What a couple of weeks it has been.  I feel like I am living in bizarro-land.  There has been so much happening but I have not had the capacity to write the past several days.

In short, I was in the hospital two days getting two Albumin transfusions and left Sunday feeling a bit better and better able to eat and drink on my own, my Albumin (protein) levels just below normal range but high enough to give my doctor satisfaction.  By Monday I was again very full in the abdomen and still fighting the nausea and pain.  I also awoke that morning with some new symptoms, in particular swelling in other areas of my body.  I went in to my RE in hopes of another tap but the ultrasound indicated that a tap actually would not be able to drain much fluid because the fluid had now begun to spread throughout my body — stage two of OHSS.

Over the course of the next four days I gained 15+ pounds of fluid throughout my body, putting the total fluid weight gain at 25 pounds in about a week.  My clothes do not fit, fluid on my spine makes it painful to rest on my back, my feet and toes are swollen to the point of numbness and tingling, and all of that adds up to a good bit of difficulty walking and getting around.  The rest of the week involved more IV fluids at my RE’s office, an ER visit to ensure I didn’t have a blood clot because of asymmetrical swelling in my legs, and, finally, an appointment with my RE on Friday where we finally saw my kidney function improving.

While those symptoms I just mentioned are still true today, I also am beginning to notice some improvements.  Late last week I began peeing normally (sorry if too much information), indicating that new fluids entering my body were being processed by my kidneys.  Now it is a matter of the fluids stored up from the past two weeks getting pushed to them and peed out — that’s right, we’re looking at peeing out 25 pounds worth of fluids over the next week.  This process, thankfully, has already begun and I’m down about 4-5 pounds.

Let me be clear about this: I do not care about the weight.  What I care about is the extreme discomfort and how I can’t get around so well.  Percocet and anti-nausea meds have been my friend the past week and are helping to relieve enough of the pain to be able to eat and get up and around for a bit at a time.

Perhaps more importantly, let me be clear about this: I am so grateful for this pregnancy and I am not complaining in that regard.  I am so so grateful.  And this pregnancy, to potentially have a baby at the end of this, is worth every ounce of discomfort.

Last Sunday when we were discharged my RE’s partner, who was on call and making rounds, let me know that OHSS typically lasts nine days in women who are not pregnant and 21 days in women who are.  At that point, about 11 days in, I could not imagine being able to tolerate another ten but getting these slowly-increasing Betas certainly has pushed me on and makes it all worth the while.  In fact, my RE told me about my first Beta on the Thursday before we were supposed to find out.  She called to let me know some of my other, worrisome numbers and to have me come in for fluids, labs, etc. but then said she also had good news, that she had run an HCG the day before (1 week post transfer) and my Beta was 51.  I of course was shocked but this news buoyed me, helped me to push through the pain, to continue to force feed and hydrate myself despite feeling as though there was zero room for anything else in this body, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was an intentional move on her part.

I can’t imagine going through this process of OHSS and not being pregnant, my heart goes out so deeply for women who do.  Staying on the OB mother/baby floor last weekend, I could only imagine how cruel it would be to be there, not pregnant, hearing the cries of the babies and in such pain.

My betas have continued to rise, but not at normal rates due to the OHSS.  My doctor told me this from the beginning, not to expect the doubling every other day that we typically see, because blood levels in a woman with OHSS are so skewed because of the enormous amounts of fluid in her body.  So after the initial sneaky Beta of 51, my second was drawn in the hospital at 1 in the morning and my RE texted me the result at 3 a.m. — 86.  Still pregnant.  So very early still, but pregnant.  That was when I first began to believe and let it sink in.  Last Wednesday it registered at 581 and Friday at 1315, it actually did double in that two-day period.

I am doing a lot of hanging on and a lot of waiting — what we infertiles do best.  With OHSS it is a game of waiting it out and of symptom management.  Today is day 21 of this, but as my doctor has reiterated I don’t know how many times, we never can know how long someone’s body is really going to take to get through it.  The trick now is for the effect of my Albumin levels, hopefully continuing to rise because of now being able to eat, to overcome the effect of the HCG, hopefully continuing to rise because of the growing pregnancy.  My dear mother-in-law who is a dietician has me on a high protein diet and I am trying to waste no bite on anything that does not contain protein.  Save the fried pickles and pretzels outing that Hubs and Jess took me out to over the weekend which involved airlifting me into the restaurant.

This morning as Hubs went to church I watched a streaming Easter service online and wept thinking about God’s salvation and taking a broken, messy situation and redeeming it, breathing new life into it.  His goodness to us to make us beautiful again, his goodness to me to allow me to be pregnant.  I showered and put on a dress I could zip half-way (yay for Anthropologie baggy styles) and actually did my hair and make-up.  I took a few minutes to put a tablecloth and the china out on the table for Jess and Hubs and my Easter lunch, and those little things felt like big accomplishments.

So today, much like my body is requiring me to do, my mind and heart move slowly, one foot in front of the other.  So grateful for each increasing Beta, celebrating each pound peed out!, beginning to let myself dream a little about baby names and nursery colors, and holding my breath until that ultrasound next Monday and looking for our little heartbeat.

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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 There are Still Four

Just got the update and all four embryos are still moving forward!  We have two 8-cell, one 7-cell, and one 6-cell.  Dr. C said she thinks we’re looking at one to two blastocysts on transfer day Wednesday and that she would be surprised if there were fewer, ecstatic if there were more.

I will continue to pray our four embryos fighting in the incubator down the road and that there would be four healthy blastocysts on Wednesday.

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Today I Am a Mother

I have learned a lot about myself in the past 48 hours.

1.  I have tough skin.

No, unfortunately not metaphorically, quite literally.  The nurse anesthetist had quite a time getting my IV going on Friday and, after telling me the first one “burst” and I told her that the word burst made me anxious, declared that despite my being a dainty lady (fairly certain that will be the only time in my life that I hear that), that I have tough skin.  After several tissues worth of palm sweat my husband wiped off my hands, providing much-needed comic relief, laying me back to prevent a further vagal response, and a couple tries later, we were in.  I, as usual, was a high maintenance patient as my anxiety got the best of me.  I wish it were figurative, too.

2.  I am a curious anesthetic drunk.

My friend Laura warned me that she was a sobby and sappy anesthetic drunk, that all the emotion of IVF buried deep emerged as she came out of the anesthesia post-retrieval.  Me?  I was that before it even started.  As the nurse walked me back to get changed and Hubs left to provide his sample, I broke down crying.  It all rushed in.  I gathered myself, read Scripture on my phone (coincidentally the passage of the day was II Corinthians 1 on “The God of All Comfort), and again resumed crying when Hubs returned.  And then when the nurse came back, and the anesthetist, and my RE.  It was all a bit overwhelming.  For some reason I chose to wear a ring Hubs gave me for my 20th birthday that I hadn’t pulled out in a while.  As I looking at the thing, I couldn’t help but think back to those two innocent kiddos and how they had no idea what the future had in store.  Certainly infertility is not the only thing — most of it has been great  — but we had no idea we’d be in that room, doing this wild thing 11 years later.  They somehow managed to get me back to the operating room and my RE and the nurses wished me well on my trip to the beach and requested I bring a drink back for them.  Have I mentioned how great they are at my clinic?  They were all so understanding and comforting with me and all my emotion and wispiness.  I was awakened when they brought my husband back and quickly began asking him questions about when had I woken up, how did they wake me up, how many eggs (of course), etc..  Not a single tear, I was fairly clear-minded, super relieved that part was over, and wondering why the heck I still felt so full in the ovaries (apparently they pop the follicles to retrieve the eggs, and the follicles become cysts — great).

3.  I like dried prunes (and I cannot lie).

No need for a lot of details, but did you know they taste like those Whole Foods fruit leathers?  Yum!  I can be so close-minded with my produce selections.  I still lament all the years I spent without avocado in my life.

4.  My friends are amazing cooks.

They (you all) have brought us the most delicious meals, it is no wonder we live in the foodiest small town in America.  Quinoa and roasted vegetables, lentil and rice soup, extra-ginger carrot soup, vegetarian ziti, spinach enchiladas, southwestern grits, Dahl and brown rice, sun-dried tomato artichoke quiche (dairy-free!)…and lots and lots of chocolate and cupcakes which I have been eating indiscriminately but don’t tell Julie the acupuncturist.  Biggest thanks for all of this love.  And I am proud of you, my community, for your incredible cooking skills and being the hands and feet of Jesus.  You people have even taken our terror of a puppy on hikes — that is love.

5.  I am a mother.

Lastly and most importantly.  It feels weird to have been chipper in this post so far, because I’m actually very very worried and sad and scared.  The low-down on the retrieval: the procedure itself all went very well, they harvested 13 eggs as we had hoped, the sperm report was perfect.  We got a call Saturday, though, that only four had fertilized normally.  Of the 13, three weren’t mature (in line with the 80% we predicted), and of the ten remaining, five had signs of maturity but did not fertilize, one fertilized but abnormally and so would not result in a baby, leaving our four embryos.  That is a low fertilization rate of 40% when you’re usually looking at 70%.  Our RE said that we should realistically hope for just the one fresh transfer.

The blastocyst conversion rate — how many day-1 embryos make it to a day-5 blastocyst — is 50%, meaning statistically speaking, we are hoping for one to two embryos by Wednesday to transfer, likely none to freeze for later.  What a blow after all of that work and pain and time and hope.  It is bad enough if we are not pregnant this cycle but have frozen embryos to thaw for a later attempt, but so much worse if we are not pregnant and that was our only shot after this long and grueling process.

As many have reminded me lately, it only takes one.  I am praying for this and was encouraged today to hear a story of a friend’s friend having one embryo and now having a rambunctious five-year-old girl.  But, more than that, I am incessantly praying for our four babies.

This morning I couldn’t help but realize that I am, in fact, now officially a mother.  I just felt different in my love and concern for them.  I feel desperate for them, want to fight for them, be with them, do anything I can for them.  Of course at this point that is next to nothing except for prayer.

I realize that it is highly unlikely statistically, but I am praying and asking others to pray that all four would fight and make it and be strong and healthy on Wednesday.  That the Lord would do that fighting for them.  “He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).  This verse hung in my sister’s twin’s nursery who were conceived with the help of fertility meds and sustained after being born 8 weeks early.  Today in church we sang “He is Able.”  This is true and I believe it.  All four may not make it, but it will not be for me not having asked.  And, on the other hand, they just may.  I am that persistent woman before the judge this weekend, asking this of the Lord over and over and over again.

We’ll get a report on them midday tomorrow.  It has driven me crazy today to think of them, 20 minutes down the road, not knowing how many are still there, how they’re doing, if they’re growing.  But I am believing in my babies and my Father who is with them, hoping they have tough skin like their mama.  Praying that the Lord would see them through.  I’m very aware that they are ours, that we are their parents and love them already.

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