We made it through the first 3 nights of stimming and I’m feeling pretty good! I had a dull headache off and on Sunday and Monday, but I can’t complain…it’s not bad. Today I went for my first “follie” (follicle) check bright and early at 7am. My vein was squirmy and gave the phlebotomist a good amount of trouble, but after (painlessly) poking around, she took my blood and then I had a quick ultrasound to check my lining and measure my follicles. I was out of the office by 7:15…so quick & easy! My nurse called this afternoon and said that there’s not too much growth/happening yet, but that’s to be expected, and is normal (PHEW!) especially because my doctor doesn’t start with an overly aggressive stimming protocol. But we’re going to be a little more aggressive the next couple of days. My Follistim is increasing to 300 (from 225) and Menopur is doubling to 150. So that will be 2 vials of Menopur to mix together tonight…even more pharmaceutical work! I’ll go back Friday morning to get checked again & hopefully there will be some pick up in growth and numbers then. Fingers (and follies!) crossed!
A week ago I dropped Mike off at the airport for his 6 day work trip to Orlando. The man who had never been to Orlando was going for the 2nd time in 2 months! On the way to the airport we had a great conversation about IVF. We both were excited for the week ahead–he’d be attending work conferences, I’d rest & clean up around the house…and when he got back, we’d start trying to make a baby (again). Best laid plans, right?
Mike’s father needed emergency bypass sugery, so the man who doesn’t love flying got back on a plane 26 hours after landing in Orlando to come back to NY, landing after midnight. Early the next morning we headed to CT and then late Tuesday night (after much sitting, walking around, mindless conversation, Jeopardy as a distraction, and nervous laughter) a surgeon told us that we could see Mike’s father in the ICU in about an hour, as the surgery was successful and he’d be moved from recovery shortly. (!!) If you were wondering what the opposite of relaxing and cleaning up the house is, or attending a work conference, it’s spending time in a waiting room, praying, worrying, and hoping that your family member makes it out of surgery ok. And thank God, he did.
When I went back to work on Thursday morning, a coworker remarked, “I always find it to be so strange, the time spent in a hospital…you’re there, and things are measured so differently, but life beyond the hospital is still happening. Lives are still being lived normally, and things you’re involved in are going on without you.” (Or something just like that.) And isn’t that true?
Time was passed inside and outside the hospital. I had to leave sooner than I wanted, because with any luck, I’ll have an egg retrieval and embryo transfer in February, so I had to use my sick time wisely. Because that part of our life was still out there, waiting for us this week. And while there’s more waiting involved in this process (of course), some of our waiting is done. Yesterday morning I had blood work and an ultrasound to see if the birth control had done its job. And it had! My estrogen levels and ovaries were ready to start stimming. Wahooooo! Day 1 was finally here!
I re-watched the injection videos last night, just to make sure I didn’t mess up the first night of shots. And other than dropping a Q-cap on the ground, and wondering about a rounded plunger’s measurement of 1cc (what makes the 1cc? is it the peak? is the the bottom sides?), they went pretty well! Mike (and our good luck goldendoodle, Charlotte) helped me out. We set everything up, Mike took pictures and some videos, and we injected the Follistim first. The Follistim is FSH (Follicle Stimualting Hormone), and is really easy to use. You load a cartridge of the medicine in the pen, put the pen together, attach a VERY SMALL needle, and then turn a dial on the bottom to the prescribed dose. The first 3 nights I have the same dosage…225 of Follistim and 75 of Menopur. I got the needle in (abdomen), but when there was a LITTLE resistance to pushing it it (I think it was just a weird angle and nerves) Mike was a champ and pushed the meds in! Menopur takes a little more work. You use a Q-cap, which is a specialty needle/vial device, so you can pull the amount of sodium chloride you need to mix in with the powdered meds. That’s right. MIX. We were practically pharmacists last night (I kid…but we did feel a bit like mad scientists, I think). How to mix the Menopur? Q-cap on a syringe. Pull to 1cc of air. Push the air into the vial of liquid. Turn vial upside down and pull out 1cc of liquid. Insert liquid into vial of powdered meds, mix, and draw newly mixed medicine into syringe. Remove Q-cap, attach 1/2 inch needle, inject. This one had a lot of steps, but was easy. I think it will be easier tonight. I could have injected this one, but I asked Mike to do it…it’s nice having both of us be involved in the process.
How was it, you ask? Not bad, actually! They burned a little going in, the Menopur more than the Follistim, but the needles didn’t hurt. You can see 2 little pin prick marks on my belly, but no bruising. I woke up with a headache that hasn’t gone away yet, but that could also be the side-effect felt when you finally start to catch up on sleep after not sleeping enough (last week I was up past 12:30 three nights in a row…which is totally unheard of in our house/lives). I guess we’ll know more as the stimming goes on. I have 3 nights of shots and then an early morning appointment on Tuesday this week. My meds may be adjusted depending on what the blood and ultrasound show. And something else…I’m happy to be finally doing this. I feel like we decided SO long ago to move forward with IVF, after learning we would likely never have children without it. There have been so many ups and downs to date. I know I probably won’t feel great throughout all of stimming (how great would it be if I do, though?!), but emotionally and mentally I feel strong, ready, and hopeful…and pretty damn happy to be finally stimming.
I wish this blog entry started off telling the story of an unexpected positive pregnancy test. Like my eggs were finally scared straight when the IVF meds showed up or one volunteered as tribute, and we’d have a baby on the way when we least expected it. But, that’s not this blog post. I think, in more reality, the reaction was more like an SNL spoof of Scared Straight:
So instead of telling you a wonderful story of our surprise unexplained reversal of unexplained infertility, we continue on with our journey…which remains unexplained…and with little surprise.
We had a conference call with our injections coordinator/trainer on Monday to talk more in depth about our medication protocol, and yesterday, after being 4 days late (ah, just like the good old days of trying to get pregnant years ago, when I’d be 4, 8, 3 days late inexplicably…before Clomid, a miscarriage, more Clomid, and meetings with specialists), I called our Reproductive Endocrinologist (we so fancy) to report the start of a new cycle.
And with that call, I started taking birth control. Yes. You read that right. Birth control. THAT’s the first medication I have to take to kick off our IVF game. As far as I’m concerned, I’d like a refund for all of the birth control I paid for over the years protecting against pregnancy. That’s probably one of my favorite jokes that Mike and I make: demanding money back for guarding against pregnancy, when we never needed defense in the first place. But that’s neither here nor there (and sorry if that joke make you feel weird…humor is a big coping mechanism around here). Why the birth control? It will calm my ovaries and prevent follicles and eggs from growing and developing. Then, when my ovaries are calm, the RE will take over and help stimulate and grow follicles, which will hopefully contain healthy, robust eggs, ready to be fertilized, transferred, and burrow in for a fruitful pregnancy.
So. I started birth control last night and got a phone call this morning from Michelle, our IVF coordinator. I’ll take birth control until the 25th, and then have baseline testing on the 27th. I’ll have blood work and an ultrasound done and hopefully my levels, lining, and ovaries look good and ready to start. If so, I’ll start my injections that night (this is the phase known as stimming, for stimulating growth). I’ll start with 2 meds each night, and after 3 days of stimming, I’ll head back in for another round of blood work and u/s. From there, dosages of the meds may change and I’ll go for monitoring more often. At some point I’ll add in a third shot each night, to keep my eggs from releasing. Then, when my doctor says I’m ready, we’ll administer a trigger shot 36 hours before retrieval, which will tentatively be on February 8th & hopefully an embryo transfer on the 13th. This is all subject to change, but! for now we have birth control, our IVF calendar, and our meds (some that are chilling in the fridge & others that are in our someday nursery).
After reading countless blogs about IVF (thanks, Pinterest), I haven’t been TOO surprised by what our doctor or nurses have told us. But today there was a new little tidbit…I can’t wear nail polish for the egg retrieval or transfer! And I have to have the polish off at least 2 days off before the retrieval. It makes sense, I suppose, as I’ll be sedated and have to wear a pulse-ox monitor on my finger, but it wasn’t something I had considered. Among the various sacrifices we’ll (gladly) make for this to happen, unpainted nails is a very small (and silly) thing, but I was still surprised. There are a few other things, but when the time comes, we’ll write about those.
Aside from some mild disappointment in the face of (obviously? distantly? tragically?) hoping for the miracle pregnancy this past cycle, we’re excited to start our IVF cycle. And even thought we have to wait a little bit more to start stimming meds, then wait for the retrieval, then wait for updates about the eggs, then wait for the transfer, and THEN wait for a pregnancy test, the waiting seems to be more bearable as we *finally* take active steps in this process…while we wait some more.
As we leave the Christmas season, some faster than others…our tree is still up because it is awesome this year. Well, that, and last year I think it came down before Christmas Day because of kitchen reno. Mike and I unpacked our car with thoughtful gifts picked out for us by family and friends, but without something we both want. Something we hope for, talk about, pray for, dream of, and for which we make wishes. You know, I have so many wishes for me and Mike. Health, happiness, friendship, love, good jobs in which we can find success and pride, laughter (gosh I hope we always have a lot of laughter), wine…oops! I guess I just wish Mike would re-fill my wine glass while I type out this blog, but that’s neither here nor there. But something else I wish is that 2.5 years ago, I’d known that Elton John’s “Rocket Man” (and sooooo many other things) contain a message that are both helpful and heartbreaking. Especially when you’re experiencing infertility. As I drove home last week listening to the sweet vocals of Sir Elton John, I thought “You’re damn right it’s gonna be a long long time!”
Some of the other things that have struck a chord with me along the way:
a.) Co-workers! Thanks for complaining about children and saying things like, “Just wait until YOU have kids!” …cue my nervous laugh, small eye roll, and internal response, “ALL I DO IS WAIT UNTIL I HAVE KIDS!” Don’t worry. I don’t actually say it. And it’s not their fault. I know that.
b.) Christmas cards! Man. I love Christmas cards. Ask Mike! He’ll tell you that if there’s a day in December with no cards in the mailbox, my Clausometer falls. But then, standing in your kitchen surrounded by families, babies, kids, all of which are incredible, happy, and beautiful!, was totally gut-wrenching. This was our 3rd calendar year of, “Maybe by Christmas we’ll have a baby on the way…”
c.) MOVIES & TV. Ok, if you haven’t struggled with infertility, you may not have noticed this, but now that we’re in the infertile pit of misery (Dilly Dilly!), Mike and I are hit with fertility issues everywhere we look! I’m not talking about John and Kate Plus 8, some Duggan-Family based program, or any other TLC show that highlights families and babies…I’m talking Arrival, Patriots Day, Friends, and most recently Fuller House. **When Mike and I were reading through this blog entry, he said, “I mean, we could easily name 9 or 10 more!” And maybe we will some other day. But for now, these are the first 4 that come to mind.
-I won’t spoil Arrival, as it shouldn’t be spoiled. I do recommend it, Mike and I loved it! However, I did sit with tears streaming down my face. I think this was the first movie we saw after our miscarriage (more on the later)…not like the next day, but it was the first time out to the movies and welcome back tears!
-Patriots Day. As I recall, the issue of infertility really didn’t need to be in this movie. Mike and I were enthralled by this movie (we both tolerate Wahlbergs. Mark in movies…and Donny in Blue Bloods…oh! There’s a show without infertility! Although, now that I’ve put it out there, I’m sure it’s coming..ha! ) Anyway, story line about the Boston Marathon bombings, they’re hunting for the brothers, and then bam! Random side-story about infertility! Crushed…because I wasn’t already crying about the horror of the bombings.
–Friends. I love it. I’m watching it right now for what? The 5th time through? Who’s to say? I read last year (and I have no way of fact-checking this, although maybe Mike can after his time on the Law Journal and all of those foot-notes…hmm. Mike, after you bring me that glass of wine, I have another *small* task for you!) that the Friends women all experienced childbirth, fertility, and family issues in non-traditional ways on purpose. Phoebe was a surrogate for her brother, Rachel was un-married when she got pregnant and had Emma, and Monica. Monica struggles to get pregnant and later finds out that she can’t have children of her own…so she adopts. Because of sitcoms glossing over major issues while still addressing them, I’m not sure why she couldn’t try IVF. But I’m nearing that episode, if I get more insight (now that I’m relatively well-versed in infertile-talk), I’ll report back. Anyway, I’m not sure if the writers/producers did that on purpose, or if some fan noticed it and created the theory. But either way, I like it, I appreciate it, and I relate to some of it.
-This last bullet point could include some spoilers for you re: Fuller House consider yourself warned. In Season 1 of the Full House spin-off, the audience learns that Stephanie, for some reason, cannot carry a child of her own…so she has accepted that she will not have children. Fast forward Season 2, Stephanie is encouraged by Aunt Becky to pursue harvesting her own eggs and considering a surrogate, if at all possible. Season 3: Stephanie is seen giving herself some hormone injections, gets a call about how many viable embryos she has after fertilization (Kimmy Gibler’s brother, Jimmy Gibler, is the father!), and she needs to find a surrogate. Well, the hunt is exhaustive, and there’s no one. DJ, who very much wants to be the surrogate can’t be because of her last delivery being so tough/traumatic (OK Netflix, who actually researched my life for part of this story line?? Mike and I laughed several times at the similarities to our own story!!) Shout out to my sister, here, by the way, who had a traumatic last delivery & I know would do anything for me that she possibly could–although, Stephanie Tanner and I differ, in that I do not need a surrogate. I digress. Kind of. So following the “exhaustive” (think 1 – 2 minutes of story line) search and emotional conversations with DJ, Kimmy Gibler ends up being chosen as Steph’s surrogate! What!? Crazy! Also great. SO! Mike and I finished Season 3 today of Fuller House, which is really what I thought about blogging about all day today. I was comforted by the inclusion of an infertile story line in FH. I cried when Stephanie told DJ she wouldn’t be able to have children…I’ve had that same conversation with my sister. I cried when Stephanie’s family rallied behind her with support for IVF/Surrogacy…Mike and I have received that same support. And I cried today when Kimmy announced that she was, indeed, pregnant with Stephanie’s child. When Stephanie said, “I’m going to be a Mommy!”…well! Welcome back, water works!
But they were happy tears. A lot of the tears I’ve cried over the past couple of years have been shed because of sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, helplessness, and loss. But today? Today my tears were filled with hope. Hope and wishes…so many wishes.