Monday, December 19, 2011

Super-wrong drama llama!

I can't possibly find words to sufficiently describe the intensity of the past week, but I will try...

In my last post, I was going through the awful roller coaster of emotions between wanting to feel hopeful while fighting the sense of dread that this cycle was a bust... spurred largely by some serious cramping on and off, with the worst of it being on Monday, 12/12. By that afternoon, I thought I might lose my marbles entirely, so after deliberating with Justin, I emailed Susan (our RE nurse at UCSF) to let her know that we would be testing at home the next morning since I was sure it would be negative and I wanted to get it over with. She requested that I get blood work done instead of using a home test, because the beta numbers are more telling, so we made an appointment at the lab for Wednesday.

The morning started out rocky because Justin had apparently forgotten where the lab was (weird, since he drove me there twice before) and I was nervous and therefore moody. But, we made it, joked around a little with each other to ease the tension, and in a few minutes, it was done. How exactly I was supposed to be productive for the next several hours at work is anyone's guess (I wasn't.) I watched and watched my phone to see if the call had come in with the results. And at around 2:30, I saw that she had called and left a voicemail. Thus beginning 4 hours of torture until Justin could meet me at home to listen to it together.

Finally, the moment had arrived, and I was feeling so pessimistic (probably a self-preservation technique), but secretly hoping for the best. As soon as I heard her voice over the speakerphone, I thought she sounded happy, but then immediately scolded myself for thinking so. However, much to my surprise, she said the magic words, "your test came back positive!" Our beta was 66 and she wanted it to be at least 50, so she was cautiously optimistic. We cried, we laughed, we high-fived.


Now the fun begins... We made the obligatory phone calls to family, which was a little strange since I barely believed the news myself. I had a second beta drawn and it more than tripled to 218 in 48 hours, and our first ultrasound is already scheduled for January 3rd. Don't I feel silly for being so sure that the worst was going to happen! Susan has a nickname for me: "Oh ye of little faith."

Like clockwork, my brain has kicked in and I've been worrying about all of the logistics and the what-ifs. It makes it tough to sleep at night when the thoughts are coming a mile a minute starting the second my head hits the pillow, but I am training myself to continue to take this one day at a time, just like the IVF process itself. Today, I am SO happy. I will try to stay focused on that and taking extra-special care of myself, since that is what is important in the here and now.

So, what do you think: one or two?  ;)

Friday, December 9, 2011

What a Difference a Day Makes

I seriously need to get OFF this rollercoaster! To recap:

Monday, I felt great. Really optimistic and hopeful that this had worked. Paradise

Tuesday, black cloud over my head, thinking the worst. Storm

Wednesday and Thursday, back to the sunny side! Paradise

Today, blackest cloud ever. Storm

I was very crampy overnight (more so then I had been, anyway) and it started to feel the same as the end of all my other cycles. I even cried when my acu asked me how I was feeling, because I had to be honest with her. Justin is worried too because he knows how this is affecting me and he would hate to have to go through this again. I know that the cramping could mean nothing or everything, and there's no way to know yet (and I sure as hell am not going to test at 7dp3dt and get ambiguous results) what the outcome will be, but I am exhausted. Maybe I just feel this way because the trigger has worn off? Who knows? I NEED to stop dwelling, but that's practically impossible!

I hope I'm just being totally ridiculous and feel like a million bucks again tomorrow. Ugh. Longest. 2ww. EVER!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

OJB Update (That's Operation Jellybean, for those who are keeping score)

Well, it has been a few days since my transfer, and the emotions are running high. On Monday, I was on cloud nine, thinking I just "knew" this had worked! Tuesday, notsomuch. Today, I am straddling the fence ... though if I'm being completely honest and dare to think this, I'm still leaning towards it working, yay!

All-in-all, the ET went very smoothly, and our luck has just been remarkable so far. When we arrived at UCSF Friday morning, I had already gone to acupunture (the first of two visits with her that day) and taken a 10mg valium, so I was feeling more than fine! I got into my sexy hospital gown yet again and slipped on my bold, stripey green socks for luck, and we waited nervously to get the show on the road. At last, a nurse says, "oh, the doctor wants to talk to you first. It's good news!" Um, ok. We like good stuff. Dr. Fujimoto (who I admittedly was not crazy about when I saw him once during the IUI days, I may have misjudged) brought us into the room with the embryologist and explained that ALL 14 of our embryos were of the highest grade, so we had a decision to make: take the best-looking 2 and transfer them that day as planned and see how many of the others make it to blastocyst stage for freezing, or grow them all out to blast and choose the best 1 or 2 on day 5 from the crop that survive. Once he explained that there is always a slim chance that they all arrest and we end up with nothing, we knew we would be transferring that day. The only thing we knew with certainty was that these two gorgeous 8 and 9-cell embies were ready and waiting, so we went for it. By day 5, 2 more were frozen and 4 more even made it to day 6!

I have moments where I second-guess not waiting to see which made it to blast and choosing from them, since they have a higher likelihood of implanting successfully. But then I remember that we didn't know for sure that we would have ANY that made it that far. The fact that we lost half of them remaining twelve might seem like a negative, but to me, that means the two they put back have a 50-50 chance each! No, that's not really how it works, but I'm going to let myself think that for now.  :)

I have been crampy off and on, and staying hydrated seems to help - though if I have to pee any more often, I might just take up residence in the bathroom! Otherwise, my only discomfort is soreness from the progesterone injections. Justin is being such a trooper with those, by the way. I can't imagine having to stab someone I love with a 1 and 1/2 inch needle on a nightly basis, sometimes leading to bloodshed and/or bruising. I SWEAR, it really doesn't hurt though!

I still have a full week before I test. Justin and I decided that we'll take a HPT on Thursday morning 12/15 and use my scheduled beta bloodwork on Friday as confirmation of the results, and to monitor my HCG levels. My goal this week is to be more distracted by all of the Christmas stuff I've been slacking on instead of the outcome of my IVF cycle. Let's see how well that works!

And without further ado, here are our potential babies. When I handed Justin this photo, he immediately got weepy and said his paternal instincts kicked in and he just wanted to make sure nothing bad happened to them.  *tear*

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Operation Jellybean

Back in NYC, when Justin and I were first dating, our friends tried to come up with a nickname for us, since we were practically inseparable. First, we were The Kennedys, because apparently being in marketing and banking made us the power couple of the group (ok?)... but it was decided that was too tragic. A few suggestions were batted about that evening at Moe's (our beloved neighborhood bar, where we first met and spent many a night with our fascinating circle of friends), but one stuck. Just like Bennifer and Brangelina, our names would be smooshed together to create... Jelly. It was instantly ridiculous and fantastic. We would enter a room or one particular backyard BBQ to the resounding shouts of "Jelly!" Our friends are insane.

So, Operation Jellybean is well underway! After having 6 or 7 mature-looking follies on Sunday, plus 9 others that were in a much smaller "cohort", it was decided that we would trigger that night for retrieval on Tuesday! Given those numbers, I can only expect maybe 6 to be mature and go on to fertilize, and I'm totally comfortable with that result. Working on Monday was complete misery. Heck, WALKING was like a mild form of torture because my ovaries felt like two tennis balls in my gut. I was soooo looking forward to getting these eggs OUT. Of course, I couldn't sleep on Sunday or Monday because of the nerves and anticipation, but on Tuesday morning, I was ready to roll.

When we got to UCSF, we were greeted in the waiting room by Angela, the nurse who was so fond of us for being silly during her IVF injection training class while the rest of the class sat there stone-faced. It's amazing how comforting a familiar face can be! She started my IV (joy) and got me in a gown and before I knew it, I was being whisked away to the procedure room. A minute later, that warm and fuzzy drug haze descended upon me, and the last thing I remember saying was, "oh man, that feels greeeeaaaaat!" Next thing I know, I'm lying in a recovery bed and Angela is bringing Justin to see me. It was done! First words out of my mouth were, "how many did we get?" She told me to look at my hand, and on it was written the number 16 in purple sharpie (which still won't come off, by the way)! NO WAY! THAT'S FREAKIN' AWESOME! Mind you, we have to wait until the next day to find out how many are mature (remember, I'm expecting maybe 6), and then how many actually fertilize, but I was pleased. Around 3:30 the next day, as I convalesced on the couch, I got the call telling me that 14 of the 16 were mature and ALL 14 fertilized! Utter disbelief. Can we really be this lucky? Yes. Yes, we can.

And as I wait to have 2 of the best-looking embryos transferred back in tomorrow morning, a few words for our jellybeans a.k.a. potential children...

Dear embies,

I hope you're doing well in your petri dishes! Daddy and I love you already, if you can imagine that, and we really want to meet one or two of you in about nine months, and then another one of you in a couple of years. The rest of you will be donated to nice families who can't make embies of their own, so I want you all to be strong and multiply! I'll get to see two of you tomorrow and I am so excited! I hope you're excited too.

With much love,

Your Mommie-to-Be

Monday, November 28, 2011

Queasy Peasy

No, I’m not referring to the stomach bug that J caught just a day and a half before Thanksgiving (poor thing, he was miserable and couldn’t enjoy his dinner). I’m referring to the pit that has taken up residence in my stomach and its tenants: nerves, excitement, and my old friend, anxiety.
Last week was chock full of ultrasounds and blood work (Monday, Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday) to see how I am responding to the stims. Monday the nurse simply did a blood draw to check my E2, which was over 300 from being 20 on Thursday, so things were headed in the right direction. They lowered my meds to 5iu lupron, 150 follistim, and 2 vials of menopur to make sure I don’t respond too quickly and have one or two pull ahead and eat up all the meds. Tuesday I had a “date with the vag cam” during which we saw that I have 10 follicles between 6 and 11mm. The doctor told me to go enjoy my Thanksgiving and come back Saturday because it was still early, and meds were lowered again to only 1 vial of menopur (thank goodness, because that one kinda burns!)
Thanksgiving with Justin’s family was really, really lovely. Before dinner, when it was time to do injections, J and I excused ourselves to the bathroom with our refrigerated bag of goodies. Eva (our almost 6-year-old niece), in her usual inquisitive nature, asked a bunch of questions about where we were going, what we were doing, and why. Justin’s mom told her that we had to give me shots in the belly. Of course, when I came back out to the living room, she made it clear that she knew what I was up to and asked me why I needed the shots, to which I responded, “well, we’re trying to have a baby and we need medicine to make that happen.” I explained that the needles were small and didn’t really hurt and that it would hopefully all be worth it soon enough. If only adults were so forthright with their questions.  J
At dinner (and at Eva’s request), we went around the table and listed what we were thankful for. Justin’s mom named several things dear to her like books and Rome (she recently came back from a solo trip to Europe), but cried when she mentioned how happy she was to have family with her. It breaks my heart because I know how sad she and the rest of the family are that we are planning to leave. I wish our life choices weren’t hurtful to the ones we love, and I don’t envy Justin having to feel the way I did when I left my sister back east. Pretty sure we’re done moving after this.
When it was my turn, I shared my thanks for modern medicine and the possibilities it offers, family that enjoys each other’s company so much, and the technology to communicate with my side from afar. After dinner, we watch the requisite Snoopy Thanksgiving special with the kids and Boris played the piano. I couldn’t have been more at peace and relaxed.

By Saturday, my E2 had climbed to 2750 and I had follies approaching 16mm, so it looked like we were getting close! Sure enough, Sunday’s ultrasound showed 6 mature follicles between 15 and 18mm and 9 others in a group of smaller ones that may or may not catch up. It was go time! I triggered last night with 5000 units of HCG and 450 of follistim and am scheduled for egg retrieval tomorrow morning at 9:30am!
Up until yesterday afternoon when I got the call with my lab results, I was purely excited. Now, I can hardly concentrate on anything else. I am queasy thinking about how much is at stake and worried about how many eggs we might get, if they’re mature or not, if they’ll fertilize and divide properly, and if they will ultimately give us a baby of our own. They tell you when you start an IVF cycle to just take one day at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed. Do I even know how to do that? How to not overanalyze and stress every little detail? I think I can. I think I can. I think I can.

Side note: As per our usual silliness, Justin has named the stim phase the “Lupron Fiasco” (a la the rapper, Lupe Fiasco) and called all of the dots on my stomach from the injections the “constellation”. Lol! You really do have to have a sense of humor to get through all of this with your sanity intact.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Fighting the Good Fight: Cue Rocky Theme Music!

And so the journey begins… Justin and I decided that due to age (I had just turned 33 right after our wedding in October 2009), we would start trying to conceive in January 2010. Silly us, we were actually nervous about getting pregnant right away, because a plan to move from Brooklyn, NY to San Francisco, CA was already underway. But, we figured we’d go with the flow.
The first month, we just winged it. I also stumbled upon an online community of other women trying to conceive (Getting Pregnant, or GP on, and quickly realized that I was clueless. Still, feeling overly confident in my fertility, I just added OPKs (ovulation predictor kits) to help us make sure we were timing things accordingly. Once we made the move to California, everything went haywire. Clearly, the stress of uprooting our lives had also wreaked havoc on my body (funny how that happens), and I had two back-to-back 40+ day cycles. After freaking out a little and wasting countless OPKs and HPTs (home pregnancy tests) because I really didn’t even know which was more appropriate to take since I had no idea what my body was doing, I knew it was time to take the plunge into temping.
Lucky for us, I like having control (big surprise), so making temping part of my morning routine was no big deal. It looked like I was ovulating regularly, and once we got settled into our new home, things returned to normal. Months went by with excellent timing, but nada in the baby department. After a year like this, I was totally frustrated and perplexed, so we decided we should see a doctor. Hitting that wall and accepting that you may not have that easy, magical time conceiving your child is much more difficult and emotional than I expected. You just want to be like all those other girls who get to say, “oops! I should have had my period last week. Whattayaknow, I’m pregnant!” That just wasn’t in the cards for us, I guess. It’s sad to let go of that romantic notion, but we had to be realistic.
So, I found a RE (reproductive endocrinologist). I did a lot of research on the clinics in our area and on particular doctors that work with our insurance and found Dr. Heather Huddleston. As is the case with any good specialist in a major metropolitan area, it was over a month and a half before she could see us, but we went armed with info I got from the GP girls / reading Taking Charge of Your Fertility (pretty much the bible for women of who are trying to reproduce) / my many months of charts. I knew immediately that I liked and trusted her, and it seemed to hit Justin that I knew WAY more than he did and he was instantly more grateful for my obsessing. She did a follicle check since it was early in my cycle and said that my count of 13 was slightly low for someone my age, but not to worry about that at this point. The follicle count is a good indication of ovarian reserve since each follicle can potentially release one egg per cycle, and a count of around 18 would have been considered "normal".
And so, we went about the barrage of tests: blood work for both of us (STD screening, genetic testing, hormone levels, etc.), the first of many semen analyses for J, and a HSG for me. The HSG (or Hysterosalpingogram ) uses a radioactive dye to look for uterine abnormalities and to check for open fallopian tubes. It was not fun because I apparently have a narrow cervical opening, but it was a mercifully short procedure. Oh, and the doctor was really cute and lives in our neighborhood. Awkward! At the same time as we were going through the testing, I had such a scary period that I ended up in the ER for fear I had lost too much blood. After 4 days of very heavy flow, complete with pains that were foreign to me, a frightening number of large clots (eek!), and waking up weak and pale, we feared the worst. They called it a “suspected early miscarriage”, but it was too late to tell by blood test and nothing they could do about it anyway. Let’s just hope we never have a day like that again, though we know it’s all too common.
Once all of the results came back, we met with Dr. Huddleston again, and she officially diagnosed us with the dreaded “unexplained infertility”. Kind of a relief to know nothing is “wrong” as far as the tests show, but also kind of irritating that there is nothing to fix to help us finally get pregnant. Next step, meds. We decided to take things slow and do 2 cycles with Femara and then move on to Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) from there, if necessary. We just weren’t ready for the invasive procedures just yet. The two medicated cycles came and went with perfect timing, as usual, but still BFN (big fat negative). As sad as it was to admit, we needed to try the IUIs. This involved using OPKs to detect my LH surge (the increase in hormones that happens a day or so before ovulation) to time the procedure. On the second try, we added a trigger injection to make sure any mature follies released their eggs at the right time. Justin gives his “sample” in the morning, and I go in the afternoon for my appointment with the stirrups. TONS of fun!  ;)  When all was said and done, and even though I responded well to the meds, four IUIs still didn’t do the trick. When the third one failed (I just knew early on, well before my period, that it was a bust), I had a complete and total meltdown. I REALLY didn’t want to have to do In Vitro Fertilization, mainly because I loathe needles with the passion of a thousand firey suns. Sure, I had turned to acupuncture several months before this and grew to love my weekly session, but this would be a whole ‘nother ball of wax. I was overwhelmed and depressed and in denial. We had our WTF appointment (yes, that stands for what you think it does) with Dr. Huddleston, and she recommended IVF instead of injectable meds because of the expense. Our insurance was great, but these drugs would eat of a lot of our coverage allotment, and for only a minimal improvement in success rates. Drat.
We took a “break” which wasn’t really a break, because that felt too much like giving up. It just meant that I wouldn’t have any more appointments for a few months (my boss had been extremely flexible with my schedule, but it was still tough to be out at random times), but I still took the Femara to keep my cycles predictable. We tried on our own and I even Oed on our anniversary weekend, so of course, we crossed our fingers for a surprise BFP so we wouldn’t have to go through with IVF (like I would have that kind of luck *sarcasm*). In the meantime, we saved our little hearts out, and when the time came, we jumped in with both feet.
That brings us to the present day. My IVF cycle officially started on 10/24/11 and for the first time in a long time, we are feeling excited again. It started by taking BCP (birth control pills) for 3 weeks to prevent me from ovulating on my own, and added Lupron (Leuprolide Injection) in the last week. Then, last Thursday 11/17, we had our baseline ultrasound to do another follie count, to make sure I didn’t have any cysts, and to check that my lining was thinned out. They also drew blood (my favorite) to see if my estradiol (E2) level was low enough to start stimulation meds (aka “stims”). Knowing that my follie count had not decreased and my body cooperated with the meds thus far, we were good to go! It’s been three days now of injecting myself three times a night. Justin preps the needles and I do the injection (once again, I need to have the control, lol!) I can’t believe I am actually doing this, and that it’s not that terrible! Other than a nasty headache when my E2 was at its lowest and some tummy issues, the side effects have been minimal. I swear, I can hear the Rocky theme music in my head and can take whatever punches are thrown at me (though of course, I want everything to continue to go smoothly from here on out). Another week of this and frequent ultrasounds and blood work and we should be ready for the egg retrieval soon! More on that to follow.
The one (maybe not so) surprising thing about all of this is how it has affected our marriage and relationship. We knew we were a good team and communicate well, but until that is tested, you really just can’t predict how you’ll respond in the face of adversity. I am so SO fortunate to have Justin by my side. He has let me cry on him when I needed to (even if he didn’t quite understand why I was so sad), read the books I gave him, and listened to my many ramblings on the subject. In a sense, he let me deal with this in whatever way I needed to without concern for himself. I’m sure he grew tired of hearing about making babies all. the. time. But other than the rare eye roll or scheduling snafu, he has been incredibly attentive and supportive. It’s impossible not to feel a sense of loss, a mourning for the simpler times when we thought this would happen easily, but dealing with those emotions together has fostered a new level of respect for each other. We’re fighting the good fight and I absolutely cannot WAIT for the day when I get to make him a father.