Lazy Ovaries. 4.25.17

Or in medical talk- Diminished Ovarian Reserve. That’s me now. The DOR girl. So as I suffer through the TWW (two week wait), let’s explore my problems! 🙂

I’ve never been labeled with any kind of disease. Sure, I had appendicitis in 7th grade and I thought I was super cool because my chubby belly button looked like I had had it pierced thanks to my new scars!! But I’ve never been sick, hindered, different…just chubby.

So here I sit with a new label that means my lady parts are aging faster than me. According to my doctor, I will most likely go through menopause in my 40’s. Dawson and I both had the same thought- saving money on tampons! Whoop whoop! But it’s hard to understand how this can be me.

I have always had regular periods. I have never missed one, skipped one, nothing. I distinctly remember starting my period in 6th grade and my best friend saying “maybe you popped your cherry when we were riding bikes?!”. Oh, shout out to you most knowledgeable BFF, you know who you are 😉

I remember instantly feeling like I was becoming a woman. Seriously. That day I baked brownies, read a book, became more solemn in my disposal. WTF.

So now here I am, my lady parts failing me. WHY, OVARIES? My doctor says some women are born with fewer eggs, and some just have a faster rate of losing their eggs (also know as the oocytes in the follicles in your ovaries where just one wins the ovulation race and pops out for baby making). DOR can also be caused by other diseases or damage done to the ovaries (endometriosis, tumors, autoimmune disorders)…really the things you can read about it are kind of scary. But none of these things have ever happened to me. I was on very low dose birth control for about 5 years, and off for another 5 years before getting to the IVF process. The problem with DOR is that women with this issue are typically poor responders to IVF drugs. So is it even worth it?! The stress, the money, the time….well, we decided yes.

So what can you do? Many of my friends have expressed concern of what will happen when they try to start a family in the future- “I know you and so many other friends who have struggled, how can I know if I will too?!”. A first step would be a transvaginal ultrasound during the first few days of your cycle, the doctor counts the resting or “antral” follicles within your ovaries. 8-9 is a good count that means you are most likely normal! Yay you! Another option is FSH testing, this is testing your levels of the follicle stimulating hormone. This involves blood testing. Low levels are good levels. My DOR was determined through one ultrasound and a blood test that revealed very low levels of AMH, or Anti-Müllerian Hormone. The AMH test helps to determine approximately how many eggs a woman might have left. A normal level would be 1-3.5, anything under is bad, anything over can also be bad (signs of PCOS). Mine was .7.

What perturbed me was that when my tests came back, my doctor didn’t explain that this could all be a sign of me being a poor responder to the IVF drugs. He did say that I would be on the highest protocol of the drugs (though I did 4 days on a lower dosage, and was then upped) and that we would probably not have any embryos left over to freeze after treatment. He was right! But his reassurance was that age is, above all, the number one factor for success. 27 year old eggs are going to be of better quality than 35+ year old eggs. But there’s no way to know until they are used.

The conundrum then is…if this round does not work, time is of the essence for me. Every month means fewer and fewer possible eggs for me produce. But ya’ll, IVF is expensive and hard…and can you really do it again knowing what happened the first go-round? I guess we will cross that bridge when we get to it.

Baby countdown chain

My “babies, babies, babies” countdown chain I made post-transfer. It’s much shorter now!! Three days to go.

Xoxo,

Sara

P.U.P.O. 4.19.17

Also known as, pregnant until proven otherwise! Meh. I’m not sure how to feel about that label. But according to the world of IVF, this is me. We will know for sure on 4/28.

I’ve struggled to put my thoughts to keyboard over the past few days. I guess the easiest, most natural next post would be to sum up our last few days of living in the IVF twilight zone.

Friday the 14th we went in for our egg retrieval. Piece. Of. Cake. I really barely felt like anything happened, to sum up the day.

Tip: schedule the retrieval for as early as possible, so the lack of food and water doesn’t turn you into a hangry patient. This was very helpful! You are not allowed to have anything up to the retrieval because you are given light anesthesia. The worst part of the day was the blood work really, which I should be used to at this point. But it was a new-to-me-nurse and boy did she sloooooooooooowly inch that needle into my arm…it should be like a dart, lady! Like a dart!

So then they moved me on to anesthesia, where the small needle in my hand was uncomfortable, but eventually unnoticeable. I was rolled into a teeny operating room in the fertility clinic that had a back door that led to the lab where all the embabies are kept! Fertility speak for fertilized embryos. They threw my legs up into some SUPER comfortable stirrups (can’t say I ever thought I’d type that sentence) and slid the oxygen cannula into my nose. A few deep breaths, and the next thing I knew, I was back in my chair, behind my curtain…BAWLING. I heard the nurse say “oh this is a very normal reaction to anesthesia!” But I was in a couldn’t-see-through-my-soaking-wet-eyelashes, couldn’t-catch-a-breath, hysterically bawling state. I’m sure everyone thought “she must be so emotional from the retrieval!!” WRONG. I was taken over by the anesthesia monsters. So they went to get Dawson and I remember telling the lady, through gasps for air, “you…can’t…miss…him. He’s the one with the big mustache!”. Thank you hipster, well-groomed, handlebar mustache.

Dawson says the nurse warned him that I was a little weepy, but as he pulled back the curtain, he found me with a blanket over my face still crying. Shortly after, I tried to pull off my blood work bandage and flung it across the room, so then the crying turned into a laughing fit! But that was the bulk of what I remember that day. I went home, slept, slept some more, boom…retrieval done.

Numbers: we got 4 eggs, 3 mature, 2 fertilized. The embryologist called us by 7:30am the next day with the results. We were very thankful that we didn’t have to wait all day, impatiently, for the news. The news wasn’t great, but it was what we expected, and you only need one right???

Fast forward to Monday the 17th, it was transfer time. IVF transfer days differ based on the patient. Most clinics will do a 3 day or 5 day transfer. Making it to day 5 is great because at that point, the embryos are fully formed “blastocysts” that can be graded and the quality is better known. But it’s impossible to say that a day 5 transfer is best. Our doctor recommended a day 3 transfer because we really weren’t working with much, and what was the point in keeping the embryos away from their natural habitat? With only 2 to use, the idea is that they might have better potential for survival and flourishing back in the uterus. So we made it to transfer day, with these two embryos coming home with me:

Embabies.jpg

A 5-cell and a 6-cell, both grade 2 of 5 (5 being the worst). We say you can already tell which child is the better one…the smooth, put-together guy below. Dawson says the top one is a boy because the dark blur is either his penis…or a mustache.

Transfer day was far more uncomfortable than anything else that we’ve done so far. That’s not to say that it was painful, but it wasn’t fun. You have to go in with a “full bladder” so that your bladder is pushing up your uterus and giving the doc a better view of where to put the embryos. I didn’t want to be the girl who had to chug water on the table half-naked, so I had a FULL. BLADDER. To the point that I was struggling to walk while also being high on Valium and Feldene. Those went to my head very quickly, hit me more than the anesthesia on retrieval day.

So the nurse was pushing on my bladder to do an ultrasound and see that everyone was in place. YUCK. That sucked. Then the doctor came in and started opening everybody up, and that movement at least relieved the pressure of having to pee. The cleaning of the cervix and the catheter used to transfer the embryos weren’t bad, but I would compare it to a pap smear that was taking too long and an inexperienced doctor did the smear. Meh, we make it through!

Dawson got to sit in on the procedure and we both laughed at the formality between the doctor and the embryologist (of course this is necessary, but it gave us a giggle). The doctor yells out “READY!” and you hear the embryologist from the embabies cave yell “LOADING FOR SARA, LOADED, COMING IN”…SWOOP, embryos back in me. Just like that.

Best part, the doctor used a catheter to drain my bladder and it’s really hard to remember a time that I’ve been that happy…

So now we wait. For 12 days. Some say the two week wait (TWW) is the hardest part, I do think that could be true, but there is some relief in the fact that I’m back to a normal routine. No shots, no doctors appointments, just back to “normal”. That part feels really good. I am taking estrogen twice a day and progesterone supplements twice a day to prepare my uterus for a successful pregnancy. I paid a little more for the progesterone vaginal gel (you just pop it up there like a tampon) and I think that has been more than worth it. Sure, I feel a little gooey, but not having the mental pressure of a butt shot every night is a nice relief.

A friend asked me if I had a “gut feeling” about how the transfer went. I am a very “gut-feeling” kind of person, but I can honestly say…I have no feelings. I feel the only thing I can do right now is sit and wait. I am trying so hard to not over-analyze the daily cramps and feelings like I’m about to start my period, that it seems easier to just not think about the embryos inside of me. There’s nothing I want more than for them to continue growing into babies, and I’m confident in preparing for a pregnancy, but not knowing….it’s a mind-f**k 🙂

Luckily, we leave tomorrow to go to a friend’s wedding at the beach. This will be the best possible distraction. Then the following week, leading up to our pregnancy test, is extremely busy for me with work/volunteer events. I will say that you don’t have to go out to dinner every night, go to a movie, or get your nails done to distract yourself. You will NOT be fully distracted during this wait. Pushing through IVF is like struggling to make each day work with a heavy, shifting weight on top of you. Each step and each day lightens the load bit by bit. But you won’t feel a full relief until the end result is achieved.

I’m trying not to go to the place of “what if this didn’t work”? And that’s leaving me in a twilight zone. Floating through each day, somewhat distracted, somewhat happy, trying to remain positive. Every step of this process has been so different emotionally. But…what else is there to do but wait?

Xoxo,

Sara

Chocolate chip cookies + birthday cake. 4.13.17

Okay one is in reference to my ovaries and one is something I actually ate…GUESSES?!

Birthday Cake

YOU GOT IT! I am officially 28 years old as of yesterday. I’d tell you my birthday wishes, but then they wouldn’t come true…but I feel pretty confident that you can fill in the blank.

I have a confession to make: it was a hard birthday. Yesterday was an emotional one for me, but all of these wonderful things kept happening! My husband is amazing and keeps my spirits up, but yesterday, it was so hard to laugh. My Dad sent me beautiful flowers, my in-laws brought me flowers, my friends and family sent me gifts and cards….I still couldn’t shake the sadness. We went to dinner at an amazing Italian restaurant that’s in an old chapel. It was delicious and beautiful and I indulged in some prosecco…I mean, how much could alcohol hurt my lazy-not-egg-making-ovaries now? I digress.

I think part of the sadness stemmed from the butt shot (aka the “trigger shot” in the fertility world) that I was about to receive:

Butt Shot

Nothing like taking it in your butt on your birthday.

This was my first intramuscular shot. So my glorious Aunt (a nurse in her working days) did this for me at 8:30pm sharp. I DIDN’T FEEL A THING. The anticipation was killer, but the shot was easy. I laid down on my stomach, I do think that helped. I also iced my butt prior. I laid on a “pit pat” *said in true southern roots accent*, or a cherry pit-pack that you warm up in the microwave, I think that kept the tenderness and soreness away today. IT’S DONE. EGGS TRIGGERED. 10,000mls of hCG (Novarel, for TTC fertility peeps). Ovulate away left ovary…see you never right side, lazy, no-good ovary.

Once the shot was done, I ate some amazing cake and visited with my Mom and Stepdad. They brought beautiful gifts and I was finally in a genuinely good mood. Happiness is hard at this point in the process, but check in with the good things that happen every day, and those fleeting moments of a good mood will make it all better.

My birthday did symbolize one huge thing, last day of shots!

Shots Done

The final pile minus the butt shot and one lonely syringe still hanging out in my car from the fun Starbucks-parking-lot-shot I took last week!

Egg retrieval is tomorrow. To break it down, we’re hoping for two mature eggs. TWO. EGGS. My right ovary is a ghost town (literally no action, no one knows why) and my left ovary has two large follicles (21mm and 24mm) and 3-5 smaller resting follicles. For infertility newbs, follicles prime the eggs and pop them out during ovulation. These should reach at least 20mm before egg retrieval to produce a mature egg. The resting follicles will be aspirated for eggs, but those eggs will most likely not make it to fertilization.

For typical IVF patients, the goal is to have  your ovaries look like a chocolate chip cookie. It should be full of black spots, which are the follicles growing to pop many, many eggs. Most doctors want upwards of 20 eggs at retrieval, as they tend to fall away throughout the process. My ovary is like the half eaten, dud of a lonely chocolate chip cookie at the bottom of the container. I’m hoping that it’ll at least have the two best, biggest, healthiest chocolate chips!

So off I go to pace and attempt relaxation as we await this HUGE next step. The retrieval is happening tomorrow at 8:30am, about an hour away. I cannot eat or drink after midnight tonight. No makeup, perfume, or hair products tomorrow…I’ll be the walking infertile zombie.

BRING ON THE BABIES.

Xoxo,

Sara

 

 

Getting out of your “shit-town”. 4.10.17

Bear with me. This one’s all over the place.

This weekend, I made a trip back home for a best friend’s wedding shower. I spent time with some of my most favorite people. Silly, smart, sweet, kind, caring people. I have some awesome friends. And they have awesome husbands! We played games, celebrated our beautiful bride, I saw my old home from high school, we were spoiled with the husbands doing all of the cooking and cleaning…it was such a great trip.

It came at the best time. Friday, I had a doctor’s appointment to check the progress of my ovaries after a week on all of my drugs. It sucked. I left in tears, exhausted, crying so hard that I couldn’t catch my breath. My ovaries are slow and lazy and only one was showing much progress in growing follicles (the things that pop your eggs). My nurse was kind but realistic in saying “this isn’t ideal”. I heard her words slowly as she said “…this might be a time to talk about cancelling your cycle or possibly delaying”….”maybe we had a bad start…it was a bad month to start”. WHAT. I just spent all of my money and you want to cancel? I just did 7 days of 4 shots, I’ve had a headache non-stop, I’m losing all of my focus, I’m grumpy…and you want to cancel?! I was in disbelief. I think Dawson was too.

God bless my in-laws. I work for them, and I don’t think I could survive this process in any other world. My old job (retail) would’ve made this an impossible task. I came to work after the appointment and brought my mother-in-law to tears with my shock and my own tears. “I’ve never seen you cry!” she said, it was awful. A major downfall of IVF and letting those around you know what’s going on. I hate that this process means bringing sadness onto those around us when we’re sad. But the support of those closest to us is what’s helping us day to day.

I spent an hour at work then went home to meet Dawson. We cuddled up in bed and I snoozed before he went back to work. I woke up to a call from the fertility clinic…”we want to continue”. Dawson and I both agreed that this was best. “This is most likely the only way you’ll get pregnant, and with your Diminished Ovarian Reserve, the chances of having more than one or two eggs is slim…so this might be the best chance”. It only takes one.

So we were back on. I continued my shots, had my trip away, and started to feel better thinking “we just have to do it”. I’ve found that telling myself I have one day to be sad actually helps. 24 hours to feel despair and think “why us?!” then back to feeling hopeful and like I want to take on the world. Mind games can help.

I went back to the doctor today and got some decent news….but no miracles like I was hoping for. My two good follicles on one side are growing at the appropriate rate, 16mm and 17mm; they should be 20mm for retrieval day. My right ovary has a couple of follicles around 10mm, but nothing really happening. My uterus however…is a superstar! Growing well, good patterns; hopefully this means a pregnancy will stick.

But what do you do when you know that everything could change any day? It could all come to a screeching halt. How do you go day to day not knowing what emotion to feel? Here’s what I did:

Tree

I laid in the yard for two hours, soaking up the sun, trying to relax, and listening to “S-Town”, the podcast. “S-town” is what the subject of the podcast calls his hometown, aka “shit-town”. THIS WAS THE BEST IDEA. I tried to do a 30 minute meditation as well, but I literally started to fall asleep. S-Town (seriously, check out this podcast…if you haven’t already listened to “Serial”, hit that one up too. And “Anna Faris is Unqualified” is hilariously wonderful as well) pulled me into someone else’s reality. I wish I could do this every day. Find something to take your mind off of your own “shit-town” and float away.

Mountains

Staring at the mountains and the bright blue sky doesn’t hurt either.

I go back to the doctor tomorrow morning for another progress check. If my two fighting follicles are still growing, it might be time to trigger (aka the dreaded “butt shot”). A trigger tomorrow would mean a retrieval on Thursday. A trigger Wednesday would mean a retrieval on Friday. It’s getting so close. There’s a full moon tomorrow, my birthday is Wednesday, Easter is right around the corner.

This week is so pivotal. Come on follicles…come on eggs…let’s get out of shit-town!! Maybe the Easter bunny can help??

Xoxo,

Sara

 

 

Headaches + bad moods. 4.5.17

….that about sums it up!

Shots.jpg

Last night marked day 5 of this routine, also my HALFWAY mark of shots! That was an exciting hump to cross. 40 units of Lupron every day (to control premature ovulation), 30 units of low dose hCG every day (the pregnancy hormone, to help my eggs mature), and just bumped up from 400 to 450 units of Gonal-F every day (to help pop more eggs).

This torture = headaches, lots of emotions, a pinchy stomach. I say torture lightly, because it is worth it. It’s not like I would choose to not do this…ever. I would take shots every day if it meant baby Early’s would just keep poppin’ out of me.

Shot

But this is a struggle. As simple as that. I’m proud of myself and impressed with myself…but I’m tired, grumpy, struggling to focus, I’m ready for the end result. I’m guessing my super amazing, very supportive, awesome husband is too…:)

Let’s keep on keepin’ on.

Xoxo,

Sara

April, always. 4.3.17.

April has always been so significant for us.

First and foremost…I was born in April! I think 4/12 is such a happy date. I love birthdays, it’s my birthday, but it just looks good! 4 and 12…4+12…4/12…4.12…such a pretty date! April means spring weather. Showers, green grass, flowers blooming, the cherry trees and Bradford pear trees…I’m instantly happier in April.

We got married April 26, 2013. We bought our first house in April of 2015. And now, we’re making a baby in April of 2017. None of these things were initially planned that way. They just happened. Everything came together perfectly to make April a happy, happy month.House 1

This was when we first laid eyes on our soon to be first home. I said it then that April was my favorite month and that it seems to get better every year…how that’s still true!

House 2

Our sweet front porch after we moved in. Where our dogs let the whole neighborhood know that DON’T WORRY EVERYONE, WE’VE GOT THIS PLACE UNDER CONTROL!

I am so hopeful that this April brings more great news. I won’t hate April if it doesn’t happen. But April will always be significant…

Xoxo,

Sara

Just call me Lil Jon. 3.30.17

Isn’t he the one that sings the “SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS SHHHHH SHOTS SHOTS SHOTS EVERYBOOODY” part???

That was me yesterday. Trying to pump myself up. My $5,810 worth of drugs came in on Tuesday and I started two shots a day yesterday. Here’s the loot:IVF drugs

This is everything I’m supposed to need up to our actual embryo transfer. There’s one giant needle in there for the pre-retrieval “trigger” shot….BAH…I won’t pay attention to that one yet 🙂

I am doing micro dose Lupron (this drug prevents premature ovulation) twice a day for two days, and then tomorrow evening I start adding in shots of Gonal-f (this one stimulates your ovaries to produce multiple mature eggs) and hCG (this one helps my eggs to mature). I also add on an antibiotic to help reduce any chance of infection throughout this process.

But back to the night before shot day 1. I had a panic attack. I was watching the instructional videos, reading all of the paper work, stumbled upon some other blogs…I was so overwhelmed! I had yet to really cry about this whole process, so the reality of starting the drugs set in. Poor Dawson, he followed me to the shower and stayed in the bathroom the whole time, making sure I was okay. Then he sent me the sweetest words of encouragement the morning of shot #1. These shots have to be 12 hours apart, so we figured the most convenient timing was 9am and 9pm. That way, with the evening events we have going on, we won’t have to rush home.

SO, I MADE THE SHOT MY BITCH (whoops, sorry). I read a few tips about icing it, playing soothing music, yada yada. I found that music actually distracted me. I took deep, slow breaths and I feel like that helped the most. I prepared everything, took a deep breath in, and on my breath out…stuck that baby in. The pain of the needle is very little, a teeny little pinch. I actually disliked pulling the needle out way more! I instantly started itching, so I reached out to my nurse and she suggested using a bit of hydrocortisone cream after the injection. That did the trick! No more discomfort.

The icing….personally, 5 minutes of an ice pack on my stomach was more uncomfortable than 20 seconds of a pinch! Also, when I did the icing last night, I bled from the shot and was left with this war wound:

Day 1 Bruise

Ok, it looks worse in person, but that big bruise compared to the teeny size of the needle poke…woah! I’m not sure if icing and bleeding are related, but I don’t think I’ll be icing anymore. I will save that for the intramuscular shot coming along later…

All in all, I’m impressed with myself. You CAN give yourself the shots! Sit down while you do it. Breathe slowly. Keep it quiet around you. It’ll go quick 🙂 I think being in control of the shot process also helps. Waiting on someone else to prep it and shove it into me would only add to the anxiety.

Of course, ask me again tomorrow night after I’ve done three in a row….

Xoxo,

Sara

 

 

 

Check lists are the best lists. 3.27.17

I feel like we should hashtag that…should we hashtag that?! #checklistsarethebestlists

IVF orientation is done, procedure and meds have all been paid for (go visit my “Our Real Cost of IVF” to read a little more about preparations for that), and my uterus is beautiful! Those were the final ticks to our “IVF go date” checklist!

Our meds arrive tomorrow and I start my 12 days of injections on Wednesday. The good new is, no more birth controooool! The bad news is, shots. I’m thinking I’m going to go with the “hold ice to your belly for a minute before injecting” method so that I’m good and numb before the first stick. I don’t hate shots, but I have fainted a time or two, so the idea of giving them to myself is a bit overwhelming.

The first two days of shots are a morning and night injection of Lupron to stop my body from trying to ovulate. Those have to be timed 12 hours apart, which makes me a little anxious, since my schedule is inconsistent and I tend to have lots of evening events. So for 12 days…sorry guys, I’m gonna be a homebody!

Then I start with two more injections at night of Gonal-F and low dose hCG. That’s four a day total. Shew. I will also be taking an antibiotic twice a day to lower the chance of any infections during my retrieval and transfer process.

I love checklists….so here’s what I made:

Shots Calendar

I love crossing things out, ah the sense of accomplishment! So I’m posting this bad boy on my fridge to help me make it through week one of injections. Week two will include some traveling with injections, so that’s a little nerve wracking!

I have to say…we are SO ready to get this started that we feel as though time is moving so slow. But I am so nervous for the unknowns. This is it! This is IVF! I will go back to the doctor on the 4th to monitor how the meds are working. My emotions are up and down, so I just keep telling myself, “This is it. We got this. This is our story”. Ok Dawson’s the one who keeps saying that this is our story and that’s really cute so CREDIT TO HIM.

Xoxo,

Sara

 

Making sandwich bags trendy. 3.7.17

I went to visit my BFF this past weekend and her ADORABLE 10 month old. My BFF is the best. She lets me vent, she gives me real advice, she’s hilarious even when she’s not trying, and she makes a damn cute kid. It was a wonderful weekend of being spoiled by her family and holding this babe as much as I could.

Ady

She’s excited cause we’re MAKIN’ BABIES.

We made a trip to Marhsall’s, and Jess spied a cute pill box…”Hey! Sara, I’ll get you this and you don’t have to carry around that Ziploc anymore!” She was referring to my supplements I brought along for the trip. This is my new daily intake of supplements:

pills

Whadda we got here:

-75mg of DHEA (not DHA, as I asked my doc). This helps to support balanced hormone levels.

-400mg of CoQ10. CoQ10 is found is every cell of your body. So with IVF, they hope that this will kick up the energy in your cells so that your reproductive system is in high gear. Bonus: it helps protect your heart, brain, and skeletal muscles!

-4 giant, all natural, whole-food prenatals. Gotta have the best! (thanks to my wonderful sister-in-law for this one….side note, she’s been a major support system for this journey! THANK YOU PAIGE!).

-My daily biotin and allergy meds…because I’m balding and seasonal allergies.

It goes without saying, do not take any supplements unless directed by your doctor. I was taking some additional vitamins, but my doctor approved the above list, and everything else will fall by the wayside during this process. I’m pretty sure the DHEA is giving me the bubble guts, but after a few weeks, that has slowed down (just putting it all out there, ya’ll).

And if you can manage to find a super cute pill box at Marshall’s, even better! My horse pills wouldn’t fit, so making the sandwich baggy a new trend.

Xoxo,

Sara

 

 

 

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