Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Hope and Heartbreak

I've wanted to pour my heart out on paper for what feels like an eternity, but I didn't have slightest idea where to start.  How does one go about putting into words their hopes and dreams, excitement, anxiousness, happiness?  And how do you then give justice to the immensity of your heartbreak and truly portray what it's like to be emotionally chewed up and spit out?  I don't think it's possible.  But I can try.

The days leading up to transfer on December 20th were filled with many emotions.  It's an odd feeling knowing there is a life you and your spouse have created waiting for you, frozen, in a lab someplace.  125 cells that you hope with all your heart will grow into the cutest baby with mom's eyes and dad's curly hair.
When transfer day came we both were excited but calm.  It wasn't until we were finishing up breakfast at a local diner and left for the clinic that it hit me.  I became increasingly nervous as we drove the short distance to our clinic.  You are deliberately about to go do something that will change your lives forever...no matter what the outcome.  Thank God the clinic has you take a Valium.  They say it's to relax you so you don't think about the full bladder you have for the procedure.  I think it has everything to do with the fact that a team of eight+ doctors and nurses and embryologists are about to shoot this little life back into you that you've spent the last four months of your life painstakingly creating and then hoping it wasn't all for nothing...how are you 'not supposed to worry about it'??

Transfer went perfectly is what we were told.  The embryo was hatching nicely, it looked great and had a very good grade.  Embryos are graded for their quality and ours was practically an A+.  There wasn't any physical reason that this shouldn't work.  I had to lie down in the procedure room for a bit before we were allowed to leave.  We went home and I was on bedrest for the next few days.  My doctors wanted my body to not worry about anything other than helping the embryo stick.

I was so thankful that this all happened right before Christmas.  We obviously had a decent break from school but the excitement and activities that come along with Christmas kept my mind occupied, for the most part, for the nine day waiting period.  We were to be back at the clinic on the 29th for our beta blood test to determine if we were finally pregnant.  I broke down the day before my blood test and took a home pregnancy test.  If you've gone through infertility you know that you examine those tests every which way possible, holding them right up to the light, using your phone's flashlight, taking a picture and flipping it to negative to see if you see a difference...it's crazy, I'm well aware.  I didn't have to do any of that with this test.  It was so completely negative the blankness was almost blinding.

I had done enough 'research' on Google to know that it wasn't unheard of for women to get a negative HPT (home pregnancy test) but then a positive beta blood test.  I had a mini breakdown.  There should have been well over enough HCG in my system by now to register a positive on that stupid stick.  But I still held out hope that I was going to be the exception, not the rule.  I prayed there was still a chance that my blood test would come back positive tomorrow.

We went into the clinic the next morning, had my blood drawn, and the IVF nurse told me that they consider anything over 5 (HCG level) as positive.  If you know anything about HPTs you know that 5 is an awfully low number for those to even be able to detect.  My hope was boosted a little more.  I boldly prayed for what I wanted.  I begged God to let that test come back positive as I know so many friends and family had prayed for as well.

The nurse told me that the test results would show up in my online chart that afternoon before a doctor would have a chance to call me.  We went to lunch, ran some errands, and headed off to Menards while I neurotically checked my phone for the email from the clinic telling me a new test result was waiting. It finally came.  Around 2 PM that afternoon my phone dinged with THE email.  I was going to be patient and wait until we were home or alone or at least not in the sink aisle of Menards to open up my chart and look.  I guess I had used up all my patience the last four months and I couldn't wait any longer.  I logged in and opened up the test result.

HCG level: <1

Less than 1.  The embryo had never stuck.  My body had completely rejected it.

I showed Joe.  "See, I told you it didn't work" I told him just as I had after yesterday's HPT.  We stood there in the sink aisle of Menards as I tried my hardest not to lose it.  I tried to feel nothing, to shut off my emotions and finish picking out the stupid faucet for the stupid sink for the stupid bathroom we were remodeling.

To be honest, I don't really remember much of the rest of that day or the day that followed.  I remember driving my own car home and having a very loud and long chat with God.  I remember waking up the next morning and thinking I need to say something about this on Facebook.  A lot of people have been following and supporting us through this.  If I was them, I'd want to know. 
Plus I knew if we didn't let people know, we would be fielding questions in the next few days of "So!! Are you pregnant?!" and I knew I didn't want to rip off the bandaid each time someone asked.
I remember getting texts, and messages, and phone calls from people who had seen my post about our news, and I ignored most of them.  I wasn't ready to talk to anyone.  I wasn't ready to respond to the barrage of "I'm so sorry", "There is a plan", "Everything happens for a reason", "Have you thought about adoption?" and every other ridiculous thing people were saying.  That could be another LONG post all on its own...and it most likely will be.  *Please understand that we do really appreciate the kind words and sentiments that you all offered.  It's just that in the moment, grief and anger make you think and feel so many different things.*

The heartbreak, the anger, the pain, being so confused and at a loss at what to do next are still very real a week and a half later.  It hits at random times and I find myself fighting back tears like I'm back in that aisle of Menards all over again.  The feeling of "WHY?!" often brings me to my knees in tears and my arms ache from their emptiness. I'm tired of being strong, I'm tired of waiting, I'm tired of fighting back the feelings that we have been forgotten.

Infertility has got to be one of the most unfair lots in life and I truly wouldn't wish it upon anyone.  But through it all I'm thankful for the people who reached out, some we knew and many we didn't, with kind words, and prayers, and "Hey, we're thinking about you!". I'm thankful for my husband, a man who doesn't wear his heart on his sleeve, but has somehow spoken the right words when I've needed them.  I know this has caused his heart to hurt, but he seems to be weathering it all better than I.  I'm so thankful for his strength when I've had none.

We aren't completely sure what our next step will be.  Yes, we have thought about all of our options.  Anyone who has gone through infertility knows every option and I promise there isn't anything you could suggest that we haven't already thought of.  I say this as lovingly as I possibly can...if you haven't gone down the ugly path of infertility yourself, I would discourage you from trying to give what you think is advice to those who are in the depths of it.  We don't want advice, we don't need your ideas or suggestions, we just really need your love.  And maybe a good hug.

We are coping and life goes on...it has to.  We have a follow-up appointment with our doctors on Friday to discuss what may have gone wrong and where we should go from here.  It's been hard but we have truly enjoyed bringing you all along on this journey.  We'd love to have you keep going with us as we continue to try and #BringHomeBirdie.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Making a Baby is Fun?

Making a baby is supposed to fun.  Or at least the practicing is supposed to be.  That’s what most people think, right?  This process has proven to be the exact opposite and today is no exception.

I had an appointment this morning for another ultrasound and more bloodwork to monitor my follicles and my hormone levels.  Everything is so scientific and timed perfectly so I’ve been going back for check-ups practically every other day so they can keep a close eye on me.  I can almost make the drive to and from Fargo with my eyes closed.

The medications that I’m on are really quite amazing to me.  The first week I was on two shots that encouraged multiple follicles with eggs to grow.  Like I said I was closely monitored so they could watch the progression and growth of said follicles.  Once a good number of them reached a substantial size, I added another shot to keep me from ovulating.  It was also around this time that you’re banned from…’practicing’…unless you want to risk having 8 eight kids.  To be honest, in the world of infertility when you are doctoring, there is a lot of NO SEX orders when you’re trying to make a baby.  Odd, right?

Our doctors had told me I was a model patient as they checked my ultrasounds and measurements and labs.  I was responding perfectly, textbook you might say.  I have about 24 follicles which is a great number.  But just because there is a follicle, doesn’t mean there is an egg inside of it and there’s no way of knowing that until my surgery on Friday when they take them out.  

At my appointment this morning the doctor mentioned I am at risk for something called OHSS, or Ovarian Hyper-Stimulation Syndrome.  Remember how I said I was such a good patient and responded so well which resulted in 24 follicles?  It’s kind of a blessing and a curse.  Obviously the more follicles you have, the greater chance that there will be a higher number of eggs giving you a better chance for a successful pregnancy, but it’s also causing my estradiol (estrogen) levels to sky rocket.  Usually that high estradiol number is an indicator there are a lot of mature eggs which is great news as well but it’s also an indicator that you’re at risk for OHSS. 

After getting back to work this morning, I received a phone call to tell me all of that^ and then was informed that I need to pick up two new medications at the pharmacy back in Fargo tonight.

When I ordered all of my meds a few weeks ago an HCG trigger shot was sent as well.  This trigger shot is to be taken at an EXACT time a day and a half before your egg retrieval surgery (not kidding, my order from the doctor says to take it at 11:59 PM exactly).  This shot ‘triggers’ ovulation so you ovulate right before the procedure occurs. HCG also happens to play a role in causing OHSS.  The doctor obviously doesn’t want to give me a surge of HCG under current circumstances so one of the new medications will do the job instead.  The second medication is to help reduce the effects of OHSS.

I’m not even sure I followed all of that so if you made it down to this point, kudos to you. 

Our egg retrieval surgery is scheduled for Friday morning.  Same rules apply to this procedure as to any other surgery i.e. no eating or drinking after midnight, no makeup, no contacts, can’t drive after, etc.  BUT for this surgery neither Joe, or myself, or any of the doctors or nurses are allowed to shower in the morning, wear deodorant, use lotions, perfumes, or anything scented.  The eggs and eventually embryos are EXTREMELY sensitive to smells (weird, right?!?) which can damage them so everyone in the clinic that day is au natural.  Gross.

Side notes I found interesting:
-It’s ‘IVF Week’ at the clinic this week.  I feel like we all should get t-shirts or something.  Each month our clinic services anywhere from 5-10 couples going through some aspect of IVF and it all culminates to procedures occurring during this ‘IVF Week’.  The limited number of couples each month also results in some pretty long waiting lists to start IVF.
-Our clinic has one Embryologist and one in training.  It takes roughly 6 years of additional training beyond your college degree to become a full-fledged Embryologist.
-With everything that occurs during IVF Week, an Embryologist flies in from Florida to assist in the lab for the week to help with the fertilization and growing of everyone’s embryos.

So here is a simplified timeline of what’s coming:
-Drive back to Fargo tonight and pick up new meds
-Take trigger shot tonight at 11:59 PM
-start additional med to combat OHSS
-keep fingers crossed OHSS doesn’t occur (it’s terribly painful and can have scary side-effects)
-Go in Friday morning for egg retrieval!!
-The lab will then fertilize the eggs and monitor them for five days
-After the five days see how many embryos made it to blastocysts and are healthy enough to freeze
-healthy blasts are frozen for a couple months
-After a couple months we go back and have two embryos put back in and PRAY AT LEAST ONE STICKS!  (We wait a couple months to let my body recover and give my hormones a chance to return to normal.  Success rates are higher when mama’s not crazy ;) )

We are able to freeze our embryos for pretty much as long as we want for when we’re ready to try for more children after or if this round doesn’t work.  There have been children born from embryos frozen for over 12 years!!!! That’s so crazy! If we have any embryos left after we are done having kids in the future, we are able to donate our embryos for adoption.  It works much like a normal adoption but I’ll go into that in a different post some other time.  This takes out the pressure of choosing a number to fertilize as Joe and I do not believe for moral and religious reasons in destroying the embryos.

For those of you who are willing to pray for us, here is what we need you to pray for right now:
1.     That Amanda does not develop OHSS
2.     That surgery is successful on Friday and the doctors are able to retrieve a good number of eggs
3.     That the eggs fertilize and that the perfect number grow to be healthy by Day 5 to freeze

Our heads are spinning, our minds are racing, and we’re trying to keep anxiety levels to a minimum as we take this one day at a time.  We so appreciate those of you who have offered support along the way and continue to do so.  This is a long and trying journey but we are hoping it’s all worth it when we are able to #BringHomeBirdie !

Joe and Amanda