Saturday, December 17, 2011

In-Law Christmas

Today (yesterday) was day 4 of muscle relaxers and Christmas dinner with my in-laws. Perfect! Actually, muscle relaxers have never needed to be an essential part of staying with my in-laws. They are amazingly easy and totally supportive. They are just one of the ways that I have been blessed. It's hard to hang on to these blessings in the wake of such a loss, but the best part about my blessings is that they are all waiting with me with open arms as the storm passes.

It's safe to say that I hit rock bottom this week. I've been there once before, but this time I had my amazing husband, two amazing friends, and my wonderful mother who were right there beside me. I didn't have a chance to make any other decision but to grab ahold their patient hands and stand back up.

It's not easy that this is all occurring around a holiday about an immaculate conception when I now know that I have <1% chance of conceiving and carrying a baby to full term without medical intervention. It's going to take a miracle for us to have a child, and it's extremely frustrating that I don't know what that miracle is going to look like.

 I do know that I've got quite a ways to go. I'm still considered a "young" woman in infertility land. We've still got every option we've had before. Through our loss we have more reason to be optimistic according to Dr. Donesky. We have lots of opportunities left as long as we are willing to try.

As I stewed in my own despondence these past few weeks I realized I was going to be a terrible mother. I cannot put the pressure of me being happy on an infant. How unfair is that? I may have lots of shortcomings, but when it comes to my baby, I'm ready for the challenge. I know I'm doing all I can medically, so the only thing left in my control is how I feel about myself. So as my body continues to heal, I'm going to use the time I have to work on being nicer to myself. It's a daily struggle for me to comprehend that bad things happen to good, undeserving people everyday. No one deserves cancer, cystic fibrosis or infertility. This includes myself. Shoo, I said that for the first time. We would love to believe that if we work hard, do the "right" thing, and be good and courteous human beings that good things will come our way. It's simply not true.

So in addition to my quest for spawn, I have accepted a new quest to search for my own happiness. Starting yesterday, despite the pain in my neck, I allowed myself to enjoy In-Law Christmas. I enjoyed being a terrible aunt to my 8 year-old niece who is now concerned that Santa won't come because her missing teeth are clearly evidence of her addiction to crystal meth. (It doesn't help that a property near her house recently "mysteriously" burned to the ground.) Ahh, I should probably feel guilty that she whispered these parting words to me when she hugged me good-bye, "MK, I promise I don't take drugs. My teeth will grow back. You'll see." Just melts your heart, doesn't it?

So far I've had a Happy Christmas. Even though no one can give me the one thing I desire most, they can't take away what I do have in my amazing friends and family. My Christmas wish this year is for everyone to take a moment to appreciate what they do have. I certainly will.

Peace, Love and Drug-free nieces,
MK

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I'm Not Crazy

So this past week I've been in increasing amounts of discomfort.  I feel like my body just hates me.  It obviously started with the miscarriage which caused extraordinary cramping...No wait...it didn't...It started before my egg retrieval with a tooth that began to ache that hurt all the way to my temple, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it.  Plus, I was on IV antibiotics and taking tyelenol which kinda worked. It did kinda get better, but THEN I had a miscarriage and was miserable on all fronts. This includes suffering from liver poisoning (Not really, but then again, maybe...) and puking whenever I thought about taking ibuprofen.

When that sort of settled my mouth kicked it into high gear, but I had antibiotics, tylenol, and ibuprofen so moving on...

Yeah so I woke up last Thursday, like, 'eww I slept wrong'.  Friday pretty much the same no worse. So knowing that I had to judge a gymnastics meet the next two days with a bad mouth and a wry neck I tried to be proactive, and I dug up the pain meds I didn't take after my egg retrieval.  I took one and got no relief.  It says you can take two at the same time, so I took another one.  Fortunately, I wasn't driving to Clarkesville, so I could lie down in the backseat and pretend I wasn't suffering.  Only I was getting more and more nauseous.  So I spent 10 minutes puking on the side of 40E while my carpool was like, 'Eww.'  So if you're wanting to count, I've been nauseous for a week, better for 4 days and now back to puking on the sides of highways.

So like a charm, my uterus decides to remind me that I have endometriosis that has been aggravated for the last 8 months so I'm also having cramps like a dehydrated football player.  Luckily I kept enough medicine down to only be aware of the pain, but not care for the rest of the car ride.  After googling on my phone, I decided that I probably wouldn't die if I took benadryl (Loratab makes me jittery...and sometimes so does benadryl), loratab, ibuprofen and amoxicillin and if I did, I wasn't completely convinced that it would have been a bad thing...so it was win-win.  Day time functioning was brought to you by crackers, ginger ale, tyelenol and ibuprofen cocktails.  Plus we finished way early so I got to add my narcotics at 8:00pm and try to sleep until Sunday morning.

I got home around 10:00pm Sunday evening and my neck and mouth were killing me.  I laid down on a neck roll, and it felt SO good.  I slept without moving which was great except I woke up not being able to move when I wanted to.  My neck is frozen.  I had to roll on my stomach and slide off my bed because I couldn't sit up.  I cried because I was at my wit's end, but I put my big girl britches on.  I made it to work without killing anyone due to my inability to turn my head.  Once at work, I took a boat load of pain meds and held a heating pad to my neck and head. I was also freezing cold, but so was  everyone else in the office so whatever.  Shivering only hurt my neck more.  Oh and my dentist's office was closed when I got the chance to call...so bah humbug.

To make my evening that much snazzier, I got an email from a local community college that offers dual-enrollment courses on our campus that they were cancelling them.  Due to changes they decided to make in October (nevermind that these kids were scheduled for the courses in June) I did not have enough qualifying students enrolled for the classes to make. This is after I spent 12 hours last week working with students helping them apply and complete the dual-enrollment grant  and changing their schedules to try to make the classes work out and had everything done a day ahead of schedule (all the while, clearly not aware of the new requirements that I was supposedly told over a phone call I don't remember having).

So now I was physically miserable, and now totally sucked at my job which was the one thing I had going for me.  So basically, I felt like everything I was touching was turning to shit.  I killed my baby, I screwed up 37 children's schedules, and I can't turn my head or sit up from a lying position.  So yeah, tell me how I don't suck at life?  I spent the evening crying to my mother who was staying with me while BJ went to Jackson, TN.  I took a cocktail of meds and got into bed.  I woke up, and it was like effing Ground Hogs' Day.  I can't move, I hurt like hell and feel like my head is going to fall off.

On my way to work, my dentist called and asked me to come in.  They determined that yes I was in pain and that I needed to be taking antibiotics and Loratab and to come back in the evening to determine if I needed dental surgery because they had done all they could do for this tooth with previous dental work.  (I have crappy English teeth that I got from my crappy English ancestors but my gums are super-healthy!)  So at least some things were being treated. At work, I was told that we could have one of the dual-enrollment classes because even in East Tennessee 17 children minus 2 who don't qualify = 15, the magic number to hold the class.  So that made me feel somewhat better about my job...well that and the pain medication.  However, at 4:00pm once again I was told that the class was cancelled...apparently 15 at Gibbs does not equal 15 at other places in Knox County...WHAT-THE-HELL-EVER...

My husband came home and took me to the dentist.  I took another dose of pain meds thinking it would help my neck, too, so I did not drive.  We made it to the dentists office without me getting carsick, but I wanted to.  My dentist did not think I had an abscess because I had been on antibiotics and I was still in a bunch of pain.  He though I had an occlusion injury which basically means I sprained my face.  It could have been caused by a crown being too large for my mouth even though I didn't feel like it was too big.  He filed my crown down and said I would hopefully see improvement the next day.  He also gave me a new prescription for Tyelenol 3.  While still making me nauseous, it knocks me out...I don't care about being nauseous if I'm asleep.

So now I thought, 'OK I'm going to be in less pain and get a good nights sleep and everything will be better.' That evening I started getting a bad sinus headache...one of those leather band tied around your eyes kind of headaches.  I was also really cold, but again, I always am. The Tylenol 3 did it's job, and I fell asleep pretty quickly.  I once again woke up in terrible pain and not able to sit up without holding my head on so it didn't snap off.  My mouth was still sore as the anesthetic had worn off, my headache was still there, and my uterus decided it was not getting enough attention.  In other words, I was miserable.  I cried to my mother who told me I could go to work, or go to the ER.  I hate most doctors as they tend to be arrogant assholes up to and including my grandfather, but I loved him so I actually enjoyed his arrogant assholism.  Plus he had the added benefit of never being my doctor.  Anyway, I'm specifically thinking about the three doctors that let me be miserable for 14 years because it was "just part of being a woman."  So I went to work since my mother was yelling at me for being a pansy, but I did make an appointment with a Nurse Practitioner at a clinic close to my school.  I'm thinking if pain-relief isn't helping my neck, maybe a muscle relaxant would help me, and unfortunately I don't have any of those lying around so I must depend on a medical-type.

So 2 o'clock came around, and I waited and waited and waited and almost walked out, but they called me back before I had the nerve to walk out.  I swore to myself that I would not mention the headache, it was just sinus afterall, because I figured they would say, "Sounds like you're a woman with stress.  Try ibuprofen."  However, they would not be fooled as I was holding my head up by the bridge of my nose.  So I got the whole ordeal including taking my temperature.  The nurse looked at me and said, "Did you know you had a fever?" I responded, "No, I did not."  She said, "Well, you do."

OK, so in addition to losing 18 lbs in two weeks due to recurrent nausea. I have torticullis, an ear and sinus infection with a fever, a bad hair day, sprained face, a job assignment that requires other people being capable of counting to 15 when they can't, anxiety and adjustment disorder.  No wonder I feel like shit.  I'm actually sick.  Who knew?  So  in addition to muscle relaxers, I got a shot of Toradol which is an anti-inflammatory, a shot of steroids (hurt like hell by the way, and I'm no needle-phobe), a prescription for a stronger antibiotic, and more steroids in pill-form.

So this brings me to this evening.  With some home-made chicken stew (THANKS MOM, [even though you tried to kill me and made me go to school today with a fever]) and enough drugs to have a really good time tonight, I'm hoping to feel much better from the neck up really soon.  From the neck down...Oy vey...

*WARNING: If bureaucratic bullshit upsets you, don't continue reading.*

On the Lupron front so my uterus will shut the hell up, I received a letter from my prescription insurance saying your prior authorization has been approved. "Call this number for assistance with getting the prescription filled."  So I called the number, and was told that I needed to actually call another number.  So I called the other number and was told that my insurance had not approved the medication for me yet.  I'm all like, "but I have this letter," and they are like, "but it doesn't mean anything," and I'm like, "but it says it's approved," and they are all like, "It IS approved by the prior authorization department, but it has not been approved for dispensing to you" and, I'm all like, "That makes no sense. What the hell language are you speaking?", and they are all like, "We need information about why it was prescribed for you." and I'm all like, "That was what was on the prior authorization, no?" and they are like, "it did not have enough information," and I'm all like, "Well, what the hell more information do you need?"  And they are all like, "We need to know WHY it was prescribed," And I respond, "Because I have endometriosis, which is what the prior authorization that has been approved said," and they reminded me, "We are not the prior authorization department," and I nicely asked that since I was diagnosed with a condition that causes pain and currently in pain caused by the said condition if there was any chance I could get the medicine in the year 2011...and they responded, "Not if it takes that long to verify the prescription and diagnosis....At this point, I may or may not have said, "Go to hell you imbecile" and hung up.  You'll never know...

So this is a week in the life of the unfortunate infertile, the losing 15% that didn't get pregnant in two rounds of IVF.  The sad thing is, I'm really trying hard to be better...

Peace, Love, and prescription narcotics,

MK

Friday, December 9, 2011

Pain

I'm still hurting. I'm STILL cramping, it's not severe, but it's a constant reminder that I've lost. I still have chest pain. I still feel so broken. Emotionally, I hate what I've become. I hate that with all I have to do, the thing I look forward to most is sleeping. It's like I've lost all my emotional stamina. I can be stoic at work, but that wipes me out and I'm done trying to function.

I feel guilty for being such a drag. I know I was doing better at this point last time, but I was reminded that I had a bigger loss this time, and it is unfair to compare. I just want to get to the point that I can cope for a little longer. I'm not asking to be happy, but at least tolerable.

BJ and I have come to the decision that we can't give up. I could never live with myself if I gave up now. That pretty much speaks for itself. We had improvement, and we proved that my body could accept an embryo. The funny thing is it's not the blast we made like it is for Dr. Donesky, my father, or BJ that's encouraging them to encourage me. It's the the little three cell embryo that was still fighting even though it was four days behind in development. If three cells can fight that hard for life, then I sure as hell can. I'm so proud of that. I know that is all Shull-stubbornness right there.

I struggle mightily to accept where I am in my life. My goal for the duration is to be nicer to myself. I'm not infertile because I deserve it. I'm not worthless, and as much as I feel persecuted it's not that either. I've got to stop with the self-blame because ultimately I know none of this is my fault. It just simply is. So I need a new mantra. I need to quit looking in the mirror with disgust. I haven't figured out what that mantra is just yet...but maybe it will come soon.

Maybe CVS will come through soon. With a process that is guaranteed to be "24" hours it's now been a full business week. This is not my fault either. It's just bureaucratic nonsense. I would love to have been able to have had my dose of Lupron and start working on getting my endometriosis back in check, but whatever. Caremark you suck at life...just sayin'! They were saying yesterday they don't have a prescription but they had the prior authorization. Wednesday they told me that it had been rejected. Today they said they had the prescription but not the prior authorization. All I'm gonna say is that if someone ever goes all postal on them, I'm not gonna wonder why...

One day I'll be a mommy. Someway, somehow, BJ is gonna be a daddy. All this pain will be worth it. Through all of this, I bet we're gonna make pretty awesome parents!

Peace, all my love, and fighting the good fights,

Mary Katherine








Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The First Day of the Rest of My Life

...and it's not going so well.  My insurance bucked at covering the Depo-Lupron even though they say it's covered in their paperwork for treatment of endometriosis. I guess they don't like that it is coming from a reproductive endocrinologist. Meanwhile, I'm waving my arms saying just let me pay for it myself...but nay. Let me at least have something to help my situation but I guess my insurance doesn't think I deserve even that. So now we enter the appeals process.

Aside from a terrible headache, still having cramps, and still not being comfortable in any of my clothes, I'm having an awful day.  I want to cry, but I have too much to do. I'm so behind on Christmas and quite frankly I'd just as soon not celebrate this year, anyway.  I'm so unhappy and lost and holidays just seem to highlight all the worst parts of being infertile. I don't have any energy left to fake my way through it.

I feel like I have all this borrowed time that I don't want. I saw my evenings at this point of my life being occupied with entertaining a growing baby. Splitting time with BJ for diaper duty vs. cuddle duty, but instead BJ is just stuck with the zombie-version of his wife. People tell us we are lucky to be so "care-free" and can just do "whatever". Lucky? Care-free? Not to mention parenting is what we want to be doing now. It's pretty cold when people say things like that. Nor am I in a very good place to just brush stuff off.

I'm still just so disgusted with myself, my body, and this whole situation. I'm completely worn down and worn out. It just seems like I can't catch a break and even my health insurance is working against me. It's not like I signed up for any of this.

MK

Monday, December 5, 2011

We Don't Know

Today was the appointment that every seasoned fertility patient dreads.  The "Free Follow-up" you hope you get to skip because you have an OB appointment instead.  Instead, you sling your head really low in the waiting room ashamed of being on the wrong side of the statistics again and wish you could disappear.  Two new patients came in today.  They were both much older than BJ and I, and the females were both extremely overweight which means they probably have poly-cystic ovarian syndrome.  They have a tangible problem and even with their age probably have better odds than BJ and I do of having our own children.  It's more salt in the wounds.

My mom has been with me all weekend and went with us as a support to this appointment as well.  Dr. Donesky immediately pulled up our files and talked about how much improvement we did have.  We had a genuine grade-able blast.  He gave it a grade of 3AB (not the 3AA- which does not surprise me at all...I've been pretty confident Susan made that up for my behalf all-along) which is still considered excellent in quality and some clinics would have only recommended transferring it, alone.  We will never know if it was the 3AB blast or the early blast that implanted, but we do know it survived for a while and continued progressing to the point that HCG was circulating at detectable levels through my system.  We won't ever know if something was wrong with the baby, or if it was me, or if it was simply misfortune that caused the miscarriage.

Dr. Donesky did say that if he had to guess which couples would find success with IVF and which wouldn't, he would choose the couples who had a biochemical pregnancy over the ones who have never had a positive anything.  It's strange to not be classified in that group anymore, yet having nothing to show for it.  I wish I felt more confident about it.

He allowed BJ and I to ask questions.  I asked about doing a reproductive immunology panel, and he said he'd be happy to do it, but the research and results just did not seem to be promising. Studies are not showing increased success with the treatments for the immunological problems affecting fertility.  Reproductive immunology is a very progressive field, and there are lots of medical professionals that do not buy into it.  I don't know enough nor can I find enough research to make an educated opinion about it, but I'm certainly keeping my eyes peeled and am rooting for the people who I've met online that are doing it.  If I'd had multiple losses with perfect blasts everytime, I think Dr. Donesky and I, both, would be more interested.

Dr. Donesky had high hopes for the embryos we transferred this time.  BJ and I certainly did.  He told us we could take the easy way out if we wanted and try a donor egg cycle.  Knowing that BJ and I are not on the same financial level as Bill and Guilliana Rancic, it would probably be the closest thing to guaranteed success Dr. D can offer us.  For the life of me, though, I cannot accept being in my 20's, producing a strong number of  nice-looking eggs, and there still being something wrong with them.  You can't google "poor oocyte quality" without getting information about advanced maternal age and poor ovarian response, neither of which applies to me.  Dr. Donesky is not ready to throw in the towel either, and I promise you he knows a lot more about this stuff than I do.  He told us we have 10 years or more to try donor eggs, but if we want to try with mine, now is the time.

My mother chimed in at this point with a "What would you tell your daughter to do?"  Dr. Donesky said he'd tell her to try again.  He'd tweak things a little bit.  We talked about timing, endometriosis and the pain I've been having, again.  Endometriosis is an auto-immune disease, which kills me to say because it makes me feel like I'm really sick.  I don't feel like a sick person for at least two-thirds of most months.  It is possible that the endometriosis is creating an inflamed environment in my pelvis that may be harming my eggs.  He told us that eggs are on a 72 day cycle.  Dr. D has seen some endometriosis patients get better results after being suppressed for longer.  

After discussing with BJ and me for a few minutes about when we'd like to try again. He wrote a prescription for 3 months worth of depo Lupron.  Yes, more needles, but only 1 a month.  I will officially be in a medically-induced menopause.  This means no more pain, but no more trying to conceive either.  It means I have to learn how to live again.  In March, if BJ and I are feeling plucky and have found hope again, I'll switch to sub-Q Lupron and we can go for it again.  If we've found a happy place in this 3 bedroom + bonus house living child-free, then so-be-it.  We obviously still have that option...

Peace, Love and ?,
MK   




Saturday, December 3, 2011

This is Hell...

It really is.  I asked my nurse if we could just go ahead and schedule a hysterectomy.  She said it was way too early for me to even be asking, but where was she when I was puking my guts out at 3:00am because my stomach couldn't tolerate even ibuprofen at that point.  Where was she when I was biting my pillow to keep from screaming? Writhing in pain doesn't really begin to describe how my nights have been going since Tuesday, but I'm banking that at some point I will crash and sleep. However it doesn't seem like tonight is that night...

In my best moments I'm drugged up to the point I don't care about the pain, (like this present moment) but I'm still in pain.  It's like my entire abdomen has collapsed in on itself. My back aches, and I still feel so tender and bruised.  My stomach is still pretty messed up.  I'm mentally exhausted from the physical pain.  Not to mention that I've just lost the one thing I wanted most in the world.  In the breaks from the cramps the emotional pain seems to flood back in.  It's just a horrible feeling that I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Thank God for my mother.  She's here nursing me through this weekend.  Helping BJ and I put back the pieces of our childless lives back together.  Packing up the meds, putting the ultrasound pictures away, and clearing the path for us to resume our lives as they were, but BJ and I are forever different.  We both know pain like it's a close friend.  Disappointment, grief, sadness have etched themselves into our bones.  Thanksgiving will always be that holiday that we lost our first child.  What a juxtaposition?

I've said from the beginning that there are never any guarantees. No one can tell us if/when/or what the ending of this story will look like. Any decision we make has the real possibility of ending poorly. As many things can go wrong and do go wrong with adoptions as IVF cycles.  Paperwork gets lost, birth-mothers change their minds, agreements fall through.  There is not an easy way out for us. The only easy way out is to be fertile to begin with, and that has never been an option for us.  Deciding not to parent at all is the choice that is easiest to refuse.

Ask me if I would go through all of this pain again not knowing if we'll ever have children, and I will tell you yes.  I would walk through Hell for my child whether I ever get to experience them in this realm or if I have to wait until I get to the Flipside.  It is a lot easier to write this knowing I have the full support of my life partner, BJ.  In addition, we have the rest of our family behind our backs, too.  We still even have a few friends who haven't disowned us just yet.

I don't know what our future looks like and for a planner like me, it seems completely asinine, but that's apparently how it's going to be.  We have a follow-up on Monday with Dr. D and from there is anybody's guess.

Peace, Love and a little sleep would be nice,
MK

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What they don't tell you...

All-in-all, for someone having a miscarriage I've been pretty functional at work.  If I could work 24-7, I'd be just peachy.  I've only banged my head against the desk because the pain got so intense a few times today. I only teared up for a little bit after I helped a student get proof of enrollment so her new baby could qualify for TennCare.  I should probably volunteer to restock the community ibuprofen and tylenol bottles myself, but it's not like I get an employee discount anywhere...so they can lump it.

They tell you to expect a heavier and more painful bleed.  You say, "But I already have endometriosis, can it really get worse?'  They say, "It is definitely worse."  I haven't even started yet, and I've been taking 1000mg Ibuprofen staggered with Extra Strength Tylenol in-between every two hours, and I'm still rocked off my feet with cramps.  My back my thighs and of course my abdomen. When I'm not cramping I feel bruised from the belly button down like I've been kicked in the uterus.  I don't think this is headed anywhere I really want to go but what choice do I have?

They tell you because you had a pregnancy you need to give yourself at least one "unmedicated" cycle in-between because your hormones are going to be out of whack for several weeks.

When people say, "Well, at least you know you can get pregnant!" They probably don't know that it took you over $50,000 (thank God for the little insurance we do have) one major and two minor surgeries, over 160 needle-sticks not counting acupuncture, 8 months of fertility treatments including 2 IVF cycles, and a priceless amount of heart ache.  So, no, I'm really not too convinced that I can "get pregnant."

They don't tell you how heart-breaking and cruel it is to go from "It's positive," and two hours later tell you, "It's not viable."

They don't tell you how much self-loathing you'll feel in the sense that you couldn't even keep your own baby alive.  You flashback to your adolescence.  You were never pretty enough, thin enough, talented enough, good enough, smart enough, funny enough, or tough enough.  You look in the mirror and you realize your teenage self was exactly right, so why would you think you'd ever be good enough to be somebody's mother?

They don't tell you what to say when people tell you, "Well don't you think it's just not meant to be?" and "Maybe God has other plans for you."

They don't tell you how much it really hurts when your heart is broken.

They don't tell you if you'll ever be brave enough to try again.

They don't tell you how long you'll feel like this.

They don't tell you what the right thing to do is.

And they can't tell you why this is happening. Nobody can.

Peace, Love, and that is all I have,
Mary Katherine




Saturday, November 26, 2011

4 Weeks 2 Days

That's how far along I am and it's the furthest along I've been by miles.  BUT, it's not very much at all. Certainly, it's not enough.  It's still pretty devastating.  All this waiting around for bad news is pretty exhausting, actually.

Besides single-handedly ruining Thanksgiving at multiple house-holds this year, I've pretty much done nothing.  The more I move, the more I cramp, so I just don't move.  The cramps are getting pretty painful and low which can't be a good sign.  Add to that my still huge and super-achy boobs, headaches, a sour stomach, chest pain and dizziness, and it's just a regular parade I'm having. 

I pretty much feel like I've hit the wall.  I'm done.  Maybe I'll feel differently after talking to someone next week, but I'd almost rather just be told there's nothing else they can do for us. Then I don't have to wonder 'what if?'.  I could sign up for option number 3 "Have a hysterectomy" and be done with it.  Yes, I'm feeling that bad right now.  I wish I could just crawl in a hole somewhere...

Maybe becoming a heroin addict is in my future...I'm getting pretty good at the whole needle thing.  Plus, they seem to have babies pretty easily.  Did you know that heroin-addicted babies that survive tend to have higher IQ's than the general population?  How's that for fair?

As much as it kills me to take a break, because you always wonder 'would this have been our month?' I think that is what's in order.  It breaks my heart.  This whole process breaks my heart.  I keep wondering what lesson I'm supposed to be learning from all of this...patience, suffering, humility, fortitude?  Did I do something wrong to deserve this?  Am I that terrible of a human being to not get a chance to spawn?  Am I that horrible looking? (I guess my already shotty body image took this last blow kinda hard, too.)  I certainly don't want to become one of those crazy ladies that goes through 10 IVF cycles back-to-back, but if I had the means, I'm sure I would.  So, I need to hit the brakes, now.

Having children did not seem like it was a lot to ask a year and a half ago...

MK

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thanksgiving

This has honestly been the hardest 18 months (WOW, 18 months, now!?...) of my life, but I do have things to be thankful for.

1. My rock, partner, and number one fan (and I am his), my husband, BJ.  I love you, BJ, and I would never have gotten this far without you! Thank you for choosing me!
2. My family which has been such an amazing support.  Never doubting, never questioning and always just asking, "What can we do?"
3. Friends that have texted, called, commented just to say they were thinking about us.  I cannot emphasize to you enough how much that helps us, especially me.  I've cherished every single one.
4. Emma Grace our awful, terrible, no good, but completely lovable golden retriever puppy.  She is everything I could ever ask for in a companion.  She snuggles, she kisses, she doesn't chew on us as much anymore and she loves us to the point of pain.  It's amazing.
5. Fuzzy socks for giving me some sense of security during all these compromising procedures.  They're awesome for bed rest days, too.
6. Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup...My comfort food and easy on tummies that are upset due to emotional trauma, hormonal surges and what have you.
7.  Leggings which are great for wearing when your tummy is sore and bloated from stimulation medication.  Please stay in style at least until after I have a baby!!!
8.  Parlodel - the medicine that at least gave us a fighting chance.
9.  The Fertility Center - for being the most amazing medical practitioners I've ever met.  The caring, compassion, empathy and hope you've shown me is above and beyond any I've experienced in a medical practice.
10.  Hope, it's always there as long as I have breath.  I am thankful that I have hope.

So, it's with this post that I tell you our news...

Until today, I thought that nothing could be worse than a negative pregnancy test.  It turns out there is.  I am pregnant, but my numbers are miserably low, and I should expect to miscarry at any time.  Right now, though, there is a baby inside me that has implanted.  I'm supposed to be happy that I know I can conceive, but it's sure a bitter pill to swallow.

There are three possibilities.  One, I am pregnant with a miracle of modern medicine, and that I make it until Monday and my HCG levels have sky-rocketed.  Back in reality-world the best case scenario is this is an ectopic pregnancy which means it implanted somewhere outside of my uterus, usually in a Fallopian tube.  If this is the case, it means that we had a healthy embryo that just wound up in the wrong place.  All I have to hope for is that I don't bleed to death if it ruptures. Not likely to occur since we are monitoring it so early and it takes weeks for the embryo to become big enough to do damage.  (Still, helluva best-case scenario, huh?)  Or, and most likely, I'm having what they call a chemical pregnancy.  Due to whatever factor, be it my body rejecting the embryo, or a congenital abnormality, it's a doomed pregnancy.

What is this doomed beta level you ask?  Well, anything over 5 is considered positive, but they are wanting to see it over 50 at this point in my...well, it is what it is...pregnancy. Mine is:
...
...
...
...
8.67
That is eight point six seven.  Not eight hundred and sixty-seven.  It is abysmal.  It is nature playing a cruel joke.  It's beyond unfair.

It's rather uninspiring to think that there is something genetically wrong with this embryo considering it's the best we've ever had.  It's frustrating beyond all get-out to know I won't know anymore until after Monday.  I don't know when I'll be able to discuss anything with Dr. Donesky due to the holiday. So basically I'm just waiting for my baby to die.  I hope that sounds as awful as it feels.  It hurts like Hell.  The only thing I can say this time, is that at least I can honestly and legitimately say I have had a miscarriage.  This is a lot easier for other people to sympathize with.  I was told by someone that I should not be upset about my failed cycle because, "It wasn't like I'd lost anything." Clearly the money, time, hope, angst, and 17 embryos that started out the same way you and I did, don't count for anything. Sigh...

As one IVF expert says, chemical pregnancies are the dark cloud with a silver lining.  I'll be the first to admit that I've always said, 'At least I would know it could happen.'  Well, check, that's out of the way.  I can officially say I've been pregnant.  It's the best result we've gotten so far.  Not near as comforting as I thought it would be.

There was a fleeting moment this morning when I was over the moon.  I thought I was going to be somebody's mama.  I thought that I had a viable little one that I would be holding in my arms in August.  I AM thankful that I had a taste of it.  I'm going to need that feeling to get me through the next while, I guess.

So despite my tragedy, I'm planning on being thankful for what I do have. I still have options.  I'm thankful that my friends don't have to suffer through this Hell. I'm thankful that Dr. Donesky will be there for me next week to come up with a plan.  I'm thankful for my parents who'll let me come home and cry without telling me  to, "move on." In spite of it all, I'm thankful for the baby I have inside me now.  Thanks for giving me a chance. I'll love you forever.

Peace, Love and Thanks to my little one,

Mary Katherine

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life.  It turns what we have into enough, and more.  It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.  It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.  Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow."

~Melody Beattie

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Hardest Part

I would gladly take shots everyday (actually I am doing that...) wait by the phone for daily embryo reports, get a root canal, fill out Student Support Team paperwork, anything but this part.  The wait for the truth is absolutely the worst part.  I spent most of yesterday crying as I was sure I'm not pregnant. I don't know why, I'm as symptomatic as I was, although my ears have stopped hurting.  I'm still not right in the digestive system situation.  I'm just not right, but I don't feel pregnant either.

All this progesterone messes with me.  It makes me cramp, it makes my boobs feel like burning bowling balls.  I have to catch myself so I don't walk around holding my boobs in the hallway at work.  I could take a pregnancy test, but I'm scared.  Petrified actually.  Whoever thought a $6.99 piece of plastic that you pee on would be so terrifying.  I think I may dress up as a negative pregnancy test for Halloween next year.  I spent three months peeing on those damn things and coming up empty and heartbroken.  They intimidate the hell out of me.

If it comes out negative, I know I'll be ok...
...
...
...
eventually.

In some ways, it's more devastating than last time.  We had a strong blast and took a different cocktail of meds.  It seems like a bigger failure than last time because we had a strong chance this time.  Last time was devastating because we had no clue that all this embryo development stuff was a problem for us.  Chances were already against those slow-developing embryos.  I'm over the shock of having embryo issues...as much as we can be, anyway.  I've read stories, blogs and articles about people with similar issues, and they all got pregnant when they had a blast.  So, please, tell me how can I not be devastated?

If it's positive...That will just be one more hurdle...the beta numbers have to double in about 2 days.  We have to have a pregnancy in the right place, the baby has to develop a beating heart.  The heart has to keep beating from one week to the next. It's not exactly a cake-walk, jump-for-joy moment, but certainly a much better step on the right track.

I wish they could put me in a medically induced coma until it was over.  I want to enjoy next couple of days being "more pregnant than I was last week."  I'm still not good at giving up the reigns.  I know I did everything I could, but up until this point in my life, doing everything I could has never, ever been not good enough.  This whole lack of control thing is a super scary place for me to be. 

And that's just me.  I have an amazing husband who's going through all of this, too.  OK, so maybe not the breast pain, but I do know it kills him to see me so upset.  He'd do anything (and has done) to make this better.  I feel so guilty about being sad because it's so hard on him.  I feel like I'm dragging him through Hell.  BJ is truly one of the toughest men, I've ever met.  I'm so very lucky and blessed to have him by my side. I'm so afraid of the day when we have to look each other in the eye and say, "enough." And 2 IVF cycles in feels like a whole lot closer to that point...

For now, I have to continue to keep my chin up, pray and hope!  It's still the only thing I can do at this point...

Peace, Love, and Hoping so hard,
MK

Friday, November 18, 2011

Freedom!

I'm officially free off of bed rest, but I've been advised to keep taking it easy, so I'm back on the couch, enjoying my spic-and-span house courtesy of the best mother-in-law I've ever had, with my husband.  Thank you, Gail!

I'm still trying to not drive myself crazy with operation symptom watch, but what's a desperate-for-pregnancy girl gonna do?  If achy ears are a pregnancy symptom, then I'm there.  My left ear has been hurting for a couple of days.  I'm not totally indigestive (I totally made that word up...) nor am I queasy, but I feel like I'm on the slow train to that land.  This of course is probably due to my sky-high progesterone levels.  My boobs ache occasionally.  My back hurts like crazy which is totally from lying around and doing nothing.

Sum it all up and it looks like I'm just gonna have to do what everyone else does. Keep on hoping, praying and wait it out...sigh...

Peace, Love, and Hoping and Praying!
MK

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Transfer

Yesterday I told you I got the call from my embryologist in the morning.  I was expecting an email, so my heart dropped, and I did that auto-pilot thing you do when you are expecting devastating news.  Fortunately, the first thing she said was "I'm calling with good news."  My heart resumed beating and she told me that all three of the morulas had made it to the early blast stage.  She expected them to be further along when we got there for our retrieval.  Apparently, the rest of the day, because I was the only transfer that day, she ran around telling everyone employed by the Fertility Center, LLC in Chattanooga that I had made blasts and showed them their picture.  It's part of the reason I love this place.  They are all so amazing and supportive.

BJ and I got to Chat-town a little early and decided to go Christmas shopping at the big mall that is not near as impressive as it was when I was 9.  What can I say?  Once you go KOP (King of Prussia) you don't go back.  As I said, we were Christmas shopping so, of course, we only bought clothes for ourselves.  I got a cute skirt and top in a size smaller than normal.  I believe in Murphy's Law and hope that I cannot wear it for a really long time...well, after a couple of weeks anyway...

It was time to go to the clinic and I was called back for an hour-long massage.  It's included in the IVF package.  So yeah I paid a lot of money for a wonderful massage with a hopefully happy ending.  At least that is the joke BJ and I've been telling each other...hehe...  Then they sent me back to the waiting room. Then they sent me to the lab for my progesterone levels to be checked.  (It's over 40 which is perfect!) Then they sent me back to the waiting room.  What was only like 5 minutes felt like an hour, but finally Susan comes to the door SMILING!  Yes, Susan, was smiling.  Last time, I don't even remember who called me back and then we had the parade of the team doing their death march to tell me, "Umm, your embryos aren't so good."

One of my embryos had become a genuine grade-able blastocyst.  It wasn't a perfect score, but it's in the category of 3AA- which is a high enough grade to consider a single embryo transfer. The three refers to the amount of the blastocyst's expansion, and it just had not had time to take on much fluid.  The first A means that the baby parts were perfect. The second A- refers to the trophectoderm, the part that becomes the placenta.  It wasn't a B, but they were lined up a little loosely.  Susan once again performed assisted hatching on them, and was thrilled to see that it was already starting to hatch itself out the hole she had made. Otherwise it may have been a 4...The other two had made progress, just not quite so much but one was still looking pretty good, so we went ahead and transferred the better of the two still early blasts.  7 other embryos including the early blast were alive and kicking. Two more had become early morulas which is what we had last time.

This is our embryo B in the morning.  It's an "OK"early blast. Its a couple hours behind  embryo A.
This is a Brilliant early blast that is also BJ's and mine. It should look like a rice cake...not bad, huh?
This is Embie B, again 3.5 hours later.  Isn't it neat how fast they grow?  It's still too early to grade but he's making progress and doing fine.

This is Embie A 3.5 hours later and she's a beautiful specimen of a blastocyst.  The outer cells (which are a little bit loose for a A, but an A- nevertheless) will become the placenta.  The cavity part that looks like crinkled paper is going to be the amniotic sack and the little ginger-bread-man looking thing in the low middle is Baby Roberts.  Best moment so far!!!! You can see at the top she's already trying to hatch out which is what you want because that's how they implant in my uterus.
****I do not actually know the sex of these embryos...this is just my silly, sexist conjecture.****  



Dr. Donesky came in with a big smile on his face which has been an unfortunately rare appearance once he starts talking about technical things.  He said this is what we expect.  "We just need one good one and still expect to see some lower quality ones. One is all it takes."  So instead of  bawling crying going into this transfer, I was happy/excited.  So happy and excited that I forgot to ask for water to drink to fill my bladder...OOPS!  I took a quick swig of what I had which wasn't much and tromped down the hall in my shirt, socks, and sheet with BJ in tow.  It all worked out ok as far as my bladder, but one of my ovaries which is still ginormous decided to be a camera hog. (Makes me feel better about aforementioned skirt purchase.)

So, it's a good thing my bladder wasn't full because they had to mash down pretty hard.  I'm pretty sure Dr. D would be very unhappy if I'd had a completely full bladder. For whatever reason the whole transfer process was more difficult this time, but Dr. D finally was happy with everything and the embies were transferred.  The key word is transferred. No one can force an embryo to implant and grow up to make a fetus. I think people sometimes assume that with IVF if you put two in you get two out, or whatever.  But this is a clear case that science can only do so much.  No doctor in the world can make you pregnant, or else I'd have the next available appointment.  After the transfer I had a much easier 30 minute wait before I got up because my bladder was not near as full.  (Remember, ladies, if you ever have to go through an un-pregnant uterine ultrasound, I am living proof that you can cheat it a little bit and be a lot more comfortable.)

So now I've got until Friday around 4pm to be lazy and get up only when absolutely necessary.  As in bathroom trips and eating.  It's a rough few days of trying to not drive myself crazy. Every twinge, and after seeing my ovary I understand why, makes me wonder 'is it happening?'  'Are these implantation cramps?' I keep reminding myself that I'm not an insane person, and that it's not normal to have symptoms this early.  Although I am still on a million hormone supplements, and my ovaries are still acting weird so even if I did, it could simply be residual effects from the stimulation.

It's not all wonderful news, unfortunately.  Susan called me later this afternoon to tell me that none of the rest of my embies could be frozen.  The blast from yesterday did progress a little futher, but the quality wasn't there.  One of the early morulas made it to blast today for a total of 4.  So, no matter what happens, this cycle was 400% better than last.  It was definitely worth trying again.  Susan reiterated that she felt good about the embryos she chose for transfer. One of my online cycle buddies found out she was pregnant this week after having nothing left to freeze out of 23 embryos.  Basically, I've put all my eggs in my one basket. So now it's just praying, hoping, praying, hoping.  And once again, let me take the opportunity to thank everyone!  I would be nowhere without all the love and support I've gotten the past several months. I am forever grateful!

Peace, Love, Prayin' and Hopin'!

Mary Katherine


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chat-town bound!

I'm happy to say I got the call this morning to "Come on down!" I feel just like a Price is Right contestant! We have 3 early blasts!!!! They still have about 6 hours to develop and hopefully will be further along. We also have 3 early morulas, so we'll see how they do today and tomorrow.

What can I say, but thank you, thank you, thank you!!! We still have quite a ways to go, but I'm thrilled none-the-less to be at this point. We have much better chances this time. It's never a slam dunk no matter what the embryos look like, but I'm happy that we saw such improvement this time! I'm continuing to pray for my precious em-babies!

Peace, love and going for the final showcase!!!!

MK and BJ

Monday, November 14, 2011

Day 4 Update

We have 3 morulas.

It's not the 5 or 6 of my dreams, but the 3 that we have today, on day 4 are further ahead than the 2 early morulas they transferred on day 5 last time.

Susan changed their fluids to try to pep the others up and keep the morulas going, and we'll get an email tomorrow morning on all of the embryos progression.

I'm thrilled to have morulas on day 4.  That is a huge improvement for us.  Now I just need to hold vigil for the embryos that are still going.  I pray they make it to the blastocyst stage tomorrow.  I'd love to have one for the freezer, but  I won't be greedy.  In the end, all I need is one.  Just one good one is all it takes.

I love you my little embies!  Mommy and Daddy will see you soon!

Peace, Love and Praying for at least 1,
Mary Katherine

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Day 3 Update!

Well, here it is...

2 arrested, one is at 3 cells and one is at 2 cells, so they may not make it through another night...

BUT...

We have 10 between 5-8 cells and very little fragmentation (waste products from cleaving cells that can impinge growth) compared to last time! Some don't have any fragmentation. To give you a better idea, at this point last time we only had 4 cell embryos and ALL showed an extensive amount of fragmentation.

We are miles ahead of where we were, but we have many more miles to go. It is nice to know we can go through this process and get better outcomes. I cannot express enough thanks to all my friends and family who have been praying for us! Clearly, it is working!

I'm so ready to get my babies back where they are supposed to be for the next 37 weeks and 2 days.

Again, thank you, thank you, thank you! It truly means the world to BJ and me.

Peace, love and Day 4 morulas here we come!!!!

MK and BJ

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fertilization Update

I'm sorry I meant to post this yesterday, but I was too stoned on pain meds to muster up the energy to blog last night.  I'm pretty sore this time for whatever reason, but frankly, I could care less about that...

Susan, the embryologist, emailed me around 9:00am to let me know that out of the 16 mature eggs 14 fertilized normally.  So as of now we are only down three embryos from last time, but as Susan says, these are "better quality."  Today on day 2 they are left alone to do their thing. Hopefully, they are between 2-4 cells and holding up better.

Tomorrow is going to be the real test.  Day three is when my last cycle's embryos showed significant fragmentation and general not-so-goodness.  They would ideally be 8 cells with anything from 6-10 cells being acceptable.

Here is a picture of my embryo babies as of yesterday...

You can tell they are fertilized by the two indentations (pronuclei) towards the middle.   One of those pronuclei is all of my genetic material and the other is BJ's genetic material.  In this picture they are getting ready to get it on and make a baby, so look away.  The stuff around them is not fragmentation but leftover cumulus cells from the follicle and egg. You have to remember we are getting a 2D version of a 3D cell so it's hard to tell what is on top of the embryo vs. what is in the embryo. They may not look like much now, but they can become pretty damn cute in another 38 weeks or so.  I think they are beautiful, now...but clearly I'm biased.  Susan says they are, "Very nice."  I'm so proud!

Peace, Love, and Quality Growth,
Mary Katherine


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Egg Retrieval Update

It was a rough morning...
BJ and I got up bright and early for the egg retrieval this morning.  I was the only patient in this wing of the facility this morning so it was nice to have 3 people to talk to.  My luck apparently ran out with first attempt needle sticks today and it took a few to start an IV...oh well.  Similarly to last time I walked back to the Operating Room.  They gave me less medicine this time just in case it affected my egg quality.  So...ouch.  It kinda feels like I sat on a spear, which in a way...I guess i kinda did.  

As I was waking up, they told me they got 18 eggs.  I was devastated and had a meltdown. Jan, my coordinator, Susan my recovery nurse, and Susan the embryologist were not upset in the least.  They stuck around and comforted me.  They kept reminding me we were going for quality not quantity.  I'm so stuck on it being a numbers game.  Jan kept saying that my stimulation went so much better this time.  Embryologist Susan told me she would update me in the afternoon about the number of mature eggs.  So, out of 18...16 were mature and she used ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) to fertilize the eggs.  I'll find out tomorrow how many actually fertilized.  

As a frame of reference, people go through IVF all the time with only 3-5 eggs and have successful outcomes. It's just difficult for me because it's hard to not play the numbers game in my situation when I previously had 24 eggs with no success.

Tonight I start my estrogen patches and PIO shots.  I learned that because my follicles are aspirated during the egg retrieval procedure, there is no corpus lutea left to supply estrogen and progesterone.  That is why I have to pretend I'm getting ready for male to female gender reassignment surgery with all my hormone treatments.  If/when I get released to an obstetrician, he/she will determine if my placenta is functioning well enough to back off on the hormone supplements.  

I'm holding vigil for my embryo babies.  For all intents and purposes I'm going to assume I have 16 embryos to work with.  I cannot wait to hear how they did tomorrow.  I'm really anxious to hear how they do by day 3 on Sunday.  This is when things started to go south for my embryo babies last time.

Well, I'm still feeling pretty rough, so I'm going to head to bed.  Please keep my embryo babies in mind tonight.  They can use every ounce of support they can get! Grow, babies, grow!

Peace, Love, and Quality over Quantity,

MK

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Life is unpredictable...

I'm headed to Chat-town with a heavy heart. I lost a friend and co-worker last night. Jeni Sharpe, 34, mother of two amazing boys, died extremely unexpectedly. Jeni was a spark plug. She was smart as a whip, generous beyond generous, and funnier than a stitch. She was one of my first buddies at Gibbs.

Jeni only ever did what she thought was best for her students, which was a lot considering she worked with our special needs population. She opened her heart and took these children under her wing to give them not just a high school experience, but an enjoyable experience. She let them hang out with her sons and included them on weekend family trips to Dollywood or the zoo. She made sure they arrived at prom looking dapper and gorgeous. She ensured that their high school experience was full of memories despite them being a population of students that is oft ignored.

She never let politics and bureaucrats get in the way of doing what was best for her students. She turned her frustrations into what could have easily been a stand up comedy routine. Her impressions were hilarious. I always told her, "If you can't be nice, come sit with me!" I enjoyed her visits to my office. I loved working with her. Test scores, TEAM model, and TVAAS be damned, people like her make Gibbs High School. We lost a great teacher last night. A teacher that made me proud to be an employee at Gibbs High.

If Jeni could be here, I know she'd be pissed as Hell. She loved her family and had huge plans for her children. There is no lesson to be learned from this tragedy, but a reminder that we just never know. We must strive to enjoy each moment. Tell our family we love them often and be thankful for those opportunities.

Jeni would kick my ass if I didn't keep my chin up, have this retrieval done, and keep fighting this battle. She frequently told me I deserved to experience teenagers and toddlers and if I timed it right, preferably at the same time. So Jeni, here I go. Take care of my wee ones will ya? Love you and miss you!

Peace, Love and GO VOLS/HORNETS/EAGLES!

Mary Katherine

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Trigger-treat!

Ok so it's a little late for that title...but I liked it...

I hit the wall this morning.  I'm finally completely uncomfortable.  My nurse patted my belly and said, "Your poor belly, that looks miserable."  I'm done...I feel like my ovaries are about to explode.  I tried on three different pairs of pants this morning before giving up and moving on to a dress.  They would button but it's really uncomfortable for anything to squeeze my abdomen.

I've been an emotional train-wreck today.  I almost came over the table over something a co-worker said.  One of my co-workers was asking around for garlic and wolfsbane to keep me away today.  She loves me, though!  (Yes, Whitney, it was your mother :) ) Lots of people and everything is really pissing me off.  I blame my hormones, and maybe a little anxiety over having to wait 9 hours for a phone call to hear if it was time...

...And lo, it was!

I was instructed by my IVF coordinator, Jan, to inject 10,000 units of HCG into my ass.  So, I did.  It's a simple process...
You start with your basic everyday around the house syringe and 18 guage needle. Oh, and your bottle of HCG that you can order off any crazy diet website even though all the paperwork says it does nothing for weight loss...which if you ask most pregnant women, they'll probably tell you the HCG in their system had the opposite effect...but I digress...
You mix 1ml of the skinny vial into the fat vial...
You hand it to your husband for an inspection.  Actually this is BJ's first time holding a syringe.  I'm really proud of him.  He's very brave...


Insert needle while husband keeps his back turned and your puppy at bay and move on with your life for a whole 36 hours of needle-free bliss.  YAY!  It feels great to be at this point.  I'm going to swell even more as my follicles get to their final maturity level, which means another dress tomorrow, but it's totally worth it!

Tomorrow night BJ and I will head down for the big needle in Chattanooga Thursday morning.  I get to meet Dr. Bird, Donesky's partner, for the first time face to fa...Oh, hell, let's face it...face to beav... Talk about an awkward first date...at least I'll be ruphied...  I've only ever talked to the man while sobbing, so I hope this goes over better...on the bright side, it will be Donesky doing the transfer next Tuesday...

Jan, the coordinator, emphasized the importance of not wearing any perfume or scented lotion.  Eggs and embryos are extraordinarily sensitive to it and not in a good for them kind of way. So BJ and I will show up steam cleaned and Eau de Naturale.

We are that much closer to the moment of truth.  I cannot emphasize enough just how grateful I am to have another chance.  I'm confident in my medical team.  I'm excited to see/hear how my embryo-babies do this time.  I kind of feel like I have to kick my future children out of the nest when they are -38 weeks old. Hopefully, if things go well, they'll use this against me one day. It's hard thinking about them having to fend for themselves outside of my body their first few days.  Susan, my embryologist, will take good care of them, though.  I know she wants things to go better for us this time.

Peace, Love and Praying for Strong Em-babies,
MK

Monday, November 7, 2011

Tra-la-la

So today's results are in, and I'm very happy to tell you that all is well! My ovaries are now closer to softball size and my skinny jeans are a bit uncomfortable to wear. However, I have a huge amount of nearly mature follicles to give another days worth of stimulation medication too.

My labs were great! My estradiol was 3269, progesterone .881, and my LH was 1.46. I don't have any other labs to compare to today, because I didn't get this far last time.

My acupuncturist is thrilled.  So thrilled he let me have my cell phone during my treatment because I was so balanced...but then he took it away because I couldn't behave.

On pins and needles...
I learned a lot at acupuncture today.  My former acupuncturist practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine.  My current practitioner uses 5 elements acupuncture.  I learned that my speech style is groaning (What the hell?), I'm deep and I'm blue which makes my main element Water.  Water types enjoy salty foods, and their main emotion is fear.  We can be soft like a dew drop or violent like a tsunami...I don't really understand, but I do feel better after I go, and my acupuncturist says I am doing better and I'm more balanced.  That's all I need to know...

I'm excited to see what my embryos do this time.  It's a balance of knowing what the worst is, and giving it a go, anyway.  I'm cautiously optimistic that things will go better this time.  So here's to not triggering (the act of injecting yourself with HCG to fully mature the eggs).  I will probably get to trigger tomorrow.

I am ready to be able to make plans for the future, again.  Today, for instance, I went in at 10:00am and was told at 3:00pm that I had an appointment at 9:00am the next morning.  This is not much notice for my boss, but I'm very blessed that he is extremely understanding and supportive of the process.  I wonder how women with less flexibility go through this?  I also can't tell my own mother-in-law when I'll be having surgery.  Today, I could tell her that it won't be Wednesday, but could be Thursday.  Yesterday I told her it wouldn't be Tuesday.  It's hard to plan for dog-sitters, MK-sitters and the like. Eh...minor details.  It will work itself out...

Bottom line is I'm happy.  I'm not scared, yet. I'm not anxious.  I'm just here and very grateful that things have worked out so well this far.

Peace, Love, and Another Day of Growth,
MK


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Hip-hip

So yesterday's results are in. I have 13 measurable follicles on my right ovary and several more that weren't worth measuring. I have 7 on my left that are all about 15mm. 18-22 is the goal for maturity.

I'm happy to report that all my anxiety over my hormone levels was for nothing...

Last cycle my numbers on day 10 were:
E2 - 3063
LH- .998
P4- .251

This time they are:
E2 - 2462
LH - 1.47
P4 - .610
And my follicles are growing more evenly.

Now, I'm waiting for today's bloodwork. My follicles are about at that 17 mark which means they would definitely be 18-22 in the next couple of days. Dr. Donesky said things were "looking good" today.

I'm not near as uncomfortable as I was at this point in the last cycle. I am aware of my ovaries, which is strange, but not painful. I'm definitely going for acupuncture tonight! I want to be in a good place mentally. I can't believe we've almost made it to this point, again!

Now I'm just tapping my fingers and waiting for a phone call from Jan. Ahhhh!!!

Peace, love, and a little anticipation,
MK

Crashing, but not burning...

"Hail Damage"
So Friday was a little too adventurous for MK. It was worse for my car, but at least no tow trucks nor tow truck drivers were harmed in the creation of this ugly hood!

I had my third monitoring appointment Friday, and I have no idea if it went well or not. My estrogen level almost tripled instead of doubling.  There's not really a rhyme or reason to E2 levels except that sometimes you get ovarian hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS), especially when you get over that 4000 mark, and sometimes you don't.  Some studies say it affects implantation, and some says it doesn't.  The internet is evil in times like these...

I'm going to have to believe Pat when she said I was doing "super" when she called with my results. I hope it's not just rose colored glasses.  Dr. D wants me to lower my dose of Follistim to 150 units from 225.

I'm a little anxious for my appointment today (yes, Sunday)...I'm afraid my levels will start to sky-rocket and I'll be in the same boat I was in last time.  So I'm going to do what they tell me to do.  I hope and pray my follicles continue to grow and that they have enough time to fully mature.  I don't want to have to go in for my retrieval before Wednesday.  I want my follicles to have a little more time this time.

On the bright side...they could've told me I had to come in yesterday!

Now just waiting for the day's results and praying they don't ask me to trigger just yet!

Peace, Love and Simmering Down Now,
MK

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Slow and Steady

I must say for a "small town", we Knoxvillians are pretty lucky.  As I was having my blood drawn again by the new andrologist, Diane, I noticed she had a Yankee northern accent.  I asked where she was from and she said New York.  She worked at a fertility center in Manhattan that claims to be one of the top clinics in the world.  (It does have some amazing stats, but they are the same as my clinic's, FYI...and if you compare Donesky's 20-40 cycles a month to their 200+ a month, the numbers seem better for Donesky!) She has degrees and credentials after her name to make the alphabet look short.  She was looking for a change of pace and a more personal approach to the chaos that occurs in a "top clinic in the world."

A Google search will tell you that the top clinics are Cornell Reproductive Endcrinology (CRE), Sher Institute of Reproductive Medicine (SIRM) and Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM) [This is where Guiliana and Bill Rancic were going when they found out she had breast cancer if anyone watches E!.].  These clinics thrive on IVF tourist patients but, you never become more than a number.  It's like a cattle call...NEXT!

So anyway, we have an experienced andrologist right here in town who's an expert in her field.  Who knew?

Since Diane is fairly new to the clinic, I asked her what she thought of it.  She said she is impressed with Dr. Donesky's research and that he was very progressive compared to even her former Manhattan clinic.  Again, who knew?  I also found out that Dr. D is a bro to one of the doctors at CRE which many consider the best in the country if not the world.  Furthermore, I found out Dr. Donesky's nickname is "The IVF King" here in the Southeast.

I'm getting in to all of this because I have occasionally thought maybe I need to get out of East Tennessee to get help.  The thought of adding the stress and added cost of traveling to this process has been a huge turn off, but the cattle call idea is even worse.  If I need anything, it's support and opportunities like I had today to ask questions, even hard ones.

I took advantage of Diane's huge clinic in Manhattan experience and told her about my last cycle.  I told her my estrogen levels from last cycle and she said they sounded fine.  I told her about all my eggs being "slow growers" and not making it to the blast stage and she immediately said it sounded like they might have been a little immature.  Immature eggs can be fertilized but they have fragile DNA that tends to fragment...sound familiar?  My LH levels and my estrogen levels were getting high which would overcook my eggs.  Dr. D had to make a call, or I may have ovulated on my own and lost all my eggs, so he decided to trigger then.  Looking back, I knew he must not have been happy with the cycle because he was very eager to tell me that he would change things up if the transfer did not work... Not being an MD myself, my theory is thus far, that the Lo-Loestrin did not suppress me enough and my ovaries did not get in line and follow orders.  This time, Dr. D made damn sure my ovaries were suppressed and subservient.

The unfortunate thing is that this is still far from a guarantee, but it is my pleasure to tell you that things are still going quite well and better than last time.  I still have 10+follicles visible that are just over 1cm on each ovary. This is more than last time, and they are still growing more evenly.  My E2 (estrogen) level is 435, which is exactly what it was on my first monitoring appointment of my last cycle.  This is perfectly good for my number of follicles at this level of development.  My LH is now 1.18 which is less than half of what it was at my 2nd appointment from August and my Progesterone is at .361.  Jan, my IVF coordinator, has gone from saying the numbers, "Look good," to, "Everything looks really good!"  I am more achy in my abdominal area than I was at this point last time because I have a lot more follicles growing away.  They are putting some pressure on my ovaries, and it's not super comfy, but hopefully this is just a taste of the discomfort I'll have in the future.  

Peace, Love and Lookin' Good,

MK

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Even keel...

Happy All Saints' Day! (Props especially to Saint Anne the patron saint of childless women!!!)

Today is the day the medication caught up with me. I am absolutely exhausted. All my energy is being diverted to my ovaries which are egg-making machines. They can have it because I want lots of eggs! It's a fair trade-off.

I had acupuncture today, and my acupuncturist emphasized the point of staying calm. He was pleased to hear my body is responding better this time. He said we need to plan ahead for the next several months. When you're over half way through your second year of trying to conceive it's nice to hear people say things like, "prepare your body for pregnancy" and "when you're pregnant." It becomes way easier to think about never becoming pregnant versus when you actually do get pregnant, unfortunately.

I described my anticipation for this cycle to him as being psyched down. Not like down as in depression, but not wild with excitement. I feel optimistic and I'm happy to get to try. I guess I've gotten pretty used to the fertility treatment roller coaster. It has become my norm.

So today's session was focused on restoring energy and staying mellow. This is new concept for me. Again, I just have to take solace in doing what I can and letting go of the anxiety.

Another check-up tomorrow...grow follicles, grow!

Peace, Love and Calm,
MK

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or Treat!

Gaius says, "Trick or Treat!"

Today was my first monitoring appointment of cycle numero dos and the first one where my husband, the super-professional, could not be with me.  It was fine...there isn't much for him to do anyway accept compare my uterus to the DeathStar, which I for one have never found all that amusing.

Any-some-how I bravely had my blood drawn by the new tech since my favorite nurse in the world, Pat, recently broke her wrist a couple of weeks ago while running on a treadmill on her vacation.  (Turns out exercise is bad for you on vacation.)  They put a plate in so she'll be back in business by Wednesday, but I digress.  So in one (YES just 1) stick the tech got my blood.

My ultrasound went well.  My lining is already up to 5.1 (10 is the magic number) so that was right on track.  I have "too many follicles to count" on both ovaries and the biggest one is 9.1mm which is good for only having 3 full days of stims.  The first thing Dr. Donesky said when he started the ultrasound was, "This is a much better stimulation."  I asked him if maybe the Ganirelix protocol (what I used last time) wasn't fit for me. He said, "That's possible. People respond differently to different protocols and last time you had some [follicles] take off and leave the others behind."  I also asked him is we should expect things to go differently, and he said, "Yes.  Remember you've been on Parlodel for cell membrane stabilization and you're stimulating more evenly."  So right now, all my follicles are staying pretty even which is a great thing!  YAY, for something.  I've been dying for Dr. D to say anything like that for 2 months, and FINALLY there is something positive for him to say.  I may not have bad eggs after all!!!!

So my bloodwork came back...

E2 (Estradiol) - 175
P4 (Progesterone) 0.244
LH  0.998

Last cycle...
E2 - 435 which was a little high because some of the follicles got big a little fast...
P4 - 0.266
LH - 1.03

So I'm all excited, again.  Here goes nothing but hope!!!

Oh and belly update...
Boo!  I look kind of diseased...was not near as bad this early last time...but  I'm kinda proud of it!

Peace, Love and a little optimism,
MK

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yikes!!!

So in less than 12 hours IVF round 2 will officially commence with my first shot of stimulation medication (stims).

OMG!

I'm excited, scared, worried and in a little bit of denial.  It feels a lot safer to just be talking about going through another cycle. To actually be starting a new cycle...yikes.  I've never really failed at something this badly, and I can't stand that I don't have any more control over it.  Lack of control is a scary place but it's where I have to live for the next four weeks. I have to keep reminding myself to just let go.  Just do my thing and go on about my life. I can do this and there is no reason to think it won't work.

Bring it on!

Peace, Love, and Being a little bit brave,
MK

"There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope." Baruch Spinoza

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Merry Christmas!!!! (again)


I love packages...

Even ones that contain over 50 needles that I am to insert into my own flesh.
I start pushing the real stuff Friday so I'll be up from 1 needle a day to 3. Not really a big deal anymore, but just complicated.  Two of the three have to be refrigerated which is difficult when you are going out of town.  I'll be traveling with a cooler I guess.  Lots more pills this time...In the middle you can see all my supplements...L Carnitine, Royal Jelly, Juice Plus, Coenzyme Q10, Fish Oil and baby aspirin.

As always, I like to highlight how misogynistic fertility treatments are...
This is BJ's loot excluding the cat.  That is one of our other furbabies, Lucifer.  He's reminding me that it is his feeding time, and I've clearly overstayed my welcome in his kitchen without paying the kitty tax.

In case you were worried...Emma Grace is also on a protocol...
We are trying to treat a skin infection so she can have a gynecological procedure done.  It's looking like operation get Emma fixed before we go through IVF cycle 2 is going to be a bust.  Sneaky puppy...

So tomorrow BJ and I start our z-packs and Friday I'll take 225 units of Follistim in the belly at 7:00am and 150 of Menopur at 7:00 pm and 10 units of Lupron at 10:00pm. Woot! I still can't really believe I made it to this point again.  I'm really excited to be off to a better start.  Mind you, last time was not a bad start by any means, but this is over-achieving.  I'm cautiously optimistic.  I'm still worried about my egg quality, but I can only do what I can do, which is take my medication correctly, eat well, and be happy that I have this opportunity.

Peace, Love, and Band-Aids!
MK

Just an update...my "cycle buddies",which is infertile-speak for those undergoing treatments near the same time, are still not having a very strong showing.  The first person to have a positive pregnancy test ended up miscarrying within days.  I don't know why this is such a hard road for some people, but I'm proud to have met such wise, strong, kind and resilient young women.  If you don't care, please include them in your prayers.  THANKS!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Supression check - Check!

Today was the day, and a day it has been.

Firstly, because I'm not going to sit here and lie on my own blog, I want to tell you how Negative Nancy I've been.  I cried on the phone to my mother last night for a half hour because I just knew this cycle was not going to go well.  I keep having these flashes of my mother stepping off the plane to me, in tears, devastated and unable to compose sentences again.

This morning in the parking lot of the fertility clinic, I told BJ I didn't want to get out of the car.  I said, "Let's not and say we did."  BJ replied, "C'mon, let's go."  So I did...I do listen occasionally, but it's by free will.

Before you yell things like, "It's not going to work if you don't want it," and "Your thoughts are powerful." may I remind you of the fact that positive thinking only got us to round 2 of IVF with nothing but a huge dent in our bank accounts. Would you tell a cancer patient that if they relaxed and thought positively (maybe throw in a macrobiotic diet) they would get better?  That worked so well for Steve Jobs.  (Sorry if that's too soon for my geekier friends, I hate that he's gone too. Damn granolas and their holistic bs...)  Scientifically/philosophically speaking, things are gonna go how they go just like they went how they did in August.

I was ashamed that I felt so negatively last night.  Too ashamed to tell my husband.  But I did this morning, and he told me about the Stockdale Paradox.  This Stockdale guy is pretty amazing and describes my situation perfectly.  I'm not comparing myself to a POW, or a cancer patient, but please realize I do have a disease, and I am a patient. I think that is one of the most difficult things for breeders to understand when a friend suffers with infertility.

Relaxing, head-standing, adopting-to-induce-spontaneous-conception or any other natural method is pretty much giving the macrobiotic diet a whirl in lieu of chemotherapy and radiation.   I'm not sure this IVF cycle will work.  I want to have a baby more than anything in the world.  This is my paradox and if you take the link, you'll see it's not only rational to have these conflicting thoughts, it can save your sanity.  So I read it, and now I feel better.

So much so that I am willing to share my results.

Estrogen Level:  20.0    August Baseline 37.3  Desired results <50
So I'm over-achieving in this area, but I don't think how low necessarily makes a difference so long as it's below 50.  One website says the lower you are the better your response to stims...so YAY!

Progesterone Level:  .333  August Baseline .252   Desired results <1.5
Little higher than last time, but still nowhere close to 1.5, so I think it's all good.  We want this one to stay low until after the retrieval, and then I want it at 40 by 5dpt.


LH level:  2.86  August Baseline 4.16  Desired results <7
Better, it means my ovaries are "quieter" as the specialists like to call it.  They are more easilty taken hostage by stimulation medications.


Baseline Scan:  12-15 follicles on each ovary  August Baseline 5-7 on each  Desired results 10-12
Yeah buddy!  That's potentially a lot of eggs and I just need 1! 


So, yeah, I'm a little bit excited again.  I also know I'm gonna be alright no matter what.


Peace, Love and Last One of These,



Mary Katherine

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tomorrow!

Well, tomorrow is the official start of the ensuing craziness.

I'm still waiting for the excitement...It's more anxious anticipation right now.

I don't know why I'm nervous.  Last time all my numbers were perfect.  I had an appropriate number of antral follicles and my estrogen (E2) levels were low, but in the end it did not matter.

On the other-hand, it's better than not even getting the chance.  It's just a lot scarier this time.  I feel like I'm trying to suck up enough air to last me for the next three weeks.

But I want to try.  I want this to work, and the only way to know is to take the next step.

Here we go.

Peace, Love and a Deep Breath,
MK

You must do the things you think you cannot do.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt


Friday, October 21, 2011

Last bromocriptine!!!!!!


Yay, last one of those! Soon the real fun shall begin! Now it's time for my prolactin to rebound! (Hence, the bromocriptine rebound cycle.)

As I've mentioned before, I'm having a lot harder time being all gung ho about this cycle, and my acupuncturist even got on to me on the matter. I had been interpreting his Zen wisdom as he thought we should try naturally for a while longer. I asked him what he thought I should do if this cycle fails. He looked at me strangely and asked me why I was there.

Duh! I was there because I'm trying to make me better for a pregnancy now. Not next time, not a year from now, but now. It goes back to my control issues. I told my acupuncturist I had to have a plan B (technically, we would be on plan G) to help cope with a failure. He said, "Ok, plan B is for you to decide what to do after plan A,". Did I tell you I loved my acupuncturist?

I asked the same question to my husband the night before. (Like I said, I'm having my doubts...) Lately, I've been happy. Granted the door to parenthood is far from closed, but I haven't had time to think about it much because I've been so busy. It's taught me that I can be happy (at least when I'm crazy busy) despite all of this. I've enjoyed the last few weeks of fertility pressure-free bliss. I am truly as happy as I've been in a long while. I have a great husband who has a great job, a great job, myself, with three amazing co-workers, a great dog (well, we're working on it) and last, but far from least, some great friends. Oh, and cats...we have cats.

So happy, that I had an inkling of fear that maybe, if this doesn't work, we should think about the hideous word "child-free." So, as I said, I asked BJ what he thought we should do should this cycle fail. "Let's get through this cycle, first, and then ask Dr. Donesky, but I want to be a parent."

I do, too. So I've finished one prescription and ordered $4,200.00 more drugs. Monday morning, I have a suppression check to make sure my ovaries have shut down appropriately. They'll draw my blood for an Estrogen (E2) level, which we want to be under 50. We are looking for no cysts on the ultrasound and 16+ antral follicles. Antral follicles are our potential. They are where the eggs will mature. Starting with around 16 gives us a great chance at having an optimal number of eggs to work with (20ish).

If everything looks good, then round 2, here we come! I believe in Dr. Donesky, and I believe in our decision. I want this to be the ticket. I want this to work, please. I want to spawn!

In the meantime, please pray, meditate on, send vibes to my blogger role-model, Tamara. She's in the worst part of the process...the wait. Tamara, I'm thinking about you tons and can't wait to hear your good news!!!! Xoxo (Oh, and check out her blog...it's amazing! Awkwardlysocial.com)


Peace, love and rebounds,
MK