Saturday, June 28, 2014

Baby Pictures!

Well, as expected, our third little guy arrested.  I'm sad but okay with that.  I'm over-joyed with the quality of the two we do have.  As my dad put it, for this cycle our gross was poor but our net was outstanding.  To put it in perspective, another lady going through a freeze-all cycle had 11 eggs, and only had 2 to freeze.  So in the end, she had about a 10th return.  This is really encouraging about the quality of eggs that we did get.

As the title promises, here are our snow babies (this seems to be the trending term for embryos that have been frozen, and I can't think of anything better so, fine...)

I know, you're like but, where is the baby? Well, they're there.  Starting with the excellent blast on the left, you can see the outer rim, that's the zona pellucida, or the egg shell that's not hatched but it's definitely thinned out. We didn't want it to progress too much further as that would mean it would be ready to look for a home in my uterus, and currently my wacko ovaries are not enabling that option, so good thing it's frozen.  Just inside the zona pellucida is the trophectoderm which will become the placenta. Yup, that already happened.  It's not functioning, and it won't function fully, God-willing, until the end of the first trimester, but its building blocks are already there.  Still on the left, between 11 o'clock and 12 o'clock, you have what is in medical jargon called an "Inner Cell Mass". I like to call it the baby, because that is what it is going to develop to be. Yup, you too, were just a wee "Inner Cell Mass". I love my inner cell masses/babies.  The space in the middle is the blastocele or cavity. Same on the right except  BABY is @ 7:00.  Baby looks bigger because this is a full blast and not an expanded blast which is still very much appropriate and high quality just isn't stretched out as much as the one on the left.  Not to mention, this is a 2D representation of a 3D object so not all the cells are going to be in focus on any given plane and she chose the plane where the most expansion could be seen.  So both babies are in excellent condition, both pre-placentas are ready to go, it's just a matter of thawing, hatching, and implanting...which is what no one can ever guarantee...if only...

My embryologist was very pleased for us.  She's excited and thinks we have 2 excellent chances with these embryos.  They look so much better than the one we had 2.5 years ago.  It's hard to imagine how hopeful we were knowing what we know now, but I'm very encouraged.  I'm aware that it's only two, but I remember that I had a chemical pregnancy with a sluggish, low quality blast, and that does bode well for us.  I can't say I'm a hostile environment...BJ might argue...

As sad as I am that two arrested, I'm also pleased that all four behaved normally.  Every woman is born with a fixed amount of eggs and every month she loses 50 or so.  People panic around IVF because it "wastes eggs" when actually it rescues many of those 50.  We do not naturally have enough hormones to support 20-30 eggs as well we shouldn't because a "healthy" triplet pregnancy could practically kill us without modern obstetrics.  Much less a litter...Anywho, of those 20-30 "rescued with IVF support", even in young 20-somethings, there are "bad" eggs with chromosomal abnormalities.  This is why the lady with 11 eggs probably only had 2 to freeze.  They were probably "aneuploid" eggs as opposed to normal, or euploid, eggs.  Aneuploid eggs tend to arrest and quit developing.  That doesn't mean it's not sad, or any less disappointing, but it's better than the unknowing and struggling that my embryos from my biological eggs did.  It's at least, peaceful and understandable.

OMG, I have totally nerded out...I'm so proud of them, I had too, ...OK so what I really wanted to say is that the baby on the left is going to grow up to be a reproductive endocrinologist, and the baby on the right is going to become an attorney/senator who will be acclaimed for helping improve insurance coverage for fertility treatments.  Or they will both be living with me until they are 45, and honestly, since we'll be old, as long as they help out, that's just fine, too!

Oh, and I guess I should credit all this learning to Dr. D, and Susan, our embryologist!

Peace, Love, and Babies that look like pancakes,

Friday, June 27, 2014


So far we have 2 "excellent quality" frozen embryos. One arrested yesterday (died) one is a day behind and gets another day to catch up. 

We have a chance or two. Or one chance at twins.  The point is...we actually have a fighting chance.

I'm shocked. I'm dazed. I'm not really sure just what to do with myself. 

The return of two frozen on four eggs is amazing. The disappointment that it's not more is very grounding. But it is what it is and we've never gotten this far. I've never had an embryo of such high quality to work with, and I did get pregnant very briefly with one of poor quality. This tips the odds slightly in our favor.

Peace, Love and Wow!


Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Wow, Wow, Wow, Alright!

Day 3

This was the day that we pretty much always knew we were fighting the tide when it was my eggs. With my biological eggs our embryologist would start her reports with, "Well...that was her stalling via email.  Then she would tell us they were behind and fragmented.

Today however, we learned that three of ours were on schedule with one being at 6 cells and already compacting, 2 at 8 cells and already compacting.  The 4th at 4 cells, a little behind the others, but since they were fertilized in the evening and she looked in the morning it was still in the "not to be given up on zone".

Compacting to BJ and I is the opposite of fragmenting.  It's the most beautiful word we've heard to ever describe our embryos.  I'm just over the moon.

It's not Friday yet, so we can't rest on our laurels just yet.  I will be more relieved when we get the word that we actually have them in the freezer.  I must say many times I have been overcome with likes on Facebook, messages, comments, and texts.  It fills my heart to know this many people are rooting for our little embies and for us.  So thank you for that so much!

Peace, Love, and Grow babies, grow!

Mary Katherine

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Oh the anxiety...

Today we are not supposed to get a report, and so far we haven' that is good, right????!!!

It's so funny, the high of yesterday's "They fertilized normally," gave way to this morning's anxiety. Which is unfortunate because I had to do my biometric profile for my insurance.  It took a while, but some deep breaths and envisioning my toes in the sand with a margarita in hand enabled me to get my resting heart rate down from 136 to 107.  Yes...I workout regularly, normally I'm in the 70s, on good days in the 60s, but in the middle of fertility treatments I probably stay between 110-140.

I told you my heart breaks...

But anywho, it's only because I don't know what's going on.  I'm scared for tomorrow, and it's hard to stay in this scary moment of not knowing.  The nurse practitioner at my internist's today asked about when we were planning to do the our transfer, and I tearfully told her September.  She gave me instructions to stop taking my Topomax in August which is exciting if this works, but sad if it does not.

Just keep breathing, MK.

So we shall see where we are tomorrow.  That's all we can do.  Just keep swimming, or stand-up paddle-boarding, or snuggling with cats.  Which is funny...because as I cuddled with my cats who are mostly today, I had to pull a huge piece of plastic rubber cement glue strip off of a mailer or something out of Lucifer's mouth (absolutely no clue where he found it) that he was trying to eat...I look at them and I think, 'No one gave a damn about you when you were just an embryo, and you made it,'  So maybe, just maybe things are going the way they normally do.  Even if it means my children will eat glue like their fuzzy brother...

So I have to give myself a pat on the back.  I functioned today.  I worked out at the gym. I cleaned. I called my mom every 2 hours...ok so the last part probably not so indicative of high-functioning, but despite my racing heartbeat...I'm functioning. So maybe I have gotten a little stronger in the last 2 years.

Peace, Love, & Functioning,
Mary Katherine

Gratuitous picture of Lucifer post op from his first of 2 surgeries to remove foreign bodies from his stomach...

Monday, June 23, 2014

Don't tell me...

Don't tell me I don't know the heartache of motherhood.

Don't tell me I have no clue how much you worry over your children.

Don't tell me I don't understand what it's like to have children, because you don't understand what it's like to know you have children from the absolute moment you have a single egg and a single sperm to worry over.

This weekend was the worst roller coaster of treatments we've been on so far.  As veterans on this path we thought we were prepared.  What we got came out of nowhere.  Our team of physicians and embryologists went above and beyond for us.

And what we got was 4 eggs.

Only 4 from the possibly 60 follicles they saw.  They worked their tails off to get them. They suctioned and flushed each one, they suctioned all the fluid free in her abdomen, but all they could get was 4.

So our embryologist thought they looked mature.  We were happy with that, because it was so much better than 0.  There was the tinge of disappointment because less numbers give us less chances, BUT, as of that moment we had 4 chances, 4 better chances than we've ever had.

So we got home around 11:00am exhausted and scared and anxious to know what was happening to our eggs and sperm.  So I decided to visit our friends we've been neglecting.

BJ and I were having a wonderful time with our very thoughtful friends. We were wrapping our visit up when our embryologist called. I just looked at BJ when the ID appeared on my cell phone.  I could not think of any good scenario in which our embryologist would be calling the evening after she had fertilized our eggs.

She began by saying the eggs were mature.

'We already knew that,' raced in my head.

She continued, "They responded well, to being fertilized. That is 2 obstacles down!"

I think I just said,  "OK."  I was really just too confused to understand what was going on.  Did she lie to us earlier? What happened?  I texted her an apology for sounding short, I was just so startled and... confounded I guess would be the word because all the sudden we were 8 hours behind what I thought we were...

By text message she said she knew she had startled me, but she wanted to call because it was more personal.  Apparently, when she finished washing the eggs off, they were "on the cusp of maturity", but they were not totally mature. I would have died if I had known that at the time, so I'm almost glad I didn't know.  They responded well to being incubated.  They acted pissed off when she performed ICSI (injected sperm into them) which is how healthy eggs should be.  Resistant to being entered by sperm.  (Again we ask ourselves, how does anyone get pregnant?) I didn't ask, but the way she explained it to me makes me wonder if my biological eggs were slutty and just all like, "Come on in."...whores....

OK so that's fine and dandy.  I can inject things into things and that' s not necessarily going to mean magic is happening.  Our embryologist said she did her fertility dance, prayed, sent juju and good vibes over these four.  She reiterated how special we were, how much she wanted this to work, and reminded us that these were 4 good eggs.

Which brings us to today.  They fertilized normally.  They are on track.  ALL 4 ARE DOING FINE!  The anxiety and tension are down.  We can't be too picky.  We are miles ahead of where we were.  We are cried out from the weekend.  But we are still moving forward.

I love these 4 little zygotes more than anything.  I'm in love.  I pray, I send good vibes, I send juju, I beg, I hope and I smile because I officially have 4 embryos.

The next hurdle has always been the beginning of our downfall.  Day 3.  Ours were beginning to fragment, arrest, and slow in growth.  We will continue to hold our vigil, celebrate the life we have, and continue on...maybe with more glittery headbands than usual...

Peace, Love, and Growth,

Mary Katherine

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Bad Dress Rehearsal = Great Show

...or so we hope.

I'm disappointed to tell you today did not go as planned. 

It was a rough morning to say the least. I was happily chatting with the recovery nurse when 15 minutes later we heard what sounded like Dr. Byrd (Donesky's partner) finishing up and was impressed that it happened so fast. Dr. Bird came back, shook my hand and sighed.

My pulse increased. I just wasn't expecting anything to go wrong today. I couldn't imagine what could have happened to super donor, but here it goes...

"Well, she has a ton of follicles, about 20-30 on each side and we drained 10 on the right side, and got no eggs.  We stopped and flushed the tubing, because occasionally they get caught up and a bunch come out at once, but none came through the catheter."

Warm, wetness falling down both cheeks, my chest  begins to hurt, but I take a deep breath.  Dr Byrd continued.

"We've had this happen one time before in 6 years to another egg donor.  A proven egg donor [one that has created successful embryos that lead to a live birth previously] triggered with Lupron, we went in for the retrieval but the eggs had not detached from the follicle.  So, we gave her an HCG trigger, brought her back in 24 hours and were able to get eggs from her.  This went on to become a successful donation procedure as well."

My heart ached for my donor.  She's been such a trooper, and to have to repeat this process 24 hours later.  I knew she would ask how many eggs they got.  I absolutely hate this.  My head is reeling.

Susan, our embryologist, came out and was just horrified for us.  She took me to her office so I didn't have to be there when Dr. Byrd re-explained the situation to BJ.

Our egg donor was still asleep.  I was still reeling.  This is just crazy.  This isn't something that is even google searchable.  So it wasn't on my radar to worry about, and I was totally unprepared.

From Susan's office I heard our donor crying, and I lost it.  I caused this innocent person who has given up so much for us anguish.  I just felt so guilty and sad and overwhelmed.

Someone said, "You guys have sure been through it."  We have.  It's not simple stuff, that gives us clear-cut answers.  It's always stuff from left field.  People get on to me for worrying so much, but here you go.  I rest my case.

So like I said, I have super donor.  We cried it out for a little bit, she agreed to go again, all the while asking what she did wrong, which was absolutely nothing!!!!! This is just a total fluke.  She's like .0001% well, maybe .0002% now that don't respond to a Lupron trigger which they've started using and she should definitely have because of the sheer number of follicles she has.  She will undergo the procedure again tomorrow.

All and all it has been a rough day.  It was a huge slap in the face that no matter how we try bring children into this world, it's not going to be easy.  We can't take anything for granted. Today I was reminded how easy it is to fall back into that funk.  It's like I could feel that shadow of despair turn my blue eyes gray, leech the gold out my locks, and dull my sparkle.

This was what I had been dreading.  The chest pain.  I'm sure it's actually just a low-grade chronic anxiety attack that I always have when we get bad news, but I like to describe it as the feeling of my heart breaking.  I'm so angry.  I could punch the ground, I could scream how this is not fair, but I'm a big girl, and it's not over quite yet.

I feel so selfish asking for prayers because so many people are in much more dire straits than we are.  I pray that my egg donor is comfortable, not too sore, not nauseous, and will find peace no matter the outcome tomorrow.  We appreciate all the good vibes, thoughts, and love from our family and friends.

I've set my alarm for 4:30 once again.  We'll hit the road to be in Chatt-town bright and early, again. This time with my mother for some extra love and support on the way.  One way or another, we'll get through this.  We'll get through this. Just breath, step forward, and smile...

Peace, Love, And It Ain't Over Until It's Over,
Mary Katherine

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Owe Em Jee!!!!

Our donor triggered!!! (FINALLY!!!!) That means her follicles are at the size that they expect the eggs to be mature at on Saturday, so she took medicine to release the eggs from the wall of the follicles so they could be sucked out. It's all very technical. She had a ridiculous amount of follicles and is currently in the running for having the most eggs, according to the Nurse practitioner, but I don't want to let my guard down too much, but as she said we may be going from "Infertile to Duggars---phhhsh".

So Saturday, @ 8:00 am she will undergo the retrieval process and BJ will undertake the sample process, and I will be a nervous mother. My children, will be conceived on Saturday. Yes, I know...they're just embryos to you, but to me, it's all I've ever had, known, been able to have, and God knows I'd given my life to meet any of them outside a Petri dish. Once we were just an embryo.   It's funny because I'm fairly liberal on the when does life start debate, but for my personal children, the only life they've been able to achieve is as tiny stem cells. 

But they were my tiny stem cells, and I yearned for them with a mother's heart and weeped for them as a mother who's lost. It's funny how I thought I'd never be able to love a child from an egg donor when the subject was first broached. I've loved these eggs since I saw the first follicle count. 

Since I really have no idea what a freeze all cycle entails, I decided if we got this far I could email the embryologist and just ask what to look for, when she would freeze, and what our goals should be. I am so hopeful it scares me. I should be more scared of bad fertilization rates and egg quality, but I'm excited. I can't help myself.

Hope is a funny thing. It enables you to overcome fear whether the cause is gallant or futile. But without hope, you'll never know. So where does this hope lead us now? To bliss or despair? 

In the long run, it will lead us to the future that we will adjust to, no matter how different it is from the one I envisioned with BJ 8.5 years ago. It will lead us to growth, strength, some will say character building as if my character could get much bigger, lol, and eventually acceptance.  

Peace, love, and hoping for a shot at this parenthood thing,

Monday, June 16, 2014

Not Crazy, Just Petrified

Honestly, I'd repressed how scary infertility treatments were.  I remember the expense, but apparently the angst, fear, and anxiety were all repressed.  I can cry now if you look at me.  Or it could be that I officially have female hormones in my body again...I don't know.

I'm so consumed with fear right now.  I'm honest-to-God scared for my future children's lives.  I'd forgotten what that was like.  It's crazy.  Everything is fine.  I intellectually understand that, but at the same time, none of this is fine.  IF it was fine, I would have conceived a child 4 years ago the old fashioned way and currently would be about to have my second baby.  But life isn't always about little girl dreams and fairy tails.

Again, we just won't know until we know that everything works and we have healthy embryos until we have healthy embryos.  I can't make the process go any faster, and I can't know the outcome any sooner.  I do remember how awful and helpless this feels, and I can't say I truly know how to cope with it any better.  The hermit in me wants to bob up and down in the middle of a lake for 2 weeks until this is said and done. If I can't do that, I want to hide under my blankets in my favorite pair of pjs and fuzzy socks and cry. I realize this doesn't change the outcome, one way or the other, but it's just where I feel safe. Hidden away from people who don't understand how hard the next couple of weeks are and just shrug "well, what did you really expect to happen?" if this doesn't work. 

Well, I'll tell ya. For once, I hope to not be a statistical outlier. I hope my egg donor is perfectly healthy and that her eggs are perfectly primed at retrieval. I hope BJ has a healthy supply of swimmers that day. I hope we don't see any fragmentation. I hope we see a normal growth/development rate.

I just hope we see average for once. I hope we see statistical norms. I hope for the not special, not different, not unique. Just...ok. Looking at things like that, we aren't really asking a whole lot.

Peace, Love, and Desparately Seeking Average,

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Bitten by the Late Night Crazies

I need my friends, clearly. And my job...two days without working has given me too much time to think so the doubt monster is creeping in. 

Ugh. Given my history, it's a reasonable fear. Given the new circumstances, I'm just being crazy. So I've spent the last hour and a half with the quack, Dr. Google, and he/she has only confirmed that I'm batty. 

I hate not knowing all the answers but the truth is we just won't know until we know after our donor's retrieval that her eggs are mature and, the piece I've always missed, of good quality. 

We're becoming so hopeful that we are letting our guard down and talking about budgets and affording this child like it may actually happen. I catch myself imagining Emma Grace with a toddler to get in trouble with, finding "caveman" drawings on our walls, and actually getting to parent a child. When in reality, we have 39 more weeks worth of hurdles to make it through. Even me with crap ovaries did well the first week, although my donor's labs are better...much, much better! Believe, MK, believe!

It's exhausting anticipating every possible outcome. I'm just so afraid of disappointment. I'm afraid for our donor, I'm afraid for my parents and in-laws, and I'm afraid for BJ and me. 

I guess this is where we just pray for the strength to get through whatever outcome is headed in our direction. 

Peace, Love, and Not Going Batshit,
Mary Katherine

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Silver Lining

Maybe this is how it was supposed to happen the whole time.  I don't know. But I think Dr. Donesky, Dr. Bullen, and I can move myself out of the unknown infertility category once and for all.

I whined about my gross problems previously. Dr. D suggested I take the placebo pills in my birth control pack to see what happens, and I was not supposed to start my Estrace (estradiol) until Monday. I got to go a whole day with no hormones, and I just started having hot flashes.  Basically all this means is that my ovaries are in early retirement.  Good for them...

I do have to take Estrace now and for however long until we are ready to try a transfer if we get some good embryos.  Staying on estradiol while you are young enough to still have working parts can have some nasty consequences, but that's currently not the plan, and again, I'm already a high risk for nastiness because of my infertility. So it's a double edged sword.  I just know now that it's not if I get a hysterectomy it's more like when...and I probably ought to reconsider the whole 4 years apart thing...but we'll see.

But the good news is, I'm doing everything right.  This gives me a working diagnosis of primary ovarian insufficiency.  Only about 5% of women with this are able to achieve pregnancy and we have it on good authority that I'm not one of those :).

BUT with egg donation, 90% are able to achieve pregnancy in three attempts.  That's pretty fantastic in medical statistics.  So it's a relief to me that I finally have some closure, and we know we are doing the right thing.  We have made the right decisions and headed down a known and proven successful pathway for my diagnosis.

On that note my donor is doing great.  More follicles keep coming and catching up. We are at Duggar numbers and counting, baby.  She is growing a little slow, but she was really suppressed so my Dr. was not surprised. She may need to stimulate a couple days more than 10 but that's fine.  She's tolerating everything so well!

Peace, Love, and Estradiol,


Friday, June 6, 2014

There she goes!

Well, she passed.

Our donor's labs are glorious.  Her numbers put me to shame.  I guess that's why I'm barren... Anyway, I continue to pray that she is safe, comfortable and can one day know the massive amount of gratitude and thankfulness we owe her but that there is no measurable way to reimburse her for embarking on this crazy journey.   

It's hard for me to accept all this, "It's working."  I'm so ready for the shoe to drop.  I mean it always drops for us, eventually, but I live my life braced for it.  Which is maybe slightly better than living in despair...but only slightly.  

So today the fertility clinic is wanting to know where I am in my cycle so they can go ahead and start planning ahead for our upcoming FET (frozen embryo transfer)...which is weird because if it were me stimulating they'd be all like...let's just see how injecting yourself goes tomorrow.  Let's see if the band-aid stays on...let's see if you have an ovary left...on that note...

So they seem all positive and planny-aheady and want to know when my periods are so they can tentatively pencil me in for a saline-infused-sonogram (SIS).  Anytime anything depends on my body doing something regularly, I get anxious and panicky...because my ovaries are anything but dependable.  I'd put more money on a politician being honest than my ovaries...I digress...

What makes matters worse, is that this should be simple because I've been on birth control pills...When my Depo Provera shot ran out, my period came back with the wrath of the woman scorned complete with the usual nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and sit down before you pass out even if it's while your walking down the hallway...It's's what cool people with endometriosis do when they see the black curtains closing across their field of vision.  

So on that note, Dr. D had me skip the inactive pills and just take the blue pills straight through...Ideally, no more periods...Hooray! Except now if I'm not having breakthrough bleeding, I'm having heavier bleeding at least every other week.  And yes I did wait until the Sunday after my period to start taking my pills, but alas...constant muckery.  I will say the cramping is tolerable and the nausea gone. 

Leading back to panic at having to answer when my period is because it should be never but it's almost always, and something along the lines of telling Dr D's medical assistant... "I'm ashamed to admit I don't know how to answer your question even though I work in women's health given that I'm not supposed to be having any bleeding at all, and I feel like I'm bleeding more than I'm not, and I have 4 more blue pills on this pack so I guess it's Day 17 today unless you count when I started bleeding this week, then it's Day 4, but if you count when I started bleeding the first time on this pack it's like Day 13. Did that help? I'm sorry."

So now, I have to start taking the placebos...dammit...and I have a new prescription, Estrace. So I'm sure my mood will be super lovely since estrogen and I are total frenemies.  Poor BJ...maybe he can join a support group.  So super-fun times to be had taking my menopause/transgender pills! YAY!

I could speculate at what's happening to my ovaries, but none of it really matters or changes the outcome of what we are doing.  Only confirms that we made a good decision to give up on my ovaries and eggs. I could get all torn up about it, but it's too little too late, and frankly, not surprising.  No matter what happens down the road, I would do anything for the chance to have a child to call my own.  

Peace, Love, and Bring it, Bitch,

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What is this feeling? So separate? So familiar?

Tomorrow is a big day for us. The make or break appointment where we find out if our donor's ovaries are quiet enough to start stimulating. 

When it was me, I was a nervous wreck. While I'm certainly anxious, I'm also feeling quite like the third wheel. I've also spent the evening celebrating a difficult kickball loss with a hard cider which was definitely not on any of my previous cycle's agendas. 

It's exciting, but so in the distance. It's a little terrifying. I have no control. I have to put my faith and trust in another human being to raise my potential children for the first two weeks of their potential lives. That's hard for somebody like me with control issues. It's hard for me to ever "relax and enjoy the ride" so to speak, at least when it comes to major life milestones. 

Actually, it's a lot like riding pine when you are the injured player on a team. Your heart aches to be the one taking the hits, but your body just can't do it anymore. You feel guilty letting your team down, guilty that you may have contributed to your injury in some stupid way, and guilty you can't contribute now.

There will always be a sense of loss surrounding our quest to build a family. Throw in fertility treatments, no success, early pregnancy loss, there will always be a pang to get back something we simply cannot have. 

So our choice is to wallow in that sorrow, or try something different. And tomorrow we earnestly start trying something different.

Peace, Love, and Riding Pine Gracefully,