We are pregnant.

WHO THIS POST IS FOR: EVERYONE

Yesterday we told everyone (aka the world through social media)… we are pregnant. In fact, yesterday morning we cleared our 20 week ultrasound with flying colors. It’s still quite surreal/terrifying/exciting/holyshitthisishappening all at the same time, but for today, I am indeed pregnant and we are indeed  having a baby.

This blog is still important to me and I have wanted to post on here so many times. Once you get pregnant after IVF it doesn’t all disappear. The trauma, the pain, the nerves, they are real and still present. More over, when we did learn we were pregnant I once again felt alone because all of the resources for expecting moms didn’t match my story. They noted you would go to the doctor for the first time around week 9. They gave you cute ways to tell your husband that you were pregnant. They explained how babies are made. It didn’t mean anything to me, I didn’t relate.

The posts I hope to write over the next few months will follow suit to my other posts. They will explain what the heck happens when you DO get pregnant. Weeks 4-9 aren’t the “typical” pregnant experience and I really wished I had a book or app to tell me what to expect. Now, I know what to expect and hope to help those who are transitioning into the pregnant world!

But before I get ahead of myself, how did this happen?! Here’s what went down on transfer #5.

If you recall the last procedure I had was an ERA test. The results were supposed to take a week. However, mine took longer which turned into a stressful mess.  The Monday before my procedure (slated for that Thursday) the doctor called and notified that the lab sent the wrong results. I did indeed need an extra 18 hours of progesterone. Luckily we were able to schedule my procedure for Friday morning.

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So what was different?

First, I was on my meds for a longer period of time. This is probably the singular most important fact. I did indeed fall within that insanely small percentage of people who needed a little extra time to bake.

We transferred two embryos, both were genetically tested. Both were high grade, top of the line embryos. For a hot minute we thought both took because my hormone levels were off the charts.

During my 5th transfer I asked for a muscle relaxer. While it didn’t actually relax me it did make me super tired. I think this was helpful because I could barely stay awake. Instead of focusing on needing to pee, I passed out. I was much calmer. I went on vacation with my friends that afternoon and seriously took it easy that weekend. We ate crappy food, laid on the couch, made friendship bracelets, watched reality tv and laughed our booties off.

Did I eat the pineapple? Of course I did. But did I also eat pure garbage and grease. HECK YES.

During my two week wait I tried not to think about it. In fact I said to Stephen the Thursday following my transfer, “I know that if this doesn’t work and we can’t have a baby, we gave it our all.” I was at peace. In my gut though, I knew something was different. Before I get my period I always get intense vaginal pain (doctor still thinks I have endometriosis and wants me to get it checked out after the baby comes). This time, I didn’t have any pain. I didn’t want to read too much into it BUT it didn’t fail me.

The Monday night before I found out, I was exhausted and passed out at 8:00 p.m. Something was up.

The next day we got our results around 4:00pm (waited all day) and we couldn’t believe it. A slew of procedural practices took place in the following weeks.

Perks of IVF

  • I love that I know the exact date our baby was conceived and the exact moment he entered the womb. My due date (while I know it doesn’t mean much) is ridiculously accurate. It is 40 weeks to the minute!
  • I love that I have a picture our of baby as an embryo, pretty special and most people don’t have that.
  • Having paid a pretty penny paid off. Genetic testing is still breaking our bank BUT it did give us a huge piece of mind about our chances of miscarriage. While I still had anxiety, it did help ease my mind until we got to the 12 week point.
  • I loved getting to hear his heart beat every week. I knew things were humming along perfectly, it was great for my anxiety.

I still follow the posts of those of you who are still struggling through procedures. I still feel your pain and am with you in spirit!

Posts to come:

  • Beta tests and blood work: the tests to find out if you are pregnant
  • Ultrasounds at your IVF doctor
  • Being released to your gyno
  • First gyno visit as a normal civilian!
  • Meds while pregnant: the good, the bad and the ugly
  • Overcoming the fear of actually being pregnant
  • Support groups for expectant moms that went through IVF

 

 

 

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Boys Don’t Cry

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Couples going through IVF

 

Over the course of the past few months I have spent a lot of time thinking about my husband’s feelings and how I can support him. I know from my IVF group and conversations with friends that I am not alone in feeling like I don’t know how to support my husband in a way that truly nourishes his need to talk and experience his own stress regarding IVF while also managing to exist.

This is timely because a one of the big ol’ trending articles right now follows the story of a couple “told from the perspective of the husband.” You can read more HERE.

I am an independent, self sufficient, g0-getter. For 27 of my 29 years I have been the sole bearer of my emotional well-being. During past experiences with trauma I have had to pick myself up by the bootstraps and find the resources and support I needed to be healthy. As a teen I did not have family to help, I figured out how to thrive on my own. My husband  was there for me but due to circumstances didn’t always know what to say, which was completely fair given the context. I provide this information because IVF has completely shifted how I cope with trauma. Perhaps I deal with IVF differently because its not an singular experience, I am enduring all that I do for myself and my husband, and thus I am much more okay with sharing the burden of my emotional wreckage with him. We talk all of the time about IVF and feelings, but digging into his feelings isn’t always part of the conversation.

The result  is that at times he manages both of our stress. Because I am not only emotionally unwell  but also physically sick he keeps his feelings confined until he gets to therapy, etc. His friends are wonderful humans but may not know what to say (understandably). It hurts my heart typing these sentences because I wish so very badly I had the emotional capacity to take on his pain too.

There must be a space for men (who aren’t infertile) to talk. I have seen very little around this issue and it kills me because men need to talk too (oh hey masculinity confines). IVF isn’t discussed and the repercussions for all those involved are profound. We need to move the conversation for men away from the few chuckles every husband shares about their embarrassing experience providing their sample in a cup to one of depth.  There are IVF groups for couples, women, and infertile men but I have yet to find something for supportive partners. Has anyone found a resource or group they care to share?

-ANNIE

 

 

The Tale of the Clueless Resident

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

Everyone

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So there I am, laying with my feet in stir ups. My ultra sound tech had to run out of the room to double check something on my chart. The resident stood across the room silently,  I decided to fill the silence with noise.

I asked her how long she was working at the office and what her speciality was in. I explained my lining, the usual office chatter. She let me know she was going to work in high risk pregnancies and that she appreciated learning more about what she was seeing on the screen.

A few second of silent passed and then…“I wish I could be in your spot?” she said. “What do you mean?” I replied.

“You know, without kids.”

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Immediately my brain malfunctioned.  Is this really happening? Could she really be saying this? I started to believe I was in the twilight zone.

“I am here because my body is failing. I don’t think you want to be in my seat,” I say.

She continues, “Uh I am just so tired. I have 3 kids. I am just so fertile, I just couldn’t stop having them.”

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DEEP BREATHS, DEEP BREATHS

“Sounds like poor planning,” I say. “You did have the option of this thing called, birth control. You should have used it,” I state.

SILENCE//Subject switched.

When I left I began to process what had happened. Was this woman for real? Do I tell the doctor? ::BRAIN SPINNING::

I went home, started working and forgot about the whole thing until surgery. Upon waking up from the anesthesia I saw my doctor and decided to spill the beans. My husband said it went a little something like this:

“Doc, you know the resident? You need to have a chat with her.” I then went through the exchange. He was mortified.

Unfortunately I have heard stories like this from a number of women. Where on earth do people get the idea that saying they got pregnant easily or having kids is annoying would be comforting to women who are struggling to get pregnant? I can not comprehend where this break down in understanding occurs.

Now its a funny story, but WOWEEE at the time!

-ANNIE

We are all in this together

WHO THIS IS FOR:

EVERYONE!

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It is infertility awareness week, HOORAY! I had the honor of writing a guest blog on the oh so very popular website Neighborhood Parents Network. NPN is a Chicago based community that helps parents from all walks of life find couples who are in the same boat as them.

Check out the post HERE.

If you are in Chicago I highly recommend checking them out. They have groups for adoption, IVF, moms who work, moms who are lawyers, stay at home moms, and the list goes on. They are a wealth of knowledge that I suggest you tap into.

-Annie

Start Traveling: See ya later IVF

WHO THIS IS FOR:

Couples going through infertility treatments

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When you start infertility treatments you lose all control. Control of your body, mind, and schedule. For a long while this included travel however I bring to you a few full proof tips for taking back some control through travel. I hope these tips and tricks help bring a little bit of control back in your life and a bit of liberation.

Since January I have had 3 procedures, I have travelled out-of-state three times. I am leaving on a jet plane tonight and have another procedure a week from today. I also have a girls weekend planned in May. I am proof this is feasible!

WHEN TO SCHEDULE TRIPS

I am not talking big 2 week trips here. While we do have one planned for later in the year, if you do not want to delay treatment, big trips may be out of the picture for a bit. Three day trips are completely feasible.

  • Find out when your doctor does transfers.
    • My doctor does transfers on Thursdays. I schedule trips on Fridays if I know a transfer is in the works. I schedule trips after transfers Friday evenings through Mondays. With this schedule I do not have to worry about pushing myself too hard.
  • Give yourself wiggle room
    • Schedule 2 or so weeks in advanced, do not get ahead of yourself and do months ahead of time unless you are okay with potentially delaying a round.
  • Know your cycle
    • Once you get into the groove of treatments you tend to figure out when you will get your period, how many days on meds before transfer, etc. Use this knowledge to your advantage.

TRAVELING WITH MEDS

I traveled in February with ALL of my shots and here is what I learned, TSA could care less about having a bag full of needles. I took a ton of precautions and none of it mattered. BUT to be safe, here is what you need to do to travel with meds:

  • Make a list of all of your meds days in advanced so that you don’t have to worry and stress. Check them off the night before when you pack. Recheck the next morning.
  • Have your doctor write you a note stating its okay you have needles.
  • Tell the TSA agent you have medication.
  • PRE PLAN! Go through what you have days in advanced so that if you need  refills while you are away, you have them taken care of beforehand.
  • Put all of your meds in your carry on. You don’t want to leave the fate of your meds up to airline staff.

SCHEDULING YOUR PROCEDURES

If you are in my boat you presume you are having transfers for ever and ever. Thus, I know the drill at this point.

How to prep:

  • Tell your doctor your dates in advanced. Write to him/her in email to verify. Have coordinators verify. Stay on top of this.
  • If you are doing a transfer it may be as simple as just moving your check in appointments
    • For example my doctor likes to do lining check-ins on Fridays, instead I have moved them to Thursdays, no one seems to care.
  • You can manipulate your period if need be.
    • If things need to be delayed a week, this may be feasible. Of course consult your doctor. Last year I knew there was no way I could do a transfer when my body wanted, we were able to push things off by a week and it all worked out (the procedure happened… of course I didn’t get pregnant).

HOW TO PAY FOR YOUR TRIP

Let’s be real, you are not swimming in cash because well… you are reading this blog.

  • Sign up for a credit card with rewards (specifically travel)
    • We have a Southwest card, it has been awesome
  • Charge all of your IVF expenses to your account, before you know it you will have a  ton of points- turn this lemon into lemonade
    • IVF has paid for 6 round trip tickets and counting

I can’t live your life thinking, “when I am pregnant.” It was a hard pill to swallow but the reality of it is I  may never get there and so I must live my life with the understanding that I can’t plan to be pregnant. I do know that I will be a mom, but that may not happen from my own body. And thus, living life as if it were “normal” is all I can do.

-Annie

ERA: The Test You Never Knew About

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • IVF couples who have defied every statistic thrown their way despite her body doing everything its “supposed” to do.

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Last week was a tough week to say the least. We learned Wednesday (after waiting two extra days in our 2WW— a whole other drag) that we are once again not pregnant. While I am no longer shocked by this news, this one stung a little harder because they used 2 perfect embryos (my $13,000 investment in PGD tells us this) and my lining was the thickest its ever been (around a 9.5). But despite the perfect conditions, once again the transfer failed.

LETS TALK STATS

As a 29 year old woman with no explanation for my infertility, I should have been pregnant well…. 2 years ago. But if we are going by science/stats, we are talking two transfers ago. I have now entered the zone where I am in the extreme minority of IVF parents. We know I have awesome embryos (7 out of 18 are genetically perfect) and my lining is being very cooperative. We can presume from the PGD test that its not an egg or sperm issue (although we can not say this definitively). I have had a  hysteroscopy to make sure my uterus was squeaky clean and HSNs periodically to make sure it remained polyp/scar tissue free. The only place left to examine is when my uterus is most likely to receive an embryo and now we are doing just that.

ERA TEST

I learned of the ERA (Endometrial Receptivity Array Test) test prior to our transfer when we talked potential outcomes with our doctor. He explained that 99.99999999% of women only need progesterone for 6 days before a transfer. For example if you have a transfer on a Thursday, you start your progesterone on Saturday night. The 6 day period gets your uterus to accept an embryo at the peak time for a transfer. However .0000001% (I made that up but its something like that) of women may need one or two or three days more of progesterone to give the embryo the perfect opportunity to find a new home. Thus, the next step for us is to examine if my uterus needs some extra time to bake.

WHY THE ERA TEST MAKES MY BLOOD BOIL

I know I post about this ALL of the time but I REALLY HATE BEING ON TRANSFER MEDS. I feel and look like shit. I am usually physically ill and always mentally exhausted. I wallow in a place of low self confidence when I am on meds and yearn to be off of them entirely or to be on them and pregnant (in which case I will suck it up and love each side effect).  I am a positive person and can put a rose-y  lens on most things but when I am on my meds I struggle to find the sunshine in the clouds. I have now spent over 150 days on these meds and the end is no where in sight.

In order to do the ERA test you have to do a mock transfer. Yup thats right, I have to go through an entire cycle of meds but do not get the opportunity to transfer. What this means is, once I get my period (it has arrived) I will start back on estrogen, I will go to the doctors twice a week, start on progesterone and go to the hospital for my “procedure.” However instead of having a transfer, they will scrape my uterus, grab a sample and send it to the lab to be biopsied. HURRAY! I will then have a 2WW for my test results (HURRRRRAYYYYY- can you feel the sarcasm oozing out of my pores) and then start back up on my meds for a transfer.

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IS IT THE RIGHT TEST?

Of course only time will tell but from all of the literature Ive read, I am the prime candidate. My doctor did this test with a patient recently and she is pregnant. At this point in the game, that gives me little hope because each time I go through something new, I am told a story by someone that fits this framework.

“OH so many people have a successful transfer by the 2nd time.”

“Statistically most women are pregnant by the 3rd transfer, thats why insurance covers 4 retrievals.”

“This one patient couldn’t get pregnant but once she got her embryos tested she was successful her first time.”

The list goes on.

In a month or so we will once again be waiting patiently to find out test results. The highs will be high and the lows will be incredibly low. We are still on the worst rollercoaster that never seems to end.

**** I called my insurance to ask if its covered because I was told by doctor it wasn’t. (side note: Thankfully this is not near the cost of PGD). It is such a new and rare test that they had never heard of it (neither did the genetic counseling center that manages my referrals). I asked the doctor to submit it with a letter making the case as to why I need it. We shall see if they agree. If you are on the road to the ERA its worth calling your insurance directly to ask because your doctor may presume they won’t cover it which may not be the case.

-Annie

Is a failed retrieval the end?

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • Couples who are about to start IVF
  • Couples who have had a failed retrieval

A quick recap, a retrieval is when the doctor removes eggs from your ovaries. You may have this done to retrieve eggs for a later use or use those eggs to create embryos. You can learns the ins and outs of the procedure HERE. This post though is not about the basics and the minutia of a procedure, rather its about what happens if things go wrong. Sadly I can tell you about this experience. I am not a doctor, do not take this as medical advice. Rather, this is post to let you know there is hope and you have some control in this situation.

FEBRUARY 2015

I was scheduled for my first retrieval. I was prepped and ready. I was told things were “perfect” days leading up to it. I went in for surgery with 48 or so follicles. I woke up from surgery and my doctor was sitting in my room. She said she had bad news. I looked at my husband and he confirmed (he was told while I was out). She wasn’t able to retrieve a single egg.

I was in shock, how could this be? It didn’t make ANY sense. She said she hadn’t seen this happen before and told me she was so sorry.

Suffice it to say I was devastated. This was a complete whirlwind going from exploring infertility to IVF to a failed transfer all within 4 months.

We scheduled a meeting with her shortly after to discuss options. She let us know she consulted other doctors because she hadn’t had this happen in the past. She didn’t have a  definitive plan, she did have some ideas though. Her uncertainty made me uneasy, I left and made an appointment for a second opinion.

CHECKING YOUR HORMONES THE DAY BEFORE THE PROCEDURE

We met our new doctor and immediately were compelled to switch. While he was surprised at the outcome, it didn’t stump him. He had a slew of potential reasons and explained in great detail what most likely happened.

He then asked one key question, “Did they check your hormones the day after your trigger shot (day before surgery)?” I let him know that was the ONE day I didn’t go in. He looked perplexed and then explained that this was not standard practice. It IS standard practice to check your hormone level the day before to ensure the trigger worked. If your hormones indicate it didn’t work, no big deal, they will give you another and let you bake a few more days.

I have had 3 incredibly successful retrievals since switching doctors. My doctor has retrieved 72 eggs.

TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE

The switch in doctors taught me how incredibly important timing is for a retrieval. As you prepare for a retrieval it is SO important you understand the timeline so that you can advocate for yourself. It is your body and you should have the ability to make the call as to wether you need your blood taken, etc.

There are many retrievals that fail for other reasons (egg quality and quantity) which are difficult/near impossible to prevent or predict. Timing can be managed. I hope this is helpful as you prepare to talk with your doctor.

-Annie