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

 

 

 

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

 

 

In case you missed it: Best of Infertility Awareness Week

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

EVERYONE!


Last week was National Infertility Awareness week, the internet was booming with awesome articles about infertility. It was excited to see folks engage in dialogue and feel a little less alone in all of this. Below is some of the best articles I read this past week. I hope you can share continue to spread the word outside of this designated week.

The Loneliness Of Infertility featured in Elle Magazine ->Absolutely beautiful piece- poetic.

The Pain of Infertility Never Goes away featured in Scary Mommy

Why Infertility Awareness Week Should Matter to Moms  featured in Romper

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

TOP 10 THINGS NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE GOING THROUGH IVF (PART 2)

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:

  • My IVF comrade
  • The general public who means well but says all the wrong things

We IVF sisters unfortunately encounter common comments over and over. After a while your ability to see the good in people starts to dwindle because you hear the same asinine comments on repeat. I can say with certainty that if you know someone going through IVF you need to follow a couple steps:

  1. Listen.
  2. Think “Will this response make ______ know I listened?” If the answer is no. DO NOT SAY IT.
  3. Only speak if you have something that is empathetic.

AVOID (in no particular order):

10.“I am friends with another couple who is going through IVF for XXX years and they were so happy for us when we got pregnant. You should be too.”

9. “If you try to adopt, I bet you’ll get pregnant.”

8.“When you start puking when your pregnant, you think why did I do this?”

7. “When your kids are running around your house, you think why did I do this?”

6. “Sleep as much as you can now because you wont be able to when you don’t have a kid.”

5. “I wish I could travel now, but thats over since we have kids.”

4. “It will happen when its supposed to happen.”

3. The obligatory “Just relax. It will happen.”

2. The obligatory “Just stay positive.”

1. Talking about your period or your pregnancy in terms of hormones like we have NO IDEA what hormones do or feel like.

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I LOVE the friends and family guide from Resolve, I recommend emailing it to all of your friends and family as a guide to help them talk to you. It will help depersonalize it and let them know that there are some universal feelings that go into infertility.

-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

Mayan Uterine/Abdominal Massage

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:
  • Women starting infertility treatments
  • Women who are going to transfer an embryo
  • Women who are doing IUIs
  • Women who are struggling to get pregnant and are trying natural remedies

When I first realized something was wrong, I texted my mom my concern. Her name is “ma” in my phone. Instead of it going to her, the text on accident went to my friend Mary (who is Mexican). The text sparked a conversation and she mentioned Mayan massage. She told me her family members swear by it and have gone to small villages in Mexico whenever there was a fertility issue. Fast forward  to my IVF group and my leader mentions that she went to get a Mayan massage before her successful transfer. It sparked a curiosity in me and I made some moves and got one! Below is the who, what, where, and why of Mayan Abdominal Massage.

WHAT/WHY

Mayan abdominal/uterine massage is an ancient technique that helps move the uterus back into place and increase blood flow. Most women’s uterus is tilted one way or another from all sorts of reasons. The way you stand, how you sleep, injuries… you name it. There is no direct link to a tilted uterus to infertility. The way I see it though, there is no harm in getting things back in line. More than just aligning organs, the massage is supposed to help get blood moving.

In Mayan culture, the uterus is the center of the body and where emotions are kept. This is similar to the eastern cultures and a lot of the Mayan philosophies align to the ancient Chinese thoughts (same stuff talked about in acupuncture).

In addition to the massage the therapist also provided me a number of options to try afterwards. This included: a vaginal steam (yep!), castor oil pack, daily massage routine, and uterine meditation cd. The vaginal steam (which apparently Gwyneth Paltrow is into but with crazy technology) is meant to help clear out any old “junk.” You do this before the transfer. I didn’t have time to do it but it didn’t sound too tough. The castor oil also has to be done before a transfer. Once again, didn’t have time due to travel.

I did however maintain the daily routine. She taught a step-by-step massage. It was super interesting because I now know where my uterus is and how to identify it when pressing my abdomen. After the transfer the routine changes because you don’t want to move the uterus. You do continue a light routine to help blood flow after transfer.

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WHO

There are practitioners who are trained under other folks who have been trained in this form of massage. The massage therapist I worked with lived in South America for a while to learn the technique.

I was incredibly happy with my massage therapist because she offered me the option of an additional half hour to learn the techniques. She sat with me and explained the reasoning and purpose behind each move. She even gave me a massage ball for my neck and glutes!

WHERE

I researched Mayan Uterine Massage and read reviews of different practitioners. Most of the reviews I read mostly talked about the effects the massage had on their bowel movements (another reason people get this massage) but overall it sounded like she was a great listener and was considerate. She was indeed both of those things.

She also gave me follow up documents that included additional things to try. I took each thing with a grain of salt and kept the mindset of, “If it doesn’t hurt, why not try it.”

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THE VERDICT

I have no idea if it worked (I guess we can speculate when we the 2WW is over). I do know my lining was great but I could not say definitively it was because of the massage since I was already on my estrogen in preparation for a transfer.  The only “cost” was financial and thus I say go for it. Worse case, you get a great massage and time to chill out.

-Annie

IUI 411

WHO THIS POST IS FOR:
  • Couples who starting fertility treatments

Its been a hot minute since I had an IUI. I have met a lot of women recently who are just starting the fertility process and thus I thought it might be helpful to talk about what an IUI is and what to expect during your procedure.

THANK YOUR LUCKY STARS

IUIs are a piece of cake. I say this now but I know at the time I was a nervous wreck. Although in hindsight, I had a hell of a lot more hope. I thought I would go in, wham-bam and be done with all this. IUIs seem like a breeze now because it was the beginning of it all. I know starting infertility is scary but I promise you, be thankful that you are only doing IUIs. If you get pregnant off of one, you are super lucky.

Now that that’s out of the way, what is an IUI?

IUI: Intrauterine insemination

Before heading down the IVF road, your doctor will make you undergo an IUI (or several). Insurance actually requires this. IUI is non-invasive.  During an IUI the sperm has to find the egg, think its sexy- become an embryo,  and implant. In IVF the job of the sperm finding the egg happens in a petri dish (not your body) and is carefully monitored as the embryo grows, the embryo is then put back in your body to implant. With an IUI everything happens inside of YOU. Its less lab like, only one person stares into your vagina. Like I said, in comparison its a cake walk. HOWEVER its still unfair and not comparable to creating babies the “natural” way.

If you have a limited supply of sperm or don’t react to meds, you will be fast tracked to IVF because the probability of you becoming pregnant off an IUI is 20- 25% (the same as two people just trying at home in their comfy bed (age related of course)— I imagine this is how children are made) and time and resources are precious.

Also, according to AmericanPregancy.org, you will not have an IUI if you fall into one of these categories:

  • Women who have severe disease of the fallopian tubes
  • Women with a history of pelvic infections
  • Women with moderate to severe endometriosis
CHLOMID

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To prepare you for your IUI you will be put on the infamous Chlomid or something like it. I have met only one woman in my life who wasn’t affected by Chlomid. Most people complain that it makes your mood insane. I personally didnt have mood issues, I had issues with my brain completely malfunctioning. During this period of my life I: yelled at strangers thinking they were friends, walked into walls, showed up to appointments that didn’t exist, triple booked meetings, etc. On Chlomid my brain was like a mush of cotton candy who flew to Phoenix for winter, it was checked out.

Once you know how you will react you can plan accordingly. Maybe you hold off from being super social for the weeks leading up to it.

DOC APPOINTMENTS

You will have a lot of doctors appointment to check your follicles and lining. Right when they think you are going to ovulate, you will have your procedure. This means you will need to be ready to drop your schedule and make it work. Its a lot of pressure because the sperm has to be perfect which means you will have to have sex on specific days leading up to the procedure. Personally for us it was weird because it completely stripped the romance out of creating a child (once again that notion is now long gone).

DAY OF PROCEDURE

When you arrive you will either have your partner provide a specimen or you will give them some from earlier that morning, or the freezer. They will clean the specimen in a machine for about 40 minutes. Essentially they are removing any extra “junk” so that its the purest sperm going towards your eggs. My recommendation, go get brunch so you aren’t sitting there twiddling your fingers.

Once the sperm is “clean”  you will go into the room for your procedure. There are a lot of jokes about being turkey basted BUT that is essentially what they do. Your nurse will place a catheter into your uterus so that the sperm can meet the eggs. This is not comfortable, shocker!

Recommendation: Have your partner hold your hand. Its the most intimate you will be able to get during this.

Once the sperm is inside of you, you will lay there with your booty in the air for 15 minutes (dreamy, right?!). You will then get dressed and wait for two weeks. Its nerve wracking but in the grand scheme of things, its not too bad 🙂

I will be honest, I can’t remember what the aftercare was like. I do know that I ran a 5K while I was waiting so I don’t think it was a lot.

 

-Annie