KNOCK ME UP, DOC

January 16 – 21, 2016

Today we’re missing out on a family get-together to celebrate my brother-in-law’s birthday. It’s fine.  We’re only missing it due to a *minor* surgery. We were a little upset to once again miss a family event due to some sort of infertility appointment, but at the same time excited because this was a major event for us. It’s one step closer to knock up day! In the meantime, JM and I had to wake up at 5am on a Saturday morning. JM and I hit the road at 530am and drive an hour to the surgical center. I’m so uncomfortable and beyond ready to get these eggs taken out. When we arrive, the nurses get me set up with an IV and the anesthesiologist asks me a bunch of health questions, yada, yada, yada. I explain to the anesthesiologist that I get very nauseous and usually vomit as soon as I wake up from the anesthesia. He promises me there are drugs for that and will take care of me.

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JM hands one of the nurses his prized sample in a plastic container and brown paper baggie – only to find out his swimmers literally swam out of the container. WTF!? I don’t know why, (of course I know why… I’m flipping hormonal as ever!) but I begin to panic. Timing is critical with IVF and JM was to provide a sample of his swimmers exactly 2 hours before my eggs were ready to be fertilized on a petri-dish. The nurse assures me it is fine and JM can provide another sample while I’m getting my eggs taken out.

When it’s finally my turn to get my eggs out at 8:30am the nurse walks me over to the freezing cold surgical room. The doctor who is about to retrieve my eggs instructs me to lay down on the table and once again put my legs up in the stirrups. I beg him to please do his best to not disturb my endometriosis and to take care of my babies (literally). He states he will do his damnedest to avoid touching my endo. The next thing I know, the room starts to get fuzzy and I’m out for the count.

Obviously while under anesthesia you don’t remember a thing. The next thing I remember is waking up back in the hospital bed and room I was in before my procedure and JM is sitting in the chair where I left him. I’m as groggy as can be, but the embryologist insists on having a conversation with me. The news she tells me wakes me up instantly. She tells me I had 16 eggs retrieved. (OMG! 16?!?!?!) I have no idea what that means and proceed to ask her if 16 is a lot or a little. She said it’s a great number and is the average amount people have retrieved. The embryologist states someone will call me tomorrow to let me know how many fertilized.

JM and I are absolutely thrilled to hear I had 16 eggs retrieved. Can you imagine if they all fertilize? Suddenly, my attitude about this whole IVF experience did a 180. This could potentially be 16 embryos! Well, not like we need that many babies, but it would mean we could potentially have many more tries of getting pregnant without having to go through all the injections again.

After JM and the nurse finally get me to eat something, I’m discharged and free to go home around 1230pm. We had an hour long drive home and the whole time I was nauseous. With 2 minutes to go before we pull into our driveway, I say to JM, “I seriously feel like I have to vomit.” The second JM pulls into our driveway, I open my car door and literally vomit what seemed like a gallon of clear liquid. Once again, another anesthesiologist failed me and I got sick after surgery. For the rest of the day I stayed in bed and enjoyed having JM serve me Gatorades and fruit smoothies.

Fast forward to the next day….

I get a call from the embryologist around 9:30am with the news of how my eggs did. The embryologist requests that I grab paper and pen to write down all my numbers and next steps. Out of the 16 eggs retrieved we had 11 fertilize — 2 fertilized abnormally and were discarded. HOLY CRAP, we have 9 embryos! NINE! I could barely contain my excitement and tears start to roll down my cheeks. The embryologist continues to tell me what medicines I need to continue to take to prevent infection, and that I’d need to come back to the surgical center in 4 days for the embryo transfer.

As soon as I get off the phone with the embryologist I immediately call JM with the news. I could just hear his smile over the phone. I then move on to call my mom, and then my in-laws, and then I text my three college roommates. I kept thanking God for giving me 9 embryos to work with. This is exactly the outcome I was praying for.

The next four days were the longest days of my life. The morning of our embryo transfer, JM and I decided to head towards the surgical center early and enjoy breakfast at one of my favorite restaurants to celebrate what we’re about to do. The embryologist told me I would hear from the Baby Businessman before the transfer with an update on how my embryos were doing. By the time I arrived to the surgical center I realize I didn’t hear from the Baby Businessman at all yet.

I sign in at the front desk and immediately the receptionist said that my Baby Businessman wanted to talk to me. My mind starts racing and suddenly I find myself getting anxious. What if I drove all the way there only to find out none of my embryos survived? What if we had nothing to transfer? What if all my embryos are superior quality and I could pick whatever one I wanted to transfer? What if he wanted me to transfer 3 embryos rather than 2?

The receptionist escorts me to a private office so I could talk to the Baby Businessman on the phone and I left JM in the lobby. The Baby Businessman is on the line and proceeds to tell me that apparently I have very poor egg quality and all of our embryos are graded a “C”. None of them made it to the bastocyst stage – aka a specific number of cells by day 5. How could this be? I’m only 32 years old? I try so hard to hold it together while talking to him on the phone, but my mouth is full of verbal diarrhea and I begin asking him “but why?” over and over again. I just couldn’t quite comprehend why this is suddenly happening to me.

The Baby Businessman wants me to transfer 2 of the embryos.The remaining 7 will be discarded and I will be left with nothing to freeze. Devastated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. What I’m about to say is probably very controversial, but in my mind I just had 7 miscarriages in a matter of seconds. Those were 7 of our babies that were alive for 5 days and I just lost all of them.

I walk out of the private office, down the hallway and towards the lobby. I wave JM over and begin hyperventilating. I guess you could call it a panic attack and cried in his arms. I couldn’t quite get the words out of my mouth to tell him the news I just received and finally I was able to mouth to him, “We have nothing left; my eggs are crap.” Everything about our infertility is my fault. I can’t even begin to describe how small I felt right then. There is nothing worse than knowing as a wife, I am failing at giving my husband a family.

We’re called into another room to begin our embryo transfer of our “C”quality embryos. The nurse takes my blood pressure and sure enough it was very high. My blood pressure is always the same – around 115/75. Not this time. It was 155/95. That’s very high for me. Clearly the news I received made my blood pressure rise. I get undressed from the waist down, lay on the table and put my feet up in the stirrups. The ultrasound technician checks to make sure my bladder is full for the procedure and suddenly my mind is only thinking about not peeing on the table. Next thing I know, I am laying there with my legs wide open with a doctor, nurse, ultrasound technician, and 2 embryologists staring at me and my husband holding my hand. How many people does it take to knock this girl up in 5 minutes? Clearly 6 people.

The doctor measures my uterus lining and comments on how “fluffy” it is. She states that if she were an embryo she’d want to live there. <<insert awkwardness>> The doctor performing the embryo transfer inserts the catheter guided by ultrasound. JM and I are able to watch the transfer happen on the TV monitor and see exactly when the embryos are put into my uterus. It was fascinating. The doctor recorded the transfer and let it play on repeat.

After they put the embryos in, I had to lay on the table for 5 minutes. The embryologist comes into the room and hands us a photo in a card-stock frame. It’s a photo of our two embryos that they put in me. I stare at the photo for a minute letting it process that these are our babies I’m looking at. (See photo below).

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After the procedure, the doctor instructs me to take it easy the rest of the day and to avoid any strenuous activity until my pregnancy test in 10 days and to not lift anything more than 15 pounds. I head into work like as if it’s another day and continue about my daily business. The doctors said that if the embryos are going to stick, implantation will happen in the next 48 hours. All day at work all I could think about was what I just went through. Technically I’m “pregnant” right now with two, but I have no way in knowing if they will implant until 10 days from now. Once again, I’m tortured with the dreaded “2 week wait.”

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THE BIRDS, THE BEES, AND… THE NEEDLES

January 5 – January 15, 2016

Shit just got real. I mean, the 3 IUIs were real, but suddenly the thought of starting IVF today was a slap of reality. Actually cutting a $5200 check this morning to pay for the IVF was the real slap of reality for me. This may be my last couple of weeks of not being pregnant. I arrived to the baby salesman’s office for my day 3 bloodwork and ultrasound on January 5th and proceed to take a number like as if I’m at the deli counter and wait to be called. Once again my arm meets the needles and my legs are up in the stirrups. Thankfully everything is good to go to proceed with our IVF journey.

My assigned nurse asks me if I have any plans to be out of town between now and January 20th. I tell her I actually had plans to go visit my college roommate this weekend who lives 7 hours away to finally meet her twin boys. The nurse tells me immediately that I will not be able to leave the local area at all during the IVF monitoring and I need to cancel my plans. I’ve said it before in previous posts, but I feel the need to remind you all of something very significant when it comes to infertility procedures. Fertility forces you to live in the present. There is no such thing as planning in advance, traveling, or maintaining a standard work schedule when it comes to fertility. For the third time, I cancel my plans to visit my best friend and her babies. I kid you not. This is literally the third time I’ve had to reschedule — thanks to my infertility procedures. I feel so guilty and like an awful friend for not having met the babies yet.

The evening of the 5th JM administers my first two injections —Gonal-F and Menopur— to kick off the ovary pumping hormones. The purpose of these meds were to begin stimulating follicle growth (aka. multiple eggs) from the ovaries. Something to note is that this process is the farthest thing from how your body naturally operates. As I’m sure you learned back in 5th grade health class, every month the woman matures one sometimes two eggs on one ovary. The way stimulated IVF works is that the meds produce multiple mature eggs on both ovaries. My doctor wants to see at least 12 follicles grow to maturity by the time I need to have them retrieved. See? Not normal for the human body to go through this. The baby businessman started me off with a mid-level amount for each injection because my estrogen levels were moderately low. Although the injections go into your abdomen area, I barely feel the needles at all. It’s relatively painless.

As the week went on, I went back to the baby businessman’s office every other day. This was to monitor my hormone levels and follicles growth. Each time I went to the office, the baby businessman sent me home with instructions to increase my medicine dosages.

Turns out I had to go in on the weekend for monitoring. Good thing I didn’t leave town to visit my college roommate. When I went in for my Saturday morning appointment —7:15am mind you— on January 9th, I asked the ultrasound technician if it’s normal for me to cry over everything. Clearly the meds were making me (excuse my lack of a better term)… hormonal. Everything made me shed tears. I’d watch a good performance on American Idol, I’d cry. I read a disturbing article in the paper how a man killed his mother, I cried. My husband would tell me how beautiful I am, I’d cry. I got caught in traffic which put me 5 minutes late to an appointment, I cried. It’s insane how much I was crying… over absolutely nothing. (Thank you waterproof mascara!) I never considered myself a hormonal person by any means, but these meds destroyed me and messed with my hormones.

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I got an evening call from my assigned nurse giving me my hormone levels and next instructions, she tells me my hormone levels doubled. NO WONDER WHY I’M CRYING OVER EVERYTHING. However, the doctor still wants me to increase my hormone meds even more. SERIOUSLY?!?!
I proceed to tell the nurse that I’m about to run out of meds because of how much they keep cranking up the amount. The nurse sends a prescription in to the pharmacy. Let me spare you the long story with that. Lets just say that cost me another $1700 out of pocket.

The week of the 11th I had morning blood and ultrasound monitoring appointments every. single. day. While I still had to continue my two egg-making hormone shots every day, I then had to tack on another injection called Cetrotide, to my morning routine. This med forces the eggs to stay in the follicle and prevents premature release (aka ovulation). This med did me in. My abdomen literally started bruising. (See the picture below.) Imagine having the amount of follicles I had growing. Seventeen to be exact. Each one was currently the size of 12-15mm, but needed to eventually get to 19-22mm. That’s nearly 1-inch each. Let me do the math for you. That’s nearly 17-inches that doesn’t normally take up space inside my body. My stomach was beyond swollen by Wednesday. I was so bloated, bruised, uncomfortable… and miserable. After every shot this week, I literally said to JM “This better work because I don’t think I can do this again.” I’m probably not doing the description of the word “miserable” and “discomfort” any justice at all to truly make you understand just how awful this experience was for me and my poor body.

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This week was a tough week. My supervisor at work wanted me to brief at a meeting this week, but I couldn’t give her a definitive answer on whether or not I could do it. I had no idea when my eggs would be ready for retrieval. It killed me that I couldn’t plan at all this week. Not for work. Not for my personal life.

Finally Thursday the 14th I was given instructions to take my last final injection —the ass-muscle injection called HCG or rather “the trigger shot.” This shot tells the ovaries exactly when to release the eggs. In 36 hours to be exact. When I had my morning monitoring appointment, the nurse drew a circle on my ass to help JM pinpoint exactly where he needed to inject the medicine. There is nothing glamorous about IVF.  We had to take the shot at exactly 8:30pm. Any sooner or any later would mess up the timing of my egg release and retrieval procedure I had scheduled for Saturday 16 January. Precision was crucial.

If you’re wondering if the ass-muscle shot hurt, the answer is “not at all.” Honestly, I couldn’t feel a thing – regardless of the fact that the needle was literally 2.5” long. Was I thankful to know this was my last injection? Absol-freakin-lutely! Friday I only had to take one medicine, which was an antibiotic to prevent infection from the egg retrieval procedure I’m going to have on Saturday.

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I went to bed Friday night with so many emotions. I had feelings of hope, fear, optimism, discomfort, but yet excitement all at the same time. At this point I was so uncomfortable and bloated. My stomach was now hanging over my pants. (See photo above.) Because egg retrieval is practically surgery, I wasn’t allowed to eat or drink past midnight — which was totally fine because I didn’t have any more room in my body to fit another piece of food. I forced myself to go to bed early that night so that Saturday would seem like it was here sooner. I was so ready to get this IVF thing over with, but more importantly I wanted the eggs out of me and my body to return to normal. I said a prayer before I fell asleep and asked a very selfish request that if this round of IVF doesn’t get me pregnant, all I wanted were frozen embryos left over so that I wouldn’t have to put my body through this horrific process again.

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS $5k IN IVF MEDICINES

December 7, 2015 – January 3, 2016

December 10th is my pregnancy blood test for IUI attempt #3. In the meantime while we patiently wait for my 2 Week Wait (2WW) to end, our baby salesman wanted to discuss next steps towards IVF in the event my pregnancy test is negative. Yes, you read that right. The baby salesman was anticipating another failed procedure and anticipating taking more money from us early. Looking back, I should have taken this as a sign.

JM and I made an appointment to discuss next steps with the baby salesman 3 days before the pregnancy test. When we were called into his office, we assume our usual positions in the dreaded bulky leather chairs. I have such a hatred for those leather chairs because every time we sit in them it’s to discuss the negative. JM and I decided from the beginning that we’d try IUIs three times before moving on to IVF. My insurance only allows a maximum of six IUIs for the lifetime of the insurance, so we wanted to reserve the other three for another time.

The baby businessman discussed with us an IVF plan specific to our needs. Basically, I’d start birth control at the beginning of my next menses for 21 days. Then at the start of the following menses, I’d begin the hormone stimulating injections. JM and I decided there was no reason to wait, and we were as financially ready to do this as we’d ever be. I’m the type of person who refuses to take out loans, so we tried very hard throughout the entire year to just live off one salary so we could fill our savings account with baby making money just in case. Trust me, mentally I had a very hard time accepting the fact that we were about to drop over $10,000 just to ATTEMPT to get pregnant. There was no guarantee. There was no refund if it doesn’t work. We’re about to gamble all this money for something we don’t know will work. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a hard time processing this.

The whole IVF cycle takes between 6-8 weeks to complete. The baby salesman tried to sell me on doing a more extensive embryo quality test for another $2k, but I laughed at him and said “no thank you.” If I was over 35, I’d absolutely do it, but I’m young and believe my eggs are fine. After our hour-long consultation, I came home with a prescription in hand for birth control pills which will begin the process of suppressing my ovaries to get them ready for high stimulation. If my pregnancy test is negative in 3 days, the plan is for me to start the birth control immediately.

When our appointment was over, my mind was only on money. I just kept thinking about our savings account and what if this try doesn’t work. I’m a saver. Call me selfish. Call me greedy. But how is it fair that getting pregnant is supposed to be a “free” act, but yet we have to spend a college tuition to do it? On the car ride home I said to JM, “This is going to be a light Christmas this year. Lets set some boundaries and make sure not to spend no more than $200 on each other this year. We have a baby to buy.”

Fast forward to December 10th… the day of my 23rd negative pregnancy test. My attitude and emotions after this test were different compared to all the other times. I was over it. At this point, I just wanted to do what a girl has got to do to get knocked up. I was anxious. Anxious to just move on and get going on the IVF. I was convinced the IVF will absolutely work. The doctors will literally be putting a baby into my uterus. This is guaranteed to work, right?

I got my period a couple days later and began the birth control pills and continue to take them for the next 21 days. In the meantime, I begin some of the preparation tasks the baby salesman wants me to do. I did a mock embryo transfer. This is to document the shape and size of my uterus so when it comes time to transfer the actual embryos, the doctors know exactly where they are to place the catheter. JM and I took another injection class. Although we were already pros at injections because of the IUIs, there is one different injection that requires JM to literally put it in my ass muscle. Glorious!

I knew that with IVF it involved a lot of medicines, but I guess I didn’t quite mentally prepare myself for just how much we were going to need or going to spend. Unfortunately, my insurance does not cover infertility medicines, so everything must be paid for out of pocket. The pharmacy tells me the grand total and it’s $4800. HOLY CRAP. I wasn’t expecting that number!

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When the medicines arrived the next day, you would have thought we received packages filled with Christmas gifts. Just check out the photo above. The boxes were so big. Yes, plural. We received 4 boxes filled with medicines. All of these drugs and hormones were about to go into my body over the next couple of weeks. I’m not sure how this is the new norm, but if this is what I have to do to get knocked up, then so be it.

I forced myself to try to be as relaxed and unstressed as I possibly could. I made sure to enjoy my last few adult beverages on Christmas and New Years because on 3 January, everything will begin. Rather than making a New Years resolution this year, JM and I both said a prayer that the IVF will work. We were convinced that 2016 WILL. BE. OUR. YEAR.