Give Grace

This post may be the most difficult to write and be brutally honest throughout, because the topic I find myself needing to express about is hormones and the resulting emotional difficulties that one goes through during IVF and other infertility treatments. It’s a vulnerable thing to talk about the worst parts of all of this, but I know that I am not the only one that is, has, or will go through it. And if it can help someone else feel like they are not alone, or help a loved one of someone going through a similar situation understand, then I suppose it is worth it.

As an ICU nurse who has seen a lot of the worst parts of living and dying, I have had to learn through my career how to hide emotions so I can perform my job effectively. I also have had to learn how to find ways to release those emotions once I have left work to be a part of the real world. On a normal basis, I think that I have, after years of figuring it out, become pretty good at these two things. I have learned that it is ok to feel things, but sometimes there has to be the right time and place for it, and that there are better and more healthy ways to process through situations than others.

In a sense, I feel like because of my job I have done more than an average person needs to do to train myself to process difficult emotions, and to do it in a healthy manner.

IVF in general, and particularly this current cycle has tested my abilities in this in every way. I will mostly talk about this cycle because it is current, fresh, and has been by far the most difficult. But if you have read through our story, you know that each cycle has seen its fair share of difficulties with each its own highs and lows.

I honestly went into this one with some confidence. We have done this before, we know what to expect, and I have a pretty solid support system of people I can talk to candidly about treatment by this point. It started just like every other one has, a month of birth control and waiting. Easy, I can handle that. I’ve waited for over two years, that has become second nature by now.

Then, we started the estrogen patches.

Estrogen patches

In our previous two cycles, I have only had to wear one, and we would start those around the time of our embryo transfer. This time, they upped the dosage to three patches at a time, starting at the beginning of the month. The first couple of days were easy. I actually was pretty happy with how things were going and excited that I was not going to have to do injections for the greater part of the cycle, unlike the last two.

Then, I think when the estrogen had built up enough in my system, it felt like everything just kind of started falling apart around me.

At home, I have not gone a day without breaking down and crying. Sometime for little to no reason. Other times it’s small things that would not usually bother me at all. And then there are the usual birth announcments, seeing kids playing, driving by mothers walking their babies in a stroller. These things have always nagged at me throughout this. The occasional reminders that I am less than, and no matter how hard I try, I can’t have that. At least not right now.

Those have crippled me this time. When I started by telling you that I have learned to bury emotions, its because this time around, I have no idea how to. I feel like I have trained for this, and I have no idea how to do it all of sudden. Like training your whole life for the big game, then stepping up to the plate and forgetting how to hold your bat. Everything I feel is just on a scale that I have not had to deal with before.

“Well you’re on three times the amount of estrogen you have ever been on”.

Yep. And then I had my one appointment to check my labs and lining to make sure we are a go for our transfer on Friday.

First of all, after everything we have been through at our fertility clinic, I have anxiety even driving in to the parking lot there. I don’t throw the word anxiety around lightly, because that’s a real medical issue, not just something you have when you don’t feel right. But at this point, I can’t sleep the night before an appointment, I pace before I leave the house, and driving in I can feel my heart rate rising, and the sinking in the pit of my stomach. My body has a literal physical aversion to the place.

Then I find out (alone, because Aaron is still not allowed in) that my lining is not good enough. Our transfer is now pushed back a week. And the worst part, is I have now also added another estrogen dose that I take morning and night. Three estrogen patches, and two extra doses a day.

I thought I was losing it before. Now I’m pumping estrogen into my body five different ways a day. And we haven’t even added in the progesterone shots leading up to the transfer.

We can deal with the week delay. But I left that appointment in tears because I now have to take more meds that make me feel like I have lost all control of myself and my emotions. It is terrifying, and I’m just searching for the end…the light at the end of the tunnel. But there isn’t one. There’s no guarantee that this will ever end.

I don’t write this as a woe is me story. But someone you know, if it’s not yourself is going through infertility. It is a scary, emotional, lonely place to be sometimes. And then you add in hormonal treatments that make your mind and your emotions not your own. Have grace.

If you know someone, tell them you love them. Give them some time, and let them talk. Don’t offer advice, just listen. Ask how they are doing, and allow them to be honest with you.

If you’re in the thick of things, give YOURSELF some grace. Be crazy, but reserve it for your support system and those that can handle it. The ones who will try to understand at the end of the day and love you anyways, even if you are not yourself.

And just in general, the world is a scary emotional place anyways these days. Be understanding and do your best to love one another. We never know what’s really happening to those around us and what they might be up against.

Grade A

There it is! Every tear I have cried, every minute of sleep lost, every prayer I have spoken, every trip to the doctors, every blood draw, every ultrasound, every injection that has pierced my skin or medication that has been through my body, every hope, and every dream I have had the last few months. Every decision I have made for months now has revolved around this tiny cluster of cells, no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence.

Isn’t it beautiful and perfect?! ❤️❤️❤️❤️

Our one surviving embryo was transferred back in to my body on Saturday morning, where it has hopefully nestled into my uterus and is drawing up plans to remain there for 9 months!

I won’t lie, learning that only one out of our six embryos survived came as a bit of a shock to Aaron and I. After hearing that all six had successfully fertilized, we were hopeful that maybe we would continue to beat the statistics of 1/2 of all fertilized usually make it to day 5. In all reality, I went into our appointment expecting to have at least 3, which would allow us to freeze the extras and use them for future transfers instead of having to start this process from the beginning. At first, I was really just filled with fear. If this doesn’t work, it will be months until we get back to this point. Months of more medications, more money, more shots, more appointments. The thought of it all honestly brought me to tears.

But then I realized, God doesn’t need me to have a back up plan, and he sure doesn’t want me sitting there scared when I have this incredible gift already inside of me. He gave us one, beautiful, perfect, “grade A” embryo and I am so excited and thankful to see what He makes of it. Even if there is no baby to hold at the end of this, it has changed my life for the better in so many ways and has brought me so much closer to the people around me.

I have spent the last couple of days really just kind of in awe about life and creation, and wanted to share my thoughts with you all.

The video above shows an embryo developing after 3 days to when the blastocyst (a fancy word for a mature embryo) hatches. For reference, the picture of our embryo is a day 5 blastocyst. To the normal eye, it kind of just looks like a cell or a blob. Nothing that exciting or special. Women who do IVF LOVE to research and know everything about everything, though, so I’m about to teach ya the basics. 😆

An egg and a sperm come together and turn two pairs of 23 chromosomes into 46, which is obviously your blue print of who you are. Then the one cell turns into two, which turns into 4, which turns into 8 and so on. Then all of a sudden, these cells just somehow KNOW to form a blob (seen in the video as the Morula stage). When they start splitting again, they are all of a sudden 2 different kinds of cells, that will go on to accomplish two different kinds of things. If you look at our embryo, the bigger cluster of cells right at the top will hopefully go on to be the fetus, and line of cells down at the bottom near the edge go on to form the placenta. From that point on, they have their own jobs and purpose. From those two kinds of cells, millions of others will form and create a brain, a heart, lungs, skin, eyes, etc. All with their own purpose and job!

My point is this…..life is INCREDIBLE. It is magic, It is an absolute MIRACLE. And I don’t think we take the time often enough to really think about that. You once looked like that little blob I love so much, and so did every one else that you come across in your life.

So, maybe take a step back this Christmas and remember that. Be grateful for the body you have and for the people you love ❤️

Aaron and I will not know whether I am pregnant for 2 weeks. With the holidays, and the sensitive nature of whatever comes next, I am not sure what or when my next update will be. I do want you all to know how much I appreciate you following along, and sending or giving me words of encouragement and prayer throughout this ordeal. I will never forget the support I felt throughout this process ❤️❤️

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you!!!

Retrieval, Tour de Carbs, and fertilization!

Our egg retrieval was yesterday morning! Everything went really well other than I thought the procedure room was apparently ugly in my drug induced haze 😂 The nurse started an IV, got some fluids going, gave me some sedation meds, and the whole thing was done and over with in 20 minutes or so.

I’m really starting to figure out how to wear this hat well! 😂

I came to in the recovery chair where Aaron was waiting for me. Not long after that, they came to give us the results! The embryologist had counted SIX live eggs that were retrieved.

SIX! We hadn’t lost any in the process, and we were thrilled with that!

We knew leaving the office was going to be difficult. It would be the first of a few agonizing waits, while we anticipated a phone call to tell us how many successfully fertilized, transforming my eggs into EMBRYOS!

But, we had a plan! One we have talked about and plotted against for weeks now. I’ve mentioned before, but Aaron and I had cut out a huge portion of carbs from our diet to enhance the health of my eggs and his precious cargo. This means that we stopped eating pizza, pasta, dessert, anything processed, bread, and really what all is good in life.

So now that my eggs were out, and his job was done…we went on what I like to call…..our Tour De Carbs! 😂😂

We went straight from the clinic to B-Bops, where I enjoyed a wonderful double cheeseburger, fries, and a Dr. Pepper.

After that, it was definitely nap time. Don’t worry, we jumped right back in afterwards and wasted no time! Aaron made me my favorite pasta dish, shrimp Alfredo with some delicious garlic bread.

And then this….😂😂

The perfect punny ice cream cake from Cold Stone. I don’t know which was better, retrieving six eggs or my husband presenting me with the best cake pun I have ever received ❤️

With all of the distractions and running around yesterday, we made it through pretty well without worrying too much. This morning I woke up, and the anxiety started to creep back in.

Usually, only half of the eggs retrieved will fertilize. So waiting for a phone call today to hear the number was a little bit painful. That number was really going to determine how difficult the rest of the week is going to be as we wait for our final result of mature embryos on Saturday (which is the next time I will hear anything about them). I really had to catch myself a few times to take a deep breath, look up, and pray instead of getting caught in the fear circling inside of my head.

Then the news finally arrived around 2 this afternoon…

100% OF OUR EGGS FERTILIZED. 6 OUT 6. ALL OF THEM!

Praise God!!!!!!!! Even the nurse on the phone was quick to point out that this rarely happens. Just a little over a week ago, they told us to quit the cycle and try again, and now we have SIX EMBRYOS. Six living, growing, cells with Aaron and I’s DNA in them!

To say what today means to Aaron and I, I really don’t think is possible. We have been trying to get pregnant for 2 years now, but have never had a positive pregnancy test. As of today, him and I have created life together, even if they are swimming around in a Petri dish miles away from us. A miracle that we weren’t sure was possible for us, has now happened. And it may only just be the beginning.

There really is no better feeling ❤️

Tonight, I will start back up with injections to prepare my lining that will continue until 12 weeks of pregnancy if we are successful. Saturday morning, we will find out our final number of embryos. At 10 am, we will go in and they will transfer 1-2 back into my body after they have finished maturing. From there, it will be back to faith! There’s no guarantee that my little embabys will stick to my uterine wall. But for now, we are choosing to be so happy and grateful for the blessings we have received in such a short amount of time!

Love you all!

The Power of Prayer

Ok folks, I have to admit…I had to go back and read my last post because I knew I left you all hanging, but wasn’t really sure where. So much has happened, and changed, and changed again from my last update that it has left my head spinning.

The last week of our lives has been powerful, and dramatic, and beautiful, and at some points ugly. You know when you look back in time, and you realize how you changed slowly through a difficult situation, but you didn’t really know it was happening in the moment? I have seen that over the course of this journey in Aaron and I. But this week, change hit home, and it hit hard and fast. We are not the same people we were a week ago, and no matter how this ends, this has been one of the most beautiful rides of my life because it has changed me, and it has changed us.

Buckle up friends, I am taking you for a ride.

I left you all last asking for some support, and some prayer. Boy, how I didn’t know how big that was going to be! Last Friday, we went in for our second appointment. From what I could tell of the ultrasound, we had not made much progress from before. The nurse didn’t seem optimistic and we left doing all we could to remain hopeful. I received the phone call as we were at a tree farm to cut down our Christmas tree. My blood counts were low, had barely increased from the last, my eggs were few and small.

They cancelled our IVF cycle.

From my last post, maybe you know that we have been gearing up for this for MONTHS now. Working on our minds, our bodies, our relationship, figuring out finances. To say this was a blow to the gut is a complete understatement. I don’t know if it’s the extra hormones I am shooting myself up with multiple times a day for this, but I took this news pretty hard. To do everything you possibly can, and realize at the end of the day that you have no control over any of it is a really tough reality check. I spent most of the day in and out of tears, trying to do anything but think about how I was supposed to pick up the pieces yet again and start over. Some sort of strength came over me, however, and I pleaded my case with the Fertility Clinic. I convinced them to continue with the medications and at least shoot for an IUI out of this cycle as I did have a couple of follicles growing and I felt like it was a waste to just let them go. They seemed somewhat reluctant but decided we would give it a try. They cancelled all of my appointments for the weekend and scheduled me for Monday.

Here is where all of you wonderful people so beautifully intercede into my story. I asked for prayers to get my ovaries working like I needed them to. I had many of you reach out, and tell me that you did so. I know there’s even more that probably did and didn’t say anything. Aaron and I, in our grief, decided to get up on Saturday, pray and go to church. We had folks who laid hands on us at church and pray over us as we cried. I am not the kind of person that likes to make myself the center of attention, and I definitely am not usually the person up front getting prayed over. But desperate times I suppose call for desperate measures. My prayer at that point was really not even about having a baby. More so, I just wanted some relief from this process, and for Aaron and I to find some peace in the pain.

Sunday, I got up and went to work. I had done my grieving and needed to get back to normal life. I did my best to keep my mind off of the situation, and get through the day.

Then Monday morning rolled around and we went back in for another appointment. At this point we have completely accepted our fate and were just going to do the best we could to get through another IUI (albeit this one a little different than before as I continued to do injections instead of just monitoring for ovulation). Low and behold, the ultrasound got going and there were follicles! And what looked like a few. In the afternoon, I received a phone call and my estrogen levels had finally made a bump! Not anything drastic, but it was enough for everyone to finally feel somewhat optimistic that IUI was a real possibility. For the first time since Friday, I got a little bit excited about what the big man upstairs has going on up his sleeve. Maybe this was how it was supposed to be all along.

Wednesday was our next check in. Wednesday was the day on my IVF calendar that was one of my possible “retrieval days”. So I woke up full well knowing that my body was far behind from where they wanted me to be. But I saddled up into those stirrups I now know so well 😂 and almost overnight I had more follicles pop up that were good size. 2 good ones on the right and 3-4 good ones on the left! My blood work phone call that afternoon kind of blew me away. My estrogen levels had jumped from 200 to almost 700!! (1000 is goal for IVF). All of a sudden, the question came up of can we possibly salvage this back into an IVF cycle? The answer we got….maybe!

Thursday was my next ultrasound/blood work and once again, we had another good rise in estrogen, and my eggs were just borderline for size. We asked the question again…IVF vs IUI? We got the same answer. Let’s check again tomorrow. Hurry up and wait. Keep poking yourself, we will see.

So, we have made it to today. A week of finding ourselves in the midst of grief, of waiting, of frantic praying, and in the outpouring of love from people all around us.

As of today, I have 6 eggs that are big enough to “harvest” through an egg retrieval. My estrogen levels have made it to 1160. In one short week, miracles happened. And I really believe all of that is owed to the prayer and support you all have given us. I was asked by the medical team today whether I wanted to continue down the IVF or IUI road, knowing that 6 is a low number for an egg retrieval and that may leave us with little or no eggs that survive the next phase if we chose IVF.

Aaron called while I was shopping from work to discuss the choice we were facing. It was while I was on the phone with him that God gave me the sign… I stopped in the aisle to talk, and I looked over and saw this.

Pineapples have somehow made it into the infertility culture as a symbol of hope. There is an old wives tale that if you eat the core of the pineapple after an embryo transfer, it will help with implantation. Whether that is true, I don’t know…but it has been a symbol I have seen countless times through this journey on internet searches, forums and so on.

To turn around and see a pineapple in the very minute I am deciding on IVF/no IVF, really just kind of made me giggle. You may not believe in God, you may not believe in divine intervention, but after this week, I do! And he slapped me right in the face with our next move today ❤️

So, after we thought all was lost just a week ago, we find ourselves now preparing for an IVF retrieval on Monday morning. We know that the odds are still not in our favor, but life really slapped us upside the head this week and I know no matter what, we have strength to get through whatever is next for us. If you so choose, we ask for you to pray for our next steps. Specifically, for Aaron and I to find some peace and moments of rest this weekend as we are stressing about the retrieval. For our eggs to continue to grow through the weekend, and for them to survive the extraction, insemination, and growth period.

We love you all, and every ounce of support has been truly a blessing for us in this strange place we find ourselves. Stay tuned…

A New Hope

Well, we have made it to phase 2 of our cycle, stimulation. I am having trouble finding words to describe the emotions of the last week leading up to today, so I think I will start back a little further. Our prep work for this cycle started weeks, even months before any meds were given, calendars made, or classes attended.

It started with picking ourselves up after our last failed round of IUI (intra uterine insemination), getting our minds and bodies right, and finding hope in this situation that tends to tear it away consistently, and without fail. Months ago, I switched my diet in preparation for this cycle. After a significant amount of research, I cut out all that is good in life and started a low carb, high protein diet. This was a huge lifestyle change for both Aaron and I, but we did it in the HOPE that it might make a difference.

I read multiple books on IVF, and things you can do to increase your chances of success. If you are currently going through any sort of infertility, I highly recommend It Starts With the Egg by Rebecca Fett. From the information I found there, I started taking what seems like a pharmacy of supplements every day. Supplements that are supposed to help in producing healthy eggs, and for Aaron healthy sperm. These supplements have not been cheap, and have had to find their place in our budget, in the HOPE that they might make a difference.

I have tangled with my mental health, and what I can be doing to support a healthy mind-body balance. This has been one of the more tricky areas to improve, because after so much failure in this area of life it can be hard to maintain a positive attitude about any of it. So I turned to writing here, to sharing and talking about this outside of our marriage. This has been a huge blessing and I so appreciate anyone who has said kind words to me about the blog. I am a part of some support groups online, have found others that have gone through or are going through a similar situation, and have found my people that are able to talk to me (mostly me talking at them) about our experiences and how I am feeling every day. Huge shout out to my momma ❤️

I meditate every day.I have started doing yoga as light exercise since I am not supposed to be doing anything vigorous. I wake up early, and go to bed on time to maintain a hormonal balance. My whole day is planned around things that bring HOPE to a difficult situation.

And then there’s God. Boy, Him and I have had some chats in the last few months. I really was grappling with my faith after our last IUI. But I didn’t stop talking to Him, even though most of it was about how mad I was and how unfair this all seems to be. Our conversation has finally turned around and I am at a place where I would rather tell him how thankful I am for everything He has done in my life.

I felt ready. I felt with the start of this cycle, I had some real HOPE. I feel like I have changed my life, my relationships, and my marriage to make this work. I’ve done all that I can control and now it is up to God.

My injections started Monday. Monday was not good. I started with my injection in the morning and shortly after had a headache I could not get rid of. I worked through it, got home utterly exhausted, and started crying for absolutely no reason as Aaron was loading up my night syringe. Day 1, awful, but I didn’t care, I was ready to keep going.

Day 2 was not great either, but I was able to keep my emotions in check and my physical symptoms to a minimum.

So that brings us up to today. Day 3. I woke up with excitement this morning ready for our first appointment since our baseline labs/ultrasound we did a week ago. I got my blood drawn first thing, and was lead into the room to get my ultrasound. I could tell that the nurse was quiet after starting so I asked, “Is anything growing in there”. She fumbled the wand around a little bit more and her response was “it looks pretty quiet”. This is the opposite of what we want. We want activity, and many follicles growing in my ovaries. In the end, she had only found one follicle. She told me she would call me with the blood test results and not to worry. Sometimes it just takes a few days for things to get going, but I could tell from the way she said it she was worried.

I finally got the phone call about my blood results around 1. My estrogen levels are only at 30, and they would like them to be above 100 at this point. So no follicles, and low counts. My worst nightmare. We are to continue on with what we are doing until Friday when I will have everything repeated. If there is not much more improvement by then, I was told that our IVF cycle would be cancelled. If this is to happen, we probably would not be able to start back up again until January/February.

So, just like that. All of the hope I have been building up for months got swept away within a matter of hours. I have been left kind of stunned and emotional about the entire ordeal. I was hoping to be retrieving all of my embabies a week from now, and now I am back to not knowing what the future holds.

So, if you believe in God, I am asking for some prayers. Specifically, that things will change by Friday and my ovaries will kick it in high gear. For some sort of peace and comfort.

If you don’t, maybe just a high five and a hang in there when you see me around.

As tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I don’t want to end this on a sad/sappy note. I am incredibly thankful for a lot of things in my life. I am thankful that I get to wake up each morning to live another day, that I have a husband that supports and loves me as best as he can, a new home that we love, jobs that provide what we need and give us the opportunity to make a difference in peoples’ lives, my family, and my pups. At the end of the day, no matter how hard that day is, God has provided in my life and will continue to in his own time.

Happy Thanksgiving friends ❤️

Deja Vu

Hey all! I know it has been a hot minute since I updated everyone last, our IVF journey did not quite start out as planned (more on that later). But I thought, what better time to write some things down than a day I’ve spent under general anesthesia and narcotics! 😂

Finally! We got things going today. I had my first of 3 procedures, this one hopefully the worst of them all. I had another pesky polyp removed from my uterus. As you may recall, I had this same surgery done back in June 🙄 Can anyone say, Deja Vu? Basically they put you to sleep, stick a camera up there, and start cutting at the extra tissue. Here are some not so attractive pictures to document this not so attractive journey we find ourselves on.

June 2019, pre surgery attempting to not look annoyed with my husband taking pictures of me in that hideous gown.
Today, post surgery/post anesthesia/post lots of meds 😂 💊
And this one for good measure to prove this dude has been by my side through it all. ❤️ #insicknessandinhealth

Everything went well, and I will go back to normal life tomorrow.

What else have we been up to, you might ask?! Well, our cycle started almost a week and a half later than it was supposed to unfortunately. I got so excited and ready to get started, and then Mother Nature decided to really play a cruel trick. TMI! But my period was late. And by late I mean by more than a week and a half. In came the “well maybe you’re pregnant, wouldn’t that be amazing!” comments….like I hadn’t already peed on multiple sticks with the same thought. But alas, I was not. Just another divine life lesson on patience and not having any control 🙄 This has never happened to me before, so it was a big let down in many ways as I was just ramping up and getting excited. I had to start yet ANOTHER medication to get it going, which took a few days. Docs think it may have been caused from the hormonal medications I was taking during our IUI cycles. Nevertheless, it was an unwelcome and difficult few days to get through.

Then came our coveted Day one. The day oral meds and real progress starts checking itself off the calendar. As I said before, this was close to 2 weeks past our expected date, so everything else is now pushed back as well. If everything else goes to plan, which I am no longer counting on as I now know nothing really ever has for us, we should be doing our egg retrieval the first week of December and embryo transfer the second week.

That puts the end of this crazy ordeal, wait for it………….

THE WEEK OF CHRISTMAS 🤭☃️❄️🎅🏻🎄 Please be praying for our Christmas miracle!

Other than that we are just working on our many oral medications at the moment. I will start taking my injectables in 2 weeks. My “party package” as I like to call it showed up last week with all the meds and equipment we will need for that phase of the process. The mess came in 2 large boxes and looked a little something like this—>

Shout out to my mother for the IVF gift basket she made me that had a gigantic medication organizer 🥰 It’s coming in handy!

I thought this was a very nice touch that was included in the box…

Who doesn’t love a free pen?!😂

Until next time friends!

The Class

Our first step in this IVF journey was to attend the mandatory class that the fertility office puts on for couples, which we did on Tuesday of this week. There we learned the ins and outs of IVF, different options that can be added in to the process, and how to administer the butt load (pun intended) of meds. I know I for one did not know a lot about IVF prior to doing this, so I am going to outline the process for you all below, and I will update you along each step of the way! An IVF cycle is much longer than a normal female cycle, varying by response to medications and also by options such as PGS (genetic testing) which we are opting out of for this first cycle. A typical IVF cycle can be as little as six weeks and up to 10-12 weeks. We expect ours to be about 6-7 weeks with transfer right around Thanksgiving.

Down Regulation

Every IVF cycle starts with something quite surprising when you first hear it…BIRTH CONTROL! Can you believe it? All we want is a baby and here we are back at prevention methods. However, this is not actually to “prevent” pregnancy. It is really all about suppressing your ovaries and giving them a rest. Essentially, this is to give the docs complete control over my cycle. So, cycle day one, I will start taking birth control, and aspirin. The aspirin is to help with absorbtion of the medications by my body. Also during this time, I will start taking two different antibiotics, and Aaron will start taking one as well. These are to prevent infection during the process and also to rid the body of any bad bacteria that may hinder pregnancy or cause a miscarriage if successful. Add in the five other supplements I am already taking for this process and the sum will be 9 medications a day. Thankfully, all oral…until our next phase! Down regulation lasts for approximately 3 weeks.

Another process I will be taking care of during my down regulation is the removal of ANOTHER uterine polyp.🙄 I previously had one removed in May, but the doc thinks that the Clomid I took during our IUI attempts to boost ovulation may have been the cause of the reoccurrence. This will be an outpatient surgery where I am sedated, the polyp is removed, and I am sent home to rest for the remainder of the day.

Stimulation

The next phase of the IVF cycle are where things heat up! This phase takes 7-10 days depending on how my body reacts to the injections. I will be doing an injection in my stomach of one medication in the morning, and another in the evening for the first part of the stimulation phase. An oral steroid will also be started to enhance absorbtion of these medications.

I will be required to have blood drawn and a vaginal ultrasound done every 2 days for the start of stimulation. They will be following the size of the eggs that should be developing because of the injection medications, as well as trending my blood estrogen levels. When these both get close to what the goals for retrieval are, I will then be required to go in daily and have these done. The doctors are looking for a goal estrogen level of 1000 (200-300 per mature egg) as well as correct sizing. When the doctor determines it is time, I will be instructed to give myself a trigger shot! This is to release the eggs from the wall of the ovary and make them easier to retrieve. The timing of this shot is important, as egg retrieval happens exactly 35 hours after this injection is completed. I will most likely give this to myself late at night with the plan of retrieval early 2 days later. All oral medications are continued through this phase minus the antibiotics.

Retrieval

Finally, all the hard work will hopefully pay off! Egg retrieval day! I will go in to the office on this day, and be sedated once again. The doctor will poke a small hole through the vaginal wall with his surgical instrument to get to my ovaries. There he will literally suck out all of the eggs that are there. An average IVF cycle produces 10-12 eggs, however, this varies greatly between diagnosis and patient. The eggs will immediately be taken by an embryologist and placed under a microscope for a count. Aaron’s big job that day (other than to supply his little gladiators) is to remember how many eggs were retrieved because the sedation medications have an amnesia effect and they say I will be asking him all day how many and not remembering 😂 This number is a big deal, because of the eggs retrieved, on average only 50% of them will successfully fertilize, and only 50% of the ones fertilized will fully mature enough to be placed back in the uterus. So, we leave the clinic. Sperm is injected in the eggs, and they are put away in a climate controlled environment for 5-6 days. The first difficult waiting game. After hearing how many were retrieved, we will not know how many matured until 5 days later. This part is my biggest fear, because if the chemo or radiation that I received as a kid did affect my eggs, I will at this point find out that my eggs are bad.

After retrieval, I will be started on two new medications. One is an injection that will be administered in my rear end (hence the pun from before). I will continue this until I know if I am pregnant or not. If not, I will stop and start over with the process. If I am, I will continue giving myself this injection through 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is progesterone, which helps thicken the lining of the uterus, making a nice comfy nest for my embryos. The other is a patch that I will also have to wear through 12 weeks of pregnancy. This patch is also to maintain the lining of my uterus.

Transfer

Assuming I do have mature egg(s) after that 5-6 day period, I will return to the office for my transfer day! This is when they will push no more than 2 eggs through a long skinny catheter into the perfect spot in my uterus. On this day, I will be given a Valium pill and a vaginal suppository to relax the uterus which makes it easier for the embryo to implant.

I will get an ultrasound picture this day of (hopefully!!!!) my future child. However, after this procedure, we will endure another brutal waiting game. We will have to wait another 12-14 days to know if the embryos “stuck” to the lining of my uterus resulting in pregnancy. They can put them where they need to be, but there is no telling if they will attach or not. I will return after this waiting period for a blood test that will tell me definitively if I am pregnant or not.

So that’s it! The IVF process in a nutshell. All in all, including my supplements I will be taking a grand total of 17 medications (not including any Tylenol or lidocaine for any discomfort along the way). It’s a lot, it’s emotional, its going to be a roller coaster…but we are ready. Ready for some hope and science!

Genesis

Whatever you’re here for, I hope that you find it. Whether it’s to understand our circumstances better, general interest in infertility and various treatments, support for your own journey, or because you are bored and it’s like the thrill of reading someone’s diary…here it goes.

Our infertility journey may well have started long before we even knew each other (perhaps before I could even walk or talk). I was diagnosed with Wilm’s tumor at 11 months old and received chemo and radiation therapy at the time. My parents were told I would probably have trouble conceiving when I was older, however, when I was told that at the proper age, I shrugged it off and figured it happens for everyone and babies were definitely in my future. I was handed a baby doll like every other young girl and prepped for motherhood by society. I grew up, found my Prince Charming, and was ready for my happily ever after!

NOT.

Life was about to hurl us an incredible curveball. You see, Aaron and I had an inkling that we would not be able to start a family easily. Whether it was the words my doctors had told my parents at a young age echoing in my head that I was desperate to ignore, or the Big Man Upstairs just trying to give us a heads up, we started with the fear that it could be a little while. I repeat…we STARTED with the fear. Starting a family has unfortunately never been a simple, happy choice. But neither of us were prepared for what ‘a little while’ meant. After a few months of trying, the worry really started setting in. My tracking of every physiological parameter I could measure started, as well as the research. A few more months went by, and even armed with this knowledge and info we had no success. Then the supplements that I would come across scrolling through website after website. Nothing.

Finally, we went in for fertility testing. Our doctors didn’t seem too worried. We had been trying less than a year at that point, so we weren’t clinically “infertile” (this only is diagnosed after one year of trying naturally without success). After a handful of lab tests for both of us and really uncomfortable imaging test for me, our doctors found nothing major that really stood out to them as a culprit. So we kept trying. And trying, and trying. Every month bringing more brokenness, and sadness.

***I’m going to stop there and go off on a tangent for a second. Even though Aaron and I have been through it with this process, we chose each other when we got married and have promised to continue choosing each other forever. Our situation has tested us both individually as well as a couple in ways we could not have fathomed starting out. We have seen lows we never expected to see so early in our marriage, but we also have experienced the amazing love and bond that can only form out of something like this. God truly blessed us by putting us together, because I could not get through this without someone who was not truly meant for me. So now that you know that this situation really SUCKS sometimes, I can continue with my story because now you know that no matter the outcome, there is a happy ending. We will still love each other at the end of the day, no matter what.

Back to it. We eventually got fed up and decided it was time for the big guns. In enters our fertility doctor, Dr. Young from Mid Iowa Fertility. He reviewed our testing we had done at other offices, and ordered a couple more. Our plan after meeting with him was to pursue IUI (intra-uterine insemination). Basically, they stick a long straw up your hoo-haw and put the swimmers where they need to be. It’s a relatively painless procedure and only takes a few minutes to complete. Per the research, if this procedure is to work, it usually will do so within three cycles. Before we could continue with this, I had to have an outpatient surgery to remove a polyp so if there was an embryo floating around in there, it could implant where it needed to.

We started IUI so excited and full of hope. Then the first month resulted in a negative pregnancy test. Then the second, then the third. We were CRUSHED. Three strikes you’re out. We at this point had been trying for 18 consecutive months, unsuccessfully. The shock of medical intervention failing us has not fully passed, but this brings us up to date of where we are at today, and maybe why you have tuned in.

As of tomorrow, we start another emotionally and physically draining route of medical help to start our family. IVF (In-vitro Fertilization). The big one. The one we knew of but denied would ever be our reality.

But here we are. It is a complicated, messy situation of medical, emotional, and physical endurance. But we are ready for it, because we Believe. In the next few weeks-months I will be chronicling our IVF story. Partially to just get some of the the info out of my head and onto something else, as well as for friends and family to follow along and hopefully provide some understanding and insight to how it all is going.

#thoughtsandprayerswelcome #IVF #TTC #IUI #pineapplesquad #infertility