IVF #2: Cycle Update and PGS Results

Aunt Flo decided to grace us with her presence on Monday. TMI alert: this month she’s been ugly. Super heavy flow, horrible cramps…pretty much miserable. I know it was heavy after our first IVF cycle, but I don’t remember it being THIS bad. Regardless, sometimes in IVF seeing your period is pretty exciting.  It means things are rolling again, so bring it on!

Our transfer date is scheduled for September 21st. In preparation for transfer, I started taking birth control again, and I’ll be on that for about 10 days. At the beginning of September, I start Delestrogen injections, which I’ll do every third day. This is different than my last doctor who had me on estrogen pills. The medication is in castor oil, and it looks super thick. It’ll be interesting to see how that feels to inject. I’ll also be taking Endometrin vaginally 3x/day (which means I get to take it to work–oh how fun!). Additionally, I will be taking Progestrone lozenges 3x daily underneath the tongue. They are weird looking purple squares that smell like grapes:

Lovely lozenges 😉


Our nurse called this morning to tell us our PGS results were in, and ask of we’d like to know the genders. In this crazy process, I try to look for all the cool aspects. Of course I want to know the genders! That’s not something fertile couples get to know right away. I want all to experience all the “perks” IVF has to offer, because let’s be honest, there aren’t a ton!

Of our seven embryos, all are boys expect for ONE! Of the seven, FOUR are normal. I’m grateful to say, my one little princess is among the “normal” ones! It’s always sad to see embryos not develop, or develop abnormally. We’re really happy to have four still, but there’s a little bit of heartache that comes with learning some of our embies have chromosomal issues.

 

Our PGS results in detail.


I’m so grateful we decided to do PGS. I feel like it will ultimately save us a lot of heartache. It’s really fun to know the genders, and to think about what decision we are going to make regarding transfer. We would like to transfer two embryos, and we’d love at least one boy and one girl in our family. I’ve always wanted a little girl, so I am really hoping she is a strong fighter, and makes it all the way. Of course, we wish that for all of them. 

We keep going back and forth about which gender combo to transfer first. There are benefits to both. If we transfer two boys, and are lucky enough to deliver two bouncing babies, they’ll have a built in playmate for life. If we transfer a boy and a girl and both make it, it’ll be really amazing to raise boy/girl twins who have an understanding and compassion for the opposite sex. Hopefully our doctor can help guide our decision a bit further with embryo grading information. We’re feeling pretty torn about which direction to go, but so thankful to feel like we have a choice. 💙💗

 

 

IVF #2: Embryo Report

  
Our little miracles have been growing away in the lab, and the time has come to announce our final count for blastocysts for round #2! On day five (yesterday) of development, we had a total of five blastocysts. The embryologist decided to keep watching a couple other slightly slower growing embryos into day six, and we gained two more. Our grand total for round two is SEVEN blastocysts!!! We are elated! 

I am still in shock. The sting of our first round made me so cautious with my emotions. IVF #1 was traumatizing. This result for round two feels surreal. I know we still have a long way to go, and it’s far from over, but we are definitely seeing signs of wonderful progress. We are staying super positive, and hope this good news keeps coming!

Next on the agenda is PGS on all our blastocysts. We’ll get the results back in about two weeks, which means a bit more waiting. However, having several blasts gives us reassurance. We are confident there will be some very healthy little embabies in the group. Best case scenario, we’ll never have to do a full round of IVF again. Wow, I like the sound of that!

We’re not sure of our transfer date at this point. I am supposed to phone our nurse when my period arrives, and we’ll go from there. Nothing is certain, but I have a really good feeling about this. For the first time in months, maybe even years, I feel confident about our future as parents. 💗

IVF #2: Fertilzation Quickie Update

  
After a very excited, relatively sleepless night, I was jarred awake by the sound of the telephone. One look at the area code, and I knew it was the doctors office. I took a deep breath and answered. 

The nurse told me she had great news, and she wasn’t kidding. Of our 25 eggs, they were able to perform ICSI on 19 of them and 17 fertilized. 

17!!!!!! Is this real life?!

We’ll update after the blastocyst report on Wednesday. We hope the news continues to be this mind-blowingly awesome. 😊

IVF #2: Egg Retrieval and MESA Results are in!

 What do the following have in common: the number typically reserved for the best slugger on a baseball team, the atomic number of the element manganese, and the minimum age for candidates for the United States House of Representatives? They all represent the same number–25! That’s ALSO the number of eggs we got at our retrieval today! In IVF #1 back in May we had 15 eggs, so we’re happy to have 10 more chances at embryos this time around. That’s great news, but the good news doesn’t stop there. 

As we’ve previously shared, Chris has congenital bilateral absence of the vas deferens. Simply put, it’s like being born with an irreversible vasectomy. We have to do IVF in order to have kids because his sperm doesn’t come out of his testicles when he ejaculates seminal fluid. Those of you who followed our journey with IVF #1 might remember last time around, Chris’s procedure did not go very well. During round one, on the day of his MESA, the urologist could not find any sperm in the epididymal tissue. He had to dig deeper, making the procedure a last-minute TESE. After taking a biopsy of Chris’s right testical they only found one twitching sperm. Over a few days of incubation, they were able to find more twitchers, but the quality and motility was very poor. This resulted in only one viable embryo from round one. It didn’t implant, and we were devastated. 

After taking Clomid and Naturally Smart for Men for several months, Chris was hopeful his sperm quality would be better for round two. The urologist started the procedure off as a MESA, once again. This time, they found sperm in the epididymis, and not just a few…MILLIONS! The urologist said under the microscope they were darting around like normal, ejaculated sperm. He told Chris the technicians in the lab were literally high-fiving one another! This makes their job with ICSI so much easier. We are thrilled!!!

Tomorrow we’ll find out how many of our eggs fertilized. Next Wednesday we’ll hear how many are blastocysts that will be frozen. Then, the blastocysts will be biopsied for PGS, and we will get those results back in two weeks. It’s crazy that in two and a half weeks we’re going to know a lot of info about our babies. 

We know from personal experience that IVF can be times of very high highs, and others can be very low lows. We don’t have our head in the clouds, and are staying very grounded. However, this news makes us feel like there is hope for us. We’re not out of the game. That is definitely something to celebrate. 

Thank you for all the good thoughts and prayers. We feel your love, and we are incredibly grateful for all the support! 💗

IVF/ICSI/TESE #2: Tomorrow

The past 24 hours have been a complete blur. We received the sad news that Chris’s uncle lost his battle with cancer late yesterday. Chris has been such a pillar of strength for his family throughout his uncle’s treatment and hospice care. Today has been rough on him. We’re comforted by knowing his uncle is now in a much better place; free from suffering and pain. We haven’t been able to slow down to fully process this loss, as our plans with IVF are in full swing at the moment. 

I had my first trigger shot at 12:15 AM, and my second at 12:15 PM today. My first shot was an hCG/Lupron combo, and the second shot was solely Lupron. The nurses performed a blood test to make sure that my body was responding well to the hCG in the trigger. Everything looks like it’s on track, and going smoothly, and we’re very grateful for that. 

 

We hope all these little vials will aid us in creating the love of our lives!

 
Chris spoke with his urologist, who performed a blood test to see how his body had been responding to the Clomid and antioxidants. In the words of the urologist, he’s responded to the meds “ridiculously well.” Testosterone levels should be at about 1200, and Chris’s testosterone levels are currently at 1204. The urologist cautioned us that this cannot be a complete predictor for sperm quality, but we’re still incredibly encouraged by this news.

It’s a big day for us tomorrow. First, I will be admitted for my egg retrieval which will take place around 11:15 AM. Then, Chris will have his TESE procedure sometime around 1 PM. After that, the lab will be immediately performing IVF via ICSI. This is the most involved form of IVF, where the lab will directly inject a single sperm into each mature egg. Then, the waiting begins again. We’re ready for a weekend on the couch, watching movies, taking it easy, and being together. 
After five days, we will know how many embryos have made it to the blastocyst stage of development. These will be frozen for future transfer, as my body recovers from all the hormones. We’ve also opted to go with pre-genetic screening (PGS) of each embryo this round. This will automatically filter out the embryos that are not healthy, or fit to transfer. We’ve chosen this option as a way to protect ourselves from the pain of a loss, although PGS does not completely rule that out. We are sincerely hoping for the best, while simultaneously trying to keep a realistic perspective. 

Thanks in advance for keeping our family in your thoughts and prayers. 💗

IVF #2: Quick Follicle Update

My follies are getting close, but need at least one more night of stims, according to our RE at our ultrasound appointment today. He said we have 16 growing, which is a healthy number. He said couples with the greatest success in IVF typically have 7-15 follicles, so we’re almost in the “sweet spot.” These are odds in our favor we will happily accept. Come on, lucky 16!

An update on the Ganirelix: the medication doesn’t hurt at all, but I find the needle to be somewhat dull. It’s hard to puncture the skin, and isn’t very comfortable to fully insert, or withdraw. For a medication that is over $100 per syringe, you’d think they could improve it a bit.

My stomach is really sore from all the pokes, and I’m looking nice and bloated so I’d love to wrap it up soon. Our egg retrieval and TESE procedures will likely take place on Friday of this week if all looks good at our follow-up ultrasound tomorrow. Please send good thoughts our way!

Mr. Hopeful Opens Up

“It’s OK, Cornelius. You can cry.”

Earlier today, my wife and I attended our first peer-led infertility support group. She found the group on Resolve’s website, and it just so happened that today they were encouraging spouses, husbands, and partners to join in. The meeting itself was held in an unassuming two-story community center with ample parking, a neatly-trimmed hedgerow, and two long, deep trenches in the sidewalk from where my heels had gouged the concrete as my wife dragged me in the side door by my shirt collar.

Am I supportive of my lovely bride? Absolutely; I’d march straight down to hell and bite the tongue off the devil if she asked me to. But was I excited for the support group? Not in the least. It’s not that I’m not a social person, but I really don’t like being put on the spot. During our drive to the support group, I imagined myself sitting in the middle of a circle full of coffee-swilling strangers, being peppered by questions about my infertility. And for a knuckle-dragging Alpha-male like myself, exposing to strangers my inability to reproduce is leaps and bounds more embarrassing than showing up in my boxers would have been. Maybe I would have felt differently if I wasn’t the reason that we are doing all of this in the first place, but as it were I was perfectly content to keep my support group attendance in the same category as my vas deferens—ABSENT!

Now, to Quentin Tarantino this story and jump to the end, I walked out of the meeting 90 minutes later and delivered to my wife the four simple words that every woman in the world delights in hearing: “You were right, dear.” As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong about the support group. In no way was it like any of the support groups in Fight Club; nobody put me on the spot, there was no coffee, and I didn’t end up having to hug any strangers (no offense to strangers, I’m just kinda partial to my boundaries).

The truth is that the meeting was amazing in that it made me realize that there are other people out there who feel the same way that my wife and I do. Looking back, this sense of community shouldn’t have been as astonishing as it was, but I truly was caught off guard by how safe I felt the minute the talking started. As each individual and couple took turns sharing their story, I felt less like an alien and more….well, normal, I suppose. Those of you who are infertile can probably relate to the feeling of seeing children in public and feeling like an outcast, a misfit, and a failure. But when surrounded by others who are dealing with similar situations, I began to see that while there was a lot of sadness in the various individuals in the room, there was also a ton of strength. Each and every couple that spoke had clearly been tempered by the fires of loss and despair, and yet had bounced back up to try again (and, in some cases, again and again and again). My heart broke as many of the women burst into tears while talking, and yet I was encouraged by the compassion that everyone in that room showed. These may have been strangers, but they clearly had each others’ backs—and ours.

When it came time for us to share our story, my wife gave me an encouraging nod and I began recounting our journey, beginning with the phone call from our doctor on my 30th birthday letting me know that I had zero sperm. Interestingly enough, I sensed that I had more in common with most of the women in the room than the men, simply because the majority of the couples there were dealing with female infertility. I’d like to think that I gave the dudes some insight into how to hold their wives emotionally—primarily because I’ve got a bit of training in this regard, and also due to the fact that my wife has been such a complete and total rockstar throughout this process, having handled me in a very loving and empathetic manner and never once causing me to feel guilty or blamed for our infertility. One thing that was cool was that after I spoke, another husband in the room shared his story of infertility, and as he was talking I was reminded that I am not the only man on the planet who cannot have children the ‘natural way’. I understood what this guy had gone through, quite possibly better than his own wife in some ways because I could connect with the roller-coaster that we had both been on individually. Finding another person who had endured this pain and survived was strangely comforting, and I could feel the icy wall of isolation that I’ve felt for the past few months begin to melt away a tiny bit.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this experience. Previously, any sense of community that I’ve felt during this process has been limited to online blogs and awkward, wordless encounters with other patients in our IVF clinics. But to sit at a table (not a circle of chairs, mind you) and discuss the issue with other living, breathing humans who truly understand what we’re going through was a very good feeling. As we exited the parking lot, I was struck by a profound thought: every single person in that room who showed up to participate would make an award-winning parent.

I pray to God that each and every one of us gets that chance.

IVF #2: Upping the Ante

I’m a night owl. I’m definitely not a morning person. There is a direct correlation between my ability to get out of bed in the morning, and my level of excitement regarding the activity that is waking me. Take this morning, for instance. I knew I was getting out of bed early for blood work (my least favorite of ALL needles…but more on that later) and a transvaginal ultrasound. Neither of these tasks are appealing. So I hit the snooze button a few times, and eventually dragged my groggy self out of bed and on my way to the doctor’s office.

The interior of our new clinic looks like a posh hotel. Complete with swanky decor, modern furniture, and sparkly chandeliers we’re reminded of how much we’re paying just to be there. People travel in from all over the world to our clinic (which makes me feel pretty reassured about our selection) so the waiting room is a constant buzz of varying languages and brewing coffee. I honestly love the energy of the place. It makes me feel so much more at ease than our last clinic. There’s definitely still a little awkwardness, as I imagine you feel in any fertility waiting room. There are times when I see people sitting across from me, and I’d love to chat with them. We’re all there for similar reasons, wouldn’t it be nice to feel a sense of community? Maybe I’m the only one who feels this way (it sure seems so!).

After some great people watching, a nurse called me back for blood work. Let’s just call it like it is: I’m a sissy when it comes to blood work. I never complain, and I refuse to make a big deal out of it, I’m just not a fan. I’ve always averted my eyes when a nurse comes at me with a needle and a tourniquet. After all the needles I’ve stabbed myself with over the course of IVF, you wouldn’t think this would be an issue. There’s something different about putting liquid IN the body, versus taking liquid OUT. Today, I decided I’m going to conquer this fear. So I forced myself to watch the nurse as he performed the veinipuncture and blood collection, and guess what? It really wasn’t that bad. In fact, it made me wonder why I’ve been so afraid of blood work all along.

Our meeting with Dr. W was fairly brief. He performed the ultrasound, and I didn’t ask any questions. Part of me wanted to know how many follicles appear to be growing. The other part of me is worried to get my hopes up. I’d honestly rather just find out post egg retrieval so I know for sure. Dr. W said everything is coming along quite nicely, so for now, I’ll take that as a great sign.

We met with a nurse to go over changes in my medication. There are no changes with my Omnitrope, so I’ll continue administering the .25ml/day. However, starting tonight I’ll be doubling my Menopur dosage in the injection I named the Breaking Bad shot.That’s now four vials of Bravelle, two vials of Menopur for a grand total of 450iu of medication going into one shot! I can already barely inject this shot without feeling faint, and now I’m doubling the medication that makes it sting like hell? Oh, I’m super excited. Additionally, starting tomorrow I’ll be adding another shot, Ganirelix to the daily regimen, which I’ve read from other bloggers “stings like a bee.” Seriously, the things we’re willing to do, right? I hope this time it will all be worth it. ❀

IVF #2: Feeling the Love…and the Burn!

The gate has officially dropped on our second cycle, and we are in the full swing of stimulation injections. Today is day two of stims, and this time around my injections are much more intense than they were in our first cycle.

For now, I have two injections per day (our doctor will likely add more on Friday). First, I take .25ml of Omnitrope, which is a growth hormone that is sometimes prescribed to patients with previous failed IVF cycles. I administer this dose with an insulin needle, and it is super easy, and nearly painless.

The itty, bitty Omnitrope

My next shot is a little more complex. I feel like I should be on an episode of Breaking Bad as I mix up a pretty potent concoction of 300iu of Bravelle and 75iu of Menopur with 2ml of diluent. This one is not as kind to administer. Thanks to the Menopur it burns the whole time I’m injecting it.  It also leaves my stomach feeling pretty sore around the injection site even by the next day.

The big Daddy shot

I’m reacting well to the medicine so far. I felt a little lightheaded throughout the day today, but otherwise normal. I walked the short distance from our house to the nearest grocery store this evening, and I could already feel my ovaries were a little sore. I can’t wait to see what I’m going to feel like in a week or so. 😉

In other news, one of my best friends did something so nice that really lifted my spirits. I’ve been talking to her a lot about my feelings on IVF and life in general. She’s an awesome listener, and is incredibly empathetic.Today we got together for lunch at a cute new cafĂ© in town and she gave me a gift. I opened the wrapping to find an adorable handmade journal.

The cover of my new journal–this girl gets it!

My friend’s grandmother gave her a gratitude journal when she was a young girl, and encouraged her to jot down the things she felt grateful for. The act of recording her gratitude made a profound impact on her life, and she still keeps a journal today. The journal my friend gave me already has some awesome quotes on the pages, and she left me some blank pages to fill with my own gratitude or inspiration. I’m an avid quote pinner on Pinterest, so I will have a blast transcribing my most-loved quotes onto the pages of my new journal. I love the quotes my friend picked out, so I will end with some of my favorites.

  

💗

Forgiveness

I’ve wasted a lot of time and energy holding grudges against insensitive people. Many people who learn of our infertility (which we’ve started opening up about a little more lately) ask at least one or two questions that frankly hurt a lot. If they’re not asking hurtful questions, they’re probably substituting with a really dismissive, unempathetic comment or two.  

In the previous week’s and months I’ve answered these (insensitive) questions calmly, but made a mental note that the person is not kind, empathetic, or someone I feel like talking to about infertility. “Yes, I’m familiar with the concept of adoption, and we have thought about it. However, we are not ready for that step yet, and still have other treatment options available to us before we decide to go down that road.”

Or, I’ve listened to their comments, while politely rebutting their claims, and gently trying to correct their views. “It’s wonderful that your sister’s husband’s cousin who was struggling with infertility became pregnant on her own without IVF. I understand the doctors told her it was impossible for that to happen, and you think perhaps this applies to our situation, too. Unfortunately, with my husband’s condition, the ‘good, old-fashioned way’ isn’t ever going to get us there.”

  

This morning, I faced my fears and met up with a pregnant friend I’ve been adamantly    avoiding. When she asked how I was doing, instead of glossing over it, I decided to be transparent. I told her this has been the hardest year of my life. I would’ve loved a little empathy, but instead this prompted the adoption question. I felt myself hiding my anger as I gave her canned adoption response listed above. Side note: I feel like people offer up adoption without realizing it is not a solution for infertility, but a solution for being childless. This frustrates me to no end, but I digress…

This interaction with my friend led me to realize, I can’t be upset with people for being insensitive if I’m not going to TELL them their prodding is inappropriate. So, I’m setting a goal for myself. From now on, I intend to tell people when they’ve crossed the line. I’ll do this as politely as possible, but make it clear that the subject is not up for open discussion or input.

I also realized I’ve wasted a lot of energy being upset with people for saying the wrong things. I want to work on this because I know holding grudges isn’t good for me, or those I love. Most people don’t know how to be truly empathic. People love offering advice. Infertile people need empathy, not advice. I’ve been really let down by expecting too much from others. Going forward, I plan to have lower expectations, draw clearer boundaries, and have greater patience.