Five Stages of Grief

Last month we were approved to go ahead with our third embryo transfer. This time we were given a 70% chance of success. We thought those were pretty good odds. Our embryo was pre-genetically screened and deemed “normal.” It was a fair quality embryo and our only girl.

Our transfer went smoothly. Post-transfer, I obediently rested for two days on the couch and used the time to pick out baby girl nursery decor. Man, oh man, I found the absolute cutest, sweetest little girl items to decorate our home. As hard as it was, I obediently refrained from picking up my IVF miracle toddler (much to both our dismay) so we could protect his little sis. Chris gave me shot after shot after shot to help keep my hormones at the perfect levels for our little girl.

As many of you know, there’s not much to do during this time but daydream, so we thought about our daughter a ton. We talked about what she might be like. Chris has always been crazy about the Fourth of July, and her due date was set to be right around that time. He was thrilled. We shopped online for cute little outfits containing more ruffles, floral print, and bows so big they go all the way up to Jesus. We were so excited to become parents of a little girl.

Beta Day was the day before Halloween, and just like that, our hopes were crushed in one simple email. Negative. How was this happening to us again? I felt numb. The news simply wouldn’t sink into my brain. I talked about it with a hollowness in my voice. I couldn’t believe it was true. The tears wouldn’t fall. I couldn’t laugh. All my emotions were frozen. For nearly two weeks I was deep into the first stage of grief: disbelief.

A phone call snapped me out of it. A relative told me she was in the early stages of pregnancy. Due early July. Like we should have been too. Something inside me snapped and all the sudden the suppressed feelings hit me like a Mack truck. Our daughter was gone. There would be no Christmas pregnancy announcement. My belly would not swell with the growing life of my little girl. There would be no big bows, and floral prints. The perfect name we picked would never go to a child of ours. Mason would never have a sister. We were simultaneously bummed for someone telling us their happy news at such an sensitive time, and utterly depressed that infertility has us deep in the clutches once again. I laid on the couch and sobbed for most of the weekend.

The stages of grief are no joke. I feel like my emotions are a pinball machine, and I find myself bouncing from one thought to another. The same thing is happening to Chris and not at the same time. There’s not a lot we can do except feel what we feel and try not to judge our emotions. We still have some grieving to do. We’ve talked to our family therapist, and she’s supporting us through this time. To be honest, most people really don’t comprehend our pain. And why would they? It’s not something the majority of the population has any experience with. Most expect since we have Mason already, we will be fine. He definitely makes us so happy, and we are beyond thankful for him. But our life will always be different moving forward. Part of us will always feel the absence of our daughter. Time may help us heal, but it will never give her back to us.

Our clinic reviewed out charts. Since this is the second embryo we’ve lost that was expected to be a successful outcome, they’ve decided they want to try some new options with us in the future. They want to try an endometrial scratch prior to our next cycle. This brought me to another phase of grief: bargaining. If we’d tried this procedure prior to our transfer, would she still be with us right now? They’re ready for us to move forward at any time. My heart is still broken and in mourning for my daughter. I want to process this. I want to move forward. I’m terrified of another disappointment. It’s hard to say what our next step will be, or when. For now, we are just loving on each other, praying, and trying to find a sense of peace.

Journey to Baby #2

Two and a half years ago I decided to start a blog about our struggle with infertility. Our name, Meet the Hopefuls came from my infertile play on the movie title Meet the Parents. At the time, we were still working toward receiving an official diagnosis. We were completely naive in our understanding of fertility treatments. We thought a simple pill or better timing would allow us go home and get pregnant the good, old fashioned way. Initially, we told no one about what we were facing. In fact, if you’d have told me two years ago that one day I’d be more openly blogging about our struggles with infertility, I wouldn’t have believed you. Or I’d have thought sometime in the future I was going to completely lose my marbles. Nevertheless, I sit here with a stomach full of butterflies as I type our first non-anonymous blog post about our current steps in our building family journey. In moments where I lack courage, Chris says, “get your butterflies to fly in formation!” Bear with me as I harness these fluttery little suckers…

For our first two cycles of IVF we hid in a shroud of anonymity. Very few people even knew we were infertile. Even fewer knew we were pursuing fertility treatment. Even fewer knew about this blog and those who did were people we would’ve openly shared our feelings with anyway. Writing with anonymity felt safe and comfortable. We never censored ourselves. When people in real life made painful comments, we openly wrote about and processed our feelings in the blog. When we were scared, we our fears poured out of our fingertips and onto the keyboard. When we were devastated, we journaled our sorrows. When we got pregnant with Mason, we hesitantly shared our success. We shared all these emotions without a filter because so few people we knew personally were reading our raw emotions as they transpired.

This time things are a little different. For starters, having Mason changed us in a big way. He helped us heal from some of the heartache infertility put us through, and validated our experiences. Having Mason also made us less shy about talking about infertility. We’ve Β grown so much by opening up about our personal challenges. Now, our family and friends know about our struggle. Most people are hugely supportive of us. After coming out of the infertility closet, we’ve learned how truly “not alone” we were all along. A surprising number of people in our lives have shared their stories of struggle, loss, and infertility with us too. They’ve told us how thankful they are for our transparency. We hope we’re making the topic of infertility less taboo by our willingness to talk about our experiences. On the other hand, some people in our lives seem to be scratching their head as to why we would share something so deeply personal. Everyone is different, and I hope on some level even our critics can respect our decision and pure motives in helping other people who, like we once did, feel lost, hopeless, alone.

While we’ve come a long way since our initial diagnosis, recently we’ve found many of those old infertile feelings and emotions coming back into play. It all started when we decided to start trying for baby #2. To state the obvious, in our case that doesn’t mean bow-chicka-wow-wow. It means email the nurse coordinator and ask her what the first steps are in starting another frozen embryo transfer. I know, super romantic. Shortly after reaching out to the clinic to get the ball rolling, it hit me. Even after having a baby, we are still just as infertile as ever. That’s right about the time I started noticing the pregnant women–they’re everywhere. We are involved in activities with other parents and babies and children. We’re in a sea of fertile people. Mason gives us the appearance that we fit right in, but at the core we never will.

Our journey to baby #2 quickly brought me back to our old stomping ground; the fertility clinic. My nurse scheduled me for a mandatory hysteroscopy, mock embryo transfer, and cultures, prior to starting our next cycle. The procedures went well. The HSC revealed that there are no polyps or fibroids; my uterus looks good after an emergency cesarean childbirth with Mason. The mock transfer gave my RE the information he needs to place our embryo in the best spot possible. Going under anesthesia this time felt different. When I was told to bring my advanced directive, my heart sank as I thought about my miracle son. Even if the chances of problems are slim, I felt guilty for putting myself in harm’s way when I have a child. Yet, if I want to give my child a sibling, it’s the only way.

Prepping for our third FET coming fall 2017!

Being in the clinic again made the memories come flooding back. I vividly remember sitting and waiting for our first appointment–we were interviewing a new clinic after a failed cycle at the clinic from hell. We were so apprehensive, guarded, and afraid. Yet, we moved forward because that’s the only choice you have with infertility. I remember going in for our egg retrieval with a full bladder, as directed, and how badly I had to use the bathroom! The nurse finally caved and let me pee–just a little bit–so I wouldn’t wet the waiting room chairs. I remember Chris getting in his hospital gown for his second MESA/TESE procedure, and the phone call that followed telling us there were millions of sperm that time around. I remember waiting for blood draws and beta tests and ultrasounds. I remember the agonizing wait to see the doctor the day the nurses suspected I’d had a miscarriage, and what a horrible sense of loss and emptiness we’d felt, only to yo-yo back to security when we found out Mason was okay. I found out my symptoms were due to a disease called adenomyosis I didn’t know I’d had all along. I remember the day we were discharged from the fertility clinic, and how exciting and scary it was to be released to a regular OBGYN’s care.

We have been through a lot in that little clinic. It feels strange to be back. in some ways we feel like we beat infertility–we went on to have a successful pregnancy and healthy baby. At the same time, infertility still holds us captive. We haven’t experienced these feelings for a long time, but they’ve been silently in the background all along. I wonder what our future holds. We still have three frozen embryos–two boys and one girl. We just learned this week that our girl is our lowest quality at a 4BB. All along we planned to transfer her next. And when I found out her quality, all the sudden I found myself bracing for the emotional roller coaster ride. Regardless of our feelings in the matter, we’ll stay on this ride until we’re finished with our family building journey.

Hanging in there

I’ll be seven weeks tomorrow. I’ve been spotting for a week and a half. It’s pretty light and I’m not cramping. I’m starting to feel like I’m driving my doctor’s office crazy with the constant emails and questions. 

At first, they were assuring me that spotting is normal and to just keep my blood pressure down and do a modified bedrest. I bugged them again today, and they said to stay on complete bedrest until the spotting stops. They are also switching me from lozenges to progesterone in oil injections daily. I’ll keep doing the Endometrin suppositories, but now only twice a day. Of course, I’ll continue the Estrogen injections every three days. I’m a little bummed that they’re changing my medication, because I just got it refilled and I spent over $700 on stuff I won’t be using now. However, we’re willing to do whatever it takes to keep our baby safe. There’s no price on that. 

My next ultrasound is a week from today. I am literally counting the days. It cannot get here fast enough. Not knowing if he’s okay is pretty darn hard. I’m just going to assume he is doing great in order to keep myself sane. 

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 πŸ˜‰


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. πŸ’™πŸ’—

 

 

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. πŸ’—

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! πŸ’—

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. πŸ’—

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. 

IVF #2: Here We Go Again!

Blood draw this morning (hence the pretty, color-coordinated bandage) gave us the OK to start!

We knew it was coming, but somehow this second round really snuck up on us. We’ve been out of town for about a month (Chris was on business, and I tagged along), so our minds were pleasantly elsewhere. I feel like we are finally starting to get closure on the horrendous toll our first IVF cycle took on us. After everything we’ve been through for the past couple of months, I know a fresh start is a good thing.  

Speaking of fresh starts, so far I’m impressed with the new clinic we’re using. I did a drop in for a blood draw today to check my estradiol and progesterone levels. I walked in the door, signed myself in, and a nurse called me back in less than two minutes. I was out of the office and on my way in no time at all. They haven’t charged us anything yet, either. I was totally willing to take out the wallet and fork over the dough today, but they were super nice and said “No need to pay today, your blood draw will be included with your cycle.” Well, alrighty then.

My nurse called my medicine in to the pharmacy in a timely fashion (I didn’t have to remind her once). These details probably sound like very basic things to most IVF patients, but our last clinic was not nearly as courteous. It’s really nice to be pleasantly surprised so far this time around. 

In order to have (hopefully) better success this cycle, we’ve both been on some supplements for the past couple months. Chris has been taking Clomid and Naturally Smart to stimulate his sperm production. I’ve been taking prenatals, CoQ10, DHA, and folic acid. Tonight I start these bad boys:  

Dun dun DUNNN…birth control pills!

I should be starting stims at the end of this month. If I said I was looking forward to another round of stims, I would be lying to you. I still haven’t lost the weight I gained from our last round. I’ve been kindly referring to myself as “skinny-fat.” In other words, I’m a petite person who looks like she could probably stand to tone up and shed a few pounds. Am I going to stress over a little vanity weight? No. Will I be upset if I gain more? Likely. If I have a baby from this will I really care? Not a chance.  

About two months ago (on the day we found out our cycle failed), I deleted my Facebook account. It has been INCREDIBLY liberating. People keep asking me why I did it. The honest answer is I was sick and tired of baby announcements. I’m also completely fed up with Facebook being treated like a digital baby book–it’s like all baby pictures all the time. I’ll be the first person to admit I’m crazy-jealous when I see those pictures. But I also think it’s really excessive. If I’m friends with someone on Facebook, I don’t want to see 250 pictures a week of their newborn infant, as cute as he or she is. Some people really don’t know when to stop. So it’s nice to be away from that. When people ask me why I got off Facebook, I’ve been giving them a variety of reasons. Depending upon how close I am with the person, and whether or not they’re guilty of the aforementioned atrocities will determine whether I’m honest with my answer. πŸ˜‰ Really though, Facebook was a waste of time, and let’s be honest, I was on there way too much. I’d rather see people face-to-face, and have real relationships with my friends. 

Another random musing, I find it interesting that it’s effortless to be happy for certain pregnant people, and really difficult to be happy for others. For me, I find it really varies upon the person, and how they approach the topic, along with whether or not I deem them to be “worthy” (subjective much? Yeah, I know). If people announce they’re expecting and they’re not married, and have an “oops,” I find that pretty difficult to reconcile. If they’ve been married for a few years, are responsible people, and break the news to me in a sensitive way, then typically I’m pretty cool with it. It doesn’t mean I don’t have my jealous moments, but I figure that’s normal. 

Overall, I feel like I’m finally starting to heal from our failed cycle. I moved on from feeling emotionally dead, and past the intense heartbreak that followed. Now I can go out in public and see parents and children together and not feel like my heart is about to burst. I’m not 100%, though. I am still finding it difficult to see baby bumps, and infants still pull on my heart strings. The scared part of me wonders if we never have a child, if these feelings of jealousy and hurt will ever go away. The hopeful part of me is holding tightly to the idea that this may be the last IVF cycle I ever have to do. πŸƒ