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  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.

IVF #2: 5dpt Update

It’s only been five days since transfer, but it feels like it’s been so much longer! The two-week-wait is taking its jolly, sweet time. 

I don’t have tons to report other than (gasp) gas. It’s not lady-like, but I’m feeling pretty gassy, and have been ever since the first day after transfer. Every now and then, I’ll catch a wave of nausea, but I feel like it’s all stemming from my overly active digestive system. 

I had pain in the right side of my uterus yesterday, and the day before. Although, I had that in my failed IVF cycle too. I have seen zero signs of implantation bleeding, but for once, I’d really like to see just a tinge of blood! 

Last night I had a dream that I took a home pregnancy test and it was negative. I woke up feeling pretty bummed about that. Hopefully that’s just my fears coming through in my dreams, and it doesn’t mean anything. 

My close friends have been really sweet and checking in on me frequently. My good buddy brought me fonuts at work (they are delicious baked donuts, not fried. You’ve gotta try them) and a sweet card. I’m lucky to have such loving friends. 

Thanks, K! This was the perfect message for me. 💗


  

I went to therapy this week because I was feeling pretty blue. We talked about how difficult it is to go through this process again. The most frustrating part for me is the utter lack of control we have over the outcome. Chris and I are hard workers, and if we had any ability to influence the cycle, you bet we’d be doing whatever we could. It’s hard to feel so powerless. 

We are doing our best to stay positive, and when we start to doubt, or feel down, we just remind ourselves of the facts: our embryo is healthy, and good quality. My uterus looks great. Our transfer went beautifully. We have reasons to be hopeful, and we should keep our heads held high. 

Beta is next Friday, October 2nd. We’ll post the results here once we’ve had time together process the news. Thanks for all the good thoughts, prayers, and well-wishes we’ve received from you all. We feel such a strong support from this community. We’re sending all our warmth and love right back at all of you.  

 

IVF #2: Decision Day

  
Even through transfer is still a week away, today we had to give our embryo transfer decision to our clinic. According the the results of our PGS, we have four healthy embryos: three boys, and a girl. We’ve been going back and forth on our decision for transfer, but after a lengthy discussion with our RE, we’ve finally made up our minds. 

Chris asked our RE about transferring twins. Our RE told us a story about some friends of his who needed IVF in order to conceive a child. Naturally, they turned to their buddy, our doctor, for help. They ended up transferring two embryos, and both stuck. The twins were born early, as most are. Unfortunately, one of the twins had cerebral palsy as a result of their prematurity. Dr. W said each week their families get together for sporting events, and each week he is reminded of why it is best to transfer only one embryo. It was a pretty powerful story for Chris and me to hear, and ultimately led us to the decision to transfer only one embryo. 

Then came the gender decision. At this point, I’ve never successfully been pregnant. Although our infertility is male factor, my ability to carry a child is still uncertain, but of course we’re hoping for the best. Since we have three boy embryos, we feel like it’s a safer choice to transfer a boy. We want to preserve the health of our little girl, and make sure everything is in working order with my body before we try to transfer her. 

I told Chris if this cycle results in a negative pregnancy test, we’ll reopen the discussion of how many embryos to transfer next time. I’d likely push for two, if this were the case. Let’s hope it’s not, and everything goes smoothly. 

Next Monday, September 21st is our transfer. I’ll be on bed rest for two days, so I’ve ordered some great Netflix movies to keep me busy. I’m definitely going to do a home pregnancy test after about six days, because I can’t wait (obediently) until beta again this time around. Just thinking about the results makes my stomach flip. 

In about nine months, we hope to welcome a little boy into our family. 💙

Staying Strong, Feeling Weak

It’s been eight days since our frozen embryo transfer. I want to know the outcome so badly. I have these eight home pregnancy tests staring me in the face, but I’m too apprehensive to use them. 

Tomorrow I have a huge event at work. I need to be on my A-game. I’m going to be talking to many people throughout the evening. This is tough for me, as I’m an introverted-extrovert (I swear it’s a real thing). Even though I can appear to be doing fine in a social situation, it’s draining for me. I’m sure you can guess, social functions are not my favorite. So I am very fearful that if we get bad news prior to this important day at work, I won’t be able to function well. Chris is super supportive of us waiting to test, and thinks it’s a very good idea. As much as I’m able to logically think through the decision to wait, it’s still eating at me. 

I’m ashamed to say, last night I was a total Debbie downer. I was feeling very negative, like our cycle probably didn’t work. I know we’ve been through a lot of stress, and it’s causing me to second-guess everything. In the back of my head, since I know our sperm is an issue, I’m afraid we’re going to have ongoing challenges. Chris, on the other hand, is feeling very positive. He thinks that this cycle worked. I really hope his gut feeling is right. 

My first beta was today. At our clinic, they send both betas to the lab at the same time. That means we won’t know any results until Friday. It’s only two more days. I know I can make it. I think I can, I think I can. 🙂

  

Transfer

With only one frozen embryo, we were anxious going into yesterday’s FET (frozen embryo transfer). Our minds were racing as we headed downtown to our clinic. Chris was quiet; deep in thought. I fumbled with everything in the car as I tried to keep my mind occupied. I nervously checked the time on my phone every couple of minutes. We were told they’d thaw our little embaby about an hour prior to transfer. Would they call us if it didn’t thaw? As the clock ticked away, I started to feel more at ease as we closed in on our appointment time. Surely they would have called by now. Right? 

When we got inside the office, no one was at the front desk. My anxiety was through the roof. I needed someone to tell me my embryo was alright. Another couple joined us in the waiting room. There was such a stark contrast between us. They were laughing and having a cheerful, playful conversation. Chris and I were hanging onto each other and nervously tapping our feet in silence. Finally, the receptionist came in, lunch in hand, ear buds in ears, iPod playing. “Have you guys signed in?” she asked casually. 

She disappeared inside the office, and we were left alone (with the cheerful couple) for the longest ten minutes of my life. Finally, the door opened. “Heather,” the nurse called, “Come on back.”

She politely led us to a room and asked me if I’d like any Vallium to help me relax prior to the procedure. I assured her I would be fine. She asked me to undress from the waist down and wrap myself in a white bedsheet. The wait continued. It was now twenty minutes past my appointment time, and my bladder, which I was instructed to have kept “full” felt like it was about to burst. 

Finally, Dr. B came in the room. I glanced down at his hands, and saw him carrying this:

  
My heart soared! Our embryo had made it through the thaw. Dr. B said it had a 100% thaw success, meaning every little cell had survived the thaw process. Our little embie is a Grade II, fair quality. Dr. B said these have roughly the same rate of implantation as top quality embryos. 

Dr. B began to prepare me for transfer. He had one nurse pressing the ultrasound nice and hard into my very full bladder. Another nurse stood by and helped Dr. B as he got the catheter into place. They paged Dr. H, the embryologist, and asked him to load our embryo. He came in with our embryo in a syringe. I laughed as I noticed there were six people, including Chris and me, in the room as Dr. H injected the embryo into the catheter. I never thought so many people would be present when I attempted to get pregnant. 

We watched on the screen as our embryo was injected into it’s new home. After the process was complete, the team left me tilted pelvis upwards in the hospital bed for a while. Chris and I enjoyed the moment and sat there staring at the screen. We hope our embaby loves it’s new, warm environment enough to settle in for a little while. 💗

  

Don’t Count Your Chickens Before They…Implant in Your Uterus?

I’ve never been a superstitious person. Until now. I’m not avoiding black cats or walking under ladders. I haven’t turned clockwise seven times in a circle. My fingers are not perpetually crossed. We aren’t quite to such a high level of irrationality (yet).  

It’s more like this: I’ve developed an uncharacteristically pessimistic attitude. I feel pretty hopeless. This is not typical of me. I’m a resilient human being. My life has been filled with challenges I’ve met head-on. I have grit, and get through the tough times with a can-do attitude, and unwavering persistence. However, in the case of our infertility, my positivity seems to be wavering. 

Since we received our diagnosis of male factor infertility in January, our life feels like it’s been a pendulum swinging in perpetual motion. We have had our hopes dashed on more than one occasion. This journey has shown us how unpredictable IVF can be. We’ve had our share of disappointment so far this cycle. After promises of success, now our doctors are scratching their heads, wondering why our situation is so unusual.  Additionally, our cycle produced only one frozen embryo, and next week we’ll have one chance at our baby. 

So where does the superstition come into play? As I’m gearing up for next week’s FET, I’m finding myself fearful of optimism. When I think ahead, I’m afraid to allow myself to think we might be successful. It’s almost like I’ve adopted the attitude that if I think it will work, it won’t. I think my new (poor) attitude is a coping mechanism. My mind is trying it’s best not to allow my heart to be crushed by disappointment. It’s making me feel a little crazy. 

So my dear fertility bloggers, I seek your advice. How did/do you stay mentally grounded during IVF? How did you stay hopeful without setting your expectations too high? How did you cope with these unknowns? 

Thanks in advance, my friends!

FET Here We Come!

 Today we got the good news that our transfer is moving up a couple of days. My lining is already at 10mm, and so our doctor bumped up the date of our FET to eight days from now. 

I’m currently on estrogen pills 3x a day. This stuff is making me feel depressed as heck. Combined with all the crazy plot twists we’ve been through this cycle, I’m having to work extra hard to keep my chin up. 

I start Crinone on Thursday. From the reviews I’ve read I’m in for a real treat (yes, that was complete sarcasm). Hopefully it’ll be easier than I’m anticipating. Any tips from you veterans out there?

We saw one of Chris’s friends yesterday. He and his wife did IVF five times. On their last cycle they only had one embryo, and it stuck. They now have a beautiful nine-year-old daughter. Their story helped so much! It ain’t over till it’s over. Here’s to hoping we have one super-sticky embryo!

Clinic Error

We got an email update about our cycle from our doctor. The problem is, the information we received was inconsistent from what our nurse previously told us. Our nurse reported that on day five the embryologist had already frozen one embryo, but was still watching seven embryos to see if they would make it to the blastocyst stage on day six. She told us these seven were very close and that the embryologist wouldn’t have kept them out if they didn’t have a “good chance” of making it. She was wrong. 

Those seven embryos had already stopped growing on day three. We only had one embryo that was still being observed in hopes that it would be a late bloomer and make it to day six. Unfortunately, she misunderstood the embryologist’s notes. Our doctor said their clinic had a meeting to address accurate reporting of information. He owned up to it, and was very apologetic. We understand. Humans make mistakes. They assigned a new nurse to our case, and she seems really nice. 

Today we discussed our embryo results in detail with our doctor. He said our eggs looked great, and in future cycles (whether that is after a successful pregnancy with our first child, or in July if this cycle doesn’t succeed) they will probably stim me more.  This will give us more eggs, and a chance at more embryos. He said our sperm was an issue, and the doctors on our case are still baffled as to why. We have one of the top five urologists in the country, and he doesn’t understand why Chris’s sperm is a challenge. Our RE said research on cases like ours just doesn’t exist. We are a medical question mark.   

Then we talked about our upcoming FET. The embryo we have is considered “fair” quality. Since I’m still pretty young, and I’m healthy, our doctor predicts a 50/50 chance for it to stick. Our transfer date is the week after my birthday–sometime the second week of May. They are beginning to prep my uterus for transfer. We have high hopes for our little frostie. Fingers crossed!