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.

Grounded

I’m seven weeks pregnant, and have been home on bed rest for the past two weeks since I started spotting. On Wednesday they switched me to PIO injections to try to slow down the spotting. Everything was going okay, until Thursday. I’d been feeling a little crampy all morning, but assumed my stomach was just working on digestion due to all the extra progesterone in my system slowing things down.

Suddenly, our dogs started barking furiously and it almost sounded like someone was trying to get into the back of our house. Of course, I was home alone and so I panicked. I stood up from my nest of pillows on the couch, and started walking toward the back door. That’s when I felt a huge gush of fluid come out. One visit to the bathroom confirmed it was dark, red blood. I was super scared, and started shaking. (Of course, no one was trying to break in, it was the wind…those little turkeys had gotten me all riled up for nothing.)

My heart was racing as I tried to call Chris. He was in meetings and wasn’t checking his phone. I left him a message telling him what was going on, and asked him to come home as soon as possible. Then, I phoned the clinic. One talk with my nurse, and I wasn’t feeling reassured. I could tell my symptoms didn’t sound good. She asked me to come in that afternoon. I texted Chris the time of our appointment, and hoped he’d make it in time to go with me.

My husband is my hero. Chris made it home with time to spare. We made our way to the appointment downtown. I could tell he was freaked out.

When we checked in at the clinic, our nurse came out and met me in the waiting room. “Have you ever had a miscarriage?” She asked me.

I explained that I never had been pregnant before, but at our last clinic we’d had a failed IVF cycle. We knew she was thinking the worst. As she walked away, I started crying in the waiting room. A pregnant couple came in glowing. She was six weeks and complaining about nausea. I was so envious of her in that moment. Then, a nurse walked in with her baby. Chris and I couldn’t even look at her. The pregnant couple were oohing and ahhing over the baby. It was way too much.

Finally, we got called back into the ultrasound room. Our doctor came in confidently, and said we were his fourth case of bleeding that day, and it was probably nothing. Then, he started searching for Casper on the ultrasound. And searching. And searching. Nothing. I was ready to hear those words no one ever wants to hear.

To our surprise, at last we saw a little flicker in the center of the screen. He was there! Our doctor let out a huge sigh of relief. “Did you see that?” he said, “Your baby is a ninja! He was hiding on the ultrasound!”

For the first time we got to actually listen to Casper’s heartbeat via the Doppler. It was one of the coolest sounds I’ve ever heard. His fetal heart rate is 149 and he’s measuring 1.36cm from crown to rump, which puts us a little ahead of schedule. His estimated due date is now June 4, 2016. He’s doing really well, and we are so freaking happy to see that.

After looking for a while with the ultrasound, our doctor identified the cause of bleeding. Apparently, I have uterine tissue that grows into my uterine muscle. He said this is pretty common and he didn’t see this as being a problem or a threat to the pregnancy. He said I’d probably continue to bleed for a few weeks. Doc assured me that even though the symptoms seem dire, not to associate what I see with a miscarriage. That being said, I’ll have to continue with daily shots of progesterone for awhile since I’m bleeding.

Our RE gave me a hug before he left the room. I think he was relieved too. Our ninja baby gave everyone a huge scare. The second he left the room, Chris burst into tears. He couldn’t even speak he was so emotional. Finally he was able to get out that Casper is grounded…for the next eight months. I agreed wholeheartedly. Casper, we love you, and we already know you’re going to be a little spitfire. Just like your Mommy and Daddy.

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. ūüíó

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. ‚̧

An Unexpected Start

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Today I had an ultrasound. I was expecting MAYBE I’d get birth control today. We just got vaccines earlier this week, and I knew our doctor wanted us to have a cooling off period before starting the process. Turns out all that “cooling off” means is not getting pregnant. So we’re officially starting the meds for our cycle! We are so happy!

During the ultrasound, my doctor counted 10 follicles in each ovary. That’s a pretty big change from last time (previously 17 and 20+). I’m not sure why it’s so different. Has anyone else ever had that big of a change? The doctor was happy with the reduced number, so I guess that’s good. 

Then, our nurse, Sylvia, showed me the schedule for my meds and then taught me how to do injections. The needle is way less intimidating than I’d pictured. I’ll definitely survive. The one fun part is I’ll be doing a week of stims in…Hawaii. Chris and I have had this trip planned for awhile, and had no idea we’d be going down this road when it was planned. Our doctor was fine with us going out of town, and Sylvia said I’ll just have to get my blood drawn while I’m on vacation. So I can deal with that, and I’m glad they can too. 

As you see in the pic above, I got my birth control filled today and will start taking it tonight. I also got some comfy socks for my future IVF appointments. They’re made by a company called “Notes to Self” and have some nice little inspirational messages on them. I think they’ll be fun to wear during retrieval and transfer as a reminder to stay positive. 

So here we go! Fingers crossed for a successful cycle!