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.

The End of Anonymity 

For the first time ever in a post I’m about to share our ACTUAL faces. No weird crops to avoid exposing our identity, and no avoidance with cutesy clip art. It’s taken us awhile to become comfortable with sharing our story without hiding behind a keyboard in a shroud of anonymity. So what’s changed?

For starters, we are tired of feeling like infertility should be something people don’t talk about. Ever since we’ve started opening up, we are absolutely shocked by how many people who have come out of the woodwork to tell us their struggles and grievances with fertility issues and conception. Some people don’t understand why we are being so open about what they view as a very private matter. Those people can worry as much as they want about my life, but not only does it not affect them, it actually hurts others. If we stay silent simply to make others comfortable, friends of ours who are struggling will continue to feel alone and isolated, just like we did for such a long time.

Another thing that changed is we had our miracle IVF baby almost a year ago. We got over that huge mountain we thought we may never climb, and we gained confidence. Now we don’t feel like we are sharing raw emotions as they take place, but we are looking at them in the rear view mirror. It makes our experience a lot easier to talk about. We don’t know what the future holds with our family building, but I can tell you one thing, it’s going to be approached with a lot more transparency.

About three months ago I decided to compete for the title of Mrs. California. I told Chris my goal was to lose the baby weight and promote one of the greatest causes of all: infertility awareness. So with the platform of “Infertility Support and Advocacy” I set off to try to shed some light on our community of warriors. I was completely transparent when speaking with the judges in interview, and they were lovely to talk to. And you you’ll never believe it…they picked me to represent California for 2017!


So now I have this new shiny hat, and I have set out to do great things with it. First, I attended the American Fertility Expo and got to catch a screening of “Vegas Baby.” Holy moly, the tears were rolling. Has anyone else seen it? It hit really close to home.


Then, we attended the Walk of Hope in San Diego with who you all know as baby “Casper” but his name is actually Mason.


Next, I had the opportunity to attend Resolve’s Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. last week. I’ve never done anything more empowering in my entire life. Meeting with members of Congress and sharing our story was life-changing. I felt like I was educating our nation’s leaders on the emotional side of infertility. They were more receptive and empathic than I anticipated they’d be. The experience was one I will never forget, and it gave me such an emotional high that I’ll go back again and again until infertility coverage in this country is so good there’s no need for lobbying on Capitol Hill. 💙


I’ll keep you posted on my journey and events I attend that benefit the infertility community. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them, too!

Reflections on Infertility at 6 Months

It’s time for me to break the blog silence, and write again. In my last post, I mentioned it has been hard for me to write when I know others out there are still struggling. We are so grateful to be about six months through our pregnancy with baby “Casper.” We also understand our pregnancy might sting for some people. The hard thing about overcoming infertility is when you know other people are still dealing with that nagging pain and emptiness that used to feel way too familiar to you too. I have a friend who has been going through fertility treatments far longer than we have. She and her husband have experienced more loss and heartbreak than anyone should ever have to endure. They are wonderful people, and Chris and I want them to get pregnant so badly. And here we are moving forward, and watching them go through the process again. It’s unfair. It’s cruel. It’s a reminder of how we should never take what we have for granted. We pray for them, and for all those of you who are still struggling, everyday.

Our struggles with infertility have definitely shaped how we’ve approached sharing our pregnancy. For starters, Chris and I have not posted anything at all on social media about being pregnant. I remember how much those posts used to break my heart, and I’d never want to bring that pain on someone else. I’m still not back on Facebook, and have been away from it for almost a year.

Every infertility situation is so unique. Midst the joy, anxiety, and gratitude of my pregnancy, every now and then I think about the future. Of course, I find myself regularly wishing that “Casper” was already here, and wanting to speed things up. In those moments I have to remind myself to be thankful for this opportunity, this pregnancy, and this journey. I don’t want our baby to arrive a minute too soon. I want him to grow strong, so when he’s here, we can simply enjoy being the parents of a healthy baby boy.

In other moments, I find myself having the realization that this pregnancy is not a cure-all for the challenges we’ve faced. For a long time, during the phases of fertility treatments and ups and downs, I thought of pregnancy as the finish line. After becoming pregnant, I quickly realized infertility had left some pretty thick emotional scars, which resulted in being a fairly anxious mommy-to-be. Even despite meditation, therapy, positive self-talk, and affirmations I found myself being uncontrollably anxious in the beginning. We bought a doppler device so I could listen to our son’s heartbeat in these challenging moments. That little tool helped me so much in the first trimester. Now that I can feel our son moving, I have relaxed a even more. Every milestone helps me to overcome the tormenting fears of the past.

Our hearts are overflowing with the gratitude that this pregnancy is going smoothly. We met with a perinatal specialist in weeks 10 and 20 to double check on our sons growth and development. Both times I felt exceedingly anxious in the days right before our appointments. And both times, the doctor told us everything looks “perfect.” What a huge sigh of relief for Chris and me. Every bit of positive information about our son makes me feel more confident and secure in this pregnancy.

 

 

IVF #2: Beta #1 Results

I’ve been peeing on sticks for the past few days like it’s my job. Today we finally got to hear it from the pros…

We are pregnant!

Somebody please pinch me! I cannot believe it. 

Our beta came back at 573. They’ll test me again in exactly a week to see if the numbers are doubling every 48 hours like they should. 

In the movie Casper, Casper goes into the Lazarus to bring himself back to life, but the villains steal the special solution and he turns out looking kind of like a fried egg. Well, to me, that’s what our embaby looked like on the day of transfer. So, that’s what we’ll call our little sticky bean on the blog, “Casper.” 

Casper and Baby Hopeful

He sure is cute. We can’t wait to meet him in nine months. 💙

IVF #2: Progesterone is not my friend

 

Putrid grape-flavored lozenge

 
I’m just going to start off by saying, “YUCK.”

Today I had to ingest my first progesterone lozenges and they are beyond nasty. You know the grape-flavored medicine that everyone hates? This is so much more disgusting than that. For starters it’s a lozenge, so it lasts for what feels like an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y. I have to take them underneath my tongue, and hold them there until they are completely dissolved. No joke, the dissolving process takes about 15 minutes. As it dissolves, the lozenge makes your mouth feel simultaneously numb and waxy. The first one I took this morning almost made me puke. I think partly that’s because I did it on an empty stomach. I don’t really have a choice, though. I have to take them about eight hours apart because I’m doing it three times a day. So this means bright and early when I wake up, midday, and before bed. Even after transfer, I get to do this until my 10th week of pregnancy. I’m already sick of it. Honestly though, I will do anything to become a mom. So if it means ingesting repulsive grape-flavored medicine, I’ll do it 100 years if necessary. If given the choice, I would much rather do progesterone in oil. I’m already doing estrogen in oil, so what’s another shot?!

Last cycle with a different doctor, I did Crinone suppositories for my progesterone and they were icky! TMI Alert: if you haven’t experienced the joy of  Crinone, let me just tell you what you’re missing. They contain a bio adhesive that makes them literally get stuck in your vag for as long as possible. I used to pass gigantic clots of glue every day. My husband didn’t even want to touch me while I was taking the stuff. And I don’t blame him! To call them gross is quite an understatement.  

 

Endometrin tablet and applicator

 
This time I’m taking Endometrin three times a day. I’ve only taken two doses, but so far I like them a lot more than the Crinone. The only downside I’ve noticed so far, is that they’re making me feel a little bit irritated down there. They are a pill instead of a gel, and you insert them with an applicator. They dissolve up there, and then they kind of slowly leak out throughout the day. Pantiliners are a must-have on this stuff. 

So far I’ve noticed that I’ve been getting headaches right after my dosages of the lozenges and the Endometrin. I feel little bit detached from my body after I take them for about an hour or two. I hope this is something I can adjust to, or that will eventually start to go away on its own, because it’s a distraction in the middle of my day. The headaches are not debilitating, so I’ll be able to manage for awhile. What’s 11ish weeks when you get a lifetime with your kid, right!? 👶🏼

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. 💙

IVF #2: Prepping for Transfer (aka Shots in the Butt)

Chris is now a pseudo-nurse. Tonight will be his third time administering a shot of Delestrogen into the muscle of my upper buttocks. I knighted him as shot-giver since that’s a pretty tough area to inject on yourself. I was going to try it, because I’d way rather give myself my own injections, but the angle is a little tricky.

The first time, it was a super smooth process. I didn’t even really feel it, and I was surprised when Chris told me it was over. The only downside is it bled quite a bit. I couldn’t get the injection site to stop bleeding for about 15-20 minutes. Finally, after lots of pressure, it quit. The second injection stung so badly–it felt like a hot poker into one of my nerves. The upside was there was no blood at all. Go figure.

This weekend I went to another Resolve meeting. This one was only women, and it was interesting to hear the different perspectives of the women there. The girl next to me shared that the synthetic hormones make her incredibly depressed. I totally related and connected to that sentiment. Although the stim phase never seems to affect me, the shots of estrogen, which I’ve never had in the past, seem to be doing a number on me emotionally. I’m ready for this process to be over.

I am beyond nervous about transfer. I am so terrified of getting another negative beta. I can’t even describe how traumatizing that would be. I am so afraid that this is going to destroy me emotionally if it doesn’t work out. The fear is almost paralyzing. It’s hard to be positive, because there’s so much riding on these results. I don’t know what to do. Every day I worry about the success or failure of our transfer. It’s a huge weight on my shoulders.

After doing lots of research, and speaking with my OB/GYN, I am definitely leaning towards transferring two embryos, while Chris is leaning towards transferring one. We intend to talk to our RE in further detail next time we see him. Even though we aren’t on the same page with our desires for transfer, Chris and I are getting along well. We are definitely able to talk about it without any frustration or argument.

Total random sidenote: I don’t know what to call this transfer. It’s technically our second frozen embryo transfer, but it’s also our second complete IVF cycle. So do we call it IVF #2: FET #1 or is it IVF #2: FET #2?

Either way, I hope it’s our last!

IVF #2: Decision-Making Standstill

Stress-cartoon

We met with our RE on Friday for blood work and an ultrasound. As he was speaking with us, he mentioned our PGS results and said, “Now you guys just have to decide which embryo you want to transfer.”

“Just one?” I clarified.

He launched into an explanation of higher risks associated with multiples, and how if it were his kid and his choice, he’d choose just one. He added that at my age (31) I’m likely to bounce back from a singleton pregnancy, but twins would do a number on my body. “You don’t want all that saggy skin,” he harped.

No, I don’t want saggy skin. Most of all, I don’t want to put my babies at risk. I don’t want to put myself at risk, either. What do I want? To be pregnant. To deliver happy, healthy, baby(ies).

This advice from our RE is a little unexpected. When we interviewed Dr. W, we loved that he said we could transfer two embryos, and we would. Why the change of tune? I didn’t ask, because I was in too much shock. Is it because we did PGS and filtered out the ones he knew wouldn’t stick? I’m so confused, and frankly disappointed.

Last time we transferred one embryo, because it was all we had. In return, we got nothing but a negative beta, devastation, and complete heartache. I really liked the security of transferring two this time. In my mind, it sets us up for a greater chance of success. I wonder how much more we have the ability to endure. Are we strong enough to go through that pain again? I am afraid it might break me.

Then I think it through and realize, the thing that would break me more is to feel like I made the wrong choice. Heaven forbid we choose to transfer two embryos, and that decision is at the cost of the health or lives of our babies. Damn you, infertility. Fertile couples don’t have to make decisions like this.

Chris and I have talked circles around what to do, and what the best decision will be for us and for our family. All we’ve concluded is that this is a more difficult conversation than we realized it would be. To be honest, we are pretty stressed about making the right choice, and that has resulted in us treating each other less than our best. I love that we’re aware of this, and we’re doing everything in our power to turn it around, work together, and get on the same page. We know we’ll figure this out together. Eventually. 😉

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. 💙💗