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: FET Day!

Chris and I slept poorly last night thinking about our frozen embryo transfer today. We wake up bleary-eyed at the indecent five o’clock hour (good practice for kids right?) and make our way to the reproductive center. Traffic is near gridlock, so we come skidding into the parking lot about five minutes late. We sign in at 7:50, and wait for them to call us back for our 8:30 transfer.

Ok, so I know we are a little late, but they are running much later than us. Normally, I wouldn’t mind so much. However, with an embryo transfer, they require you to come with a full bladder. I’m starting to think my bladder is weak sauce because at about 8:45 (still no call back) I start thinking I’m going to piss myself in the swanky lobby chairs. Chris starts to see that panicked look in my eyes, and says he’s going to go find a nurse. They tell me it’ll be at least another 30 minutes, so they ask me to “partly” empty my bladder. I probably looked at the nurse with that same sideways expression my dogs give me when they hear a high-pitched noise. So she explains I should start to pee, count to ten, and shut it down. After that, I feel much better, and we go back to the swanky chairs to wait some more.

A nurse calls us back, asks us to sign the waivers, and then tells me I should undress from the waist-down and get under a sheet on the hospital bed. They provided me with some sexy rubber-grip hospital socks, but I brought some of my own.

 

My hopeful socks!

 
The nurse walks in and tells me she’s going to look at my bladder. She squirts the clear ultrasound goo on my lower stomach region, and begins pressing like hell with the ultrasound into my oh-still-very-full bladder. She tells me how perfect the fullness is (uh, yeah lady, I can feel that it’s full). Meanwhile, our doctor walks in, greets us, tilts the hospital bed so my feet are in the air, goes to the end of the bed and flips my sheet back. I know they are used to seeing the goods, but I was so bashful lying there with my cookie hanging out. He proceeds to spread my legs, grab a speculum, and do the regular gyno routine, and then insert the catheter through my cervix.

The nurse called the embryologist, and she loaded our chosen embryo into a syringe. We decided to go with our top rated male. The moments while we waited for her to come in were probably the most awkward since no one in the room really had a job to do, and I was lying there feeling pretty exposed. Soon enough our embryologist came in, and the injected our little boy through the catheter and into my uterus.

Not the clearest pic, but here is our embaby in his new home.

Our embryo is a handsome little guy by IVF standards. He’s rated a 6AA on the Gardner Blastocyst Grading Scale, which I was really pleased to learn is the best rating an embryo can receive. The 6 means he’s a hatched blastocyst. The first “A” means his inner cells are tightly packed (this part becomes the fetus), and the second “A” means his TE cells are plentiful and form a cohesive layer (this part becomes the placenta). This is light years better than our only blastocyst in our first failed IVF cycle. We are thrilled.

Baby Hopeful’s first picture–you can see clearly that he’s hatched from his shell. 🙂

I feel like a drug addict, but we added ANOTHER pill today. In addition to my estrogen shots and progesterone lozenges and suppositories, now I’m taking methylprednisone. This is supposed to help prevent my body from rejecting the embryo so it can attach.

All in all, good news to report today. Our doctor said my endometrium looked great, the transfer was flawless, and we have a perfect embryo. He said it’s all up to my body at this point. So come on, body, let’s get pregnant!

 

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. đź’™

Mr. Hopeful Explains What It’s Like To Have A MESA/ TESE Procedure

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The purpose of this post, dear reader, is to relay experience gained through two separate procedures—two MESAs and one TESE—in hopes of helping my fellow men who may be facing similar procedures as a result of male factor infertility. Prior to my first MESA procedure, I scoured the Internet trying to gain a sense of what to expect, yet all I came up with was technical jargon and basic explanations. As such, I’m providing this boots-on-the-ground narrative in an attempt to help shed light on the procedures and educate others as to what to expect.

Fair warning: the following contains graphic content. Prior to my first MESA procedure, I would have loved to read a no-B.S. assessment of what I was getting myself into. As such, I’ve written this post in the same straight-up, conversational manner that I’d use if talking to another man about the topic. I’ve used jargon that you may find offensive. There’s definitely TMI contained in the following paragraphs, and if you have a weak stomach, are easily grossed out/offended, or just plain don’t want to read a firsthand description of what it’s like to have a testicle cut open, you’d better skip this blog.

A note to all the women who may read this blog: I am under no false illusions that your involvement in the IVF process is immeasurably harder and more physically uncomfortable, humiliating, and demanding that mine—and that’s before you (hopefully) carry and deliver a baby! In no way am I trying to diminish your contribution by describing what I have been through; I’m merely trying to accurately convey my experience in hopes of taking some of the fear and mystery out of the procedure(s) for the benefit of other men. I’ll be the first to admit that men are tough…but women are much, much tougher!

OK, now that you’ve been warned/notified, let’s get started:

My first procedure was scheduled to be a MESA—short for Microsurgical Retrieval of Epididymal Sperm—or, as I read it in my head every time, “Mildly Embarrassing Sperm Acquisition.” Those of you who have followed our blog will likely remember that I was born with congenital absence of the vas deferens, meaning that I don’t have any tubes connecting my nuts to the rest of the system. Translation? I produce sperm but don’t deliver it, meaning that in order to get my half of the IVF recipe, my urologist needs to physically retrieve it. Lucky me.

Dr. W is without a doubt one of the best male fertility specialists in the business. At about six-and-a-half feet tall, he’s also likely one of the biggest. I felt comfortable from the moment that I met him, and he assured me that he would do everything in his power to make the procedure a successful one.

My balls—and our reproductive future—were soon in his large and competent hands.

Although I’ve done this procedure twice at two different IVF clinics, both times Dr. W traveled to the clinic to perform the procedure. For the sake of eliminating redundancy, I’ll describe the second, more successful procedure, adding in notes from the first when relevant.

The day of the second procedure also marked my wife’s retrieval, since we didn’t want to have to freeze my sperm. She went first, and I sat quietly in the waiting room and kept a good thought for both of us. I have had a number of surgeries in my life and wasn’t too nervous, but I definitely felt my adrenaline spike when they asked me to come in back and start getting ready.

Heather was already in recovery at that point, and I filled out paperwork while doing my best to take care of her. Pretty soon, the nurses opened up the curtain divider to reveal another hospital bed, and asked me to get changed into a gown and socks that were sitting in a neat pile. I couldn’t help but laugh at the nurse’s attempt at modesty when she came back and asked through the curtain if I was changed and decent. Really, lady? I thought. You’re about to see my junk under an 800 lumen light, and you want to make sure I’m dressed? I played along and after kissing my still-drugged wife and taking a quick piss for good luck, it was off to the operating room.

Dr. W had already arrived and was prepping his tools while singing along to an obscure ’70s hit song that was blasting through the overhead speaker in the room. With the help of a nurse, he directed me to lie down on the main operating table with an array of pillows jammed underneath my head and shoulders to keep me from moving around (and, I suspect, watching).

At this point, I asked for a blanket for my chest. Now, my cold tolerance is insane, but I have very little body fat, and the room was cool enough that I knew I’d be shaking like a jackhammer in about ten minutes if I didn’t have more insulation (normally I’d be content to just shiver, but given that in the next ten minutes I’d have needles and razors applied to my scrotum, I opted for the snivel gear).

With the same casual familiarity of a professional chef flipping a pancake, Dr. W flipped back the gown to reveal my family jewels. I glanced at the nurse to gauge her reaction; she looked about as unsurprised as a librarian walking past a shelf full of books. I took this to be a good thing and tried to prep myself for what I knew was coming.

The first thing Dr. W did was compliment me on the job I’d done shaving “the area.” I’ve had enough surgeries to know the drill, and he seemed as happy to not have to shave my sack as I was. Next, Dr. W warned that things would get “cold and wet” and proceeded to dump what felt like a 5-gallon bucket of ice-cold liquid iodine on my crotch. I felt myself inhale sharply as the iodine ran down my legs and all over the place, and soon Dr. W was smearing it around in as professional a manner as one can when smearing a slippery liquid over another man’s crotch. Next, Dr. W used some scotch tape—yes, the same stuff we all used in elementary school to hang up pictures—to tape my shaft to my stomach. I was happy to have it out of the way (not that either he or the nurse would slip with a kitchen knife—but hey, better safe than sorry!).

Dr. W then asked if I was ready to get started, and warned that I’d feel a “pinch and a burn” as he numbed the area. Now, there are many ways to describe having a needle stuck into one of the most sensitive spots on your body, and pinch and a burn is not the first that comes to mind. I bit my lip and reminded myself that my wife has had to endure similar experiences, and at a far greater frequency than this. Dr. W numbed the area to his liking. While I couldn’t feel the incision—or anything in that general region, for that matter—I could feel it in my stomach (every guy knows that if you get hit in the balls hard enough, your stomach hurts. This came on as a dull but bearable ache that remains for about a week or two).

At this point, Dr. W’s next actions aren’t entirely known to me, since I wasn’t directly watching (nor did I want to be) and, thankfully, I couldn’t feel much more than a muted tugging and slight pressure. I could tell that he was cutting into my skin and epididymis to retrieve a sample. The first time I had this done, the clinic-supplied nurse was borderline incompetent. While Dr. W pushed “fluid” out of the epididymis, she sucked it up with a syringe. Or, at least she pushed it around while Dr. W futility attempted to coach her through the process. Later, when she left the room, I asked if she was qualified to do this procedure. He said that she was but I could sense his frustration at her inability to do what he needed her to do.

Fortunately, the second nurse—whom I’m guessing is an employee of our current IVF clinic—was an absolute pro. She did exactly what Dr. W needed her to do, and soon he was leaving the room to view the sample under a microscope with the lab techs. I noticed that a second female nurse had entered the room. All modesty had left us at that point; whether she was there to help—or just view my fine china—I really didn’t care. We made awkward conversation while I stared at the vent in the ceiling wondering what bacteria was flowing into the room and my still-splayed-open nutsack.

The first time we did this procedure, Dr. W came shuffling into the room 10 minutes later and explained that he’d only found dead sperm. In the next few minutes, my MESA procedure became a TESE (Testicular Sperm Extraction or, as I came to refer to it, Total Emergency Sperm Exploration) as Dr. W went directly into my nut to try to get what he needed. Several trips back and forth to the lab and he had a few “twitching” sperm, but I could tell he wasn’t pleased.

Fortunately, my second procedure was completely different. I’d been taking daily fistfuls of supplements for months in hopes of raising my sperm quality; in the process, I’d become incredibly moody and I’d put on about 8 pounds of muscle (understandable, since my testosterone was through the roof and I was, in effect, juicing). But this regiment of chemicals resulted in a body composition change that fired up my little swimmers in a big way.

Soon, Dr. W came bursting into the room like Kramer from Seinfeld and proudly announced that I had millions of sperm. Millions! He said that the lab techs were high-fiving each other, and the sample looked so good that it could have come from a normal ejaculation. Words cannot convey how utterly relieved we both were to hear this result. As Dr. W jostled some tools and papers around the operating room, my thoughts returned to my wife, who had since left the clinic under the care of a friend to get some much-needed rest. I couldn’t wait to tell her the positive news, and that I felt like we were “back in the game” as far as becoming parents to our own children. Coincidentally, I noticed that the song that was now blasting through the overhead speaker was “All You Need Is Love” by The Beatles. I can tell you this: if this cycle is successful, that song will never sound quite the same as it did before this procedure.

It wasn’t long before Dr. W began buttoning things up. He was smiling and very upbeat; I was pleased to see that he was truly invested in a positive outcome for us. Now that the pressure was seemingly off, we began casually conversing about a variety of manly topics—our shared affinity for martial arts, the folly of trying to out-swim a Navy SEAL BUD/S instructor, and the prevalence of Kalashnikov rifles in third world countries were all discussed as he stitched up my still-numb junk. The tough-guy conversation was likely not unintentional; I suspect that it was our shared way of acknowledging each other and saying, Look, this is as close to pillow talk as IVF gets. Neither of us particularly enjoyed this, but we’re both damn happy with how it went. Let’s get this done and be through with it.

The administering of the sutures was unpleasant (each time he tugged on the string, my boys momentarily left the surface of the table, like an adult-themed puppet covered in drying iodine). Again, Dr. W’s competence and professionalism ruled out, and he was finished before I knew it. The nurse left the room, and without further instructions I gently pulled all of the blankets to the ground and, after a sincere thank-you and a firm handshake with my towering doctor, I shuffled for the recovery room, where I quickly ditched my iodine-and-who-knows-what-else-stained gown and donned a set of tri-shorts (I’ve found these offer the best post-procedure support; jock straps can be a little too tight and actually hurt a little if they get out of place). The nurses gave me a few ice-packs, which I gratefully shoved down my shorts, and after waving off additional pain meds and throwing on the rest of my clothes, I was soon out on the curb and grabbing a ride from our friend. We then drove to pickup my wife, at which point I got behind the wheel and piloted us home. You’re technically not supposed to drive after this procedure, but if I was going to be sitting, I figured I might as well drive. Plus, my dear wife was still looped out from her procedure.

This photo was taken of my immediately following my first MESA procedure. As you can see, I was a little rattled by the experience.

This photo was taken of my immediately following my first MESA procedure. As you can see, I was a little rattled by the experience.

As the local anesthetic wore off and we arrived at home, I found myself in quite a bit of pain, but nothing that lying down and icing—combined with a single Tylenol—didn’t fix. In the next 24 hours, I ran a few errands to pickup take-out and to get my antibiotics from the pharmacy, but otherwise I stayed put and let the ice do its work (frequent icing is key to managing the swelling). Walking was a ginger affair for about two days, but within four days I was back at work (which entailed me being in disgusting, dirty, frigid ocean water while wearing an exposure suit doing mock emergency swimmer ascents from an imaginary submarine. Hurray for antibiotics!) Suffice it to say, nobody at work knew what I had been through, and within five days of my procedure I was riding a mountain bike (much to my wife’s chagrin. But to be honest, she knew what she was getting into when she married me).

Final note: I slept with a pillow between my knees for about ten days. The stitches go away on their own after a few weeks. About the time you get used to them, you realize that they’ve fallen out or dissolved or something.

And that, my friends, is what it’s like to have a MESA procedure. Let’s hope that it wasn’t for nothing!

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! đź’—

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. đź’—

IVF #2: Quick Follicle Update

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

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

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

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. ❤