Here We Go

IVF Round 2 is officially underway. I started taking birth control this morning for down regulation. This simply means my ovaries are being turned off by the birth control so the doctor can better control egg maturation. Later on, the injections will fuel follicle growth and egg maturation, so we don’t want my ovaries to start working on their own and ahead of schedule. Like Brennen says, we don’t want them to be OVARYchievers. Not yet anyway. 

Dr. Memphis’ nurse called with our IVF schedule today. We have a tentative stimming (injections) start date of September 23 and the retrieval planned for the week of October 3. We thought we wouldn’t have to make a trip back to Memphis until the retrieval, but my doctor wants to meet with us next week to go over the stimming regimen and do a sonohysterogram (saline injected into the uterus to check for polyps where he’ll place the embryo). We will be traveling to Memphis next week for this “fun” appointment. 

As I penciled all the dates on our calendar, I found myself tearing up. Countless times throughout this process, my tears have been for heartache. But this time, it was different. My tears were for hope and for gratefulness. And it’s because this time around, I feel more prepared, more equipped. Brennen and I both do. I think it’s because of how much we’ve grown as individuals and as a couple this past year. Without a doubt, we’ve become closer. We’ve learned to trust and lean on each other more than ever before. How can I not trust the man giving me my daily hormone injections! And how can he not be the one whose shoulder I cry on during every breakdown. We’ve learned more about ourselves – our limits, how we handle emotions, how we cope, how strong we are. We’re more educated and empowered. Brennen would say he has learned more about the reproductive cycle than he ever imagined! And we’ve strengthened our relationship with God and learned to put our trust in Him. When I look back at all we’ve gained this past year, I don’t see our three IUI’s and first IVF cycle so much as “failures” anymore.

So tonight, I’ll tape our calendar to the fridge (because for some reason KitchenAid made one that isn’t magnetic). And in the midst of the scheduling and planning, I’ll take the time to stop and be grateful for all that we’ve gained so far on this journey and hopeful for the blessings that are still to come.

Here we go!

Being Productive Pre-IVFers

This has been quite the productive two weeks in preparing for IVF Round 2, Cycle 2, Act 2, or whatever you choose to call it. Because I love a good bulleted to-do list, I figured I would fashion this post as such.

  1. Set up local monitoring – During the 12(ish)-day egg stimulation process, the doctor will need to monitor my follicle growth and estrogen levels to make sure my stimming is on track. Luckily, with local monitoring, I won’t have to make multiple trips to Memphis with inflated ovaries. A reproductive endocrinologist here in Jackson will do the ultrasounds and blood work and send the results to Memphis. From there, Dr. Memphis will decide if any adjustments need to be made to my medicine and will schedule the egg retrieval.
  2. Got rejected from a drug discount program – Even though it’s a rejection, it’s still progress.  The DesignRx First Steps Program provides financial assistance for the cost of stimulation medicines on a tiered level based on income.  Although we fell outside the levels needed to qualify, they did enroll us in the DesignRx Managed Cash Program which may provide some discounts for Follistim and Ganirelix.  This rejection also gave us an “in” to apply for another program called MDR Assist.  With this program, you can receive a 5% discount through MDR Pharmacy if you’ve been rejected from another program.  So the next steps are to 1) Get my prescription from Dr. Memphis, 2) Contact both my current pharmacy and MDR to get price quotes based on the two discounts, and 3) Compare prices to determine the most affordable option.  That’s the thing about to-do lists, you know. You mark one thing off and add three more!  For more information on both these programs, you can visit www.MDRusa.com.
  3. Made all new, all natural cleaning supplies – We are by no means all-natural hippies, but last week we rid our house of store-bought cleaners in an effort to reduce any chemical toxins in our home environment. Basically, we now make all our cleaning supplies with combinations of these 10 ingredients: vinegar, baking soda, Castile soap, hydrogen peroxide, distilled water, washing soda, borax, rubbing alcohol, vodka, and essential oils. Needless to say, I’m addicted to cleaning these days thanks to my new toys!
  4. Started acupuncture – I can’t believe I can say, “Yeah, I’m doing acupuncture.” I won’t lie, it makes me feel cool. It’s not like the movies where you have hundreds of needles covering every inch of your body.  I only had about 16 needles in me during my first visit. I can honestly say, it wasn’t bad. After daily Menopur injections, aka liquid fire, these acupuncture needles ain’t nothin! It takes just a couple of minutes to put the needles in, a few seconds to take them out, and in between I get the best 25 minute nap of my life.  My next appointment is tomorrow, and acupuncture is quickly becoming the highlight of my week!
  5. Let Dr. Memphis know the plan – We contacted Memphis to let our doctor and his nurse know we hope to get this process started with my next cycle, which, thanks to my ever-so-punctual uterus, is scheduled for August 30th. At that point, I’ll begin taking birth control for down regulation to “reset” my ovaries. This time, the poor girls will know what’s waiting for them on the other side though.

So now, we just wait for my next cycle. We’re used to that. We’ve spent the last two years waiting on my cycle to start (or rather hoping it wouldn’t). Until then, we’ll pass the time with vitamins, acupuncture, natural cleaning supplies, and some Southern Miss football as we get ready to make Baby H.

A Little Perspective Goes a Long Way

This past May, I celebrated my last 20-something birthday. My mom and mother-in-law kept asking for a birthday list; but, honestly and much to everyone’s surprise, I couldn’t come up with a single thing to ask for.  When you’re turning 29, can’t get pregnant, and you’re knocking on the door of IVF, it puts things into perspective. I didn’t want a new purse or jewelry or any expensive gift. I wanted to get pregnant. That was the only thing on my list. That was my wish.

Now, another reality check, but this time it’s different. Over the past week, my longing for a child hasn’t diminished, but it’s been put into a new perspective by the tragedy that has struck Louisiana.  Yesterday morning on the drive to work, I heard that the death toll is now at 13 and is expected to rise.  I’ve seen pictures of families boating down their streets leaving behind their houses, their belongings, and their memories.  I watched a video on Facebook of a man tearing open the roof of a car to rescue a woman and her dog.  A lot of people say they can’t imagine what Brennen and I are going through right now, but we can’t imagine what these flood victims must be feeling.  To face a tragedy like our neighbors in Louisiana are experiencing is a devastation I don’t know.

Often times when you suffer with infertility, you tend to get lost in your despair.  I’ve done it.  It’s easy to do with all that is involved emotionally, physically, and financially.  It’s hard to put into words how you can mourn for something you’ve never had, miss someone you’ve never held, and love someone you’ve never met.  But you do. And when you mourn and miss and love so much all at once, you’re overwhelmed with a feeling of hopelessness. I’ve been there.  But sometimes, we need a break from our own struggle and should do what we can to turn that negative energy into something positive.  We all should realize how much we have to be thankful for in this very moment.  As I watched that poor puppy in the video almost drown, I held my puppy Nelson a little tighter.  I ate dinner with my husband without the TV as background noise, so I could just enjoy his presence.  I talked to my mom and sister on the phone about nothing really – just to talk.

I guess what I’m saying is that we all have our struggles.  And depending on how you look at them, some are worse than others.  But a lot of it depends on your perspective.  So this week for me, I chose not to be so heavy laden about not being a mother. I chose to be thankful. Even though we don’t have a child, are unsure about whether or not we ever will, and still have a tough road ahead of us, for right now, we’re just going to stop and be thankful for what we do have.  We’re not promised tomorrow, but we have so much to be thankful for today.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the families affected by the flooding in Louisiana.  If you’re able to give anything to these people whether it’s prayers, funds, time, or whatever, we hope you find it in your heart to do so.

 

Happy Anniversary (from Brennen)

Today marks five years of marriage for Breanne and me.  Five years of a Type-A and a Type-B personality somehow making a relationship work.  I’ll let you guess which is which.  Five years is a milestone anniversary.  It’s the anniversary you talk about when you first get married.  And that conversation often includes wanting kids by the fifth year of marriage.  But things don’t always work out the way you planned.

By now, you are all familiar with our infertility story.  Breanne has such an incredible talent for telling stories and being able to put our struggle into words.  So I want to take a minute to brag on her a little bit.  Let me start out by saying that my wife is a rock star.  It’s no secret to her close friends and family that she is a bit of a hypochondriac.  I can’t count the number of late night “heart attacks” that have turned out to be a little indigestion or the brain tumors she has survived (headaches).  But when it comes to our infertility journey, she has shown more strength and courage than I knew she had in her.  When her OBGYN told her that she might need surgery to confirm her Endometriosis diagnosis, she responded with “Sounds good – how soon can we schedule it?”  She has endured countless uncomfortable procedures, injections, and monitoring appointments without batting an eye.  She’s been in stirrups more often than John Wayne.  The most difficult thing I have had to endure involved a sterile cup and a dimmly lit room at the doctor’s office.  So after five years of marriage, I can definitively say that my wife is so much braver than I ever could hope to be.

It’s no secret that this has been a tough year.  We’ve seen more than our fair share of negative pregnancy tests and have been through three failed IUI cycles and an unsuccessful round of IVF.  And the worst part for me is that there’s nothing I can do to make things better.  We guys always want to fix things (Breanne would point to our garage door that’s been broken for the past three months and roll her eyes at that comment, but that’s beside the point).  But if there is a silver lining in this cloud of infertility, it’s that we have grown so much closer as a couple over the past year.  When you go through a difficult time as a couple, you have two options.  You can either let it tear you apart, or you can find strength in each other.  We chose the latter.

So hopefully in another five years, we can look back on this difficult time and be thankful for this journey.  Thankful for how much it has strengthened our relationship with each other and with God.  And hopefully how much it has made us appreciate our beautiful children.  So happy 5th anniversary, Breanne – hopefully our next 5 are the best yet!

Why I’m not like Sarah

About 2 years after Brennen and I were married, I was driving my two little cousins to Dairy Queen when the 7-year old asked, “Bre Bre, when are you and Brennen gonna have a baby?” I responded, “Well, Ani, I just don’t know.”  With a concerned look, she rolled her eyes and huffed, “Well if you don’t hurry up you’re gonna be like Sarah in the Bible and not have one til you’re like 90!” Three years later, still no baby, but I’m not like Sarah.


During this infertility journey, we have received so many words of encouragement. Among them has been the phrase, “It will happen in God’s timing.” After hearing this over and over again, I began to think, “What exactly does that even mean?”

Boy, did I pray about this one! I read. I talked to Brennen about it. I talked to friends. I did everything I could think of to get to the bottom of what it meant for me to get pregnant in God’s timing.  Then it hit me.  It can’t happen in God’s timing if it’s not in God’s will. That’s the kicker.  Saying something happens in God’s timing is like saying it will happen – it’s just that it will happen when God is ready for it to.  But here’s the thing, it may not happen. I may not get pregnant. I am not promised a child. But you know who was? Sarah.

“I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her.” -Genesis 17:16

Children aren’t promises from God. Children are blessings from God. We’re all blessed, but we all get a different combination of blessings in our lives.  And it may be that a child isn’t in our bundle.

I remember the first time it hit me that I may never have a child of my own. It was after our second unsuccessful IUI. I ugly cried – the kind of cry where, even though you look ridiculous, you can’t stop staring at yourself in the mirror. Yep, I just sat there at my bathroom vanity staring at myself crying. Maybe I was trying to see the reality of our situation, or maybe it was because I couldn’t bring myself to move.  The cry started in the living room. Then, when I couldn’t make it to the bedroom, I dropped to the kitchen floor where I propped myself up against the refrigerator and bawled my eyes out. Finally, I made it to the vanity to grab some Kleenex and there I sat – just staring at myself…crying, wilted, and unable to move.

Our fertility journey has taken us to another level both emotionally and spiritually. This emotional roller coaster has been a new experience for us, and despite growing up in church and in Christian households, Brennen and I have had to learn how to pray through it. We’re still learning. We don’t pray that God’s timing will be soon rather than later. We don’t pray for a child to be granted to us. What we pray for is peace during these times, for protection from words that may hurt us, and for guidance that we’ll make the right decisions along the way. Finally, we pray that a baby is in God’s will, but if it’s not, we pray for patience as we wait for His will to be revealed.

So no, I’m not Sarah. Brennen is not Abraham. And there is definitely not a Hagar in the picture! We don’t have the promise of a child. We hope to one day have that blessing. But in the meantime, we’ll revel in the blessings we’ve been given, thank God for each and every one of them, and continue to seek His will…not His timing.

You’ve Got a Prayer in Memphis

We’re back from our Memphis trip, and our only plans for the day are 1) sit on the couch, 2) watch the Olympics, 3) eat take-out, and 4) watch Brett Favre get inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame (SMTTT!).  We feel like we deserve a day like this, and it will be easy since my mom (or as she is more affectionately called, Mama) spent a couple days at our house while we were gone to clean and do laundry.  It was so nice to come home to a chore-free house. Thanks, Mama!

We got to Memphis late Thursday night, ate some BBQ, and hit a few Poke stops on the way to the hotel.  We knew the anticipation would make it difficult to sleep so we each popped a Benadryl as soon as we got there.  What I didn’t plan for was the awful and constant humming of the room’s mini-fridge.  At 12am, I sprang from the bed and declared, “Nope, can’t handle it.” Knowing that my stress level was maxed out, Brennen was so understanding and only rolled his eyes halfway back into this head.  He suggested just unplugging it. Seems simple enough.  But at 12am in a Benadryl fog, your brain magnifies problems, and I was convinced that unplugging it would create a pool of water that would somehow result in an electrical trap that would kill us when we woke up in the morning and put our feet on the floor.  Dramatic, I know. I decided it had to go.  So there we were at midnight, moving a mini fridge across our hotel room and into the bathroom.  It was leaking a bit, and I kept yelling “It’s slipping Brennen. I can’t do it. I’m going to drop it. I can’t.”  He went all coach-like on me and urged, “You got this. Just hang tight. Almost there.” Maybe he’s a super encouraging husband, or maybe he was exhausted and knew he could crawl back in bed as soon as we got the thing to the bathroom. Probably a little of both. Finally, we went to sleep, with the hum of the mini-fridge muffled by the bathroom door. 

The next morning, we had our much anticipated meeting with the Memphis doctor.  He was great! We initially met with him for about an hour and a half while he looked through my medical records and asked tons of questions about our previous IVF cycle, my endometriosis, and our family health history.  The first time he looked up from his notes was to tell me that my mom’s side of the family had some pretty terrible genes. Thanks, Mama. We loved delving into our records and our story with him.  Brennen told him upfront that we want to hear the truth, the facts, no protection.  If it’s hopeless, we want to know.  He gave us hope.

We hung around a little longer so I could have about a dozen vials of blood drawn and an antral follicle scan during which I was complimented on my “pretty ovaries.” I didn’t know what an antral follicel scan was; Brennen did, of course.  He’s the researcher and knows more about my reproductive functions than I do at this point.  In Brennen’s words, “At the very beginning of your cycle, it shows how many tiny follicles you have in your ovaries that could potentially produce eggs.” I had 33.  Doc was pleased. And since I only had 10 eggs in the first round of IVF, he was hopeful we could get more.

We took a lunch break at Chick-fil-A.  Yes, the line was wrapped around the building and into the street.  I’m convinced they could build a Chic-fil-A next to every Chick-fil-A in America and they would both be packed.  But I digress.

Back at the clinic, the doctor performed a test transfer.  I had one of these done before our first IVF cycle, but, understandably, he wanted to test for himself.  During a test transfer, a catheter is inserted into the uterus just as it is during the real embryo transfer to ensure there won’t be any problems on the big day.  This isn’t the most comfortable procedure in the world considering your bladder is full, a sonographer is pressing down on your pelvis, and you have a catheter bumping up against the back of your uterus.  Luckily, during the real transfer, you’re given a Valium. And when it’s over, you feel like a little bit of a bad A.

Finally, at 3:30, after 7 hours of tests and meetings with our doctor, we left the clinic; but not before hitting up two Poke stops at the pond behind the building.  Brennen tried to play it off like, “Oh I want to look at this water.” Sure Brennen.  Just get your Poke balls, and let’s be on our way.

Just as we were heading out, my dad called to check where we were.  He takes roll call of the family about every other day.  For those of you who know my dad, you know he has terrible hearing but is too prideful for a hearing aid.  He doesn’t want to “look old” as he approaches 70. He asked me how the appointment went, and I told him I loved how our doctor was so factual.  Then I hear him shrieking, “Do what? You like him because he’s sexual? BRE-ANNE!” I just shook my head.  I’m still not sure if he thinks my doctor is sexual or factual.

For the ride home, we had lots of reading material and so much to talk about.  I also decided to serenade Brennen with some Pam Tillis “Maybe It was Memphis,” which eventually turned into car karaoke with the ladies of 90’s country music.  It was a fun trip! Our minds were exhausted from all the information we had been given that day, but in a good way.  Visiting this clinic gave us a new sense of optimism, a much needed emotional boost. So, in the words of Marc Cohn (who also made it onto our Memphis playlist), “You’ve got a prayer in Memphis.”

 

 

 

#InfertilitySucks

We told ourselves when we first started this blog that we were going to keep things upbeat and not dwell on the negativity of our situation.  We didn’t want our posts to be invitations to a pity party.  We read posts with #InfertiltySucks and decided we didn’t want to beat down our readers, or ourselves, with that message.  But you know what?  Infertility does suck.  And if I’m going to be real about what we’re going through, then I need to tell you about those days when everything hits like a ton of bricks. Today was one of those days.

Brennen and I researched the heck out of IVF and the reproductive cycle when we first started fertility treatments in late 2015.  We know more than we ever thought we would know about hormones, sperm, ovaries, eggs, embryos, etc. Moving into this next phase of our journey, we decided that first and foremost we need to get our bodies ready for reproduction before jumping into another round of IVF.  The way we see it, when you’ve been labeled with “unexplained infertility” like we have, IVF is an expensive, emotional shot in the dark, so we need to do what we can do to shine a little light.  So we’ve been researching! The plan is to take lots of vitamins, look into my endometriosis, and maybe try some acupuncture and other Eastern Medicine treatments.

So here we are with vitamins lined up on our counter and neatly arranged in my pill organizer, my case file ready to submit to the endometriosis center in Atlanta, and “The Infertility Cure” already worn in with dog-eared pages and highlights.  We’ve read articles and books all along the way for the past year and had numerous discussions with our doctor, but no matter how helpful, they all have a common theme – fix Breanne. Then it hits me.  Everything in our plan to get our bodies ready really means getting my body ready.

I’m the one with endometriosis plaguing my body. I’m the one who may have to undergo excision surgery.

I’m the one with the elevated Prolactin. I’m the one with the “fair” FSH levels.

I’m the one with bad eggs. I’m the one who takes three times as many vitamins, will go see an acupuncturist, and needs to change my diet to improve them.

I’m the one that caused us to have bad embryos.

I’m the one who couldn’t keep our one transferred embryo safe.

I’m the one…that’s broken.


I wrote that first part of the post this afternoon. It’s been sitting on my computer for hours while I contemplated what to say, how to wrap it up, and if I should even post it.  On the brink of a trip to Memphis for a second opinion and a second round of treatments,  my thoughts are weighing heavy.  Again, I’m not looking for a pity party.  I just want people to know it sucks. If I had waited until tomorrow, then maybe I could have ended this post on a high note, but today…I can’t. So I’ll just end with this… #InfertilitySucks .

 

Gut Feelings

Before we officially knew our first IVF cycle had failed, we both had a feeling. When we got the call the day after the transfer that our other eight embryos didn’t survive, the uneasiness started settling in. During our two-week wait, I didn’t develop any pregnancy symptoms, and I had been testing negative at home. Plus, I just had this strange feeling. It’s hard to describe, but I know my body better than anyone. And I just knew it.

We found out IVF didn’t work on a Wednesday afternoon. That night, we hit the ground running looking into other clinics, doctors and treatment options. If you know me, you know I’m a planner, so this shouldn’t come as surprise.

After a year of being fertility patients, we realized in that moment that we were also fertility consumers. We are our own best advocates, and we have to shop around for the clinic and treatment plan that best fits our needs. And we needed a second opinion. Maybe even a third and fourth. We also realized we had to trust our guts.

There’s a lot to be said for a gut feeling. My gut told me to go to Southern Miss. It told me to take that Hancock boy to my sorority date party. And it told us to drive all the way to Arkansas to adopt the cutest puppy in the world, our Nelson. Like Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift.”

We started our research with SART online success rate reports. SART is short for the Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology. These SART reports tell you the live birth outcomes of IVF at the society’s member clinics and are available online through www.sart.org. We first looked at clinics in our home state but then expanded our search to bordering states – Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Tennessee. From there, we searched Google, Facebook, YouTube, and infertility blogs and websites for more information and reviews. We also talked to our parents and prayed for guidance in our decision making.

For those of you who are just now beginning your search for a fertility clinic, and even those in our situation with a failed IVF and an uncertainty of what to do next, let me drive this point home to you – RESEARCH. So often we rely too heavily on the opinions and experiences of others, that we ignore our own needs…and our own gut feelings. Each patient is unique, and each patient experience is unique. Know what kind of doctor you need. For me, I need someone who will discuss the facts with me, even when those facts are ambiguous as “Heck, we don’t know what’s going on,” as long as the next sentence is “But here’s what we need to do to figure it out.”

My gut told me to travel North to Memphis for a second opinion after reading this review on a clinic’s Facebook page, “While the anxiety of the patients is palpable in the clinic, the physicians are straight forward and factual.” Sold! By that Friday, we had an appointment scheduled. And this coming Friday, we’ll travel to Memphis equipped with medical records, new patient forms, our questions jotted down in Brennen’s “It Started with a Dish” notebook, and a craving for BBQ. Wish us luck. We’ll keep you posted.