Stimming Update

Here we are at Stim Day 6.  The first few days of stimming were slow as my ovaries kicked into gear.  Now, they are in a full swing. Here’s a quick update on our last 5 days of IVF injections.

Stim Day 2

75iu Menopur
275iu Follistim

Well, Sunday morning was interesting.  Let me begin by saying that my husband is an excellent shot giver or, as he calls himself, “Chief Injectionist.” During Round 1, we never had any issues with the subcutaneous stomach shots.  I never even bruised.  We must have been overdue for a slip up, or maybe it was just too early for us on a Sunday because neither one of us realized that Brennen was injecting me about 4 inches from my belly button in a less fatty area and at an angle. The result… the-welp

That welp (excuse the creases on my stomach created by my pajamas)! Brennen freaked out.  I did too, but I had to stay calm for him – the opposite of what usually happens.  I started texting every nurse and IVF patient I knew.  Finally, at 7:00am Brennen convinced me to wake up the on-call doctor.  I called, and he assured us that the medicine would still be absorbed. Whew! That’s all we needed to hear.  So, I went back to sleep despite having Brennen check my stomach every few minutes and ask, “Is it gone yet?” The welp went away.

I slept off and on the rest of the day.  I didn’t have much energy, but I did have a headache. I think my body was in protest of all the hormones we had been cramming into it.

Stim Day 3

75iu Menopur
275iu Follistim

The headache from the previous day lingered.  I attended a conference and was just waiting on a full blown migraine to be set off by old lady perfume.  Luckily, no migraine.

That evening, I had a meeting after work, so Brennen had to meet me for some IVF on the go.  We joked about “doing it” in the parking lot.

ivf-on-the-go

Stim Day 4

75iu Menopur
275iu Follistim

I spent Stim Day 4 as a pin cushion – an injection in the morning, an injection at night, acupuncture, and blood work.  The blood work was to check my level of estradiol – estrogen which is primarily produced in the follicles of the ovaries.  According to my Chief Injectionist (aka husband), my estradiol level would give the doctor an idea of how many follicles were growing because each follicle produces a certain amount of estradiol.  That afternoon, the doctor must have thought I was looking good because he reduced my Menopur from 75iu to 37.5iu.

Stim Day 5

37.5iu Menopur
275iu Follistim

Wednesday was just that day between two monitoring appointments.  We were so anxious for Thursday’s appointment so we could actually see the follicles during an ultrasound.  After work, I was extremely tired.  It’s odd because during Round 1, I had a surge of energy throughout stimming.  That hasn’t been the case this time around.  I wish I would have kept a journal of my symptoms during the last round so I could compare them with how I’m feeling now.  But honestly, I didn’t really think I would be doing this again. Hindsight, right?

Stim Day 6

37.5iu Menopur
275iu Follistim
0.5cc Ganirelix

Today was our first monitoring appointment that included an ultrasound.  We finally got to see my growing follicles – “follies” for fun.  The right ovary was flourishing with approximately 13 follicles measuring between 9mm and 13mm.  The doctor counted about 8 in the left ovary within that same size range.  So far, follicle count is looking better than Round 1, so we’re hoping it’s a good sign.  Fingers crossed!

We also started our Ganirelix injections tonight.  Ganirelix is basically used to hold the eggs in the follicles until retrieval.  If the eggs release, we’ll have to cancel this round. See, during the typical cycle, there is usually a lead follicle that releases an egg, causing the other follicles to essentially shut down.  We don’t want this happening.  We want those eggs!

What’s Next

Our next appointment is Saturday morning.  We should get an update on follicle count and sizes again, and hopefully we’ll get a tentative retrieval date for next week.  Time flies when you’re juicing your ovaries! We’ll keep you posted.

 

Stim Day 1

Right after college, I started studying for the dreaded CPA exam.  I spent hours every day for months cramming for the first of four sections. I kept note cards with me everywhere I went.  If I wasn’t sleeping or eating, I was probably studying.  Finally, test day came, and (if I remember correctly) in 3 sets of 90 questions, it was over.  I left the test center, sat in my car, and cried like a baby.  I couldn’t believe that I had just taken the first part of the freakin’ CPA exam, a test I had thought about since I declared my major Freshman year.  Boy was I relieved to have that first test behind me! But I was scared that I might not have even passed it.  I was already anxious about the month or so I would have to wait until my score came in.  Then I realized that even if I did pass, I still had 3 more sections left. And who knew if I would pass all those the first time! There was still so much ahead, and all I could do in that moment was let it all out and cry.

That’s kind of how I felt today, Stim Day 1.  I just needed to cry.  I figured a breakdown was on the way considering that every time Brennen and I talked about injections this past week, I teared up.  I’m convinced that if it weren’t for college football and some chores I had to do around the house, I would have cried a lot sooner.  But it wasn’t until I was in my closet, alone, picking out a Southern Miss shirt to wear for tonight’s game, that all my emotions hit me at once.  I texted Brennen from my closet, “I need you to come here.” And I just let it all out.

I’m scared. Yes, I try not to think about it too much, but this may not work…

I’m sad. I don’t have a baby, and I want one.  I want to give birth to a tiny human that’s part me and part Brennen. I miss someone I’ve never met; it breaks my heart.

I’m angry.  I question the fairness of this situation sometimes.  I understand that children aren’t rewards, promises, or guarantees; but I have my days where I find myself asking, “Why do they get a baby, and we don’t?”

I’m anxious.  I’m the type of girl who reads what happens at the end of a movie so I can actually enjoy watching it. It drives Brennen and my sister Caitlin crazy.  As I was crying today, I told Brennen, “I just want to know how this ends.” I know that’s impossible and out of my control, but I still wonder.

But at the same time, I’m happy. As weird as it sounds, injection time is bonding time for Brennen and me. I love it!

I’m thankful.  We’re so blessed to be able to do another round of IVF.  And we couldn’t have made it through these past few months without the love and support of our dear friends and family.

I’m hopeful. With every injection, I think about how the creation of our future child is in the works.  Maybe not with this cycle, maybe not even through me, but every day and with every injection, we’re becoming closer to being parents.

There you have it – a glimpse into all the feelings that came pouring down my cheeks today.  So many emotions! But during tonight’s shot, I’m sure I’ll be able to hold it together.  Brennen, on the other hand…well, considering that Southern Miss is about to play their first conference game on the road after coming off an upset loss at home last week, he’ll probably be the one flooded with emotions tonight, not me.

Stim Day 1
75iu Menopur
275iu Follistim

 

Be Fruitful and Organize

In my last post, I talked about how there are so many pieces of this infertility puzzle that are out of our control. I don’t retrieve my own eggs.  Brennen and I will probably be taking an afternoon nap when our baby is conceived. We won’t oversee our embryos as they grow in the lab.  And when an embryo is transferred into my uterus, that will be the doctor’s job. There are lots of things out of our control, and while that idea brings me peace, I still have to feed my Type-A need of controlling something, anything.  That’s where medication organization becomes my therapy. I can’t control what these medicines do once they enter my body, but I can control how well they’re organized before they do!

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My thoughts exactly, babe.

For each day of stimming, we have two Ziploc sandwich bags – one for the morning and one for the evening. We used my new label maker to label each bag with the date and time of day.  In the mornings, Brennen will give me 75iu of Menopur, so in each AM bag, we have the following items:

  • Vial of saline
  • Vial of Menopur powder
  • 23 gauge needle to draw up the medicine
  • 27 1/2 gauge subcutaneous needle
  • Q-cap
  • Alcohol prep pads
  • Cotton ball
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AM bag

About halfway through stimming, we’ll start Ganirelix, which is in a prefilled syringe. When the time comes, we’ll add a syringe of Ganirelix to each of our AM bags.

As for our PM bags, they are a bit skimpy.  In the evening, I’ll take 275iu of Follistim, which is administered with a pen.  All we will have to do is change out the needles with each injection and the medicine cartridge every few days.  The cartridges have to stay refrigerated, so the crisper drawer in our refrigerator has been scrubbed and sanitized to house the Follistim and the Lupron trigger shot until needed. Our PM bags include:

  • 2 Follistim pen needles (We had enough to add 2 to each bag, which is good since we’ve been known to accidentally stab ourselves.)
  • Alcohol prep pads
  • Cotton ball

And that’s it! We’ve arranged the bags in date order in a piece of Tupperware which sits in what we call Hormone Headquarters, a small nook in the corner of our kitchen.  Each morning and evening, we’ll grab a bag and get to injecting.  This is easier than sifting through a large box of supplies daily.  Plus, when we go out of town, we grab the bags for the days we’ll be gone (plus a couple extra to be safe).

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Hormone Headquarters

So here we are. My baseline ultrasound is Wednesday morning.  That afternoon, Dr. Memphis will instruct us on when to begin injections.  My bags are packed – well, my Ziploc bags – so let’s get this show on the road!

The Upswing

There have been a lot of valleys during this journey to Baby H – breakdowns where it felt like every ounce of energy was drained from my body; dinners spent venting to my husband about the multitude of pregnancy announcements on Facebook, challenging the fairness of it all; and most often, sleepless nights where I was haunted by all our unknowns.  Will I produce enough eggs? Will they be good quality eggs? Will we have a good fertilization rate? Will we have any embryos make it to transfer? To freezing? Will this even work? But lately, I’ve been on the upswing of what I so frequently call the emotional roller coaster; and I can’t help but find it strange that these unknowns that had my stomach in knots earlier this year, somehow bring with them now…peace.

A friend of mine who is wound very much like me went through IVF a year or so before my first round.  She told me that during IVF, I would surprise myself by learning to let go – that I would have a different outlook on what is important and worth my time and energy.  She was right.  During Round 1, my whole focus was on IVF – the injections, the monitoring appointments, follicle growth, embryo development, etc.  I didn’t meal plan.  I didn’t follow our chore schedule.  I didn’t run any errands.  I went to work where I could barely focus, came home, and rested with IVF stuff sprinkled in between.  My husband couldn’t believe it; I was letting go.

“Letting go” in Round 2 means something different though, and it’s hard to explain.  Those unknowns, everything I mentioned above, they’re still there.  They still cross my mind.  But I’ve realized that I can’t control them, so I can’t let them control me.  I’ll take my injections like a champ, but I can’t make my follicles grow.  My doctor, not me, will retrieve my eggs.  The embryologist, not me, will monitor our growing embryos in the lab. And God, not me, knows the plan for our lives.  All I can do right now is take care of myself emotionally and physically.  And that begins by not letting the unknowns plague my mind but by letting them go.

So here we are at a little over a week until stimming.  Our medications arrived today.  The baseline ultrasound is scheduled for Wednesday.  And all tentative monitoring and retrieval appointments are on the calendar.  We have a lot ahead of us; how much is yet another unknown.  But in this moment, I’m just a girl on birth control letting go and enjoying the upswing.

 

Two Weeks ’til Baseline

Yesterday, we traveled to Memphis for injection training and my sonohysterogram. The precautionary antibiotic that I took beforehand made me sick all day. Combine that with having a full bladder while someone inserts saline solution into your uterine cavity and snoops around with an ultrasound wand. Not a fun time. My flooded uterus was letting out a pretty hefty S.O.S. (aka cramps). During the procedure, I was hoping Brennen would reach over and grab my hand so I would have something to squeeze besides my dress. He never caught the hint. He just stared at my uterus being projected onto a 42 inch flat screen. You would have thought it was a football game. I tease, but I’m always so thankful he’s there. He takes great notes and asks all the questions. There is only so much information one can process whilst in stirrups.

Once I was fully clothed with my feet on the floor, the nurse went over our injection protocol. During this cycle, my dosages and instructions are a little different than Round 1. I’ll take 75iu of Menopur in the morning and 275iu of Follistim in the evening (this is 50iu more than last time).  The Ganirelix will come later in the stimming cycle, same dosage. The injection training was a breeze since Brennen considers himself a pro. I didn’t have any bruises on my stomach after Round 1 which was quite an accomplishment for him.

While we were at the clinic, we were fortunate enough to get 2 free syringes of Ganirelix. Since we have one left from Round 1 and are getting 2 more from a sweet friend of mine, we won’t have to purchase any. That saves us close to $600. And since each round of IVF plus medication runs us about $13,000, saving $600 is HUGE. Hopefully, this round will work, and I can pay it forward in a few months by giving away some of my leftover meds. Let’s hope so!

So, it was a quick trip to Memphis. Our next appointment is September 21st (just 2 weeks!) for the baseline ultrasound and blood work.  That appointment will be here in Jackson. I’ll stop taking birth control on September 17th, so just a few days before the baseline appointment.  Until then, we’ll order our medications and start organizing it all. That is perhaps my favorite part of stimming prep. I already have my eye on a new label maker!