Well $h!+

Let me start out by saying that the 2-week wait to see if my lining was thick enough for transfer was worse than the 10-day wait for a pregnancy test.  In fact, it’s second only to the wait for the call that tells us how many embryos made it to blastocyst stage for freezing.  I wouldn’t have said that a year ago when my uterine lining wasn’t an issue.  Through 3 IUI’s and 2 transfers, I had always measured around 9mm.  But recently, my reproductive system has had a new hurdle to get through – my lining.

After my baseline appointment on September 20th, I made a list of everything I could possibly do to thicken my lining and planned it out over the next 14 days.  Aside from the Estrace pills my doctor had prescribed, I was going to take a natural approach as well.  Every day I drank 8 ounces of pomegranate juice and red raspberry leaf tea.  On top of my pre-natal vitamin, I added DHA, which gave me an extra boost of Vitamin E for blood flow.  I threw in some L-Argenine in the last week before the scan.  I made a point to get up and move and stretch at work since my job is pretty sedentary.  I gave myself fertility massages almost every night and used an essential oil mixture as my massage oil.  I also meditated before bed using a program specifically designed for frozen embryo transfer preparations.  It would say things like, “Picture your uterus as having open arms, stretched out to welcome new life” or something like that.  I rolled my eyes about it at first, but it absolutely helped me relax.  Brennen even meditated with me but was sure to watch enough football to prevent growing a uterus.  The night before the checkup, he said, “Well if it’s not thick enough, it sure isn’t from a lack of trying.” After two weeks of all things uterine, I gave him an “Amen.”

Fast forward to Thursday morning as I nervously braced myself for the ultrasound.  My uterus popped up on the TV screen, and the nurse practitioner said those dreaded words, “It’s not quite thick enough.”  She then proceeded to click around for a measurement….5.33.  WTF?! That’s the thinnest it has ever been.  In frustration I said, “What the heck? It was thicker than that when I was on birth control.” And it was! At my baseline ultrasound 2 weeks ago (before Aunt Flo) it was measuring over 6.

We use a local fertility clinic for outside monitoring, so we usually don’t ask questions during our visits.  They just measure and send info to our clinic.  But in desperation, Brennen let out a huge sigh and asked, “I mean, what in the world is going on?”  The nurse practioner, unfamiliar with our case, didn’t really have any specific answers for us but said they see this sometimes – an uncooperative uterus – and that my body may need another way to take in estrogen.  Obviously this little blue Estrace pill is not doing the trick. She printed a picture of my uterus for me. (Note to self: buy darts).

thinlining

So what does this mean?  Transfer cancelled.  We knew going into that appointment that it would be cancelled with any measurement less than 8. We had accepted that.  And I think that if it would have been 7 or 7.5, we would have told ourselves, “Good try. We’re getting there.”  But man, at 5.33, you can’t find anything to be positive about.  Brennen held it together as we left the clinic; he was on the verge of tears.  Me, you couldn’t see disappointment on my face, but my body felt weak and sluggish, as if I could feel the sadness all the way to my bones.  I took the rest of the day off work.

Nurse Memphis called that afternoon to talk to me about the next steps.  Next week, Brennen and I will head to Memphis so I can have a biopsy done on my endometrium.  All I get is a Valium, so that should be fun, right? While we’re there, we’ll make a game plan for 2018, but as for 2017, we’re done.  Last year, I found out I was pregnant on Thanksgiving Day and miscarried on Christmas.  We’ve done the infertility-over-the-holidays thing and don’t want to do it again.  This holiday season, we’ll regroup and give IVF a backseat.  For three years, we’ve tried to get pregnant, and for three months, I just don’t want to try.  We’re not giving up, we’re just coming up for air.

Prayers for our trip to Memphis!

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Welcome Home Embryo #3

After several attempts at Transfer #3, we finally welcomed this little embryo into its new home!

Embryo Number 3.JPG

But first, let’s rewind to last week. In my last post – the one where I called my uterus a choice word – I vented about the disappointing 7mm lining I had after three weeks of Estrace. So, the folks in Memphis decided that I should come to the clinic for an ultrasound so they could get a good look at the lining. Even if it wasn’t thick enough (ideally, you want an 8 or higher), it may still have a those “pretty” triple layers they’re looking for.

I anxiously arrived at the clinic at 7:30 and settled myself into the now-all-too-familiar ultrasound exam table. And there it was! A beautiful, healthy triple layer lining! But then wouldn’t you know it – the dang thing didn’t thicken a bit. Not one bit! Still a 7.

I got dressed and headed back to the waiting room.  My mom had made the trip with me since Brennen was in Boston for work.  When I walked through the door, she immediately perked up and stared at me, waiting for any clue as to how the ultrasound went.  It may sound mean, but I found a bit of playful satisfaction in making her wait until we were in the hallway before I gave any indication of how it went.  “Didn’t grow at all,” I said. Then she added a much needed four letter word to the situation!

We hung around Memphis for a bit just in case we needed to go back to the clinic.  I had accepted that the transfer would be A) postponed once again or B) canceled altogether.  In fact, I had resolved that I wouldn’t stand for another postponement.  I was tired of being strung along, and I wanted a break.  I settled into the mindset of receiving bad news later that afternoon and tried to take my mind off the disappointment with some retail therapy. Memphis is good for that.

Then, at 1:30, as we’re finally heading home, my phone rings. It’s Nurse Memphis.  I braced myself for bad news, especially when she started talking about my trim lining.  Then the words,”But since it has that beautiful triple layer and looks healthy, we’d like to proceed with your transfer on August 22nd.” My mouth dropped and all I could say was “Awesome.” I passed the phone to my mom in the passenger seat and she scribbled down all the directions for medications – progesterone, Lupron, estrace, prednisone, doxycycline, and pre-natals. Shocked! That’s the best way to describe my mood at that point. Oh, and freaking relieved!

I called Brennen just before his plane took off.  Shocked and relieved pretty much sums up his reaction too.  I had never been so excited about starting IM hip injections in my whole life! Bring on the progesterone, baby!

Fast forward to yesterday, the day we left for Memphis.  We, along with several neighbors, woke up to find that our cars had been broken into.  What the heck, right? Luckily, I’m the idiot who left my car unlocked, so there were no broken windows. They passed over a camera flash in my console, tennis rackets in the trunk, and some Ray Ban sunglasses; the only thing missing was a checkbook.  We opened the bank up at 9am to close our account and all that jazz.

Then, after work, we met at home to load the car and hit the road.  We walk into an 82-degree house. Yep, the AC went out!  Stress level max! Luckily, we were able to get a tech to come out after hours to repair it, and my father-in-law was gracious enough to sit in our sauna of a house waiting on the technician so we could get on the road.

FINALLY we make it to Memphis, and the hotel upgrades us to a suite – a much needed stroke of good luck!  We binged on a little more Friday Night Lights and tried to get some sleep, anxiously awaiting the transfer the next morning.

We arrived at the clinic at 9am for my progesterone test – the results came back just where they needed to be. A win! As we were waiting to be called back for the transfer, I checked my phone. It was blowing up with well-wishes and words of encouragement, and I had to keep myself from breaking down right there in the surgery center.  I can never ever thank you all enough for those thoughts and prayers.  They are always felt, but they were especially felt today.

Then, it was “T” time!  I had been chugging water all morning because they want you to have a full bladder for the transfer.  Apparently, when the bladder is full, it’s easier to guide the catheter through the uterus, and sonongrams read through fluid.  We learn something new about this every day!  So there I am with a bursting bladder just moments before they retrieve us from the pre-op room, and what does Brennen do? He pees…with the door open…in the bathroom right behind my chair. (His mother will be horrified!)

IVF Husband

Just as I was wrapping up my “You asshole” eyeroll, Doctor Memphis came in with the picture we had been dying to see – our little embryo.  Much to our surprise, it had improved after the thaw from a 4AB to a 4AA.  We were over the moon!  He/she is a beauty!  The doctor left, and before the nurse could come back to retrieve us, I looked at Brennen and said, “I want this so bad, but I’m scared to want it this much.” “I know babe.”

The transfer went as smoothly as it could have gone, despite the full bladder.  I did cramp a little more than in the past when the catheter went in, but luckily I had Brennen’s hand to squeeze until it was numb! He says his injury is keeping him from doing this post-transfer blog.

After thirty minutes, I peed! Yippee! And we were on our way.  The rest of the afternoon was spent sleeping off my valium. Now, here I am, restless and waiting on Brennen to come back to the hotel with take-out! This prednisone keeps me hungry!

Over the next few days, I’ll be on modified bedrest.  We’ll head back home tomorrow, where my mother-in-law will have me some buttermilk chicken waiting.  Then, my mom is coming up to stay with me Thursday while Brennen goes back to work, and I can’t wait for some gluten-free chicken spaghetti from her!  With this embryo in tow, I am no doubt being spoiled!

After bedrest, I’ll return to work and my usual routine but continuing to take it easy.  My doctor told me no exercise or running.  He obviously doesn’t know me that well because I don’t do either of those things.  The 10-day wait will no doubt seem like a lifetime.  I keep telling myself I’m not going to test early. I told myself that last time too. And the time before.  I tested both times.

Please continue to keep us in your prayers over those 10 days.  Pray for peace, patience, and that this little embryo sticks like glue!

Embryo #3

Third Time’s a Charm

Third time’s a charm, right? Well if there is any truth to that, we’re going into this transfer with a double dose of luck – our 3rd try at a 3rd transfer.

On July 6th, exactly one year from the day we found out our first transfer from Round 1 was unsuccessful, we got the call from Memphis with a tentative transfer date – August 14th, the day after our 6th wedding anniversary.  We celebrated our new schedule with a wine tasting at the local farmers’ market that night.  After sulking for the past few weeks, we felt the beginnings of an upswing.  No matter how many times we get knocked down and how far we fall, the hope that a transfer brings somehow erases that pain. At first, I thought it was the Pinot. But no, it was hope.

The protocol for this transfer is a little different thanks to my superpower ovaries.  Our second attempt at Transfer #3 was canceled last month when my ovaries defied the odds, and I ovulated despite my estrogen overload. To make sure that doesn’t happen again, my doctor put me on Lupron, a subcutaneous injection that shuts down my body’s release of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). Basically, like my late-night Google search revealed, Lupron puts you in an “induced state of menopause.” Lights out, ovaries!

I’m currently on day 13 of Lupron injections. At first, I couldn’t tell if I was getting menopausal hot flashes or was just plain hot from living in Mississippi in July. Well, that mystery was put to rest a couple nights ago when I woke up with heat radiating from the inside out.  My body felt like an oven! I reached over and poked Brennen, “It’s hot. I’m hot. Are you hot?” “Ugh, no,” he grumpily responded as he pulled the covers tightly under his chin. Hot flash confirmed!

Lupron has also given me a nagging headache for the past week. Other than that, I’m good! The irritability side effect hasn’t been that bad.  Brennen may say otherwise, even thought he’s only had to hide from me once.  I will say, he had it comin’ though.  After two martinis, he gave me my Lupron shot, and with his inhibitions lowered proclaimed, “You know, Breezer, you’ve taken like 115 shots, but I’ve GIVEN 115 shots. That’s crazy!” I’m just going to leave that right there and move on…

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

My baseline appointment was this past Wednesday, and since everything looked good, I was able to decrease my Lupron dosage and start taking Estrace.  Hopefully that will take the edge off! And I’m sure it will help if Brennen doesn’t make any more stupid comments.  After two weeks of Estrace, I’ll go for another ultrasound on August 9th.  That’s the big one where they’ll check my lining! So far, we’re still on track for an August 14th transfer, and here’s to hoping it stays that way!

Sad and a Little Pissy

In my last post, I described the June 14th lining check as “something we had to get through.” I had no idea what a loaded statement that was…

During the ultrasound, the tech said my lining was measuring a little over 6 mm. I immediately turned to Brennen, my human Wikipedia on female reproduction. He gave me a “That’s ok” nod as the tech proceeded to measure my follicles. They needed to be small, and they were. A win! As I got dressed, Brennen was busy on his phone, looking up what my lining should be. I had never had a lining quite that thin. I usually measured around 9, so a thin lining wasn’t a potential problem on our radar that warranted any pre-requisite research. Before we walked out of the room, he said, “I think we’re OK. It’s still growing, and you haven’t even started progesterone.” So with that reassurance and my trend of problem-free uterine linings, I assumed we would get good news that afternoon. I sent a few thumbs-up selfie Snapchats to my friends and family and headed back to work.

Then around 4:00, I answered the phone, with pen and paper in hand for my transfer directions, and heard Nurse Memphis say, “So that lining isn’t really where we need it to be.” ARGH! “I had a feeling,” I admitted, although I had tried my best to ignore it all day. Doctor’s orders were to stay on the Estrace for one more week to see if the lining thickened and to come to Memphis for a lining check. The nurse told me, “Even if it’s still a little thin, it may be pretty enough to proceed.” So that was the plan – keep popping the estradiol pills in hope that I develop a fluffy, pretty lining. Transfer postponed.

For a week, I did just as Dr. Memphis directed. I also took some advice from my acupuncturist and started drinking Raspberry Leaf tea and eating iron-rich foods that would either thicken my lining or clog my arteries. Then Tuesday night, we made the trip to Memphis.

We were only at the clinic for about 20 minutes – just long enough for me to get my blood drawn for estradiol and progesterone checks and for a date with “Wanda.” I don’t think I have ever been so nervous about an ultrasound. We’re getting pretty good at knowing what the uterus looks like on the screen, so when it popped up, we both perked up and said, “There it is!” It was beautiful, according to the ultrasound tech. Three pretty layers and measuring at 8.75 mm – right where it needed to be. We drove back home on a high note.

Later that afternoon, my phone lit up with a call from Memphis. “You’re lining looked really good,” the nurse said. “Duh!” I proudly thought. Then came the but. My progesterone was high which indicated that I had ovulated. Transfer cancelled.

We all know someone who got pregnant while on birth control, right? Birth control loads your body up with estrogen early in your cycle, which is supposed to shut your ovaries down and keep you from ovulating. But even with all that estrogen in your system, in rare cases, an egg will spring forward from a follicle and send you into ovulation. Thus the story of a “birth control baby.” Estrace has the same task before a transfer. It’s estrogen, and it shuts my ovaries down. But there are those rare cases, and this month, I was one of them. I mean, seriously?! My ovaries have super powers that defy the odds and release an egg amidst an ass-ton of estrogen. But unfortunately the buck stops there. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be in this infertile situation in the first place.

So anyway, it’s back to the starting line for us. I’ll start my cycle in a week or two then proceed with birth control…again. Then comes the Estrace…again. This time around, Doc is putting me on Lupron injections that will (hopefully) keep me from ovulating.  But first, we wait.

Before I get into what this means for us emotionally, let me say that this is not an invitation to a pity party.  I promised myself that I would never write a blog post about what not to say to an infertile couple because 1) there are a gazillion articles about this subject out there already and 2) we’re never going to open up the conversation about infertility if we keep shutting it down with rules. But I will say this – sometimes the best thing someone can say is, “This sucks.” Just a recognition of how shitty the situation is goes a long way! My best friend is my best friend because when I share bad news, she sends me memes of cats saying curse words! And encourage us with reminders of how strong we are. Yes, that may sound a little self-absorbed, but if people are going to feel sorry for us, let encouragement grow from that pity, not sad puppy dog eyes and an empty sentiment about how everything happens for a reason.

Sorry if I sound pissy. But heck, I am pissy. I’m tired. I’m frustrated. I’m beaten down. We both are. Yesterday was the closest I’ve felt to giving up. I know we won’t give up, but that hope we had after a successful retrieval and a positive test (even though it resulted in a miscarriage) fades a little more with each cancelled transfer. We’ll get better, though. We’ll cope and push through. We just have to let this sadness run its course. One of the most inspirational quotes I’ve found during my IVF Pinterest-ing didn’t tell me about trusting God’s timing, having hope, finding strength, or believing in miracles. It simply told me it’s ok to be sad.Own the Sadness

So that’s what I’m going to do right now…be sad and own the hell out of it.

(And yeah, I’ll probably be a little pissy too.)

Little Blue Pills

This past Saturday I took my last birth control pill, so Wednesday I had an appointment for an ultrasound and blood work to confirm down regulation.  That basically means that the birth control was supposed to turn my ovaries off (i.e. no ovulation).  This time around, we’ve decided to use my OB’s clinic for the outside monitoring.  The ultrasound tech was so nice and asked me tons of questions about our IVF story and IVF in general.  She was so careful in making sure she got all the pictures Dr. Memphis would need.  Unfortunately that meant a longer than normal ultrasound.  It almost felt like she should have bought me dinner first.  But her care was appreciated, especially since outside monitoring can be stressful.  In fact, later that day it became EXTREMELY stressful when my OB’s nurse called to let me know it would take a week for my Estradiol (blood work) results to come in.  “Well that won’t work,” I thought.  Dr. Memphis needed my baseline Estradiol report to determine my dosage for the Estradiol pills I’d be taking over the next two weeks.  Timing is everything when you’re trying to make a baby, and even more so when you’re making one like we are! So for the next hour Brennen, my mom, and I played phone tag with clinics and hospitals, trying to find a way for me to get my Estradiol ran that day or early the next morning.  Finally, at 4:40 (20 minutes before closing time), I was sitting in a chair at a local hospital with a needle in my arm (for the second time that day) saying, “Now you’re sure you can get this to Memphis tomorrow morning?” Whew! If this transfer works, that day is a day I’ll remind my kid of when he/she gets sassy. “Do you know what I went through on April 12, 2017, to get you here?”

Finally, on Thursday morning, Nurse Memphis called with instructions for the next two weeks.  Basically everything has been pushed back a day.

Friday, April 14th – 1 Estradiol pill twice a day

Friday, April 21st – Increase to three Estradiol pills a day

Thursday, April 27th – Ultrasound and blood work to verify good levels and a thick lining

So today,  I started taking that little blue pill.  No, not that one if that’s what you’re thinking.  I almost forgot to start taking them though! Even with the reminder on my phone and telling Brennen, “Don’t let me walk out the door in the morning without taking my Estradiol,” I did just that.  I realized it about 4 houses down, so I put the car in reverse and called Brennen just before he settled in for his morning bathroom break.  All I had to say was “Estradiol.” He met me at the door.  You’d think we’d be better about this with it being our third go at it!

Over the next two weeks, these Estradiol pills will have two very important jobs: 1) preventing me from ovulating like the birth control did and 2) fluffing up that lining to get it ready to take on an embryo.  If everything looks good at the April 27th appointment, we’ll get instructions on when to start progesterone injections and will get an official Transfer Date. (This is starting to feel like deja vu.)  As of now, the tentative date is May 1st, only 17 days away, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we get bumped back a day or two.  We’ll see.  For now, I just have to remember to take those little blue pills!

Bring on the Estrogen, Baby!

In my last post, I mentioned how things had been pretty slow on the fertility front.  Well, today we started picking up some steam! This morning, we had our first pre-transfer monitoring appointment for a baseline ultrasound and blood work, the first checkpoint in the FET process. Now, this is all uncharted territory for us since our last transfer was a fresh embryo transfer and this time around it is a frozen embryo transfer; but I’ll try to explain our process as best I can. I may have to defer to my human Wikipedia for the reproductive cycle, aka my husband, for help.

At this morning’s appointment, the doctor was checking to see that my uterine lining was thin and that my estrogen was low, around 50 to 60. When Aunt Flo visited a week after the retrieval, I started taking birth control to suppress ovulation, shut down my ovaries, and give my body a chance to reset itself, much like what I did before stimming in September. My husband and I didn’t know exactly what we were looking for on the ultrasound this morning, but we figured we needed to see a sparse uterine lining and some pretty boring ovaries.  So as the doctor scanned over to my right ovary and projected it on the flat screen, I had a mini freak out when I saw what looked like growing follicles.  Nervously I asked, “Are those supposed to be there?” The doctor reassured me that those were the follicles from the retrieval that had filled with fluid and formed tiny cysts – totally normal.  Luckily, none of the cysts were cause for concern.  Whew, right? Next, blood was drawn, and we each went back to work and waited on the call from Memphis.

At 2:00, I got the call that said what we were hoping, “Everything looks good!”  On to the next step!  For the next two weeks, my body will need to build a more embryo-friendly uterine lining. To accomplish that, I’ll have the help of Estrace, an estrogen pill that I’ll take twice a day starting tomorrow (3 times a day in week 2).  Estrogen will help support the thickening of the uterine lining.  And the way we understand it, estrogen also prevents the production of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), thus continuing to suppress ovulation (more boring ovaries). That is, as long as it is administered towards the beginning of Aunt Flo.   And that, my friends, means that Aunt Flo should be here any day now. What fun!  If you didn’t catch the sarcasm, you’ve probably never had a uterus.

I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about the side effects of this new little pill; but because I’m such a hypochondriac, my husband has warned me, “Do not Google them, Breanne.”  He claims that if I do, I’ll convince myself I’m experiencing every possible one.  So instead, he has looked them up and can be the one that says, “Oh that’s just the Estrace,” when I complain about a throbbing headache (I didn’t cheat; I just heard about that one).

Once I’ve been on the Estrace for 2 weeks, I’ll go back for another monitoring appointment on November 9th to check up on, you guessed it, the lining.  If it looks good, we should be able to schedule the transfer for 5 to 6 days later.

I know that was a lot of technical mumbo jumbo (or at least our attempt at being technical), so thanks for making it this far into our post!  It’s crazy to think we are less than 3 weeks ’til the big day (barring any problems with our November 9th appointment). Emotionally, I guess you could say we’re sound.  We’re a lot better than we have been in the past, even though deciding how many embryos to transfer has caused a little stress over the past few days.  But, we’ve made a decision.  And after giving it a little time to sink in, we’ll take you for a ride on that crazy emotional roller coaster.  Until next time!

 

 

 

Thanks, Sis

Our frozen embryo transfer (FET) is tentatively scheduled for November 14th! The original plan was to wait another month, but our patience is in very short supply these days. The first step was to get on birth control, again. The irony continues. Then, next week I’ll begin taking Estrace if my lining looks “nice and thin” as the nurse put it. After two weeks of Estrace, if my lining has thickened and is ready for an embryo, we will proceed with the transfer 5 to 6 days later, the week of November 14th.

Since I’m just popping one pill per night, it’s been pretty slow on the fertility front. No shots. No crazy hormones. We’ve been using this time to catch up on the non-IVF side of life.  We went to the state fair. I visited one of my best friends and her new baby boy. Brennen traveled to Baton Rouge for a horrific Southern Miss loss to LSU. And I spent a couple days at my parents’ house helping my sister Caitlin transfer old home movies onto DVD’s. Watching those videos reminded me of how annoyingly corny and bossy I was as a child and made me sort of nervous about reproducing! After watching one scene in particular where I stole the video camera and in my nasal country voice narrated the story of Johnny Appleseed played by my dad who was in the front yard poisoning fire ants (not spreading apple seeds), Caitlin warned Brennen with a text, “CANCEL THE TRANSFER!” Then, there’s her favorite – the time I gave a news report from the living room coffee table and warned viewers of “sexual cartoons” and “slight tornadoes” sweeping our nation.

She picks on me a lot, and we have more than our fair share of differences. But she loves me. How do I know? Well, I’m an over-the-top planner when it comes to vacations. It drives Caitlin crazy and usually leads to the bulk of our arguments on family trips, even as twentysomethings.  But this past week we really started hashing out the plans for our upcoming trip to Disney World and Harry Potter World, and she let me be over-the-top…with no complaints. She even told me to create a Google Doc and share it with the family so we could plan our schedule, outfits, Fast Passes, dinners, etc. I didn’t know what to say except, “Really? Me?” And I’m pretty sure I heard a Hallelujah chorus in the background. Although she may not admit it, she knows I need distractions right now, and I think she’s helping me find them…on purpose.

As a thank you, I promised to start reading the Harry Potter books when I’m on bed rest after the transfer and have them finished by the trip. I don’t know much about HP (also something that drives her crazy), but I do know that when my little sister finally becomes Auntie Cait, she’ll have my kid equipped with their very own wand in no time!