It’s Over

“It’s over. It’s over.”

That’s all Breanne could really say the day everything hit her and she finally broke.  She had been strong throughout the whole ordeal, and up until that point had somehow held it together.  With every doctor’s appointment, every hCG test that wasn’t rising properly, every ultrasound that showed that the pregnancy wasn’t progressing as it should, and even the miscarriage, she managed to stay positive and focused, able to see the silver lining in this dark cloud of infertility.  Still, I knew at some point it would hit her.  It needed to hit her.  Otherwise, how could we move on?

The miscarriage happened on Christmas morning.  Yes, you read that correctly – Christmas morning.  Certainly not the holiday we had in mind.  We were opening presents at Breanne’s parents’ house like we do every Christmas morning, when all of a sudden she started cramping.  Being the trooper that she is, she was able to make it through breakfast and opening presents before retiring to her old room to sleep off the cramps.  So while Breanne was incapacitated, I headed outside to fry the Christmas turkey on our 80-degree Mississippi Christmas morning.  About an hour later, I got a text from Breanne.  She was in the bathroom…miscarrying.  My heart sank.  Not because we didn’t expect this – we did and had prepared ourselves – but the timing of it seemed like a cruel joke.

She said the rest of the day was a blur for her.  If you remember from my last post, Breanne LOVES Christmas.  We have a tradition of eating Christmas dinner with the Ivy crew (her mom’s family) and playing games afterwards, so Breanne was determined not to miss out on the festivities.  So I passed her her straightener and make-up bag through the bathroom door so she could slowly get ready, she “hopped on the saddle” (a term I wish I had never learned), and we headed over to the Ivy’s with a bag of feminine products and pain relievers in hand.  Breanne wasn’t quite herself while we were over there – she even relinquished her duties as Dirty Santa coordinator to her sister.  At that point, I knew she didn’t feel good!  Despite the difficult timing of our loss, we wound up having a great night surrounded by family, which is exactly what we needed.  It turns out that having the miscarriage occur on Christmas Day was a blessing in disguise.

We had an appointment with Breanne’s OB/GYN the Tuesday after Christmas.  The ultrasound confirmed that the pregnancy was officially over.  There was no longer a sac.  Ironically, we looked at each other with relief.  After what we went through on Christmas morning, we had hoped the worst of it was over.  Her hCG was still measuring at 3,100, so we were instructed to keep checking it every week to confirm that it was continuing to decrease.  A plateau or rise meant a D&C (surgery).

The next day was Breanne’s first full day back at work since the holidays.  I had taken the entire week off, so I walked her to her car and climbed right back in bed.  A few minutes later, Breanne was back home.  I knew something was up.  I greeted her with a “Well hey there!”  She just stood in the doorway to our bedroom, shook her head, and started crying. And even though my wife always gets bummed every year when Christmas is over, I knew that wasn’t what the tears were for.  She had finally broken.  And in a way, I was relieved.  She’s such a fighter that she often blocks out her emotions to keep her mind focused on the process and our goal of being parents, but sometimes it’s good for her to stop fighting and just feel. And when the tears slowed down long enough for her to speak, she whispered, “It’s over. It’s over.”

She was right, the pregnancy was over.  This chance was over.  But here we are almost 5 weeks later, and even though the pregnancy is over, it feels like the miscarriage isn’t.  We’re still waiting for her hCG levels to drop below 5 and for her cramping and bleeding to stop.  A week after Christmas, her hCG had only dropped 300 points, from 3,100 to 2,800.  We felt so far from the end.  We wanted the bandage ripped off, not slowly pulled back.  A week later, her level had dropped all the way to 850.  We high fived each other when the lab called us with the “good” news.  When people say infertility is like being on a roller coaster, boy are they right!  A few weeks ago, we were praying with everything we had that her levels would keep rising.  Now we are celebrating every drop. She’s now at 59, which means this should all be over in a couple weeks.

We appreciate the outpouring of love we received since we posted that the pregnancy was likely not viable.  I can’t say enough how everyone’s thoughts and prayers are felt and have helped us keep going. We’ll always hold a special place in our hearts for this embryo and the hope it brought us – our first pregnancy!   Now we’re ready to use that hope to push forward to the next step – Transfer #3, coming Spring 2017.

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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.

So We Decided to Start a Blog

Welcome! Let me begin by saying that my ovaries are not “fried” in any sense of the word. As we explain on our “Welcome” page, we’re just trying to find the lighter side of the infertility struggle.

We began addressing our infertility in the Fall of 2015 after a year of unsuccessfully trying to conceive. For that year, we didn’t let anyone know we were trying to get pregnant. We played it cool. We first started seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist (aka Ferility Doctor) in November and began to open up to our close friends and family little by little. What we found is that when we started sharing, we stopped getting those annoying questions like, “So it’s about time for a baby, huh?” and “Do y’all have baby fever yet?” or the much less subtle “When are you going to have a baby?”

After three failed IUI’s and over a year of trying to conceive, we scheduled our first round of IVF in April during National Infertility Awareness Week. If the timing wouldn’t have worked out like it did, I’m not sure I would have had the courage to make my first IVF-related Facebook post. But after watching a video that I ended up also sharing on Facebook about what it’s like to struggle with infertility, I felt empowered.

We weren’t quite sure what the response would be. If anything, we thought, “Hey, this will at least get the word out to more people to stop asking us when we’re going to have a baby!” But we were overjoyed with the amount of support that rolled in through phone calls, texts, and Facebook messages. To our surprise, we also heard from other couples who were also struggling or had struggled with infertility. Some had been through multiple rounds of IVF. Some had successfully conceived with IUI. Some were just starting the journey and had as many questions as we did. Every story was different. With that first Facebook post, we began building a network of support that would mean more than we could have ever imagined in the coming months.

During our first round of IVF, we bought a selfie stick and shared some of our favorite and most significant moments on Facebook and Instagram. It became our way of coping, and we like to think we helped others cope with their own struggle along the way. After finding out our first round was unsuccessful and knowing we still had a long road ahead of us, we started throwing around the idea of starting a blog. Brennen started throwing out names, and before we knew it “Southern Fried Ovaries” stuck!

Now, here we are. Our decision to blog was not an easy one. We know it means hashing out details about our personal life and our medical history, but we also know it means opening up the conversation about infertility, raising awareness, and helping other couples going through the same thing. We hope you enjoy our story!