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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Blank Space

It was 8 days after the transfer, and I still hadn’t tested. I was pretty proud of myself. I hadn’t even been tempted by the three pregnancy tests my mom left sitting on the dresser before she left my house. During the waiting period, I had been busy with sorority recruitment (I’m an advisor for a local chapter) and catching up at work. Surprisingly, I had been able to keep my mind pretty well occupied with things other than the test. Plus, I didn’t mind putting it off. As much excitement and hope as I had about seeing a positive, the fear of seeing a negative was far greater. So honestly, I didn’t feel the need to rush it. I was focused. I was determined. I was not going to test early.

Then came the rainy drive home Wednesday evening. Suddenly, the unknown bothered me more than that fear of a negative. It was Day 9, and I couldn’t hold out anymore. I needed to test. I called Brennen who said, “And you promise you haven’t already tested?” He was hoping I had secretly tested and already knew like last time. He hates waiting on pink lines. I walked through the front door and headed straight to the bathroom. I did my thing then put the test on the counter, walked out, and closed the door behind me. Brennen started the timer…5 minutes to go.

Over the past few days leading up to the test, people often asked me how I felt. Boy was that a loaded question! Physically, I was cramping off and on and tiring easily. My hips were starting to get pretty sore from the daily IM injections. Mentally, I could feel myself becoming drained as I purposefully kept my mind busy with life outside of IVF. Emotionally, I was positive about this transfer. I told myself from the beginning, “Positive Vibes Only,” and I had stuck with it. And if I had to guess whether or not I was pregnant…let’s just say I was more optimistic than I had ever been. But on that ride home Wednesday something changed….and I knew I wasn’t.

Brennen’s timer went off, and we both took deep breaths as we opened the bathroom door. There it was on the bathroom counter – a pregnancy test with one dark pink line. Beside that line…nothing, a blank space. It’s funny how in that moment, something so small can fill an entire room. It was all I could see – that blank space. Negative.

Brennen braced himself on the bathroom counter and hung his head. I didn’t know what to say to him, but I thought to myself, “Is this ever going to work?” The next few seconds were a blur until Brennen raised up and hugged me. I could feel his heart pounding against my chest. His face was warm, and I could tell he was on the verge of tears. After that, there’s just more blurriness as we processed another negative.

I called my mom. She said a bad word. Brennen texted his parents. Then, we sat in the living room and got mad. I mean, it’s really not fair. It’s just not. And it sucks so bad. There are too many pieces of shit in the world with children. People who don’t want children have them. Why can’t we? Why is this so hard for us? What did we do wrong? It’s not fair. Period. And I know bad things happen to good people all the time. I know we still have so much to be thankful for. I know our situation could be so much worse than what it is. I know children aren’t rewards. But knowing all that doesn’t matter in those first moments after staring at what seems like the 100th negative pregnancy test in 3 years. Because in those moments, all you can think about is how this may never happen. You may never be parents. You may never have a child. That becomes your reality. And that’s what makes you so mad you could scream.

Deep breaths…

We have since chilled out a little. Still, we’re more mad than we are sad. In fact, I’ve yet to cry. In this journey, if I cried about every bad thing that happened, well, I’d be crying a lot. Instead, I’ve given myself somewhat of an emotional threshold. Things build up, and at some point, I break. Until I do, I push forward. And that’s what we’re doing now – pushing forward. Our perseverance has surprised us!

So now we’re waiting on what I like to call our WTF appointment with Memphis to see if we can find an answer for why this transfer didn’t work or, if like I suspect, it’s unexplainable and simply just didn’t work. From there, we’ll put together a plan for moving forward to transfer #4. As I type that, I can’t believe we’re at #4. I mean, at some point the odds have to be in our favor, right?

Finally, for those of you who have been following this journey from the beginning or since we started blogging a year ago, you may be running out of things to say to us in difficult times. That’s ok! We don’t expect you to find the right sentiments and words of encouragement, and it’s ok to admit you don’t know what to say. But I will ask that you please refrain from any phrase that has the word “time” in it. I can’t really explain why, but something like “Give it time” or “It’s in God’s timing” sounds like nails on a chalkboard to me right now.  A simple “This sucks” will do. Even a “Hang in there” or a “We’ll keep praying” is good. You can even throw an angry face emoji our way and we’ll totally get it! Or you don’t have to say anything. Just keep praying. Pray that in this struggle, we find strength, peace, and understanding.

And because I can’t find a way to close out this post, I’ll leave it here with a “This sucks!”

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.)

It’s Been a While

It’s been a while…

My last post was about two months ago, right after we found out our embryo transfer was canceled due to my elevated prolactin level. So what did we do? Well, I turned 30, and we went to the beach! We needed that getaway. It was like hitting the reset button for us. My mom was worried that I was running away from emotions. “Breanne, don’t think it won’t still be here when you get back,” she warned. “It” I guess was infertility, disappointment, an impending breakdown, something. And on the way to the beach after we hit a deer on the interstate and drove over a nail (2 different instances), I have to admit that I was thinking, “Ugh she was right! This trip isn’t going to help anything,” because let’s face it, moms are right 99.9% of the time. But this time, she was wrong (sorry, Mama). That trip was just what we needed!

We got back home on Mother’s Day, which was surprisingly easier than last year. Scratch that – it was less hard. Last year on Mother’s Day I ended up deleting the Facebook app from my phone and bummed around my parents’ house all day. I couldn’t even bring myself to go to church and sit in the congregation as all the mothers stood up proudly so their kids could present them with Mother’s Day happies they made in Sunday School. We had just started coming to terms with our infertility and were on the brink of the first round of IVF. That day was pretty dark. And you’d think that a year later, still with no baby, would have been harder, but like I said, it was surprisingly “less hard.” This year, we had more hope. We had a great retrieval. I was pregnant for a few short weeks this past winter. We have good looking embryos in the freezer. And we had a suntan. There was a lot to be thankful for, and if there is one thing this process has brought me, it’s a change in perspective.

The week after Mother’s Day, Aunt Flo arrived, which triggered another prolactin test. Since the canceled transfer, I had been taking Cabergoline twice a week so that my pituitary gland would chill out and stop secreting an unnecessary-at-the-moment breast milk hormone. We let out a HUGE sigh of relief when the results came back at 4, 8, gosh I can’t even remember exactly what it was….but it was low enough that we got the go-ahead for Transfer #3 (again)!

More good news came our way when Nurse Memphis instructed me to stay on the birth control (for down regulation) for only 9 days. 9 days! In my past transfer plans, I was on birth control for 3 or so weeks, so we had already planned that the transfer would probably be in July. But nope, our tentative transfer date is JUNE 19!!!!

Last week, I went to my OB for my baseline ultrasound with my favorite ultrasound tech. Everything looked good, so I’m now taking Estrace (estradiol) and am still on schedule for that June 19th transfer. Next up is an appointment Wednesday to make sure my lining is thick and my estradiol is where it should be. After those results get faxed to Memphis, I’ll get the call with the official transfer date and instructions on progesterone injections. Whoa, that’s next week! As I type it I get a little flutter in my chest that takes my breath away for second. And that’s significant because it hasn’t completely hit me that this transfer is around the corner; it’s happening slowly.

After the canceled transfer, I was miraculously able to push infertility to the back of my mind. Ok, maybe not all the way back there, but far enough that it wasn’t a subject that consumed my life. For a month, there was no shot regimen. No schedule taped to the fridge. No doctor’s appoints. No ultrasounds. No surgeries, thank God. There was just one pill every Sunday and Wednesday. I was enjoying having a piece of my life back that didn’t involve me worrying about growing follicles, a thickening lining, or implanting embryos. And I wasn’t even nervous about my high prolactin. I had been on the medicine before and responded well. We figured that would be the case again. Even once I got my schedule for the transfer mid-May – birth control for 9 days, baseline on 5/31, lining on 6/14, transfer 6/19 – it still didn’t feel…real? I’m not so sure that’s the right word. It’s always real. But I just haven’t readied myself to welcome back all the feelings that come with an upcoming transfer, and I don’t want to go back to the place I was two months ago. This is me totally trying to take control of my emotional well-being. Before the canceled transfer, I was sick with worry. The elevated prolactin proved my body wasn’t ready. The heartburn waking me up in the middle of the night to vomit proved my mind wasn’t ready either. But lately, I’ve felt like a completely different person. That’s why I haven’t blogged. Every time I tried, I thought of something else I should be doing instead, for fear that I would drudge up the worry and stress and probably get some heartburn out of it too. Now, as I write this with the tentative transfer a little over a week away, I still can’t see far enough ahead to picture June 19th. I’m just not there.

And if I dig a little deeper, maybe the reason for the mental block is that there is still one more obstacle to get through. One more checkpoint. And that’s my appointment Wednesday. In the past, these appointments were just something we had to get through to get to the transfer. Now that we’ve had a transfer ripped away from us so easily, these appointments are SOMETHING WE HAVE TO GET THROUGH to get to the transfer. See the difference? Maybe not. It barely makes sense to me…if at all. So as June 19th approaches, just pray that I stay cool and collected once it finally hits me. And when it does, I’m sure it will hit like a needle in the butt cheek…literally.

Canceled

My phone rang yesterday around 2:00.  It was Memphis.  “That’s odd,” I thought as I answered.  The next few seconds were fuzzy.  I can’t remember exactly what the nurse said.  The only word that I processed was the one I scribbled down on the Post-it note I grabbed off my desk – “CANCELED.”

After a pause, I woke up from my brief fog, asked the questions I needed answered, and jotted down much better notes.  In a nutshell, my prolactin level is too high to proceed with the transfer.  We’ve known since we first started fertility treatments that I have an elevated prolactin level, but we don’t know why.  I even had an MRI back in 2015 to see if I had a pituitary gland tumor, which I didn’t. Thank goodness.  So now, I’ve stopped taking the Estradiol since this transfer cycle is over and am on Cabergoline (again) to lower my prolactin.   In a month, I’ll have another blood test done to see if it has dropped.  In the meantime, my doctor will let me begin birth control for down regulation (again) once I start my cycle.  The timing should work out to where my repeated prolactin test will take place just before my baseline ultrasound (three days after stopping birth control).  If the level is high…another cancellation.  But if it’s back to normal, I can proceed with the Estradiol (again) and then onward to the transfer.

After all that sunk in, how did we feel? Well, pretty freaking annoyed.  This isn’t fair. Never has been. Never will be.  And what next? I mean, really, what the hell? It feels like a stale story line on Grey’s Anatomy, sans plane crashes.  But after letting out a few choice phrases and grunts of frustration, I tried to find the silver lining (because let’s be honest, I need those silver linings to get through this).  If something is wrong, I don’t want to move forward; so I’m thankful my doctor is being cautious with my elevated levels.  We can’t risk a precious embryo if my body isn’t ready.  And after I thought about it, I realized my mind wasn’t ready either.  I have been so unbelievably nervous about this transfer. After all, it’s our third, and the third time seems like so many more times than the second.  I’ve woken up sick in the middle of the night twice this week; Brennen chalked it up to nerves.  I’ve had heartburn out of this world! And for the most part, I’ve been…blah, for lack of a better term.  Tuesday night, Brennen wanted to shake me out of my slump.  Literally, he told me he wanted to shake me! I had also been dreading the pregnancy test, which would have been the weekend of Mother’s Day.  I don’t think I even need to explain my reasoning behind that one.  So I guess if I’m looking for that silver lining and trying to convince myself this postponement is for the best, once I get past the frustration, there is a little relief.  An extra month (and hopefully that’s all) gives me some time to get my mind and my body right.

For the next few weeks, we’ll take a break from the blog and all things infertility, except the daily pre-natal and the twice-a-week Cabergoline.  We’ll plant our crops for the year in our suburban garden, finally get those Christmas decorations back in the attic, and celebrate my 30th birthday (maybe at the beach hint, hint).  Until then, please pray for a happy mind, a happy body, and a much lower prolactin. See you on the other side of 30!

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.

Musings from a Netflix Binge

A lot of people have been asking for an update since last week’s post.  We love how everyone is on board for our journey and rooting so tirelessly for Baby H!  But I gotta be honest – this is a tough post to write.  Usually when I say that it’s because I’m pouring my heart out in a post that is so emotionally draining.  But this time, it’s difficult to write because I’m in an emotional conundrum.

Since the transfer, I’ve been catching up on Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix.  And by catching up, I mean watching it from the very beginning…again!  Last night, I was watching the episode where dark and twisty Meredith Grey goes in for an ultrasound. For those of you not familiar with the show, Meredith had a miscarriage due to a “hostile uterus” and had pretty much given up hope of ever carrying a child.  Now, there she was at her first ultrasound where she saw a precious little heartbeat. The doctor and her husband McDreamy  both look at the monitor with smiles, but what does Meredith do? She turns her head away.  I had never noticed that she did that in all my years of watching and re-watching Grey’s.  But this time I noticed; and in that very moment, I had never felt so connected with dark and twisty Meredith Grey.  I rewound and called Brennen in to watch.  His response, “Whoa, Breezer! That’s like you right now.  Shonda nailed it.”  Little did I know that Brennen Hancock knew 1) who Shonda Rhimes was, and 2) that she created Grey’s Anatomy. This guy!  But yeah, he’s right – that’s exactly how I feel right now.

I’m not excited.  There, I said it.  I don’t mean to sound like a horrible person; but no, I’m just not excited.  But at the same time, I’m not sad or moping around.  Am I optimistic? Not exactly.  Am I pessimistic? Well, no not that either.  I’m just…here…in that space between…waiting and taking this process one step at a time. As Brennen says, I’m “emotionally guarded.” After all, I have low, slow rising hCG levels.  Still, babies are born all the time that had these kinds of levels, but we know it’s not the norm. And of course, I am hopeful that this pregnancy works out and gives us our Baby H, but at the same time, I can’t quite let myself become attached in case it doesn’t.  Not just yet.  And I think that’s what Meredith was thinking – stay guarded.

Over the past couple weeks we have seen my hCG go from 17 to 19 to 28 to 56.  Then, Friday, we saw our biggest increase in 48 hours – 136.  But what followed was a less astounding increase to 396 in 4 days, not 2.  Basically, my hCG isn’t telling the full story anymore; it’s time for an ultrasound to see what’s going on.  So Wednesday, we’ll make the trek up I-55 to Memphis.  I’m not sure what we’ll see or learn while we’re there, and honestly I try not to think about it; it’s part of this whole emotionally guarded thing.  Right now, it’s easier to just accept those things I can’t control and go with the flow. So now, we wait til Wednesday! Luckily, I have Christmas parties, shopping, and gift wrapping to help pass the time. Oh, and of course Grey’s Anatomy!

The Space Between

Brennen: “You have one whale of a blog post to write.”

Me: “No kidding.”


So I started writing, and I wrote a lot.  There was so much to say and so many updates to give.  As Brennen explained in his blog post, our transfer on November 15th went as smoothly as it could have.  We had a good looking embryo and all my hormone levels were in check.  All that was left to do was wait out the next few days until my first hCG blood test.

Now, for the post-transfer breakdown.

Days 1-5

For the first few days after the transfer, I hung out in a hotel room with my mom in Memphis.  It was miserable.  Not because of my mother, no, but because it was a hotel room. And I was having some pretty intense post-transfer symptoms.  I knew from the day after the transfer that this one was different than Round 1.  I ran a low-grade fever off and on from Wednesday to Saturday and experienced much more cramping than I did after our first transfer.  My hips were also not adjusting well to the progesterone injections either.  They were so sore which is not ideal when you’re basically sitting in a bed all day.  Oddly enough, when we switched to some larger needles from our first transfer, the hip pain got much better.  I never imagined that I would be thrilled to see a larger needle!  After Memphis, we spent the weekend at my parents’ house for some much needed distraction.  And just like that, half of our 10-day wait was over, and by Sunday, I was feeling a little more like myself.

Day 6

One of the first things they tell you is to not take an at-home pregnancy test.  And I promised myself that this time around, I would wait on the blood test.  But Monday morning, before I knew it, I found myself peeing on a stick at 6am.  Brennen claimed he didn’t see anything so he went back to bed, and I hopped in the shower.  When I got out, I saw an ever-so-faint line.  My heart skipped a beat.  I collected myself, hid the test in my make-up bag, and went about the rest of my day.  Well, I tried to at least.  I could not wait to get back home and take another peek at that test.  I blew through the door at 5:00, unzipped the bag, pulled out the test, and said, “Oh, shit!” Not the words I expected to come out of my mouth, but it was a good “Oh shit!”  I was looking at a dark pink line, almost as dark as the control line.  Now, I know there is such a thing as an evaporation line and not to trust a test past a certain amount of time yeah, yeah, yeah.  But I have used my fair share of ovulation test strips and pregnancy tests to know that a line like that doesn’t appear for nothing.  Without a doubt, there was some hCG in my system at 6 days post transfer.  I tested again.  Another pink line – not as dark, but evening urine is much less concentrated than morning urine.  I called Brennen and asked him to meet me at a local mall for their Christmas open house.  I was happy and hopeful and just wanted to spend some time with my husband.  After all, there was a possibility that it would only be just Brennen and me for a few more months.  Once we met up, I showed him the lighter test, the one from that evening.  He said, “Holy crap!” – the PG version of my reaction.  We promised ourselves not to get overly excited and to proceed with cautious optimism. We still had a few days to go until the blood test. We planned to celebrate and distract ourselves by shopping (my idea), but work and the evening’s excitement had exhausted me.  Plus, the cramping was getting to me so much that it hurt to button my pants.  So rather than risk anything by walking around the mall with my pants undone, we went back home.  I rested – husband’s orders.

Then, that night around 9:30 I developed a rash all over my body.  Actually, it’s not fair to call it a rash because it wasn’t raised or bumpy.  It itched but mainly because it made my skin warm.  It was more like my entire body was blushing in splotches.  Lucky for me, Benadryl was safe to take.  It eased the itching AND helped me sleep.

Day 7

I didn’t take a test that morning. Believe it or not! But it’s because I thought I didn’t have any.  So, what did I do after work? I bought some.  I tested when I got home and saw a faint pink line.  I was still feeling pretty good.  This time, I didn’t tell Brennen.  His reaction was so precious in the parking lot of the mall the night before that I wanted to capture it the next time I showed him a pink line.

Day 8

After work, Brennen and I met at my best friend’s house for her to take our Christmas card pictures.  And I figured that while we were there, I would use an extra test she had at her house. Convenient, right?  I also wanted her to capture Brennen’s reaction which she did…beautifully.  There was without a doubt a pink line.  The problem was…it was lighter than the lines I had been seeing.  Brennen chalked it up to a different type of test, a cheaper one; and after Christmas card pictures we grabbed a bite at one of our favorite restaurants to celebrate.  When I told the waiter I would just be having water, I saw Brennen grin.  He was so excited.  But I wasn’t quite there.  I was nervous about the lighter pink line.  He kept telling me to “Be happy,” but when I explained how overwhelmed I was and how I needed to see a blood test before I would let myself get too excited, he understood.  He calls me the pessimist of the relationship.  I’d say I’m more of a realist.  Still, we talked about baby names, grandparent names, and the whole timeline of the pregnancy over dinner.  Like Brennen said, “We’ve talked about this stuff before, but this time it’s real.  How crazy is that!”

Day 9

Happy Thanksgiving!  I took another test that morning.  Still a line! It was light, but it was there!  We coasted through Thanksgiving Day in default mode, unable to really think of anything other than the blood test I would take that night.  Even the turkey wasn’t enough to distract us!  That evening, I had my blood drawn for my first hCG test.  The 20-minute wait for the results was the longest 20 minutes of my life.  We filled the time with talks of Black Friday sales and the food we ate that day.  And finally, a number – 17.87.  It was low, but it was above a 5 which was good!  We FaceTimed Brennen’s parents who squealed with excitement then drove on to my parents’ house.  The rest of the evening was spent sharing the news of our positive with my family members still in town for Thanksgiving.  We weren’t expecting to share so quickly since the number was low and another test was due in 48 hours to verify an increase, but when it’s Thanksgiving and you’re a part of my family, secrets don’t stay secrets for long.  We were excited.  Our families were excited.  And even though there was still doubt in my mind because of the low number and light pink lines, we had never been this far before and shared the news anyway.  Still, the words “I’m pregnant” didn’t quite roll off my tongue.  It didn’t seem real.  I opted for the safer, “We got a positive!”

I held my belly as I went to sleep that night and prayed so hard that our growing embryo would become our baby.

Day 10

I tested again Friday morning before I called the clinic to report my hCG level from the night before. The line was still a light pink, which was worrisome.  The on-call nurse didn’t seem concerned that the number was low.  The most important thing was how it increased over the next few days.  She instructed me to do another hCG test Saturday night, 48 hours from the first.  The rest of the day was a blur, but I’m sure there was some football and leftovers in there somewhere.

Day 11

As if it were a full time job for me now, I peed on a stick that morning.  The line was barely there.  At that point, our moods shifted, and we had this nagging feeling that something wasn’t right.  With nothing else to do except sleep, I crawled back in bed, apologized to God for the things I was about to say, and vented to Him about the unfairness of this all, questioning “Why us?”

By that evening before my blood test, we had accepted that the level had either decreased or showed little change.  Results came back – 19.54.  At that point, we went ahead and let our families know that the pregnancy didn’t seem promising and that the number had not doubled or even come close to doubling over the 48 period as it should have.  We were preparing them, and more so ourselves, for the worst.

Day 12

I didn’t even bother with a urine test.  In fact, the one the morning before would be my last for a while. I  reported my number to the nurse who didn’t seem optimistic but asked me to continue my medications and test again in 48 hours – Monday.  That day I tried to do my best Googling to learn about low, slow-rising hCG levels.  Unfortunately “low” and “slow rising” are pretty vague search terms.  Some message boards had women worried about their 58 hCG.  I read where women were concerned because their hCG hadn’t doubled but had gone from 180 to 300 in 48 hours.  Looking at my report that read 19.54, I thought, “Cry me a river.”  Brennen did his fair share of Googling too, and on the drive home from my parents’ house we found ourselves dwelling on the uncertainties of this transfer and any transfers to come.

Day 13

In a torrential thunderstorm, we made our way to the hospital Monday night for the third blood test.  At this point, we were going through the motions.  We didn’t have much hope for the embryo that was inside of me and figured it was only hanging on because my hormones were being controlled with pills and injections.  To our surprise, we saw the biggest increase we had seen in my hCG level so far – 28.38, about a 40% increase from Saturday.  Still, a 28 at this point was not great, but there was still a shred of hope that we could hang on to. We drove back home in a steady mist of rain, and suddenly, I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. I became angry. I didn’t want to keep spinning our wheels and exhausting ourselves on assumptions.  We didn’t know why my hCG wasn’t rising like it should.  We didn’t know what the doctor would say or do next.  We didn’t know when the next transfer would be or if there would even need to be one.  We just didn’t know.  Then, I remembered something I learned after Round 1.  You have to let go of the things you can’t control.  There was nothing we could control at that point other than progesterone injections and Estrace pills.  Everything else needed to be let go.  So before we crossed the Madison County line, we agreed to do just that.

Day 14

I reported the 28 hCG to the clinic this morning.  The nurse agreed that the level wasn’t rising as it should and wasn’t as high as it should be.  We expected that our doctor would tell us to stop all medications, but we guessed wrong.  My doctor called yesterday evening and told me he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel as long as the hCG was still rising.  He recommended another hCG test the next day and hoped that the 28 would evolve into a 50, or there about.  We chatted for about 30 minutes about my symptoms since the transfer – the fever, the rash, the cramping – and discussed what to do next.  If anything, continuing to measure my hCG may give us some insight into what’s going on and how it could affect the protocol of future transfers.

Day 15

My hCG doubled. Finally! 56! Still low for this stage, but it doubled! What the heck?! That’s really all we can say.  We don’t know what’s going on.  Our emotions are in total limbo.  We’re thrilled with the increase but understand that the number is still low, so we’re guarding ourselves.  I don’t mean for it to sound so crass, but I can’t let myself get too attached just yet.  It’s a defense mechanism…because all of this can be so hard to deal with.

We never expected to be here.  We thought we would have a positive or a negative at this point, not the in-between.  Sunday night as we were lying in bed, I told Brennen, “I never even considered being at this point – the space between.”  Naturally, he responded with the chorus from Dave Matthews’ The Space Between, and in no time we were both singing the song in our best Dave impressions.  We didn’t know all the lyrics, and we don’t even know what the song means, but we found comfort in the line “The hope that keeps us safe from pain.”  That’s what this embryo has given us.  We had never seen a positive pregnancy test in all our years of trying until this embryo.  We weren’t even sure implantation was possible until this embryo.  And a few months ago, we didn’t even think we could make a high-grade embryo, and this little guy is a 4AB.  Still, we don’t know what is ahead.  But this little embryo, even in its short existence so far, has already given us more hope than we’ve ever had – the hope that keeps us safe from pain.