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…

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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.

 

 

Transfer #2 – A Second Chance

Last time Breanne posted an update, she was shouting from the rooftops about her thick uterine lining (a phrase I never thought I would type).  Now, she’s hunkered down in a hotel room in Memphis on bedrest, so I’m handling this update on our transfer.

Monday evening after work, acupuncture, and a progesterone injection, Breanne and I hit the road to Memphis.  She had a suitcase packed with nothing but pajamas, a box of gluten-free cupcakes courtesy of my parents (Thanks, Mom and Dad), and plenty of Christmas music on her iPhone to pass the time. For those of you that know Breanne, you know that she loves Christmas.  And I don’t mean the normal kind of love.  I mean the already-has-all-of-her-Christmas-shopping-done-in-mid-November kind of love.  So with “Let it Snow” playing in the background and the air conditioner on full blast, we made our way up I-55.  Like a pitcher on a hot streak, we didn’t want to change up our pre-game routine, so we ate a late dinner at Memphis Barbecue Company on our way.  We’ve stopped there every time we’ve come up to Memphis for IVF.  If this round works, I bet it was the BBQ.

The morning of the transfer before we left the hotel is a bit of a blur, and I didn’t realize it was a blur until I started writing this post.  It’s almost like we were on auto-pilot.  I think we both had so many emotions running through us that morning – anticipation, excitement, hope, fear – and they all somehow cancelled each other out, leaving us numb and just going through our pre-transfer checklist.

We arrived at the clinic at 10:00 so that Breanne could have her blood drawn for a progesterone check; then, we spent the next thirty minutes in the waiting room where Breanne chugged water.  Evidently, a full bladder helps the doctor view the uterus on the ultrasound monitor so he can guide the catheter.  So there Breanne was, playing a chess match with her bladder all morning, trying to decide when to take her last pee before the procedure.  Checkmate: Bladder.

The transfer is a much less invasive procedure than the retrieval.  For the retrieval, Breanne was put under anesthesia; for the transfer, she only got a Valium.  The transfer basically involves the doctor guiding a catheter into her uterus and then injecting a solution holding the embryo right up next to the uterine lining.  That way, when the embryo hatches from its shell, it’s close enough to the lining that it can implant and begin to grow into a baby.  Because the procedure is less invasive, I was allowed to be in the room with Bre.  I just had to throw on a lunch lady hairnet and some massively oversized scrubs.  But when you’re 5’7, just about everything is oversized.

When the doctor finally came in for the procedure, he gave us a picture of the embryo we had been dying to see. Suddenly, we weren’t numb to our emotions anymore.  We were overwhelmed with hope.  Right away we could tell that this little guy was a higher quality embryo than the one we transferred in our first round.  It was more advanced and, without getting too scientific, had better cell differentiation.  The embryologist gave it a grade of 4AB.  The “4” indicates how far along the embryo is in its development.  At stage 4, it’s considered an “expanded blastocyst,” which is exactly where you want it to be for transfer.  The first letter in the grade represents the quality of the “inner-cell mass,” the group of cells that will eventually form the fetus.  This part of our embryo got an A!  It takes after its dad.  The second letter in the grade is the quality of the outer cells that will develop into the placenta.  This was a B.  Not perfect, but still pretty darn good!  For reference, the one embryo we had and transferred after our first round was a 2BC, so we knew we were already ahead of our first round.

The doctor left us alone for a few minutes while they prepped the procedure room, and we stared at our embryo.  It’s hard not to get emotional looking at the little clump of cells that could grow into our precious little boy or girl that we have fought so hard for. And I’ll be honest, I teared up.  Not many people get to see their children at this stage.  Going through this infertility struggle has been unbelievably difficult for both of us.  I bottle a lot up inside trying to be strong for Breanne, and my emotions wind up coming out when I least expect it.  I actually broke down in our Customer Service Manager’s office a few weeks ago (sorry Bennie!).  But getting to see this little 5-day old embryo before it hopefully grows into our beautiful baby made us feel so lucky…and me so emotional.

Next, they walked us into the procedure room and strapped Breezer in.  The nurse looked through our chart to once again verify who we were (a lot of verification goes on during the transfer process which is very much appreciated).  She laughed at how our names were so close, and Breanne, in her Valium-induced state of relaxation said, “Oh, it gets better!” and proceeded to explain how her maiden name is also Hancock.  The nurse jokingly asked if we were sure we weren’t related, so to break the tension I said, “Well, if this baby comes out with a third arm, we’ll have our answer.” Hard to tell if that joke landed or not.

The procedure went about as smoothly as it possibly could have.  Our doctor was incredible – he walked us through every step of the process so we could follow along on the ultrasound monitor.  And being able to both be in the room meant so much to us.  Breanne has had to fight so much of this battle on her own.  She’s the one getting poked and prodded almost every day.  She’s the one who has endured multiple surgeries in order to give us a fighting chance at a child together.  But in that moment, getting to hold her hand through this precious piece of the process, I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so connected to one person in my entire life.  As the doctor transferred the embryo, we could see a little glow appear on the screen.  The embryo is microscopic, but the solution it was in could easily be seen on the monitor.  And when we saw that glow, we both teared up (again).

After laying flat for 30 minutes following the transfer, Breanne was finally allowed to empty her bladder (hallelujah!)  She told the nurse it was the greatest pee of her life. The doctor gave us our post-transfer instructions, which involved a lot of bed rest for Breanne.  Once doc was finished with us, I went to go get the car to pick Breanne up.  About halfway to the car, I heard a woman’s voice calling for my help.  Once I walked over to her, I saw her and her husband trying to get a stroller to fold up so they could load it in their car – I’m guessing it was their grandchild’s stroller.  The woman said, “You look young – I bet you have kids.  How do you get one of these strollers to fold up?”  Not wanting to share our whole infertility story with a stranger in the parking lot, I awkwardly laughed and tried to help.  When I couldn’t figure it out, she said, “Well I thought you’d be more helpful – you look like you have a couple kids, don’t you?”  Guess I need to work on my dad bod…  After I swung by the hospital entrance to pick Bre up, we had to stop to let two very pregnant women walk across the street.  It was as if the universe was taunting us, but we laughed it off.  No negative vibes for our little embryo on board!

In order to make sure she followed the doctor’s instructions (and to allow me to get back to work), Breanne’s mom met us up in Memphis and is currently staying there with Breanne until tomorrow morning, then they are heading home.  Thanks, Connie!  If anyone can keep her in line, it’s you.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s been really hard being away from Bre over the last few days.  Knowing (and praying) that our embryo could be implanting as I write this is crazy to think about. Yet being 200 miles away from each other sucks. I’m just ready for tomorrow evening when we can start spending the rest of this 10-day wait together.

Thanks so much to the dozens of you who have messaged us, encouraged us, and prayed for us over the past few days.  If that little embryo can sense the love y’all have sent our way, he/she will definitely want to stick around!

 

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!