Little Blue Pills

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Final Countdown (hopefully)

About two weeks ago, we finally went on that much anticipated Orlando trip that we’ve been talking about.  It was a blast!  And I’d like to give a shout out to my husband for making me book the trip.  Back in November before our transfer, my family decided to spend Spring Break in Disney World, so we had a lot to think about.  My list of what if’s went something like, “Just in case it works and I get pregnant, what if I’m sick and don’t feel like going.  My mom was extremely sick when she was pregnant.  What if it’s too risky? What if something happens and we’re away from our doctor? Or what if it doesn’t work, and we would be able to transfer again but we’d be in Disney and we’d have to push it back even further.  Or what if…”  Brennen stopped me.  He reminded me that we can’t let infertility control our lives any more than it already has.  He convinced me to book and play it by ear from there…something I’m not so great at.  He’s rarely right, but this was one of his finer moments. Thanks, Brennen, for being the voice of reason.  Planning that trip, booking dining reservations, reserving FastPasses, and even mapping out all the rest stops on I-10 (ok maybe I went too far) was my saving grace in pushing forward after the miscarriage and surgery.

So after months of counting down to Disney World, we started a new countdown just as our trip was wrapping up.  On our last night in Orlando, my cycle showed up, and that got the ball rolling for TRANSFER #3!

The following Monday, I called the clinic to report my cycle, and within a couple hours, Nurse Memphis called with those magic words, “Mrs. Hancock, I have your tentative transfer schedule ready.” Boy, do I love a schedule!  Just ask any of those 9 folks that went to Orlando with me.  Here’s what the next few weeks look like:

March 19 – Start birth control (done)

April 8 – Stop birth control

April 12 – Baseline ultrasound and blood work; start Estradiol pills

April 26 – Another ultrasound (fingers crossed for a fluffy uterine lining) and more blood work; start PIO injections

May 1 – Tentative Transfer Date!

And 10 days after transfer, the pregnancy test. Now, the transfer date is tentative since it depends on the state of my hormones and uterus at the April 26th ultrasound; but hopefully we’re looking at May 1st or a couple days after. Two other things I want to throw into that schedule:

May 6 – My 30th Birthday

May 14 – Mother’s Day

Yeah, so there’s that….

Right now on the schedule, I have 2 more weeks of birth control, so things are kind of slow. I just take two prenatal vitamins and a birth control pill each day. Last night, I was feeling a bit moody, and as I downed my day’s birth control, Brennen said, “You’ve done a good job keeping up with your pills so far.”  He sounded surprised and a little too condescending, or at least I thought so. I gave him that go-to-hell look he loves and responded with something along the lines of “Thank you for your approval.” And then I threatened to make him start taking prenatal vitamins and all the placebo pills from my old birth control packs.  I’m not sure what that would have accomplished, but it sounded like a good rant at the time. Brennen just laughed, knowing he succeeded at pushing my buttons!

Please continue to keep us in your thoughts and prayers over the next few weeks. Pray that my hips are ready for those upcoming injections.  Pray that my uterus does her thing and gets ready to host Baby H for 9 months.  And pray that this spring, we get the best news yet!

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!

We Set a Date and Took a Shot

I HAVE A THICK UTERINE LINING, and I want to shout it from the roof tops!  My monitoring appointment yesterday confirmed a lining of approximately 9mm, which means my body, more specifically my uterus, is ready to take on an embryo.  And with that news, we were able to set a date for our frozen embryo transfer.  Drum roll please…Tuesday, November 15th!

But first, progesterone.

For the past two weeks, I have been on an estrogen regimen – 6mg of Estrace daily – to keep me from ovulating and to support the growth of my lining.  Good job, Estrace.  I forgive you for the mood swings and heart burn.  I’ll continue to take Estrace through the transfer, but to ensure that my lining doesn’t get too thick I have to add my little friend PIO (progesterone in oil) to the mix.  PIO is an intramuscular injection, which means big needle in the hip.  And our first injection was tonight. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting in the car with my right cheek pressed firmly against my heated seat on our way to a steak dinner.

This is the first time in this entire process, including Round 1, that I was shaking from nervousness.  I knew too well what was ahead.  When Brennen walked through the door, I tried to mask my nerves and bravely said, “Ok, I’m ready. Progesterone, now.” It didn’t help when he started mumbling, “Oh my gosh we’re really doing this.”  Then, I hear the voice of a stranger in my house.  A lady on YouTube was giving Brennen instructions on how to give a PIO injection.  Her voice…not so comforting at the time.

As Brennen reached for the Sharpie to temporarily tattoo my backside with injection targets, he said “Now, where exactly do I inject?” Brennen called my uncle (a nurse) for advice.  I heard the words “6 inches from the top of the butt crack…” and saw Brennen go for the tape measure.  This just kept getting better.  He drew the first circle, put an X through it, and drew another.  Finally, we were ready, and gave and took that progesterone like total champs.  When the needle was out, Brennen asked me how it was.  Tears filled my eyes.  They weren’t sad tears.  They weren’t happy tears.  They were just tears…because here we are…5 days from transfer…and wanting this to work so badly.

So, the plan is to continue PIO until I take a pregnancy test; further instructions will follow depending on the results.  I’ll also take an antibiotic and a steroid, Prednisone, for a few days for transfer prep.  The antibiotic is to help ward off any infections from the procedure, and the Prednisone is administered to address any inflammation that may result from implantation.  Aside from medicine, our hotel is booked, and our bags will be packed by the end of the weekend.  I’ll have to be on bed rest for a couple days following the transfer, so I’ve opted to just stay in Memphis.  My mom will be babysitting me so that Brennen can get back to work.  And that means for those few days we’re in Memphis, she’ll be the one injecting me with PIO. That should be interesting…

Well, that’s about it for now!  My tears have dried up. My butt is starting to feel better. And I have a steak dinner waiting on me. We like to celebrate.  Let the countdown to November 15th begin!

 

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!