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

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.

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!

Post-Op Report

Last time you heard from Breanne, we were on our way to Memphis for an unexpected surgery last week.  As my mother-in-law reminds us, “Y’all can’t do anything easy.” So after work last Wednesday, the “crew” (Breanne, her mom Connie, her sister Caitlin, and me) loaded up the car and headed North.  Connie wanted to come along because her daughter was going under anesthesia. Understandable. Caitlin…well…she said she was just there for the barbecue. As we headed up I-55, Breanne pulled the surgery card and convinced us to make an impromptu trip to IKEA.  Sorry, Cait, but the barbecue would have to wait.

Let me preface this by saying that none of us had ever been to an IKEA, so when we pulled into a parking lot that reminded me of Wal-Mart on steroids, I knew I was in trouble.  The next hour and a half were a blur, but I have to admit – IKEA was pretty impressive.  And Breanne was right at home.  I have a feeling we may be taking a U-Haul with us to Memphis when we come back up for the next transfer.  After a quick stop at Central BBQ, we finally made it to the hotel.  Then, I had to turn around and go get some nail polish remover from Target.  Breanne said she didn’t need nail polish on in case the doctor needed to check her circulation by pressing on her fingernails or something.  Even though I was convinced this was something my hypochondriac wife picked up on Grey’s Anatomy, I made the late-night trip to Target trying to look as unmurdery as possible as I paced through the nail care section.

We arrived at the surgery center early Thursday morning. After prepping Breanne for surgery, Dr. Memphis called me in to see her one more time before heading to the operating room and to discuss the procedure with us.  In short, Doc was going to perform a laparoscopy to remove the two cysts seen on her right ovary at her ultrasound the week before and burn off any endometriosis tissue that had appeared since her last surgery in 2015.  Then, he would do a hysteroscopy to remove the mass in her uterus, which he figured was a blood clot or leftover products of conception.  He then took the time to discuss with us our next transfer, showing us pictures of our frozen embryos. Every visit with our doctor reminds us that we made the right call by coming to Memphis. He’s always so straight forward and open with us.  Once we finished our talk with the doctor, she gave me an awkward “we don’t kiss in public” peck on the lips, and they wheeled her off.

About an hour and a half later, we got the call that the procedure was a success! Evidently her two nasty cysts had resolved themselves, so no need to remove them.  The doctor also reported minimal endometriosis and only had to burn off a few new spots. More great news! It gets better.  The mass in her uterus was leftover products of conception, which he easily removed with no major bleeding.  Now all we had to do was wait for Breanne to pee before he would discharge her. Or so we thought.

As she made her second attempt to use the bathroom, Breanne noticed a hard knot forming under one of her incisions.  The doctor was worried she might be bleeding into her abdomen. Again, “Y’all can’t do anything easy.” They rushed her upstairs for an ultrasound.  If it was just under the skin, it would probably resolve itself, but if it was leaking into her abdomen, another surgery would be necessary. Son a b*****.

On the elevator ride up for the ultrasound, Doc commented on how pale Breanne was looking and grew concerned.  “Is she always this pale?” he asked.  Connie and I both nodded, which got an anesthesia-labored eye roll out of Breanne.  Then as the doctor pinched her unpolished fingertips, I could feel her giving me an “I told you so” face.

We finally made it to the ultrasound room. Good news – the bleeding was superficial! Whew! No additional procedures needed.  On our way back downstairs, the Memphis team wheeled Breanne through the fertility clinic’s waiting room.  As Breanne rolled through, pale and under a blanket with an IV bag hanging from the back of her wheel chair and a team of medical professionals by her side, I couldn’t help but notice the faces of the couples in the room.  I could feel them thinking, “What in the hell have we gotten ourselves into???”

After a few more minutes of monitoring and finally a successful pee, the doctor gave us permission to head back home.  There was no angry tweeting at C-Spire on this ride home (unlike the post-retrieval ride), but there was a very low tolerance for stupid, as she so lovingly put it. The nurse sent us home with a basin in case Breanne got sick.  As we pull into the neighborhood, Breanne says, “Bring the basin inside and put it by the bed for the night.” I responded, “Oh, in case you get sick?” She glanced at me with that go-to-hell look that she has perfected over the last 29 years and said, “No, Brennen, in case I wake up in the middle of the night and decide to wear it as a hat.” For better or for worse, right?

Breanne’s recovery is going well.  She’s still sore but getting better (and happier) every day.  Now, we wait for her next cycle to start in 4 to 6 weeks so we can begin preparations for FET #2.  Until then, we’ll have our Disney trip to keep us occupied along with the to-do list Breanne created on post-op day 3 titled “The Spring Purge.” Prayers…

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.

Muddle Through Somehow

A thousand thoughts are running through my head about what to say and how to say it, so I’ll just pick up where I left off.  First, a quick recap – We had a single embryo transfer on November 15th.  Our 10-day post transfer test showed a positive but with a low hCG number of 17.  My hCG continued to rise at a slow rate and finally surpassed 100 a week later.  At that point, we were told to wait another couple weeks for an ultrasound on December 14th.  We’ll begin here.

The ride to Memphis didn’t consist of any hCG talk.  We knew all we could know at that point, so it seemed silly and exhausting to continue rehashing all the details of my low, slow-rising hCG and what it could mean for this pregnancy. As soon as we arrived at the clinic Wednesday morning, they took me back for an ultrasound.  This is what we saw….

6-5-weeks

A tiny gestational sac with an even tinier yolk sac – a speck.  Brennen said, “Wow that’s it!” We had never seen anything on a scan of my uterus except a “fluffy” lining, so this was a special moment for us, despite not seeing a fetal pole.  Then we met with the doctor who laid it all out for us.  Here’s what we knew after our discussion:

  1. The embryo did not implant in my tubes. It implanted in the uterus right where it was supposed to, and it implanted well.  This was great news for us – our first implantation!
  2. Based on the timing of my transfer, I should have been at 6 ½ weeks.  However, based on the measurements of the sac, it looked like I was closer to 5 ½ weeks.  In “normal” conception, some doctors chalk this up to ovulating later than you think you did.  However with IVF, conception and implantation is more controlled.  Implantation can take longer to occur after the transfer, but a week late is pretty uncommon.
  3. Being that I was measuring at 5 ½ weeks, it could explain why we didn’t see a fetal pole; therefore, another ultrasound was scheduled a week later.
  4. My lagging measurements coupled with the low, slow-rising hCG indicated that the pregnancy may not be viable, as it was not advancing at it should. The doctor gave us a 20% chance.

That’s a lot of information packed into 4 bullet points! We were thrilled to hear that the embryo had implanted where it was supposed to.  Until that point, we had never made it as far as implantation.  So although this news was coupled with our poor 20% chance, we were thankful to have made it that far.

For the next few days, I continued my medications (Estradiol and Progesterone) and hung on to that 20% chance.  Still, I didn’t feel connected to the pregnancy.  Partly because I was guarding myself against that other 80%.  Plus, I hadn’t developed any symptoms other than cramps, which were attributed to an expanding uterus.  On top of that, it just felt odd saying the word “pregnant.”  To me, this was a pregnancy, but I didn’t feel pregnant.  I talked to a few of my friends who are mothers, and they all said it takes some big moment to feel connected sometimes – like hearing the heartbeat or feeling movement.  So I guess I just needed that moment, and maybe, I thought, it would be December 20th when I heard a heartbeat, or hoped to.

The week between my two ultrasounds flew by thanks to a trip to New Orleans for the Southern Miss bowl game and, of course, Christmas preparations.  Monday night after work, I was wrapping the last few presents when suddenly I began cramping.  It felt like menstrual cramps, but I can’t say it was much worse than the cramps I’d been having over the past couple weeks.  I took a break from wrapping to sit on the couch and watch Mickey’s Christmas Carol.  When Brennen walked through the door at 7:30 with our Mexican takeout, I stood up to greet him (and get my food).  That’s when I felt it, and my heart sank.  I looked at Brennen and said, “I’m bleeding.” “Bad?” he asked.  “Like a period.” The next words out of his mouth were, “Oh my God.”  I can’t begin to explain or mimic the tone in his voice, but I can replay it in my head.  With those three words, I could hear him letting go of our 20% chance.

(This next paragraph gets a little graphic so skip ahead if you’re not up for it.)

I rushed to the bathroom and experienced what I had never experienced with any period in my 16 years of “womanhood.”  After a minute or so, we decided to call the nurse.  I told Brennen to go to the other side of the house to call her.  I didn’t want to hear him tell her what was happening. Living it was one thing, hearing it was another.  While he was on the phone, I sat there alone in our guest bathroom, bleeding.  I looked around – stared at our hand-wash-only clothes hung across the shower curtain rod, at the succulent that I had somehow managed to kill, at my stained pajama pants gathered at my knees, then finally into the toilet.  There was that moment – the moment I felt pregnant.  Only….I didn’t feel pregnant until I knew I wouldn’t be much longer.

Brennen returned, not grossed out by any part of the female reproductive cycle anymore, with instructions on how to monitor the bleeding.  He also brought with him two Tylenol for the cramping and a Benadryl to take before bed.  After an hour or so, the bleeding had slacked off significantly.  “What do I do now?” I asked.  I honestly didn’t know what the proper protocol was.  I needed to eat.  I needed to take a bath.  But I almost felt guilty going on with my normal routine.  “First, you’re eating,” Brennen said.  So I ate.  Then, I took the rest of the night one step at a time, just like we tackle this whole process.  I took a bath, called my mom, took what was perhaps the most difficult progesterone shot ever, downed my Benedryl, set the alarm for 8:30 when my OB’s clinic opened, said my prayers, and drifted into a medicated sleep.

The next morning, I called the clinic, and the nurse told me to come in right away. By 9:30 we were in the waiting room. The ultrasound showed a smaller gestational sac, an abnormal yolk sac, no fetal pole, and a bleed.  My OB’s prediction – this was not a viable pregnancy.  But she did say that although there was little to no hope in this pregnancy, it still brought hope with it.  My thoughts exactly, doc.

My next appointment is Tuesday after Christmas.  My OB expects the process to have completed itself by then. If not, a D&C may be in order.  My reproductive endocrinologist (fertility doctor) in Memphis called this morning and instructed me to stop all my medications.  So now we’re just waiting….waiting to miscarry.

We appreciate everyone’s thoughts and prayers during our “space between,” and we ask that you continue to keep us in your prayers over the holidays.  This will most likely be our last post until the new year when we’ll tackle the why’s and plan for the next transfer.  But for now, we’ll enjoy the time we have together with our friends and families over the holidays. It seems like life hasn’t been fair to us when it comes to fertility, but we’ve been more than blessed in so many other ways.  And ‘tis the season to remember that!

We hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.  It’s going to be a good one! I can feel it!

Someday soon, we all will be together,

If the fates allow.

Until then, we’ll have to muddle through somehow

So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

Judy Garland, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”

hancock-christmas

Merry Christmas! (Photo Credit: My best friend Lauren!)

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!