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!

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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!

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!