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!

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!