Numb

Haven’t updated in a while. I have nothing new to share, or at least, nothing exciting to share. I did switch fertility clinics because I moved states for my job. The new clinic is working me up from scratch before we proceed with another transfer. I have lots of little things “wrong” with me, but nothing big enough to account for all my miscarriages, so that’s frustrating. I was supposed to have a scope with endometrial biopsy, but then covid entered our world…

I’ve mainly been working from home, which is nice, although I have been going to the office from time to time. Even though my family planning is on pause for now, I am oddly calm about it. I just found out 5 new people were pregnant over the last 3 days, and who cares. People make jokes how in 9 months from now there are going to be a lot of babies born, and I shrug my shoulders. (would I love to be one of them? Of course! What are the chances of me being one of them? Probably low.) I’ve been through so much physically and emotionally that I feel like I used up all of my negative emotions.

I’m sure they will come back.

In the meantime, stay safe, be well, and please be extra considerate of yourself and others.

Obsessed with Pregnancy Tests?

So, before this whole infertility garbage consumed my life, I used to be a very positive, laid back person with a very Type B personality. After dealing with infertility and recurrent pregnancy loss for years, I became a Negative Nancy. Recently, I feel like I have become a little OCD, especially when it comes to checking pregnancy tests at home. Whether I am doing a cycle or not, the week my period is due, I find myself checking at least once a day, sometimes even twice a day. I use the ICs (aka “internet cheapies”) so I have a huge stash at home and don’t feel as guilty about “wasting” the tests (because that is esentially what I am doing. Wasting.)

The thing about the internet cheapies is that the pregnancy line is often very light and can be hard to see, especially at the begining of a pregnancy. I would know because I have used thme when I was pregnant and I have seen what the line looks like. So you would think I would know how to interpret these tests. But what kills me is even when I get a clearly negative result, I find myself constantly holding it up to the light, looking at it in 500 different angles, to see if maybe, just maybe, there is a faint second line there. I drive myself crazy! And then I essentially do the same song and dance every day until my period comes.

Why do I do this? I don’t know, maybe I need that glimmer of hope in my life. Although I hate to get excited about anything prematurely, only to be let down later.

Infertility is the worst.

Mom Culture

Hi y’all! How is everyone’s new year so far? Anyone feeling completely jaded? I am!

One thing I noticed is that I have a new trigger, woohoo! And by trigger, I mean seeing something that conjures up negative feelings and has the potential to ruin my day. Up until now, my biggest trigger was pregnant women. Trust me- baby pictures, pregnancy/birth announcements, baby showers and gender reveals are no walk in the park, but there is something about seeing a pregnant woman that honestly breaks my heart. Clearly these women are doing nothing wrong or offensive. It’ just that all of the happiness they are feeling, I am feeling the same intensity but in sadness, jealousy, bitterness and frustration. I have never carried a pregnancy to term, I wish I knew what that was like. I wish these women knew how lucky they are. Do they know hoe lucky they are? It’s funny, I know exactly how I feel in my head but I am having trouble articulating it.

Anyway, I realized a new trigger that I have, and it makes sense- MOM CULTURE. I don’t know if that’s an existing term or if I invented it. But when I say mom culture, I mean making EVERYTHING about being a mom, mostly on social media (and in real life too). Here’s an example. An acquaintance of mine recently had her first kid. She posted a picture of herself and some friends out to dinner. She captioned it “mom’s night out.” AND THAT DROVE ME CRAZY. It’ hard enough I had to see her other pregnancy related content. Now that she finally has some “intertiltiy friendly” pictures to share, she has to bring it back to the fact that she is a mom? Of course she is probably over the moon to be a mother, I don’t want to stop her from feeling this way. But for me, someone who doesn’t have any children and would do ANYTHING to be a mom, it just makes me so sad when I see all these moms flaunting their new status. Nothing against them at all, I promise. It’s a trigger. Makes me sad. That’s it.

Another example- someone I follow asked on social media if anyone gets their kids gifts for valentine’s day. An innocent question, but that is assuming that everyone reading that has kids. Clearly I don’t have kids, so just one more thing that doesn’t apply to me. Wonderful.

And then other moms join in. They call each other “mamma.” They talk about their growing families. Label themselsves as proud working moms or stay at home moms- because mom is their new identity. They post mom-related croud-sourcing questions. I hate croud-sourcing in general, but I don’t need to be asked where I can find the most sustainable, organic, chemical free crib.

I’m not singling out moms for being moms. But seeing the strong mom community presence is just a reminder of how badly I want to be included in this mom club, and how, through no fault of my own, I am still excluded.

A Very Un-ladylike Embryo Transfer

**this is an old post of mine that I drafted over the summer after my first FET. Figured I’d share it now. I did not post it in “real time” because I didn’t want to jynx anything. This was the FET that resulted in my 3rd miscarriage. I sounded so happy and optimistic below, sigh…***

When I first started blogging I told myself to try to stay away from my personal medical details, but once I got thrown into the realm of IVF I feel myself crossing the boundary between sharing and oversharing! Full disclosure, I get pretty blunt here- but not too graphic or anything. The purpose isn’t to scare you about transfers, but rather to provide some comic relief to this whole thing! Something where you can say, “glad that didn’t happen to me!”

Ok, so my transfer is a frozen embryo transfer. To prep my uterus for this, I have to take estrogen pills, no big deal, and then after 2 weeks or so, add progesterone. Injections. In the butt. Every day. The needle is larger and thicker than the needles I used for the stim part of IVF! (That’s because the stim meds were given subcutaneously and not intramuscularly).  The progesterone is in oil so it doesn’t go in as easily. This was and is so daunting. Every time I do these injections I am sweating by the time I am done. Some things that help is to roll the syringe in my hands before injecting. This warms the oil solution and makes it more liquidy. Another thing I do is inject slowly. Some people like to just push the whole thing in and get it over with, but not me. Once the needle is in, I don’t mind leaving it there a few extra seconds. I can actually feel the fluid while it’s being injected and I would rather feel that in slow increments, as opposed to one large bout of “ow!”. That’s just my personal preference. But to each their own. I also massage the area after I am done, to help with the absorption. But I still feel achy by the next day. If this is what it takes, then this is what it takes.

Next, transfer day! A day that is supposed to be so exciting, right? My husband and I enjoyed a lovely date the day before, and we went into the transfer feeling more calm than anxious. Anyway, unlike the retrieval, the transfer must be done on a FULL bladder. This helps straighten the uterus for catheter insertion and also makes it easier to view on ultrasound.  FYI: going to talk a lot about pee now.  So my clinic tells me to empty my bladder 1.5 hours before my retrieval. I do that. Then I’m supposed to drink 24oz of fluid to fill the bladder back up. I do that too, because, you know, I like to follow directions. Well in this case I wish I didn’t! By the time we got to the clinic I was so uncomfortable! I change into a gown and sit on the procedure chair, waiting. I can barely lie down. Docs are running late, of course. I tell my husband I don’t think I’ll be able to make it. There are so many rooms yet no doctor or nurse in sight. Hubby insists I go to the bathroom, but I don’t want to ruin anything. I’m pacing around the procedure room like a nut case and finally the doctor comes in! She says I can urinate but only for 5 seconds. So I go to the bathroom and do as I’m told. I still feel uncomfortable, but not nearly as uncomfortable as before.

The embryologist comes in and talks to us, gives us a picture of our beautiful blastocyst (yes I think it’s beautiful) and I clutch it with all my might, while using my other hand to hold my husband. The staff does a “time out,” and the procedure begins!  I do have to say, I really enjoyed seeing the lil frosty go into the catheter on the screen, and then into the uterus on the ultrasound!

But then I remembered- there is still someone pressing on my bladder. In fact, the staff was surprised how full my bladder was, even AFTER letting me pee just before! When everything was finished, the first question I asked was when can I use the bathroom again. They wanted me to lie down for 10 minutes first, but one of the nurses offered to bring me a bedpan just in case I needed to go while lying down. Well guess what. Five minutes pass, and no nurse or bedpan in sight. I don’t want to get up from my chair because I was told to lie down. In a semi panic, I ask my husband to please find someone to bring me a bedpan, because there’s no way I can go the full 10 minutes without taking care of business. I try my best to hold everything in, but, alas…By the time the nurse comes in with the bedpan, the damage was done. I still ended up using the bedpan anyway, because my bladder was SO FULL. And when I got home, i urinated again! (this time on a toilet lol). But what was supposed to be a calm and heartwarming experience was definitely heart-warming, but also…messy.

Of course on my way home I keep checking through Dr. Google… and I saw recommended fluid intake of 16-20 oz of fluid, not 24 oz!!! Hopefully I won’t have to do this again in a long time, but for my next transfer, whenever that may be, I am NOT drinking the full 24 oz of water before. And I am bringing my own bedpan.

I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but…

…if you can help it, please don’t bring your kid to your fertility appointment. Believe me when I say that I don’t want to sound insensitive. I know that infertility and miscarriage do not only affect women without children, and I know that having to go through it is a nightmare no matter what. I get that. And I also understand that it is not easy or cheap to arrange for child care. But please hear me out. I went to a fertility appointment the other day, with my future plans very much in limbo. I was not happy to begin with, as I can imagine are most of us in that waiting room. Anyway, in the waiting room was a couple with a toddler, among others. The couple with the toddler were, understandably, making the most noise and drawing the most attention. The toddler was walking around, playing on her noisy iPad… things like that. Totally innocent! But it made me feel down. Obviously babies and children exist and I will be seeing them out in the world. But I don’t want to see them at my fertility clinic, the ONE PLACE where I don’t feel alone, the ONE PLACE where there are other women going through similar struggles. I fall into the category of women who would do anything just to become a parent. I don’t have a child to go home to and give extra hugs and playtime after coming home from my fertility appointments. I don’t have that.  I am not saying my struggle is better/worse than yours, but it is different.

Just like going to a baby shower is hard because it is a reminder that you are not pregnant, seeing babies in the fertility clinic is hard for me because it is a reminder that I am not a mother.  I’m not expecting you to agree with me, but I ask to at least try to understand where I am coming from.

 

 

 

No no no no. Not Again.

With a heavy, devastated and frustrated heart, I write this as I was given the news today that I will be having another miscarriage. My THIRD.

I thought this would be different. This time, I went through IVF (twice!), sent the embryos for genetic testing, and had an embryo transfer.

Yes, I had an embryo transfer in June, and it took!  Some people like to give updates on these blogs/forums every second, but I was hesitant to provide my update because I didn’t know how things would turn out in the end. But then again, the ones who are always like “OMG I’m freaking out!” always seem to end up with a good ending, am I right? Maybe I should have updated more frequently. By the way, I don’t mean to single anyone out or offend anyone, I am just being bitter.

So yes, we had the transfer, and when we found out we were pregnant we were “cautiously optimistic”. Obviously very happy, but we also knew that one good hcg or ultrasound today does not guarantee a good one tomorrow. In fact, we wouldn’t feel completely at ease until we had a live baby in our arms.

But something is clearly wrong. Three first trimester miscarriages. Most cases of first trimester miscarriages are due to chromosomal abnormalities, but we ruled that out with genetic testing. So something else is wrong and we don’t know what it is.

What IVF has taught me… a second time!

Hi guys! If you were following along, you may know that I was planning on going through another cycle of IVF so that I would have more embryos to work with (right now I have only one, which is amazing but I figured I’d do another round before the famous biological clock runs its course). If you are new to IVF and are looking for a general overview of it- like the process, what to expect, etc- you can start here (via IVF! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly). I think I did a pretty decent job summing things up 😉

But now, having gone through IVF a second time, I learned even more about the process! And it would be my pleasure to relay not only my experience, but also some tips and tricks I learned along the way. Because I’m technically an expert now, right?

Some advice, in no particular order:

1) Take some time to think about your previous cycles. What went well, and what could have gone better? Since hindsight is 20/20, was there anything you would have wanted done differently? Or would like to do differently in upcoming cycles? I find this to be super helpful before starting ANY cycle! Sometimes the fertility monitoring can make us feel like a mere statistic, but no. We are individuals and what works for some might not work for others. And to that end…

2) Schedule an appointment to meet with your fertility specialist in person before starting a cycle, especially an IVF cycle.  It’s nice to actually sit down with you provider and re-group to make sure you are both on the same page. If you have ideas, suggestions or questions, now is the time! Infertility has made me feel so helpless, so it is important that I advocate for myself whenever I can. I can’t recommend this enough- please advocate for yourself, and question any time something does not seem right. The worst that can happen is maybe we misunderstood something and the provider can re-direct us. The best that can happen is that we help ourselves. At the end of the day, we know our bodies best.

3) Determine the anesthesia to be used and come up with a “pain plan.” Both of my retrievals were under conscious sedation- aka I was awake and alert (even though I technically was not supposed to be alert. I was alert alright!). Both of my retrievals were painful, I will not sugarcoat that. BUT- my second retrieval went a lot smoother. Here’s why. With conscious sedation, my nurse would alternate giving me painkillers and anti-anxiety meds through an IV.  During my first retrieval, she was pushing meds IN RESPONSE to SEEING ME in pain. For my second retrieval, I did not wait for her to see me whimpering in the chair. If I felt something that hurt, I would ASK the nurse to please give me something before the pain became unbearable. And yeah, I asked a lot. Call me whatever you want, but this method helped a lot more.  Again- advocate for yourself. I would say the worst pain is at the very end of the procedure, and the first few hours after. When my first retrieval ended, I was given extra-strength tylenol. I then had a 1-hour car ride home and the pain was still there. It did get better by the time I got home, but it was not fun. So I asked my doctor what to do about pain to prepare for my second retrieval. He actually prescribed a painkiller and allowed me to take it as soon as I was allowed to eat after the second retrieval. That time around, the car ride home was fine! I can’t speak to what the experience is like for general anesthesia, but I’m sure after the procedure, there is still soreness.

4) Don’t forget about constipation! Sorry if this is TMI, but after the retrieval, everything in my lower region felt sore. Having to poop was painful especially the first few days after the retrieval (is there a more sophisticated way of saying poop?). So here is my recommendation- on the days leading up to the retrieval, eat lots of fiber-rich foods. You want to be able to empty your bowels before your retrieval because if you don’t you will feel sore AND constipated. And that is no fun.

5) Put yourself first. Please! It’s important to be relaxed, so don’t push yourself during the days leading up to and even after the retrieval. It’s okay to decline social events for a little self care. On the other hand, if social events relax you, then go all out! In case you can’t tell, I’m an introvert 😉 But seriously though- it is very important to take the stim injections around the same time every day, and you don’t want to be stuck rushing home worrying if you’ll make it in time. These medications have to be refrigerated so it’s not like you can take them with you anywhere you go.

6) Do whatever you can to make you feel stress-free. For me, it was upping my organization game. I set alarms in my phone for all the different meds I needed to take. After I injected the meds, I would record it in my planner- the cycle day, the stim day,* the medication, the dose, and the side of my abdomen that I injected. This made it easy for me to rotate sides. Yes, I could have very easily used my memory, but it was nice to have an extra backup. It’s also helpful to have a written copy of things so you can look back.  *(So if my first injection was on cycle day 3, I would record that as cycle day 3, stim day 1. And then the next day would be cycle day 4, stim day 2, etc… )

7) It’s okay to be emotional. Infertility is no walk in the park! For my first IVF cycle I was very hopeful and in a great mood throughout. But having to go through another cycle again, I felt soooo defeated.  I would have to take a step back and re-frame my thinking so that I wouldn’t go down a rabbit hole of negative emotions. It took effort, but it was better than blaming myself for feeling bad. Instead, I accepted the fact that I have every right to feel bad, but for now, let’s try to focus on the good.

8) Be prepared to constantly feel “in limbo”- this applies to anyone in the infertility process. We try so many different ways to get pregnant, and while there may be small victories along the way (nice follicle growth, good hormone levels, even a positive pregnancy test) for me, it’s not a complete victory until the bundle of joy is in my arms. I hate to end on such a cynical note, but I’ve been through my fair share of disappointments. So for now, I take everything in stride.

I hope this was helpful! I would love to answer any questions you may have!

When the glass is always half empty

I’ve been feeling a lot more down lately- mainly defeated and frustrated. Maybe it’s just PMS. Maybe it’s because it was just Mother’s Day. Whatever the reason, I am failing to see the good in things, and that is not the “old me.” And since I am starting a new cycle, I really need to be in a better frame of mind. So I write this post for selfish reasons, as a way to help myself.

I’m still trying to improve my wellness- eating better, working out, meditating- but this time I have so many other things going on in my personal life that I just feel overwhelmed. Most things are good things, but I am getting hung up on the deadlines. I will be “graduating” my current job and moving on to a new one, which is great! But now I have to wrap things up with my current job and get onboarded with my new one. It seems like every day I have more tasks added to my to-do list. I also have to go house hunting since I will be moving to a new state. It was fun in the beginning but once we involved our parents it became way too many cooks in the kitchen. I can’t afford the house I want, which is frustrating because I put in so many years into my education and training, yet it seems I would have been better off getting a job straight out of college. I have a few conferences lined up where I will be speaking, which is also exciting, but that also means working on my speech and presentations.  All this during a second round of IVF. During my first round of IVF, I was pretty relaxed and hopeful. Now, I feel super tense and doubtful. I don’t know if I am doing this as a defense mechanism, like if I expect to fail, then maybe I won’t be as upset if I do fail. But this is such negativity! And I don’t like it. I literally have to remind myself about all the good things in my life to temporarily get out of my negative state. But the negativity always comes back.

Well, this didn’t particularly lift my spirits, but it did give me an outlet to vent. Thanks for listening.

IVF! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

After what seemed like an eternity, I FINALLY started and completed an IVF cycle. If you thought TTC itself is a roller coaster, IVF feels like all of that condensed into one month. I have a lot of commentary on IVF, so I will break it down by category:

The Meds

This part was not that bad for me. I am by no means minimizing the fact that it can be very hard to deal with multiple daily injections! What helped me was that I kept telling myself these medicines will hopefully help me achieve my dream of parenthood, so what’s a pinch here and there for a few days? I also had a relatively simple medication regimen, which helped. For about 9 days I took Follistim daily. The needle was small and thin, and injections were easy. Then, I took ganirelix for the last 3 days. A warning about ganirelix- the needle does not go in easily! So this was not particularly fun. Also, after injecting, I would get a pink rash which would go away in an hour. Annoying, but I’ve handled worse. I did not end up taking Menopur this time around because my body made enough LH on its own. Then there was the trigger shot- an intramuscular injection in the butt. This was the most daunting for me, A) because the needle was quite long, and B) because my dear husband faints at the sight of blood and needles, so I was somehow supposed to inject this myself! I was pretty nervous about this one. I was able to get the needle in, but I couldn’t hold it and inject at the same time, the angle was off. My husband mustered up some courage and was able to help me inject! He then pretended to faint after which was not funny.

The Retrieval

The retrieval was not so bad and also very bad at the same time! I was put under conscious sedation for this, so I was awake. But I felt almost everything! I’m not going to lie, it was painful. The pain was bearable, but having to be in pain for 20 minutes straight starts to become unbearable. My advice- ask for general anesthesia. The clinic I go to performs the retrievals in the office and so general wasn’t an option for me, but boy I wish it was. I will say that there are ladies out there that had their retrieval under conscious sedation like me and didn’t feel any pain at all. But I will also say that I was talking to a colleague of mine who also had her retrieval under conscious sedation, and it was painful for her too. After the retrieval, I did have some pelvic pain, but was able to keep it at bay with some motrin. I wish I didn’t have to do this again, but I do (see “The Numbers”). If I know that this will get me what I want, it will be worth it.

The Numbers

This is tricky. On the one hand, more is better, because the more follicles are mature, the more eggs are collected, the more embryos are made. But on the other hand, “all you need is one.” Not all eggs are necessarily “good” eggs (Ugh I hate using terms like good and bad). As you go on with each phase of the IVF process, the numbers go down and down. Here are mine for example: I had like 23 follicles the day I triggered. Great right? Granted they were different sizes, so not all will be retrievable, I get that. On retrieval day, they were only able to collect 8 eggs (not all my follicles had eggs in them). Of the 8, only 4 were mature. Of the 4, 3 fertilized properly. Of the 3, 1 made it to blastocyst phase.  So of course I am so happy that I have something, but sad that I don’t have more in case this one God forbid does not work out. So before doing the transfer, I will be doing another round of IVF (stim + retrieval) which will hopefully yield more blastocysts.

The Emotions

This is by far the hardest part for me, not just during IVF but throughout my whole TTC journey. No amount of physical pain can match the heartache that I have been going through. That being said, the beginning part of IVF was great! I was feeling very hopeful, and things were going very smoothly. I downloaded a meditation app and meditated each night for some extra calmness. I was eating well, sleeping well and feeling well.  Then the retrieval. I was excited and nervous. After the retrieval, happy that eggs were retrieved, disappointed that more weren’t retrieved, and anxious about how many would make it to the blastocyst phase. Then the negative emotions returned. Can something finally work for me please? How much longer do I have to go through this? WHY do I have to go through this? What did I do to deserve this? I’m still roller coastering through these emotions. I have my good days and bad days, but the best thing to do is to find your supports, turn to them, and remain hopeful.