Little Bunny Foo Foo

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My dog has become so tolerant with these silly holiday photo shoots so of course I had to dress her up in bunny ears. She was so cute and as long as I keep the treats coming, she’ll sit still for some photos. While playing around with her and taking photos, I kept hearing this song in my head that my older sister used to sing to me when I was little.

Little bunny Foo Foo

Went hopping through the forest

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head

Down came the Good Fairy, and she said

“Little bunny Foo Foo

I don’t want to see you

Scooping up the field mice

And bopping them on the head.”

So many years have gone by and I can still hear her voice singing this to me in our parent’s kitchen.

Now, every time I look at these photos of my dog, this Bunny Foo Foo song pops into my head. A great reminder about the parts of my life that are right in front of me that make me smile and the wonderful people (and dog) that are in my life that I love so much.

I’m creating my own Spring Break from the repeated disappointment of failed embryo transfer cycles. With the last failed attempt in March, just days before the two year anniversary of losing my first baby, I knew it was time to stop this madness. At least for a while. I’m doing some spring cleaning of my mind and body and trying to forget about trying to make a baby. I joined a new gym and started new workouts. Without all the extra doctor appointments, I had time to fit in something new… Acupuncture. I’m really loving it. What a great way to address the stress that I’ve been through physically and mentally these past two years. It has been such a calming experience and I highly recommend it!  I’m exploring my creative side and working on opening an Etsy shop with my photographs.  I plan to spend these next three to four months recovering from the ups and downs of this very difficult process and hopefully get back to feeling “normal.”

Enjoy these photos of my Little Bunny Foo Foo. I hope she makes you smile too.

Photos by CJE

Again

pink and blue charms031815I really thought it worked this time. I actually felt pregnant. I didn’t think my mind was playing tricks on me as I’ve noticed the difference between the embryo transfer cycles where I’ve had a positive result or a negative result. Four days post embryo transfer I felt a sharp cramp or twinge in my uterus and had my fingers crossed it was due to implantation. I know I felt it again too within those 9 days of waiting. My breasts felt like they do when I’m pregnant as opposed to just symptomatic of the progesterone injections. By day seven, I actually started feeling morning sickness on and off.   I got my hopes up and thought this time I had a really good chance. I’m always afraid to tell my husband how I’m physically feeling, as I know my mind can play tricks on me and I don’t want to lead him in the wrong direction as to the possible outcome. Especially in this case, as I was worried I would get his hopes up and be wrong. And that’s what happened. Within two hours of getting my blood drawn, our dreams were once again crushed as we read the result of <1. Every time this happens, my immediate response is complete despair, and the fear that this may never happen for us.   I feel so angry about the cruelty of it all. A few days from now on March 23, will be the two year anniversary of losing our first baby Jaxon. Oh, how I had wished we could face that anniversary pregnant again, feeling his soul supporting us along the way. But right now it just feels like loss piled on top of loss.

While we were at the hospital today waiting for the test results, there was a mobile jewelry and accessories store by the cafeteria. I found these little necklace charms pictured here. I bought one in blue and two in pink in memory of our babies’ heartbeats that were with us so briefly.

Photo by CJE

Chance #4/31: Mastering the Full Bladder Ultrasound

glass of water photoNow that I’ve been through seven embryo transfers (today was lucky number 7; fourth one from the egg donor embryos) as well as a handful of ultrasounds during early pregnancy, I’ve learned some things about preparing myself for a procedure that requires a “full bladder.” I say full bladder in quotes because I’ve learned it does not have to be painfully full in order to enable better ultrasound viewing of the uterus.

Water consumption: First of all, when told to drink 16 ounces of water an hour before an appointment, I don’t do it. (By the way, I’m not offering real medical advice. This is advice on how not to pee your pants on the way to the doctor or God forbid, pee on the doctor.) Female bladders are small and I could show up to a doctor appointment without drinking any water following a marathon and still have to pee.

Timing is everything: Appointments in the early morning are the toughest to strategize liquid intake. To drink or not to drink…that is the question. My recommendation…always pee before leaving the house. Your bladder will be full again, probably 3 times over before the procedure. Later in the day seems easier to plan out…maybe the kidneys don’t feel like working as hard as the day progresses.

Consider the car ride: Ok ladies, just by getting into a car and knowing you are going somewhere means that you will have to pee within 15 minutes of getting in the car. This is physiologically how the female bladder functions. I have a 45 minute to 1 hour drive to the doctor so I also have to take that into account. So, those 16 ounces of water you were told to drink? Once again…I wouldn’t do it, unless you live next door to your doctor’s office.

Partial bladder relief before an ultrasound: Now this takes practice and the body does not want to do this. Of all the times I’ve had these procedures, there has been only one time…let me repeat…one time, that I have found the perfect balance of liquid intake and timing of the appointment. All the other times, I’ve been completely desperate to go to the bathroom as soon as I walk through the door. So, then the question: How much to pee? This is pure guess-work and requires Jedi mind tricks on yourself to stop in time. But don’t fret, if you take it too far. You can always drink more water.

Photo by CJE

Finding my sunshine: Chance #4/31

coastal sunshineI haven’t been able to bring myself to write for the past couple of weeks. The outcome of this past embryo transfer left me confused and once again extremely disappointed and sad. My first HCG test result was “5”. In order to be considered a positive pregnancy result, it needed to be over 50. I have not experienced anything other than a clear “not pregnant” result or a number high enough to jump for joy. It is hard enough seeing that I’m not pregnant but in this case, I couldn’t just get the negative result, be sad, deal with it and move on. This was a dark cloud that stuck around for a week. I had to retest two more times to see if the number changed. In the mean time, I worried about possible ectopic pregnancy or who knows what else this number could mean. The first retest stayed the same (even more confused) and the next one finally returned back to a normal “not pregnant” result.   My doctor said that most likely it was a chemical pregnancy where it is possible that the embryo attached and started to develop for 2-3 days, then stopped. I quickly moved into another cycle as soon as the final test result was confirmed as I luckily started a normal period right away. In a matter of 48 hours, medications were ordered, the next cycle was scheduled, I had a baseline ultrasound and bloodwork and my first injection was Friday night. I realized that I’ve been pushing myself to move on to new embryo transfer cycles as quickly as my doctor will allow as I’ve had the looming one year contract hanging over my head. As part of our egg donor process we paid for what is called a “refund plan” which allows us to have as many embryo transfer cycles as needed for a full year until we can have a pregnancy without any additional cost. Due to the logistics in general, plus a pregnancy that lasted about 9 weeks and recovery time from surgery, we have only been able to fit in 3 transfers so far. I have been so worried about the contract ending, meaning we would have to start paying again that it was causing me a considerable amount of extra stress. I talked to my doctor about this and found out there is a process to extend the time on our contract. And suddenly a huge weight was lifted off of me. I feel much better going into this cycle and I decided that if this time does not work, I’ll take a few months off. This will give me time to re-focus on my well-being and find my internal sunshine as it has been covered by many clouds of disappointment and heartbreak for such a long time. But I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this time is the one.

Photo by CJE

Fitness and Infertility

trail walkStaying mentally and physically healthy through infertility, IVF, embryo transfers, short periods of pregnancy and miscarriages has been incredibly challenging and often feels impossible. Since my journey through this process has spanned over the past couple of years, my fight to stay physically strong coupled with a desire to not give up on happiness and mental stability has often left me exhausted, drained and empty. And I’m just talking about ME. I’m not even getting into the impact this has on my marriage. This has left me struggling with what feels like a never-ending and futile attempt to lose weight (or to at least stabilize my weight) combined with cycles of deep sadness and sometimes depression through the disappointments and losses I have experienced on this journey. It is a constant start and stop process with exercise whether I’m in between cycles (amp up the exercise routine) or low impact walking post embryo transfer. As soon as I start to feel progress with physical fitness or any hope of losing a couple of pounds, here I am again making adjustments to put the possibility of pregnancy as the top priority following an embryo transfer. With the two pregnancy losses we have experienced, the only other possible thing my doctor recommended to increase my chances of future success is weight loss. My doctor recommended a certain BMI to enable optimal pregnancy health. I did the calculations. To reach this BMI, I would need to lose 35 pounds. That would take me months to achieve with 100% focus on nothing but exercise and nutrition. (and my body is STUBBORN!!) But sadly, I’m time-bound by the financial piece of this process. We are invested in a “refund plan” that allows us to have as many embryo transfers as needed to become pregnant within one year of starting this contract using embryos from our egg donor. (we have about 6 months left) This does not allow me the extra time off to reach this health/fitness and weight loss goal. By the time I have my next embryo transfer I will have had a little over 2 months to recover from the D&C procedure which was then followed by depression, a terrible flu and then a bad cold just two weeks later. This made it nearly impossible to try to lose weight in this period of time. As soon as I recovered, I started walking and swimming again and went back to the gym with my personal trainer. But do you know how hard it is to lose weight with the hormone fluctuations of pregnancy, followed by pregnancy loss, then throw in some depression, the holidays and some illnesses? It feels completely hopeless. My body fluctuated up and down in a 10 pound range following the pregnancy loss for at least a month. I’ve done a cleanse, given up sugar and alcohol and I exercise regularly and there is no weight loss happening here.

My health and exercise has always been a top priority for me. I’ve always been active and involved in sports or fitness activities, however I have struggled with my weight since I was a child. I have tried so very hard to stay in shape through this process of trying to make a baby. Prior to my first round of IVF, I spent one year training at a CrossFit gym trying to get as strong as possible before pregnancy. I’ve never given up on exercising and I work hard to eat as healthy as I can. But it is a daily struggle and very frustrating when doing my best may not be good enough. I definitely want to avoid blaming myself for a failed pregnancy because I wasn’t “fit” enough or because my BMI was too high. So, for now I just have to settle for what is realistic for me. The best I can do involves getting outdoors and enjoying walks with my dog and swimming and weight training (at least until Sunday). Then the exercise plan shifts again… I hope this time I will have a new 9 month fitness plan.

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Photos by CJE

Oops

Bill L imageSix cycles and too many injections to count. Calendars to follow and tracking injections on the right day at the right time on and off for the past two years. And we’ve done it perfectly every time. Until now. Last night was my first screw up. For this embryo transfer cycle (controlled cycle) I have to have an intramuscular injection of Delestrogen (which by the way is not an easy drug to get your hands on) on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I was supposed to start the Progesterone injections tonight. But, my brain somehow mushed the Tuesday and Wednesday calendar notes together and I did both last night. By the way, the calendar is color coded so the two drugs are highlighted in different colors. And, I wrote in large letters on the Wednesday date (START HERE), so I wouldn’t screw up the Progesterone start. My clinic had deliberately scheduled me to start Progesterone on Wednesday to enable a Monday transfer with MY doctor so that it would align with his schedule. After panicking last night and waiting for a call back from the nurse all morning, I found out that I did indeed mess up the transfer date since Progesterone is a trigger. It’s now on Sunday. Which should be no big deal (yay, one day earlier), but I know they do their scheduling to avoid transfers on the weekends. So, now I’ve made their weekend schedule more challenging for the lab and the doctors. And I don’t know which doctor will do the transfer. I was really relieved that I knew I would have MY doctor on Monday. Ugh. I’m trying to find a way to shake off my mistake Taylor Swift style, so I called up a good friend who has been through this same process. And she made me laugh. She re-enacted what the nurse was saying on the line while I was on hold…”dumbass on line 1, dumbass on line 1”. And in my head, I’m hearing that horrible boss from Office Space, saying to the doctors…”Yeah, I’m gonna need you to come in on Sunday. We’ve got a special embryo that needs to be transferred, ‘cause someone didn’t read her calendar.”

P.S.  While I was hard on myself, the nurse that I talked to was very helpful, understanding and sweet.  She made me feel better and they know that sometimes these things will happen.

Chance #3/31: Day 2 (1/16/15) Stepping Forward

footprint imageI was feeling stable and strong showing up to my Dr. appointment on Friday for the baseline ultrasound to start our next embryo transfer cycle. I was looking forward to seeing my doctor and the familiar faces around the clinic. I was happy to get this baby-making project started again. I thought I had sufficiently put my recent pregnancy loss behind me (at least for the sake of getting through this appointment) and was focused on the forward march ahead. But then I saw a glimpse of the nurse down the hall who was with us in the room the day we saw our twins at the end of their short little life…and it all came rushing back. And then I was escorted to the exam room, where the site of the ultrasound television screen nearly brought me to tears. The last image I saw there was of complete stillness and shook me to the core and left me devastated. But I put a smile on my face and held it together as I shook my Dr’s hand and responded with “yes” and a smile to his question, “have you had enough time to refill your emotional tank?” The ultrasound showed that everything was fine. I had my blood drawn by a very sweet and friendly nurse where we had a chance to giggle. I asked her how best to break down scar tissue and referred to this as my “butt injury” as my glute muscles have still not recovered from all the intramuscular injections from the previous cycle and pregnancy. I had my new injection schedule in hand, and I walked away from the building focused on the next step with some hope in my heart.

Here we go…

Chance #3/31: Day 1

beach sunsetAnd so it begins…After waiting and waiting following my D&C (almost 2 months ago), I finally started a new cycle.  Tomorrow I have a baseline appointment at our fertility clinic to start another frozen embryo transfer cycle.  Medications, needles, syringes, gauze pads, alcohol swabs, sharps container and a dash of hope are ready to go.

Photo by CJE

Chance #1/31 (May-July 2014)

never give up_blogOur first embryo transfer with our donor embryos was a rather long but interesting process. Our clinic worked with both of us to coordinate our cycles through medications up until the embryo transfer. During month one, the medications set us up to synchronize our menstrual cycles. This allowed us to be working in parallel in month two so that she could go through the IVF and egg retrieval process, while my body was being prepared for the embryo transfer as soon as the embryos were ready.   While this feels like a complicated process for the patient, our clinic has the scheduling and coordination down to a science. Although it is a bit nerve-wracking to think that not only do I need to be on top of all the correct medications every day and coming in for doctor appointments on specific days, but my donor has to do that too. On top of which I knew she had flights to coordinate for the trips to our clinic for various steps of the process. I kept thinking to myself, “Please don’t let her have flight delays or canceled flights! Get her to the clinic safely! She’s carrying all my eggs! Her ovaries are saturated with my dreams!” One of my biggest fears was that something would not go right with one of our bodies and we’d have to abort the process and start all over. But it all went like clockwork and my donor was amazing! Her body made 42 eggs, 38 fertilized and 31 became high quality embryos that we would now own. My husband and I felt like we won the egg donor lottery! And all went as planned. My body was ready to receive an embryo on day 5 of their development and that was it. And then we waited…those 9 excruciating days to see if all that work (and money) created a pregnancy. During those 9 days our brains do amazing things to make us think we are pregnant or make us think we aren’t pregnant so that we will be prepared somehow for the outcome. Every time, I tell myself not to look on the internet for ANYTHING. But somehow I end up looking up every site that I can find that talks about early pregnancy symptoms and embryo development during those 9 days post transfer. The symptoms are evil tricksters because the medications to help foster the pregnancy (progesterone and estrogen) will also give you pregnancy symptoms. In this case, I thought for sure I was pregnant. And then for the fourth time reading the lab results (where our last two tries were negative) looking for an HCG level over 50, we saw zero…AGAIN. Three times in a row, not pregnant. It’s like running full force into a brick wall. That moment is one of the most painful, excruciating moments in the process. I try not to get my hopes up, but of course I do, because the dream of having a baby is just darn overwhelming and exciting and joyful. But every time I’ve seen the lab test come back as “not detectable,” it becomes the darkest, deepest, most intense moment of sadness and heartbreak. And for me, my brain tortures me with re-living the loss of my first pregnancy where I not only see visions of the horrific loss of our baby, but also start remembering the wonderful details of what it felt like to be pregnant. And all of it hurts. And it feels so far away and maybe even impossible to see a positive pregnancy test and fill the desperate need and desire to be pregnant again.  So, here I am sitting in my car with this piece of paper in my hand that just shattered my world and now what? How do I get strong enough to put myself through this again? Do I want to? But then all I can do for that moment is just cry while everything else in the world disappears except for that one thought…that I just lost this dream again. And then I pull myself together for enough seconds to realize that I better call in sick to work because I know the tears will not stop today. And I can’t bear to look at my husband through my tears because I know I’ll just see a face of helplessness, because he can’t fix it either and he just lost his dream too.

Then time passes…and somehow we do find the strength to try again.

Priorities

priorities imageIt has been over two years since we started this process. When I think about the time commitment, it is like taking on a new big life project or part time job. There is the element of managing the time needed for doctor appointments and ensuring injections can be given about the same time every day (For our last cycle, I endured at least 80 intramuscular injections to support the embryo transfer and pregnancy). There’s training on how to give the injections and following up with various pharmacies to fill prescriptions and to make sure they will be available on time and if they are covered by insurance. There’s up front financial planning, insurance inquiries and perhaps the decision to sell off investments and take out loans. It may mean saying no to vacations. Going through all the planning and commitments for one cycle is manageable as it becomes the top priority of your life for a couple of months. However, we have now done this five times, including the time commitment to go through the egg donor process as well as the unexpected periods of time to recover from failed cycles in addition to pregnancy losses. Over the past two years, the commitment and emotional strain of this process has impacted decisions about my career and how I want to live my life, which has lead to some positive changes.   During my first pregnancy, I was in a very stressful job. I was miserable and exhausted. I wanted to be as healthy as possible during my pregnancy and I could not figure out how to reduce my stress level at work. I kept thinking to myself that I would just hang in there until I had maternity leave then I would look for another job. But that never happened. After losing our baby, Jaxon at 15 weeks and returning to work two weeks later, I made the decision to change my job. It was an absolute necessity for my mental health. I was very lucky that there was something I could move into but the process took a few months. While grieving and managing depression I was still under terrible stress at work but I knew there was a light at the end of the tunnel. This was a very different type of career decision for me. I had spent about 15 years pushing forward, taking on new challenges, taking risks and putting myself in situations outside of my comfort zone in order to get to the next big career move. But this time was different. I made a deliberate decision to return to a job that I had done before for many years. And that is exactly what I needed…Established expertise without stress of learning a new role, predictable challenges, and a feeling of stability. My plan was to create a situation at work that allowed me to focus on my health, emotional recovery and enough flexibility in my schedule to manage doctor appointments for our continued attempts to make a baby. While it ended up taking another nine months to achieve my goal of manageable stress and a stable, supportive work environment, it was worth the time and effort. I even managed to achieve a promotion along the way. I am incredibly thankful for the support I have at work from my management and close friends, which enables me to continue to pursue our dream of having our own baby. For this last embryo transfer cycle and nine weeks of pregnancy, the flexibility to manage my time at work allowed me to go to at least 12 doctor appointments and at least 10 trips to the lab for blood draws. Overall, my priorities have shifted from a focus on my career development to a focus on my mental and physical health, and taking on this journey with my husband to make a baby. And this priority means we have to say no to some other things and accept the risk of disappointment while not losing sight that our dream could come true.