Adventure Day for the Embabies

IMG_1126

Yesterday will be remembered as one of the most stressful days of my life. We transported our embryos to our new fertility clinic. We had our future babies’ lives in our hands and I was terrified of anything going wrong. We had so much driving to do and we needed all of our angels on our side protecting us on the road and getting those embabies safely from one location to another. It never left my mind that we were carrying our future in that tank. Everything we’d put our heart, soul, tears, hopes, dreams…and every last dollar was in that tank.

February 2017 was our last embryo transfer which was unsuccessful and from there I couldn’t move forward to try again…I got stuck in exhaustion and grief. I focused my energy at work and making a job change and also prioritized my life around health and wellness. I ended up taking a 7-week sabbatical from work (more about that in another post as there was a lot of fun stuff to report) and spent a lot of time exercising, meal planning and cooking. Weight loss was my first step to even trying to do another FET and I managed to lose 20 pounds with the help of Whole 30 and doing HIIT workouts and many, many hours of dog walks.   The dog had a great summer!

By August I started thinking about making a plan to try again. I reached out to my clinic to address our contract, which had ended and I was hoping for a new agreement or one last extension or some kind of negotiation…but that was not in the cards. We had already extended it several times and we finally hit the end of it. This meant we were back to spending out of pocket (queue the panic). I started thinking about setting up a consultation with my doctor and I just couldn’t do it. The realization that we were back to out of pocket spending broke me down and I was once again an emotional wreck. The thought of walking back into the clinic where I had seen our second and third pregnancies suddenly end with no heartbeats and received the news of negative pregnancy test results after 7 other FETs, gave me so much anxiety, I just couldn’t do it. I knew going back there was no longer an option for me. There was just too much trauma and loss associated with that place.

After a week of thinking it over, I knew what was next. We’d go to the new clinic we had sought out for second opinions last summer on our recurrent pregnancy losses. And that’s what brought us to our little adventure of transporting our embryos across the bay area.

This journey took 7 hours of driving. Now, there is the option of hiring a company to do this kind of work…but wow is it expensive. Not only did I want to save as much money as possible, but I couldn’t bear the thought of someone else being responsible for my embryos. My husband and I both took the day off of work and drove an hour and an half to the tank rental company. Here’s how the tank works…there’s liquid nitrogen in the tank and a tank lid that floats on top to let the gases out. If the tank were to fall over and the liquid nitrogen were to leak out, you’d lose everything. (queue clutching the tank with white knuckled death grip once we had our embryos). We then drove north about an hour and a half to pick up our embryos. I ended up running into my doctor there, we gave each other a big hug and I cried as he wished us the best and said he was thinking of us and I tried thanking him through my tears before walking out of there one last time. We had a picnic lunch in the car with the tank safely between my legs, then drove another hour or so to our new clinic. I was so relieved to make it there safely. Our little embryos had their first big outdoor adventure! We then had about an hour and a half drive home and we made it safe and sound.

 

Next steps…I did a mock cycle over the past few weeks and had an endometrial biopsy on Wednesday to do the ERA (decided to go for it considering the number of failures we’ve had). We’ll be moving into an FET cycle soon as we anticipate the results from that assay.

 

 

Advertisements

Be our Rainbow Baby, baby

HCG results 0309 031116

I crumbled into a heap of tears when I saw the number.

282.

Compared to my two previous pregnancies, this is my highest HCG number.  We were thrilled, relieved, happy and terrified.  The first big hurdle of many to come.  Now, to calm my anxieties for the second HCG test 48 hours later.  The number is supposed to at least double and that did not happen with my other two pregnancies, resulting in early ultrasounds, extra blood tests and a lot of extra worry.  Anxiously waiting one more dreaded hour for the results to come through the lab and there it was.

636.

In that instant the weight and misery of infertility and pregnancy loss lifted off of me, leaving me with happiness.  In that moment the stress on our marriage dissipated and there we were, sitting together as a happy husband and wife with a lot of hope.

So, here we go.  Our first ultrasound will be at 7 weeks.  Our due date is November 16.  Please baby, hang in there.  Be our rainbow baby.  We love you already.

One Little White Light

It seems that at this point I should have lost count, but I can’t because I know how many I have lost.   I try to let the numbers and dates stay blurry, but I know how old my first baby should be. He should be 2 and a half. I purposely try not to remember the due date of the twins. But I can still see their heartbeats. There are six other embryos that disappeared somewhere in between the transfer to my body and the pregnancy test. On Monday, I had my ninth embryo transfer. Two more embryos.

On Monday morning before the transfer, I went for a walk with my dog. I had a choice to go left or right on the trail and decided to go right. We ended up near a beach where she loves to play catch but we didn’t have time for that…but she pulled me out to the beach anyway, looking back at me expectantly with a huge wide smile and tongue hanging out. The beach was empty except for the stroller in this photo. For a second I thought, well maybe my baby is right there waiting for me! Well, no that wasn’t the case, but I tried to view this as a hopeful moment. Somehow, maybe this is a sign. My babies that are watching over me and the baby that is still to be is here with me in this moment. A moment to give me courage to try again. To wait those nine hopeful, yet agonizing days again waiting for the pregnancy test.

stroller on the beach

 

The sun was blinding me, but I snapped a photo anyway, not quite sure what I would end up with. I wanted to be reminded of the stroller that was in my path. As I faced the stroller and the rock wall where we had once stood to spread our baby Jaxon’s ashes, I could feel them all with me.   A little white light ended up in the photo and I choose to see the souls that I love so much in that light.

One little white light, Two embryos, Nine days to wait.  Trying one more time.

2 embryos

This is my FET cycle

FullSizeRender (6)

Everybody who goes through IVF, IUI or an embryo transfer cycle will have a protocol designed specifically for them. While there are a lot of similarities with these well-established medical interventions to create the miracle we dream of, there are a lot of differences too. This is what my frozen embryo transfer cycle looks like for me…

FullSizeRender (2)

For most of my cycles we have done a “controlled” cycle. This means that my cycle leading up to the embryo transfer is controlled by hormone injections (estrogen and progesterone). In the past I was able to try a natural cycle, which relied on my body’s own ability to manage my menstrual cycle and thickening of the uterine lining where there was minimal medication use. That worked one time, then the next try, my ovaries weren’t cooperating and we had to start over. In my controlled cycle, I start with a baseline ultrasound on day 2 or 3 of menstruation to check that the uterine lining is thinning and that there are no cysts developing on my ovaries. From there I start on Delestrogen intramuscular injections twice a week for a little less than two weeks. This also involves blood draws to check my estrogen levels and any necessary dosage adjustments.   Another ultrasound is performed to check that the lining is thickening appropriately and to check that my ovaries are “quiet” and no cysts are developing. Then the progesterone injections start.   My husband has become a pro at giving me injections. We went through IVF twice and have now made it through eight embryo transfers, plus a couple cancelled cycles. So, he’s really got this down.

FullSizeRender (3)

Here’s the cool thing about the controlled cycle. The progesterone injections (which are daily) are required for 5 days and on the 6th day, the embryo transfer occurs. This gives me and the doctor flexibility in scheduling the transfer because we can start the progesterone on the right day based on our schedules (well, mostly his schedule). Since we want to make sure we get to have “our” doctor for the transfer, we can make sure to set up the injection schedule accordingly as well as avoid weekends or holidays.

Here’s the tough part about the controlled cycle. Once the progesterone injections start, there are daily intramuscular injections into my hip/glute area. After doing SO MANY of these cycles, it’s getting pretty painful and there’s a build up of scar tissue and/or “oil” (ethyl oleate) from the medication settling into my muscles. Delestrogen and progesterone are oil based medications. After two very painful injections leading up to our transfer on Friday, we did learn some new tips from the nurse for intramuscular injections:

  1. Use a cold pack on the area of injection for 10 minutes prior to injection
  2. Immediately following injection, massage the injection site
  3. Use warm compress on area of injection for 10 minutes after injection
  4. Do glute and hamstring stretches to help the ethyl oleate part of the medication move through the muscles. This is what tends to build up. Even though the progesterone will get absorbed, the oil base of the medication can build up (yuck).
  5. Make sure you understand the full surface area available for the injections. My husband had been using a smaller surface area which left us little real estate for repeated injections. After another session with a nurse, we discovered there was a bigger area we could use that was still safe.

The embryo transfer occurs on Day 6 after starting progesterone injections. The procedure itself is a simple one and just a bit uncomfortable. This has to be done on a full bladder to help visually guide the small catheter on the ultrasound through the cervix and into the uterus.   The ultrasound wand is pressed on the lower abdomen…yep, right over bladder territory so that’s the biggest challenge. After a couple of rounds of verifying our information and number of embryos to be transferred, we are then ready to go. It’s very exciting to watch the catheter on the ultrasound make it’s way into the uterus where you can see it as a very faint white line with slight movement. Then the embryo is released and it is slightly visibly as a white flash or very small blob on the ultrasound screen. After the embryologist checks the catheter to confirm it’s empty, we are then free from medical intervention and now it’s up to luck, a healthy embryo and lots of baby dust and embryo sticky vibes to implant and make this miracle happen.

FullSizeRender (5)

The embryologist brings us a photo of our little embryo and we get to feel hopeful and terrified for 10 days.

IMG_7727

We get some time alone with our little embaby photo and think positive thoughts. Since my husband is a huge Star Wars fan, there were a lot of good vibes with references to Jedi’s and the force awakening in my uterus. Maybe it will work.

Our HCG blood test will be on November 15. We’ve been let down so many times. Please, please, please, let this be the one.