Pomegranate Girls

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Did you come here hoping to read Waiting- Part 2? If so I am afraid that I am going to keep you, yep…you guessed it…waiting. We had a spectacular and impromptu family night at our local bowling alley and just put Spork to bed an hour past her 8 PM bedtime.

While we are on the topic of waiting, I want to share with my fellow sufferers and supporters of infertility an interesting item I am anxiously waiting to be delivered this week.

As you know from Orange Panties and Green Toes, I am all about finding unique ways to add a little luck to our cycles. This week I stumbled upon my latest good luck charm and I beside myself with anticipation of its arrival.

Its the stunning silk bracelet that you see pictured above. The charm is a pomegranate with the Chinese symbol for strength in the middle. Pomegranates have long been associated with fertility and prosperity for the many seeds they contain. Strength is necessary to persevere in the battle against infertility. It’s the perfect jewelry to adorn this IVF gal’s wrist as I prepare for transfer, don’t you think?

What I love most is that its classy. Don’t get me wrong, bright colored rubber bracelets are awesome and its great if you wear them, but they have never been for me. This bracelet proudly makes a statement while also being gorgeous. I like that the style is so discrete. It doesn’t shout “hey, look at me and the cause I support!”

I found the charm on my clinic’s Facebook page where they were promoting it for a past client. This client began the non-profit company selling it with another past sufferer of infertility. All proceeds go to fertility research and to helping women get treatment who cannot otherwise afford care. This immediately spoke to me. Bill and I have been paying for treatment for so long that I often joke that when we are done we should sponsor another couple who needs it.

As stressful as infertility treatment is and as much as I bellyache about it, I realize that for some it is an impossible dream due to the high costs of cycles. It breaks my heart that some couples cannot afford treatment. It should not be that way and it is a cause will take up through this blog and other efforts.

Well done, Pomegranate girls. Thank you for helping me give a little now and inspiring me to do much more later when the battle for my family is behind me.

There are more bracelets to choose from and also necklaces in the same style. Check out the selection and learn more about the company today at http://www.pomegranategirls.com.

Waiting- Part 1

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Image: Denise Curran via Flickr

For many, waiting is a as much a part of trying to conceive as sex. When sex is removed from the equation for the couple trying to conceive through IVF, waiting becomes the single most frequent conception act. Waiting, just like its more provocative cousin, can come in many flavors and is done throughout the IVF odyssey.

The big waits are obvious. The most mammoth is the wait between the time the embryo is transferred and the results of the Beta HCG pregnancy test. In our case, this wait spans nine intolerably long days. Time moves very slowly over the course of what is commonly called the two week wait. I’ve often heard women say it would be just fine to be unconscious during this time and awoken only after the results are received.

March 13th is the date of our transfer which means on March 22nd we will have the eagerly anticipated results. The date is circled on the calendar. The hope and anxiety are already building.

The torture of the two week wait is followed in magnitude only by the wait a couple experiences between the egg retrieval and the final fertilization report. Money, hope, health, and mental well being are all riding on discovering whether the eggs fertilize and grow to a stage and quality acceptable to transfer and make a baby. Being sadistic people by nature, we chose to extend this period at our new clinic by throwing a little genetic testing into the mix. The time it took from retrieval to receiving the call that we had genetically normal embryos to transfer extended over 3 weeks.

Waiting for the genetic results is further broken down into waits that are much smaller. We experienced almost immediate gratification after retrieval and waited only two hours to learn that 22 eggs were retrieved successfully. The clinic then called 24 hours later to tell us that 12 of those eggs were mature and 11 fertilized. These were minuscule intervals in comparison to what came next. For the next six days we patiently but eagerly waited to be told that 5 of those embryos made it to the blastocyst stage and were good enough quality to be genetically tested. Next we waited two and a half weeks to learn we had two genetically normal embryos and two that needed to be retested, therefore requiring yet another two week wait. Our embryos were on my mind every spare moment during this time. Ultimately we ended up with three genetically normal embryos. Our last is the one we will transfer in March.

The longest wait of all was this summer and fall while we waited to work through a long process at our clinic that would culminate in our embryo transfer just last month. We first called in June and were able to meet with our new doctor in July. This was followed by another month long wait to get on the calendar to visit the clinic for our work-up to make sure we had a green light to begin our cycle. By November my ovaries were finally percolating and we flew back to our clinic again for egg retrieval surgery. After retrieval the wait was another two months as we completed testing on the embryos. In the months preceding retrieval we used the time to get our eggs and sperm ready to do their life’s work. We each took different supplements, limited alcohol, exercised moderately and ate healthy. At my peak I was taking 19 different supplements a day and Bill took 11. At least it helped us pass the time.

Tiny little waiting periods pepper the whole IVF process. Since our failed cycle back in January I have waited three days to get my period, three more days to start birth control, another 13 days to start lupron, and five more days to once again stop the pill. Each step takes us a little bit closer to our fate, whatever it may be. Though small in terms of actual time, these steps feel gigantic. When they come early, it can be unequivocally thrilling. And that is what happened today.

If you read a Deeply Disturbing Fascination with Toilet Paper you know a little bit about the waiting for that happens for a woman who is getting ready to start a frozen embryo transfer or other cycle. Since Saturday I have been a devoted student of TP. Today I hit pay dirt and was able to call my clinic to check off a critical step that will take us to transfer. Two days from now I will begin estrogen patches that will prime my uterine lining. I continue administering lupron daily but cut the dosage which should help with the headaches and other symptoms. Sadly the bitchiness caused by lupron will only be replaced by the emotionality of estrogen. The end result for me is about the same. Say a little prayer for Bill who catches the worst of the mood swings.

My call to the clinic today was a full day earlier than we all expected. However, no changes will be made to the transfer date. The lupron I am injecting keeps my reproductive system suppressed and on schedule. The extra day may only serve to give my lining just a tad bit of extra thickness to welcome our embryo home. A nice, thick, cozy lining should help that embryo want to stay for the long haul. With a little luck we will then be waiting for doubling HCG levels, morning sickness to pass, a myriad of ultrasounds, and ultimately a scheduled C-section date.

Even though meeting today’s milestone early will have no impact on when we actually get pregnant, it is a rare event to have something, anything come early.  I’ll take it.

Orange Panties and Green Toes

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Women battling infertility are a superstitious clan capable of giving notorious major league baseball players a real run for their money.  We don’t start out that way, but given enough time, crazy suggestions from friends, and a few thousand clicks on the Internet we wind up trying just about anything.

After all, even if sleeping with yellow baby booties under your pillow won’t work, it can’t hurt, right? So why not indulge and have a bit of fun with it?

After having several tough days with food poisoning, work stress, and feeling the effects of Lupron its time to have a little fun and bring some humor back to the blog. Let’s share a laugh at my expense as we explore my fertility superstitions and weigh in on my perception of their effectiveness.

Orange Panties. This is my favorite because it is not very well known and is catching on quickly. The fertility chakra is orange and located in the reproductive area. The idea here is that orange panties tap into this energy to bring luck. As a result, I have a drawer overflowing with all types of the fiery lingerie. I wear these undies to procedures, tests, and while awaiting results. It has only worked for me only one time out of seven, so you be the judge on its effectiveness. There is no downside to this one, unless you count the fact that it can be easy to spot these lucky charms through lighter clothing. A soft orange works just fine and is easy to conceal.

Orange or Green Toenails. As you can see, my toes are green right now. I alternate between orange and green when we are actively trying to conceive. Both colors are considered to be colors of fertility. Green represents lush, healthy life and growth from fertile soil. The upside here is that you may be able to deduct your pedicures from your taxes as a medically necessary procedure not covered by insurance. I would check with your accountant to be sure.

Adoption or Taking a Break. If you have endeavored to overcome infertility for more than five minutes you have heard the story about the couple who got pregnant as soon as they adopted a child.  Or maybe you heard the one about the couple that stopped trying, went on vacation, got hammered, and BAM, finally hit the baby lottery. I think there might actually be something to this one. We began the adoption process during the cycle that gave us Spork. I feel it is possible that finally accepting that we might not have a genetically related child helped me be more open to the process. This is a dangerous game to play, however. You should adopt only if that is what you truly want. Likewise, only take a break if you really need it or are young enough to lose some time. Time is not your friend in the battle for a baby. Its probably just easier to work on acceptance without a gimmick if a genetic child is your immediate goal.

Fertility Statues. I haven’t been to Orlando since our adventure in fertility began, but if I had I would probably take time to go touch the African Fertility Statues located at the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! . I do however have a golden fertility egg that sits on my nightstand. A family member gave it to me right before Spork’s transfer and takes full credit for her existence as a result. While I deeply appreciate it, I don’t buy it. The egg has been there for the last three cycles and those of course have been major duds. You might even say we laid an egg on the last three. Maybe it only works one time per family? This is another one that can’t hurt so it is still there on my bedside table polished to a shine.

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Pineapple Juice. Hopeful women everywhere swear that downing pineapple juice around and after transfer improves the odds of success. I tried this for several cycles prior to taking the time to explore its validity. It turns out the juice may indeed improve lining thickness and receptivity. Not just any pineapple juice will do however, the core contains the main ingredient that is responsible for working baby magic.  This ingredient, Bromelain,  is a mixture of enzymes that digests protein which thins the blood and promotes blood flow necessary to create a thick lining. Unfortunately studies have not yet shown that this improves implantation rates. Women who need a blood thinner may be better off having one prescribed at a controllable dosage by their doctor.

Lucky Veins. Throughout the IVF process a patient has many, many trips to the lab for a variety of blood tests. The mother of them all is the Beta HCG test given somewhere between 12 to 16 days past retrieval, depending on the clinic. Most clinics will test Beta HGC several times in early pregnancy to make sure it is doubling every 48 to 72 hours. When I have good results from a test, I tend to stick with having blood drawn out of the same vein for follow-up tests until the streak is broken. Admittedly, it is painful and I am sure it doesn’t work, but at least I limit my embarrassing track marks to one arm for awhile.

That is the extent of everything I have personally practiced but while doing research for this post I found many, many more fertility superstitions that others have given a go. It seems that praying to St. Gerard, carrying rose quartz, drinking out of a pregnant woman’s glass, eating parsley grown from seeds given to you, and baby drool all carry mystical pregnifying powers.

So it seems I still have some work to do. Thankfully I have the day off for President’s Day tomorrow. Now all I need is a pregnant woman with a baby who also wants to give me parsley seeds. Maybe she will want to go shopping for some other unusual items as well.

While I know none of this hocus-pocus is likely to help, it sure goes a long way to making this arduous process a little more entertaining.

Not Mrs. Jumbo

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Last week Spork and I watched Dumbo for the first time. She was sick and it was free on Netflix. It was only the second movie we have ever watched together because we almost religiously followed the “no screens before two” rule from the Academic Pediatric Association. She enjoyed the first 30 minutes and then was bored, but I was entranced until the very end.

Watching it through the lens of someone with infertility was a different experience. Never in my past would I have given a second thought to the stork scene at the beginning, but seeing it now was heartbreaking for me. Watching Mrs. Jumbo’s face as every other animal in the circus received their bundles of joy while she continued to wait longingly touched me deeply. I have never before felt so much in common with an animated character. Well at least not since Up was released.

Of course Mrs. Jumbo does eventually receive her sweet little floppy eared Dumbo. Though they face many obstacles, the forlorn Mom and cast-out baby eventually triumph and fly off into circus history to live happily ever after. Never in the movie does a Mr. Jumbo appear. Never in the movie is there the slightest hint that having a baby usually takes two animals. Never in the movie is it acknowledged that to make a baby those two animals need to have (gasp!) S.E.X.

To be fair, this cartoon was created in 1941. The stork intro was probably the only option for the producers at the time to communicate how much Mrs. Jumbo wanted her misfit baby boy. It makes total sense. There was no need to acknowledge to an audience of children how babies are actually made.

But this is not 1941 and the audience of this blog consists of consenting people who choose to read it and not children.

Mrs. Jumbo and I have one thing in common, neither of us needed to have sex to have our first child. The similarities end there. Her baby fell out of the sky. My baby took A LOT more work.

Today it was suggested to me by a trusted friend that the content of this blog might not be totally appropriate for someone like me (we will leave it at that… I do have a day job). My concern, however, goes beyond my job.  I have noticed a handful of people that have acted, well, a bit different around me since we went public. I assumed it was because most people just don’t know what to say about something like infertility. Its ok. I understand. You don’t have to say anything. I am still the same person I was before you knew about all this.

My conversation today made me realize it might not be that at all, it might be that there are just some people who have a hard time dealing with these “private” matters for a variety of reasons.

Writing about this process publicly has been one of the single most liberating things I have ever done. It has begun to heal me in ways I didn’t think possible. I no longer feel broken. I no longer feel hidden. I cherish the love and support of those around me that just a few short weeks of blogging is providing me. Above all, I hope it has or will help others have a little laugh, a little cry, and maybe learn a little something about a process I know a little bit about.

The vast majority of my friends, family, and slowly growing number of followers have been exceptionally supportive. That is why hearing that feedback from my friend today really shocked me. Thinking about it now, I don’t know why it should have. These are tough issues to deal with. Sometimes even people who are dealing with them don’t want to deal with them and certainly not publicly. We kept our battle against infertility private for many years. I respect that desire.

But the fact is that 8 to 15% of couples experience infertility. As many as one in four women who get pregnant will have a miscarriage. And as far as sex? I think the percentage of people involved in that activity is even higher. But that’s just a guess.

I certainly do not plan to share any lurid details about my life in the bedroom, that would be entirely inappropriate for someone like me. But I will proudly continue to share my struggles with infertility.  After all it is my right. But that is not why I am continuing. I hope speaking out about something that is taboo and shouldn’t be for a million reasons only strengthens the respect and love from people in my life. I hope it makes you proud to see someone like me tackle such an important issue that affects so many people.

That being said, its okay if it doesn’t. I can deal. No worries. I do recognize that my perspective on these topics may have been skewed slightly after spending four years in stirrups in front of at least a couple dozen strangers. Thousands of scopes, blood tests and ultrasounds may have eroded my modesty a bit. My filter is no longer as strong as it used to be and I can’t change that. Infertility is part of who I am and shapes how I see the world and behave in it.

So if it is too much for you, I have one piece of advice.

Don’t read it.

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter and don’t want to see the links to the blog…

Don’t follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Before you make that decision, just remember that you may just be the one who needs to read it the most. It may help you understand what your sister, daughter, employee, or friend may be experiencing. It may help you talk to her. To give her support. To show her you care without having to feel uncomfortable. I will help you feel comfortable. I will show you that infertility is not dirty. It doesn’t have to be taboo. It can affect anyone.

Even someone like me.

Chicken And Rice Soup for the Gluten Free Soul

Chicken and Rice Soup

I have been thinking a lot about how I can write about our miscarriage and keep it “on the lighter side.” My primary hope for this blog is for it to be a safe place to come to learn about fertility treatment and our story without having to be burdened with sadness and loss.

There are so many positives to connecting with other women who toil against infertility, but one of the downsides is that when you are close to them you feel their pain as your own. Another is that it is easy to take other’s sad circumstances and fantisize unproductively about them becoming your own. Sometimes it is best to stay away from Dr. Google and his dark, foreboding staff.

Because I believe a positive mental state is critical to managing stress and optimizing odds of success, I decided to limit my interactions with chat rooms and boards in an attempt to surround myself with positive energy for this cycle. While I miss “my girls” tremendously, it has been easier to not be completely obsessed with fertility and of course has given me the time I need to share my story with you in a way I would want it to be shared with me.

The desire to try to lighten the load for you does create quite the conundrum as it relates to finding a way to talk about one of the single most painful events in my life. I am not sure its entirely possible, so take heed as you begin reading this post. I gave it my best shot for you. While the stars aligned in the last 24 hours to give me some great fodder for sewing at least a few seeds of humor around our loss, I am afraid I have failed you and that what follows is not very light at all. I do manage to pepper in just the tiniest bit of levity and a small amount of positivity.

If you read Blown Away yesterday you know that I am away from the loves of my life for work for most of this week. In fact, I didn’t expect to be able to post at all until Friday because of an intense series of meetings scheduled for today and tomorrow. Unfortunately I am not in a meeting and am posting from a bed in a hotel in Lansing where I am recovering from a terrible case of food poisoning that I suspect came from a bad piece of black cod. That will teach me to order fish in landlocked Lansing.

I say its unfortunate but I am not sure I really mean it, its almost better than being at that meeting. If you have ever had food poisoning, you know it is no joke and that this is a strong statement. There was a moment at about 3 AM when I seriously wondered if I was going to live to see today. However I have been poisoned by my grub twice before so I knew if I just hung in there I would eventually be on the other side of the worst of it. I am now there.

Thank. You. God.

And where I am now is NOT in a meeting room in downtown Lansing where I lost a pregnancy back in early July.

Thank. You. God.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been to that meeting room since July and will be there again. I am strong and would have made it through it and probably even enjoyed the meeting with my boss and peers. Probably. But not being there today is definitely a great big fat silver lining to a cloud that will always hang over that place for me. So thank you God for your sense of humor and thank you black cod for choosing the perfect time to poison me.

Our miscarriage story started back in February of 2013 when we began our first IVF cycle for baby number two. We tackled the process with a renewed faith in ourselves and IVF after having Spork the year before. Prior to the fourth transfer that ultimately gave us Spork I never would have thought I could go through another IVF cycle. She was what we needed to regain confidence that we could do it, we could go through it all again. It was worth it.

Our cycle went very well in the beginning. We retrieved more eggs and made more embryos than we ever had before, 10 embryos when it was all said and done. 10 embryos? There had to be a baby in there!

We transfered 3 in the fresh cycle 2 days following retrieval and did not get pregnant. We were disappointed but we were okay. Heck this might even be a good sign! After all we got pregnant on a frozen cycle with Spork and we know that some women do better with frozen cycles. We rationalized that I was one of those women and prepared for the inevitable success that was to come in May. Besides, if it had worked what in the world were we going to do with all those leftover snow babies?

When we discovered our transfer date was the day before Mother’s Day, we were positively beside ourselves with excitement. Spork was transfered to me on Mother’s Day in 2011 and we always considerred it part of the magic that brought our sweet baby girl to us.

Sadly, the magic faded for us after that. When we arrived at the transfer we learned that all 7 remaining embryos had to be thawed in order to get the three we were transfering. It was devastating. Our third chance was taken from us prior to the second chance from this cycle even really beginning. Then to add insult to injury the transfer went very poorly. Having a “smooth” transfer dramatically improves success rates and our transfer was anything but. The reason for this is that I am somewhat anatomically challenged in terms of the way my plumbing is situated. I will spare you the details, but suffice it to say I am difficult for the doctor to navigate. Despite knowing this, he made the mistake of sending  his sonographer home and tried to wing it with a nurse. I presume he did this because it was Saturday and we were the last transfer on the schedule. Not cool.  Transfer normally takes about 5 minutes and this one took over 20 and involved the doctor yelling and sweating profusely. So not cool.

When we left we wondered if the embryos even made it to the sweet spot and whether there was any chance I could be pregnant from this doozie of a cycle. I was fighting back tears and Bill was shell shocked and angry. So you can imagine our surprise just a few days later when I saw that first little faint hint of a line on the home pregnancy test. Hell yeah!  Who needs those other 4 embryos anyway? Our doctor went from zero to hero in a matter of seconds. All that sweating and yelling paid off and he had nailed it.

When the blood test was done a few days later we were stoked to have the confirmation for the home pregnancy test. Our beta HCG level was 60, not too high but certainly high enough to feel reasonably confident we had a healthy pregnancy starting.  Two days later it only went to 100.  Beta HCG levels are supposed to double every 48 to 72 hours, so this was concerning but did not mean we were out of the game yet. It was right at the outer limit. We waited another 4 days and the levels only went to 160. Uh Oh.

But then 4 days later the levels took off and did exactly what they were supposed to.

Yes! Yes! Yes! We were still worried but hoped that there was a vanishing twin skewing the numbers in the begining and that all would be well from here on in the process.

Because of our slow start we continued to monitor the Beta HCG levels every 2 to 4 days and went in for an ultrasound at 5 1/2 weeks. The ultrasound showed a small gestational sac which was a little on the slow growing side but still had the potential to become a bonafide bouncing baby. We took off the next day for a week in Northern California to attend Bill’s 20th highschool reunion. Having been pregnant before, I could tell toward the end of the trip that something was off but still held out hope that we would see a heartbeat when we returned and had our our next ultrasound. I faithfully awoke to take my progesterone shots at 3 AM Pacific every day (I defintely should have planned my shot time better in light of the trip). I abstained from all alcohol on a trip that was infused with it. I caught myself rubbing my belly in anticipation. We couldn’t wait to get back and find out the results.

The day after we returned home we had the fateful ultrasound that showed at 7 weeks we still only had a small empty sack that measured only 5 weeks and 4 days. There was no fetal pole or yolk sac. Nothing to indicate this pregnancy had the potential to become Spork’s sibling. It was time to stop the meds and hope that my body expelled the pregnany rather than needing a medical intervention to remove it.

When this happens you don’t know when or if you are going to lose the pregnancy naturally so its not as if life can stop while you wait to see what happens. As fate would have it, I lost my pregnancy at exactly 8 weeks over the course of a full day meeting with my boss and peers in that meeting room in Lansing. The one I am supposed to be in right now. It was physically painful. Nobody prepared me for the physical pain. I took 3500 mg of Tylenol over the course of the meeting and unsuccessfully fought back tears the whole day (I didn’t learn until later that this was a dangerous dose of Tylenol, so don’t do this!). After the meeting concluded I had to drive 3 1/2 hours home. There was really nothing very funny about that day. The process of losing the pregnancy continued for nearly a month, but the worst of it happened on that one day in that room.

Once again, shortly after the loss fate intervened to make life a little bit easier for me. My boss’s territory grew which required us to move our monthly meetings to Kalamazoo. Thanks boss! Yes it means more work and travel for him, but I have to believe that its all in service of keeping me away from that meeting room. The one that I will fight back tears everytime we take a break as I open the door to that women’s room where I lost a little part of me.

This month we had to move the meeting back to Lansing, just this one month. Of course in reality I would prefer to be there right now. But there is no way I could sit through a meeting given how I feel. Instead I will take the good with the bad. I am sure I will be back to normal tomorrow which is just fine. I won’t be facing any demons. Fortunately the meeting tomorrow has a bigger audience and will be right downstairs in this hotel.

Ironically, the timing of the cod attack was good for more than just keeping me from opening up that old wound in a very public and challenging setting. One of the silver linings I can’t really talk about. It involves someone I am close to receiving some incredibly shitty but not devastating news that kept me in tears in between trips to the bathroom last night. You know who you are and I love you. Today I am able to deal with that in a way I couldn’t in any meeting room, let alone the one in Lansing.

Also, I took a single dose of an important medication this morning that I was more than a little concerned about taking while in meetings this week. It’s a medication that my new doctor gave me to help me avoid a difficult transfer like the one described in our miscarriage story. The drug is called cytotec and it is the same medication in the same dosage that is used to soften the cervix and induce labor. So I am having small contraction like pains today. These pains will help make it easier to get to the sweet spot on March 13th. Better here than there in that room, that is for sure.

So this afternoon I found myself unexpectedly stuck in a hotel room surrounded by memories, feeling similar phiysical pains as to those of miscarriage, and reeling from a lost battle against a gnarly piece of fish. And amazingly, I was starving. I had no choice but to try to order room service from the very same kitchen that served up that horrible fish last night.

Since I am gluten free I was very skeptical that I would be able to eat at all today. When I called to ask what the soup de jour was, I had a little giggle when they told me it was Chicken and Rice. Not Chicken Noodle. Chicken and Rice. Chicken Noodle just would not do for a sick girl who doesn’t eat gluten. I couldn’t think of a more perfect lunch for a day like today even if it did have to come from Hell’s Kitchen.

It was exactly what I needed. A little Chicken and Rice Soup for the gluten-free soul.

Yes God. I see you smiling on me today through those heavy storm clouds. Thank You. Thank You.

Thank. You. God.

Blown Away

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When you take into consideration yesterday’s post entitled Shoot Em’ Up there is a good chance with today’s title that I will end up on the FBI watch list. Some algorithm somewhere out in cyberspace is considering my last two blog posts, weighing them with all my other activity and demographic data, and trying to decide if I am a threat to others. I assure you Big Brother, I am not. I am simply a woman looking for serenity in a world of insanity and I find it by “blowing away” anything that doesn’t fit with a spirit of peace and well being. Or at least I try to do that, I am actually terrible at it.

If you have done certain types of yoga and meditation you know what I mean when I talk about blowing things and people away. You breathe in good energy full of positivity, healing, light and life; and you blow away with the exhale whatever is on your mind or bothering you. In a simple, perfect moment you let it all go. You release it from your mind and push it out into the universe to float away and disappear into nothing.

I love blowing things away, it is my favorite pastime and its not something I did before I learned the concept while struggling with infertility. It is one of the tiny little nuggets of wisdom I have picked up along the journey that I deeply appreciate. I need it more that the average person too. I have been known to be what some people affectionately call “passionate” (read: I can be a real pain in the ass who reacts to things very emotionally in the moment).

The science behind whether or not stress plays a role in fertility is controversial and still very much up for debate.  Most studies suggest that stress is not a factor in pregnancy outcomes. There are studies that show situations of extreme stress, like the loss of a loved one or a job, do have an impact on fertility. However it is generally accepted that every day run-of the-mill stress does not directly impact implantation or birth rates in IVF.

Most of the studies supporting this are limited to monitoring single cycles of IVF and not fertility treatment over time. My sense is that sustained treatment for infertility carries the same type of long term emotional and physical impacts as coping with a life threatening disease. It’s heavy stuff. In my gut I believe it must impact success rates.

If someone wants to give me several hundred thousand dollars I am sure I can design an experiment that will prove it.

What is the downside of managing stress? Even if it doesn’t impact your ability to get pregnant, it affects everything else. Stress can destroy your marriage, friendships, career, and physical health if you don’t find a way to control it  and limit its impact on you.

Which is why this morning I was in the bath tub at 6 AM in the dark listening to a meditation on my iPhone and blowing just about everyone and everything in my life away.

Stress always accelerates as soon as your cycle becomes more active. The mere activities of managing the shots, other medications, and appointments speed up and demand more time and attention. Its more than that, though. The gravity of the situation begins to grow heavier day by day and shot by shot. This is more true for us right now than ever before given that we have tens of thousands of dollars, a ton of time, and a truckload of hope invested into one single embryo. One. Uno.

If this cycle doesn’t work we have already decided we will do one more full cycle. Financially that will probably be all we can do. But I really, really don’t want to go through it all from start to finish again. It will entail tens of thousands more dollars,  at least 4 more months, more travel away from work and baby, more weight gain, more stress, more physical and emotional pain. More insanity.

I clearly think it would just be best if I get pregnant right now with this one and skip all that. Let’s just do that, shall we?

You get my point, IVF gets more and more anxiety producing as you move through the motions. It doesn’t help that the longer you go through it the more people who are in a position to support you take what you are going through for granted. I am jokingly blogging about it so I must be okay, right? I am choosing to try to have a baby so its not like I am fighting a real disorder, right?

Wrong. Even for those of us who try to find the lighter side of infertility we need the constant love and support of our friends, coworkers, and families. I am very blessed to have outstanding support pretty much all the time from all three. There are days, though. We all have our days. Yesterday was one of those days. A day I needed to breathe just a little bit more than usual, and maybe squish a few heads too.

I’m really dating myself and my 37 year old ovaries, but “blowing it away” kind of reminds me of the skit from Kid’s in the Hall where a character looks at people standing at a distance through the space between his thumb and forefinger and says “I am squishing your head, I am squishing your head”, while bringing the thumb and forefinger together and…well…squishing their heads.

That’s not very peace or bliss invoking, but it makes me laugh which is kind of the same thing.

Here are all the things I blew away this morning:

  • 3 nights away from my husband and daughter for work this week? – I Blow You Away!
  • Having to be the rush through crafting my daughter’s Valentine’s Day cards and shopping because somebody planned a 2 day meeting right before the holiday?- I Blow You Away!
  • Everybody at work losing their mind because we are slightly behind pace for our 2014 goals and its only February? I Blow You Away!
  • Babysitter cancelling at the last minute for tonight when both Bill and I are out of town for meetings?- I Blow You Away!
  • Family stuff that I would never blog about without permission- I Especially Blow Your Sorry Toosh AWAY!
  • Reordering refrigerated drugs that were mistakenly sent by the pharmacy with 2 day delivery over the weekend and therefore completely ruined?- I Blow You Away!
  • Coordinating the FOURTH revision to my FMLA leave form between my clinic and benefits department?- I Blow You Away!
  • Sleepless night due to a furnace that would not shut-off thanks to the  negative 23 degree weather here last night? I Blow You Away!
  • $500 heating bill that is on its way due to the wacko weather and crazed furnace?- I Blow You Away!
  • Waking up at 5 and not being able to get back to sleep because of everything that is going on this week? I Blow you Away!

I could go on, but I promised when I started this blog that it wouldn’t become a pity party and it won’t. Moreover, I want to make a point that blowing these things away while meditating doesn’t mean that I don’t care deeply about them and they aren’t all still there vying for the last ounce of my sanity when I am done. Its just in that 20 minute space of time the exercise reminds me to put it all into perspective and focus first on what is most important to positively resolving any of those items, my own mental health and well being.

Right now the fight for fertility is our priority. It can’t be all about infertility however. We have to have balance in life or we will lose the fight. We aren’t going to have a baby if our marriage fails. If we falter in our careers we won’t be able to pay for all the treatment. If we mistreat our family and friends we could lose one of the most important sources of joy a couple has when they bring a child into this world, sharing it with those they love. All that being said, we are in a fight for our family right now. The family we have today and the family we will be tomorrow. And for us, there is nothing more important than that. Nothing.

First and foremost we have to take care of ourselves and each other so we can be complete to tend to everything else.  Its like every time you take an airplane ride, the flight attendant always insructs passengers to put on their own oxygen mask first before trying to help a child. Gotta take care of yourself and those closest to your first.

This is a lesson that applies in life even without infertility. Blowing it all alway helps us have perspective, focus on what is most important, and invokes the relaxation response and its numerous benefits.

So I ask you all, what are you blowing away today? Please share with us what is on your mind and your creative ways to deal with it.

Shoot Em’ Up

Tomorrow is the day. This addict is tired of only popping a measly little birth control pill every morning. Thankfully the waiting for the good stuff is coming to an end. Tomorrow I begin the real work that will take us towards our March 13th transfer date.

Yes, the time has come when I start shooting up.

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I have been waiting with anticipation all weekend for the morning when I start taking Lupron injections. Even though the are small, they are mighty, and the shots are a critical stepping stone that will lead us to the Promised Land.

As I discussed in Addicted to IVF, there is just something about this phase in the cycle that makes the long time IVF gal get excited. Heck, even if it is your first IVF it is thrilling to take that first shot, albeit a little frightening. After all you have so much time, money, hope and energy invested into this part of the process.

And best of all, you finally get to put your Baby in a Box to good use.

What is this Baby in a Box?

When you go through IVF you require a number of different medications for different phases of the cycle. These medications are not your average, every day, run-of-the mill medications. Your local Walgreen’s does not keep them in stock. Therefore they must be ordered through the mail, typically through a specialty pharmacy.

When we start an IVF cycle, all my meds are sent to me in one big box which happens to be about the size of a very large baby. If the meds do what they are supposed to and your body complies you will have a baby in about 10 months or so.

And there you have it, a Baby in a Box.

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There are a lot of drugs that do a lot of fun stuff in the box. What you see above is only a portion of it because we are currently only doing a portion of the IVF cycle.

The first phase of an IVF cycle is the stimulation phase. This is what we did back in November when we amped up my body with hormones to help it develop many eggs instead of the usual one per month. The stimulation phase is without a doubt the most grueling part of IVF. It can be quite uncomfortable and culminates in an invasive surgery to remove the eggs. Stimulation is also the most expensive part of the cycle and I am glad for that reason among many others that it is behind us.

Many clinics go straight from stimulation to transferring a fresh embryo back to Mom anywhere from 2 to 6 days after the eggs are retrieved. This is called a “fresh cycle.”

But that is not what we are doing. Not this time.

We are doing what is called a “frozen cycle.” We had the embryos genetically tested which means we had a great big pause between retrieval of the eggs to the part of the process we are now entering, the frozen embryo transfer.

Our embryo is 6 days old, chomosomaly perfect, and is just chilling out in cryofreeze waiting for us to come and get him (or her). Lupron is the first shot we take that will help us prepare to do just that. Its a small dose with a tiny little needle in my belly. This one I give myself because it is pretty painless and easy to administer. It does eventually make my tummy look like it has freckles all over it from the small scars, but those are battle wounds of which I am deeply proud. They do fade eventually.

Lupron, like most hormones involved in reproduction, is a weird dude. It’s short for Leuprolide or Lutenizing hormone (LH). Male and females both use LH to regulate the pituitary gland and control secretions of other hormones like follicle stimulating hormone (the stuff that makes all those eggs develop in the first IVF phase), testosterone, and estradiol. What makes LH weird and kind of cool in my opinion is that in small doses during certain points in a cycle it will down regulate these hormones. Shuts them right up. Quiets the body and limits the hormones secreted.However mid-cycle a large surge of LH (LH surge) will actually trigger ovulation and the resulting production of hormones. This surge is what will cause a home ovulation kit to have a smiley face or a dark line. I find its dual and seemingly contradictory functions fascinating.

Because LH in regular, small doses will slow the production of hormones that can feed certain types of cancers, it is often used in treatment of those cancers. And here is a super fun fact, high doses are sometimes used to chemically castrate sex offenders. Yep. You read that right.

Isn’t that lovely? As if we need another way for fertility treatments to impact the libido, and this one a scientifically proven one. However its somewhat irrelevant because the birth control pill I am on has already zapped what little libido I have at this stage in the process. Ironic that a birth control pill would do that but it does for me and always has.

For me, the main side effect of lupron is uber bitchiness. I mean, “stay out of her way” bitchiness. The mood altering effect of the drug is my primary side effect , but it also causes weight gain and headaches. Massive, horrible, headaches. The weight gain and headaches of course form a mean pair that further fuel the uber bitchiness. It’s not pretty.

Given all this you would think I would be dreading tomorrow, but in fact I am looking forward to it like a kid at Christmas. The Lupron shots I start tomorrow will shut my reproductive system down. This is so my doctor can take over and manipulate it with still other many other hormones that are to come. Its a little like computer that has been rebooted after new software is installed. When my reproductive system comes back online it will have a new operating system controlled by my RE. One more step toward bringing home baby. When you look at it that way, its pretty damn exciting.