Our “Heaven Sent” Baby Shower

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Heaven sent banner with angel onesies. Onesies have angel wings on the back which we can now use as photo props.

 

Our shower was way back in October but this is the first opportunity I have found to upload photos. This is ironic, because at this very moment I am typing with one twin on my chest and one next to me in the crib. More detail to come on that in a later post!

My sisters and Mom put the small event together very early in my pregnancy (21 weeks!) because I had a complicated pregnancy with my daughter Evie and I was sure it would be the same with twins. After all it was a high risk pregnancy and I am almost 40. From day one I mentally prepared for preemies and an uphill battle.

But once again, God had his arms around us and we were able to make it to 38 weeks. I am still amazed that I was able to deliver perfect twin babies with no NICU time necessary.

This is simply more proof that these babies were “Heaven Sent” which was the theme of the shower. My sister Cassie, better known as “Momma Cas the Pinterest Queen,” designed nearly everything and corralled the help of sister Kelly and Mom Bonnie to pull it all together into an event that I think represents her best work yet. As you can see they put love and care into every beautiful detail.

Thanks ladies. It was perfect!

The shower was a brunch complete with chicken and waffles finger food.

The shower was a brunch complete with chicken and waffles finger food.

 

Mimosas anyone?

Mimosas anyone?

 

Heavenly divinity cookies

Heavenly divinity cookies

 

Twins in their watermelon bassinets

Twins in their watermelon bassinets courtesy of my Mom

 

Clothespin game for the twins. I lost mine in the first 20 minutes or so.

Clothespin game for the twins. I lost mine in the first 20 minutes or so.

 

Party favors for guests

Party favors for guests

 

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Homemade gourmet popcorn

 

My favorite party favor

My favorite party favor, and perhaps my favorite part of the shower too

 

Homemade cake courtesy of sister Cassie

Homemade cake courtesy of sister Cassie

 

Gifts for "The Price is Right" and "Clothspin" games

Gifts for “The Price is Right” and “Clothspin” games

 

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“The Price is Right” game

Life is Stinking Hilarious

Back in January, in one of my very first posts, I wrote about being a Rebel in a Bathtub,  describing all the taboo ways I exercise my freedom after a failed cycle. Shortly after writing that post I began to feel old and desperate, overwhelmed by the sound of a ticking clock in my brain, and I decided it would be wise to start following the rules again, which I have pretty much stuck to the last few months. I haven’t exactly been a t-totaller, but I have limited my alcohol, eaten healthy, moderated exercise, and popped hundreds of supplements. I had only three glasses of wine when I learned of Blob’s demise and only 9 total over the course of two months preparing for our last failed cycle.

All that effort at purity and perfection came to a halt last night when I accidentally had way to much to drink which also led to other choices that are not too great for my upcoming cycle like eating gluten. Actually, I didn’t just eat gluten, that would be understating it. Rather, I had gluten with a side of gluten and a little gluten sprinkled on top for good measure. There is more that I did and shouldn’t have, but not that I can put in writing for the fear of losing my low insurance rates.

Today I awoke in a haze and when the memories came rushing back I instantly began hating myself and my youngest sister for the influence that inspired my bad choices. I belly ached to my husband, sharing my self loathing, and also posted to my favorite fertility board about my transgressions. My IVF pals and husband all said the same thing, one night of bad choices is not going to lead to a failed cycle and it might even be good for me. I am human after all and loads of women get pregnant every day in much worse condition.

They are probably right. At least that is what I am choosing to believe. Besides, I can’t change it and its not as if stressing about whether I have destroyed good eggs is going to help me get pregnant. Better to move on and use my guilt for something good, like a run.

While I was punishing myself and trying to eliminate toxins on that run this morning, it occurred to me how ironic life is. There was a time many years ago that bad choices while under the influence might have led to, gasp, a pregnancy that we didn’t plan and didn’t want yet. Fast forward a decade and here I am hoping that the bad choices, which really weren’t all that bad, will keep me from getting pregnant.

Very funny life. Very funny.

And here is another really funny thing about life. It has a way of moving at the speed of light when you want to savor it, but gets stuck in molasses when you are looking forward to something. Tomorrow we meet with our new fertility doctor over Skype and it seems like time has come to a stand-still as I anxiously await his counsel. This is the first time I have ever experienced anxiety about a meeting because we have reached the point with my age and history that being turned down by a clinic is a real possibility. Bill thinks I am crazy, and that just like Celebrity Miracle clinic they will gladly take our money especially given the fact that we still produce so many eggs and conjured up three genetically normal embryos in our cycle late last year. Still after five fresh IVFs and 9 transfers they may advise us to move on to donor eggs. We will find out tomorrow, if tomorrow ever comes.

Image by rubyblossom via Flickr

Image by rubyblossom via Flickr

Meanwhile, my daughter is far too rapidly making the transition from toddler to little girl. Today when I put her down for a nap she did not want to say “good night” to the owls painted on her bedroom door, our routine since she was born. She also did not want to give me “one more kiss and one more hug” like she always asks after I rub her back and sing her one song. She has become a master procrastinator and manipulator at nap time which only further demonstrates how un-baby-like she is. We couldn’t possibly be having any more fun but the arms on the clock measuring our time with her are whizzing around and around leaving memories of my baby in a beautiful but painful blur.

Very funny life. Very funny.

 

*I finally picked back up on reading the book “Writing Tools” and posting samples of my work on the Writing Tools page. Hence the extraordinarily long second sentence in this post. It has proven very difficult to keep up my work on writing skills while in the midst of IVF but now that we have entered a waiting period I hope to be able to work on it and add posts on most weekends.

 

Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day. A day that brings mixed feelings for Mom’s who worked a little harder to build our family than most. Its a day of celebration for those of us who longed to receive a flower at church or breakfast in bed courtesy of a proud, flour covered child. We are finally part of it, rather than being on the outside looking in.

But it is also impossible to forget the pain and loneliness we felt in the days when this day was just another reminder of that title we had yet to earn. For the infertile woman whose heart is aching to be a Mother, this day and all its sappy commercials in the weeks leading up to it can’t come and go fast enough.

For me, Mother’s Day is even more conflicting because of what it means to us. You see, Spork was transferred to me as one of three microscopic embryos on Mother’s Day three years ago. She had been waiting in cryofreeze for over a year for me to finally bring her home. 12 days later I learned I was pregnant for the first time. For that reason, Mother’s Day will always be magical for me. It’s the day I was literally reunited with my first and only child after years of infertility and three previous embryo transfers.

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But I have not forgotten what this day meant to me before I became a Mom. I can’t forget my friends who still desperately want to become a Mom. And of course I cannot forget those who lost a pregnancy, infant, or child of any age.

Today I am praying for all women, not just Mother’s. I am praying that those who have never known the pain of infertility and loss never do. I pray that the wait ends soon for those that are still waiting. I pray for peace and healing for those who are reliving a loss today. I pray for all mothers who gave their child and adoptive family the greatest give you can give. And I pray in great thanks for what I have and for the people and processes that made it possible, because I do know what I have. I do.

Peace and love to you all. May the world be kind to you today and may our Mother’s Day story bring those that need it hope instead of pain.

Nesting

Image by Kenneth Spencer via Flickr

Image by Kenneth Spencer via Flickr

I do it every cycle whether its IVF or FET… Every. Single. Cycle.

In the final days leading up to our procedures I start cleaning and organizing. And when I am done, I clean and organize some more.

Pregnant women nest in order to prepare the home for baby. I suppose it also helps relieve anxiety about the impending birth, the pain, the joy, and changes it will bring to the household. I really wouldn’t know thanks to several weeks of prescribed bed rest when I was pregnant with Spork. But I know a lot about nesting before IVF. I even know why I do it, however having that knowledge doesn’t save me from practicing my own personal brand of crazy.

I nest before IVF in order to gain control over my environment as things begin to feel more and more out of control. I clean in an attempt to occupy my mind, however I try to convince myself and others that I do it to prepare the world around me for 12 days of light activity and waiting.

This time, I took it to a whole new level. My bags are packed, every single linen and piece of clothing in the house is washed and put away, the bills are paid, the drugs I will use this week are neatly organized into a pill box, those drugs that I no longer use are tidied up and stored for a possible later time that I pray never comes. I even boxed up Spork’s 24 month duds and broke out her hand-me-down 2T sizes, washing them and tucking them away (sigh).

This is what I do and I do it so very well.

My nesting began three weeks ago when I began meal planning so I could eliminate stress during the cycle by ensuring that I always had gluten free leftovers to carry with me throughout the state of Michigan as I traveled to and fro for work. Never mind that I never cook anyway and I would have been just fine leaving dinner up to Bill like I always do.

Tonight my nesting ends with an impeccably clean attic. That’s right, attic. I won’t even see my attic over the next 2 weeks while I wait to find out it we are going to have another baby, but I would know it was a flippin’ mess and that would be enough to make me crazy. Not only does this cleaning save me from being even more nuts than I will be during the two week wait,  it helps make me sane in the short term.

Cleaning the attic stops me from obsessing over questions like:

What if there are no eggs in my follicles?

What if we overstimulated and the eggs are immature?

What if Spork permanently damaged Bill’s little swimmers when she jumped on his lap a few days ago?

What if the eggs don’t fertilize?

What if I spill the only HCG within 3 hours of us tonight when I trigger?

The list goes on and on.

If you have followed my blog for more than 5 minutes you have already correctly diagnosed me as a control freak. I could try to fight it but after 38 years I know its pointless. All I can do is recognize it and try to be balanced by not letting my desire to relieve stress create more stress than it relieves. The meal planning failed that test, plus my cooking was pretty bad, which is why I stopped it last week. However it was sort of fun to watch Bill pretend to like my food so I may bring it back for some comic relief during the two week wait.

In fact, I think I will. After all, I can’t control whether or not my embryos attach and grow into healthy babies, but I can make a terrible batch of gluten free swedish meatballs to enjoy eat while we are waiting to find out the results.

Besides, other than a few bland meals, what’s the downside? My attic as well as my soul are better for this.

 

Do any of you do this as well or am I alone in my infertility induced obsessive compulsive behavior?

 

Who Says You Can’t Come Home Again?

Image:David Simmer II via Flickr

Image:David Simmer II via Flickr

We had our Homecoming at New/Old clinic yesterday. Bill and I are both thrilled with the plan we have developed and also the stark difference in bedside manner and genuine caring we received from every individual we interacted with, especially our doctor.

I must confess that it was only six short months ago that I was angry with this clinic. I never stopped loving our doctor or nurses, but our last cycle was tough. We had a difficult transfer, lost 4 embryos total in the freeze/thaw process, and ultimately had a miscarriage. It was time for us to try something different and we did, even though I had a nagging feeling that I shouldn’t leave a team of nurses and doctors who understood me, my body and my history so well.

Over the years I have gone back and forth on the importance of beside manner. Does it matter? Do I care whether my doctor is nice to me, or for that matter even takes a moment to speak to me, as long as he gets the job done?

As it turns out, yes. It does matter to me. I want a doctor who listens to me, who has obvious passion for our joint objective, and who appreciates the power he has to eliminate stress in one aspect of this intense process.

I have that in New/Old clinic and it was clear yesterday.

First, rather than spending only 4 minutes with my doctor, we spent more like 40. Surprisingly, he put his ego completely aside and reviewed with me every aspect of my cycle with Celebrity Miracle Clinic. We discussed what we liked and didn’t like and adjusted our plan accordingly. There were a few things he said “no” to putting in the plan, but when he did he justified it with studies and science.

One example of this is intramuscular injectable progesterone. He agreed to let me do less painful suppositories, but only after I am pregnant. Studies show an ever so slight but still meaningful increase in pregnancy rates with injectable progesterone because suppositories can cause cramping and the implantation threatening uterine contractions that come a long with it.

We were most pleased with how much we accomplished yesterday and how flexible the clinic was in making it happen. Our appointment was only for a consultation, but when I told our doctor that I had a cyst since February that hadn’t budged despite being suppressed the whole time, he immediately squeezed us in for an ultrasound. When we saw that the little booger was too big to ignore, we weighed the options and decided to drain it in a painful but quick procedure. They made this happen even though is wasn’t “in the schedule” and it was late enough in the day we would likely be keeping the entire office there well past closing time.

To prepare me I was given a high powered antibiotic and 800 mg of ibuprofen. Because both could upset my stomach I was given crackers and juice. When I told the nurse I was gluten-free, she was clearly ready to check with the entire staff to see if there was anything they had in their personal stashes that I could eat. I told her that I thought it was a good excuse to break the diet and that it had been months since I had Cheez-its so not to worry.

When she left the room my husband turned to me and said “She is going to go ask everyone here if they have anything you can eat. The other clinic would have sent us to their kiosk down the corridor from their big beautiful waterfall and wouldn’t have given a damn.”

While I am not sure that is true, the point is we feel like this clinic really cares about us. Our doctor cracks us up because after decades in the business he still is obviously super geeked about advances in ART technologies. He doesn’t talk down to us and also recognizes the value of our opinion. But most of all, we are so impressed that the clinic recognized how far away we were from home and did what was necessary to remove the cyst rather than having us come back, or worse, waiting another month or two to see if the cyst went away on its own.

That just couldn’t have happened at Celebrity Miracle Clinic because access to the doctor is too limited and the clinic is too big to be that nimble.

So as you can tell we are pleased with our decision. While it may have taken more green to prove it, the grass is not always greener on the other side. And even more importantly, we are excited about our plan and even a bit surprised by some of the changes we made. Here it is in short form. As we progress through it I will pick it apart and explain the “why” behind some of what we are doing in more detail.

1) Stop birth control on April 16th and start maximum dosage of stimulation meds on April 18th. I love that we aren’t wasting any time and that we are beginning with the highest dosage to enlist as many of my resting follicles as possible. I will take 150iu of Menopur in the morning and 300iu of Gonal-F at night to stimulate growth of the egg yielding follicles in my ovaries.

2) Begin taking Omnitrope, a name brand of growth hormone, when I begin stimulation medications. I will inject 24iu a day during the entire time I am stimming. Studies show that this can improve egg quality in older women. It is theorized that because naturally produced growth hormone decreases as you age its decline may cause quality issues. Sample sizes are small for these studies but results are promising.

3) Use Cytotec to soften the cervix due to my difficult anatomy 7-10 days prior to transfer. The doctor also scheduled the transfer at a time that he was sure to be the one to do it since he knows our history with difficult transfer. We will also check my bladder level prior to going back for the procedure since it has been a problem for us in the past.

4) Inject HCG into the uterus the day prior to transfer to increase implantation rate. Studies have shown that growth factor injected into the uterus prior to transfer increases implantation rates.

5) Use time lapse photography to take snapshots every 8 seconds of the first two days the embryos are developing to rule out embryos that are not developing properly and are likely aneuploid (abnormal number of chromosomes). While this is not as accurate as genetic testing, it works to accomplish the same outcome while not damaging the embryos.

6) Assess on day two of embryo growth whether we freeze all the embryos or proceed with a fresh transfer on day three. This was a surprise. I thought we had ruled out a fresh transfer but both my doctor and my husband want to proceed with a fresh transfer if we have a number of good embryos. We will prepare my body for a fresh transfer and make a game time decision. I am as nervous about this as I am excited because it means I may be pregnant the first part of May, the same month I conceived Spork.

I feel like with this plan we are doing as much as we can to give this cycle the best chance of success possible.

We spent the entire afternoon building this plan and removing the cyst which could have been a taxing and exhausting experience.  But it wasn’t. If anything it was invigorating. We accomplished so much in one afternoon, removing all obstacles and setting up our plan of attack. It wasn’t taxing at all because we weren’t in some sterile, cold, and beautiful mecca of fertility where our doctor was kept safely behind a curtain.

We were home.

 

 

Control What You Can Control

I spent the majority of the day worried that my treasured iTunes library with all its organized playlists had disappeared forever. I spent two hours with Apple support and an equal amount of time beforehand in chat rooms and reading troubleshooting links trying to avoid Apple support.

Of course I backup my Mac regularly like any responsible person who stores thousands of songs and family photos on her computer should so it shouldn’t have been a problem, right?

Yeah right.

I diligently backup like every 8 months or so.

I wasted the evening away desperately searching for a way to not have to go back to July of 2013 to replace the playlists. Early on in the process I was able to recover the music, but not the playlists. There was a point where I nearly gave up and accepted that it was enough to have all my music even if it wasn’t organized neatly in a slew of lists that together represent a chronological and musical expression of my entire being since I became an Apple user.

These playlists mark so many phases of my life. As a runner, I have playlists for certain distances that I run. For a short time today, the playlist that kept me company for nearly (but not quite!) four hours during my first marathon was lost.  And there was so much more, like the first lullaby list I made Spork and countless playlists I have created as gifts for special people at special times.  And let’s not forget my myriad fertility playlists with meditations and music put together in collections designed for specific stages of the IVF process.

All were gone for this short but panicked period of time.

I have mentioned before that I am Type A. This is why I have playlists that are the perfect length with just the right BPM to cover 5, 7, or 10 mile training runs. This is why I have multiple fertility playlists. This is why I spent the better part of the evening turning over every cyber rock I could find to determine how to get these playlists restored without losing a single song.  It wasn’t easy, but I did it. I won.

I usually do.

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In the fertility world, this type of behavior makes me a cliche. I am about to embark on my fifth IVF because I waited too damn long to start trying to get pregnant. I had a world to conquer, a career to develop, and a Master’s degree to complete before I could even fathom making babies. When I finally got serious at 34, we discovered that baby making was going to require more effort than all of these things combined.

So its no surprise that like a lot of women I try to exert as much control over the process as humanly possible. I do this despite knowing that IVF is a process that you simply cannot control. I have written before on the importance of acceptance and I believe fully in the mental benefit of being at peace with the fact that there is very little you can do to control or change infertility.

I fall short, however of relinquishing all control. There are certain things you can influence in IVF and as with other things in life I choose to live by the rules of the Serenity Prayer, letting go of those things I can’t control and controlling what I can.

There is so much with infertility that we have no ability to impact. Ultimately I cannot control whether we will have another baby or not. But I think its necessary to recognize that you can influence certain aspects and do your best in the process. There are things you can control. Many things.

I can make sure I take my shots on time and schedule my meds to arrive when I need them. I can control how I manage stress. I can control my weight. I can control my nutrition and exercise regimen. I can control my quality of care by being an educated patient who asks questions and advocates for myself.

You get the idea.

This is why we are taking an ungodly number of supplements. Its one tiny little thing that we can do to improve our odds of success.

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Each and every single one has some added benefit that in one study or another led to increased success rates. Every item on the list has been vetted by one of the best clinics in the country and they believe it could have a positive impact.

So why not take them?

I do, however, think its a good idea to keep our ability to directly influence the outcome in perspective.  My eggs have been with me since birth and we are having trouble because they are getting old and sticky, no longer dividing cleanly and quickly. All the Coq10 in the world is not going to reverse the impacts of aging.

However we have noticed a difference in our lab tests and our actual cycles since starting this regimen last year. My resting follicle count increased and our embryo production improved by 26% (22 resting follicles produced an additional three embryos).  Bill’s count and motility were always good, but his morphology improved from the very low end of the range to the high end of the normal range in the last two specimens since starting the supplements.

So yes, the crazy number of supplements are probably an exercise in exerting control over infertility.  But I don’t think that’s bad nor do I feel its futile. If it creates that one super healthy sperm that unites with that one magical and nutritionally nurtured egg to make a perfect little baby it will have been worth it.

I can’t change who I am any more than I can change the fact that we are infertile. It’s in my nature to try to control and influence. My DNA doesn’t allow me to give up without a fight. But I have at least learned to not allow the ability to control give me the false sense of responsibility when a cycle fails. That is the risk you run with trying to control infertility. If you accept that you can make a difference, then it is all too easy to make the mental leap that you are to blame when things don’t go well.

You cannot blame yourself when things go badly. What you did still may have had a positive impact, it doesn’t mean you did something wrong any more than it means you should stop trying to make a difference. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, pop a few more supplements, be compassionate with yourself and proceed to Plan B.

Hello, Goodbye- Part 2

Image: John Via Flickr

Image: John Via Flickr

Phew. Glad I got Part One out of my system. Now that its done, that goodbye has been said, let’s talk about the FUTURE.

Well really, let’s talk about NOW because our next step is already well under way.

Hello Future.

We don’t stay down for long in this family. Before the sun set on us Sunday night I had already emailed the new/old clinic to explain our situation and set up a consultation. It often takes time to switch clinics. Time for diagnostic testing, Time to get on the calendar. I was expecting it to take time this time too. Nope… we are in full swing.

Before we left our new/old clinic we already had a consultation with our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) to hear his recommendations for what we should try next after our miscarriage. Those of us in the fertility world call this the “WTH” (What The Heck?) appointment. Some more colorful ladies use another letter besides “H.”

I am more comfortable just calling it a consultation myself. If you think about it, with the odds of IVF being less than 50% the WTH appointment should be reserved for when a patient actually gets pregnant. At least that is how it feels for this unlucky girl.

In preparation for this discussion my new/old RE created a plan. All our lab work and other testing is recent enough that there is no need to repeat. So when I opened my email Monday morning and one of my favorite nurses had already responded, I was pleasantly surprised to find we could pass go and go straight to cycling. All we had to do was call the business office and pay a deposit.

By close of business on Monday, the deposit was paid and we were on the calendar for a May retrieval. We set up consultation appointment on April 10th to review the plan and also make necessary adjustments based on what we learned from Celebrity Miracle Clinic. I was told to call with my “pre-month” menses which I took to mean April.  However when my monthly friend arrived Wednesday I called to be sure and they told me it was close enough that we could get going. Yes!

Drugs have been ordered and are scheduled to arrive. I am back on birth control again and we are taking supplements to improve egg and sperm quality. At the consultation we will pick a date in May and count backwards to select a date when I will go off the pill to begin another antagonist cycle (I will explain what that means in a later post). We will retrieve my eggs in May and create our embryos which will all be frozen.

In June we will thaw several of them for transfer. We are doing this because I have never been pregnant on a fresh cycle. Some women just do better with frozen cycles and I appear to be one of those Ice Queens. More importantly, we know that my embryos are slow starters and a frozen cycle will allow us to better match the time when the lining is receptive to the development of the embryo.

Over the last few days I have already talked to three of my favorite nurses. I am excited. I am nervous. But mostly I am just glad to be ready to go and to be working with my old friends.

Now I just need to give new/old clinic, new/old nurses, and new/old RE a more creative and acceptable name. Something as fitting for them as “Celebrity Miracle Clinic” was for the other one.

I’m thinking about it…

Any ideas?