Saturday, July 23, 2016

Even If…

Back in January, we started stimulation shots for our sixth and final IVF cycle.  The morning of my first shot, I attended my weekly women’s Bible study.  I have a friend that was a small group leader for the group with me who I had built a deep relationship with over the previous months.  You see, she and her husband struggled for five years to get pregnant.  When they were told IVF was their only option, they gave their struggle to God and walked away from the reproductive endocrinologist.  Shortly thereafter, they were blessed with their miracle pregnancy…naturally.  Lindsay carried her sweet baby girl to full-term.  Aspyn was born on September 25, 2015.  She was a little angel, a healer of the hearts that had been broken by infertility.

On October 25, 2015, my dear friend went to feed her sweet baby and instead found her lifeless.  Aspyn Jane was exactly one month old when she left this Earth due to SIDS to be with our Heavenly Father.

Remember this picture from my last entry?
This is why this picture was so profound to me as my view on Transfer Day.

On the morning of January 23, 2016, Lindsay sat and told the Bible study a part of the story of the night Aspyn passed.  It was a part of the story I had not yet heard, and it changed me.
She said that she could remember running to her in-law’s house next door to get them, and as she ran back into her front yard, she collapsed, face first onto the ground.  In that moment, she turned to God, and she begged Him to bring Aspyn back to life.  And in the next instance, she prayed, “But even if you don’t, I will still know you are good.”  She suddenly remembered the Bible story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  They prayed to God to save them from the fires where they were being tossed but said that even if He didn’t, they would still only worship Him.

That was it.  That was the prayer that I knew Todd and I needed to pray during this final attempt to have a child that was half him and half me.

“Dear God.  Please, give us a baby.  We know you can.  But even if You do not, we will still know that you are good.”

I went home that day and told Todd the story.  With tears in both of our eyes, we agreed we would pray that through each step of this final cycle.


Fast forward to Friday, May 20.  I had blood work drawn to see if I was pregnant.  I left work at 1:30 in the afternoon, so I could be at home when our nurse called.  I was so used to taking phone calls at work, but we decided that this one should be done together.  After all, we both just knew this cycle had worked, so we needed to start planning how we would tell the kids immediately.

I will never forget sitting on our couch with Todd, staring at the phone that just would not ring.  I finally called CCRM because I couldn’t wait any longer.  For the first time since we had started talking to this clinic, they patched me through directly to the nurse.  We both sat and listened as she said, “I’m so sorry, but you are not pregnant.”  Todd took the phone as the look of horror and sadness overwhelmed my voiceless cry.  I remember her telling him that she understood we didn’t want to talk to her at that moment, I should stop taking my meds immediately, and they would contact us to setup a regroup appointment with Dr. Schoolcraft.

Our prayer was being put to the test.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Frozen Embryo Transfer: Take 1

It’s bitter sweet that all of this is finally coming to an end.  We have been saying that God was giving us our final embaby as a Mother’s Day gift.  No matter the outcome, we had decided this would be the last stop on the IVF train.  It ended up being a great way to spend Mother’s Day and our final week in Colorado for this cycle.  (Yes, we went for our transfer the week of Mother's Day.  I realize how late that means this entry is.  My sincerest apologies.)

We started the week by arriving earlier than I like to even be awake.  It was nice to get to fly this trip.  We ate at our favorite local breakfast place and cruised the mall until our condo was ready for our arrival.

Over the next week, we had the opportunity to spend time at The Royal Gorge, run through the rain to find sushi in downtown Denver, watch the Rockies play baseball, and view the spectacular sight that is Pike’s Peak.  We also had a chance to have dinner at my childhood friend's house; one of our favorite parts of our Colorado trips has been spending time with Millie and her family.

Now, a montage of pictures from our visit...

(By the way, we purchased a beanie baby monkey on the way home after our very first IVF retrieval.  He now travels with us on each of our cycles.)
*Our Little Monkey* about to board the Royal Gorge train.
Guess what state we are moving to because their flag is perfect?
See the A-frame across the way?  We are about to swing from it..
In some ways, riding in that swing is symbolic of our IVF journey together...
We were excited in the beginning...
...but quickly began gripping onto the man I love...
...followed shortly by screaming my head off from the sheer terror of it all...
...but finding a way to enjoy the ride...
...while ultimately never letting go of my rock.

Isn't he precious when he's trying to pretend he's tired of pictures?!

We had to run through the rain to get this girl some sushi!
I asked him to take me to see *The Rockies.*
What we have here is a failure to communicate.












On top of Pike's Peak
Y'all, I was not dressed for snow in May!
It wouldn't be a trip to Colorado without a wild hair picture.


*Our Little Monkey* on Pike's Peak

But this view...
Literally brought tears to our eyes as we stared and listened to Bethel Music serenade us with "It Is Well."





Obviously, we also had time for IVF appointments and a little thing we call a frozen embryo transfer (FET).  When we made it to our condo on Saturday, May 7, we unpacked our bags and setup “Preggo Central: Colorado Style.”

Preggo Central: Colorado Style

All of the meds for this cycle: 
Lupron & Progesterone injections – Vivelle patches –
Aspirin, Medrol, and Doxycycline pills – and Endometrin…uh, tabs
Sunday morning, we had a stop at CCRM for blood work for the both of us.  Our communicable disease labs had expired, so those had to be redrawn.  Plus, I needed my progesterone levels checked.  Unfortunately for Todd, his vein rolled.  In all of my dozens of blood draws over the last 5 years, I have never seen this happen.  I wish I could say that I still hadn’t.  Todd likes to say that she was moving the needle around so much that she almost clipped the carotid artery in his neck.  Ha!

The face of a man with a rolled vein.  Ouch!
On Wednesday, we arrived for the big transfer day.  I was handed Valium to calm my nerves and told to start drinking a bottle of water, which I did.  I also had blood work to check my estrogen and progesterone levels.  Then, they took us upstairs to the magical land of baby-making.

A nurse came in to complete a quick ultrasound to check my bladder.  She said it was almost full enough, so chug the rest of the second bottle of water I was currently sipping.  Being the good patient I am, I did.
Of course *Our Little Monkey* was with us!
Modeling my stylish anchor socks I have worn for every transfer.
Todd wearing his good luck charm, a Never Give Up shirt.

My view for the procedure -
anchors for our journey &
"Aspyn" trees to remind me of a friend that has
played a profound part in this recent step of our journey
The acupuncture practitioner came in and started my first round of acupuncture.  Studies show that acupuncture directly before and after a transfer increases your odds of success.  Bring on the needles!  (Heck, these weren’t hooked to any electric leads, so I thought it was pretty easy.)  I laid there for about 30 minutes (I think?) with Todd in the room.  He read me a devotional and some texts full of love and support from friends and family.  At one point, he made me laugh, which did hurt.  I had needles in my ears.  Who knew there were so many nerves inside the ears.  Ouch!
Acupuncture needles in my ears - Don't make me laugh!
By the time the acupuncturist removed the needles, my bladder was full, and I was getting close to uncomfortable.  Dr. Schoolcraft poked his head into the room and asked, “How are you doing?”  I responded with, “I hope I don’t pee on you.”  He said, “That makes two of us.”  Have we mentioned how much we like him?!

The next thing I knew, they were wheeling an incubator with a computer screen on top of it into the room.  Inside there was our embaby.  Todd was allowed to take pictures of the screen which displayed our little baby.  Todd said he|she looked like a diamond ring, but we of course realize how much more precious they are than diamonds.  This was our 35th and final baby that we would make with IVF.  It was pretty awesome.
The incubator keeping our baby nice and warm
Our sweet embaby
The transfer was the easiest I can ever remember.  When he said he was all finished, I said, “I didn’t even know you had really started.  That was easier than a pap smear.”  He replied, “Oh, if only they gave Valium for pap smears.”  (I’m going to talk to my doctor about that.)

By this point, I was about to burst.  Luckily for me, I was allowed to use a bedpan, as you’re not allowed to stand up for another hour after transfer.  I only tell that detail for ladies that will be doing transfers with doctors that want full bladders.  It can be difficult.  Good luck.

The acupuncturist reappeared for my second round of acupuncture.  Again, I had another 45 minutes to relax with Todd in the room.  I have to say that I really enjoyed having Todd by my side through the entire transfer day.  It was calming.

I spent the rest of that day and the next in the horizontal position at the condo.  I was allowed to recline to eat, but otherwise, I stayed flat.

On the way home, we were trying to upgrade one of us to board the plane early enough to get us seats together.  Todd told the ticketing agent that I was pregnant, which didn’t receive any feedback more than a quick “Congratulations,” but it made my heart soar.

A few mornings, he kissed my belly to say “good morning” to our little sweetness.

One night, my 5-year old niece had lost her tooth.  As she put it under her pillow, she told her mom/my sister, “This one is for Aunt Laura’s baby!”  <swooning>

I started having soreness and cramping, which we celebrated. 

I thoroughly enjoy getting to be pregnant.


************************************


I would just like to apologize for some of the formatting issues on this entry.  I am kind of over BlogSpot.  Le sigh.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Final Preparations

I get the best fortune cookies.

Telling the story of this cycle seems to be dragging along.  I apologize for that.  It's nearing an end...I promise.


Somewhere between administering *Devil Lupron* shots, electromagnetic acupuncture, and ordering FET meds, Dr. Schoolcraft’s office called to say he would not be in the office on Monday, May 9, to perform my embryo transfer.  Huh?!

They said we could move our transfer to Wednesday, May 11, or we could have another physician perform the procedure.  Considering we came to Colorado for Dr. Schoolcraft, we opted to wait.  However, since our flight, rental car, and condo were already booked for Saturday to Saturday, we decided to leave those details alone.

On April 18, the frozen embryo transfer (FET) meds began.  I always assumed that there would be fewer meds for an FET.  That’s not necessarily true.  Keeping on schedule with meds for any part of an IVF cycle can be confusing.  I had to convert the “calendar” that their office gave to me into my own to make sure that I didn’t miss any dosages.  I was taking meds three times a day at one point during the cycle, so it’s just a lot to remember.

Many cycles ago, Todd organized all of our meds onto a single shelf in our pantry to make it easy to find everything.  It was a very romantic gesture.  Then, our girls made me a cute sign that said “Preggo Central.”  We have used that sign for every single cycle since.  This time, though, we moved the meds into the closet for easier access.  In another romantic gesture, Todd cleared off one of his shelves in the closet for the entirety of the cycle.
All of the meds & supplies I need for my FET, plus my red notebook containing my calendar.
For those like me that enjoy *geeking-out* on IVF med protocols, this is what I was taking:

  • Vivelle 0.1mg patches – started with 1 and quickly escalated to 4 patches every other day
  • Lupron 5 units daily – NOT *Devil Lupron* – This shot is much smaller with much easier side effects.
  • Aspirin 81-83mg daily
  • Medrol 16 mg daily
  • Endometrin 100mg twice daily
  • Doxycycline 100mg twice daily
  • Progesterone in Oil 0.5ml every other day – Um, it makes a world of difference when this shot is not daily.


These were the starter meds for the FET:  Vivelle, Lupron, and Aspirin.
I do want to mention two more things about this med protocol. 

I have been known to state this cycle that Prometrium is one of my all-time least favorite drugs.  It’s just gross.  Well, Endometrin is the exact same thing except that it costs more and comes with applicators.  Totally. Worth. It.  I would not go back and do this any differently.

Also, thanks to the Progesterone in Oil (PIO) not being daily, I have been taking the shot without any pain relief.  If you have ever taken PIO, you know that most people use ice or Lidocaine or something to help numb the shot area.  Well, in past cycles, PIO was always administered in the evening, so I was able to do that.  However, this time, we are doing it in the mornings.  (“We” because it’s in the rear, so Todd has to administer it.)  Anyway, because I forgot to get up an hour before the shot to start the numbing process the first few times, I just decided to see how it was without.  Not as bad as you would think.  Honestly, I think I’m just getting used to it.  It still stings like crazy, but it’s worth it to get my beauty rest.

The only real side effects I had during this preparation were weepiness (you’re welcome, Todd) and sleepiness (you’re welcome, boss).

For the final 4 weeks of FET preparation, we both participated in relaxation therapy because we can and we should.  In addition to the electromagnetic acupuncture I was doing twice a week, Todd also went with me for weekly massages or float therapy sessions.  If you haven’t heard of float therapy, you should look it up.  Basically, you float in an 80% salt water mix for 40 minutes.  It’s incredibly relaxing.

This is what the pods look like.

It’s bitter sweet that all of this is finally coming to an end.  We have been saying that God was giving us our final embaby as a Mother’s Day gift.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Shocking Treatments

I briefly mentioned before that we took the girls to Copper Mountain to ski for Spring Break.  Well, this was a strategic decision on our part.  After the one day work-up at CCRM in October, we were informed that my uterine blood flow was low.  This was the first time it had been tested on me, so we weren’t really sure what that meant.  I had sipped on a Pepsi roughly 65 hours prior to the test, so they said that may have caused the issue.  Basically, I was going to have it retested when we were there for retrieval.  However, I forgot, and they forgot.  Humans.  When I called to ask about it, they said I had 3 options:
  1. Have it retested at home for $270.
  2. Complete the treatment for $380.
  3. Have it retested at CCRM for free.  Well, that sounded absurd because it would cost more than $270 plus $380 to travel out there for the test.
So what did we do?  We traveled to CCRM for the test, of course.  We were going to take the girls on a trip anyway, so it made the decision easy for us.  This way, we knew the test would be accurate.

My ultrasound was set for Friday of Spring Break, so we had time for 3 days of skiing before we had to report for another transvaginal ultrasound.  I was very careful not to drink any caffeine the week of the trip.  Let me rephrase.  I was very careful not to drink any Pepsi or coffee the week of the trip.  However, I did drink about 4 cups of hot chocolate, eat a couple of Snicker’s ice cream bars, and gobble up some chocolate birthday cake.
We walked into the ultrasound room at CCRM with our chests held high, knowing we were about to pass this “ultrasound with dopplers” test.  And then she dropped the bomb.  The nurse asked if I had any caffeine or chocolate in the last 72 hours.

WHAT?!

How did we forget that chocolate had caffeine?!  They had never emphasized that before.  I swear.  Educated people here.  We just don’t always show it.

She performed the test, and I failed.

Within a few days, the nurse had called to say that Dr. Schoolcraft was recommending I go ahead and complete the treatment to be extra careful, but it was ultimately up to us.  She said it was a possibility that my test failed because of my indulgence in chocolate.  Ha!  If she wants to see an indulgence….

The unfortunate part was that treatment consisted of 8 rounds of electromagnetic acupuncture over the next 4 weeks.  I did my due diligence to get recommendations and call each of them for pricing and scheduling.  Finally, I settled on Brandy Valentine Davis at Cancer Treatment Centers of America because she would only charge $380 for the 8 treatments (a steal) and could take me with minimal time away from work.

Electromagnetic acupuncture is simply described as normal acupuncture with jumper cables clipped to the needles…if you ask Todd.  J

The next two pictures are actually my back and legs with several acupuncture needles.  Only some of them are hooked up to the leads.  If needles make you woozy...well, this is your warning.

The treatments were mostly enjoyable.  There was the one time that she accidentally turned one of the leads up high very quickly when she meant to turn it off.  It felt like I was being electrocuted through a needle because I was basically being electrocuted through a needle.  She never made that mistake, again.
For the most part, I had some of the deepest naps of my life during those sessions.  It was invigorating.

Our fingers are crossed that it worked.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

*Devil Lupron*

Thank you for the love and support during National Infertility Awareness Week (#NIAW).  It was a great week!

Returning to our regularly scheduled programming…

So, after we found out on February 25 that we had one remaining embryo that was chromosomally normal, we waited patiently for our regroup with Dr. Schoolcraft on March 17!  Talk about torture. 

March 17 finally arrived, Dr. Schoolcraft called, and Todd and I were physically in the same place to take the call.  (Remember last time when we mixed up the time zones?  I swear we are educated people.)  During the call, Dr. Schoolcraft informed us that he thought we had about a 50% chance of this cycle working with our little embaby on ice.  We chose not to let that get us down.  After all, we know our God can work miracles.  Then, he confirmed that I would need to take Depot Lupron for two months before we started the frozen embryo transfer (FET) stimulation (stim) meds.  We couldn’t help but to let that get us down.

Flash back to 2012.  I took Depot Lupron for 4 months after my laparoscopy/hysteroscopy to allow my uterus to heal more quickly.  If you’re thinking, “Oh, I’ve taken Lupron to suppress my ovaries before a cycle,” you are thinking of the wrong Lupron.  This is the Lupron that Todd so cleverly coined *Devil Lupron.*  I don’t take offense because it’s true.  This Lupron rocked our world that winter.  It sends you into a state of menopause.  Hot flashes, night sweats, joint pain, mood swings…the whole gamut.

We were not quite prepared for the mood swings in 2012.  I would like to say we were better prepared for them in 2016.  However, recently I said that prometrium was my least favorite drug of all of the drugs in the world.  I’m starting to think I should retract that statement.  Maybe.  It’s amazing what you can forget over time.  I had a few bouts of unexplainable cries during this most recent two month stint, and one of them brought me to my knees in our closet searching for comfort from God.  Honestly, I can’t really think of a better place to be.

Anyhow, the hot flashes were worse this time.  They made me angry.  Looking back, it’s pretty funny, but at the time, I thought I might stab someone…preferably Dr. Schoolcraft.

Actually getting the Devil Lupron in our hands was a chore.  We priced it at two different pharmacies.  When our favorite, Walgreens Specialty, said they would have to ship it directly to the doctor for them to administer, we chose Accredo.  At first, we were told these two shots would cost a total of $2,000.  That is not a typo.  Luckily, Dr. Schoolcraft redeemed himself (from the decision to make me take this drug) by coding this as medically necessary to treat my endometriosis.  Score one for CCRM.  We were able to purchase both shots for a total of $150.  <Speechless>

The first shot came.  It was intimidating, to say the least.  Todd administered it into my rear flawlessly.  His years of practice giving me progesterone shots had paid off.  All of the symptoms began.  We survived.

See?  Intimidating.



The second shot arrived.  Todd had to give it to me while we were “Spring Breaking” in Copper Mountain with our girls.  Still a flawless administration.  The symptoms got worse.  He didn’t kill me.  Life moved on.  Simple as that.


We did run into two minor kinks after the fact.

  1. I called Accredo to pay for the second shot.  The man that answered informed me I didn’t owe the full $75.  Without questioning and getting it raised, I paid and moved on.  When I called later to pay for a drug they shipped me without my prior authorization (it was easier to keep and use than to return it), I was informed I owed $75 for the second Lupron shot.  After many, many, many calls, I realized that although my credit card statement showed a payment to Accredo for the amount he said, they had zero, nada, zilch record of me making the payment.  Shockingly, no one at Accredo wanted me to send them a copy of my statement.  I’m still bumfuzzled as to how that happened!
  2. Walgreens Specialty never canceled the order for the shot.  Now, remember that they said they wouldn’t ship it to us.  Well, when we ordered the remaining FET meds from them, we told them not to send the Lupron shot, too.  They didn’t listen.  They shipped it.  To our house.  Again, bumfuzzled. 

It has taken us three weeks to get both of these ironed out.  I’m not even sure why I’m documenting these problems except to prove that pharmacies are human.  In case you thought they were perfect, they are not.  This is proof that you should check your meds when they arrive and make sure you know what you have and the dosages.

Next time on Making Baby Provence, the downhill slope to the FET!