Friday, June 26, 2015

“Have you ever considered adoption?”

"Have you ever considered adoption?"
  
Adoption?  What is that?!
 
No, in all seriousness, yes.  We have considered adoption.
 
We have also considered natural conception,
Clomid,
Femara,
timed-intercourse/medicated cycles,
IUI,
IVF,
natural-cycle IVF, and
mini-IVF (is there a difference in these last two?).
 
We have eaten a clean diet,
tried the PCOS diet, and
juiced.
 
We did acupuncture,
massages, and
yoga.
 
We have taken Metformin,
Pregnitude,
fish oil,
Co-Q10,
pre-natal vitamins, and
folic acid.  (In all reality, we have been swallowing over 20 pills a day since we started down this road.)
 
Would you like your first 28 shots in the thigh or
the stomach because the following 63 shots will be in your rear.
 
Or if you’re lucky and your doctor doesn’t make you take the Progesterone shots in the rear, do you want
patches or
suppositories?
 
Speaking of, do you want Estrogen as a shot,
cream, or
patch?
 
Do you want ICSI/IMSI/PICSI or
petri-dish fertilization?
 
One embryo,
two embryos, or
three embryos at transfer?
 
We have looked into egg donors,
sperm donors, and
embryo donations.
 
Did you know you can get eggs and/or sperm from a known donor or
unknown donor?
 
Let’s not even mention the eye color, hair color, race, religion, intelligence level, sexual orientation, or 183 other options on those sperm and egg donors that you have to make.
 
Genetic testing or
luck of the draw?
 
Do you want updates via phone or
email?
 
(Don’t even get me going on what happens if you miscarry.  You can have your miscarriage in the form of natural,
chemical D&C, or
surgical D&C.)
 
We have researched fostering,
adopting, and
foster-to-adopt.
 
We realize you can adopt domestically or
internationally.
 
You can get an Indian baby (because we are) or
a non-Indian baby (because we don’t look like we are).
 
There are the open adoption or
closed adoption decisions.
 
In many of these cases, do you want a boy or
a girl?
 
Are you set on a baby, or
would you like an older child?
 
By the way, don’t forget you need to pay for this.  Will you borrow,
fundraise,
finance, or
pay cash?
 
Whew, my brain hurts.
 
So, have we considered adoption?  Yes, amongst a few other things.  It’s just not that easy.  “Just relax,” though – we’ve got this under control.
 
Oh, and biology PSA coming to you – adoption isn’t what people do to get pregnant.
 
These are just some of the decisions that someone with this disease will face.  Some of us will have additional decisions; some of us will not have to face all of these decisions.  I can promise, though, that all of us have, at one time or another, considered adoption.
 
Anyone else ever notice that infertility can feel like a Chinese food buffet with all of the options laid out before you?…and many of them are unclear as to what they really are?!


*************************
 
I am doing a link-up with Lisa at Amateur Nester for this blog entry.  Go check-out her blog if you’re in the mood to be encouraged.  If you don’t like being encouraged, well…I’m sorry.  J

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

IVF Cycle 5 – Shot Count

It may seem strange that I always like to post my shot counts on my blog.  However, if you have ever had a consult with a new RE, you know that one of their favorite questions pertains to what kind of shot protocol you have done in the past and the results of those cycles.  Therefore, I use my blog to review my shots before said consultations.  Plus, isn’t it nice to be able to appreciate how many shots an IVF patient endures each cycle?!  J
 
For the record, cycles are easier on the shot protocol when they stop right after retrieval.  J  Leaving out Progesterone is nothing short of a blessing from God.
1.       5/4 evening – Gonal-F 450IU
2.       5/5 evening – Gonal-F 450IU
3.       5/6 evening – Gonal-F 450IU
4.       5/7 evening – Gonal-F 375IU
5.       5/8 evening – Gonal-F 375IU
6.       5/8 evening – Menopur 75IU
7.       5/9 morning – Ganirelix 250mcg
8.       5/9 evening – Gonal-F 450IU
9.       5/10 morning – Ganirelix 250mcg
10.   5/10 evening – Gonal-F 375IU
11.   5/10 evening – Menopur 75IU
12.   5/11 morning – Ganirelix 250mcg
13.   5/11 evening – Gonal-F 300IU
14.   5/11 evening – Menopur 75IU
15.   5/12 morning – Ganirelix 250mcg
16.   5/12 evening – Gonal-F 300IU
17.   5/13 morning – Ganirelix 250mcg
18.   5/13 evening – Gonal-F 225IU
19.   5/13 evening – Menopur 75IU
20.   5/14 morning – Ganirelix 250mcg
21.   5/15 evening – Trigger Shot!!! – Ovidrel

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

IVF Cycle 5 – Calling Colorado - Consultation with Dr. Schoolcraft

Wednesday, June 10, 2015
First of all, happy birthday to my dad and my multiple friends with birthdays today!

Yesterday, I received an email from Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.  That’s where Dr. Schoolcraft works.  They said that Todd and I had officially completed our registration information and were set for our consult with Dr. Schoolcraft on July 7.  Then, as I was reading through one of the 35 pages of information they had sent me (I’m not kidding, y’all), I saw a note where it said that once you had completed steps 1 and 2 of registration, you could be put on a cancellation list for a potential earlier consult.  I checked my notes, and sure enough, we had completed steps 1 and 2.  I dropped them a quick reply to put us on the cancellation list, and in a matter of minutes, I received a call saying he had a cancellation for last night.  I was ecstatic!  I called Todd.  We agreed we could make it work, and we set the appointment.

Soooo, we talked to Dr. Schoolcraft last night.  Oh, I was nervous.  I have had these consults so many times, and I still get nervous about all of them.  I worry that we will constantly try to talk over each other since we are on speaker phone.  I worry that I will forget to ask questions.  I worry that I won’t have the right information prepared.  And I love it!  Every time we have a new call, we get new information and new hope.  He didn’t disappoint last night, either!

Dr. Schoolcraft talked us through our previous cycles.  Then, he said he would be willing to let us cycle with my eggs.  Yay!  He, also, said that if we are going to consider donors at some point, he thinks an egg donor will be the answer.  I specifically asked him why he didn’t think we needed to replace the sperm, and he said that with Todd’s history of conceiving 3 children, his sperm should be fine.  I even asked if the vasectomy being so long ago could cause the sperm to deteriorate, and he said it wasn’t an issue.  Y’all, you cannot understand the relief this gives us!  Each time I tell the story, I tear-up.  Once again, God has come through for us!  We are willing to move on and discuss an egg donor at some point.  Moving on and discussing a sperm donor is a much trickier subject!  It’s complicated.

We have a lot of work to do before we can go see them.  I have to gather records from 2 different doctors, which is not as simple as just calling and requesting the records.  There are several other details that have to be worked out before that can happen.  Anyway, we are discussing and praying about if this is the direction we want to continue to head.  If so, at some point, we will head to Colorado for a day of testing, meetings, and a procedure for me.  Hello, dear anesthesia.  J

I am excited for this new hope.  Now, if only I can finish building my direct line to God, so I can see what He would like us to do next…

Monday, June 15, 2015

IVF Cycle 5 – Going “Home” - Consultation with Dr. McKinney

Thursday, June 4, 2015
We met with Dr. McKinney yesterday.  It was a little strange walking into their office.  I told Todd that I felt like I was going home, but to an abusive home.  They aren’t abusive people, but IVF is starting to feel a bit sadistic.

Dr. McKinney spent an hour with us.  At some point during our visit, both of her nurses found us to hug our necks.  It was nice to feel love.  I did tell Todd that I felt famous in a place I didn’t want to be famous, though.

We had to break the news that we had cheated on her with Dr. Ahlering.  Of course, she understood.  She said that if we wanted to look at other REs, she wanted us to consider Dr. Bill Schoolcraft in Colorado.  Anyone follow Giuliana Rancic?  (By the way, I love this article about her and her struggles.)  I had actually looked into Dr. Schoolcraft before we really got into IVF.  He has some of the best success rates in America, so I wanted to know if he would be an option.  At the time, I thought his prices were too high; throw in the cost to travel to Colorado last-minute, and we ruled him out.  I used to think that I wouldn’t be able to quit IVF without trying Dr. Schoolcraft.  When I learned about Dr. Ahlering last year, I changed my opinion to be that I wouldn’t be able to quit IVF without trying Dr. Ahlering.  Maybe this is God taking us full circle.  Regardless, Todd and I will do our research and discuss this option.

Dr. McKinney also suggested that if we are ready to consider moving onto donors, she would suggest we pick an egg donor and fertilize half of her eggs with Todd’s sperm and half with donor sperm.  Truthfully, our hearts are not ready to move onto donors.  If you have ever seriously faced that decision, you’ll understand how it’s not an easy one.

All in all, it was really good to see Dr. McKinney and her staff.  As much as I may joke about feeling too comfortable there, it really is nice to feel like we’re home, again.  If I had to do IVF anywhere, I would want it to be with Dr. McKinney.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

IVF Cycle 5 - WTH with Dr. Ahlering

Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Yesterday was what we lovingly call our WTH appointment.  It’s the appointment where the doctor reviews the cycle with you to see what went wrong and tell you their suggestion for moving forward.  This was our fifth WTH appointment.  So far, they are all the same.

“Well, it looks like the embryos just weren’t a good enough quality to survive.  I’m not really sure what caused that, if it was the egg or the sperm.  We can try another round with your eggs and sperm, but I would suggest starting to think about using donors.”

We always go into these appointments hoping that the doctor will say this is what caused the failure and this is what you should do next.  They never do.  The only silver lining to this appointment is that none of the doctors charge for it.

Tomorrow, we will meet with Dr. McKinney (IVF cycles 3 & 4) to see if we can get her to be more decisive on a next step.  I have my fingers crossed that she will give us a solid medical opinion. 

The problem is that I don’t believe there is a solid medical opinion to be had.  These doctors have no idea what will work.  What works for patient A does not always work for patient B even if their numbers are all the same.  Plus, none of these doctors love telling their patients that they are going to need to fork over thousands of more dollars for what is basically an experimental treatment.

Honestly?  It’s fine, though.  Miracles happen.  I believe in a God that could make me pregnant in any way he wishes.  I still struggle with worrying about these decisions we are facing, though.  I worry that I will not be comfortable with giving up on my biology.  (I know that everyone says you will never look back once you decide to use donors.  However, that’s really only something that someone who has actually decided to use a donor understands.  Stepping off that ledge still isn’t easy.)  As for the worry, I make a daily effort…sometimes multiple times each day…to give my worries over to God.  I know He can handle this.  I know He will handle this.  I know that my future will not look at all as I had dreamt because my present is already drastically different than my dreams.  However, I know that He will take care of us.

Thank you, God, for being omnipotent.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

IVF Cycle 5 - Game Over

Friday, May 22, 2015
Our cycle came to a close yesterday.  Shawnie emailed to tell me that we had lost our two remaining embryos.  I don’t really know how to describe what I felt when I read that.  I was in shock because I thought our two embabies that were left were doing pretty well.  I immediately stepped out of the office and headed towards our dreaded alley to call Todd.  Through audible sobs, I tried to tell him what had happened.  Finally, he told me to come home.  I did.  It’s devastating.

Five times we have tried this.  Sometimes, five tries wouldn’t be nearly enough.  For this, it’s more than we probably should have done.  It is probably time to throw in the towel and do something different. 

I got home to Todd yesterday, and we curled up on the couch like we always do after a failure.  Not too long after, he asked if I wanted to get out of the house.  It seemed like a great idea, so we headed for the lake.  We had our maiden voyage on our new boat.  It was a great way to kill some time and just be.
I posted these pictures today on Facebook with the caption “Maiden Voyage – I could get used to these evening boat cruises.”  I had thought about saying “When life gives you lemons, go to the lake,” but I knew people would start asking questions.  I just wasn’t ready to talk about it, yet.

It’s funny how people present themselves on social media.  Todd and I are both smiling in this picture, and it probably seemed that we were having an amazing day.  Albeit, we do love to be on the water and are thoroughly enjoying our new boat, you couldn’t see through our sunglasses that we were both holding back so much pain.  The passing of another failed cycle is another step closer to having to change the course of our dreams. 

When we made it home, Mom had dropped off a homemade strawberry-on-strawberry cake for me.  My favorite!  She’s a good mom.

This morning was hard.  I cried…a lot.  I feel kind of like I’m in a Twilight zone, and I’m not really living through all of this.  I feel numb one minute and devastated the next.  I’m just really emotionally tired.

Now, I have to pull myself together and put on a happy face for the girls.  They arrive tonight.

Friday, June 12, 2015

IVF Cycle 5 – Fertilization Report & Embaby Update

IVF Cycle 5 – Fertilization Report
Sunday, May 17, 2015
We received our fertilization report via email at 9:15am.  I was impressed with it arriving so early.  It was as follows:
We retrieved 7 Oocytes (eggs), of those 7, five were mature (M2s) and 1 was almost there (M1); 6 total. Of those 6, 2 fertilized and 4 of them did show evidence of fertilization but were slightly behind. We will continue to monitor their progress and will update you in two days (day 3).
 
In layman’s terms, this is a decent report.  Obviously, we were hoping for all 7 to fertilize, but that’s unrealistic.  What they are saying here is that 2 are doing pretty well, 4 are doing decent, and we have lost 1.  We will just pray, pray, pray for the 6 that we have remaining.
 
The trip home felt considerably longer than the trip there, and we actually made better time.  We were both exhausted and just ready to be off the road.
 
To give you an idea of what Todd has been through recently, here is his schedule for the last 2 weeks:
·         May 3-7:  Buffalo, NY work trip
·         May 8:  Frisco, TX personal trip
·         May 9:  Searcy, AR personal trip for Kaleb’s graduation
·         May 10:  We got home at 4am and were up at 7am for church.  We spent 4 hours at church, lunch at my uncle’s, and dinner at my parents’.  It was a bit exhausting.
·         May 11-14:  Austin, TX work trip
·         May 14-17:  St. Louis personal trip for IVF
 
Are you exhausted for him, yet?!  Because I am!!
 
Anyway, we did watch two sermons by Steven Furtick on the podcast app on the way home from St. Louis.  He’s an excellent pastor.  If you haven’t heard him, I promise that you’re missing out.  That man really rocks my faith-based world!
 
******************************************

IVF Cycle 5 – Embaby Update
Tuesday, May 19, 2015
I received an update on our embabies today.  Here is what it was:
We have 1x 6 (2) and a 1x 9 (2) embryos. The first number represents the cells and the second number represents the grade. We will keep an eye on them and see how they progress. You will receive another update in a couple of days.
 
After a few rounds of emails with Shawnie, I found out:
·         2 of the embabies are still growing.
·         The goal for cell division is 6-10 cells on day 3, so we fall in that range for both embabies.
·         The grading is to describe the fragmentation.  The scale is 1-5 with 1 being the best, so a grade of 2 is approximately a B.  Considering I was a straight-A student my entire life, I’m having to learn to handle receiving so many Bs and Cs in IVF.  J
·         4 of our embabies have been lost.  She wasn’t sure if they arrested or just didn’t cleave.  I don’t know what that means right now, but I don’t really want to look into it any further.
 
At first, I was so sad that we had lost 4 of the embabies.  After emailing with Shawnie, I was feeling much better about the situation.  The truth is that we only need one embryo to make it through this entire process of dividing, freezing, thawing, and transfer.
 
God can do great things with one embaby.  He can do twice as many great things with two embabies!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

IVF Cycle 5 – Egg Retrieval & Tourism

Saturday, May 16, 2015
Today was quite eventful.
Our game faces.  Much different than yesterday.
MCRM & my trusty egg socks - I always wear these on egg retrieval day!
We arrived at MCRM at 8:30am for my retrieval.
I like taking pictures of the lobbies, so I will remember what they look like.
Before the procedure started, I ran into the embryologist in the hallway.  I asked him about the embryoscope technology they have where they place the embryos inside and don’t remove them as often to view them.  It’s supposed to help maintain the quality of the embryos.  He informed me that there are only 6 spots available for each cycle in the scope and all of the spots were full for this cycle.  I was devastated.  We chose to come to Ahlering for state-of-the-art technology, and now, we were missing out on two of the major forms of state-of-the-art technology that he offered – nanoselection beads and embryoscope.  It wasn’t a pretty start to the day.  After much talk with Shawnie and Dr. Ahlering, I started feeling a little better about our cycle. 

I was taken into the procedure room.  They allowed me to wear make-up and my tshirt, which were just two things that were strangely different from Bundren & TFC.  The anesthesiologist started my IV, and I drifted into la-la land.

The first thing I remember when I awoke was that the counter on the wall was telling me we had retrieved 7 eggs.  I wasn’t surprised at all as that was the exact number I had told Todd I thought we would retrieve.

I was moved to a wheelchair and taken back to the exam room to recover.  I wasn’t allowed to lay down, and I had some of the worst nausea of my life.  I was informed by the anesthesiologist’s nurse that Dr. Ahlering had chosen to do a uterine biopsy; no wonder I had so much pain.  When I realized that Shawnie and Dr. Ahlering were too busy to speak to either of us after the retrieval, I made it my goal to get out of there and back to the hotel as fast as I could.  It was seriously unpleasant to have to sit up straight for the entire recovery.  I’m used to being allowed to lay in a hospital bed and relax.  I lied to the anesthesiologist’s nurse about not feeling nauseous or having pain, so we could be released.

Todd quickly got me back to the hotel, loaded me up with pain management, and tucked me into bed.
 
A few hours later, I awoke, and we decided we were tired of being cooped up in the hotel room. It was time to go see St. Louis. Here is the rest of our day in pictures:
The rotunda in the courthouse was beautiful!
Headed to the arch
Waiting in line to enter
This arch is amazing!

At the top of the arch
I like to think he's dreaming about our embabies that are being made while we play.

At the 360 Bar & Restaurant overlooking the Cardinals' Stadium
Headed to dinner with our Tulsa friends that are also in town for a cycle!
By the time we got back to the room and into bed, I was exhausted and considerably uncomfortable.  It was good to be back in bed!


(AFTER-THE-FACT ADDITION:  After dinner, I started having pain in my left thigh for some reason.  I later found out that there was a possibility that the Progesterone shot they gave me was administered directly into the thigh.  I was told it would be in my right buttocks, where we always give my Progesterone injections.  Regardless, that thigh hurt for days!)

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

IVF Cycle 5 - TESE (Todd’s Retrieval)

Friday, May 15, 2015
This morning was a relaxed morning for me and a nerve wracking morning for Todd.  We had a long breakfast at our hotel and took our time getting ready to arrive at Dr. Ahlering's office to meet the team for the first time in person.  I've been talking to these people for months via the phone and email.  I was excited to finally get to meet them face-to-face.

I was a little nervous for Todd, as well, because they had informed us they would not be allowing him to have general anesthesia.  I was quite frustrated with this "after the fact" change of plans, but there wasn't much we could do about it.  I gave him his Adivan and hoped it would relax him enough to make this procedure go smoothly.
Our game faces
Shawnie, our IVF coordinator that I have emailed with no less than 100 times, came to get us from the waiting room.  She took us into an exam room and told Todd to just pull his shorts down to his knees.  We were both so confused.  In the past, he has always been in a sterile surgical room, and I was never allowed in the procedure.  Not today.  As 4 others flooded into the room, I realized that I was suddenly a part of this process.  Six of us total in such a small exam room made for quite a cozy environment.  The urologist gave Todd a numbing shot, performed the procedure, and left the room to check the specimen.  Unfortunately, he returned a few minutes later to say they needed more.  They went back in for a second time and after another inspection, decided they had enough.

At some point, I asked the embryologist that was also in the room when he would be using the nanoselection beads on Todd's specimen.  (Remember, the nanoselection beads are what they throw in with the sperm when they spin them.  The bad sperm have a protein in them that attaches to the beads and causes them to sink, leaving the strongest still swimming.  We had already paid $500 for these beads for this cycle.)  Well, the embryologist informed me that we would not be using beads because all of the sperm would stick to them.  What?!  Again, last-minute information that somehow isn't passed along to us in a timely manner.  Before I paid for the beads, I was told the embryologist had approved us using them.  Frustrating, but we'll survive.

Then came the next surprise.  We needed a checkbook to pay the urologist.  I didn't have the right purse.  Todd's was at the hotel.  Luckily, the hotel was just on the other side of the highway.  I ran back over there, tore apart his briefcase, tore apart the car, and returned with no checkbook in hand.  Fortunately, we remembered that we had cash on us from Todd's most recent purchase...a boat.  That's another story for another day.  Anyway, in what looked like nothing less than a shady drug deal, I paid our urologist in multiple crisp $100 bills.  It was strange, but quite funny.
The view from our hotel parking lot to MCRM - literally across the highway
For anyone that knows me personally, you know that the change in nanobead news and the rush around town to track down a checkbook would have usually put me in a tizzy.  Not this time.  So much about my attitude and calmness has been different this cycle.  I’m loving it!

Before we left, Dr. Ahlering stopped by to shake Todd's hand and tell him he was his hero.  I felt a little star-struck since I have been talking to him on the phone for almost a year-and-a-half, and he's spoken so highly of by so many women in our situation.  I was glad we got to meet him before my retrieval tomorrow.

We grabbed lunch at a pub next to our hotel before heading in to let Todd rest, doctor's orders.  He was cracking me up with his antics.
Cleaning off the food he dropped.  Todd on Adivan is hilarious!
"Todd, what are you doing?"
"I'm having ice cream with a friend."
Then, this...
So peacefully sleeping
Around 5:30pm, he awoke and asked what time we had to be back at the doctor for my procedure.  I informed him it was tomorrow morning, and he looked at me with a very confused look.  Apparently, he thought he had slept for 14 hours!

We spent the rest of our evening in bed watching TV.  I ran back to the same pub to pick-up dinner and stopped off downstairs for more ice cream.  It's been such an awesome, relaxing day together. 

Todd is asleep right now, and I feel wide awake.  I'm excited to see how tomorrow goes.  I've been praying that we get good quality eggs.  I know we won't get very many, but we just need one embryo to make a baby.  If I was posting this realtime, I would ask for prayers.  Can't hurt to say a prayer after the fact, though.

Happy Friday!


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

IVF Cycle 5 - Travels

Thursday, May 14, 2015
Todd and I had a great day together!
 
His day started at 3am when he had to get up and head to the airport in Austin.  Mine started several hours later when I got up to go pick him up at the airport.
 
We spent some time at the airport just visiting and hugging and generally enjoying being back together after his 4 day work trip when we realized that the airlines had lost his bag...again.  He has an entire wardrobe of clothes purchased by the airlines for him on his trips.  We went downstairs to the ticket counter and back upstairs to the baggage claim office.  Within a few minutes, we realized that we had been spending our time at the wrong luggage carousel, and his suitcase had been waiting for us the entire time.  Oops! 
 
We spent the next 7 hours on the road.  The drive from Tulsa to St. Louis isn't quite that long, but we decided to make an extended stop to stretch our legs.  After all, it is often that we take road trips, but it isn't often that we get to take a road trip without a time commitment.  We pulled over at The World's Largest Gift Store and a candy store.  Both were totally worth it.
See, I didn't lie. It really is the World's Largest Gift Store.
Doesn't everyone pose while shopping for gifts for no one?
Being silly...
What do you think Dr. Ahlering would do if he walked in and found me wearing these in his stirrups?!  We shall see!
We are trying to be like the guy on the building.  See him?!
We pulled into St. Louis, made a quick stop at Walgreens to get a prescription for Todd's procedure and headed to the hotel.  We spent the rest of the night catching up on missed sleep from earlier in the day.
 
We did a lot of laughing on the trip to STL.  I'm so glad I was able to make this road trip with him!