Saturday, February 27, 2016

Mile High Memories

My fortune just before we left
So, I left off telling you about priming for the cycle.  Well, on January 22, I had CD1, so I went in for my baseline ultrasound and blood work.  Everything looked fine with that, so we started stimulating (stim) shots on Saturday, January 23.  The start of my stim shots looked like 150IU Menopur (2 vials) in the morning and 300IU Follistim at night.  I took 50mg of Viagra 1 hour before each of these shots.  Really?!  I was surprised, too.  Apparently, it helps your body to absorb the medication.  Unfortunately, this stuff is a little pricey, and I was accidentally taking 100mg of it before each shot.  This lead to us having to purchase it two more times in Denver, and one of those times, we paid $44 for a single pill.  Seriously.

Anyway, I also had the honor of taking Dexamethasone and Clomid daily.  The Dex isn’t a big deal, but I was definitely nervous about the Clomid.  I have heard horror stories about the mood swings that medication will give you.  I’m pretty sure that God thought it would be funny to let me have a shot at Clomid since I’ve never taken it.  He thought it would be even funnier to mix it with a plethora of additional hormones.  Awesome.  I think we were both a little nervous how this would go, but I have to admit, the side effects were nothing like I expected.  My moods were pretty even keel this cycle, aside from one fit of anger about making a huge decision.  More on that later.

So, I took the all-day cocktail of Viagra, Menopur, Follistim, Clomid, and Dexamethasone for a total of 13 days.  The following Thursday, I had my first mid-cycle ultrasound and blood work.  I knew it was early, so I didn’t put much stock on the number of follicles we were measuring.

The next day, we made the trip to Colorado.  It was a great day!  We laughed and talked and no one napped.  We just enjoyed our time together.
Leaving home
We stopped at the first sign of snow to take a picture for my mom
Todd very much enjoyed the chocolate from our travel pack our best friends sent
Our view from the back porch of the condo
Proof that I cannot pack lightly.  It's impossible.
On Saturday, we had our first mid-cycle ultrasound and blood work at CCRM.  This was an experience.  They perform your ultrasound; then move you to a very small, private waiting room to talk to your nurse; then send you to have blood drawn.  On that day, we found out we were only measuring 4 follicles that seemed to be growing at a good rate.  We were a little disappointed, but we just assumed it was still pretty early.  This was only the eighth day of stims, after all.
The mecca of the infertility world
That afternoon, we went to Colorado Springs to do some sightseeing.  We went to the Garden of the Gods and the Olympic Training Center.  Both were very cool and fun things that neither of us had seen.
Garden of the Gods - The Balancing Rock
Why is Colorado so windy?!
The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs
On Sunday, they gave us a day off from appointments, so we hung out at the condo and watch 18” of snow begin to fall from the sky.  It was magnificent.  We added one more shot to the mix; Ganirelix is not a stim shot, but it keeps you from ovulating.  The only complaint on this one is that it’s a strange needle that doesn’t insert easily.
Our back patio where we did not get to eat
When Monday came, the real fun began.  We started the day with the regular ultrasound and blood work.  Fortunately, they said it appeared we were measuring one more follicle.  Unfortunately, this meant we were still only measuring five follicles.  Statistically, not great odds with our history.  We had a genetic class to teach us all about how they would perform the genetic tests on our embryos and what they were looking for.  Then, we had an individual consultation with a genetic counselor.  Seriously, we have never had this kind of information given to us.  We ended the day with a physical to make sure my body was ready for anesthesia during transfer.  I cannot stress enough how kind and enjoyable all of the staff is at CCRM.  I know I mentioned it in the last post how Dr. Schoolcraft will patiently answer all of your questions, and he must have trained his nurses because they are the exact same way.
This is proof that we did setup a home office for the two of us
to work while we were there.  You're welcome, bosses!
We left there and headed into Denver to buy more Menopur and Viagra.  We have always had to mail order my injectable medications, so it was cool to be able to pull up to a pharmacy to get them.  It was about a 30 minute drive to the pharmacy, but with Denver rush hour, we had plenty of time to discuss.
Our new pharmacy...where everybody knows
your name (after you visit 3 times in 4 days)
Tuesday, we came back to the clinic for a regroup with Dr. Schoolcraft.  Our nurse recommended it since we seemed to be disappointed in the fact that we only had five follicles growing at the right rate.  It was at this time that he informed us that he was not surprised with my response.  Unfortunately, there was literally nothing else he could do to make my body respond any better.  He had given us the “bazooka” plan.  It was the biggest and best that they only give to patients with my type of ailments and history.  He encouraged us to consider adding the two extra cycles with banking that we had discussed before.  We were absolutely distraught.  We knew we had until my retrieval to decide what to do about the extra cycles.

On Wednesday, we had our fifth round of ultrasound and blood work since this cycle started.  The nurse said we were still measuring with five follicles on track.  We left the clinic and headed into Denver for our second pick-up of injectable medication and Viagra to hopefully last us the rest of the cycle.  Later that afternoon, we drove back into Denver (because we don’t know how to do all of these things at the same time?) to see Todd’s urologist for his pre-op appointment.  Sadly for Dr. Cowan, when he walked in the room and asked how the cycle was going, I broke down into tears.  He was prepared as he quickly handed me a box of tissues and reminded us that we are in the best hands.

Thursday brought round six of ultrasound and blood work and no changed news.  We had our third trip to the Denver pharmacy for more Follistim that day too.  That evening, we were lucky enough to get to go to dinner with my childhood friend that we saw on the last trip.  This time, her little girls were with her, again, and so was her husband.  It was a great break from the all-encompassing decision of what we would do about adding more cycles.  This was the first night that I lost my marbles, though.  I was so upset that we couldn’t make a decision that I blew my lid.  Thank you, hormones.
The only picture we have ever taken of my ovaries.
You can see multiple follicles at this angle.
Before we went to bed on Thursday, we did my first two of three trigger shots.  These are the shots that cause your body to ovulate the eggs.  They have to be exactly timed, or it can mess up a whole lot of stuff.  In the past, I have only done one trigger shot.  This was the first time I was getting to do three.  Again, another change to our protocol from our past.

The next morning, we had to arrive for Todd’s retrieval.  It was pretty cool.  When you go to CCRM for surgery, they have an underground garage that’s outside of the elements for you to park.  We went through the regular pre-op stuff of getting him changed, getting his IV, and answering questions for every doctor and nurse in the building, including the all-loving Dr. Cowan.  Once Todd was in surgery, I went down for a final blood draw to make sure my body had properly absorbed the trigger shots.  When Dr. Cowan came out from surgery and gave me a good report, I actually stood up to shake his hand.  Instead, we somehow hugged, and it was reassuring to know we had a doctor that we felt cared so much about our case.  I was finally able to go back and see Todd, and he didn’t disappoint.  Todd on Propophol is always an enjoyment.  We made it home that day just in time for me to take my third and final trigger and for both of us to get some rest.
Todd's personal belonging box at his surgery.  He was proud of his shirt.
He's so romantic!
Pre-Op...a little nervous
Post-Op...not a care in the world
Making a homemade ice pack requires a Target sack, a ladle, and some patience.
Saturday was the day of truth.  We headed to CCRM knowing we still didn’t have our decision made.  We had just decided to “wing it.”  The retrieval order was just like Todd’s, only this time, they didn’t make him go out into a waiting room when I went into surgery.  Instead, he was able to go to my post-op room, sit in a recliner, and was brought ice packs and warm blankets.  Livin’ like a king!  A while after retrieval was complete, an embryologist came out to talk to us and tell us that they had retrieved 11 eggs.  Now, this may sound like a massive miracle, but we knew they would retrieve more eggs than we had anticipated.  The real question was how many were mature.  At that point, we were supposed to make a decision on the extra cycles, and I know the embryologist could tell we were still torn.  She asked if we would like for her to call us when they knew the maturity, and we were so relieved.  That would give us a much better picture of what we were dealing with.  We loaded up and headed back to the condo for more rest.

A few hours later, the call came.  With hearts beating, we answered and listened as she politely told us that seven of the eggs were mature.  SEVEN!  Not five?!  We were told to hope for five.  Nope, our God had shown His hand and blessed us with seven mature eggs.  We were elated.  Confidently, we told her to move forward with just this one cycle.  At that moment, we knew that God was telling us to trust Him.  It would take more faith for us to stop at this one cycle than to continue adding more and more cycles.

On Super Bowl Sunday, they called to tell us that six of those mature eggs were able to be fertilized.  What a huge relief.  But now the real wait began…

Friday, February 19, 2016


We are home from Colorado!

Oh, wait.  I just jumped about 16 steps ahead of you.  I’m so sorry.  I have been absolutely delinquent, and now you have no idea of anything going on with us.  When we decided to take a break this summer from treatments, I took it a little far, I guess.  Let’s go back a few months…

We took a long, amazing weekend and went to Estes Park, Colorado.  It was the most rejuvenating weekend.  We spent a lot of time outside and really took in the beauty of the mountains and the trumpeting elk.  Let me tell you, these elk are one majestic creature…until they trumpet.  It sounds like one of those large straws that you can swing in a circle to make it whistle.  The exact same noise.  The men make it to attract the females.  Strange.  They are everywhere, though, and it’s really a sight.  We truly love Estes Park, now!  We love it so much that we took 437 pictures in 2 days.  You think I'm kidding...

We start the trip by seeing how organized my amazing husband is.  He helped me immensely by planning the logistics of transportation and lodging for us.  He even labeled his folders.  Be still my over-organized heart.
Colorado was obviously one of God's best pieces of work.  We just fell in love with Estes Park.  I cannot wait to return.
Of the many wildlife we saw walking very closely in town, my favorites were the chipmunks and elk.
And what is vacation without some selfies?!  Honestly, we were hoping to get one good enough to frame, but can you tell it's windy?
I heart wind.
We ended said amazing weekend with a 9.5 hour visit to Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.  In infertility treatment terms, that means we went to the mecca of IVF.  This clinic is in the top 5 in the nation, y’all.  We decided that we couldn’t pass up the opportunity, so we went for the longest day of procedures, labs, classes, and meetings that we have ever had.  And let me tell you, these people are thorough!

We took an IVF orientation (that we could have taught by now) and met with our nurse, Dr. Schoolcraft, the lab CCRM uses, and the business office.  I had an ultrasound with Doppler completed, which means they were able to measure the blood flow to my uterus.  Pretty cool stuff.  I had 13 vials of blood drawn, while Todd had a measly 4. J I also had to have a hysteroscopy and HSG, both of which are very uncomfortable procedures for me.

I even took proof of my blood vials and made sure to get a picture of Todd pouting before his blood draw.
Meeting Dr. Schoolcraft for the first time was an interesting feeling.  I was so nervous to talk to him.  I must admit, he’s much more down to earth than I expected.  He took plenty of time to answer our questions, and he answered them in a way that made sense to us.

Then, we were off to meet Todd’s urologist, Dr. Cowan.  Don’t forget that name because if you or your spouse ever need an urologist, you should strongly consider flying to Colorado for this one.  Seriously, it’s been discussed.  There is something about this man.  We have met urologists before.  Four to be exact.  Number 5 was our guy, though.  Dr. Cowan is one of those guys you would like to invite over for dinner.  He has this wonderfully quirky style about him.  I actually hugged him at one point, but that’s a story for later.

And because we needed to entertain ourselves while at the doctor, more selfies.  I swear, we aren't this self-involved.  It was really funny to us.
We wrapped up the weekend by having dinner with a friend that I have known since kindergarten and her two daughters.  We had actually not seen each other since high school, but when she saw we were headed to town, she invited us out.  She’s that sweet.  It was great to catch up.  Plus, her two daughters were conceived via infertility treatments, so she just gets it.

As you can tell, our first trip to Lone Tree, Colorado, for our one-day workup (ODWU) was a success. 

I was permitted to be a part of a study at CCRM for our cycle.  In order to participate, I was required to take 3 acai supplements daily.  They sent the supplements to me, and I started them at the end of October.  This was one of the first changes to our protocol that Dr. Schoolcraft made.

When we left there, we were told it would take about a month for all of the test results to be complete and for Dr. Schoolcraft to call with our plan of attack.  On November 9, we set a plan to have Todd come to my office to take a conference call with me to hear what the great doctor had to say.  Unfortunately, I miscalculated the time zone differences, and Todd missed the call.  L  The short of it was that he said that if we are not ready to move on to egg donors, we should consider his Family Building Plan (FBP).  Unfortunately, the FBP could take up to a year and was out of the budget we were willing to spend at this point. 

I make that decision sound so easy, but it literally took us over a month of tears and prayers and analyzing to come to our conclusion.  We informed our nurse that we would be moving forward with a single cycle.  We had no idea what this decision would mean in the near future.

We received our medication protocol and saw that I would be on testosterone, Viagra, and clomid sometime throughout this cycle.  Todd said to me, “You’re going to be horny, hairy, and cranky.  That’s one heck of a trifecta!”  JJJ

On Christmas day, I started testosterone gel (which later changed to patches) and estrogen pills (called Estrace).  I fully expected to feel changes from the testosterone, but there was nothing!  On cycle day 16 (CD16 for you TTC enthusiasts), I added Prometrium tabs twice a day.  This was hands down my least favorite drug I have taken in all of my six IVF cycles.  I would rather have progesterone-in-oil shots (the ones that hurt the worst) every day for those 10 days than to have to take that medication.  It was just gross.  That’s all I will say.

I did these medications until my cycle came in January.  This was considered my “priming” month.  I have never had a priming month before.  I basically just took birth control pills before we started a cycle, so we were very excited to have so many new drugs on our protocol.  There were blood draws at the beginning and halfway through the month to make sure I was absorbing the medication.  Otherwise, it was pretty status quo.  My moods were not too terribly different.  It was a successful start to our final cycle.

I will try to write soon about the rest of the cycle.  I just don’t like having such long entries, as it is. 

Happy Weekend!