Saturday, April 30, 2016


As I have mentioned…a few times…this week is National Infertility Awareness Week (#NIAW).  The theme is #startasking.  This theme gives me so many feels.

As I mentioned in the previous post, I wish more friends and family would #startasking about our journey.  I know people fear that it will upset me.  I’m going to be honest, I might cry when I tell you about it.  However, it feels good to talk about it.  The thing is, some infertiles, i.e. Me, fear that talking about it too much will turn people away.  We are afraid you will start to look at us and think that all we talk about is infertility.  It’s like when your friend decides to sign-up for a Multi-Level Marketing company and you stop answering her calls.  You know what I’m talking about.

When someone asks me about our journey, it makes me feel less alone.

All of that is to say, don’t be afraid to #startasking me or your friend or your co-worker who is infertile how they are doing.  Ask them what the next step is for them.  Ask them if there is anything you can do to better support them.  Take time to invite them to coffee or a pedicure and learn about their struggle.  (I’m not saying you have to buy.)  But for the love, #STOPasking why they don’t “just adopt” or tell them to “just relax.” J

The real reason this theme gives me so many feels is…Jesus.  It was just over two years ago that I stood in the parking lot of a CVS in Dallas with Todd and told him that I was doubting my faith.  That’s really hard to admit publicly.  However, it was that moment that truly changed the trajectory of our journey.  Like an arrow that has to be pulled back in order to be launched forward, I was at the deepest part of that pull.

The following Sunday, we immediately found a church, began attending regularly, and joined a life group for blended families.  Within two months, we were serving as door greeters and in the children’s ministry.  Before I knew it, we were attending a weekend seminar on finding your God-given purpose in life.  Two months after that, I had the first meeting for Infertile Myrtles.  Very quickly, my arrow had been released from the Devil’s grasp and was starting its forward momentum.  I wasn’t signing up to become religious.  I was hopping on board for a personal relationship with God. 

Within the last two years, I learned something I had heard but never truly understood before.  When days are tough, it’s time to #startasking Jesus for help.  I believe I didn't understand it before because my life was pretty easy for the first 30+ years.  Then, the attack started, and I realized I couldn’t fight this battle alone.  Even Todd’s support, which is solid, wasn’t enough.

I have learned that when I don’t know the answer, or when the next step seems too big to decide on our own, it’s time to #startasking Jesus for guidance.

I have learned that when I start to feel envy of the mommies around me, it's time to #startasking Jesus for a softened heart.

I have learned that when I feel that relationship with a friend starting to slip away, it’s time to #startasking Jesus for restoration.

I have learned that when I feel like I can’t go another day down this path, it’s time to #startasking Jesus for patience.
I have learned that when I start to doubt if we will ever be parents, it’s time to #startasking Jesus for hope.

I have learned that when I feel all-consumed by our situation, it’s time to #startasking Jesus for peace.

Like I said, I don’t consider myself a religious person.  I consider myself to be in a relationship with Jesus.  He is my strength and my hope for our future.  I trust Him to stay by our sides for all of our days.  I have confidence that no matter where this path leads us, He will never forsake us.
All I had to do was #startasking Him to be a part of my life.
I actually took this picture at our favorite lake in Skiatook, Oklahoma.
God is such an artist.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Our TTC Story

This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (#NIAW).  I absolutely love this week because all of the bloggers come together to write about the same topic.  This year, the theme is #startasking. 

This is a great theme because I have had a few friends that have said, “I had no idea you did this,” or “When did you go through that?”  Also, I have had friends tell me they were afraid to ask too many questions for fear of annoying me.  Therefore, I would like to say that Todd and I are open books.  There are few things we do not share.  However, if there is something we are keeping quiet, I won’t be afraid to tell you.  In order to know more of my story or any other infertile’s story, all you have to do is #startasking.  If you know we are infertile, chances are that it’s healing for us to answer questions.  All questions.  It not only makes us feel like you care, but it helps us feel less alone on a very isolating road.  (More on this tomorrow.)

That being said, I decided to do an overview on our journey from the beginning until today.  It won’t be short because our journey hasn’t been short.  I have never really put our entire story in one place, so here goes.  I have even added links to where each part of the journey starts on the blog in case anyone is interested in jumping back to something particular to read more detail.
This is what we used to look like know, life.

Todd has 3 children from a previous marriage.  After the last one was born, they decided he should have a vasectomy.  Fast forward 10+ years…

March 2010:  We got married and immediately became serious about our next steps to grow our family.  We had already researched urologists, but we weren’t sure if that was the direction we should go.

October 2010:  We went to Tulsa Fertility Center (TFC) to meet Dr. Prough about IVF.  The meeting did not go well, and we left there feeling uneasy.  We also met Dr. Steve Miller (who plays Steve Miller Band music during surgery – no lie), and decided that a vasectomy reversal was our way to go.  Spoiler alert:  What a waste…for us.

May 2011:  Todd’s vasectomy reversal.

August 2011, November 2011, February 2012, May 2012:  Negative tests for sperm in Todd’ hem…specimen.  We were told it was time to pursue IVF or adoption if we wanted to grow our family.

IVF Cycles 1 and 2 – Dr. Clark Bundren
July 2012:  We met Dr. Bundren.  He promptly scheduled me for a laparascopy and hysteroscopy.

August 2012:  Laparscopy and hysteroscopy where I was diagnosed with stage 3 endometriosis and a uterine septum.  He fixed both of those during the surgery.

August 2012 – January 2013:  Depot Lupron…aka Devil Lupron, if you ask Todd.  Hot flashes, night sweats, depression…oh my!

April 2013 – May 2013:  IVF Cycle 1.
  • Eggs Retrieved = 9
  • Todd had MESA procedure performed by urologist.
  • Fertilized = 6
  • Transferred = 2 on day 5
  • Ended in biochemical pregnancy around 5 ½ weeks

November 2013:  IVF Cycle 2.
  • Eggs Retrieved = 12
  • Mature eggs = 8
  • We used frozen sperm, which turned out to be a very, very bad idea because of the way it was retrieved and the immaturity of the sperm.
  • Fertilized = 8
  • Transferred = 3 on day 3
  • BFN (Big Fat Negative)

We were devastated.  I can still remember having to go in to talk to Dr. Bundren to get the results (which is abnormal) and getting to the lobby to sob into Todd’s chest.  That was one of the hardest cries I have ever had in my life.

January 2014:  Interviewed a doctor in Dallas, Dr. Douglas.  This is when my faith began to change.  I can still remember the day.  Also interviewed Dr. McKinney at TFC.  It went much better than our first encounter with TFC.  We decided to move forward with Dr. McKinney.  I have to make a quick statement to say that I am so glad we did.  She’s become one of our all-time favorite doctors.  She has cried with us, laughed with us, and spent many hours talking us through our options.

At this point, we had three doctors telling us our problem was 1) Todd's sperm, 2) my eggs, or 3) Todd's sperm and my eggs.  Literally, each doctor disagreed on our diagnosis.

May 13, 2014:  The inaugural meeting of Infertile Myrtles, my support group and LifeGroup begun to support women struggling with fertility challenges.

IVF Cycles 3 and 4 – Dr. Shauna McKinney, Tulsa Fertility Center (TFC)
September 2014:  IVF Cycle 3.  This is the cycle where we started using Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD), commonly known as genetic testing.  It was performed on day 3, so the results were received before transfer on day 5.  Also, Dr. McKinney put me on the maximum amount of stimulating medication (stim shots) that she legally could.  We found out around this time that I had Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR).
  • Eggs Retrieved = 6
  • Mature eggs = 5
  • Todd had epididymal aspiration performed by Dr. Prough (the one we didn’t love on our first visit).  Turns out, we really do like him.
  • Fertilized = 2
  • Genetically tested = 1 (1 was too deteriorated to test)
  • Chromosomally normal = 0
  • Transferred = 0

I was not prepared to have nothing to transfer.

November 2014:  IVF Cycle 4.  We refer to this as “The Good Cycle.”
  • Eggs Retrieved = 9
  • Mature eggs = 8
  • Todd had epididymal aspiration performed by Dr. Prough.
  • Fertilized = 7
  • Genetically tested = 7
  • Chromosomally normal = 2
  • Transferred = 2
  • BFP!!!  (Big Fat Positive)
  • Blighted ovum miscarriage L

We found out around 8 weeks that we would miscarry, and it took until 11 weeks to start.  I won’t even go into what that miscarriage was like.  I have said it before, though.

February 2015 –April 2015:  I had said from the beginning of our IVF journey that we could not quit IVF until we tried Dr. Ahlering in St. Louis.  I had heard really great things about him.  We had a chance to meet him in person, and I loved him.  I knew he would be our next doctor.

I went to see the doctor that would monitor me in Tulsa for my cycle with Dr. Ahlering.  He found that my miscarriage had not completely finished.  Basically, I understood that I had tissue left in my uterus.  We scheduled a hysteroscopy and D&C.

IVF Cycle 5 – Dr. Peter Ahlering, Missouri Center for Reproductive Medicine (MCRM)
May 2015:  IVF Cycle 5.
  • Eggs Retrieved = 7
  • Mature eggs = 5
  • Todd had TESE procedure performed by urologist.
  • Fertilized = 6
  • Transferred = 0

This was just a mess of a cycle.  I don’t even need to go into it all again.  It was a lot of unfortunate incidents coming together to rock my world. J

August 2015:  Ovarian cyst found.  I do not have cystic ovaries, despite being told I did when I was just out of college, but occasionally, this happens to a woman.  The problem is, it pushed back everything we were planning to do next.

IVF Cycle 6 – Dr. William Schoolcraft, Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine (CCRM)
October 2015:  After many months of waiting for the cyst situation to fix itself, we headed to Colorado for a One Day Workup (ODWU) at the well-renowned office of Dr. Schoolcraft.
December 2015 – January 2016:  IVF Cycle 6.  Retrieval only.  Dr. Schoolcraft put me on Clomid, Testosterone, and Viagra during this cycle, which was so strange and new.  We loved the idea that he was trying new things.
  • Eggs Retrieved = 11
  • Mature eggs = 7
  • Todd had MESE procedure performed by urologist.  Um, here is another doctor we love.  Dr. Cowan, the urologist.  If we ever need a urologist, we plan to fly to Denver for this guy.  He’s that good.
  • Fertilized = 6
  • Genetically tested & frozen = 3
  • Chromosomally normal = 1

Dr. Schoolcraft does Comprehensive Chromosome Screening (CCS) for his genetic testing.  It’s performed when the embryo makes it to blastocyst stage (usually on day 5), so the embryos have to be frozen until the results are received.

February 2016 – March 2016:  Devil Lupron…again.  The shame!

April 2016:  Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) meds started.

That brings you up to date.

So, to sum it all up:
  • Failed vasectomy reversal
  • 6 surgeries for Todd
  • Stage 3 endometriosis & diminished ovarian reserve
  • 6 IVF cycles
  • 6 egg retrievals
  • 54 eggs retrieved
  • 35 embryos made
  • 3 embryo transfers - 7 embryos transferred
  • 1 embryo transfer on the way - 1 embryo to transfer
  • 4 doctors
  • 3 states
  • 4 cities
  • 2 miscarriages
  • 6 total months on Depot Lupron (It's that important to mention.)
  • Hundreds of shots
  • I’m not even going to say how much money we have spent.  (Insurance covers nothing for us except for the occasional patch or antibiotic.)
  • More acupuncture and massage than I can remember.
  • Loads of love!

In the end, what we have to show for all of this is 1 frozen embryo waiting for us to bring them home, a better understanding of how we handle crises, a stronger marriage, and a deeper relationship with our Lord.  We have had days overflowing with joy and days full of sorrow.  We wouldn’t change a thing.  God has blessed us in ways we could have never imagined.  No matter what the future holds, we know He will be with us to the end.
I hope that answers any lingering questions anyone might have.  Basically, I just summed up the last 3 ½ years of blogging in one really. long. entry.  If there is anything I left out, please don’t be afraid to #startasking.

Today, I am participating in a blog link-up with Caroline, at In Due Time.  Can you tell I really like her blog?

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What We Want You to Know about Infertility

Please, pardon the break in the show (the long version of cycle 6) while we take a minute to acknowledge what week it is.
It’s National Infertility Awareness Week!  #NIAW!  I love this week because so many bloggers really pour their hearts and souls into great entries.  This week’s theme is #StartAsking.  I had the opportunity to participate in a blog entry for a dear friend of mine.  Caroline blogs at In Due Time.  Her entries inspire and comfort me.  If you are not already following her, well what are you waiting on?!
I am very excited to be a part of her entry today called “What We Want You to Know about Infertility.”  My statement was:
Infertility is a couple’s struggle. Men seem stoic and strong, but they hurt inside, too. There are always two people on this journey.
Men do not get enough credit for the feelings they have on this journey.  I have said it before, but our husbands deserve capes.
I love you, Todd.
And on a side note, we were supposed to have an Infertile Myrtles Sprinkle (our form of a baby shower) at our house last night.  However, the threat of storms postponed it a week.  Therefore, Todd asked me to cut his hair.  Keep in mind that I have never cut anyone’s hair aside from the three times I trimmed my own bangs.  For the record, I fired myself after said bang cuts.  #beautyschooldropout
Just to prove that I didn't do such a bad job, he sent me this most adorable selfie.  Man, I married a hottie!

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Real Truth

In the last entry, I explained how we found out we had three embryos that had made it to blastocyst stage.  Therefore, they were biopsied for genetic testing and frozen.  (I should mention that this type of genetic testing was much different than what we had done before.  At TFC, our embabies were biopsied on day 3, and results were received before a transfer on day 5.  At CCRM, our embabies were not biopsied until they reached the blastocyst stage on day 5, 6, or 7, – days 6 & 7 for us – so we didn't receive the results until weeks later.  Hence the reason we chose a frozen transfer this time instead of a fresh transfer.  But I digress...)

Well, one day shy of two weeks later (nothing in infertility happens that fast), we received the call.  However, I didn’t have my phone on me at work.  Are you kidding?!  I sat back down at my desk – and phone – and didn’t even check to see that I had a missed call.  Several minutes later, Dr. Schoolcraft’s office called.  I was so excited.  I answered to hear the scheduler tell me that I needed to set a meeting for a regroup with Dr. Schoolcraft.  Now, keep in mind that I had no idea the nurse had already called with the genetic test results.  I immediately started quizzing her. 

“Is this good news or bad news?” 
“Does he always do a regroup with patients that have chromosomally normal embryos?”
“Would he be doing a regroup with us if there were no embryos left?”
“When will I hear something?!”

As you can imagine, she was very confused and told me the nurse should be contacting me soon. 

“Soon?!  How soon?”

I hung up the phone and went to call Todd when I realized there was a missed call and voicemail from CCRM.  My heart stopped, and I’m pretty sure I stopped breathing, as well.  We had been so nervous that none of the embryos would be chromosomally normal.  I checked the voicemail and found our nurse telling me that she had the results and to call her when I had a moment to speak.

“Phone tag?!  She wants to play phone tag at a time like this?  Was she a sadist?”

I called her direct line, and left her a message.  I called the nurse’s line, and left her a message.  I called the front desk and asked them to walk to the back and hand her a phone.  They didn’t.  I know, it was a surprise to me, too.  Instead, they returned to tell me she was with a patient and would return my call soon.

“Soon?!  How soon?”

I waited, and I waited, and I waited, and I waited.  It was the longest few hours of my life.  I couldn’t believe she didn’t want to give me these results as bad as I wanted to hear them.  Maybe she thought "that’s what you get for not taking your phone to the restroom."

Finally, she called back.  And confirmed all of our fears.  We do make a lot of chromosomally abnormal embryos, but we also make a small percentage of normal embryos.  Out of our three embryos that were biopsied and frozen, we had one embryo remaining.  One more shot with one more embryo to make one more baby.

I was overwhelmed with relief and disappointment.  I tend to have those mixed emotions a lot on this journey.  We could finally breathe, knowing it wasn’t all over just yet.  It was if God was telling us that we were silly to ever worry.  Of course He was always in control.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Blasting Babies

Another excellent fortune we received when we returned from Colorado.
It’s been a while since I have written, which I am guessing is becoming nothing new to my readers.  I apologize for being absent.  Two of my doctors have been encouraging me to make more time for all of the things that make me happy, so I’m working on fitting writing back into my schedule.

In my last entry, I left off by telling you that we had six of our mature eggs that fertilized.  We were elated.  The next day, we left Colorado feeling confident with our decision to only continue with this lone cycle.  It was a rough drive home.  Todd and I were both having a considerable amount of pain, so we broke the drive into two days.

Once we were home, settled, and back into our daily routine, we only had a day to wait until we *hopefully* started receiving news from the doctor.  We hoped to hear from them on Thursday, which was considered Day 5 of embryo growth.  This is the best day for the embabies to make it to the blastocyst stage (called “blast” for short) where they can be biopsied for genetic testing and frozen.  Anything past Thursday means they are showing signs of weakness, so to speak.  Thursday came, and Thursday passed.

On Friday, February 12, Todd came to pick me up for lunch.  It was my 35th birthday, so he was taking me out for a special treat of sushi.  Yum!  We knew we should be expecting hoped we would receive a call some time that day because it was now Day 6.  Just as we wrapped up lunch and received the copy of our bill to sign, my phone rang.  Our hearts stopped.  I quickly picked up the phone and headed for the exit as I answered.  I listened intently as the embryologist explained to me that three embryos were still alive.  One had blasted that day and would be biopsied for genetic testing and frozen.  The two others were still being watched until the next day, Day 7.  I asked as many questions as I could think at the time, hung up the phone, and climbed in the car with Todd.  And that’s where I cried.  One of our babies had finally achieved the level we needed, but it was a day later than we had hoped.  The chances of the other two making it until tomorrow seemed very grim.

It was there in the front seat of our car on a cute little street in downtown Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, on my 35th birthday that I felt my dream starting to slip away for good.  I cried on and off for the remainder of the workday when no one was around.

The next day, on Day 7, we were doing our best to pay attention at a marriage conference, which we coined our “Continuous Improvement Weekend.”  In the middle of a session, my phone rang, and Todd and I both darted out of the ballroom to the lobby as quickly as we could.  Again, I listened patiently as the embryologist began to explain that we no longer had to wait.  All three of our embabies had blasted, been biopsied, and frozen.  I couldn’t believe it.  Todd couldn’t believe it.  Here we were expecting to only have one embryo, and God reminded us that we needed to have a little more faith in Him. 

Three embabies.  Still alive.  Still fighting for a chance to be our baby.
Continuous Improvement Weekend selfie
After some discussion, we realized that if we had been told nothing on Friday and found out on Saturday that only three of the six survived, we would have been so distraught.  Instead, since we thought on Friday that we would only have one, we were elated at the news of actually having three.  It’s funny how God works like that.
At that point, we were given another wait.  We were told that they could call within 3 weeks with our genetic test results.  However, another friend of ours that was at CCRM received her call at 4 weeks.  Therefore, we told everyone we knew not to expect any information for 4 weeks.

I promise to try not to make you wait another 4 weeks to find out what happened next.  J
Just a little funny