Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thank You For Sharing Our Journey

I've decided to bring my blog about infertility to a close.

But first, I want to thank you to everyone who followed our journey, encouraged us on, and said all those prayers on our behalf. You will never know how much your support has meant to us.

There was a time when I felt completely alone. It honestly felt like we were being singled out, and were the only one's to have to walk this difficult lonely road.

Infertility is the most isolating condition around. It is a personal journey filled with heartbreak, hopelessness, and shattered dreams.

And we tend to walk this road alone. Because nobody, ever really understands unless they've been there, unless they've walked it. And even then, each journey is different, some longer and harder than others. And ultimately all end in different ways.

But we are not alone.

You have taught me that.

All of you who have come out of the woodwork, posted words of encouragement, blogged your own stories of heartbreak, and come together to support not only me, but each other, have helped me heal in ways I never thought I could. There is a whole community of women, men, and couples who suffer from infertility. And they come from all over the world.

This is a map of all the people who have visited my blog today.

And since I started this blog, I have had almost 15,000 unique visitors from:

- Every single state in the USA
- Every Province in Canada
- Jamaica
- England
- Scotland
- Ireland
- Italy
- France
- Turkey
- Ethiopia
- Kenya
- South Africa
- Saudi Arabia
- Iraq
- Thailand
- Mongolia
- Japan
- Indonesia
- Australia
- New Zealand

No. We are not alone.

And while my infertility journey is coming to an end, a whole new journey has begun for us. One that hopefully leads to two healthy, happy babies at the end of all this. But no matter how my story ends, please know that it is not the ending that matters. It is not what defines me or my journey with infertility...

It was that moment -- you know the one, the one where I was at my lowest of lows, the moment I was sure that life would not go on, the one where, dare I use one of my screenwriting terms -- it was my dark night of the soul. It was the moment, that I picked myself up, stared fear in the face, and went forward with strength, courage, and clarity. I knew what I wanted and I was going to fight for it one last time. It isn't the ending that matters, it's that moment. The moment where you realize who you are, what you want, and what you are willing to do to get it.

As a screenwriter, I can't help but liken my infertility struggle to great script. And I admit, I love a good Hollywood ending as much as the rest of you. I love it when the guy wins the race, the guy gets the girl, and everyone lives happily ever after.

But life isn't always like that.

And just like it didn't matter whether Rocky won or lost his last fight -- what mattered is that he went the distance.

You see, life torments our favorite movie characters, just as it torments us. But in the end, it is not the winning or losing that's important, it's how our favorite characters grow as people. It's about what they learn, who they become, and how they change. It's about looking inside yourself in your deepest darkest moments, and having the courage and strength to get up. The victory comes when our hero crosses the finish line, and win or lose, he comes to a place of peace and closure. Our hero doesn't always get what he wants, but he always gets what he needs. And it can come in the most unexpected forms. Our hero ultimately learns to accept the forces of life that he cannot control. And the victory finally comes when our hero looks inside himself, holds his head up with pride, and ultimately, finally, is able to smile.

And that is the best kind of ending there is.

That is the kinds of hero our classics are made of.

So my prayer for all of you, is that your story, win or lose, ends with your hands up in the air in victory. Because picking yourself off the ground, dusting yourself off, and going the distance is a victory in and of itself, and one that makes us all heros of our own stories.

And we are all heros. Strong, courageous, silent heros.

So today I declare myself an Infertility Survivor.

Because, yes, I survived it!

And that, in the end, is my greatest victory.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Graduation Day

CCRM called today with the news that I have officially graduated!

I might not get a diploma, but this graduation means more to me than anything. After years of fertility clinics, I am now being released to the care of an OBGYN! I can hardly believe the day has come. They said the heartbeats were looking great, a little slow, but that can be expected with twins, so they don't require another ultrasound before they release me. My hormone levels look great and CCRM has officially taken me off all my medication. The Zofran they gave me is lessening the morning sickness, although I'm still feeling fairly rough. But at least I am now able to eat, which is good news because these babies hadn't been getting any nutrition for a while, so it's nice to get something in my stomach for them. And me!

I doubt I'll be enjoying graduation cake tonight, but we'll certainly be celebrating.


Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Twins!!

After a whole week of barely being able to make it out of the bathroom, I wondered whether I would even be able to make my appointment today. But boy am I sure glad I did!

We couldn't believe it when we saw two sacs and the doctor measured two heartbeats! We stared at the screen in awe. Two little heartbeats flickering away. They measured 108 and 115 at 6w4d (6 weeks four days), both a little behind schedule, but both there none-the-less!

CCRM was closed for the day, so we will have to wait until tomorrow to talk to our nurse and find out what all the measurements mean and to ask about our next steps.

But in the meantime, we are just incredibly overjoyed with the news about having twins!!

And I might even get to enjoy the news tonight, as the doctor gave me a prescription to help with nausea that should be kicking in any minute now!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Sick and Tired!

Isn't it ironic that you wait and wait and wait to be pregnant, and then you finally are, but you are so sick that you can barely enjoy it?

Mind you, I'm not complaining. I'm happy to be feeling queasy all day long, because it eases my mind that this is actually working! And feeling tired gives me a great excuse to nap!

It’s less than a week to go before we go for our first ultrasound, and we are super excited, if not still a little nervous. We just want everything to be okay, to see a sac and hear a healthy strong heartbeat. I'm quite sure we are only having one, but the possibility of twins is getting us excited. The anticipation of the what we will see (or not see) on the ultrasound is both thrilling and terrifying. But it won't be long now! Either way, we will find out Monday.

On that note CCRM has started weaning me from some of my drugs, and also suggested that we find an OBGYN and schedule our first appointment. I was kind of thinking that we wouldn't be looking for OB's, until after the ultrasound, but she recommended starting now. And since we are completely clueless as to our options, we are getting started on some internet research and are thinking of visiting a few places this weekend to get a feel for things. It's all so new and exciting. We are trying not to get ahead of ourselves until the ultrasound, but it's becoming impossible at this point.

I just hope this all-day nausea eases up enough for us to enjoy the upcoming holiday food. Although I have a hunch I'll be spending most of Christmas in the bathroom (sorry moms and dads). But as long as that gets us closer to a baby, then who am I to complain.

Bring it on!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Infertility And The Holidays

I have to be honest, I've been dreading Christmas since July.

I was dreading the holiday cheer, the Christmas songs, the stores, the commercials, all the happy families celebrating the happiest holiday of the year. I was quite sure I wanted to crawl into a hole on December 1st and not come out until the New Year was over.

And now, here I am, still wrapping my head around the fact, that I can actually participate in the holiday this year. That I can actually ENJOY myself. And I'm so happy because I hated the thought of never enjoying Christmas again, which is what I was quite sure was going to happen. And now, here I am, so blessed to be here and looking forward to all the things I was dreading.

And it's not just Christmas. For people struggling with infertility, the whole year is just one holiday after another. The calendar year is something to be dreaded as you become more and more isolated and shut off from the world around you.

The year starts off easy enough...

New Years -- This is where we make all those resolutions, or in the case of an infertile, their hopes and dreams and goals for the year ahead. We tell ourselves that this is going to be our year! We are not going to face another new Year's without a child. We are going to do whatever it takes to reach our dreams this year. And we kiss, still crushed from the year prior, but with a renewed hope for the year to come. This is going to be our year -- it has to be.

Valentines Day -- Finally, a holiday that doesn't remind us of children! It's all about love. Only, we are pumped up on drugs, or so exhausted from treatments, that it's hard to enjoy. Not to mention, in the back of our minds, we know all those other couples, sitting around us, eating their dinner, have children they get to go home to. Valentine's cards to help them write out. Little hearts and chocolates to scatter around the house in anticipation of little excited faces.

March Break -- On the heels of Valentines Day comes March break. Children abound, as families pack up to enjoy a fun week together somewhere. But not you. No, you plough forward, head down, trying not to notice.

Easter -- Next comes Easter. The stores are filled with reminders of children. Everywhere you look is a reminder of what you are missing. Easter bunnies, Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts. Pretty spring children's dresses. Excited little faces and happy families are everywhere. You long to be part of an easter egg hunt of your own, but instead, you close your eyes and hope you just make it through.

Mothers Day -- As if Easter wasn't bad enough, Mother's Day is close behind. A slap in the face to infertiles everywhere. You are not a mother and you wonder if you ever will be. You do not get breakfast in bed, a hand drawn card, a hug from that sweet little child telling you they love you. It's a painful reminder of what you will never have, and what everyone around you gets so easily. It's almost too much to bear, as you watch others enjoy what you long for so badly.

Fathers Day -- Of course Father's Day is right behind. Happy children and their dads, out to brunch, playing golf, fishing, enjoying the day together. You think of your husband and what he is missing. You can't help picturing him as a father, knowing how good he would be. You imagine your own children taking his hand and hopping up on his lap, smiling up at him. Their dad. Their hero. And you can't help from thinking how robbed he is, when you see the pain on his face.

Summer Holidays -- One of the best times of year for family fun. Kids are out of school. Everywhere you look are happy families picnicking, going to the park, the beach. And you long to be one of them. The carefree days of summer are everywhere. Long weekends and camping trips. Innocent times and bonding and memories being created that will last a life time. Yet, you still cannot join in the fun.

Weddings -- Of course, what would the summer be without weddings. You watch, as other couples get married, knowing that soon, their dreams will come true, and they will be blessed with families before you. You think back to your wedding, how excited and hopeful you were for the future together. All the family plans you had, the big house, the fun family trips. And it's painful to watch it come true for everyone else but you.

Baby showers -- Invites to baby showers come fast and furious. You can't even bear to open the envelope. You shop for other peoples' children, holding back the lump in your throat, trying not to breathe, and maybe you will get through it.

Birthdays -- Next comes your birthday. But you have nothing to celebrate. It's just a painful reminder that you are another year older, another year has passed without a child. Your chances are decreasing every single day. And you can't bear to blow out your candle, yet again, and make the only wish you have been wishing. Because it still hasn't come true.

Anniversaries -- Your wedding anniversary is upon you, and it's time to celebrate your love. The one thing that keeps you going through all the pain. But unfortunately, it's also an anniversary where you both will mourn another year passing without a child. The family you haven't created.

Back to School -- Back to school has become a season these days. You look around at all the stores, all the little knapsacks, and school supplies. Your nieces and nephews are getting older. Friends children are growing up before your eyes. Life is moving forward without you. You can't help but feel like it's completely passing you by.

Halloween -- As the autumn leaves fall, families are huddled up carving pumpkins together, making candy apples, playing in the falling leaves. And Halloween rolls around quickly. Parents dress up little angels, princesses, and monsters in the cutest outfits you have ever seen. You dread the day as it grows darker, knowing that soon, happy little children will be knocking on your door, saying trick or treat. And you will barely be able to keep yourself from crying. You think about everything you are missing. You long to be taking your own children out from house to house. And you end the night, a puddle on the floor, sobbing your eyes out, wishing you could hide away forever.

Thanksgiving -- The season of family is officially upon you. Happy families get together to share turkey and rejoice in all that they have to be thankful for. Just the thought of another holiday where you still don't have your own family to share it with, tortures you beyond belief. You have a hard time thinking of anything to be thankful for, let alone, sharing the holiday with family and friends who have everything you want. Everyone has a family except for you, and the pain cuts so deep you don't think you will survive it.

Christmas -- The holiday season is upon you in no time. The pinnacle of holidays is finally here. Christmas is the motherload, the holiday of all holidays. The one you have been dreading all year. For it is the season of children and dreams and families and miracles. For everyone but you. Little stocking hanging from the fireplace, ornaments on the tree, hopes of Santa, snowmen on front lawns, Christmas parades, hot chocolate, cold little toes and noses and happy laughter fills the air. The stores bellow out Christmas music. Commercials celebrate families and children. Movies are filled with the magic of family. Christmas lights and Santa sleighs, and nativity scenes are everywhere. Christmas cards arrive in the mail, all those happy smiling family pictures and updates from friends and families. The magic of the season is everywhere, all around you, suffocating you, choking you to death. The pain has never been so great, so real, and so deep. You envy everyone you see. You can barely venture out your front door. It is the happiest season of all, a season you once loved, a season you wonder if you will ever love again. A season that now pulls you under with such grief that you are sure you will die. But you don't die. You survive. As you brace yourself for the upcoming New Year and the whole new calendar that comes with it.

But now, suddenly, my luck has changed.

And here I am. Free to once again to enjoy the holidays. Free once again to believe in miracles. Free to shop, watch movies, visit families, bake cookies, decorate the tree. I don't have to hide away trying to avoid everyone and anyone with children and families. I still can't believe I'm actually free to join the world of holiday fun. We have never felt so blessed. So thankful. So happy.

This is everything we have ever wanted, our miracle has finally come true. And we plan on enjoying every single second.

But my heart goes out to all of you who have not been so lucky this year, to those of you still struggling, and hiding, and not able to join in the fun with the rest of the world. I know all too well what a lonely and isolating and heartbreaking time of year this is. And I'm sorry for anyone who has to go through it. I will say a prayer that the New Year brings with it all your hopes and dreams. That your prayers will finally be answered. And that, next year, you will be celebrating the miracle of the holiday season too.

Friday, December 5, 2008

BFP -- What Finally Made the Difference?

Sorry for the lengthy post, but...

I wanted to share my thoughts, for those of you wondering about your own failed cycles, and searching for anything that might help.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to say for sure what actually made the difference this time, but I do have some opinions:

CCRM - First and foremost, I truly have the magic of CCRM and Dr. Schoolcraft to thank. We did a lot of research and CCRM clearly had the best stats, and even though it was expensive and included the added stress of travelling during a cycle, I can say with 100% certainly, that it was worth every single penny! Unfortunately, even with the best stats and the worlds leading IVF doctors, there are still many people who fail at CCRM. It is certainly not the magic bullet for everyone, and if the stats are 65% success rates, that still means, 35% of people are failing. But I strongly believe that putting ourselves in the care of cutting edge doctors and lab certainly made the difference for us. We would have most certainly failed our last cycle, had we stayed with our local clinic. And not because they aren't good, they are the best clinic in the Northwest and among the clinics with a 50% success rate. They are well respected and certainly many many people succeed with them. But I know that we would not have, and for us CCRM was the biggest factor of all in our BFP success. I would tell anyone who is faced with the sad reality of knowing that this is their final IVF cycle, to run, not walk, straight to CCRM. I would not be a success story without them.

THE LAB - What can I say about the amazing CCRM lab that hasn't already been said?! Their lab is cutting edge using leading edge equipment and techniques. They are capable of doing CGH, they are experts at ICSI, they can do assisted hatching on embryos as late in development as early blasts, they can remove fragmentation from embryos, they developed the culture to grow embryos to blasts, they vitrify embryos, the list goes on, and they are on the leading edge on any new technique out there. Before we went to CCRM none of our embryos ever made it to blast. Not one. But CCRM was the reason that we finally had a blast to transfer. Not only that, but they were able to mature our immature eggs in the lab and do day 2 ICSI on them to give us the best chances. I strongly believe that you can get a good protocol anywhere, and yes, there are some RE's who are better than others and really know their stuff, but with the right research, knowledge, and meds, it's possible to get the right protocol for you at your local clinic. But you are stuck with their lab, and no amount of research or knowledge on your part can change the capabilities they have. So if you have problems in the lab with your embryos like we did, there is nothing you can do to improve your chances once the eggs leave your body. At that point it is all up to the lab, so it's paramount that you have the best lab you can. The CCRM lab is one of the best around! John Stevens, our embryologist, is the person who we will credit the life of our future child! Without him, and the magic of the embryologists at the CCRM we would never have gotten a blast to transfer, nor a positive beta.

SPERM SELECTION - Since we were faced with MF, and a morphology of 1% ICSI was a given, and something we have always done in the past. But for us, the capabilities to sort and select sperm in the CCRM lab were really important to us. Unfortunately there is not much out there that addresses this problem. We did have a DNA chromosome test done on Dave's sperm, which I would recommend to anyone faced with MF. The best company for this is SCSA diagnostics and you will get your results in about 3 weeks. Once we determined that Dave's sperm were in fact chromosomally normal, just with very poor morphology, we knew that picking the best sperm of the bunch would be important. We ended up using a process called PICSI, that basically consists on using a special dish for the sperm. The best mature sperm will bind to a special hyaluron strip in the dish, thus weeding out the duds. Next they used high magnification to narrow it down even further. Under high mag they were able to see which sperm were fragmented and which were not, in order to select the one's the looked the absolute best. From here, they used ICSI to fertilize. The PICSI dish is still in research stages and is controversial, but I have to say, I strongly believe that selecting the best sperm we could allowed our embryos to grow better than ever before. And I think without this selection process, would have arrested before day 5, like they always did in the past.

PROTOCOL -- We ended up finding success with the antagonist protocol, after two failed cycles of long lupron protocol. But I don't believe the protocol was the difference, because the number of eggs vs. number of mature didn't really give us improvement. We ended up on a much higher dose of stims (double) than I usually take which made me really nervous, and I'm not sure if it had any impact on egg quality either way, but it could have. As it stood, we ended up with a much higher number of eggs retrieved, but a lower percentage of mature, thus almost evening out to what we were getting locally. But CCRM did use some new meds in my protocol that could have improved the quality of my eggs. They put everyone on dexamethasone during the entire cycle, a drug to suppress any male hormones. They also include a daily baby aspirin daily after retrieval in their protocols, and they include estrogen patches after transfer along with the normally prescribed progesterone support. I can't say for certain if any of those small added medications did the trick, but they could have certainly been a contributing factor. Another factor that really helped this time around was the amount of daily monitoring to keep my E2, P4, and LH in check. I would definetly recommend extra monitoring if your RE isn't doing daily checks, and to stay ontop of your own numbers and what they mean, so that you know when/if things need to be changed.

ASSISTED HATCHING - I don't know which one of our three embryos actually made it, but assisted hatching could have played a hand. We transferred one advanced blast that they could not do assisted hatching on because the cells were all touching the shell. We also transferred one early blast and one late morula, both with assisted hatching. I really wanted assisted hatching this time, because it helps the embryos get out of their shells if they are not strong enough to do it on their own, thus improving chances of implantation. Most clinics will not attempt assisted hatching on anything past a 3 day embryo for fear of damaging it. But once again the CCRM lab is able to do assisted hatching with great success rates, on an embryo as late in development as an early blast. And this could have made all the difference. We just don't know at this point. But it certainly didn't hurt!

KNOWLEDGE - I truly believe that gathering as much information as you can about how IVF works, different protocols, and different techniques used in the lab can really benefit your cycle. If you understand what your options are, and have talked to others and gotten as much information and advice as you can, you will be able to apply this knowledge to your cycle in order to get the best results possible. I strongly believe in second opinions, and not just one, but many consolations with other doctors. Find out what they think the problem is, then move on to another doctors. Gather the information. Do research. And above all, be sure to get your proper diagnosis. For so long the doctors said I was unexplained infertility. Ladies, do not buy this. Keep working on it, until you have a clear diagnosis. Unexplained simply means that they haven't dug deep enough to find the answer. When I finally went to CCRM, even though I had many many tests at my local clinic, they did so many more tests. At first I was wishing I didn't have to do them, but after we got our results back, we learned so much more about why this wasn't working. You need to have a clear diagnosis in order to address and fix the problem. For the longest time we thought our problem was just Male Factor. So don't stop at the first diagnosis you get. There could be other things wrong as well. You could be missing something important. And if this is your last try, do not move forward, until you have investigated everything. After knowing what we know now, we could have avoided years of treatment and money and heartache. So I've strongly come to believe that knowledge in a key factor to success. Possibly the single most important.

ALTERNATIVE TREATMENTS - It is so tough to say what, if anything, made the difference to our BFP, but for this last cycle I added a few alternative treatments that we hadn't tried before. so it's possible that one of these things made a difference in our outcome. The first thing I did differently this time was that both DH and I took Royal Jelly every day to improve sperm and egg quality. We also both took a COQ10 supplement, switched to a prescription prenatal vitamin with extra folic acid and fish oil instead of an over the counter vitamin, and we ate an all organic diet of fertility foods. For a list, see one of my previous posts.
I also added Mayan Abdominal massage for 3 months, twice a week, up to the point to stimulation.
It's conceivable that any of those newly added factors could have helped make the difference this time. We also continued doing a number of alternative treatments that we did with our first two cycles, so these probably weren't the difference but they certainly could have helped. Those included acupuncture, acupressure, reflexology, castor oil packs, Yoga for fertility and couples (DVD by Brenda Strong), Male Fertility Supplements (FertiliAid), no drinking, no caffeine, and IVF Hypnosis (CD by Maggie Howell), meditation (DVD by Deepak Chopra). It really is tough to say what combination of factors improved our odds, but we are sure that some of them played a hand in our outcome.

BEING AN ADVOCATE FOR OUR OWN CASE - I truly believe no matter what clinic you are at, that you simply must take a hands on approach and be an advocate for your own care. Since this was our last shot, I have to admit, I went a little overboard on the control, but had it failed, I also know that I would have ended up feeling like I did everything I possibly could. And I wouldn't have been left wondering about if it might have been a different outcome if I'd only done something differently. Although CORM is a top clinic, they are also a big clinic, and a business. And like with any business, you are the customer. It's your body. You are the one paying the money. You are the one with everything to win or lose. So it's up to you, to take your cycle into your own hands. There were many times during the process where I had questions, or didn't feel something was going right, or had suggestions, or wanted to ask about something I'd heard, or wanted to remind them of something important about my case -- so I made sure to do just that. I emailed my nurse daily, I put what I thought was important in writing. I reminded Dr. Schoolcraft about the particulars of our past problems, I made notes for our embryologist about our past failures, I called to schedule meetings along the way to discuss our progress and just to check in. I'm sure some of the things were annoying and overboard, however, there were many times that my ideas or questions or concerns actually changed the minds of Dr. Schoolcraft and he made an important adjustment to my protocol because of it. Staying on top of my own case with the embryologist also allowed me the opportunity have 5 more eggs fertilized on day 2, thus greatly improving our odds. If I was to make one suggestion to anyone struggling with infertility, it's to do your own research, talk to as many women as you can who have gone through it and failed, find out the latest advancements with protocols and medicine, find out the latest advancements on what the labs can do, become your own expert, and never ever feel like you can't ask a question or give your opinion. Doctors are busy busy people. Things fall through the cracks, even at the best clinics. Errors get made every single day. Oversights are very common. So don't sit back and rely on your doctors to get everything right. You have more than anyone invested in this cycle. So I truly believe you have to be your own advocate. It made all the difference for our cycle.

LUCK -- Unfortunately, sometimes it just comes down to luck. And while the other factors are certainly more important and more influential than luck, it's hard to deny that it does play a big part in this whole ugly game. Why did I succeed while others failed? I'm well aware that even though we did everything that we possibly could have done to ensure a successful outcome, that I could have very easily failed once again. Our cycle could have gone either way. It really honestly could have. But this time, we got lucky. I guess there are a few different ways to look at luck. I wouldn't have gotten lucky if I didn't put myself in a position to succeed. If I didn't do the work, do the research, travel all the way to CCRM, advocate for my own case, and spend all the money on another cycle, I wouldn't have been in a position to get lucky. I wouldn’t have gotten lucky if I hadn't of played the game. But sometimes you can play and play and play and still not win. Sometimes the cards just aren't in your favor and you can spend your whole life trying, only to wind up right back in the same spot. We knew this going in, and we were prepared to walk away if this cycle failed. We were prepared to throw in our cards and leave the table forever. But magically, somehow, we got lucky. Luck is one of those things that isn't fair, and I hate to think that it even plays a part. But it does. For so many years luck was not on our side, but we went ahead anyway. We forged on, and rolled the dice one last time. And as they say in Vegas... sometimes you just get lucky.

So good luck, good luck, good luck!!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Beta #3 -- Thank You God!

After 3 days of spotting and cramping and worrying that this might all go away, I went in for another bloodtest this morning, and my beta came back at 3805!!!

I'm 16pd5dt today, and according to my numbers, my beta needed to be at least 2300 today. Needless to say my beta is nice and strong!

I can't tell you how relieved I am. I was shaking so hard when the phone rang I thought I might not even be able to answer it. But after the nurse assured me that everything looked great, I felt overjoyed with relief. I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed that this is all really happening. So far so good!

They also checked my E2 and P4 today. My E2 was 1232 (they like to see it over 300) and my P2 was 30.7 (they like to see it over 6). So based on the fact that my levels are so high they are going to start weening me off some of my medication starting Saturday. I will go down from 2 vivelle patches (estrogen) every 2 days, to just one patch every other day. I will also go down from 3 endometrium (progesterone) a day, to just 2 a day. And then have my levels re-checked again on Monday.

I can hardly believe it! I suddenly feeling like doing a happy dance!

I know that nothing is ever certain and all this could still go away, but today everything is okay, and dammit, I'm going to let myself start enjoying this!


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Crossing Over

When do you officially cross over from infertility to fertility?

When is is safe to believe that you have beat this heartbreaking condition? When is it safe to allow yourself to relax? To be happy? To enjoy it?

Is it when you get your BFP? When your second beta doubles? Is it when you see the sac and hear the heart beat? Is it when you get into the safe zone of the second trimester? When you are showing with a big belly? When you reach the third trimester? When you reach the date where if you had to deliver today, the baby could probably make it in intensive care? When you go into labor? Or not until you are actually holding a healthy baby in your arms?

And how do you know when you have actually crossed over? When do you let the good news sink it? When do you start baby shopping? When do you start picking out baby names? When do you stop avoiding happy families and other people's kids? When do you stop shutting yourself off from the rest of the world? When do you give away your fertility medication? When do you stop planning and researching everything that is infertilty?

When and how do you ever cross over, from living a life centered around infertility, and how do you integrate yourself back into life, back to the family and friends you have shut yourself off from in order to protect yourself?

Maybe, it's just simply, one day at a time.

Or maybe you have to throw caution to the wind, jump in with both feet, and choose to leave your fear behind.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Caught Between Two Worlds

Ever since we got the call to tell us of our positive beta, I have been feeling excited, thankful, blessed, relieved, scared, guilty, sad, confused, disbelief, and stunned.

I feel as though I have been stuck, in a hole, for so long, and I have finally gotten dislodged. I feel like I am finally 'unstuck', finally free, finally able to see the sun, feel the fresh air on my face -- but yet, I can't help but feel paralyzed.

Most people, who don't struggle with infertility, leave it three months to starting telling people they are pregnant. But people who struggle with infertility often feel like they should wait longer, until they are sure it's real, until they are sure that it all won't be snatched out from under them.

But because I have written a blog, and been open and honest about my struggles, everyone I love now knows the good news. It's strange, all these congratulations, these happy faces telling me that I am going to be a mom, family and friends supporting me, reaching out to tell me how happy they are for me. And you think, after so long, I'd be thrilled to have the congratulations pouring in.

But the truth is, I almost feel sick to my stomach when I hear it. I feel sidelined, stunned, and so much pressure. I feel like all these acknowledgments and congratulations are somehow going to jinx it. That it's all going to be taken away from me at any moment, and I'm going to wake up, having to face the many sorry's and looks of pity that will surely come my way. And that I will be stuck back in hell, never to get out again.

It's very strange, these feelings that I'm having. One one hand, I've never felt so lucky, so blessed, and so alive. I'm excited. I want to start shopping. I want to make long overdue plans. I'm barely able to contain my happiness and joy. But on the other hand, I'm feeling lost, feeling sad, feeling guilty, feeling scared. Infertility has been my identity for so long now. I have spent every waking minute of every day thinking about it, planning for my next cycle, researching it, breathing it -- that I almost don't know who I am without it. I have been shut down for so long, I almost don't know how to let the joy in. And I feel bad and guilty because I'm leaving others behind, who deserve this just as much as me. I feel guilty that my prayers were answered and thier prayers have been denied. I feel bad that I got lucky, and so many others do not. And I'm afraid to leave my nest, my world, my safe-haven. I'm afraid to let myself really believe and feel happy and let it all in.

I've heard stories about prisoners, who finally get out of jail after serving their time. They are finally free, and released back into the world. And they just stand there, paralyzed, scared, unsure where to go, or what do to next. Some of them almost want to go back in, because they just don't know how to be free anymore. They miss the only world they know. They are stunned, unable to really celebrate the freedom they have been given. So they just kind of stand there...

I think in a way, this is what's happening to me. I'm paralyzed, unsure what to feel, what to think, and what to do now that I'm free. And I'm continually looking over my shoulder, waiting for the cops to come arrest me and tell me that it was all a mistake. That I'm not free after all.

Right now I'm stuck between two worlds:
Thankful for the blessings and dreams that I've been given.
But afraid to move forward and let go.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Winding Down My Blog...

While it's true, I still have a few more big hurdles to cross before I can safely utter the words "I'm Pregnant", I have come farther than I ever have before. I have crossed a line from infertile to fertile. I honestly didn't even know that that was possible. Yet here I am, still stunned, to have crashed through the brick wall and be standing on the other side.

This week I go for another HCG test and also to check my hormone levels, and then my ultra sound is scheduled for Dec. 15th. This is the all important appointment, when we will either see a sac and hear a heartbeat or we won't. I can't say that I'm not worried this won't be all taken away from me. I can't say I'm not worried that it won't all disappear and we'll be left, once again, with nothing. Standing in the land of infertility once again, wondering if it was all just a dream.

The nurse said we should stay cautiously optimistic, that while the bleeding is slightly worrisome, that we won't know much more until that appointment, so to just stay on all my medication and take it easy until that point. But after that point, if all is well, we will be released from CCRM to an OBGYN. And at that point, if we are lucky enough to make it that far, I have decided to bring my blog to a close.

I know that it's still not a sure thing at that point, and I know we still need to make it through the first trimester in order to get into the safe zone. But I've thought a lot about it, and once I see a sac and hear a heart beat, I can no longer call myself infertile.

Imagine that.

After all these years, I never thought I would see this day come, but hopefully it will. Hopefull I will cross over to the other side, into a new phase in my life. Hopefully I will actually be holding my baby in my arms nine months from now. Hopefully, this is not just a dream, and I will never wake up, and I will be able to say that I kicked infertility's ass. That I am an infertility survivor. That I actually, finally, did it.

But I feel strongly that my blog is about infertility. Not pregnancy. So I have decided not to continue to document my pregnancy journey. This is not what this blog is about. It's about the life and feelings of someone who is struggling with the heartbreak of infertility. And hopefully, this will not be me, ever again. I'm aware that it might be, and that I could end up, dreams crushed, right back in infertility-land once again. But until that day comes, I can't bear to share my blessings and good news with a group of women who are in pain on a daily basis. So, after the next couple of weeks, if all goes well, I will wind down my blog.

Not because I am abandoning you. No. I will still be here to encourage you on. And I will never forget what it feels like to be infertile. It has changed my life forever. It has changed me as a person, taken so much from me, and I still feel the pain so deep that I don't truly know if I will ever forget what it feels like.

So it's with mixed feelings, that in a couple weeks, after I know this is real, and after I get out everything else I feel I still need to say (and I still do have many things that I need to say) -- I will bring this blog to a close.

I will let it stand for what it is. A blog about infertility. The hardest, most devastating, and helpless journey that anyone will ever face.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

2WW BFP Symptoms

For all those ladies out there who wonder, each and every single month, who scour the internet looking for clues as to whether or not their cycle worked, I can finally post my symptoms for you! Because God knows I have done my fair share of obsessing in the past, and driven myself absolutely crazy. This is for all those women, who are wondering what my symptoms were so you can compare them to your own, I hope this post is helpful. And I hope you all get your BFP's too!

1dp5dt - Bedrest, no symptoms

2dp5dt - Bestrest, constipated, had one small anxiety attack.

3dp5dt - Constipated, another anxiety attack, tender ovaries

4dp5dt - Constipated, lower back cramps, tender ovaries

5dp5dt - lower back Twinges, AF cramps, felt like I was getting a cold, tender ovaries.

6dp5dt - Major AF cramps and PMS -- swore she was on her way.

7dp5dt - AF cramps, extremely tired, hormonal surges, felt like I would get period any second.

8dp5dt - AF cramps went away, my body temperature felt extremely cold, I couldn't get warm enough under blankets, bloated and gassy stomach, legs and feet felt achy, strong heart-beat and pulsing sensation throughout my body, extremely thirsty, slightly tender boobs.

9dp5dt - lower middle cramps in abdomen, indigestion, cold and hot flashes, nervous butterflies, breathing felt tickly, strong pulsing sensation throughout body, dull pressure below belly button like someone was pushing on it or I ate a big meal. Peed on HTP, and got a positive but faint line. Beta test came back 151.

10dp5dt - Thirsty, indigestion, pressure on lower abdomen, strong heart beat and pulse, a few sharp pains in sides and stomach, AF cramps back, tender boobs, peed on HTP and line was same as reference line.

11dp5dt - Bright pink bleeding when I wiped but it went away within a few hours, a few cramps, not many other symptoms, peed on HTP and line was darker than reference line. 2nd Beta was 375 today.

12dp5dt - Lower abdominal pressure, AF like cramps, slightly tender breasts. A little watery pink spotting.

GOOD LUCK!!! I will be praying and hoping for all of you.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Beta #2 Is In...

And it's 375!!

Which is great news! It needed to double, so it had to be greater than 302 today.

I also peed on my last stick, and the pregnancy line is now DARKER than the reference line! YIPPEE!
So everything is right on track, except for our scare this morning. I woke up to bright pink bleeding (sorry if that's too much information) and immediately thought the worst. We called CCRM right away and the nurse told me to just take it easy, and try to stay off my feet, and they would call me after the beta to let us know what's happening. She said to try to stay calm because bleeding is common with all the medication I'm on, but of course, we were on pins and needles all morning.

After she called with our beta numbers, she said everything was fine, but to try to take it easy for the rest of the weekend and keep my feet up as much as possible. Next Thursday I'll go for another bloodtest to check my progesterone and estrogen levels to find out when I can start weaning off the medication. And that in about two and a half weeks I will go for an ultrasound to check for a sac and heartbeat. The last BIG hurdle, before they will consider my pregnancy official.

So for now it's more waiting and praying and trying to take it easy.

And of course, enjoying every second!

Friday, November 28, 2008

IT'S A MIRACLE!!!!!!!!!!!!

After 4 years, 75 thousand dollars, 24 bloodtests, 183 Doctors visits, 97 ultrasounds, 12 IUI's, 4 IVF's, 50 needles, 3 surguries, and 115 negative homes pregnancy sticks --


The nurse called yesterday afternoon to give us the news. Our hearts dropped when the phone rang and we picked it up with white faces. I have to be honest. I REALLY thought I wasn't. I have had period cramps for the last 4 days and swore AF was on her way. I was STUNNED when the nurse said that she had good news for us! I couldn't even beleive my ears. Our first beta came back nice and strong at 151!!! They like to see it at least 50, but closer to 80 is better. So she said my number looked great! I was so stunned that I had to ask her to repeat it 3 times. And then I asked her to double check to make sure that she was actually reading my chart!

We hung up the phone, clung onto each other and cried our eyes out. Then broke out into a laughing fit (i think we were both so nervous) and laughed and cried and couldn't stop. I was shaking so hard. And I still couldn't beleive it.

Then I proceeded to pee on sticks -- just to be sure!

And I have to say, when the two lines came up, I still couldn't beleive my eyes. I've never ever seen a positive pregnancy stick, and I never thought I would. I suddenly started to love those evil evil sticks as we jumped for utter joy and stared at them all night long.

Then I woke up this morning and peed again. Just to be sure, and what do you know -- it's DARKER!!!
I still can't even beleive that it happened. I'm still in complete and utter shock. Yesterday was the happiest day of our lives. And I know, that maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, I know they warn us to be cautiously optimistic. I know that we still have a few BIG hurdles to cross, before it finally becomes real, but I can't help from getting excited!

The nurse scheduled our second beta for Saturday -- two days from our first. And our beta number has to double, for this to be considered real. It's possible that our beta won't double and this is just a chemical pregnancy. It's possible that things will not continue to progress. I'm just holding onto hope that this is real, and hoping and praying that our next beta doubles like it should.

But for now I'm just enjoying the moment!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Thanksgiving Beta

I'm not ready.

I wish I could stop time. I wish I didn't have to find out today. Because this is it. Today determines our future, the fate of the rest of our lives.

And who is ever ready for that kind of news?

Right now, we still have hope. We 'could' still be pregnant. The dream is still alive and our life could still turn out the way we want it to.

We just got home from our blood test, and in about 4 hours, we will either get the best or worst news of our lives. We will either be blessed beyond belief and all our dreams will come true, or we will be truly devastated as all our dreams will be completely shattered.

This is it. Our last chance. Our last hope. Our last everything.

We want this more desperately than we've ever wanted anything in our whole lives. We have done all that we can do. The doctors have done all they can do. Now it's in the hands of God, in the hands of fate, in the hands of a technician measuring the HCG levels in my blood.

Good or bad, we have decided to take the day for ourselves. We will not blog, call our families, or share our news with anyone until tomorrow. We've decided to take the news, good or bad, and cry and hold each other tight. And we are hoping with everything we have, that they are tears of joy.

I think the fact that our beta falls on Thanksgiving has to be a good sign. Either that, or it's a cruel cruel joke, one last slap in the face on the longest hardest journey of our lives. But surely, God would not do that to us. Surely tonight, we will be filled with gratitude, and thanks, and be blessed beyond belief. Our journey will end with the greatest blessing of all on a day that is meant to stop and give thanks for all that is good in our lives. We have to believe that our miracle is hours away from coming true. We have to believe that this is our time, our day for a miracle, our day to be filled with thanks.

Today is the day.

This is it.

Ready or not, here it comes...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Evil Pee Stick

Many people have asked me if I am going to POAS.

For those of you who don't speak infertility, it is known to infertiles everywhere as Pee on a Stick. It is the question asked by everyone one of us, all over the world, as we approach the little thing called our beta.

Too pee or not to pee... that is the question.

Well, I have been staring at this little white stick all morning.

And I simply cannot bring myself to pee on it.

In fact, I almost can't even look at it. The sight of it actually makes me sick to my stomach. Even the thought of it makes me break out into a sweat as I feel the blood drain from my body. Funny, such a tiny innocent looking little stick, can actually turn me into a puddle of nerves. Far worse than any horror movie I've ever seen, this little white stick, is by far, the scariest thing I have ever laid eyes on.

You see, I have a long complicated history with home pregnancy sticks. Yes, me and pee sticks go way back. I have peed on so many sticks I can't even count them. I have bought more pregnancy sticks than any one person should. Dare I say, that in fact, I was a POAS addict. I have taken it out of the box, hopeful, every single time, peed, and then waited on pins and needles for the longest three minutes in history, while my fate came into focus. And every single time, it as been as white as the driven snow. I have never, not once, seen two lines on one of those sticks. Not once. Out of all the millions of times I've peed.

I usually start peeing on the early response sticks five days before my expected period or beta. And when the first one shows up white, I convince myself it's because it's too early, which everyone will tell you that it is. So I continue to pee every single day, until finally, my period shows up or my beta confirms it. It is like a sick love affair with the wrong guy. The guy who keeps breaking my heart, over and over, but I can't seem to shake. I keep letting him back into my life, to play with my emotions, believing that this time will be different, this time he will change, and every single month, over and over, he breaks my heart into a million little pieces.

Well, no more!

I am 8dp5dt today. Which means that my beta is tomorrow -- Thanksgiving Day -- and so far, I have not given in to the evil pee stick. But my test being less than 24 hours away, means that I could put myself out of my misery right now. I could go into the bathroom, take that evil little white stick and pee on it. I could find out the fate of my future right here and now and be almost 100% certain that the results are accurate.

There are several reasons to pee. The biggest being, that I could put myself out of my misery right here and now. If I'm pregnant, I could know right now! I could start celebrating! The other big big reason to pee, is that even if I'm not pregnant, the blow will be softer somehow, coming in the form of a stick. I will have time to get used to the idea and grieve a little before the doctor calls to give me the bad news. There is nothing worse than the telephone ringing and having to hear the worst fate you can imagine from a stranger on the other end of the telephone, while you try to hold it together, try not to burst out sobbing, and fall to complete and utter pieces. But there are even more reasons, this time, for me not to pee. If I'm not pregnant, will I believe the stick? And how will I hold out any hope for my beta tomorrow. If I'm not pregnant, the torture will begin one day earlier than it has to. And like both of my other failed IVF's, I will have to continue on the medication anyway, and go in for my bloodtest tomorrow, sobbing my eyes out as they draw my blood, hope draining from my body while I wait for the call from the doctor to confirm what I already knew.

No, I cannot pee.

I just can't bring myself to go through that torture any earlier than I have to.

I don't know what my fate will be tomorrow. But I will wait. For once in my life I will not POAS.

And I will pray for a Thanksgiving miracle.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Family -- Life's Greatest Blessing

After being married for 63 years, my grandparents passed away within 4 months of each other. And even though they have been gone for almost three years now, they are still here with me every single day, in everything I do.

My grandpa once told me that the secret to a long lasting marriage was to kiss his wife and tell her that he loves her every single day -- which he always did. They still held hands, snuggled up tight every night in bed, and said those three magic words to each other.

I cannot think about what it means to be a family, without first, thinking of my grandparents. They often told me that their family was their greatest joy, that is was life's greatest blessing, and that it was their family that they were most proud of.

It's so true. The memories that we share with our families join us forever. They link us to our past, ground us in our present, and build a bridge to our future. We would not be the people we are without our family, without our memories, without the love, traditions, and moments that bind us together forever.

Dave and I want to create the same kind of love and family that our grandparents did. We want to see the love and traditions live on. We want to see our family history continue. We want our family tree to branch out, underneath us, for the love and the joy to continue for generations to come. There is a quote by Thich Nhat Hanh that discribes it well. "If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people."

My grandparents knew the value of family and their love story always inspires and amazes me. Please watch my tribute to their 63 years of marriage, that reminds us all that life is short, that life moves on, and that family, truly is, life's greatest blessing.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Why Do I Want Kids?

Such a simple question, with so many answers.

Some reasons are silly, some superficial, some biological, some maternal, and some so deep and innate that they swallow me whole.

The truth is, I wasn't always sure I wanted kids. Deep down, I always knew I wanted them, deep down I always knew I'd be a mother, I couldn't picture my future without a family. But in my twenties, and when I first got married, I wanted to 'hold off' for a while. I wanted to enjoy my husband, I wanted to start my career, I wanted to buy our family house and be settled first. I was afraid. I was afraid because I didn't feel all those maternal instincts that my friends were talking about. I was afraid because I wasn't ga-ga over babies, and I didn't even want to hold most of them. I wasn't sure I was cut out for it, I was afraid I couldn't get through labor and delivery, and I was afraid that once we had our baby, I would be overwhelmed with a new responsibility I wasn't ready for.

The fact that I 'held off' will haunt me forever. The questions linger in the air. What if I had of started trying sooner? What if I didn't wait so long? What if I hadn't been so selfish? What if I wasn't so afraid? Good 'Ol Catholic guilt swoops in and swallows me whole. It surrounds me, tells me this is all my fault, that I have nobody to blame but myself. God heard me say that I didn't want a baby, and now he's punishing me. He's taken it away from me altogether. He's teaching me a lesson. And now, I'm getting exactly what I deserve.

I know these thoughts are useless. I know the guilt is not helpful. I know that beating myself up will not change anything. That I can't go back, as much as I want, to my wedding night, and start trying for our baby right then and there. That I can't go back further, and start trying when we moved in together, or back even further to when we first started dating. I can't change the past, I can only look to the future, and pray, that I have done enough, that God will hear my prayers, that I will be rewarded for all the pain and heartache we've been through, that our perseverance will finally pay off.

Along the way, people have asked, why do you want kids so badly anyway? It's not like you can't have a good life without them. It's not like you can't just adopt if you want them so bad. Why is it so important that you have a biological connection? You didn't even always want them. How can you want them so badly now that you would spend all this money and focus every single day of your life on it? Why is having a child suddenly the only thing that matters?

Well. There are so many reasons, ranging from the stupidest to the most personal, that I don't even know where to start. But I will try. Because sometimes, I find myself asking myself the exact same question. Why do I want this so badly? Why I am willing to put myself through all of the pain and torture? Why does it matter more than anything in the world?

Why do I want kids?

- Because I don't want to fail.
- Because nobody is going to tell me that I can't do this.
- Because I've come too far, been through too much, to stop now.
- So I can hold a combination of me and Dave in my arms, and be able to say, we did that, we made that.
- So I won't be left out.
- So I can buy little baby outfits.
- So I can take family holidays, go to Disney World, rent cottages, and watch my child splash in the water.
- So I can one day be a grandma
- So I can be the kind of mom, that my mom was to me.
- So I won't be lonely, and always feel like an outsider.
- Because everybody else does, so why can't I.
- So I can have fun decorating a nursery.
- So I can relate to the rest of the world, my family, our friends.
- So I don't die old and alone in a nursing home with nobody to come and visit me.
- So I can continue the family traditions passed down to me by my grandma, and mom.
- So I can create new family traditions and holiday memories.
- So I watch my child grow and thrive and see the person they turn into.
- So my house will ring with laughter and little voices.
- So I can share the most special bond of love in the world, between a mother and child.
- So I can look back on my life and know it meant something.

But mostly, because, I firmly believe that it is relationships, not money or careers or fame, that are what make us who we are. And family is the most important relationship in the world.

Because, when it comes down to it, we are nobody without our families.

Our families are the heart of who we are.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Pregnancy Symptoms???

Well, it's started.

I've started to obsess about my symptoms already.

I'm 4dp5dt today, so our embryos should be implanting today, if indeed they continued to grow and divide and hatch, like I pray they did.

So that means the symptoms 'could' start any day now. Although, maybe, realistically not for 2 or 3 more days. But how would I know? I've never had any real symptoms before. Only 'trick' symptoms as I've always called them. The kind that either get our hopes up, or the kind that freak us and crush us because not enough is happening.

Right now I'm in the freak out stage. There are no tugging sensations or implantation cramps. There are no sore breasts or nausea. Granted, I know it's still too early, and some women feel no sensations or symptoms at all, but....

I can't help it. I'm obsessed already.

And I'm scared.

I just want to feel something so I know it's working.

So let's dissect them, shall we? Here are the signs and symptoms that lots of women say they experience in the 2ww.

-- Twinges/cramps/aches in the abdomen
-- Bloated abdomen
-- Gassy
-- Spotting (light brown is good, red is bad)
-- Implantation Bleeding
-- Sore boobs
-- Veins become more apparent
-- Peeing More
-- Feeling hot/elevated temperature
-- Nipples/areolas darken
-- Feeling dizzy/lightheaded
-- Indigestion
-- Fatigue
-- Sensitivity to Smell
-- Food Cravings/Aversions
-- Heartburn
-- Constipation
-- Mood Swings/ Irritability

But the progesterone and estrogen that I'm on right now can also mimic some of these signs. And some of the cramping/bloating can still be left over from the stim meds and the Egg Retrieval.

I'm going crazy!!

Ladies, please obsess with me if you will. Especially for those of you who got a BFP!

What signs and symptoms did you feel? Did you have implantation bleeding? Could you feel the tugging or implantation cramping? How many of you felt any of the above symptoms? How many of you felt nothing?

I swear this 2ww is pure torture!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Going Home To 'Our Baby'

Our dog is our baby, and we couldn't love him more if we tried!

I've come to the conclusion that there are 3 types of dog people.

1. The kind that love their dogs like babies and treat them like a part of the family.
2. The kind that have great affection for their dogs and treat them very well, but ultimately feel they are dogs, not a member of the family.
3. The kind that treat their dogs like property that are there to serve a purpose for them.

We are unquestionably in the first group.

Phinnegan sleeps in the bed with us, goes with us on trips with us, we talk to him, we understand his personality, his quirks, his happy and sad moments. We would do anything for him. And we love him just as much as any other member of our family (maybe even more!) He brings us so much joy, and we couldn't imagine our lives without him. He has been there for us through it all. We got him eleven years ago, and since that time he has moved across the country with us three different times, he was there when we bought our first condo, our first house, when we got engaged, got married, and he's been there as we've tried year after year for a baby. He has been with us through all our highs and lows, our best and worst moments. He is always there to give us a hug and a kiss and a cuddle. Granted, he is not the worlds best dog -- he has his issues, that's for sure. He's bad to the bone. But he's our baby and we wouldn't want him any other way. He makes us laugh. He sticks by our side when we cry. And dare I say, he understands everything we say to him.

He's our baby, our little monkey, our kid.

And we know, that if he is as close as we get to a 'real' baby, then we are one lucky mom and dad. Because he's given us more joy and love than we could ever imagine.

We can hardly wait to get home and see our little guy!


We finally got the call from one of the embryologists today -- telling us that none of our other embryos made it to freeze.

Which means, this truly is our last hope.

Out of the 16 embryos fertilized, we have no frozen embryos to fall back on. And worse than that, I can't help myself from thinking, if none of the others made it, if all of them arrested in the dish, what does that mean for the one's inside of me?

I know that it only takes one. I know that they chose the best to transfer. but still, I have been here before. And I can't help from letting fear and doubt creep in.

I can't even say it out loud. I can't bear to even think it.

Yet, it's there.

And I'm terrified.

Please, dear god, please, I'll do anything...

The Dreaded 2WW

Better known to infertiles everywhere as the TWO WEEK WAIT.

For those of you who have been through infertility treatments, you know all too well that the two week wait is the most excruciating wait of the entire process. These two weeks alone cause us the most anxiety, the most up's and downs, and can feel like a hundred years of pure torture.

This is where we obsess over every little twinge, cramp and sensation. This is where you start a whole new set of medications. You take progesterone/endometrium that happens to be the most disgusting thing around, as well as estrogen patches to further mess up our minds and hormones. And not only do these drugs make us absolutely crazy, but they also mimic the signs and symptoms of pregnancy. So as if we're not already obsessively looking up pregnancy symptoms and comparing them to every twinge and sensation we feel, the drugs are playing tricks on us, convincing us, without a doubt, that we are pregnant.

We have been through 30 two week waits, which equates to 420 days, a year and 2 months. And here we are, after spending a year and two months of our lives in the two week wait, down to our very last one.

The thought is both liberating and terrifying.

Because this has to work. And what if it doesn't?

But I am pushing those thoughts (or at least trying) out of my head. Because I can't even go to that place yet.

For now, we're here, pregnant until proven otherwise, and choosing to believe that our three little em-babies (Bean Sprout, Tator Tot, and Princess Penelope) are snuggling in for the long haul.

So far I have done everything right. I have been on bed rest for almost 48 hours, only getting up to use to washroom. And today we are 2dp5dt. For those of you wondering, what happens when, let me give you the timeline of a day 5 transfer.

1dp5dt - (1day past 5 day transfer) - Blastocyst hatches out of shell
2dp5dt - Blastocyst attaches to a site on the uterine lining
3dp5dt - Implantation begins,as the blastocyst begins to bury in the lining
4dp5dt - Implantation process continues as it buries deeper in the lining
5dp5dt - Blastocyst is completely implanted in the lining and has placenta cells & fetal cells
6dp5dt - Placenta cells begin to secret HCG in the blood
7dp5dt - More HCG is produced as fetus develops
8dp5dt - More HCG is produced as fetus develops
9dp5dt - HCG levels are now high enough to be immediately detected on HPT
10dp5dt - Pregnancy Beta test

So hopefully, today, our three little guys have already hatched from their shells and are attaching to the uterus lining at this very moment.

Come on Bean Sprout, Tator Tot, and Princess Penelope --

You can do it!!

We love you. We need you. We believe in you.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

We Have Blast Off !!!

Drumroll please...

We just got back from our embryo transfer where we were thrilled to learn that we FINALLY made a blastocyst!

Not only that, but we made 3. Granted, none were perfect AA grades, but given our history we are ecstatic.

I arrived with a full bladder and got cozy in our transfer room. The nurse gave me a valium to help my uterus relax, which I was skeptical of, so I only took a half a dose. Then I relaxed under the warm blankets until the sonographer came to check that my bladder was adequately full. We were waiting on pins and needles until the embryologist finally came into the room. He proceeded to give us our report:

Out of our original 11 fertilized embryos, we had 5 left waiting for us today -- 3 blasts and 2 morulas. Here are the details:

Embryo 1: advanced blastocyst, rating: 3BA
Embryo 2: early blastocyst (not rated -- looks very healthy)
Embryo 3: early blastocyst (not rated -- some noticeable fragmentation).
Embryo 4: morula (not rated, blastulating).
Embryo 5: morula (not rated).

CCRM rates the advanced blasts as follows:

The number refers to the development stage of the blast (1 is earliest, 6 is most advanced). 1 = cavity less than half the volume of the embryo. 2 = cavity greater than than half the volume. 3 = Full blast, cavity completely fills the embryo. 4 = Expanded blast, cavity larger than the embryo, thinning shell. 5 = Hatching out of the shell. 6 = Hatched out of the shell. The first letter is the grade of the inner cell mass (cells that become the fetus), ranging from A to C, with A being the highest and C being the lowest quality. A = Many cells, tightly packed. B = Several cells, loosely grouped. C = Very few cells. The second letter is the grade of future placenta. A = Many cells, forming a cohesive layer.B = Few cells, forming a loose epithelium.
C = Very few large cells.

Out of the 5 embryos fertilized on the day after retrieval:
3 are still in the running to make good blasts.
One is quite fragmented, and one is arrested.
We'll get a call about those tomorrow, as well as the other embryos to see if there are any to freeze.

Our embryologist recommended that we transfer the two best but we felt strongly that we wanted to transfer three, and given our history he agreed and confirmed with Dr. Schoolcraft that three was our magic number. He recommended transferring the advanced blast, the good looking early blast and the blastulating morula (rather than the fragmented third blast). He did assisted hatching (using a laser to shave a portion of the shell away, making it easier for the embryo to hatch out) on the morula and early blast, but not the advanced blast (the important cell mass is too close to the outer layer to assist on the advanced blast).

Unfortunately CCRM does not give out pictures of the embryos (like our last clinic did) as they feel taking a picture could hurt them in some way. But, we brought our camera and asked to take a picture of the screen right before the transfer and the embryologist agreed that would be OK as long as the flash is off. The picture is a little grainy, but we're so happy to see our 3 little beans!

Dr. Schoolcraft (the magician behind the curtain) finally made his appearance and we got to meet him face to face for the first time!. He was calm, nice and most of all quick. The embryo transfer was over within 5 minutes, and that makes me officially pregnant with triplets. In reality, we were given a 50% chance of implantation for the advanced blast, 40% for the early blast and 30% for the morula.

After the transfer I was left to rest for an hour in the transfer room. Then I was wheelchaired out of the building and back to the hotel where I'm on strict bed rest until Thursday morning (nearly 48 hours).

We are so relieved, happy and blessed that we finally made blasts at CCRM, and topped off this difficult cycle with a successful transfer.

We can hardly believe it -- we are PUPO WITH TRIPLETS !!!

Heading Out For Our Embryo Transfer!

We are so excited this morning!

We can't believe that today is the day, that our em-babies are FINALLY coming home!

I'm feeling much better today -- well rested, healthy, and hydrated -- even if still a little stiff and sore. I couldn't ask for anything more! Thank god it has all worked out like this, because we were biting our nails for a while the other night. But whatever bug I had is out of my system and it is full steam ahead.

Our embryo transfer is at 1:30pm. We are supposed to show up an hour early to get prepped and ready and calmly in our room before the big moment. And you will never guess -- Dr. Schoolcraft himself is set to do our transfer, so we will finally have a chance to meet the man who will hopefully be responsible for our future child.

We are all set and ready to go! We washed our 'transfer clothes' in soapless water last night and hung them to dry so they wouldn't smell like fabric softener. We have both had soapless showers this morning and have no creams, lotions, or deodorants on. Embryos are very sensitive to synthetic smells, and when they are taken from the tank, loaded into the catheter, they are exposed to the air for a few minutes before they are placed into the uterus. So we are nice and scent free for them this morning, doing everything we can to help the process!

We're so nervous what to expect when we get there. Wondering how many embryos have arrested, how many are still left, whether or not they are good quality? And of course, the big question, the one we can't shake -- have any of our embryos made it over the hump from morulas to blastocysts?

We are crossing all our fingers and toes, holding our breath and sending up prayers, that we will go in today and hear the amazing news that the CCRM lab helped our embryos grow to blast. We can't even let ourselves think that we are only going to be transferring morulas again this time. We can't let ourselves believe that it didn't happen. It might not have, and if it didn't we will face that reality then, but for now we are going to hold onto hope and think the best.

Blastocysts here we come!

Monday, November 17, 2008

A Night In The Emergency Room

Yesterday around noon, I started to not feel so great.

No big surprise, my body is on tons of medications, pumped full of hormones, has just survived surgury, a couple fainting spells, some vomiting, along with about 2 months of needles and bloodtests. It's not surprising that I would feel pretty yucky.

But around 2pm, I was sick to my stomach again. Thinking that would be the end of it, I laid down to rest. Boy, was I wrong! I continued to barf my guts out (sorry for being so crass, but man!) every 10-15 minutes until 10pm. At that point I was so weak, dehydrated, and couldn't even get up off the bathroom floor, so Dave called Dr. Schoolcraft. At this point, I had bared up all my IVF medications and couldn't get any more down, and felt sicker than I ever had been.

The consensus was that I needed to go straight to emergency. CCRM worries about extreme sickness, high fevers, chills, sore stomach, and a number of other symptoms that could indicate OHSS (Ovarian Hyper stimulation Syndrome). This is where fluid from all those eggs I made leaks from the ovaries into the stomach and other organs and can cause serious health risks. Going to the ER is my worst nightmare, but since I was in no condition to argue, off we went.

Dave got me to the emergency room right away, where I proceeded to barf in the public bathroom, until the nurse came and got me with a wheelchair, because I was so weak I couldn't make it down the hall. I was into the hospital bed in a jiff, and the nurse covered me up with warm blankets to help with my chills. Dr. Schoolcraft had already called (god bless him) and spoke with the doctor on call, so the doctor knew all about my medications and what we we there to check for.

The first thing they did was get an IV in me, and pump me full of fluids and anti-nausea and anti-anxiety medications. They needed to take blood -- 8 viles -- and check for a bunch of things, I don't even remember what. They let the fluids work for about three hours, and then they wanted me to do a catscan. Dr. Schoolcraft and the ER doctor were working very closely together so that no medications they were giving me would compromise a possible Egg Transfer. I just remember being so thirsty, and they wouldn't let me drink water -- just in case I needed surgery. But they did make me drink a liter of solution they need in my stomach for the catscan. The catscan of my stomach was quick but awful, especially when they put the iodine into my IV. That stuff burns and makes you feel so disgusting and hot all over. I was so glad when it was done.

Then it was back to the room, for more liquid IV and a few more tests.

Finally at around 3am my catscan results came back. Dr. Schoolcraft was still up, waiting for my results, and the ER doctor faxed them to him. Can you believe that?! What an amazing doctor he is to care about his patients so much, as I am sure he could have just left it all to the ER doctor and looked in the morning. I have so much respect for him for staying so closely linked to my condition throughout the night. And am so glad he's our doctor!

Finally, at 4am my IV was taken out and we were discharged. We were exhausted and just wanted nothing more than to go home to bed.

I woke up this morning at noon, still tired, but hydrated. And I had to go to CCRM for a blood draw (Ugh - more bloodwork after a full night of IV and bloodwork!) and and ultrasound to check about any possible fluid still in the ovaries. For somebody with a medical phobia -- this cycle has practically pushed me to my limit!

But the good news is that Dr. Schoolcraft has completely rules out OHSS, and the conclusion was that I picked up a nasty 24 hour GI track flu that is going around.

Talk about bad timing!

Today I'm feeling much better, resting, eating chicken noodle soup, and drinking ginger ale and vitamin water. I have got to get my strength built up for my embryo transfer tomorrow. Based on all the results, Dr. Schoolcraft is comfortable and confident going ahead with embryo transfer if I'm feeling up to it.

Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be ready for our embabies to come home.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Day-3 Embryo Report

Well, it looks like we are doing a Day-5 transfer!

Dave spoke with our embryologist this morning and got an update about how our little embryos are doing. We were happy to learn that CCRM gives much more detailed information about the embryos than our old clinic, as it's always nice to know exactly what you are up against.

So without further ado, here's our report:

Out of our first batch of our original 11 Embryos, we have 8 left, 5 being great chances, and 3 that still have a chance to catch up.
Embryo #1: 8 Cells, Grade 4
Embryo #2: 8 Cells, Grade 4-
Embryo #3: 8 Cells, Grade 4-
Embryo #4: 8 Cells, Grade 4-
Embryo #5: 8 Cells, Grade 4-
Embryo #6: 6 Cells, Grade 4
Embryo #7: 6 Cells, Grade 4-
Embryo #8: 6 Cells, Grade 3+
Embryo #9: 5 Cells, Grade 3+, ARRESTING
Embryo #10: 4 Cells, Grade 3+, ARRESTING
Embryo #11: 2 Cells, ARRESTED

1. First, they grade the Number of Cells - They want the embryos to be between 6-10 cells, 8 cells being perfect.
2. Next, they grade the Fragmentation of the Embryo -- Which is the debris left behind as the cells divide. They grade fragmentation as follows:

4 : 0% fragmentation
4- : less than 10% fragmentation
3+ : less than 20% fragmentation
3 : less than 30% fragmentation
3- : less than 40% fragmentation
2+ : less than 50% fragmentation
2 : less than 60% fragmentation
2- : less than 70% fragmentation
1+ : less than 80% fragmentation
1 : less than 90% fragmentation
1- : 100% fragmentation

Out of our second batch of our 5 New Embryos, we have all 5 left that are within range to continue to develop and grow. They like to see them between 2 and 6 cells on day-two, with 4 being perfect.
Embryo #1: 5 cells
Embryo #2: 4 cells
Embryo #3: 4 cells
Embryo #4: 4 cells
Embryo #5: 2 cells

Our embryo transfer will be scheduled for Tuesday, and we won't get another call between now and then. We will show up on our transfer day and get our new update on the spot and hope that we have some good blastocysts to transfer.

We're excited, but also nervous, because in the past we have always had good looking embryos on Day 3, but they always started to slow down and arrest on Day's 4 & 5. But our biggest problem, is that we've never had an embryo go from the Day-4 morula stage to the Day-5 blastocyst stage. So we are on pins and needles hoping, that this time, some of our little EM-BABIES will make it.

In the meantime, all we can do is try to put it out of our heads.

And wait.

Did I mention the waiting NEVER ends??

Saturday, November 15, 2008

It's A New Day!

Why does sunshine always make us feel better? And combine that with clear blue skies, fresh mountain air, and things start to look like a whole new day.

This morning, we decided to head out and clear our heads. So we drove up to Boulder, and walked along the trendy Pearl street. It wasn't long before being out in the fresh mountain air started to make me feel better. The surgery was behind me, all the needles finished, and it was a beautiful day.
And then, it got even better!

One of the embryologists called to report the best possible news I could imagine. Of the five additional eggs that they ICSI'd, all of them fertilized and grew overnight -- OH MY GOD! So that means we have 5 additional embryos growing -- for a total of 16!!!!

Imagine me with my jaw hanging open and my hands shaking with joy. I was so stunned I could barely beleive it. I had no hope that any would fertilize, let alone all 5! I feel so extremely lucky. And it has completely erased my guilt and worry. And now, I'm back on track, mentally and emotionally. No more beating myself up! I did everything I could. I triggered on the right day. I listened to my gut and called about our immature eggs. And we got 5 extra embryos!

Things have never looked better.

Okay, yes, I'm up and down more than a yo-yo on steroids. I do realize this. I'm not crazy, really, it's just how it is in IVF-land. The highs and lows never stop. Today I'm on a high again. But I know that there are more lows to come. It's just how it is -- this rollercoaster keeps us upside down and back around again, all within hours, days, and weeks. When we're low, we're so low that we don't think we will ever get off the ground. And when we are high, we are over the moon. Still, we know, that it's all part of a process, a long long road, with only one answer at the end.

But for now, we are truly counting our blessings, and more hopeful than ever.

So we continued on with our day, and drove toward Estes Park and The Rocky Mountain National Park with a renewed sense of hope. We talked, we laughed, and we took in the beauty around us.

The scenery was amazing. There is something about being in the mountains that makes you feel so alive. They are so majestic and brilliant and make you feel like anything is possible.

And today, we believe it is!

So tonight we go to sleep filled with hope once again, and wondering what tomorrow will bring. We will be getting a call with our Day 3 Embryo report in the morning -- and aren't sure what will happen. We could be doing our transfer as early as tomorrow morning, or not until Tuesday. We are really hoping for a day 5 transfer, but for once, we aren't going to sweat it.

We'll find out soon enough :)

Worry, Guilt, And The Burden of 'What if'?

It's no secret that I obsess about things.

I obsess about even the smallest things in life, so you can imagine how I am with the biggest. I go over things and over things in my mind. Dissecting them, rethinking them, focusing on every last detail. I worry. I play things over and over in my mind. And I find it really hard to let things go, especially when I feel they could have been avoided, if only I'd been more on top of things.

Last night I woke up in the middle of the night sobbing.

I was sobbing so hard I could barely breathe. It was all Dave could do to comfort me. Sometimes infertility hurts to your very core. It's a rollercoaster. One minute you are up, the next you are so low you don't know if it's possible to bear so much pain. It sneaks up on us, squeezes, hurts so bad that you think the pain will kill you. And you can’t stop it. There is no rationalizing it. It comes fast and furious, taking hold and torturing our hearts, minds, and souls. It is a pain I wouldn't wish on anyone, unexplainable and completely devastating. It is simply unbearable.

The fear of this final cycle failing brought me to my knees last night. Even though it's now when I should be most hopeful. It's now when we've had more embryos growing in a lab than we ever have before. It's now when we are have the best chances with the best lab in the world that we've never had before. It's now when we might even have a few new embryos growing in the lab today that I should be jumping for joy. It's now when I should be celebrating that I am crying.

I hate infertility. this stupid ugly beast. She sends fear, her partner in crime into our hearts to torture us. To sap our hope. To remind us that we are kidding ourselves. That is has never worked before, so why would it work now. To taunt and laugh in our face and bring even the most hopeful person to their knees.

But my pain doesn't come from fear of failure. It comes from fear of regret. It comes from the fear that if this cycle fails, if we are forced to face a life without biological children, that I will be haunted forever, that I will never be able to let go of the guilt, of the 'what if' thinking. That I will never stop wondering if I could have done something to change the outcome.

Up until now, this was my biggest fear. I want closure. I want to be able to walk away knowing I did everything I could. That's why I put myself in a position to have no regrets. I ate all the right foods, got all the right bodywork, asked all the right questions, came to the best clinic and lab in the country, double checked my protocol, asked and reasked questions that I needed to know, scheduled regroups and extra appointments with our doctor. Up until now, I did everything I could. I dotted all our I's and crossed all our T's. I listened to all those nagging voices in my head.

Except one.

And that is what woke me up with uncontrollable sobbing, regret, and a feeling that it's my fault for ignoring the voice in my head that told me we were triggering too early. That I should have picked up the phone and questioned it. that I should have listened to that voice that told me I wanted to coast for one more night before triggering. That I should have at least called and told them my concerns.

And now it is too late. Half my eggs were immature, and I can't help feeling that if I had of listened to my gut feeling, I could somehow have changed the outcome and got us almost double the chances.

But what I'm even more afraid of, is that if this cycle fails, if we do get to the end of this and the answer is no, that I will always look back and wonder. The one thing I wanted to avoid. I will always be asking "what if?" And that is a fate worse than anyone should ever have to bear. Because I'm afraid that that question will torture me forever.

I know I need to stop. I need to focus on the good. But right now, I'm just so afraid. And can't stop asking:

What if?