Needles, Embryos and Tests, OH MY!

In four, quickly-approaching months will be the beginning of the new year and the start of our first IVF cycle.  While it is exciting about the possible opportunities that come with starting IVF, it is also scary and nerve-wrecking to think about everything involved in this process.  In my recent conversations with friends and family, I have found not a lot of people understand IVF or even know what it is.  I thought it would be helpful to explain what an IVF cycle consists of.  I’ll spare you the complex medical terminology and try to explain it in the easiest way possible.

  1. Ovulation Induction- This step consists of two phases, suppression and stimulation.

Suppression Phase-Basically, the point of this phase is to control ovulation when the doctors want it to precisely happen.  This is done through a variety of medications, oral and injection.  This phase will also include blood tests and ultrasounds to monitor.  This phase is approximately 7 days from the last day of my menstrual cycle. I like to refer to this phase as the beginning of “The Great Stab-a-thon”.

pin cushion

I wasn’t aware I was applying for a job as a Full-time Human Pin Cushion!

Stimulation Phase-Now that the lady bits are calm and quiet, it’s time to wake them up! During my favorite phase (yeah, right!), I’ll continue injections to keep my ovaries from ovulating but I will begin an additional injection to stimulate follicle growth. I like to think of follicles as nice little egg nests where the egg will form with help of hormones.  The drugs used for IVF encourages growth of more than average follicles.  After more blood tests and ultrasounds, we will determine when I should receive my “trigger shot”.  The purpose of this injection is to roll out the red carpet for my eggs to arrive on and give the follicles an extra nudge. clomid

2.   Egg Retrieval-This is where the fertility doctor goes in and surgically retrieves any and all eggs that were produced, directly from the ovary.  This is an outpatient procedure I will be under for-thank goodness! We will find out at that point how many eggs were retrieved. Don’t be like me and go to YouTube and watch videos of this process.  I quickly regretted it!

I'm pretty sure a va-jay-jay isn't supposed to stretch like that!

I’m pretty sure a va-jay-jay isn’t supposed to stretch like that!

3.   Fertilization and Embryo Growth- At this time, the lights are dimmed, slow music will start playing…HAHA! Just kidding! The IVF lab will take eggs retrieved that are mature and sperm and primarily mix them together.  Our clinic performs ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic Sperm Injection) which goes a step further and injects the sperm directly into the egg to increase chances of success. For 2 to 5 days, an embryologist will incubate and monitor growing eggs to embryos.  Not every mature egg will fertilize and not every fertilized egg will grow for the full 5 days.

4.  Embryo Transfer– After the 5 days, we will learn how many mature eggs fertilized and continued to grow.  With the help of our doctor, we will decide how many we want to transfer to my uterus. She’s assured us no more than two, no Octo-mom here!  Using a catheter, our doctor will transfer embryo(s) to my uterine cavity.  I won’t have to be under anesthesia for this step. She told us they simply choose which ones to use at the time as if it were a beauty contest. They pick the best looking one(s).  Any remaining embryos would be preserved (frozen) for future pregnancy attempts.

5.  The Two-Week-Wait– After the transfer will begin the longest two weeks of anyone who may be trying to conceive’s life.  We simply have to wait to see if implantation has occurred and take a pregnancy test two weeks later via blood test.  Also during this two week wait, some doctor’s give additional medication to encourage implantation.  What’s one more injection, right?! Oh, but this is the mother-of-all injections.  This is given intramuscular. Bigger needle, deeper injection.  At least, I only have to do that once for the cycle.

TwoWeekWait

Those 5 steps are essentially an entire “fresh” IVF cycle. The entire process is about 6-8 weeks.  If there are embryos remaining and pregnancy is not achieved after the first cycle, we will be given the option to do what is called a Frozen Embryo Transfer.  This is where they thaw embryos to be transferred while I am given medication prior to the transfer and we repeat steps 4 and 5.

Knowing how everything is “supposed” to go helps, but I’m interested and excited to document our experiences with each step and share them!  I have began preparing for this process by doing additional research, talking with “veterans”, looking into and starting supportive care and preparation such as diets, vitamins, exercise.

Stay tuned for the next blog post, when I will talk about certain things I’m doing to prepare, how you can help and an AMAZING offer available to those who are beginning their journey!

See you soon!

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Say What? (Part 2)

Last week, in Say What (Part 1), I touched on a few things I’ve heard in just the short time we were told we have fertility challenges.  As I stated before, I completely understand when certain questions are asked, statements are made, or advice is given, it is done with love and good intentions.  If anything I have learned many people don’t realize how common infertility is, let alone know how to respond to someone who says they are facing infertility. This week, I have a few more questions or statements I’ve heard that I want to talk about.
“But you’re so young! You have plenty of time to get pregnant.”
I’m 28 years old, (29 in November).  I have plenty of friends who have children or even two or three.  I also have friends who have just started building their families.  In an ideal situation, my husband and I had a “5 year plan” after we got married that involved the possibility of starting a family when we were ready.
That all changed within the last year.  One day we were told I have Endometriosis and if we do want kids we need to focus on trying soon.  They told us with as bad the Endo is, I could end up needing a full hysterectomy if we wait too long. Then, almost a year to the day later, we were told I have PCOS and in addition to the severity of the Endo, our chances of conceiving on our own are almost zilch and oh by the way, our best option for a successful pregnancy is through IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) so we’ll need to come up with at least $14k asap.

Talk about a dagger to my heart.  I’ll never forget sitting in the consultation room after our first appointment with the fertility specialist and zoning out while talking to the nurses, doctors, financial coordinators for 3 hours learning the process, the percentages, the statistics, and the thousands of dollars it would cost for us to have a baby of our own.  To say it was overwhelming is an understatement.  I may be young but I definitely do not have all the time in the world.

Do understand at times we are overwhelmed with the amount of information we are receiving and stressing at the thought that I can hear a clock ticking that isn’t just biological but also scientific.  While being younger does help, it doesn’t guarantee that I will become pregnant. 

“Just relax and it will happen when you least expect it!”

just relaxI hear this and my first thought is “Oh my goodness! Why didn’t we think of that?!” and I just want to laugh.  I wish it were that easy but not for us.  Stress is not solely responsible for my infertility but I would be lying if I said it can’t complicate things.

In the all-encompassing binder full of info on IVF we received at our consultation, it says to reduce stress to aid in the success of IVF.  Again I chuckle at the thought of not “stressing” while your other half is poking you daily with needles and your body is waging in a hormonal world war inside.

I would also be lying if I said we haven’t made changes to relieve some stress.  Some are minor such as limiting extra activities, spending more time on my hobbies, focusing on my faith and ensuring I have my daily quiet time with God.  Then some changes have been major, like quitting a growing career I had worked for years to eliminate emotional and physical stresses to solely focus on my health and my family.  It took some adjusting but I’m grateful for the decisions we have made and the positive changes that have come from those decisions.

Please understand it is a myth that stress can cause infertility.  My infertility is caused by Endo and PCOS so telling me to “relax” isn’t magically going to give us a baby.  Also understand when we start our IVF cycle I may seem more stressed trying to keep organized and track medications.  This will be stressful individually and for us both, please continue to provide support or encouragement and offer help when the time is right.


“Everything happens for a reason.” or “It’s all a part of God’s plan.”

happened for a reason

This one is possibly the one I hear the most and also probably the hardest for me.  Let me say that I am fully aware that God has a plan in place.  Trusting His plan has always been a struggle for me.  While trying to figure out if we were going to be able to do IVF and when the possibility seemed hopeless, I remember crying out to Him, “Why are you doing this to me?!”  At my weakest, I told my husband I didn’t understand why God would allow me to want to be a mother so badly and then turn his back on me and that I had never felt so lonely in all my life.  However, it was shortly after this moment I felt led to start this blog and be a voice for others who may be feeling the same way I have felt.

I’m a firm believer that this journey we are on is God’s way of working through me to grow my faith all while learning to give complete control to Him.   With that said, hearing someone tell me this is all God’s plan/will or everything happens for a reason, does not make this easier.  There have been many times where I feel entitled to be angry and upset with His plan and in my opinion, I think it’s ok to be angry sometimes.  Honestly, instead of hearing someone trying to comfort me with these words, I want people to be upset along with me.   When I hear people tell me this, I take it as a reminder I have no control over what happens.  (There is my inner-control freak trying to break her way out again!) It’s hard for me to completely let go and admit, I don’t have control over this.

Please understand that I struggle with this daily and that I know deep down God is in control.  Please tell me if you recognize this isn’t fair for us and know that there will be times I will be angry and upset.  Empathy goes a long way.


“I’m pregnant!”

dont drink the water

Lastly, maybe you just found out you are pregnant but don’t want to upset the infertile girl with the news.  Yes, it sucks.  There I said it.  It sucks to be on Facebook and my newsfeed be filled with what seems like 1000 friends who are expecting (actually this last month I’ve already counted 12 pregnancy announcements.  March and April is going to be a doozy.)  However, as much as it sucks, at the same time I’m thrilled for my friends and family!

I had heard from other friends searching for their last key, how hard it was when friends or family would announce they were expecting.  I never anticipated the effect it would have on me.  I received my first experience a few months ago while hanging out with a group of our close friends.  They told everyone they had news and I immediately looked down and in my mind I began repeating “Please don’t say you are pregnant. Please don’t say you are pregnant.” I wasn’t ready.  We were just told our news and I hadn’t even had time to process it yet, let alone figure out how I would handle someone’s announcement.  When they announced, I smiled and told them congratulations and that I was happy for them and their exciting news, and I truly am! Shortly after, my mind began racing, my face felt hot, I could feel my heartbeat in my throat and I asked my husband if we could go home.  It was when we got inside and started getting ready for bed I just broke down. I don’t think either one of us were ready for my feelings at that moment.

It’s a weird inner-emotional clash that happens inside of me when I hear others’ joyful news.  I am truly happy and deeply excited for them in my heart but then my sympathetic nervous system takes over my body. I can say it seems to have gotten easier as I have heard about numerous family additions but occasionally the rush of feelings happens all over again when I least expect it.

Please know that I am excited to hear your news and I am so happy for you and your family.  If possible, a text message or email to let me know is ideal.  I’ll have the time to digest the news and if for whatever reason my pesky sympathetic nervous system decides to take over, you won’t have to witness it.  In no way do I want to take away from your joy.  Please keep in mind it’s not always easy for me sometimes to keep my hormones in check and sometimes the ugly cry face comes out!

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I hope this is somewhat helpful and explains things from my personal experience. This is just how I feel and if you or your friends are facing their own infertility battle may feel differently or have similar out different experiences,  I would love to hear your/their experiences!

This week I’m working on getting the word out about my blog.  Please help me share my page! You can follow me and share on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest!

Have a great weekend!

Jackie

Say what? (Part 1)

While filming their show, FABLife, Tyra Banks and Chrissy Teigen broke their silence this past week about their own personal fertility challenges. I applaud both of them for their bravery.  After my post last week, I had not only women I have never met but also friends and acquaintances contact me about their journey and what they were going through.  I was surprised to hear that so many other women have been through so many challenges, just like me.

infertility

Here’s the thing about infertility. It does not discriminate. Infertility affects both women and men, white, black, rainbow, young and older people and everyone in between. It is not an inconvenience.  It is a disease.  According to Merck, as many as 1 in 8 couples experience difficulty conceiving.  That’s approximately 7.4 million women facing the infertility battle.  On June 24th, 2014, I officially became a part of that 7.4 million.  My husband and I are that 1 in 8.  Yay! We’re #1, right? Not exactly.

After Tyra and Chrissy’s admission on FabLife, infertility topics began popping up all over the internet.  Tyra talked about multiple failed IVF attempts. Tyra and Chrissy both made mention numerous people asking “why don’t you have kids yet?” or “when are you going to have kids?”.  They both emotionally discussed how frustrating it can be to someone who is experiencing it firsthand. I noticed while reading articles and various comments that those who are on the journey with us, whether is it is family, friends, co-workers, etc., sometimes they just really don’t know what to say or how to respond.

Personally, although I’m new to this “adventure”, I have experienced questions or comments that I know are meant to be comforting and helpful, can also have the complete opposite effect.  I had planned on blogging my own version of what to say and what not to say further down the road, but on the heels of Tyra and Chrissy’s recent sharing, I thought now would be a better time than any.  There are a variety of lists regarding what not to say to someone who is struggling with infertility, so this may not be news to the seasoned warriors.  I want to share my own personal experiences in what will be a two-part blog.  With that said, if you have said these to me, please know my goal is not to make you feel uncomfortable or upset. I hope that this will be a guidance tool for those around me and those who may know someone suffering with infertility.

“Have you tried losing weight? Maybe if you work-out you would be able to get pregnant!”

Yes, that thought has crossed my mind, a lot.  My weight is definitely not ideal or where it should be.  I have Hypothyroidism, meaning, my thyroid basically decided to give up and not work.  I have been struggling with this since I was 16.  I remember the first 2 years of high school I consistently weighed around 120 pounds.  My junior year,my thyroid threw in the towel and in a matter of a few months, I gained 55 pounds.  We used to joke that my “freshman 15” came early.  Until recently, my doctors and endocrinologists struggled to find the perfect concoction of thyroid medications for my body.  Almost immediately after the correct meds and dosages were figured out, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis and placed on 6- months of Lupron Depot injections.  In addition, to other awful side effects, (that’s a blog post for later), I gained an additional 63 pounds. Now, add my recent diagnosis of PCOS which causes me to be insulin resistant and pack on a tummy pouch, it only gets better (sarcasm).  Do the math and now you can figure out where I am.

Morale of this story, you telling me to lose weight, isn’t going to magically make me shed pounds, let alone become pregnant (although, wouldn’t that be nice?).  I’m already conscious enough about my body and its inability to make babies, only saying this to me makes it worse.

This has been one extremely frustrating, 12-year, up-hill battle.  I’ll be the first to admit I could eat better, smaller portions and do more cardio.  All of which, I have begun in the last few weeks.  My thyroid levels for the first time in years are in the correct range and I recently began taking the wonderful (sometimes not-so-wonderful) drug, Metformin, to help with PCOS and pre-diabetes.  I also plan to start swimming again in the next week and plan on posting my progress, (which by the way I’m down 12 pounds!)

weight lossDo help motivate me.  Point out when I’m making progress.  Encourage me when I feel my weakest. Understand that it may not be as easy for me as it was for you.

“At least there’s always adoption, right? There’s so many children in need already!”

While this is true, I have struggled with this question immensely.  It wasn’t until I was asked this or the “adoption alternative” was brought up about the 5th or 6th time that I realized how this made me feel.

Selfish.  I feel selfish.  Don’t get me wrong, adoption is great and I admire those who open up their hearts and homes to the children who need it the most.  But I want to experience the moment when you look down and see two lines on that pregnancy test.  I want to hear our child’s heartbeat at the doctor’s office.  I want to feel flutter kicks in my tummy.  I want people to ask me about my due date, what gender our baby is, what their name will be.  I want to wear maternity clothes and show off my belly.  Is that so wrong?!

This also falls in line with  “At least you have already have a step-daughter!”

You’re right, I LOVE being a step-mom to K.  She is possibly the coolest 10-year-old I have ever met.  I am grateful for every moment I get with her.  With that said, I met K when she was 5 years old.  I didn’t get to experience time with her when she was an infant or toddler.  I didn’t get to witness her roll over for the first time or hear her first cry.  I want to experience those milestones with my husband and with our child.

Being asked this makes me feel bad that I want those things and somehow I feel bad that adoption isn’t our first priority or that K isn’t “good enough”.  It’s almost the same as if we should ask pregnant women why they didn’t adopt first or if they already had one kid, why they decided to have more.
Do realize we have considered adoption as an alternative but if we make it that far, that decision will not be easy for me.  Just as if you grieve for a lost loved one, I will grieve knowing that we may not be able to have a biological child and I may not get to experience those moments.

quote

“At least you know you can get pregnant!”

                Yep, even though knowing this is entirely said to give me hope, it doesn’t.  I have heard this far more than I expected.  At first, I was hopeful.  As mentioned in my interview on Amateur Nester, my husband and I had a miscarriage 3 months after we were married.  Doctors estimate I was only a few weeks along and now as we learn more, I feel it was most likely a chemical pregnancy.  A chemical pregnancy is a very early miscarriage, which takes place before anything can be seen on an ultrasound and is where the sperm has fertilized the egg, but later on, the egg fails to survive.

Despite the fact I tried so hard to focus on the positive that we were able to get pregnant, the thought remains that we didn’t stay pregnant.  Again, reverting back to the “my body is incapable of making (and growing) babies” thought in my head.  I’m finding infertility makes it very hard to not put yourself down while making you feel like you are doing something wrong or you are at fault.  I am consistently having to tell myself this is a disease.  While I can try to do as much as I can with specialists, medications, natural paths, etc., this is still a disease and I try to comprehend that there are just some things that are out of my control. (Take that inner control freak!)

This is just a small look into what I have experienced thus far.  The above 3 questions and statements are by far the most common I have encountered.  Stay tuned for the next blog post that touches on a few more that I have heard or have recently began introduced to.

Please comment below with any questions or phrases you have encountered as someone dealing with infertility or maybe you are someone who has tried to offer help and not sure if it was the best thing that could’ve been said!  I would love to hear your experiences!

thank you

On another note, let me just say “Thank You!” for the overwhelming amount of support we have received after my first post! In one week, The Last Key had over 350 views! I have received so many texts, emails and messages with encouraging words, curious questions and grateful notes. I even got the amazing opportunity to tell my story over at Amateur Nester.  You can read that here.   It all means so much!

Thank you again!

Jackie

First Post-Last Key

“Don’t be discouraged. It’s often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.”-Anonymous

When I heard this quote, I felt there was nothing more fitting than this metaphor for my life at this exact moment.  I knew it was perfect to be the start to a new phase in my life and the title for this blog.

Doors.  Doors bring opportunities.  Sometimes the door is wide open, welcoming you through to new possibilities.  Other times, they seem to be locked and although you may think you have the key and you try everything you can to jiggle that darn thing, nothing seems to work.  I have faced many doors.  Some small and trivial, some having unicorns and rainbows waiting on the other side. Then, there are the ones that look scary, gigantic and wrapped in caution tape.

I approached the first, of what would be a series of many scary doors, beginning in high school. I was diagnosed with Hypothyroidism when I was 17 years old.  In June 2014, I was diagnosed with Stage IV-Endometriosis.  In the year following, I would also be diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), Pre-Diabetes, and a fatty liver all while receiving a variety of medications, some feeling like they were doing more damage than good.  (Foreshadow of future posts to come)  We were told that if we wanted to grow our family, it may not be achievable without assisted reproductive technology.  On top of that, if we wanted to pursue help, we needed to do so in a timely manner due to my health.

The door in front me now is not only frightening but when I first heard the word “infertility” uttered by a doctor, I could almost hear the sound of my “Baby” door slamming shut and a padlock being slapped on tightly. This is a door I can remember dreaming about since I was 6 years old, carrying around a baby doll everywhere I went.  When others said they wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer when they grew up, I said I wanted to be a “Mommy”.  No matter how hard I pry with my fingers, bang on it with my fists, yell and scream and slide my back against the door until I’m slouched over on the floor with my head in my hands, my door won’t open.   Not without a key.  Right now, I don’t know what that key is or where it may be.  But if you are anything like me and have ever lost your keys, (not the metaphorical ones, the real ones), the first thing I do is retrace my steps and search high and low and in every possible place.

The reason I started this blog is to bring awareness to not only the diseases that I have been confronted with, but also the journey of infertility my husband and I now face.  Since June 2014, I have begun researching, pinning, tweeting, messaging, joining, liking, emailing and calling hundreds of websites, organizations, doctors’ offices and people who may be standing at a similar door or helping others find the key.   I was quite surprised to see the lack of support provided to women searching for a personal story in which they can relate, not statistics, percentages and estimations.  In addition to hopefully being a voice about a taboo subject, I aim to provide support to those experiencing infertility first hand and those who may know someone standing at a door of their own. Further, we have a large support system of friends and family that have been interested in following our journey and this will be easier to communicate on a larger scale.

January 2016 will be the prospective date of our first IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) cycle.  Until then, I have 4 months to ensure that my body is literally ready to cross that threshold in the best way possible.  I’m expecting the search for this key to be stressful, joyful, eye-opening, humorous and inspiring.  Please feel free to follow AND SHARE if you are standing at that door, someone you know is going through their bunch of keys, or you just want to know about our “search for the last key”. I look

If you have any questions, comments or posts you would like to see, please email me at thelastkey@outlook.com

See you soon,

Jackie