Monday, April 30, 2012

Babies Got Beats - Weeks 5-8

Week 5
We had our first ultrasound this week. 2 gestational sacs + 2 yolk sacs = TWINS! Lou almost started crying, I just know it. I was pretty composed, but I think only because I was on pins and needles that it just numbed me. I started spotting a day before the ultrasound and I was so nervous that I made myself sick. Literally. I have never been so scared in my life. But, thank the Lord - everything looked great. I'm just going to be extra paranoid from here on out. Sometimes the thoughts of infertility consume me and I find it hard to get them out of my head. The emotional, physical and financial toll this has taken on me just to get to this point - what if something terrible happens and it was all for nothing. I wish I could get hypnotized and have all those thoughts go away so I can just enjoy this. I'll work on that....

Back to babies - they already have little heart beats - we could see the little flickers on the screen. It was the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life. Baby A is measuring one day ahead of Baby B, which is fine. When they printed the pictures out for me I looked at Lou and said, I never thought I'd get to see one of these and it be my own. We love them so much already. Lou has nicknamed them Tito and Buck (he has some sort of obsession with these names).

When we were walking out, all the girls who work there that I have come to know and love were so excited for us. Despite the reasons for us having to be at HFI, it's been a really great experience and it's all because of the people who work there. It's going to be hard once we graduate to my OB at around 10 weeks.

Symptoms started early for me! Here are a few:

  • All day Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Just the though of meat thicker than sandwich slices absolutely repulses me
  • I have that "I haven't eaten in days" starvation feeling in my stomach but when I go to eat I can only take a couple bites
  • Crackers even taste terrible
This is the reaction we got when we told Izzy about her future siblings.

Our sweet couture babies!

Eva loves her twinsies!

Week 6
At my first ultrasound they gave me a prescription for Zofran (aka my new best friend). I was starting to stress about how I would continue to work while vomiting and feeling nauseous all day long. The area where I sit at work is one of the furthest away from the restrooms and there is only 1 trash can along the way but even it's kind of far.

I went in for my blood work and 2nd ultrasound by myself today. I was super disappointed that Lou wasn't there with me because... I got to hear the babies' heartbeats!!!! It was the most beautiful sound I've ever heard. I was just in shock. My fav Nurse got a little emotional with me. It just amazes me that you can hear such a strong heart beat coming from something that doesn't even look like a baby yet. WOW! I can't wait to watch them grow through the ultrasounds and even more when they come into the world!

I'm still on the estrogen pills that dissolve under my tongue 3 x's a day, the estrogen patches every 3 days, and the torturous progesterone in oil shots in my butt. I still have a terrible rash from the shots and also a hematoma that just returns after one goes away. It's miserable but I know it's what I have to do for the babies. They can't survive without it. BUT I will throw a freakin' party once I'm finally done!

Week 7
Today was one of those days I pray we never have to experience again. I have never been so scared in my life (and I thought the spotting was bad!) We went in today for another ultrasound and while the doc was looking at the babies' growth, I started hemorrhaging really bad. I won't go into detail - just trust me when I say it was horriffic. Doc thinks I had a subchorionic hemorrhage. So so so scary. Luckily, the babies looked fine. They are both measuring right on target at 7 weeks. Baby A had a heart rate of 136 and Baby B was 144. I've been put on bedrest for about 5 days.

I've been given a stronger anti-nausea medication because the "morning" sickness has been out of control. The Zofran was no longer working for me. Misery for a good cause! I'm not going to lie though, it's hard to think that way while I'm puking 5 times in an hour.

Week 8
I'm still going twice a week for blood work and an ultrasound. I look forward to the day they start weaning me off all the hormones. I went off the shots for 2 days because I ran out and the pharmacy didn't ship them to me on time. When I went in for bloodwork, my progesterone had dropped to below the cutoff point needed for the babies to survive. This proved my doc's point that the progesterone shots are crucial because my body doesn't make enough on it's own. Luckily, the meds got there the same day as the blood work, so when I went in again this week, my progesterone was back up where it needed to be. Hallelujah! Everything looked great - I am so lucky to get see my babies twice a week. Us once-labeled "infertiles" get spoiled at the RE's (reproductive endocrinologist) office.

The Big Announcement

After a long, anxiety-ridden, heartbreaking, exciting 2 years of trying, I am excited to announce that WE ARE PREGNANT!!!! I am in just complete shock right now. We have waited and prayed that God would have it in his plans for us to be parents, and he has answered. WOW!

For the past year, I have been documenting my experience with this emotional roller coaster (with lots of twists and turns) of infertility and the treatment that brought us to this point. If you care to read our story, see the posts below. I wanted to wait to share our story for when we had good news, so it's rather lengthy.

Several months ago we were given less than a 5% of getting pregnant on our own - modern day medicine is amazing. We still have a long way to go, but for now, I am going to enjoy this moment and take it day by day. Here's how we told our parents....

Our very first ultrasound showing 2!

The Making of Baby Lewis - Heartbreak and Triumph

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes.... well, nothing yet. When I first started this blog I made a pact with myself to be as candid as possible (without spewing every detail, because no one wants to know it all. Trust me.) So, I am sharing a part of my life that is private, I guess you could say. I've never been one for modesty so what the heck, right?

I am one lucky girl. I have a super awesome husband, a beautiful little house, sweet pooches that ALWAYS love me, a great family, faith, fabulous friends, a job, a vehicle that gets me places, I get to travel.... the list goes on and on. God has blessed me in so many ways. What more could I want, right?

Like a lot of girls out there, I've wanted to be a mom since I was old enough to hold a baby doll. I LOVED my baby dolls... well, except Cricket. I used to beat her because the tape in her back was broken and it would repeat the same word over and over and over. But that's another story. Have no fear, I will not be an abusive mom.

I started babysitting at a very early age (yes, someone actually trusted me at 10 years old) and continued through college. I must brag on myself because I was damn good at taking care of little ones. In my college years I went through a brief period where I didn't want kids because I didn't want stretch marks or cellulite. After a few months of being in a relationship with beer, I realized it was inevitable.

So, now here we are in our nice little world and the one thing we want we aren't able to make happen. We've prayed a lot about it and while it seems selfish that we want and want and want and want, we know God will lead us in the right direction. We decided to consult with a new doctor just to make sure there was nothing physically wrong with our baby making parts. 

I began chronicling our attempts to start a family. It's a long story (2 years worth) so maybe you don't want to read it all, but this is sort of my way to remember what all we went through to achieve our ultimate dream. "If it's not good, it's not over." - Pastor Tim

Chapter 1 - And so it begins
Today was not a fun day, to say the least. The first step in determining any underlying fertility issues is to have an HSG (hysterosalpingogram - checks to make sure the fallopian tubes are clear and also can flush them out if there are any blockages). So, my OB/Gyn sent me to Dr. Williams at the Houston Fertility Institute to have the test/procedure done.

When I first arrived at the office, I was totally intimidated. There were some other couples in the waiting room with me and all I could do was make up stories in my head about why they were there. I also got a little help with my storyline after some innocent eavesdropping. One couple had matching shirts that said something about Jesus and with them was a sweet kid whom, based on observation, was adopted. The other family included 2 women, a man, and a little boy who was super cute and friendly (he even sang "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to me). They were all in traditional African clothing, which was really beautiful. I won't go into the stories I made up because they're quite detailed, but you get the picture.

So they take me back to the surgical center, which is quite intimidating. I met the nurse (who I added to the "Everyone and Their Sister is Pregnant" list I have going) and after going over my vitals my sweet husband showed up. He jumped at the chance to make fun of my blue hair-hat and matching slippers, and the fact that at any moment I could drop the blanket wrapped around my waist and look like one of those Halloween costumes that's a hospital gown opened in the back with a big butt hanging out. Oh, how I'm reminded daily why I married him.

Anyways, I basically spread 'em for a 10 minute procedure, a ton of money, and a whole lotta pain. (At least Dr. Williams was cute.) I tend to be too detailed in my mind so I'm going to stop here and I'm sure if you have any questions I can answer them. All in all it was good news and we'll find out in a month if it worked or not. This is bittersweet because while I'm relieved that my lady organs are good to go, this also means we are still trying to figure out "WTF!" For now, we're just keeping the faith.

Chapter 2 -  A Doctor Who Hugs
Today we met with Dr. Ohlemacher to talk about the test results and go over our options. She is pregnant herself and due in a few weeks so Bryan had to give her a hard time about planning her next pregnancy around us. Luckily, she has a good sense of humor and had a pretty good comeback.

It was decided that she was going to prescribe Clomid to help aid in ovulation. She said her practice has had great success with those in the "infertility of unknown origin" category, which we are in for right now. It's a cheap option to try for 3 months as opposed to doing expensive test after test. For some unknown reason, Clomid provides that missing link in the whole process. It has relatively low side effects (headaches, bloating, mood swings (my favorite), and multiples. Yes, we could have twins on this medication but we decided this would be ok. Besides, the chance of having multiples is only 10% and we could get it over with all at once. So, on another journey we go.... I do have to add one really important detail about our appointmeny. Dr. O gave me a hug at the end of the meeting. This was the first doctor to ever hug me, and I really think this goes to show the kind of person she is. Amazing!

Chapter 3 - Hot Flash!
Good ol' Clomid has treated me well other than the extreme hot flashes I've experienced (I have a much greater appreciation for A/C and menopausal women) and major bloatedness. I was a nervous wreck the first day I started it thinking I was going to have ALL the symptons and it was just going to be this horrible experience. I guess I worked myself up for nothing (I hope I don't jinx myself). Luckily, I have a very good friend who is going through almost the same thing as me so we share our freak out moments through texts. She has been a calming force, for sure.

Today I went to see Dr. Beard in the medical center, a fellow dr. in the same practice with Dr. O, and she was just as amazing as Dr. O. She's so stinkin' cute. Dr. O had her baby last Friday so I'll be seeing Dr. Beard for a while. She did a "follicle scan" and I decided at that moment that spreading my legs for these doctors was getting a little too routine. I almost fell asleep! Apparently, my ovaries were in hiding, which isn't necessarily a good thing. The left one was being stupid but the right one gave up it's identity after about 5 minutes. It was a little disappointing since being on Clomid was supposed to produce super follicles and here I am with one measly follicle and 3 super measly follicles. She did say that the one which measured 17.5 could possibly be a winner with a shot of Ovidrel tonight (helps aid in ovulation). I didn't really catch on to what she was saying until she wrote the prescription and started explaining to me how to give myself the shot. UM, I  DON'T THINK SO LADY! I played it cool but that's what I was thinking in my head. I could not see myself going through with this plan. I don't mind needles a bit but just the thought of giving myself a shot.... unfathomable!

Well, tonight it's all or nothing. I guess if I make it back for another post that means I made it out alive. **Wishing myself luck.**

Chapter 4 - I'm alive!
Pacing through the house with the shot in my hand and trying to self motiviate did not work. Next thing I know Bryan is in the computer room looking up on YouTube how to give a shot in the stomach. He played "Are You Ready For This?" from Jock Jams and I couldn't help but laugh. Who does that!? That's right, my husband. He gave me the shot. Twice. The first time he didn't push all the medicine out. Good ol' Lou.

On Tuesday I went to get my progesterone levels checked. Today they called me back with the results and it definitely did not make my day. Apparently I don't make enough progesterone for a healthy implantation, which could either keep me from getting knocked up or could end in a miscarriage. So, I go on progesterone starting today and will have to take a pregnancy test next to determine if (A) I'm pregnant (B) I'm not and will have to stop the progesterone and start the process all over.

Chapter 5 - No Go :(
Well, I had to start round 2 as round 1 did not work. I don't know what I would do without my amazing husband. He doesn't allow me to have negative feelings about this process. He is always so encouraging and silly, of course. We celebrated our 1 year anniversary this past weekend in the hill country and it was so refreshing. Yesterday, on our way back from Wimberley, we stopped by the doctor's office to have another follicle scan done. This was the first actual appointment Bryan had attended with me. The 30 minutes or so of waiting for the doc to come in the room consisted of me telling Bryan to stop playing with all the equipment in there.

The doctor's office has all these beautiful portraits of families and babies and one of my favorite is of this little boy and his chocolate lab. Bryan took one look at it and said, "That kid must look like his mom" (meaning he obviously didn't look like his dad, the chocolate lab. I didn't get it at first, which is why I'm explaining it). At one point he rolled the doctor's stool into the ultrasound machine and almost knocked it over. Oh how he makes me laugh.

The actual follicle scan made Bryan uncomfortable, and it was quite hilarious. But, we were excited to hear that I had a really good follicle this time. The doc sent us home again with Ovidrel and I let Lou administer it this time with the promise that he would do it right. He succeeded.

Chapter 6 - Tubba-Wubba
Forget everything I said about Clomid side effects. I feel like a beached whale with hot flashes that could kill a girl! Ugh, it's definitely been one of those sappy/cry any minute kind of days. I've gained 15 pounds from all these hormones, at least that's what I'm going to blame it on because I haven't changed any of my habits and I maintained my weight before going on all these dang hormones. I'm starting to think adopting that Cambodian baby (and giving it a mohawk) might be a good idea.

Chapter 7 - No Go #2
No good news to share. Try #2 didn't work. I've now gained 20 pounds and have stepped up my workouts and diet to see if I can stop this craziness. I've always struggled with my weight - fluctuating 20-30 pounds most the time. And there's really no explanation to it most of the time. I'm definitely not one of those girls who can just eat whatever she wants. I look at french fry and gain 2 pounds. Oh the joys of being female. Last round of clomid coming up.

Chapter 8 - No Go #3 & Time for a Break
Today was my final follicle scan and it was rather frustrating. There was nothing there and the lining of my uterus had thinned out way too much. I had a lot of emotions this time around, ones that I just couldn't hold in. I was frustrated, mad, sad, let down, etc. Since the doctor will only allow me to be on Clomid for 3 consecutive months, this was our last chance at this type of treatment. And we got nothing. She said it's rare that her patients on Clomid don't produce at least 1 follicle. So, she suggested I take a break, get some blood work done, and we'd go from there. About a week later I got a call from the nurse who said my blood results were in and it looked like I had PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). And the hits just keep on coming, is all I can think. Until my wonderful husband reminds to be positive. But dangit, it's hard sometimes. We both have proven issues and this worries me...

In the meantime, I found out that I got the job I'd been crossing my fingers about. So, we've decided to take a break from the doctor visits and medicines and try on our own.

Chapter 9 - Picking up the Pieces
It's actually been a long time since I've written. Chapter 8 was written back in June and here it is October. I was so preoccupied with my job, I didn't consume myself with the thoughts of trying to add to our family and we just went with the flow. But, I'm not going to lie. It was disappointment after disappointment each month that went by.

I read a lot of my friends' Facebook posts and blog postings about their pregnancies, and while I'm so excited for them, it's a constant reminder that I'm not getting to experience it myself. So, for the time being, I'll just live through them. Until I get to be a mom, I'll just hold and love on everyone else's babies!

As it stands now, I've gone back to the doctor due to some "female" issues I've been experiencing and she gave me the option of either going on birth control or trying the clomid one more month. Hearing the word "birth control" had me in tears. Dr. O just hugged me, as she so often does. She is the most amazing doctor and I don't know what I would do without her. I decided to try the Clomid one last time. Fingers crossed, as usual.

Chapter 10 - No Go #4
Boo on Clomid. I had one follicle that was a 12 and that was it (they like to see 17 and above). I'm almost used to this kind of news. Dr. O said she had 2 more tricks to pull out of her hat before we were going to be sent back to the fertility specialist. There's a drug called "Femera" and it's actually prescribed for women with breast cancer. A side effect of it is ovulation. So, fertility doctors all over the world are using it now for women who don't do well on Clomid. It has a fairly high success rate with less side effects than Clomid and it doesn't stay in your system as long. (Don't worry, I did my research and asked lots of questions! I'm not going to put something in my body that I'm not 100% comfortable with.) I'm hoping and praying that this is our answer.

Throughout this journey I've relied on my closest friends and family to confide in and seek support. Lately, I've chosen to keep a lot of what goes on to a minimum because I don't have the energy to deal with those who don't support me and my husband. We're not as lucky as a lot of people in this arena and have therefore had to turn to modern medicine to help us. It's our decision and ours alone. The only thing I can say is unless you have been through these types of issues first hand, you will never understand. I speak from experience. Obviously - I know I sure didn't get it until I was placed in this position. Just be supportive!!! To those who have been nothing but supportive - you will never ever ever know how important you are to me. Ever.

Chapter 11 - Success, maybe?
Femara was a success on one account! Dr. O had me worried because for the first minute or so of her looking on the screen, she didn't say a word. She looked at me and said, "Would you be mad at me if you had twins?" I, of course, said no. She asked "what about triplets?" I started laughing and told her that was my limit. I had 3, yes THREE, follicles over the size of 25. I couldn't help but be excited, even though I had that stupid voice in the back of my head telling me "this doesn't mean it will happen." That night Louie gave me a shot in my stomach and the rest we'll find out about soon....

Chapter 12 - No Go #5
Another month has gone by with no exciting news to share. Bryan and I both were so sure that this was our month. So often I find myself planning out how we're going to tell our families and friends, and what it will feel like to finally say the words "We're pregnant!" And then reality hits. For just those few minutes of planning it out in my head, I can feel the excitment and don't ever want it to go away. I think my husband and those moments I have in my head are the only things keeping me going with this whole process.

I've started round 2 of Femara and boy does it make me emotional, irritable, depressed, etc. It doesn't have as many physical side effects as Clomid but the emotional side effects are extreme. This is one of those times where people say, "It will happen. Maybe you should just take a break and see if it will happen naturally." We've tried that. It didn't work. I could go on and on but I don't need to justify why we're doing this. We trust our doctor and the precentage she says we have of getting pregnant on our own. It's not good. And my body's non-reaction to these fertility drugs are proof of that.

In a week, we go back to Dr. O for the follicle scan and as long as everything looks good like last time, she will perform IUI (intrauterine insemination). I know lately my posts have been on the negative side. I guess I need an attitude adjustment. Hey, at least I recognize it. Praying for success this month.

Chapter 13 - No, This Time I'm Really Crazy
This month, the emotional side effects hit harder than ever before (didn't know it could get any worse!) I asked Bryan if I was going crazy, and he said he would let me know at least before they took me away in a straight jacket. He's so sweet. I'm now officially up to a 30 pound gain, which is so very depressing and doesn't help the emotional side of things. I'm still going to the trainer and Bryan even fixed my bike so I could start that up. If nothing else, it makes me feel better to get the kind of work out she makes me do. That chick is the crazy one!

Follicle scan was "ideal" meaning I had one big follicle (less likely to conceive multiples). So Bryan gave me the shot that night and 36 hours later we went downtown to have the IUI. This is kind of the "cheaper" option before IVF, which freaks me out. If this doesn't work, we will have to see the fertility specialist full time. Fingers, legs, toes, hair, everything that can be crossed is crossed. And saying lots of prayers of course.

Chapter 14 - No Go #6
We just got back from an amazing vacation - just the two of us. It was so nice to get away, see new things, eat good food, see an old friend, and take part in adventurous outings! All was going so great until the very last day when we found out the IUI did not work after taking a bathroom break on our drive from Lake Tahoe to Napa/Sonoma. I don't know if he cried, but we sat in the parking lot of a random Jack in the Box and he held me while I cried for what seemed like days. At least the scenery was beautiful. Each time I tell myself "it's going to be ok, I'm used to the disappointment." But it honestly does not get any easier.

God has a plan for us, and I wish I knew what that plan was. But, I guess that's part of his plan. It's not our job to know. I just hope and pray that it has something to do with being parents to a child that comes from both of us. And if not, we will do what we have to do to be parents.

As for now, we don't know what we want to do. This whole process, as I've said before, has taken quite a toll on both on us. My doctor's recommendation is to see the fertility specialist full time. We shall see...

Chapter 15 - A Fresh Start
And so the story continues... We met with Dr. Haddad (recommended by my OB/Gyn and has a great reputation) and he is CUTE! I asked Bryan if he thought Dr. H was cute too and he just looked at me like I was crazy. He was very thorough but couldn't tell us much until I had more blood work done. I went a couple days later for the blood work, and then a couple days after that we got the results in. We were sad. Again. And on top of that, we had to play the waiting game (which by now should be familiar - Infertility is all just one big waiting game) because we won't get to talk to the doc about our crappy test results for another couple weeks. Hello Anxiety.

Chapter 16 - IVF
We saw Dr. H today for our follow-up and he is just wonderful. He is very honest but not dramatic - Lou really likes that about him. He explained that the blood work showed I have premature ovarian failure. The results really devastated me. Couldn't I just get good news for once? There's really no explanation for why it happens, but sometimes it's genetics so I'm having a round of genetic testing done in a few days. Dr. H said given my age and that this is already showing up in an insensitive blood test, he would recommend IVF; and not waiting too much longer to get started since it will only get worse with time, not better. He also scheduled a hysteroscopy for me so I'll have to take a day off of work for that. I start birth control pills tonight (first part of the IVF process - helps even out hormones) and if the hysteroscopy checks out ok, then we'll be good to go for IVF. Holy crap...

Chapter 17 - Hyster-what?
Today I went in for the hysteroscopy (inspection of the uterine cavity by endoscopy). One of Dr. H's colleagues, Dr. Witz, did the test. We are just so impressed with all the doctors at HFI. So far I've worked with 3 of them and they are all equally as great. I kind of had a scary incident though with the anesthesia. Right before it knocked me out, my stomach felt like it burst into flames. I started screaming but then everything went black. I don't know if not having a gallbladder has anything to do with it, but a similar situation happened last year when I was hospitalized for kidney malfunction. Except that time I was awake and it sent me into an almost cardiac arrest type situation. Not fun. I'm going to have to talk to Dr. H about that. Everything looked perfect with the hysteroscopy (HALLELUJAH!!) We are officially approved for IVF. This is both scary and exciting for us!

One thing I haven't talked a lot about is just how much stress and anxiety this whole process causes. I already have anxiety but have learned over the years to control it without medication - except for extremely stressful situations. My body just doesn't know how to handle itself. As we get closer to really going through with this, I've noticed my level of anxiety is through the roof. The only thing that helps is prayer. I just stop what I'm doing and ask God to help me let go and let him handle things.

Chapter 18 - I Don't Understand
I called Dr. H's nurse today to let her know about the hysteroscopy and to figure out our next steps. So on top of all the other stresses, add to it the complexity of the actual IVF process (medications, new language, etc.) Craziness, I tell you. Anyways, she said she was going to call in the meds for the protocol Dr. H wants to do and the pharmacy would call me for payment and shipment info. They called and when the rep told me the cost, I think I quit breathing for a long period of time. I knew it would be a lot, but reality really hit me at that moment. I felt sick to my stomach and once again, the anxiety took hold. I told her I needed a day to digest it and I would call the next day to pay over the phone (I also wanted to do some research to make sure there wasn't a cheaper pharmacy out there).

I constantly have these thoughts running through my head and I question whether we should go through with this or not. It's a huge, HUGE financial burden on top of a physical and emotional burden. What if it doesn't work and we spent all that money for nothing? What if I lose my job because I'm so stressed out? What if I experience bad side effects like I did with Clomid? What if I get pregnant and I can't enjoy it because I'm so worried about miscarriage? What if I do miscarry? What if, What if, What if. That's all I do in my head all day long. It's exhausting.

Chapter 19 - Stupid Money
And the hits just keep on coming... it is so hard to see the positive when you're so overwhelmed by the financials of this. I did my research and couldn't find anything much cheaper so I called to pay for the meds. (My "teaching" appointment is next week so I need them shipped to me by tomorrow.) When I called, I asked the rep for a breakdown of the costs because the original receipt she sent didn't have the discounts (if you added up each individual med it was way more than what the printed total reflected). Well, come to find out, there was an error and the total cost was really $2,300 more than what was on the receipt from the day before. I don't even know if I said "bye" - I just threw my phone down and raced to the bathroom (I'm at work at this point) and burst into tears. How in the H-E-double hockey stick are we going to do this? I feel so discouraged. I don't even know what else to say at this point. I'm tired of myself and all these negatives. I pray for the day I can yell it from the roof tops - "I'M GONNA BE A MOM!"

Chapter 20 - Teaching Day
Bryan had his bloodwork done today (to make sure he doesn't have infectious diseases) and we both sat through the meds lesson. Bryan will have to give me a shot everyday for 10 days (maybe more) and at some point it will go to 2 shots a day. And I complained about the 1 shot a month that we did for 6 months... There will be 9 other medications to take throughout this process. We still don't know where we're going to get our meds from - the dr. called in the prescription to another pharmacy to see if they would be any cheaper. I was so upset over the weekend about the meds cost that I almost decided to not go through with this - I even called (for the 3rd time) a clinic who was referred to me for doing IVF trials (free IVF!) I was not impressed with the customer service. When I asked the lady about the trial, she just said, "Don't know. Check the website. Maybe one this year, maybe not." Ummmm ok. My always positive, supportive husband convinced me to take a leap of faith. I love that guy. He is so, so good to me. So, I start the injectibles next week and will also go in for (more) bloodwork and an ultrasound. And so it begins...

Chapter 21 - Meds are Ordered (This is really happening)
After a long, argumentative call with the pharmacy and a 2nd screw up on their part, I finally placed the order (got a $50 credit, whoo hoo) and the items were delivered overnight. I really didn't want to go with them since they screwed me TWICE, but they were the cheapest and at this point, I just wanted it done with.

So before they let you start the injections, you have to go in for a baseline check-up (blood work and ultrasound), which I had today. I was so disappointed to learn that I had a rather large cyst on my left ovary. This could potentially mean I would be cancelled for this cycle and have the cyst surgically removed. I was such a nervous wreck (as usual) all day. The beginning of this process has not gone smoothly but I'm praying every day that God will see us through. And I know He will one way or another. I got the call tonight and Dr. H said to go ahead and start (YAY!) because the blood work showed the cyst was not producing estrogen.

Chapter 22 - Shots Begin
Last night was my first injection of stimulants and it went rather smoothly. I was more worried about the mixing of the 2 medications over the actual shot itself. We have to mix 7 vials of meds with sodium chloride, which takes about 10-15 minutes. I was so worried we were going to screw it up - I think Louie was too because we kept questioning eachother. I will say though, I am so so so grateful to have a husband who wants to be a part of this as much as possible. He WANTS to mix the medications and HAS to give me the injections (I refuse to do it myself). I think I'll be ok with this for 10 days.

Chapter 23 - Genetic Tests Results
Today I received some not so great news. 1 week ago I called after seeing my genetic testing results show up on my online patient portal. The nurse said they don't call unless there's an issue and my results came back all clear. Well, today I get a call from Nurse M and she explained that one of my genetic tests came back positive as a carrier for something called Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Bryan would need to get tested to make sure he's not a carrier (we would both have to carriers for our child to get this disease). I asked the nurse why they were just now telling me this because I already started my meds. She made up some story about how my labs got mixed up at another one of their locations. I didn't realize it till after I got off the phone, but that test result was in my patient portal weeks ago, and they can see everything I can see as it's online. I can't see the actual results, just that the results came in. So this could have been taken care of a week ago and we would have known whether or not to start the meds. I plan on talking to Nurse C at my monitoring appointment (it's a different office and close to my work AND I like her much better). Their stupid mistake could cost me a ton of money, plus, I've already put myself through several days of shots! Grrrrrrrrr

Chapter 24 - Update on IVF Process
Injections are going well. I'm feeling super bloated and can feel my ovaries working hard. Sometimes it hurts to laugh, sit down in blue jeans or work pants, and eat too much. Today I went in for my monitoring appointment to check my follicle growth (follicles are home to the egg before it's released) and bloodwork. I had 6 on my right and only 1 on my left because the cyst is taking up so much room. Someone my age going through this process should have 15+, which once again solidifies our reasonings for going through with this. I'm on the highest dosage of meds they can give me and we still aren't seeing the results we should be. We're hoping for as many follicles as possible because a large percentage won't make it to the stage they have to make it to for the transfer. And we want at least a couple to freeze for the future (in case this doesn't work or for when we want our next child).

We're still waiting on Bryan's test results. I forgot to talk to the nurse about the genetic testing but it just so happened that she called me a few hours after I left my monitoring appointment. She thought I didn't know about the test results and she said her heart just dropped when she saw I was a carrier of SMA. In her entire career, she's only seen 1 other person with a positive test result for this. (SMA is 100% deadly and there is no cure.) She asked why I was still taking meds if we didn't know for sure Bryan was a carrier. I told her about how Nurse M made up a story about the results and never offered to have me stop - she actually told me to keep going. Good Nurse C said that should have never happened and she would do whatever it takes to make sure I was reimbursed if we had to cancel this cycle. She is so amazing. It's nice to know someone has my back.

Nurse C called me back 30 minutes later to let me know she talked to Dr. H and it was time to add in another shot (Ganirelix - it prevents early ovulation). So now I will take 2 shots a day for the next 5 days. She also gave me the option to stop all meds in case Bryan's results were positive. I told her I wanted to continue until we knew for sure (should know in a couple days). I've already invested so much emotionally, physically, financially - I didn't want to give up because it's highly unlikely Bryan will also be a carrier. Praying that he is NOT.

Chapter 25 - Thank God for Good Neighbors (and one that's a nurse!)
Earlier this week I went to lunch with my wonderful neighbor, who also works for the same company as me and who got me this job. I confessed to her what all was going on and asked for her prayers. Not once did she question why we were doing IVF. She just listened and let me cry and encouraged me to trust in God - that He is bigger than all this. As soon as I got back to the office I already had an email from her saying she asked for prayers for us from her prayer group. Throughout the week she has sent me encouraging words and scriptures. This is my favorite so far:
Psalm 62: 7 – 8
 In God [is] my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, [and] my refuge, [is] in God.
Trust in him at all times; [ye] people, pour out your heart before him: God [is] a refuge for us. Selah.

We went to dinner with her and her husband, and it was nice to be able to talk freely about what we are going through. She wanted to see all my meds and what all the process entails, so they hung out with us for a while and watched Bryan mix the meds. We had to do the new shot tonight and I had read that the needle was dull on it and you have to do an extra step. Bryan was freaked out by this so we called another neighbor who is a nurse to come over. She gave it to me and what I read was right - the needle was dull so it hurt! I think I officially look like a junkie now. If I hadn't gained so much weight from all these meds, I might post a pic of my stomach. But, can't bring myself to do it.

How blessed are we to have such amazing neighbors? I believe that God puts people in our lives for specific purposes - not many people can say they know all their neighbors. We chose this specific house, on this specific street, for this specific reason. God works in mysterious yet beautiful ways sometimes.

Chapter 26 - "Listen to me!" said God.
God is using Pastor Tim to speak to me and Louie. I just know it. Today's service was about God saying "No." Throughout the sermon, I felt very unsettled. I kept saying in my head, could God really be telling us "no" to having our own child? But then Pastor Tim said, "If it's not good, it's not over." What I'm doing right now, talking to myself in my head, is exactly what God is testing me on. I'm not putting 100% faith in him if I'm questioning his every move. I'm going to really work hard on giving it all to Him. He's teaching me a lesson. Actually, a lot of lessons. I just need to listen!   

Tonight, we watched the Super Bowl at a friend's house. It was really nice to be around our friends whom we don't get to see much as they spend much of their time at Texas Children's Hospital with their preemie baby. We had to do the shots over there since we were there at our scheduled "shoot up" time. Lou had a couple beers so I was a little nervous... but he actually did better than ever before. I guess it took the edge off for him.

Chapter 27 - No Go #7
I went in this morning for another monitoring appt. This time, my neighbor met me there for moral support. She is so great. We are learning together to listen and trust in God. I think that's amazing. The appt. went ok. Still no genetic test results on Bryan. Nurse C said she keeps refreshing her screen to see if the results are in, at least every 10 minutes. I love her. The nurse that did my ultrasound today must be totally new at this. I was worried she didn't get an accurate reading/measurement because it was like she was scared of the ultrasound wand. Little did I know, that was the least of my worries. When I got the results call, Nurse C told me my progesterone was too high at 3.33. If it gets to a 4, I won't be able to do the Embryo Transfer (ET). My body is increasing it's progesterone level at the wrong time, creating a hostile enviroment where the egg won't be able to implant. Great. I feel like my body is failing me. It doesn't want to make a baby or keep a baby. Discouraged is how I feel.

Worse case scenario, they'll still go in for the Egg Retrieval (ER) but they'll have to freeze them and do the transfer later. Ooooooooo Lord, you are testing my patience for sure. This really worries me - because a) a fresh transfer is usually more successful than a frozen embryo transfer (FET) and b) the eggs they retrieve have to make it to a certain point to even be considered for freezing.

Chapter 28 - Ouch!
I am officially running out of room for these dang shots. Last night, Lou hit a vein in my stomach and it hurt like a mother. I feel like I'm carrying around water balloons because my ovaries are working so hard. I'm super emotional. AND still no genetic test results for Lou.

This morning was another monitoring appointment. Today was supposed to be my last day but my follicles are still not where they need to be. They need to measure at least 20 and they're only at 16, some 18. Hopefully they'll be ready in a couple days. Today's bloodwork results will determine if I for sure have to do a FET (frozen embryo transfer). I am praying  my little heart out that my progesterone is down. I have attempted to research this progesterone issue, but it's rare so there's not much out there. The only info I've gotten about it is from a community board I belong too. A girl on there had the same thing happen and they had to do an FET. She did get pregnant but it ended in a miscarriage.

On a "Praise Jesus" note, the sweet nurses at my appt. found out we are totally out of pocket (no insurance coverage on IVF) so they gave me about $700 worth of meds since I'll need 2 extra days worth. This is such a relief and an answer to one of our prayers!

So, for now, I just wait for the call about my bloodwork...

UPDATE: Just got the results. My progesterone is still elevated at 3.19. Dr. H wants me to stay on the meds and come back in Friday. Nurse C is the one that called and she reassured me that they have great success with FET. She was also excited to tell me that Bryan's genetics test was negative. Thank the Lord!! This is how our life has been lately - take the good with the bad.

Chapter 29 - Trigger Happy
Today is trigger shot day! At the ultrasound, I had several follicles that were just about big enough on the right side, but the left side was a doozy. The cyst is taking up too much room. Nurse C called me with the report that I was ready to take the trigger shot (helps the eggs release within 36 hours) and I am scheduled for my Egg Retrieval (ER) in 2 days at 10:45 a.m. Unfortunately, I'm not going to get to do a fresh Embryo Transfer this time :( My progesterone is still increasing and too high. While we are super bummed about this, Nurse C was honest and prepared me for this for about a week now, so I'm not too freaked out. I am physically uncomfortable so I'm ready to get these future babies out!

Chapter 30 - The Big Day (Egg Retrieval) 
Today was the big day. Over the weekend, me and Lou just vegged out. I could barely move anymore so putting on anything other than pj pants was not going to happen.

I really liked the doctor who did my egg retrieval. He was very optimistic and encouraging. He explained a little more about the progesterone issue and how FET (frozen embryo transfer) could be the way to do all IVF procedures in the near future because it is showing more successful. That really eased my mind.

Anesthesia went much better this time around. I told the anesthesiologist about last time, so she tried something different and eased me into sleep instead of a fast knock out. When it was all said and done, the doc talked to Bryan and then to me. He was able to retrieve 7 eggs. Not as many as we'd hope for according to the follicle scans, but better than nothing. Most patients they are able to retrieve 15+ (more proof that my issues are beyond more difficult than what we originally thought). We'll take it! Now for praying they make through overnight fertilization!!

Chapter 31 - Day 1 Fertilization Report
5 made it through fertilization. This is a decent number given that they only retrieved 7. We are still on edge for the next few days because we are really hoping for at least 4 to freeze. Dr. H will only transfer 2, and if it doesn't work the first time, we'd like a couple frozen embryos for back up. Reason 1: I won't have to go through the entire IVF protocol again (shots, etc.). Reason 2: Costs are about 1/2 for a frozen embryo transfer as compared to having to pay for a full IVF protocol again.

Chapter 32 - Day 5 Report
Dr. H himself called me (after I complained in a message that we were bummed out by the lack of communication from him). My fav nurse C has been great, but I just expected to hear more from Dr. H. Apparently, he can read the messages I sent to Nurse C in my online patient portal. Ooops! At least it got his attention. He really does feel terrible so he's making it up to us. I think it kind of hurt us by not doing the monitoring appointments at his location (as far as building a relationship goes). Oh well, I really love the location I'm at and I love Nurse C, so I'll get over it.

Anyways, he said that 2 made it to freeze and 1 more is still trying. He's 90% sure it will make it and if it does, they will freeze tomorrow morning. We are PRAYING!

Chapter 33 - Final Fertilization Report
The third embryo made it to freeze! Yay! Now we just wait till I can start the meds for FET.

Chapter 34 - And We're Off!
Today I went in for baseline testing to be sure my body is ready for the FET protocol (it's been a couple weeks). Everything looked good so I will start estrogen pills 3 x's a day and an estrogen patch. I'm finding it more and more difficult to explain what I'm going through to friends and family. This whole process is so complex. Maybe when I finally decide to post this, it will make a little more sense.

Chapter 35 - FET Scheduled
I went in today for my 4th monitoring appointment since starting pills and patches. Just got the call that I am ready for the progesterone shots. I have been super anxious about this. The needle is large and it has to go in my butt muscle. I have nightmares about this, dangit! Nurse C said she would teach hubby how to give them so we're going to see her tomorrow.

I will take the progesterone shots for 6 days and on the 7th day Dr. H will do the frozen embryo transfer!

Chapter 36 - Progesterone Shots Ugh
Nurse C taught Lou how to do the shots today. She is so silly and I just love her. (I am going to have to do something special for her soon.) She drew targets on my booty to avoid him hitting my sciatic nerve. When I looked in the mirror, I realized she had drawn hearts! So I have Sharpie heart tatoos on my booty. Always wanted a butt tatoo.... 

The shot itself wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. However, it's oil based so it's really thick. It felt like a lump on my booty and had to be massaged and comforted with a heating pad all evening. I just have to keep reminding myself "it's all for baby!" The tolls this process has taken on my weight, skin, nerves, emotional state, etc. is rough. But, it will all be worth it in the end if we get to be parents!
This goes in my booty cheek
Chapter 37 - Knock Me Up, Please
Today was the big BIG day! My mom drove me to the hospital and Lou met us up there (he had to work). I wasn't feeling nervous until I had to chug 2 bottles of water and thought I was going to pee myself (the bottles of water makes it easier for them to see on the ultrasound where to place the embryos). Lou had to completely scrub up to be in the room with me, which I found hilarious. He would make a cute surgeon though.

I was given Valium about 20 minutes before the procedure. Wow. Apparently I had everyone laughing at me with my nonsense. Lou says I whispered to him, with everyone in the procedure room, "Dr. Haddad is going to knock me up." I kinda have a crush on Dr. H and I like to kid that I will have 2 baby daddies.

Things were a little fuzzy for me, but overall the procedure was only about 10 minutes. Everything went perfect and we got to watch them place the embryos. Science and technology has never been so amazing to me. Even though it makes me sad that we couldn't make a life the "normal" way, I am so humbled by this experience and the fact that Lou was at least in the room :)

We got to take home pictures of the 2 embryos and an ultrasound of them placing the embryos. I already love them so much. Now I'm on bed rest and we wait for 2 weeks to go back for the beta test. Lou is so sweet and to make sure I wouldn't go stir crazy (he knows I don't "just stay" very well) he bought me the new Nook. Mom and my neighbor are going to hang with me while Lou works - my neighbor even bought me a bell while she was in London just for bed rest days. We are so blessed :)
Our 2 couture babies
Lou getting ready for Dr. H to knock me up!
I was pretty drugged at this point...
Chapter 38 - I Hate You, Progesterone
I had to order some new progesterone and I did so with a new pharmacy because they were a little cheaper. I had been doing fine on the other progesterone, but this new one HOLY CRAP. It burned so bad. I have this routine that started with the very first shot to make them not so bad, and it did NOT help with this new stuff. The next morning I woke up with a baseball size knot and rash. It gets worse. After the 2nd shot on the other side, I had a full blown allergic reaction type rash all over. Five days later and I'm still miserable. Lou ran out of places to give me the shot that aren't already inflamed. Despite all this, there's nothing we can do but ice and put benadryl cream on it. Nurse C says most everyone has difficulties with these shots because progesterone is highly irritating, but those with sensitive skin like myself get it worse and there's nothing they can do. She said, "just think 'baby, baby, baby, all for baby'" because I'll have to just suck it up. Lord, please bless these embryos so it makes the pain worth it!

Chapter 39 - &$*#&%(^)#*@^$%*%(#&%*
The title says it all. I am 11 days past transfer and couldn't help myself. I was having really bad cramps, which made me think it didn't work, so I really wanted to just get the news over with. I woke up early this morning and took a home pregnancy test. The only one I had was digital so it was going to scream it at me one way or another. After a minute of the timer flashing, a big fat "Pregnant" popped up on the screen. I can't really tell you what happened for about 3 minutes or so. Two years of trying and I had NEVER seen a positive pregnancy test. I was in complete shock. When I finally grasped reality, I went in the bedroom, turned on the light (it was still dark outside) and woke up sleepy pants. I told him I had to show him something and I held up the test. Poor guy's eyes couldn't adjust so for about a minute he was squinting and saying "I can't tell what it is you have in your hand. Just tell me." But then, he saw it. And I have never seen such a big grin on his face. He hugged me and we cried. It was beautiful.

Infertility has made me so incredible paranoid. I started thinking that maybe the screen on the test was broken and the "Not" of "Not Pregnant" was not showing up. So, we went and bought more tests and sure enough there were 2 very dark lines. I go in a couple days for my beta bloodwork. We are praying this is our take home baby/babies!

Chapter 40 - Overachiever
PRAISE GOD - I really am pregnant!!!!!! I went in for bloodwork this morning and my HCG (pregnancy hormone) level was 2,353. Nurse C told  me she wanted to see at the least 100. Just call me an overachiever.

I hate to say this, but I thought I would feel different. Maybe I'm still in shock that it actually happened for us, and while I'm excited, I think I'm more scared. Scared that this could easily be taken away from me. We are making my body do something it really does not want to do. Oh to be naive again... Infertility has taken this away from me.

I'm working in another office today so when Nurse C called to tell me the news I couldn't find cell service anywhere. She finally just yelled "All that matters is if you can hear me, so don't hang up if you can hear me." She told me the news and I wanted so bad to celebrate with her over the phone. Stupid reception. I tried calling Louie afterwards and he couldn't hear me either. I wanted him to hear me loud and clear so I went down a bazillions floors and outside to call him. He was stoked!!

We want so bad to call and tell someone, but our moms deserve to know first. So we are going to make a little surprise visit to La Porte and make the big announcement. We'll err on the side of caution to tell others because we know anything can happen at this point. Our first ultrasound will be in 2 days! For those who have prayed and checked in on us, thank you. I wish there was something fantastic I could say to show just how grateful we are for all of you. Please know how grateful and thankful we are.

I think this a great way to end this part of the book! What a crazy experience this has been. If you made it through, thank you for taking the time to read and hopefully understand a little of what we've been going through the last year. This is what it took for me to have the chance to be a mom and Lou a dad, and I would do it all over again if I had to.