Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Anxious and nervous

This wait for an ultrasound is severely more tortuous than any other previous "two-week wait".  I have vivid "day-mares" that we will walk in and be told that we are no longer pregnant.  That we had a missed miscarriage.  That the baby stopped growing.

I am constantly symptom spotting.  Do my boobs hurt as much as they did yesterday?  Is that real morning sickness settling in when I get a brief wave of nausea?  I felt nauseous most of the day yesterday, but have yet to have any issues today.  I would give anything to be throwing up right now.  I know people that have had horrid morning sickness would tell me that was a ridiculous thing to ask for, but the uncertainty I have without it is SO much worse.

I don't really have a lot to say except that I'm not really enjoying being pregnant yet because I'm constantly worrying.  I get told that never really changes -- that you always have something to worry about.  But I feel like this is the worst, perhaps because I have nothing to reassure me between my last beta and the next ultrasound.  Later in pregnancy, I'll be able to feel the baby move and I'll be able to gain comfort in that.  But now it is just a big black hole.  How in the world do people survive this without going certifiably insane????

On that likely depressing note, here are some interesting things that are more fun and upbeat:

We bought a glider.  It was on hella sale and we figure we can put it in our bedroom if "something bad happens".  It takes awhile to ship so we don't have it yet, but it is gorgeous and gray and I hope I get to spend lots of happy times in it.

My dog is obsessed with my stomach.  I may need to devote an entire blog post to this if it keeps up.  He is miserable if he can't have his paw draped on my stomach while I'm sleeping.  Or lay across it completely.  If I move him, he just sits there and licks my stomach and cries that he's not allowed to get closer.  Then he jumps off the bed and watches me like a creepshow.  Then after I relax and get back to sleep, he'll jump back up on the bed and land right on my stomach.   It was cute for awhile, but is getting kind of annoying since it keeps me up at night. 

We told my stepdaughter that she was likely going to be a big sister, but cautioned that it was still early.  She was excited, but I think she's a little leery of losing her only child status at our house.  She perks up a lot when we remind her that we'd pay her to babysit.

I am 5 weeks and 3 days pregnant today.  I really hope I can keep increasing that each and every week.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Beta #2

What the hell is a beta? 

I heard this question a couple times after my last post, so we'll do some science education first!

When the embryo implants in the uterus, it starts secreting the "pregnancy" hormone, which is called human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG.  hCG will start small and continue to rise throughout pregnancy.

Home pregnancy tests are trying to detect hCG.  Some have different sensititives than others.  Perhaps one can detect it when it is at a level of 10 mlU/ml or above, some may be more like 50.  But if you get a positive, you just know that it is above that don't know the actual number.

The beta is the actual numerical measurement of that hormone.  So, while we knew we had something in our system from the home pregnancy tests, we didn't know how much.  This is normal for most natural pregnancies.  Those folks would never get a blood test unless there were issues suspected.  They would just wait for the first ob/gyn appointment (usually not for several more weeks), and plan to do an ultrasound at that time to detect the fetal heartbeat.

The good news for us is that we are not normal.  We actually are technically normal now, as our "known" issue was getting pregnant, not staying pregnant (FINGERS CROSSED!).  But the clinic treats all patients the same, so we get the similar special treatment as someone who needs more constant monitoring because of recurring miscarriages or something along those lines.

The actual acceptable range of hCG at any given point is pretty wide.  You can go to several websites, and even the "min" and "max" and "average" they quote will be different.  One of the medical sites indicates that for 17 dpo (which is the day that is equivalent to our first beta test a couple days ago), the range should be 60 to 429 with an average of 132.  Well, I already know that is kind of b.s., because I know several people who have been outside that range (either above or below) and are perfectly fine.  But we'll take our 274 and like it, because we are like being considered normal so far.

More important than the actual number is the rate of increase.  Normally progressing betas should double every 30-72 hours while the level is below 1,200 mlU/ml.  So our 274 on its own is somewhat meaningless in judging the viability of our pregnancy.  We really want to take the beta test again and calculate the doubling time as well, which was the point of today's test.  The doctor told us that he would be happy for at least 500 (doubling time of 55.32 hours).  T and I were hoping for some more cushion than that, and were keeping our fingers crossed for at least 600 (42.45 hour doubling time).  We were even taking the tests at the same time on each day to make the results really aligned.

We totally killed it!  Beta #2 was 755.  This equates to a doubling time of 32.82 hours!  Yay!!!!!!

So now we start a period which may even be worse than the traditional two week waits of yore.  We have nothing else upcoming except an ultrasound, which won't be for a couple weeks.  Blech.  I can't wait that long!!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


You think I'd be used to crying.  It has happened so many times through this process.  Certainly from being in the depths of despair, but also when feeling the highest of highs. Crying is such a release; it takes all that pent-up emotion and just exports it out of your body, so you can start fresh.  When you cry, you begin the process of getting back to your true self.

I remember crying when I started my period after my first IVF, losing Artie and Herkie forever.

I cried when I had my first anniversary with my husband and reflected on how lucky I was.

I definitely shed tears after our first IUI, the one that had no chance of being successful and wasn't -- but we really honestly thought it was the one.

I cried when my second IVF transfer was canceled, even though I knew we were doing the right thing to give Link and Zelda a fighting chance.

I imagine if someone were to watch me cry.  For some of the above, I imagine my cries would make them as devastated as I was.  Other times, they may be trying to be empathetic, but actually biting their lip to hold back laughter in how crazy I looked.

Crying isn't all bad.  This video is absolutely one of my favorite ones on You Tube right now.  (It's less than 3 minutes and definitely safe for work, so give it a whirl)  This girl knows that crying can reflect on something good:

Her crying is very similar to mine when I saw this in the morning only 5 days after our transfer on January 16th:

It's light, but it is there!  It only got darker each day.

And maybe it was a bit more exaggerated and comical when we were able to send this picture to my parents as a complete surprise that same night:

Note the drinks of choice for each of us :)

And it was truly the best cry ever when I got back my beta today.  274!  The median for a single pregnancy at this point is 299, so we are right there (and looking like one baby rather than two)...but we'll see!

We are having a baby/babies!!!!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The obligatory numbers post

Every blog related to infertility/IVF seems to have one of these, so I figured I should throw one out there.  It is both comforting and horrifying to see the numbers in print, but given that this is a huge part of our lives now --- here it is, in desending order, for better or for worse!

Money spent on infertility:  This one is too scary to put down, even though I have a handy excel spreadsheet that summarizes every dollar given to our clinic, our main pharmacy, my therapist, my acupuncturist, and my allergist. I didn't count the ridiculous amounts spent on pregnancy tests that showed countless negatives, how much wine was consumed purely to numb our emotions sometimes, or the multitude of over-the-counter vitamins and drugs I purchased.  So let's just say that it is very safely into 5 digits, but at least doesn't quite round up to 6 digits.

days trying to get pregnant (through the day of transfer):  741

subcutaneous shots (in the belly):  103

negative pregnancy tests:  approximately 72

allergy pills taken:  70

acupuncture visits:  21

intramuscular shots (in the butt):  19 (and counting!)

ridiculously cold and slimy transvaginal ultrasounds:  17

eggs retrieved through both retrievals:  15

dates T had with his plastic cup "Sally":  12

shots given in a bar/restaurant/or otherwise not in comfort of own home:  12

times we cried hysterically and washed it down with bottle(s) of wine:  8 (at least)

Xs drawn on my ass with permanent marker:  8

embryos created:  5

embryos frozen:  2

number of champagne bottles purchased for celebration (with a corresponding sparkling grape juice bottle):  2

number of champagne bottles turned into mimosas after a full-on negative result:  1

number of positive pregnancy tests that weren't positive pregnancy tests:  1 - I had to take one right after my last retreival just to see a positive.  It was because my trigger shot had the hcg hormone in it.  I had not even transferred anything yet!

And we're not done yet!  Hopefully we'll have a nice high juicy beta number to add to the list after we get our blood results next week!  Fingers crossed!


Friday, January 11, 2013

A day of lots of love

Transfer Day!  Link and Zelda survived the thaw and were transferred into their new home around 11:10 this morning.  Here's a picture!

Hee, hee :)  So probably not the picture you were expecting yet.  Don't worry, you'll get to see that too, but this picture makes me smile a lot.  They pull off the tough but cute requirement well, don't you think?  And Link has lots of experience with recovering from Ice Caverns, so his resume is definitely tight.

Overall, it was a very easygoing day.  My new drug cocktail from the allergist works pretty well.  The only problem is that I take it two times per day, and it really seems to last only about 6 hours for total relief.  But I think as I build up in my system it does still help overall.  Last night, I did wake up around 2 or so to get some ice packs, but after that, I didn't wake up again until after 6.  I'll take that every night if that works! 

We had to define a very specific timeline this morning, because I have one antibiotic I had to take that couldn't be taken within an hour of dairy, iron supplements, or antacids.  Well, crap.  I really want a latte, I need to take my multivitamin, and Zantac is part of my allergy protocol now.  So I had to time everything out to the hour, including when I could lay down after taking the same progesterone suppository that caused some laughter during our retrieval almost a year ago.  But all was well, because I wore my lucky socks!  Orange is T's favorite color, so these socks mean business:

 ( I took this picture while sitting on the couch with my pants hiked up, so I think I look like I have weird munchkin legs.  Although maybe that is really just what they do look like?)

So T made me eggs and toast, then we jetted off to a quick acupuncture appointment.  The pre-transfer appointment is the one that is most important if acupuncture is meant to have an impact.  We had a little over an hour after that before go time, so went to a Starbucks to finally get a latte.  I also needed to take a Valium and fill my bladder prior to the transfer as it makes the ultrasound guidance easier.  We were sitting right by the counter, so I grabbed a water bottle from their case, and turned to get in line to buy it after I was almost done with my coffee.  The line was crazy long, so I sat down and planned to finish off my coffee so the line could die down.  Got up again, and the lady in the front that had seen me stand up and sit down told me she just paid for my water!  How sweet is that!  I felt like that was a great sign of the good things to come.  I just love good acts like that in the world, and I'll definitely pay it forward soon.

And this point, I'm about to pass out from the Valium and REALLY have to pee, so off we went to the clinic. 

This was the easy part.  T and I put on our scrubs (I love it that he joins me on this one) and grinned at our reflection in the mirror with our sexy hair nets.  We were set up in the transfer room, told that both survived the thaw and were of great quality.  The blastocyst shrinks down in the freeze (as the water in the cells are removed) and then expands back after it is thawed.  One of our embryos was almost fully expanded again, and the other was a bit behind.  But they hadn't been out of the freezer that long, and they should expand fully after transfer (ideally) and implant (EXTRA ideally).  After the transfer, the doc and nurse left us in the room about 30 minutes to rest.  T and I both said a prayer for the transfer to be successful, and were pretty emotional at this point (there may have been tears from both of us).  I'm so happy we have each other no matter what.

Here are the REAL pictures you'd want to see. 

They aren't quite both in the picture, but it gives you the idea.  The top one is the one close to full expansion, and the bottom still needs a little work.  But they were both actively expanding, so we still feel good about them. 

The nurse gave us this picture of the ultrasound as well.  The dark area to the right is my very full bladder.  The lighter area is my uterus, and the red circled area is our embryos!  How cool is that?!  We are going to have the best start to a baby book ever.

I'm on "bed rest" the rest of today and tomorrow, although I'm probably not being as particular as I was last time.  Bed rest is kind of doctor specific and plenty of people don't do it.  So my plan is to pretty much stay on the couch, but don't worry if I'm inclined a certain way, or laying on my side or whatever.  Any excuse for T to baby me though is welcome :)

And there you have it!  A lot of tears (pretty sure my mom was crying when I called her post-transfer), a lot of love, and a random act of kindness.  Sounds like a pretty nice day to me.  So, mom, you better work on your sweater knitting, because I'm harboring high hopes for these frosties.

Love you all!  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I hate progesterone and other musings...

My lovely magic pill (Hydroxyzine) that I've been taking to manage my Autoimmune Progesterone Dermatitis basically stopped working yesterday.  I started my PIO (progesterone in oil) shots (in the ass, yay!) on Sunday, and the pill seemed to be doing just fine on Sunday and Monday.  Then comes last night, when twice the dosage had no effect.  I'm freaking out, as I pretty much slept in 1 hour increments last night so I could get up and replace the ice packs on my feet in those intervals.  I'm not sure this will be feasible to keep up if I do get pregnant.  Plus, I've heard several people say to ensure your feet stay warm during the two week wait, so I'm guessing actually putting ice directly on your feet wasn't what they had in mind.

So I call my allergist this morning, (whom I LOVE - the doctor at least), and get the voicemail.  This works perfectly, as I'm assuming I can leave a message, the doctor will listen, and she'll get back to me with ideas.  My goal is to avoid talking to reception or the nurses, since they have been, well, less than the most intelligent to talk to.  I get that I'm taking them outside their comfort zone, but you would think SOMEONE there would have some common sense other than the doctor.

Unfortunately, the nurse is the one to call me back.  I have to basically repeat the message I already gave, and the conversation goes something like this:

Nurse:  Well, it looks like Dr. M prescribed you Hyrdoxyzine back in September.  I'll have her call in a refill of that for you.
Me: I took that last night.  Twice the dose.  I have a full bottle and some refills.
Nurse:  So you aren't taking it regularly?  The prescription shouldn't have last this long.
Me:  No, I only take it during outbreaks.  On a normal cycle, that's only about 4-5 days during the month.
Nurse:  Oh, okay.  So it just stopped working?
Me: Well, I'm taking the progesterone injections now.  The dosage is so much higher, that I don't think the pills are keeping up.
Nurse:  That's not right.  We didn't prescribe you injections.  Only the pills.  Where are you getting the injections.
Me: (throws receiver at wall.  Not really, but I wanted to)  Again, I'm undergoing fertility treatments.  The progesterone is prescribed by my doctor there.
Nurse:  Well, if it is causing you issues, let the doctor know, and you can stop taking it.  (editorial note:  progesterone is essential to pregnancy.  Not taking it is not an option.  Plus, my body makes its own anyway, just not enough during a suppression cycle)
Me:  I can't stop taking the injections.  I need a treatment that can handle the additional dosage.

Finally, she has me repeat word-for-word what she should tell the doctor (isn't this why I left a voicemail to begin with?).  About 15 minutes later, I get a call back from a MUCH more knowledgeable nurse, who changes up my drugs, and talks intelligently about the whole process, and how they'll need to reevaulate if I do get pregnant, since my drug choices are limited.  She tells me that I'll take the shots through the first trimester if I'm successful (I know this, but I'm so happy she does too!), so I'll just keep working with them.  I wish they'd mark on my file that only certain people are allowed to talk to me.

So....let's hope that this new protocol works and we're smooth sailing the next few weeks - and hopefully many weeks beyond that...

Other random notes:

PIO shots still kind of suck.  My husband almost starts crying every time he has to give them.  And they are pretty inconvenient...the whole process is about 20-30 minutes start-to-finish (for me, at least, but it might be because I'm a weenie and need to ice the area first and use a heating pad after).  It also needs to be around the same time each day (we picked 8pm), so wreaks havoc on any kind of social life.  We're still figuring how we'll work around this, as these shots aren't as transportable to bars/restaurants/shows like my others were.  Although, my biggest discomfort (after the APD) is the raw skin that results after removing my estrogen patches.  I change these every three days, so I'm building up a nice little set of bright red rectangles all over my back.  Yuck.  I really do not think it would be fair whatsoever to go through all this and not even end up pregnant. 

Nearing the "end of the road" sucks.  I'm happy because I'm ready to put this part of my life behind me, but it is very difficult not knowing what the future holds.  I have a friend that reached the end of the road in her fertility "journey" (oh, goodness, it sounds like we're on the Bachelor now), and my heart breaks for her.  I know she reads this, so I want to tell her that I'm also immensely proud of her and think that she is one of the strongest people I know...even though I know she doubts that herself.  Ultimately, her life is going to be amazing in so many ways and I will be there for her in any way she needs me to.  You are quite a rock star, lady.  You know who you are.

Thank you to the lovely people around me "in real life" and on the interwebs that offer continual support.  I know our story gets old after awhile, especially if nothing ever actually happens.  So knowing that you continue to cheer for us warms me all up.  Thank you!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Green light means go!

I had my one ultrasound/check-in with the RE today.  The frozen transfer is a little weird, as there is not much to check.  With a fresh cycle, I'm incubating some eggs, trying to grow at a good rate and to a good size and get them out at exactly the right time.  Now I just need to create a nice hospitable home for some embies to nestle in and stick around. 

So the only thing they really measure is my uterine lining thickness.  My lining has been thickening with the estrogen I've been taking (that's what the patches are for!).  The nurse indicated that they want a lining thicker than 8mm to move forward.  I also read online that 9mm to 12mm is "perfect".  She measured mine at 9.3mm, so we're very happy!

Therefore, our transfer is now set for 1pm on Friday, January 11th.  Our next hurdle is for our frobabies to survive the thaw.  The chances are greater than 90% for that, so I'm certainly hoping that will not be an issue.  Assuming no problems there, I'll be pregnant until proven otherwise by Friday afternoon.

Let's wrap this up!
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