Friday, April 30, 2010

Good news

Beta number two is in: 195

We are relieved and happy to see that we had a 150 percent increase. And, I have a sonogram scheduled in one week. My poor husband who has been present at EVERY sonogram appointment during three fresh IVF cycles and this last frozen cycle will still be out of town, but he said he'll try his best to work something out so that he can be here. It is still very surreal to me and especially to Greg, who feels like he missed the best part. My family is unbelievably excited. I am cautiously optimistic, of course, because I have to be.

I plugged my numbers in the HCG calculator and this is what it looks like.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What IF it never works?

I’ve been thinking a lot this week about the “what ifs” in my life. I felt inspired to write about the What Ifs in honor of National Infertility Awareness Week April 24-May 1. The idea of hundreds of bloggers sharing their most intimate thoughts and feeling s regarding their own personal “what ifs” makes me a little weepy. I was a newspaper reporter. I know the power of the printed word. And, so in the spirit of unity within this beautiful community of women (and men) who share publically their own personal journeys, I am writing (or rambling, as the case may be) about the “what if” that scares me the most. What if it never works?
The Reader’s Digest version of this past week is this – On Sunday, six days after a final stab at IVF success via a frozen embryo transfer, I took a home pregnancy test and it was negative and I found myself angry that I’d actually gotten my hopes up high enough to experience another devastating let down. On Monday, I talked for a couple of hours to one of my best friends, who had her own harrowing journey through secondary infertility.
“What now?” she asked, because she knows that I’ve always got a plan (more tests or another round of IVF).
“I don’t know,” I said. “I honestly don’t know.”
I felt like I was closing a book that had a very dissatisfying and unhappy ending. It read something like this – girl meets boy, girl laughs, girl loves, boy tells girl he has low sperm count, girl doesn’t care because she knows she can’t live without him and they get married. Boy and girl move to Italy. Girl decides it’s time to try to make a baby. Boy sees urologist. Urologist says natural conception is out of the question. Boy agrees to try one cycle of IVF. Planes, trains and automobiles take boy and girl over the ocean to American doctors. Round One is a gigantic failure. Time passes. Girl talks boy into one more try. Another trip, another heartbreaking failure. Boy and girl move back to the states and promptly find new doctor. IVF Round Three seems so hopeful, new protocol, new doctor and, miraculously, blastocysts. Round Three is a bust, except for a small glimmer of hope --three frozen embryos. Doc transfers two blasts, pats girl on shoulder and says, “you’ve done all you can do.” Girl takes home pregnancy test and gets a negative. Boy and girl are crushed. The end.
But, thankfully, that wasn’t exactly the end. On Tuesday, another test showed a faint positive. On Wednesday I heard the words I was pretty sure I would never hear – “Your pregnancy test was positive.” I got to say words I never thought I’d say, “honey, we’re pregnant.”
Though my heart soared with the news, there is always the worry that something will go wrong. But I keep telling myself that worry is wasteful. What will be, will be.
Yet, the what ifs drift through my mind. What if my number doesn’t double on my next test? What if I miscarry? What if we have to start all over? What if after all this, we’re still not parents?
It would be difficult to give anyone insight into what infertility does to you. It makes you a person that you sometimes don’t recognize. It turns your insides out and your outsides in. It befuddles you, it mocks you, it angers you, it saddens you. It is truly a never ending internal battle. And, unfortunately, for couples like us the only way to fight it is with high-tech treatment that costs so much that if you think about it for too long, it will turn your stomach. How much have we spent? Don’t speak it. Don’t even think it. It’s water under the bridge, there’s no way to go back. We can only go forward.
Infertility is heartbreak. Infertility is not merely a diagnosis; it’s an emotional wrecking ball. It’s a physical disease that metastasizes, spreading from your reproductive organs straight to your brain, your heart, your soul. Then, it starts to infect the people who love you the most – your family, your friends.
My mother wailed when I told her the good news on the phone. It was a messy, loud, old-lady cry. It came from somewhere so deep down inside, a place of so much hope and so much hurt, that it was beyond recognition. You see, along the way, my mother has felt this emotional wrecking ball’s damage, too. Infertility seeps beyond the confines of a marriage, into the lives of others and it affects everyone it comes in contact with. That’s why, when we got positive results this week, my boss took me into her arms and cried with me. Infertility is an equal opportunity offender.
Infertility is not what you see on TV. Infertility is not Jon and Kate Plus 8 or Octomom. Infertility doesn’t look like that in real life. Despite what sensational television programs might have Americans believe, real infertility is usually something experienced between a husband and a wife. In real life, infertility is millions of sad stories, millions of failures, and thousands of miracles. I say that because, according to RESOLVE, more than 7.3 million Americans are infertile and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, assisted reproductive technologies account for slightly more than 1 percent of total U.S. births. In 2006 about 35 percent of cycles in the U.S. in which women underwent IVF and embryo transfer with their own eggs resulted in the live birth of at least one infant. Those odds are pretty heartbreaking.
Yet here we are, pinning all our hopes and dreams on the chance that this time, the odds might have worked in our favor. The heartbreaks of the past will fall away when we bring home a happy healthy baby. Until then, the “what ifs” will always be there. But, I have hope that someday soon, I’ll be able to lay those awful “what ifs” down and begin to ask myself some new questions, like what if… this is the last time I ever have to think about what infertility is and I can start thinking about what it is not? It is not a baby growing inside of you. It is not a happy, healthy pregnancy; it is not a tiny infant in my arms… what if this is finally it?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Beta results

We're a little bit pregnant! The magic number was 78.

It seems awfully low to me, but my nurse said it's a good number. Next beta is Friday morning.

This is surreal.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

What a difference a day makes

Maybe I should have digested the BFN on that first test a little longer before I blogged about it. I really didn't mean to come off so negative, but it was just one of those days.
Do not fear, my fellow bloggers. I haven't gone off the deep end... yet. Besides, there is new hope today. The test I took this morning showed a very, very faint second pink line.
Tomorrow, the mystery will be solved and we'll find out whether that faint line is a figment of my grand imagination, or if it actually indicates something. Since I'm all alone here I didn't have anyone to examine the stick with me. I showed it to Brody (my Pug) but he just wanted to lick the stick. Yuk.
I have to work tomorrow until closing. I'm still trying to decide if I want the nurse to call me at work with the results or leave me a voicemail so that if the news is bad, I can at least get through the day without having any sort of meltdown in front of my co-workers or our customers. Of course, if it's good news, I'd love to have someone to share it with in person.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Broken glass

On Easter Sunday, one of the mirrors in our bathroom fell off the wall, hit the counter and shattered into about a million pieces.
"Well, you know what this means," I said. "Seven years of bad luck."
"No. You didn't break it, it just broke on its own," our friend Anthony said.
But, somehow I doubted that Luck cares about that small detail.
Not that I'm superstitious, mind you.
Fast-forward to Sunday morning, when I carried out my plan to take a home pregnancy test before Greg left for his three-week class. I dreamed that I was waving a test stick in his face and saying -- "two pink lines. I have never had two pink lines!" and, in my dream, my husband gave me a blank look and asked, "do I have a zit on my back?" and turned around so I could inspect. I went bonkers. I was hitting him on his back and saying "you are such an IDIOT! Do you know what two pink lines mean? It means I'm pregnant!"
I'm ashamed to say I took this as some sort of premonition. But that was just a dream. In reality, only one pink line appeared and my husband didn't act like an idiot and say something stupid. He just wrapped me in his arms and kissed the top of my head.
I bought a box of three tests, but was too disheartened to try again this morning, though maybe I'll work up the courage to give it a go tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the black space on the wall where the mirror once lived seemed to mock me. Seven more years of this shit? I don't think I can take it.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

To pee or not to pee?

That is the question I've been asking myself all day. It's probably Trinity's fault over at Three is a Magic Number because hers was the first post I read this morning. I was so happy to read that she peed and got a positive result that it got me to thinking, "hey maybe I should do that."
I never even considered the whole POAS question in my first two IVFs. I just knew they hadn't worked. So, the beta results came as no surprise to me.
But our third try had me a little more hopeful (since we had blasts) and I took a home pregnancy test two days before my beta. Negative, of course. By the morning of our Beta, I had started spotting and I knew that it was not to be.
Now, this is my first FET ever and I have to tell you ladies, I am feeling very different than after my fresh cycle transfers. First of all, no cramping. On the day of transfer, I had some slight cramping after peeing. But, yesterday and today -- all clear no cramps.
Second of all, no constipation. In each previous IVF, I suffered from severe constipation. I was so miserable. I can't even really describe it. I was under the impression that it was a result of PIO, but I've been on the PIO for quite some time now and no problems. So, I guess it was the anesthesia alone that made me so miserable.
Third, and I'm not sure if I'll be able to describe this accuratley, but I have an overall sense of well-being. Now, I'm not saying that indicates pregnancy. I'm merely pointing it out because it is the antithesis of what I remember feeling in the past. I remember feeling worried, nervous, anxious, dreadful. But, I don't feel that way today and I didn't feel that way yesterday. In fact, I'd say I'm feeling calm, serene...peaceful even. And it's sort of odd.
Now, back to the question at hand. To pee or not to pee?
Greg leaves for his three-week class in Texas on Sunday. My beta is set for Wednesday and really, I'd like to know either way before he leaves. It's probably better not to be alone when you get the news, for better or for worse.
So I'm considering taking a test on Sunday morning. Dr. Sher, on his IVF Authority blog, says betas for FETs should begin one week after transfer. So, Sunday would be one day shy of a week for me. Any thoughts?
I'll let you know what I decide.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The only road

Our transfer went well. We lost one of our three embryos in the thaw, but the other two survived and Dr. V said they were good quality. Their grades were 5AB and 3AA. Our transfer was scheduled for 1 p.m. but there were some delays and the actual transfer didn't take place until about 2:30 p.m. The clinic had one egg retrieval and five transfers yesterday, which is very unusual for my small clinic.
I told Greg that the mood somehow seemed different than when we had our transfer after our fresh cycle. Then, Dr. V seemed far more hopeful. I remember, he patted my shoulder on his way out of the room that day and said "you've got a really good chance this time." But yesterday, he patted my shoulder and said "you've done all that you can do." Before, we got a picture of our embryos and yesterday, we didn't get a picture. But we are still hopeful. Just before we went into the OR, Greg took my face in his hands, looked me in my eyes and uttered a most unexpected thing "Here we go again on our own, going down the only road we've ever known," he sang very quietly. Which, just made me burst out laughing. Add that to the list, ladies. You know the one -- the List of Reasons Why I Adore My Husband.
As we waited our turn in our little curtained cubicle, we could hear the other couples nearby and I couldn't help but think about how many people out there are just like us, though most of the time we feel so alone in our infertility.
As I was resting after the transfer, Dr. V consulted with the couple behind the curtain next to us. Their embryos were of such poor quality that Dr. V was planning to transfer all five. He then told the couple, in a very kind but very matter of fact manner, that they should begin to look into egg donation if they wanted to pursue a future IVF. I swear I could hear that woman's heart breaking right there beside me.
I wanted to tell her that I was sorry, that I knew what it felt like to be told that your own eggs aren't good enough (our previous RE had recommended donor eggs for future cycles). I really wanted to go hug this woman and to cry with her. But what could I do? I was still belly down waiting for my hour to be up so I just prayed for her. I prayed for her poor quality embryos, I prayed for her to somehow become a mother.
And I suppose that's the same prayer I've been saying for myself. Last time, I willed my entire body to "welcome" the embryos. This time, I just watched the ultrasound screen and thought about all the times I'd been there before and how I really hope I won't have to be there again.
My BETA is scheduled for next Wednesday.

Monday, April 19, 2010

We have arrived at our transfer day with little fanfare. My uterine lining has been nicely prepped and measured 12 mm last Monday so that was my last ultrasound, though I did go in for blood work on Friday.
I told Nurse Cindy that every IVF cycle should be as easy as an FET. Sometimes I even forget I'm doing a cycle and that never happens with IVF, as most of you who read this well know.
So, today is the day that we try to salvage something good from our third round of IVF. I had an e-mail message from my friend B this morning wishing us luck and offering her prayers. B can finally see a light at the end of her infertility journey -- she and her husband will be adopting a baby boy when he is born in May. This follows years of infertility, a half dozen IVFs, numerous miscarriages (including the most recent in March) and the tragic death of her still born daughter. She is so hopeful and so happy to have moved on to adoption.
And I can't help but wonder if maybe we shouldn't do the same thing. I feel like if this FET doesn't work, we need to sit down and have a real conversation about whether we're willing to roll these crappy IVF dice again. Or, is it time to consider other options. For so long, we've said we would cross that bridge when we come to it, but the hard part about that is knowing when you've arrived at the foot of that bridge. Who is to say when it is time to throw in the towel on your own genetic material and start looking for other paths to parenthood?
And still that little glimmer of hope remains for this FET to work, for a pregnancy to begin and grow.
Mama called this morning to wish me luck. The last thing she said was that she would send me two guardian angels.
"Make it two really good ones," I said. "I'm going to need all the help I can get."

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The charm

Mel has a fun little game going on her blog and I joined in. You're supposed to tell something in a comment that is either a big lie or a big truth and readers guess which it is. So, I wrote that I am my husband's third wife. And, that's the honest truth.
What on earth would inspire a woman who had never been married to say "I Do" to a man who had said "I Don't" twice already? Well, he made me laugh. He still does. Every day.
Sometimes, I forget that I'm Greg's third wife, that there were two other women who came before me. That's because he rarely says anything about those marriages and he always makes me feel like I'm the only woman in the world.
I've never questioned his devotion to me or our marriage. He has never made me feel like I was being measured against the memory of the first two wives. And he doesn't really speak ill of them. In fact, we were already married before I ever heard him use the word "bitch" in reference to either of those women and that was when he was telling a friend the story of how Wife No. 2 tried to run over him with his own car.
He has also never denied that his own actions, or inaction, as the case may be, played a role in the failure of those marriages. I know from experience that relationships often develop into something you never intended and that's what happened. He married way to young the first time around and the second time around, he married in a rush as he prepared to deploy. It was a hasty decision that he lived to regret.
The prior marriages were never a secret between us, he told me about them on our second date. I remember exactly what I said then, "You've been married twice?" Well, you must not be any good at it."
But I was wrong about that. He is good at being married, at least he's good at being married to me. Sometimes, I'll ask my husband if I'm a good wife and depending on the mood he's in he'll say "you're the best wife I've ever had," and that always makes me laugh.
One year, my father-in-law send us an anniversary card that simply said "Greg, better late than never. Love, Dad." And, I think he's right.
I tend to think that the reason Greg's marriages failed was because he was meant for me. We have a very simple, happy life (other than the sad, complicated IF) and I really couldn't ask for more in a husband. So, I'm happy to be Wife No. 3. The third time is the charm, after all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The bubble

Sometimes, it seems like we put ourselves into a little bubble. I think i'm guilty of that. We don't really have any friends here in Louisiana (my co-workers are great, but they don't really count because I don't see them outside of work) and though I have dear friends all over the place, I rarely pick up the phone to call them.
I've been living in my little friendless bubble for so long now that I think I sort of forgot how wonderful it is to have a friend.
I remembered this weekend when we got to visit with our friend Anna. We fell right into our comfortable, familiar friendship and it was such a healing experience for me -- it was like going home.
But, our time was short and now I'm back here in the bubble. I don't like living in the bubble, but right now, I just don't see how in the world I can pop it. It's not like I can go out and buy a friend at Wal-Mart.
So, I guess for now, I'll just have to do a better job of staying in contact with the old friends, like Anna.
As far as our pending FET, things are going as scheduled. I start PIO tonight, oh joy and go for monitoring on Friday. At my last sono on Monday my uterine lining was already looking very good. Transfer is Monday if all goes as planned.
The thought occurred to me today that there is a possiblity that none of our three embryos will survive the thaw. I hadn't considered that until today and the thought is upsetting. So, I just decided to tuck that worry away for now. Worrying won't help anyway, right?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Feeling fabulous

I am feeling quite fabulous today. Even though yesterday was a bust with mean customers tormenting me all day long.
But they can't get me down. Not even mean old Mrs. Lewis who comes in like all the other mean old white ladies with her fat black woman helper who has to cater to her every whim. Even though she basically said I was stupid.
And, even though one lady said "why don't you have what I need, little girl?"
And, the other lady said "I hate being this size!" And, I said, "don't feel bad, we're the same size." And she said, "I just hate being this fat. It's so gross!"
Gee, thanks.
Not even the one who said, "No kids? Well, aren't you blessed!"
And why can't they get me down? Because I get to see one of my best friends this weekend! And, her mom, too.
We're heading to Dallas to meet up with my friend Anna and her mom, Diane, and I could not be happier.
We've been through so much together, me and Anna. We arrived in Italy a few days apart from the same place, but we didn't know each other there. So we immediately had a connection -- and in our four years in Italy we went through a hell of a lot of shit together -- deaths of friends, her separation and almost divorce from her husband, my first failed IVF, her having cancer, my second failed IVF, my little dog Lola dying unexpectedly and a whole lot of other stuff that I can't even begin to list. We've seen each other at our best and our worst. During her biopsy surgery, where the surgeon went in under her arm, deflated her lung and grabbed a chunk of the massive tumor in her chest, I waited and worried and prayed in her hospital room and when the word came down that it was cancer, we cried together and drank margaritas and tried to make each other laugh. Scary, scary shit. She handled it all with such grace and a big dose of humor. And, eventually, she beat it. We sang, "ding dong the tumor's dead."
On the day Lola died, she got down on the bathroom floor and cried with me. That's the kind of friend she is.
She always tells people that I'm her best friend, that I helped her pee in a bed pan and that that is a sign of true love and devotion. And she's right. But, when it's my turn to tell people about her, I simply say, she is always there. There holding a broken me on the bathroom floor as I grieved. There to drive me all the way across Germany to see a fertility doctor. There to offer a hug, a glass of wine and hope after another failed attempt at conception. She is always, always, always there.
I haven't seen Anna since we said our reluctant goodbyes at the airport on the day we left Italy back in June. I cried that day, already missing my friend, already missing my home, my life back there in that beautiful place.
But life goes on. We moved on to Louisiana. She and her family are living up in North Dakota. But, as fate would have it, this week she's in Texas, fighting with the Air Force powers that be who have decided that she's not physically able to perform her job anymore and that she must get out.
But we won't worry about that fight this weekend. And we won't worry about embryos or sperm counts or tumors or clots. We'll just enjoy being together again and we'll laugh and we'll remember all the reasons why we're friends. Because let me tell you, there were a lot of bad times over there but there were far more good times.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The monkey wrench

Turns out, I had a pretty great day yesterday. I planted tomatoes and repotted some flowers and then I went to work, where I had some decent sales and some fun customers (a costume designer for a TV show being filmed here was one of them). And, when I got home Greg was raking up the ugly gray mulch in front of the house so we can put down some pretty red mulch in its place.
I needed to run to Walgreens to pick up a prescription for prenatal vitamins and we needed some milk, so we went to the store and and odd thing happened there.
I told the lady at the pharmacy counter my name, she pulled my little white bag from a bin and took it over to this older guy who I assumed was the pharmacist because he had yelled at her while I was waiting in line because apparently, she was doing something wrong.
And, he looks over a me and yells "are you pregnant?"
I sort of looked around, thinking "is he talking to me?" And, I realized he was.
"No," I managed to blurt out.
He gives me a look and says "are you trying to get pregnant?"
"Yes, for about the last five years," I said.
I didn't get a response from Mr. White coat. And he handed the lady the little bag and she comes over to the register.
"I'm so sorry," she said. And, I wasn't sure if she was apologizing for Mr. White Coat or for our inability to conceive.
"My sister just had a baby and they tried for eight years," she said.
"That's wonderful," I said. "There is hope!"
I paid for the script and the milk and we left.
On the way out Greg asks me, "what kind of medicine did we just pick up?"
"Oh. WTF? Why did he ask you that?"
I don't know. Maybe people are abusing prenatals these days? The thought had crossed my mind during our exchange to say "no I'm trying to grow out my fingernails."
I mean, why would you need to ask that? Isn't it fairly obvious?
The whole exchange just irked me. I've never been asked any questions when I picked up a prescription for prenatals. And, I've swallowed a whole hell of a lot of prenatals. There's nothing worse than being asked if you're pregnant when you most certainly are not, no matter how bad you would like to be. It's the same feeling you get at the dentist when before they do the x-rays they ask you if there is any remote chance that you might be pregnant and you have to say no. There is no way in hell that I am pregnant.
Geez. Thank you Mr. White Coat for trowing a monkey wrench into my otherwise fantastic day. I went home and comforted myself with chocolate chip cookies and the new episode of LOST.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The fool

Well, ladies, it's official. I am the April fool. Or, maybe it's my husband? No I think it's me.
We started our estrogen shots last night and being that he's always given me my shots without incident, I didn't even bother to supervise. I just went about my business making dinner and when he said he had everything all ready, I plopped down on the couch and waited for the torture to begin. Lupron, that's nothing. But, this estrogen is an IM like the PIO, so I knew it wouldn't be very pleasant. Hubby mentions something about this needle looking different from the ones in the past, but this particular drug is a new one for us, so I didn't bother to look at the needle or ask any questions. "Just give me the blasted shot so I can get dinner out of the oven before it burns," I said.
So he did. Only when he pulled the needle out, it hurt like hell and he immediately said don't move and began wiping up a stream of blood that was flowing down my butt cheek.
Turns out, my husband injected me with a mixing needle that has a special little scalpel tip on it!!! "Ummm, honey, that doesn't look like a needle for injecting," I said after taking a closer look at the weapon that had sliced me open and made me bleed like a stuck pig. So, I went to the kitchen and found the other torture devices and read the label -- "ADMIX NEEDLE" it says in big pink letters, which lead me to believe it was a needle made for MIXING not injecting.
"Oh, I didn't see that," he said.
I wasn't angry. I really couldn't get too angry with him since I didn't oversee the process and I left it to him to figure out for himself.
That was just the perfect ending to a perfect day -- earlier in the evening, I pulled my car into the garage with the rear hatch still open and busted out the rear window, and before that I injured my big toe while gardening (don't ask) and I'm hobbling around like an old lady. So I certainly hope that today is better.