things for baby g

dear baby g,

we’re moving soon.  we found what we think is the perfect home to bring you home to and raise you in… much better suited for the task than our 800 square foot 1 bedroom condo.  i always said i didn’t want to move until you were on your way, so packing up and doing so without you growing in my belly is hard.  at least we will be all settled when you do arrive.

i put all of my baby g things in one box labeled “bedroom 1 jack and jill – bg” {with bg standing for baby g, of course}.  you don’t have much yet, but that’s because after i found out we would wage war to conceive you, i stopped collecting things for you.  your box is mostly filled with books – pregnancy books and infertility books.  there is also a purple knitted cap that was meant for a friend’s baby, but we never got to give it away {maybe someone else will have a little girl before you arrive}.  the most special thing in your box is a quilt that your great grandmother helped me piece about 3 years ago {which was before we knew we were “ready” for you}.  i’ve been doing all of the hand quilting… well, until the war began in fall of 2012.  i can’t bring myself to hold it in my hands now, it too reminds me of how you aren’t yet here.  but having this handmade quilt that i and your great grandmother made will be so special.

Quilt

the last thing in your box is a knitted mobile, a blue bird mobile to be exact.  i came across this {ok, i was day dreaming & searching & planning for you long ago} and had to have it.

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i look forward to the day you arrive and these things can officially be yours.  until then, they will likely sit in the box labeled for you in the room we’ve set aside for you.

i love you, baby g.

my scars

i hate roller coasters.  literally and figuratively.  the good feeling of having 8 frozen blastocysts is dwindling, and negative emotions are starting to take over again.  don’t get me wrong, i’m still very thankful for the progress we’ve made on this journey so far and the medical treatment available to us.  however, i’m ready for this crazy, ridiculous {insert several bad words here} roller coaster ride to end.  i personally feel like i’ve been aboard this crappy ride a little too long.  and last night, i had to cry about it.  for 25 minutes.  husband was sweet and held me as a sobbed.  and blubbered.  and vented about how i really feel.

life is hard.  and it has been for a while.  i think i expect perfection, which is obviously unattainable.  but i am ready for a break.  i was raised in a broken home, which emotionally wrecked me a fair amount.  i was born with strabismus {aka crossed eyes, although i prefer not to refer to them this way}, requiring two eye muscle surgeries.  when i was 19, i found out that i was born with a heart problem called an accessory pathway, also requiring two heart surgeries.  then at some point in college i developed some stomach/intestinal funk that took 4 years to sort out.  turns out it was small intestine bacterial overgrowth.  i fractured my foot 1.5 times {although this wasn’t really that terrible}.  and then if all of that were not enough, i was diagnosed with a septate uterus.  just when i thought i couldn’t handle any more, the polycystic ovaries diagnosis is presented, closely followed by a miscarriage.  thanks life.  hubby knows my journey, but i told him about all of these things again last night.  in true pity party form, i said “why me” once or twice, and stated that i’m ready for something to go right, for once.

after 25 minutes of crying, we decided to go to bed.  every night before bed, we read a devotion from couples who long for children together.  it was hubby’s turn to read last night, and as he began, i had no doubt that moment 56 was meant to meet me where i was:

then he said to thomas, ‘put your finger here; see my hands.  reach out your hand and put it in my side.  stop doubting and believe.’  {John 20:27}

three days after Jesus died on the cross, He rose from the dead and appeared to His disciples.  one disciple, thomas, couldn’t quite believe that Jesus had returned to life.  so Jesus invited thomas to touch the wounds from His crucifixion, and by examining His scars, to remove all doubt about His reality and message.

do you suffer from the deep wounds of infertility, miscarriages, or other heartaches?  do you grieve because you bear the scars of these events?  if so, the story of ‘doubting thomas’ offers you great hope.  thomas needed to see and touch Jesus’ wounds before he could believe.  but Jesus had to pass His test before thomas could accept His words.

there are people in your life, too, who need to see your wounds before they will listen to you.  but if they see your wounds – if you offer them your scars – they will begin to believe that you and your God are indeed real.  your scars can give you credibility among the wounded… if you allow others to see them.

Jesus also chose another surprisingly simple tactic to build the disciples’ faith.  He strengthened them simply by eating a meal with them.  sharing a meal proved Him to be real and not a ghost or a figment of their imagination.

going about your normal routine of eating and working and living in the midst of suffering can help prove the reality of your faith, too, and that your God is present.  so don’t grieve because you have been wounded.  your wounds may be just what someone needs to see before they can believe.  don’t assume that continuing your normal routine somehow diminishes the importance of your struggle.  instead, maintaining order amidst the chaos of pain draws people to you and your God.

God has amazing things planned for your life and unusual ways of expressing His presence to those around you.  your faith can take everyone by surprise when you give your sufferings to God.

thanks for that message, ginger garrett.  it was just the dose of encouragement that i needed last night.  i wish i could say that i feel magically better today, but i can’t.  what i can say, is that i feel a sense of renewal about this journey.  one of the main reasons i started this blog {see first post here} was to share my journey in hopes that it would open a door for someone to meet Jesus.  i received His message loud and clear last night, that this is His will for this part of my journey.  i want to be real.  i want people to see my faith, even when it’s dimmed.  i want people to see what keeps me clinging to His promises.  life is about more than just getting what i want.  it’s about serving and pleasing an awesome, mighty God.

when i was a little girl, i remember my sweet grandmother showing me a special card with a poem on it that her mother sent her after an operation my grandmother had.  my grandmother definitely did not have it easy on the baby bearing front either, but she survived.  tonight, this poem comes to mind {according to this website, it’s by annie johnson flint}.  this poem reminds me of my grandmother, her story, and her faith.  she is 73 and has three healthy children.  she is a reminder that, eventually, all things work together for the good.

God hath not promised skies always blue,
flower-strewn pathways all our lives through;
God hath not promised sun without rain,
joy without sorrow, peace without pain.

but God hath promised strength for the day,
rest for the labor, light for the way,
grace for the trials, help from above,
unfailing sympathy, undying love

God hath not promised we shall not know
toil and temptation, trouble and woe;
He hath not told us we shall not bear
many a burden, many a care.

God hath not promised smooth roads and wide,
swift, easy travel, needing no guide;
never a mountain rocky and steep,
never a river turbid and deep

a few odds and ends

i have lots of little thoughts that i want to write about today, so this post is going to be kind of scattered.  i don’t know why i feel the need to qualify, this space is really for my benefit to sort through thoughts and emotions.

 

another friday meeting

last friday, i met with my pastor again.  i had happy news to share about our recent retrieval, but i told him about my reluctance to get too excited out of fear of getting let down.  he was very comforting and assured me that God is working and preparing a baby for me whether it comes from my womb or someone else’s.  he assured me that my love for that child would not vary no matter how my baby arrives to my arms.

i then told him how after our last meeting, God perfectly summarized our conversation about allowing myself to experience a full range of emotions through my daily devotion.  moment 37 of couples who long for children is inspired by Luke 6:47-49.  it discusses life’s storms and how our faith must prevail based on our foundation in Him.  the last paragraph of moment 37 says this:

faith does not mean the absence of negative emotions, but the assurance that God will listen to our bitter cries as readily as He hears our prayers of thanksgiving.  my mother often says, ‘you can feel whatever you want, just as long as you tell God about it.’  emotions, no matter how strong and bitter, can never separate you from the love of God.  pour out your pain and anger to God as freely as you express gratitude – and trust Him to sort through the mess.

we also discussed my questions about God’s feelings on the number of baby gs.  i can’t help but wonder if the 13 little bundles of cells that didn’t make it to freezing are waiting for me in Heaven.  i don’t know the answer to this, and neither does my pastor. but he assured me that God’s will for my life is going to be accomplished no matter what, and that i don’t need to get hung up on what constitutes life and a soul in Heaven.  that’s for God to worry about.  i {and many others} have covered my journey in prayer, and i have confidence that i’m on the path God has laid out for me.

at the close of our meeting, my pastor prayed an absolutely beautiful prayer.  i wish i could recall his exact words, but there were a few key phrases that stuck with me: our desire for the IVF transfer to work but our understanding that God will open another door if needed, knowing God has a plan, prayers for peace – really my shaky account is not doing his prayer justice.

then he told me that there is a baby with my name on it.  and when that baby is here, he will personally dedicate it.  he’s retiring soon, so this is huge for me.  in a sense, it makes me feel like he is vested and on the journey with me.

 

pain

even though we are moving forward with treatment, my pain has not disappeared.  I had lunch with a friend i had been avoiding for a while {only because she announced her second pregnancy in the throws of my misfortune}.  {sorry, s, if you ever read this.  it’s not you, it’s me.  i promise.}.  on one hand, i’m proud of myself for being brave and facing my fear of hearing about her pregnancy and sharing our {in}fertility update.  but on the flip side, i returned to my desk with tears in my eyes.  tears for the longing of an easy conception and a baby to stretch my skin.

 

answered prayer

i see God working in my life and the lives of my friends.  i see Him answering prayer.  a dear friend, who has grieved through the unimaginable and has recently had to deal with {in}fertility on top of a tragedy, called this evening to share the best news i’ve heard since last wednesday.  she and her husband are expecting!  i know that i’m not the only one that’s been lifting this sweet couple up.  He hears, and He answers.  this gives me hope and courage once again.  one of the highlights of our conversation was her concern for how to tell me given our struggle with {in}fertility.  that’s a true friend.

 

tomorrow

tomorrow hubs and i have a frozen embryo transfer consult with my RE.  i’m excited to talk about our little embryos and discuss a plan.  i also baked some amazing chocolate chip cookies to express my gratitude for my RE’s {and his nurses’} expertise and patience in our care so far.

happy anniversary to us

we like to cram all of our special days into one week.  today hubby and i are celebrating 4 years of wedded bliss.  like all relationships, we’ve been through some hard places, but we’ve owned them and come out stronger.  while the last 9 months have been grueling, i’m thankful for all that we’ve been through.  we’ve learned more about compromise, forgiveness, thankfulness, and faithfulness in prayer together.

i don’t deserve the sweet man that’s mine, but i’m thankful God brought us together.  over the years i’ve learned how patient, loving, caring, and selfless my hubby really is.  he does a great job sticking by my side, riding the roller coaster with me, and holding my hand through it all.

we always try to stick to the traditional anniversary gifts.  it narrows down the options, while keeping things fun.  we’ve had paper, cotton, and leather so far.  the 4th anniversary gift is fruit or flowers.  hubby took the flower gift to a whole new level.  he had my wedding bouquet recreated, check it out:

 

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good job, hubby!  i love you with all of my heart!!

happy birthday to me

today is the day.  june 11th.  i usually love my birthday.  why wouldn’t i want a whole day {which turns into a week, really} to celebrate me and all of the things i love?  however, i really wasn’t looking forward to my birthday this year.  i was actually dreading it.  i’m not where i expected and hoped to be in life, and turning another year older just rubs it in.  it hurts that i’m not a mommy yet, when i surely thought i would be one or on my way already.  if my first pregnancy had worked out, my due date would’ve been this month.  oh june.

one reason i usually love my birthday is that almost every retail store and restaurant out there gives you a coupon.  so far i have received the following (some of which i plan to use or have used in bold text, some of which i will not use):

  • 40% off a vera bradley item
  • 20% off seven for all mankind
  • free chocolate covered strawberries with a $60 purchase at the melting pot
  • a free stella & dot bracelet with a $30 purchase
  • $10 off a $25 purchase from origins
  • $5 of menchie’s money
  • $5 off jason’s deli
  • 15% off a pottery barn purchases
  • a free drink at caribou coffee
  • $10 off a $10+ purchase at godiva
  • a free pastry at panera bread

aside from the freebies, my hubby usually spoils me, and i get lots of birthday love in the mail, through texts, etc.  also, i usually take the day off work to do whatever i want for myself {not possible this year due to deadlines and time off last week for my egg retrieval}.

as much as i was dreading today {even with the freebies and birthday love}, i think this birthday turned out to be my best birthday yet.  my day started with a 2 mile walk on the treadmill, something that i haven’t done in so long.  it felt great.  then, as i was getting ready for work, text messages from my family and friends started to trickle in.  once i arrived at work, i cashed in my free caribou drink for a delicious dark hot chocolate.  then my favorite coworker arrived with peanut butter chocolate chip brownies – yum!  later, i met my mom for lunch.  she showed up with a gorgeous bouquet of flowers in her hands.  then two sweet friends at work dropped off an ultra decadent chocolate cupcake from the local ritz carlton chocolate bar {also yum!}.  and finally, hubby and i got to have dinner with my dad this evening, which was a special treat since he doesn’t live close by.

but here is the best detail yet.  my phone rang at 8:04 am.  it was my RE”s office calling with my day 6 embryo report.  this phone call was either going to make or break my day.  from the 25 eggs retrieved last thursday, we found out on friday that all were mature and 21 fertilized.  on sunday, 16-19 were still in the game with strong cell growth and low fragmentation.  on tuesday (day 5), i expected to have some embryos already at the blastocyst stage and ready to freeze, but that’s not the report we got.  we had 8-9 that were on their way to expanded blastocyst (the point at which my RE will freeze good quality embryos), but none were there yet.  the embryologist’s closing remark during the day 5 update was “we will cross our fingers and hope for the best,”  which really didn’t give me extra comfort.  i feared that our remaining embryos wouldn’t make it to expanded blast or if they did, they wouldn’t be the correct quality.  i sweated all day yesterday, cried a bit last night, lost some sleep, and prayed continuously.  i picked up the phone this morning to hear that there was “excellent news,” we had 8 embryos frozen today!  praise the Lord, and happy birthday to me.  God couldn’t have timed it any better.

holy constipation.

warning: this is a TMI post.  i recommend any IVFers read this and heed advice, otherwise proceed with caution.

nurse mary was not kidding.  however, i think her warning was not strong enough.  she said i would experience discomfort from constipation post-retrieval, so she persuaded me to purchase and pop two colaces on thursday.  no bowel movement on friday, so i took two more in the morning.  one of the OR nurses called to check on me midday friday, and i told her nurse mary’s suggestion did not lead to success.  she said two pills wouldn’t cut it and that i needed to up the dosage to four or five pills.  i thought that sounded like a lot, but took three more colaces friday night.  by this time, i had moderate discomfort.  saturday morning rolls around still without a bowel movement, so i finished off my box of colace by taking the last four.  nothing.  by saturday afternoon, walking, riding in the car, and just plain moving was unbearable.  it seriously felt like i did 1,500 crunches.

i put a call in to called RE’s office, and nurse stephanie called me back.  she sweetly told me i had bowel distension and that it was time to get a laxative involved – peri colace {subtle difference in naming, very different product}.  she said it has something to do with my enlarged ovaries.  in the mean time, i thought it was a good idea to eat dinner.  i’m pretty sure my abdomen was four inches larger than it normally is, even with ovaries the size of small oranges.  four peri colaces, two cups of smooth move tea, and a sleepless night later, i finally got relief.

now that my intestines are not angry, i realized that my ovaries indeed still hurt.  excellent.

if you are going to have an egg retrieval soon, do yourself a favor and start a laxative the day of your retrieval, if not before.  your intestines will thank you.

IVF recap – retrieval attempt #1

i’m writing most of this in draft mode real time, but will blog later… so my recap will be partly in present tense {confusing, i know}.

 

suppression: 2 weeks

my doctor used his “birth control pill ganirelix gonadotropins” protocol.  like all fertility treatment cycles, this one started with a baseline screening of an ultrasound and blood work.  as mentioned here, i didn’t have a real cycle leading up to the start of this IVF cycle.  i basically took a month break after our last IUI.  my lazy ovaries and hormones did nothing, my uterus leaked a little blood, everything was at a baseline level, so all systems were go.

go for birth control pills that is.  i took the pill for two weeks.  i’m not 100% certain what the purpose was, but i believe they kept my hormone levels even so my RE could then take control of my cycle.  i also read in the infertility survival handbook that starting with the pill enables REs to batch their patients, meaning that several patients will start the stimulation phase of IVF at the same time.  maybe this is why my RE mentioned trying to start suppression and stimulation on a friday.

after two weeks of the pill, i had a four day break before another baseline screening, which occurred on a friday.  by this time i started my period {or had withdrawal bleeding from the pill, really}.  again, all systems were go, but this time for stimulation.

 

stimulation: days 1 through 4

stimulation began the next day with two different shots a day for four days {and antibiotics twice a day for 7 days}.  at my first monitoring appointment, which was four days later, the RE on duty estimated 6 follicles in my right ovary and about 10 in the left with some variation in size.  at this point i thought i was uncomfortable – i had no idea what was coming.  my RE prepped me to expect 20+ follicles, so i was a bit disappointed with this screening and wondered if i had enough.

from day one of stims, i was instructed to drink 6-8 cups of water a day plus two gatorades, v-8s, or electrolyte waters.  i don’t like v-8, so i’ve been drinking raspberry lemonade g2 {and occasionally an electrolyte water}.  this makes me have to pee.  all the time.  exercise ceased on day 2 of stims.  even walking was uncomfortable.

 

stimulation: days 5 & 6

nevertheless, nurse mary said everything looked good, so i continued on with two shots a day until my second monitoring appointment two days later.  the RE on duty for that appointment estimated about 10 follicles in each ovary and relatively similar growth.  i also had an acupuncture treatment in between my monitoring appointments.  my acupuncturist said the treatment would likely help the follicles grow at the same rate, i guess he delivered.  i felt a bit more confident after my second monitoring appointment.

at some point in this first week of treatment {maybe 4-5 days in}, i noticed that my tummy was having trouble digesting my evening meal.  i started feeling, and still feel, overly full after dinner.  it seems like my food is not digesting quickly, so then i get nauseous.  so far, this feeling still exists at bedtime, so laying down isn’t the comfiest.  and my sleep has started getting interrupted.  hope that doesn’t affect egg quality.  and i thought the peeing was excessive earlier in the week, i’m pretty sure the urge is stronger now.  i suspect my big ole ovary is pressing on my bladder.

 

stimulation: days 7 through 9

after my second monitoring appointment, nurse alice {whom i love, she is seriously so sweet} called to say things look great.  the same two shots would continue, but a third was added to the mix.  my third monitoring appointment is tomorrow.

at this point, the peeing and evening meal symptoms still exist.  but i’ve added constipation to the mix.  i eat lots of fruits and veggies and healthy things, so not sure where this came from {except IVF stim of course}.  and now i have the same nausea, food not digesting complaint after lunch.  i also cannot fit the amount of food i would normally eat in my tummy, so my meals are getting smaller.  perhaps the worst discovery yet is that my pants no longer fit {unless they are stretchy}.  i’ve been living in dresses and running shorts.  too bad i can’t wear running shorts to work.  pants not fitting translates to a bloated and hard belly, so tummy shots are actually quite painful now.  i’m also walking at turtle speed because even that too has become uncomfortable.  the past two nights of sleep have been almost nonexistent.  instead, i mostly listen to the hubs breathe loudly and pinterest search.  i also had my first decent cry yesterday {i’m surprised it took this long with all of these hormones}.  the last noteworthy symptom is excessive cervical mucus.  so much that i started to worry an early ovulation was impending.  i talked to nurse deniese {also really nice} about this yesterday, and she said all of the hormone injections are to blame.

 

stimulation: day 10

my third monitoring appointment went well enough i suppose.  i didn’t get a count update, but it seemed like the doctor on duty measured a fair amount in each ovary.  i was also told my lining was “pretty” {too bad we are planning to do a frozen transfer}.  the doctor did mention that there was variation in size again, so i went to acupuncture again today to see if that would help things out.  nurse alice gave me instructions for another day of stims {hopefully my last}.  i go in for another monitoring appointment tomorrow morning.  hopefully tomorrow will be trigger day, with retrieval on thursday.

as for my symptom diary, the most noteworthy addition is groin pain.  my walking pace is even slower {didn’t think that was possible}, and i will avoid stairs like the plague the rest of the week.  when giving myself a pre-filled shot tonight, some of the medication came back out.  eek!  that’s definitely a way to make a girl worry.  i emailed nurse alice who promptly responded that everything should be totally fine {she seriously is the best – not sure where mary went, but i’m not complaining}.

 

stimulation: day 11/trigger day

my fourth monitoring appointment was today.  the ultrasound was especially uncomfortable today {specifically on the right ovary}.  i had 4 follicles that were 20mm+ and approximately 15 that were in the 15-19mm range.  my RE ordered 100 additional units of stims ASAP midday.  later, nurse mary {who was actually really helpful and nice today} called with my evening instructions for the trigger.  at 10 pm tonight, i will take lupron and novarel.  i will go in for blood work at precisely 10 am tomorrow to make sure the trigger was effective.  if all is well, retrieval will be at 10 am on thursday.

if i did my math correctly, i gave myself a total of 27 tummy shots this cycle.  i have my own little sharps container, and it’s getting pretty full.  guess i need to figure out how to properly dispose of this thing.

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day minus one: trigger blood work day

i reported to my RE’s office promptly at 10 am.  exactly 12 hours after the trigger, my RE needs to see if my body responded.  nurse mary called 4 hours later to say everything looked great and that i should arrive at my RE’s office tomorrow at 9 am for a 10 am retrieval.

the overly nauseous symptom after eating has subsided.  i stated that i would avoid stairs, but actually voluntarily went up a flight tonight.  it was uncomfortable, but worth it.  hubby and i are under contract on a new home, and we had the opportunity to tour our place and see the progress this evening.  it is coming together nicely and should be done at the end of the month.

 

retrieval day!

yesterday (thursday) was the big day!  i wasn’t as nervous as i anticipated i would be.  i actually slept a decent amount the night before {i usually have insomnia before an important surgery or procedure}.  hubby and i arrived at my RE’s office around 8:45 am and said a quick prayer in the car before heading into the office.  i completed and signed some paperwork, hubby “produced” his sample, and then we waited for 30 minutes before being called back to the pre-op area.  i was so lucky to get to wear a super fashionable hospital gown {thankfully i got to keep my bra on}.  at some point i met the anesthesiologist, mary anne (sp?), who was incredibly nice and really good at starting an IV with minimal pain.  we learned from mary anne that my ovaries, which are normally the size of a walnut, are now the size of a small orange {that explains my discomfort}.  later, my RE and nurse mary came to say hi and review the procedure a few minutes before i went back for surgery.  i emptied my bladder one last time, walked into the OR with mary anne, got positioned on the operating table with the help of a whole team of nurses {all modesty gone at this point as my legs got strapped into stirrups}, and then i was out.

the next thing i know, i’m waking up back in my pre-op room {which is now my post-op room}.  i don’t remember very much other than showing someone (maybe mary anne) pictures of our new house, almost vomiting, and asking hubby numerous times to get the heart monitor to stop making noises.  after almost getting sick, mary anne helped me out with two different types of nausea drugs and some pain medicine {IVs are seriously the best – medication is effective almost instantly}.  mary anne also put some alcohol swabs under my nostrils, which helped with the nausea.  i also had to seriously urinate.  hubby and someone (maybe mary anne) helped me get to the bathroom without falling {i was super dizzy}.

at some point during the recovery process, my RE stopped by to say that i had 25 eggs!  25.  holy smokes.  he said they were transferred to the incubator where they would get acclimated to their new environment for the next several hours, and then later in the day would be fertilized with hubby’s swimmers via ICSI.  i will share a fertilization report later.

after urinating, i came back to the post-op room and sat up for a few minutes.  after successfully not vomiting or passing out, hubby helped me get dressed.  a nurse came in with some post-op instructions and a prescription for two different types of nausea meds and cabergoline.  because i had so many eggs, i’m at a high risk for developing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).  the pregnancy hormone, hcg, makes this worse, so this is the main reason why my RE opted to freeze any embryos we have and transfer later.  using luperon for the trigger shot minimizes chances of developing OHSS, as does taking cabergoline.  i’m truly thankful for an RE who puts my health first, even though i’d love to have a fresh transfer this cycle.

on the way home, hubby and i dropped off my prescriptions.  once we got home, hubby helped me get situated in bed before he ran back out to pick up my prescriptions and a pancake for breakfast/lunch/snack {whatever you want to call it as it was 2 pm at this point}.  i took my nausea meds after lunch and had no issues the rest of the day.  i also took colace per nurse mary’s recommendation because apparently constipation can be worse after retrieval.  other than getting up to eat, take medication, or pee, i pretty much slept all day.  my pain levels were definitely under control {i have more discomfort today}.

hubby and i have prayed throughout this process that all would go smoothly.  the Lord hears our prayers.  even though i’m not pregnant yet and we are pursuing IVF to become parents, God is watching out for us.  it will all work out in His time.