update on fertility journey — April 27, 2017

update on fertility journey

The month of April marks 2 years since I began blogging and 5 years since our first miscarriage. You could read through the last 2 years of posts to see most of our story, but I thought I would post an update here for those who might be new to the blog.

Husband and I were married September 2007. Hard to believe we are about to celebrate 10 years of marriage! Two years into our marriage, I decided to go back to school to earn a masters degree in counseling. That was in September of 2009. In December of 2011, I graduated and in January of 2012 we decided we would start building our family.

I found out I was pregnant in March of 2012. We were so excited to share our news and wanted to come up with a fun way to surprise our families. However, in April we found out that instead of sharing the news of our pregnancy, we had to share the devastating news of our loss. It took several months to cope, but we were soon ready to try again.

In November of 2012, there was another positive test, but December brought news of our second loss. In January of 2013, I was at the doctor’s office to discuss my second miscarriage when I found out I was pregnant in her office for a 3rd time! Yet our 3rd miscarriage followed in February. When I should have been having my first ultrasound on February 6th (also my sister’s birthday) I was instead at the doctor’s office to check to make sure my hcg (pregnancy hormone) levels were decreasing.

I was at a mother’s day service in May 2013 with my mom and sister and tears were streaming down my face during a worship song. I wanted so badly to be a mother. Little did I know that at that very moment, I was pregnant for a 4th time. Yet, in June of 2013, I had my 4th miscarriage. It was our 4th miscarriage in just over a year. It was the fourth time I fell in love with mine and Husband’s child and the 4th time my heart ached, reeling from loss of our child.

We were then referred by my doctor to a Reproductive Endocrinologist. We had our first meeting with Dr. G at the end of June. We set up a hysteroscopy for August of 2013 where a polyp was found in my uterus and removed.

The next year that followed our 4th miscarriage was one of the toughest years for me personally and for our marriage. I isolated myself and stopped sharing my feelings with Husband. It was bad. In April of 2014, I finally reached out for help for the depression and anxiety I was experiencing. I was in denial that I needed help, because I’m a marriage and family therapist and should know how to handle this…right?!?!?!? Wrong.

Starting in September 2014, we then did 3 rounds of clomid. One round in September, a second in October and a 3rd round in November. All with negative results. Because I basically have the eggs of a 45 year old at the age of 31 (at the time) IVF with genetic testing was the recommendation for us moving forward. Before starting the IVF, Dr. G wanted to do another Hysteroscopy to make sure everything in my uterus was looking okay. That was in December 2014. Things were good and we were all set to go.

Stimulation shots began in February 2015. 6 eggs were retrieved that March, 4 fertilized, but just 1 was healthy. That one egg was a baby boy and was transferred April 15, 2015. We found out two weeks later that the embaby (embryo/fertilized egg) did not attach to my uterus. I began the blog the day we found out. I also set up a counseling appointment the next day, as I did not want to slide as low as I had been exactly one year before.

In July, we felt like we were ready for round 2 of IVF and got the stimulation meds going. I counted over 50 shots I gave myself in a matter of 12 days. At the end of August 4 eggs were retrieved and 5 days later we found out 2 had fertilized. Those 2 embabies were both healthy when the genetic testing came back and were both boys! We transferred one embaby in September 2015 and got a positive pregnancy test! We had ultrasound after ultrasound, but what we thought was a heartbeat was not. We had 5th miscarriage at the beginning of November.

We were heartbroken for a 5th time. Our 5th life was lost, but Dr. G had a plan. He felt we were at the point of either a Reproductive Immunologist or a gestational carrier (surrogate). There are just a handful of reproductive immunologists in the US. I finally followed up with one in New York. When I spoke on the phone with Dr. B, he was fairly certain that I had what was called “silent endometriosis.” I stalled on the paperwork because I knew once it was all turned in, the process would go quickly. Sure enough, I was correct.

I completed all the paperwork for the RI in May 2016 and the next morning I had 3 emails in my inbox. Within a few days, I had hooked up with a lab in Massachusetts and had 20 vials of blood sent there on dry ice overnight. It wasn’t until late July that all the results were in. There were about 5 things that popped up, but all were treatable and secondary issues. Dr. B in New York was still sure about the endo, while Dr. G in Houston wasn’t quite convinced. The only definite way they can diagnose endometriosis is via a laparoscopic surgery.

Husband and I went to Manhattan for a pre-op appointment with Dr. V, an RE who specializes in silent endo, and then I had the 2.5 hour surgery the next day in Hoboken, New Jersey. You can read about that process here and here. Stage 3 endo was discovered. We had a great time exploring NYC and I ended up walking over 8 miles the day after surgery. My surgeon was not pleased, but when in New York…

We began stimulation medications for a 3rd round of IVF in October, retrieval was in November. Only one embryo was healthy after genetic testing. It is a girl! We were so excited because we thought this was finally it. Remember, we still had one boy embaby and now a girl. We transferred the boy embryo in December 2016, just days before Christmas. In fact, I was on bed rest right up until Christmas Eve. I was feeling pretty heavy about this most recent transfer. From the moment in the OR while Dr. G was positioning the catheter and then embryo as both husband and I watched on the monitor, I had this feeling of unease. It just didn’t feel right.

I insisted on a pregnancy blood test a week after the transfer. We are now in the last week of December 2016, just before New Years. My hcg came back at 16. Very low. I was told by my favorite nurse to go home, think positive and pray. I went in the next week and had another blood test. Hcg was at 1. I’d had a chemical pregnancy, resulting in our 6th miscarriage.

A few weeks later, I was experiencing so much grief that I was unable to make it through an entire day without the appearance of tears. I took a leave of absence from work and 4 weeks after that I decided to resign from my job as an adolescent therapist. It all became too much. I am hopeful that with a bit more downtime, I will continue to heal, but I feel like my heart will never be quite whole again.

Husband and I decided together that we would put off IVF round 4 and transfer our remaining embaby girl when I feel more at peace.

And here we are. Year 5 of trying. Almost down to the day that we found out about our first miscarriage and 2 years ago this month that I began this blogging journey. We prayerfully continue to push forward, because moving backwards is not an option for us.

Please join us on our journey.

a new day — April 22, 2017

a new day

Happy to report that yesterday was a much better day than the day before. You have no idea how many times I wanted to delete the last post. How much I regretted (who knew regretted had two t’s? not me) pushing that “publish” button. My very dear friend sent me a text almost immediately and that was all it took. Y’all, it had been a bad day. Actually, a bad two weeks. I burst into tears as soon as I saw her sweet, encouraging words. I then called husband and cried on the phone with him. Then I called my mom and cried on the phone with her. It took mom no time at all to tell me that she was on her way to my house to keep me company. (for those that don’t know, husband works 4 hours away)

I quickly calmed down, called husband back and had a rational discussion with him and even laughed. Mom got to my house and we talked some more. She ended up spending the night. I re-read the blog post and decided it wasn’t that bad, but as my friend said: It was raw.

I woke up yesterday morning, got ready to run a few errands and promptly locked myself out of the house. Some of you might ask how that happens, others that know me may not be all that surprised. I had my purse, phone, and car keys, walked out the door, closed the door, remembered something inside, walked back to go into the house and the door knob had locked. Pretty sure it locked all on its own somehow. At least that’s my story. I had to facetime husband to figure out how to break into our house. I had just about given up, walked around the exterior to check to see if any windows were unlocked, which they weren’t, went back to the garage one more time to attempt my break-in and voila! Just like that I was back in the house.

I finished my errands, came home, fixed lunch, took lunch to mom to have a picnic in her office, and then left to do a little clothes shopping. Another thing they don’t really tell you about infertility treatments is the weight gain. Not very exciting and a big downer on your self-esteem, which already might be lacking. Between the hormones, steroids and another medication in which main side effect is weight gain, I have gained 20 pounds since December/January. Another thing that isn’t so great for the self-esteem?? Putting on 10 pairs of pants from your closet that no longer fit. Happy to report that I have a mini wardrobe to last until I get serious again and get into the gym. Topped off my afternoon with a pedicure and then went out for happy hour with another good friend of mine. What a complete turn-around from the day before!

My day was made even better when a friend from my hometown sent a message via Facebook that she had added a friend to the group I have that chronicles our journey. I know I take a risk putting myself out there and sharing our journey makes be vulnerable to both positive and negative feedback, but here is one reason that I share all this. If I can help even just one person, then it is all worth it. Here is the sweet message I received:

“And also…I have 2 very close friends who have started fertility treatments in the past couple of months, who I added to the group. One of them sent me a sweet message this morning…I texted her last night to tell her I added her and hoped she didn’t mind, but that I thought she would find your posts encouraging and that she’s not alone. This morning she told me she couldn’t text back last night because she was swamped in tears (both happy and sad) from reading your posts, and thanked me for adding her! I don’t have experience in that arena, so they both have felt warmth from you sharing your struggles. Just wanted to let you know it is appreciated! God is using your journey in some powerful ways!”

Whew! All the chills and all the feels! Don’t worry, I got my friend’s permission before sharing her message. I cannot tell you how many times I have prayed that God use me. Use our story. As painful as this journey can be some days, a day like yesterday occurs. I also had breakfast with a family member this morning who shared a struggle she has faced and through her tears, she thanked me for being so open. She made the comment that she felt her struggle was so little compared to mine. Not true! Like I said in the last post: pain and struggles are all relative and very personal. We aren’t all going to face the same things and thank goodness for that!

Reminder for today: tomorrow is a new day!


 

good days and bad days — April 20, 2017

good days and bad days

The struggle of infertility is a roller coaster. There are so many ups and downs. If you happen to be experiencing anxiety or depression, the roller coaster might feel a bit more extreme.

For me, it seems that one day is good and the next day may be bad. Good and bad are both relative terms. My bad might not be so bad for you…etc. We all have a different threshold for physical and mental pain. What I’m trying to say is that your pain matters. My pain matters.

My heart isn’t really in this post. I came on here to type about a different subject, but this is what my fingers started to type. I know there is a person out there that needs to hear this. We wouldn’t be normal if we only had good days. My mom mentioned the other day that she would be worried about me if I didn’t experience the bad days after having experienced all that we have.

I’m in the midst of the pain, so I don’t feel like I have any amazing wisdom impart; however, if you are stuffing in your pain, it might be time to feel your feelings. Easier said than done. It took me, a therapist, 5 years to start letting some of this pain surface. Do as I say, not as I do. I can’t tell you the amount of feedback I would give teens, parents, and individuals as they faced their own trials while I ignored mine.

I definitely feel that I am on the road to recovery emotionally. Even the bad days don’t feel as bad as they have in the past. I guess that’s something else I’d want you to know if you are having a bad day too – that it does actually get better, but it sucks until then. I’ve counseled people through the “process” of getting to a better place and here I am now – in the thick of it.

I think it took me so long to ask for help because I am the help. How can ask for help when it is usually others coming to me? I felt shame in that. I know that I am not the first therapist to deal with their own emotions, just as I’m sure oncologists get cancer and a fire starts in a firefighter’s home.

This post is all over the place. That’s kind of how my brain works. I’ll leave you with a few verses on trial that I read in my devotional In Due Time by Caroline Harries:


 

a note to my husband — April 11, 2017

a note to my husband

Today was a bad day. Just bad. I woke up, had quiet time and then did part of a Beth Moore Bible Study I’m doing with my church. I got ready to go and headed that way. Not a bad start. Something hit me in the study. Not sure if it was during the video recording of Beth (we’re on a first name basis) or if it was during the group discussion afterward, but my anxiety started creeping in. I was barely able to contain tears the last part and rushed out as soon as we closed. In the parking lot, I focused on deep breathing and when I sat in the car, I let it go. Let go of the facade that everything was okay. I let myself feel my feelings.

Called husband and even though it sounded busy in the background (he’s on a construction site 4 hours away) as soon as he heard my voice asking him if he could talk, it was as if there was no one else in the world but the two of us. He is my hero in all of this. I can call him anytime in the day and he makes sure to take a few minutes to talk. It’s not that I’m calling him daily with a crisis. This has just happened a few times outside of our normal daily calls in the evening. But today, I needed him and he made himself available.

My sister in law (his sister) is pregnant. We are all over the moon happy for her and her husband, but I may have taken on a little too much in the baby shower responsibility realm. The shower is in 3.5 days and there is quite a bit I have not even started. As I was running through my list of things to do, husband quietly listened and then he patiently told me “You don’t have to do any of that.” Whoosh! What a weight that was lifted. I insisted that I could do it all, that I was just having a moment, but he told me that if I didn’t get to it today, that he would call his mom and work it out. See!! My hero!

This is nothing new…I frequently take on more than I can handle. I think its because I’m an optimist and I am sure (at the time of responsibility taking) that I will be able to get it all done. This is a little different in that it has to do with a baby. A pregnancy. Something that I have hoped for and prayed for my entire life, but especially in the last 5 years as we have experienced infertility, 6 losses, procedures, needles, tests, with “Not yet” being the answer.

In that moment earlier today, husband said exactly what I needed to hear. He didn’t tell me I was over-reacting. He didn’t tell me that it would all work out, that I just needed to calm down. He told me that it wasn’t something I HAD to do. I know the shower will go off without a hitch if I don’t get things spray painted or put a few cute craft projects together. My solution is to calm down about it and take it all with me to husband’s hometown since I’ll be there a day and a half before the shower and have his mom help (Debbie, if you’re reading this right now…meant to call, but had this blog post idea and wanted to type it out.)

Husband and I will be celebrating out 10th anniversary in a few months. Marriage is constantly a work in progress, but husband rocked this situation! He knew what to say and when to say it. I love him for that and told him so on the phone call. Infertility is a mess, but I am so blessed to have such a great support system in my husband, my family, and husband’s family.

to the point — March 3, 2017

to the point

It has been 2 months since I last updated. A lot has happened and I would think to myself: I need to update the blog. But then it got be to much. Literally. I became overwhelmed with the information I wanted to share. I may go back in future posts to fill in missing pieces, but for now, it will be bullet points. 

  • We had our second transfer December 21st
  • I requested a beta test the next week because I had a bad feeling
  • HcG was 16 
  • I was sent home to pray and think positive
  • A week later, HcG was 1
  • Chemical pregnancy
  • 6th loss
  • Grief
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Leave of absence from work
  • Reproductive Psychiatrist
  • A little too much retail therapy
  • Joined YMCA 
  • Started eating healthier
  • Stopped shopping…sorta
  • First PiYo class (almost died)
  • Resigned from my job
  • First Cycle class (loved it!)
  • Better sleep hygiene
  • Attended professionally led support group
  • Applied to start a peer led support group thru Resolve.org
infusion #2 — January 4, 2017

infusion #2

2 weeks after the first infusion, I needed to have the second. I also had to have a fatty acids panel run. I think this had to do with the intralipids, but I’m not entirely sure.

Houston traffic will never cease to amaze me. On the way to the infusion site, I came upon an accident that had to have happened 30 seconds before. It was a fender bender, but several vehicles were involved. I carefully wove my may around and went on my way. About a minute later, two of the cars involved in the accident came speeding around myself and other drivers, recklessly weaving through traffic. One appeared to be chasing the other. Finally, the one being chased pulled over, rolled down their windows, and stuck their hands up in defeat.

My drive lasted about 10 more minutes. I soon arrived. Frankie was there and was going to be administering the infusion again. She was, again, as sweet as could be. It was December 20th and the transfer was scheduled for the next day. This infusion took 3 hours because the pump was set up incorrectly, as the infusion was supposed to be administered within 2 hours. I’m hooked on a show on Netflix right now and was able to get in about 3 episodes. I was a pretty chilly day outside and Frankie had apple cider she offered me.


I headed back to work and arrived around 2:30pm. There were doctor appointments to sit in on and then I wrapped up everything on my desk, sending several emails of instruction to the other adolescent therapist for the next few days, as I was scheduled to be on bed rest the 21st thru the 23rd.

I arrived home about 7pm and cleaned the house. Husband was headed home to be at the transfer the next morning. It was a busy, but fulfilling day. Ready to lounge around the next three days…

pills, patches, injections —

pills, patches, injections

I’m not sure that one can truly prepare oneself for IVF. I began this journey fairly naively, thinking that I would have a baby by now.

Not just the IVF journey, but our journey to have a family. This month marks 5 years since we began trying to have a baby. Husband and I are in our 10th year of marriage and both happily employed in careers we love. We have worked hard to get where we are.

It’s not fair. Period.

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but it does become more and more difficult to continue to be happy for others who have what I want so badly. I am happy for them, but sad for us at the same time. I’m pretty sure I’ve typed that exact sentence in a previous post. I don’t mean to sound like a broken record.

Anyways. It is all overwhelming. I think I’ve counted up to 28 pills, three shots, and two patches all in one day. The timing of them all is very important, as some are taken on an empty stomach and others must be taken with food. Shots need to be given within an hour of the same time each day. Oh, and I have to lead a regular life and go to work in the midst of everything.

It is quite the juggle.

I hold on to the hope that one day this will be all worth it. I know it will. I’m just caught up in the meantime, which is a sucky time.

I saw this and it encouraged me today. Thought I would share:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;

His mercies never come to an end;

They are new every morning;

Great is Your faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“Therefore I will hope in Him.”

~Lamentations 3

 

infusion #1 — January 3, 2017

infusion #1

It has been almost a month since the last update. I’m trying to work backwards to get everything current. Today will be a marathon post day.

It was an easy morning today. Was not able to sleep in much, despite not getting much rest last night. My mom planned on driving me down to the place for the infusion and arrived at my house about 10:45am and we left by 11:ooam. It was very foggy in Houston today, but the drive was uneventful. We arrived to the location about 10 minutes before my appointment.


We had the place to ourselves. The set up was a nice tidy room with about 5 overstuffed leather recliners. The intralipids were still a little cold even though the bag had been sitting out for a while to warm up a bit. A very sweet nurse named Frankie was going to be in charge today. She got everything prepped and ready to go. There was a ton paperwork to go thru. Finally she was able to start the IV infusion. The intralipids are a white liquid. It basically looks like they are pumping milk straight into your vein.


The IV bag is connected to a pump that regulates how quickly the IV enters your system. The doctor’s instructions were for the bag to be given over 2 hours of time. Mom and I found a channel we wanted to watch, sat back and hung out. I had the IV in my left arm and a blood pressure cuff on my right arm. My blood pressure was taken every 30 minutes. I was busy texting friends and family and the time sped by.

Mom and I headed back to The Woodlands with a stop at le Madeleine’s. I was shaky after the infusion, but enjoyed a cup of decaf coffee anyways. It was close to 5pm by the time we got back to my house. Mom spent the night that night.

The next morning was rough. I was having a lot of anxiety and also had a phone appointment with my reproductive psychiatrist. This is something that I have not mentioned on the blog before, but I have been treated for anxiety and depression for about 2 years now. I was not coping well with the 4 losses that husband and I had experienced and finally talked to the PA at my OBGYN’s office. I had been taking a very small dose of anti-depressant for 2 years that had just touched the tip of my emotional needs.

I began seeing a reproductive psychiatrist back in June of this year and she has increased my medication 3x and I am finally at a point where I feel more like myself. It has been 4-5 years since I have felt this well. I cannot stress enough to ask for help when you need it. Y’all, I am in this field. I am a counselor and marriage and family therapist and figured it would just go away. I have worked closely with a psychiatrist weekly for the last 2 years with some of my patients, but I was so resistant for help. There is absolutely no shame in this.

I had to go in to work for a mandatory meeting. I had been crying on the phone with the psychiatrist and she validated my feelings saying that that with the amount of medication that I was on, it was no wonder that my emotions were all over the place. She prescribed a prn medication for anxiety that should kick in within 15-20 minutes of taking it. I had told her that I had missed several days of work in the last few weeks due to being unable to keep my emotions together. I came home after the meeting and was a wreck.

All. Over. The. Place.

I felt completely out of control and I was not liking it one bit. This was the night my mom decided to move in. It was bad y’all. This journey is difficult, but even more so this 3rd IVF round because husband’s job has him 4 hours away. There was no way I was going back to work and I had a rough night as well. These fertility treatments take such an emotional and physical toll.

 

upgrade?  — December 15, 2016

upgrade? 

I have so many posts floating around in my head, but for now….

When this happens: 


And there are still 28 pills for the week that are not in the organizer because it is easier to just carry the bottle. 

december 7, 2:51am — December 7, 2016

december 7, 2:51am

What do you do when you fall to sleep hours ago and woke up wide awake in the middle of the night? Apparently, I’ll be writing a blog post. I read that a side effect of the prednisone is insomnia. I’m not sure if that’s what’s going on, if it’s nerves, or if it’s all in my head. Probably a combination of those three. 

I had my blood work and ultrasound yesterday (Tuesday) morning before going in to work. When I was called back, I saw one of my favorite techs working. She recieved a promotion a while back and moved to a different office, but she was helping out at my office this morning. She is the one who has always called with the updates on the embabies, and that is what she is now doing full time for the clinic, so we briefly caught up on the phone last Friday when she called to let me know that one embryo was healthy. She shared with me that she missed that office, but was always happy to see names from The Woodlands, as she remembers many of the patients. 

Dr. S was in the office today and was the one doing the ultrasound.  While I was in the exam room waiting, I recieved a call from the place where I will be getting the infusion. Just as I answered, Dr. S and Michelle came in, so I informed her I’d have to call her right back. Lining looks good and it was a very quick appointment. I was back in my car in the parking lot within 15 minutes and called Dominique back. She told me the price of the infusion and that a nurse would be calling me later to set up a time. 

Work was going well when I recieved a call from the nurse, Phyllis, who is with the infusion place. She understood that we were working against time, as this needed to happen within a day or so, and said that they would squeeze me in about noon Wednesday. The location is not the best down in Houston. In fact, I know of a place that is opening up an alternative peer group (sober activities) for inner-city teens in that area that no one has gone to due to safety concerns.  It’s a good 45 minute drive from my house, with no traffic. I called them back to ask if I needed someone to come with me to be able to drive me home afterwards, but had to leave a message. They did not get back to me by the end of the day, but my mom offered to go along for moral support, as the infusion will take 2-4 hours. There’s probably safety in numbers too. 

I sat in during the doctor’s appointments with the kids and their parents this afternoon. It was a rough staffing and we had a lot of tears. Sitting in your office attempting to redirect while also validating kids as they yelled profanities at their parents can be exhausting. Needed less to say, I was ready for my day to be over. I had recieved a voicemail from Rachel, a nurse at my clinic, telling me that although my lining looked good on the ultrasound, my estrogen level was 222 and they want it to be 300 by now. I was told to add a second estrogen patch and to continue the estrogen pill 3x/day. Es.tro.gen.

I’ve taken up about a half hour typing this on my iPad. Still not sleepy. I’ll update again tomorrow (today) after the infusion.