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Fertility Wars: Return of the Cyst

Fertility Wars: Return of the Cyst

November 1st is the last day for the Thanksgiving contest. Winner will be announced soon after.

 

So if you are a Star Wars fan you might appreciate the title of my blog today. As I stared at my ultrasound today it was obvious that my cyst had grown to epic proportions. It loomed large on the screen. A big black ball of “f**k my life.” Same crap, different day. I’d really like to learn more about the science behind these little bastards because being told there’s nothing I can do about it doesn’t sit well with me. This means I will need to change my flights around and my hotel, right during peak season for Thanksgiving. Fabulous.

 

As you may remember, I had a cyst I dealt with before. Although I’ve been told cysts are normal, I can’t help but wonder if in the future these little guys might morph into cancer. I really need to learn more about them. On a somewhat related note, I was watching a show on Netflix called “Haunted” where people give real life accounts of paranormal experiences. Kurtis and I have been watching lots of scary shows lately for Halloween. In the show this woman was convinced that she was abducted by aliens. During her several dozen abductions she believed the aliens were doing medical tests on her. She was convinced her cysts, fibroids, and endometriosis were caused by the aliens. Cue major eye roll and guffaw here. Lady, you may not realize it, but there are so many women out there with the same issues. Surely not all of us with reproductive issues are having our vajeens experimented on by little green men. But then again maybe that’s what they want us to believe. Bum bum buuuuum!

 

The other day we had an unexpected knock at our front door. It was the weekend and I was being lazy around the house. I went to the back bedroom to put on a bra (hey, it’s the weekend!) and Kurtis asked through the door who it was.

 

“Planned Parenthood” I thought I heard a woman’s voice say.

“We don’t have any kids” Kurtis said.

 

By that time I came out from the bedroom he was laughing a little.

 

“Who was it?” I asked.

“Planned Parenthood” he laughed.
“Really? What did they want?”

“I don’t know, but I told them we didn’t have any kids.”

 

We both saw the comedic irony of the situation and started laughing to the point where we were having full on belly laughs with tears. It’s so damn funny that these people are knocking on our door when we’ve been doing everything short of kidnapping to have a baby. God has a messed up sense of humor sometimes. I was laughing hard also because Kurtis’ response didn’t entirely make sense. I asked him what the woman said to him and he said, “nothing, she just walked away.” I’m sure they’ve dealt with way more awkward situations than that. She was probably walking away thinking, “Why the hell are those people laughing so hard in there? They sound like lunatics. Probably drugs. I should walk faster.” Drugs indeed, fertility drugs that is.

 

I had another big laughing fit a few weeks ago over cheesecake. Yes, cheesecake. Let me preface this story with the fact that my body seems to be incredibly sensitive to my progesterone-only pills and my mood swings are all over the map. Everything from wanting to cry for no apparent reason, to laughing just a little too long over silly things that aren’t really that funny.

 

I decided to try out this local pie shop for the first time. I picked up a miniature cheesecake and good Lord, it was the most divine and magical cheesecake of my life. I was in love! The following week I decided to get it again on my Friday as a reward for my busy week. I went there but they were closed. Then I went the next day, closed again. And again a third day, still closed. You’d think by this point I would have checked their hours. Come to find out their hours are pretty limited. The fourth day I finally was able to walk through the doors and I gushed about how sublime their cheesecake was and how I was ready to buy more. “Oh, I’m sorry we ran out yesterday.” I settled for a pumpkin pie instead and told myself that I would soon be back for the cheesecake again.

 

I was re-telling this story to my husband and for some reason I found the set up to the story and the ultimate let down to be incredibly hilarious. I’m laughing each time I say, “So I went back again…” I was laughing so hard I had to lean on the counter to keep myself upright. Kurtis’ expression was that of “what the hell is so funny?” Maybe what struck me as hilarious is that this damn cheesecake is symbolic of what I can’t get from life. First world problems, right? But do you see my logic? The cheesecake could represent anything that I want really badly but cannot have (i.e., a biological baby). Now you get it? Still doesn’t make sense? That’s okay, it makes sense to me. Perhaps there is even greater symbolism that can be gleaned from the fact that when I returned later I ordered a pumpkin cheesecake, because again, they had no regular cheesecake. Maybe the pumpkin cheesecake represents our future child using an egg donor, hence the pumpkin in the mix. My quirky little cheesecake story might only be funny to me, but I think the real lesson learned here is that I really want that f**king cheesecake. So the quest for cheesecake continues.

 

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Featured Image Credit: Goodberry’s Belconnen

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The Big Picture

The Big Picture

Many parents will tell you they sacrificed so much for their children. Many women going through IVF will tell you they have already sacrificed greatly for the hope of having children. Sometimes I feel those of us who struggle with infertility issues are already mothers-in-the-making. We know what it takes to give up our time with our partners to put in extra hours at work, working weekends when we could be spending time with them. The time away from visiting with our parents, siblings, nieces and nephews. Time away from social gatherings where we connect with friends. Often we develop a one-track mind and it becomes all about making the possibility of a child a reality. What will it take? What will we give up? It all comes down to time and money.

 

But one thing I’ve learned through this process is that I don’t view this the same way most people do who do not struggle with infertility. Yes, the sacrifices are great, but what I’ve already gained is so much greater. Loss and struggle are some of the best teachers in life. I’ve developed a fierce commitment to my goal and I’ve grown in many ways. When I was feeling lost and confused I learned the value of intense research for solutions. When I was feeling disconnected from everyone and couldn’t bear to talk about my pregnancy losses, I learned to opened up and realized many of my friends, family, and a massive online community went through the exact same things I had. Being able to not only relate to others but put all of our research together, weigh the options, and together help each other out with the end goal in mind of “how can I best help this woman fulfill her dream of having a baby?” Sometimes it’s as simple as suggesting a certain test be looked into their doctor hasn’t tried yet, or a financial option they hadn’t even considered. Rallying together as a group and helping each other achieve our dream of motherhood has brought me such a feeling of connectedness that I never in my life experienced.

 

I’ve learned to speak candidly with my husband about how I feel, and to truly listen to what he is feeling too. Learning to compromise together, whereas when left to my own devices I would have steamrolled ahead with my own big plans. Being able to stop and consider his needs when planning for our future has been incredibly important. I told him how I made the decision to take on some temporary debt in order to have a shot at having a child. That temporary debt could have gone towards paying off the condo and moving into a bigger house. We’ve always talked about paying off the condo early and getting a nicer house, so it was a big deal to postpone this for a bit. I knew this would be a huge sacrifice but I also knew that if we wanted the opportunity to have our own child I needed to do IVF now. My timeline for fertility is significantly less than the average woman, but I have many years to plan for moving into a house. Shifting timelines for everything was a sacrifice, but that’s all it comes down to, simply shifting timelines. We compromised and agreed that we would focus on knocking out my medical debt these next few months before our FET (frozen embryo transfer). Being able to get past our emotions, talk about it, and come up with the best solution together has helped us both become more mature as a couple.

 

I’ve also learned to endure incredibly devastating losses. My first pregnancy loss was the worst for me emotionally. I was in bed for two weeks and was incredibly depressed. But after a total of four losses I’ve learned to be more resilient. I now have many people I can turn to for support and have developed a concrete treatment plan. I now have answers as to why some of the losses happened and a hopeful solution too. Now it’s just a matter of doing the treatment plan of IVF with PGS, the one step I have left for our first round is traveling back down for our FET.

 

I’ve come a long way over these past 2.5 years of infertility. I’ve learned one of the best ways of dealing with my situation is to focus both on what I need to do today as part of my treatment plan, while also looking at the big picture. The big picture for me includes doing a visualization. In that visualization I pull away from the current moment and look at my life and these struggles far  into the future. Being able to see myself in the future, and ask myself did I do everything I can and are there no regrets? There is a sense of comfort I get from looking at the big picture. Where does that comfort come from? I know that I am doing everything I possibly can in order to make my dreams come true. And who wouldn’t be proud of that?

 

Thank you for reading.

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1 Day After Egg Retrieval: Major Money Saving Epiphany

1 Day After Egg Retrieval: Major Money Saving Epiphany

(Entry written prior to posted date).

Who knew one of the annoying side effects post-retrieval would contribute to an epiphany that would change the course of events for me. I believe I’ve hit my ultimate record for the number of times I had to pee in a single night, it was in the range of twenty times. It was as if all the retained water weight during my stimulation shots was now leaving my body. But good God, that was just friggin’ excessive! I got zero sleep last night.

 

But the good news is that while I was awake all night I was doing my usual perusing of infertility forums online. I stumbled on a weirdly worded response to a question someone posed about how to save money on IVF treatment. The response was something to the effect of “do two IVFs in a row. That’s how I did it. Saved a lot.” What the hell did that mean? Two IVFs?

 

Then it hit me. Although this response was thoroughly confusing to me at first, it started to register with me. I asked myself, “What if they meant they did two egg retrievals before they did their first FET (frozen embryo transfer)?” Could that be what they meant? Then I remembered the phone conversation I had with my two-cycle discount program, she said, “The program ends when you have a ‘take-home’ baby.” So that meant if I gave birth with this first cycle the program ended.

 

It was the middle of the night and I posted a question in some of the Facebook IVF groups I’m on, asking whether anyone was doing my specific discount program and if they did two egg retrievals in a row before their first transfer. Some of the first women who responded to me said that I could not do it. They even went so far as to tell me, “It’s in your contract if you actually read it. It’s bolded and everything.” But I was looking right at my copy of my contract and nowhere in it did it say anything like this. The contract echoed the same thing the woman with the discount program told me over the phone, “program ends with ‘take-home’ baby.” But several hours later I checked if anyone else had responded. Now there were more answers, and about half of them were saying that it is actually possible to do two egg retrievals back to back with that program.

 

First thing that morning I called both my discount program and my clinic to pose this question. The answer would change the trajectory of everything. “Yes, it’s possible.” From what I gather, it depends on the clinic or possibly your diagnosis. Some clinics seem not to allow women back-to-back egg retrievals for the discounted price while others do. So what are the benefits of me deciding to do two egg retrievals back to back as opposed to jumping right into a FET?

 

  • Doing the second cycle would definitely be included in the cost if I did back-to-back retrievals. If I did the FET right after the first retrieval and had a live birth my contract would end, which would make me lose out on an entire IVF cycle I had pre-paid for. In other words, I will be saving thousands of dollars if I do back-to-back cycles with my discount program.
  • My AMH/Ovarian reserve is very low and time is of the essence. The sooner I can do several egg retrievals the better.
  • Increasing the odds of giving potential children from this first cycle their siblings from a second cycle.
  • Take advantage of my flexible work schedule (on-call work) I have now and go ahead and do these egg retrievals. Most other jobs would not be as flexible.
  • I’ve met my out-of-pocket maximum for the year so any ultrasounds ($600 each), blood draws, and consultations with my local doctor would be covered entirely.
  • The only thing I’d have to pay for is the IVF medicine, plane tickets, and hotel to travel out of state for my IVF cycle again.

 

All I can say is I am over the moon I had this timely epiphany. For some reason this idea didn’t occur to me. Maybe it was the fact I was up all night and thinking non-stop about my next steps. I had my plans practically set to return the following month to do the FET. I could have missed out on a second IVF cycle had I not considered this more. But this epiphany changed my timeline for everything. Now I am starting to make plans for when I will come back for the second retrieval for this year.

 

Today was a beautiful day out. Mom and I went to the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibit. What an amazing day! It was so nice to get out. I was surprised I was doing so well the day after surgery. We did lots of walking around and spent a good part of the day just hanging out up in the Space Needle. I loved seeing the rotating glass-bottom floor. Pretty cool stuff.

 

 

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So the day overall was great. But I had a crying meltdown moment later on at the end of the night. Mom got a message from a relative asking if the doctors were optimistic about me having a baby. Mom mentioned their question to me. This seemingly benign question threw me into a fit of tears. The combination of my out-of-whack hormones post-surgery coupled with the reality that my odds of success are very low just made a blubbering mess. Poor mom didn’t know what the hell was wrong and I couldn’t articulate it quick enough because in the moment I didn’t know why I was crying. It was a pure emotional response.

 

Then Mom started crying. So there we were both crying, frustrated, and I’m still trying to figure out what the hell is wrong with me. I hear mom crying in the bathroom, blowing her nose. She seemed upset that she couldn’t console me.

 

Then she comes out and says half angry and half crying, “That stupid maid!”

“What?” I said, still sniffling but starting to calm down.

“The toilet paper! She didn’t give us any! I can’t believe this!”

Then I start to laugh hysterically. The way she said it was so comical to me.

 

This was either the second or third day in a row that the maid didn’t give us toilet paper. The one day we did manage to get more toilet paper we asked the front desk guy and apparently the wimp of a man couldn’t manage to get more than one roll from her. “She wouldn’t give me two rolls” he sheepishly said to me. So this toilet paper Nazi of a maid now has my mom crying even more. Mom heard me laughing and then started laughing too. We managed to scrape together some leftover restaurant tissues from our takeout meals and some tissues she had in her purse to get us through the night. No way in hell we were stepping outside our hotel room door because that part of town turns into a scene from Mad Max with all the anarchy that happens when the sun sets.

 

After we stopped crying and laughing I explained to her how I thought I started crying because of the hormones and the fact that my situation has never been considered optimistic. I think once I explained it to her it made more sense my reaction. I think there is a big difference between being optimistic versus staying positive. I am staying positive, which is a choice. But I would not say I’m optimistic because the reality is my ovarian reserve is incredibly low and it would be a miracle if I had a single biological baby in my life.

 

So today I had a whole range of emotions. Thank you crazy hormones. But I am thankful to have learned two things: 1) I can save a lot of money by doing two back-to-back egg retrievals, 2) If you hide the toilet paper in your room the maid will think you are out and give you more. Solving life problems from big to little. I feel pretty accomplished today. I will end this post with a happy note of my results from this egg retrieval thus far:

5 eggs retrieved

4 fertilized

1 embryo survived and will go through PGS testing.

 

Yahooooo! So incredibly happy to have this bit of hope to move forward with. Praying that this little embryo does not have the same chromosomal issue that causes me to have recurrent miscarriages. Hoping and praying this little one will make it past the testing.

 

 

 

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Day 12 (Round 1 of IVF): Egg Retrieval Day

Day 12 (Round 1 of IVF): Egg Retrieval Day

(Entry written prior to posted date).

Today was the big day, my first egg retrieval surgery. They retrieved five eggs, which is right about what they were expecting based on my recent ultrasounds I’ve had leading up to today. I felt like I waited so long to have my surgery due to the cyst on my ovary delaying everything for about three weeks.

 

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Originally they were expecting 10 eggs to be retrieved based on my age. But now I’m thinking they didn’t factor in my AMH level into this. So when they told me they got five eggs I was content with that. I was happy that I was finally on the path of what will hopefully lead me to a baby. I will be hearing back tomorrow about the number of eggs that were successfully fertilized.

 

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Mom with me for support right before surgery.

 

For now I am just resting in the hotel, watching reruns of Jersey Shore. I know, I know. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine, what can I say. Weirdly, I get a sense of comfort when I watch the screaming sessions and crying meltdowns. It somehow reminds me of home, not because we scream at each other and I cry, but because I loved watching this show back home. Kurtis is calm as a cucumber, we rarely ever have a disagreement. Not to mention the anesthesia is still swimming inside my brain, adding a nice pillowy feeling in my ears when the self-proclaimed Guidos on TV puff up and scream at each other. Ahh, what a lovely way to relax.

 

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Drugged up photo op. Just woke up.

 

My pain level is about a 2 out of 10 with the pain medicine, and when the medicine wears off it’s about a 3 out of 10. So the pain isn’t really as bad as I imagined. If I were to categorize the pain in different way it would be in between the pain of a hysteroscopy (not bad) and a D&C (moderately painful). After my many surgeries due to complications from my multiple miscarriages, I’ve learned that I tend to have a weak stomach for anesthesia so I always request anti-nausea medicine during the surgery. It seems to really help. It’s kind of sad that I’ve developed a sense of routineness around all these surgeries, but I suppose it’s better than getting stressed out.

 

I’m trying to stay hopeful through this process, despite the odds being stacked against me. Here are some of the things I’ve been telling myself to try to stay positive:

  • I’m glad they decided to double my dose of Follistim. Maybe I wouldn’t even have these 5 eggs had they not done that.
  • If it fails at least they will have a much better gauge on how to adjust my medication for next time.
  • I’m very happy I paid for two rounds up front to save money, especially considering my low AMH level. It was a good decision.
  • I have an amazing support network of many people rooting for us.
  • Doing IVF lowers my risk of a miscarriage and the complications that come with it. Each time I had a loss I needed surgeries to correct the scar tissue buildup.
  • I am so happy I received an IVF grant that helped me tremendously to be able to afford IVF.

Staying positive and remembering those thoughts in the hardest of times can help ease the pain of another letdown. I am far from a Pollyanna, especially in regards to my fertility issues. But I believe that you can always find the silver lining if you look hard enough.

Thank you for reading.

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Day 11 (Round 1 of IVF): Surgery Tomorrow & Resiliency

Day 11 (Round 1 of IVF): Surgery Tomorrow & Resiliency

(Entry written prior to posted date).

 

So I took my HGC trigger shot (Pregnyl) last night and this morning I took my pregnancy test. The HCG trigger shot essentially makes your body think it’s pregnant to help with the egg retrieval process. My body had a good reaction to the shot, so I am officially having my egg retrieval surgery tomorrow. I am really excited to finally be at this point, and trying to stay hopeful.

 

I’m not sure which of the four shots I’m on that are causing my extreme thirst. I am like a fish, I feel I cannot bear it unless I’m drinking water at least several times every half hour it seems. I’ve been drinking water not only to quench my insatiable thirst but to also help with the growth of my eggs. I read that staying hydrated can help with the development of eggs. I have one egg that is not quite of mature size, and they said that maybe by the time of the surgery it will grow big enough. A weird fact they told me is that eggs can even grow outside of the body before ICSI. I am always blown away by the amazing science behind fertility treatment.

 

Today we decided to stay in and rest. Mom has a really bad migraine. I have a ton of studying and a few assignments I have to do today anyway. While mom rested most of the day I was immersed in studying fairy tales for my English literature class. And if you haven’t heard, the original Little Red Riding Hood stories (pre-Brothers Grimm) are insanely demented. Who knew these original stories were not meant for children at all. Very interesting to see the many adaptations over time.  I also read the various adaptations of Bluebeard, also a horrifyingly messed up story. But as with any memorable story there has to be a good amount of conflict. I’m majoring in English, so I love cozying up to read different stories, especially the ones that are a mindf***. Easy breezy beach reads bore me.

 

I’ve found that going back to school has been a great decision for me during my fertility struggles. I can’t control the outcome of my fertility issues, but at least I have some sense of control in my life by going to school. Some people might think taking on school when doing IVF treatment is too much for them emotionally. For me, I find it to be a really good distraction from my overthinking anything and everything related to becoming a mother. At this point I can’t control when, if, or how I’ll become a mother, but the one thing I can control is where my thoughts go. If I can push my thoughts towards learning something new and focusing intensely on my school work I find it to be really satisfying. I feel like I am actually accomplishing something and working to towards a tangible goal.

 

I’m only taking one class at the moment. It’s the second semester of my World Literature class. I knew there was going to be a s*** ton of reading, just like in the first semester. So I decided to only take one class for two reasons; 1) The amount of reading would probably be on par with two classes, 2) I’m doing IVF treatment, you think I actually have any more money to do more than one class? It’s just the right amount to balance everything between work, school, and my other job…infertility treatment. If you’ve gone through IVF treatment then you know the large amount of time it takes for the many appointments.

 

I am thinking I might also look into pursuing other hobbies as well. I want to start swimming again. Or maybe I can learn to do something artistic or crafty. All work and no play makes Julie a dull girl. Now I’m imagining my psycho self frozen outside in the snow like Jack Nicholson in the end of The Shining. Yeah I don’t want to end up like that. I need some more fun in my life. With all this tension and overthinking around if I’ll become a mother I’m trying to seek out ways to escape. I’ve always had a tendency to be an epic couch potato, watching lots of movies as a means of distraction. But instead of zoning out, I’d like to do something that makes me feel alive, and not something that simply numbs my emotions. I’ll need to meditate more on this. I will say this, I have another website in the prewriting phase. I’m still gauging the scope of it. I’ll let you in on a little secret and give you a hint. It will be about doing the things in life that can be incredibly challenging. How’s that for a vague hint?

 

Tomorrow is the big day for my first egg retrieval. I can now feel cramps coming on at 4:30pm. I’m hoping these moderate cramps are an indication of my body doing the right thing. It’s not that painful, just a little more than my regular period cramps. I think the right ovary was the one they said had more eggs. I will of course be disappointed if none of this works, but what I will not be disappointed over is that I at least tried. I must push past the emotional pain of this whole process. I will not allow myself to waste time worrying. If you are like me and have low AMH/ovarian reserve you know exactly what I mean. Ladies, if you have the same diagnosis of me my best advice I can give you is to not waste time, buck up, do your research, and get your treatment plan into action.

 

My first pregnancy loss I spent two weeks in bed depressed. After I was able to pick myself up from that time in my life I told myself, “I’m never going to wallow in my pain like that again. It’s just too painful.” I had three pregnancy losses after that and I was able to cope better because I remembered that promise I made to myself. Any type of loss we experience in our life can debilitate us if we let it. Even if I am unable to have a baby at the end of all of this, I’m hoping I can at least say I’ve gained the ability to be more resilient.

 

Thank you for reading.

Check out my other blog entries by clicking here for the archives page.

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