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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 10 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Trigger Shot Day!

Day 10 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Trigger Shot Day!

(Entry written prior to posted date).

 

I woke up today with a migraine and I’m almost positive it’s because of the shots. I double checked with my doctor’s office and they said I am fine to take a Tylenol. Basically I’m trying to follow all the nutritional and medical advice as if I were already pregnant, which is essentially the best recommendations they have for women going through IVF. In general, Tylenol is okay during pregnancy (but always check with your doctor about your specific treatment plan). So the Tylenol actually did help me. I only had a couple migraines during the IVF injections which is not too bad for me considering my migraine history, I was expecting more.

 

So with today’s ultrasound still only showing four mature eggs I chose to be content with this. I understand that in comparison to most other women, from what I’ve seen in the online forums, my numbers are pretty low. But at the same time I’ve been diagnosed with very low AMH levels, so it wasn’t really that surprising to me for them to see only four. Yes it would have been nice to waddle into the clinic, so full to the brim with little eggs ripe for the picking, as I’ve heard other women talk about their massive amounts of bloating and massive amounts of eggs retrieved. But I came into this realistic. I knew fully well that the majority of women do not have a successful first round of IVF. In a way I mentally prepared myself for another let down. For me, it’s much healthier for me to have the statistics in front of me so I know what I’m dealing with, rather than be devastated with the false belief of a guarantee. The one thing I told myself was if this fails, at least they have a good gauge of what they need to do to alter my medications for better results next time. The first time is kind of a crapshoot really, they don’t know how your body will react until they try out some medicine on you first. That’s the really unscientific way of looking at it, but it kind of helps me think of it that way in terms of being hopeful that they know what to do better next time.

 

We went to a hipster pizza place today, think hipster coffee shop but replace the coffee with pizza. The music, the decorations, the ingredients, whole place was just the right amount of hipster, not too much. On the walls hung beautiful and striking art. One piece of art really stuck out to me and I kept looking at it as we ate our pizza. Then our conversation turned to the other piece above it and then the other ones further behind me. You could tell it was the same artist but each picture was unique. The emotion behind each one was intense and beautiful. The one I absolutely loved was of a woman holding her child to her chest, surrounded by nothing but ocean waves, standing on a single pile of rocks. The rocks were the mother’s foundation to which she was able to stay above the water to hold her baby. I loved it, and I don’t even have kids yet. If this IVF process works I’d love to be able to order that beautiful piece of art and hang it in our house. I’d like to tell my child of the struggles I went through and to have them and how they were so loved, even before they were born. In my mind it would be the best souvenir story ever.

 

The pizza was one of the few indulgences while doing IVF. I will say I’ve never eaten salad as much in my entire life as I have right before and during IVF. Salad pretty much daily, sometimes even a couple times in a day. I try to be super healthy but I’m not perfect. I had one can of Coke during IVF, overall I did pretty darn good reducing my caffine to just that, especially considering I like to have caffeine almost daily when I am not TTC.

 

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Beautiful sunset with sailboat, on our ferry ride headed back to Seattle.

 

So Mom and I went on a really nice ferry ride today at my husband’s suggestion. When he was here before me to do his “thing” he also took a ferry ride to Bainbridge to check out the casino. He said the ferry ride was his favorite thing he did while he was in Seattle for his brief stay. Unfortunately he cannot take anymore time off and with my retrieval it had to be postponed due to my little cyst. So by the time my body was ready for IVF, all of his time off (2 weeks) was used up. But it was a great suggestion he had for us, we took the ferry to Bremerton instead. It was peaceful and relaxing when the set of young twin boys weren’t screaming and tearing past us. Thankfully the parents had enough sense to walk the boys to different parts of the boat to help them burn up their energy. So it was peaceful about 75% of the time. We came back right at sunset and had a beautiful fiery red sunset, which I later found out was an extra vibrant red hue due to wildfires in the distance. My pictures don’t do it justice for how blood red it really was. Just as we were coming back they lit up the big ferris wheel. It was very pretty to come back to the city during that time.

 

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Ferry funsies.

 

We did not get to do anything in Bremerton, but for a very good reason. We got right back on the boat back to Seattle because I had a very important appointment to keep. My trigger shot! Oh yeah! Tonight is the night. After weeks and weeks of postponing my IVF due to the cyst I finally made it to this point. The fertility clinic took a marker and circled the target just at my belt line on my upper butt. I asked if Mom if she could do the honors because it’s just a weird angle to do it myself and I wanted to make absolutely sure that the shot got into the right spot. I did a video recording of the trigger shot, as well as instructions for the trigger shot, Menopur, and Follistim injections. I will be editing these here soon and will post them for everyone to see what it’s really like to give yourself daily shots for a few weeks. Honestly, it’s not that bad. The length of the trigger shot needle looks intimidating but the fact that it’s so thin a needle made it to where it really wasn’t that bad. Not near as bad as you might imagine. So in exactly 36 hours from the trigger shot I have my egg retrieval surgery. I’m hoping that the four eggs they plan to retrieve are of good enough quality. First thing tomorrow morning I have to take a pregnancy test to see if it is positive. This will tell me if the HCG trigger shot worked or not, hopefully it will so I don’t have to re-do all of this. I just hope I don’t have anymore delays.

 

 

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Day 8 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): First Day at Seattle Clinic

Day 8 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): First Day at Seattle Clinic

(Entry written prior to posted date).

 

The plan for the day was that as soon as my flight landed we were to immediately go to my fertility clinic for my blood test and ultrasound. Normally they do this first thing in the morning, but I was getting there several hours past their normal cutoff time, but they said it would be okay in my case. My mom came with me for the trip because my husband cannot take anymore time off work. So here we were, my mom and I, dragging all our luggage into the clinic. I think we both felt quite silly, everyone was looking at us. It didn’t help matters that I had to keep digging into my bag to check all of my medication levels because I just remembered they needed a full inventory of what remains. I didn’t want to guess with those numbers because if I was off I could end up paying a lot more money. I felt kind of silly rummaging through my suitcase, feeling like everyone in the waiting room was looking at me.

 

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Upside-down and lid popped off. My folic acid pills scattered everywhere inside my suitcase.

 

I felt super out of place and frazzled. I didn’t sleep the night before or on the plane. But I told myself something that made me feel better about the whole situation, “I am exactly where I need to be and I am not out of place at all. This is the exact time for me to be here and the exact place I need to be.” This really reassured me. S***, with the amount of money I paid to the clinic I most definitely deserve to be there! Mom was feeling a little out of place there too. I told her that I was happy she was with me and not to worry about what anyone was thinking. I guarantee they were more worried about their egg count or their husband’s sperm motility and morphology. Because us women who deal with infertility have a real knack for being a little self-obsessed about the status of our womb more than anything. Am I right? I think the only thing they could have thought looking at us is possibly jealousy because my stomach looked so bloated from the medication that I already looked pregnant. I’m a big girl as it is, throw fertility medication on top of that and I looked like the Ghostbusters’ Marshmallow Man, all blimped out. I was kind of self-conscious about making other people sad, who may have thought I was pregnant when I was just a bloated fatty. Part of me wanted to say, “Don’t be sad, I’m not pregnant, I’m just fat.” I was imagining the conversations I would have with other patients in the waiting room who would mistakenly think I was pregnant, and how I would explain my gut to people.

 

“Let me guess, 7 months?” a thin girl would ask me in the waiting room.

“Oh, I wish! Thank you. It looks like it though huh? I’m super bloated.” I would say.

“Oh I’m sorry…”

“Oh don’t be sorry. It’s these damn fertility drugs. You’re tiny now, just you wait!”

“Really?” her eyes would bug out.

“Oh yeah, I was tiny just like you before I started this.” I’d laugh, knowing I was totally lying and making her believe she was going to gain 50 pounds in two weeks.

 

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My clinic, Seattle Reproductive Medicine (SRM).

 

Nope, I’m just a plus-sized girl who only gained six pounds in a short amount of time, which is pretty average from what I hear. I’ve heard that a 10-pound weight gain is  average. So they called me back and I left Mom out in the waiting room to guard our pile of luggage, since I knew it was a routine blood draw and ultrasound. The doctor saw on the ultrasound I have four mature eggs that would be good for fertilization. We are doing ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection) so hopefully that will increase our odds of success. I’m kind of disappointed I don’t have more eggs, or at least closer to the average of 10 eggs they were expecting. But then again I am diagnosed with a very low AMH level, so I suppose it’s better than nothing. I’m trying to stay positive. I’ve learned that staying positive and being optimistic are different things. You can stay positive despite the bleak outlook. It’s more of a decision you make, whereas I tend to view optimism to be aligned with good outcomes. My odds are very slim of this working, but I’d at least like the chance to look back and say that I tried all I could.

 

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