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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?

 

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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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Day 5 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Poked, Prodded, & Pessimistic

Day 5 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Poked, Prodded, & Pessimistic

The title of my entry “Poked, Prodded, & Pessimistic” is pretty much a play-by-play of my day. I went and had my labs done today at my doctor’s office, then drove to my ultrasound appointment, and then finally got the news that my egg count doesn’t look too good. I only have five eggs and from what I hear the average is ten eggs. But I suppose it’s to be expected with low AMH levels. One of them is so enlarged they think I’m at risk of ovulating early. So she had me start Ganirelix right away to prevent my body from ovulating.

 

I brought my husband with me to my appointments today because they also needed his blood for the PGS testing through Natera. The Natera package arrived a little to late, so rather than my doctor sending out our blood now and it sitting at the airport over the weekend, she decided to wait until Monday. My nurse at Seattle Reproductive Medicine said they needed it by the weekend, well that’s not going to happen. Packages don’t get delivered and sent quickly from Alaska. I’m hoping it’s not a big deal, but I’m not sure since my nurse is out of the office until Monday. And if you are anything like me you constantly ask your nurse questions almost every other day. She is pretty much my IVF doula.

 

So from what I understand, you cannot increase the number of eggs in your reserve, because you are born with a set number of eggs. But I read recently that although the number of eggs you are dealing with is out of your control, you can somewhat increase the quality of your eggs. I still need to do more research on this. In a nutshell, it sounds like just being healthier will help. I will write a future article on improving egg quality once I familiarize myself with the information and putting it into practice. I’ve already started the path of trying to be healthier. I eat more salads, choose more vegetarian meal options, and try to avoid overeating.

 

I would suggest articles for further reading to this blog if I found any that are legitimate. I’ve been reading some pretty dubious tips and I feel proper research needs to be done. A lot of the articles I’m finding are edging on a snake-oil salesman vibe. I just don’t trust the advice I’m reading. Whenever you are researching products that tout improving fertility be very cautious. They might not make any difference and at worst they can decrease your goal of improved fertility. It’s a shame to see women so sold on the idea that this product will help, when in reality the infertility issue is completely unrelated. I’m sure there are legitimate and well-researched means of improving egg quality, but I feel that personally I need to learn more before I share anything on here. I’m going to speak with my doctor about improving my egg quality and write an article after I’ve done more research.

 

My doctor had me follow a basic treatment plan to watch my weight, take a prenatal, and also take methylated folate. So although this is probably the healthiest I’ve been eating in a while, my scale looks scarier and scarier each time I step on it. I’ve gained five pounds in five days. Yikes! But I heard this is fairly normal when going through the IVF process. “In online forums, women note anywhere from 3 pounds gained to 15 pounds gained prior to embryo transfer” (IVF Authority, 2018). Although I’m a little bloated and my scale hates me right now, I’m more concerned about my low egg count. My doctor told me I have a 30 – 50% chance of having a live birth.

 

Well despite my bleak outlook, I’ve been reading the phrase “it only takes one good egg” all over the online forums. I’m trying to tell myself that. I’ve also been telling myself I want to continue doing IVF as long as I can afford it and until all my eggs are gone. Sounds a bit dramatic, I know, but I’m pretty serious about that. Being able to afford more IVF is going to be the biggest challenge. But let’s hope that I won’t need more IVF rounds.

 

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Source:

IVF Authority. “IVF Weight Gain: Understanding the Causes, Symptoms and Weight Loss.” Retrieved on August 23, 2018 from https://www.ivfauthority.com/ivf-weight-gain/

 

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Day 4 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Shooting up Drugs & The Great Outdoors

Day 4 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Shooting up Drugs & The Great Outdoors

“Okay, I’m ready to go shoot up some drugs” I said to my husband.

“What?” he gave a what the f**k expression.

“You know, my IVF medicine.”

“Oh.”

“What did you think I meant?” I laughed.

“I don’t know.”

 

So that’s what I did, I went home and shot up some drugs. But these are the best drugs you can find, these are IVF drugs. They grow your eggs so you can have a better shot at having a baby. For what I’m paying they better freaking be top notch drugs. So even though I said yesterday I wanted Kurtis to give me the medicine, I went ahead and did it on my own again today. He offered to help but I thought it would be quicker if I just do it, rather than wait for him. He asked me, “Okay, you ready?” I told him I was already done. I didn’t even need to watch the video with the Menopur. I probably won’t need to watch the video for the Follistim either next time.

 

Right now I have have my puppy sniffing and licking me. Now he is just staring at me. He does that, where he will stare for the longest time. It’s really creepy when he does this in the dark. He’s a cute little dog. A wild one. So wild that I decided to put him in his kennel while I did my injections. The past few times he got way too close as I was trying to carefully do my injections. So I recommend finding a place away from pets or any small children, so you can focus on doing your injection without getting bumped into. I don’t like standing to do the injections. I learned that sitting down is the easiest way for me to do them.

 

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Husband, Kurtis, picking blueberries.

 

Today we took a nice drive out to Girdwood and did some blueberry picking at our secret spot. There was a whole lot more this year. We didn’t even have to go very far at all, maybe about 20-30 feet away from the dirt road. There were so many more blueberries this year compared to the last time we went blueberry picking a few years back. It was nice not to hike a lot like we had to last time, because someone found our secret spot before and cleared all the berries.

 

“There’s something so amazing about being outside, getting some light exercise, and collecting nutrients from the earth that will help my body and hopefully my baby when I become pregnant.”

 

We were definitely in bear territory. We found two huge piles of bear scat. I had my bear spray with me just in case. I like to wear my bear bell on my backpack to make noise so they know we are there. Most bears are afraid of humans and just by you talking and making noise they will leave, not all the time though. Luckily we didn’t see any. Years ago on one trail we counted about six piles of bear scat, fresh ones! So today I made sure to ask Kurtis if they were fresh piles of scat and he said no.

 

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Bear scat. Yikes!

 

We got a good amount of blueberries, about half a large ziplock bag full of them. Blueberry pancakes anyone? We will probably go out again before I fly out of state for my egg retrieval. I didn’t want to do too much walking around the woods today. Don’t want to twist an ovary. No seriously, that’s a thing with IVF. I read in one of the IVF forums that some women were taking it easy and not doing exercise other than walking because their doctor said there is the risk of twisting an ovary. “If a woman exercises excessively and/or intensely while her ovaries are enlarged, this increases her risk of experiencing ovarian torsion, a painful problem in which the ovary twists in on itself. While ovarian torsion is rare, avoiding vigorous exercise during IVF treatment is a good way to prevent this from even becoming an issue” (Vermesh, 2014). It’s not like I do vigorous exercise anyway, but it’s good to know to be on the safe side.

 

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Our bag of blueberries we collected today.

 

So when I went out blueberry picking on the side of the mountain I was extra careful and told hubby I didn’t want to go hiking to far up. Luckily we hit the jackpot with all the blueberries near the road. It will be lots of good nutrition for me and hopefully improve my egg quality. Plus I’ll have extra berries to freeze for when I’m preggers and need some good nutrition too. There’s something so amazing about being outside, getting some light exercise, and collecting nutrients from the earth that will help my body and hopefully my baby when I become pregnant. I love blueberry picking, it makes me feel connected to the earth.

 

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Thank you for reading. Check out my other blog entries by clicking here. Don’t forget to check out my Contest page to see how you can win!

 

 

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Sources:

Vermesh, Michael. “In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): Exercise Limitations During Treatment” September 15, 2014. https://www.center4fertility.com/blog/2014/09/15/in-vitro-fertilization-ivf-exercise-148922

 

 

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Day 2 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Hydration, Migraines, and Grumpiness

Day 2 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Hydration, Migraines, and Grumpiness

Well today sucked. I had a migraine most of the day. I wasn’t sure if it was from the stims or because I have a history of migraines and they decided to come back. I had to wait for my doctor to call me back about whether it was okay to take Tylenol. She said it was fine. My head still hurts, hopefully the Tylenol will kick in soon. I just took my meds for Day 2. I was feeling crappy and just wanted to get it over with. I was not enthusiastic at all compared to how I was feeling yesterday. I feel irritable too. But I can’t tell if it’s because I have a migraine or because of the medicine. I did sleep pretty good last night though.

 

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I tried to eat healthy today. I had organic steel-cut oatmeal. It’s not my favorite, but I might as well eat it since we got a big bag from Costco. I’d like to go blueberry picking so I can add some to my oatmeal. It would taste so much better with some berries mixed in. I had a yummy taco salad for dinner. It’s healthy and tastes amazing. I am almost finished with the water I need for the day, at least 64 ounces.

 

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Right now I’m lying down with the heating pad on my stomach. I read that doing this after injections eases the pain. It seems to be working. I decided to have hubby give me the shots again because I just wanted to get it over with and didn’t want the stress of psyching myself up to do it when my head is already throbbing.

 

I’m just lying here and seething with irritability. I’m not a happy camper. But I need to stay focused on my end goal of having a baby.

 

Not to mention I’ve been poked, prodded, and gone through so much already over these past two years, so I want him to do his part. I think he wants me to do it myself so I can have practice before I go out of state without him for the retrieval (he has to work). But I am damn tired of being a human pin cushion and want some help, in a way he is able to help me. Boy we really do get the raw end of the deal as women don’t we? Everything falls on us if we want to make this happen.

 

I’m just lying here and seething with irritability. I’m not a happy camper. But I need to stay focused on my end goal of having a baby. But right now I just feel like I want to get this whole IVF experience over with. I’m sorry this post isn’t more upbeat, but I wanted to write authentically. Take care everyone.

 

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