Another Surgery & Thoughts on God

Another Surgery & Thoughts on God

I recently did a post-surgery ultrasound to check to see if my body went back to normal after my surgery in September (due to missed miscarriage). I’ve had so many ultrasounds over the years that I’ve learned to spot abnormalities on the ultrasound even before the ultrasound tech shows any indication of something being off. Unfortunately, this time I was looking at a black mass on the ultrasound screen that I knew should not have been there. 

The ultrasound tech could not confirm exactly what the black mass was and said she would show the images to my doctor to review and he would get back to me within the next few days (due to him being out of the office). On the morning of October 15th I did my own Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Loss Day at home. That was the first time I participated and although it was therapeutic it was also emotionally draining. So imagine how I felt when later that afternoon I got the phone call that there was in fact something off about my ultrasound. My doctor referred to that black mass and said, “It could either be retained products of conception or it could be an indicator of Persistent Gestational Trophoblastic Disease from a partial molar pregnancy. But we should definitely do a second surgery.” In the past I needed two surgeries from one miscarriage to clear my uterus, which was not a big deal other than the inconvenience of a second surgery. But the main difference between that time and this time is that I wasn’t dealing with a partial molar pregnancy before. 

 

This ultrasound photo is not a picture of my ultrasound, but it appears very similar to what mine looked like with a black mass and cloudy or “snowstorm” appearance surrounding it, typically found with molar pregnancies.

 

 

I asked my doctor, “So what’s the next step if this second surgery doesn’t work and it looks like something is still there or develops more?” My doctor told me that I would need to start the medication Methotrexate. His nurse had mentioned that same medication a few days prior when I asked her a similar question. I had assumed that Methotrexate was similar to Misoprostol, which is a common medication I’ve had just prior to each of my surgeries for miscarriages. Misoprostol is a medication softens the uterine lining to make the surgery process easier. I decided to Google what this new medication Methotrexate was, since I was unfamiliar with it. Neither my doctor nor my nurse fully explained what it was. As I was reading the description, all the words fell away except one…chemotherapy. Methotrexate is in fact a type of medication to treat cancer. 

My doctor wanted me to have my surgery the following day, but I chose to wait a couple days so I wouldn’t have to take time off work. On Monday (October 21st) I went to my usual surgery center. Out of curiosity I asked my doctor how many times I’ve had surgery there, because I had actually lost count. He looked at my paperwork and told me that this was my fifth surgery there. That did not include the two surgeries I had out-of-state in Seattle for my first and second round of IVF. So in total I’ve had seven surgeries related to infertility and miscarriages from 2016 – 2019. 

As of today, October 24th, I’m still waiting for the pathology report to learn what exactly that black mass was. Ultimately this next phone call from my doctor will determine whether I will need chemotherapy or not. I’ve been trying not to worry about it, although the first few days after the 15th were the hardest. I was tossing and turning at night and not getting enough sleep. I told my husband and my Mom. Both of them tried to reassure me by saying “Try not to worry.” But the primary emotion I was feeling was not worry, it was anger.

I was angry at God. I was so angry and frustrated for all of these years of struggling and now He decided to throw in a potential cancer diagnosis. Then my thoughts began to expand out to everyone I’ve known who has battled cancer and how much they suffered. I was thinking, “How could a God allow so much suffering?” God took my Dad away from cancer in 2016 and my mom has survived cancer twice. Then I kept seeing so many commercials on TV for St. Judes Children’s Research Hospital with all those little kids and babies who were completely innocent suffering from cancer. I just could not wrap my mind around any of this.

But I had a conversation with my Mom the other day on the phone that helped me to see things differently. Mind you, I’m not particularly religious. I was “saved” years ago, but after dealing with so much loss over the years my relationship with God was now hanging by a thread. After talking with Mom it helped solidify a thought I had and bring it more to the forefront of my mind. I believe there is a Creator, something greater than us that helped get this world spinning. But as far as a God that intervenes in our daily struggles, well I’ve moved on from that belief. 

Believe it or not, I feel more at peace with this concept that God does not intervene. I still believe there is a usefulness to prayer. It can be a way to socially connect on a deeper level and to set positive intentions together. Prayer can also bring us the quiet contemplation we need to help us to potentially find solutions to our problems if we choose to use prayer in that way. What I no longer believe is that praying hard and often leads to the outcome we want. I prayed so hard for each of my babies and set all my intention on positive outcomes. It was suggested to me by various people that perhaps I wasn’t “praying hard enough” or that I needed to “pray more.” I think my issue at the time was my idea of God was changing yet the people around me continued to talk about God the way I used to view Him. These past several years I felt like giving up on my faith. It took me so long to develop a new view of God that He could simply be a Creator and not necessarily an intervener. For me at least this brings me a sense of comfort and peace.

I should be getting my pathology results here soon. I will let you all know what they are once I get them. For now I will be taking it easy resting after this recent surgery. I went back to work the following day after my surgery, which I think was good for me because it serves as a good distraction. I’m trying to take it easy this first week as far as movement goes, by taking a break from exercising. I feel pretty good but have some twinges of pain here and there. I’m going to try to stay optimistic while I wait for my results.

Thank you for reading. 🙂

Today’s Question: 

Have your spiritual beliefs changed over time through your infertility struggles? If so, how have they changed?

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Learn ways to improve your egg quality. Purchase Rebecca Fett’s book “It Starts with the Egg: How the Science of Egg Quality Can Help You Get Pregnant Naturally, Prevent Miscarriage, and Improve Your Odds in IVF.” It’s currently the #1 Best Seller on Amazon.com’s Reproductive Medicine & Technology list. 

 

 

Featured Photo Image Source for Ultrasound Picture: MedPix National Library of Medicine
URL:
https://medpix.nlm.nih.gov/case?id=7fd9d54c-da23-4248-bb30-bd4993d6efb9

Week 9 of Pregnancy: Top Secret

Week 9 of Pregnancy: Top Secret

(Entry written prior to posted date)

Date written: 9/3/19

 

PLEASE READ FIRST: Although this pregnancy ended in a miscarriage, I still wanted to share my experience of this pregnancy. I wasn’t ready to talk about my pregnancy as it was happening, so I wrote this entry prior to the date it is posted.

 

I’ve decided this pregnancy needs to stay a secret from pretty much everyone until I at least pass my first trimester. This is proving to be difficult while I continue to write posts about other things going on simultaneously. For example, while I was waiting to get tested for the MTHFR gene mutation and when I got my results what I didn’t tell you all is that I was mostly there for testing my HCG levels because I was pregnant. Sneaky, sneaky. I so wanted to share the news because I was so happy but I ultimately chose to wait because I wanted to not deal with the questions I would get. I tend to be OCD at times and I overly research the s**t out of things enough as it is with this pregnancy, almost to the point of neurosis. So I really didn’t want to have the added stress of other people’s questions and worries on top of my own. For this pregnancy it was more of a strategic stress management decision. I wanted to reduce my stress as much as possible. I’ve decided to keep this news to myself until I feel comfortable to share it, which in all honestly will probably be sometime during my second trimester.

 

I just got off the phone with the office of my geneticist. My OBGYN doctor referred me there since I was found to be positive for the MTHFR gene mutation. So my geneticist’s office has been playing phone tag with my OBGYN office and apparently didn’t have a clue why I was referred to them. So I had to explain to them that I was pregnant, had the MTHFR gene mutation and needed to find out ASAP whether I should be taking Lovenox or not. So I’m still waiting to hear back. My OBGYN didn’t seem too sure whether I should be taking a Baby Asprin or not, so I decided to continue taking it since I’ve read that it probably wouldn’t do any harm if I took it but didn’t need it. 

 

As far as how I’m feeling, well imagine that every ounce of life has been zapped from your body and that’s pretty much what I’m feeling. I have zero energy, and I mean zero. It takes a decent amount of energy just to get up and get something to eat. I’ve been parked in front of the TV so much my body aches until I force myself up and stretch while I reach for a small snack. I’ve been eating like a bird, very small amounts but frequently. I’m eating frequently because my nausea has been absolutely terrible and the only thing to keep it at bay is to have a little snack in my stomach. I don’t eat full meals much, and if I do it takes me forever to eat it all. I definitely have morning sickness when I wake up. Needless to say Saltine crackers have become my new best friend. We bought a Costco sized box of twelve sleeves of crackers which will probably last me just a couple weeks. 

 

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Positive Pregnancy test on July 26th.

 

A couple years back I was eating a snack at work and my coworker’s face lit up and she said, “Oh my God! You’re pregnant!” I was so confused how the comment came seemingly out of nowhere. “Uh, no, just hungry. I haven’t eaten yet today” I said. She pointed to my snack as if I should have known I was pregnant just based on what I was eating. I was so confused and asked her why she thought I was pregnant. She explained that I must have been because I was eating Saltine crackers and that no one eats Saltine crackers unless they are pregnant. I explained to her that I like salty snacks and that I figured it was better than potato chips. It took a while to convince her that I was not pregnant. Knowing that some people so strongly associate these crackers with pregnancy is going to be a problem for me while I try to keep my current pregnancy under wraps. They are the only thing keeping me from being barfy. Granted I no longer work with that person, but I am a terrible liar and need to figure out how to maneuver around this possible question. Mamma needs her Saltines! 

 

As far as emotionally, I’m excited that this pregnancy has been going well so far. I’ve had no problems at all other than some random sharp pains. But my baby’s heart is beating well and it’s measuring perfectly on track with the ultrasound. Kurtis had to work that day so I’m hoping he and I will be able to actually see the heartbeat the next time we are there. And maybe we can actually make out some body parts instead of it appearing like a blob where it’s hard to even tell where the head is. I’m counting down the days. We are doing the appointment and ultrasound on Friday the 13th. I hadn’t really thought that one out, but I figure with the terrible luck I’ve had in the past maybe I should play the “opposite game” and stick with that appointment date. Maybe our little one will be just as healthy and strong as it was with the first ultrasound but bigger. 

 

I’ve been using the Ovia Pregnancy app on my phone. I love that app because it gives an adorable cartoon rendition of what the baby looks like at each week of the pregnancy. It also tells you what size the baby is, mostly in fruit, but this week my baby is the size of a southern pecan according to the app. It even shows you the actual size of the baby’s hand which really adds to the cuteness factor and will make anyone go “awww.” 

 

As much as I want to be in the moment I also really want this first trimester to fly by, so I can feel some sense of security knowing the miscarriage risk is lower. I know you can lose a baby at any point during the pregnancy. But to get past the first trimester would be amazing and surreal, because I’ve had that chance. Even now, when I think about how this time next year I could be cuddling with my baby, it seems very surreal. The best way I can describe it is when you have such a strong dream in your heart, but you’re told it will never happen, and then way later down the road it suddenly becomes a possibility. It’s hard to fully embrace that reality when you feel like it can be ripped out from under you at any point. But I still carry on and try to stay optimistic.

 

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MTHFR Gene Mutation Test Results

MTHFR Gene Mutation Test Results

Today’s post will make more sense if you read my last one. So rather than recap everything again that lead up to these results you can go ahead and read that one by clicking here. I may have called the clinic three times to ask about my results over this last week. No one seemed to have a time frame for me of when to expect the results and they said, “This test takes a little longer.” 

 

Finally my doctor called when I was in a Wendy’s drive through with my Mom who was driving, I was visiting her that day. I had my phone up to my one ear, and my finger in the other ear trying to block out all the unusually happy workers inside who were all laughing hysterically about something for what seemed like five minutes straight while I was on the phone trying to hear what he was saying.

 

“You tested positive for the MTHFR gene mutation,” he said. He went on to explain some details that I wasn’t able to grasp in the moment, probably due to a combination of not hearing him and not actually processing all the info. I had to call him back later to actually write down what he was trying to explain to me. He said I have the “MTHFR gene mutation C677T heterozygous single version.” He thinks that some of my miscarriages may have been caused by this gene mutation. Essentially, when you have a MTHFR gene mutation your body cannot process folate well, which is an incredibly important vitamin that helps the baby grow properly. 

 

I had very conflicting emotions with this news, mostly a combination of anger and relief. I was so angry that none of the doctors had realized this earlier, and that one doctor mistakenly told me that I was negative for this gene mutation when she really meant to say I was negative for Factor Five. So I went on to tell my next doctor and several other medical teams I was working with that I did not have MTHFR, going off what she had told me. Sadly, none of these doctors thoroughly looked into my file. Had they done so I may not have had to deal with 2.5 years of five miscarriages and paying for IVF. 

 

I’ve heard stories of women who’ve suffered through many miscarriages before their doctor tested them for MTHFR gene mutation. When they discovered they had it, they were put on the proper medication and vitamins and boom…they have a healthy baby in their arms. I pray it will be that simple for me as well, but I also have Low Ovarian Reserve so it probably won’t be that easy. On the other spectrum of my emotions, I am feeling so much relief knowing that a huge missing puzzle piece has finally been found. But to be honest it is going to take a while to get over my anger. I think in time I will get over it, but right now it is pretty difficult.

 

I sat at Mom’s dinner table and talked about the news with her. She was the one that had mentioned to me several months back my Aunt has the MTHFR gene mutation. This perked my ears up because I remember hearing that acronym as part of the fertility tests I thought I took early on. I explained to Mom, “Had you not told me that, I would not have double checked that I actually got tested for it.” Mom got kind of teary eyed and said something to the effect of, “I didn’t even realize that was something related to fertility.” In other words, Mom had no clue the wheels she had set in motion for me. But I’m glad that she did. I’m also glad that my Aunt spoke up about her medical issues that were caused by the MTHFR gene mutation. Those conversations led me to my diagnosis that could help with my fertility, and ultimately help me to have much greater odds of having a baby.

 

I am brand new to this diagnosis so I have much to learn about it. I’ll probably do informational posts on it in the future. One thing I mentioned to my Mom is that I learned the MTHFR gene mutation has been correlated to some cases of cancer. So my diagnosis has sparked her curiosity into whether she may have the MTHFR gene mutation as well. She has beat cancer twice already and is the strongest woman I know. She said she would look into testing. It’s kind of surreal to finally have a concrete answer as to why I have recurrent miscarriages, and even more so surreal there may be a simple solution of medicine to help me. My OBGYN referred me to a geneticist that I should be seeing soon. Maybe next year we will finally have our little one.

 

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A Doctor’s Mistake & Possible MTHFR Gene Mutation

A Doctor’s Mistake & Possible MTHFR Gene Mutation

So I’m waiting, and waiting, and waiting still for my MTHFR gene mutation test results. Technically, I’ve been waiting about 2.5 years and just didn’t realize it. “How is that possible,” you may ask. Let me take you back to the beginning. Doctors typically look at the more common explanations for recurrent pregnancy loss with the basics; thyroid, progesterone, Rh factor, Factor V Leiden, and MTHFR to name a few. These basic tests help determine the correct treatment, and ideally prevent unnecessary heartache from miscarriage after miscarriage. If all of these tests are negative then further more in-depth testing can be done.

 

I vividly remember sitting in my first RE’s (Reproductive Endocrinologist) office years ago and hearing her explain my results to me. One by one she read my results while reading a paper from my file on her lap, “Thyroid is good. Progesterone is fine. Rh factor is positive, so that’s not an issue at all. No Factor Five and no MTHFR.” No MTHFR. No MTHFR. That’s what sticks out in my mind all these years later. I can still see her smiling at me optimistically, which I’m sure she wouldn’t be doing the same thing now had she seen everything I’ve been through over these years. But she retired shortly after I began my treatment with her. She was a nice lady, but in hindsight she seemed a little flaky and unfocused. But back then I attributed her forgetfulness of the details of my medical history to what I’m assuming was a high number of patients she was juggling. 

 

Flash forward 2.5 years later to now. That first RE retired, my second RE retired this year, and my info was passed along to an OBGYN office in the same building. I called my insurance company and learned there isn’t a single RE left in the state that is in-network any longer. So I’m shit out of luck as far as getting a specialist who is properly trained in cases such as myself. What does this leave me with? In the new clinic I did what most of us do, ask a lot of questions in hopes they will be able to give us breadcrumbs to the solution. It felt like pulling teeth with this one though. She seemed mildly irritated with each question I asked. What she didn’t realize is that she was sitting in an interview for a position that can mean life or death. Not to be melodramatic, but that’s truly the reality of what I’m dealing with, the life of my future child. 

 

I had high hopes for this young representative of this OBGYN office who my newly retired Reproductive Endocrinologist highly recommended. But my final question I posed to this fresh-faced doctor was what truly sealed her fate. It was basically a set up, I’ll admit, but I had to ask it to truly learn what I was working with. I asked her, “What do you recommend I do to improve my egg quality?” Mind you, I have recently done a massive amount of research on this subject this last year, from reputable medical journals and some of the most well-renowned books published on the subject, including the book “It Starts with the Egg.” I’ve already put into practice some of the medical advice on the subject. 

 

“Well” she starts, “We are born with a certain number of eggs. We can’t change that. And sometimes miscarriages just happen. There’s nothing you can do about it.” I could tell she says this quite often. Her face was completely blank and her eyes seemed distant like she was trying to figure out what she wanted to order for lunch. Her words may have been consoling to someone who might be experiencing their first miscarriage, in fact I know I’ve heard this before from another doctor I stopped seeing years ago. When I get a gut feeling that a doctor isn’t doing everything they possibly can, I usually move on to the next one, as anyone should. 

 

So what exactly was it about her response that pissed me off. Well she didn’t answer the question I actually asked her, for one. I asked about egg quality, not egg quantity. I know there’s absolutely no way you can increase the number of eggs you have. But I do know that there are studies on how to improve egg quality on the eggs that you have remaining, which can increase the odds of a live-birth. The problem with her answer to me is that she was either one of two things, 1) Not paying attention to my question, or 2) Uneducated on the correct response. To her credit, she contributed one solid lead for me to follow, with a different doctor of course. That lead was that she had looked through my entire file of many documents and found no MTHFR results. 

 

Interesting, no MTHFR results. Could this just be an oversight on her part? I hoped this was the case. One of my Aunts recently told me she has the MTHFR gene mutation and she was telling other family members to get tested for it. Because of this, I decided I should double check that I truly am negative for the MTHFR gene mutation. If you haven’t already googled what the MTHFR gene mutation is, it’s essentially a mistake that occurs in how people process folate which can lead to a variety of complications, recurrent miscarriage being one of them. The doctor’s parting words were, “You don’t need to get tested for MTHFR. Just make sure you take a prenatal with folate.” Let me disect this response as well, firstly if I did have MTHFR, it’s recommended that you take methylated folate during pregnancy, which is often not found in your basic prenatal. And why the hell would I not want to get tested for MTHFR if I have a family history of it and I’ve had five miscarriages? Why would I not want to find that out? At that point I thanked her for her time and we both left the room quickly. I’m assuming for her it was because her stomach was rumbling and she needed lunch, and for me I left quickly because I knew I wasn’t going to waste another minute with someone who seemed disinterested in helping me. I later read in my infertility groups that many other women have the same experience of a doctor being dismissive of their request to test for MTHFR and that some patients really have to push doctors to get this test done.

 

I called back a few days later and asked the receptionist to patch me through to a nurse. “Can you see if I have been tested for MTHFR at all?” I wanted to know for absolute certain that I had not been tested for MTHFR, because I was questioning how thoroughly the doctor read through my file. The nurse on the phone scoured through my medical history, I know this because I could hear her turning the many pages of my file. Finally after about five minutes she said, “Well I see here you were tested for something similar to MTHFR, Factor Five. But nothing at all on MTHFR.” She even reviewed my genetic test called a Horizon panel, which tests for 274 different genetic carrier diseases that both my husband and I took years ago. The MTHFR test wasn’t in that one either. She asked if I wanted to come in to get tested for it and I agreed, but later decided not to show up, remembering the shitty experience I had with that doctor. I thanked the nurse for her time she put into carefully poring over my file. I decided to use this bread crumb of information to move ahead, but not with them.

 

Instead of feeling obligated to continue care with that provider just because my previous Reproductive Endocrinologist recommended them, I decided to call up my OBGYN I used for my past surgeries after I lost my pregnancies. He previously recommended I ask most of my questions to a specialist, a Reproductive Endocrinologist, because he didn’t have all the information I was asking about. But now that I have zero RE’s that are in-network, I decided to go back to his office to at least test me for MTHFR. So I stopped by, did a quick blood draw, and now I’m waiting for the results. I’ve been waiting about five days now and I called several times. They said it takes a bit longer to get that specific test back. 

 

If I have MTHFR I can get set up on a treatment plan. If I don’t, at least I can finally rule that out. I feel I have a right to be angry, I was told I was tested for it but I really wasn’t. My second RE even asked me, “Have you been tested for MTHFR?” as she was looking through all my documents. I told her I was tested and found to be negative, because I was going off what my first RE told me. My second RE stopped searching through my file after just a few pages and took my word for it, she should have looked more deeply into it. Admittedly, my file is quite intimidating. It’s about as thick as a 500-page novel. Maybe that’s why she decided to stop short. There were a series of oversights along the way, and that is what bothers me. 

 

I believe this is not just a personal issue either. I feel that if this can happen to me, it is also happening to some of you as well. What would I have done differently if I were to do it over again? I would have examined my own copy of my file yearly, looking for any gaps in testing. But in the beginning you trust your doctor, you trust the process, and you believe you are doing everything you can. But doctors make mistakes, sometimes major mistakes. Sometimes you can’t take their word on something and you need to see it in writing in your hands. I wish I would have asked to have a copy of the test results and actually see the words MTHFR Gene Mutation on the paper. But that paper doesn’t exist because neither did the test. 

 

Throughout this whole process I’m learning to do my own research and take initiative. Because if you just go with the flow of whatever the doctor says you may end up so far away from your solution. Speak up and ask for the testing you need. If your gut tells you, “They don’t know what they are doing” listen to that instinct and find someone who at the very least listens to you. Because if they truly listen and still cannot help you at least they can hopefully point you in the direction of where to go instead.

 

I will let you all know as soon as I get the results from my MTHFR test. For now, I’m considering seeing the highly recommended RE that is not in-network with my insurance. Perhaps she has some advice that can actually help me achieve my dream of having a baby. I told myself I would pay off my debt first before I go down and do the Frozen Embryo Transfer in Seattle. I still have a good chunk of debt left to pay that feels like it’s turning into a Whack-a-Mole game, pay off one bill only to have another equal or more expensive one appear in my mail. I’ll get there eventually. 

 

I’m still exhausting every single possibility of trying to have a biological child. So for all of my family and friends saying, “Why don’t you just adopt?” or “Why don’t you just foster?” I humbly say to you, in time I will, but I don’t want to split my energy in different directions right now. I want to focus on one thing at a time. Some acquaintances I meet ask why I don’t have kids yet. I don’t feel obligated to give them my medical history so instead I give them the canned response of “We’re trying.” The more brazen acquaintances then jokingly say, “You don’t have much time left. You better get on that.” It’s at this point I imagine myself as Mike Tyson punching the shit out of them repeatedly in their smug face, and maybe biting a piece of their ear off for good measure. I’m joking, sort of. But unfortunately they have a point. I’m 33 and I don’t have much time left, which is compounded even more so by the fact that I have Low Ovarian Reserve. So right now this is my focus and I’m doing everything I can.

 

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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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How to Handle a Miscarriage at Home

How to Handle a Miscarriage at Home

You must consult with your doctor because a natural miscarriage may not be advisable in your specific situation. The following tips are meant for those who know they are going to miscarry and your doctor confirms you can do so naturally at home with lower risk. My goal in writing this is to help others who are about to go through the natural miscarriage process. Also, this is meant to help any family members or friends who will be there during the actual process, so they know what to expect and how best to help their loved one. I am choosing to avoid graphic details because I personally don’t find it helpful to read this from others, nor do I want to trigger anyone needlessly. Each of my miscarriages were missed miscarriages, this is when the embryo stops developing but the woman’s body has not completed the miscarriage process.

 

How to Handle a Miscarriage at Home

 

 

  • Ask your doctor for prescription strength pain pills.

You may not need them, or you may really need them. Each woman and each miscarriage is different. But why not be on the safe side and have them just in case.

 

 

  • Take an over-the-counter pain reliever for mild pain.

Keep Tylenol or Ibuprofen nearby. Speak with your doctor about when it is appropriate to take these and when it would be better to take a prescription pain pill. Each circumstance is different so always speak with your doctor or pharmacist about when and if it is appropriate to take an OTC pain pill and a prescription pill. They may advise you to take one or the other. Be careful not to overdo it.

 

 

  • Keep your phone on you.

If you haven’t already, program your doctor’s number into your phone. Most OB’s have an answering service after office hours, so if you call they can have an on-call doctor call you back as soon as possible. This is helpful if you are concerned about your symptoms but are not sure about whether you should go to the emergency room or not. You also can call the hospital directly for medical advice. Also it is good to have your phone on you if you are alone so you can call your partner, friend, or family member to come be with you.

 

 

  • Call someone you trust to come be with you.

Ideally it would be best to have your partner with you. But if they are not available call someone you trust, a family member or a friend. Tell them you need them to be there to make sure it doesn’t develop into an emergency situation. If you pass out, hemorrhage, or have another emergency situation, you need to have someone there to take over and call for an ambulance if necessary.

 

 

  • Stay hydrated.

Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. You can also drink Gatorade, vitamin water, or another drink that helps to replenish you.

 

 

  • Keep a snack nearby.

If it is taking a while, and you are in a lot of pain you may not feel like getting up. You can keep some crackers or another snack near you. This is when it is nice to have someone there for you to bring you a snack if you get hungry.

 

 

  • Lie down.

Whether it’s on your bed, or the couch, find someplace comfortable to lie down. Do whatever you need to do to feel more comfortable. If sitting or standing feels better for you do that. Please be cautious if you choose to stand because there is a risk of if you get light headed and faint you might hurt yourself. I found that lying down was best for me. I also put a towel down just in case.

 

 

  • Have plenty of sanitary pads and toilet paper nearby.

Try to use the overnight or thicker sanitary pads. Keep these right next to your toilet. You may be in too much pain to bend down to get anything out of a cabinet. This is why you need to have pads and extra toilet paper very easily within reach.

 

 

  • Bleeding through 1 pad per hour? Call your doctor.

Each person’s situation is different, but my doctor said if I was bleeding through one pad per hour I needed to go to the emergency room. You are at risk of losing too much blood or hemorrhaging if you do not at least call your doctor. Do not be afraid to call and ask questions. They told me if I bled through 1 pad per hour for 3-4 hours I would need to go to the ER.

 

 

  • Don’t bend over.

It can be incredibly painful to bend over, and you should try avoid doing this. If you drop something just kick it out of the way so you don’t trip over it. Or ask whoever is helping you to pick it up for you.

 

 

  • Use a heating pad on your abdomen.

The warmth can help to ease some of the pain. You can alternate using the heating pad and taking it off as needed. 

 

  • Ask your doctor about testing.

Your doctor may have you bring in your products of conception to test if there were any genetic issues, to learn what may have caused the pregnancy loss. They will give you the materials needed to do this. They might not do any testing with your first two losses. Sometimes your medical insurance will not cover any testing until after your third loss. If you want to do testing, but feel you cannot handle this collection process ask your partner or the person helping you if they can do this for you. But remember, by doing this testing you can learn what is going on and your doctor can adjust your treatment plan.

 

  • Do whatever you can to help yourself emotionally during the process.

Whether it is distracting yourself from pain by watching a movie, listening to music, or talking with your partner. What do you usually do to comfort yourself in stressful times?

 

I will have more articles in the future on how to process pregnancy loss emotionally. The purpose of this article was more on the practical things you can do while the miscarriage happens. Be sure follow up with your doctor. You can be at risk for infection or other complications by doing a natural miscarriage, so be sure to check in with your doctor if you have any further symptoms. Please comment below if you have any advice you want to share with others about what helped you during this process. Thank you for reading.

 

Further Reading:

VeryWell Natural and Medical Miscarriage Options 

WebMD Miscarriage Treatment 

 

Image Credit: From Pexels.com 

 

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