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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.

 

Thank you for reading.

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

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

(Entry written prior to posted date).

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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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.

 

IMG_20180826_173846

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.

 

IMG_20180827_094758

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 7 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Leaving on a Jet Plane

Day 7 (Round 1 of IVF Stims): Leaving on a Jet Plane

Written prior to posted date.

 

So I have a ticket for the 6am flight out to Seattle. Today is the big day! I’m not sure whether I’ll sleep or not. I’ve been really busy preparing to for my trip. Non-stop on my feet for most of the day. I’ve been cleaning the house, packing my bags, printing the documents I need, while taking out the puppy every time he whines. I finally sat down to relax just now.

 

“One of the women in the IVF forums I’m on suggested I should take the time to document this process so I can show it to my kid someday. I think that made me even more committed to this process.”

 

I might take a brief hiatus from writing for the week and do catch-up entries later, that way I can really focus on being in the moment. Plus I start school tomorrow, an online class, so between that and IVF appointments daily I may not have a lot of time to write. I think I will take down quick notes for the day and then elaborate on them when I get some spare time in the day. I’m enjoying documenting this process. One of the women in the IVF forums I’m on suggested I should take the time to document this process so I can show it to my kid someday. I think that made me even more committed to this process. For now I’m using this blog to help other women and vice versa, but it would be really amazing to sit down and show my children what the process was actually like for me.

 

I didn’t really sleep well last night. Kurtis left early to go fishing, so of course I couldn’t go back to sleep when he left at 4am. I tried really hard to stay awake but I needed a nap. I took another long nap today, three hours. I felt good afterwards but I probably could have slept even more. I packed all my fat clothes, because I am hella bloated. I’m hoping that once they take out my eggs for the retrieval I’ll deflate like a balloon. But that’s probably not what happens. One can dream. I have literally an entire carry-on bag full of medicine. I’m worried if I don’t bring all of it that when I show up they may extend my dates and say, “You brought it all right?”

 

“If I can get through TSA without having a hormonal cry session that would be nice.”

 

What is taking up most of the space in my carry-on is the bubble packaging to cushion the medicine. I have four different shots, including one that needs refrigerated. I’m kind of hoping I don’t deal with an idiot at TSA for two reasons; 1) Not being educated about fertility medicine and seriously questioning my bag of medicine, 2) Being called to the side for heavy duty hand inspection over my sore stomach from injections and or over my vag area where I am having little jabs of pain. Please just let me through easily. If I can get through TSA without having a hormonal cry session that would be nice.

 

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