Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Change of Heart

 I feel like the post unsuccessful IVF cycle often feels like cleaning up after a war.  I seem to be having a tougher time recovering each time.  You spend weeks pumping your body full of drugs and then in one day you stop abruptly.  It shocks your system a bit.  I’ve had terrible insomnia and horrible mood swings and feel slightly crazy at the moment.

My doctor has decided to place me on a three month break.  During that time they are going to give me a high dose of Lupron.  One shot per month that will put me in a chemically induced state of menopause.  It is the best cure aside from a full hysterectomy to treat severe endometriosis.  We are going to talk more about our options at a meeting on the 28th.  When he called me this week he suspected that the embryos that they implanted ended up fizzling out around day five since that was what happened to the embryo that they were watching to potentially freeze.  Before the third cycle he did suggest that if it didn’t work that we should consider using an egg donor for our last and final round since the quality of my eggs has been continuously in question.  At first I was very open to this suggestion and so was my husband.  We even had friends who stepped forward and offered to donate.  I knew I would be more comfortable using someone I knew.  After more consideration however I’ve had a change of heart.

I believe that the best tool that can be used in making major decisions is The Bible.  Because my name is Sarah I’ve always felt very connected to Sarah in the Bible.  I read through Genesis 16 and although the situation is a bit different I found the thought of egg donation to be similar as the situation between Abraham, Haggar and Sarah, just with better technology.  Sarah always seemed to be a mature, wise and dignified woman but I didn’t like who she was during that time in her life and things didn’t turn out well when it appeared that she allowed her desperation for a child to cloud her wisdom.  I just feel that using an egg donor is possibly forcing something to happen that may not be meant to happen.

Going back to the Bible as a reference for decision making, James 1:27 states

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

There are a lot of verses in The Bible that refer to caring for orphans or the fatherless which leads me to believe that if we have the resources to do so (and we do) adoption would be the more Godly decision over egg donation.  Since we have one more round of IVF left we may just take a shot and try the last round using my faulty eggs just to see what will happen.  If it doesn’t work it will at least confirm that one door has been closed and I look forward to seeing what the new open door will bring.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Little baby oblong

I didn’t have the easiest day yesterday. I went in for my transfer. The worst part of the transfer by far is the fact that you have to do it with a full bladder and I’m not good at having a full bladder. You are supposed to drink your water an hour before the transfer so I finished my water at 2pm in preparation for a 3pm transfer. When I got to the office they drew blood, checked my blood pressure and recorded my weight….and then I waited. The Doctor (not the one who travels in TARDIS but that would be really cool wouldn’t it?) was coming from the Vineland office and he hit some bad traffic so he was running late. I was starting to get flushed, sweaty and pretty worried when at 3:20pm he still wasn’t there and I still needed to go through the briefing and then all of the transfer prep. When the doctor walked through the door seconds later, he apologized a lot and they let me empty out a little bit so I wasn’t so uncomfortable.

When we sat down with the doctor he said, “All I want for Christmas this year is a Miduski baby.” He then told us his plans to transfer 3 embryos instead of the usual 2. He said that given my history there is still a greater chance that I won’t be pregnant at all and he wasn’t worried about triplets or more. He then went over our results. I ended up with 7 eggs, they performed ICSI (injecting the sperm directly into the eggs) and we ended up with 4 embryos. He explained that in the past my embryos were loose, which means that the cells didn’t fill out to the edge/zona. Though nothing with infertility is absolutely positive the thought is that loose embryos have a lesser chance of surviving. This time around our embryos had filled out nicely. One was a 5, which is the best grade and the others were 4. Two looked hopeful, one hadn’t quite filled out to the edges and the other was our little oblong.
Above is the actual picture of the three embryos they were preparing to transfer. The top two look pretty good. They are nice and round and filled out to the edge. The bottom one if filled out to the edges but instead of being round it is oblong shaped. The doctor and the embryologist differed in their opinions a bit. The doctor thought that oblong embryos aren’t super great and have less of a chance of surviving. The embryologist thought that there wasn’t enough evidence that that is the case and thought that they could survive and implant just as well as any other embryo. The doctor joked and assured us that no matter the outcome our baby wouldn’t be born with a head like Stewie from Family Guy.
I laughed that there is actually a cartoon called The Oblongs and our little oblong embryo made me think of them. I must admit that I fell in love with our little underdog unusual embryo.

They had me walk to the same top security area where I had the retrieval and I changed into the same attire. My husband then changed into scrubs complete with cap, booties and a face mask. They want to be sure that nothing compromises the embryos. I then climbed up on the table and they prepped me a bit.

Due to my endometriosis and the adhesions that come with it my uterus has been pushed and pulled to the right side of my body instead of being in the center. My right ovary was still quite enlarged and was also pushing on my uterus obstructing the view. This was making getting a good picture of my uterus impossible. When completing the transfer you have to place the embryos in an exact spot at the top of the uterus but it was hard to see where the top was. The doctor decided that retro-filling my bladder may help to push my uterus into a better position. This involved inserting a catheter into my bladder and then pouring liquid through it so that my bladder could expand more and more. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, but it also wasn’t fun. There was then a lot of pushing on my tummy and jiggling of this and that desperately trying to get a good picture. At this point I wasn’t feeling a ton of pain but there was a lot of uncomfortable pressure. Then my cervix was being stubborn as usual and didn’t want to let the uterine catheter through. I was doing my best to relax so that my cervix would be more relaxed but being in an awkward position with all sorts of things already inserted and a bladder that felt like it was going to burst it was challenging. The catheter was finally able to be inserted and at this point I was feeling really uncomfortable. There was a lot more pushing and jiggling as the doctor and nurse did their best to find the catheter in my uterus as it was still difficult to get a clear picture. They were finally able to get things in place as best as they could and the doctor promised they were going to try to move quickly. The good thing about all of this extra time was that the embryologist was able to examine our fourth embryo and found that since looking at it the day before it had filled out nicely so she switched it out with the oblong one (I know that this was to give us the best possible chance but I have to admit that I was a little sad since I liked little oblong. They will let us know in a few days if it becomes freeze worthy. The embryos were finally transferred through the catheter. The catheter was given to the embryologist to give the all clear that all the embryos were inserted. After that the doctor used the bladder catheter to completely drain my bladder, which was actually the positive part of having had that inserted because after the transfer is complete you have to lay flat on your back for an hour and that is pretty unpleasant when your bladder is full. Feeling much more comfortable, I was transferred to a bed and wheeled to the recovery area where I chilled for an hour. My husband sat with me so we chatted and I admired how handsome he looked wearing scrubs. I was finally able to get up, change and then leave.

Our food tradition for the transfer has been chicken croquettes. So we stopped at Palace Diner (because they have yummy croquettes) and my husband ran in and got two dinners to go since I am not supposed to exert myself. I enjoyed my dinner and we spent the night watching Star Trek episodes. I was feeling pretty beat up and exhausted. I’m still sore and feeling beat up this morning and the same instructions apply today. I am supposed to laze about all day and not walk or exert myself. I have to continue the progesterone oil shots and I have two oral medications that must be taken three times a day. Now comes the worst part of the process, which is having to wait for weeks for the blood test to find out if the process worked. I do a lot of praying and try not to think too much so as not to drive myself crazy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Pretty Dancing Lights

On Tuesday I went in for my egg retrieval. The office that I go to performs the egg retrievals there “in the back.” You have to walk through the main part of the office, then through a door down a hallway, through the lab and then into the procedure area. It makes you feel as though you are going to be a part of some super secret experiment. I went into the changing room. I guess it’s the little things but the hospital gowns were nice and new and they let you put on two; one facing front and one facing back. I also had to put booties on my feet and one of those shower cap things on my head. I was then escorted into the procedure room where the anesthesiologist put in my IV (he did an excellent job, I barely felt anything). They had me lay down on the table and prepped me a bit. Though I felt fairly relaxed the anesthesiologist gave me some relaxation medicine. It made me feel super happy and euphoric. I was staring up at the ceiling and the ceiling lights were half their regular color and half pink and they appeared to be dancing and moving all over the ceiling. It was fascinating. The anesthesiologist asked if the medicine was working and I said, “Yes, definitely.” The next thing I knew I was waking up. The nurse and the anesthesiologist were having a conversation about something or other and then they asked me if I was awake. My intention was just to think it but I ended up saying in a voice that sounded groggy and far away, “I don’t remember falling asleep.” The anesthesiologist said that sometimes people start to panic when they know they are about to go under so he just does it without announcing it. I still find the whole feeling of waking up without remembering going to sleep and being unaware of the passage of time very strange but also cool. The anesthesiologist and the nurse then helped me walk to the recovery area. I wasn’t sure I could walk because I felt numb and tingly but I made it into the bed just fine. I was feeling a little crampy but for the most part I was still under the influence of all the drugs so I wasn’t in a lot of pain. I laid there for…I’m not sure how long and I was glad when the nurse finally said I could leave because all I wanted to do was eat something and curl up on my sofa nest to sleep.
The nurse let me know that they retrieved 7 eggs. One of my ovaries only had one good egg and the other ovary held the other 6. I felt slightly disappointed that it wasn’t that great of a number but I am always reminded that it is the quality not the quantity that counts when it comes to eggs. Being our third time around, we have established some unintentional traditions involving food. After retrievals we stop at Panera (which is close to the office). Once we got home I settled into my nest on the sofa, ate and spent the day napping, drinking Gatorade and watching Law and Order SVU (since it was Tuesday it was on all day). I was feeling relatively pain free but I was nervous as time slipped away. During the past two retrievals I would feel fine until about 11pm and then horrible pain would set in. It would usually last for 48 hours before subsiding. I distinctly remember after the second retrieval promising myself that I would NEVER have another retrieval, but here I was again and I watched the clock and waited, and waited but the horrible pain never came. Yes I was crampy, bloated and sore, but it was manageable. I did burn out my heating pad and I had to run out on Thursday morning to buy a new one but it wasn’t a major catastrophe. In fact I was thankful that I could actually run out somewhere and that I wasn’t doubled over with terrible pain.
I did end up drinking a boat load of Gatorade. This time I was prepared and bought a case from Sam’s Club. I started drinking it the moment I got home. The idea is that it helps to flush the excess fluid that has built up in your expanded ovaries out of your system making you feel less bloated and crampy. I only like orange flavor so I’m thankful that we found a case of just orange. On Wednesday the embryologist (who has a fun accent) called and told me that out of the seven eggs four successfully fertilized. This time around they did a procedure called ICSI where they injected the sperm directly into the egg. My transfer was scheduled for Friday. I’ve had to take a bunch of different oral medications and on Wednesday we had to start the Progesterone oil shots. I say “we” because it is another butt shot that has to be given daily so my husband has to be involved. They do feel pinchy and after a while your butt gets sore but if they help then it is all worth it.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Decisions and Directions

I went to my appointment yesterday (and enjoyed a lovely evening at Longwood Gardens which was a nice distraction). The Saturday staff is different than the week day staff though just as nice. I was able to sit down talk with the doctor about the upcoming retrieval and transfer. While reviewing my data my doctor noticed that there was a discrepancy between the weekday ultrasound tech’s measurements and the Saturday tech’s measurements. The Saturday person stated that there were some follicles that were very close and appeared to be stuck together and that it was possible that they could have been measured as one large follicle by the week day tech instead of two smaller follicles. Because of that my doctor decided to have me take medications for an additional day just to be sure that everything would be the correct size. Therefore it was decided that my egg retrieval would be on Tuesday (instead of Monday). I was told to take more shots (I can’t remember how much) and then waited for further instructions. The nurse called me and told me I was to take another 75 of Menopur and 25 of Follistim and then on Sunday morning I needed to take the Garnirelex, 75 of Menopur and 150 of Follistim. I then had to stay home from church because I had to wait for the nurse to call me Sunday morning with all of the instructions for the egg retrieval.
The nurse called and gave me my instructions, which I had to write down on a worksheet that was given to me at one of my appointments. I am to do the HCG shot at 9:45pm exactly Sunday night. It is extremely important to do the HCG shot precisely as directed. It is the final icing on the cake and helps to ripen everything for harvest. It is a one time shot that must be injected intramuscularly…to be blunt…in my butt. The location is very specific and is impossible to self-inject so my husband gets the job of injecting it. Though not pleasant the butt shots make me giggle endlessly because the scene that it creates is quite humorous. I was also instructed to begin my antibiotics, one of four oral medications that I will take between now and the dreaded pregnant/not pregnant phone call. My egg retrieval will take place at 9am on Tuesday. I’ve been praying very hard that my egg quality will be good. Bad egg quality may be the reason we have had trouble growing good quality embryos.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Brief Update

I went for another appointment this morning. Everything looks good. I have “enough” follicles that are anywhere between 13-16 mm. My left ovary is under achieving a bit (my right was the under achiever last round) and there are some there that probably won’t be big enough for harvesting early next week. I took my Garilex before I went to the appointment and then had to take 150 of Menopur this morning at work. This evening I am to take 50 Follistim and 75 Menopur. I have to go in tomorrow morning for another look and then they will hopefully let me know exactly when my retrieval will be.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful to learn math?

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I had my appointment yesterday and everything continues to look good. There weren’t a lot of numbers that were thrown out, but you know things are going well when you don’t hear the phrase “hmmm, let’s see…..” They had me take 25 of Follistim right there in the office and I also had to inject my new medication Garilex. This is the medication the replaced the previously taken Lupron. It shuts part of my pituitary gland off so I won’t ovulate. It comes in a little pre filled syringe and the needle was small and thin so it was nice and simple. It did feel as if someone was stabbing me in the leg for about ten minutes after I injected it, but the feeling eventually went away. In the afternoon they called me with further instructions. They had me take 225 of Menopur last night. It was essentially 1 cc of liquid mixed with 3 viles of powder (each powder is 75). Through the process I learned that 3 x 75 = 225. This morning I have to take 150 of Menopur (so 2x75=150), 50 Follistim and another dose of Garilex. I go back to the office tomorrow morning. If everything still looks good then my egg retrieval will be Monday. The biggest fear at the moment would be that the Garilex doesn’t work and that my Luteinizing Hormone surges too early and I ovulate before my eggs can be harvested.
When I decided to start this blog I wanted to make sure that I kept it as positive as possible. I read a lot of infertility blogs and I didn’t really like the blogs that were just a bunch of venting, ranting and raving, especially other women ranting against friends, family or strangers who had the “audacity” to get pregnant. At the same time I’d like to be honest especially for readers who may be preparing to go through this process for the first time. So honestly I feel as if I’m being run over by a steam roller while in a thick fog while dementors suck out my soul.
The more medication I take the worse I feel. It is not pleasant. The physical symptoms are miserable but the mental/emotional symptoms are what I hate the most. I’m a cheerful person and it’s weird to want to feel cheerful and happy and no matter how hard I try I just can’t. I also feel very foggy and unfocused. I’m not mean or angry but I feel grumpy like an over tired toddler. My poor husband gets the brunt of my whining. Hugs from people and snuggles from a cuddly kitty help. I am looking forward to some turkey and a calm peaceful time spent with friends and family today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Secret Spy Mad Scientist

There were no unwanted trips to the restroom today during work hours so I’m hoping that is a good sign that I am on the mend. I had appointment #2 at the fertility office today. It was the same as usual, ultrasound, blood work and a chat with the IVF nurse. I was happy to find out that I am doing great. Follicles should grow at a rate of 1-3 mm per day. Harvest size is generally anywhere between 15-20 mm. After three days of medication I have 2 follicles that are already 10mm and “a bunch” that are at 3mm. I’m right on track. Now we just have to pray that the 3s keep growing and don’t straggle at any point. That has been one of my issues in the past…stragglers.
I went to work and waited for the nurse to call me with further instructions. This part is kind of exciting because it makes me feel like I’m a secret spy waiting for my next set of secret spy instructions; the kind that self-destruct after you’ve received them.
The nurse called me at 3:30pm and told me that the doctor wanted me to take 175 of Folistim and 75 of Menopur “now”. At this stage in the game I have to keep a supply of medications packed in my insulated lunch box every time I go for an appointment just in case a situation like this comes up. The Menopur takes a bit more work than the other meds because it has to be mixed. First you extract sodium chloride from one vile and inject it into a vile that has a little white tablet. You roll the vile gently to dissolve the tablet and then I inject the Folistim into the vile so that I only have to give myself one shot instead of two. I had to do all of the mixing at my desk at work and it made me feel like I was some kind of mad scientist trying to come up with a way to inject myself with super powers. Most people in my office know that I am doing IVF but I have to image some do not and wondered what people could be thinking as I carried a vile and needle into the bathroom with me. The needle is more of a traditional needle so to inject it I pinch the skin on the top of my thigh and then jab. Menopur is my second least favorite of the injections because it burns like the dickens going in. Tomorrow morning I am to take 125 of Folistim and another 75 of Menopur and then tomorrow evening I end the day with another 75 of Menopur. I go back to the office Wednesday morning and will wait for further secret instructions.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Why I now love Law and Order

So I’ve been sick, very sick. With a new IVF cycle comes the dreaded back to back period. Period, two weeks off and period again and my intestine was none too happy. It decided to give me a particularly hard time both times so I feel like I’ve been living in a stomach flu fog. I’m thankful that our office recently put in a private bathroom but there is still nothing comfortable about throwing up at work. I also feel bad for my new boss because more than once in the past two months I’ve had to e-mail him to let him know that I absolutely had to go home. That is what has been particularly upsetting about this time around. I wake up feeling fine and then the tornado doesn’t start until around 10am or so and it had been doing that several days in a row. I have developed an appreciation for the show Law and Order (I especially like Special Victims Unit). It is on one channel or another almost 24 hours a day and I find the dialogue and the delivery of said dialogue very soothing. It doesn’t even matter what they are talking about I just like to lay on the sofa with my eyes closed being soothed by Detective something or other. I went to the doctor's office on Friday to receive my official first ultrasound and blood work. At 4pm I got a call that all looked well and I was to start out with 300 iu of Folistim.
Folistim is fun because it comes in this nifty pen that has a fancy case that you keep in your refrigerator. It is by far the easiest of the shots because all you have to do is click your dose, stick and press. I inject Folistim into my tummy. I just pinch up some skin (under the belly button and of course I swab it clean) and inject. The needle part is very thin so it doesn’t really pinch at all. The only weird thing is that I’m bad at remembering to take the case out early so I usually inject it while it’s still cold. It is a bizarre sensation. I will do Folistim 300, Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then go back to the office on Monday morning for a new ultrasound, more blood work and a new set of instructions.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


On October 31st I went to my fertility center to officially begin my third cycle of IVF. I’m currently doing 14 days of birth control pills so that everything can be set and timed perfectly. I have been using this 14 day period of time to prepare myself physically, mentally and spiritually for the grueling few weeks ahead.

Before I started my second round of IVF I discovered a book called “Fully Fertile.” It is written by three women who started a holistic fertility center. I absolutely love the book and it is very helpful for anyone who is struggling with infertility.

Physically- Although I try my best to eat fairly healthy all of the time with little cheats here and there, I do make an effort to be even more conscious of my nutritional intake during my IVF cycle. I also cut back on my caffeine intake as well as any other beverages that contain high amounts of sugar. I try to take walks a few days a week for exercise and stress release purposes. I also complete a yoga routine almost everyday. The routine is outlined in the Fully Fertile book and the stretches are to help loosen and relax specific muscles, improve circulation and help reduce stress. The authors of the book encourage that to have good fertility you must have good circulation, respiration and elimination (of toxins from your body).

Mentally/Emotionally- This time around I’ve been working very hard on staying positive. We have now been doing various fertility treatments for two years. One IUI, two “fresh” IVF cycles and one frozen embryo transfer. None of which have worked and as we get ready to try another fresh cycle it has been harder this time around to imagine that the outcome can be different. I need to spend a lot more time relaxing and reminding myself that it could happen this time.

Spiritually- The only thing that I work extra hard on is making sure that I spend time everyday expressing gratitude to God for all of the wonderful things currently in my life that He has blessed me with. . I have a list of Bible verses that I have written in a notebook that I read every day and of course I pray, A LOT, especially during the 48 hours after the embryo transfer when I have to be on bed rest and I’m home with my own solitude and feel peaceful, hopeful and quiet. It is also encouraging when others let you that they are praying along with you.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Megatron vs. The Borg

When you have five and a half years of waiting you have lots of time to settle on baby names. Of course we still enjoy throwing out other options…Shannon is still very fond of Optimus Prime or Megatron. I think calling the baby The Borg would be fitting due to the scientific nature of his or her conception. All kidding aside I really do like our names and I must admit I will feel a little disappointed if we never get to use them. If we do adopt we’ll most likely be adopting toddlers or even preschoolers and I’m not sure I would want to force a preschooler to change his or her name.

Boys- Our number one name is Samuel David. As a child I loved the story of Samuel in the Bible. I remember lying in bed at night straining to see if I could hear God’s voice calling me. Also when I was in college I spent a year taking care of a baby boy named Samuel and I adored him. My dad’s name is David so it makes a great middle name especially since Samuel anointed David.

Since there is a chance with IVF you could have twins I try to have a back up name just in case we get a two for one deal. This name changes a lot but for the moment I like Josiah Joseph.

Girls- This was far more difficult. We threw out names for years and couldn’t find one we both agreed on. Being one in a sea of endless Sarahs I wanted my daughter to have a name that was a little different without being too weird or crazy.
Being fans of the author Neil Gaiman and fans of director Henry Selick, we were thrilled when the Coraline movie came out. After the movie while sitting in the theater with the credits rolling my husband looked over at me and said,
“I like that name…Coraline.” I agreed, I really liked that name too and so our possible future daughter became Coraline with the middle name Anne, for Anne of Green Gables of course.

It took us so long to come up with one girl’s name I’m concerned about having more than one girl because there really is no back up name. There are a few that get thrown around and one serious though possibly controversial consideration but nothing that we can agree on yet. I searched through other female names in Neil Gaiman stories, because I thought that would be a cool trend but Coraline is the only one I really love.

I think some people will wonder why my daughter wouldn’t be named after my mother who died when I was seventeen. The answer to that is that I promised I wouldn’t. Around nine years old, my mom made me promise very seriously promise that I would not name my future daughter after her. In fact I couldn’t even name her anything that resembled her name at all. My mom really hated her name. There was also a second forbidden name but I won’t go into that and as I was always taught that you need to keep your promises or don’t make them in the first place, our daughter will be Coraline Anne. Since my mom loved reading just like me I think she would approve of her granddaughter having a literary name.

An Unexpected Gift

A few Sundays ago I awoke to an unfamiliar sound. It was soft, sweet and high pitched. As I gained further consciousness I was sure the noise was snoring but it was too quiet to be my husband. I moved slowly to a sitting position and found our cat Emma curled up snuggled against my leg sound asleep and snoring. With a warm and fuzzy heart, I settled back down and delayed getting out of bed so she could enjoy her peaceful slumber.

It was the day after Christmas and though the holiday had offered a great distraction I was still feeling pretty bummed about our first failed IVF. I had so been looking forward to making a big announcement on Christmas Day. While savoring my pre-church mug of tea, I found myself listening intently to a crying sound. Needing to squelch my curiosity I pulled back the curtain to our sliding door and when I looked down there was a small orange striped cat staring back at me. I ran upstairs and told my husband; pleading that it was cold outside and we should let the little cat in. I was sure the cat was lost. He disagreed and thought that it could be someone’s outdoor cat and that whether the cat belonged to someone or was lost we weren’t going to have a strange cat running around the house while we were at church. Reluctantly I said good-bye to the little cat and went to church.

After church we went out to eat and ran a few errands. When we arrived home I ran to the back door and was greeted by the cries of the little orange cat. There were already sings of an impending snow storm and my husband agreed that we couldn’t leave the cat outside to battle the elements. After several unsuccessful attempts to pick the cat up we simply opened our back door. The cat trotted right in took a lap around the living room sniffing everything and then proceeded to curl up in front of the fire and fall asleep. Later she (we discovered she was girl) snuggled up in my lap purring and she even slept in bed with us.

The next day I battled snow and ice and traveled to the pet store to purchase some necessities. I then spent the next week calling shelters and looking on Craig’s List and other Lost Pet sites trying to find her owner. We were also becoming quite smitten with her. She was absolutely adorable and her presence was meeting the very real need that I had to nurture, snuggle and all around smother with love. Thankfully for the most part she didn’t seem to mind us giving her constant attention. We decided that if we couldn’t find her owner we would keep her. I tried calling her different names everyday to see if any felt right.

After a week I was pretty certain that she was staying for good until I went out in my back yard and looked over at the back yard of our brand new neighbors. Their patio had cat paraphernalia placed on it and it appeared as if they were trying to lure a cat to the house. I don’t know why it hadn’t occurred to me that the cat could have belonged to the new next door neighbor. Later that night I knocked on the door (surprisingly it ended up that I knew the neighbor) and asked if she had lost her cat. She said yes, their cat Emma ran away about a week ago. I went back over to our house and picked Emma up and began walking over to the neighbor’s door. Emma started freaking out and was squirming and scratching, doing anything she could to get out of my arms. She succeeded and ran away. The neighbor said that Emma often ran away and that she would probably come back. I was very upset and worried about her as it was really cold outside and I knew that in the morning she would be hungry. I ended up sleeping on the sofa downstairs just in case she came to the back door. In the morning she was still missing so I went to work convinced we’d never see her again. When I came home from work however I heard a familiar little cry and there was Emma sitting at our back door. I let her in and fed her and then contacted the neighbor to let her know that Emma had come back to our house. I think by now the neighbor knew how attached we had become to Emma and she compassionately and with much self-sacrifice told me that if we would like to keep Emma we could. I was elated and she has been a joy and comfort to us ever since. We are probably biased but she is the best cat ever. She greets me at the door when I get home from work and she snuggles in my lap while I do my devotions. She is silly and playful and we lavish her with attention. When I had my last egg retrieval my husband went out to pick up some food. He looked at Emma and said
“You take good care of Sarah while I’m gone.” She sat on the sofa watching me the entire time while he was gone. She took that job seriously. I really needed her and she is such a comfort to us as we continue to work on our infertility issues. I’m sure that God worked things out just right to bring us our fur baby.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Yesterday was our nine year anniversary. No, please go ahead; shout huzzah, cheer, make merry. I’m extremely happy and proud that we have made it this far with very few bumps in the road. It has been fantastic.

I remember how devastated I was after my break up with yet another boyfriend. I was sure, absolutely positive that I wasn’t meant to get married. I was convinced that there just couldn’t be someone meant for me. I concluded (on my own) that I was called to do something other than be a wife and mother. I would finish my social work degree, and then start an orphanage in the remote jungle of a third world country. That sounded noble and it would keep my mind off never having my own family.

I worked at a daycare at the time and at the end of every day I’d watch the parents and children embrace; a happy family, a family I’d never have. I tortured myself. Tormented myself I was so despaired and I had no idea that the man I was going to marry was just around the corner (and I would almost plow right into him in the church lobby).

When I look back on that time I laugh at how silly I was. I was so worried, so distraught and there ended up being no reason for it at all. My husband turned out to be more wonderful than I ever expected and exactly the person I needed. I’m very proud and glad to be his wife and I try to focus back on that time of despair often as I struggle with my infertility. I do believe that there will be a time when I hold a little one in my arms and think about how silly I was for being so anxious about never becoming a parent. Sometimes I feel reassured but I must admit that there are times when it does not seem like enough and I still find myself wondering if we will ever get a chance to be parents and/or if we were ever meant to be parents at all. Then I take a deep breath and remind myself that our child/children could be just around the corner and I am sure that they will be more wonderful than we ever expected and will be exactly the person/people we need.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

This moment

This moment - A weekly ritual - One picture -
no words - That captures a moment from the week-
a moment I want to pause and savor

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Other Room

We have a spare bedroom in our house that goes by many names. I like to call it the Room of Requirement because it seems to be the place that all of the miscellaneous objects in our home reside. Megan, a friend, refers to the room as “the tower” as it is often the place where my husband escapes to do work on his computer. Sometimes we call it the office, the other room and almost six years ago we began referring to it as the baby’s room. When we first started trying to conceive we brought home paint samples and stuck them to the wall and discussed where various pieces of yet to be purchased furniture should be placed. There wasn’t a huge rush (at least not yet) to renovate the upstairs so we started work on our living room. Just this past year we completed a two year renovation of our kitchen and now it is time to move upstairs.

Our plans are to renovate our second bathroom first, giving us somewhere decent to shower while our master bathroom is under construction. Then we’ll gussy up our master bedroom, and then…the other room. It feels as if all of our hopes, dreams, fears, disappointments and grief inhabit the room’s very walls.

I had talked to a girl who had struggled with infertility issues, who while laid off, turned her guest room into a baby’s room. She even bought a crib, changing table and all of the necessary baby items. It was kind of a field of dreams; if you build it the baby will come approach. I think that would cause me too much mental anguish plus if we end up adopting we are more likely to bring home a pair of toddlers or preschoolers so depending on the age and gender the color scheme and furniture could be completely different from what we would do for a newborn. Also a co-worker who has two internationally adopted children warned against setting up a room too early. They had finished their son’s room shortly after they were matched and it sat empty for months and months while they waited to go and get him. She said the empty room just waiting for their little boy made them feel sad. On the other hand it seems equally just as sad to complete the room as an office. That feels like giving up somehow.

You might be thinking “what’s the big deal it’s just a room you can always change the paint color and furniture anytime you want.” That is perfectly true but even the paint color seems to represent something much deeper and it is the constant acknowledgement that we need to put away the story we had written almost six years ago. The story where we brought home paint samples and thought that very soon the walls would be painted and a crib would be over hear and the rocker over there and how awesome would it be to have rain gutter book shelves! It was a story without procedures, needles, countless medications, and tearful phone calls; it is the original story that needs to be shredded sometimes several times a day so that we can focus on the new story that is being written. So we wait with hope, fear and a lot of faith to see what the ending of this new story will be and to see what will become of the other room.

Paint samples in the room

I was thinking of doing an owl theme in the room.

My friend Stephanie made me this card when I had

my surgery and I hung it on the room's wall to give

me hope that it could end up an owl room someday.

I think rain gutter book shelves are super cool

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mix Tape

I first fell in love with making mix tapes Christmas morning 1989. My parents gave their then thought to be a musical prodigy daughter a dual cassette stereo. There has been quite an array of mix tapes over the years. One of the first was “Boys think I’m scary and don’t like me but God will bring me the perfect husband” followed by various boyfriend mix tapes to be all too soon replaced by break up mix tapes. I also have vivid memories of a mix that could be called “I have no idea what I’m supposed to be doing with my life and the future seems really scary.”

I find it fascinating how different songs can be strung together and made to flow in and out of one another to create a story or to take the listener’s heart and mind on a specific journey. With the charging forth of technology mix tapes have been replaced by playlists and this past year I decided that this phase of my life required a soundtrack.

May I present the Infertility playlist

Praise you in this Storm – Casting Crowns
Whatever Your Doing – Sanctus Real
While I’m Waiting – John Waller
Be Still – Kari Jobe
I Still Believe – Jeremy Camp
Blessings – Laura Story
Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing – Sufjan Stevens
My Savior My God – Aaron Shust
Healer – Kari Jobe
I Will Lift My Eyes – Hunter Street Baptist Church
How Great is Our God – Chris Tomlin
Our God – Chris Tomlin
Blessed be Your Name- Matt Redman
It is You – Newsboys
Praises- News boys
May Your Wonders Never Cease – Third Day
The Power of Your Name – Lincoln Brewster

Friday, October 14, 2011

Why put yourself through this? Why not just adopt?

I get this question asked to me more than I thought I would.

First I’d like to note that I am not someone who believes that if I don’t have a biological child my life will be over or somehow incomplete. We feel called to be parents and believe that there are many paths to parenthood. Our child or children have already been chosen for us it is now just a matter of coming together and if four rounds of IVF do not work than we will move on to adoption.

The decision making in the beginning was easy. Clomid seemed pretty benign, even the IUI didn’t seem like that big of a deal. IVF was a whole other matter. That took extra thought and lots of prayer. I did a lot of research on the subject, especially from a Christian perspective. Some of the factors used to reach our final conclusion

1) I did have a legitimate physical need that requires IVF. According to the doctors at least, I have no working tubes (I also don’t ovulate on my own) therefore there is no way for the sperm and egg to meet. Now I do believe that God could overcome this flaw and that doctors aren’t always 100% correct, but the decision was to go with the best information we have available and conclude that the best option is to extract my eggs directly out of my ovaries allow the embryos to grow and then implant them where they need to be.

2) I believe the reason that many Christians oppose IVF is because the common misconception is that you end up with tons of little frozen babies that never get used and may even need to be eventually destroyed. After a thorough amount of research I discovered that in fact you are fortunate just to end up with embryos at the end of the process and especially fortunate to end up with any to freeze. My first cycle I ended up with four embryos, two transplanted and two to freeze for a frozen transfer. The second cycle I ended up with only two and none to freeze. Even if we did get pregnant it would be great to have a few to freeze so that we could try again for siblings.

3) What about multiples? Yes the rate of multiple births has risen since the start of fertility treatments but having more than twins is rare and I wouldn’t mind having twins. I also go to an especially conservative fertility center where the rules are if you are under thirty-five they will not transfer more than two embryos at a time. They even do one embryo transfers on women who have already had a successful round of IVF. Of course this hasn’t stopped the many jokes as we continue on this journey. Our friends have already named our reality show “Sarah, Shan and the Clan” and my husband has already vowed that if we end up with 5 or 6 he’ll be handing them out after church like puppies.

4) I currently have a great job that offers fantastic benefits. My insurance was willing to cover four “fresh” cycles of IVF and as many frozen transfers as we have embryos. My medication insurance also covers almost all of the costly fertility drugs. This is an amazing blessing and also an uncommon one. No matter how it happens once we do become parents the plan has always been for me to leave work and become a stay-at-home mom. This means we will have to switch to my husband’s benefits that aren’t quite as amazing. Being able to do IVF without the financial burden was an incredible opportunity and a resource I felt needed to be exhausted if anything just to bring some closure if it ends up not working out the way we’d like it to.

5) Finally I felt a very strong calling from God to go forth through this journey of IVF no matter what the outcome. From the very beginning James 1:2-4 has been on my heart and I meditate on it daily.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that it is the testing of your faith that develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I will say that this trial has tested my faith A LOT and is consistently developing my perseverance. My one hope is that at the end, no matter the outcome I will be more mature and complete.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The end of the beginning Part 5

Fertility Center 2 was a much smaller practice. There were only two doctors and a small staff. I was assigned to Dr. J. He sat with me for two hours listening to my medical history and my fertility treatments so far. After looking over my records he felt that my initial fertility treatments may have been mishandled and wanted to jump into a fresh round of IVF. The overall experience was much better. I knew the names of the nurses and the ultrasound tech. It was nice that I knew the names of everyone who worked during my egg retrieval and embryo transfer. The anesthesiologist promised that I would not throw up at all after the retrieval and he was right and although I still experienced the same horrible pain after the procedure it was not quite so bad, or maybe I was just more prepared to deal with it the second time around. They attribute the pain to the fact that I’m “tiny” (which I must admit I like hearing) and my ovaries just get so huge. It really messes things up inside.

Of course I still got the call that the cycle did not work and since we only ended up with two transferable embryos there was no prospect of a frozen transfer. I did appreciate that only a few days after the phone call I was sitting in the office of the very sympathetic and apologetic Dr. J. He actually seemed more upset than I was that things had not worked. He also studied everything that had been done at great length and felt that he could greatly improve on the next round. So now I wait to begin IVF cycle 3.

They have decided to switch me to what is known as the antagonist protocol (or as I like to call it, the protocol for lost causes). Dr. J is thinking that the Lupron (medication) used during the Lupron protocol may have been over suppressing my system causing me to produce low quality eggs. The antagonist protocol eliminates the Lupron. They also want to add a procedure known as ICSI (ick-see). It’s pretty much like giving the sperm and eggs some dancing instructions instead of leaving them to tango on their own. It will make IVF 3 an interesting adventure.

The Journey Part 5

At the appointment the doctor told me that I would have to have a procedure to fix my difficult cervix. Then we could move ahead with doing a frozen transfer with the remaining two embryos.

Though the frozen transfer went better than the previous transfer it was not successful. The nurse called to let me know that it had not worked and then once again told me that at some point someone would get back to me after the doctors met to review my case. Most likely I would hear from them in a month to a month and a half. It felt very much like being tossed out into the middle of the ocean and being told to keep treading water and at some point someone would come back for me. It was around this time that I started having serious doubts about fertility center 1. There were things here and there that I didn’t particularly like. It was a big practice and for each appointment you might be seen by any one of the many doctors. The same was true for the nurses and ultrasound techs. It felt as though you were an anonymous number on a constant moving assembly line. I figured that while I was waiting it might be a good idea to get a second opinion, especially since I didn’t exactly shop around for fertility centers I just went to the place that my ob/gyn recommended.

My husband and I had dinner with a couple we knew who were also in the midst of fertility treatments and had switched from my current center to another one. They were really great to talk with and confirmed that I wasn’t insane for having doubts about fertility center 1. They had difficulties with them as well and had felt the same way. They loved the new center they switched to and so the next day I called and was able to get a consultation that very week.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Resistance is Futile

So it seems that when you are on the path of infertility every so often the fertility fairy (hopefully to be replaced by the baby dust fairy) stops you and begs for you to start a blog. It seems that most, though not all fall prey to the pleas. I had vowed not to be one of them. Sure I like reading the blogs of others working towards becoming parents. They allow me to know that my thoughts and feelings are not completely crazy but to be honest I still thought that the idea of keeping a blog about my own infertility journey was just slightly….maybe just a little pathetic. Besides I didn’t think anyone would be all that interested in reading it. I’m not entirely sure how the fairy convinced me but somehow I find my resolve softened and thus I present The Obligatory Blog.

The Journey Part 4

By this time my period was bringing me immense pain and illness. I was convinced that I had endometriosis and somehow it was the cause of my intestinal issues. The fertility center decided it was time for surgery.

In August 2010 I had laparoscopic surgery. The doctor confirmed that I had extensive stage four (the worst stage) endometriosis. It appeared to be very aggressive. She removed the cyst from my right ovary and also removed as much of the endometriosis as she could, but did not dare touch anything on my left side. My left ovary was twisted up and adhered to/pushing into my intestine. It was encrusted in a web of scar tissue and adhesions. Fixing it would require a much more complex surgery than they had prepared for and I could lose part of my intestine as well as my left ovary. It was much safer to let it be though unfortunately it would continue to plague me. When my endometriosis flares up every month, so does my intestine. It was nice to know I wasn’t crazy but also crushing because I had assumed that the surgery would help my life and health return to normal. They also discovered that not only did my left fallopian appear to be useless; my right tube was full of scar tissue and did not appear to be of any use. They recommended IVF so that we could bypass the tubes completely.

We didn’t just enter into doing IVF willy- nilly, but I’ll save that for another post. Things suddenly started happening at light speed. I did the necessary classes and got over the first scary self-injection and soon I was mixing Menopur and dialing amounts of Follistim like a pro. Injecting yourself isn’t as nerve racking as you would think. After the first few times it seems as routine as brushing your teeth. The thing that surprised me the most was the time and energy suck that is IVF. Once you start it seems to consume you. Every moment of every day is devoted to some aspect of the process, you are not your own.

picture of my medications

The egg retrieval left me throwing up and in horrific pain for three days. Every day they called to let me know the status of the embryos. On day three they called to say that two were ready and that I should come in the next day for the transfer.

I was nervous and excited going into the transfer. Everything seemed to be going well. We had two embryos to transfer and two to freeze. Things appeared very hopeful, but the transfer did not go well. They said my cervix was “difficult” and they almost could not get the catheter through. After a lot of pushing and quite a bit of pain they were able to complete the transfer but it already wasn’t looking good. It was categorized as being a “traumatic transfer.” Now we just had to wait. The waiting part is the worst. After two weeks they called. It didn’t work. They will review my case and get back to me….at some point. About a month and a half later they called and I made an appointment to come in for a consultation.

The Journey Part 3

I don’t really remember when the problems began. Sometimes I would have horrific cramping during my cycles and sometimes not. I’m not sure I ever really thought too much about it at first. I guess I was never sure what the pain level of cramping should be. I had also been battling stomach issues for a while and couldn’t really remember when they began either. I thought that I was just really sensitive to getting the stomach flu or maybe I just had a delicate constitution but during our “break” from infertility treatments I suddenly started becoming very ill. After some testing was completed it was discovered that my intestine was inflamed. I was sent to GI doctor number 1 who prescribed a handful of various medications, but I wasn’t getting better. I could barely eat or drink anything without it coming back up and what I could keep down caused me intense pain. I also couldn’t keep any of the medications down. After several weeks I ended up back at the GI doctor’s office. Frightened by how thin and pale I looked, she sent me across the street to the emergency room. My intestine was still inflamed and my potassium, iron and other nutrients were very low. They decided to admit me. In the end they treated me for diverticulitis because it “seemed” like that was what it was. I started to feel better and so after four days they sent me home. A few days after I was sent home the horrible stomach issues flared up again just after they had started to get better and then that day my period came and it clicked for the first time…the stomach issues always seemed to start with my period. I called my GI doctor to let her know that I started having issues again and explained that I thought the issues were related to my period. She thought that although possible, it was still more likely that I had diverticulitis, though I hadn’t had any conclusive tests to confirm it. She suggested I talk with my ob/gyn.

I visited my ob/gyn who, although thought it might be possible felt it was unlikely that my stomach issues had anything to do with my period and wished me luck in my endeavors to have a baby.

I continued to have stomach issues related to my period throughout that year and they appeared to be getting worse. The GI doctor seemed to not believe that they were related and didn’t seem enthusiastic about testing me for anything so I switched to a new GI doctor who ordered a complete round of tests including a colonoscopy. The colonoscopy revealed that I had never had diverticulitis. I did have what looked like chronic inflammation in my intestine and GI doctor number 2 stated that something was pushing/growing into my intestine on my left side. He thought that it was something reproductively related and advised me to go see the ob/gyn.
The ob/gyn thought it very unlikely that my digestive issues were reproductively related but sent me for an ultrasound just to be sure. The ultrasound showed nothing on my left (where my intestine was effected) side but did show a cyst on my right ovary. Though the ob/gyn was unconcerned about the cyst my primary physician was worried and wanted me to go to have an MRI just to be sure the cyst was benign. I had the MRI which did show the cyst to be benign. My ob/gyn suggested that I go back to the fertility center as after much research I had decided that I was sure I had endometriosis. So after almost a year away I was back at fertility center 1.

The Journey Part 2

The journey Part 2

Fertility Center number 1 seemed like a big scary place. As I sat in the waiting room I looked at all of the other faces and wondered about their stories. So many faces so many hopes and dreams. The doctor was nice enough and she set me up right away with all sorts of testing. The thing that infertility tests the most is your patience. Something for which I have always been a bit prideful about and this situation has tested at great lengths. I was fully prepared to jump right into doing, but the testing process took at least two months and then there was the post test consultation…it was frustrating way too much waiting for a doer like me. Then came the more frustrating part; my tests came back great (it took a little longer for the fluid to go through my tubes during the HSG, but they weren’t too concerned), they really couldn’t see why we weren’t getting pregnant so they gave me a prescription for…clomid. At least this time they monitored me and discovered that the clomid wasn’t working, at least not at the regular dose. That cycle went completely down the tubes, so to speak. At the next cycle they monitored me even more closely and learned that it took three times the regular dose to cause me to ovulate so although it succeeded in causing ovulation I still did not get pregnant. The good thing was that it seemed the higher the dose of clomid; the less crazy it made me. The bad thing was that the high dose caused me to be extremely nauseated. The third time is the charm right? They decided to try an IUI (what is commonly referred to as artificial insemination) along with clomid thinking that maybe we just needed a little extra help. My favorite part of the process was having breakfast with my husband on the morning of the procedure. My least favorite part was what is referred to as “the two week wait” in between the procedure and blood testing. The IUI didn’t work, and we decided to take off a month or so before trying again….

The Journey Part 1

The journey begins Part 1

I am a focused person and when I take on a project, I really take on a project. I am also a fastidious planner. I just love to see a plan come together (though God often seems unwilling to go along with my meticulously designed intentions).

We began discussions about when we would start the process of becoming parents the moment that lovely little diamond engagement ring had been slipped on my finger. We were married in 2002 and had decided that 2007 seemed just right. It would give us enough time to enjoy married life sans children and time to establish some financial stability. I would be 29 so I could pop out the first child by 30 and still have time to have at least one if not two more before I reached the dreaded “advanced maternal age” of 35. It was a brilliant strategy, pure genius.

I spent the year of 2006 studying and researching all things conception. Oh how I love researching! My favorite source of information was a book called “Taking Charge of Your Fertility.” I learned things I never knew. After all isn’t that the goal of any great research project? I was in information nirvana. I made up excel charts and purchased a fun multicolored pen set so that I could track my waking temperature and all signs which would alert me to my most fertile time. At my annual Ob/gyn exam I revealed my initial worries about becoming pregnant as there appears to be a history of infertility in my family (it took my mom 13 year to conceive me) and my cycles have never been regular. The doctor told me not to worry too much and instead of completing the usual year of trying I could come back in nine months if I wasn’t pregnant.

In January of 2007 we officially stopped trying not to get pregnant and in February to celebrate the occasion we took a dream vacation to Panama. We assumed that this would be our last big vacation together as a childless couple. I packed my sun block, hiking boots, bathing suit and my basal body thermometer, fertility excel chart and multicolored pens. It was an amazing trip and we had a spectacular time and although I knew it was pretty farfetched that I’d return with a very special souvenir, I thought it would have been awesome and maybe just a little possible.
Three months after the trip we still weren’t pregnant and I decided to step things up a bit. I concluded that it was worth the investment to buy one of those fancy digital ovulation predictor monitors. I must admit that it was fun each morning seeing the little blinking picture telling me at what stage in my cycle I was. It was here however that I noticed a problem. I would skip entire cycles without seeing the picture of the full blinking egg. I wasn’t ovulating at least not regularly and my pretty colored fertility chart was corroborating that fact.

We continued to “try” but at exactly the nine month mark I showed up at my ob/gyn’s office with nine months of fertility charting in hand. He agreed that it looked like I wasn’t ovulating regularly but stated that it wasn’t unusual or a big deal. He gave me a prescription for a medication called clomid and instructions on its use. The prescription included two refills. If I wasn’t pregnant after three rounds I was to return.
I hated the clomid. I took it for three months in a row and it only succeeded in making me grumpy, weepy and overall insane. It led me right back to the ob/gyn’s office. He decided that it was time to send me to the fertility center.

Resistance is Futile

So it seems that when you are on the path of infertility every so often the fertility fairy (hopefully to be replaced by the baby dust fairy) stops you and begs for you to start a blog. It seems that most, though not all fall prey to the pleas. I had vowed not to be one of them. Sure I like reading the blogs of others working towards becoming parents. They allow me to know that my thoughts and feelings are not completely crazy but to be honest I still thought that the idea of keeping a blog about my own infertility journey was just slightly….maybe just a little pathetic. Besides I didn’t think anyone would be all that interested in reading it. I’m not entirely sure how the fairy convinced me but somehow I find my resolve softened and thus I present The Obligatory Blog.