Monday, September 10, 2012

2nd Ultrasound

One of the perks of being an IVF patient is that you get to have more ultrasounds than a typical pregnant woman.  I am only 9 weeks, and I just had my second ultrasound.  I thought it would be just like the last one, so I didn't think it would be terribly exciting.  Boy was I wrong!  I wish we had taken video, because we got quite the show!

First of all, the baby has grown a LOT in just 2 weeks!  Plus, this time you could really see the head, body, and arms.  It's incredible how much change happens in so little time.  But the most amazing thing was that during the ultrasound, the little baby was dancing around and waving at us!  (Doug says he was fist-pumping.)  It was so incredible. 

Everything looked good and the baby is still healthy.  We are praying this continues.  There is LIFE inside of me, and I never cease to praise God for this miracle!

It's so hard to see in this small picture, but the head, body, and arms are really starting to be defined now!  Heartbeat is up to 178 (cause the baby was so active).

Things are starting to feel "real".  My "baby bump" is now visible to others, and people have been asking a lot of questions.  I feel strange talking with others about a topic I have avoided for so long.  And it's interesting to see reactions--joy, disbelief, more disbelief (c'mon people, was I THAT much of a lost cause?) when I share the news.  But all is well, and we're still super-excited!

Monday, August 27, 2012

First Ultrasound

Ok, so I don't want this to turn into a pregnancy blog, but part of IVF is also the care you receive when you finally do get pregnant. 

With IVF, you are considered high risk, even if everything is healthy and looking good.  So they have you do an ultrasound at 6 weeks to check for ectopic pregnancy (something I was high risk for) and to make sure everything is progressing well.  Then they also check your hormone levels to evaluate your medication needs.

We had our first ultrasound on the 22nd.  I was actually almost 7 weeks along.  Everything looked really good and we even got to hear the heartbeat!  I think I am still in shock--I really was starting to think this would never happen for us. 

The baby is only the size of a blueberry, but that's pretty huge considering that only a few weeks ago it was microscopic! 

The heartbeat is 125 bpm. 
We also had my hormone levels checked, and they were way high, so they said to stop doing the shots and then have my levels checked the next day.  They were still high enough, so I am officially shot-free!  I have had to have daily shots since the beginning of June, so this is an awesome feeling!  But I would do it as long as necessary to keep the baby healthy!

So we are praying that things continue to progress nicely, and that ultimately we end up with a healthy baby.  Boy, girl, tall, short, it doesn't matter.  We are already so in love.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Results Are In...

Well, it's been 2 1/2 years of waiting, praying, doctors, what-ifs, and heartache.  After all this time, we finally have good news!
Yup, that's right!  We're having a baby!  Thank you all so much for your prayers and support during this time.  It hasn't been easy, but it is definitely worth it.  We are so blessed to be a part of one of God's miracles!

We were really lucky and only had to do one round of IVF.  They put in one embryo, so we will have a singleton, which is fine by me!  I would be so happy to have twins, but I'm sure it is quite the undertaking.

I am still taking my Estrogen and Progesterone, so I don't quite feel "normal" yet, but it's so worth it!  I'll do whatever it takes to keep this baby healthy!  So thank you for your continued prayer for our growing baby.  Love you all!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Transfer Day!

Well, the big day finally arrived!  Today was the day we went in for embryo transfer.  Our appointment was at 2:15, so we spent the day getting groceries, changing the oil in my car, going to the bank, etc. so that we wouldn't have to worry about those things while I'm on bedrest.  We also hit up a thrift store and Lowe's, where we purchased a couple of clearance items on the cheap. :)

We have both been beyond excited today.  Heck, we've been excited since we started the IVF process June 6th!  I made my hair all pretty, like it was a date or the first day of school or something.  Then as we were getting ready to go, we reviewed the instructions, and it said NO hairspray, scented lotion, or deodorant.  Oops.  So after we went shopping we both had to take showers.  No cute hair for me :(  Haha.

We had a nice lunch, and then I had to drink 32 oz. of water in 45 minutes, 45 minutes prior to the procedure.  Here is what that looks like:
This plus a third of this.  I was dancin'.

If you know me at all, you know that "holding it" is not my strongpoint.  I don't prefer feeling like I have to "go".  But, alas, I had to hold it from 1:00 until the procedure was over at 3:15. 

So when we got to the doctor, I took a Valium (doctor's orders; not for recreation, lol!), which helped a bit with the dancing.  At 2:15, they called us back and did a quick ultrasound to make sure everything was as it should be.

Then we discussed how many embryos we wanted to place.  For my age group, the recommendation is 1 or 2, depending on quality of the embryos and the health of the uterus.  We've been reading some new studies that have come out that say that putting one in instead of two is healthier if it's feasible, because having twins can increase the risk for ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, premature birth, etc.  And the doctor said that usually his patients that end up with twins hate him for a couple of years, haha.

They grade the embryos on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst (however, an embryo with a rating of 5 can become a perfectly healthy baby; there is just a stronger chance for success with a 1)  We had one embryo that was a 1 on the scale.  Therefore, he made a strong case for going with one, and we agreed, so that's what we did.
Here is a picture of two of our babies.  The one on the left is the one we transferred today.  The one on the right will be a younger sibling someday. :)
  The procedure was really no big deal.  We had to verify and verify and verify our names and dates of birth to make sure we were the right people, and sign some paperwork.  I was awake for the whole thing and Doug was in the room.  It was pretty emotional, in a good way.  It only took about 15 minutes for the actual transfer, and then I had to lay there and wait.  That was the hardest part, with 10 gallons of water in my belly.  Doug and I cried and prayed afterward, thanking God for all He's done and who He is, and asking Him to continue to grow our baby healthy.  

I have to be on bed rest for the next couple of days, which I have been practicing for my whole life ;)  Doug made a delicious eggplant parmesan for dinner tonight.  My friend made a keen observation that we ate eggplant on the day of our EGG PLANT procedure.  Har har!

All in all, we are SO stoked about all of this.  For all intents and purposes, I am now technically pregnant, something I have never been able to say before in my life.  I will have to take a pregnancy test in the next couple of weeks, so I'm praying that baby holds on and makes itself cozy!
Ok, really hard to tell here, but this is the transfer.  The little whale-shaped white spot is the uterus, and the tiny black dots inside of that are little air bubbles that are on either side of the embryo.  You can't see the actual embryo though.  Hopefully soon!

This process has been hard, and it's still not over, but it's been so cool to see God's grace in all of this.  Even with all the disease that is in my body, my uterus has remained untouched and healthy, praise God!  With only one functioning ovary, I had 8 eggs, a pretty good number, considering!  And even the doctor was surprised about how many of those eggs actually fertilized.  Again, all God!  And to have what he called a PERFECT embryo is so awesome!  God has been orchestrating everything to go so smoothly, and I pray that continues!  But we know that whatever happens, it is part of His perfect plan. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Waiting for Step 2

This has been a very busy, exciting couple of weeks!  A quick update:

As mentioned in the last post, the egg retrieval was a success, and the doctor was able to get 8 eggs from me.  Doug's numbers were much, much, higher ;)  Haha.  So that was on Thursday.  Friday morning, we called to find out how many eggs were able to be fertilized...FIVE!    Don't worry; it's very typical that not all of the eggs were able to be fertilized.  Five is a good number to us; way better than zero, especially considering that all of them came from my right ovary.  We are so happy!  So now we're joking that I'm eating for five and that I'm long-distance pregnant.  Har har.

The doctor was thinking I'd have to do a 3-day embryo transfer (which is usually done in cases where the eggs aren't very healthy or there aren't very many eggs), but we are actually able to do a 5-day transfer.  So Tuesday's the big day!

As always, we appreciate your prayers.  Please pray that the babies would continue to grow healthy and strong, and that my body would also be healthy and ready to receive them.  We know God can work miracles; He's already done (at least) 5 just this week!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

IVF Egg Retrieval

Wow!  Today was quite exciting.  Today we got to find out how productive the medication has been at maturing eggs for our IVF cycle.

July 17 at 11:15pm sharp, Amanda was given her HCG trigger shot to finalize the maturation of the eggs for today's retrieval  (I could be a nurse--I did awesome; ask Amanda).  I (Doug) had to be present at the Dr.'s office at 8 am today for my share of the procedure, which is quite the breeze compared to what Amanda has had to go through.  Amanda had to be present at the Dr.'s office at 9:45 am so she just came along. Mind you she had not eaten breakfast or anything since 9:30 the night before.  For those that know Amanda well, she does not skip her breakfast :).

At 9:15am Amanda took her medication for the procedure (Precocet and Valium). 

Within 15min you could tell the medications had set in.  We were sitting in the waiting room and Amanda just started cracking up laughing out of nowhere.  So I asked her what was up she said "I am looking for a 'nerd face'".  What does that even mean?  The receptionist was even laughing at her and asked if the meds had hit. 

She was taken back into a room for prep with an IV.  More giggling...

Not so fun; they tried her hand first with no luck (the needle was too large for her vein).  The second stick they got her in the arm.  By that time another nurse came to get her to take her to the retrieval room.  I had to leave, because they put her under to do the egg retrieval.

I stayed in the waiting room while the procedure was happening.  I must have looked anxious because the other Doc at the practice came out to ask if I was ok.  Anyways, the retrieval was a success,  they were able to retrieve 8 eggs.  Now we wait until tomorrow morning to find out fertilization status and whether the transfer will be Sunday (3 day transfer) or Tuesday (5 day transfer).

Thanks everyone for the prayers and well-wishes!  We'll keep you posted!

Monday, July 16, 2012

This Crazy Week

So, I keep trying to upload some videos, but with no success.  Ah, well.

Well here's the update.  We are in full swing with the IVF process.  I've been on Lupron since June 7.  I started the gonadotropins (say that five times fast) last weekend (July 7).  Basically, gonadotropins are hormones that make many eggs mature in my body, rather than just one.  Right now, the doctor thinks I have between 6 and 8 eggs that are the right size.  They are all on my right side.  He said that there may be some on the left, but he can't see them.  Some women have up to 20 eggs.  The more the merrier, as far as eggs go!  So he's been monitoring my progress almost every day through ultrasounds and blood work, and while it's not all perfect, so far so good!

Tomorrow, we go in for another ultrasound to make sure things are still progressing.  Hopefully, they will have me do the HCG shot (another hormone that basically finalizes the maturation of the eggs).  Then I get a day off on Wednesday, and then they should be doing the egg retrieval on Thursday!  It's so crazy that this is finally our week!

We are really praying that this is successful, and that we would be blessed with a child.  Thank you all for your kind words, and prayers, especially.  I will try to keep this blog updated, and hopefully will have good news soon!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

My First Shot

So on June 6, we saw the doctor for some final tests before we began IVF.  Long story short, the tests results were good, so we were sent to the IVF coordinator, who gave us a calendar which laid out each day of IVF.  I had no idea the amount of shots, tests, and appointments that we would have! 

The doctor put me on an extended regimen of Lupron, which basically shuts off communication from my brain to my reproductive system so the doctor can "drive".  He wanted me to start right away, so he had the medication overnighted.  We were going to my sister's for the weekend, so we had to have it sent there.  Furthermore, Doug was going on a camping trip, so it was up to me to do the first shot myself.

When the package came in, I had a nervous breakdown.  The box was fairly large, and was full of all the injectables that I would have to take.  I just had this overwhelming sense that I was in way over my head.  Doug is usually the voice of reason, but he was out of cell phone range.  I just sat on my sister's living room floor, crying, with all the medication spread out before me.  And this was ugly-crying.  I knew that I was out of control when I heard my 4-year-old niece telling my sister, "Uh, mom, she's crying."  I started to pull myself together, so as to stop freaking my niece out. 

The dreaded meds!  Dun dun dunnnnn!
My sister came downstairs to my rescue.  She helped me sort through the medication, determining what was what, and what should be refrigerated.  She helped me decipher the code of instructions and watched the instructional video with me (that's right.  To teach me how to inject myself with needles, they had me watch a video on my own.  Seems like an effective teaching strategy.  Not.) 

Then, the clock struck, and it was time to get this show on the road.  My sister and I were both nervous, and looked like a couple of dummies with needles.  No one should have allowed us to perform this task.  First, I iced the injection site on my leg.  I couldn't ice it for long, because my hand started getting frostbite.  I sanitized the top of the vial, put the needle into the vial, and injected air into it.  Then I loaded the needle with 20 units of Lupron.  Next, Michele was to give me the alcohol swab to swab my leg (see, she helped), but we were in such a frenzy that she threw it in the trash.  We both laughed at how ridiculous we were being.  At least she had been enthusiastic about throwing it away!

Finally, it was time to do the deed.  I counted, "One...two...three..........four..." I'm not sure what I got to.  But I was probably supposed to stop at 3.  Oh well.  When I got up enough courage (probably at 25 or so), I injected it into my leg.  Not gonna lie; it stung.  But I did it!  When I was done, my sister and I jumped up and down like a couple of doofuses (doofusi?).  We were so proud of ourselves.  Dorks.

Today I will give myself my 23rd shot of Lupron.  I have to say, it has gotten much easier, and it's not as bad as I thought it would be.  One trick is to hold the ice with a towel so your hand doesn't freeze off.  That's helped.  Also, just stabbing it in quickly helps.  I have had a couple of days where I just can't seem to stab it in my leg the way I am supposed to, so I gingerly prick my leg about 3 or 4 times.  I know it's stupid, but it's just some mental block that I can't seem to get past.  The other thing I've learned is to inject the medicine quickly and steadily.  I feel like a pro now.  Tomorrow I go down to only 5 units of Lupron a day, which will be a cake walk.  

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Timeline

The Timeline (Bah-bah-baaaah!)
Here is the timeline of our trying to conceive.  I know it's a little wordy, so feel free to skip.  But it's here for our own reference and for those that might want to know our story, and to encourage those who may also be having difficulty.  I put a lot of hyperlinks to explain medical jargon that has become commonplace to us, but not-so-commonplace for those who have never dealt with this issue.  If anything is still confusing and you are curious, feel free to ask!  We're pretty open about all this.

April 2010 This is where it all started.  We began "trying".  And as everyone says when they first start "trying", we weren't "trying", but we were going to "see what happens".  Whatever that means.  We didn't tell anyone because we wanted it to be a surprise. 

October 2010 6 months later, Amanda told her sister.  It was no fun to keep it secret anymore, and it was way too hard to keep a secret from her sister!

November 2010 Amanda's periods became so painful she couldn't eat or work.

December 2010 We stayed home for Christmas because Amanda's pain (both physical and emotional) had gotten worse.

January 2011 Amanda went to the GYN (gynecologist) for painful periods and to discuss concern over not being pregnant.  Doctor prescribed Progesterone cream for the pain and told her to come back after it had been a year.  Amanda went to urgent care for pain in her back that wouldn't go away.  Doctor told her to take ibuprofen.  (P.S. she HAD been taking the maximum dosage of ibuprofen for months already.  Thanks a lot, urgent care doc!)

May 2011 Amanda went to the GYN for an exam (it ended up being a different Nurse Practitioner, because apparently Amanda's doctor moved), during which something was found.  The doctor ordered an ultrasound to explore what she had found during the exam.  Doctor prescribed narcotics for pain with periods. Amanda also told the doctor about her back pain, which the doctor said should be treated by a chiropractor. (P.S. Amanda had already been doing that.  Thanks a lot, GYN!)

June 2011 First ultrasound found a 5cm cyst in left ovary (Amanda looked it up on Google; the size of a kiwi!  Amanda and her sister fondly referred to it as her "kiwi" from there on out".  Waited 6 weeks for next ultrasound.  Went to see GP (general practitioner) about digestive problems and back pain, which the GYN had said were not related to the cyst.  Doctor performed tests for parasites and kidney stones, both negative.

July 2011 Second ultrasound found that the cyst had not resolved itself (had to call the doctor for that info, since she didn't contact us).  Back pain was unbearable at this point.  Amanda had been unable to sleep for months because of it.  Boo.

August 2011 The GYN referred Amanda to a surgeon, who suspected she had endometriosis and would need surgery.  3 days later she had laparascopic surgery to remove the cyst.  The 45-minute surgery turned into 3 1/2 hours.  The doctor determined that she had Stage 4 endometriosis, and that the cyst was larger than originally thought.  She had a lot of adhesions on her organs and intestines.  He was not able to fully remove all of the endometrial lesions and adhesions. 

September 2011 Amanda was put on a 3-month long treatment of Lupron Depot to treat the rest of her endometriosis.  Due to the damage to her reproductive system, the surgeon highly recommended seeking treatment with a fertility specialist. He also emphasized that while there is no cure for endometriosis, pregnancy has been found to put it into remission in many cases.  We had our first visit with the fertility doctor to discuss options and make a plan.  Doug was tested; results came back fairly normal.

December--January 2012 Birth control to ensure that the Lupron was out of Amanda's system.

January 2012 HSG (hysterosalpingogram) that was fun.
February--March 2012 Used OPK (Ovulation Predictor Kit) to try naturally one more time.

April 19, 2012 First IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination), failed

May 15, 2012 Second IUI, failed

June 6, 2012 Had a hysteroscopy and in-office HSG.  Met with doctor about IVF (In-vitro Fertilization).  Set up a schedule.

June 9, 2012 IVF medication arrived.  Amanda started her first injection of Lupron, which she will continue daily until around the end of July.

We will continue the IVF process through July.  Hopefully we can keep you updated as we go.  :)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


"Smile, because you have someone who loves you and wants to start a family with you.  And that is something some people will never have."

That is how a fertility doctor concluded a recent informational meeting that we attended.  What he said is so true.  Given our circumstances, it's easy to focus on the negative.  But the fact is, given the choice between having a baby or spending the rest of my life with my husband, I would choose my husband.  Because we are best friends.  Because he has been there for me through thick and thin.  Because even when our kids grow up and move away, it will be just the two of us again.  I need to choose EVERY DAY to be THANKFUL for what I have.  And to trust in God's plan for our life.  And to choose hope.

Happy anniversary, Doug.  It's been an amazing 8 years!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Invisible Struggle

February 2012
Last month, I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned.  I settled into the reclining chair as the hygienist clipped a bib around my neck.  We made small talk as she examined my teeth and prepared them for cleaning.  Then the conversation turned where it inevitably always ends up.

"Do you have kids?"
"No, not yet." I replied.
"Do you WANT kids?'

Do I want kids?

Does she have any idea what she is asking?
Does she know how long we have been trying?
Does she know I recently underwent surgery to treat the cause of my infertility?
Does she know how many nights I cry myself to sleep, how many times my husband has held me as I cry uncontrollably, how many emotional breakdowns I have had, that come out of nowhere?
Does she know that I have underwent hormone therapy to treat my condition?
Does she know that my husband and I have a two percent chance of conceiving naturally?
Does she know that I WANT kids?  That I ache for a child with my entire being?

The pain for me is so real, both physically and emotionally, that I am taken aback to discover that outsiders have no idea what is going on with me.  From my perspective, it seems that my disease is visible to the outside world, that it can be identified by strangers.  But it can't be seen.

Someday, I hope to be able to pull out a wallet with a long accordion-fold of pictures to show every person who asks, "Do you have kids?".  Until then, I'll remember that that painful question is not intended to harm or poke fun.  It's just small talk.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Backstory

December 2011
Hi my name is Amanda.  I’m 26 years old, and I’m medically infertile.

My husband Doug and I were high school sweethearts, and I’m pretty sure at least a couple of people thought we must have been pregnant when we got married because we were so young.  We both went to college and got degrees, all the while choosing to put off a family in order to be financially ready.

When we both had graduated and started our careers, we began trying to have a baby.  We had been married for 6 years at this point, and had endured as many years of that question, “When are you going to start a family?” 

We tried to time it perfectly so we would have a baby sometime in May, because I am a teacher and wanted the whole summer to bond with my baby.  I had heard that it can take up to 6 months for birth control to get out of your system, so we even planned for that.  I look back and think how silly it was that we were trying to orchestrate every detail of family planning.

Every month was disappointing, and the negative emotions increased with every negative pregnancy test.  In addition, my periods became more and more painful, until I had to take time off of work and even avoid family gatherings around the holidays due to the pain from my cycle.  I saw my doctor, who put me on a Progesterone cream in hopes that it would help with the pain.  It didn’t.  I started having excruciating back pain on a daily basis.  I thought perhaps I had a kidney infection and went to Urgent Care, only to be told to take ibuprofen. 

I followed his advice for 9 months, and finally got fed up with it.  I was taking 2400 mg of ibuprofen a day for 9 months, and doctors didn’t seem all that concerned.  I finally got an ultrasound, where they found a cyst on my ovary.  My doctor told me to wait it out.  All the while, I couldn’t sleep, eat, or function, and fell into a depression.  She was convinced that my back pain was unrelated to the cyst, so I went to my family practitioner to endure tests for kidney problems, parasites, pulled muscles, etc.  She gave me muscle relaxers and narcotic pain killers.  Nothing provided an answer or relief. 

In August, I was finally referred to another gynecologist who immediately diagnosed me with endometriosis and scheduled laparoscopic surgery three days later.  I couldn’t wait for the surgery; the pain I was feeling was so intense.

When I woke up from my surgery, I was in a fog.  I knew right away that my pain was gone.  Then my doctor started telling me about what he found.  I had Stage 4 Endometriosis, the most severe kind.  My organs were so scarred up and moved around from the endometriosis that he couldn’t even get rid of it all.  He said I will most likely need surgery on my large and small intestines because of the scarring, and I will need a hysterectomy in the future.  It was, and still is, a very emotional time.

Our doctor has not said that we can’t have children, but he says our chances of conceiving naturally are very low.  I am currently on hormones to treat my condition, and will have to always be on treatment, unless we are “aggressively” pursuing pregnancy, meaning with the help of an infertility specialist.  Furthermore, he has advised us to try to get pregnant in any way possible, because it can potentially treat or eradicate my condition, for which there is no cure.  So we are faced with the fact that we are having great difficulty conceiving, but it also may be the only way for me to find relief for my condition. 

In the meantime, it is a daily journey.  Some days I feel fine and other days I will begin weeping at the slightest mention of a baby.  I’m learning to deal with the insensitive comments from others.  I’m learning to “rejoice with those who rejoice” when yet another friend makes a baby announcement.  I’m learning to lean on God who is my strength.  And most importantly, I’m learning to be thankful for the many things I have been blessed with, in particular my husband, Doug.  He has been with me at every appointment, with me through every sleepless night, and always comforts me. While this has been hands-down the most difficult trial we have faced, our marriage is ultimately stronger because of it.   And we are convinced that God loves and cares for us, and we know that whatever the outcome, God’s plan is the best plan.