From infertile to fertile?!

2014-2016 marks the span of when we first started “trying” to get pregnant, to when we had our beautiful baby girls. Loads of heartache, months of negative pregnancy tests, dozens of tests, multiple rounds of fertility drugs, frequent ultrasounds and appointments, and two rounds of IVF. It is in that timeframe that we were diagnosed with unexplained infertility, and that we began to identify as one of the “1 in 8”.

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We were so blessed to have found success in that second round of in vitro fertilization that resulted in the splitting of our one lonely embryo into two identical blessings from God. Our infertility journey ended in a family. And that is something I will never take for granted.

Fast forward to the final days of 2017. A positive pregnancy test after only three cycles of trying! And now that beautiful surprise baby boy is 22 weeks along and right at home inside my belly. We were shocked, elated, scared, overjoyed, you name it; we felt it. But a feeling I wasn’t prepared for was that of betrayal. Betrayal to the TTC community, my infertile friends and followers, and essentially my identity.

Now that I had become pregnant naturally and quickly, was I no longer “infertile”? Would I be outcast by the infertility community? Was I one of those people I always envied and silently cursed for falling pregnant so easily? Well….maybe I was, to others. But for me, I will always and forever be 1 in 8.

Infertility is not something that can be cured. Sure it can be remedied, but cured, no. I will always have those two years of loneliness and emptiness. The memories of the injections. The pain of losing our two embryos during our first transfer. The feeling of hope when first visiting the specialist. The new friendships I created in the TTC community. The immense knowledge I now have of the female body. And the other women/couples I have helped along the way. That is NOT going anywhere. And it is because of those experiences that I will always identify as being infertile. I will always advocate for infertility awareness, treatment and coverage. I will continue to educate and help my peers. And I will continue to hope for all those impacted by this disease.

Once infertile, always infertile.

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Thinking before you speak when it comes to infertility

Unsolicited comments are a constant in today’s society, especially with the prominence of social media. Thus, during my time undergoing fertility treatments I experienced no shortage of, let’s call them “unfiltered” remarks. Similar to that of comments made to a pregnant woman (minus the lovely ones like “don’t you look beautiful” or, “congratulations”), comments made to those struggling with infertility should, for the most part, be kept to yourself. Actually, I might even go so far as to say any comments regarding a woman’s body, unless solicited, are better left unsaid! While these comments are often well-intended, they usually translate as hurtful and annoying.

The vast majority of infertile women and couples keep their diagnosis to themselves for this very reasons! Thus, you may not know that someone you are communicating with is suffering from this otherwise invisible disease. But, if you are one of those people that just can’t seem to keep their mouths shut, I have compiled a list of things to never say to a couple struggling to build a family, or any female of what you would classify as “prime child-birthing age” who has not yet conceived.

  1. Just relax!! Oh how I HATE this one. As someone who suffers from generalized anxiety disorder and OCD, relaxing is about the last thing I can ever do. And you telling me to relax just brings out more crazy. Studies show that everyday stress does not cause infertility. And honestly, most of us probably weren’t so stressed out until we realized we weren’t getting pregnant easily!
  2. Why don’t you just do IVF? IVF is often seen as ‘the end of the road” when it comes to fertility treatments. Most couples go through multiple tests, treatments, etc. before finally taking the IVF leap. And actually, many couples get to the IVF crossroads and do NOT take that leap. IVF is extremely expensive, approximately $12k per cycle in the USA – not including genetic testing! And a lot of times it takes more than one round. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t just have $30k lying around. We had to open a new credit card, save money, and look to family for assistance. Many people don’t have those options! And some need donor eggs, donor sperm, donor embryos or surrogates, which can increase one cycle by tens of thousands of dollars!

In addition to being expensive, IVF is emotionally and physically draining and it is not the ultimate solution in every case. Some couples go through multiple rounds without every carrying a pregnancy to term! Not to mention the rigorous injection schedule, numerous ultrasounds, body and health restrictions, mood swings, and more. So don’t just assume we can “do IVF”.

  1. You can always adopt! Adoption is an amazing option for some families. But it is not one that most people jump to. The adoption process takes a very long time, and again, it is not a guarantee. And it is extremely expensive. And it doesn’t erase the fact that it is not a biological child.
  2. You already have one. So what if I have one? Or two or three of four? It doesn’t make the fact that you are not conceiving any less hurtful! Secondary infertility is a real thing. It is still a dream dashed. I hope to live in a world where someday all families can be as big as they would like, and are capable of providing for. Some people have SO much love to give.
  3. Count your blessings that you don’t have a real illness. Fact check! Infertility is a disease recognized by the World Health Organization! Of course it is not on the same level as cancer, but it is still a disease that causes pain and requires intervention. Don’t be the judge of who deserves sympathy and prayers, and who does not.
  4. You’re still young, you have plenty of time! That is not always the case. While a woman’s ovarian reserve diminished as she ages, conditions like endometriosis, PCOS, premature ovarian syndrome can occur early in very young women. Some, like myself, have unexplained infertility.
  5. Stop trying and it will happen. Ah, yes. One of my favorites. How the heck are you supposed to get pregnant in the first place if you aren’t doing the baby dance? I mean, I know you don’t have to technically have sex to get pregnant via IVF, but at that point you are really trying. And for many couples tracking ovulation, fertile days, etc., are how they get pregnant. Sex is key to getting pregnant. Stopping surely won’t improve your chances.
  6. Who is the problem, him or her? REALLY?? Does it really matter which person is having the issues? Maybe it’s both. Maybe it’s neither (unexplained infertility), but we don’t need you poking and prodding into our personal lives. What matters is WE are struggling.
  7. Oh, look at that little bump, are you pregnant? NEVER ask a woman if she is pregnant if you aren’t 100% sure of the answer. Do you really need to know that badly? If so, ask someone else close to her if they know. If you don’t know anyone close to her, you probably don’t really need to know. Or you might get an answer you don’t expect. Like, maybe I’m just bloated from all the shots I’m giving myself in the stomach each day and I gained 5 pounds from my last unsuccessful round of IVF. Oh, and my ovaries feel like they are going to explode. And I have gas.

 

I know we are all curious about what is going on around us, but infertility is an invisible disease and you never know what feelings you might stir up by asking a simple, unsolicited question. Rather than asking these questions, start advocating for infertility treatment and coverage. Share your sympathy with a friend. Bake them cookies or send them a card. Let them know you care and that you are thinking about them.

Understand that they may not want to go out on Friday night because they are afraid that one glass of wine will ruin their chances. Recognize that they may not want to go to a baby shower because it will hurt too much. Let them know it is OK to be upset that your best friend is pregnant, after all, you’re happy for them but sad for yourself.

Offer to be there when they need you, but don’t push when they don’t want to talk about it. Try to talk about things other than your kids. Don’t let the conversation always revolve around pregnancy and babies. They will appreciate your effort and kindness more than you know.


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A Festivus Miracle!

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We are pregnant. Naturally. Even writing it down I still can’t believe it. Even after multiple pregnancy tests, blood draws, and ultrasounds; I still find myself doubting that it is true. I just never thought a natural pregnancy (or even another pregnancy at that matter) was in the cards for us. But here, as I live and breathe and type, I am pregnant.

When we first visited our fertility doctor, we were given about a one percent chance of conceiving naturally. It may have even been less, I don’t fully recall. All I know is that that one tiny percent…I threw it out the window. I cast it away as a never. A not possible. And we dove straight into fertility treatments. And as you all know, they worked. Not right away, but those treatments, all of that money spent, all the tears all the heartache, they brought us our sweet, beautiful miracle baby girls. All my dreams had come true. And it was enough.

However, growing up I had always imagined having three kids. I grew up in a family with three children, and it just seemed like the perfect amount. So when the girls turned one, Nick and I had a discussion and agreed to try for one more baby. We were going to TRY to expand our family. We knew it was a long shot, and I promised that if in the end, we were still a family of four, that I would be OK. Because they were ENOUGH.

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But I knew a part of me would always wonder, “what if”, if we never tried. I figured we would try naturally for about a year, and then try some fertility treatments. But IVF wasn’t really an option, at least not for the foreseeable future. After all, we spent a LOT of money the first time around, and had just bought a new house and a new car. We didn’t have $12-15k+ to spend on IVF again. And that would be assuming it worked the first time around. So, while I was very excited to try, I had VERY low expectations.

I had my first post-partum period exactly 29 days after I stopped nursing the girls on their first birthday. For me, that was amazing! My cycles had always been 34+ days, so 29 days was astonishing. We “tried” between my stopping nursing and that first cycle, I was REALLY hoping that if we could catch that first egg it would be perfect. No such luck there.

The first cycle after 22 months without a period is NO JOKE. Holy cramps, holy murder scene, holy hormones. It was a rager (I know, TMI, but pretty much everything about TTC is TMI, right?). I stocked up on OPKs, pregnancy tests and began to track my cycle again. Except, I couldn’t temp accurately because I was up at least once a night due to the twins’ sleep regression. So I put all my TTC eggs in the OPK basket. It looked like I ovulated around day 23. Pretty typical for me.

Once I reached day 40 with no period, I allowed myself to get kind of excited. I was “late”. Maybe this was it?? When trying for the girls, I was almost never late. Maybe one day once or twice. But there I sat, staring at my stark white pregnancy test. And all of the emotions and heartache and disappointment came flooding back. It was like they never left. And If I’m being completely honest, I don’t think they ever did. Once infertile, always infertile. It is a time in your life that you never quite get past.

So, because I am always one who needs to try something “new” each cycle. I did a bit of research on some vitamins I could add to my diet, and came across Vitex (more on this in a future post). From what I had read, it could help to shorten and regulate women with long, irregular cycles. Sounded perfect for me. Reviews said it would take about 3 months to make any real difference, but with a small price tag what did I have to lose?

It was that cycle, that I got pregnant. The SECOND real cycle postpartum. I bet you are as shocked as I was! I ovulated 3-4 days earlier than usual, and took a pregnancy test the day before Christmas eve. At that point, I was a couple days “late” but didn’t think anything of it. I took the test because I knew I would be drinking wine and mimosas galore over the Christmas holiday.

Nick ran out to pick up breakfast for me and the girls, and while he was gone I mustered up the courage to take a test. I watched the control line change to pink but the rest of the test remained white. I cursed, I cried, and asked God why he was getting my hopes up (like it was His fault?). I washed my hands and came back to the test to throw it away, and that is when I saw it. A second, pink line. HOLY CRAP. Was I imagining things? Was this really happening to me? No way!! But there it was, as real as could be. I dug through my bathroom cupboards and found an old digital pregnancy test that was expired, but I took it any way. And that was positive too!!

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I quickly thought of a way to surprise Nick before he got home. The twins’ Advent calendar! It was a Santa Claus that hangs on the wall, with a little velvet sack filled with magnetic cotton balls. Each morning they would take turns pulling out a beard ball and sticking it on Santa’s beard. I stuck the test in the bag, and when Nick returned home I told Nick we had to do the Advent calendar before we forgot. Rosie (or was it Leni, haha) pulled the test out and handed it to a confused Nick. It took a minute before he realized what it was (that’s why I took a digital, because two lines on a pee stick would have meant nothing to him) but when he did, boy was he shocked! And excited. And terrified.

We spent the next couple of days surprising our family. This was how I had always imagined pregnancy would be. Surprising family members. Not waiting for scheduled beta tests, when everyone already knew the date we would “find out”. It was so exciting.

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Fast forward to today and our announcement. It has not been any easy several weeks, but so far, the pregnancy is progressing perfectly, and the baby is healthy. Which is all we could hope for.

I still question why we are so blessed, when there are so many others out there still trying to have their first child. We are good people, but by no means are we saints. Do we really deserve this miracle? Are we worthy? I am excited, but so saddened and heartbroken for others.

We promise to never take our children, natural or IVF, for granted. And we vow to be the best parents possible, and to love them unconditionally. For we are blessed beyond measure, and for that we will be forever grateful. From 1% chance to 100% miracle.

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Baby C #3 is due August 26, 2018.

More to come.

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One More Shot – Documentary Review

I just finished watching the documentary, “One More Shot”, on Netflix.

Guess what?

I am still crying.

This film is so real. So truthful, so heart wrenching, so me. In 90 minutes this movie managed to completely transport me back in time and to accurately explain the roller coaster of emotions we went through just over two years ago.

ONE. MORE. SHOT.

A perfect title that can be interpreted in many ways. One more shot of medication. One more blow to your heart after another negative pregnancy test. One more attempt at conceiving. One more shot of tequila to numb the pain. Or, one more chance at a miracle.

The story follows a couple in their early thirties as they try to expand their family and navigate the uncharted waters that are infertility. They aren’t a glamorous Hollywood couple. They aren’t doctors or scientists who know all about infertility. They are the couple down the street that stop over on Thursday night for a glass of wine. The couple you pass in the grocery store while looking for a ripe watermelon (how DO you know if a watermelon is good??). And they are the couple that sits across from you at the fertility clinic, wondering how long you have been trying, if you were already pregnant, or if you had just suffered another loss. The ones whose eyes you meet before heading back for your consultation who can tell you with just one look that they understand.

There were several moments in the film that I could identify with, but there were also several that I could not. This couple suffered longer than we did, and more loses. But, some points that really hit home for me, were:

 

The fear of the unknown.

As an OCD, control freak, I spend every spare moment planning, making lists and setting goals. Infertility was something I knew nothing about, and treatment had no guarantees. Yes, there were dozens of options for starting a family, but nothing was guaranteed. I often thought to myself “I would go through this 10 times, spend $100k if someone, somewhere could promise me that it would all end with a baby in my arms.” But the truth of the matter is, they can’t. And the fact that I had no control over the outcome was debilitating.

 

Feeling broken.

Nick checked out OK. Borderline for sperm morphology but otherwise, good for baby making. This made me feel like it was all MY fault. That I was broken. I couldn’t do the thing women were SUPPOSED to do – make babies. I feared this would break our marriage, and I feared it would break me.

 

The shots hurt.

Those shot were NOT a walk in the park. They hurt like a b*tch! They left me sore, bruised and hormonal.

 

Punishment.

Was I being punished for sneaking out of the house in high school? Or for that time I swiped some beer mugs from a college bar? Or for all of the things I have taken for granted or selfishly just assumed would happen?

 

IVF is the ultimate “treatment”.

When we started at our clinic, we were given a less than 1% chance of conceiving naturally. So we jumped straight into IVF. And we were positive it would work. When it didn’t work the first time, it was an even bigger blow. The miracle treatment we had just shelled out $15k for was a bust. It’s hard to pick up the pieces after that.

 

Obsession.

The sheer obsession of all of it. I think infertility made me a hypochondriac/Google genius. I spent all of my free time Googling symptoms, or lack thereof, grants, adoption, embryo donation. I needed to constantly feel like I was being proactive.

 

The comfort of knowing I was not alone.

From the moment I made my blog public, it was like the heaviest weight was lifted off my shoulders. The out-pour of love and well wishes we received was amazing. But what was even more amazing was the number of women who messaged me and said, I understand. I too, am suffering from infertility. I too, find it hard to be happy for my friends having babies. I too, am scared.

 

This documentary was everything I never knew that I always needed. I think it is something that every struggling family should watch. And all of their friends and family. And everyone else. It is relatable, funny when it needed to be, and informative. I highly recommend that you check it out now on Netflix. You won’t regret it. The only thing you might regret is forgetting the tissues, or that you didn’t watch it sooner.

And for all of the women, men and couples out there trying to grow your families, find hope and comfort in the fact that you are not alone. Infertility is hard. It will push you, it will test you, and it will break you. But there is a light at the end of that tunnel. There is always another option – maybe it’s another crack at IVF. Or maybe it’s a surrogate. Perhaps it is coming to terms with never being parents. Or maybe it’s adoption. Whatever it is, make sure it is YOUR decision. Not anyone else’s. And let that decision be the one that puts you back together again.

Ovulation: An EGGsact Science

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Pinpointing ovulation is one of the most difficult, but most important aspects of trying to conceive. Your entire cycle evolves around and is categorize based on the one day.

Your follicular phase is the days leading up to ovulation – but you won’t know how long it is until ovulation is confirmed! Your luteal phase it the time between ovulation and the first day of you period. Again, you need to know when you ovulated to calculate it.

In order to become pregnant, you must have sex (or insemination) on or around the day that you ovulated. This is your fertile window… ovulation day and the five days leading up to it. You might even be able to consider the day after ovulation a part of this window, because the egg has a lifespan of about 24 hours after being released in which it can be fertilized. If it is not, POOF!, egg disintegrates.

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The five days prior to ovulation are considered fertile days because it is possible, given the right conditions (fertile cervical fluid), for sperm to live inside the female body for up to five days. So sperm that entered the uterus/fallopian tubes on the first day of your fertile window might just still be hanging around on O day. But your best chances of fertilization are the day of and the day prior to ovulation.

So, now that you understand how important ovulation is, how the heck do you know when it happens! On average, based on a 28-day cycle, ovulation would occur on CD (cycle day) 14. However, a good chunk of those TTC don’t have a perfect 28-day cycle. Some of us have short, 24 day cycles, others have 30, 35, or 40 + days (I average between 35-40). It can be estimated that you ovulate approximately 14 days prior to your period, because the average luteal phase is about 14 days long. If you have a 25 day cycle, you likely ovulate right around day 11. If you have a 35 day cycle, O is probably on day 21.

But what good does that do us after the fact? Especially for those of us who have irregular, fluctuating cycles?? Not much that’s for sure. That is why there are a variety of different ways to estimate/pinpoint ovulation that all TTCers should be aware of.

Below are some of the most common methods. Some are pretty accurate, others are just estimates. My recommendation is a combination!

1. Basal Body Temperature (BBT)

Your Basal Body Temperature is your body’s temperature in a state of rest, and is your lowest temperature of the day. It is taken first thing in the morning, upon waking, before you even get out of bad, take a sip of water, or even utter a word. You will need to get a special thermometer for tracking your BBT, one that calculates to two decimal places, because changes in temperature can be that small.

To track your BBT I suggest using a fertility app like Fertility Friend or Glow. You can track by hand and print of charts from the internet, but I think it is way easier to enter the temps into the app. Tack your temperature every morning, at the same time (you can take it orally or vaginally or rectally, just be consistent…I prefer orally) and enter it into the app chart. At the beginning of your cycle, your temperatures are on the lower end, and at the end of your cycle they should be noticeably higher.

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Ovulation occurs when there is a noticeable shift of at least .4 degrees Farenheit after ovulation, which helps separate your chart into two phases – follicular (lower temps) and luteal (higher temps after ovulation). A lot of women have a temperature drop right before the increase on the day they ovulate. A couple days of higher temps will confirm ovulation, and most apps will generate what is called a “cover line”. Temperatures usually remain above the cover line during the luteal phase, and will drop back down when your period starts. Temps that stay above the cover line through a missed period are often promising. But it is not an exact science.

BBT charting is the best way to confirm ovulation, short of a vaginal ultrasound. Chart for several months and look for patterns.

The bad thing about BBT charting? It cannot PREDICT ovulation, only confirm it. So it is important to chart your BBT along with other ovulation prediction methods like ovulation tests, checking cervical mucous and position, etc.

2. Ovulation Predictor Kit (OPKs)

These are pee sticks that detect the luteinizing hormone (LH). They work similar to pregnancy tests in HOW you take them, but differ in how you read them. For OPKs with lines, the test line must be as dark OR darker than the control line in order to be positive. Many women have LH in their systems throughout their cycle and may always have a faint line show up on these tests. When you receive a positive test, you can be expected to ovulate within 24 hours.

There are also digital ovulation tests, like Clear Blue, that give you no-nonsence results like smiley-faces and shaking smileys that help you detect your two or four (depending on the product) most fertile days.

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Make sure to do the deed on the high fertility days, and then one day after.

I usually use the cheap test strips from Amazon because I like to take them every day and I am not a millionaire. Also, with the cheap sticks I like to tape them to a piece of notebook paper and include the date, time and CD (cycled day) they were taken so I can track progress and compare from month-to-month.

3. Cervical Mucous (CM)

Cervical Mucous (CM), AKA vaginal discharge (both are equally gross words to say aloud), is another way to predict ovulation. Your CM changes often throughout your cycle, and can help indicate when you are and are not fertile. When your cervical mucous resembles egg whites (EWCM!) you are most fertile, ovulation is impending and you should get down!

The best way to test your CM is around the same time each day with CLEAN fingers. Insert into  your V and then move the results around between your fingers. Yes, you will probably feel awkward at first, but eventually it will become habit. If you are like me you will check it every time you go to the bathroom.

The various types of CM (different sites/books will have slightly different names and descriptions) are:

Dry/nonexistent – this is infertile CM. Usually found right after your period. This is not a healthy environment for sperm

Sticky – After dry usually comes sticky. Again, this is infertile. It is almost like dry rubber cement! This is usually white in color.

Creamy – Similar to lotion in color and texture. This can be infertile or slightly fertile CM. This change is in response to the increasing estrogen levels in your body. It does not stretch or move much between your fingers.

Watery – Fertile CM!! Woohoo! This is likely to be clear or a little cloudy, and feel slippery between your period. This means ovulation is coming soon!

Eggwhite – The Holy Grail of CM! Eggwhite cervical mucous (aka EWCM) is the most fertile of all. It is clear and STRETCHY. When you pull your fingers apart it will likely stretch and inch or so. And it really looks like raw egg whites. This means ovulation is right around the corner, or occurring now. Some women never get EWCM but still ovulate. Which is why I will again emphasize that all of these methods should be used in tandem.

4. Cervical Position/Texture

The position of your cervix is another way to predict ovulation. Your cervix may be high, medium, or low. Become a cervical position expert and check it often so you know what is “normal” for you. Below are the stages of cervical position:

Low, hard, slightly open – during your period (infertile)

Low, hard, closed – directly after your period (infertile)

Medium, medium texture, slightly open (slightly fertile)

High (you should barely be able to find it!), soft and open (most fertile)

Medium, medium texture, closed – after ovulation (infertile)

High, soft, closed – this is what the cervix apparently feels like when you are pregnant, but everyone is different and I can’t even remember what mine felt like. And it could take a while to get to this position, even well after a positive test.

Hard texture can be compared to the tip of your nose, while soft texture can be compared to your lips (hopefully that helps). I am not very good at explaining the difference between open and closed.

5. Other symptoms

While there is no rhyme or reason to this method, many women experience that same symptoms aroundn ovulation from month-to-month. Some of those symptoms might be:

  • Cramping or twinges
  • Tender breasts
  • Increased sense of smell
  • Increased sex drive

Using all of these methods combined can help you to identify your fertile window and ovulation, which can greatly increase your chances of pregnancy. But even if you track everything, and time sex perfectly, there is still a big chance you won’t fall pregnant. SO MANY THINGS have to fall exactly into place at the right time in order for fertilization and pregnancy to occur.

I know trying for months and years can be discouraging. I have been there and I know how painful it is. So if you are under 35 and have been trying for a year, or are 35+ and have been trying for 6 months, it is recommended that you see your doctor (OB or fertility specialist). But that is no rule of thumb. You need to be your OWN advocate. If you think something is wrong, make an appointment. That is what I did after 7 months of perfectly timed intercourse. And I ended up needing two rounds of IVF! Don’t be ashamed, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Infertility affects roughly 1 in 8 couples, and is worth talking about.

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Happy Transfer Day! NOT.

Transfer day was Thursday, January 21, 2016. We went into the day super excited, and I was especially excited for a four day weekend of binging on Netflix and napping. We would be transferring one embryo at 10:45 am and 11 days later our pregnancy test was scheduled.

This time Nick came with me, there was no way I was going to let him miss the big moment again. We goofed around in the waiting area (thank goodness I didn’t wet myself because a full bladder is required for transfer) and once again it took the nurses a good three tries before they were able to draw my blood for testing. Nick looked very dapper in his hospital gown and hair net (see below) as we prepared to see our little embie on the big screen.

Once in the operating room the embryologist checked my bladder and actually let me get up and let a little bit out in the restroom which was AMAZING. When I returned they showed us our little cell blob on the big screen and then transferred it right on into its home for hopefully the next 9 months. As I laid there for about 10 minutes after the procedure, the nurse brought us a picture of the embryo and one of the ultrasound after the transfer had been made. We were SO excited.

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Then the bad news came. A nurse handed me a piece of paper to sign, and being the good girl that I am, I actually read it. It was a form stating that we had one embryo left frozen from our October cycle. Immediately my heart fell. One embryo? I thought there were 5 left, total? One from the October cycle and 4 from this cycle. After all, five had made it to freeze back in December. A great number. I asked the nurse what this meant and she told me she wasn’t sure.

We went back to my waiting “room” where I was to lie down for another 20 minutes or so. I asked the next nurse I saw why I only had one frozen embryo listed on my sheet of paper. She too was unsure and said she would call back to the lab to ask. After about a half an hour we were FINALLY visited by a representative of the lab.

If you recall, our cycle was part of a clinical study where the embryos (either all of them, or all but the best looking one, would receive Preimplantation Genetic Screening). Apparently all 4 of the other embryos tested from our December retrieval came back genetically abnormal and were thrown out. WHAT!?!?!

Well what about the one in me? Was that one normal or abnormal?? Because of the study, we were not allowed to know what group we were in, so there was no way to tell. Four out of five were for sure abnormal. All I could think of were, what are the odds that one out of five was normal, IF it have been tested? I was devastated. Basically this was our only shot because we did not have any genetically normal embryos leftover. Yes, we have our little guy from October, but the quality was weak and probably not worth an FET on its own.

I spent the entire drive home crying, and convincing myself we were going to have to either start all over from scratch or begin pursuing adoption. The clinic sent over some paperwork explaining what was abnormal about the other four embryos but it didn’t make any sense to me. I was just for sure that I did not produce any good eggs and that I would never have a baby of my own.

As much as Nick tried to get me to think positive, I could not. I spent the next week plus depressed, sporadically crying, researching infertility grants and seeking information on adoption. I am nothing if not prepared. But nothing could have prepared me for the miracle that happened next.

What’s with the socks?

If you are traveling the road of infertility and are involved with any of the several online TTC forums, you have probably seen your share of women posting images of their sock adorned feet, before or after a procedure. When I first began browsing these forums, I myself wondered, “What the heck is up with all of these pictures of socks?”

As it turns out, women are very particular about the socks they wear during infertility procedures, especially during IVF retrieval and transfer procedures. Women wear socks of various colors, patterns, and styles. Some may wear the same pair for each procedure, others may prefer to switch it up and rock a different pair of socks each time. These socks are worn for good luck, to make us smile and to keep us feeling hopeful. The procedure sock purchasing process is often a fun experience amidst all of the shots, scans and emotional chaos.

But why SOCKS? Why not lucky underwear, or t-shirts? Essentially, socks are the ONLY article of your own that you are allowed to wear during such procedures. Most clinics require you to strip down and put on one of those attractive hospital gowns that tie twice in the back, along with a pair of paper slippers and a hair net. Where is the fun in that? While your bra and undies must go in a bag while you undergo one of the most important procedures of your life, the socks are allowed to stay. And that is why we infertile women like to find the most crazy, fun, or inspiring pair to wear!

The types and combinations are endless. I have seen unicorn socks, tie dye socks, mismatched socks. Socks with frogs, socks with words and socks with toes. I even bought a pair of Ellen socks because I thought I might post a picture of them to social media and tag Ellen. Then maybe she would have me on her show and let me talk about infertility, IVF and the right to a family. I chickened out on that one though, for some reason I felt selfish doing that? Like what if Ellen saw the photo and paid for my next cycle? I would feel guilty. But I still wore them and took a picture, because we all know how great Ellen is at making people smile.

Whatever pair you choose to wear, make it one that will help you to think positive, and to feel extra lucky. After all, even a positive mood can help create a positive outcome. Below are a few of my personal “sockie” (like selfie…I may have just made that up) photos from the past several months.

 

Ellen

Strong1 Strong2

Hope1 Hope2 (3)

 

The “I have hope” and “I am strong” socks are from a website called Notes to Self and they have a variety of what they call “Positive Affirmation Socks” that would be great for more than just infertility treatments.

Ladies, I recommend you all go out and splurge on some fun socks, I promise you won’t regret it.

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Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t

Over the past 15+ months, I have done some pretty nutty things while trying to conceive. Unfortunately for me, none of them have worked (yet) but I have heard some amazing success stories about most of them. When you are facing infertility, you will do anything (ANYTHING) short of making a deal with the devil (I don’t recommend that) to get pregnant. Each time you see that negative test you think “what could I have done differently?” The list below outlines some of the crazy (and not so crazy) things I have done in the name of TTC. The truth is, it can’t hurt to try them, as none of them are dangerous. If you find yourself struggling to conceive and are in need of control and the feeling of being proactive like me, give one these the old college try!

1. Pineapple Core

Yes, that’s right. The CORE of the pineapple. The part we usually all throw away. It is very fibrous and chewy, and it definitely doesn’t taste GREAT, but it isn’t all that bad. The theory behind this is that pineapple core contains bromelain, which has been said to aid in implantation. Just cute a pineapple into five equal parts (remove the outside, of course) and eat one slice per day starting the day after ovulation (1 DPO). The core is the most important part, so make sure you eat that. You can toss the rest if you aren’t a huge pineapple fan. I have also heard of some ladies blending the core in with their smoothies. If you really don’t like the taste, you can by bromelain capsules!

2. Hips/Legs Up

I’m sure we have all tried this one once or twice! I always laid down after intercourse for 15-20 minutes to hold the swimmers in place. Several people told me to try elevating my hips (I put a couple pillows underneath) or putting my legs up on the wall. I even went so far as to roll on my back and hold my hips up with my legs straight up in the air. This was not comfortable.

3. Grapefruit Juice

This stuff is nasty, but it really helps with cervical mucus! Around ovulation your cervical mucus (CM) should be of “egg white” consistency, slippery and stretchy (this helps the sperm travel to the egg). Well mine never was. Until I found out about the grapefruit juice trick. I drank a glass a day from CD1 to ovulation and my CM was never stretchier! Be careful though, grapefruit is known to have interactions with several medication, so be sure to check with your doctor or pharmacist prior to trying this one out.

4. Mucinex/Robitussin

These medications are used for the same purpose as grapefruit juice – to thin out and increase CM. Be sure to get the kind that has guaifenesin as the only active ingredient (not Mucinex DM!), other active ingredients can have the opposite effect. I took this for the 4-5 days prior to anticipated ovulation and quit as soon as ovulation was confirmed. This didn’t work as well as the grapefruit juice for me.

5. Chiropractor

I visited a chiropractor for a couple of month to see if he could “adjust” my uterus to optimal baby making status. They also do a lot of work with the nervous system that can help to regulate certain processes that are essential to TTC. While I loved having my back cracked and finding out my hips are lopsided, I don’t really think this did much for me. But then again I didn’t really stick with it too long to find out. The appointments began to be too much especially with all of the infertility/gyno appointments I was having.

6. Pre-Seed

If you love lube then you will love this sperm-friendly product! This genius substance is meant to mimic that coveted “egg white CM” so if you don’t make it, no problem! It can also be used as just a regular lube. Apply some directly into the VAJJ prior to sexy time and you are all set. The product can be found at most drugstores (que Target trip) and comes with a few applicators. I do not advise that you use the recommended dose, that was way too much and way too messy. Start small and add more if needed. I used this starting 5 days before ovulation, through a day or two after O. Visit www.preseed.com for more info!

7. Softcups

This was one of my crazier remedies. Softcups are women’s menstrual cups, used to collect your flow during your period. Softcups are a flexible little cup inserted into your vagina and around the cervix. They are nice because they can be kept in for 12 hours with little to no leakage and it is not linked to TSS. I tried them for my period, and actually liked them. But the REAL reason I used these bad boys was to “hold the swimmer near my cervix”. I knew I had a very small cervix (the passage way from the vagina to the uterus) and I thought if I could just keep those little guys near the door they would have to get in eventually! After sex I would basically (while still laying down) insert the cup while scooping in the semen (I know how gross this sounds!!) and voila – no mess and I could walk around for hours just knowing they still had a fighting chance.

Warning: the first time I used these I almost couldn’t get it out. I suggest practicing once or twice, because the retrieval process is very strange. Follow the instructions to the T!

8. CoQ10

AKA Co-Enzyme Q10. This is an antioxidant naturally found in the body, but production decreases with age (peak production is around 21 years old, and then slowly declines after that). CoQ10 is said to be great for improving egg quality and egg health, and maybe even sperm motility and quality! I take 100mg, twice daily. Nick takes the same.

9. Acupuncture

For the past three months, I have been getting acupuncture on a weekly basis. Not only do I find it extremely relaxing, the placement of the needles can help to increase blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, among other things. It is also said to help treat PCOS and thyroid disorders. Here is a short article for more insight into acupuncture for infertility.

10. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea

Another natural infertility remedy that I have been incorporating into my diet is Red Raspberry Leaf Tea. I try to drink a cup of this a day, but only prior to ovulation (I do not use after ovulation because the tea is also used in late pregnancy to help induce labor, and I don’t want any uterine contractions keeping that egg from sticking). The tea can be used to help with the following: recurrent miscarriage, heavy menstrual bleeding, poor egg quality, uterine trauma, and for general female reproductive health. I use the Alvita brand and usually order online because the last time I tried to purchase at the Vitamin Shoppe they were sold out (and they did not carry it at my local GNC) – everyone must be jumping on the bandwagon!

11. Rooster Under the Bed

This is the newest bit of crazy I am trying out. My hairdresser told us of an old wives tail that states “if you sleep with a rooster under your bed you will fall pregnant”. One of her coworkers tried it and it actually worked! As far as I know, this does not have to be a real rooster, so my mother bought me a cheap vintage rooster at the antique store this past weekend (only $4.00!) and it has been under my bed since then. I guess we will have to wait and see if there is any truth to this!

rooster

 

In addition to the above, I have also taken to touching every elephant statue or image I see for good luck. I also plan to eat Brazil nuts around implantation time this round as well. I am sure there are several other things I have tried, but these seemed to be the most interesting – and I do believe some of them actually helped, even if I didn’t get that positive! Good luck fellow TTCers, I hope one of these is your miracle solution!

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“Home Inspection” aka Hysteroscopy

This past Tuesday I underwent a procedure called a hysteroscopy. A hysteroscopy is a way for the doctor to look inside of your uterus, and provides a better “picture” than an ultrasound. A small viewing tool called a hysteroscope guided into the uterus through the cervix and is used to check the uterine lining and to look for and remove growths such as fibroids and polyps. It can also be used to diagnose abnormal bleeding. For me, the procedure was done to check for anything abnormal that could be keeping me from getting pregnant, or keeping the embryo from implanting into my uterus. It is like a “home inspection” for the little embryo waiting for us at the end of the month!

The night before the procedure I had to take Cytotec. Cytotec comes in pill form (three pills to be exact) and is inserted into my you-know-what to help “soften” the cervix prior to the surgery. I have to say it was pretty strange to do this, and they caused some pretty severe cramps that evening. But anything for future baby, am I right? The procedure itself was pretty painless and performed under anesthesia. I have had a bit of spotting since then and some cramping, but nothing to write home about.

Of course the doctor came back to tell me how things had gone while I was using the restroom, fortunately my mother was there. He said that “everything looks good and we are good to go”. So I take that as I passed my home inspection and our closing date is scheduled for the end of the month when we have our Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET)! Now all baby needs to do is continue growing and nestle in when the time comes.

  
I have started injections (Lovenox) as well as low dose Aspirin, Estrace 3xs daily and an estrogen patch this week. After about 10 days of that I will begin the dreaded Progesterone in Oil (PIO) shots again. I bought a weekly pill organizer (no, I am not a senior citizen) with both AM & PM compartments to help keep me organized. The protocol with this FET is very different from my fresh transfer back in October. Knowing we are doing something different provides added comfort and hope. I look forward to sticking myself with needles again, as it means we are one step closer to getting that baby of ours.

Estrogen patch!
 
I will continue with my weekly acupuncture appointments and am going to attempt a much healthier diet (the holidays sent me downhill fast) with a focus on eggs, avocado, and nuts/seeds. I am hoping to get in a serving per day of each of these items. Other than that, I will try to avoid fried foods and sweets. There is no time like the New Year to try that out I’d say!

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Embaby its cold outside!

Guess who had FIVE embryos make it to freeze……this girl!! Words cannot describe our excitement! (Get it, embaby its “cold” outside….because they are frozen)?

We had our egg retrieval last Tuesday where 9 eggs were collected, 6 mature and 6 fertilized. I was actually pretty upset by this news. Last cycle we had 13 eggs collected, 11 mature and 9 fertilized! In my mind this cycle was worse because the odds seemed to be against us. More eggs = more fertilized = more embryos, right? Wrong.

We spent the week following the transfer waiting for news. Our clinic does not provide daily embryo updates, so it was an extremely long week. I thought we would find out on Monday, but Monday came and went with no news. And so did Tuesday. I was convinced all of my eggs had died and that I would receive horrible news. Like pregnancy test day.

Wednesday afternoon, just when I thought I might have a panic attack from the waiting, the clinic called me with the wonderful news that 5 of our 6 fertilized eggs had made it to freeze. Three were frozen on Day 5 and two on Day 7. Can you believe it? I still can’t! Those are great odds considering last cycle only 3 of 9 were good enough (two were transferred and lost, and one was frozen). So we have 6 frozen embryos, total. That means 6 tries for our little human. One of those will be our take home baby, I just know it.

We have nothing else scheduled for the rest of December, which will be a nice little break. I look forward to spending the holidays with my family and drinking wine. Come January we will dive right back into the meds, ultrasounds and bloodwork, in preparation for our FET. I can’t believe I am saying this but I am actually excited. I feel positive that this will work. 🙂

 

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