When your anxiety is as high as your estrogen

My husband called it “estroxiety.”

It is transfer week, which means it is crawllllling by at a snail’s pace. Aside from the side effects of my BFF Estrace — of which I have many — my mental health feels a bit like a teeter-totter. One moment: OMG I AM SO EXCITED THIS IS GOING TO FINALLY WORK ALL CAPS EVERYWHERE! The next:

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Actual footage of me?

Don’t get me wrong, not going into an embryo transfer blindly for once is a welcome change. I know my doctor (well, actually, not my Peyton Manning doctor because he will be on vacation) will place little PGS-normal 5BB in my now-optimized for receptivity uterus. Because my ERA test revealed that my lining is 12-hours pre-receptive, we’ve moved my PIO shots to the mornings, giving me an extra dose before the actual transfer. The same biopsy revealed no recurrence of endometritis either. So, basically, my uterus is as ready to grow a baby as it probably ever has been. I’m set up for success. Even my clinic’s internal stats on a a PGS-normal resulting in pregnancy and a live birth are killer.

And yet, the pressure is getting to me. My stomach is doing flip-flops. I’m not falling asleep easily and sleeping fitfully. My brain keeps telling me that normal embryos fail all the time. I’ve had anxiety before transfers in the past, but this is so heightened. I’m so hyper-aware that it could be successful and that’s just not my normal. I’ve had nothing but failure to point to; I’ve settled in and stayed awhile. As miserable as infertility makes me, it is my normal. I’m not resigned to it, but it is always there. It’s been the focus of my life for more than five years and it has become my every day. Popping Estrace pills morning, noon and night; the sore injection sites from the PIO; lying back and putting my feet in the stirrups for internal ultrasounds every few days. This is my life. It sucks so much, but there’s something that has become so comfortable, too.

Like many Type-A people, if I’m not good at something almost immediately I tend not to like it very much. I despise mediocrity in myself. When I was eight years old I played the saxophone for a little under a year. I was pretty terrible, and I quit because I knew I wouldn’t ever be first (or even second) chair in the elementary school band. Instead I did something I was much better at (cheerleading [current me still doesn’t fully comprehend how I was a cheerleader my entire childhood]), and spent the next 10 years engrossed in that. Captaining teams, winning an award or two and being pretty good at something like the Type-A in me wanted.

Somehow, I’ve never quit this. I’ve pushed through even though I am clearly terrible at creating babies. Infertility has taught me an awful lot about failure. And, in turn, resilience. It has absolutely shaped who I am as a 36-year-old woman.

With success as close as it has probably ever been, it is out of my hands now (and soon to be in my uterus). I have, officially, all the feels.

Also, f#*k you, Estrace.

Infertility grief

And then there were two: PGS results

After the cliffhanger of my last post, I’ll go ahead and immediately spoil the ending of this one with the title. We have two PGS-normal embryos.

TWO. NORMAL. EMBRYOS.

I felt a little like this:

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Okay, rewind… As of day 3, I had 14. I knew well enough to know that over the next two and three days, the lab would see a drop-off of at least half, and I was fine with that. The entire goal of Stim Part Deux: Electric Boogaloo was quality over quantity. Quantity, in my previous experience, hasn’t made a damn bit of difference for me. Five of my six embryos from my first stim cycle didn’t stick, and Kristoff, the lone embryo still frozen, had the lowest grading of that pack. The odds weren’t in his favor.

Quality, of course, is much harder to measure. I’d done the work I could do to potentially improve the quality of my much-older-than-my-age-and-AMH eggs by losing 35 pounds. But, other than feeling better than I had in a long time, I didn’t know if that would prove fruitful fertility-wise.

When day 5 arrived I think I stared at my phone all day. For previous updates the lab had emailed me in the morning, so by lunchtime I was a ball of anxiety. Did this mean none had progressed? Was the news so bad that the lab would have my doctor break it to me? What day is it? Do I still remember how to count to five? By 3:00, I simply couldn’t stand it anymore and emailed the greatest nurse on the planet. Hey if you could just do me a solid and walk down the hall to the lab… She was like calm down, crazy, since you’re doing PGS the lab will wait until tomorrow to give you the final results of how many made it to blastocyst to be biopsied.

“However, you have 2 for biopsy today 🙂 And likely many more for tomorrow. Yay!!!!”

There was crying.

Day 6 went by so damn slowly. But then the email came…

Five.

Plus, Kristoff had survived the thaw for biopsy and continued to develop.

Even more crying. So much crying that my husband only understood every seven words that I said on the phone when I called with the news.

Six embryos held all of my hopes and dreams: 5BB, 5BB, 6AA, 5AA, 5CB and 5BC. No pressure, kids, but my entire future is riding on you…

The nine days between hearing that number from the lab and getting the call from the greatest nurse on the planet with our PGS results were absolutely on-par with the two-week wait. I did my best to stay busy and keep my mind occupied, but if I’m being real those results were the only thing of substance I could think about.

On the afternoon when my nurse called, she admitted she was very scared to tell me there were two normal embryos. Two of six is a poor ratio, all things considered. But as soon as she said two, everything else fell away. I’d save the questions about the others for another day. When you’re terrified that you’re going to hear zero, two sounds like a million. I was so unbelievably grateful for two.

Lots more crying. All the crying.

So here we are… Two. It’s my new favorite number.

Ps… Kristoff wasn’t one of the normals. And she’s actually a Kristoffina.

34 Farm-fresh eggs

I am, once again, a human farm animal. Such is #IVFlife.

And as I suspected, each stim cycle is a little bit different.  To recap: During my first, in June 2016, the doctors retrieved 23 mature eggs, which resulted in six embryos making it to blastocyst stage. While the meds no doubt kicked my ass then, the much more (physically) unpleasant experience came following my egg retrieval.

I’ll get to the good stuff straight-away, I know that’s what you’re here for… Somehow my doctor managed to find 34 eggs in my swollen stomach. As I was coming out of my anesthesia following the procedure, the greatest nurse on the planet popped her head in to say, “34,” with her big, bright smile. If I didn’t actually ask her at the time, I certainly wanted to say, geez, are you sure they were all mine? They claim they are. Thirty-four was more than my brain could actually process in the moment. Then she said something that I will stick with me, and will be a key piece of the story I tell my daughter or son about how they came into our family…

“One of those eggs is your baby.”

She said it with such hope and conviction that my heart swelled to match my enormous ovaries and I felt so strongly that she was going to be right.

“One of those eggs is your baby.”

To every woman who has felt beaten and broken by infertility, I wish you a moment just like this. I felt renewed and ready. I’ve been so careful not to ever really let myself believe this could still be possible in case it wasn’t. In that moment I let go of so much negativity, and let those words sink in.

Of those 34 eggs retrieved, 21 were mature. I did find it pretty surprising (and encouraging) that it was only two fewer than my first cycle, when I was the better part of two years younger. Physically the process of stimming felt much more intense this time than I remembered, and I again went for the full 12 nights. Perhaps it was because I knew this would be my last time, but I was feeling SO done before I’d even gotten to the trigger shot. The bloat and the fatigue felt especially powerful in the last few days of injections. And I was a straight-up nightmare emotionally-speaking.

Despite the more intense stim (guess that meant it I was firing on all cylinders?), the retrieval recovery was a breeze compared to my Dark Willow situation last time.

When the lab reported that 21 eggs were mature, they relayed that 14 of those had fertilized. This was virtually the same ratio as my previous IVF cycle, and I felt fine with that and eager to see how many of those would progress.

On day three, I waited for news from the lab. And it was good… ALL 14 embryos were developing! I read the message a few times, and then squealed and cried. Things hadn’t gone down this way before. To still have all of them thriving on day three? It was the injection (ha!) of encouragement we needed.

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I agree, Ron. Stay tuned…

Wounds of war

The scary thing isn’t the bruises of IVF, it’s sharing a photo of your far from flat, stretch mark-filled tummy on the Internet.

Yes, the bruising and soreness and feeling crappy 110% of the time sucks. But such is stimming. I leave this here for posterity, to say these bruises may be the wounds of war necessary to finally get a baby.

Good luck, IVF sisters. I’m with ya.

It’s all about the Benjamins, baby

Spoiler alert: Infertility is expensive. I often feel like not only does my body not cooperate, but neither do my finances. Some lucky people make babies for free, ya know?

Thankfully, my absolute favorite resource, FertilityIQ, wants to help ease the financial burden of IVF. To celebrate helping 250,000 people with their doctor and clinic reviews, they’re giving away a $10,000 IVF grant — cha-ching!

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The best part of this, in my opinion, is that to be entered to win, you just have to log on to the site and review your doctor or clinic. You’re helping someone else find the right doctor for them, which is awesome, and potentially pocketing $10k for your next (or current) IVF cycle. No need to pour your heart out telling your story, or creating a video for someone to judge. Just submit your review by March 9th. Read the details here and spread the word.

If someone that I referred wins the grant (I mean, how amazing would that be?!), I’ll also get $2,500, of which I will donate half to someone I know who doesn’t have the means to try IVF to build her family. Because pay it forward, right? This community supports their own!

Good luck, and thank you to FertilityIQ for offering this generous grant!

 

*This post is not sponsored, I’m just helping to spread the word!

 

Stim Part Deux: Electric Boogaloo

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Friends, the day has arrived (finally): Day one of my stim cycle. Let’s grow some follicles and make some good quality eggs, shall we?

Pending the results of this morning’s progesterone check, I begin Lupron injections this evening. Here’s a fun refresher on the types of side effects I may experience during this phase of the cycle: fatigue, increased sweating, headaches, acne, trouble sleeping… Oh boy! During my first cycle nearly two years ago, I wrote about the frequent urination hitting me hard by day 8. Guaranteed that one pops up again.

Knowing what to expect physically and emotionally during a stimulation doesn’t make me excited to start injecting myself with hormones every night, but it does give me some comfort. One of the most difficult mental hurdles last time I did this was overcoming the fear of the unknown. Perhaps no two cycles are alike, though?

Mentally, where am I? That is, of course, more complicated. Knowing that I can get through to the egg retrieval is one thing. I can handle tired, peeing a lot and crying at the drop of a hat. After the retrieval, though, the next six days are out of my hands. I’ll wait to hear how many eggs fertilize and grow to blastocyst stage. Then the embryos are biopsied and shipped for PGS and I’ll wait some more. That wait, though… that’s going to be the toughest one. It determines our next few months, our entire path for moving forward. Will there be any normal embryos? If so, how many? If not, how will I feel? Will I want to move right into adoption, or will I need to grieve the loss of my fertility?

None of these questions will have answers for at least the next month. As we get dangerously close to April, no less. The worst month of the year.

So stay tuned for some fun!

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(I really love Happy Endings. Can you tell?)