When your heart keeps breaking

Going into my first IVF cycle I didn’t understand just how high my hopes would be. I thought, as long as we come out of this stim cycle with frozen embryos, I’m good. And we did.

But I’m not good. I got my period several days ago and have been stewing ever since. I went through the stages of grief. Spotting is normal during implantation and this is only a little more than that… Then my period would all but stop and I’d feel relieved and silly that I overreacted. Then, hours later, more red.

Little 3AB didn’t stick around and that sucks. It really just sucks. I’m angry that for what I’ve put my body through over the last several weeks I don’t have much to show for it. I’m still waiting. How am I still waiting?!

How has this thing that happens for a majority of the population — often by accident — not happened for me after three and a half years of time, money and effort? I’m angry. I’m sad. I don’t understand it. I can’t understand it. I can’t let it go.

I’ll focus on the positive — a future Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) — later. I’ll dust myself off and gather the pieces… later. For now my heart is broken again. It’s my new normal and I hate it.

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Signs

I’m kind of a superstitious person. Sometimes. Okay, much of the time. I don’t think I’ll break my mother’s back if I step on a crack in the sidewalk, but if I notice the crack I’ll probably avoid it.

My biggest source of superstition is numbers. Specifically dates. I hold a lot of significance in birth dates, death dates, milestones and the like. Before my husband and I were engaged, I’d talked him into committing to a specific wedding date — July 5th (happy anniversary, love!). My lucky number (and birth date) is seven, and his five. I also would have accepted May 7th as a wedding date, but in 2013, that fell on a Tuesday. Joining two significant numbers together into an important date of unity felt very special. I was not in love with getting married on the hottest day of the year in New York City, but some things were just more important.

Each time we’ve used medical intervention to conceive I’ve found that the expected due dates fell on the birthdays of very important people in my life. The first was my brother’s birthday. The second was my best friend’s (also the day before my aunt’s, who’d died the year earlier). I will never forget them. They’re tattooed on my soul.

When we arrived at the embryo transfer last week, I was on the look out for signs. The date that we’re expected to find out if 3AB “takes” will be during a significant week, but not the specific date. I wanted more of a connection.

I got it.

My embryologist, whom I’d met before but somehow never made the connection, shares a last name with my family. It’s the name of my mother, brother and stepfather. The moment that I read her name embroidered on her scrubs, I felt warm. I literally stopped her mid-sentence and told her she shared a named with my family and that that was such a wonderful gift to me on a day when I was feeling scared. This isn’t a very common name, particularly in the South.

I immediately perked up and held that warmth during the procedure.

My husband asked me after, while I was changing back into my clothes, why I hadn’t further explained the name significance to the embryologist. I knew I could fully form the words without crying. My stepfather died very suddenly five years ago. He was so important to me. I couldn’t say that out loud then, and at that moment I don’t think I would have wanted to. Because I didn’t feel sad when I saw her name and felt the connection – I felt happy. I felt like he was showing me that this was going to be okay. He swooped in with the support that he’d given me throughout my childhood and early adult life.

Thanks for the sign, Dad.

IVF: TWW

Right now, there’s a blastocyst swimming around in my uterus looking for a cozy spot to park and grow. I picture it a little like Dory in Finding Nemo, actually, but I biologically know it doesn’t really swim. The embryo we transferred on Wednesday was a grade 3AB, which I’m told by the many, many trained professionals that have seen my anatomy in the last week, is great.

The transfer went smoothly and was not at all painful like my egg retrieval. Some discomfort and pressure with a very full bladder, but a cake-walk, relatively speaking. It took about 10 minutes from start to finish and was fascinating to watch on the ultrasound screen. On the grainy screen, my husband and I watched the entire process as my doctor put little 3AB in where he/she belongs.

Now, we wait…

I’m relieved to have the injections over, and certainly grateful for the end of the pain of my Dark Willow ovary. Every other time I’ve been in this TWW limbo has been me white-knuckling through the anxiety of the wait. And while I’m certainly eager to see if 3AB is successful, I feel mostly relief that I have my first IVF cycle behind me, regardless of the outcome. 3AB is in there now and I just have to keep it as safe as I can.

While 3AB swims around looking for that warm and inviting spot, Anna, Elsa, Olaf, Kristoff and Anakin are now on ice. We were able to freeze five embryos. Two more of good quality (two more 3ABs), and three more of good/fair that appeared likely to survive the freezing and thawing process. When I texted my sister-in-law  about this process, she sent me a gif from Frozen, and the embryo “names” were born. Its become an amusing inside joke, and one I’m sure I’ll repeat pretty regularly over the next few decades. I’ve denoted Anna and Elsa as the two superior embryos, only because they were frozen together, but I’m personally pulling for Olaf to make it to my uterus next time. If only because it will be endlessly funny to call him Olaf in utero.

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Visualizing the possible

First, a fun fact*: An enzyme in pineapple could help an embryo implant into the uterus. I’ve been eating pineapple like it’s my job.

*I’m using “fact” quite liberally here. I mostly find this bit of information fascinating, and I happen to like pineapple (at least for now).

My acupuncturist recommended that I come in for a treatment 24 hours prior to my embryo transfer. As I lay down on the table, she explains the points she’ll hit to get my blood flowing well to my uterus in advance of tomorrow’s “big day.”

Before she leaves me with a dozen needles sticking out of various points on my legs, hands and tummy, she tells me to visualize what will happen tomorrow. Picture a perfect embryo entering a warm home and finding a nice, cozy spot to implant. If I’d thought about it too much, it might seem silly to picture this in my mind, but it certainly can’t hurt.

Then before she closes the door to the room, she says to picture what is to come in the months ahead. A healthy, growing bump; a happy mama to be. Visualize what I could look like in four, five months as the leaves turn. A Thanksgiving with a big, full belly (and lots of pie just for me… mmm… pie). Then picture laboring my child and holding him or her in my arms for the first time. The moment my husband sees his son or daughter. The hair color. The tiny but strong grip on my finger.

Imagining my child was very difficult for me to do. After three and a half years of waiting and two miscarriages, I don’t allow myself to picture a future with a baby with blonde hair (my husband’s) and green eyes (mine). It’s simply too painful to fathom that being real anymore.

As I lay there, I imagined my brain knocking down walls. I allowed myself to inch closer to visualizing this little person – half me, half my husband.

I left the room after my treatment very definitively wanting to take a picture tomorrow of me, my husband and our IVF nurse. If this is successful, I’ll hang that photo in the nursery in some months of the people that made my dreams come true.

If tomorrow doesn’t take, I’ll be glad to have a photo of us filled with hope for that little blondie with the green eyes, even if we have to wait longer.

23 eggs and 12 embryos later

I am basically a human farm animal.

My IVF cocktail of Lupron, Follistim and Menopur worked so well that, even though the growing took the full 12 nights, my doctors were able to retrieve 23 eggs from my incredibly swollen ovaries. The last few injections had become uncomfortable, for sure, but I was anticipating that the discomfort would subside not long after the retrieval procedure.

Nope.

While getting 23 eggs was incredibly successful by any measure, the discomfort was really just beginning. Apparently it’s pretty uncommon, but the days following my retrieval were very painful. Aside from the normal bloating going into it, the bloating became worse and was accompanied by shooting pains in my lower abdomen basically any time I moved. My retrieval was on Friday, and by Saturday night — feeling worse than I had the previous day (shout out to my anesthesia for keeping me fairly out of it!) — I emailed my nurse to say “the good news is that the lab called and said we have THIRTEEN embryos that have fertilized and appear normal, but the bad news is I feel like someone tried to gut me like a fish, but failed.”

I’m not a religious person, but IVF nurses are angels and should be carried around by stunning shirtless men (or women, if they prefer) while being fed grapes. I’ve only known my IVF nurse for about six weeks but I trust her more than I do some of my own family members. She is, no lie, one of the best people I’ve ever met, and regardless of what happens next, I am so grateful for her help and encouragement in my life. Thank you.

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#IVFnursesFTW

After spending the weekend almost exclusively in bed with varying degrees of pain, I was called back to the doctor today to ensure that nothing was wrong, since it’s abnormal to still be experiencing discomfort several days after retrieval. The very straight forward doc that I’ve seen only once before checked me out, while noting that I am not one of those annoying patients that complains about everything. With help of the ultrasound, he said that my left ovary was “enormous,” and would most certainly be the cause of most of the discomfort. I also had some fluid behind my uterus, but not enough to cause for concern. Non-medically speaking this means that my ovary is saying, “WTF did you do to me?!” and is seriously pissed. Not that I blame her.

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My left ovary has gone all Dark Willow on me.

In much more positive news, I am the very lucky winner of TWELVE “good” embryos! #13 is lagging behind a bit, but still of the “fair” camp. Despite leading with what a crappy retrieval experience I’ve had physically, I am thrilled that, if I had any desire to, I could make a football team with these little guys (or girls). While I don’t have any intention of creating a family of Duggars, it makes me feel quite positive that the embryologist will have lots of squirmy cell clusters from which to choose the best one. YAY 12!!

My transfer is scheduled for Wednesday. To be continued…