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.

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Infertility is really just a crap-ton of waiting

I’m a few days from starting my period. While nothing tops the two-week wait (TWW) on the anxiety scale, the time waiting to start your next IVF cycle is also stressful. In early January my husband and I repeated our lab work, and I had my 8,000th mock transfer and saline ultrasound to ensure all systems were go to start my last stim cycle. Other than a high TSH (thyroid) level, I’m all set. I wasn’t that surprised that my thyroid check was elevated since I’d been off my hypothyroidism meds for about 10 weeks because it conflicted with the prescribed appetite suppressant I was on for weight loss.

[Quick update on the weight loss: Somehow I’ve managed to quell my emotional eating inner demons, and am down 29.5 pounds! I picked up good habits and flipped that elusive switch that allowed me to rethink how I approach food. Particularly sugar. Perhaps the only person more surprised with my progress than me is my husband who knew all too well how unlikely I was to follow-through with this. It certainly has been challenging, but it’s pretty nice to feel like I am crushing. it. in just this one aspect of my life. Having said that, I’m about to stim again with hormones aplenty, so we’ll see what I’m made of over the next few weeks.]

It feels like there’s nothing but waiting. It’s often infuriating. Particularly in those rare time frames when I actually feel physically and emotionally ready to go down the IVF rabbit hole again. Like, ya know, now.

The downtime between completing one cycle and starting another always varies wildly. In my case, it’s almost always been months when it comes to IVF. I did my first stim (and fresh transfer) in June 2016. In fertility terms, that’s probably 25 potentially good eggs ago. Who knows if it was one of those “wasted” eggs that was the golden one?

Then we did our first FET in November 2016. Bust. The second FET didn’t happen for another ten months. Then I got a little bit pregnant. While money was probably the most significant factor in that span of time, getting answers to why three perfectly normal-looking embryos in an otherwise healthy woman simply didn’t stick (spoiler alert: it was endometritis) was also on the list. Not to mention my emotional health.

Moving into this last cycle, we’re already several months removed from the chemical pregnancy, and we’ve decided to leave our last frozen embryo from our OG stim cycle in the freezer (we’ll test Kristoff with his future embryo sibs). Which, another aside: If Kristoff is the ONE embryo that turns out to be genetically normal after PGS I think my brain may actually explode.

While the Clomid made me insane and pack on the pounds, at least IUIs keep the pace moving. I knocked a bunch of those out in a couple of months.

So we’re into another year of this waiting. Year five. We’ve reached the five-year milestone in infertility even before we did in our marriage. How’s that irony. Just delightful.

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Maybe you’re just too fat to have a baby and other things no one said but I heard in my head

I’ve struggled with my weight for much of my adult life. I was very active in as a kid and through my teen years, and with only a few exceptions of the low-fat lifestyle trends of the 90s, I didn’t think all that much about what I ate. I started pretty steadily putting on weight in college, but for much of my early 20s remained only about a size or two bigger than I was when I graduated. I wouldn’t call myself a yo-yo dieter, but an slowly-moving, unmotivated yo-yo is a fairly apt description of my weight after 26 or 27.

Three years into fertility treatments, the scale isn’t too kind to me. It started to tick up when I started Clomid, then exploded during the transition from IUIs to IVF. Much of this was related to the hormones pumping through my body. It is also more literally tied to eating ice cream to dull the feelings of unsuccessful cycles, miscarriages and feeling like I’m completely broken. I can own that. All total I put on about 35 pounds in these three years and, in October when I met with the doctor offering a second opinion, was the heaviest I’ve ever been.

Over the course of that conversation, the new RE suggested that because of my weight, I was probably producing poor quality eggs, resulting in poor quality embryos, leading to lack of implantation. I wasn’t shocked by this assessment, but I was taken aback. This wasn’t a factor on the table with my Peyton Manning doctor. He never once said to me that I should consider putting the spoon down. I’d certainly read a bit online about BMI affecting egg quality, but if I’d asked and my doctor didn’t think it was the reason for three years of ultimately unsuccessful treatments, then it probably wasn’t… right?

In the moment, I left that RE’s office feeling absolutely deflated (like Tom Brady’s footballs… [I’m just going to keep running with these weird football analogies, so roll with it]). It was a deep cut to hear that my weight could be preventing me from achieving success. He’d told me that to take me on as a new patient, he’d want me to first lose 20 pounds. Twenty pounds caused by Clomid and ice cream and Estrace and pizza and watching everyone else become a mother.

Over the last four weeks I’ve used every ounce of brain space that I once reserved for progesterone dosages and ultrasound appointments to retrain myself to eat. Knowing myself well enough to know follow-through isn’t my strongest quality when it comes to a new routine, I joined one of the medically-supervised weight loss clinics that seem to be popping up on every corner. The staff has been supportive and has helped me address the areas of emotional eating that are the biggest triggers and challenges for me. I feel better, and I’m doing really well on their program. I’ve said goodbye to sugar (again), and have actually started to like the taste of Greek yogurt. I belong in a Dannon commercial.

I’m going to tick that 20 pounds off and keep going until we’ve pulled together the financials for another stim round. I can’t be the thing standing in my way of being a mom, so I’m not going to be.