Monday, December 31, 2012

good riddance, 2012 (this is a depressing post, beware)

On this day last year, I was excited for 2012. I was to start Lupron shots on January 1. Hubby and I went away for NYE to a TREE HOUSE (yes, it was SUPER cool). We took the dogs and I took ALL of my Lupron. I was nervous about my first injection but I was also so so so excited. IVF was to fix it all. We were to be parents around Halloween 2012. This was it for us and we were ecstatic.

Instead ... 2012 sucked.

January: My body went through so much. A failed IVF where I injected myself thrice daily with hormones most people don't even know how to pronounce or what they do.

February: I fell into a deep depression when IVF failed and we had no frozen embryos.

March: I had a chemical pregnancy. My second. And my beloved dog was diagnosed with heart cancer and given 1 day to 1 month to live (fortunately, she continues to defy medicine and is still around today).

April: My BiL and SiL (who got pregnant the first month they tried, and got pregnant the week we were terminating our July 2011 ectopic) gave birth to their perfect daughter. We had our appointment with donor egg.

May: While riding my bike, a woman almost ran me over in her car. Shockingly, that "episode" is on-going and causing me stress.

June: My body didn't respond properly to the meds and I thought the donor egg cycle would be canceled.


August: So happy. Pregnant. Visited family.

September: World crashed. 9 week miscarriage and D&C. Fell into another deep depression. And Molly the kitty was diagnosed with cancer.

October: Another chemical pregnancy. My third.

November: Molly the kitty died.

December: Nothing yet, but there are still 6 1/2 hours left in this god-forsaken year.

This time last year, I said to myself "wow, 2011 sucked, 2012 can't be worse." I suppose I tempted or even challenged 2012 to prove me wrong.

It succeeded. I was wrong.

This year, I say this to 2013: "I know you could be worse. I am asking - begging - you to be better."

I enter 2013 with no expectations on the pregnancy front. I realize there is ABSOLUTELY NO GUARANTEE to our next donor egg cycle. I am scared shitless of this next round. But I am ready and am HOPING 2013 will be my year. I hope this applies to so many of you, too.

Fuck you, 2012. I didn't need to be shown I could survive this shit. I didn't need you to remind me or teach me that I am a strong mother fucker. I could have been perfectly happy in life without ever learning these lessons. Universe, I am begging you to allow me to learn no more hard lessons in the reproductive front. I won't be naive and ask you to never make me learn more hard lessons. I know life will always throw horribly hard things my way. I am just begging you to give me and hubby a break and to give us a baby or two (or three)!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

To those recovering from a recent loss

I have been thinking about this topic recently and wanted to blog about it. Three months ago - in the middle of September - I attended my first RESOLVE meeting. At that meeting, I broke into tears when I told the group I had my 9 week miscarriage just 2 weeks earlier. I cried as I told them I was there, at the meeting, because I didn't know what else to do. That I had no hope left, and without hope, what does an infertile do. Hope is all that gets each and every one of us out of bed each day, on with our lives, and on with another cycle.

Three months later (last Tuesday), I attended the December RESOLVE meeting. There, at my urging, was a woman I met at my yoga for fertility class. She had a total failure of a fresh donor egg cycle 2 weeks earlier and was so sad and in a state of shock (donor egg is supposed to work, dammit). I urged her to go to RESOLVE and she showed up. She has no hope. She doesn't know what to do next. They have two frozen embryos (that's all that's left) and she is so scared of doing another attempt.

At the RESOLVE meeting, I thanked everyone there (even those I'd never met before) for helping me get back on my feet. For essentially saving me, my marriage, and my reproductive attempts. I thanked the "collective power circle" (what I called them) for being there, once a month, for me to go to. I thanked the few women in the group who are part of the smaller RESOLVE group we started. We are meeting 2 weeks after every official monthly meeting. I looked at her when I thanked them for helping me find hope again and for helping me get back on my feet.

It felt good to be able to thank them and to realize that I have hope again and that I am out of my very deep and dark place and back to steady ground.

So, to you out there who is dealing with a recent loss and who feels like you can't go on I tell you this: time heals every wound. Infertility is horrible for many reasons, but one of those reasons is that each month / each period / each pregnancy announcement is another reminder of what isn't working out as we hoped. It's a vicious cycle or a constant scratching off a feeble scab. The "good" thing about a devastating loss or a failed cycle is that it is a tragedy that stays put. Meaning as each day comes, another day is put between you and that tragedy. Meaning time does allow that wound to scab over.

When I was in my darkest place after our 9 week donor egg bank miscarriage, I barely got out of bed in the morning. When I got home in the evenings, I went through the motions and got the dogs walked and the dogs / cats / chickens fed. Then I promptly got into bed and watched tv on the computer. For. Hours. I didn't make dinner and hubby would come home and find me sobbing to some tv show that wasn't even a sad tv show. I hadn't eaten and he had to scramble to find something to make into a meal (no food in the house because I didn't go to the grocery store). I barely slept at night and often wound up "sleeping" on the sofa. For those who remember my other blog, I spent many a sleepless night on the sofa after the ectopic in 2011, so it appears that's where I end up when I'm really sad. I didn't answer the phone when loved ones called and didn't listen to voice mails until about 6-7 weeks after the miscarriage. I didn't even respond to emails. I told hubby I was not trying ever again, informed him I was going back on birth control to avoid any more of the stupid chemical pregnancies, and even threatened him with divorce (to set him free so he could meet and make babies with a fertile). It was horrible and I never thought I'd get out of it.

I literally never ever thought I'd get out of it.

But I did. Time healed the deepest of wounds I have ever experienced. I can talk about the September miscarriage now without shedding a tear. I can talk about our next plans without shedding many tears. I am even cautiously excited (read: scared shitless) about the cycle we'll do sometime in 2013. Most of all, I am grateful that I have found hope again and that I no longer feel as though I have ton resting on my shoulders and chest.

I'm not saying it'll happen quickly for others. Or that I pretend to know everything or even close to everything. I write this post to share my own story of healing and to - hopefully - instill an ounce of hope in you that you will heal and get strong again and get through this.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

HUGE decision made - here we go again

We spent all week humming and haaing about what to do next. We were given 4 donor options - those 4 donors have a "small set" that has been made available to us. Meaning, there are 4 donors who have 5 eggs frozen as a "small set." That's what we asked for. Of the 4, there was 1 who looked awesome at first. Then we noticed that her paternal and material grandparents have lymphoma / leukemia, pancreatic cancer and Alzheimer's. That was too nerve-wracking for us to accept, so we had to axe her. She looked great because she - like our previous donor - is young and looks similar to me. But those diseases just scared us too much and since it won't be us getting sick with those later in life, we didn't feel entitled to accept that donor.

That left one more who looked interesting to us. Unlike the other 2 options, this final one is fair in coloring (meaning, she looks like me). She has healthy siblings who have children, she has healthy parents (save one diagnosis that isn't genetic), she has two children of her own AND she is a proven donor. She's an engineer and is athletic.

But ... she donated those eggs at age 32. We know the set she donated from gave a family twins. But still. She's 32. When we switched to the donor egg bank program, our Portland doctor told us to avoid two things: IVF left-over eggs that were donated and donors over 30. HOLY SHIT we're going AMA!

A blogging friend reminded me that there are TONS of 32 year olds who get pregnant just by looking at their partner. Hubby and I thought about our friends who got pregnant in their early 30s and we realized there are a fair amount of them who got pregnant quickly and easily.

So ... WE MADE THE DECISION. And emailed Seattle the news.

Our new favorite number is 339.

Our reproductive future lies with 339.

Not that we absolutely won't do anything further, but our conversations are really leaning towards one of two things if this doesn't work: (1) hire an adoption attorney and put the work in the hands of someone, or (2) move to Africa and help animals / humans there are just move past this phase. As my hubby VERY APTLY pointed out, there is a LOT that is bigger and more important than this journey we've been stuck in. We are not defined by whether or not we have children. And there is plenty we can give back to the world if we are not limited and held back by having children.

Who knows what decision will come next. As you can imagine, I hope not to have to make that decision. But we are prepared with options in the (likely) event that we have to.

Now I will take the next few months to get HEALTHY and READY for this cycle. I am in no rush to get it done. Maybe we'll start birth control sometime in January or February, to give you an idea of what timeline we're on. My yoga for fertility class continues for another 6 sessions (and then probably will start a new session) and I'm continuing to go to RESOLVE big and small-group meetings. I'm back to biking daily to work, walking the dogs, eating well and sleeping ok.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Little bit o' hope and a whole lot of test results

Hope. I blogged about it on my old blog. It is a powerful thing that has caused me much consternation. When I have a little bit o' hope and things don't go as I hope, I am mad at myself for feeling hopeful and allowing the disappointment to win out. But, back in September, when I had zero hope, I was scared shitless. I talked at my first RESOLVE meeting about having absolutely no hope and feeling very lost. I told the other women (and two men) there that I had come to the meeting because I needed to find hope again. So, during this TTC process, apparently (for me) hope is really a necessity. Without it, I am lost. I am not ready to give up on this journey, so I need hope to stick around and allow me the roller-coaster of emotions that comes with it.

With that, I bring you the (stupid) hope from this cycle. Despite three years of unsuccessful trying-on-our-own, one failed IVF cycle, and a whole lot of chemical pregnancies, I had it in my mind that THIS cycle would work. I'd take Femara for the first time, I'd inject myself with progesterone, and It. Would. Work.

You can imagine my surprise (insert: sarcasm) when it didn't work. Did I really think it would work? My actions would tell otherwise: I took hot baths most of the days post-ovulation and I had a glass of wine - or more - most every evening. I am not a drinker and usually, I'd say I have a glass of wine or a beer maybe 2-3 times a month. If that. So my "cravings" for a glass of Portuguese vino verde each evening was just bizarre. Do I think it my subconscious giving me a "reason" when this cycle didn't work? It's very possible. My inner psyche is a very strong force. I wouldn't be surprised if the baths and the wine weren't my mind's way of saying "I'll give you a reason other than the standard 'my body sucks' that makes you cry every month." Sure enough, no tears were shed.

I tested early. Why? Not because I thought it worked, but because I wanted to be able to quit the progesterone shots asap. Sure enough, when I saw a bright fucking white hpt on Thursday, buh-bye PIO, hello end of butt/hip pain. It felt good to be in control and to be the one who said "enough" and who didn't drag things on until the end. Now I wait, rather patiently if I do say so myself, for my period to arrive.

Next month = NO MORE FEMARA. I hated that crap. I spotted on it, which is a BAD thing for someone who already has problems growing a fluffy lining. And it also did one of two things: I either developed a cyst the size of a grapefruit or I ovulated a dozen eggs. Either way, I was in so. much. pain around ovulation time that it just wasn't worth it - especially knowing my lining was now compromised, thanks to Femara.

So this month, I will take my Estrace tablets to grow a cushy lining and then also do the PIO shots to maintain the lining. Who the hell knows what will happen, but I'm not counting on much.


In other news ... we have begun the DONOR EGG SEARCH again. Holy shit. Just writing that makes my anxiety levels go up. You should see me when hubby and I spend time looking at potential donors. If you read my old blog, you'll remember that our Seattle clinic changed their options and no longer offers the 5-egg egg bank option. They grandfathered us in for our summer cycle, which was nice, but it was implied that we wouldn't get that option again. We had a devastating loss. I emailed Seattle last month and laid out all the reasons they should grant my request to allow us to do a 5-egg egg bank option again. AND THEY AGREED! Unfortunately, our donor isn't available on a small-set option and she can't do a total fresh IVF cycle. So we're looking at 4 other donors who have a small-set (5 eggs) available. We've narrowed it down to two and now we wait on some answers.

HOLY SHIT. This is really happening. Again. Cue rising anxiety levels.

The best news about this is that the whole cycle, including meds, should cost us no more than $5K. That is a lot to someone who has never gone through IF. But to any IF strugglers or survivors, $5K for a cycle is the equivalent of chump change. At least it is to me. (also, that is a joke, $5K is a shit ton of money, but it's a helluva lot less than we thought we were going to have to spend - $30K - so we're just ecstatic.)

I am thinking we might wait until spring to do this cycle for a few totally random reasons. That might change, but for now, I am not feeling AT ALL in a rush to do this again. I need to get my body and mind completely ready for this POTENTIALLY FINAL step in our TTC attempts. But we're on it and we are both kind of excited.

We need to get it paid for by the end of December 2012 so it goes towards taxes this year. Given how much we've spent, we stand a good chance of getting to deduct some of it, so we may as well pay for as much as possible NOW! Hell, I may even pay for the meds up front and just tell them not to order the meds now. Again, I'm thinking of beating back Uncle Sam just a bit.


Speaking of bills and Uncle Sam, the bills from the D&C are starting to roll in. So too are bills from my pregnancy ultrasounds. I'm not sure why I have to pay for any of them, as I have met my deductible. I have an appointment with the HR woman at work to look at them and discuss. 


Finally, I got the results of most of my tests. I am still awaiting results from three tests the naturopathic doctor ran last week (follow-up D, B and mthfr), but the rest of them are in. And they are almost all NORMAL.

Good news results (all normal):

Factor II Prothrombin Mutation: Negative (normal)
Anti Mullerian hormone: Normal (1.88 ng/mL) (they want to see 0.51-7.27 ng/mL)
FSH CD1: Normal (7.16) (they want to see 1.98-11.6 mIU/mL)
Estradiol CD1: Normal (45.71) (they want to see 26.6-161 pg/mL)
Fetal material testing: Normal (46xx)
Karyotyping for me and hubby: Normal (both of us)
Lupus Anticoagulant Panel: Negative (normal)
Homocysteine fasting over 12 hours: Normal (6.9) (they want to see 3.3-10.4 umol/L)
Anti-Cardiolipin IgG: Normal (5) (they want to see 0-14 GPL)
Anti-Cardiolipin IgM: Normal (9) (they want to see 0-12 MPL)
Beta-2 Glycoprotein IGG: Normal (1) (they want to see 0-20 SGU)
Beta-2 Glycoprotein IGM: Normal (5) (they want to see 0-20 SMU)
Antithrombin Activity (ATIII): Normal (105) (they want to see 75-135%)
Factor V Leiden Gene Mutation Assay: Negative (normal)
Hemoglobin A1C: Normal (5.1) (they want to see 4.0-6.0%)
Thyroid panel:
          Thyroid Stimulating Hormone: Normal (1.810) (they want to see .300-4.700 mIU/mL) (but for TTC, below 2.5 is ideal)
          T4 Free: Normal (0.87) (they want to see 0.75-2.00 ng/dL)
Prolactin: Normal (18.3) (they want to see 2.8-29.2 ng/mL)

Good news results in that things are NOT normal (which is good to someone with unexplained IF):

Vitamin D 25 Hydroxy: INSUFFICIENT (20.6) (they want to see 30.0-100.0 ng/mL)
            Treatment: started 4000 IUs of D3 vitamin
Natural Killer Cell Assay: ELEVATED
             Treatment: start an IV of egg/soy just before potential conception

What this means: We didn't find a whole lot wrong with me, which is kind of frustrating. But we did find two things that have been linked - kind of outside the box, but still with some studies - to infertility and miscarrying. I'll take it. Hell, I'll run a marathon with it! It's something, right!?

My naturopath also suggested that I may not have an egg quality problem and that my eggs did so poorly during IVF because of the stimulation and collection methods. She gave me some (again, outside the box) reading materials about that and asked me to send her my exact IVF protocol. Interesting, eh?!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Be your OWN advocate

I have learned a lot over the last almost-three years of infertility. But the biggest lesson, unfortunately, is that I have to be my own advocate.

And you each must be your own advocate, too.

Our REs specialize in getting us pregnant, but when push comes to shove, they have lives and families and we are just work. They go home at night, most often to their own children. They don't have an incentive to work on their off weekends or to stay at work late to call us. There is an occasional exception, but I suspect those of us who repeatedly don't get pregnant despite their reproductive techniques become tiring to them.

So we need to be our own advocates. Speak up, speak loud, speak often. If you learn of a test that might apply, ask for it if you want it done.

Today I was reminded of the importance of being our own advocates. A blogger who has become a friend learned her recent 8w miscarriage died because of Trisomy 12. The only reason this blogger got the D&C this time was because she asked for it. The shocking news is that she has had FIVE prior 6-8 week losses and not-a-once did her doctor order a D&C or suggest karyotyping. It wasn't until this blogger / friend spoke up and asked for it that it was done. And while the information she learned today is very difficult on her and her husband, it is information and might mean the difference between more losses and her finally getting a take-home baby.

SO, please, BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE. Even if your insurance is paying the bill, your RE / OB is still getting paid large amounts of money to focus on one thing: YOUR REPRODUCTION! You are entitled to get what you want (i.e. what you pay for) and you should NOT be ashamed to speak up.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Yoga for Fertility

UPDATE: This was one of the best classes I've taken since I started (on and off) yoga in 2003. There was no pressure to get the poses perfect. It was 100% about feeling good and relieving stress and aches and pains. I cannot WAIT for next Sunday's class!!!


This evening, I start an 8 week Yoga for Fertility class.

A little background information. I organized a yoga class at my office for a few years. We met every Monday over the noon hour and had some great instructors from a local yoga studio. When I did my fresh IVF cycle in January 2012, I stopped going because I didn't want to try to explain to anyone, including my yoga instructor, and have stuff get out. I took 3 weeks off work for the cycle, so it was pretty easy to avoid the class that semester. I skipped the next few sessions, too, including this summer because I did my donor egg bank FET.

I need to get back into yoga, though. My mind and my body need it.

So when a woman I met through the RESOLVE group I just started attending emailed about a Yoga for Fertility class she'd found, I got excited. I got in touch with two IRL friends who are battling IF and also a few other women I met through RESOLVE. We pulled together 6 women who are in and the class starts this evening.

During this IF journey, I have done just about everything to increase my chances of getting pregnant. I didn't drink coffee for the first 9 months of TTC, so I am quite sure my morning lattes are not the reason I'm not getting pregnant. I've taken Chinese herbs and vitamins. I've done acupuncture. I've exercised and I've not exercised, depending on what I thought would help my cycle. I've pricked, prodded and poked myself or allowed myself to be pricked, prodded and poked by others. None of it has worked.

So ... do I think Yoga for Fertility will work for me? Will I be one of the lucky ones the teacher told us about: one of the ones who gets pregnant and leaves the class? NOPE. Not me. But I do think it could help the other women in the class (some of whom are friends) and I also firmly believe it will help my MENTAL HEALTH. I am looking forward to a few things, including (1) being in a room with other infertiles who understand me and why I am there, (2) having 90 minutes of quiet time to myself and my body, and (3) helping my body start to recover from the war that 2012 waged on it. I am also (4) looking forward to further developing relationships with the women I met through RESOLVE as they are strong, independent, kind women who - infertility aside - I would like to be friends with. Finally, I hope the quiet space to reflect will (5) help me get through this next round of holidays. Last Christmas, I wrote my mother a card saying "hopefully this will be your last Christmas without a grandkid." Last Christmas, I was 7 days away from starting Lupron in my fresh IVF cycle. With that history in mind, you can understand how this Christmas has an extra sting to it (the holidays have their sting for all of us IFers).

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My sister

Part of the reason for needing a new blog address was realizing I could not write about any subject as need be. I shared my old blog with a lot of IRL friends back when I started it in January 2011. I also shared it with a lot of family members, including my sister.

This blog post - per the title - is about my sister. She's 2 1/4 years younger than me and is my only sibling. She lives on the other side of the world in Sydney.

Back in April 2012, my sister and her girlfriend visited us. They had been together 11 months at that point but were already talking about spending their lives together. In a coffee shop one morning, my sister tells me "I just don't understand how you can be not happy for your sister-in-law" (my sister-in-law was 8 months pregnant at that point). I tell her "you can't understand what it's like to battle infertility - unless you go through it." My sister says "what are you going to do when I get pregnant?" A little taken aback by the whole conversation, I said "well that's a ways off, so hopefully I don't have to worry about it." She declares "we're going to start trying at the end of the year."

I didn't tell her "wow, that's quick" or "you know, 18 months into other relationships you've told family 'this is the one' and then things have gone way south - why don't you feel this relationship out for a few years first." I just smiled at her and that was it.

She put me on notice - the end of 2012 is going to bring some interesting news. I had fully hoped and expected that I'd be well on my way to being a mom by now. Had I not miscarried in September, I would have heard yesterday's phone conversation with a baby belly of a 5 1/2 month pregnant lady.

Instead, when my sister called yesterday, I still had an empty womb / heart / 2nd bedroom. We chatted for a few moments and then I said "you said you have to go in 10 minutes, wasn't there something you want to talk about?" I thought I KNEW WHAT WAS COMING. I actually expected her to tell me they're already pregnant. Fortunately, they're not. But they have started the process.

My sister was excited as she told me about having the hsg test done, and getting blood work done. They go back to a fertility specialist on 12/11 - two days after my sister's 33rd birthday. Not-a-once did she stop to ask how this "news" makes me feel. Not-a-once did she show any indication that she understands what I have been through. When she and her girlfriend started dating, my husband and I had already been TTCing for over a year. We'd already had one loss and were (we didn't know it) two months away from an ectopic disaster.

Hilariously, my sister flippantly mentions IVF. "We will meet with the doctor who will tell us whether inseminations will work or whether we should move straight to IVF." It was so strange to hear of her mention this ENORMOUS ordeal as if she was talking about a toe nail clippling or a hair cut. Some women toss up whether or not to do IVF for months if not longer. Within two weeks of starting the TTC process, my sister is deciding whether she'll go straight to IVF. Made me throw up in my mouth a little bit.
My sister has always been on the selfish side. She was a professional athlete before retiring from the sport and even swam in the finals of the Athens Olympics. You don't get to be the top of your game (at one point, she was #1 in the world) without being selfish and egotistical. The unfortunate part is that her selfishness appears to have carried into her personal life, despite the fact that she retired from swimming over 4 years ago.

I don't know what to do. Her announcement of starting TTC sent me into a full-on crisis mode. It has been hard - no, impossible - enough watching friends succeed once and then even lap me with a second. But the idea of my baby sister getting there first is crushing me.

I thought I was in a total "I don't give a fuck" stage, and was preparing to blog about that phase. Instead, I find myself feeling totally and utterly underwater again.

This "news" of my sister's came on the wake of one of the WORST fights my husband and I have ever had. We were just trying to recover from it - and were doing a pretty good job - until I got that phone call.

Those who followed my old blog will remember that my husband's step-brother called us about 3 weeks after we terminated the ectopic pregnancy (he called in August 2011). The step-brother was excited to tell us that he and his wife were pregnant. In the conversation he had with my husband, he showed NOTHING to suggest he knew it would hurt us. He seemed unaware that he should maybe bring it up quietly rather than over the top happy. Now the same thing happens, just on my side of the family.

I hate myself for this next statement. HATE MYSELF: I hope they have a little bit of trouble TTC. I hope they have 6 months of failed IUIs before one works. Mainly so my judgmental, holier than though, high on herself sister gets a taste of what I've been through. When I had my D&C in September, I got a phone call (which I didn't pick up because I was sobbing in bed). I didn't get a card, flowers, or even an email from my sister.

This makes me feel so far away from the only sibling I have in this world. This whole TTC / IF journey has isolated me in ways I never could have expected. I have withdrawn from social settings and from many friends. My husband and my relationship is strained. Now I add my sister to the list of things I feel I am losing as a result of IF.

Some might tell me "well, just change it. Change your list and your outlook" (and by "some," I include my darling husband). To anyone who has battled IF, though, you know it's not that simple. It is a seemingly never-ending, vicious cycle of loss and grief ... of jealousy and anger ... of sadness and isolation. It is not something I can just "change" and "get over."

Fortunately, my sister and her girlfriend will not do their first insemination until April 2013 at the earliest. This is because my sister needs to find a new job and then make sure she's been in that new job 3-5 months before they get pregnant so she can take full advantage of paid leave. I can only hope it takes her a few months to even get a new job.

This gives me 5 months to get knocked up. If I ever thought the pressure was on before, I was wrong. NOW, it is on.

Game on. Bring it. Holy shit I am scared. My anxiety level went through the roof last night and is still not back down.


I just realized, while in tears listening to P!nk's Try, that this is the first (future) pregnancy I won't be able to run away from.