FET Update #1

I officially started this cycle today with BCPs, so here we go again! I began bleeding early Friday morning, as expected, and the nurse then sent over our new schedule. Lots going on this week with a final Beta blood test tomorrow to assure it's decreased, then a Baseline Ultrasound on Tuesday, and, assuming that's all clear, starting Lupron on Thursday. Our transfer is scheduled for October 23rd. We plan to transfer two again and look forward to talking to the embryologist about which of our remaining 15 (!) frozen embryos he would recommend.

Both RC and I have continued to feel some sadness here and there about our first try not working. He has been more deeply sad about it, I think, because I have gone through so many similar disappointments. Unfortunately, I have some callouses built up around my heart. That sounds strange to say, but hopefully that makes sense to some of you. I do know I'll be over the moon when we get a positive outcome... and it will probably take a while to sink in. I also think I had already started to accept that our cycle hadn't worked, first with the negative HPTs, and then with the super low beta, on top of just not feeling much those last few days.

Today, I'm actually excited to go into a new cycle and am feeling positive about it. I heard three different examples this week of second IVF tries (FETs) working for people, and that feels very encouraging. One was a blogging friend from the Cal IVF FB site who actually just got her positive on the second try with a frozen embryo transfer from her donor IVF cycle.

The second was on a television show I watch in which one of the main character just happened to be going through an IVF cycle. I really related to when she tried to "do everything right" and had her hopes up with a 70% chance of success. Her second try, she and her husband tried to mediate their expectations; she said she felt similarly to the first cycle in terms of symptoms... but it was a success!

When I went to a friend's house for dinner last night to catch up and share the experience, she gave me the third example. She told me about the daughter of a friend who had gone through a lot of infertility ups and downs and, after adopting two children, ended up pregnant with twins on her second IVF round with an FET.

We will be adding a couple new medical strategies to the protocol this time. Firstly, I started taking Trental, a type of Viagra or vasodialator to increase uterine blood flow. Secondly, as I hoped, I will be taking more estrogen from the start of that stage - both patches and pills - to hopefully increase my lining more gradually and fully. I would love it if I could reach at least an 11 or 12mm thickness with my lining. If you had success with an IVF or FET, do you remember what your lining reached prior to transfer?

This cycle, I also intend to meditate more from the beginning. Do you think it's worth spending $59 on a specific FET meditation program from Circle & B1oom? It includes 11 meditations corresponding with different stages of the FET process and sounds like it really focuses on relaxation, stress relief, and empowerment during the post-transfer wait, which was anxiety-provoking and challenging for me last time. I found a few meditations in my meditation app, but I'm not yet sure of their production quality.

Lastly, we talked about getting out of town during the two-week-really 9-day-wait... maybe going to the coast and staying at an air bnb location for two or three days. When we were in the Sacramento hotel for a day and a half after the transfer, I felt like we were in a nurturing bubble. I felt close to RC, relaxed and cozy. I hope all these changes will improve our chances and support our embabies to implant!


Cycle Update 5

And, just like that, despite our great odds, this cycle is a bust. Or more specifically, a "chemical" pregnancy - the most ridiculous name I've ever heard for a very early pregnancy that stops developing.

When the three home pregnancy tests we took came back negative, my anxiety shot through the roof. It was, as they say, not a good sign. But we held out hope that maybe one or both of our embryos were late implanters and looked towards the Beta test that Friday.

The Beta test came back at 12, which, if you are familiar with Betas, is extremely low. They (as in your doctor and nurses) like to see it at least 30, preferably 50. But I did feel excited for a little while, just knowing I was pregnant; that something had started after so many tries with IUI before where nothing started at all. So, we hoped upon hope that it would double properly for the second Beta test on Monday.

On Monday, we drove to the lab, where they told us that the results hadn't been finalized or something. It was very confusing, but when we called the processing center, they faxed over the required confirmation paperwork to my doctor. So they could confirm they are my doctor. Even though the order said the doctor's name and had their signature at the bottom. Argh!

When that happened, they finally sent the results to both my doctor and the lab, and my nurse beat the lab to the punch and called right away. My nurse, who has been super helpful along the way, did not have a positive tone so I guessed even before I heard that the Beta had only risen to a 17. Disappointment does not describe the feeling. It's like a punch to the chest.

RC was immediately super sad, whereas I think I just went kind of numb. I think, too, that what I read about Betas, had indicated that it was extremely uncertain that there would be a positive ending. We decided to drown our sorrows that evening. It was effective, but now we are picking up the pieces and regrouping for a Frozen Embryo Transfer. I have stopped all medication and am waiting to bleed. Once that starts, I let my nurse know and we create a calendar for the FET cycle. We are super fortunate to have great quality frozen embryos to use.

Apparently, my clinic has a committee that meets to discuss cases that did not succeed, so we will be on the agenda. I look forward to hearing how they might want to tweak my protocols and medication. I definitely think I should start with more estrogen, since my lining was thin in the initial check and then barely reached the minimum level before starting progesterone. I think it was close to 9mm. I'd also like to check my progesterone shortly after transfer to assure it's where it should be.

On the two-week (well really 8-9 days) side, RC and I talked about getting out of town for a few days to help mediate my anxiety. Especially on days he worked, it was super challenging for me to get through those last few hours of the afternoon/evening before he got home. He's going to take a day or two off work, and I'm also going to pre-plan some fun and uplifting activities on the days we are in town. I also want to do some hypnobabies meditations - have any of you used those?

I guess we've turned the corner and are looking ahead to the new cycle, but I still feel a little lost and empty at times. We both got attached to the "perfect" little embabies that were transferred this cycle.


Cycle Update 4

Sorry I haven't blogged since I got back from Sacramento. I'm just getting to it now after pretty much being obsessed with being PUPO for the last few days.

Everything went great with the transfer. It was AMAZING to see the little "swoosh" on the ultrasound when the embryos were transferred to my uterus. It was uncomfortable holding my pee, especially since they were a half hour late (!), but the nurse let me release a little bit so it was tolerable. The catheter did hurt going in, but nothing else about the procedure hurt. We were given pictures of our beautiful Grade 1 embabies and have them on our wall now. I was pretty blissed out about having them inside me for the first day or two...

Yesterday, though, I felt so anxious, I ended up crying to RC when he got home from work. Today is not much better. I'm trying to distract myself but it's not working very well. I do think I have some classic infertility PTSD from the many previous unsuccessful cycles I did, and also, we have invested SO much into this IVF that I feel terrified of it not working. Somehow the 80% chance of success is not comforting me, even though I guess it should. I've had various symptoms, including:
  • A hot flash two days ago (7th). I've never had one before and wow, it was intense.
  • Feeling absolutely starving recently around 11am and *needing* to get food ASAP.  Initially, we had leftover moo shu chicken (yum), the next day it was an In-N-Out hamburger and fries, and today it was a deli turkey and cranberry sandwich and jalapeno chips.
  • Some light pressure-type cramping two days ago (7th) over an hour or hour and a half.
  • A wave of feeling really surreal/stony/out of it that evening. It felt like I was on something. I didn't want to lie down. I just walked around feeling whacked out. lol
  • Today, I've had a couple episodes of feeling light headed
  • Boobs got a little sore yesterday and a little more sore today, but not sharp jabs or stabs like people describe, but did get nipple sensations yesterday like blood flowing in for a couple seconds. Does estrogen or progesterone medication build up over time in the body to create more symptoms? I've been on these same doses for a week and a half and didn't feel much the first few days/week.
  • A really intense shooting feeling in lower, right pelvis area yesterday evening, and a lesser one following a couple minutes later on the left side.
  • Some fatigue in my right arm today, like when I'm holding a fork or a pencil, they feel too heavy to be holding up. Never heard of that symptom, have you? strange...
Probably all these could be related to the estrogen and progesterone I'm taking, right? I would love to get something more conclusive like throwing up or intense, pulsating cramps for multiple hours. Be careful what you wish for, right? Argh, it's just so anxiety-inducing to wait like this for something so important.

We are probably going to test late tonight, even though it's on the early side. Since we transferred at 11am on Wednesday, tonight would be on 5dpt of 5-day blastocysts. I'm not clear when people say it's best to wait until 5dpt, it means *after* five whole days or on the fifth day? Anyway, at this moment, I think we're going to start testing tonight. Fingers and toes and everything else crossed.


Cycle Update 3

It was so hard waiting until 3 PM yesterday to get my lining checked! Definitely experienced some anxiety, and during my client appointment,  I kept looking at the clock every 10 minutes or so.  I kept up with all my uterine lining building strategies, though, which included:

  • Drinking beet and pomegranate juice.
  • Taking L'arginine -  by the way, does anyone know if I should stop taking that after the transfer? 
  • Heating pad on abdomen.
  • Lots of water and warm liquids.
  • Keeping my feet warm by wearing socks – I do not like wearing socks!
  • And most importantly, of course, taking the additional estrogen in the form of two Estrace tabs per day.

Thank you to everyone who gave me ideas on how to help the process!

After my client appointment, I went and worked out, showered, and watch some TV to distract myself. Finally, the time rolled around to leave for my appointment. RC has been working weekends at a side job, so he wasn't around to help defuse my anxiety. Luckily, though, he called while I was driving to the Imaging Center, and we had a good check in.

The embryologist had also called me earlier that morning, so I had some fun information to share, like the fact that all 28 follicles yielded eggs! And a couple more possibly, he said!  He also said he would call me today, which is my current anxiety-provoking waiting game. LOL but he is also going to call us Monday to give an update.  Since our sperm extraction was surgical, they automatically do ICSI for fertilization, so that was done yesterday afternoon sometime. I can't wait to hear how many successfully fertilized! Fingers crossed.

Anyway, I made it to the lining check, and was of course dying with anticipation, until she told me… my lining was at 8 millimeters! Hallelujah, mega relief!I didn't care what else she measured or how long it took, I was completely excited and relieved for the rest of the time there.  We are now officially scheduled for a fresh embryo transfer this coming Wednesday! We are heading up to Sacramento again on Tuessday and will stay there until Thursday afternoon, just relaxing and watching funny movies in the hotel room after the transfer.  Do you have any suggestions of movies or shows that you find really funny?

OMG, the embryologist just called while I was writing this! So there were 26 mature eggs retrieved and out of those six were a little less mature.  Out of those 26, 23 fertilized and looked great, and two had a singular PN structure (don't ask me to explain that but something about both the sperm in the egg chromosomes being fully present).  He said that those latter embryos had maybe a 50% chance of making it to blastocyst, but he would be tracking them in a separate bubble just in case.  He said he did have to search for great sperm in the samples, but of the 23 eggs that fertilized, 80% of those sperm looked great. Next check in, Monday; I'm so excited!


Cycle Update 2

I don't do this often, but if you read regularly, would you consider leaving a comment on this post? I appreciate each comment, especially right now when I'm "in the thick of it" with this cycle. Thank you!

Sooo, three days until my lining check on the 28th! Time continues to creeep by, but our first of two trips to Sacramento is now right around the corner. Since my last post, I have lowered my daily lupron dose from 10 to 5 units and have begun my estrogen patches, changing them out every other day. Those that have done the patches know they leave a lovely trail of gummy outlines across your torso that only come off when I scrape them with my fingernails (rubbing alcohol was ineffective, but if anyone knows how to easily remove these, let me know!).

I investigated and decided I'm going to do an acupuncture treatment the day before transfer to help with blood flow to the uterus. There is some research to support this. Acupuncture has not been an enjoyable activity for me in the past, so I debated some on this decision. In the end, several people on my Cal IVF FB page felt it was helpful, the research seemed to specifically support receiving a treatment within 24 hours prior to transfer, and I decided to visit RC's acupuncturist here in town before we drive over to Sac. He said she does Japanese-style acupuncture with thinner needles, so fingers crossed.

We have continued our lively discussions about whether to transfer one or two. It seems that an individual's risk tolerance represents a huge factor in their opinion of what we should do. My brother has a very low tolerance for risk, and he had a conniption fit when I mentioned we're considering transferring two. The nurses at the clinic also seem clear in their opinion that they would recommend one. Several other people we have asked say something to the effect of, "You're putting so much into it, you should transfer two and get more bang for your buck." RC and I are currently in a two-day experimental period during which we are mentally choosing to transfer one and seeing how it feels and what comes up.

This experiment has already borne fruit in the form of inspiration to look up the specific statistics on the increased risk of preeclampsia, diabetes, and pre-term birth. After reviewing some reputable studies and websites yesterday, my current understanding and belief is that, while there is an increased risk of these issues surfacing, especially preeclampsia, if the 45-year-old+ embryo recipient is generally healthy (blood pressure, weight etc.) prior to transfer and is monitored frequently, the overall outcomes are positive and don't differ significantly from singleton pregnancies. I don't know why I didn't look up the specific details and statistics earlier, but I think maybe I was protecting my desire to transfer two. When we undertook this two-day experiment of planning to transfer one, it opened up willingness to investigate these issues further. In any case, I'm glad I did it and it yielded some useful information.

When I (finally!) had my first local obgyn appointment yesterday, she was very nice and encouraging but didn't have a clear opinion on the one versus two question. She just brought up pros and cons on either side. Same scenario when RC asked his friend and chiropractor. Both said it's not a question with a clear answer, and we need to discuss and decide as a couple. I guess they're right, and we are trying, but we are not there quite yet. Being established with a local doctor feels great, though, and at least I can get local orders for tests and monitoring now.

One more aspect I want to share about this two versus one decision... for many people, it would be a no-brainer: 70% chance of success with one vs. 80-85% with two, plus a 50% chance of twins if you transfer two? Transfer one of course! But when you have gone through many years of trying and failing, including 7 IUIs, which each had maybe a 10-15% of working tops,  10-15% is not a negligible number. 80-85% sounds a LOT better to me, and I would MUCH rather have twins and take all the risks that go along with them than have NO BABY. So yeah, I acknowledge that I bring some history to the table on this decision. What would you do if you were me?

Lastly, I hoped we would hear from the clinic yesterday about our donor's follicle count, but my nurse there said it will be next week. I'm dying to know! She did tell us that her baseline and all initial tests came back with no problems, and she received and started the medications. I have been thinking of her and sending positive energy, and a few days ago I went on Ets-y and found a cool Celtic gratitude necklace/pendant to give her in appreciation. We share Celtic/Irish heritage (along with English and French), so I thought that was meaningful.

I'll post again after the lining check; hopefully with good news!


Cycle Updates

I wanted to write an update on our donor egg IVF cycle, which officially started with medication two days ago (!).

Once we paid the (huge) fee for the procedure, we started getting excited and having many conversations about whether we wanted to transfer one or two embryos. The percentage of success with one embryo is 70% and with two, 80%. Apparently, to most people, 10% seems negligible, but that does not reflect my feelings. Maybe it's my teaching background - the difference between a C and a B - or maybe it's the psychological impact that 8 out of 10 or 80% has on my brain (I want those odds!), but it seems fairly significant to me.

But a 50% chance of twins if we transfer two? Those are significant odds, as well. We are open to twins and would much prefer them to a failed cycle, but we would definitely rather have one than two. Of course, two would be much harder on my (older mom) body and there are increased chances of preeclampsia and pre-term birth, moreso the latter I think.

We also think, however, about using donor egg and how this might increase the desire and benefit for a child to have a sibling. RC was a twin and has positive feelings about that. Twins could be lots of fun, right?! But also expensive and lots - and lots and lots - of work! So, we are continuing to reflect on this and feel into whether at some level we want or would be happy about having twins, which I feel would be a necessary precursor to transferring two.

In terms of concrete actions, I started Lupron day before yesterday. I've administered Lupron subcutaneously to myself before, so it is not too daunting and, strangely, a little bit fun. I just love the feeling of moving forward and each injection contributing to the success of this cycle. Today was my last BCP, so that feels momentous, as well. Hopefully, it's the last pack of pills for the next nine months and maybe ever!

Forthcoming exciting action steps include starting my Estradiol patches on the 14th, then going to Cal IVF for my lining check appointment on the 28th. We know the area a little better now, so rather than booking a hotel close to downtown and some very sketchy areas, we booked a Marriott within walking distance of the clinic. I love staying in (decent) hotels, it's like a fun introvert slumber party for me. They serve warm breakfast in the morning, too - yum.

If all goes well, the donor will donate the eggs on September 2nd, and somewhere around this time, I start dreaded progesterone injections. I have gotten a few helpful tips from friends; if you have any advice on how to make it less intimidating or painful, I would love to hear them. Then, the embryo(s) will be transferred to my uterus around the 7th. I'm so excited. :) Please send us good thoughts!


Another Round of Fertility Procedures (eek!)

This post will be about wrapping up a loose end, than talk about fertility procedures and upcoming appointments...

So, first of all, something has been on my mind for a long time and I want to put it out there, even though I feel nervous and awkward about it. I feel I owe it to my supporters.

A couple of years ago, when I was really excited about a donor embryo program (which happens to be under the umbrella of the same organization where RC and I are currently getting treatments), I launched a fundraising campaign to raise money to make up the difference between the loan for which I qualified and the cost of the program. Despite the generosity of many online friends, and although I raised a respectable amount, I was not able to raise the amount needed to move forward. And then time passed, and through no action on my part, I no longer qualified for the secured loan. Then, I decided to pursue adoption again. Then, I got a job in another county. Then, I moved. Then I met RC, etc. Life kept rolling on, and I didn't have the presence of mind to stop and acknowledge that I never moved forward with the donor embryo program for which I had raised money.

Sooo, I want to acknowledge that now, and once again thank all the kind, generous people who donated to my campaign and supported me in my dream. I appreciate you so much. Those monies were used up in initial testing procedures, the efforts towards adoption and qualifying for my home study, buying items for the nursery, and in the moving transition. But I did not cross the finish line and they did not go towards the bulk of the program cost. Now that RC and I are moving forward again with fertility procedures, I feel that all the support people gave me along the way have brought me to this point, and I'm extremely grateful. I also feel I should offer to give donations back if anyone is uncomfortable with the money not being used directly for the program I was pursuing at that time.

Will you please write me individually if you feel this way, and I will make an effort to return your donation?  Thank you, and thank you very much to everyone for the support you've given me on this very long journey.

With regard to the donor egg IVF program RC and I are currently pursuing, we have the first round of treatments coming up next week! He is having a sperm extraction procedure - I can't spell the name of it at this moment - which is making him feel pretty nervous. From what the doctor told us, we are confident we will end up with more than enough healthy sperm to move forward with the donor egg IVF at the end of August or beginning of September.

When we go in next week for his procedure, I will also get another saline sonogram, since too much time has passed since my last one. Since I had polyps removed in February, I'm hopeful my uterus will look good, fingers crossed. Then, at the beginning of August, our chosen donor will start her medication protocol in preparation for extracting eggs for both us and another couple who is sharing the donation with us. I will also start a medication protocol (mainly estrogen and progesterone I think?) at some point. So that's the plan so far.

I have had some interesting concerns and questions come up around using a donor egg that I didn't necessarily expect. In part, I think it's different using a donor egg and my partner's sperm versus a donor embryo, which to me felt like adoption, but having more control and early connection. In this case, RC WILL have a genetic connection to the child and I will not, which feels unfair in a way. I'm feeling some sadness again about not having the chance to look for my own features in my child and compare similarities with RC.

But then I think about being pregnant and holding MY baby, my child, and the excitement far outweighs the sadness or concern. We were fortunate to be able to choose the donor from their database... our first two choices were not available, but our third choice was, and now I feel like it was the right choice for us. She has a childhood picture in her profile that looks a little like me as a child, she's short and muscular like me, she has short grandmothers like me, she's introverted, smart, kind, and plans to study neuropsychiatry. She has English and Irish heritage, like me, and Scottish like RC, but also has a little Greek and Cherokee, which I've been wrapping my mind around. I'm at the point now where I think that's pretty cool and look forward to exploring that with the child down the road.

I'll probably write more on this later but want to get this post published for now. This is getting really real, and it's giving me butterflies even as I type this!