Friday, January 13, 2017

IVF Round 1: Stimulation

IVF Round 1....This has been a post I have started and saved in my drafts for several months. We are finally here. If you've been reading along for the past year or so, then you know this is something that Lee and I have gone back and forth with. After 6 IUIs, we knew we needed a break from fertility treatments, and during that break we tried Natural Family Planning, various supplements, etc. Although we did notice some positive differences with those options, we did not get pregnant as hoped. December 2016 marked 3 years since we started trying to get pregnant. After all this time, we still remain unswayed in the fact that we want to have children. We desperately want to have a family of our own.We have spent a lot of time deciding whether not IVF was right for us, and finally came to a conclusion that we want to move forward with this treatment.

One of the things I was not looking forward to with IVF was taking birth control in order to get my timing for the next cycle just right. Thankfully, I only had to take the pill for about 9 days. After those 9 days, I stopped the pill, and a few days later went in for my baseline blood work and ultrasound.

Thankfully, my ultrasound and blood work both were normal this time (as opposed to when we tried to get this process started in October. You can read more about that here). We got the green light to start the injections, which have been patiently waiting in our fridge for over 3 months.

We started out with 2 injections, which Lee gave me nightly for 6 nights. During those 6 days I had blood work done twice and an ultrasound to monitor my response to the medication. My body responded very well, and on day 7 we added in the 3rd injection. Lee gave me the 3 injections for another 3 nights, and I had an ultrasound and blood work during that time. After 10 total days of medication, I was ready for the trigger shot. The trigger shot is an injection that forces my body to ovulate. Once the trigger shot is given, my body prepares for ovulation, and the egg retrieval is done about 36 hours later.

So now, we await the egg retrieval. This is a procedure in which the doctor will retrieve all of the eggs that my body has matured with the help of medication over the last 12 or so days. After my eggs are retrieved, they will be combined with Lee's sperm in a lab and will grow for several days into embryos.

Once the embryos are ready, I will have another procedure done to transfer the embryos into my uterus. Our doctor will transfer a safe amount of embryos, and any left over will be frozen for future transfers.

Lee and I are feeling pretty good about this process so far, and are looking forward to completing it. This round of fertility treatments has been more uncomfortable physically than the others because my ovaries are super stimulated. I will take that any day though, because emotionally, it has been fairly smooth.. I've had a few cries here and there (mostly over something irrelevant like a sad part in Gilmore Girls, haha), and 1 rough night after the trigger shot. Overall,I have not felt the intense impatience, frustration, hot flashes, mood swings, etc. that I did during our IUI cycles. Lee and I both are so thankful for that.

So overall, this cycle so far has been pleasant, and I'm excited to finish it up. If you are praying for us, our prayer requests right now are that the egg retrieval be quick and painless, and that we have strong embryo growth. I will hopefully be able to write another blog post between the egg retrieval and embryo transfer, and give you all an update! Thanks for reading, and as always, thank you for your love and support.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Infertility Update: December 2016

Ahh! December.... How can it be the end of December already? This year has flown by. I must say that 2016 has been so much more pleasant than 2015. Although we did some great things in 2015, the year was very much over shadowed by 6 failed fertility treatments, medications, a new doctor, a whole lot of waiting and disappointment, and one giant emotional roller coaster. Last year I remember being SO READY to say goodbye to 2015 and start over with 2016.

While 2016 has not brought us a baby, it has been much more smooth as far as this whole infertility fiasco goes. We really felt like we got comfortable with Natural Family Planning, and although we did not get pregnant using this method, we are happy with all that we've learned, and are going to hopefully save all of this knowledge for future use. We also went back to our RE (reproductive endocrinologist) and made plans for IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). More on that later...

In other news, I FINISHED MY MASTER'S DEGREE!! AHHH! This is a HUGE weight lifted off of my shoulders. While I am so thankful for the opportunity to continue my education, and the MBA has been a great distraction these past 2 years, I am SO thrilled to be done. No more spending long sundays writing papers and working on projects. No more late week nights in the library, and large amounts of coffee just to make it through my work day. I am so excited to have finished.

So now that I'm no longer studying, what will I be doing with my time? So far I've spent the last 2 weeks celebrating my graduation and Christmas with my friends and family. I have really been avoiding blogging the past 6 weeks or so. It's been nice to just put infertility out of my mind for a bit. Over Thanksgiving, Lee and I took a trip to Spain. Initially we planned this trip for two reasons: 1. As a way to celebrate me finishing my MBA 2. As a way to either mourn a loss from IVF or embrace our last big vacation as a family of 2. We started planning this trip over the summer and we had intentions of trying IVF in October if we had not gotten pregnant naturally by then. As you know, due to a cyst and some timing issues, we did not do IVF in October. We didn't have enough time to do IVF before we left for our trip in November, so it was kind of a bummer knowing that after our trip we were still coming home to infertility, but nonetheless, we had an incredible time in Spain! It was a great mix of both relaxation and adventure, and I am so thankful that Lee and I have been able to travel together. I realize that if our timing with children were different that we would likely not have these memories together, so I do try to see the bright side and be greatful for all of the things Lee  and I have had the opportunity to do and experience together.

We got word in November that the cyst I had went away on its own (hooray!), and we were okay to move forward with IVF. Around the time we found that out, we were less than two weeks away from heading to Spain, so we did not have enough time to get anything started in November. We could've started a December cycle right when we got home, but we decided that since I only  had 2 weeks left to study hard and do well academically during my last semester of graduate school, that added stress of medication, all of the hormones, doctor appointments, etc. may not be the best recipe for success. I'd come this far and really wanted to be sure I could finish strong in my class and wanted to guarantee that I graduate, so we decided December was not our month for IVF either. So now, we are hoping January can be our month!

Our plan is to have an ultrasound and blood work done with the start of the next cycle, and as long as I have no issues with either of those (such as a cyst on my ovaries, etc.), we should be able to get started with the IVF medication.

Overall, I am so thankful for the gifts 2016 has given us. Although we did not see much change with our baby situation, we feel like we still made progress this year. I used the time to finish my graduate degree, and Lee was busy with both work and social commitments, and he was also able  to finish a few projects around the house. We got to see several great friends and close family members get married, we took an incredible trip to Spain, and several weekend get-aways with the people we love the most. Most importantly, I feel that through life's ups and downs, my relationship with Christ is stronger than ever, and I have no doubt that He has big plans for us in 2017. We now feel accomplished, rested, and ready to take on the new year head first. First goal: complete IVF! If you are praying for us, our main request at this time is simply  peace. Peace with the IVF process, medication, and results. I'm still praying for my friends and family who are having the health issues I mentioned in my last blog post. If I can be praying for you as well, please let me know! As always, thanks for reading and thank you so much for your love and support. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Infertility Update: November 2016

Hi friends! This blog post will be short and sweet. As you can see, the title of this blog post is NOT, "IVF Round 1"... and that is because we did not get to start our 1st round of In Vitro Fertilization last month.

My cycle day 1 fell on a Sunday, so I called the doctor's office 1st thing Monday morning. The nurse told me to come in the next day for a baseline ultrasound and blood work. If all went well, we would start the medications later that evening after the appointment. The blood work came back normal, but during the ultrasound, the nurse saw a large cyst on my left ovary. She said the doctor would take a look at my results and she would call me that afternoon. When she called, she said the doctor did not feel comfortable stimulating my ovaries with the medication while having that size of a cyst on my ovary. Although we weren't given the green light to start medication, the doctor wasn't worried about the cyst, and thought it will likely go away on its own.

So our next  options were 1. I could take birth control for 2 weeks and then come back in for another ultrasound to see if the cyst has gone away or at least gotten smaller, and if so, start the stimulation medication then. 2. Wait until next month and call back on cycle day 1 again.

Lee and I talked it over and decided we would wait. After trying to get pregnant for almost 3 years, we just thought it seemed kind of backwards to take the birth control pill. Also, I have been praying a lot lately for guidance, and couldn't help but wonder if this is the guidance I've prayed for.

Of course we were disappointed to not be able to move forward this month, but at the same time, we are thankful our doctor is putting my overall health first, and waiting for the optimal time to start this process.

So our next step is to call the doctor's office on cycle day 1 and I will go in for another baseline appointment to check on the cyst. If the cyst is small enough, or gone, we can start the medication to stimulate my ovaries. If not, we will talk with the doctor about our next options. We have some traveling planned that could interfere with completing IVF this month, so we just have to wait and see when my cycle starts and how that matches up with both our schedule and our doctor's schedule.

Because our doctor has to be available during the egg retrieval and embryo transfers for IVF (as opposed to the nurses being able to do the IUI procedures), he tries to have many of his IVF patients on a similar schedule so he is doing all of his retrievals and transfers within a week or so of the others. So because of that, I may end up needing to take some type of birth control in the future to make sure my cycle can match up to the doctor's timing, but we'll cross that bridge when/if we get there. For now, we are just hanging tight for my next cycle. When that time comes, I will share with you all our plans to move forward.

Hopefully my next update will be more exciting. I don't really have any major prayer requests right now. As I proofread this post, I scroll through Facebook and see updates from friends: major kidney issues, allergies, babies born early, kiddos being diagnosed with juvenile arthritis, pneumonia, etc. So in the light of all that, I'm feeling thankful for my overall health even if my reproductive health stinks. Let's direct our prayers towards healing, patience, and guidance for all of our friends, family, and especially kiddos struggling with health issues.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Infertility Update: October 2016

Hi friends! I didn't have much info to share between June and September, but now that we've gotten things rolling with the IVF process, I have lots to share with you. If you want to read my last update, you can take a look here.

In late August, Lee and I met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) aka our fertility doctor, and let him know we were interested in moving forward with fertility treatments again. He thought IVF would be our next step, but wanted to do some testing to make sure nothing had changed since we last saw him in June 2015. He wanted to start by testing some hormones and my Vitamin D level. I also wanted to do some testing for a gluten intolerance (Celiac Disease), and he obliged. In addition to the blood work, he did an ultrasound and a biopsy.

The blood work showed that I have low Vitamin D. Most people have low Vitamin D, so this is a common thing. Mine wasn't dangerously low or anything, so he just suggested that I start that Vitamin D supplement again since I have been slacking on taking it over the summer. The blood work also showed that I do not appear to be allergic to gluten, and the hormone he tested measured normal.

The ultrasound that I had was different than any of the ultrasounds I've had before. It was an SIS, which is short for Saline Infusion Sonography. Basically they put saline in the uterus and do an ultrasound to take a look at the uterus and ovaries. This ultrasound caused a lot of cramping because of the saline, but other than that, not too horrible. The doctor was able to tell me during ultrasound that everything looked normal, so we knew already knew the ultrasound was fine going into the appointment.

The biopsy, on the other hand, was not as much of a breeze. The only good thing I can say about it was that it was quick. I had a lot of cramping during the biopsy, and once we were done, the doctor said that he wasn't able to get enough tissue, so he wouldn't be able to send it off to have lab work done. He said sometimes doing the SIS first can make getting tissue right afterwards difficult. There are two reasons we did the biopsy: 1. so we can test for endometritus in my uterus, (which is apparently different from endometriosis), and can be treated with antiobiotics. 2. After tissue is cut out for a biopsy, the uterus has to heal itself, and implantation of the embryo into the uterus can sometimes be higher in months after this healing happens.... so although he wouldn't be able to send the tissue off to the lab, the healing process would still happen, and our doctor was happy with that. He said it was totally up to me if he took another biopsy to send in. Although the 1st biopsy was painful, I decided that I was already there and already cramping and what not, so let's just do it and get it over with. That way we are going into our IVF cycle knowing that we've covered all of the bases that we can, and we don't know of anything that could interfere. So I actually had 2 biopsies taken that day, and I cried like a baby! So to all you women who have experienced pregnancy and child birth... I don't know how you do it!! The biopsy alone was enough to make me lay around and be whiny for the rest of the day. The good news is that the biopsy came back benign, so all is well there.

So other than Vitamin D, everything came back normal. Now I am diligently taking a daily Vitamin D supplement as well as the Vitamin B6 that my NFP doctor recommended, and a daily prenatal vitamin.

Our plan is that with my next menstrual cycle, I will start the injections on day 2, and on day 5 of my cycle I will go to the doctor's office for an ultrasound (a regular ultrasound this time, no saline), and blood work. I will do this for several days, add or decrease medication as needed, depending how my body responds. Once my body appears to have several mature follicles, we will do the trigger shot, which is an injection to trigger my ovaries to release eggs from these follicles, and then the doctor will retrieve all of these eggs. The eggs will then be matched up with Lee's sperm, grow for a few days to become embryos, and the embryos will then be transferred back to my uterus. We hope that they will then implant and I will be pregnant!

So that's a summary of our testing results and what will happen going forward. I will probably update you guys on each next step of the process as I can. If you are going to pray for us, please pray that my body respond well to the medication, and that other side effects (such as hot flashes, emotional ups and downs, etc.) are minimal. Thank you for all of your love, prayers, and support, especially from those of you who have been there for us over the last almost 3 years. I was, and sometimes still am, nervous about sharing all of this and being vulnerable, especially online, about such a sensitive topic. I am so appreciative of those of you who have encouraged Lee and I, and I'm grateful for everyone who keeps reading. Some of you have been reading for almost 2 years now, and I can't tell you enough how much it means to me that you've not given up on us! Your hope reminds me to be hopeful on days when I feel like this is a lost cause. I can't wait for the day when I can post a photo or an update about our family of 3 (or more)! I told Lee the other night in the midst of a crying moment that I love our family of 2. I am so thankful for all of the great things we have going on in our lives and for all of the wonderful people we've been surrounded by. Despite all of that, I am so ready for our family to grow, and over the past 3 years, that yearning hasn't faded at all. In fact, it's gotten stronger. That can make this process a sad, frustrating, and draining one. I just can't thank you all enough for your support during those sad, frustrating, and draining times. I'm so glad to have you all, and most importantly I'm so thankful to know a God who loves, heals, forgives, and restores. He has really given us all of the resources we need to show infertility who is boss!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Infertility Update: September 2016

Hi everyone! I know, I know... Long time, no blog. When I wrote my last post back in June, I had all intentions of writing a few other posts this summer, but time just got away from me! This summer was lots of fun, but busy! Two of my favorite ladies got married this summer: my best friend from high school, and my cousin. I got to be Matron of Honor in both weddings. Did I tell you that the weddings were two weeks apart? So I spent a chunk of my summer doing a whole lot of brides-maiding. Everyone knows that I love planning parties, meals, favors, etc. so while this kept me super busy, it was also really fun for me.

In addition to bridesmaiding, I finished up a summer class, we were guests at a couple of other weddings, took a long weekend trip to Hilton Head Island, and did a little boating with family and friends. So all in all, Lee and I have been busy, but we've had a really great summer together. I'm feeling extra thankful for all of the time we've gotten to spend with our friends and family. I do still have plans for a few other advice-focused blog posts, but I'll put those on the back burner for now, so I can update you all with what's going on.

Throughout this summer, we continued tracking my cycles using a method of Natural Family Planning, called the Creighton Model. I won't go into detail with that process, but if you want to read more about it, check out my blog post from earlier this summer. We gave this method a fair try, and although we learned a lot from it, we have not yet gotten pregnant using it. Our NFP doctor, who has now also become our family doctor suggested that we move forward. He offered to refer us to a more specialized NFP doctor in St. Louis, but we opted to go back to our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE), aka our fertility doctor.

So, we made an appointment and met with our RE. He thought we needed to start with some testing, just to make sure nothing has changed since we last saw him. The tests we decided on were blood work to test hormone levels, vitamin levels, and a test for Celiac Disease. My doctor actually does not think I have Celiac Disease at all, but I really wanted this test done, so he obliged. A lot of people are now finding out that they are gluten intolerant, and I know a large majority of gluten allergies are still undiagnosed. I wanted to do some blood work to see if it is a possibility. Apparently blood work is just the beginning with that kind of testing, but it can be a good initial indicator. In addition to blood work, our doctor recommended an ultrasound and a biopsy.

So we got all of that scheduled, and actually I've done all of that testing at this point, but I'll save that whole experience for another post when I can tell you about the testing and the results all at once.

As long as the testing comes back okay, our RE recommends that we proceed with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Last year we did 6 IUIs with a plethora of medication, and none of them resulted in pregnancy. He really didn't think another IUI would be beneficial, and we agree.  So our plan is once we get the test results back, as long as everything appears to be ok to move forward, we could start an IVF cycle as early as with the start of my next menstrual cycle.

This has been a whirlwind for me. The day we had the appointment with our RE to tell him we were ready to try fertility treatments again, I pulled up to the office, and I just cried... In June of 2015 when we completed our 6th IUI, I never dreamed that 15 months later we would be coming back to this doctor with the same circumstances.

For those of you who have been following our blog for a while now, you already know that I have really struggled with whether or not IVF was the right choice for us. We had initially planned to do it last October once we got back from Mexico, but we just didn't feel called to take that step yet... and truthfully, I really wasn't 100% confident when we met with our fertility doctor again at the end of August.

For about a week after the appointment, I cried pretty much every day.... Is this the right choice for us? Are we sure we want to make this type of investment? Should we be seeking an adoption instead? Is this what God wants for us? Is this something that can bring God glory? So many thoughts running through my mind. So many decisions to make, too.

There are a lot of decisions to be made when agreeing to IVF, and depending on the outcome, we could be bound to IVF in the future as well. IVF is basically where I will take several different types of medication to prompt my ovaries to develop several mature eggs, then I will be put asleep and the doctor will retrieve those eggs. Me eggs will be combined with Lee's sperm in a lab, and will grow for a handful of days to become embryos. Then the embryos will be transferred back to my uterus in hopes of implanting and me becoming pregnant.

So if we have, for example, 5 embryos from our next cycle, we could choose to transfer 1 or 2 of them back into my uterus, and the remaining embryos would be frozen for future use. Obviously, if we only have 1 or 2 embryos that survive the 5ish day growth period, then we may not have any to use for future cycles... it all depends how things go with this first round, but even if we somehow get a miracle and are able to conceive on our own in the future, or decide to adopt and are blessed with a child that way, we still have these frozen embryos to use... so there are a lot of scenarios for us to think about and decide on.

With so many decisions on my mind, I was really struggling. In addition to all of the decisions for Lee and I to make, I was also stressing already about the medication. Last year when we did our IUIs, I really had a hard time. Infertility is tough on its own. Add in a ton of hormones, and it can be a hot mess. I just remember feeling so down and defeated after each failed IUI, and super stressed, anxious, and impatient at times, from the medication. I began to think of all of that and wonder if I'm ready for that emotional roller coaster again, and am I willing to accept the results if we try IVF and it fails.  I prayed about it a lot. When the time came for me to go in for my testing, that was a rough day physically, but I left feeling good about the talk I'd had with my doctor, and felt confident and excited to move forward. While the thought of the added hormones can be daunting, having an action plan, and working more aggressively towards achieving a pregnancy is exciting. So for now, we wait on test results and my next cycle to decide when and how we proceed, but the plan for now is to move forward with IVF.

If you want to pray for us, we would love for you to pray for guidance and for peace. Thanks to everyone who is still keeping up with reading my blog, especially during the down times when I don't have much news to share. I'll be sure to update you all in October with our test results, and tentative plan for moving forward.