Thursday, February 23, 2017

IVF Round 1: Embryo Transfer

Hi everyone! With my last blog post, I briefly told you all about the egg retrieval, and what was to come next: embryo transfer. This month's cycle has been pretty pleasant overall. Towards the end of my last cycle, I had a phone appointment with my doctor to touch base on how he thought the egg retrieval went, and what our action plan should be going forward. Overall, my doctor thought the egg retrieval went well, and we decided we'd move forward with transferring the embryos this month. I did a several rounds of blood work, ultrasounds, medication, etc. to prepare for the transfer. All of the medicines I took this month have been taken at some point before, either last month during the egg retrieval, or during our IUIs. So thankfully, nothing was a surprise this time, and we knew what to expect with each and every medication.

The embryo transfer was much easier than the 6 IUI procedures we had in 2015. I thought that the IUIs were painful. The embryo transfer wasn't painful, just a little uncomfortable. While the doctor and embryologist are transferring the embryos, the nurse does an ultrasound so they can see exactly where in my uterus the embryos are going. I needed to have a full bladder so they could get a good view during the ultrasound, so this made things uncomfortable, but otherwise, the procedure was quick and painless.

I had an acupuncture session both before and after the transfer. This is my first experience with acupuncture, but I thought it was interesting, and relaxing. The goal of acupuncture the day of the retrieval to help increase blood flow to the uterus. This is supposed to give a stronger chance of the embryos implanting. Whether it did or not, I don't know, but I really enjoyed the relaxation, so I'd say it was a good choice.

By the time we got home the afternoon of the transfer, I didn't feel too well. I was tired, and had some light cramping. A few days before the transfer I began progesterone, which is a hormone medication that is supposed to help the lining of the uterus stay thick and prepare for pregnancy. I've used this medicine before in various forms, and it has always made me very sleepy. Usually I've taken it at night to hopefully sleep through most of the emotional side effects, and I've noticed I sleep very deeply when I take it. After the transfer, the nurse suggested I take it in the morning rather than at night, so I took it right when I got home from the transfer, and I felt pretty tired the rest of the evening. This is a medicine I will continue if I get pregnant, probably until I am 10-12 weeks along.

Once the embryos are transferred, we wait 9 days and then I can have blood work done to see if I am pregnant. We are currently in our waiting period, and are both nervous and excited to get our results, but are also trying to stay busy so we aren't thinking about it constantly. When people ask how we are feeling, I say cautiously excited... Truthfully, we are so super excited to know that we could spend most of 2017 planning for a family, but at the same time, we know how disappointing it can be to be so hopeful and get negative results, so we are cautiously excited.

Once we have our pregnancy test results, we will take some time and tell our family and close friends, and then I will write a blog post a few weeks later to let you all know! Lee and I have been praying for implantation of our embryos and a healthy pregnancy. We are also praying that God give us peace with the results, no matter what they are. We are praying that He help us to stay distracted during our wait and that he take away our fear, stress, and worry. At this point, we are really close to the end of our wait, so if you are praying for us, we would love for you to pray that we have peace with the results, and for a healthy baby and pregnancy if the results are positive. I am really hoping that soon I can write that one blog post we've all been waiting for!!

Friday, January 20, 2017

IVF Round 1: Egg Retrieval

1st we stimulated my ovaries with medicine to try to get a ton of mature follicles... Next I had an injection to cause ovulation... Then the doctor retrieves the eggs. The egg retrieval was quite the process, and I'm not going to go into all the details. I'll just let you know that I survived and it was successful! After my eggs are retrieved, they are combined with Lee's sperm and watched over the next 5 days as they grow into embryos.

Our doctor told us the day of the retrieval that with my last round of blood work, one of my hormone levels (progesterone) was elevated. Because of that, he would prefer to freeze the embryos, and transfer them later, once my hormones have leveled out. This way, we have the best possible chances to achieve pregnancy. The thing is, we didn't know at that time how many eggs fertilized, how well they would grow, etc., so we made a tentative plan: If they embryos appear to be strong enough to survive a freeze and thaw, then we will want to transfer them during a later cycle. If they do not appear strong enough to survive a freeze, we will go ahead and transfer them with this cycle and pray for great results. 

Fortunately, we got great news that our embryos appear to be strong. So, they are now frozen. Our plan is for me to start some medication with my next cycle to prepare for the transfer. This time around, the medication will hopefully be much lighter than all of the injections we did prior to the egg retrieval. We will get more info about our next steps in the process sometime next week, so I'll include all of that in my February blog post. My plan is to write a blog post in February letting you all know how the medication went with the next cycle, and how the transfer was, and hopefully in March I will give you all an update on the results of our embryo transfer. 

Please be praying in the meantime that our embryos are healthy and survive the freeze and thaw, that they implant, and that we are able to achieve pregnancy. 

I think that now is a prefect time for me to remind myself, and share with you all, that regardless of the outcome of this procedure, God is good. Everyday, all the time, He is good. It's easy to praise God when things go our way, and we get what we want, but its also important that when we don't get what we want, to still praise God. God has a plan for us. He already knows the outcome of this procedure. He knows when our children will be born, and how our family will come to be. He has the perfect timing, and we must trust Him. I often have to remind myself of this, because its easy for me to get wrapped up in my own plan, and my own idea of how I think things should play out. So now, we are praising God for all of the good that he is done, and we know that the results of this IVF cycle will be good whether we achieve pregnancy or not, because it is all part of His plan. 

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.