Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Beta 2.0

Yesterday morning I had a blood draw for our second beta test. What they want to see in this blood test is that my hCG levels are rising at a healthy level. Even with Saturday's good news this can make you a little crazy. You get word that you're pregnant (hooray!) but there's a caveat (come back for another test to REALLY make sure).

I got the call from my nurse at work yesterday afternoon with the following good news:
  • My hCG levels rose from an 87 to 289!
  • My doctor does not feel like I need any further beta tests (woot)!
  • My progesterone was so high that I get to reduce my dosage (only one injection per morning and I can switch sides to save  my sore, lumpy rear)!
  • We are four weeks pregnant (somehow I never knew that they calculate pregnancy from the date of your last period, not from the date of conception) and they gave us a DUE DATE of February 4th!
  • We are scheduled for our first ultrasound on June 17th to listen for a heartbeat. :)
So now we move forward! I will still go in weekly for blood tests to monitor my progesterone and estrogen levels through the first 12 weeks. Around week 9 they will release me from their care to my OBGYN. 

We have a long road ahead. Most women who conceive on their own, don't even know they are pregnant until they have a missed period and are a few weeks further along than we are. I am thankful to be back at work and occupied with projects to make these days and weeks of the first trimester pass quickly. Please, please, please continue to pray and think happy thoughts that this pregnancy be happy and healthy! :) 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

B is for Beta

Yesterday morning I woke up early and drove the 40 minutes to our fertility clinic for a 3 minute blood draw.  This would seem like no big deal, except that yesterday was our beta test. For those of you not well-versed in IF jargon, the beta test is your first check to see if all your time, effort, money, emotions, and sore bottom have resulted in a significant amount of hCG in your bloodstream which will tell if you are in fact pregnant.  

I was the first person through the doors at 7am. I actually beat the phlebotomist in and had to wait a few minutes for her to get set up. I slept fitfully the night before and dreamed varying versions of how we would receive our test results, so I was anxious to get this going. After a quick prick and a vial full of blood, I was on my way home to await the results.

Ken and I lost a lovely friend and neighbor this week. Yesterday was her funeral. I wasn't sure I was up for the service, so we attended the visitation service on Friday and offered to stay at their house during the funeral to accept any flowers/food deliveries while the family was away. Ken and I were sitting in their garage, icing down sodas and bottled water for the afternoon's gathering at the house and I was literally about to crawl out of my skin from sheer anticipation of the phone call from our nursing staff. I looked at Ken and said "I REALLY need the phone to ring, I'm not sure how much longer I can wait!"  Thirty seconds later my cell was ringing.  Oh crap, this was the moment of truth.  Was I really ready?

We aren't sharing the news broadly, but for the 6 of you who actually read this blog, I thought I'd let you in on the secret.  Our beta results were positive for pregnancy! Our doctor likes to see a number over 50 for a single embryo transfer and ours was 87. I will go back on Tuesday for a second beta test to confirm that the numbers are rising appropriately, but right now I'm not thinking about Tuesday.  I'm reveling in the fact that my nurse said the words "Congratulations Lindsey, you are pregnant!" It was a precious comfort on an otherwise sad day and I know that Carol is celebrating our news in heaven. 

This morning I couldn't resist taking a home pregnancy test. I've peed on many a stick over the past 6 years and have NEVER seen that elusive second pink line.  Seeing that second line felt like a MAJOR victory!  I know we have a long way to go yet, but right now we are giddy with the hope and possibilities in our future.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Embryo Bliss Day

Yesterday, I decided to give myself and little Embry a pampering bliss day.  I figured that I should show this little one a REALLY good time to encourage implantation. After a quick blood draw at my doctor's office (results were great by the way! Estradiol was at 541 - needs to be above 300, Progesterone was 87 - needs to be above 20) I set about doing some of my favorite things. 

First Stop: Breakfast at the counter at Mimi's Cafe while I read a book
Second Stop: Mani/Pedi. Seriously the most relaxing pedicure I've ever had. 
Third Stop: Shopping in downtown Golden. I stopped into two of my favorite resale shops to hunt for treasures and grabbed a quick lunch.
Fourth Stop: Acupuncture treatment. I met with a new acupuncturist and she was lovely! Cindy gave me the most relaxing treatment to promote blood flow to my uterus and to hopefully relieve some of my injection site pain. I fell asleep on the table. Pure bliss. :)

On today's schedule? Lunch with a dear friend at a restaurant I've been wanting to try for over a year. Today we are day 5 post transfer. We have our first blood test for pregnancy on Saturday and hope our hCG levels are high enough to detect! We have a second test to confirm next Tuesday. In case you are curious about the embryo development, check out the chart below!

5-Day Transfer

Days Past
Transfer (DPT)
Embryo Development
OneThe blastocyst begins to hatch out of its shell
TwoThe blastocyst continues to hatch out of its shell and begins to attach itself to the uterus
ThreeThe blastocyst attaches deeper into the uterine lining, beginning implantation
FourImplantation continues
FiveImplantation is complete, cells that will eventually become the placenta and fetus have begun to develop
SixHuman chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) starts to enter the blood stream
SevenFetal development continues and hCG continues to be secreted
EightFetal development continues and hCG continues to be secreted
NineLevels of hCG are now high enough to detect a pregnancy

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Grief and tragedy: Trying to find the happy

This morning my dear friend and next door neighbor passed away after a long battle with cancer.  Carol was an amazing wife, mother, grandmother and friend. She fought cancer not once but three times and always with a tenacity that surprised those around her.  We spent many holidays with her and her husband Butch over the last three years and had come to regard them as our Colorado family. 

My heart is just so heavy and sad today. We had dinner with Carol last Wednesday and before we left their house (with a bag full of leftovers, because she was always trying to take care of us) she hugged me and told me that she was feeling good and that she hoped she would live to see me and Ken become parents. If our beta test is positive, behind our parents, she was one of the people I was most looking forward to sharing our news with. I know that she is definitely in a better place and that she is no longer in pain. I know she is rejoicing to be reunited with her precious son Jamie that she lost several years ago, but today, I ache for the loss of my friend.

Today is the first day since our transfer that I am allowed up and out of bed, so my husband made me promise to try and not lay in bed and cry all day. So, being a good southern girl, I got dressed and went to the grocery store to buy the ingredients to make 2 big pans of King Ranch Chicken to stock Butch's freezer. I don't know why, but somehow the chopping and prepping soothes a wounded soul. 

I haven't bothered to turn on the TV today because of all the coverage of the tornadoes in Moore, OK. I'm heartbroken for the people who lost everything and the parents who lost their children and I know that my fragile emotional cocktail just can't handle seeing any more images of that tragedy.

I'm still trying to think happy, sticky, baby thoughts, but they are much harder to come by.  I actually dreamt the opening sequence of Look Who's Talking yesterday, so I've tried to recall that as many times as possible with the hopes that through sheer will power and positive thinking I can coax little Embry into implantation. Burrow in little one.  We need to find some happy.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

ET, Make yourself at home...

Today was our big ET (short for embryo transfer, not extra terrestrial)! My approach to today has been to be an archivist. I wanted to photograph and take mental snapshot memories of the day. I also want to remember how I feel right now. I want to be able to tell our child-to-be about this day as they grow older.

No big surprise, but I woke up bright and early around 5:00am unable to continue sleeping. I think my posterior knows it's time to wake up and take it's punishment before the rest of me is ready to crawl out of bed. We got up and I took my 2 PIO shots like a champ and my 20 units of HCG. After my required injection site massaging, pacing around the house and sitting on a heating pad, I actually fell back to sleep for another hour. When I woke up and started getting ready for the day, I prayed a lot.  I prayed that the transfer would go smoothly.  I prayed that we would have at least one amazing embryo waiting for us. I prayed that my uterus will make a safe home for implantation.  I also prayed that I wouldn't pee on the table, because sometimes you really need to focus on the practical matters.

I decided I would wear my happy socks Ken bought me for Christmas 2 years ago because they have smiley faces and they say Life is Good, which it truly is. Ken took me out to breakfast for my all time favorite, Huevos con Chorizo from El Dorado and it did not disappoint. With a full belly and quite a bit of nervous energy, we began the drive to the clinic. 

During the drive I was instructed to drink 32 ounces of water at least one hour before my transfer since a full bladder makes it easier for the doctor to transfer the embryo to the uterus.  Upon downing all this water you then have to wait until transfer time, plus an additional ten minutes afterwards before you can use the precious potty, hence my earlier prayer about not peeing on the table. :) Being the good patient (and over-achiever) that I am, I drank 34 ounces while Ken astutely observed that most women just have to drink a margarita that big to get pregnant!

We arrived at the clinic and were taken back to the embryology department to a private room to await our embryologist and the news of how those 16 fertilized eggs had progressed. This is me being patient while Ken is making me laugh at random nonsense.  Not the nicest thing to do to your wife when she has to pee! The embryologist joined us with some fantastic news.  We have NINE beautiful day 5 blatocyst embryos! He told us they were all strong embryos, but they picked the "rockstar" for us to transfer today.  So, without further ado, I introduce you to Embry (I decided this beautiful little one deserves a name). We were told that the largest sac in the embryo (between 2 and 3 o'clock in the picture) is actually the baby part of the embryo, that the placental structure was already beginning to form and that the embryo was beginning to break free of it's shell. I'm not sure what you would call miraculous, but I have a feeling it looks like this image. 

Ken and I got suited up, him in protective covering for his body, head and feet and me in a gown and foot covers, to head into the transfer room. And this is where things got REALLY cool. The embryology lab is just on the other side of the wall of the transfer room.  The room is equipped with a large flat screen monitor and cameras that connect to the lab.  Our embryologist brought out our embryo in it's petri dish labeled "GAGE" and held it up to the camera. We gave the thumbs up that we were in fact the Gage's as verified on my wristband. Then we got to watch on the screen as the embryologist drew up this tiny little embryo into a catheter and very carefully carried it through the door into our doctor. 

We were able to watch on the ultrasound monitor as he skillfully threaded the catheter into my uterus and could see the embryo release! Our doctor was thrilled with the placement and congratulated us.  The sonographer gave us print outs of the image to use in our baby book. I added the arrow, because if she hadn't pointed out the embryo I would have had no idea what I was looking at! I of course cried because I was so happy and this has been such a long journey. Ken lovingly held by hand and has doted on me all day while I've been on bed rest.

So welcome Embry. Stay cozy. We're really happy you're here.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Embryo Eve!

I woke up this morning at 4:15 and couldn't sleep another wink. Tomorrow is our embryo transfer and to me the day is a LONG time coming. We've known for a several years that donor egg IVF was going to give us the best chance of conceiving, but getting to the emotional, and financial place to kick off this treatment was a long process. Saturday is going to feel a little like Christmas morning (if your Christmas morning includes a paper gown, hospital footie socks, ultrasound wands and valium)! 

Tomorrow morning we will wake up and I'll take my shots like a champ. We'll have breakfast and then make the 40 minute drive to the clinic. Once we arrive we will check in and meet with our embryologist. We haven't heard from our embryologist since Tuesday and he assured us that no news was good news. They would only call if there was a problem with how the embryos were growing. So we hope to find out that we have at least a few Grade-A embryos waiting for us. Once we've met and selected the embryo to transfer, I'll take my happy pill (Valium) and get prepped for the big show. 

The actual transfer process is quick and painless. Ken will get to be in the room with me to hold my hand and watch on the monitor, because it would be far too strange to conceive without your husband in the room. :) I'll probably cry, because that's what I do. Not from fear or pain, but because I want this so badly. Afterwards we'll be released to come home and I'll begin my three days of queendom bed rest. 

So, wherever you are tomorrow at 11:30am MT, send up a prayer or hopeful thought because Operation Baby Gage is happening! 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Sore Bum, Happy Heart

Last week at our ultrasound appointment, our nurse was telling us how estrogen is the "happy" hormone. So I will credit it with giving me some serious hopeful highs along the way. I have a very happy and hopeful heart. We found out yesterday that all 16 of our eggs fertilized thanks to Ken's super sperm (a fact he was VERY proud of) so I'm incredibly hopeful that we'll have at least a few of those fertilized eggs make it to beautiful blatocysts on day five!

Even in the midst of all this hormone driven hope, I still find myself playing devil's advocate and working out our plan B in the back of my head. It can't be helped. It's a defense mechanism and honestly, probably a good one to have. After many disappointments along the baby-making road, I don't want to feel blindsided and gutted if we aren't successful.  It's not something I spend much time thinking about, but it's still there.  The main thing I think about is a more pressing and annoying problem. I've got the PIO blues.  For those of you not into all the infertility acronyms, PIO is short for Progesterone in Oil. It's a viscous liquid medication that your husband gets the honor of injecting into your rear every morning. 

I've been lucky to have enough cushion that the actual injection process doesn't hurt. I've read online of tiny little women having some significant pain with the shot itself, so score one for the curvy gals! My problem lies in the after effects. Because I was slow to respond to the PIO in our mock cycle, our doctor upped the dose for the big show. I'm taking 100 mgs each morning delivered in two 1.5" needles. We don't get the luxury of switching sides, it's a double barrelled fun-fest each morning between 5 - 6 am. :) I'm left with some pretty severe soreness afterwards that no amount of massaging, walking-it-out, or heating pads seem to alieviate. I know that this will all be worth it, and that I'll get used to it. (I better! If we get pregnant, I'll be continuing these shots through the first 10 - 12 weeks of pregnancy...YOWZA)

The other thing on my mind is my impending bed rest.  Our doctor is all about cutting edge treatment, but he's also conservative in the post procedure department. He's recommended 3 days of bed rest following our embryo transfer. So of course, being the rule follower that I am, I'm prepared to stay comfortably in my favorite PJs and let Ken wait on me.  (This is sounding better and better!) I will be fighting my natural urge to bustle. When I'm off work, I tend to whirl around the house sorting mail, cleaning, getting ahead on projects, washing laundry, etc. I'll decide that I MUST clean out our closets and make a Goodwill run or that NOW is the time to steam clean our carpets.  So, in order to not go crazy laying around for three days, I need suggestions for time consuming entertainment.  What are your favorite books? Great TV series' that can be consumed en masse? Help a busy bee out! :)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Eggcellent News!

The past two days have been happy ones around the Gage house. Saturday (my birthday) we got word from our nurse that it was time for me and our donor to trigger! Sunday morning Ken and I went to the doctor for an ultrasound to check my lining. The sonographer was very happy with how things looked. My lining measured at 13.9mm which we were assured was excellent for implantation. I, of course, had to Google it to make sure she wasn't just being nice to the infertile lady on Mother's Day, but low and behold, over 8mm means a happy uterus. Hooray!

Today our donor went in for her egg retrieval and we found out that they retrieved 24 eggs! 16 of which were mature and injected with ICSI using Ken's special baby making business. :) Tomorrow an embryologist will call us to let us know just how many of those 16 eggs fertilized. Our doctor recommends waiting until day 5 to transfer embryos when they are at the blastocyst stage. So we will wait until Saturday for our transfer. 

Tonight I pray for those tiny little eggs in Petri dishes. I pray that they fertilize and become healthy embryos. I pray that those embryos grow strong and healthy and that one of them will feel like making themself at home with me for the next 9 months.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Oh Happy Day!

Today, I turn 34 years old. Every year, my sweet mother calls me to wish me a happy birthday and she always tells me the story of my birth. I was born the Friday evening before Mother's Day and my mom likes to tell me I was her very first Mother's Day gift.

How sweet is this photo?!

It was 1979 and my mom was a rockstar. She and my dad took Lamaze classes and practiced their breathing together. They lowered the lights in the delivery room and played soothing music because my mom wanted to bring me into a peaceful existence. After I was born the doctor handed me to my dad so he could give me my very first bath.  It was all very zen. :) She was still in the hospital on her very first Mother's Day and got to take me home the next day. 

For as long as I can remember, my birthday has been celebrated on the same weekend we honor my mom and I love that. This year, my birthday is being made all the sweeter because both our donor and I are scheduled to be triggered today. Her for an egg-retrieval on Monday and me to receive an embryo next Friday or Saturday. I can't imagine a better birthday gift!

Happy birthday to me and happy Mother's Day to my biggest champion.  I love you!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013's a verb

Today is Resolve's Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. I've been following the tweets and Facebook posts as infertility advocates have taken to the nation's capital to meet with our legislators to implore them to support the Family Act.

The Family Act is a tax credit bill that will cover the out-of-pocket costs incurred for the medical treatment of infertility. If passed, this bill will help thousands of couples defray the cost of treatment, specifically IVF. The bill has been modeled after the Adoption Tax Credit that has given couples the help needed to build their families for years. 

Our lawmakers support legislation that matters to their constituents so it's up to us to let them know that the Family Act is important! 

You don't have to be personally struggling with infertility to advocate for this legislation. I'm asking you, my family and friends, to take 3 minutes to complete an online form to send an email to your representative and senators. You have the time to do this, I promise! :) If you have time to check Facebook, play Candy Crush Saga, or flip through your DVR queue, you can take 3 minutes to send a message to your elected officials. Please consider making a difference today.

For more information on the Family Act click here.

Monday, May 6, 2013

...And Breathe

Whew. I think I've been holding my breath a little bit over the last week and it feels good to exhale. Last Monday I went to the doctor for an ultrasound and blood work to see how I am progressing in our transfer cycle. I could tell by the look on the sonographer's face that she wasn't liking what she was seeing. She was concerned that my lining wasn't where it should be for this point in my cycle and she saw a small cyst on my right ovary. NOT what you want to hear 2 weeks before you hope to transfer a precious embryo into your womb. EVERYTHING in the transfer cycle (for the recipient) is about the uterine lining. 

They sent me on my way and said they would review the ultrasound images with our doctor and call me to let me know if and how we should proceed. I got a call later that afternoon that Dr. B wanted us to proceed as planned with my shots and estrogen therapy and come back a week later for another ultrasound. If the ultrasound looked good we could proceed with treatment, if it didn't they would immediately take me in for a sonohysterogram to try to pin down what the problem was and to rule out polyps. All week long I've been thinking about my upcoming appointment and hoping and praying that everything would look A-OK. Not because I'm afraid of the sonohysterogram, but because I'm desperately afraid they would postpone or cancel our cycle.

Today was the day. I went in at 7:30 am and this time my sonographer had a smile on her face. She let me get dressed while she confirmed her conclusions with the doctor. No sonohysterogram for this girl.  My uterine lining looks awesome, the cyst was gone, and they were both pleased with the results of my ultrasound. Can I get a woot woot?! I had blood work drawn and went to work.  Later this afternoon I found out that my estrogen levels are double where they need to be, so I don't have to continue adding patches to my therapy regimine (a fact I'm sure Ken is inwardly celebrating!) AND to top off the good news train, our donor went in today for an ultrasound and blood work and she is right on track for the egg retrieval next Monday! YIKES! :)

So that's the latest! Our cycle is on track and moving forward, and I think I will sleep well tonight. 

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Say What You Need to Say

Warning: This post contains self-indulgent whining.

Ugh! It's 4:15am and I am wide awake with a terrible mix of head cold/allergies. I quietly snuck out of bed with my tissue box and iPad and made my way to the living room couch because I love my husband and he shouldn't have to be awakened by my lovely sneeze/cough/blowing nose medley on a Saturday morning. This is made all the more frustrating because I cannot take my lovely cocktail of OTC medicines to knock it out.  I'm a big fan of the Zyrtec/Neti Pot/ Aleve/ Benadryl at nighttime mix. It works wonders for me, but since we are in the midst of our transfer cycle the options available are tylenol and toughing it out. (Feel free to comment with your personal home remedies below! A friend just told me about garlic lemonade and it is on my list of things to try today.)

So, I feel pretty wimpy. My nose is red and raw, but I know that this will run its course in a couple of days and I'll be good as new. I'm pretty good at talking myself out of a personal pity party and will shake this off, but at 4:15 on a Saturday morning it feels a little bleak. :)

Since I'm awake, I thought I'd jump into a blog post that's been rolling around in my head for the last couple of weeks. I have been thinking about how isolating infertility can feel at times, especially from those you love the most. I have recently received an amazing outpouring of support from friends and perfect strangers in the IF community but realized that many times the ones closest to us don't reach out because they simply do not know what to say. Let's face it, it's a bit of a tricky minefield. No one wants to say the wrong thing, so many people just remain silent. 

I remember when Ken and I were about to become engaged and I was meeting his family, his sweet grandmother who I ADORE avoided calling me by my name for fear she would call me by the name of his ex.  I was never hurt by this because I knew her intentions were to avoid an awkward situation and potentially hurting my feelings. Eventually she dropped the "hers" and "shes" and "sweethearts" and adopted using my name. It still makes me smile to think about it. So I started wondering, how many people have read the "Things not to say to an infertile couple" posts online and decided that rather than put their foot in their mouth, they would keep it shut?

Rather than tell people what not to say, I thought I'd post the things that people have said to me that I have loved:
  • I want to be supportive, but don't know how. Tell me how I can. (I love the honest and direct approach!)
  • I love you (simple works!)
  • I'm praying for you
  • I'm thinking of you during your treatment
  • I'm rooting for you! (everyone loves a cheerleader)
  • Thank you for sharing what you're going through (when you leave yourself emotionally open, this one means so much)
  • I'm excited for your future!
  • You will be an awesome mommy/parents.
Bottom line, just start talking. Be honest and reach out to the ones you love who are struggling. Because it's early and I'm tired, sick and self-indulgent, I'll close with a song lyric :)

You'd better know that in the end,
It's better to say too much
Than never say what you need to say again