Posts Tagged ‘Health’
I’m so happy to be here.
I’m going to start by saying that, even though the next thing I say will undoubtedly make someone believe that I’m contradicting it.
And that is, that for the past 24 weeks, I’ve had multiple battles of emotion where I found myself thinking:
“I’m supposed to be happier than this. Aren’t I?”
I know that it sounds like the most ungrateful and irresponsible thing I could possibly say, when finally reaching the position that I’ve been trying to reach for so many years. And I really struggled with writing it down at all, but I felt that it was important to stop hiding behind the pressure of being pregnant after infertility and be honest.
For the past few months, I have fought extremely hard with anxiety and fear. Pregnancy already comes with its own hormonal and emotional changes. I’ve read a lot of articles and we’ve all seen the commercials and movie scenes that show pregnant women crying over commercials and even happy songs. I was okay with that, and somewhat expected it, because I know it comes with the territory. Being pregnant after infertility, however, I believe comes with an added level of stress and trauma that weighs heavily on the heart and affects not only how I view myself as a pregnant woman, but how I feel about everything. These weren’t just pregnancy hormones, this was finding myself so scared and anxious all the time, that it started to feel paralyzing.
For the beginning of this new journey, I was in survival mode. Every day was another day of questions and worry, brought on because through all the years that I’ve been in the world of infertility, I’ve seen the elated highs of announcements, and also the devastating news when something has gone wrong.
I found myself wanting to be excited, but internally, painfully sad. Because I wanted this so very badly, and felt like “I’m no better than any of the amazing people who’ve gotten to this point and then had to say goodbye to their little one far too soon”, what makes me different? Feeling as though I didn’t deserve to be on the other side, I’d be praying for the best, while always emotionally preparing myself for the worst.
Before appointments, I would talk myself through what to do if there was no heartbeat this week. I’d plan out what to say to my office, or how I’ll tell the select few who already knew. I wanted to prepare myself to be strong, at what would be the most devastating moment of my life.
And I was doing so, because in a way, I’d lived through it before.
When we were planning to adopt, I’d never felt so close to being a parent. There was an actual, human baby that was being given to us. Even then, we were careful to only tell a select few, just as we have now. We were cautiously optimistic. To get all the way to the hospital, and to holding her, and to hearing this birth mother say out of her own mouth, “Oh, she’ll be just fine with you all”, I made the mistake of letting my guard down. Of getting excited. Of getting attached.
So when two days later it was all snatched away, I believe a part of me just wilted. Such an abrupt ending to such a slow and steady hope. I couldn’t go to work, and I couldn’t leave my room. I couldn’t be the same ignorant person I’d been before having it happen, and I couldn’t figure out who the informed person was going ot be on the other side of it.
And I NEVER want to be there again. Because I almost didn’t come out.
So while I knew full well the risks involved in IVF, and although I decided to do it anyway, I’ve been cautious and tentative every step of the way. My own doctor said I had a pleasant smile, but that it was clear that underneath it she could tell I was petrified and sad.
At times where I should have been bouncing off the walls with excitement and joy, I’d look at the ultrasound monitor and usually say out loud, “Thank God, there’s something still there!” And the nurses and the doctors always look at me like, “Of course, silly!” And then I just start the countdown to the next appointment, when I’ll probably be just as terrified.
My patient and caring husband has been dragged along in my issues as I kept us from announcing until a whopping 20 weeks, though I’d designed an announcement somewhere around week 8. I just couldn’t get the thought out of my head that if we were to once again get people’s hopes up, including our own, and then have to turn around and let everyone down again, I didn’t think I could handle it.
While listening to a podcast that I love, “The Friend Zone” I heard this statement:”Most of us are spending so much time fearing the loss of something, that we can’t even enjoy it.”
“Most of us are spending so much time fearing the loss of something, that we can’t even enjoy it.”
WOW. What a word. That’s exactly it.
I have felt extremely isolated in my anxiety out of guilt and shame. Guilt for feeling as though I should NEVER find myself anything but elated when so many of my friends are still fighting to get to this side. Ashamed that I was “allowing” the anxiety and worry to rob me of the experience I’d waited for, or that my emotional state would be harmful to this little life, which then made me feel even worse. Also, I worried that to tell these feelings would be offensive or hurtful to those who have followed me, or prayed for us, or who are at times seemingly more happy for us than I’ve been able to be for myself.
But, being in my head all of the time is the true culprit here. I can’t just put my head down and barrel through this like I once believed. I have to speak, because that’s my therapy. I decided to share these feelings because I’ve prided this blog, and really all of BBE on being honest. On saying those things that others may be thinking but may not feel they have the right or even the platform to say. This is no different.
Pregnancy depression and anxiety is a REAL thing. It actually affects about 6% of all pregnant women and is sometimes more common in women who have experienced infertility. After the emotional highs and lows of infertility, we’re so used to safeguarding ourselves from the worst, that we can sometimes have a hard time adjusting. Feelings of isolation and not fitting into the “naturally” pregnant world, or belonging in our infertility circles anymore can become overwhelming.
If you’re like me, and fighting off sadness, I want you to know you’re not alone. Your feelings are valid, no matter how off-putting they may be. They don’t take away from how amazing of a parent you’re going to be, or how wonderful of a parent you already are. Wherever you are on this journey, I’m rooting for you, and I’m praying for all of us!
I am so very grateful to God that I’m here now. That I’ve seen the heartbeat and heard it with my own ears. That something we’ve waited for so long, is finally within our own reach, just a few months away! Sometimes I’m so excited I could literally run down the street like a crazy person, because June can’t get here fast enough.
The feelings I’ve talked about here today, don’t take away from that. They don’t make me second guess my choice to take the crazy IVF ride, or to even be a parent at all. They remind me that I’m human, and that this whole thing is so much bigger than babies. That our emotional and psychological well-being is intimately tied to our ability to grow our families in the way that we choose.
And here’s a small treat, and the Christmas Gift my husband and I bought for ourselves the day after Christmas. We went to a commercial ultrasound facility for a gender check, AND they added the heartbeat to a stuffed animal for us. THANK YOU for sticking with us.
And as always, you can always talk to ME.
I remember after I’d gotten married, how many of us who were over the hurdle of wedding planning would jump into ANY conversation we overheard from other people who were planning their own. We’d found our way through battles of chicken or fish, and we’d managed to find a safe seating chart where our divorced aunts and uncles weren’t forced to sit within each other’s eyeline. We were vets basically, and could solve whatever little issue the newly fianceed would possibly face. (whether they wanted our advice or not)
Infertility feels like it should fit in that vein, but it is not one of those situations for me.
I don’t believe, outside of just continuing to encourage people, that I’ll feel like much of an expert after this. It has moved so fast and so…seamlessly, that it freaks me out a bit. Like I’ve said before, I’m so used to this NOT moving smoothly, that the idea that it has, is uncomfortable for me to say the least. Every phone call, I’ve expected or at least prepared myself for bad or disappointing news. Every visit, I’ve been expecting my blood pressure to be high, or my uterus to have decided suddenly that she’s had enough and would like a divorce. Every time, they say, “Nope, everything looks great!” or they give me instructions for the next step.
I’m constantly wondering why then, if this is all so simple now, was it so horribly NOT simple before. The only answer I can surmise is that it’s simple now, because now is the time.
So Thursday was our egg retrieval. To prepare for that procedure, you have to take what is called an HCG Trigger shot about 36 hours before. So remember when I said I had to take Ganirelix, the medicine that tells your ovaries to tighten their grip on those eggs? Well, the HCG shot is what tells them, “It’s cool now, I got it, go ahead and let em go.”
The problem with the trigger shot? It has to be taken at PRECISELY the time they tell you. And of course, on the day I receive mine, I’m scheduled to work until closing. Because of course.
In a sheer stroke of ingenuity and spinning plates, I found myself asking someone to man my desk at work for ten minutes while I ran out to my car, had my husband drive us around to a side-street off the path and give me a shot from the front seat of the car while I sat in the back. I am absolutely CERTAIN that anyone who just happened to have the misfortune of laying eyes on our ridiculous ordeal believed wholeheartedly that their friendly, neighborhood librarian was on the side of the alley shooting heroine. I’m convinced there are rumors. I’m certain I don’t care.
The next day, nothing really felt much different, and I was convinced that we’d done it wrong and the whole cycle would be cancelled. Because that’s how my brain deals with things not being chaotic. My husband rolled his eyes at me, and proceeded to plan for the retrieval as though I was speaking gibberish. He’s smart like that.
Thursday morning, we flew down the highway to office, and things moved really fast from there. A really nice anesthesiologist gave me some really nice happy juice through an IV, and a really nice nurse came in to talk me through everything that was about to happen. My doctor sat with me for a sec just to explain why the timeline had moved when it did. My body, as predicted, had gotten seriously excited about the meds and was very close to hyperstimulating. For my safety, and to save the cycle, it was best to move now.
The face of someone who could use a nap, and is waiting for the IV to provide one.
So what is involved in egg retrieval?
The procedure involves using a needle to extract the eggs directly from the follicles. Yes, ANOTHER needle. Hence, the need for light anesthesia. You aren’t completely asleep, or at least I wasn’t, but you’re out of it enough to not freak out about that. Overall, I think most of mine was spent yammering on about whatever came to my brain. Nervous tick.
On the way out of the room, and back to recovery, my doc stopped my chair and showed me the lab techs already at work cleaning and counting the eggs. I told her, “You do realize the blogger in me wants to take a picture of this whole situation, right?” She said, “I know,…but no.” LOL
Back in recovery, or just across the hall, I was finally allowed to have something to eat and drink. The most delicious saltine crackers and apple juice I may ever have, to be exact. And then, I was allowed to just chill for a bit and get my bearings while the nurse came in to talk to me about what was going to happen next. Basically, once those eggs are extracted from the follicles, the follicles tend to fill back up with liquid. This is what causes much of the discomfort people feel after retrieval.
While I don’t really make much of a fuss about discomfort or even pain sometimes, I have to admit that it isn’t the most comfortable of feelings to basically have saddlebags inside of your hips filling with fluid. And that’s generally what’s going on in there, I’ve decided. Also, I’d suggest getting your hair done sometime before this. You feel really yucky and hideous, but if you can look in the mirror and say, “Oh, but no, my hair is laid.”, it helps. I promise.
Once the techs have counted and cleaned the eggs, they immediately collect the sperm as well so as to move forward with fertilization. It still amazes me, that people get pregnant unexpectedly, when I look at all of this really intense biological precision.
Anywhoo, our final egg count at the end of the day….TWENTY. The average? Eight.
Come on, overachieving ovaries!
Now, after retrieval, most people are highly uncomfortable. You should really go home and lie down if possible. So of course I instead went to the Goodwill for a few minutes, and then went to look at an apartment that we’re interested in. Because I’m hardheaded.
Fast forward to the next morning.
Do you ever get annoyed at your phone ringing because it isn’t who you’re expecting to call? That was my Friday. It just kept on ringing, and none of the numbers belonged to my doctor OR her office. I told you, I tend to expect the worst, (I’m working on it), so I was curious about whether any had fertilized at all, let alone if anything had gone wrong overnight.
Finally, a little after 2, my phone rang with the right numbers.
Call #1, was the lab, to process payment on that embryo storage fee. They’re serious about that. Thank you to EVERYONE who has bought a shirt from our shop, or attended our fun-raisers. You helped pay them!
But call #2, was finally my doctor, to let me know how things were looking.
In the follow-up call, we talked a bit about just what has been the problem all these years, and it was explained in what I have to say is the best way I’ve ever had it explained. Looking at the full picture now, she was able to see CLEARLY what had been our issues.
Basically, my PCOS and Hypothyroid have been BFF’s for years. Together, they decided that they ain’t have no time for no stupid ovulation. Add to that a pair of blocked tubes and what you have is great eggs, that have been all dressed up with nowhere to go, for decades. Then, on my husband’s side, you have diabetes and a childhood hernia surgery that made breaking through all my barriers basically impossible. IVF was and is the only route to getting around our unique and numerous hurdles. Through ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), the magicians of the lab were able to further get around the foolishness of our bodies by taking one individual sperm and implanting it directly into one individual egg.
So, what’s the final count?
Of the 20 eggs collected, only about 13 of them were mature. This is fine. Again, remember the average is eight. Of that 13, one presented with an extra set of DNA and was therefore abnormal. Also fine and common. Of those 12 left, NINE fertilized and were growing as of the next day. She said, “everything looks PERFECT. IVF was the only way we were going to get around this stuff and it worked.”
So, those nine are being housed in what is called a MINC Incubator. Now, according to the manufacturer of the incubator’s website, (Yes, I looked it up, because I am a librarian and a thug), the MINC is described as such: “the MINC holds a constant temperature, provides rapid pH recovery and helps the embryo maintain homeostasis to reduce embryonic stress.” All of that to say, this thing is a pretty big deal and the BEST possible place for them to be.
In traditional IVF, this is where my doctor would let us know if she wanted to let them grow for 3 days or 5, and when the transfer would be. However, a TON of research has suggested that a better route is to get to day 3 or 5 and then freeze the embryos. Freezing them, allows for the woman’s body to take a little time to decompress from all those medications and stresses of the stim phase. It will allow for my ovaries to calm down, and my body to get back to pre-meds status. As my nurse described it, “it took two weeks to get up, now you take two weeks to get yourself back down”. After that time has passed, then we’ll move to the transfer. (and then wait another painfully slow two weeks to see if any of this worked).
So we’re giving those little guys a five day, all expenses paid (by the sheer grace of God), vacation in the MINC. On Tuesday, we’ll find out how many of the 9 have continued to grow and will be frozen. Also on Tuesday, we’ll decide a transfer date.
And that, my friends, is how you work around a lazy Stork and get pregnant in 9 petri-dishes…kinda.
Next up…seeing if any of this works.
Random question: Do you watch Portlandia? If you don’t, you should. But anyway, more on that later. In Portlandia, a sketch comedy show featuring Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, there is a sketch called “Put a Bird On It”, where they play two enthusiastic local art personalities who expound on the wonders of putting a decorative bird on things. Drab old sweatshirt? Put a bird on it! Hideous wall portrait? Put a bird on it! Everything going downhill? Put a bird on it!
While there are various theories about what the phrase means, I like to think that the idea is that when things are at their worst, sometimes you just have to “put a bird on it”, and change your perspective.
As of this year, my job changed their insurance coverage for the second time in three years. This “little” change, wreaked major havoc on my (already stalled) infertility treatments because it meant that they would no longer be covered at the fertility center I was a part of. So needless to say, I panicked a little. The clinic was listed really highly in my area, but staying there meant basically paying out of pocket.
I started to get a little (a lot) freaked out. The tally of obstacles had mounted considerably. I mean, seriously. I was so discouraged after the last appointment, because everything was out of my control. My doctor basically listed out every obstacle we had and kind of left it at that. I couldn’t see an out, other than just to start fundraising, and hope that by the time I’d done what I could to help us raise the money for medications and embryo storage, etc., that The Spouse would have heard something back from urology. Beyond that, the ball was not seemingly in my court.
Fast forward to this year’s National Infertility Awareness Week. For the past two years, I’ve invited some friends in the industry to visit the library where I work, for a panel discussion on building families. I called in representatives who could discuss IVF, adoption, foster care, etc., for an informal and accessible way for people in my community to get information on building their families.
For the second year in a row, I had a great RE on the panel, whom I’d been introduced to through a mutual friend in the infertility community. Her honest, matter-of-fact, and most of all knowledgeable demeanor, combined with her added experience of having dealt with infertility herself for ten years, made her a great addition. In the few moments before this year’s panel, she asked me how things were going with my own journey, since when last we’d seen each other, I was awaiting a follow-up appointment. I told her how stalled I was, and how flatly my RE had told me just that at our last appointment.
She looked at me squarely and said, “Come see me. Call my cellphone. Because this is ridiculous. You just need to get there. You keep getting up to the starting line but you just can’t seem to get there. Call me. It’s a distance, but we will make it work.”
I have to admit, I was a little thrown. I shook it off to prepare for the panel, but I could NOT stop thinking about it. A few weeks prior, my mom and I had hunted down a list of fertility centers that were available under my new insurance. Many of them had been either really far away, or didn’t have the greatest success rates, and I’d filed the list away and retreated into myself. When I got home on this day however, I went and took a look at at the list a little closer and out of allllllllll the clinics that were no longer covered for me, HERS WAS.
After going through a few annoying hoops to get a shiny new referral, I finally got in to see her. The Spouse and I had quite a drive, but when she walked into the office, as she was returning from another procedure, she said, “How was the drive!? I know this was far for you! We’ll do what we can to make this process fast so that you don’t have to do it too often.”
In that quick, 2 minute interaction, she was my favorite person. Because she SAW us. She didn’t see another patient on the roster, or another chart, but she saw US. People. People who had been dealing with this heart-wrenching condition for YEARS, and even in that, she took the time to also see, even after running from god knows where to get there in time for our appointment, that we were people who had driven a distance to see her.
Sitting in her office, I have to admit I was still a little nervous. When last I’d sat across from an RE with my chart, the doctor had basically told me “this is going to suck. Because you have all this crap interfering with each other that is making this whole thing virtually impossible, but here, go talk to the nurse a bit about what it’s all going to cost you and call me when you get that urology stuff worked out.” I was prepared for more bad news, or just a really extensive time line.
And then she started talking.
Now here’s where things got interesting. Nothing in my chart has changed. All the issues there before are still there. But she put a bird on it. She talked with hope, and positivity, and excitement. She was honest about each issue, but didn’t regard any of them as an issue, but rather something we would get through together. As a team.
By the time we left her office that day, we’d completed bloodwork, HAD AN ULTRASOUND, and had a timeline. A DATE. Something we have never, ever made it to before. Every single time that we get started, we run into a brick wall. Lots of stops and starts that never much amount to anything other than hurt feelings and heartache. But for the first time, we saw a lot of hope on the horizon, and had a doctor who had a lot of hope for us.
So all our issues are still what they are, but we’re putting a bird on em.
Things don’t always go as planned.
Sometimes IVF doesn’t work.
Sometimes there are complications.
But sometimes, just sometimes, you gotta put a bird on it anyway.
Sometimes you gotta give yourself hope.
And sometimes, you need a really great doctor, who LISTENS, to help you get the hope you need.
So finally, after battling insurance requirements to get to the testing phase of my pre-IVF life, it’s time for a saline sonogram to investigate the condition of my uterus itself. The reason a good RE will do this test before moving forward with IVF is to ensure that the home we’re going to place defenseless embryos into, is a good one, with ample parking and whatnot.
So what is a saline-hysterosonogram? Basically, it’s an ultrasound. The doctor inserts saline into your uterus while performing the ultrasound, so that the saline will coat the area and provide a clear image of the shape and lining.
Now, silly me, because I’d had a d&c and hysteroscopy a year ago, which pretty much cleared my uterus out completely, I thought this would be a minor procedure just to get out of the way. I mean, I just had my uterine reset button pressed, what bad elements could have moved into the neighborhood in such a short time?
Well, apparently, a polyp.
Wait, what? Seriously?
Because if I haven’t learned in this infertility battle, I’ve learned that NOTHING on this journey can be simple for me. NOTHING.
So as we’re all looking at the ultrasound monitor, I can see there’s one small portion that won’t allow the saline to spread. And THAT little, pebble sized dent, is what my doctor said was a polyp. In fact, she and the technician went back and forth about whether it looked like a polyp or a fibroid, but I just shook my head and faded out for a minute, because fibroid or polyp, to me, it was a roadblock. One more thing I’d have to get around. Great.
The next step would be yet another d&c and hysteroscopy.
So we sat down with our nurse after my sonogram to get some directions about where we were going next. As the doctor had already said, my first trip would be back to my regular ob/gyn to schedule the hysteroscopy. I was hesitant to ask, because I didn’t want to seem as time-obsessed as I actually am, but before she continued, I asked her how long after that would I be back in business. Thankfully, she said two weeks is the recovery time, and that the IVF consultation meeting I’d have to do next would line up with that. In the meantime, all our bloodwork was back and fine, with the exception of my thyroid because its a jerky mc jerkface, and it was time for me to restart Metformin.
So a couple days later, it was back to the gynecologist I went. True to form, this too could not be without dramatics.
So let’s see, the appointment was at 10:30, and there was no traffic getting to the office, but when I got ONE block away, traffic was stopped. 10:50. Finally got around the traffic debacle and parked, the office had moved, and I went to the wrong building first. 10:55. I get into the office, get signed in, and of course my insurance has changed so I have to call to make sure I’m even able to see my doctor at all. After arguing with the automated system for 25 minutes, I finally talked to a person who finally found the doctor in network. 11:30. And I STILL didn’t see the doctor until 12.
It’s a blessing to have a doctor who knows you, or at least knows enough about you and your journey to be fully on board. I have that blessing. Every visit, she asks me how YOU Eggshells are doing, and speaks to how great it is that I blog about this. We chatted for a while about how many patients she gets who don’t consider their fertility until it’s just about too late, and the number of those patients that happen to be African American.
Listening and talking to her reminded me that beyond my frustrations about having to stop and go so much, there are so many other women who haven’t even started. More even than that, I think about the ones who probably never will, out of fear or procrastination. So I took that as encouragement to push through this roadblock. I could look at the polyp as a pebble in my way, or an opportunity to exercise a mustard seed of faith.
I chose the mustard seed.
I scheduled the hysteroscopy surgery and told myself not to complain. I’d taken the time to take a step that was necessary to reach my goal. If for no other reason, that was enough to feel a little satisfaction. I then took that high and used it to walk myself over to the other medical building and leave word for my other doctor regarding my thyroid needs. Hell, I was already on a roll, may as well take it all the way, right? With every little step, I was reclaiming just a sliver of my control, and it felt good.
Once again, I felt like an infertility gangster. LOL I pulled off feeling ten times better than I had when I got there, and blasting my motivation playlist.
I hope you’re learning to take your small victories, too! They add up.
Mustard Seed image courtesy of olivcris/ Flickr.com
While much of a woman’s journey into fertility treatments is invasive and frustrating, there has to be something said for the guys who have to endure their own little corner of TMI. Aside from the stereotypical machismo and pride associated with men having their fertility checked, there is also the embarrassing and intrusive aspect of having to visit a doctor’s office to have their sperm collected and checked. Fear of the results themselves, and the actions necessary to receive them, could leave some couples waiting much longer than they need to.
So I am super excited to offer a way around that. The SpermCheck Fertility Monitor is a private, easy, and convenient home sperm count test, and I’m pleased to announce that the good people at Fairhaven health have given me a free one to pass along to one of you!
The test is super easy to take. Here’s the quick rundown:
- Collect a sample in the cup provided, and let it sit for at least 20 minutes.
- Using the transfer device(syringe) provided, stir the sample 10 times, pull the plunger back and collect the sample till you get to the black line on the tube.
- Transfer the sample into the solution provided.
- Let sit for 2 minutes
- Open the testing tray, drop 6 drops onto the opening marked with “S”
- Wait 7 minutes and read your results!
That’s it. A positive result indicates that the sperm count is above 20 million sperm per milliliter, while a negative result signifies that the count is under the 20 million sperm per milliliter threshold, and you may want to schedule a follow-up test with your doctor. Don’t panic! The doctors will do that same thing even if you’d have taken their test first and gotten similar results.
Today is my birthday, but I feel like giving presents rather than receiving them, so get in on this giveaway! I want to help you break down another barrier to your success.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Apologies for the delay, but even a year later, this post seems to be RIGHT on time.
The final installment of BrokenBrownBelle’s journey to her daughter, Buttercup. (more…)