Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How I Got My Groove Back

I haven’t blogged in quite a while, so I just wanted to give everyone an update on my well-being and share some tactics I've used in dealing with life.

In March, we were dealt with some pretty bad news. It was a devastating blow to what we thought our future would be, and I was so lost on what to do next. Sometimes I still am, but I have made some pretty major steps to pull myself out of the stage of situational depression and self-pity. I know some of these things are going to sound easier said than done, but these are the life changes that helped me get my groove back after a forced life change of “involuntary childlessness.”

Start Working Out
I promise you, I don’t give a shit what my jeans size is. However, 3+ years of pregnancies, losing pregnancies, four surgeries, and many months of major fertility drugs REALLY messes with your body. It is about feeling strong again – a feeling I have not experienced in quite a while. I have been going to The Dailey Method for a few months now, and I am STRONGER physically and mentally than I have been in a very very long time. Find something that works for you, in style, proximity, and that fits with your schedule. The environment at The Dailey Method is positive, non-judgmental, and motivating. I am also lucky to have a studio only 1 block from… my new office! 

Get a New Job
I understand this is one of those “easier said than done” actions. I had been at Red Door Interactive for the past 7 ½ years – since we moved to San Diego in early 2007. I also got to work with my husband for the past 2 of them, which is a time I will always treasure and feel very lucky to have been able to do. My co-workers were like family (and still are), but with that came constant mental reminders of the past few years. It’s hard to explain, but I had so many deep personal moments and days and breakdowns in that office and I just couldn’t let it go. It was an amazing place to work, and so understanding and flexible through time off and what felt like a million doctor appointments, but since March I just felt lost. So, when I was approached through LinkedIn with an opportunity at a growing San Diego company, I thought it was good timing to explore it and make a big change in my life. The environment, location, and culture of The Control Group seemed like a good match so I took it. It was not an easy decision; I was comfortable at RDI (probably too much so), but I have no regrets and I have been at TCG almost 2 months now. I walk to & from work (over a mile & half per day!) through adorable Little Italy, which also helps me clear my head and enjoy my neighborhood. I work out at the aforementioned The Dailey Method on my lunch breaks, and participate in frequent Nerf Gun battles. I created a Pinterest Board for “Bring to Work Lunches” – so far I’ve been sporadically but increasingly successful on that front. The BEST mental benefit of my new job is that it is a DOG-FRIENDLY OFFICE. Seriously…

Surround Yourself with Animals
Yes, I now get to be around dogs all day, which makes my day. There are about 2-5 dogs in the office on a daily basis; this is truly amazing, literally (and I don’t use that word incorrectly) a dream come true. I have my French Bulldog obsession gratified by sitting next to dad of this snorting bundle of
cuteness, Ryder. I am pretty much besties with Peepers, aka Boston Terrier Problems / @bostonterrierproblems. Of course my sweet Puzzle is still my #1 girl and beyond cute. She has her own instagram profile now - @puzzle_oldladycat.

I also renewed my San Diego Zoo annual pass. Mr. Wu helped me through a lot of rough times, and now it’s fun to visit Aisha & the fam along with every other animal there!

Be Social Again
Especially now that I don’t see my best friends every day at the Red Door office, it’s more important than ever to have social outings. Going through so much and having the support from my girls that I have had, it makes me want to be a better friend. It is so essential to nurture friendships if they are two-way and I need to be one of those ways. It’s also still okay to decline events that may be uncomfortable, but I have enjoyed Sunday Funday Football parties, book club/movie & local play nights with the girls, a few weddings, and even a Roller Derby night!

Start/Keep up with Therapy Appointments
I can’t talk about or encourage this enough. I have been going to the same therapist for almost 7 years now – since before I even started thinking about wanting children so it did not initiate with that need. My regular appointments have helped me through so many of adulthood’s challenges, relationships, reactions, feelings, confusion, and has validated my thoughts and keeps me balanced. I am sure I could google thousands of articles on why it’s great to go to therapy, but I just saw this one today so I am including it: Lessons I’ve learned from going to therapy

Keep it Real
I did not write this post to announce to the world that “Everything is GREAT! Everything is FINE!” - I am still struggling to accept that I (most likely) will never have a child to complete the Bower Power team, and it has changed me forever. I still feel very alone in this situation since I know very few people who truly understand it. But, I need to make an effort and make choices to enjoy my days, laugh with my amazing husband, and keep moving forward.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Book To Movie Club: Sitting Shiva with the Foxmans - This is Where I Leave You

A couple months ago a group of us went to see the movie Divergent together, after reading the book(s). We met for apps & cocktails beforehand and bought candy at Target to sneak into the theater. We had so much fun, including the occasional tween sounding scream for more skin to show on Four. The fun we had launched the idea to have a Book Club for books that were being made into movies, and we had a HelloGiggles article on 17 Books to Read Before the Movie Hits Theatres to lead us, #1 on the list being This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper.

The movie will be starring Jason Bateman, Tina Fey, Jane Fonda so I was sold. Then I started reading it… I have mixed feelings about this book, but in the way that means it was written very well. If you look at my last blog post I talked about moving forward, which was hard to do when reading this book. I like to read books that let me escape from my own life, that take me into far off lands, characters, and mystery. This book is about a dysfunctional family that is “forced” to spend time together after the death of the patriarch of the family and includes experiences of loss, infertility, and real life struggles so it was hard to read even a paragraph without relating something in my life to what was going on in the book. I had to stop reading it a couple nights as my brain and stomach reacted to a well described scene. However, I knew BTM Club night was approaching so I barreled through, and I ended up being invested and entertained by the stories.

I do think this is the type of book that will make a great movie, so I am looking forward to seeing it when it comes out in September. It also brought me closer to a group of women and a really fun night of beer, wine and flatbreads. We had a group of 9 for a “Book to Movie Club” night at Stone Brewery Tap Room. It was amazing to have a group of us that works together and had something in common to talk about BESIDES WORK! We even discussed a few book club-ish questions. (Our favorite: "Whom do you finger as the most dysfunctional family member, including spouses?" If you’ve read it, leave a comment!)

Whether you want to read it or not, the movie should be good. Here is a teaser:
This Is Where I Leave You - Official Trailer

Almost all of us have already read Gone Girl (movie release in October? or 2015) so next up for BTM Club is Gillian Flynn’s other novel, Dark Places. (movie release date September 1).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Moving Forward

It's been 2 1/2 months now since the final test results, and we are just trying to move forward. And accomplishing it, even though it's been extremely hard. I've been situationally depressed, continued therapy, and accepted that realistically our little family will most likely not include having children.

This is devastating, but we need to move forward. “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.” ~ C. S. Lewis.

Every ounce of my energy, mentally and physically has been focused on trying to have children for the past 3 years, and I need to try to be happy with the life I have. It's so hard to even express my feelings on this to everyone who has supported me on this journey. A dear friend who has dealt with similar sent me this article, so if you want to get a glimpse of how I feel, you can read this: Motherhood Mondays: What if you can't have a baby?

I never intended for this blog to be about our infertility issues. I always wanted to blog "just because" I enjoy it and want to share my life experiences with my friends and family. I am so happy that it was a vehicle to share the seriousness we were going through during IVF treatments, but going forward it will be about other things that are keeping me going every day.

To help, I am participating in "#100HappyDays" - check it out. If you want to follow me, I am posting my pics on Instagram - @pilarbower.

In general, here is what is making me happy right now:

Friday, April 18, 2014

My experience at Fertility Planit LA

Next week is National Infertility Awareness Week, and this year's theme is "Resolve to know more" so I want to kick it off with a summary of my experience at the Fertility Planit conference.

Earlier this month April 4 & 5th, I attended the Fertility Planit event in Los Angeles. I have been in limbo lately so it was good timing. I went solo - I just wanted to be by myself, but not alone since everyone there was experiencing or supporting people creating their own families even if battling infertility or other challenges where the conventional way has eluded them.

There were many sessions over the 2 days (See Full Schedule), and here are a few tidbits from my personal experience and what is relevant to my situation, but I was really just trying to listen and take it all in...

Videos of Live-streamed Sessions Now Available: You can currently watch many of the live-streamed sessions from Saturday, April 5th, in the Venice room, here: More sessions will be posted by April 23 - I encourage you to sign up for email updates to receive access to more content.

Friday 4/5:
I had a bit of a late start - I was driving from San Diego to Los Angeles, so I wanted to wait until after 9am to leave to miss a little traffic. I ended up leaving at 10:45... I was just enjoying my day off work, packing for the weekend, and straightening the house a bit so Andy could enjoy his time off (from me). Then, I was off on my solo road trip! The traffic wasn't so bad, and I had the music on, and many thoughts running through my head about life. I stopped on the way for gas and something to eat, and got to the conference around 2:30 so I attended two of the afternoon sessions.

Session: Elisabeth Rohm & Baby Steps: Infertility and the Journey to Parenthood

To start, moderator Monica Corcoran Harel used my favorite word to describe trying to have a child and Infertility: DAUNTING. She was interviewing actress Elisabeth Rohm (American Hustle), who said, "Being diagnosed with Infertility made me feel as if I was the most unlucky woman in the world." I couldn't agree more.  

She mentioned that we need to create a greater consciousness and awareness - years ago people didn't talk about self breast exams to prevent breast cancer and now that is thankfully mainstream. Infertility awareness, and questions that young women can ask their doctors to get information early on is important to help them make decisions about their future family building.

I don't like to sound scary or lecturing when talking to younger friends about how time is running out, but we can arm them with information - information that I didn't have or chose to ignore. At the end of the session, Elisabeth was joined by her own doctor, Dr. Vicken Sahakian from Pacific Fertility Center Los Angeles. As Dr. S put it, no matter how beautiful and healthy you are, how much yoga you do, how much botox you do, your ovaries don't care - they are on the same timeline they have been on since the beginning of time and since you were born.

Elisabeth Rohm has a new book coming out April 30th, Baby Steps: Having the Child I Always Wanted (Just Not as I Expected).

Session: A Practical Guide to Egg Donation
This one was compelling for me since it was about using an egg donor, which is a likely next step for us. It is not talked about as much as sperm donors in mainstream, and more expensive, but a similar situation. My eggs are not of good quality and we have little to no chance of getting pregnant with my eggs, but I am still a good candidate to carry a baby and would still love to have the experience of a successful pregnancy.

Dr. Sahakian walked through the scientific facts of female reproduction, requirements to be a good candidate and keys to success for egg donation (which I met all of them). Model and actress Tomiko Frasier Hines talked about her experience going through Infertility, treatments, and having her twin boys via anonymous egg donor IVF. She was gorgeous, sweet, and gave a (secret!) teaser on a children's book she is creating about it.

After Day 1, I went to dinner with my dear friend and stayed the night at her house. I had an amazing conversation with her both that night and a fun breakfast the next morning before heading back to UCLA. In some ways this was even more therapeutic than the conference! She and my husband, Andy have been friends for 35 years - since they were 5 years old and she and I for almost 19 years now! More reinforcement that family is not about DNA. ;)

Saturday 4/6:

Session: Practical Solutions for Challenging Fertility Situations
I will be on the lookout for Paige Andree Johnston's documentary on her journey, which after 9 years resulted in a son by using an egg donor. This one was very emotional for me, as I could directly relate to so many things that Paige has gone through, and she validated a lot of my current feelings as I accept my situation and try to embrace the next phase.

Session: Understanding Open Adoption:
I attended a session about Open adoption that was sponsored and moderated by Independent Adoption Center, which is also a great information resource. "In open adoption birth and adoptive parents meet one another, share full identifying information, and have direct access to ongoing contact over the years."

Guidelines are set with an open adoption agreement and the terms of the relationship are negotiated between birth mom & parents. The panel was so courageous - a young woman who placed her baby for adoption about a year ago, an adult adoptee, and Bill Horn & Scout Masterson - adoptive parents also known as The Guncles from Tori & Dean. It was inspiring to hear all of their stories. Tip: The Guncles also have an adoption mentoring service called Hold My Hand to help guide others through the process.

Session: From Infertility to Adoption: the Journey to Becoming Parents
To close it out, I went to see Cindy Chupack and her husband Ian Wallach, and moderator Tom Teicholz - all three adoptive parents through Vista Del Mar adoption program. They were able to make a serious and most of the time depressing subject lighthearted and endearing.

I am already half way through Cindy's new book, a comic memoir about marriage (including the journey to parenthood) The Longest Date: Life as a Wife. Cindy is an Emmy-winning TV writer/producer whose credits include Modern Family, Sex and the City, and Everybody Loves Raymond. I hope her book becomes a TV show - we need an honest one about Infertility!

I collected so much information at the exhibitor booths, and  also visited the Pamper Lounge where I got a much needed mini-manicure with Ella + Mila nail polish. It's a new line of mommy & me polish (vegan and 5-free) and they have such cute colors.

I look forward to attending next year, and who knows where my journey will take me between now and then but it helps to have the support and the increasing awareness. Battling Infertility is very overwhelming and often lonely, so having so many resources of information along with shared feelings and experiences is so valuable. Keep up the good work, Fertility Planit!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

In limbo... waiting for One Day

There will be a lot of "I" in this post as opposed to "we." Andy & I have been communicating but also just getting back to a routine and a re-start on our life. We need a little mental break from Infertility and making any big decisions, but it's impossible not to keep it on a conscious level, so this post is my current point of view.

I am not completely depressed, but not really happy either. I feel in limbo, with not enough energy or money to figure out what to do next. I have thought a lot lately about the finality of this last phase because I had so much more hope in doing IVF. I really thought it would work since I thought my main issue was my fallopian tubes, causing ectopic pregnancies. "At least you can get pregnant..." (5 times) was a phrase I heard so often from others and told myself to make me feel better. Little did I know that wasn't even the main issue and I have poor quality eggs with little to no hope of resulting in a viable pregnancy at all.

I am just having a hard time accepting it, accepting that my body doesn't work the way it's supposed to. "I can't have kids" is a phrase I have heard, and I think there are so many layers since I can still "have kids" and I hope to one day even if it is not the traditional route, but that's really the short story for me. At this point in my life, in a physically literal sense, I CAN'T HAVE KIDS. It's pretty devastating.

I know everyone has things going on in their lives - that IS life. I would like to think this experience has made me more sensitive to that in having relationships with others, and Infertility is a major part of mine. It's not going to kill me, but it is a disease and I struggle with it every single day, both mentally and physically. I am far from conventional so I don't believe that I have this need because society has made women think they need to have children, and I fully support people who don't have them. Trust me, some days I wish with all of my heart that I didn't want a child to complete our little family because it would make things so much easier. However, I do believe that Andy and I are meant to be someone's parents, so we're going to make it happen somehow, some day.

I am going to Fertility Planit this Friday & Saturday in Los Angeles. I do a lot of my own research, but I feel like attending this event will make me feel like I am doing SOMETHING and it will feel good just to be around people who can relate to my situation. We're all fighting for what we want in life, and I hope I can bring empathy, information and inspiration to others so I am going to learn and do all I can to make that happen. I will do a couple in conference blog posts, but you can also follow me on twitter at @JustBeecuzzzz and/or #FPLA14

Here are things that are making me happy right now:
I still couldn't do it without you all. xo, P

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What a difference a week makes...

In the past week I have gone through a wide range of emotions. To name a few: grief, disappointment, rage, sadness, determination, relief, gratefulness, weakness, and on and on. I have wanted to vomit, scream, and just sleep so I don't have to think about anything. Tuesday & Wednesday last week were pretty much a blur of emotion and I did not go to work. I have always had a bad habit of biting my nails but they are disgusting right now. I think my body and brain are exhausted - not from 3 weeks but 3 years. I gave myself a few days to rest and mourn and then I let myself start thinking ahead. I let myself smile and laugh (remember, I live with Andy and that's what I love best).

My amazing friends did an epic ding dong ditch and left me this, which made me vow to be a better friend since everyone is always going through something in their life:

I made myself get up and go to work on Thursday, and even finished a PowerPoint deck and presented it to a prospective client. Then TGIF with my best friends at the office, and a weekend of balcony time.

It's so daunting to think about what to do next, but we will figure it out. All I know is that each day gets a little bit better, and each day I feel a little bit stronger.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Friday, I am going to enjoy the weekend, prepping for Monday

I know I have been quiet this week; it was nice to have a break from the anticipation of daily phone calls. I was feeling great and non-stressed since last Friday when the roller coaster stopped, and now I feel like I am crawling out of my skin now that Monday is approaching! We are going to Temecula to visit the fam this weekend – Andy's parents/grandparents/aunt, and my mom so it will be great to see & hug everyone and relax. It should be about 90° and my in laws' backyard is amazingly beautiful and peaceful so I plan on a little baking in the sun, and possibly visiting a few wineries. 

Thank you to everyone reaching out. I have had a lot of feedback on how strong we are and that it's amazing that we get through every day. I don't deny that I am strong, but I really want people to know that is most definitely not always the case and that it is perfectly okay to not be okay or positive all the time. There are many times I worry and cry, even during the work day I need to escape at times to the park and cry my eyes out or work from home if I can't manage communicating with people face to face. I actually haven't had those moments this week, but I think I am just in a window of being at peace until after Monday afternoon. Work is actually a nice distraction and I have some of my closest friends there to laugh with. Then I have the many amazing phone calls, texts and facebook messages that lift me up and keep me moving forward. We are feeling good that the news is coming on St. Patrick's Day – hopefully it will be a lucky day for us. Our appointment is at 3:15, which we pushed to the end of the day so we wouldn't have to return to work. I will say that we are at the point where we are ready for whatever the news may be. Andy has made a complete mental comeback and he is just READY and amazingly strong for us right now.

Here is what is really going through my head when I try to fall asleep at night thinking about every possible scenario in Monday's appointment:

If there are any viable embryos, we will figure out when the best time is to do the FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer), which will be amazing, but will spawn a whole new set of worries for me. I know that will be what we have wanted and will be our only chance of having a pregnancy with a biological child so I should be happy out of my mind. But, you can't help what you think and feel and thoughts and feelings are usually formed by previous experiences. So, I will be worrying about the chances of the embryo even implanting after transfer. Then if it implants, I will be worried about miscarrying – I have been pregnant five times and all resulted in losses. I could go on and on… so then I bring it back to that I hope we even have the chance to have these worries.

If there are no viable embryos, I will be pretty devastated but we have been preparing and as I mentioned we are just ready to move forward. We would need to take some time to figure out what the next steps would be, what is realistic financially, and start researching options! I am not going to lie, I am exhausted both mentally and physically but we need to make it happen somehow. A month ago, I wouldn't have thought I had the strength to keep going and somehow be happy in general at the same time, but Andy and our wide network of support has replenished what I thought was depleted for good.

I will post again on Monday night 3/17 after our appointment. xo

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Day 6 Report: Two embies made it

3/6: Your good vibes worked from yesterday's bad report - we have 2 embryos from this round that were able to be biopsied (1 bounced back from yesterday and 1 still not looking GREAT but good enough to biopsy) so we will be able to send a total of 3 for PGS testing. Those results won't be ready until 3/17 - another torturous waiting game! xoxo all

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Day 5 Report: No more good news.

The momentum has stopped. The phone call today did not keep up the best news possible trend. Not quite the worst news possible, but really bad news. We are extremely disappointed and sad, but I can't say we are shocked as we did know this might happen. I know you all are pulling for us and have kept up and seen the "ups." It's easy to keep the chances of the "downs" at bay, unless you are used to it like us. It sounds terrible, but I really have come to hate the feeling of hope and yet I still have it.

Here is where we stand:
The embryologist said there are 3 left, but 1 is developing slowly and 2 are developing abnormally. I am still holding out for the slow one since that happens, and even last round our 1 little blast needed until Day 6 and we still have that one on ice. And I suppose there is some chance of the other 2 behaving overnight or else she would have just dismissed them today, but it doesn't sound good.
Here is what happens next:

Tomorrow we will receive another phone call from our embryologist to let us know if any did in fact make it. At that point, if any from this round made it they will biopsy the embryo (take one or a couple cells) and send them for Preimplantation Genetic Testing along with the biopsy that was taken from our blastocyst embryo that was frozen in November. If none from this round make it, they will just send our 1. We will need to wait until March 17th for the results of that test to see if it or they are chromosomally viable. If yes, we will do the transfer in mid to late April and hope that it implants.

If not, that's the end of our options to have a biological child (or at least I won't - we will explore future options at that point, which could possibly include using donor eggs or adoption but we just aren't sure yet and aren't in a position to make any decisions right now).

Monday, March 3, 2014

Day 3 Report: 4 Embryos growing!

The Monday Call - brought to you by Andy

Finally… some good news!!  With the update on Saturday morning that ALL FOUR eggs were fertilized and matured, it was nice to be happy for once in this process.  And not an “I think we can be happy” feeling, but a true, hopeful feeling of happiness!!  In this long, exhaustive journey, I honestly can’t think of the last time we felt this way.  It had to be years (yes, years) ago.  And of course, we are guarded.  There is so much more to go through, and the odds are still against us.  But, something about hugging each other in happiness really felt good.

So with Pilar traveling for work this morning, the Monday morning phone call was coming to me.  Of course, that was all I could think about when I woke up.  I knew the call would be early, probably around 8am, so I was ready, looking for any signs.  My number at breakfast was 34, so I was thinking, from 4 to 3.  (That would be okay, yeah that would be good.)

The phone rang at 8:07a and I knew it was the clinic.  I picked up the call and said “hello.”  All she said was “Hi this is Kate from Dr. Shelly’s office.”  In those short seconds of time, I tried to read everything into what she just said.  “Does she sound happy?  Is she being serious?  Why is she pausing?  What does she mean by “Hi it’s Kate?”  (My brain can really get going sometimes.)  She said “I just wanted to tell you how many embryos there are.  I tried to call your wife and her phone wouldn’t pick up…. (ANXIETY! I couldn’t even understand.  I had one of those moments where I couldn’t hear and her words just sounded muffled.  All I was listening for was a number.)

“THERE ARE STILL FOUR AND THEY ARE ALL DOING GREAT!”  That’s what she said.  “They look really good and all four are grade A’s.”  (What?  I am I hearing this right? Oh gosh, I can’t wait to tell Pilar.)  I was so relieved and felt like throwing up at the same time.  The weight of these calls cannot be put into words.  Anything they tell you can change your life in a split second.  It’s scary, very scary.  And we’ve been there many times.   But for today, we are going to stay positive and enjoy this moment for now.  All of your support, prayers and good wishes have been tremendous source of strength for us… and we could never tell you enough or put into words what that really means to us.  We are so glad that you could share this little moment of joy with us.

So for now, we wait until Wednesday’s call and hope these little guys keep multiplying!!!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Day 1 Report: 4 Fertilized Eggs!

Friday & Saturday recap:

2/27: It was so nice, but kind of weird to have NO SHOTS on Thursday night. I laid out my outfit and tried to get a good sleep.

2/28: Yesterday was Egg Retrieval Day. It was the worst weather we have had in San Diego in a long time, and I had a fleeting thought that a tornado (we really did have a "watch") would land on the lab. Other than that, Andy & I were feeling pretty positive about things and we had our fight back after a tough week.

The nurses and embryologist are SO nice and they were the same ones from Round 1, so we just had some relaxed conversations with them as we did the pre-op paperwork and prep. I had a heated blanket and I was so comfortable.

Once wheeled into the operating room, I was only conscious for about five minutes before going under then woke up in the recovery room with Andy there. Dr. Shelly poked her head and and let us know we got 4 eggs, and she added a fist pump. I was a little disappointed - I was hoping for 6, but I also knew that was a slim chance. I was in minor pain, and just had some saltines and gatorade when I got home and went right back to sleep. I slept off and on all afternoon/night and we were able to just relax and not think about things.

3/1: Saturday morning, we got the call early at 8:30am. The embryologist sounded happy right when I answered the phone. I put it on speaker for Andy and she told us that ALL 4 were mature and ALL 4 FERTILIZED! This was literally the best possible news we could have received at this point in the process. We do still need to make it through Day 5 and PGS testing, but we have never once received a "best possible news" phone call in the past 3 years. Andy mentioned that he couldn't remember the last time we hugged each other because we were happy, as opposed to consoling each other about something. I know it sounds cliche, but Andy & danced around to Pharrell's "Happy" for the next half hour, then we went out to breakfast with smiles on our faces. For the first time in a month I didn't get over-easy/poached eggs and avocados (I think that worked though!). We are going to enjoy the rest of our weekend and stay positive waiting for Monday's call!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Trigger Shot, the Egg Retrieval, and the Coming Weeks

Andy & I are having a rough week mentally and emotionally as this part of the journey is coming to end. I am outlining the hurdles that still need to be jumped in this post and the odds are working against us. I hope that we will be one of those “against all odds” success stories, but I am also trying to mentally prepare myself for the next couple of weeks. We knew these risks going into it and it has been a huge challenge physically, mentally, and financially but all dreams and risks have sacrifices to be made. If we wanted to be a pop star duo, we would be making those same types of sacrifices, but WE WANT TO BE PARENTS.

We want to thank everyone for their continuing support, especially our team of cheerleaders at our place of work, which we are lucky enough to share and have the most amazing friends and a true family there. To everyone who has called, sent texts, and Facebook messages – every one of them has kept us going just a little bit more each time. A shout out to my #IF #IVF community on Twitter, where I am @JustBeeCuzzzz among an amazing group of ladies (and men) that truly understand. Whatever happens, we know we are loved and we will still need you… well, forever.

SO, here we go…

2/26: Last night at 10:30pm I took my last shot in this round of IVF. It’s called a Trigger Shot, and the Egg Retrieval surgery is scheduled for approximately 36 hours after. 

2/27: This morning I will have a blood scan just to check my levels. NO MORE SHOTS!

2/28: Andy & I will be reporting to our fertility clinic’s (FSMG) surgery center - San Diego Center for Reproductive Surgery (SDCRS) at 8:30am for a 9:30am surgery. The only thing I need to bring is socks, and I am going to wear the pink cat & heart socks my mom just sent me for Valentine’s Day a couple weeks ago for good luck. Well, I also need to bring Andy for his essential contribution, a photo ID and $460 cash/check for the anesthesiologist.

Then 5-6 of the most stressful days of our life (so far at least) begin. We have already been through these days once, which netted a single blastocyst (currently frozen, waiting for some embryo siblings to join it). At each of these stages, a % will drop off and not move to the next phase. I am not being pessimistic – this is just a fact and part of the process, but heartbreaking.
  • Day 0 - Friday 2/28, a while after the Egg Retrieval: I can expect a call at the end of Day 0 to let us know how many of the retrieved eggs were mature enough to move to the ICSI stage. ICSI: Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (a single sperm is injected directly into the egg).
  • Day 1 - Saturday 3/1: A call to tell us how many fertilized.
  • Day 2 – Sunday 3/2: Cell division happening, but no update call. If cells aren’t dividing, the embryo is non-viable.
  • Day 3 – Monday 3/3: a call to tell us the progress on cell division (hoping for 8 cells per embryo) and how many we have left.
  • Day 4 – Tuesday 3/4: Cell division happening, but no update call.
  • Day 5 – Wednesday 3/5: Hoping for blastocyst(s)! Sometimes they need another day to develop to Day 6. At this point, an embryo biopsy will be performed (which we have on the blast from Round 1). The embryo(s) from Round 2 that made it to Day 5/6 will be cryopreserved (frozen) and the biopsy samples will be sent for Preimplantation Genetic Screening.

“PGS testing is done as part of an in vitro fertilization (IVF) cycle. The purpose of PGS is to raise your chance of becoming pregnant and lower the chance for miscarriage after embryo transfer.
PGS tests for the number of chromosomes in one or a few cells from each embryo of an IVF cycle. Embryos with the normal number of chromosomes (46) have a better chance of implanting and creating a healthy pregnancy. After PGS testing, these embryos can be selected for transfer to the mother’s uterus.”

We will be receiving those results around 3/13 or 3/14. At my age and egg quality, there is a high chance of chromosomal abnormalities so we opted for this phase to decrease the chances of (another) miscarriage. 
There is a chance that all embryos will come back as not viable, which is the worst case scenario, so we are hoping for at least one to be okay to transfer in another month or two.

I will try to keep everyone updated on the Day 0-5 or 6 because I think you all deserve it for following along, but it might be depending on the results and how I feel about them.

xo, P

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I am going to have a Stimulating Valentine’s Day weekend!

And not in the fun way you might think…

As a recap, I have been on a contraceptive pill for a month & a half to control/suppress my cycle, and testosterone gel (blech) for 15 days, which is used in preparation for this next phase – Androgen hormones are used to improve response to stimulation medications. My last night of those two items was Monday night – YAY, and now I have been wearing an Androderm patch every day this week (more testosterone to prep for the stimulants), which will end on Friday – Happy Valentine’s Day to me!  I had my baseline ultrasound appointment yesterday to make sure everything has been working as planned and there is no "follicular activity" happening before we want it to. It went well, and it's really happening - I start my "Stims" this Saturday night 2/15.

The Stimulants are a combination of three injections I need to give myself every night for about 2 weeks. Two are hormones used to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs in a cycle, and one is a growth hormone used to improve response to the other two stimulants. On day 6ish, I start adding in a fourth morning shot to prevent early ovulation. For me, it is not stressful giving myself the actual injections – it's mixing them up correctly and in the right dosage. They aren't all wrapped up in a bow and ready to go; most need to be refrigerated, and I need to add supplied water and mix with powder, and make sure the right amount is in the syringe. I go in every other day for blood tests and then they will call me later in the afternoon to let me know if I need to adjust the dosage for that night. I will also be having frequent ultrasounds to track the progress of the follicles developing.

This is a different and more intense protocol than my first round in November, and we are really hoping it works – the bottom line is we need more eggs this time around, and the Egg Retrieval should be around the end of February/beginning of March. I will have frequent update posts until then… stay tuned!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

I forgot to make a birthday wish!

My 38th birthday was Monday, February 3rd 2014. I get very fixated on dates, and I love birthdays. Through college my girls and I called them our Hanukkah birthdays since they would last at least 8 days. If that’s still the rule, then mine is still going as I write this! My birthday falls on or around Super Bowl (I am in Marketing - do I need to call it “The Big Game” in my blog too?) so that always makes for a good party. For the past couple of years, we have gone to Andy’s uncle & aunt’s house and they make my birthday so special. I know a house full of babies makes a lot of Infertiles uncomfortable, but for me it makes me laugh and feel loved – and these babies’ moms are my biggest supporters and I hope to add to the crew of cousins soon. And if not, I will continue to love them and have fun with them. 

At halftime, we were called into the kitchen for my cake - coconut, and it was SO good – thanks Aunt Helen! All the kids were so excited, my mom was there too, and everyone gathered around for the candles and song. I was just feeling so loved that I didn’t make a wish when I blew out the candles! I didn’t even think anything of it until the next day when someone mentioned that they hoped my birthday wish would come true. 

When it comes down to it, my past 3 birthday wishes have been the same – to give someone else a birthday. I haven’t thought of it in quite that way until now and it hasn’t come true yet so I guess birthday candle wishes aren’t that important if you are happy in the moment. Thank you to my family and friends for making my birthday so special and always being there for me.