1

You Are Not Alone

People make allowances for all sorts of grief. Compassion is often our first and most natural response when it comes to bereavement and loss, especially loss we can give a name to. Something discernible that from the outside is easy to understand. Easy to put into words.

Infertility is a loss of staggering proportions.

To those of us who experience it, it can be incomprehensible. Bewildering. Mind-numbing. Yet it is not an easy loss to define. Nobody died. There is no funeral to attend. No one sends flowers or sympathy cards.

Even to the ones who suffer this loss, it can be a struggle to find the proper words to describe it. What have we really lost? What words can we use to do justice to this thing that knocks the air from our lungs?

It isn’t loss that has a name or memories or a number of years attached to it. We are mourning something intangible — what never was and what we are afraid may never be. Because of this, it can also be difficult for others to grasp.

While most people would agree it is sad to not be able to have children, the idea of feeling desperation and wild crippling grief could seem dramatic, excessive and even weak.

I have come to think that the most common response to infertility is: “At least it isn’t… “

From well-meaning souls I heard that at least we don’t have cancer. At least we hadn’t had a miscarriage or three. At least we hadn’t lost a sibling or a parent or even my job. At least I wasn’t dying.

To be fair, these “at leasts” aren’t meant to be hurtful, but they did breathe distance into some of our relationships. A part of me understands that these phrases are meant to reassure me, that these people genuinely want to help me to put what I felt in perspective, but at this early point in our journey we are still reeling from the pain and shock of it.

It wasn’t perspective I have sought, (that will come later, probably), it was understanding.

I needed someone to sit down and hold my hand and say, “I’m so sorry, this must hurt so much. I’m here for you.” There were some who did exactly this, who it was safe to grieve with. They spoke with love and compassion and the very fact that they allowed my grief to exist and they heard me was healing. Unfortunately, more often, the unintentional message I heard was that of my sadness being undermined, made less by the words “at least.”

How could my personal pain possibly measure up against all the greater tragedies in the world?

So I would sit there, my eyes cast down. Twisting my fingers together. Nodding my head apologetically because how could I disagree with such logic?

Yes, at least I wasn’t dying.

Except I was.

And sometimes I still am.

I have caught myself feeling as though I should apologize for all my sadness and anger, for daring to be so bold as to let my heart shatter and my world fall apart over this. Apologize for all this hurt my heart couldn’t contain.

I would bite back all the words I wanted to say. The hurt and desperation I thought I might be able to share with someone. I have felt complete dismay that others couldn’t see how this loss to me felt like grieving an actual death. We haven’t had a child we were mourning, but in my heart it has felt as if I am morning every child.

I have cried rivers over the little boys and little girls who I thought would never have my smile or my husband’s eyes. I began to have dreams of stumbling down a difficult forest path leading to a pitch black lake where a child was floating face down in the water (this is not something I have shared with anyone). The grief I experienced in this dream echoed my grief in real life—indescribable and haunting.

I hurt endlessly, and on top of all this, I felt like the worst sort of failure because I wasn’t able to just slap a smile on my face and convince myself that at least it wasn’t worse.

For myself,  and others in the process of going through this, it is the worst. It just is.

There is nothing trivial about grief over infertility. A person can grieve the loss of their dream of a biological family as honestly and deeply as someone else can grieve the loss of a child or parent or partner or their health.

There is no “at least” when it comes to the breaking of the human heart, there is no need to try to measure one person’s pain against another to see who is worthy of feeling grief and who isn’t.

If you are in a similar situation, you probably know already that no grief ever fully disappears, but I want to tell you that one day these wounds that now feel so raw and open will heal. They will still pulse with pain every so often but you will be restored to yourself and left with the truth of who you are.

The truth is things will change and you will change. It won’t always hurt the way it does now. I promise you that you will find your way.

I’m going to leave you with one “at least” that I hope makes a difference.

That in this pain that feels so solitary, at least you’re not alone.

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1

D-Day and the Ice Age

Happy Easter, y’all! D-Day (Egg Retrieval Day) has come and gone, and tomorrow is the Big Freeze. I am fortunate enough to be writing this from the beautiful Gulf Shores in Alabama.

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Sunrise on the beach this morning

The past week has honestly been a blur, and it is bittersweet to be on vacation, but truth be told I probably needed it. I’m even taking a few days off of work (what!?!) to stay until Tuesday. Well, I pulled the trigger (to “trigger” ovulation) at 2100 on Monday.

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Ovidrel was one of the easiest shots that I’ve taken

The egg retrieval was the most fun I never want to have again. The day before the retrieval was miserable. At that point my ovaries and follicles measured several inches across, and I could feel it. I could feel the heaviness and discomfort with every step, and every time I changed positions. And on top of that, I was showing “pregnancy symptoms” from the Ovidrel, which contained hCG.

Egg retrieval takes place 36-37 hours after the trigger. We got to the clinic and I got to change into my incredibly stylish gown, hair cover, and booties.

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Oh hey good lookin’

Come time for the procedure the anesthesiologist came and put in my IV (in the wrist, and yes, it hurt) and it felt like after that things started coming all too quickly. They had me walk to the back and lay on the table, and started strapping me in. It was maybe five seconds after that when the room started spinning. I’m fairly certain that I said something inappropriate and then I was out.

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I basically remember nothing else except vaguely driving home and waking up on the couch. Apparently I was quite entertaining on anesthesia. For some reason, I kept calling the eggs and potential babies “gerbils”. Lucky for y’all, my wonderful husband recorded everything.

For the most part I have felt okay. My heating pad was my best friend for the first two days. The only time I really had pain was when I would get up and push myself (I have a hard time just sitting still). In the future I’ll write another post with some tips on surviving the retrieval, but it went a lot more smoothly than I imagined.

So here’s the big news… the count!! Drumroll please….

14 Eggs Retrieved
12 Eggs Fertilized
8 High Grade Embryos, 2 Medium Grade, and 1 on watch

Y’all we have eight embryos for sure!!!

We are over the moon excited that we can move forward to the next step… tomorrow is the Big Freeze, and the start of the Ice Age for our little embies.

So now what? We wait. giphy

And wait… and wait…

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We will have a better timeline when my next cycle starts. Doc said it could be two weeks, it could be a month. We will see what my body does. Until then … we get to “relax”. Cheers to brewing up a baby!

 

0

What are the Odds?

Probability: noun likelihood of something happening

The past few days have been a whirlwind of emotions, ups and downs, and I promise that isn’t just the hormones talking. Where do I even start?

Let’s start with one of the most incredible things that has ever happened to us.

In previous posts I shared the Baby Steps Infertility Awareness Fun Run put on by Sarah’s Laughter. At the run we had 19 incredible members on our team on the day of the run and our friends and family helped us to raise just over $1,000 for Sarah’s Laughter. The event gave away a $500 grant, a $10,000 grant, and four free IVF cycles, one of which was donated by my clinic (Fertility Institute, Baton Rouge location – Dr. Dunaway).

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We had to represent Brieux Carre!

The names were read off and a Samantha was called – I think we were all holding our breath but let out a sigh of disappointment when the last name wasn’t ours. But on the last drawing.. it happened! He actually read our name! I wish that I could describe how it felt. I was in shock, disbelief, awe, and it felt as if my legs had given out. I nearly fell to my knees, but still had to walk to the front! Taylor practically carried me as we went up. I didn’t know if I would be able to make it. I’ve watched the video (https://www.facebook.com/jasonforbus/videos/10209162710248142/ at 7:40) several times, just to make sure it really happened, and I’ve cried every time. The cycle that we won was actually for our clinic! This means we are being refunded what was already paid, and do not have to pay anything additional.

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The amazing FINO team

We had a 1.46% chance of winning. Only 1.46%. But it happened. We are so overwhelmingly grateful for Sarah’s Laughter and the Fertility Institute. You are changing our lives, and we have our friends and family to thank for supporting us and putting our name in the drawing.

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I’m finally at the end of stimulation meds. It has certainly been a long, long, long nine days of stims. Luckily, after decreasing the dose of Lupron from 10 IU to 5 IU many of my symptoms eased up, primarily the insomnia and hot flashes, thank goodness. I started on 150 IU of Gonal-F and 75 units of Menopur until day 4, when I lowered by dose of Gonal-F to 100 IU per day. My mood has been something else though. I go from happy go lucky to ready to bury a body in 0.67 seconds. I figure that’s why my husband has been working until midnight every night and leaving before I wake up….
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Here are my final scan results:

Right Ovary:
(1) 20 mm
(1) 18 mm
(1) 16 mm
(1) 15 mm
(1) 14 mm
(2) 12 mm
(2) 9 mm
(1) 7 mm
(1) 6 mm
(1) 5 mm
12 total on right

Left Ovary:
(1) 22 mm
(2) 21 mm
(1) 19 mm
(2) 18 mm
(1) 14 mm
(1) 13 mm
(1) 11 mm
(1) 9 mm
(3) 8 mm
(1) 6 mm
14 total on left

26 follicles total! So everything looks great to move forward with retrieval on Wednesday. I have a LOT of discomfort. I can feel my ovaries with Every. Single. Step. Of course I have allergies right now, and when I sneeze, it feels like my ovaries are going to explode.

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My ovaries are so big I look pregnant already… what a tease!

Now that we’ve covered all of the good news, here’s the not so good news. When Jackie called me this afternoon to give me trigger instructions she also told me that Dr. Dunaway feels that I am very high risk for Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS), so they are canceling our fresh embryo transfer and freezing all of the embryos. OHSS happens when your ovaries overreact to the fertility drugs. They may quickly swell to several times their normal size, and can sometimes leak fluid into the abdomen. About one in three women have mild symptoms (hence my bloating), one in 25 experience moderate symptoms, and one in 100 experience severe symptoms. It can cause rapid weight gain (40 pounds in two days), vomiting, blood clots, and other symptoms.

I understand avoiding OHSS. I don’t want it. But when I was going through possible scenarios in my head of what could go wrong, this isn’t something that I had considered. It’s been so hard to not get excited for all of this, but every time we get to check one box I’m just more anxious for the next.

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I was devastated today when she told me that our transfer wouldn’t occur until the end of May or beginning of June. It’s just another change to the plan. I’m also terrified that our embryos (however many we have) won’t survive the freeze and thaw. I was heartbroken thinking of more probabilities. But then I think of our chances of winning the free IVF cycle. 1.46%. My chances of OHSS are higher than that. And our chances of a FET (frozen embryo transfer) being successful is WAY higher than that. So there is hope.

That means that we will continue to limp along down the infertility road a little longer.

But it’s the possibility that keeps me going, not the guarantee.

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Fertility Treatment Running Cost:
Ovulation Kits for a year: $80
Pregnancy Tests for a year: $100
Vitamins: $300
GYN Apt: $50
Semen Analysis: $175
Semen Analysis w/Urinanalysis: $250
Fertility Institute Consultation: $166 ($250 without insurance)
Clomid: $9.60 ($100 without insurance)
IUI Payment #1: $880
hCG trigger: $125
IUI Payment #2: $485
IVF Consult: $100
IVF Workup #1: $350
IVF Workup #2: $205
Infectious Disease Testing: $92
IVF Payment #1: $7,600
IVF Medications: $1,344
Sarah’s Laughter IVF Giveaway: ($7,600)
IVF Workup Balance: $196

TOTAL: $4,908

2

Body Shots

Well hello ladies and gents. Today is day two of stimulations and eleven of injections. I can’t believe I have been doing this for almost two weeks already, and it feels like we’re still so far from retrieval. Our timeline is different than I first expected, clearly. This office started me on Lupron, stopped birth control, waited for a period, and then I waited 5 days to start stims.

I received my medications while I was in Houston for work. It was a bit overwhelming opening the box and looking at the crazy amount of medications (and needles….).

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So what are these medications?

Lupron

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This little guy has been giving me hell for almost two weeks, at a dose of 10 IU. Lupron essentially shuts down the body’s reproductive system, so for me it stops estrogen production. It was started before I stopped birth control to prevent any ovarian cysts from forming. During the stimulation cycle it is continued at a lower does to prevent ovulation. Ovulation cannot occur naturally while on Lupron because LH, which triggers ovulation, is suppressed. This prevents a premature surge of the LH before the retrieval, which could cause loss of the cycle.

I’ve had a few lovely side effects:

  • Insomnia
  • Exhaustion
  • Night sweats
  • Nightmares
  • Hot flashes
  • Muscle aches/weakness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

I was very excited to cut that dosage in half yesterday. I will continue Lupron until trigger shot day.

Gonal-F

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Gonal-F comes in pen form. This is a picture of the 900 IU pen. Until my first ultrasound I’m starting with 150 IU per day. Each pen contains a certain volume, and you turn the top and dial in the correct dosage. This, like the Lupron, is injected subcutaneously. Gonal-F is a synthetic version of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), which develops and matures eggs. This one actually isn’t too bad. The needle is so small I hardly feel it go in, and the pen is very easy to use.

Menopur

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Then there is this guy. Menopur. Menopur is a concentrated naturally occuring FSH and LH (luteinizing hormone), which work together to develop and mature the eggs. We’re trying to get as many eggs as possible without over stimulating my ovaries. Menopur is a powder that is mixed with sodium chloride and then injected. To start I’m on 75 IU, which is one sodium chloride and one powder of Menopur. The only issue is that it feels like FIRE going in. I learned today that it is much more bearable when icing the area beforehand.

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Ring around the rosie…. after 14 injections

The menopur and Gonal-F have similar side effects to Lupron, with one lovely addition, it has made me a hormonal raging bitch.

Seriously. My mood is all over the place… I can feel the awful things coming out of my mouth but I cannot help it.

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I have a few more injections, but I will post about those as they come. Hopefully I will only have about a week more of these medications and we will be able to move forward with retrieval. First ultrasound and hormone check is on Wednesday!

So here’s to IVF, taking the fun out of procreation since 1976.

tenor

 

Fertility Treatment Running Cost:
Ovulation Kits for a year: $80
Pregnancy Tests for a year: $100
Vitamins: $300
GYN Apt: $50
Semen Analysis: $175
Semen Analysis w/Urinanalysis: $250
Fertility Institute Consultation: $166 ($250 without insurance)
Clomid: $9.60 ($100 without insurance)
IUI Payment #1: $880
hCG trigger: $125
IUI Payment #2: $485
IVF Consult: $100
IVF Workup #1: $350
IVF Workup #2: $205
Infectious Disease Testing: $92
IVF Payment #1: $7,600
IVF Medications: $1,344

TOTAL: $12,312