The IVF Ball, It’s A-Rolling

I shall concoct you...a baby! [image credit]
I shall concoct you…a baby!
[image credit]

Last week we had our official IVF consult with our new doctor’s office. It was awesome. As you know, I loved our old doctor, so the decision to switch was not easy. But we left last week’s appointment feeling, without a doubt, like we made the right choice. This place is just on a whole different level. Basically, they have their shit together.

Our new doctor is not warm and fuzzy and dressed to the nines like our old doctor. Nope. She’s abrupt, straight shooting and very serious, but I still think she’s the bees-knees. At the appointment, we expressed concern about our records transfer request and she asked us the name of the person we talked to in the office. Then she said she would go speak with that person herself to make sure everything was as it should be. You guys, she offered to do something outside the scope of her job. And then she did it. Right away. Half an hour after returning from the appointment, I got a message saying that the issue was resolved. I know this sounds like no big thing, but in my experience a willingness to go above and beyond is rare. In fact, the whole place is like that—from the nurses to the insurance coordinator to the people who answer the phones. Their unspoken motto seems to be, Why do this yourself when we can do it for you? This is such a change from where we were. It’s not like the people at the old place were a-holes. They just seemed to lack…focus.

Although we are taking this cycle “off,” there still is a bunch of stuff that needs to happen. We need to transfer records and work out insurance pre-authorization. We needed to have a day three ultrasound and blood work, so our new doctor could get a sense of what was going on with my bod.

Today, I had two diagnostic procedures—a mock transfer and a hysteroscopy. The mock transfer is where they go up in your business with a catheter and, like, pretend they are transferring embryos. This gives them the lay of the land when the time comes to transfer real embryos. The hysteroscopy is again where they go up in your business, but this time with a tiny camera. They are checking for polyps, scarring and other wackness. Both of the procedures went off without a hitch and everything looked normal. By far, the hardest part of the afternoon was having a full bladder during the procedures. At one point the doctor was talking to me, and then he stopped and said, “Are you ok? You look tired.” And I was like, “Nope, I just really have to pee.”

Next week, we have an appointment with a nurse, who will school us on the medications I’ll be taking. It’s a two-hour appointment, so I’m fully expecting my brain to explode.

So, yeah. Not really a month off at all. Woops. It’s cool, though. I’m glad we’re getting everything done now so there are no surprises at game time. I’m also excited. And hopeful. It feels good to be hopeful. What we were doing up until this point, IUI, had a 10% chance of working per cycle. IVF has a 50% chance. Sure, sure, IVF is a lot more intense and you pretty much have to get all mad-scientist on yourself to do it. But still: I do like them odds.

The Reset Button

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Last week, our family traveled to Vermont. For me, it might have been one of the most-needed vacations ever. The weeks leading up to our trip were filled with fertility treatments, dental visits (seriously, people, they never end) and just a general sense of family unease. Tim and I were fighting. I felt distant from Lettie. We needed a place to start fresh. Vermont, as always, delivered.

The air is crisper there, even in the summer. There’s nothing to see but green and green and more green. Our dog Beaker ran around off-leash like a wild runt.

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Lettie played in the grass, dipped her toes in mountain ponds, checked out salamanders and frogs, and explored like a champ.

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At times, it felt like there was no one else in the state but the three of us. And I liked it that way.

We hiked.

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And hiked.

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And then hiked some more.

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We went out to breakfast.

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And dinner.

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And walked through quaint towns.

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It was a perfect week. In such a serene setting, it was easy to give myself permission to put my worries aside. To not think about the future. To appreciate my family just as it is now. It’s easy to get caught up in fertility treatments and the possibility of future babies. Scary easy. I am thankful that we got this time to breathe and regroup.

This morning, we found out that our fourth and final IUI did not work. Now we take a month off. After that, it’s time to pull out the big guns and head on over to IVF Town.

I’m scared—not really of the needles or the meds or the bajillion monitoring appointments. I’m mostly scared because IVF is the final frontier. After that, there’s pretty much nowhere else to go in terms of fertility treatments. It’s the last stop.

I’m also grateful. Grateful to science and doctors and insurance for even giving us the chance to walk down this road. For whatever reason, it appears that IVF is meant to be part of my life’s journey, and I want to accept that with grace and compassion.

I feel blessed that, before things get really crazy, we had this week to reconnect as a family. I’m telling you, Vermont is like a salve to the soul. If you haven’t been had the chance to bask in its majesty yet, jump in the car and get thee to the Green Mountains!

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The Healers & The Faith Keepers

I’ve been trying to write this post for weeks, but I’ve been feeling too meh to do it. Tim and I are smack in the middle of fertility treatments, and although what we’re doing right now is not super physically challenging, I am tired. Like, mega tired.

I think when I last talked about this topic I was on track to take progesterone for two months. That seemed to work well with my body, but I did not get pregnant. Now we are taking a drug called Clomid, along with a procedure called IUI (intrauterine insemination). This involves two monitoring appointments, five days of pills, multiple blood draws, one shot and then the actual procedure. In fertility land, this is chump change—nothing compared to the more hardcore treatments. Yet still, it is mentally and physically draining.

Our doctor said this Clomid and IUI combo has a 25% chance of working within four months. We’re on month three right now. If it doesn’t pan out, we’ll move onto IVF (in-vitro fertilization). This means there’s a 75% chance we’ll be doing IVF. I’m struggling with finding the balance here. On the one hand, I want to remain positive that we’ll be one of the 25% and IUI will work for us. On the other hand, statistically, it looks like IVF is likely and we need to plan for that. There’s the money thing, for one. It’s expensive. What does our insurance cover and what do we pay for out of pocket? Getting this answer is not as easy as it should be. Then there’s the question of where. We love, love, love our current doctor, but our current clinic’s IVF success rates are below the national average. We’ll need to ask our doctor about this, as well as meet one or two doctors at other clinics for a consult. IVF would be a huge deal, not to be taken lightly, but like I said, there needs to be a balance between planning for the future and having faith in what we’re doing right now. I’m not even close to finding that balance.

Honestly, I’m writing this on a bad day. If I would have written this even a few days ago, I would said how positive I’m feeling. It’s a roller coaster, my friends, and today I am at the bottom of a drop.

In spite of my current mopey-moperness, I will say that I have been feeling very loved and supported throughout this process. Yes, it can be an isolating experience, but I have people standing behind me. I like to think of these people in two different categories: the Healers and the Faith Keepers.

The Healers are people like my acupuncturist, who invited me to her house for a private session when I couldn’t get an appointment at the office. People like my doctor, who is stylish and lovely and makes me laugh every time I see her. She says things like, “I’m sorry,” “Take a deep breath” and “You’re so brave.” Or the the nurses at my clinic who call me back within minutes and who answer any question with kindness, now matter how mundane.

Then there are my close friends, who I like to think of as the Faith Keepers. They say things to me like, “Tell me about your ovaries.” They ask about my appointments, my ultrasounds, how I’m feeling. They let me know, in so many little ways, that I am loved. Most importantly, they keep the faith for me when I can’t.

We’ve all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, but I think that, sometimes, it takes a village to make a baby, too. Today, I am feeling overwhelmed. Today, my hope is buried underneath the details and the what-ifs. It’s all good, though. My village has my back.

Confessions of a Pregnant Blogger

Wanna know why this blog has been so infrequent and lackluster lately?

It’s because I am a horrible liar. Always have been.

The truth is, I am 14 weeks pregnant!

I didn’t feel comfortable sharing the news until we heard a heartbeat (which we did on Wednesday: amazing!), hence the slew of random, totally-non-fertility-related blog posts. It definitely felt weird not to share it with you guys right away, since I’ve shared every step with you up until this point.

But holy crap, can you believe it? I kind of still can’t. Every day I am amazed that I got this lucky. Everything I’ve been wishing and praying for: granted. I feel elated and blessed and terrified all at once.

Since I posted about my last visit with the doctor, you’re probably wondering how the pregnancy happened and if I went the fertility treatment route. The crazy thing is, when I wrote that post, I was actually pregnant but didn’t know it yet. In an amazing turn of events, I never had to make a decision about whether or not to try fertility treatments. The decision was made for me by the tiny baby I am now carrying. I am still in disbelief that it turned out this way. And I am grateful every single day.

Thank you all so much for your support on my babymaking journey. I appreciate it more than I could ever say. Seriously, you guys are awesome. I hope you will stick with me on the next phase of my story.

And if you are still in the babymaking trenches, please know that I understand if you want to step away from this blog for a while. But also please know that I am thinking about you and caring for you and hurting with you and most of all, hoping for you. Fervently. Even if you stop reading, I will not stop praying for you and fighting for you.

How am I feeling? Physically, much better. I had some decent bouts of nausea for a while there, but they seem to be subsiding. How am I feeling mentally? Well, that’s a different story. You all know I struggle with anxiety, so this pregnancy has been one of my biggest challenges yet. I am trying hard to appreciate each day and not worry about the future and all of the things that could go wrong. But let me tell you, it has been a struggle. I often find myself thinking, “How could this wonderful thing possibly be real? How can it last?”

So as a big eff-you to anxiety, I’d like to end this post with a quote from my favorite movie of all time, Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory:

Willy Wonka: “Charlie, don’t forget what happened to the man who suddenly got everything he always wanted.”

Charlie: “What happened?”

Willy Wonka: “He lived happily ever after.”

Let’s Get Luteal (Visit With The Spesh: Part III)

It’s been way too long since I’ve talked about my ovaries. I know you’ve been waiting in anticipation, so I won’t leave you hanging any longer.

First things first: this visit was not as awesome as the last two. The doctor was an hour behind and rushed and short with us. I know she doesn’t need to be our best friend or anything, but since fertility is such a sensitive and intimate subject, it’s upsetting to me when doctors are anything less than friendly and focused.

I showed the doc my data for the last three-and-a-half months and all looked well. Except: the luteal phase. The luteal phase is the time between when you ovulate and when you get your period. Ideally, it should be around 14 days, but no less than 10. Mine were about 8, on average. The theory is that if your luteal phase is too short, an embryo might not have enough time to implant, even if the egg is fertilized.

Thanks to this great book called Taking Charge of Your Fertility, I had suspected this luteal phase business was a problem way back when, long before I saw the specialist. But I was hoping that since I had recently stopped taking birth control pills at the time, my body would regulate itself after a few months. Obv, it didn’t happen.

The doc gave us three options:

1. Do nothing for three more months. I could still get pregnant despite my short luteal phase.

2. Have my cycle monitored for a month to provide the doctor with more accurate data. This would require an ultrasound every other day from day 12 ’til whenever I ovulate. Then take no further action for the next two months.

3. Have my cycle monitored for a month and take a progesterone suppository for three months. Not enough progesterone after ovulation often causes short luteal phases, so the suppositories would hopefully take care of that. This third choice is the one the doctor was leaning towards.

At the end of this three-month journey, if I’m still not pregnant, she wants us to try Clomid, which is a medication that makes you ovulate earlier. It also has many side effects, including a 5-10% rate of multiple births. 10%? Um, that’s one in 10. That’s kind of a lot. And sure, twins would be sweet. But twins also mean a potentially more complicated pregnancy and that is scary stuff.

She also emphatically said to not take the herbs my acupuncturist prescribed me. I am particularly bummed about this because I really wanted to try them. In the end, though, I don’t feel comfortable going against her super-strong recommendation. She says the herbs aren’t regulated or tested, and I see her point, of course. But Chinese medicine has been around for thousands of years. It’s got to be doing something right, no?

So that about sums it up. I found myself crying in the car after this visit. Part of it was probably because of the rushed manner of the doctor, but I don’t think that’s enough to justify tears. Tim asked me if I could pinpoint why I was so upset, and at the time I really didn’t know. But now that I’ve had some time to think, I’ve arrived at this conclusion: short of doing nothing, either option we choose means I am officially starting down the scary road of fertility treatments. And even though I can get off that road whenever I want, it still feels like I’m choosing a path and I’m committing to following it.

Also, while Tim and I can talk to death about which option to choose, ultimately the final-final decision comes down to me. Because it’s my body. And right now that feels like a lonely place to be.

What will we do? I don’t know. They always say to listen to your gut on these things, but right now my gut is a jumble of confusion. They also say that doctors don’t know everything and you don’t need to listen to them all the time. And this is true, but doctors also have the benefit of knowledge and experience that I don’t, making it really tricky to know when not to follow their advice.

Should I do something or do nothing? Should I be patient or proactive? Am I starting down the road to fertility treatments too soon? And finally, do any of those other things matter if there’s a healthy baby at the end?

These are valid questions, but right now I have no answers.

A Wino’s Farewell to Wine

I love wine.

I love the taste, the smell, the way it makes me feel. I love wineries, wine bars and wine menus at restaurants. I love it all. I even like wine in boxes.

But I’m giving it up. For now.

Last night I made the (very difficult) decision to kick alcohol to the curb until I get pregnant.

A few factors spurred this decision. First, there are some studies linking alcohol to decreased fertility. I didn’t pay any mind to these studies when I first read about them. There are other studies out there saying alcohol while trying to conceive is No Big Deal. Indeed, many of my dearest friends were 100% tipsy when they got pregnant. Alcohol does not seem to mess with the average gal’s fertility much, so why should I worry about it?

Because when it comes down to it, I’m not the average gal trying to get pregnant. Even though I’ve had a couple periods since I’ve started upping my fat intake, they’re still not super regular and I’m ovulating way late in my cycle.

Second, I’ve been doing (and blogging about) so many things to make myself healthier these last few months, that ditching the sauce seems like the next logical step in the process. One thing has been naturally leading to the next as I’ve been slowly, but surely, building a healthier me.

And finally, I’m willing to go to great lengths to get pregnant, if necessary. I’d try Clomid, I’d inject myself with drugs and, yes, I would do IVF, the final frontier. Hopefully I won’t have to do those things, but that’s beside the point. If I’m willing to do all of those things, then why shouldn’t I be willing to try giving up alcohol first? It’s certainly more natural and less invasive than the things mentioned above. Plus, those medications, etc., are so expensive that I’d feel like I was wasting my time and money if I wasn’t as healthy as possible before I even thought about trying them.

Bottom line: it just feels like the right thing to do right now. I’ve written a lot recently about listening to the needs of my body and paying attention to my inner voice. And right now my inner voice is pretty much screaming at me about this.

But it is not going to be easy. Drinking is so much a part of my relationships and activities that I think I’m going to feel lost without it. After an emotional day, I could always uncork a bottle. When I was bored? Another bottle. Oh and let’s not forget celebrations. That’s at least two bottles.

It’s going to be totally weird for me to navigate all of that without my trusty elixir.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I need your support. Even if you just post a comment on this blog or say something supportive to me in passing, it would really help a lot.

I’m not going to give up alcohol forever. Oh hell no. But for now, I must make the following goodbyes. Because it’s not just my beloved wine that’s got to go, it’s everything:

Goodbye, beer sampler...
Goodbye, Guinness...
Goodbye, car bombs. Godspeed.