You wait… Our first ultrasound

There’s one thing no one really tells you about dealing with infertility and that is the never ending wait. What’s an even bigger secret is that wait and the worrying and the pain don’t end after you become pregnant. No, that is just the beginning.

On Friday March 9th, after a long 9 day wait we had heard the wonderful word’s “Your Pregnant!”. But of course it’s never really that simple. Our beta was on the lower side so we had to wait for monday to see if it would rise. As I wrote in my last post by the grace of god it had significantly! We were told no more beta’s and thus began the 11 day wait till our next significant milestone… the first ultrasound. Keeping myself busy during those 11 days was a challenge! Firstly, I honestly didn’t know what to think. I knew I was pregnant based on the two beta results, but I really felt like I needed a third to formally confirm. Leading up to my ultrasound I didn’t really experience any of the typical early pregnancy symptoms so it made me a bit worried. I had limited bloating, no real cramping, no nausea, some fatigue and no major new cravings (besides oreos and milk!).

When the big day finally came both Jason and I were anxious, me probably a bit more than him. I had woken up the morning of the ultrasound with one of those ‘bad feelings’ I just couldn’t seem to shake. My RE must have sensed it as she walked in the room because she immediately explained to me what would happen at today’s ultrasound knowing I wouldn’t be able to think clearly afterwards. She told me she would be looking for the following things:

  • Is the pregnancy in the uterus or is it outside, also known as an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Is there a gestational sac and does it contain a yolk.
  • Is there an early fetal pole, and if so what is the crown to rump length.
  • Is there an early heart beat and if so how many beats per minute is it.

As I laid on the table and awaited the image on the screen my heart was racing. I knew what to be looking for as I had researched what typical ultrasounds look like at 6 weeks. Jason on the other hand was flying blind and perhaps that was a gift. The second the image came up the screen my heart sank. I knew immediately something was wrong. While there was a gestational sac is was very small measuring barely 3mm. Based on my known gestation it really should have been somewhere closer to the ranges of 6 to 10mm.

My doctor’s tone immediately changed from one of positivity to a more clinical manner. She ended the ultrasound without giving us a picture and began the discussion of what this all means. Very matter of factly she told us that it was too small to tell if there was anything inside the gestational sac, that it was unlikely this pregnancy would be viable. We were given a 30% or less chance that it was just a ‘slow to grow’ embryo and that things would turn around over the next week. And just like that we were told the next week would be the hardest of our lives. We simply had to wait…wait to see if the baby continued to grow, wait to see if there was a heartbeat, wait to see if it was all over.

Naturally, I cried. I was devastated by the news. I knew in my heart that things did not look good. Jason, tried his best to remain positive. He focused on the 30% of hope. I knew better. I went home and began the mourning process. I cried, I begged, I asked ‘why me’ ‘why us’. And then after a long pity party, I decided to stop all the nonsense and focus on the positives. At least I had gotten pregnant, something I had once thought was impossible. There was still a small chance it was just ‘slow to grow’. Miracles happen every day if you believe. I had even found medical research articles that stated frozen embryo IVF babies tended to be ‘slow growers’ in utero up until about 12 weeks. I even had two friends who now had healthy living children tell me that they too had been given grim results at the first ultrasounds which went on to be healthy and successful pregnancies.

And so for the the next week I filled my mind with positive thoughts. I focused on all the hope I had for this life inside of me. I prayed like I have never prayed before. I surrounded myself with positive affirmations. I went to church and prayed some more. I looked to close friends and relatives for more hope and faith. And then I waited… You see the waiting never really ends. Infertility is a season of waiting. Time seems to stand still as you wait. Every moment feeling like a lifetime of wait. If you are in your own season of waiting. Just know you are not alone. Please reach out, I would be happy to support you through this challenging time. Because in these moments, sometimes all you can do is rest upon a friend.

Until next time, wishing you all lots of love, luck and baby dust!

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The two words I never thought I would hear… “You’re Pregnant!

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Photo Credit, Esty Shop: DesignParlour

Even as I sit down to write this post I am truly in disbelief. I mean surely I knew that after transferring our beautiful 6AB embaby there was a chance I would become actually  be pregnant, but after all the heartbreaks, and hardships of the past few years, I guess I had somewhat started to believe it was impossible for us to hear those magic words. And they truly are magical.

Following our successful FET transfer on Feburary 28th life pretty much carried on as usual. I made notes of any potential ‘symptoms’ just for my own reference when moving forward with other cycles. I figured why not have a go-to list of what I was feeling so I know what to expect, or not expect, depending on the outcome. I spent most of the week just counting the days till our first beta test (HCG blood work). Jason and I had made a promise that we would not test before our scheduled blood work date as we felt it would just cause too much unnecessary stress. From what I had seen from many other IVF’ers is that even with a positive or a negative test result they still felt unsure and needed the blood work to confirm. We felt there was no point in seeing a HPT (home pregnancy test) result before the beta test as we would still need confirmation either way. I guess I am one of the very few who actually waits as my instagram feed was blowing up with images of both positives and negative HPT’s.

 

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A card and flowers from Jason prior to our Beta. He wanted to remind me that no matter what, God has a plan for us and we are in this together ❤

On the morning of my beta test I was an absolute nervous wreck. When I say nervous I mean full blown shaking, sick to my stomach, heart racing, mind racing, unable to think straight bundle of nerves!! I got to my clinic around 8:30 and wasn’t taken back for my blood test until closer to 9:00 a.m. Those extra 30 minutes didn’t help with my anxiety! After taking my blood work they told me I would receive a call by mid-afternoon with the results, the nurse wished me good luck and off I went. When I finally arrived at work I kept my cell phone with me at all times, anxiously awaiting the call. I tried desperately to remain positive and upbeat, all the while freaking out and trying to prepare myself for the worse just in case. I had already spoken with my boss who said I was free to leave early if the news was less than positive. I greatly appreciated her understanding that I would be in no working condition following a negative result.

As the hours ticked on I began to become more and more nervous and full of doubt. The last time I had a beta test done was following my IUI. The call came in significantly later than they had told me and I remember I could tell just by tone of the nurses voice that the news was not good. I kept replaying the conversation in my head and then trying to replay it as positive news rather than negative (trying my best to attract positivity!!). When the phone finally rang I could barely say ‘hello’ to answer it. The conversation went like this… “Hi Joy, It’s Elana at CCRM I am calling with your test results, did you take a home pregnancy test?”… I said “no actually I didn’t” (truly not sure what her response would be)… then she said “Excellent! I know how hard it is to wait, but now I get to be the first person to tell you, you are pregnant!!”. I had no words… the shock took over. When I finally said something all I was able to muster up was “oh my god, I am??”.

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My initial beta number came in at 93.7 at 9dp5dt (9 days past 5 day blast transfer). When I asked her if those numbers were good or not she said “well we like to see it at 100 or better but you are close, we need you to come back on monday for a follow up test.” And just like that I found I was pregnant, and a whole new round of racing thoughts and ‘what -ifs’ began filling my head. What if my numbers don’t rise and this was just a chemical pregnancy? What if the numbers are low because its an ectopic pregnancy? What do I tell people, should I tell anyone? Now what??

I immediately thanked the nurse hung up and fell to the floor of my office in tears. I prayed like I have never prayed before and thanked god profusely for this amazing gift. The gift of life. I was finally pregnant, something I had only ever dreamed of. Something that for so long felt impossible. Then I began trying to figure out how to share the good news with Jason. I finally found an image to text to him that I thought was equal parts funny and fitting for our scenario..

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Photo credit, Etsy Shop: HonestAFcards

He immediately responded and said “shut up!” “are you serious!!”. We had a quick conversation over the phone where I told him the good news, explained how everything was still very-very delicate and we would need to see our numbers at least double come monday’s test to ensure that pregnancy was continuing to be viable. I was honestly on cloud 9. I wanted to shout it up and down the hallways at work that I was finally pregnant!! But of course that isn’t what I did. Instead I quietly smiled to myself, continued to profusely thank god, and shared my new little secret with a few co-workers who where in the ‘know’ and had been praying for us.

On my way home from work I stopped at a local CVS and bought a card to tell my parents and another one for Jason to congratulate him on becoming a dad. I also bought a two pack of pregnancy tests. I have never in my life seen a positive on a home pregnancy test so I felt like I needed to see it with my own two eyes. The package I bought had one digital and one traditional test. The directions said to use the traditional first and confirm with the digital. Well I freaked myself out a bit when the traditional came back with a very faint double line. Then the digital re-confirmed with a ‘+ yes’. Which made me feel a lot better. I put the tests on the kitchen counter along side the card for Jason when he got home from work.

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First time I have EVER seen a positive HPT!
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The card I got for Jason to come home too. 

The next few days felt like a blur. I knew I was technically pregnant but nothing really felt any different. If anything it felt like my period might start at any point. I was constantly going to bathroom to double check and make sure there was no spotting or blood. I continued to document any ‘symptoms’ I was having and all I kept thinking was “I don’t fell pregnant” and to be honest I still don’t. Finally we made it through the weekend, including me ‘drinking’ ginger ale’s when out with friends. Monday morning bright and early was my next HCG beta test. Of course my work day was absolutely jam packed with meetings so I knew I would miss the phone call from the clinic.

In between meetings I quickly checked my phone and to my surprise I saw a missed phone call at 10 a.m. This time I started to panic because that was a few hours earlier than I was expecting the call. I started thinking… what if its bad news? Why did they call so quickly, that can’t be good… I’m not ready for this to be taken away from me.. So I tried to switch gears, I told myself I would listen to the voicemail when I had a break from meetings so that I could get myself back together incase it was bad news. When I finally got up the courage to listen to the voicemail it ended up just being a message from the nurse to call her back for my results. Cue more panic, if it was good news why couldn’t she just leave that on the voicemail!

I called the clinic up and prepared myself for the worst. When I finally got a hold of the nurse she seemed excited to talk to me. I remained cautious as I waited for the news. “Hi Joy! your results are back and your numbers are 361.5!! That is a doubling time of 37 hours!!” …. HOLD UP… Did you say 361.5??? The absolute highest I had thought they might be when I was trying to be positive was 280-300. They were even higher than I could have imagined. Now here’s the trick with HCG beta numbers. There is a HUGE range of what is normal. All that really matters is that the numbers at least double within a 48-72 hour period of time. My numbers had doubled in a 37 hour period of time!! The nurse went on to say that because my numbers looked good I did not need to come back in for any more HCG blood tests, instead I was now scheduled for my first ultrasound check on March 23rd!!

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Part of me was ecstatic that they felt confident enough that I did not need to return for a third beta check before the ultrasound. The other part of me felt like I wanted the reassurance of the increasing numbers. So here I am now, waiting for friday of next week to find out if everything is continuing to progress as it should. I know that everything is still super delicate. I believe the miscarriage rate is the highest during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy. I will call this the ‘danger zone’. Of course nothing is guaranteed even if you make it out of your first trimester (after week 13) but I guess there is some sense of security in knowing you’ve made it that far.

So for now, at 14dp5dt (or 4 weeks, 5 days pregnant) I am just counting down the days till our first ultrasound next week! It’s going to be a long 9 more days! The wait never ends. Until next time, wishing you and yours lots of love, luck and baby dust!!

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Ready set…PUPO!! Our first ever embryo transfer!

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It finally happened!!

I can finally call myself PUPO (Pregnant Unless Proven Otherwise) for the first time in my life! Our first ever embryo transfer was this past wednesday (Feb 28th). I had been preparing for this date for 52 days… 52 days is how long it took from the time of my egg retrieval, OHSS, new cycle start, birth control, lupron, doxycycline, medrol, estrogen, and progesterone to get to this glorious day! To be honest it almost felt like it was never going to happen. I had spent so much time and energy trying to prepare for the big day, all the while worrying if it was actually going to take place. Thank you god it did!

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My DIY- IVF Pineapple Lucky Transfer Shirt 🙂

The day of our transfer my husband and eye donned our lucky IVF socks, I put on my “I’VF Got This” Pineapple shirt and we headed to our clinic. We still had some legal issues hanging over our head (more about this in my next post) and so our nerves were on edge heading into the clinic. I was also trying to carefully time my water consumption as to have a full bladder but not too too full for the procedure. The embryo transfer is done via ultrasound so unfortunately a full bladder is required and as you probably know its not super comfortable for someone to be pressing down firmly on your lower abdomen when you have a bursting bladder! The key is to time your water consumption perfectly so that you have consumed just enough, but not so much that you are in pain during the procedure.

The day before our transfer I had gotten a call from the lab to confirm that they would be thawing one embryo for our transfer. Due to our age and insurance company policies we were only allowed to transfer one embryo. I totally wasn’t sure what to expect for the whole procedure. They walked us over to the surgical side of our clinic and put us in our own little room which was dimly lit and had soft calming music playing. The nurse thanked us profusely for allowing her to be a part our special moment of conception. She reiterated numerous times that this was our special day and they were just lucky to be a part of it. Pretty cool when you think about it.. I guess I had gotten so use to just being poked and prodded and going with the flow that I wasn’t even realizing how personal and special this moment was going to be for us.

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My overly excited, big smile and double thumbs up pose!!

The nurse left the room and I got changed into the traditional hospital gown and waited patiently for the rest of the team to arrive. In our tiny little room was myself, my husband Jason, the RE, two nurses and the embryologist. It was like a conception party! Once everyone arrived they got me all set up with my legs in the stirrups and the brightest damn light shining down my lady bit hallway (once again all modesty is out the window when there’s four adults, who are not your husband, getting an up close and personal view of your private lady bits).

After inserting the dreaded speculum, and cleaning up my cervix my doctor placed the catheter via ultrasound guidance. Now we were ready for important part! The embryologist scanned my ID hospital badge and then the paperwork to confirm that they would be transferring one thawed 6AB embryo and that we would have 6 embryos left in storage. She left left the room to return with a giant incubator, like the kind they keep neonatal babies in, which contained our one precious little embryo in it. She used the special microscope to show us a picture our little nugget on the big screen. Jason took a picture but I must admit his camera skills are less than amateur!

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A bit blurry, but there is our beautiful 6AB Embaby!

After putting the embryo into the special solution and syringe everyone was ready for the big moment of conception. I watched carefully on screen to see the designated ‘flash’ of light which indicated our precious little embaby was now being comforted in my plush uterus (yup I used the word plush and uterus in the same sentence, I worked damn hard to have a nice thick lining!). Then before everything was completely done the embryologist re-checked the syringe to make sure the embryo was actually gone and they printed two pictures of our little ‘spark’ for us to take home. All of that work, 52 days worth, was over in a matter of minutes. The rest as they say is up to the big guy in the sky.

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Our first picture together! I’m PUPO!

The nurse had me stay laying down for about 15 minutes and then re-reviewed my discharge notes which basically said to lay low, no heavy lifting, no extraneous exercise, no sex and continue on current meds until our beta blood work test on March 9th. Hard to believe that all this work will come to some sort of a conclusion either good or bad in just over a week. So now begins my dreaded TWW (Two week wait) even though its more like a week and a half wait since our embryo was frozen at day 5.

I had a whole list of infertility wives tales to follow for the next 5 days thanks to all my internet research! In an effort to spare you all some time,  here’s what I had found for do’s and don’t’s:

  • Do: Eat Mcdonald’s french fries or some other salty treat after your transfer
  • Do: Keep your feet warm and elevated!
  • Do: Drink pomegranate juice and raspberry leaf tea
  • Do: Have lots of warm beverages and foods like soups and cooked veggies
  • Do: Eat an avocado a day
  • Do: Eat pineapple core starting the night of transfer for the next 5 days
  • Do: Stay hydrated
  • Do: Relax, lay low, and stay warm!
  • Do: Watch funny movies and laugh a lot after transfer
  • Do: Think positive thoughts/vibes
  • Do: Continue to take your progesterone, estrogen and prenatals
  • Do: Acupuncture following your transfer and again 5 days after if possible
  • Don’t: Drink cold liquids or eat cold foods
  • Don’t: Symptom spot
  • Don’t: Have sex
  • Don’t: Do any heavy lifting or intense physical activity
  • Don’t: Take hot baths or put warm items on your lap (heating pad/laptop etc)
  • Don’t: Drink alcohol, ingest caffeine or take drugs (including over the counter stuff)

**There was one item that had pretty conflicting information depending on where you looked and that was bed rest. Some RE’s recommend strict bed rest for 48 hours following a transfer. Some newer research however has shown that continuing with your regular activities is more beneficial as it decreases stress and increased blood flow to your uterus. Stagnant bed rest can decrease the blood flow where it is needed most.** I say to each there own. I ended up doing a combination of the two.

Here’s what I actually ended up doing. It was a randomly warm and beautifully sunny New England day so we decided to drive to South Boston and have ourselves a traditional boston lunch at Sullivan’s (aka Sully’s). We waited in a long line to finally get hotdogs and french fries! I know many of you are probably cringing at this based on all the chemicals etc in hotdogs. But you know what, it made me happy, I was craving them and they may be my last hotdogs for the next 9 months (fingers crossed they are). After leaving Sully’s I rode with my feet up on the dashboard home. Where we decided to then take the dogs to the local dog park since it was still so beautiful out. I figured my dogs make me incredibly happy, sunshine and being out doors makes me incredibly happy. All that can’t be bad for our little embaby right??

 

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Sully’s!! Always worth the wait! 🙂
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Feet up! Just in case 🙂
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Baby Mavy!! Pumped to be heading to the dog park! How could I say no to that handsome smile 🙂

When we were finally done with gallivanting around, I laid on the couch in my comfiest pj’s with my legs elevated on a pillow wrapped in a blanket and watched some funny movies. We chose Anchorman and Bad Moms. We spent the rest of the day enjoying each other’s company, laughing and relaxing. For dinner we had soup and sandwiches and then went to bed early. All in all, I would say it was a pretty successful and positive day. Now all we have to do is hope this little nugget has settled in nice and snug and will continue to grow and make my belly its home for next 9 months!

Until next time, wishing you and yours lots of love, luck and baby dust!

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Simply Blessed… Green Light to our FET!

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Today was our big lining check/blood work appointment to see if I was finally able to grow the right kind of lining and keep all my hormones in check. I was super nervous for this appointment as so much still hung in the balance… Did my body respond the way it was supposed to? Is my lining going to be thick enough? Will I have the ever so sought after tri-laminar lining? Would my ovaries still be huge? What if my hormones come back as being too high or too low??

Thankfully Jason was able to join me on this appointment. It means the world to me that he understands how important all of this is, and he wants to be a part of everything as much as he possibly can. Having the support of your spouse during these trying times truly is a blessing.

We started our appointment by filling out our Frozen Embryo Transfer Consent paperwork which made me feel like things were going in the right direction. Dr. Z came in to do our ultrasound and I almost couldn’t look at the screen. I was laying there with all of my fingers crossed hoping to hear the magical words “tri-laminar” lining. What is a tri-laminar lining you might be asking. Don’t worry I was asking the same thing until I found it in my FET daily research ritual. (I have a real passion for researching the heck out of things until theres nearly nothing left to know!).

Tri-laminar simply means a uterine lining which appears to have three parallel lines when on the ultrasound screen. It tends to be a good indicator of a healthy lining. Mine ended up being somewheres around 8.1 mm which is great! They need it to be typically above a 7, and my clinic prefers it to be above an 8 for ideal transfer conditions. I breathed the biggest sigh of relief when I heard her say it was looking good! Truly it is the little things in life at this point. Who would have thought I would be over the moon ecstatic to hear how thick my uterine lining was!

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My nervous/excited go to pose! Haha always a big smile and a thumbs up!

Up next was a mini consult with one of the nurses to ensure I knew what meds to be taking and when. I was glad to finally be offered an in person consult. As I have mentioned before, this cycle has been way too ‘hands off’ for me as far as communication between the clinic and my care was concerned. I was able to ask the nurse some questions and point out several errors on my original FET Calendar which had led to some serious confusion at the start of my cycle. I’m glad I asked for the consult because I had originally thought I was supposed to be taking the progesterone injections every other day (as it said on the calendar) but the nurse clarified it was a mistake and they need to be taken daily! Once again… ADVOCATE, ADVOCATE, ADVOCATE!

Advocating for myself gives me lots of anxiety, I don’t like to be the person who ‘stirs the pot’ but, if there is anything this process has taught me, its that if you don’t ask you will cause yourself significantly more unnecessary stress and potentially negative outcomes. It doesn’t hurt to clarify everything whenever you are given the opportunity. As much as we all like to think we are IVF experts, the truth is we haven’t been to medical school, we might be misinterpreting something, and clarification is key.

Lastly, I made a quick stop to do my blood work with my favorite nurse who is always able to find my sneaky tiny little veins! She actually has made a mental road map of my arm and uses my tattoos as guidance so she gets it right on the first try, every time! This is greatly appreciated as it takes most people several attempts to finally find a successful vein. With all the poking, prodding and stabbing that goes into IVF, nobody wants to add any additional pricks into the mix.

Up next was the hard part… the waiting, and waiting and more waiting for a phone call to see if we were good to go, or if there was another upset in the making. Of course to keep things exciting I did receive a call from the clinic but it was in regards to our legal battle woes, not the news I was hoping for. Needless to say that phone call spiked my anxiety, but I was able to contain it knowing that I would likely have my answer about our FET before the night was through. Of course the call came through right as I was trying to check out at Michaels crafts and using a coupon on my phone! I let it go to voicemail which is actually my preferred method of dealing with this stuff anyways. That way I can re-play the message as much as I need to make sure I understand the directions and what not.

This voicemail was probably the second best one of my life. The first being when we were approved for our initial IVF cycle through our insurance. This one went something like this “Hi Joy, its nurse Karen! We have the green light to move forward with your FET. You are scheduled for February 28th at 11 a.m.” Lets just pause that for a second… Finally some good news!!! We have the green light to start up progesterone oil, endometrin inserts, medrol, and doxycyline! Houston we are heading for an embryo transfer!! There is so much excitement in finally hearing that we will be able to transfer one of our precious snowflake babies into my now warm and inviting uterus! Hahaha it is truly entertaining how exciting it is to talk about warm uteruses and blood work etc! The joy’s of infertility… gotta find humor somewhere!

In thinking about next week and our big transfer day, it’s kind of hard to imagine what this all might mean. On one hand, there’s still tons of what it’s. We don’t know how well our embryos will thaw, we don’t know if they are genetically normal or not, heck we don’t know if my body will implant it successfully or not. But what we do know is that theres a chance.. there is a chance that this time next week I could be PUPO (Pregnant Unless Proven Otherwise)!! PREGNANT! I truly struggle to contain my excitement when I think about that possibility. While I want to remain cautious to protect my heart in case things don’t go well. I can’t help but be hopeful that this will be our big day, the one that finally works, the start of our success story to be able to tell all our friends, family and eventually to share with our little one. The story of how they came to be and the journey we took to get there.

It all starts with a dream, a hope, and a wish… Until next time, may god bless you and yours with lots of love, luck and baby dust!

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Hello?? Is there anybody out there? Preparing for our 1st FET…

Hi all!

It’s been several weeks since I last sat down to update the blog with everything that has been going on since the dreaded OHSS incident etc. I’ve actually been holding off on posting because we have been going through a very stressful time dealing with our fertility clinic and attorneys etc. I will at some point get into what’s been going on with that whole scenario, but since so much is up in the air right now, I am just going to save that for another day.

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Ok, I admit I bought a felt board and am now obsessed 🙂

Today I want to talk all about our preparation for our first FET (frozen embryo transfer) and where we are at currently. You may recall that after a very close call with an almost missed egg retrieval, we were so lucky and blessed to end up with seven blastocysts which made it to day 5/6 and were put on ice. We made the executive decision not to do PGD/PGS (Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis/Screening) testing based on our RE’s recommendation, and to be honest, cost. PGD is not cheap (rounding $2-5,000+) and it is also not super accurate, not to mention there is some cause for concern that it may lead to more negative outcomes for the embryo (i.e. genetically altering or damaging the developing embryo). For those reasons, as well as our age (31, and 35 respectively) we chose not to do the testing. I will be honest, now that we are preparing to do our first transfer a small part of me wonders if we made a mistake by not testing the embryos and thus implanting the most ‘genetically healthy’ of them all. The other part of me is glad we didn’t do it due to the financial obligations we are currently under with having to hire an attorney.

Anywho, following our cancelled IVF cycle and our OHSS debacle, we were approved to move forward with our FET. I had reviewed my concerns with my RE regarding the almost missed ovulation during our egg retrieval, and wanted reassurance that we would not have break through ovulation, and thus another canceled IVF cycle this time around. Based on me advocating for myself… I CAN NOT STRESS how IMPORTANT it is to BE YOUR OWN ADVOCATE! I was given a slightly altered FET protocol which included a low dose of Lupron to help suppress my ovaries during the preparation period for our FET. Then the stress began..

Let me start by saying how disappointed I have been with the lack of communication from my clinic during this portion of our journey. Thank god for the internet and my budding detective work (new career anyone?) because I literally left my RE’s office with ZERO understanding as to how an FET works and what to expect. At first, I was not concerned about this, as I figured once AF (aunt flow) showed her ugly face I would call the clinic and get all the instructions I needed to proceed. Well lets just say it has not been that easy, and I truly have been having to chase down the clinic to make sure I am getting what I need to be successful this time around. To be honest, I have no idea if what I have been experiencing is typical of clinics for FET’s or not, but to me the lack of communication and understanding is unacceptable.

It all started with day 1 of AF.. any infertility warrior knows that day 1 is the start of the races so to speak. You call your clinic, inform them of day 1 and wait to here next steps etc.  I followed this typical protocol, instead of hearing directly from a nurse they sent me my FET calendar via the patient portal. I wouldn’t have minded this ‘hands off’ approach except for the fact that this so called ‘calendar’ was extremely confusing.. as in I spent nearly 2 hours trying to decipher what exactly I was supposed to do on each day. My original IVF calendar was super user friendly.. like no way in hell could you mess it up. This one? was a hot mess and that’s being polite. Still with all this in mind I tried to relax and just think how exciting it was that we were starting to prepare for our FET. All I had to do was focus on taking my birth control pills for the next 14 days and then add in the Lupron.

Well I went to my local CVS pharmacy to pick up my birth control and they had no record of a new prescription on file… feeling pretty pissed that the nurse forgot to call it in as I needed to start that day, I problem solved my own solution and requested they re-fill an old birth control prescription from my clinic for me instead. I started the new pack that evening and felt better knowing I had solved my own problem. That’s when I realized I still hadn’t received any of my other fertility meds needed for the cycle (cue a heart attack as we had no clue why they hadn’t been ordered.. was the clinic with-holding our meds due to the legal battle we were in??).

Side note, this is not the first time someone at our clinic has forgotten to order ALL of the meds I need, as I found out a week before my egg retrieval that I was missing about half of the meds I needed after reading in my IVF binder and noticing I didn’t have them…. ADVOCATE, ADVOCATE, ADVOCATE people!

Being the anxious and consistently stressed out individual I am, I did what any good problem solver would do. I called the fertility pharmacy directly to see if they had any record of my meds. They informed me that they had nothing on record. Then I had to make a plan to contact my clinic. I timed my phone call perfectly so I could leave a voicemail on the nurses mailbox asking if someone could please call in my medications to the fertility pharmacy. I was hoping that the person who would get the message would fill them with no questions asked, as not to stir the pot with everything else. Thankfully, by the grace of god the ‘new’ nurse got my message, filled them immediately, without asking any questions, and I was on my way to starting my FET. A few days went by and I was greeted with a big box at our door step from the fertility pharmacy. I was like a kid on christmas morning surprised to see the biggest gift of all under the tree! Who knew doing inventory of needles, suppositories and patches would be so fun!

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IVF Medication Prep Station in our Kitchen. Got these little storage containers at target so far they have worked great for organizing all my meds 🙂

After unboxing everything, taking inventory of what I had from before, what I had now, and what was new, I was ready to re-organize it in my storage containers and write out my own FET calendar to check off daily. I highly suggest making out your own calendar using a small regular wall calendar that you can easily see ahead what meds to be taking, when to take them, and cross off when you have taken your meds for that day. That way you will always know that you either did, or didn’t take what you were supposed to for a day.. totally helps those of us who are scatter brained or anxious, I happen to be both.

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IVF Medication Storage/Prep Station in the kitchen
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DIY – FET Medication Calendar (Hey, gotta find some flowers in all this mud)

What I found totally shocking in comparison to our initial IVF cycle is that there are only two appointments on the calendar in total before your proposed transfer day. One was the suppression check and the other is the lining check approximately one week before your scheduled transfer date. I still feel confused and a bit worried regarding this part of the process as I was one of those people who over responded to my stimulation meds, almost prematurely ovulated and ended up with OHSS. How will they know if my body is over, under or responding appropriately to all these new meds if they only check in on me once?? This has left my very anxious self feeling super uncomfortable and once again stressed. Sensing a theme here?

About half way through my 14 days of birth control, I needed to start my daily morning injections of Lupron. My dose was 10 units, just about as small as you can go. I was to keep taking this pretty much all the way through my preparation stage to help prevent break through ovulation. On February 5th, I was to meet with my RE to do an initial suppression check of my lining. My FET calendar said “if no menses by initial check call to re-schedule”. Of course as with everything else in our journey, my faux menses (triggered by starting and stoping b/c) was late. Big surprise! (can’t you taste the sarcasm!). So on the morning of my appointment, which of course happened to be a monday so I wasn’t able to call in advance to let them know. I called to say I needed to reschedule but I wasn’t sure when to reschedule it for, as my period hadn’t started yet. To my surprise they told me to come in anyway. I totally was not expecting that and began to panic that they wanted me to come in for some other reason (aka the legal stuff). I began racing around my house to get ready, to get there in time for the appointment, all the while with negative thoughts racing though my head like ‘what if they say this??’, “what should i do if ??’, ‘why are they making me come in now?’.. etc. Needless to stay my stress level was sky high, not exactly what I had hoped for my first appointment back.

At the appointment my RE did a quick ultrasound to check for suppression. In the past when I had been checked for suppression the ultrasound screen would look pretty blank, my uterine lining would be super thin, and my ovaries barely recognizable black blobs on the screen. At least that’s what I had been expecting, and apparently that’s what my RE was expecting because her initial comment was “Oh boy! your ovaries are still huge!”… I’m guessing since we are so supposed to be suppressed that oversized ovaries are not a good thing? I quickly asked her what that all meant, as my heart was pounding out of my chest. She assured me that because my lining was still very thin it probably was more related to some left over OHSS and a slight “flare” response from the Lupron.

You see Lupron is a funny little drug that can be used to instigate ovulation or suppress it based on how long you are on the drug for. Apparently, the longer you are on the drug, the more it suppresses, and the shorter you are on the drug, the more it stimulates. So what does that mean for our cycle? Well she said she would have to wait for the blood work to be done in order to find out. If it came back with low hormones we would be good to move forward, if not, I would have to go back on the birth control and start all over again. Fun times, waiting to hear back from the clinic was once again stressful. I finally got the call later on that afternoon. I had let it go to voicemail as I am currently screening all my calls. When I finally got up the nerve to press play and listen to it, I was elated to hear we were good to move forward with our additional medications for the cycle! There was no mention of what came back on the blood work so I guess I just have to assume it was within the ‘safe’ range? (Hence the prior comments about lack of communication).

Today marks my 22 day on Lupron and 41 days since my egg retrieval. I am just about 11 days from my proposed transfer date. I have been taking lupron 10 units daily in the morning, and estradiol patches at increasing amounts every other day (I’m up to four now). I also take a baby aspirin nightly with my prenatals, magnesium, CoQ10, and Fish Oils with DHEA. I have started to have some symptoms of what I typically feel before either ovulation or my period. A sense of some fullness in my lower abdomen/uterus, some twingy type pains in my ovaries, increased sex drive and increased cm (cervical mucus) sorry for the TMI. This all started to worry me that perhaps I was going to have break through ovulation even though the lupron is supposed to prevent this. I started rapidly googling my symptoms through a variety of fertility forums with both positive and discouraging responses. Some women had experienced break through ovulation even with the lupron protocol, others said their clinic noted all of these symptoms to be normal and a direct result of the increased estrogen in the body. Being the overly cautious and anxious person that I am, I have started using OPK’s (ovulation test strips) again just to make sure that my body is not producing the LH (luteinizing hormone) which leads to ovulation.

So that’s where I am at as of right now. I am scheduled for my lining check appointment this thursday and if all goes well I will begin a new series of medications to prep for the transfer the upcoming week. Those medications will include Doxycycline, Medrol, Endometrin Suppositories, and the dreaded Progesterone Oil intramuscular injections. I mean who doesn’t love a one and half inch needle in their big ol’ fanny every other day??  Thank god I have a lot of cushion back there! P.S. my stomach is turning into a battlefield with all the needle pokes and leftover adhesive from these patches, my tummy has definitely seen better days!

Until next time wish us luck that our lining check goes according to plan! That our legal woes lay low until after this transfer, and that we end up with a successful blastocyst transfer come February 28th! As, always, wishing you and yours, lots of love luck and baby dust!

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O.H.S.S… Oh Holy Shnikeys Satan!

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Ever wonder what you might look like at lets say 5 months preggo? You know we have all done it. Put a big pillow under your shirt and dance around in front of the mirror, maybe rub your faux belly a bit just to imagine what it might be like. Well I guess I got the lucky chance to borrow a 5 month preggo belly for a whole 10 days! There I go again, always hitting the Murphy’s Law Jackpot! It’s really a miracle no one has caught on to my winning streak by now 😉

O.H.S.S aka Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome. It’s no joke people. The symptoms can vary depending on the degree and person but generally include:

  • Excessive weight gain
  • Mild to moderate abdominal pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tenderness near the ovaries
  • Shortness of breath
  • Decreased urination
  • Tight Enlarged Abdomen
  • Blood clots

I clearly knew going into IVF that there was a risk for OHSS, but you know how it goes, you are so desperate to make some progress in this whole brutal process of infertility that you are willing to take just about any risk to get to the symbolic finish line. I was already fairly high risk for developing OHSS because of my age, number of follicles and my high estrogen counts. Even with all of this factors I never dreamed it would happen to me. I certianlty wasn’t prepared.

Remember back to my last post about feeling very, very uncomfortable, bloated etc? Yes, well those symptoms were only the half of it. The morning of my surgery I was weighed in prior to the retrieval, lets call that our baseline measure. By the evening of my procedure I was clocking in a full 6 lbs heavier and a heck of a lot more uncomfortable. You see OHSS is basically your bodies shock response to missing eggs. It’s like your body knows there were 22 some odds follicles filled with eggs and suddenly they are all empty. Your body mis-reads this, plus the hormones and starts pumping your ovaries back with all the available water in your body, and then it doesn’t stop so now those ovaries over flow into your abdomen and once thats full it ends up in your lungs. With all that chaos occurring in your system sometimes your blood becomes too thick (it needs water too) and you can end up with blood clots even death in severe cases of OHSS.

You see, I thought OHSS risk was only related to the STIM medications and getting pregnant, meaning if I did have it before my egg retrieval I would probably be ok since we would be waiting a full cycle to do a frozen transfer. Boy was I wrong. I truly feel like I was not warned about what to expect. No wonder they say OHSS is so dangerous! When I tell you my belly looked 5 months pregnant I am not exaggerating!! I will add some pictures to prove it to you.

Preggo?
Hiii no my normal belly is not the size of a mellon
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If only this was a little baby instead of some serious bloat!

Aside from gaining 6lbs in only a few hours, I no longer could walk without pain, move without pain, or breath without pain. Eating?? for get about it! It felt like my stomach was going to burst and it looked like it too! Has anyone every seen Harry Potter?? You know the scene where the mean aunt starts to blow up like a balloon at the dinner table, and all her buttons pop, and her clothes rip, and she flys away??

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Well thats what I felt like.  I had to wear oversized sweaters and dresses (thank god both are in style and its winter here) to try and hide my growing belly as well as to try and reduce some of the pressure on my tender stomach. It got so bad I couldn’t reach behind myself, bend over? Forget about it!  How about roll out of bed?? Not going to happen! I needed my husband to assist. Needless to say trying to make it through the rest of the week at work was torture! People were staring at me as I waddled with my large belly, all out of breath and wincing in pain up and down the halls to work with kiddos.. it was not pleasant people! I swear people thought I was pregnant and had just been hiding it this whole time!

By Thursday I was finally seen by my RE and she immediately could tell something was wrong. I was out of breath, with a massive stomach and clearly in pain. She ordered blood work and did an on-the-spot ultrasound. Sure enough, there it was.. huge swollen ovaries, tons of fee flowing fluid in my uterine cavity… I had OHSS. Then she said “well at least its only mild OHSS”…. Come again?!? Did you say mild? If this is mild I literally don’t ever want to imagine what severe OHSS is like. No wonder people can die if its left un-treated!! She told me to keep taking my Cabergoline and to stay away from drinking plain water. Drink lots of V8, gatorade, salty broths, etc but not plain water. I guess drinking straight water can make the whole scenario worse as it tends to just keep pooling in your abdomen. Salty drinks and foods help to pull the water back into your digestive tract to be processed. It sounds like an oxymoron, to drink salty stuff to get rid of  the god awful bloat, but let me tell you, I would have done just about anything at that moment to feel better. You want me to take one shoe off, jump up and down while sticking my tongue out and rubbing my belly? Sure lets get this party started!!

The positive news to this whole visit was that out of my original 14 mature eggs, 11 had fertilized on day 1 and an additional 2 had fertilized on day 2! So we were now waiting to find out how many out of the 13 embabies would make it, if any, to freeze day! Our fingers were crossed for good news, but our hearts were guarded in preparation in case none were successful. I told my husband to pray, but to keep in mind we would be lucky if we even got 2. My secret goal was 5. (Greedy I know… It’s hard not to want to keep all of them!! Especially when you worked so hard to get them in the first place!)

Waiting for the call sunday felt like torture. Every time my phone rang I sprang into action, fearful to answer, but knowing it was an inevitable call I would have to take. Every-time I would see my clinic’s number come up on the screen my heart would start pounding. Then I would hear on the other line “Hi Joy, this is nurse so and so, just checking on your OHSS how are you feeling?”… BLAH! all that excitement for nothing! I mean don’t get me wrong, I am glad that they kept such a close eye on me during my OHSS recovery, but that wasn’t exactly the call I was hoping for.

Then early sunday morning, I was startled awake by my phone ringing. Still in a haze but one full of excitement and anxiety I answered THE CALL… “Hi Joy this the embryologist at the lab, I just wanted to call you with the results of your embryos”…. I felt like everything was going in slow motion. “We were able to freeze seven very healthy embryos, mostly grade B with one grade A”…. HOLD UP… DID you say SEVEN!!!! I thanked her profusely and hung up with my head still spinning from the excitement. SEVEN!! My husband looked at me prepared for another dose of bad news, instead I was able to put the biggest smile on his face when I turned and said “SEVEN!”. Jason was so excited to hear that we now were the proud owners of SEVEN FROSTIES!! He immediately started to correlate lucky 7 with everything he could. Seven was his lucky sports number throughout high school and beyond. Seven is the month we got married and the month his mother passed away. Maybe this was a gift from her!

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Lucky number 7 it is !! Until next time, lots of love, luck and baby dust to you all!

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The art of going with the flow… Egg Retrieval or no??

Sometimes life is a pretty straight shot, you know, you make plans, things go according to your plans, and then we all live happily ever after right? Hahah, I can’t even get through that without smirking. As we all know, life pretty much is never a straight shot, and when it is, I am 100% sure something major is about to go wrong… Don’t forget I am the jackpot winner of the Murphy’s Law Lottery! My egg retrieval was no different.

As I mentioned before, I was originally scheduled for my egg retrieval bright and early on Sunday morning. I went in for routine bloodwork the morning prior and got the shock of my life when they called back a few hours later to tell me something was wrong and my entire procedure would likely be canceled. I was told to come in the next morning at 6:30 a.m. for an ultrasound to see if we could move forward with the retrieval or not. Talk about ruining the whole ‘positive thinking’, ‘this is exciting’ piece and cue straight anxiety and emotional stress over what this all means.

I arrived at my clinic bright and early with my lovely husband at my side. I had planned on wearing our special ‘lucky’ socks I had made and my comfiest attire with of course zero perfume, deodorant, make up etc as the IVF binder says. I found myself unsure of what to do when I woke up as I had been pretty much told  the day prior that any egg retrieval procedure at this point would be a long shot at best. I decide to wear our lucky socks anyways!

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Aren’t they cute! We will wear these for transfer day too! (white ones are mine, gray are Jason’s)

When we arrived at the clinic  it was all black and the door was locked. Knowing how time sensitive everything was my anxiety jumped up. I started thinking “what if everything is ok and we miss it because they take too long to let us in?” (I know, I know, just call me chicken little.. the sky is always falling in my anxious little world). Finally, a nurse came out and greeted us at the door with a heavy sigh saying, “I know this is tough”… I wasn’t sure what to think. Did she know something I didn’t? Was my procedure fully canceled? Was she just being supportive?

She brought us back to the ultrasound room and had me undress to wait for the doctor on call. This was the first time Jason would be accompanying me for an ultrasound and I was glad to have him by my side as my head was spinning with all the ‘what ifs’. After a few minutes went past the nurse returned accompanied by a second nurse and asked me to get re-dressed and to go over the the surgery side. Apparently due to how time sensitive everything was, the doctor needed me to be ‘admitted’ for surgery first just in case so they could rush me to surgery if I actually had eggs left. Talk about a mind f*ck..

Hi Joy, we don’t think you will be having surgery today, but just in case, by some miracle of god you are able to, we are going to get you changed and prepped for the procedure. If not you will just go home.

I didn’t know if I should be happy, mad, or excited at this point. What side is up again? Finally, the doctor came and they walked me back over to the clinic side for my ultrasound. I don’t know if I have ever been so happy to be probed in my who-ha! I was sweating at this point.. prepped for the major let down with my fingers crossed just in case!

By the grace of god there were still follicles!! Lots of them, and some free fluid which he assured me was not a big deal. All systems were a go!! Now the rush was on!

They literally ran me back to the surgical side of the clinic. Prepped my IV and prepared the anesthesiologist and embryologist that I was a ‘go’. Next thing I know I am be whisked over to the operating room. Everything happened so fast they forgot to put a surgical hair net on me and the doctor had to run and grab one. They had me climb up on the operating table, strapped my arms into the ‘t’ bar shape while they hooked in these ginormous leg mount stirrups. Like these things were the Mack daddy of all stirrups. All I could think of was ‘Am I the next goalie for the bruins?’. I mean if I wasn’t already about to shit my pants those certainly didn’t help.

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Me with my super excited/nervous, thumbs up, this is actually going to happen face!!

Then the embryologist came in and they did what they call a ‘stop check’ where I had to confirm who I was, the procedure, etc. I mean I guess someone might want to send a friend to do this for them? I’m pretty sure that after my 800 visits over these past few weeks it was a little silly to re-ask my name etc. But the clinic gets an ‘A’ for effort in ensuring my identity. The last few things I recall is the anesthesiologist putting the oxygen on my face and asking me to breath deeply. For some reason, I felt like I was suffocating and it immediately triggered a panic response (cue chicken little yet again!). My heart started pounding and I knew I was about to have a full blown panic attack. Just as I was about to ask for help, I heard him say, this will burn a bit but then you will go to sleep. In the most German accent imaginable.

When I awoke, I was totally confused with what had happened. Apparently, I spent the entire procedure dreaming about texting.. totally lame, and I didn’t even realize it was over. That was until I felt the immediate searing pain radiating from my ovaries. I mean I have read 100’s of blogs regarding this procedure, and I don’t recall anyone mentioning how damn painful it is. I was sobbing and had to ask for more pain meds (Apparently I was already on quite the combination). While the meds helped quite a bit at the time, I paid for them dearly a mere few hours later. You see, my body and narcotics.. while we just don’t mix. I guess I never have to worry about becoming an addict, pain meds make me feel awful! After letting the pain meds kick in, and having me rest for an hour they finally let my husband in to review how I did, next steps and what the results were.

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After the retrieval.. flying high before the pain med crash!

Whoa chicken little hold your horses! 22 eggs… they collected 22 eggs from my supposedly barren ovaries. Take that blood tests! I guess you aren’t always right. After having a few crackers and some water they had Jason help me get dressed and the nurse accompanied me to our car. I was told to keep taking the pain meds as is needed, drink lots of salty drinks and eat plenty of protein to help with OHSS. Lastly, I was told to take my Cabergoline (a medication that helps reduce/prevent OHSS) and wait for the embryologist to call the next day with the fertilization report.

Everything seemed great until about half way home when the side effects of the pain meds hit me. I was painfully nauseous, dizzy and in a fog. When we finally got home I had to sit on the couch with a trash barrel next to me (you cant bend over, so if I had to throw up it was going to be in a sitting position) and a heating pad on my lap in some sort of drug induced zombie apocolipse state. My dogs desperately tried to snuggle me, but being that golden retrievers have zero sense of their size, it was all I could do to keep them from flopping their 75+ pounds on my very tender stomach.

A few hours after being home I finally started to feel somewhat human again, and that’s when the new round of symptoms kicked in. These ones have yet to leave me and I am here to warn you, it is not pretty. My stomach began to bloat significantly, in fact it became rock solid making me look somewhere in the 4 to 5 months pregnant range. Then there was the extreme feeling of fullness, like I could barely walk, move, twist, you name it. And lastly, there was the atrocious constipation. There, I said it. I don’t know if it was from the anesthesia, the pain meds, the anxiety or what, but my very regular bowels have gone on strike and don’t appear to be returning to work anytime in the near future. I have tried everything under the sun to fix this problem. I’ve taken multiple does of stool softeners, at my low point I even tried a suppository, I’ve added in chugging miralax while at work. Let me tell you something, hell knows no furry like a woman whose lady bits have been played like a game of darts and is she backed up to the high heavens.

I took an extra day off from work to ‘recover’ ha! I thought I would be good-to-go come Tuesday. But here it is Wednesday and I am dying to see my doctor tomorrow. Heck, I’m chugging miralax as we speak. Its been so brutal and uncomfortable it now hurts to stand up straight, to laugh, cough, I don’t know… to move. Its awful. Maybe my bowels are just on some sort of weird protest, but I tell you what, this shit (no pun intended) is no joke. I am currently waddling around like a late term preggo lady trying desperately to feel better.

While my egg retrieval certainly did not go as planned, the good news from all this debauchery is that out of the original 22 eggs, 14 were mature and 11 were able to be fertilized with ICSI. Although this has no bearing on how many, if any, will survive to blastocyst/freeze day. At least they were able to get some, and at least now I know that sometimes the worst part of surgery has nothing to do with the surgey itself, and everything to do with how you prepare! Drink that miralax ladies! You’ve just got yourself a glimpse into nana’s everyday struggles! Prunes anyone?

Until next time, as always, best of luck, hope and baby dust!

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