Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

This is by far the longest 8 days of my life, and it’s only been 5 ūüôĀ

My blood test is not until Monday and waiting “patiently” for that day to arrive is definitely not easy. ¬†Luckily I’ve been busy with teaching, working and baking! ¬†I’ll make my first attempt at a sweet cherry pie tomorrow afternoon – because even if I am not pregnant, I can at least eat like I am for another 3 days – enjoying it while I can.

There is a 50-50 chance the outcome will be unfavorable.  What will we do then?

I can start by saying Monday night will not be pretty – I suggest holding off on phone calls that day just in case. ¬†I already have a great bottle of Malbec prepared (meaning = sitting in the wine fridge), priming, just in case I need it. ¬†I also have my mind set on a very long run, given that my last long run was New Year’s Day and I miss it so much. ¬†Finally, I’ll do everything in my power to forget about conception, IVF and all things baby-related for at least a night or two.

Of course, I am hopeful that we are on the opposite side of the outcomes. ¬†That would be nice. ¬†My evening would then probably consist of a celebratory glass of skim milk with ice, a long walk with the family and probably some leftover cherry pie…that is, if we don’t eat it all over the weekend.

So…signing off for now. ¬†Catch you on the other side ūüôā

Guest Post: The least amount of fun I’ve ever had

Hi, I’m Gabriel. ¬†The male component of this fantastic saga. ¬†I’m Melissa’s husband. ¬†My role in this process is minimal, but it totally blows and I thought you’d like to hear a bit more from the male point of view.

Let me start out by saying that I was very honored to be asked to type here. ¬†It’s been a long goal of mine to combine the word “blog”, the letter “o” and the word “sphere” in online content and I’m going to try really hard to use that word during my contribution to this blog.

I’d like to get one thing straight: I’m the one that has it easy.

I had to get a blood test (which really sucked) but that’s the only needle that poked me. ¬†I haven’t had to have any ultrasounds, shots, injections, procedures, pills, x-rays, IVs, bloating or prodding that Melissa has had. ¬†Actually, that’s not altogether true. ¬†I made pizzas the other night and ate way too many pieces. ¬†I did feel bloated after that.

My role in all this is the easy part. ¬†In fact, I really don’t have to do much at all. ¬†But my involvement isn’t enjoyable. ¬†Now I’m not a mathematician, but I put together a spreadsheet in Excel to run the numbers earlier today and calculated out the fun factor. ¬†Thus far, 0% of this has been fun for me although the doctor’s office did have this “special movie room” that I found to be…interesting. ¬†I didn’t include that data on this pie chart though. ¬†Deal with it.

I don’t gamble. ¬†I never have and have never wanted to. ¬†It’s not interesting to me. ¬†I don’t leave ¬†my life to chance. ¬†Ever. ¬†I either do, or I do not. ¬†If I go to the grocery store to buy, some tofu and egg whites…actually, that’s a horrible example. ¬†If I go to the grocery store to buy some steak and beer, and I pay for the steak and beer and the grocery store person says “thanks for coming in, thanks for your money, you can not have any steak or beer but feel free to come in another time and try again,” I’d have a very difficult time coming to terms with that. ¬†I’d probably drop the F-bomb and maybe become violent.

IVF is a gamble of epic proportions.  You do the meds, you take the shots, you follow the prescribed protocols and you pay the money for a chance at becoming pregnant.  A chance.  There are no guarantees.  Ever if you do get pregnant after IVF, you may not stay pregnant.  If you do stay pregnant, you may not deliver a healthy baby.  If you do deliver a healthy baby, the baby could grow up to become a complete asshole.

You see what I’m getting at? ¬†Anything else in life comes with a guarantee. ¬†If you give me $10, you can have this 6-pack of beer. ¬†I guarantee it. ¬†If you pay for a new car, you get a new car. ¬†If you work really hard, you can accomplish things. ¬†If you hike for a really long time, you’ll get to the top of the mountain.

Infertility and the process of IVF are two things I wouldn’t wish on anyone. ¬†Actually, I went to high school with some real dick heads and I wouldn’t care at all if some of them had to go through this.

So, am I excited that we have one embryo that is now inside Melissa? ¬†I’m not really sure. ¬†It’s a big step and I certainly feel hopeful about it, but we’ve had positive pregnancy test results before and guess what? ¬†No steak. ¬†No baby.

I’m frustrated with the odds and frustrated by the process. ¬†I’m frustrated that there’s nothing that I can do to improve our odds or even help ensure success. ¬†For me, frustration and anger are pretty close cousins. ¬†I feel angry about this. ¬†I’m sick of thinking about it, sick of talking about, sick of having it rule our lives, sick of hoping for the best and sick of seeing other people skip this process and go right to the 9-month part.

I have a picture of Archimedes, our embryo extraordinare. ¬†It’s taped to my computer monitor.

Now please understand that this photo is not to scale. ¬†Archimedes is actually quite small at this point. ¬†Here’s a picture that is to scale.

Don’t see it? ¬†That’s not an accident. ¬†It’s very small. ¬†Too small to actually see with the naked eye though we’re both really hoping that will change.

I’ll be happy with either a boy or a girl. ¬†I really don’t care. ¬†I don’t know much about girls, but I can read a book or something and get up to speed. ¬†Now it’s too early to tell if this embryo will become a boy or a girl, and we’re not planning to find out, but if you look at this last¬†picture of our embryo, you’ll note I’ve indicated some interesting features.

I know what you’re thinking. ¬†(A) clearly shows the female sex organ while (B) shows what are clearly male reproductive organs.

Now I’m not a specialist and I already mentioned that I don’t know a ton about girls, but I think you’ll agree that given the picture above and my cursory assessment, this embryo could turn into either a girl or a boy and nobody would be surprised.

I read somewhere that frogs have both sex organs for a period of time until they pick their favorite and go with it. ¬†I’m pretty sure that was from Jurassic Park (the first movie with the Ford Explorers that are electric and can drive themselves around the park autonomously while the spectators just sit there and look out the windows at the Tyrannosaurus Rex, Raptors and the friendly ones with the really long necks). ¬†That makes sense.

I’m sorry for interrupting ¬†your usual excellent blog content with this departure for the norm. ¬†I’m not sure how many male readers are out there in this particular blogosphere (I’m so cool!) but I suspect it’s not the majority.

Thanks for having me.  I will now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

Chickened out

Quick update since my last post on Friday night/Saturday morning.

Our embryos were not quite ready Saturday morning when we were scheduled for our transfer. ¬†It was tough news to take, but nothing some heavy tears and long sweat-inducing workout session couldn’t cure.

Luckily, I’m a fighter. ¬†I INSISTED I talk with my doctor about allowing a little more time for my embryos to grow prior to freezing them and postponing my transfer for 6 weeks.

Man Рam I glad we waiting.  Just a short 24 hours later, we had 5 beautiful looking embryos.  I went in this morning, met with my doctor and determined, today (January 22, 2012) is the day we are going to try to get pregnant.  But at the last minute, I chickened out and decided to only transfer 1 embryo.  Gabriel felt otherwise.  Our reasoning went like this:

Doctor: ¬†(After showing us a picture of the 2 embryos he was proposing we transfer) These are great looking embryo’s – your chances are high.

Me: Chances that they would both implant?

Doctor:  Yes, high chance that they would both implant.

Me:  Holy shit РTWINS?

Gabriel: Do it!

Me: No!

Gabriel:  Yes, I want to get this over with and not have to do it again.  If we have twins, we are done.

Me: ¬†But I REALLY don’t want to have twins!

Doctor: Then I would not put 2 in.

DONE AND DONE! ¬†As always, and with most situations between Gabriel and I (should we watch The Bourne Identity or Runaway Bride, should we have steak and potatoes or tofu and spinach for dinner, should we go for a 6 mile run or go sailing), I won ūüôā

I am no officially an incubator to one very handsome/pretty hatched blastocyst.

The next step is that the blastocyst has to implant in my endometriel lining and start producing hCG (a hormone that is made by embryo once it has implanted).

We will not know if this cycle was a success for another week plus. ¬†Until then, here’s hoping for good luck!!

All the single ladies

It is officially my last night as a “single” lady. That is, my last night prior to the transfer of 2 embryos to my uterus. Weird feeling, knowing that in just 6 short hours (yes, I’m awake at 2:16am….thank you very much) I will, even if for a short 9 days, be “pregnant” with twins. And by “pregnant”, I mean having to “act pregnant” with no drinking, smoking, recreational drugs (there goes my social life) or strenuous activity with the hopes that 1 of the embryos will burrow into a comfy, well-prepared and hormonally perfect wall and make itself comfortable for 9 months.

So, what did I do on my last night you ask? We are in Spokane, so right there you can eliminate most intriguing activities or lively friends to hang out with.

The night started with a final workout at the hotel gym, and although I was only allowed to do light exercise and keep my heart rate below 130, I’ll took what I could get because after today, I’ll be on bed rest for the remainder of the weekend and then very light exercise for at least a few weeks. Wouldn’t want to run that baby right out of there after all this.

Gabriel and I then had a fantastic dinner at a local restaurant . I enjoyed some glasses of a local red blend, devoured numerous soft cheeses and indulged in rich dark chocolate ice cream toped with chunks of homemade peanut butter. Could not have been a more perfect last meal!

So, now I lay here, thinking about how it is we got to this point. I’ve been grateful for the journey up till now. Of course, I wish getting and maintaining a pregnancy would have been a seamless process, but you don’t always get what you wish for. It’s been trying but comparably, what do I have to complain about? I have a great support system, my health and the ability to potentially rectify our unfortunate situation, an opportunity many couples do not have.

Not much this single lady can complain about on a restless Friday night :).

Sleep tight, uterus. You have a big day tomorrow! Other than the girls on “16 and Pregnant” in their hopes for instant celebrity status, how many people get to say that before drifting off to sleep??

Zzzzzzzz…….

Home Sweet Home

We’re home!!¬† It was a long week but we are finally back in Missoula.¬†

Monday morning was the retrieval procedure.¬† Things could not have gone smoother.¬† My anesthesiologist was fantastic – made¬†the perfect cocktail for me to fall sound asleep.¬†¬†No offense, but I¬†now realize¬†why Michael Jackson enjoyed Propofol so much – that is¬†one yummy drug ūüôā¬†The entire procedure was very quick, lasting no more than 20 minutes.¬† I woke up well-rested and comfortable, although the real excitment came when my nurse told me they had retrieved 19 eggs.¬† YAHOO!¬† Way more than we had expected so we were pleasantly surprised.

Tuesday morning the nurse called to tell me that of the 19 eggs, 17 of them were mature (not sure how though, as I am one of the most immature people I know) and of those 17, 14 of them had fertilized.¬† Kudos must be given to Gabriel’s sperm – impressive!!

So, now we wait…the worst part.¬† The nurse will call me again on Thursday to let me know, of those 14 fertilized eggs, how many of them are dividing cells appropriately and moving towards becoming blastocysts.¬† A quick biology lesson for those who have forgotten from 6th grade.

A blastocyst is a structure specific to mammals and is formed during the embryogenesis process of reproduction.  It has 2 parts: an embryoblast, which eventually forms the embryo, and the trophoblast, which later forms the placenta.  With all blastocysts, they begin formation on the 5th day after fertilization, and this is the same for all humans, regardless of fertilization occuring within the body or in vitro (which, in Latin, means in glass). 

So, technically, today (Tuesday) is day 1 in the process – as the eggs officially fertilized sometime yesterday after the retrieval.¬† The hope is that, by day 5 (Saturday), some or at least 1 of the fertlized eggs will have formed into blastocysts.¬† My reproductive endocrinologist only performs day 5 transfers, meaning that if the structure is not officially a blastocyst by that day, they will be allowed to grow until they are properly formed, then frozen and transfered back into the utureus at a later time (often, 6-10 weeks later).¬† The reason for that is a whole other biology lesson, one in which I don’t feel like teaching right now….Google It !!

It’s strange, knowing that for weeks, I grew these eggs in my ovaries, now they are sitting in a dish in Spokane, hundreds of miles from me in Missoula, with hopes that one will eventually turn into a screaming, pooping and mess of a baby.¬† Strange but intriguing process…one that I am extremely grateful for.¬†

Some might say (and¬†actually, have said) that¬†what Gabriel and I are doing is “wrong” – that is, playing with science to create life.¬† Screw that – we are going to be awesome parents…what difference does it make how we get there.¬† Maybe someday we’ll be able to conceive a child without medical intervention, but in the meantime, I am so grateful for the advances in technology and medicine that have allowed us to travel down this road.¬†

Now if only medicine and technology could be advanced enough to, overnight, shrink the size of my ass ūüôā¬† For now, I’ll take the embryo and wait for advances in ass-shrinking to come after a pregnancy!!

I’ve been branded

It’s official. Infertility is exactly like being cattle. They’ve branded me!!!!!!

Tonight is my “trigger” shot. After tonight, I get a short 36 hour break without medications. Yahoo!! Tonight’s shot is a pretty important one. It’s an exact science, in fact. My retrieval is slated for exactly 36 hours after I get this injection (so for me, shot tonight at 11pm, procedure at 11am on Monday).

Given the delicate timeline, ensuring success with this shot is pretty important to my doctor. So, today, before leaving my daily morning appointment, my nurse put a big bulls eye on my ass….in the specific spot where they want Gabriel to put a ridiculously large and scary looking needle. This is the biggest of the needles that we’ll have to do, but just knowing there’s a mark on my ass that Gabriel has to stare at prior to injecting it makes the entire situation all that much more disconcerting.

I think Gabriel is more worried about the shot than I am. I have a feeling that in a couple of weeks, after nightly shots with the big needles, I don’t think he’ll feel so bad anymore.

I mean, really, how many mean farmers do you think kiss and hug their cows prior to sticking a hot metal rod against their ass. Probably not many.

At least Gabriel’s one damn good looking farmer. Yee-haw cowboy ūüôā

Eggs, they are a growin’

Arrived in Spokane on Tuesday and settled into my hotel room. ¬†It’s weird being here for “medical” reasons because I am not sick, have little to no interaction with my doctor and aside from my thrice daily injections of medications, have no other reminders that I am here for fertility treatment. ¬†I wish there was a way to stay in my hometown of Missoula and go through IVF, but until I can convince a reporductive endocronolgist that the lifestyle is better in Montana than in Colorado, I’m stuck traveling to Spokane.

I saw my doctor Wednesday morning for the first time. ¬†I have no other way to explain the experience other than this…I’ll give you the visual description that you must imagine followed by what actually is happening at this appointment

Close your eyes….

Visualization Actual
Barn in the middle of a large poorly cared for field Dated doctors office in the middle of a dirty city
Hundreds of sad looking cows lost and scared 20+ 20-40 year old women looking anxious and nervous
Disgruntled farmer luring the cows in to the barn with hopes of nutritious grass, hay and silage Mean doctor luring them into the exam room with hopes of impregnating them
The cows are fattened, branded then slaughtered (sorry to all my vegetarian readers ūüôā The women are poked, proded and then sent on our way without a word from the mean doctor

Ok, so I don’t know anything about cows and how they are cared for, but I do know a thing or two about health care, and that how the women were treated at the doctors office was disgraceful. ¬†Despite that, I don’t really care, because honestly, the point is not to make a new friend in this doctor, but rather to use his brain power to get me pregnant. ¬† The rest of the staff in his office, including my nurse, are fantastic.

The best part Рthe mean doctor seems to know what he is doing.  On my ultrasound yesterday, he saw approximately 12 follicles, which hopefully will have 12 mature eggs in them on the day of my retrieval procedure.  And until that day, and confirmation that my eggs are forming to become embryos, there is nothing I can do Рa rather unsettling fact.

Until then, I will continue to visit my doctors office, enjoy Spokane and anxiously await the hopefully positive news at the end of all this.

Mooooooo………

Not so fun

The drugs, that is, are not so fun.

Negative side effects:

Headaches
Black and blue/bruises at the injection sites
Being a slave to 8am and 8pm

Positive side effects:

Strong pain meds to counteract the headaches
Excuse for my body not looking great
I get to sleep in till 8am and have an excuse for not staying out later than 8pm

Look at me….just call me Mrs. Positive. Finding a way to take every negative and turn it into a positive.

My plan – keep this attitude up for the next 3 weeks!

Someone get me some damn lemons!!!

It wasn’t so bad

And I’m not talking about the meatloaf I made for dinner. ¬†That was actually pretty good.

The needles, that is, were not so bad.

I got “the call” yesterday from my nurse, telling me that my numbers and ultrasound looked good and I’m ready to move forward with IVF. ¬†What a relief – could you imagine getting this far in the process and then being told it is canceled? ¬†I actually should not speak (or write), so soon though, as there is a chance that could happen to anyone. ¬†The clinic has warned me they could cancel at any time, for many reasons: ¬†cysts, over-stimulation, under-stimulation or even turning into a crazy husband-murdering woman (ok, so I made that one up, but I could TOTALLY see how that could happen on these meds…it could be an IVF first)!!!

Either way, I am moving forward – 1 injection in the morning, 2 at night – until Monday, when I go for more blood work and an ultrasound. ¬†At that point, they’ll probably change my regimen.

Last night, about an hour before the most painful 5 seconds of my life (complete over-exaggeration), I started preparing for the shots. ¬†I re-watched the online “how-to”, washed the counter and my hands about 20 times and paced the kitchen waiting for the clock to hit 8:00.

Sub-concious conversation with myself:

7:29PM – “I’ve been waiting for 1/5/12 for so long…I am so excited it is here”

7:42PM – “Yahoo – this is so great – I can’t wait to start!”

7:48PM – (after looking at the needles) “Oh shit, those look scary”

7:51PM – “Ok, never mind, screw this pregnancy shit. ¬†I think we can just get one of those pretend babies, like the ones they give out in high school, the dolls that cry, you have to change their diaper, but at the end of the day, you can just remove the battery and call it quits”

<savior friend arrives>

7:55PM – “Just shoot me and put me out of my misery…that would probably hurt less”

7:59PM – “AHHHH”

<post shots>

8:01PM – “It’s all over?? ¬†That didn’t hurt at all”

Luckily, my friend Kristen was there to give me the first shot and make me give¬†myself the second one.¬† I gotta tell you…there is nothing that brings two good friends together more than one pinching the other’s belly fat! ¬†The worst part was really just the process and then sitting there, fat pinched, with the needle in your hand…but once it was in, I could barely feel it.

So, as I said, these were not bad at all. ¬†Seriously though, the needles for next week look AWFUL. ¬†I am going to have to take a picture of the needle because I don’t think you’d believe me any other way – this needle is HUGE! ¬†It’s like a damn pencil being inserted into your ass fat – imagine that!!!

Now, it’s 8:06AM the following morning – just finished my morning shot. ¬†It was a piece of cake!! – I could do this all day. ¬†Oh what a difference 12 hours makes ūüôā

Off to enjoy my day, despite:

1. Not being able to get my heart rate above 140 bpm (definition = no running, skiing, hard hiking, snow shoeing…pretty much everything I would want to be doing this morning) so instead I’ll be going for a long walk….wah wah!

2. Not being allowed to take baths (although, did you know sitting on the bench in the shower with the heat cranked up for about 30 minutes is very relaxing as well?)

3. Not being allowed to drink more than 1 alcoholic beverage (trick = drink from a VERY large wine glass – it’s still only one drink, right??)

4. ¬†No smoking crack cocaine (no explanation needed here)….

….man – life is just so unfair ūüôā

If some drugs are good, more drugs are better

Did you know that Walgreens has an entire “specialty pharmacy” dedicated to fertility? The Walgreens specialty building must be made out of gold and all of the employees fly to work in private jets. That has to be the case, because what would possibly be a better explanation as for why they charge so much for their drugs. 6 weeks worth of drugs and $3,000 later, I’m ready to start IVF ūüôā

So…check them out ladies and gentlemen…. This is what $3,000 (non-insurance covered) will buy you!

20111231-171103.jpg

Regardless of the cost, it’s crazy how big these needles are! I can’t believe Gabriel has to inject this thing into my butt muscle (or as I like to call it “my meat”) for upwards of 6 weeks!

I’m sure we’ll both eventually get used to it, but man, nothing less sexy than having your husband inject you with meds daily, or even multiple times a day. It would all be worth it if the daily injections miraculously made me turn into Jessica Alba, but since they’ll more likely just turn me into a hormonal, bloated brat, I think they’ll be less sexy.

So, cheers to really big needles, overpriced medications and beautiful, non-hormonal women everywhere!

Happy New Year!!