Coming out of the infertility closet

When I first got pregnant, I was open about the IVF on Facebook because I wanted to post all my ultrasound pics from egg to baby. But I didn’t tell the whole story and how much of it was a long struggle and I had never mentioned anything about even trying to get pregnant before the big news. So this morning I decided to share the story and posted this:

Just sitting here this morning, with my belly almost blocking my keyboard, thinking about the long road I took to get here and the long journey I have ahead.

Around this time, eight years ago, I was pregnant for the first time. It only lasted seven weeks, but it was enough to make Sean and I realize how much we really wanted to start a family. With the first time being a total surprise we had no idea we were about to endure seven years of struggling and the heartbreak of repeatedly failed cycles.

We tried everything- timing, charting, fertility drugs, IUI’s. We even tried not trying. With Sean’s long deployments our efforts would be derailed, sometimes a year at a time. We finally sought the help of a fertility doctor who diagnosed me with endometriosis. I had surgery to remove it, along with a battery of tests that concluded we shouldn’t have any problem conceiving. But we still did.

Over the next year I quickly got over any fear of needles and learned to give myself shots, though I still preferred to shut my eyes and have Sean do it for me. I tried multiple drugs to ramp up my follicles. We did several rounds of IUI, where sperm is injected directly into your uterus through a catheter. It’s as fun as it sounds.

And still nothing. Not even a “maybe” line ever showed. Stark white tests. So we gave up again. Thought about adoption. Thought about maybe another dog. Sean got deployed for another 6 months.

I considered maybe I didn’t really want kids. I wondered if I was doing this because it was expected. I imagined us growing old, traveling the world and not worrying about raising a kid. As appealing as that sounded, it also seemed like something was missing. It was a little nagging feeling I couldn’t shake. I knew there was one thing left to try and at 38, time was running out.

So we tried a new doctor. By now my test results were dismal. We had a 15-20% chance of success. There was no sugar-coating this time. No “you got pregnant once, you can do it again” BS. Age plus years of endometriosis had left me with low ovarian reserve so there wasn’t much to work with. The doc suggested we get started on IVF right away. After years of disappointment, we both went into it with the last shred of hope we could muster.

The shots were brutal. Every day for over two weeks, all in the stomach. Twice and then three times day. We were running out of spots I didn’t have bruises. Sometimes the shots left large red lumps as well. I was bloated and miserable, but most of all determined to get through it.

The results of all that work were pretty crushing. I had managed to produce one mature follicle. A follicle does not even guarantee they can get a decent egg out of it. Most IVF patients get five or six. Some get as many as 20. I had one.

So they gave me the option to cancel the cycle and try again the next month with hopes I could produce more eggs. They said most places would go ahead and cancel the cycle anyway. I thought about how hard we had worked to get that one follicle and all the shots I had gone through and that there was no guarantee I could even make more. We held onto the mantra “It only takes one” and decided to go for it. The egg retrieval was a success and when we got the call to let us know it actually fertilized, I couldn’t keep the shock out of my voice. When the embryologist commented that I sounded surprised, I could only think to respond “We’re just so used to disappointment.”

With our first couple hurdles cleared we let ourselves get a little excited. Our little embryo grew and divided and reached the crucial stage for implantation 3 days later. We may have had just one shot, but it was starting to look like a good one and we were about to put our only egg in our only basket.

Throughout that last seven years I had grand ideas of how I’d surprise Sean with positive results if we got them. All that went out the window with the first hint of a second line on that little white stick. I think I just ran into the bedroom with a big smile waving the wet stick and asking him to squint at the little hint of color that was starting to show.

And now we’re here. Anxiously awaiting the day that little egg, who grew into our little son, will make his first appearance in the world. Sean calls him our lion among the sheep, and I can’t wait to hear his first little roar.

Expecting Better- one of the better pregnancy books I’ve read so far

k2-_20e571ad-042c-45a3-9052-cf1761b07113_v1I just finished Expecting Better, by Emily Oster and rather enjoyed it. She’s not a doctor, but an economist and she approaches her research pretty thoroughly and weighs the pros and cons of each situation.

I did learn some new stuff. It reinforced some of my own heavily googled research on certain topics (like a glass of wine) and really drove home the dangers of turkey deli meat, which I had been dabbling in here and there (but no more!)

My doctor had already ok’d a glass or two of wine a week and I ran across this book while looking up articles on the topic for the millionth time. I’m just terribly paranoid and I terribly want to have a glass of wine with my dinner. In the book, she says it is ok to have as much as a small glass of wine every evening as long as you drink it slow and not on an empty stomach. So I now compromise and let myself have a half glass of red wine here and there, only with food. It makes me happy and I don’t feel the need for more.

But she covers much more than that- like the different danger levels of food on that long no-no list. She says sushi is actually ok if it is a low mercury fish and that if you did actually get sick from it, it wouldn’t hurt the baby at all. However, that the deli meat situation with Listeria would be very very harmful to the baby and is best avoided if possible. I was mildly freaked out to learn listeria could be lurking in any fruits, veggies and meats that had long term refrigeration. I think she said the last big outbreak before turkey was in celery. Good thing I hate raw celery.

She also covers some stuff I wasn’t even aware about, like cervical checks leading up to your due date and whether they are necessary and could actually do harm by introducing bacteria even with the gloves on. Apparently cervical dilation in the weeks leading up to your due date does not give an indication of when you might go into labor. You could walk around partially dilated for weeks. Also she said it hurts. I had no idea I had this uncomfortable vagina poking experience on the horizon. I tried googling it and it sounds like the doc basically sticks a hand in and pokes a finger in your cervix to see how open it is. I just kept thinking- can’t they do this with an internal ultrasound? Do I have options here?

A good read overall. She presents her research and her conclusions, but it’s always best to take in all the info and draw your own conclusions and figure out what makes you feel good about each situation.

Have you read the book Belly Laughs?

51K7s85bL6LFirst, this is not a book review, more like a rambling book complaint. I read Jenny McCarthy’s book Belly Laughs last week and have a few things I’d like to say about it.

To start with, the book is no the greatest for anyone who has suffered with infertility. You feel absolutely zero compassion for Jenny as she gets pregnant almost immediately after trying and then talks about how her eggs must not be rotten after all. Good for you Jenny!

I was hoping it would follow the pregnancy in order as things happened, but it just jumped around with each chapter seeming to concentrate on a particular symptom she was experiencing and would then describe in graphic detail. Everything from swollen vaginas to constipation gets its own chapter.

I’m wondering what kind of warped sizing Jenny goes by when she complains she has to buy big ugly bras because nothing pretty is available in a 36D. WTF? I happen to be wearing a lovely lacey number by Victoria’s Secret in that exact size as I type this. There are plenty of bra options in a 36D and I can’t imagine how that was her top size when I recall seeing her boobs in Playboy and they were not tiny things to start with.

And then she seems to think her only choice in underwear is a thong or granny panties. Has Jenny never seen a pair of bikini underwear? Maybe even a cute string bikini? I hate thongs myself but have never worn giant briefs just because I didn’t want a string up my butt.

So in the end did this book teach me anything about pregnancy? Yes. I was not aware that you might poop on the delivery table. So I can thank Jenny for that fabulous visual. I think the bit where her mom tells her she “pitched a loaf” while having her was the only time I laughed while reading the book.

I highly recommend this book for sexually active high school girls because Jenny’s frankness about what happens to your body during pregnancy should scare the crap right out of them, delivery or not.

An Infertile Mind

While grabbing my progesterone under the bathroom sink I saw a big bottle of Naproxen. (it’s like prescription Aleve for bad cramps) It was going to expire in about 5 months. I immediately thought, well I can give that to my friend B since I can’t use it while pregnant. I grabbed it and somewhere on the way out of the bathroom my arm slowly moved it back into the cabinet while my mind whispered “what if…”

Dammit! I wish I was past this. But after a 7 year battle with IF I guess I can’t expect to conquer my fears overnight.

On a positive note, I did finally allow myself to sign up for TheBump.com! I also didn’t grumble and change the topic when B. asked me questions about baby stuff at work today. I even shared my ultrasound pic 🙂

Monitoring HCG at home with the new advanced test

I got one of the new Clear Blue Easy Advanced tests because I thought it would be fun to have the digital tell me something good for once. It’s one of the news ones that tells you how many weeks past ovulation you are (not how many weeks pregnant). It was right on the first try at 1-2 weeks. I was going to give it a week and test again to see if it was right again at 2-3. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and after a quick Google search I found I wasn’t the only one. Of course it isn’t fool-proof, and could actually cause more worry. But the slight possibility it could ease my concern a little bit? That’s enough to make me try it.

I found a pretty good article that tells all about it: http://commonhealth.wbur.org/2013/09/pregnancy-test-miscarriage

Clearblue-Advanced-Pregnancy-Test1

 

Red Wine + Bacon = BFP

ok, so maybe it’s NOT that simple, but I have been evaluating some changes I made this cycle since it is my first BFP in 6 years. Of course one major change was the IVF! But I’m just wondering what made the difference before that. We didn’t need ICSI (Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection) so our little egg and spermy met up and did their thing all on their own, just in a petri dish and not my uterus. But why now when they were introduced so many other times before by IUI? I’m thinking it could possibly have been an implantation issue.

I made a LOT of changes this cycle. I switched to a new doctor for the IVF because I didn’t feel like my previous doctor was thorough enough. The month before the IVF was spent getting my body ready. I was put on Theralogix Ova-Vite supplements, plus extra Vitmain D due to a deficiency discovered during the bloodwork. I was put on DHEA 3 times a day to improve my lining, baby aspirin to improve blood flow to the uterus and estrogen to make my body think I was little younger (I guess).

And a major overhaul was my diet and exercise plan. I have always been thin. I have to eat every few hours or I get a headache and the shakes. I also get migraines and have anxiety. The new doc is a fan of the low-carb and no-carb diet, along with the slow-burn exercise theory. I was told to eat all the high fat bacon, butter, avocados and steak I wanted but to stay away from carbs as much as possible. He instructed me to eat as soon as I was hungry and to never let my body feel like it was starving. I was also forbidden to do any cardio! He said over stressing your body with cardio or too much exercise was useless and harmful and can stress the body too much to hold onto a pregnancy.

My husband was already on board because he has been reading The Primal Blueprint, which is basically the caveman diet. Unfortunately I LOVE bread. That’s my “go-to” snack- a piece of bread. So to cut out all bread and carby things was just too much. But the doc said I would see improvement if I could just adhere to it 70% of the time. So I did!

So for the last 2 months I have eaten lots of lovely steaks, switched the full fat butter and milk, had avocados on my salads and extra bacon with my breakfast. I also switched to only drinking red wine because I read that it improves blood flow and can possibly help implantation. I had 1-2 glasses a night! (of course as soon as I saw the second line I gave up my evening wine) I stopped all cardio exercise and changed to a light workout, done slowly and deliberately, taking only about 20 min. a few times a week.

I gained about 5 pounds and then leveled off. (but who doesn’t when pumping themselves full of hormones?) I still indulge in breads here and there. I love pizza! There’s no reason to seriously deprive yourself. I miss my wine terribly but am sticking to the diet still since it feels quite indulgent most of the time anyway. I keep telling my husband we made a “bacon baby” since I’ve had bacon every morning for the past couple months.

I keep seeing people taking on these radically restricted diets and crazy exercise programs like P90x while trying to get pregnant. It seems counterproductive. Your body is stressed out enough as it is!

Go enjoy a glass of red and a nice steak 🙂

*Just a little disclaimer- my doc’s instructions actually said Not to drink, so that was my own choice. When you’ve been ttc for so long with no results, it just gets ridiculous. There’s no way I could have gone 6 years without a glass of wine, lol. So I switched to the one thing that could at least have some health benefits and made sure to not overdo it.