Tag Archives: IRH

Tears in Heaven

“I don’t see a heartbeat”

Those words will forever bring fresh tears to sting my eyes, cause my stomach to flop, and bring the sensation of my heart being shredded into a million pieces.   Every.  Single. Time. The days immediately following my miscarriage were very dark.  All I could think about was “why?”  Why me?  Why did this have to happen?  What was I supposed to learn from this that I had not already learned from my infertility journey?  The more I tried searching for answers, the more I kept drawing blanks.  Until one day it hit me.  Maybe this has nothing to do with what I am supposed to learn from all of this.  What if it was about what I was supposed to do?  What can I take away from this experience that can help other women who are suffering the same lonely, all-encompassing grief that I was?

When I shared my infertility journey through my blog, I had many women reach out. Some were old friends, some were close friends, and some were women I had never met.  But we all had our journeys in common.  My blog was able to help others, give them courage, and the confirmation they were not alone. If there is one thing that is talked about less than infertility it is miscarriage and all the raw emotions that are associated with it. I already had the platform to reach other women; all I needed to do was publish my story.  Perhaps I was supposed to share my story to help give other women also struggling with their loss the courage to share or talk about their own experience.  Or at the very least, let them know that they are not alone in how they are feeling.

To make a very long story short, Paul and I began another fresh round of IVF treatments on February 24th.  On April 8th the doctors called with my beta blood test and confirmed I was pregnant.  Over the course of the next two weeks leading up to my first ultrasound appointment I was pulled in for two additional blood drawls due to some symptoms which could be an early indicator of miscarriage.  Both tests came back great so we proceeded to our ultrasound very hopeful on April 22nd.  Being 6 weeks, 2 days pregnant we were hoping to see the heartbeat.  Instead the doctor confirmed that both transferred embryos had implanted, however they were not developed enough yet to confirm heartbeats.  We were having twins and shocked beyond belief.  So we waited another week for our second scan.  On April 28th, (7 weeks, 2 days) Dr. A was only able to find one heartbeat.  As for the second baby, we were told that it had not survived.

1

Leaving the office I felt a whirlwind of emotions. I was incredibly sad we lost one of the babies.  But I could not focus on the loss as the doctor stressed that the next two weeks would be critical to make sure fetal development and growth occurred in order to sustain the pregnancy of the second baby.  So I pushed all negative thoughts out of my mind and made sure to remain positive for the safety of the second baby.  We were excited beyond words and finally told all our family and friends that we were expecting.  To say they were all shocked would be an understatement.  We had kept the secret that we got approved for another personal loan, started the IVF process, and managed to get pregnant from pretty much everyone.  We just wanted to have that shock factor that everyone else got to have with their pregnancy announcements.  I had ordered an adorable tank for Reagan off of Etsy that was personalized to say “Big Sister, Reagan” on it.  We took pictures of her wearing it and grinning from ear to ear (not that she knew what it meant).  Then we either Facetimed, visited, or messaged those closest to us with Reagan wearing the shirt.  It was truly everything I had ever envisioned and more.

reagan 1

Everything changed on Wednesday, May 4th.  While at dinner with some friends, I began to have excruciating cramps, paired up with several other miscarriage symptoms.  I immediately called my doctor after hours.  He assured me that he believed everything to be okay and that he would get me in first thing in the morning for an ultrasound.  Thursday, May 5th I headed into IRH with shaky hands and a knot the size of Texas in the pit of my stomach.  As Dr. A performed the ultrasound he pointed out the area of growth to where the baby had matured from last week.  I started to relax a little bit, thinking “okay this is good news.  Some women have these complications throughout their pregnancy and I am going to be fine.”  Then he scanned to the area of the heartbeat.  And circled.  And circled. And circled for what felt like an eternity.  Time seemed to stand still and the room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.  Then it came.  “I do not see a heartbeat”.

The rest is kind of a blur to be honest. Paul was not there with me as he was too far away working to make the last minute appointment.  I remember sitting up and putting my face in my hands as the tears began streaming down.   After everything I had gone through in the last 10 weeks it felt like someone had reached inside my chest, ripped out my heart, shredded it into a million little pieces, and then put it back in.  It seemed unfair to have had the whole IVF cycle work and then have it all taken away just a few short weeks later.  And not only work, but to bless me with twins and then take them BOTH.  I vividly remember wanting to scream at God and say “Why?  Why did you have to take them both?  Taking the first baby wasn’t enough for you?”  It literally felt like some kind of a sick joke.

I had my D&C scheduled for the next morning. D&C is a surgery where the surgeon removes the contents of the uterus.  Or in more commons terms, Dr. A was going to go in and remove my babies.  If you have ever been checked into the hospital for any type of surgery you will know that they ask you a dozen of times, “what are you here for today?”  Every time I had to reply with “D&C”, I began to feel more and more numb.  I stayed that way up until the nurse walked in with paperwork for my babies’ death certificates and asked for authorization for the hospital to take care of the remains.  That’s when I lost it.  The pain that crept in is truly indescribable.  I could literally feel my heart breaking.  My chest physically hurt.  I couldn’t breathe.  I could barely sign or see the paperwork because my hands were shaking so bad and my eyes were flooded with tears.

Shortly before I was taken back, a Rabbi came in to say a prayer. Even though I am Catholic, my husband and I know the importance of prayer, especially in this situation.  We held hands as the Rabbi blessed my babies and asked for the Lord to accept them into his arms and look after them for us.   All these flashes began streaming though my head at rapid fire.  I’ll never get to see my babies.  I’ll never get to hold them tight or kiss their sweet faces.  Even though my gut was telling me they were both boys, I will never get to know that for sure.  I’ll never get to celebrate holidays, or birthdays, or teach them about life.  I’ll never get to introduce them to their loving big sister.  Man did that one felt like a dagger in my chest.  Even for the short time I had carried them I had already made so many plans for their futures.  These plans were shattering all around me, falling to the ground like broken glass.

The next few days were by far the worst time of my life to date. Did I mention it was Mother’s Day weekend?  As if the pain of losing my babies wasn’t enough, everywhere I turned Mother’s Day was being forced down my throat.  I know I have a beautiful baby girl that had already blessed me as a mother.  It was just really bad timing.  I tried to put on a good face but losing my babies was all I could think about.  It literally consumed my every thought.  I would go from being completely numb and feeling nothing at all to sobbing uncontrollably.  It emotionally and physically hurt.  My babies had died inside of me and I was not able to prevent it or save them.  I think that’s the part that stung the most- it was my body that allowed this to happen.  And the whole thing was a mind tease because even though I was not pregnant anymore I still felt pregnant.  It takes a while for your hormone levels to drop after a miscarriage so you still have the pregnancy symptoms: nauseas, tiredness, soreness, etc.  And coincidentally a few hours after I got home from the hospital the new maternity pants I had excitedly ordered arrived.  And so did the extra camera to hook up to the baby monitor in the new nursery.  Effing awesome.

The awful thing about a miscarriage is for most women it happens before couples even have a chance to tell their families and friends they were pregnant. So not only are you grieving the loss of a child, but you are doing so privately.  Nobody knows this extreme loss you just suffered.   Everywhere you turn people are smiling and laughing and moving forward with their lives, looking at you and expecting the same in return.  They are unaware that you are so overcome with grief that it took everything in your power to simply get out of bed that day.  Some days all I wanted to do was stay in bed and cry all day.  I tried to hold it together as best as I could but there were many days something would happen and it would trigger riveting flashbacks of those awful three days.  And then suddenly there I was sitting back in the doctor’s office, or being prepped for surgery, or coming home completely empty.  And no matter how hard I tried, once the flashback started, I could not stop them from happening.  I kept reliving it over and over and over again.

A week after my D&C we left for vacation to Ft. Myers, Florida. This was a planned vacation that really fell at the perfect time.  That Monday, May 16th, Paul and I decided to have a memorial on the beach at night.   We bought paper lanterns and lit one for each baby, filled it with our love, and sent them up to Heaven.  We held Reagan in our arms, said a prayer to God, and said Goodbye to our babies.  For me this was critical to help the healing process.  With any other loss, you get to say goodbye.  With a miscarriage, one second you are pregnant and the next you are not.  You leave the hospital feeling totally empty with nothing to prove that your baby even existed.  Saying goodbye and having a memorial was our way of recognizing these babies existed, even if it was just for a short time.

Afterwards I made the decision to share our memorial on Facebook. Everyone is different and for some women, they don’t want anyone else to know.  But for me, I wanted others to recognize that I did have two little angel babies.  For the last week I was walking around carrying my grief and it was weighing me down.  By sharing my loss I instantly felt some of the weight being lifted off my chest.  It was out there. People knew.  It was no longer an enormous secret I had to keep hidden.  Also it made me feel better to know that others were praying for our babies too.  The power of prayer really is an incredible thing.

I’m not sure this pain is ever going to go away. It has been five weeks and it still weighs on me heavily.  I actually still cry more days than I do not.  I know with time, it will fade and not be as encompassing as it is now.  There will be hard times, like when I reach certain milestones of the pregnancy I once held, such as second and third trimester dates or when I approach my due date of December 12th.  However there is one thing I do know for certain- I will see my babies again.  There will come a time (many years from now) when my whole family will be reunited in Heaven.  I will be able to wrap my arms around my babies and give them years of kisses and never let go again.  For some reason, this helps to bring me peace.  Not one day will go by that I will not think of them.  Instead of carrying them in my arms, I will carry them in my heart.  And maybe one day my family will be able to expand again.  In the mean-time though, I do have one beautiful little girl to focus on.  One silly, spunky, sweet hearted, genuine little girl who just learned how to give her momma these tight bear hugs.  That, my friends would be enough to aid in the healing of anyone’s heartache.

“I never got to hold you, or bounce you on my lap. I never got to read to you, or watch you as you nap.  You slipped away so quickly, before I said your name.  And I want the world to know, I love you just the same.”

Advertisements

Cap, Gown, Diploma

Yesterday, Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 was Graduation Day from IRH.  As we walked out of IRH after our last appointment with Dr. A, I couldn’t help but walk out with a very heavy heart.  Even trying to write this post, I am really struggling and overcome with all these emotions.  On the one hand, we did it!! We told infertility she could kiss our a$$ because we were determined to have a baby.  Graduating from the IRH means that we have a very healthy Baby Rose growing, and Dr. A feels confident that we no longer need his services.  So we get discharged back to my regular OB/GYN.  We are so excited and thankful that we were able to make it to this point, and for the gift we were given. 

 IMG_5120

Yet on the other hand, I am sad to leave IRH.  We are graduating one week shy of our five month anniversary at IRH.  This place has been like a second home for the past few months; at times we were seen in the office twice a week.  The staff, the Doctors, the other patients have all became a second family to us.  I have never been to any facility where the staff is as caring, compassionate, and understanding as at IRH.  From the very first appointment to the last, we were always provided with exceptional service.  And the Doctors.  I don’t even know where to start on this one.  Dr. A has become my Hero.  From his positivity, his ability to calm me when I felt like the world was crashing in, his smile, his honesty, his gentle and kind heart; he truly became my Hero.  He provided me with the most precious gift that I honestly at times was not sure I would ever be able to have.  I wish that we could stay on with Dr. A for the duration of our pregnancy. But I know that there are many other women out there that are waiting for their turn for Dr. A to work his magic for them.  I will never forget Dr. A and all that he has done for me. 

And then there are the other patients.  Infertility is an awful disease that I would never wish on anyone.  But if it were not for this disease, I would never have been able to meet some of the most amazing, strong, and inspiring women that I have been blessed to know.  I know I have made some life-long friends.  And so for that reason, I want to dedicate this entry to my fellow warriors.  Some of you are members of the IRH Ladies Night In (LNI), some are my Fairy Godmothers, and some are just readers embarking on their own path.  But for all of you courageous women- this is for you!!!

My Fellow Infertility Warriors:

I want to thank you for allowing me to be a part of your journey with you, and for being by my side during mine.  I know we all wished we had met on different terms, but I am thankful that our paths did cross.  You all have been a source of inspiration, guidance, support, and love that made it possible for me to get through this crazy roller coaster. 

At the very beginning of my journey, I felt terribly alone.  Surrounded in a world where friends and family were popping out kids left and right, I did not have a single person that could relate to my situation.  People could empathize and they could feel sad for you, but nobody knew exactly how unbearable at times this diagnosis could be.  Until I met you all.  I remember my very first Ladies Night In meeting, we discussed how two little words of “Me Too”, could change your perspective on life.  I WAS NOT ALONE.  Finding a group of women with similar issues, fears, and disappointments helped make the disease a little more bearable. 

And then came the support.  I knew that at any point in the day or night, I could reach a fellow warrior through the secret Facebook page.  We shared our stories, offered encouragement throughout treatment cycles, and gave a shoulder to lean on when it was needed.  Some of you I have never met face to face, and others were smiling, familiar faces at meetings every month.   Yet every single one of you have touched my life in a way that I did not think was possible. 

I could NOT have gotten through this process with the help of all you ladies.  From my two cycle buddies, my two favorite Fairy Godmothers, the dedication of the monthly meetings and group page at IRH (Thank you Tara!!!!), and the strength and compassion of all you wonderful women.  You all truly helped to make this process much more endurable for me. You gave me the strength I needed to survive. 

I hope that each and every one of you will one day get your miracle too.  There is not a single day that goes by where I do not take one minute to pray for all my fellow warriors.  I know that sometimes the days can be darker than you ever imagined possible.  The pain can become unbearable.  The sadness that comes with this disease seems to confiscate every part of your entire being.  But please do not give up hope!!!  I truly believe that God has something planned for all of us.  Hold onto that dream of becoming a mother, and do not ever let it slip away.  Refuse to let it beat you down.  Keep fighting!  And when it seems like you have no fight left, remember why you held on for so long to begin with. 

I call you all warriors because I honestly have never met a more enduring, strong, resilient group of fighters in my life.  I want to leave you all with one last farewell wish (a really good Pinterest find!):

“Today I am sending you an extra dose of courage…and a deep sense of knowing that your dreams are within reach.  I am sending you encouraging words to help you keep going…especially when you feel like giving up.  I am sending you laughter, the kind that cleanses your soul…and I am sending you the bright love of your many angels to help you walk your path with the deep knowing that you are enough.”

Keep fighting warriors and I hope to see you all on the Graduates page very soon!! 

 

SHOTS! SHOTS! SHOTS!

I have to laugh at this picture because it is a perfect example of some IVF humor.

lmfao

For those of you that know me, you know I was a party girl!! The popular LMFAO song was a favorite of mine. It fit in perfectly as we crowded into our local bar with my besties, music pulsing through the jukebox so loud you could feel the vibrations in the floor. Power fisting, dancing, and screaming “shot, shots, shots, everybodyyyy”, we tossed back jagabombs with my biggest concern being how large my tab was going to be. Fast forward to today as I am double injecting hormone shots daily, the song plays in my head as though it’s teasing me. I can’t help but laugh at how much my world has changed over a short few months.

We officially began our IVF cycle on Sunday, April 27th. The whole process is incredibly confusing, so bear with me and I will try and explain it in the easiest way possible! We started off the cycle eager, prepared, and incredibly positive. I would soon learn, however that the process was much harder than I ever anticipated.

The first two days nothing major happens. Both Paul and I began by taking a one day dose of antibiotics. Dr. A emphasized that staying healthy was critical to our treatment’s success. An interesting tid bit of information is that if a male spikes a temperature over 100 degrees, he loses his sperm count for three whole months!!! So starting off with an antibiotic would kill off any germs that may be lingering.

On cycle day 3, Tuesday, April 29th, I began the birth control pill. Crazy right? I’m trying to get pregnant and they put me on the pill? This is done is so that my system can completely shut down and become totally inactive, giving Dr. A complete control over it. The first two weeks were incredibly easy as far as medications went. What was hard for me, were the changes I began to make in my life. I knew going into this experience that I was going to do everything possible to give my body the very best fighting chance it deserved to accept the IVF. I quit drinking. I began a regular sleep routine. I made healthier food selections. I increased my water intake which was already pretty high around 80 oz. a day. I cut out all caffeine from my diet. Trust me when I say this one was by far the worst! My morning coffee was a staple for my commute to work. And Starbucks! Oh Starbucks, I cannot wait to one day be reunited with a hot caramel macchiato, extra shot of espresso. But I told myself I didn’t want to look back at this experience with any regrets or haunting doubts. It was far too expensive to do so! I was more than willing to do these simple sacrifices.

On Monday, May 12th I had my first IVF ultrasound. Dr. A was very happy, the birth control pill had done its job- my system was completely shut down. Paul and I both had to give extensive blood work. Per federal regulations for IVF, we both had to be tested for HIV, Hepatitis, and numerous STDs. I had to give additional blood for what was considered my baseline blood work. Basically this was a good way for Dr. A to monitor my hormone levels and help determine my medicine dosages. I then met with one of the IVF nurses who gave me my schedule for the upcoming week. Three days of no medication followed by starting stimulation medication. This is the point in my treatment where everything started to feel incredibly surreal. As Paul and I pulled out my first injectable medication on Friday, May 16th we both stared at it for a minute before taking the plunge. Friday evenings in the past we were bonding over Jagabombs, and now we were holding a vial of Gonal F, anxiously rereading the directions over and over.

Gonal F is a FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) given in injection form. Its purpose is to stimulate the ovaries so that they are mass producing eggs. During a typical cycle, an average woman releases one-two eggs. With an IVF cycle, the doctors want the ovaries to produce numerous follicles so that multiple eggs are created. The first injection was a bit of a learning experience, but we finally got it mastered. Gonal F comes in a ready-ject pen, meaning there were multiple dosages in each one. You added a new needle to the end, turned the dial to the correct dosage and it would dispense the exact amount needed. Pinching a section of my stomach, I slowly entered the thin needle. Not bad at all! In fact, I barely felt it. I smiled, this was going to be much easier than I thought.

Once I began injectables, I had to report to the doctor’s office every 3-4 days for ultrasounds and blood work. The ultrasounds would determine how many follicles were growing on each ovary and the size of each. After six days of injectables, I was told to mix in my second medicine, Cetrotide. Cetrotide is a GnRH Antagonists. They prevent the body from ovulating prematurely and releasing the eggs before the doctor is ready for them. This injectable was not nearly as easy to administer as the Gonal F. It came in a pre-filled water syringe, a small vial of the medication that was powder bead form, along with two very long, large needles. I had to use the mixing needle to insert all the water into the medication, mix it, and then extract it all back into the syringe. Then I switched the needles out to the smaller of the two to administer the injection in the stomach as well. This needle was not so friendly. In fact it hurt like a B*tch!!!

What had once started off as an easy, walk in the park process quickly shifted to a painful, dreaded experience. The injections had to be taken at the same time every evening. My life now revolved around a timed schedule. I was told to prepare myself to be hormonal and cry at the drop of the dime, experience crazy mood swings, and be irritable. However I luckily never experienced any of these symptoms. I did feel nauseous, have raging migraines, and severe back pain. I was not allowed to take any extra medication other than Tylenol for my symptoms. My stomach started to develop several small bruises at the injection sites, swelled, and became very sore to touch. I began to dread my daily injections. I kept telling myself it was for a good cause and to suck it up, after all it was only for 11 days.

I brought up these concerns at my next visit. Dr. S, a partner at IRH who was filling in for Dr. A while he was on vacation, explained that because of the stimulation medications, my ovaries were extremely large and inflamed. Due to the size of them, they were pushing all my other organs up against my back as there was no room for them. This is why my back was throbbing. On the plus side, as he performed my third ultrasound he said “Beautiful. Just absolutely perfect.” I now had 17 follicles ranging in size from 12 to 16 mm. He then scheduled my Egg Retrieval for Tuesday. Next we were taken into another room for our Egg Retrieval education class. An IVF nurse came in and explained the whole process and went over my medication calendar and timeline for the next three weeks.

Sunday evening, May 25th, I gave myself my final injection. After 11 days of injectables, I was especially excited to have this portion of the process completed. This injection was Ovidrel, a Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG). Ovidrel stimulates the release of the egg or eggs in my case, during ovulation. The timing of this is very critical. It had to be given as close to 11:30 PM as possible. I was only allowed a 15 minute grace period either way. If I missed the time, I could potentially jeopardize the entire process.

Tuesday, May 27th we went into IRH for our Egg Retrieval. Paul had to help walk me into the doctor’s office as the Valium they had prescribed was kicking in full force! They took us to the surgical wing of the office and had me change into a hospital gown and began my IV line.

IMG_4495

Despite how uncomfortable and much pain I was in, the excitement seemed to take over my body. Okay maybe that Valium was a little stronger than I thought! The last thing I really remember was telling nurse Ricia that I loved the clouds on the ceiling of the room. She laughed and said she was about to make those clouds dance for me. After securing the oxygen tube in my nose, she pushed the drugs through my IV to help put me in a brief sedation. While I was under, Dr. A went in with a very, very large needle and with the help of the ultrasound, slowly extracted all the eggs from each ovary. Can you now see why I needed the Valium and sedation? When I woke up about 20 minutes later, I was being wheeled back into recovery as Paul was coming back from doing his business. In case this needs further clarification, his job is to go watch an “adult film” and collect his “swimmers” in a cup. After spending about an hour in recovery we were released to go home under bed rest conditions. Before we left though, Ricia informed me that they had retrieved 16 eggs!!! She said I was quite the over achiever as this number was far higher than average. From here, the embryologists mixed my eggs with Paul’s sperm in little petri dishes to allow fertilization to occur.

IMG_4505

The next morning I received the anticipated call from IRH. Out of the 16 eggs that were retrieved, 15 of them were mature. Of the mature eggs, only 5 had fertilized and became embryos. I tried to not get disappointed with the number; 5 fertilized embryos was a great number, and it only took one to work! We had five baby Roses thriving in petri dishes! The lab would continue to watch the embryos develop. If they felt they could make it all the way to a blastocyst stage (a more developed stage of the embryo) then they would perform a 5 day transfer on Sunday. However if they felt unsure of the success rate of making it to blast, they would perform a 3 day transfer on Friday.

Friday, May 30th we got the call from IRH to come in for the Embryo Transfer.

IMG_4509

Dr. A greeted Paul and I with a large smile on his face. He showed us a picture of the two embryos he selected to transfer back. They were both Grade 1, 8 celled embryos and they were BEAutiful!!

IMG_4511

Dr. A began to do a little dance and started to sing “Transfer day, it’s transfer day, Everybody’s happy-it’s Transfer Day”. The entire room began to laugh. I say entire room because there really is no privacy at all where infertility treatments are concerned. The actual transfer was quick and painless. Using an ultrasound and a catheter, he guided the two embryos to land on the exact spot in the uterus he had minutes ago pointed out.

IMG_4504

As I was experiencing tremendous back pain, excessive stomach bloating, and cramping since my retrieval I was under strict orders to take the next two weeks super easy. My stomach had literally swelled up to look like I was four months pregnant. The pain got so bad I could barely get out of bed one day and almost made two separate trips to the ER.

Dr. A said I did all I could do to create the embryos, and now it was up to them to do the rest. They now had to hatch out of their outer shell and attach themselves to the uterine wall. Once attached to the wall implantation can begin. After implantation begins, the cells that become the placenta and fetus begin to develop approximately one week post transfer. I had my beta blood test scheduled for two weeks after my Embryo Transfer on Friday, June 13th. This is the only way to accurately determine pregnancy with IVF. Until then I began taking Progesterone suppositories (we won’t even go into these!) three times a day to help support any pregnancy. So we just kick back and wait!

To make the dreaded two week wait go faster, I downloaded a few new books on my tablet, re-watched a favorite TV series from the beginning, and made dates with friends to keep busy. I was still extremely uncomfortable and in a lot of pain. If this didn’t work I was not sure I could endure another fresh IVF cycle again. People had warned me how intense it was and how physically hard the medications were on the body, but I still felt duped! I was not prepared for how sick I felt or for the level of pain I experienced. The whole process was far more trying and enduring than I ever imagined. But as soon as the doubt crept into my mind, I pushed it out. If this was what I had to do to create a family, I would do it until the doctor’s told me it was no longer safe, or more likely we ran out of money. And on the plus side, our other 3 embryos made it to the blast stage and were all able to be frozen for later attempts. I knew I did everything I could to help this work, and I had no regrets.

Unfortunately we never made it to our June 13th Beta test. Good old Aunt Flo decided to come instead, which rarely happens while you are on Progesterone. IRH had me come in immediately on Wednesday, June 11th for my Beta to make certain I was not pregnant before switching my protocol up. As I left work for a quick doctor visit, I felt numb. I really believed that it had worked. I did everything that was asked of me, and even took extra steps to help make this work. I received the phone call with my results at 4:25 PM. My levels were less than 1, which in infertility terms equates to what we call a BFN (Big Fat Negative) on the pregnancy scale. I was truly heartbroken.

Everyone has different beliefs on conception. Some believe a baby is created the minute fertilization occurs and an embryo is created. Others believe a baby is not created until it becomes a fetus which occurs around 8 weeks. Or some believe it’s not technically a baby until it takes the first breaths outside the womb. I believe that a baby is created the moment the embryo is. To me, we had lost two little babies. Two little souls that we never got to meet, never got to see this world, and would never grow up, were now on their way to Heaven. I finally had a good melt down a few hours later. I felt lost. Crushed. Defeated. Hopeless. You put so much of yourself into the seven week long IVF cycle that when it doesn’t work out, you feel like you have nothing left to give. I knew I had to regain my positive attitude before I took the next step of a FET (Frozen Embryo Transfer). But I was exhausted: physically and emotionally drained.

The past 14 months began to weigh very heavily on me. I used to think being a mother was a right of any woman. But I was wrong. It is a GIFT. Just because you are a woman does not guarantee you the GIFT of motherhood. The truth is there are millions of women who will never be able to experience the joys of motherhood. I mentioned before that infertility affects 1 out of every 8 couples. 44% of those couples will end up seeking medical intervention for the disease. Out of those who seek help, 65% will end up having a live birth (Resolve.org). This means that 35% of those affected with infertility will sadly never be able to experience the joys of parenthood, unless they seek the adoption route. Which for those of you that do not know, adoption costs run anywhere from $35,000-$50,000. Although I know remaining positive is critical to my treatment, I also have to be realistic. At the end of the day, this simply may not work for us. After all, we just had by medical terms, the perfect IVF cycle and it failed. We still have 3 frozen attempts and two fresh attempts left under our contract. However if those all fail as well, that would be the end of the road for us due to financial reasons. There was no guarantee that we would become parents, all we could do was hope, pray, and trust the process.

But if you know me, you know I am incredibly stubborn to the point I can be bull headed. Whereas this can be a major flaw in other situations, it is my saving grace in this one. I refuse to let this beat me down. I will take the time I need to grieve my losses, but I will not let this defeat me. Every step back, every frustration, every ounce of pain, and every tear shed is just going to make the end result that much more worth it. I will appreciate the gift of motherhood when it happens to the fullest extent as I know that it is not a guarantee. And when that day comes that I finally get to hold my baby in my arms, I will smile and know that this extremely painful journey was all 100% worth it.

“Don’t forget that you are human. It’s okay to have a meltdown. Just don’t unpack and live there. Cry it out and refocus on where you are headed.”

We’re Really Doing It, Harry

I sure do hope you know what movie that is from!  That’s exactly what I told Paul after we got all the details of our treatment ironed out.  As we get ready to begin IVF, it feels very surreal; part of me is still in disbelief that we are really doing this. Then the excitement of realizing we are that much closer to our dream coming true kicks in and all the disbelief crumbles.  Despite everything we have been through, I feel more grounded, relaxed, and positive than ever.  But first let’s rewind.

On April 18th, 2014 I had my second surgery.  Dr. A performed a Laparoscopy, Hysteroscopy, and a Bi-Lateral Salpingectomy.  In the simplest of terms, he removed both of my tubes and checked for any other complications.  If you remember from anatomy class, there is no possible way a woman can get pregnant on her own without her tubes.  I guess some part of me clung to the dream that we would have one of those miracle babies at some point down the road.  You’ve all heard the stories of couples who try for years and end up doing IVF/adopting only to later be blessed with a “miracle baby” all on their own.  This will never be a possibility for us.

When Dr. A sat me down after he discovered the Hydrosalpinx was still in my right tube, he actually gave me the option of the surgery or proceeding straight to IVF.  He said the fluid wasn’t horrendous, but it definitely wasn’t good.  There was a 50% chance that the Hydrosalpinx would not leak and harm the embryo, or there was a 50% chance that it could. He said if we went the surgery route, he would do everything he could to salvage my left tube.  But he expressed very openly that if it looked too bad, he would remove that one as well.  He wanted me to be emotionally prepared since removing both tubes is permanent.  This is just one of the many things I love about Dr. A.; he is brutally honest, yet caring at the same time.  We sat there and talked for about 45 minutes.  This busy, miracle doctor didn’t rush me through making this decision.  I asked him what his professional opinion would be and he responded with the surgery route, but that it was entirely my decision.  Oddly enough I didn’t even cry or hesitate when I told him to schedule me for surgery.

I knew that this would give me the very best possible chance of the IVF working.  IVF is extremely expensive and I didn’t want to go through a round with the chance that it may not work due the one circumstance that I actually could control.  I decided to take back control for the first time in my journey and man, did it feel good.  I felt confident that even if Dr. A had to remove both tubes, that I was giving my body the fighting chance it needed.

So on April 18th, Paul and I checked into Christ hospital at 5:45 AM. There were no tears this time around when I woke up in recovery and Paul informed me that Dr. A did have to remove BOTH tubes.    I guess you could say I have come a long way since the beginning of my  journey.  I feel at ease, relaxed, and confident. Even peaceful.  I know with all my heart I made the right choice.  I was extra reassured when I heard that Dr. A told my husband he felt extremely confident that I was going to have success with the IVF.  He reiterated that if you are going to have any type of infertility diagnosis, you want Tubal Damage.  It was the easiest to “cure” because you surpass the tubes in IVF; you simply don’t need them.  So I left the hospital that day tubeless and as confident as ever.

With IVF comes a lot of legal paperwork/decisions we also had to complete.  I had contacted my insurance and they informed me that once I received the “infertility” diagnosis, they would stop covering any treatment I received.  No office visits, no blood draws, not one single aspect of the treatment I needed would be covered.  To them it was not a disease and deemed as not medically necessary.  Therefore, we made the decision to do the Money Back Program.  If we were able to produce embryos to freeze this would give us 6 total attempts (3 fresh IVF cycles & 3 FET cycles (Frozen Embryo Transfer)) to achieve our dream.  Even though it seemed crazy expensive at $17,500 plus the cost of meds, this was statistically the best and most logical choice.  Plus God forbid it didn’t work, we would get 70% of that money back. We also had to complete a psychological questionnaire to ensure we were both mentally prepared (and sane) to embark on the IVF challenge.  I guess they don’t want crazy people trying to reproduce.  Then came one of the harder choices: what did we want to do with the extra frozen embryos in case one of us (or both) passed away?  We decided to donate them to medical research.  If this tragedy were to occur, at least maybe someone else could benefit.  All of these documents were legal binding contracts.

On Tuesday, April 15th, we had our Education Day at IRH.  Here we met with one of the IVF nurses, Ricia.  She walked us through the entire process from the very first step all the way through to the last.  I was given my medical protocol down to the exact daily medicine dosages along with a general timeline of events.  I learned how to administer the injections I would need to do 1-2 times a day.  Always fully prepared, I had a list of over 30 additional questions that Ricia helped to answer as well.  By the time we left IRH, I felt I had a really good grasp on what we could expect.   We were prepared and ready.

I began calling Fertility Pharmacies and pricing my medications right away.  I was amazed at how expensive it was for one month’s worth of meds.  The prices ranged anywhere from $2,800-$5,600!!!  I also applied for Compassionate Care;  a program that provides discounts on fertility medicines as long as you can show proof of hardship and the need for financial help.  So I wrote a pretty kick ass letter and provided a copy of our 2013 Tax Filing.  I was overjoyed when we received the phone call saying we were eligible for a 50% discount off my medications for a whole year!!!  The Compassionate Care along with a coupon brought down the cost of meds from $2,800 to $1,111.00!!  I also applied for several IVF grants/scholarships, but have yet to hear back on any of them.  Slowly, I felt like our luck was beginning to change in our favor.

Wednesday, April 30th, I received the next day air package of my medications, or as a fellow member of IRH calls it “My Box of Hope!” (Thanks Jennifer!).  As I sat down to organize them all, I couldn’t help but feel slightly overwhelmed.  I mean look at it all!!!

md

But more than overwhelmed I was excited!  For the first time since we began this journey a year ago, we were taking our first step towards real treatment!  No more major setbacks.  “We’re really doing it, Harry,” I told my husband.  (all right it’s a Dumb & Dumber reference!!)  I felt like I should feel nervous, scared, or maybe even sad that this was what we had to go through to have a baby.  But oddly enough, I wasn’t any of those things.

I think a huge part of the reason I was so excited was due to the level of support we receive.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: FAMILY AND FRIENDS- you truly are AMAZING!!  You have helped to make this experience so much easier, knowing we have people cheering and praying for us along the way.  The unconditional love and support you all offer to Paul and I makes me tear up every time I think about it!

I also have to contribute a lot of my positive and peaceful state of mind to the wonderful women in my support group.  This group consists of women who are currently undergoing some kind of infertility treatment at IRH.  There are monthly meetings where we meet face to face, along with an online support system where we can share our stories, questions, struggles, joys, and fears that arise throughout our journeys. I have never met a more inspiring, resilient, stronger group of women.  Many have experienced true heartache and loss, along with repeated disappointment.  But they keep fighting.  They keep encouraging others.  The positive energy that they give off can be truly felt.  And instead of feeling alone, I was met with “ME TOO”.  Two little words have never felt so great to hear.  Some of these woman I have never met, but I feel as though I have known them for years!  I will never be able to truly explain how the strength that I have received from these woman has helped to ease the pain of this emotional struggle.

So as we are ready begin our first IVF cycle, I feel I have come full circle.  I am ready for this next chapter in my life.  I am eager and excited to start the treatment that I felt I kept getting pushed further away from.  It’s no longer one step forward, ten steps back.  Watch out world, cause the Roses are moving full speed ahead and can’t nobody hold us down!! Oh no, we’re gonna keep on moving!!!

 

God Gave Me Lemons

I guess I’m supposed to make lemonade huh? I remember on more than one occasion hosting a lemonade stand with my cousins at my Grandparent’s house when I was younger.  Who doesn’t love lemonade? It’s basically just glorified water; yet so crisp and refreshing on a blazing summer afternoon.  Fast forward twenty years, I can’t help but feel shafted.  God gave me lemons while everyone else was receiving oranges.  And we all know oranges are a million times better than lemons!!  I can’t help but think “why me”?  What did I do to deserve this?  Why do some couples conceive more easily and naturally, and I am forced to go the most difficult path to obtain the same goal? I find myself repeating, “life just isn’t fair” over and over and over again.  There are thousands of couples that let’s face it-should never be allowed to have children, popping out kids left and right, along with the thousands of women who have an unwanted pregnancies and end up aborting.  Here my husband and I sit, willing to give up everything to have a child and cannot.  Life just isn’t fair.

 I finally met with my new team of doctors at the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) on Tuesday, March 18th.  Even as I sat in the chair listening to Dr. Awadalla (who PS I absolutely love!!!) reiterate that IVF was my only option to have children, it was as though I was hearing it for the first time.  I guess in the back of my mind I held onto the hope that this miracle doctor would be able to perform some crazy surgery to help remove the damage.  Sadly, this was not the situation.  After reviewing my case, he determined that another surgery to repair my tubes would not be advised for several reasons.  He believes the damage is far too severe.  He said the best way to explain it, is to imagine a bowl.  You have grapes (pelvic cavity) at the very bottom of the bowl, and strawberries (stomach) layered on top, and so on.  Well imagine that bowl being filled with poison and the fruit sitting in that poison for 3 weeks.  The grapes would be the most affected because they are the ones that were saturated the most by the poison.  This is exactly what happened with my tubes when my appendix exploded.  He feels another surgery would not be medically advised as there is no guarantee it would work.  Also, scar tissue comes back and consequently it would not be a permanent fix.  Therefore I have no choice but to fully accept this, embrace it, and move forward.

 IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) is deemed as the last line of offense for couples trying to get pregnant.  Fertility drugs, surgeries, IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) are typically the first approaches.  However, IVF is the most effective way with the largest percentages of success to achieve pregnancy for infertile patients.  The first IVF attempt was made by Dr. Patrick Steptoe and Dr. Robert Edwards in 1978.  In the last 36 years IVF has come a long way.  Dr. A even said the progress that has been made in the last five years is truly amazing.  I thought I knew what IVF entailed, however I was thoroughly surprised at how much I didn’t know.

 In 2012 there was more than 61,000 babies born thru IVF.  Out of the 3.9 million babies born in 2012, 1.5% of them were IVF babies.  That is a huge increase over the last decade, in fact it was the biggest year for IVF.  IVF is made up of four stages:  Superovulation, Egg Retrieval, Fertilization of the Egg, and Embryo Transfer.  Throughout the IVF cycle there is careful monitoring through blood work and ultrasounds.  And the best part of IVF is all the fertility drug hormones and shot injections administered daily.  These lemons sure do taste amazing right about now!!! However this is all necessary for the IVF to work.  I try to keep that in mind as my head is swimming with all the information the doctor is giving me.

 Dr. A then began to do prep work for my IVF cycle.  As he was taking measurements through an ultrasound, he noticed that there was some fluid around my tubes.  Since there was no fluid in my tubes during my surgery, he became concerned this was a tubal fluid called Hydrosalpinx.  He believes it may be the result of a complication from my Laparoscopy (apparently it is common).  This is very harmful to IVF as it would leak from the tubes and destroy any chances of the IVF working.  Just my luck.  Dr. A scheduled me for another ultrasound in a few weeks to compare the results.  He noted that if the fluid is still there he will need to schedule yet another surgery to completely remove my tubes.  I know this would give me the very best chance of IVF working if it is Hydrosalpinx, but can a girl catch a break here?

 After I left my initial appointment with Dr. A, I had a crazy rush of emotions.  I was excited, scared, sad, and terrified all at once.  I was excited that he was confident I would be able to have children.  He said I have a 50% chance of success on the first attempt, and an 85% chance of success within three attempts.  I can’t tell you how good it felt to hear this.  But then my thoughts trailed to the possibility of another surgery before I can start my IVF cycle; this one much more evasive with a much longer recovery time.  Haven’t I been through enough already?  It just seems as though every time I get closer to my dream, I get pushed further and further away.  One step forward, ten steps back has never hit home quite like it did now.  And even though I have been doing as much as I possibly could to educate myself on every aspect, I was terrified of the process.  I know that you are your own best advocate, so I wanted to have as much knowledge on IVF going into this experience.

 There is also the financial side to think about.  The cost of meds per cycle is between $3,000 and $4,000 and considered extra to the IVF fees.  One single round of IVF is $12,500.  IRH does offer a money back guarantee program of 3 IVF cycles and 3 frozen transfers for $17,900.  I instantly felt sick to my stomach wondering how in the world we’d be able to afford all of this.  Paul and I currently work our asses off, with Paul holding down three part time jobs and myself with a full time career. Were we going to need to pick up more jobs and which route did we want to go, the one cycle payment or three payment cycle?  The one cycle payment seemed like we were putting all of our lemons in one basket, and what if it failed?

 Although the different blogs of personal stories were helping me cope, I can honestly say that I have never felt so alone in my entire life. This is a difficult feeling to explain.  I know that Paul and I are in this experience together as he was exceptionally good at comforting and reassuring me.  He has truly stepped up to the plate when I needed him most and went beyond what I could have asked for. World’s Best Husband award goes to you, Paul!!!  We also have an amazing support team of family, friends, and co-workers.  Shortly after we found out about our diagnosis, we had an abundance of people reach out to show their support!  In fact, I thought we were going to run out of places to store the gifts!!!

                                gifts 

Even though I knew we had support, I did not know a single person who had ever gone through the emotionally draining, intense, and difficult journey of IVF.  I knew the world had continued to go on as normal, but for me I was still stuck back on February 25th.  I felt like my entire world had literally stopped moving.  IVF and my desire to have children seemed to be completely taking over my life: my every thought, my dreams, my prayers, and every second of my free time.  It was like I was being swallowed up in this crazy experience and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  It became hard to focus on daily activities.  I felt this extreme disconnect from my friends whose world seemed to be moving full speed ahead.  The things that once used to matter now seemed very insignificant.  My every moment was literally consumed with counting down the days until my next doctor’s appointment.  I knew my body was going through the daily motions, but it was like nobody was mentally home.  I had completely checked out.

 And that’s when God answered one of my prayers.  He sent me Katie and Mike.  I will never be able to explain how much their impact on this experience has helped to make it that much easier.  After reading my blog, Katie reached out to me and offered to share her experience.  In that moment all my doubts about publicizing this blog 110% vanished!!  She has been through the IVF experience twice, with three babies and is currently on her fourth pregnancy all on her own!!!!!  And to make matters even better, she was also a patient of Dr. A!  I was beyond  inspired and I could literally feel the hope pulsing through my veins.  One Saturday evening Paul and I got together with Katie and Mike.  She shared her IVF journey and offered some insight as to what I can expect.  Being in her home and seeing the pictures of her three children, all IVF miracles, restored that fire and determination inside me that had been slipping away.  Being able to talk to someone else who had gone through the same experience that I will be embarking on felt so amazing.  She explained it best when she said family and friends can only offer a certain level of support because they don’t 100% understand what you are going through.  I learned that it is very important to also have my IVF support team. I recently joined two online, local support groups.  All the members are either currently undergoing infertility treatment or have been through it in the past.  Knowing that I have this support team to help me with any questions that may arise along the way truly has helped to lift some of the burden off my shoulders.  I no longer feel alone in this experience.  Seeing the other members’ success stories restored the hope that I would be able to start my own family.

As I sit in limbo, waiting to hear if I will need another major surgery or if I get the green flag to start IVF, I feel like I have a better grasp on what’s to come.  I feel inspired, hopeful, and rejuvenated.  I AM going to make this dream become a reality.

 And, you know what?  Lemons aren’t too bad after all!  Actually, they are pretty amazing.  They promote natural healing, boost immunity along with brain activity, and FIGHT infection & fatigue.  They have a STRONG antibacterial & antiviral power that treats insomnia, reduces anxiety, CONQUERS bad breath, and eases pain & inflammation.  These lemons were the perfect gift for God to have given me.  You can be sure I’m gonna make the best damn lemonade anyone has ever tasted!!!

 “An arrow can only be shot by pulling it backward.  So when life is dragging you back with difficulties, it means that it’s going to launch you into something great.  So just focus, and keep aiming”