Thursday, March 27, 2014

Another year older

Yesterday was my birthday and for the first time that I can remember I just wasn't in the mood to celebrate. Any 'normal' year I would be celebrating all month long, but given how this month has unfolded I am just not in a celebratory mood...and it SUCKS!

A month ago I was pregnant. We had planned on letting our immediate family know that we were expecting this weekend although my father already knew about our whole treatment and was eagerly anticipating his first grandchild...and for the third time I let him down. Matter of fact, I let everyone down and I hate that feeling.

A couple weekends ago DH and I decided that we needed to just get away. We got up early that Saturday morning and drove down to Myrtle Beach. It was the weekend before St Patrick's day so there was quite a few things going on in town and it is only about a 3 1/2 hour drive from our house. We just needed to get away to a place where no one knew what we ha just gone through and where we could have some laughs and not talk about anything related to our pregnancy, our loss and most importantly our infertility struggles. It was just for a night, but it was very much needed. We really enjoyed just being together and not having to deal with our sad reality.

That same weekend I started a new diet. The HCG diet. Now I did some research on this prior to starting and read that it could be beneficial for women with PCOS or insulin resistant. There is a lot of controversy over this diet because it is a very low calorie diet along with either HCG drops (over the counter) or injections (prescription). I first heard about this diet from my BFF who lives back in FL who had started this diet taking the Omni drops from Omnitrition. She was having some pretty good success with weightloss, so that's what started my research in this. Anyway to give you a little synopsis of this diet, the first two days are your loading days followed by the VLCD (very low calorie diet) of 500 calories per day. I won't bore you with the details because those who are intrigued can google HCG diet and find all kinds of information about it. Currently I have lost 11 pounds (as of this past Sunday when I weighed in).

Also in the past week I have been doing some research on PCOS and AMA (advanced maternal age) along with miscarriages and TTC and so on and so on. It seems like whenever I get knocked down by some infertility battle that I am fighting I go on this crazy spin with trying to find out anything and everything I can to try and beat this. Beat PCOS. Beat early miscarriage. Beat infertility...PERIOD! During some of my searching I came across some women speaking about Pregnitude. It seems like it is a relatively new product that many women had been given from their OB/Gyn's. Of course the chances of an RE recommending this product is most likely rare because it is a natural supplement and not one of those "prescription" medications. Also, if a woman has success with this product, they certainly aren't going to be spending the time and money on fertility treatments. Of course a lot of what I have read about this product is that it helps improve egg quality which would make it a great supplement to take even if you are preparing for an IUI or IVF cycle. Honestly, I was liking what I was reading, so I found the product on Amazon, eBay and even which is where I ultimately purchased it from. Walgreens had the cheapest price and it ships for free. My thoughts are that if it can regulate my cycles and hopefully help my body to ovulate on it's own then it is well worth the price I paid for it ($35). I ordered it Friday night online and I received it yesterday (my own birthday present) and plan on starting it Saturday morning depending on what my beta level is tomorrow. That's right, another beta blood test tomorrow morning to hopefully see if my level has dropped to <5.

So, who knows...if I continue to lose some weight and this Pregnitude (me) and FertileAid (Ken) do what they claim they can do then maybe we can have our own little miracle this time next year. I still plan on having the RPL panel done along with the other testing that my doctor is ordering for me once my beta Hcg is down to under 5 and to be honest I am hoping that it might show something so that I have some direction should we get pregnant again. Of course I don't think I will be able to really accept and believe I'm pregnant until I am holding a happy and healthy baby in my arms.

It would be wonderful to have a surprise BFP. I don't know if we will have that kind of luck, but then again anything is possible right? It's a nice thought thinking of having that kind of miracle after all we have been through. I would love to be a Prenitude success story! So stay tuned...I'll keep you updated on how these new things are going and what we are doing to try on our own before we move on to another treatment which looks like it might be an IUI in June or July?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Our WTHeck Appointment

Yesterday was my follow up appointment with my RE regarding this last FET. Of course I went into this appointment with a laundry list of questions that I wanted to ask him. I knew from the get-go that I wouldn’t get all my answers, but I was hoping to come away with something…I just didn’t know exactly what that “something” was.

Unfortunately Ken wasn’t able to go with me. One of the many problems we have with him working for the jerk he works for who happens to be the owner of the company. (I could call him many things but I must be careful what I say). I could tell that my doctor was surprised that my husband wasn’t there for an appointment like this, and honestly I didn’t want him to dig too deep into wondering why he was absent. After all, I was kind of upset that Ken wasn’t there myself.

I walked into his office with my pad of paper and pen in hand, ready to make my notes. I wanted to utilize his time wisely and I didn’t want to miss anything. All I can say about that…it was a good plan and I had good intentions but I didn’t write down a single thing. Sad, I know.

Anyway, my first question of course… “What do you think happened?” This was the big question that I hoped to get an answer for…sadly, he couldn’t answer this. He reiterated that the fibroid surgery was a necessity due to the size and location of the fibroid. I of course agreed completely. His next statement was that he highly suggested that I have PGS (pre-genetic screening) done on any embryos we have should we elect to do another round of IVF. I have more to say about this a little later!

I asked about having a RPL (repeat pregnancy loss) panel done along with any and all other testing that could possibly shed some light. This includes auto immune testing, leukocyte testing, genetic testing on both Ken and me, etc. I knew that my old clinic did an RPL panel of testing on me after our first FET because of my age and the way that whole thing played. That testing was done back in early 2011 and although nothing showed up in those labs, I am not 100% confident that testing was done properly or that they even did ALL the necessary testing. After all, we are talking about the clinic that killed six of our eggs right off the bat with inseminating them TWICE! If you couldn’t tell, I am still pretty upset over that situation!

Doctor M agreed that we should have a bunch of labs done and he listing several of the tests, but honestly I just couldn’t keep up with everything he mentioned. I plan on getting in touch with my nurse to see if she can email me this list so that I can do some further checking on what he plans to test for and to make additional requests if I feel something is missing from that list.

My next question started the discussion of where we go from here and what would be different should we do another attempt at a full IVF cycle. I asked him if he thought that the high dosage of stimulant drugs I was given from the other clinic in preparation for my egg retrieval could have caused the quality of my eggs to be diminished. After all, I was on such a high dose that they retrieved 33 eggs from me. I remember everyone at the clinic that day “bragging” about how many eggs I had because they hadn’t ever gotten that many before. Of course at the time, I thought… “yay, we have a lot to work with!” But now, all I can think of in my simple un-medically educated mind is that it was all about quantity and not quality with them. The more eggs the lower the quality. I wasn’t sure how my doctor would answer this question, but he agreed with me that being on the high dosage of stimulants has been shown to lower the quality of the eggs. He then went on to say that I would be on a much lower dose and that I would trigger with Lupron instead of Ovidrel because it lowers the chances of OHSS. Thankfully I didn’t get OHSS when I did my egg retrieval back in 2010, but that was always a fear because of being a woman with PCOS. He also said that ideally he would like to see me have somewhere around 6-10 eggs at retrieval, and of course mentioned the PGS testing again. Still more to be said about this!

After discussing what kind of protocol and what would be different in our next attempt, I felt that we were at a place in our discussion for me to ask my next question… “Would it be silly for us to take a step back and try 2-3 rounds of IUI before trying another IVF?” Yes, you read that right. I asked that question because I felt like this was an opportunity for us to be “trying” to conceive while deciding if we wanted to go through the full blown IVF thing again. I was actually surprised when he said that he thought it was a good idea and he would happily do whatever it takes to get us our baby. He then joked about how awesome it would be if we got pregnant through IUI after all we had gone through. He mentioned that even though I had 3 prior IUI’s at the other clinic, every protocol is different, that it was over 3 years ago and that we had the fibroid removed since then as well.

During the entire discussion about the IUI option and different protocols I asked him if he could recommend any type of supplements for me for egg quality, etc as well as anything that Ken could take to help with count and motility. Seriously, anything we can do to boost our chances I am definitely willing to look into or do. After talking about this with Ken, I feel he is on the same page with that. Anyway, I specifically mentioned something like FertilAid for Men. Anyone who has been on the TTC train for any amount of time has read about this supplement. I have always been curious after reading a ton of reviews on this stuff, but never really asked a specialist about it. He really didn’t have an opinion one way or the other and really didn’t think Ken needed any supplement help. I was kind of surprised by this actually. So, I have decided that I am going to invest in a bottle of the FertilAid for Men and have Ken take those for a few months. It certainly can’t hurt and it might even help our odds if it does what it says it does.

So, here we are. We have had 3 FET’s using 7 high quality embryos. We have gotten pregnant all three times, but we have never had a successful end to these pregnancies. How do we fix this? Is it going to take donor eggs or embryos or even donor sperm? I had this question on my list, but I was afraid to bring it up. I didn’t really want to think about that right now. Not that I am opposed to it, I just am not ready to go that route right now. I actually expected my doctor to mention this option to us, but when it wasn’t brought up by him, I just skipped over that question on my sheet. After all, if he didn’t feel the need to discuss it then I didn’t feel the need.

As you can probably tell, this appointment was more about “what direction we take” as opposed to “what the hell happened”. And as I mentioned, the topic of PGS (Pre-Genetic Screening also the same as PGD) came up a few times during our appointment. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this and I will tell you a few reasons why. First and foremost I feel that this is taking the science of IVF a little too far and almost playing the role of God. I mean to take an embryo and test a few cells to check some of the chromosome make up to determine if it is “normal” or abnormal kind of freaks me out a little. I feel that God doesn’t make mistakes and it’s not my job to choose between one embryo or the other and let’s face it, sometimes those tests aren’t 100% conclusive. Secondly, I know of several instances where women have had “genetically normal, PGS/PGD tested embryos put back and either NOT get pregnant or have an early loss as well. So, you spend the money and you do this test and yet it still fails. Which brings me to my third point regarding this pre-genetic screening… let’s say that we do this testing on our embryos and we transfer what they consider to be “perfectly normal” embryos that should result in a pregnancy and be right where we are now. It’s bad enough to know that your body isn’t letting you carry your baby to term (trust me, I’ve been there 3 times already), but I think that if I knew that the embryos themselves were perfect and yet it didn’t result in a take home baby it would be 100 times harder for me to deal with the emotions of that.

So, I of course mentioned these thoughts and feelings to Dr. M and explained to him exactly how I felt. His response kind of triggered something that made me want to research this a little more. He kind of flipped the coin on me and said, “ok, let’s just say that all the labs and testing we do on you and your husband come back clear and tell us absolutely nothing as to why this keeps happening to you. Then we do another IVF and FET and transfer two embryos that “look” perfect but we didn’t screen them, so we don’t know anything about them. And then you get that call you have gotten over and over again that you are pregnant, only to know in 4 weeks or so that you are losing the pregnancy. We would be right where we are now. Don’t you want answers? Wouldn’t you like to have some assurance that the embryos you are getting transferred have the best chance at a full term pregnancy?” Ugh…he just had to go there. But honestly, I’m glad that he laid it out like that. I told him that I would be thinking more about this option and Ken and I would discuss it closer to when time comes. But, I also told him that I really wanted to wait until all our labs were done and see if those showed anything that we were not aware of.

So, in conclusion I guess our first step will be to have the RPL panel done along with all the other tests that he believes we should get done. We do have to wait until my beta is down to 0 or below 5 before this can be done. Yesterday my level was still at 17 which seemed higher than I expected. The week before it was at 25, so it is dropping very slow. Dr. M mentioned that when the levels are falling they can kind of take their sweet time to get to 0.

In the meantime we are just going to take some time to ourselves and enjoy each other again. I will continue to do acupuncture and I started a new diet this past Saturday. As of today I have already lost 4 pounds! YAY. I want to focus on myself and not baby things for a little while. I will be ordering Ken some of the supplements and we can try for a natural miracle over the next few months. I might be attempting an IUI in June or July, but I don’t really want to rush into that decision now.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Here we are again!

Here we are again!

When I last posted, it was just a few days prior to our cruise and I shared the fact that I had caved and taken an HPT and gotten a BFP. On Friday Feb 7th (just two days before we sailed away on our cruise) my nurse asked me to come in for a beta since I had gotten a couple of positive home pregnancy tests. That beta came back at 97 at 10dp5dt. We were excited, but of course cautiously optimistic. Remember, we have been here before and sadly those pregnancies ended early on.

We spent 7 glorious days aboard the Freedom of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) sailing to the eastern Caribbean to islands like St. Thomas and St. Maarten. This time we took our dear friends, Wayne and Debbie and this was their first cruise ever! We had some great times and some laughs together, and most importantly we got to relax.

Unlike the other cruises I have been on, I was extra careful because of my “condition”. I took the elevator everywhere even if just going up or down one level. I just didn’t want to come this far and do something silly to cause any issues. I made sure to rest every afternoon for a couple hours. This part wasn’t hard at all because I was so exhausted by mid-day and really needed that down time. I think Ken enjoyed that downtime as well. I even took special care to not drink anything caffeinated (sodas/teas) and didn’t eat lunch meat or seafood as I am well aware of those risks as well.

On our last night, I was getting ready for the show and dinner and noticed a tiny bit of “old blood” when I went to the restroom. Nothing heavy and nothing that I was really concerned about. After dinner though, when I went to the restroom there was some more blood when I wiped and this was more pink than brown. I let Ken know and we made the night short and went back to our cabin to bed. By 6am the next morning (debarkation day) the blood had completely stopped and there was NOTHING! There had hardly been anything to begin with, but now there was nothing and I felt so relieved.

During the long drive home from Port Canaveral to South Carolina we stopped often so I could use the restroom and every time I checked with caution and thankfully it seemed like the bleeding had stopped and my only conclusion was that it was just some irritation from the Crinone (vaginal progesterone). I felt fine, felt pregnant (symptom wise) and was sure all was going to be ok.

The next day, Monday Feb 17th I went in for another beta draw and that level came back at 730 (20dp5dt). It was up, but it should have been much higher. The doubling rate was over 82 hours. I knew that this couldn’t be a good sign. I thought about it and called the nurse back and asked to have the doctor call me. Shockingly my nurse was “ok” with these numbers and didn’t think I needed to come back until my ultrasound, but I just knew I needed to double check that level to make sure that it was in fact going up and not coming down.

The next day the doctor called me and understood my concerns given my history. He asked that I come back in the next day (22dpt) to have a follow up beta test. When the doctor called back with my numbers, I just knew it couldn’t be good and I was right. Those numbers came back at somewhere around 450. I just knew it was over. I’ve been here before, and with numbers falling like that I know that this is not going to have the outcome we had been praying for. After talking with the doctor, he asked that I stay on all my medications and come back on Friday (24dpt) for another check. He mentioned the possibility of a vanishing twin and gave me some hope…but I wasn’t so sure that things were going to be good. Friday’s beta was down to 273 (24dp5dt).

At this point I was ready to just throw in the towel. I knew that I felt the end was coming and that once again we were going to suffer another heartbreak. I was really surprised when the doctor asked that I stay on all meds and come in on Monday for an ultrasound. Maybe he was just trying to give me hope. Maybe he actually believed that everything was going to work out for us. Maybe he was just humoring me. I don’t know, but I trusted him. I still trust him. So I took his advice and stayed on all my meds. We would wait to see what Monday would bring and what an ultrasound would show.

On February 24th (6w4d) I went in for my ultrasound…

On the way to the clinic I prayed as hard as I can remember ever praying. I asked God for his will. I asked that if this wasn’t going to end the way we had hoped that he would protect my heart and my soul from the pain that would come. I told him I was “ok” with whatever shall be, but I also prayed that he would follow me into that ultrasound room and show off in a big and mighty way.

The ultrasound tech started and in came my doctor. The technician started by checking my ovaries and tubes. I’m sure that the first concern was that this could possibly be an ectopic pregnancy. Thankfully…all was clear there. She then made her way down to my uterus and there was something…but I wasn’t sure what it was. My doctor and the tech took a good hard look and I remember turning to look at my doctor’s face to try and gauge his expressions. There was a smile…but what does that mean? Turns out, it was a gestational sac and fetal pole. No heartbeat was detected, but my doctor was not concerned by that and reassured me that it could just be too early for it to be heard or seen.

I was amazed, and gave glory to God for what we had just witnessed, but I knew that we were not in the clear just yet. I asked the doctor flat out what his thoughts/opinions were on this. His words put me at ease at the moment… “You’re pregnant! You have the makings of a viable pregnancy.” I can hear those words now as though they were just being said to me. No beta was checked that day, as the doctor didn’t feel the need after seeing the ultrasound, and looking back now I probably should have requested it, but I too was ok with what we had seen on the ultrasound and I really didn’t want to be in that beta hell any longer. It just screws with my mind too much. I was just given the instructions to stay on my meds and come back the following week for another ultrasound, which was actually supposed to be my initial ultrasound to begin with. This time I was going to make sure to have Ken there. I didn’t want him to miss a beat.

That week went by pretty slow, at least looking back now it seems like it was slow. I just couldn’t wait to get back to the doctor’s office to get another ultrasound to see this little jelly bean I had in my tummy. I had an acupuncture session in the middle of the week and shared my updates with my acupuncturist. She felt my pulse and I remember her telling me, “you are pregnant.” Apparently pregnant women have a distinctive pulse and she felt this strong pulse and once again I had hope that this was really going to work for us. I just held onto the faith that I so desperately have struggled with throughout this IF journey.

When Monday rolled around, Ken met me at the doctor for our appointment. Looking back, I think in my heart I kind of knew what was about to happen, but I think at the time I thought it was the devil playing with my emotions and testing my faith. I tried so hard to hang onto my faith and believe that God was giving us our hearts desire.

Ultrasound time –NOTHING! My heart sank.

How could this be? How can something that was there last week not be there now? I don’t understand. I’m angry and I’m just sick and tired of having these heartbreaks over and over again and no one can tell me why this keeps happening!

I will say this, I know that I was led to come to this new clinic and that this doctor I am seeing is the right doctor for me. I truly believe that. His compassion for Ken and me during this loss/defeat is more than I could have ever expected and something that we both needed at the time. I don’t blame this doctor for our failed attempt. I don’t blame him for keeping me on medication when quite possibly any other doctor would have thrown in the towel. I actually praise him and appreciate the efforts he gave us and the faith he had for us even when my faith was far from where it should have been.

So where do we go from here? I have a laundry list of questions that I plan on asking him when I have that “What the heck” appointment next week. They are monitoring my beta to make sure it falls down to zero. This past Monday it was down to 25, so it is going the direction it is supposed to, even though it isn’t the direction I was hoping for.

At this point I just don’t know what our next move is. I am almost thinking that quite possibly this is an egg quality issue since the same thing keeps happening at roughly the same time. This is one of the many questions I will be asking the doctor next week.

As for how we are doing? Well, I keep telling those who ask me that I am doing ok. I guess I am doing ok, but I’m not where I should be, mentally. I am angry and hurt and confused and heartbroken. I feel at times that I am in this dark place or in the middle of a nightmare that I just cannot wake myself from. Really…how do women go through this time and time again? Surely I am not the only women who keep getting knocked down over and over again, but how much can one person take? How much can one couple take?

I do know one thing…when I told God that I was “ok” with whatever the outcome is with this…I was lying. I’m not ok with the fact that once again our hearts have been ripped out of our chest and stomped on.