Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Where do you lean?

When I first started this journey, googling all about pregnancy signs, I found an online community where I made instant friendships.  In the beginning, we were all happy and joyful about our journey to have a baby. Every day we would spend hours chatting back and forth and enjoying each other's "company." It was a great place to learn, laugh, vent, and establish a virtual friendship.  Over time, we said hello to many, many, many women that eventually moved on in their pregnancy journey.  Over the course of a year, it narrowed down to a group of about 30 that bonded really well.  We eventually left the main site we met on and created our own online community.

During the next 5 years, we lost a couple of our members due to some crazy circumstances (cat fishing anyone?), as well as to differences of opinions.  In the end, we had a rather strong group of women that numbered in the low 20's.  Out of all those women, all but 4 went on to become pregnant, some even multiple times over the course of 5 years.  Of course, I am one of the 4 that has not been pregnant... yet.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with these women, and even though I have distanced myself from the forum for personal reasons, I am still in contact with most of them through facebook and texting.  As I think back on my journey, I wonder how I would have made it this far without this amazing group of women.  Don't get me wrong, I have an amazing support system in real life.  B and my parents have been through everything with me, and we have his parents that have supported us, as well.  I also have my bff to keep me sane, whether IF related or life related.  Even before I opened the door to our IF struggle, my friends and coworkers have been an amazing support for me.  But, this group of women... my "Mafia..." they were there every step of the way and could understand just about everything I have dealt with because so many of them went through the exact same thing.

We all bonded over our want for a family.  Some of us have gotten there faster (and many times over!), but we still all have that common denominator in our lives... the struggle to create the family we all wanted.  I am grateful every day for these amazing women.  I've been lucky to meet a couple of them in real life, and still want to meet so many more of them.  I am "MafiAuntie" to many of their kids.  And I love all of them for the support and love they have shown me over the years, even if I am not always able to show it.

So, who do you lean on? Who is your support? This journey can be so heart wrenching.  Everyone needs someone in their life, whether in person or through the Internet or long distance or wherever. Where do you go?

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Life Goes On

Since starting this blog, I have found myself more at peace with our decision to "come out," and it has become even easier to talk about with family and friends.  It's almost as if a huge weight has been lifted! My post tonight isn't about the weight of IF.  I like to rejoice in the good times, not just wallow in the sad.

So, Valentine's just passed... of course, it's truly "just another day." I get all the hype of "manufactured holiday" and all the comments about "showing love all the time, not just one specific day." I've never been a huge V-day person.  I enjoy it for the little things we do for each other, the cutesy cards, and the special date night (whether out or at home).  Since becoming a teacher though, it has taken on a different meaning for me.

I enjoy doing little holiday parties for the kids. I love seeing the little cards they make, and decorating bags/mailboxes to collect the valentine's in.  I enjoy shopping around for something fun to give my students.  This year, I scored popular cartoon DVD's for $1 at Target (LOVE), and found an Owl DIY card kit.  It was perfect for us, especially since Owls are our theme this year (I know, soooo over done, but soooo cute!!).  We had fun dressing in cute clothes, and sharing brownies and cupcakes at our party.

Valentine's Day is also when B proposed to me, despite much teasing (prior to the proposal) about how cliche it would be.  Now, I am glad he did it.  It makes it have a little more meaning for us... and a million other couples... but it gives us a little something extra to look forward to on the 14th of every February.

I remember the proposal like it was yesterday... I was living in my apartment in Virginia Beach, B lived in Richmond.  We both had to work that day, so we knew we wouldn't see each other.  My parents had invited me out to dinner, so I came home from work and began preparing for my night.  There was a knock on the door, and I looked out, but no one was there.  I opened the door, and B was standing to the side near the stairs.  We were both really excited to see each other!  I let him in, excitedly talking, saying that I needed to call mom and dad and let them know he would be joining us for dinner.  I kept running back and forth from the tv room to the bedroom in all my chatter.  (According to B, he kept trying to go down on one knee, but I was back and forth too quick!)After about the 5th trip back and forth, B took me by the hands, began to say some sweet words, then he went down on one knee and asked me to marry him.  I said yes, and fell down on top of him.  We both giggle at the memory because our cat, Court, was sitting on the chair in the tv room, with his head cocked to the side like, "WTH is wrong with those two?!"

I remember calling my bff, who was studying at the Kempsville Library at the time.  She did a :silent scream: for us, then we invited her out to dinner with us (by this time, B had informed me that my parents weren't actually taking me out to dinner.  They knew he was coming).  We drove over to their house, told them the news, and showed off my beautiful ring.

It was a beautiful night, and it was not fun letting B leave the next morning.  We both had to go back to work, though it was tempting to call out! We spent the next 5 months driving back and forth between our homes, before I moved out to Richmond at the end of June.

I love reminiscing about how it all began.  It is bittersweet that we were engaged 8 years ago, and married 7 months later.  Although these 8 years have seemed to go by in a blink, looking back, it also seems like the slowest 8 years of our lives.

Life goes on... whether you are ready for it or not!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Process

During the last couple of years, whenever we talked with our friends and family about IVF, most were interested in the actual process of what we went through during the 6 weeks. Not just the emotional stuff, but the actual "what does IVF mean?" stuff.  It's been over a year since our last round, but I thought I would try to remember it all to share.

The IVF process starts well before the retrieval and put back.  We both have to get blood testing every year, which is always fun! They are checking to make sure our hormonal levels are within a decent range, and that we don't have HIV (no seriously, that is checked every time and is a very big deal considering the amount of body fluids, needles, and IV's that are involved throughout).  Once the results are received, I almost always have to go on iron pills and thyroid meds (although this year we are being smart and I have been taking the pills for several months now, GO ME!). Then we have to wait for my next period.  As soon as my period starts, I have to call the office and start on birth control pills (BCP) after a couple of days.

BCP's??  Isn't that the opposite of what we should be doing if we want to get pregnant?? Of course! But we take them to regulate the cycle and make sure I don't ovulate before my follicles and meds have had a chance to work. Which honestly isn't too big a deal, since I apparently no longer ovulate on my own. ;) When I called the office on day 1 of AF, I am given a whole schedule of meds and such that I have to take on specific days.  And believe me, it is a very specific process, down to time of day to the hour, that you have to follow, and it is tweaked specifically to the individual! There were times B and I had to give shots in a bathroom of a family members house or at a restaurant- always fun!

So after a couple weeks of pills, and shots, and every other to every day ultrasounds (even on weekends!), we finally get to the egg retrieval.  I remember the first time.  I was All my life, until I found out I had IF, I have never been hospitalized or put under for anything. Never broken anything, had 2 minor sprains in 22 years (falling down stairs helping a great friend move out of her dorm, lol), pretty decent health all these years.  Then, in the matter of a couple of years, I was about to be put under for a second time (first being my laparoscopy in '08) and I had no idea what to expect.  

B had to "do his thing" that morning before we left, at my parent's house, which was just a little bit stressful; so we ended up running a bit late. Once we got to EVMS, there was no one in reception (it was well before normal staff comes in), and we were so flustered, we couldn't remember what we were supposed to do! We finally relaxed, went upstairs, and they separated us so B could make "the drop off" and I could get settled in the hospital bed.  We finally began to calm down, and I was scheduled to go second (there were 2 other retrievals that day).  The nurses were sweet as can be, very comforting, and explained everything they were doing as they did it.  B and I were laughing and in high spirits, taking pictures to remember everything by, because, you know, we were about to make a baby (ha!).  

The anesthesiologist came in, talked to me, started my meds, and then I am being wheeled back out after being in the operating room for about 30 or so minutes.  I had to rest for another 30 or so minutes before I was transferred to a wheelchair and taken to the car.  B took me home, and I spent the rest of the day relaxing in bed. So, overall, not a scary experience, but we sure felt like it was!

After the retrieval, we received daily updates of how our embryos were doing, and the transfer was scheduled.  I always work in between retrieval and transfer, and it helps a lot because my coworkers and sweet kids keep my mind off of everything (somewhat...).  Within a couple of days, it is decided if we will do a 3 day or 5 day transfer, and back to the hospital we go! 

For transfer, I am awake the whole time, and B is even allowed in the room with me. They take us back, and I am prepped for the transfer process.  There is a monitor on the wall where we can watch everything the doctor is doing, and we even get a pre-shot of whatever embryos are being put in.  We consider it "baby's first picture." A long catheter like object is placed directly into the uterus, and the embryo is pushed inside.  It's just amazing what they can do!

Afterwards, I have to rest again, then get wheeled out to the car for a couple of days of bed rest at home.  There is lots of cramping, some spotting, and a lot of care given as I relaxed and prayed over every moment.  Each transfer occurred the last week of school before holiday break, so I would then spend the next week or so going crazy at home.  

The two week wait before the blood draw is seriously the most nerve wrecking time of your life.  Every movement you make, everything you do, everything is called into question because "what if" you cause the embryo not to implant, what if that soda stopped everything, what if you spent too long in the bathroom, what if what if what it.  It makes even the most laid back, sane person super crazy.  And we all know any woman undergoing the IVF process is never sane and laid back during that time!

Eventually the day you are supposed to get the blood draw comes, and then you wait for the results.  And you either receive the happy call or the "I'm so sorry" call.  And if you are really lucky, you get the "Well, you *are* pregnant, but..." call.  

So, in a nutshell, that is the IVF process, minus a lot of big words, medical mumbo jumbo, and pain.  And I didn't even mention the shots and pills you go through during the two week wait! 

So, when you wonder just what I and many others are going through, it is a very physical and emotional process that can't really be fully understood unless you actually go through it. But your support and love is more than appreciated throughout! And believe me, at this point, I am more than happy to explain anything about the process.  Who knows, maybe I'll even let you take a stab at me with a needle ;)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Post in Which We Share TOO Much

Sitting here, thinking about how our journey began, I have a hard time recalling a lot of the details.  I remember bits and pieces, but I think it has been so long so we started, that I have either (a) blocked everything out or (b) forgotten due to old age. Neither is a great choice!

I do remember the first time we thought we were pregnant.  B and I were married in September of 2006. The day after our wedding, I started the mother of all horrible periods (I told you we would share too much in this post!). Like the cut out my uterus, throw my ovaries off a bridge, curl up in a ball and drug myself type of period.  Way to start marriage, eh? Looking back now, and knowing what we have been through, I almost feel like that was my body's was of warning me- "Life is never going to be the same for you!" 
Either that, or  "(Insert expletive here) YOU!"

November came, and no period.  B and I have never made our desire to have a family a secret.  I think just about anyone who has come into contact with us in the last 15 years has known that we have always wanted children, and planned to start not too long after the wedding.  I remember we had several disagreements about when to start.  I wanted to wait a year before we started (HA!), and B would have been happy if I had walked down the aisle pregnant.  That discussion seems so silly now, so trivial.  

Anywho, of course I tested.  And tested. And tested.  Always a negative.  BUT! Google says there are a lot of women who do not show up pregnant on their tests, so the only way to know is a blood test and ultrasound!  I MUST be one of those women!!  I felt sick to my stomach often, my breasts were sore, my face was breaking out. I had to be pregnant! Then December came, no sign of my period, no sign of a positive test, and I was finally able to get in to a doctor. Of course, I wasn't pregnant. The doctor had no answer for me about my MIA period.  Maybe stress?  Maybe weight gain? Maybe all the recent changes? The doctor ended up dismissing my concerns and said that women didn't have to have a period every month. 
I was shocked! I mean, I grew up with the knowledge that periods come every month, and if it doesn't come, you better get thee to a doctor and congratulations! I found a new doctor the next month that was closer to home and much more friendly.  After a visit to the new guy, we talked about forcing my period to come through medication (lol, who *wants* to force their period!?), and thus started 6 months of forced periods. We eventually had a discussion about using clomid, because not only did my period disappear, so did my ability to ovulate.  Clomid would help me ovulate, which would help get me pregnant, which would probably fix my period issues after I had a baby. YAY!  Well, not very well advertised fact- Clomid makes you gain weight faster than you can swallow the pill.  Thus began two years of Super Fatty T! I gained 40 pounds on clomid, and I am still fighting the battle to lose all that weight today. WEEE! 

Moving on, after the clomid did nothing to help us, we did a hydrosonogram and discovered a had a massive cyst on one of my ovaries. So, I had laparoscopic surgery to have it removed in January '08. Still nothing helped.  We were referred to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) and began having Intrauterine Inseminations (IUI's) in February of '08. We continued through 7 IUI's and blew through $5000 until we called it quits. Throughout all of this, we were made very aware that B had testosterone issues, as well as very low sperm counts.  He was seeing a urologist and several other doctors to see if there was anything else he could do on his end.  Basically, both of us have screwed up reproductive systems. We finally accepted that the only way we would possibly become biological parents was through In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Then we were hit with the price tag for IVF, and our dreams were majorly put on hold.

Insert long story about putting our house on the market, T moving to the beach to start teaching and live with her parents, our house being half destroyed by a tornado, B losing his job, officially moving with T and her parents, B starting a new job, FINALLY selling our old house, and finally buying our new house. Yeah- did I have stress in my life?!

Despite all those crazy changes, moving in with my parents was amazing because it afforded us the opportunity to do not just one, but two rounds of IVF with the Jones Institute. We were very lucky because the Jones offers multiple versions of IVF, and we finally found a plan that we could somewhat afford.  Since we had minimal bills while living with my parents, we were able to pay down some debt and afford the cost of our first cycle (though stupid ass, we still managed to rack up debt because of unforeseen medicine costs and other medical costs). Once the house sold, we were able to afford the second round, which the Jones discounted for us since our first round did not work.  As most of y'all know from previous posts, the second round did work, albeit briefly.

And now, here we are.  Working towards our 3rd IVF, and hoping it happens for us this round. Seeing it written out, it doesn't seem like all of that was really 6+ years of struggle.  And yet, we can feel every moment of it.