Our Story from the Beginning…

It’s Time!

Every couple has a different scenario of events that led them to a fertility clinic, here are ours.

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2010

Dan and I have always known we wanted a family.  I remember going in to see the Minister prior to being married and him asking us our thoughts on raising a family.  We both smiled and talked about our dreams of having a nice house with some land, and of course, a couple of kids running around.  However, we also weren’t naive.  We knew because of various chronic medical issues that I have, it may not be as easy for us as some.  We told the Minister that we knew it may be a tumultuous go- but it was worth it for us.  We had even talked about back up plans.  I will never forget the Reverend’s face when we told him if we can’t conceive then we are both open to adoption.  Not that adoption was odd, but he was so happy to hear that we had already thought about the future and that it may not always go as planned.  Perhaps we were odd, telling him about our hopes and dreams… and then explaining our plan B.  But that’s us.

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For those that know me, this will not come as a shock.  I’m a type ‘a’ personality who feels most accomplished when the To Do list I created gets one more item crossed off the list.  I just can’t help it!  My mantra- Hope for the best, plan for the worst.

2012

Dan and I married fairly young- Dan 26 and myself 23.  We had time on our side and were not in a huge rush to have a baby.  We, of course, had a list to accomplish before we hit that next stage- a home, stable jobs (with benefits!), and a comfortable financial situation.

In early 2012 I was awarded my dream job.  It helped us meet all of the above criteria so we started planning.  Unlike most couples, we had a couple of hurdles to jump through first.  Each of these appointments had the potential to change everything.  My fear was that one of my medical conditions would prevent us from even trying to get pregnant.  This was the hurdle we expected.  Little did we know these would be the least of our problems.

Stop 1: Anti-depressants?

I was diagnosed with chronic depression shortly after my 19th birthday.  The long and the short of it is after trialing many medications with various specialists, I found a medication that works for me- on it I feel great and, quite frankly, most people have no idea as I no longer have any symptoms.  The more complicated part, however, is that continuing on these medications during pregnancy came with it’s own risks.

As such, I was referred to a clinic that specialized in women’s issues.  After careful review of my history and medications, the clinic gave me the medical answer we were waiting for.  The best case scenario would be that I could lower, or even go off, these meds during the pregnancy.  However, due to the high dose that I require and the personal risks to my health if I was to follow the above treatment, it was not recommended.  Essentially, the clinic gave me the best and worst case scenarios of health risks to me, and to our baby.  The percentage increase for potential birth issues/defects if I continued the medication was very small.  The other good news story is that the medication that I’m on is the one that they suggest if you intend to keep taking it through pregnancy.  After careful consideration and understanding the specific risks, Dan and I decided that we felt comfortable going ahead and trying to conceive.

Stop 2: Excessive Bleeding?

The next stop on the doctor’s office tour was to my Hematologist.  I have a bleeding disorder that makes simple things a tad more complicated sometimes.  Pregnancy would need to be a planned event and that included a detailed birth plan from the hematology team.  After lots of blood work and a couple appointments we got good news.  My specialist explained that the majority of people with bleeding disorders do not have a higher risk of miscarriage.  However, there are risks of bleeding during conception (during the implantation stage), if the pregnancy were to be spontaneously aborted (miscarriage), and of course, during birth.  The good news is that women with bleeding disorders give birth all the time, and just need extra care and attention.  The drug that reacts well with my platelets can be given to me as I go into labour, and while it does cross the placenta, there have been no long term effects noted to the baby.  There is a decent chance that the baby would have the same disorder as me, however, a pediatrician would follow the infant until it’s status was determined.

The first part I was ok with- I understood the risks and had a great team of specialists behind me.  However, the chance of passing along this same disorder to my children required more thought. Ultimately, we looked at how minimally this disorder impacts my life on a day-to-day basis.  Additionally, the fact that the baby would be assessed right after birth and followed meant that we would know the diagnosis and could manage it if needed.  After all, I’m pretty much a pro at this now.

Again, after absorbing the above information and plenty of discussion, Dan and I decided that we were ok continuing with the risks presented to us.  At this point, I started to get excited.  Up until now, I was cautiously optimistic.  After the good news we got- times two- things were coming together.  We can do this!

Stop 3: Where do we start?

Next stop, my ob-gyn.  Because of my bleeding disorder, I have had a very hard time stopping my periods.  In fact, after our wedding, I menstruated for over a year straight.  Yes, a year. After various attempts, coordination with my hemo team, and a whole mis-mash of medicine, my ob-gyn was able to get everything under control.  The scary part was that if we were going to try to conceive, that would mean I’d have to come off all of the mix of birth control that had been controlling my bleeding.

After the consult, she suggested that we be referred to a fertility clinic in the area so that we could coordinate the coming off the medication with (hopefully!) a successful pregnancy… and ta-da, no bleeding in between.  She set up the referral and we waited for the appointment.

It took 6 months of poking and prodding and lots of doctors’ appointments, but we made it… we jumped through every medical hoop given to us, and it was really happening! Let’s make a baby!

 

All Cleared- Let’s have a baby!

Well, not quite.  Not yet anyway.

We were referred to the fertility clinic in area and secured an appointment within a couple of months.  Our first appointment we met with our Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE) which is a fancy name for our fertility doctor.  He is a well-known doctor in the area of fertility and is involved in many provincial, national, and international committees/studies.

We arrived at the clinic and were sitting in a nice waiting room with coffee and a daytime television shows played in the background.  It was amazing for me to sit in a room filled with people, and every single one of them seemed to be absolutely intrigued by their shoes.  No one looked up.  No one smiled.  This was a serious place.

We got out initial questionnaire that we had to fill out.  It started pretty solid with our basic info and some medical background.  As the questionnaire continued the more invasive the questions got: How long have you been trying to conceive? How many times do you have intercourse a week?  Do you use any lubricants?  Reason for using lubricants?  What type of lubricants do you use? When was your last menstrual cycle?  How long was it?  How would you rate your bleeding? … And the questions continued for multiple pages.

I guess going to a fertility clinic involves sex.  I get that… just thought they might ease you into it.  I tried to mask my shock/embarrassment while sitting in a relatively full waiting room and continued to fill out the questionnaire.

A nurse called us into a room and we went over our answers.  We were not a typical couple coming to a fertility clinic.  In fact, Dan and I had never actually tried to get pregnant!  So this review of our answers was quite brief.  Though we did learn some random facts: the only lubricants to use while trying to conceive are some name brand that’s made special so it doesn’t act as a spermicide and canola oil.  Yes, I’m serious, canola oil.  Though I don’t remember everything from that appointment as we were on information overload, I do remember that tidbit.  We laughed so hard on our way home imagining have a large kitchen bottle of canola oil in the bedroom. We even debated making this a staple in our gift repertoire to couples who told us they’re were trying to conceive…   Perhaps the biggest mystery to me is who the heck thinks this stuff up to test if it works?  Ha

The nurse left us and we then had our first visit with our RE.  We immediately quite liked him, plus his British accent was entertaining to listen to.  He went over our history and felt we were in the right place.   He was very optimistic and felt with minimal intervention we would have great chances of getting pregnant.  He explained the process moving forward and we were sent on our way with a list of follow-up tests to book to ensure everything was A-ok.

We both went to the blood lab and had practically everything you had ever heard of tested: Blood types, vitamins, STDs, HIV, Cystic Fibrosis, Hep A/B/C, hemoglobin, German measles, iron, even blood disorders like sickle cell etc.  I went in feeling pretty darn confident, however, weirdly enough, when I saw the list that they were testing for I got nervous.  What if I had one of these disorders?  What would that mean for us trying to conceive?  I already have enough risks, can I just pass one of these tests with a solid A+?

We had an appointment booked for about 1.5 months after our initial assessment.  This was to our ‘results’ appointment.  This was going to be our big day of info.  We thought, and the RE thought, we should be pretty standard with the minor complication of a bleeding disorder.  These tests would (hopefully!) confirm that.

The next test for me was called a sonohysterogram.  Sonohysterography is a technique in which fluid is injected through the cervix into the uterus, and ultrasound is used to make images of the uterine cavity.  The fluid shows more detail of the uterus then when ultrasound is used alone.[1]  This procedure can find the underlying causes of many disorders such as abnormal uterine bleeding, infertility, and repeated miscarriages.  There’s the fancy explanation.

Basically, they shove a catheter into your uterus and squirt saline into your fallopian tubes- it hurts.  Not terribly, but not enough to make you squirm and cramp up for the rest of the day.  The theory is that this is a way to ensure that both tubes are open.  The RE actually comes in and performs this one.  The nice part about this test was that as the saline pushed through my tubes, he declared they were both open and clear.  Instant results- my type of test.

After the sonohysterogram, they did some baseline ultrasounds.  This was my introduction to a transvaginal ultrasound (sometimes called an internal ultrasound).  For those of you who have had the pleasure of one of these, you know exactly what I’m talking about.  For those who haven’t, let me explain…  This test is used for multiple reasons throughout your cycle, but mostly for measuring your endometrium  (uterine lining) and looking closely at your ovaries (and the good stuff inside them- follicles!).  Basically you sit on the table naked from the waist down with your feet in the stirrups (think pap smear) with a sheet draped over your legs.  Next the ultrasound tech gets the ultrasound device ready.  The actual machine is a cylinder probe with a round head on the top- basically a thin white dildo with a ball on the top.  They prep the top with lube then put a disposable glove over the top.  Honestly, actually a glove- they put the probe in one of the fingers of it!  Then they lube up the outside of it.  Cue the standard phrase “ok, you’re going to feel something cold” and in it goes.  The tech then manipulates the screen and starts taking the pics needed.  They ask you to push down on your belly here and there to get better views and they push and tilt the probe inside of you.  You’d swear that some techs take out their day’s frustrations jabbing inside of you while you lie there helpless, others aren’t too bad and actually start up a conversation about the weather or something to get you through it.  The whole thing takes anywhere from about 1-5 minutes total.  Nonetheless, a very long 1-5 minutes with a random person’s hand under the sheet somewhere controlling that thing.

 

internal-ultrasound

The next test was a sperm analysis.  They hand you the paper bag with the specimen cup in it and have the option of using one of their ‘specimen rooms’ or heading home then coming back.  To date, I’m still curious to see the inside of one of these rooms- maybe I’m weird, but come on, who doesn’t want to see what ‘assistance’ a fertility clinic provides! Needless to say, Dan chose the go home option.

You have to book a specific time that you hand it over to the lab.  We were lucky as it turned out as we live just within the ‘do it at home’ boundaries.  You have to be able to get the specimen to the lab in 30 minutes.  So myself, enjoying that Dan is having to get tested for something, marked a big star on the calendar and shared the special day with our friends.  Dan’s good friend even put it in his iPhone calendar to ensure to text him some encouragement that day.

D-day arrived and Dan hands me the brown paper bag as I would be the official courier.  We were told to label it before bringing it in.  Dan writes his name in big black marker on the paper bag.  Laughing, I suggested that they probably meant the specimen jar.  We couldn’t find another paper bag, and with the clock ticking the 30 minutes down, we gave up and I rushed to the car to transport our double-labeled precious cargo.

Another important tidbit- you have to keep the sperm at body temperature until it arrives at the lab.  So here I am driving through Hamilton traffic to the clinic with a bottle of sperm in my arm pit.  I’m on the clock as it ticks my 30 minutes down, I can’t speed for fear of having to explain my specimen container in my armpit to an officer and thus missing my time window and having to book again.  I was actually playing out the conversation in my head of what I would say to the cop if he pulled me over… Although I was apparently well prepared for the chat, I didn’t need it as I made it just in time and passed along my specimen to the lab.  It turned out to be fairly uneventful.  Seeing as they apparently do this 100 times a day and the lab tech didn’t seem to notice my best efforts to hide my blushing cheeks and act entirely non-chalant about this whole matter.

The next step was to wait.  This theme of ‘hurry up and wait’ was just beginning… and pretty much sums up the rest of 2012-2013. Four weeks later, and another star marked our calendar, we headed back to the clinic with knots in our stomachs to find out how the Doc felt we should proceed.   By this time, we’re almost at nine months since we began this journey… The irony of the timing did not escape me.

After our RE reviewed all of our test results he indicated that everything came back good.  He went over my blood tests, sonohysterogram, and ultrasounds one by one.  My blood work was great- minus my bleeding disorder however this was hardly news.  My fallopian tubes were open and clear.  My uterus was slightly tilted but it good shape with no signs of fibroids or other issues.  The only slight finding what that my ovaries appeared to be slightly poly cystic- meaning a lot of small follicles.  However, he did not appear to be troubled by this finding, so I guess we weren’t either.  Next up was the sperm analysis results- the last piece to the puzzle.  I can’t recall the specific data however basically everything was amazing quality and very high numbers- Dan sat up very straight slightly puffing his chest out for this test result.  Yes Daniel, you are truly a man.  *Cue rolling my eyes here.

All in all, great news!  Our RE had come up with a plan of action for us.  We would be trying something called ‘Inter-uterine Insemination’ (IUI).   On the scale of low tech to high tech of fertility treatments, we were being placed somewhere right in the middle.  We decided not to try non-medicated options or timed intercourse as we drastically improved our chances of conceive by going ahead this way.

A normal couple would then wait for your next cycle to start- the day you get your period being day 1- however, due to the massive amounts of birth control medications being given to me to stop me from bleeding, we just started a random day.

 

Timing is everything

I remember deciding when to start this cycle was a big decision. Dan, also known as Mr. Patient, was worried about the timing.  The big news in our lives at this point in time was that we were well on our way to opening our own franchise of Pita Pit.  We were negotiating the final aspects of the lease and were working through our franchise agreement.  We were doing this on our own so the nerves and stresses of opening our first business, paying for it, and ensuring we were making the right decisions were taking their toll.

Additionally, we were living in a small 1.5 storey, 900 sq ft home on Hamilton mountain that Dan had completely renovated the year we got married.  It was really cute and had an amazingly big backyard for our dogs, however, it seriously lacked in space.  While it had 2 bedrooms, we didn’t have a garage and the basement was only ¾ height and used solely for storage.  Somehow the two of us had accumulated so much stuff that we were essentially out of room.  The thought of adding baby gear to our home was overwhelming at best, so I started my mission to talk Dan into moving somewhere a tad bigger.

Oh, also, we owned two other duplexes that each had two sets of tenants.  On the busyness scale, we were ranking pretty high and needed to figure out our priorities.  Four separate sets of tenants and three homes to maintain were keeping us busy- forget about our full time jobs and Pita Pit happening in the background.  We had to make a decision, and the rentals were it.  Our real estate agent was happy to hear our decision, and within weeks, we had both rentals up for sale.

(Both houses sold quickly.  We had a couple minor hiccups with home inspection bs, tenants claiming that the other agents were stealing his jewelry (…enter the police), and such, but both houses were gone and we had a whole lot less to worry about by May 2013.)

Anyways… yes, back to the point, timing was important.  There was, of course, the most important timing: when would be the due date?  In retrospect, this is actually humorous that this is what we were planning our lives around, but who wants a birthday at Christmas?  No one!  Did we really want to start in February with the potential to have a child at the end of November into December?  After much discussion, and my lack of patience, we decided to go ahead!  This was it, no more waiting, we were getting pregnant! In the middle of February 2013 we started our medicated IUI cycle.’

Interuterine Insemination

The medicated aspect of the cycle refers to medications given to me to essentially help me grow one, but no more than two, really great follicles.  These meds are what are referred to as a stimulating medication.

 

Perhaps the easiest way to explain what I had to do is to first describe a normal cycle for a normal fertile couple.  I apologize for taking you back to grade 6 here, however, I have learned more about my reproductive organs on this journey than I ever believed possible.  Remember- I chose labour studies (a social science!), not actual science.

 

So here is goes:

 

Day 1 is the 1st day of your period.  Your estrogen starts to climb and follicles (inside your uterus carrying eggs) start to increase in size.  Eventually, one follicle takes the lead and starts to grow.  Inside the follicle, your egg is maturing.  Once the follicle is approximately 18-22mm your body gets a shot of Luteinizing Hormone.  This causes the follicle bursts and the egg shoots out.  This is called ovulation. 

 

During this time, the estrogen that is increasing creates your uterus to make a nice thick lining for a potential baby to stick and grow.

 

Once the egg is released, it hopefully travels down your fallopian tubes and meets up with some extra strong swimming sperm.  The egg and sperm meet, and fertilize, and they continue to grow.  Your body is now producing progesterone (another hormone) to support the little embryo (fertilized egg).  It travels into the uterine cavity, where hopefully it sticks.  Once it sticks, it wiggles its way into the endometrium (uterine wall).  This is called implantation.  Then, a baby grows!

 

So for us, the purpose of being on stimulating hormones was to ensure that I grow a good quality follicle and ovulate.  Due to my random periods and problematic bleeding, the clinic chose to assume that I was having issues ovulating on my own.  Then, once the follicle was grown and ready to ovulate, I would be given another medication to ensure the egg gets expelled from my uterus towards my fallopian tubes.  Thirty-six hours after taking that drug, I would be at the clinic receiving Dan’s sperm via a catheter into the top of my uterus.  This is where it was to meet my super egg that I grew and ta-da(!!) A baby would grow!

 

So here we go- the day I had been waiting for was finally here.  We went to the clinic in the afternoon and had an ultrasound to get a baseline reading, and then met with our RE.  He said everything looked great and he said we could start… today!  I’m not entirely sure what I had expected, or when I expected to start, but starting this second was even better than I imagined. 

 

The doc moved on and the nurse came into the room to show me how I would administer the medications.  Having my employment information in my file, I believe that the nurses may have believed I was a nurse… not someone who worked for nurses.  Anyhow, I got literally a 30 second intro to jabbing myself with a needle. 

 

Step 1: Insert cartridge of medication into needle thingy

 

Step 2: Clean the top of the needle thingy with an alcohol swab, then place the individually wrapped needle on the top of the contraption.  Screw on.  Take off needle cap.

 

Step 3: Tap vial to ensure air bubbles move to the top, then push one unit of medicine out the top to ensure air bubbles escape.

 

Step 4: Dial the correct amount of medication.  Jab needle into your belly (cue grabbing a good handful of chubbiness), push down the button to push in the meds, wait 10 seconds, extract.  Properly dispose of needle stuff.

 

 

Okay, I can do this.  A needle once a day for approx. 10-12 days, then we’re all set to get pregnant.  The clinic went through timing with us.  Essentially, after 4 days of medication, I am to come into the clinic every other morning for them to do blood work and a transvaginal ultrasound to monitor the growth of my follicles and track my estrogen levels in my blood.  These would be called ‘monitoring’ appointments.  All monitoring apts were between 0730 – 0930.  Once my estrogen levels are at a high enough level, and the follicle I’m growing is big enough (around 20mm), they would give me another needle to make me ovulate.  An average length of time it takes to grow a follicle to its perfect plumpness and size is about 10-12 days.

 

With this ovulation injection, timing is everything.  You are to inject yourself with the medication, then exactly 36 hours later, the clinic would be inserting the catheter filled with Dan’s sperm into my uterus.

 

The clinic noted a couple of side points that drastically limit your ability to have a life.  The first thing is that the medication must be refrigerated.  The second is that you need to inject yourself at the same time each evening (within 30 minutes either way of your ‘set’ time). 

 

Cycle Day 1: Our good friends just moved back into Hamilton.  Dan and I were invited to go over for dinner and to check out their new place.  Little did I know this would be my first day of medication….  Not wanting to cancel, we came up with a plan.  I have a little ice pack that I use for injuries that has a tensor wrap in it.  We wrapped the medication/needle package in my to go ice pack, and headed to our friend’s house toting the instructions for injection in my purse.

 

We had decided to share our journey with our close family and friends, so this wasn’t a secret.  I tried to concentrate on the conversation during the beginning of the evening, but spent my time either staring at Lacey’s big baby bump, or dreading the needle I’d be jabbing into myself for the 1st time.  I was definitely jealous of Lacey at this point… however, perhaps more interested.  Because, of course, I’d be pregnant in a few short weeks, so she could coach me along!

 

7:00pm hit and it was time.  Trying my best to act non-chalant, I got the needle out and started the prep work.  My heart at this point was pounding… I’m not a nurse, I don’t think I should be jabbing needles into anyone!

 

The biggest hurdle was that the needle was supposed to be going into my belly… except I have giant boobs, so I can’t exactly see my own belly!  So to the mirror I went and counted to 3.  1…2…3… jab.  Ok it hurt.  A tad.  But I think my mind made it worse than anything. 

 

I gave myself my shot, took it out, then let my breath out.  I was alive, I felt a tad weird, but probably from being all worked up.  Because of my bleeding disorder, the little poke was bleeding, but I just kept pressure on it for a couple minutes so it didn’t soak through my shirt.

 

I did it.  Only 5 more days to go until I head back to the clinic to find out how my follicles are growing!

puregon

 

 

The next couple days of needles went well.  It was becoming easier each time.  The clinic warned me about side effects (read: hormonal crazy woman), but thus far I was doing great.  Dan, who is terrified of needles, was even stabbing me with a needle every now and then.  Every night at 7:00pm, it became like a dance.  I had my parts, Dan had his.  He would get the needle ready and mark on the chart how much medicine I was giving myself, and how much was left in the cartridge.  I jabbed myself, then on we went with our evening.

 

After 5 days I had my very first monitoring appointment.  I walked into the clinic around 8am (so I could make it before work) and was ushered back to the ‘Glass Box’.  The glass box was the internal waiting room for the women doing there monitoring.  I sat down and waited until the lab tech called me across the hall to get my blood work.  Not so bad.

 

Back into the glass box I went to wait for the next call.  This time, another technician took me back into one of the ultrasound rooms.  She told me to undress, gave me my sheet, and said she’d be back.

 

I hopped on the table, figured everything out, and lay there listening to the terrible music playing in the room.  The tech entered, did the transvaginal ultrasound and made some polite conversation about the weather.  What else are you supposed to talk about?  “Hi there, how’s my uterus today?”…

 

Once she was done, she said nothing about my results, and said to get dressed then pop into one of the clinical rooms.  There are 4 rooms, each labeled by a number.  This is where they herd us to get our results. 

 

I sat in the room, next to computer and waited for what was to happen next.  A nurse came in first and opened up my chart on the computer.  I had no idea how to read the chart with various numbers plugged in.  She was kind enough to show me what they were looking at for each appointment.  Two main things mattered: 1) The size and number of the follicles in my ovaries and 2) my estrogen level in my blood work.  The clinic didn’t get my blood results back until around noon each day, so to start, we just looked at my follicles.  I had several in and around 10 mm.

 

I was excited as one was at 11mm.  I thought this was great as it proved that this was working, right?  The nurse said she’d like to see more growth in 5 days, but went to get the RE.  The docs rotate through monitoring appointments and each take a day. 

 

The RE that came in I had not met yet.  She wasn’t happy with the level of growth and increased my medication dosage by a couple of units.  She felt this would help getting things started.

 

Off I went with a prescription for more medication. I started on 50 units and was jumping up to 57 units.  I was going to be pregnant any day now! 

 

I called Dan first as soon as I got in the car.  I told him the scoop and he was just as happy as I.  Next I called my sister Amy.  Amy, being Amy, decided she was going to name this little follicle ‘squirt’.  He was still small she said, but he was a keeper.

 

I had to laugh, perhaps this fertility business wasn’t all bad.

 

Cycle Day 7: My next monitoring appointment was 2 mornings later.  I would be monitored every other day until my follicles reached around 18 or so.  Then I’d have to monitored more closely.  The drive to the clinic was about 40 minutes… Not the most fun thing to do each morning, but I was already on cycle day 7- only about 5 more days to go. Blood work- check.  Transvaginal ultrasound- check.

 

After my tests, another RE came in to give me my results. The 11mm follicle had disappeared, and we had a couple around 10mm still.  Not good… nothing was growing.  I was worried about the disappearing ‘squirt’, but she explained that that follicle probably was not actually the ‘one’ that would take the lead and start growing, it was probably just a tad bigger than the rest.  Feeling a bit more reassured, I asked if she was going to increase my medication again.  She said that they always like to keep you on the same dose for 4 days, as sometimes it takes about that amount of time to see results.

 

The danger of increasing the dosage too quickly was that it could produce multiple follicles.  Multiple follicles meant multiple eggs, which in turn, meant multiple children.  In Canada, clinics are much more conservative so we don’t end up with any more octo-moms.  At my clinic, the most follicles they would allow in one IUI cycle is 2.  Any more, and they would cancel the cycle.  In fact, they boast a 0% rate of triplets for the past several years. 

 

Feeling frustrated, I called Dan with the news and continued on with my day. 

 

Cycle Day 9: Blood work.  Transvaginal ultrasound… Still nothing had happened!  The RE said she’d call me when my bloodwork came back to decide how much to increase my medication.  At noon, they called and said to increase my medication to 75 units of Puregon.

 

Cycle Day 11: Blood work.  Transvaginal ultrasound.  At this point, I’m basically supposed to be ready for a transfer.  But I went back to the clinic hopeful that this new dose would mean a nice big follicle.  I can never read the tech’s faces when they do the ultrasound… They won’t tell you a thing until you get into one of those clinical rooms.  Secretly evil…   I get into the room to find out, again, nothing has happened.  All my follicles are around 10mm.  No growth at all.

 

As I’m obviously looking quite upset, the RE tries to calm me down and says not to fret, some people just take longer than others.  We will get it sorted out!

 

Cycle Day 13: Blood work.  Transvaginal Ultrasound. Still nothing.  But no medication increases… stupid 4 day rule!

 

Cycle Day 15: Blood Work.  Transvaginal ultrasound.  Still nothing…. Can this really be happening?  This was supposed to be easy.  PLUS, I’m not here because I have a fertility issue, I’m here because of my bleeding disorder.  At least they increase the meds today!

 

Cycle Day 17: Blood work.  Transvaginal ultrasound.          Nothing. At all. 

 

By now, my arms look like I’m a serious drug user from all the blood work, and my belly is a patchwork of black and blue bruises.  Putting on pants is the most frustrating part of my day because I’m both bloated and the waist kills against my bruised stomach. 

 

My RE is on today and asks the tech to re-do my ultrasound so he can take a look.  After seeing my scans, he announces that he believes I have PCOS- Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  More on this later, but basically, I have lots of follicles, but none will grow.  He saw a bit of this in my initial scans, but the new scans together with my follicles that won’t grow meant for sure, PCOS.  Again, he increases my meds.  I’m now sitting around about 100 units a day.  The more medication you take, the more emotional you are.  Wonderful… Poor Daniel.  In addition, I’m becoming very sensitive to the touch, my abdomen is killing and I’m having massive headaches from the meds.  My body feels like I have the flu.  Everything is aching. 

 

Daniel, trying to stay positive, starts joking with me by listing all the body parts that don’t hurt.  “Does your hair hurt?”  “How about your finger nails?” …Yes Dan, I guess it could be worse!

 

On we go.

 

 

By now, it’s incredible how fertility takes over your life. My days would be something like this:

 

Clinic Day:

 

Wake up extra early, head to the clinic for your blood work and transvaginal ultrasound.  Get ultrasound results from clinic then head to work. My results would suck so I’d need to stop crying by the time I’d hit a certain spot on the road so my face wouldn’t be too blotchy when I showed up at work. 

 

Around noon, you would get a call from the nurse at the clinic reporting my blood work.  Again, bad news.  I’d close my office door, call Dan to report the latest numbers.  Crying wasn’t an option in my office so I’d try to keep it together.  Then back to work. 

 

I would be so upset from the lack of growth, that I would spend hours sulking around and faking smiley around my colleagues.  Faking happy was taking as much energy as jabbing myself with needles each night!  After work, I’d get home and watch the clock tick until it hits 7:00pm, then give myself the medicine. 

 

I’d be really down, and by this point, the hormones were kicking my butt.  I was so weepy that watching an episode of Grey’s Anatomy would be enough to make me bawl for hours.  Dan, being the most amazing guy, wouldn’t bat an eye and console me and continue with his never ending positive words.  Some days I just wanted to hit him- how could be always be SO positive!?

 

Day After Clinic Day:

 

Ok time to make myself get out of this slump.  They increased my medication, so this is going to work now.  So what it’s taking longer than they thought… good things come to those who wait, right?  I’d spend most of the day talking myself into good and positive thoughts.  This was going to work!  Think big picture- the end result would be more than worth this!

 

Clinic Day again…:

 

Blood work.  Transvaginal ultrasound.  Head back to the clinic for more bad news.  The roller coaster of emotion was to start again.

 

Cycle Days 19-29:  Blood work.  Transvaginal ultrasound.  Nothing changes.  No growth.  Now the RE’s are concerned.  I’m on high dosages of medication (similar to those who are double my age) and it still isn’t working. 

 

The RE’s at the clinic actually have a meeting about me to try and figure out ideas- they just don’t know how to explain what is going on.  They come up with another idea, they are going to add in a second medication to try and get things going.  It’s now mid-March, and I’m a emotional nightmare.  Another needle, sure I can do that.  More hormones, wonderful. 

 

Now on about 150 units of Puregon and a microdose of HcG.  Two needles a night now at 7pm and heading into the clinic every other day is certainly taking it’s toll!

 

Cycle Days 31-37:  I still have not one follicle over 11mm.  Really?  What is wrong with me?  Even the docs don’t know how to explain this!    If I make it to cycle day number 39, then it’s officially a new record for the clinic- longest cycle ever.  Wonderful… I’m breaking records for having useless ovaries.

 

Dan came into the last appointment with me so we could discuss options with the RE.  The RE is now suggesting that we just cancel this cycle and try again after I take a break.  Most people don’t make it to Cycle Day 20 because of the time, money, and hormones.  Did I need a break?  Hell yes, but wasn’t cancelling the cycle giving up?  We decided we’d give it 2 more days, then, if there was nothing still, we’d call it quits.

 

Cycle Day 39: Blood work.  Transvaginal ultrasound.  It’s like us threatening to give up gave my ovaries a kick in the pants.  We finally had growth!!!!!  I have one follicle at 16mm- it was growing and my blood work was rising as it should be.  I’m beyond ecstatic.  I call Dan, my parents, my sister, my sister-in-law, and Janica- my best friend.  I’m practically crying (happy tears this time!) just trying to share the news- we have a good and growing follicle!  Amy is sure that this is ‘Squirt’ rejoining the game so it looks like this follie has a name!

 

As the cycle days continue, I’m going into the clinic each day now for monitoring appointments.  By Cycle Day 45 we are ready to go!  We actually have one follicle at 19mm, and another following behind at 16mm.  The clinic is nervous if we wait much longer, I may grow more and we may need to cancel the cycle due to too many follicles.  It’s time- I get instructions on how to give myself the needle to make me ovulate.  April 4th is going to be our IUI!!!!!

 

 

April 4th: Here we go- it’s a gorgeous day out and I’m joking with Dan that today seems to be a great day to get pregnant.  Lord knows I’ve now been through hell for a month and a half straight (and Dan has put up with me for that many).

 

The first step is for Dan to produce a sperm sample in the morning, and make our quick drive to the clinic to make it within the 30 minute window.  Dan had to explain to his work what was going on so he could get the day off with little notice.  Off we drove, again, with our sperm sample under my armpit for warmth.

 

We dropped it off at the clinic as they needed to do a ‘sperm wash’.  Insert joke here… trust me, I think we’ve thought of them all!  No, he doesn’t have dirty sperm (well at least so the docs say!).  Basically, they separate the seminal fluids from the sperm.  We just want the swimmers.

 

Dan and I head out for breakfast while the lab does their thing.  We found a great breakfast place and enjoyed a relaxing morning together.  Target had just opened in Canada so we decided to take a peak.  We walked by the baby aisles and I was secretly dreaming about the boy or girl that was about to be.  I actually stopped at the newborn clothes… Dan grabbed my arm and said perhaps we should wait on that type of shopping.  :S

 

11am- We went back to the clinic and waited to be called.  We were placed in a clinical room and I got undressed from the waist down and on the table.  The RE entered and gave us the results of the sperm sample.  The numbers were fantastic as was the quality.  Dan and I actually gave each other high fives- awesome sperm!  We had to sign off on the paper work that the sample was ours, and then sign off consent for the procedure.

 

The RE put a catheter up into my uterus- not so bad, just a bit of a pinch.  Then, the doc pushed the vial of sperm through the catheter into the top of my uterus.  I even made an IUI playlist on Dan’s iPhone so the swimmers had good beats to swim to (Dallas Green, Taylor Swift, and Carly Rae Jepson!).  It was over in less than 5 minutes.  She told me to relax for a couple minutes, then head home and spend the day there resting.

iui2

 

 

Five minutes later, I was off into the car.  I laid in the back seat of the car with my knees up hoping that gravity wouldn’t work against us.  This day took me 45 days to get to- not 11 to 13 like they estimated- and damn it, it was going to work.  I spent the rest of the day at home on the couch with my feet straight in the air.   I was actually nervous to pee… illogical I realize, but what if we lost them all!

 

Now the next big dilemma- when could I consider myself pregnant?  The egg had to have met the sperm by now.  Look out, I was almost ready to park in the expectant mother’s parking spot!

2WW- The Two Week Wait

Ahhh… the best part about trying to get pregnant. The two week wait (2ww).  The time between when the sperm and egg meet, and you can have enough HCG in your blood stream to detect a viable pregnancy.

 

You’d think with all of the medical advancements that the artificial reproductive technologies have given us, they could hurry up the waiting a bit.  Alas, no.  From the date of your IUI, you have to now wait 14 days to get your ‘Beta’ test (aka your blood test).  The beautiful thing is that if you drive into the clinic to get the blood work done, they call you around noon with your results. 

 

The fate of your future then relies on one phone call.

 

I’m getting ahead of myself.  After sitting on the couch upside-down for a full day, I began the longest 14 days of my life.  It’s practically impossible to pay attention to anything else in the world.

 

I spent my days trying to immerse myself in work so I could stay occupied on anything but baby making.  As soon as I got home from work, I’d hop onto google and search for the most un-scientific things.  “Early pregnancy signs”, “What to do during your 2ww”, “How to increase your chances of getting pregnant”, “How early is an at home pregnancy test accurate?”… you get the picture. 

 

It was during this wait that I discovered www.ivf.ca.  It’s the most amazing board with thousands of people experiencing infertility in Canada and abroad.  Many of us went to the same clinics, had the same questions, and gave each other support in this process that no-one else could really understand.  I’d never been one for anything else but my email and facebook on the internet, but this was pure gold.

 

While I admit, I have the most amazingly supportive family, friends, and husband, it’s impossible to describe what this process does to you to someone who hasn’t been through it.  As if the financial, emotional, and physical symptoms/implications aren’t enough, add in massive amounts of hormones into the mix and you get a pure crazy woman.

 

Even for Dan, who had to continue to put up with me on a daily basis, it was a completely different experience… While being surrounded by supportive people, I felt completely alone.  I was dealing with the biggest, hardest, most fundamental question: what makes you a woman?  Up until now, being a woman was distinguished from being a man by one thing- the ability to have children.  If my body wasn’t cooperating doing the most basic function of being a woman, what did that mean? 

 

While Dan was always careful to refer to anything to do with fertility as ‘us’ or ‘we’, the fact of the matter was that this was MY problem.  Everything with Dan was A-ok.  It was me that was the stumbling block to us having our dream family. 

 

Did he regret marrying me now?  What did this mean to our relationship?  How could he not blame me.  After all, it is my fault.  The only way I could prove my worth as a wife was to get pregnant and show him that I’m not useless- I’m a woman!  I can have a baby!

 

Fast forward about 9 days.  I’m feeling great.  No period symptoms and every twitch or cramp I felt had to be our baby growing!  Dan laughed at me a lot after I continued to tell him about each and every feeling in my belly.  “Adele… it’s probably gas pains”.  The worst times were when he was right! :S

 

At night, we’d lay in bed and talk about baby names.  I had some ideas, as did he.  He mostly threw out 90% of my ideas, but we were narrowing the choices down.  I recall one night actually talking to my stomach saying “grow, baby grow!”.  While Dan was positive and supportive, he tried to keep me balanced. 

 

The realistic part was that the percentages say that IUI from our clinic is successful about 30% of the time.  Not the best odds, but better than an average couple trying (around 25% per month).  I was convinced that since I endured pure hell trying to get this darn follicle growing, this was for sure going to work.

 

I was having early pregnancy symptoms- my boobs hurt and I was feeling a tad nauseous…. However, I was also peeing on a stick every morning and was getting just one line each time.  Not pregnant.

 

I’d call Dan with the news, but then again, it was still a couple days before my period would even come.  Probably was still too early to show up.  Trust me, I was pregnant.

 

14 days after the IUI, I rushed to the clinic early to get my blood work done.  I had had no signs of bleeding, no signs of cramping etc for my period… I had a smile a mile wide.  The staff at the clinic- who knew me well by now after my extremely long cycle- asked me how I was feeling.  Pregnant, I told them.  They wished me luck.

 

I had the blood drawn, then went to work.  The clinic always called between 11:45 and 12:15.  I had specifically booked myself to work in my office until 2pm so I could get the news, then I had a grievance meeting I had to go to.

 

The clock ticked by even slower than I could have imagined… Noon came.  Then 12:30… 12:45… 1:00.  What the heck… this was torture.  Giving up, I called the clinic and asked if my results were in.  They flipped me to the nurses and I left a message.

 

I left for my meeting and got to the hospital site at 1:45.  I still had not received a call.  I got my meeting materials ready, met with the member and union rep and was about to start the meeting.

 

At 1:58 I got the call.  A nurse was on the other end and gave me the news that was about to change my life… But then she said it.  “I’m sorry Adele, but the results of the test were negative”.  I was standing just outside the door where the meeting was about to begin.

 

“Are you sure?”, I asked.  Yes, I had no pregnancy hormone in me she confirmed.  I explained my symptoms to her.  The nurse went over my blood work with me and explained because my estrogen was so high, I was experiencing pregnancy symptoms, but they had nothing to do with pregnancy- just a result a very high estrogen.

 

I thanked her and started to cry in the hospital hallway.  I was SO sure…

 

I dialed Dan and he answered after the 2nd ring.  He was expecting my call.  I gave him the news while drying my tears in a few short sentences.  Told him I was about to start a meeting, then hung up. 

 

I was utterly shocked.  I was so sure… how could this happen?  More importantly, it was now 2:06pm and my meeting was to begin 6 minutes ago.  I had the employer and my membership waiting for my arrival.  I wiped my face, swallowed hard, then walked back in the room.  I blamed my crimson face on allergies and used a Kleenex to blow my nose.  Back to work.

 

The meeting went fine and I got back into my car about 3:30pm.  Before the door was even shut, I was crying so hard there was no way I could drive.  I was devastated.  I called my Dan and asked him to let my family and Janica know.  The thought of talking to anyone that I told that I had to be pregnant was heart breaking.  We had put so much into this process… and had nothing but bills to show for it.

 

Fast forward a couple of days.  I had talked myself out of the slump I was in thanks to my amazing husband.  We could do this again.  Also, although this process was nasty, the docs had learned a lot about what didn’t work for me so the next round was sure to be better. Right?

 

The only problem was that my period still had not shown.  I had called the clinic after about 5 days post beta results, and the nurse had told me to wait.  On the first day of my new cycle, I should call the clinic to come in and get a new baseline test done.  I continued to wait…

 

10 days post beta results…. Still nothing.

 

15 days post beta results… Still nothing. 

 

20 days post beta results… Still nothing.  What is wrong with me?  I called the clinic and they were also unable to explain what’s going on.  They told me that if after 25 days there was still nothing, to come in and chat with our RE.

 

25 days post beta results I came into the clinic with Dan by my side.  The re-did my blood results- perhaps I was pregnant after all?  Did I dare get my hopes up?  I had another transvaginal ultrasound and was ushered into the clinical room to meet with our doc. 

 

He reviewed the results, my uterine lining was thin again.  I was definitely not pregnant.  However, the perplexing part was that he wasn’t exactly sure where my uterine lining went to.  It was thick… and was now thin.  Normally that meant it was shed- aka a period.  He questioned me again, was I sure I didn’t have a period?  Ok, I appreciate I don’t know a lot about fertility, but I was sure about not having a period. 

 

He wasn’t sure… he hadn’t seen this before.  Great- another medical mystery.  But the important part was that my lining was thin again.  He had a new plan for medication and this time was going to have me switch to a different drug called Menapur.  Still an injectible medication, it was a tad different and he was hoping my body would like it a tad better than Puregon.  He said we’d have to wait until we got my blood test results just to ensure everything was back to normal, but if it was, I could start the medicine tonight!  IUI Round 2, here we go!

 

April 26th we were to start our second cycle of IUI.  The fact that we were now 3+ months from when we began the first cycle didn’t escape me.  Most fertility patients had now completed, and gotten the beta results from, THREE different IUI rounds.  Breath in, breath out.  The end result would be worth it!

Here We Go Again- IUI #2

Here we go again…

After waiting all of this time to get started, I’m just excited to get going again.  The faster we get started, the faster I’ll get pregnant… The faster we’ll be painting a nursery, and the faster the baby will be here!

The docs had some different ideas this time regarding medications.  The other medication didn’t work until they added a microdose of HCG, so the thought was to switch me to a new type of medication called Menopur.  The benefit (hopefully!) of this drug would be that it contained the same types of medication as last time, but it included some HCG.  Sounded ok to me, anything to help get me through the follicle stimulating process quicker than last time.  The idea that I might be able to be doing another IUI in 11-13 days was beyond exciting.  I spent the afternoon calculating when my due date would be.

I went to the pharmacy in the clinic to buy the new type of injectable medication.  (I’ll discuss costs at some other point to give a general idea of what you are getting yourself into by stepping in the clinic).  Expecting another needle pen, I was surprised to see the new way in which I’d be giving myself needles.

MenopurThis time, I was given little glass containers that were sealed and had a white powder inside them.  There was also a small glass container with clear liquid.  What they explained was that I would be drawing up the liquid (it was saline) from the one vial, then adding it to the power to make the medication.  The good news was that it didn’t need to be refrigerated, the bad news was that dependant on the dosage, I’d be mixing different amounts in various vials.


Great- I’ve now gone from a non-nurse injecting myself to a non-chemist mixing medications.  I was a tad overwhelmed as this was more intense then simply dialing the twist knob to a specific number, but I can do this.

That night, at exactly 7pm, I started mixing my drugs.  Dan and I thought it was hilarious as now as it actually looked as if I was some needle drug addict.  I had the big needle and I’d be mixing the different dosages, swirling them around until they mixed properly, then adding more.  Cue me flicking the needle to get the air bubbles out, then jabbing my stomach.

As I did the first injection, it appeared there was more bad news… this needle hurt like hell!  The last type of needle was this tiny little thing.  This new needle wasn’t so tiny.  It actually indented and pushed your skin in before you could get it to pierce you.  Great… this lead to more blood and a whole lot of bruising.  I was started on 70 units.

5 Days later I had to head into the clinic for my first new round of monitoring appointments.  Cycle Day (CD) 5 didn’t have any exciting news to give us.  No growth.  But this time, I readjusted my expectations.  I know last round was ridiculously long, but because of the changes, the hope was I’d be on track to be (sort of) normal this time.

Every other day I went into the clinic between 0730-0930 to get a transvaginal ultrasound and blood work done.  This continued from CD 5 until about CD 15.

Nothing was growing… at all.  They kept increasing my meds every 4th day.  By now, I was on about 225 units of menopur and still hadn’t seen any results.

Well… no results as in follicle growth. However, I was having plenty of side effects: my abdomen was swollen and bloated and hurt to touch.  If one of my dogs brushed by me or knocked me into something it was enough to reduce me to tears.  Oh… the tears.  Yep, I was an emotional madman again.  Grey’s Anatomy and any other show where a person (or animal for that matter) could potentially die or get hurt was now off limits in our home according to Dan.  You know he feels bad for you when he actually lets us go for ice cream trips more than once in one week.


I held it together for the most part until about CD 15.  That was breaking point.  Seriously though, what the heck was wrong with me.  PCOS patients often took a little longer than some to grow follicles, but this was not average.  This was torture.  I wasn’t supposed to have a fertility issue!!  I just had a bleeding disorder…


Well it appeared that we could also add a fertility issue to the list of medical things wrong with Adele.  Great, cause the list was looking a little short by now (*Cue rolling of the eyes here).

CD 17: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.

CD 19: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.

CD 21: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.


Ok, seriously.  I’m a wreck.  I’m now hiding in my office at work trying to keep myself from crying the days away.  Even the days in between the monitoring appointments where I could normally talk myself into a good mood, weren’t as sunny anymore.  This was seriously hard.  If I wasn’t growing follicles, what do we do next?


We had a meeting with our RE and he decided to add in a bit of the old medicine I was taking before.  I was now on 263.5 units of Menopur AND 200 units of Puregon.  Let’s just say this was quite the powerful cocktail.  There were serious concerns about monitoring me carefully due to the massive amounts of medications, so I was now required to come into the clinic every morning.

CD 22: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.


CD 23: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.

CD 24: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.

CD 25: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.

This was now unbearable.  I was a pin cushion for blood work.  My veins suck for giving blood on a good day, and now they were basically waving the white flag… no more!!  We were trying to use different veins in different places, but I seriously looked like a heroin addict (its heroin you inject, right? LOL).  Just to make the whole drug addict persona every better, I was always feeling sick to my stomach and had massive aching throughout my body.  I was now walking at half speed and my hands had the shakes.

I was now walking into meetings with employers and they were asking me if I was alright.  “Yes, thanks”, I’d say, but I was making quite the scene.  Not really wanting to share what was going on with random people, I tried to come up with a decent excuse for what would cause this.  Ultimately, I was working with medical professionals and tricking them is harder than you think.  But alas, I continued on.

Perhaps at this point I should have taken some time off work, but I had already taken a total of 9 sick days for various testing and procedures.  And hoping for another IUI meant that there would be more sick days needed.  I didn’t want to push my workload onto my colleagues who were already bending backwards, so I just kept pushing.

Giving yourself injections at a specific time took a lot of planning.  I now had Puregon again so that needed to be chilled, and the Menopur had the various vials that needed to be mixed.  Dan and I became pros at needle jabbing.

I did encounter the odd issue with the needles:

One night we pulled into a gas station to park. I drew the line at shoving 2 needles into my stomach while in a moving vehicle.  The poor gas station attendant apparently watched me mix the drug then start injection myself and handing over the garbage to Dan to deal with.  The poor guy had his mouth completely open and could not believe what he saw.  He glared and shook his head in disbelief.  Yah buddy, I’m just injecting myself with illegal drugs in your parking lot and letting you watch.

Another interesting needle day was when my friend Janica and I went to see The Wizard of Oz Musical in Toronto.  During intermission I had to run to the bathroom to inject myself.  The bathroom was packed and the line was giant… We decided I’d just go in the corner in the bathroom and do it.  Insert a zillion female gawking eyes and whispers… I finally just said, listen, it’s not drugs, it’s medication to the entire bathroom.  They all continued to stare at their feet after that.  The real problem was my cute white shirt I was wearing didn’t fair well as my belly decided to bleed the whole rest of the production so I had a nice blood spot on my damn top.  Grrrr.

So here we are 25 days into a cycle on a massive amount of meds and the RE calls us back in to have another quick meet to discuss.  He suggests canceling my cycle.  Canceling means exactly that, we just give up and start again.  But due to the amount of medications I was taking and my non-response, he felt that it might be wise to think about our choices for next time.  Did we want to continue with IUI?  We could try, yet again, another medication.  But it appeared it wasn’t the medication, it was my body causing the problems.  The other option was to look into In vitro fertilization (IVF).  The doc thought we might be good candidates.  He gave us a bunch of information to review and told us to come back and we could chat about what to do next.

We made the decision that day that we’d continue with this cycle a little bit longer.  At this point, I was injecting hundreds of dollars per day of medication into my system.  How could we just stop?  We’d put all of this money, time, and energy into this cycle.  I couldn’t just give up yet.  I told him CD 30 would be the end.

CD 26: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.

CD 27: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.

CD 28: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing.

By now, Dan and I had taken the time to review all of the options given to us.  I went out and bought “Infertility for Dummies” and it was actually super helpful in explaining the different processes in simple terms that even we could understand.  Based on the information we had, we decided that we would move forward if this round didn’t work with IVF.  This was a big decision as IVF meant a whole lot (more!) of money, and was pretty much the end of the road for artificial reproductive technologies.  However, acting on our RE’s advice and our intuition, we thought this was the way to go.  I let the RE on duty for CD 28 know that was our decision and she informed us that prior to doing anything to do with IVF, we were required to attend an information session held by the clinic.

We talked to reception and they informed us that these only happen every other month.  It was a free session held at the clinic, but was several hours long.  It would explain the costs, the procedures, the chances of success, the ethical issues and answer any questions we might have. Great we thought, sign us up.  The problem was that the next session was that evening and was already over-booked.  She was going to have to put us in the session 2 months from now!

I was visibly upset, we were having the fertility rounds from hell, nothing was working, and we finally had an idea about how to move forward… and we had to yet again, just wait.  The receptionist, who knew me very well by now, asked me to wait a minute.  She made a couple calls then called Dan and I back up to the desk.  She had got permission for us to attend- tonight!  We couldn’t have been happier.

18:30 Dan and I arrived with pens and paper to the IVF information session.  There was some snacks and beverages and about 15 other people.  Most of the people here ranged in age from 30-40.  Dan and I were probably the youngest in the crowd.  We sat down and session began.  We were walked through the process of IV.  There are different types of protocols, but here is the basic idea:

1) You start to take suppression medications to suppress your ovaries from creating any follicles/eggs.  I didn’t think this one was going to be a problem for us.

2) Take simulating medications to get your ovaries to produce as many eggs as possible.  The goal is to have as many mature follicles (btw 18-22 mm).  Follicles under 18 would be unlikely to have an egg ready, and those over 22 or so, would be over ripe (for lack of better medical terminology!!).

3) Once you have as many as possible between the ‘ready’ stage, you take a shot of medication to make the eggs mature.  This normally, if you want long enough, would make you ovulate, however, the clinic has to cath them before they ovulate, but after they are mature.

4) Next, is an egg retrieval.  Essentially they go in with a giant needle from down below and push it through your uterus into your ovaries.  Then they suck out all of the eggs.  Yep- it hurts and sucks as much as you are cringing now.

5) At the same time, Dan would produce a sperm sample.  Once the eggs are out, the lab takes them and puts the eggs and sperm together.  Hopefully they fertilize!

6) The lab grows the now little embryos for a specified number of days… normally 3 or 5.  During these days, the lab updates you with info on them, and you take progesterone to trick your body into thinking you ovulated.

7) Embryo transfer day!  You lay on a table and the RE, guided by a normal ultrasound on my belly, puts in a catheter into my uterus, and very carefully places the embryos in.  Any left over embryos, you have the option of cytogenetically freezing them to use again for a future round.

8) Hopefully, they implant into your uterine lining, and ta-da! 14 days later you find out you are pregnant.

in vitro

So we learn all about the lab, all about the processes and timelines, and then all about the costs.  I attached a cost sheet here to give you the idea of costs for my clinic. Remember, this does not include the annual monitoring costs, nor the medication that you need to take.

Dan and I learned a ton from the info session and felt we had a really good idea about the process.  And better yet, the odds were definitely in our favour.  Continuing with IUI meant odds around 30% per round, where with IVF (being under 35) we had chances in the high 60s% that it would work.  I cant recall exactly, but somewhere around 68%.

This was all great news… the harder part was the ethical implications that we needed to discuss.

We were essentially creating life in a petri dish… What did we think about that?  Would we freeze the embryos left over?  If we didn’t they would ‘arrest’ aka die.  What did that mean?  When did life start?  If we freeze the embryos, then both of us died, what would we want the clinic to do to with the embryos?  Let them arrest?  Donate them for research? Donate them to another couple? (remember this would genetically be our kids!).  What happens if we get pregnant and have left over embryos that and don’t want any more children? What happens if one of us dies- would we give each other permission to use the embryos after death? So if Dan dies, could I still try to get pregnant with our kids?  What if I died?  Who would carry the baby?  Were we okay with this?  And last, but not least, what would we do with the embryos if were separated?

Not easy questions…. at all.

Two more cycle days left before we call it all off… and lots of hard questions that we really need to figure out.  Please let this work!

Praying For Good News

CD 29: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work.  Nothing growing. 

We literally had one more day until our cancel date and I was praying like never before.  The amount of time and emotional (agony!) we have invested in this cycle by this point is time is incredible.  And perhaps weighing even heavier was the amount of money we had now put out in medications.  By this point in time, I was on literally hundreds of dollars of medications each day.  I can’t recall exactly, however it was definitely over the $300 range.  Every. Single. Day. 

To cancel now felt like we literally just threw money out the window.  One day left.  Please work!

CD 30: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work. 

I walked into the clinical room and waited for the RE to come in.  We looked at the results of my ultrasound. There was no growth at all.  I broke down and started to cry… it was over.  We had put everything we had into this cycle and it was over.  The RE basically said that same thing our doc had said a couple days earlier regarding cancelling now.  My body was exhausted from the medications and stress.  This was going to be the best course of action.

The only glimmer of hope was that Dan and I had talked about IVF and everything that entailed.  We weren’t sure of our answers to the many ethical questions surrounding IVF, but we were sure that we felt comfortable going ahead and starting the next round going that direction.  We wanted to talk a little bit more with our RE to better understand everything, but IVF was a great option for us.  Not to mention, the success rates were much higher.

I left the clinic feeling extremely defeated.  I knew we had given it everything, and there was nothing left to do.  I think that is the absolute hardest thing… not having any control.  I’m a type-A personality that likes to be control of everything.  This was something, that no matter how much I tried… there was nothing I could do. 

I started to head to work that day, but by half way, I was crying too hard to go in.  I just couldn’t pull myself together.  I ended up pulling off the highway and sitting by the side of the road crying.  After some time, and talking to Dan, I was able to pull myself together and focus on what was next.  The clinic said that my body needed a good break from the medications, so Dan and I would need to make the most out of the next couple weeks- I was hormone free!

I pulled into work and went to my office.  By now, most of my colleagues knew the basics of what was going on.  The good thing is that most of them have medical backgrounds so had an understanding of the process.  I think it was general knowledge not to ask me how things were… if was face was red and blotchy, it would probably be a safe bet to just say hi and steer clear.  That day I was obviously more upset.  I had several people come give me a hug with some words of encouragement.  I put on a big of a smile as I could fake and closed my office door and tried to surround myself with enough work to keep busy.  I had accepted that it was over, and was looking forward to relaxing for a couple of weeks.  Trust me.  We needed it.

Just after 1pm my cell phone started to ring.  It was our clinic.  I took a deep breath and answered.  It was the nurse that I was with this morning.

“Adele, you actually aren’t going to believe this… we just got your blood work back and your estrogen has climbed significantly.  We think that it’s finally working.” 

I felt like yelling into the phone ,“Are you F*ing kidding me???”.  Instead I just asked a bunch of questions.  When your estrogen increases into certain levels, it normally means that a follicle is developing.  Did this mean my cycle was back on?

She basically said for me to take my meds tonight and come back into the clinic tomorrow.  In 2 days, we should be able to see some growth in a follicle.  If it had grown, then we’re back on.  If it hadn’t, then we’d cancel.  Greaaaat…. I think.

I hopped back in the car and made the 30 minute drive back to the clinic.  I had no more medicine so needed to buy enough for another 2 days (there’s a pharmacy in the clinic- most stores don’t carry fertility medication). 

I honestly didn’t know how to feel.  I felt like I had just calmed down and had begun to move on from this cycle, but now was pulled back in.  In some ways, I wanted it just not to work so we could have a break.  But, if it worked, then I could be pregnant.  And that was the overall goal, correct?  I decided to stop over thinking and just get through another day.

CD 31:  Transvaginal ultrasound and blood work.

I walk into the clinical room and the RE greets me with a smile.  It wasn’t the ‘I pity you’ type of smile, it was the good news type of smile.  She showed me the results… I had 8 follicles that had grown over 10mm since yesterday.  EIGHT?  She was concerned about the number as the most the clinic will allow for an IUI round is 2, but none of them had grown over 14, so we were hoping that most of them would calm down and one (maybe two) would surge and grow extra big.  She sent me home and said she’d call depending on my blood work.

I was all smiles again- could this actually be happening?  The cycle was back on and it looked like it was going to be a go.  All the money, time, and tears were worth it!  We were getting pregnant!

CD 32: Transvaginal Ultrasound and blood work

I brought Dan along for this appointment.  He has able to get the time off of work and knew this appointment would be a big one.  We had to pray that one or two follicles surged in growth, but left the others in the dust.  If we had too many, the clinic would simply cancel me for the opposite reason- too many follicles.

The ultrasound was incredible painful and I could barely walk due to the pain in my abdomen.  My head was killing and my belly was one giant bruise from the meds.  I was an emotional nightmare.  I was feeling nauseous and was doing all I could to keep it together.  Focus- the end goal!

We got the news from our doc who was on that day.  I now had 19 follicles.  And they had grown… a lot.  I had 19 follicles between the sizes of 13-17 mm.  Crap.  I think this means it’s bad news. 

The doc then threw us for a loop, he suggested that we immediately switch to IVF… as in, now.  That was really the only option- either switch to IVF or cancel immediately.  The clinic could not proceed with this many large follicles, however, there was a chance of moving forward and having a successful egg retrieval with the follicles we have.

Thank God Daniel was there.  We asked for a couple minutes to chat.  We hadn’t really figured all of the answers, but if this was the only way to keep going, maybe this was good news?  Maybe this was meant to be?  My body apparently hated IUI, but perhaps IVF was our solution?

We called the doctor in and went over the consent forms.  We agreed to IVF however we also had to agree on what to do with left over embryos.  The doc explained that he would put two embryos back in my uterus if the egg retrieval and fertilization were successful.  So what did we want to do with the rest (if there were more)?

We decided to freeze the remaining embryos.  We agreed that if something happened to us, that we would donate the embryos to medical research.  The idea of someone walking around with our biological child wasn’t something we were ready for.  We also decided that if one of us died, we gave the other the ability to make the decisions with what was left- including using them after death if that is what we wanted.

I’m sure that a zillion people have a zillion reasons why the decisions we made were wrong.  But for us, this is what we decided we were comfortable with.  The idea of life and the question of when did it start was still something I was internally struggling with, however, I knew in my heart that we were ready to start IVF.

Onwards and upwards.

Drafted to the Big Leagues- IVF

* Foreward…

 

I’ve been procrastinating and delaying writing this part of the year.  This is the part of our journey where things got tough.  Real tough.   Hormones, emotional hell, physical agony and an empty wallet would be the short version… Here is the longer one.

 

 

 

We have just been switched to IVF and our heads are spinning.  We have been talking about IVF as our next route, but had no clue we would be making these decisions now.

 

We signed the consents and had another brief overview with the nurse about other changes.  I was now given another medication call orgalutron- another needle to give myself in the evening.  This is used to prevent immature ovulation in women being stimulated in fertility treatments.  There is no use growing these amazing follicles if we can’t do an egg retrieval to catch them all!

 

Now our goals had shifted- we now wanted as many follicles as possible while maintaining a safe level of estrogen.  The clinic gave me a couple days off from monitoring and I was to come back on CD 36.

 

My body felts like I was falling apart.  I had been trying to go to work and keep up, but at this point, I could barely walk due to the pain in my abdomen.  Additionally, I now had the shakes and was sweating like you’ve never seen.  Between my hot flashes, track marks on my arms from blood work, and trembling hands, it was getting harder and harder to convince people I’m not an addict coming off a high.  My boobs and abdomen were so swollen that one would actually think I’d be pregnant and in my third trimester.  Anything that touched me below my neck and above the knees felt like a knife stabbing me.  I tried to tolerate the physical symptoms as best as possible, but at this point, I was breaking down.  I eventually gave up and called work to let them know that I was going to need some time off.

 

CD 36: The most painful transvaginal ultrasound and blood work.  Ever.

 

I step into the clinical room to receive my results and now understand why I am so ill.  I now have 29 follicles growing in my ovaries.  Twenty-nine.  Now keep in mind, a normal person grows one, maximum two follicles, once a month. 

 

To perhaps put this in better perspective, a normal and healthy ovary is about the size of a Greek olive.  Both of my ovaries now are approximately the size of large grapefruits.  They also don’t really have any room to move so one has migrated up and under my ribcage, and the other is squishing everything else in there.

 

 

After seeing the ultrasounds, we decided to wait for my blood work before making any decisions.  The reports came back around noon and they gave me a call.  My estrogen had sky rocketed, and was so high that the clinic was worried about Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (OHSS).  More about this later, but what this meant was that we couldn’t wait any longer, we had to move ahead with the egg retrieval. 

 

This wasn’t an optimal time as even though I now had 29 follicles, many of them were under 18 mm so were not big enough to have a mature egg.  This didn’t matter, waiting and continuing treatment was not an option.  Plus, we have about 15-16 follicles within the size range that we want- still a great result!

follicles

 

By this time, Dan had officially given notice to his old employer and was full speed ahead doing the last minute preparations for opening our Pita Pit.  Construction was underway and he was able to be home and help me as needed.  The better news was that I had now (finally!) convinced Dan to list our home on the real estate market and shop for a new one.  We decided to move closer to friends and family, so we had picked a smaller rural town close by.  I had found my dream house, and even though it was a tad over our budget, my negotiation skills prevailed and we had a 30 day closing!  (As if we weren’t busy enough….)

 

 house

 

After we received our results from the blood work that afternoon, Dan drove back to the clinic to purchase a trigger shot for me to take.  The goal this time was not to trigger ovulation, but instead, to trigger the eggs to mature.  When he came home, I gave myself the trigger needle.  Tomorrow was the big day- egg retrieval!

 

Egg Retrieval

 

I woke up the next morning and we got ready to go into the clinic for our egg retrieval.  The clinic had given me a prescription for an anti-anxiety medication to take the morning of.  I took the pill and tried to concentrate on the bigger picture and end result- a baby!

 

We got to the clinic and Dan handed the clinic a fresh sperm sample.  As soon as the eggs were out, the lab would be fertilizing the eggs to make embryos.

 

They had me get dressed into a hospital gown and took us to the back where the procedures happen.  The RN started an IV and gave me special medication that I required to assist me due to my bleeding disorder.  This made me start to get very nauseous… trying my best not to puke, the nurse came over and added in some gravol to the IV.  These meds, plus the anti-anxiety meds, had me pretty darn calm.  I waited until it was our turn to go in- no big deal.  I can do this.

 

Another nurse arrived who was scrubbed in and ready to go.  They lead us to the room and I got onto the table and put my feet in the leg holders.  I was now lying down with my legs spread and in the air.  Dan was sitting beside me holding my hand. 

 

As the RE arrived ready to begin the procedure, the RN started to add medication to my IV.  Different clinics do this different ways, however instead of knocking you out, our clinic chooses to do something called conscious sedation.  The purpose of this is to give you a combination of medication to help you relax (a sedative) and to help block pain (an anesthetic).  The goal is to be semi-awake but not to be able to feel the majority of the procedure.

 

The RN started to give me the medications.  They continued to ask me questions and then said they were ready to start.  This isn’t a pretty procedure- basically they are shoving a transvaginal ultrasound in with a suction needle on it.  They push the needle through and into your ovaries.  The needle then sucks out the contents of each of your follicles (eggs).

 

Egg-retrieval

 

 

As the RE started to insert the ultrasound probe I was in incredible pain- they hadn’t even started yet, however due my physical symptoms, everything hurt.  I asked them to stop and to give me more medication.  They did.

 

They went to start again… and again I’m in excruciating pain.  Dan is squeezing my hand as I try to calm myself down and stop from crying.  I request more medication.  The RE nods and the RN gives me more.  We start again…

 

This time I try to grin and bear it.  It hurts… no, it is terrible.  I’m not able to stand it and am now extremely upset and sobbing loudly.  The RN then informs the RE that they have given me the maximum amount of the medications allowed in a non-hospital setting.  They cannot give me any more medication.

 

The RE says that we can stop due to the pain.  I ask what that really means- does that mean we aren’t going to go through with it?  She says we don’t have another choice.  Due to the timing of the trigger injection, the eggs are ready now.  If we wait, they will ovulate and be over mature.  It was now or never.

 

I looked at Dan… he looked more scared than I did.  He was handling this amazingly considering the state I was in.  I looked at him and said, let’s just do it.  The RE explained that it would be very painful, and she understood if I wanted to stop.  They could not explain why the medications were not taking any effect on me.

 

Here we go again…  Dan was now standing and holding my arm, half supporting me, half trying to keep me still as I sobbed and moaned through the procedure.  They called another lab tech into the room to assist to hold my other side.  The RN was trying to encourage me through it as the RE sucked everything that was viable from my right ovary.  I have never experienced pain like that before.

 

They then went for my left ovary.  The RE stopped and explained that she was unable to reach it as it was shoved way up under my ribs due to its excessive size.  She tried a couple more times, however she couldn’t get it.  They checked to see if they were able to access it from my abdomen with a bigger needle, however the pathway was blocked by bowel and intestine.  They could not safely access my left ovary to get the eggs out.  She just shook her head and apologized.

 

After the most painful 30 minutes of my life, they could only do half of the job.  My body had yet again failed me.

 

I don’t really remember most of the rest of the day.  I believe Dan took me home and got me into bed.

 

Fertilization

 

We received the report.  They were able to extract 8 eggs from my right ovary.  Out of the 8 extracted, 6 were mature.  The clinic went ahead and fertilized those eggs.  Due to the small number, we decided to go with a method called ICSI.  I don’t even know what that stands for (and I’m too lazy to google it!), but basically instead of just putting Dan’s sperm with the eggs and crossing our fingers, we fertilize the eggs with a bit more science.  The lab picked out good healthy sperm from the sample and held the egg still.  They then injected one sperm into each egg in hopes that they all would take.

 

ICSI

 

 

We got the call the day after the retrieval that all 6 of our eggs had fertilized and were now growing in the incubator!  The disappointment of the retrieval day was behind us, and we were now focusing on our 6 growing embryos.  We continued to get an updated report each day to find out how the embryos were growing.  Just because your eggs fertilized does not mean they will grow.  Ours were good quality so we had high hopes, however nothing is guaranteed.  We finally had a spot of luck on our side and all six embryos made it through three days of growing. 


 embryo5daydevelopment300

 

In the meantime, I was now done with injections, but was giving myself progesterone suppositories three time daily.  The purpose of the progesterone was to keep my uterine lining in good shape and prepare my body to accept an embryo- and hopefully attach!

 

I was under the impression that once they took these eggs out of my body, I would be feeling much better.  However, the opposite was true.  I was now full fledge into ovarian hyper stimulation.  My stomach had distended (I literally looked 9 months pregnant), I was throwing up and having classic OHSS symptoms.  I actually got so sick that Dan had to get me into the car and get me back to the clinic to be seen.  They reviewed everything and said that I had moderate to severe OHSS.  My estrogen was over 25x higher than an average woman.  The good news was that I did not have any free fluid in my abdomen.  This symptom of OHSS is life threatening, not to mention, they would have to cancel my transfer.  Part of the problem was that my left ovary never released the substantial amount of follicles. 

 

I continued being very ill for three days.  Dan took good care of me and was feeling like a human again by day three post egg retrieval.  The clinic reviewed my symptoms and approved me to continue with the embryo transfer.

 

As a side note, we had received possession of our new home.  However, because the first one had not sold yet, we didn’t have to rush and move.  I spent the 3 days between the retrieval and transfer lying on a sunbathing chair in my kitchen wrapped in bedding.  My family assisted us each day in moving some items over.  My Mom actually unpacked my whole kitchen as I laid in the chair pointing.

 

Transfer Day- June 4, 2013

 

After all the hi-tech science that has happened to get us here, the actual transfer was fairly uneventful. They guide a catheter into my uterus using an abdominal ultrasound.  Once the ultrasound is in the exact position, the RE injects the embryos in the top 1/3 of my uterus.

 

The crazy part is that she is actually injecting two small babies into my belly!  Depending on your philosophical thinking of course, but for me, life begins at conception… so here is a picture of the ultrasound they gave us when leaving.  The bright white spot near the top centre (inside the darker circle which is my uterus) is the two embryos that were transferred.  This was the first ultrasound of our pregnancy!  I took a pic and sent it to my family and close friends!

 

ultrasound

 

 

I went home, relaxed in bed for another day, then went back to work.  Technically I was now pregnant.  However, the bigger question was would it last?  All that these little guys had to do was snuggle their way into my uterine lining.  Two embryos meant a very good chance of two babies…

 

Let the wait begin.

Why OHIP Hates me… What Fertility Really Costs!

So my uterus and ovaries suck.  I’m a young women (26!), Dan’s a young guy (29!) and we cant’ conceive naturally.  It’s not like we waited until we were 40 to try and start having kids…  We understand the theory of the ‘maternal clock’ and thought we were doing everything right.

Until everything fell apart.

Throughout my story this far, I have detailed some of the emotional and physical pain we have been going through.  The endless questions and decisions with no perfect answers, the endless waiting for consistently bad news, and being sick in bed for the better part of the year.  Just to add a cherry on top, there is the financial side of things.  People always ask me about what’s covered by OHIP and what’s not.  Let me lay this out for you…

Different clinics have different pricing, so here is an idea of fertility costs in Ontario, Canada.

OHIP (Ontario Health Insurance Program), our Provincial publicly funded health care insurance covers Ontarians each time we are required to go to the doctors, go to the hospital, or have surgery etc.  There are limitations to this insurance when OHIP deems something to not be necessary.  For example, if I wanted my boobs to be 3 sizes bigger to look ‘pretty’, I’d had to fund that out of my pocket.  However, if I wanted my boobs 3 sizes smaller (and I’m having back and neck issues due to their large size) OHIP would fund that.

Well fertility is something that would be in the first category.  Apparently, being infertile is not something the government cares about, nor is willing to pay for.

So when you walk into the clinic for the initial consult with the docs, OHIP covers it.  The blood tests and diagnostic testing in order to diagnose the condition, OHIP pays for.  However, even this has a limit.  My ultrasounds were paid for, however Dan’s sperm analysis was not.  I think that test ran about $100.  Ok, that we can handle.

Now, once the doctor diagnose me with PCOS and decide that due to my medical conditions, we would need assistance in conceiving, OHIP says- well that sucks, but sorry, can’t help you… Not our problem.

So onwards we go.  We then have to pay an annual admin fee of $220 plus tax to the clinic.  Next is a $300 monitoring fee.  This covers the clinic for the blood work and ultrasounds needed for monitoring your cycle.  An IUI runs you around $600 per shot (this includes the ‘sperm washing’ and insemination).

So at this point, for the cheapest assisted version of IUI we have a minimum of around $1220.00.  So, twelve hundred bucks… Well, if you’re anything like me, you are now thinking of all the things you would much rather buy with $1220 dollars.

But wait, we are forgetting the best part- the medications that you have to buy.  I know I’m not the norm… as it appears my body is revolting against the idea of having a baby, but the medications were the most expensive part.  In addition to the $1220 dollars for the clinic fees etc, add an additional $7500 just for the medications for our one IUI round.

Yep- that ‘cheap’ procedure just jumped from $1200 to $8700.  Now think of what you could buy with that… hell, that would get you a decent car!  But alas, it got me emotional and physical hell.  And an empty uterus. 

Now Daniel would pop in here with is positivity and start explaining that it isn’t wasted money.  We had a chance for it to work, we tried and gave it our best, and it didn’t work.  While that is disappointing, think of that the doctors learned about my body in this round! *Rolling my eyes…

In case you haven’t quite picked this up yet, this is a tad of a sore spot for me.  Throwing thousands and thousands of dollars into fertility with nothing to show for it but bills.

We’ve now already paid the monitoring fees and the admin fees for this year… but the IVF fee: $5800, ISCI fee: $1500, Embryo cryopreservation fee (embryo freezing): $850, and the and the Annual embryo storage fee: $240 are all needed to do a round of IVF. 

Dan and I lucked out (I guess you could call it that?) as we were in this very small percentage of the population that our round of IVF was at the subsidized rate of $3000 instead of $5800.  The rationale was that because I had too many embryos for IUI, it was actually cheaper for OHIP to pitch in $1800 bucks for a one time ‘donation’ to switch to IVF, than to pay for a high risk pregnancy and multiple births if I went ahead with the IUI.  Indeed OHIP, thank you oh so much.

So if you happened to total up the above, you’d see we’d be sitting at around $5500.  Enough for another small car, giant mortgage payment, or a super nice trip… Nope.  IVF. 

But don’t forget! The medications!  This cycle, due to it’s length and high dosages ran just over $12,000.  Yes, you read that right.  So we’re talking about $17,500 for a one decent shot to get pregnant.

I guess this is one of the hardest things for me… Paying for the procedures is one thing, but trust me, it sucks have to have to keep raising your credit card limits to buy the very medications that are making you so sick in the first place.

Dan and I spent our first 2.5 years of marriage saving every penny so we could buy a nice home and have a head start on our lives.  We knew kids cost money, so we tried to stay a step ahead.  We watched our friends and family go on extravagant trips, buy whatever they wanted and go out all the time.  We were very cautious about our spending.  We went out and spent money, but every penny was spent with a concerted effort to maintain our savings.  Why don’t we live in Quebec, or The Netherlands, or Australia… or any of the a zillion places that assist in fertility costs??

IMG_00000119_edit

To be honest, it sucks.  It sucks that we are infertile… when everyone around you is having babies.  That’s hard enough.  However, it sucks even more that we have now spent our savings on trying to get the one thing we want more than anything else in the world- a baby!

In the infamous words of my Grandfather, “It’s only money”.  And, it is.  We still have our health, each other, plus amazing friends and family.  And HOPE… hope this will work. 

 

So I try my best to focus on our blessing instead of our complaints.  However, sometimes I just need to vent.  Venting complete.

We continue to press forward…

2WW number 2…. (Two Week Wait)

After the devastating result of our first IUI, I was being cautiously optimistic after our IVF.  The clinic ended up transferring 2 top grade embryos.  They were both Day 3 embryos meaning they had a good growing start.

 

Generally speaking, you can have either 3 day embryos, or 5 day embryos to transfer.  The older the embryos are, the better the chances of success.  The problem is that the longer you grow the embryos outside of the body, the larger the chance of them arresting (dying).

 

Because we were only able to fertilize 6 embryos, we decided to play it safer with what we had and grow the embryos to 3 days. We were lucky and all 6 survived.  5 of the 6 were great quality, and the other was still above average.  Even though we have every problem in the book trying to create them, our embryos were great quality.

 

I was pretty good for about 2 days after the embryo transfer.  I took the day after the transfer off of work and rested as prescribed.  My goal for the next 14 days was to try to relax, keep my stress levels down, and focus on being well.

 

I had to take progesterone suppositories 3x daily to continue to support my uterine lining.   Suppositories… such an innocent name for such a crappy thing!  Basically shoving giant white chalky circles into my vagina… three times a day.  Not fun.

 

The issue with the progesterone was how evil it really is.  Taking progesterone mimics pregnancy symptoms.  My boobs hurt, I was bloated, I had nausea, and my stomach was a mess.  Plus, my body still wasn’t over the fertility medications so insert massive headaches, cramping, and muscle aches.

 

I hung the ultrasound picture on the fridge at our house and had it as a pic on my phone to look at.  I was absolutely amazed by it.  The whole science and craziness that is fertility was finally hitting me.  This was actually crazy!…

 

By about day 6, I was back to being best friends with Google.  I was now Googling everything from the best pregnancy tests, accuracy results of pregnancy tests on what day post transfer, early pregnancy symptoms, success stories from IVF, IVF odds for young couples…  you get the point.

 

This is about when I started getting creative with math.  Well if my babies were already 3 days old, plus I waited a whole 6 days… doesn’t that make them 9 days post ovulation?

 

I was once again pretty sure I was pregnant.  Perhaps this seems silly, and Dan tried his best to keep me realistic, but this time, the odds were in our favour!  We had such a great chance… plus our embryos were fantastic.

 

Day 7: … ok now I’m Googling and planning for twins.  How can you breastfeed with twins?  Do you keep them in the same room?  What if they are different sexes?  How would we tell our friends about two babies, not just one?  Although it was exciting, I was looking at the health risks for twin births and risks to the mother.  Knowledge was power… the more I knew, the more I could prepare.

 

Another major question- what colour would I paint the nursery?  Do we find out what we are having (yes!).  What hospital would we deliver in? 

 

Day 8: The scariest part of waiting for these 14 days is going pee.  It sounds stupid, but every time you go to the washroom, you say a slight prayer before you wipe.  Please God, don’t let there be any blood!  My worst nightmare came true… it was just a spot, but a spot of blood was not good news.  I immediately started crying.  This couldn’t be good news.  Back to Google I went and started reading all the posts by women who started to bleed and turned out to be pregnant.  Ok… this might not be the bad news I originally thought.  After all, it was simply one spot.

 

Day 9:  I’ve never been so scared to use the washroom.  I continued praying and tried not to read into my symptoms too much.  They were the exact same… no, wait, maybe they were getting stronger!  Probably just the progesterone, but what if it wasn’t.

 

We had invested so much into this cycle.  Not just a whole lot of money, but we were now going on over 2 months of straight treatment.  Two months of monitoring appointments, needles, poking, prodding, tears, and pain.  This was all worth it.  We were going to be pregnant.

 

We went to Costco after work that night to pick up a bunch of stuff.  I was getting cramps and getting really worried.  I went to the washroom and found that I was now bleeding.  Not just a spot anymore. 

 

I walked out of the washroom like a zombie and walked straight to Dan.  I was in tears and whispered the news in his ear.  We left before buying anything and went to the car.  I made it to the car before breaking down which was a feat in itself.  I was just exhausted and knew this wasn’t great news. 

 

I couldn’t wait any longer.  I could not wait another 4 days to find out if this worked, especially now that a period had started.  We were going to the clinic tomorrow morning to find out.  I couldn’t wait any longer.  I went straight to bed and tried to calm down.  Dan continued to Google and found some hopeful posts, but I wasn’t feeling hopeful.

 

Day 10: June 15th. Beta Day.  I went into the clinic at 8am with Dan and got my blood drawn.  I walked out quickly and we drove home.  It was Father’s Day and I was really hoping for great news to give to our family.  Realistically, I was already talking myself into what might be the reality.

 

Around noon, they called.  It only had to ring once as I was holding the phone waiting.  The IVF nurse answered and said she had bad news.  After that, I have no idea what she said.  I just mumbled uh-huh, uh-huh and needed to get off the phone ASAP.  I hung up and broke down.  Even though this was the news that I was trying to tell myself might come, it didn’t help.

 

My body had failed us again.  Another 2.5 months had gone by… plus thousands of dollars and we had nothing to show for it.  Again.

People I want to Punch

Dan says my title is mean.  Perhaps a better title: “Things you don’t say to a person dealing with fertility issues… and how you might be able to help”.  However, for the record, I still like mine better.

 

 

When it comes to fertility, I would say the world is divided into four groups of people. 

 

Group 1 are the people that don’t know you’re going through fertility treatments and don’t care you’re going through fertility treatments.

Group 2 are the people that knew you’re going through fertility treatments but find it really awkward to talk about my useless reproductive organs.  So they just pretend to be in Group 1.

 

Group 3 are my favourite.  These are the people that know you’re going through fertility treatments and support you through it.  They are there as the shoulder to cry on, a sounding board for ideas, and understanding that they, who are not going through the same issues, don’t completely understand it, but sympathize with you.

 

Group 4 … oh Group 4.  These are the people who know what’s going on and try to say supportive things but they just end up putting their foot in the mouth.  You know, the ones who offer the best advice but know nothing about the situation.  Or worse, they try to empathize with you… but empathy, by definition, means that you know what it feels like to be me.  Please, please, please…. Don’t get sympathy (acknowledging another’s hardships and providing comfort or assurance) and empathy confused.

 

 

Here are a few of my favourite quotes from members of the above Group 4*.  If you happened to have said one of these to me, no worries.  I know, in most cases anyways, that you probably didn’t mean to make me mad, you were trying to be encouraging.  However, perhaps the bottom section will help you out for next time.
*Disclaimer:  All of the below have actually been said… to my face.

 

·      Have you tried just to relax?  The minute you stop trying, you will get pregnant!

 

Listen, I hear you.  Your cousin’s uncle’s step sister’s friend tried for 3 years to get pregnant.  Then they decided to stop trying and she was pregnant literally the next day.  However, our fertility issues are not just bad luck or bad timing.  We have serious medical reasons that we are unable to get pregnant.  While you’re optimism and hope are helpful, the suggestion that ‘giving up’ is the best answer… probably isn’t.  If giving up would have worked- trust me, I would have saved my money.

 

·      Have you ever considered that you might just not be meant to have children? (Another variation: Perhaps it wasn’t God’s plan for you to be a parent?)

 

Wow.  Ummm… what does one say to this?  Thanks?  My fertility status doesn’t actually determine my ability to be, or not to be, a good parent!  And unless you’re God, perhaps you also don’t know his plan… just sayin’.

 

 

·      Everything happens for a reason!

 

Oh, okay.  I guess I should be happy my uterus is useless?  Thanks.  I feel so much better.

 

·      Don’t worry.  I completely understand.  It took my husband and I FIVE months to get pregnant. 

 

I appreciate that trying for several months to conceive can be frustrating, however, having sex with your partner in no way compares to a medical diagnosis of infertility.  Not to mention the daily tests, bills, emotional, and physical hell that fertility treatments entail.  I get that you are probably trying to be helpful, but comparing situations isn’t always the best way to go about it.

 

·       Have you tried (insert a variety of herbal remedies, old wives tales, and weird superstitious things here).

 

I promise, we’re giving this is the best shot possible.  We have a team of Doctors, Nurses, Acupuncturists, Nutritionists, and Lab Technicians that specialize in fertility.  I’m not just deciding to not take their advice.  If it has been done and proven to assist, we’ve probably tried it!

 

·       Thank Goodness you’re so young!  You still have plenty of time.

 

Indeed, we’re young.  However a medical diagnosis of infertility doesn’t make a difference if you’re 26 or 46.  My reproductive system sucks.  I guess we do have time on our side in the sense we found out early, but time unfortunately isn’t going to reverse this diagnosis.

 

·       You’ve only been trying for a year and a half?  That’s not that long.

 

Also true.  It isn’t that long.  But trust me, if it’s you and fertility has completely taken over your entire life for the past 1.5 years… and every decision you make is based on fertility, it seems like a lifetime.  Sorry, can’t afford organic apples, we’re saving for fertility.  Sorry, can’t go away for the long weekend, I have to go the clinic every morning.  Sorry, didn’t answer the phone cause I’m currently in the fetal position in my bed crying from the physical symptoms of fertility medications.  You get the picture.

 

        ·       You’re STILL not pregnant?

      Nope.  Thanks for reminding me.

 

 ·       Why don’t you just adopt?

 

Adoption is actually pretty awesome.  However it also isn’t as easy as deciding to adopt and getting a baby.  International adoption is an remarkable option for many couples.  While it’s expensive, you can often have shorter wait times.  The problem for us is that my history of mental illness excludes us from adopting from almost 90% of countries with mutual agreements with Canada.  Then we move to adoption in Canada.  Public isn’t easy and often times are not babies.  Private is expensive and the majority of agreements are open adoptions- a big decision to make.  So while it may be where we end up, it’s not an easy road either.

 

As you can imagine, most people have an opinion on fertility and fertility treatments.  And that’s okay.  However, I thought instead of ranting incessantly about what you shouldn’t say, perhaps it would be better to provide some helpful ways in which you can provide support to people struggling with fertility issues.  I have read several posts from various writers, however, here are some that rang true for me.

 

1.    Spend a little time understanding fertility

 

No one expects that you understand the world of fertility, because frankly, I didn’t know anything about it either.  However, spending a little time reading up on the procedures that the couple may be going through and understanding the basics can go a long way.  Knowledge is power- with it will mostly likely come compassion and understanding. 

 

2.    Respect our Decisions (Even if we change our minds!)

 

Very rarely are decisions surrounding fertility easy.  The decisions often have complex emotional, physical, financial, and ethical implications.  Trust me on this one, we have put countless hours into research, getting the proper medical opinions, and weighing heavily on our morals and values.  We did not make these decisions lightly.  Even though you may not understand, or agree with our decisions, please respect them. 

 

3.    Ask us!

 

Please don’t be afraid to ask us questions.  If we have shared with you that we are going through this journey, chances are, we are ok answering some questions.  There is no such thing as a stupid question- and this is a complex issue. 

 

4.    Please tell me that you’re going to keep us in your thoughts or prayers.  Then do it!

 

A simple note, message, or text saying that you’re thinking about us are some of the most encouraging and supportive ways that people have reached out.   I love to hear that others are wishing us well- it makes me feel like we have a support system surrounding us.  

 

5.    Acknowledge our struggles, courage and determination

 

As Tanya said in her blog ‘Fertile Healing’, “Acknowledge that infertility is really hard – and that you can not understand the depth of the grief if you haven’t been through it (because truly you can’t).  Please do not try to compare the difficulty of infertility with the difficulty of raising children, that is just rubbing salt into the wound.”

 

6.    Include me, but understand when I choose to opt out

 

Baby showers, christenings, children’s birthday parties, ‘baby’ talk, and children centred holidays such as Halloween can be some of the toughest social situations to participate in.  There is the balance between being excited for someone on their exciting news or celebration, and it reminding you of everything that you can’t have.

 

7.    Think twice before giving me your recommendations on our next steps

 

It’s easy to fall into the trap of coming up with countless resolutions to fix your friend’s problems- we are just trying to help!  Remember, this is an extremely complex issue and we are doing all we can.  Sometimes, the best thing you could ever offer is just to sit and listen.

 

8.    Break your news to us privately

 

Just because we aren’t pregnant doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be.  But know that it is really hard to see couples that are recently married popping out baby number 2 while we are still treading water not getting anywhere.  Most times, I just need some time to digest.  Please, please, don’t keep the news from me or let me hear it from someone else.  I just need to take a minute to grieve for us before I can move forward and be excited for you.

 

 

Fertility is a very complex issue and because of the negative stigma that our society has created, most aren’t open to discussing it.  Hopefully, the above will help you in the future when these complex and emotionally charged discussions take place!

 

(In)fertility from a Guy’s Perspective

 

For those of who who know me, you know that Dan and I are polar opposites. I’m loud, energetic, talkative, very opinionated, and cannot relax.  Dan is quiet- bordering on shy, calm, and avoids conflict like the plague.  Sometimes I laugh when I think about different we are.  However, in the grand scheme of things, I believe that is part of why we have such an amazing marriage.

Dan has an amazing ability to clam me down, rationalize another perspective, and keep me grounded.  I like to think that I help bring his other traits out too.

Fertility has this amazing way of making you feel utterly alone.  The medical issues that are preventing us from conceiving are all on me.  Dan says ‘we’, but frankly it’s semantics. I have the issues.  Regardless of who has the issues, the women is most often put through the ringer to get to that seemingly impossible end of the road- a baby.  It’s the woman who has to do cycle monitoring, take injections, have tests, and take the brunt of the procedures.  If my end of the bargain was to jerk off into a cup, hey, sign me up!

While it doesn’t seem fair that the bulk of the work is on my side, that’s how it works.  More than once I’ve had the ‘woe is me’ pity party about how much it sucks and how I just wish Dan had to do something too.  It seems odd in retrospect, I’m not sure why I’d want anyone to endure what I have had to- especially not Dan.  But in the moment, I just wanted to break… but also to keep going forward through fertility.  Again- two polar opposite things.

Dan stood beside me every step of the way.  He attended appointments, assisted with injections, catered to my every whim when I was sicker than I ever have been, but it didn’t seem to matter.  I felt alone. 

We were experiencing two completely different things, yet walking down the same journey.  I felt depressed, useless, and angry with myself and my body from failing to do the most simple ‘womanly’ task.  In these moments, I felt bitter that Dan got to continue with life.  He got to go to work and take his mind off things.  I had to schedule my work around my appointments, medications, and illness.  It was absolutely impossible for me to do anything without fertility coming into play.  I felt like he got a free ride sometimes.

I was pissed and pitiful.  This wasn’t fair.  It wasn’t fair that we had to do this.  It wasn’t fair that my body was broken.  It wasn’t fair that I had to do everything.

And poor Dan, I let him know it.  It took me, in one of my not-so-glorious moments fueled with excessive hormones, to get that even though Dan wasn’t going through the same exact thing as me, he was going through it in his own way.  He was trying not to get down he explained, because he felt that I needed him to be strong to keep me going.  My anger towards him because he was smiling and was talking about his day was because I felt like he could just turn off fertility and have a lovely afternoon.  To him, he was trying to take my mind of things and keep my positive.  He truly felt like this was a ‘we’ situation.

One evening in bed after yet another day of bad news, I remember telling him it was ok for him to leave me.  I’d be devastated, but I know having a family was important to him.  If I wasn’t going to be able to do that for us, perhaps her could fulfill that dream with someone else.  He looked me straight in the eye and told me that having a family with me was his dream.  And no matter what happened, we would have a family.  We just didn’t know exactly how we’d get there yet.

 

Throughout this journey, I’ve continued to have moments when I felt as if I’m completely alone.  However, when I started to get down, I always think back to what he told me that night as he held me through my sobbing.  We are in this together- and we make an awesome team.

 

Dan isn’t a talker, never mind a writer.  I asked (read: forced) him into answering a couple directed questions about fertility.  Here were his answers:

What is the hardest part of fertility?

Dan: Watching Adele get disappointed over and over again. I can deal with my disappointments but I wish I knew how cheer her up after we get bad news.

What was a lighter moment you remember?

Dan: I tried to lighten up the mood when I could so when Adele would moan “ohhhh” because she was cramping up, I would finish with ….”Varies”.  (‘Ovaries’) Then we would laugh.

Do you think you would feel differently about fertility if the medical issues were your medical issues?

Dan: Adele is a stronger person than me, so if the medical issues were mine and I had to give my self needles and medication as much as she is, I would cry a lot!  As far as the issue of fertility as a whole, it is something we both have to go through so we are doing this together.

How do you feel about telling people about our story?

Dan: Not unlike myself before we started, a lot of people are ignorant to what fertility treatment is actually like.  Adele telling our story, not only educates those who want to know more about what we are going though, but also gives those who are going through similar circumstances something to relate with.  Adele found a lot of strength in finding groups online where she could read stories and share our day-to-day status. 

 

 

Our WTF Appointment

 

I believe the official medical terminology for this type of appointment is called a ‘follow-up’.  However, the fertility community endearingly refers to the appointment right after a failed IVF cycle as a WTF appointment.  For good reason.

Dan and I, after over 2.5 months of one IVF cycle, just got the devastating news that we aren’t pregnant.  It didn’t work.

After the initial shock of the phone call, I started into a cycle of complete disbelief.  I really really thought this one would work.  We did everything right.  I obeyed every recommendation of the doctors.  We endured physical and emotional hell… it was supposed to work.  We had fabulous embryos.  They were perfect quality.  They were doing great.  There was TWO of them… double the chance of success.  My lining was thick.  I took every suppository at the exact correct timing- several times a day.  I didn’t drink caffeine, didn’t drink alcohol, didn’t smoke, tried my best to stay stress free.  Did I go back to work too soon?  Was I under too much stress because of the move?  Did the stress from the terrible egg retrieval cause something not to work?  We must have done something wrong, right?

We had our wtf appointment just 3 days after we found out the bad news.  I walked into the appointment with so many questions-  I have actually typed out the list as it’s impossible to remember everything once you sit down. Our RE wasn’t surprised at my typed list and with a half smile said, “Ok Adele, what have you got?”.

The easiest question was what went wrong?  This was also the hardest answer.  The RE explained that we could track and evaluate everything throughout the entire process until you actually put the embryos into my body.  After that, we can only hope and guess.  He said there could have been a problem with the embryos, there could have been a problem with my lining, my body may have just rejected them for unknown reasons… or maybe there was nothing wrong at all and it was just terrible luck.

After all the money we spent and all the degrees behind his name, the best answer we could get was… ‘well, we don’t know.’  REALLY?

All of my list of questions went out the window.  The answer to basically all of them was ‘I don’t know’.  Our doc told us there was no medical reason why were currently weren’t pregnant.  Even though we had numerous issues throughout the process, none of the them should have affected the final outcome.

Greaaaat.  So what now?

The first thing the doc told us was that my body desperately needed a break.  After over 6 months of injecting incredible amounts of medications into my body, it had had enough.  We needed a break.  The RE suggested we give it 8 weeks to get all of the chemicals etc out of my body.  I’m not the best at waiting so I suggested a counter offer of 4 weeks.  He laughed at me and shook his head- apparently patients don’t generally bargain with their doctors.  The final word was he would meet me in the middle at 6 weeks.  However, the deal was that I would have to come in at 6 weeks and have my blood work and a transvaginal ultrasound done.  If everything was back to where my baseline numbers should be, then he would give the okay to get going again.

But what did get going again mean?

We were about to go into a new round of treatment, again.  This time it is called a “Frozen Embryo Transfer” (FET).  The theory here was that we were able to extract 6 good eggs and fertilize them.  We grew all six embryos for 3 days then implanted the two fresh embryos into me.  However, we still had 4 embryos left.  We opted to freeze the other four.  We were now going to thaw out another two embryos, and hope they survive the thaw.  If they did, then we’d implant them into me again.

Now, just wait six weeks and pray my body goes back to normal.  … six weeks….  A long time when you want to be pregnant yesterday.  However, it was also six weeks for us to try and save up what money we could for further treatments.  Patience… not my strong suit.

 

6 Weeks of Waiting

 

The good news: It was summer and I could head up north to the cottage (in Muskoka) to try and get that rest and relaxation that I so desperately need.

The bad news: I couldn’t get fertility and baby making off my mind! …every. single. thought. was on my empty uterus.

As a 26 year old woman it is pretty much impossible to get away from pregnancy announcements, baby bumps, baby showers, and adorably cute kids.  Perhaps the worst place to be is the wonderful- yet terrible place if you’re barren- Facebook.  Without a word of a lie, I believe that at least one person, a week, was posting cute news ways to announce they are pregnant- screw you Pinterest for your awesome pregnancy announcement ideas.  The worst part was the the stupid announcements were awesome- photo shoots, older siblings with signs, and baby bumps galore.  I full out admit, I was so green with envy that some days I threw my lap top across the couch.

It seemed to depend on the day… Some days I could actually manage to ‘like’ the post and think like a normal person and be happy for them.  Other days a pregnancy announcement would immediately reduce me to tears.  How was it possible that every other person in the entire world looks at a penis and gets pregnant when we actually put two living embryos (babies!) in my belly and it still didn’t work?

Minus the 30s part…. My life!

Dan would tell me to maybe take a break from Facebook… try to focus on other things and enjoy our small break.  Yes, a break.  Well it took a good couple weeks for me to start to feel normal again.  By about 2 weeks after our BFN (big fat negative), the hormones were officially out of my system and my distended belly had shrunk back to it’s chubby (but normal) size.  (Thanks to IVF, I’d definitely put on an additional 20 or so pounds by now).

We tried to make the most of this time, however, this was also the exact time that we were officially opening the doors to our Pita Pit!  An incredibly busy time for us but also a huge step forward- Dan’s hard work and business sense had finally taken form and we could open up the doors!

Pita Pit Dundas- Opened in July 2013

Deleting my Facebook account wasn’t going to happen.  I enjoyed connecting with friends and family that was living away from Ontario ( Hi Amy! ).  And I couldn’t exactly block any person that could potentially become pregnanct bewteen the ages of 18-40- there goes 90% of my facebook…. This is when I had my fabulous and genius idea that we should be able to have a timeline blocker- put in keywords that you do not want to hear about, then it automatically hides those from your timeline.  Seriously Facebook… an awesome idea!  LOL

And perhaps there should also be a way for me to be forced not to click on the ‘kids’ subsection of Pinterest.  Oh, and stop reading magazines with every star’s new baby announcements.  Ok… I get it.  I need self control.

But alas, it appeared I just needed to focus on the good things in our life.  We were starting a new business, had great jobs, a beautiful new home, two of the cutest dogs, not to mention an amazing base of family and friends.  Focus on the good, not the bad.  We had so much to be thankful for, just focus on that.

Easier said than done.  The empty hole in my stomach seemed to take over everything.

Around this time, my Aunt sent me ‘The Serenity Prayer’ which became my new go to in times of sadness and jealousy.  We can do this…!

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

 

 

Frozen Babies

 

“Frozen Babies” isn’t just an intriguing title I thought up, it is exactly what I’m about to describe.  If anyone told me that Dan and I would now be putting our hopes for a family in tiny 3 days grown embryos (babies) that are frozen in a freezer somewhere in a fertility lab, I think I would have fainted.

However, here we are.

After my negotiated waiting time of six weeks, I was finally starting to feel a little bit like me again.  The massive bloating, aches and pains had subsided after about 3 or so weeks.  My bruises had disappeared.  And perhaps more importantly, my heart had begun to heal.  I was filled with hope again and was looking forward to getting going.

I work long hard hours at my job and had accumulated a whole lot of vacation and comp time.  As Dan had just opened his business, he was unable to take any time off.  He, being the amazing guy I married, encouraged me to take my vacation and go up north, to our family cottage in Muskoka, to take some time to truly relax.  My parents were also on vacation so I could spend some quality family time.  I was loving my time up north and was spending my days reading a book on the dock in the sun.   On July 26th, I drove the 3.25 hours home for our long awaited fertility check up. 

I did my blood work and transvaginal ultrasound, and patiently waited for the results.  Our RE indicated that if my hormone levels had not settled or my lining was still thick, we would have to continue to wait.  Our RE popped in with a smile.  He said my tests were back to normal and we had the green light to get started.

Today was officially Cycle Day 1.  He called in a nurse to explain how a Frozen Embryo Transfer worked.  This was all new to me.  She gave me the good news- Frozen Embryo Transfers, or FET, were generally like a fertility holiday compared to the pain and procedures needed to do a fresh cycle of IVF. 

This time, we already had the eggs that were previously extracted.  They had already been fertilized and made it through 3 days of growth. It was at this point when the lab took them and cytogenetically froze the living embryos.  The fertility community calls these various things, my two favourite are ‘frosties’ or ‘popsicles’.  

I don’t really know how to morally explain what I think about this… The easy answer is that it’s easy to judge this when you aren’t backed into a corner.  I would have loved to have had an opinion before on FET just to compare it with now- but frankly, I’d never heard of it!  Now, this was our only shot.  The end result, however, was that we felt comfortable going ahead with this process as the other option would have been to grow all the embryos, select the best two, then let the rest die.  Embryos can only live outside of the body for a short period of time. 

So, we had the babies ready to transfer.  We just had to build my uterus to get nice and thick.  I needed to trick my body into thinking I was in the middle of a ‘normal’ cycle so that my body created a welcoming environment for the embryos. 

The first stop was to the cash register and we had to pay the clinic prior to going ahead with the treatment.  Cha-ching $$!  I can’t recall exactly, however I believe the cost of the actual procedure wasn’t that bad, somewhere around $1500.

Next was a trip to the pharmacy in the clinic to buy medication ($$$!).  In order to get my body to start to build a thick cushion for an embryo to stick to, I needed to start taking Estrogen supplements.  These were little blue pills (not THOSE little blue pills!). 

The deal was that I was to take one pill in the morning, and one at night for 10 days (total 4mg a day).  Then, on CD 10, I would come back to the clinic to check on my uterine lining.  The goal was to get it over 8mm but no more than 14mm.  I was sitting around 4 mm and had a bit to go.  The hope was by CD 10 my lining was thick and we could do the transfer 2 days later. 

I didn’t have to come back to the clinic for 10 days?  Hell, this WAS vacation.  I could do it.  So I went down to Pita Pit to visit Dan and his new store, had lunch, then drove the 3.25 hours back to the cottage.  I spent the next 10 days taking my pills as required and enjoying the sunshine and family time at the cottage.  My Dad knowing how much I hate driving, offered to drive me down and back for my CD 10 appointment.  The only issue was that the appointment was for 8am.  So off we left at 4:30 am to make the 8am appointment. 

CD 10: Blood work and Transvaginal Ultrasound.

I waited on the results in the clinical room while my dad slept in the car.  The idea of joining his daughter in the clinic for an appointment to try and get pregnant perhaps was where the line was drawn.  My Dad and I are very close, but discussing transvaginal ultrasounds perhaps was a bit too close.

The RE walked in with bad news.  My lining had not grown, at all.  I was on a low dose, however many patients react to only 2 mg of estrace (estrogen).  I was on 4.  She upped my dose from 4mg to 8mg daily.  Now 2 pills in the morning, 2 pills at night.  I had to come back in 2 days.

Upset that the ‘easy’ part of this treatment was, yet again, not so easy for me, I walked back to the car to tell my dad the bad news.  I was so hopeful and excited about this round.  It was going to be easy and quick… and successful.  This was not the start we planned.

We hopped back in the car and drove back to the cottage.  By noon, we were back at the cottage and I was trying to forget that my stupid body that hated me.  It wasn’t so easy.  My hope and excitement quickly turned to dread and worries.  Was this going be as bad as the other rounds?  Quite frankly, the ups and downs of hope then disappointment when my body refused to cooperate were untenable. 

CD12: Another 3.25 hours drive leaving the house at 4:30am to make the 8am appointment.  Blood Work and Transvaginal ultrasound.

More bad news… My lining has grown, but hardly.  I was at 4mm and needed to progress to at least 8mm.  I was now at 4.5mm.  Greattt.

The RE then decided we were going to get aggressive.  She knew my story of extremely long cycles with no luck from previously and wanted to try to get my body ready asap.  I think my defeated face when she told me the 4.5mm also helped.

She was now doubling my dose.  I was on 2 pills in the morning and at night for 8mg daily.  Now I was up to 4 in the morning and 4 at night (16mg daily… aka a LOT!).  The second change was that instead of taking them orally, I was to insert them vaginally.  She said this was a better way to absorb them and would hopefully kick start everything.

I walked down to the pharmacy and purchased more meds then hopped back in the car for another 3.25 hour trip back up north.  We were back up north by noon and I was already trying to forget fertility.  It didn’t work. 

The idea of inserting these pills vaginally was a new one for me… uhhhh, ok.  Like do I literally just shove them up there?  The answer was yes.  But the best part was they are blue… and so from this point forward, everything was blue.  Trust me, it gives you a jolt when you urinate blue… Wonderful- I’m now a smurf.  A non-pregnant smurf.

My vacation was ending and on CD 14 I drove home to the clinic for another appointment. 

CD 14: Blood Work and Transvaginal Ultrasound

It worked!  My lining was now up to 8mm and we were cooking with gas!  We were ready to go.  The nurse came in to explain the rest.  She explained that tomorrow the lab would choose two of the four remaining embryos and thaw them.  Thawing embryos was not an exact science so we just had to hope.  There was a very good chance that one or both may not survive the thawing.  The clinic would call us once thawed and let us know how it went.  If one died, we could always select another one to thaw out as we did have 4 left. 

Additionally, I was now to start giving myself progesterone suppositories to mimic the progesterone that is normally released by a bursting follicle.  These suppositories were three times daily… vaginally.  Then the fun part, the nurse explained that we had to have at least 2 hours between when I inserted the estrogen and the progesterone so they would both absorb.  Superb… a party in my pants!

My new schedule:

8am – Progesterone Suppository (white chalky pill)

11am – 4 estrogen tablets (little blue pills)

3pm – Progesterone Suppository

8pm – 4 Estrogen Tablets

10pm – Progesterone Suppository

Wonderful… I literally had to set alarms on my cell phone and spent the majority of my day running to the washroom with my purse.  Furthermore, the estrogen was now taking full effect on my body.  My levels had sky rocketed and everything now ached.  Even lightly brushing my body felt like you were stabbing me with knives.  I couldn’t sleep because of the aches and pains.  Not to mention, welcome back emotional hell!

CD 15: The lab called with the news.  One embryo survived the thaw perfectly.  It was now growing in an incubator and was doing great.  The bad news was that our other embryo that was a 12 cell previously, was not doing well.  10 of the 12 cells had arrested during the thaw and we only had 2 left.  The chances of this embryo implanting (and getting me pregnant) were very unlikely. 

Hearing this news I started to cry.  Can nothing just go as it should?  Why does everything have to have some bad news component to it?  This also meant very hard decisions.  The clinic explained that they would still recommend transferring both embryos tomorrow- there was something called a ‘buddy’ effect and the second embryo might assist the healthy one in implanting.  The other option however, was to let this one arrest (die) and try and thaw out another one from our remaining two.  There was no guarantee that the new one would survive, and that would mean we’d only have one embryo left in case this round of FET didn’t work.

How do you make these impossible decisions?  We decided to hedge our bets with the one healthy ‘frostie’ and one not so great ‘frostie’.  Now we wait for tomorrow to do the transfer. 

This could be it… we are getting pregnant!

 

 

Another 2WW (From Hell…)

 

It has officially taken me a month to get around to writing this part of our journey… Not that I haven’t thought about it each one of those days.  I just didn’t feel I had the energy to do it.

The next few months were the lowest of the low for us, and I wasn’t doing very well.  Surrounded by friends and family that loved and supported us, I was stuck in my own head filled with negative thoughts.  The constant disappointments were compounding on top of one another and, regardless of the anti-depressants I was taking, I slipped into another depression.  So… here it goes.

…. 2WW (#3)

Today was the day.  While this Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) had gone relatively well compared to the other rounds we have done, it still wasn’t ‘easy’ as I had hoped.  I was excited to get into the clinic and have the transfer.  Patience is definitely not one of my strong suits.

On August 15th, Dan and I went in for our transfer.  The transfer itself was actually quite simple and easy.  We arrived at the clinic and they took us back to the procedure area.  I changed into the hospital gown and with an extremely full bladder I lied on the bed.  The ultrasound tech came in to see if my bladder was full enough… I felt like I was about to pee all over the table and she said I was good. (Thank God! Because there was no way I could wait much longer).  I lied in the chair with my legs in the brackets and prayed not to pee on anyone.

The RE popped in and went over the rig-a-ma-roll re: names and the embryo labels etc.  Yes, thank you for putting our own babies back inside of me.  Now that would be bad.  :S

Once ready, the ultrasound tech puts the ultrasound on my belly to guide the catheter that they use to insert the embryos.  With my bladder full, my uterus is pushed down and elongated so they can see exactly what they are doing.  After several measurements, they tell us to watch the monitor and they insert the two embryos.  We can see two white spots ejected from the catheter!  I’m officially pregnant!  If pregnancy is having a living baby inside of you, then I’m pregnant!!

They take a couple of shots on the ultrasound and print them out for us.

The white solid dot in the pic are our two embryos 🙂

After relaxing on the bed for a minute, I jump up to go to the washroom because by now I can barely even think I have to go so bad!  We take a couple minutes to look at the pictures they gave us and talking about the ‘buddy’ effect they described to us.  One of our embryos wasn’t doing well and most of the cells had arrested, but we hoped that it would assist the other embryo which was very strong implant and attach!

Off I went home to rest in bed for the rest of the day.  We were officially in our new house so I cuddled with our dogs in the bed and Dan went back to work.

After two days of resting, I was back on vacation again.  The one thing that looking back I would have changed from the IVF round was that I was quite active and stressed with work and fertility during the 2WW.  I wanted to try and rid myself of stress so I decided to head back up to the cottage.  I drove back up north and my Mom was up there with two of her long-time friends.

I continued the crazy schedule of 3 vaginal suppositories and 8 estrogen tablets vaginally each day of the 14 days wait.  My body hated the estrogen and I was having every pregnancy symptom there was- my boobs hurt, I was nauseous, etc etc.  Honestly, it’s the evilest thing ever.

I would spend hours laying on the dock in the summer re-reading the same page of my book 30 times as I tried to decipher what each twitch, gas pain, and symptom meant.  I was in a pretty good mood until about 6 days post transfer.

I couldn’t wait any longer- I had to pee on a stick!  In the forums for IVF people talk about what day post transfer they got a BFP (big fat positive) on an at home test.  The earliest that people said they saw it was when the age of the embryo plus days post transfer equaled 10.  The embryos were 4 days old and I waited 6 days… the rationale seemed solid in my mind. Dan tried to convince me not to do it, he said to just be hopeful and wait.  I couldn’t do it.

As soon as I saw the negative result of the test, my life seemed to crash before my eyes.  I knew it then, I wasn’t pregnant.  It was really early to even be testing….  if I was normal, it would still be 4 days before my expected period, but in my head, I knew the magic second line would not appear on my tests.

I essentially cried for the next 4 days at the cottage.  If I wasn’t crying, I was curled up in a ball in bed sleeping.  My Mom tried to continue to encourage me to think positively and talked about the reliability of the tests and the timing.  Dan tried to calm me down over the phone for more hours than I want to imagine… but it didn’t matter.  I wasn’t pregnant and I knew it.

What was wrong with me?  They are literally putting little babies in my f*ing uterus and my body still wouldn’t work.  My entire world was so focused around getting pregnant.  We had spent basically all of our savings at this point, and months of pure emotional and physical hell, and we had absolutely nothing to show for it.

What makes someone a woman?  Because the whole reproductive system that was so eloquently explained to me in grade 5 wasn’t working the way it was supposed to.  I started to look back at our decisions leading up to this… Having a family was just as important to Dan as it was to me, and now he was stuck with me.  Me, the one with the useless body.  Letting me down was one thing, but letting Dan down was a whole different level of misery.

It was now 10 days post transfer and I couldn’t wait a minute later.  10 days plus the 4 day embryos equaled 14 days. This 2ww just got shortened by my creative math.  I drove home in the evening from the cottage and tried to prepare myself for the blood testing the next morning.  The night before going in, I felt this slight sense of hope.  Maybe I was being ‘Nancy Negative’ as my Dad would say… maybe I was all worked up over nothing.  The docs said we had great chances, so why didn’t I believe that?  I was so optimistic going into this round, so what had happened in these last few days?  It was official- I was going to be pregnant tomorrow and we are going to look back on my last couple (not-so-pretty) days and laugh in the future.

August 26:

The next morning we drove in for an early appointment.  I was sitting waiting for my blood work to be done in the glass room and my primary RE happened to walk by and ask how I was.  I hadn’t even had the test yet and I just burst out crying in the waiting room.  I’m not talking a little tear here and there… I mean a full out sob fest and I couldn’t catch my breath to even answer what was wrong.  Dan spoke up and said I was convinced I wasn’t pregnant and hadn’t been doing very well.

We stood me up, walked me to the room to get my blood drawn and then asked to see us in his office.  We wanted me to let him know what was going on.  I really had nothing to tell him that was new.  My body hated me.  This whole process of IUI/IVF had gone nothing but bad, nothing was working, we had virtually no money left, and the thought of having nothing at the end of this was so devastating I couldn’t even put it into words.  He chatted with us for a minute then said that we didn’t have the results yet, so try and stay calm.  However, he felt like it the result was negative, we definitely needed a fertility break to try and regain my sanity.  He also said before starting anything again, he wanted us (read: me) to see the psychiatrist at the clinic.

I, still sobbing, agreed and Dan walked me to the car.  Dan asked when the next appointment was for the psych doc and he had a cancellation the next day.  We took it.

We drove home.  Dan rubbing my leg as he drove, and me sobbing in the passenger seat.

Later on that day, around noon time, we got the call from the clinic.  I answered the phone before one ring even finished.  It was our IVF RN that we had developed a relationship with.  Her last words to me as I walked out of the clinic that morning was that the last woman who came into beta day upset like me turned out to be pregnant.  So try to stay optimistic.

With her first words, I knew.  All she said to me was that I was right… it was negative.  She was sorry.  After that… I’m sure we exchanged a few words, but I don’t remember any.  I just hung up and curled myself into a ball in bed and cried… and cried.  I asked Dan to text our families and a couple close friends who knew we would find out today.  Having to talk to anyone and say out loud that we weren’t pregnant meant it was real.  I wasn’t there yet.

After a couple of hours of Dan holding me while I sobbed, I was suddenly feeling quite calm.  It was like the not knowing part of the last 2 weeks was worse than just knowing that it hadn’t worked.  I felt like I had some closure now and we could start figuring out the next steps.  I couldn’t explain it- I was devastated it hadn’t worked, but I felt like there was a renewed sense of hope that we still had 2 frozen embryos left and there was still a chance!

I spent the rest of day watching movies with Dan on the couch and relaxing… and not knowing what the psych appointment that was booked for the next day would bring.

 

 

The Dreaded Psych Appointment

 

After 9 months of fertility and medical testing, then 8 months of active fertility treatments, and an empty wallet & uterus, I was at my breaking point.  It was clearly demonstrated by my constant sobbing for over a week without even knowing if the latest transfer worked.  Our RE essentially told us that we (me!) had to go see the in-house psych doc before starting us on another cycle.

After finding out the bad news yesterday that our FET didn’t work, I was actually feeling a lot better.  Not knowing if it was going to be bad news yet again was the worst part.  Dan and I got ready to head into see the doc.  I really just wanted to wear pjs and not shower… but assuming he would be reading into every aspect of the visit, I dragged by butt up and into the shower.  Trust me… this was an accomplishment.

At the age of 19, I was diagnosed with depression, which was later diagnosed as chronic depression.  This meant that I stay on anti-depressants all the time, forever.  Up until now, I had never had any issues- my mood was great, my appetite better than good, I loved taking part in activities and keeping up with friends.

In the last couple months, I had slowly been transformed back into the me that I didn’t want to remember.  The me where I would much rather curl up in bed and never leave.  The me where some small miniscule thing not going perfect was enough to derail me completely.  Let me paint a picture of how my thought process worked.  I use the simplest of simple of examples: Stubbing my toe.  Now stubbing my toe on a normal, non-fertility time in my life would simply hurt.  Now, there might be a chance of a foot hop with a not so proper swear word, but that would be it.

Stubbing my toe while depressed: Stubbing my toe would turn into me being pissed because I ruined my pedicure… which would make me so upset because the money we were spending on fertility meant that I couldn’t actually get a pedicure… which would make me devastated because I would start counting the money we have spent and focus on the absolutely nothing we had to show for it but bad memories and wasted time… which would devastate me because I would think about all of the physical and mental pain going through fertility cycles… which would push me over the edge because I’m not pregnant and would need to do another cycle to try again…. which was hopeless because with these cycles even the simplest things didn’t go as planned…. oh not going to plan, that pretty much sums up everything that is going on with my life.  Cue me sobbing uncontrollably and staying in bed inconsolable for hours on end…. especially when Dan wasn’t as upset as me.  Doesn’t he get that our lives are ruined and never going to get any better?

You get the point… not pretty.

Well off we go to the psych appointment at the fertility clinic.  I had heard good things about the doctor, however, I wasn’t exactly sure how this was going to work.  I had been to my share of doctors re: depression, however, what did it mean to go to a doctor re: depression when I was already on anti-depressants?

We got called into the back room with this little old man.  He introduced himself and said he’d had an opportunity to talk to our RE regarding our unusually difficult cycles.  He sat us down and started to ask questions.  Me, being me, basically got right down to it.  I told him I know exactly what was wrong.  He stopped and asked me to explain.

I told him I’m a Type-A personality.  I love plans.  In fact, I take extreme pleasure in making to-do lists and short and long term plans.  Oh, and I generally get what I want.  I work my ass off and make sure that my plan works out.  I’m dedicated, passionate, hard working, and love having control.  That would be the issue.  I have zero control of fertility.  Nothing is working how it is supposed to.  The nice little 28-day cycle diagrams on the walls in the clinic didn’t mean anything to me as by day 28, I’d just be getting into the swing of things- not finding out if the cycle was successful or not.  Worse yet, the doctors didn’t even have control!  They had no ideas about what was going on and why I didn’t react to the drugs.

So take a control freak and put them in an incredibly stressful situation where they have no control, at all.  That equaled me.  An emotionally devastated 26 year old woman who could think of nothing else but the feel of an empty uterus.

The doc smiled and we chatted about life- how and where I grew up, school, work, our marriage.  You name it, it was on the list.  At the end of the session he basically said what we already knew- we had a great and supportive marriage, great relationships with family and friends plus lots of support.  However, I wasn’t dealing well with not having control.  He suggested that I already seemed to have recovered well from what our RE had described my emotional state yesterday, and he gave us the go-ahead to move on with a new cycle when we felt we were ready.  This time, however, we’d have to go back and continue to chat with him.

Sounded easy enough to me.  We walked out of the room and through the fertility halls.  I turned to Dan and said, let’s do this.  He wasn’t sure what I meant… I walked up to the IVF nurse and asked her what day I could start another FET cycle.  We had two embryos left.  My plan consisted of us getting pregnant ASAP and get this part of our lives over with.  I wasn’t going to wait.  I didn’t have control about much in this process, however I could have control over my start times.

The good news here was that because my body is so messed, I don’t have cycles.  Because I don’t have cycles, I do random starts.  So against Dan questioning me if I was ready, I booked my first monitoring appointment to get this show on the road.

Failed cycles behind me, and a new Frozen Embryo Transfer to come.  I’m getting pregnant damn it. 🙂

Difficult Decisions… What’s Next?

We had our quick WTF (‘follow-up’) appointment with our RE.  He, again, gave us no answers.  He said they didn’t have answers.  My body was just not accepting the embryos.  It could just be bad luck, but could also be something wrong with me.  We knew the PCOS was what was screwing up the egg production, but my body seemed to not want to get pregnant either.  Great.  Onwards we go.

In my rollercoaster phase leading up to Sept 3rd, our new start date for another FET round, Dan and I were struggling with the biggest questions of all… when was enough, enough?  How many more rounds do we do?  How much money do we spend?  When is the emotional and physical turmoil too much to continue with.

At this point, we had spent 1.5 years dedicated to fertility.  To be fair, the first several months were simply appointments.  However, my life had consistent of nothing but fertility hell since January 2013.  It was like putting our lives on hold.  We were unable to do most things due to my daily appointments requiring us to be in proximity to the clinic, the shortage of money (which was all spent on fertility) or me being too sick or too sore to do anything.  Our quality of life had been decimated.  Yes, having a family was important to us, but at what cost?

Perhaps it was time to start looking at other options.  Other options… wait, did this mean I wasn’t going to be able to get pregnant?  I will never be able to feel a baby grow inside me?  I will never be able to feel the those first flutters that all pregnant woman talk about?  Did this mean that we would never be able to have our own children?  Would we ever get to have a newborn baby at home?  What were these ‘other options’ anyways?

And so I started to research to see what was out there.  To be fair, we still had two frozen embryos, and they were obviously going to work… but a back up plan was my way of staying in control.  At least we had a Plan B.  Or one could say that we’ve probably already used up the Plan B, C, D, E, F, and G.  So perhaps I was drafting a Plan H.  Nonetheless, a worst case scenario back up plan.  It was so incredibly important to me to have a plan because if our next round failed, we were back to square one.  No more embryos.  No next steps.

My best friend Jen* and I were talking through this all one day while I was driving to a meeting (on speaker phone!!).  She was great at the balancing act between staying optimistic, being realistic, and listening to my concerns.  She was honest and told me exactly how it was.  She was also amazing because, somehow, after all this, she was still willing to listen to be go on and on about fertility.  There was a reason she has been my best friend since High School (welll… except for a minor bump in the road where I hated who she was dating and refused to talk to her… Forgive me?) After analyzing every piece of our crappy fertility puzzle, she suddenly became serious.  “Adele, I know we’ve talked about this before and you keep blowing me off like I’m joking… but you and Dan can make great quality embryos.  It seems as if the only part not working now is that your body won’t carry them for you.  I know there is a lot to think about and understand, but Adele, I will carry your baby”.

Ummm… Cue me laughing nervously.  I start to stammer and say how Dan would probably faint before that happened plus that it is actually kind of crazy…. And she stopped me.  “Don’t answer me now.  You need to do another round, and we would need to seriously look into it and understand everything before making a decision, but just know that I’m serious”.

We then continued talking about life, our jobs just normal stuff but I couldn’t quite get this out of my head.  Jen, carry our baby?  WTF!!?… Would it actually work?  And is she on crack- this was actually crazy!

We hung up the phone and I immediately called Dan and told him we had to talk and rehashed the entire conversation that was just had.  Dan listened quietly then said how amazing it was for her to offer, but then asked if I was seriously considering the offer.  I told him I didn’t know, but I had never actually really thought about surrogacy as an option.  Dan said to focus on our next round.  Then said he didn’t think that was something he’d ever consider… it was too, well… weird.  This incredible offer that came out of left field that I didn’t know if we’d even need, just got shut down so fast I didn’t really have any more time to think about it.  Yah, I guess it is weird.  Fine.

If surrogacy was out, then what else did we have left?

1. To keep trying.  Do another round of IVF… but when do we stop?

2. International Adoption

3. Private Adoption

4. Public Adoption

5. Accept that we couldn’t have kids and enjoy our child-less lives together.

Dan and I had a long talk that night.  Tomorrow was September 3rd and I was starting another round of FET.  I made him promise me that we would set aside an evening with no distractions- just us- and work through the different options and figure out where we would go next if this round didn’t work out.  These were not going to be easy choices… but they needed to be made.  The deadline I gave him was that we needed to have our Plan B (or H or whatever we were at now) decided before they transferred our two last embryos.  He agreed.

Holy crap this sucked.  FET you better work!

*Names changed for the potentially not so innocent 😉

 

Here We Go Again… FET #2

September 3, 2013.  My Dad’s birthday.  Also the first day of our next frozen embryo transfer cycle.

Although we continue to bounce the ‘what’s next?’ conversation around, I have decided to try and focus on growing my uterine lining! Yes, that’s what I want to focus on.

Today is the ‘random’ start date for my next cycle as I don’t have any natural cycles.  Mentally, I’m in a pretty good place.  I’m excited to start again, hopeful the drugs are going to work this time in a (sort of?!!) timely way, and that this is going to end with a positive beta test.  I am literally dreaming at night of how we will find out that it is positive- peeing on a stick, the phone call from the clinic, how to tell my family, who are we going to tell, and if I’ll just burst out crying because of the great news!  But I also find myself struggling… How much optimistism is good?  If I focus on the great news, the baby bump, the baby shower, the newborn pictures… will it just hurt even more if it doesn’t work?  On the flip side, moping around assuming it won’t work isn’t going to be doing myself any good either.  Is there such thing as a happy medium? (Literally.)  Dan says to focus on small steps, so step one is to start the estrogen pills again and pray that my lining starts to thicken up.

The goal is over 18mm.  I’m sitting at about 10mm when I start.  The good news is that the docs have learned that nothing is easy with me, so they start me, right off the bat, with a good dosage of estrogen.  They start me off on 6 pills daily (12mg), 3 in the morning and 3 at night, all vaginally.  Wonderful.  I’m back to being a smurf with blue pills.

The other thing we are giving a shot this round is acupuncture.  I have done a lot of reading and several fertility and medical studies have proven that fertility acupuncture has been shown to have positive effects during IVF and FET cycles.  At this point, I’m willing to try anything.

There is a clinic that specializes in infertility not far from the fertility clinic so I called and made an appointment.  The practitioner is an MD from China and was the deputy Dean of the Chinese School of Traditional Medicine in Beijing.   He came very highly recommended so I walked into the clinic on the first day of my new cycle.  Not really knowing what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised that he was very well versed in fertility.  He asked all the right questions about my cycles, the meds, the dosages, and checked me out from head to toe.  He instructed me to lie down on the bed and turned on ‘relaxing’ Oriental music in the background.  Honestly, I was half laughing in my head as this really isn’t my thing, but if there is even a chance it would work, then I’m at least giving it a chance.

The guy took my pulse and said I was too agitated to start so he would come back once I had calmed down.  Uhhh… ok Adele, calm down.  Ten minutes later, he walks back in and re-takes my pulse.  Apparently, I had settled enough for him and he asked me to close my eyes and focus on the music.  He proceeded to put little needles in the tops of my ears, my ankles, my feet, and all around my abdomen.  In all, there were more than 25 needles now sticking out from various parts of my body.  He put a basket covering my needle ridden belly and then covered me in a heavy blanket and told me he’d be back.  He gave me a mini doorbell to ring if I needed anything and then he left the room.

Generally, each time you had to lie there for about 30 minutes.  It was weird.  I was lying in this dark room with random ‘calming’ music in the background and supposed to be relaxing.  All I could think about was if this was all BS or if it actually worked… Cause if this was BS, he was sure putting on a really good show.

After 30 minutes, a small bell would ding outside my room and he would come in and pull all the little needles out.  I have a bleeding disorder so then I would have little pinprick fountains of blood trickling from various points in my body that I would try to stop with random pieces of kleenex.  I looked like a 14 year old guy learning to shave.  You honestly have to chuckle at the stuff I’m now willing to do if there is even a slight chance of success.  At $87.00 a pop, acupuncture was my new way to get another 30 minutes of sleep after fertility.  For the rest of my cycle, I proceeded to go about three times a week. Another $261.00 a week was peanuts compared to the amount I was paying for the meds and the actual procedure.  To be clear, none of which we really had at this point, but if I was in for an inch, I’d be in for a mile.  Oh, poverty induced by my fertility…

As my cycle progressed, the Chinese Doctor would calculate whatever special formula he had and moved the the little needles around my stomach like little soldiers preparing for battle.  It was a relaxing time for me to decompress and try not to think of strategy for my next meeting I’d be prepping for.

In typical fashion, my f*ing lining didn’t thicken up as quickly as it was supposed to.  You’d think by now, I’d expect that.  But each cycle I’d have a renewed sense of hope that the doc would have figured out my random medically puzzling body.  Alas, not yet.  After CD 5, I started daily monitoring appointments again.  I was driving 40 minutes for blood work and transvaginal ultrasounds each morning as a mini wake-up call.  Trust me.  This gets old.  Very fast.

CD 18 I was finally at 18mm.  My lining had never got thicker than this, but the clinic assured me that there was no benefit to being any thicker than this.  Once you hit 18mm, the chances of success were equal to that if I was at 19mm or 23mm.  Okay, it’s almost time.

We added in Progesterone suppositories again on CD 18.  The clinic decided to do things a tad different this time and they gave me the rectal ones.  Wonderful I thought, but the benefit was that I didn’t have time out all the various pills to shove up there at different times.  These ones I could put in the same time as the estrogen.  These turned out to be a life saver.  These didn’t make any mess at all and once they were in, you didn’t have to worry about anything until it was time to do it again.  If you told me I’d be bragging about how awesome the rectal suppositories were compared to the vaginal ones just a short year ago, I would have been asking what institution I was committed to.  Oh, how things change.

I am now on 4 estrogen pills vaginally in the morning and 4 at night, plus the progesterone suppositories morning, noon, and night.  Oh yes, this is the ‘easy’ cycle compared to IVF, but they sure keep you busy.  My hormones are raging and I’m hvaing every early pregnancy symptom out these plus menopausal ones to boot.  I spent my days dressing in layers so I could strip down at any time when I was hit by a hot flash.

September 26th was to be the big transfer day.  I booked special acupuncture appointments for before and after my transfer as the Chinese doc told me to, and I was getting ready.

The closer I got to the transfer date, the more worried I became about our back-up plan.  I needed to have some sense of control over this, and the back-up plan was my control.  I made Dan promise that before the transfer, we would sit down and hash out all the pro’s and con’s of all our options if this round didn’t work- then pick an option.  We shook on it and planned a date.  The Sunday for the transfer he promised me would be dedicated solely to fertility/life planning.

I was happy.  Two more days until our planning date and four until the transfer.  I started saying extra prayers that the back-up plan was going to be nothing but wasted time when we got our positive beta, but felt good knowing that we would have it ‘all figured out’… whatever that meant.

Breathe in.  Breathe out.  My new motto.

 Difficult Decisions… What next?

You can call me a lot of things… but unorganized isn’t one of them.  Knowing that Dan and I had to make some serious decisions about what to do if this next Frozen Embryo Transfer doesn’t work, I started to do some serious research.

I’m the obsessive researcher, and Dan normally just nods his head in agreement.  However, these were kinda big decisions so, in the next two days, we both had to become as educated as possible about all of our options to try and make the best decision possible for us.  So off I went.

I actually created little binders of information that I was able to pull together about private adoption, public adoption, international adoption, and surrogacy.  I searched adoption council’s, public forums, medical research, information sessions, and peer reviewed data and just kept hitting print.  I collated all of the information and gave Dan his deadline.  By Sunday afternoon, we had to both read all of the information I found by ourselves and put together a list of questions, concerns, and what if’s.  Sunday afternoon we would sit down and figure out how to move forward.

Much to my delight, Dan delved eagerly into the information with a highlighter and was making notes about questions and concerns.  Sometimes I feel like I’m so invested into this process and he seems less so… he proved me wrong, again.  We both studied up to prepare ourselves for the big meeting on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday afternoon hit and my teacher’s college training was making me twitch as I didn’t have a flip chart to start taking notes in my living room.  I made due and Dan and I thought the easiest way to approach this was to make a Pro and Con list for each of our options.

Our options included to keep trying with fertility treatments, private adoption, public adoption, international adoption, and surrogacy.

Option 1: Keep trying with fertility treatments was our first stop.  The Pro list was just as obvious as you would think… being pregnant, having our biological child.  However the CON‘s list was a lot fuller…

CONs- $+++++;  When do we stop?  When is enough enough; I’m dying emotionally and physically; it may NEVER work; we cannot plan anything, cannot go anywhere; always extremely sore

Looking at our list, I was suddenly overcome with emotion.  I knew, right at that moment, we were done.  The list wasn’t even close to done, but I could continue with the CON side of the list for ages.  I broke down completely sobbing on the couch.  We were done.  If this frozen transfer didn’t work, we were done.   I literally wrote on the piece of paper “This is the last time”.  It was devastating and relieving all at once.  I had so many mixed emotions.  I was devastated that this could mean that I would never get to know pregnancy, never get to have my own child, never get to fulfill the dreams that previously seemed so normal… to have a baby.  But on the other hand, I felt like making this decision was like taking a massive weight off my shoulders.  Getting pregnant was becoming my life mission, and finally admitting that I might just not be able to do it, by no fault of my own, was suddenly like a wave of relief.  The pressure was off, the guilt about my body failing was gone, and the fear about new treatments dissipated.  I could breathe again.Dan smiled at me and hugged me until I could settle down.  He fully felt this was the right decision for us right now too.

Ok, on we went with our pro and con list.  Next up was Option 2: International Adoption.  This was also a fairly easy one for us, in fact, we didn’t even have to make the list.  Because I have mental health concerns and a history of depression, 90% of countries with an adoption agreement with Canada would automatically exclude us from their list.  We didn’t meet the criteria.  It felt almost ridiculous that we could be discriminated against so blatantly based on medical concerns, however, it technically wasn’t Canada that was discriminating… it was other countries.  So what were we to do?  Cue another breakdown.

As if it wasn’t bad enough that we were going through the hell of fertility treatments due to MY medical issues, now, because of other health issues, we wouldn’t even be looked at for international adoption.  Dan really picked a winner… :S

Okay, so we’re down to three other options… Surrogacy, Public Adoption, or Private Adoption.

Option 3: Public Adoption… After looking into the general timelines and the ages of children that were available (infants were often not available), we decided that Private Adoption would be the route that we would take if we chose adoption.

Option 4: Private Adoption

PROs- Cost-medium; not based on science/miracles; move past ivf/infertility; socially acceptable; help a child who needs a home/altruism; lots of education and assistance available to get started; child presented to you is as a choice; ability to research into the health of the baby and familial history to some extent; can start the process asap; adoption practitioner/agency to assist with process

CONs- If come into agreement while birth mother is pregnant, she can revoke it at any time; only able to work with one Mother at one time so all eggs in one basket; based on luck; no guarantee of lifestyle during pregnancy; not biological child; are we just giving up (fertility); 21 days (+8) that the mother, after the baby is placed in our home, that the mother can revoke the placement; based on luck; no guarantee of medical disclosure of birth parents; timing- average timeline for ‘adopt ready’ status is about 1 year; many adoptions are open adoption- a sliding scale agreement to allow birth parent(s) involvement in the child’s life

While there was heavy pros and cons on each side, this was a real viable option.

Option 5: Surrogacy

Even though this was not the route we expected to even think about, it was an option that we potentially had.  I felt it was important to look into each and every option so we made our PRO and CONs for this also.

PROs- it would be our own biological child; having the option like treating it as if it was our own baby while in utero (baby showers! ultrasounds! getting called when in labour!); legally our own child from the start with no chance of revocation; timing is shorter than other options; high success rate; feeling like part of the pregnancy; we trust Jen 100%; Jen has two other healthy children with uncomplicated pregnancies; Jen’s in a good place in her life and would psychologically be able to do this; there would be no complications during the pregnancy/birth due to me being on anti-depressants or having a bleeding disorder

CONs- $+++++ (actual estimates in Canada range from $70,000 to $90,000); stress on our friendship; definitely not socially acceptable- how do we explain this one to our friends, never mind our own child later on in life; would need to do another IVF cycle as we have no embryos left; not guaranteed to work; how would this be for Jen’s kids- this confusing enough for adults, never mind her own kids; confusing for her daycare kids (she runs a daycare)… plus try explaining this to her clients;

… We decided to take a break.  We made the lists, now we had to figure out where we were going next.  It was down to private adoption, or to have my best friend carry our baby…  Time to get a snack.  Food cures all.

We sat back down with two viable options.  We talked about the pros and cons of each and talked about the ones that weighed heavier than others.  Both potential options were potentially emotionally fueled.  We made the decision that money was not going to play a factor- we couldn’t force ourselves into an option simply looking at dollars and cents.  The heaviest issue for us with adoption was the idea that we could work with a birth mother for months for her to simply change her mind and either not give us the baby, or worse, take the baby back after s/he had been placed with us.  How could this be something we could get through?  Dan had always been a big proponent for adoption and we loved the idea of helping a child who needed a loving home.

Having Jen act as a gestational carrier (surrogate) was, let’s face it, frickin’ weird!  But once we got over that ‘minor’ point, the option was actually interesting.  Dan, who previously laughed off the idea, was now coming around to having some real discussions on how it would work and what it would mean.  What would people say?  … wait, why do we care what people would say?

We spent an hour discussing the pros and cons… and finally came to a decision.  If this round of frozen embryo transfer was not successful, we wanted to seriously look into surrogacy.

Holy crap… (seriously, sometimes words don’t do justice to what you’re actually feeling).

Okay, to do:  1) Call Jen and let her know we are actually seriously thinking about her offer to carry our child if this round doesn’t work and pray she doesn’t run at the thought that this might actually happen. 2) Say a prayer that this crazy emotional day was all for naught and hope that the transfer on Tuesday is successful.

All we want is a family… who knew it would be this hard.

Our Last Shot

This is it.

This is the last one.

The more I rationalize it, the more I realize that this is for sure going to work.  Isn’t that how life works?  Right when you finally give up, everything falls into place?

I’ve been going to fertility acupuncture three times a week and after waiting what seems like forever… my uterine lining is finally thick enough to get going with this frozen transfer.  We have two popsicles left (aka frozen babies).  The transfer is going to be on my Dad’s birthday, September 3rd so that has to be good luck right?

September 2nd, I get the call from the clinic to update me on the status of the thawing of our children.  Bad news.  Again.  Why this continues to surprise me, I’m not sure.  But sometimes it makes me laugh that I think something is going to happen how it is supposed to.  One of the two embryos has all but died in the thaw.  The other, however, is doing great.  Well… we’re down to 1 embryo.  But that’s all it takes, right?  Dan spent the next several hours trying to calm me down.  We only need one embryo to make this work.  This IS the one.

September 3, 2013- I head in for for the first of the two acupuncture appointments.  These are ‘special’ so of course they cost extra- 2 treatments in one day for only $325.00.  Well, considering we’re paying $1500 for the transfer, another couple grand for the fertility meds, we’re paying storage for the embryps, plus $250 a week for acupuncture this far… what another $325?  It’s only money… right? :s

The traditional Chinese doc says to stay warm and to drink warm fluids. Ok, off we go to Tim’s to wait until it’s time to head to clinic.  I have a French Vanilla Cappuccino and try to relax.  Dan hops back in the car and we cruise on over to the clinic.  Holding hands the whole way, we do the hand squeeze- you know, the holding hands hand squeeze that is means we have each others back.  And we do.

The transfer was fairly uneventful.  I changed into the hospital gown, Dan helped me onto the table and into the leg straps.  In proper FET fashion, I was about to pee my pants due to the required full bladder.  They confirmed the embryos were ours and the ultrasound tech started to manoeuvre the wand around my abdomen.  My favourite RE (other than our doc) was on, and my favourite ultrasound tech was in the room with us.  This had to mean something positive right?  With Dan holding my hand, the doc inserted the catheter into my uterus and with the tech’s guidance, measured the perfect distance from the top of my uterus to place the embryos.

They told us where to look and counted to three.  1, 2, 3…. out came a burst of white just a couple millimeters from the top of uterus.  They transferred both embryos.  The one hadn’t officially ‘arrested’ yet so there was no harm in placing that one in too. It was over faster than it started.

There.  Done.  I was now officially pregnant. :D

After waiting a minute of so for everything to settle, I hopped off the table and ran to the washroom to empty my bladder.  I felt so cheery and excited.  I went to the tech to get our ultrasound of the babies, and she said she hadn’t realized that we wanted one.  Looking disappointed I looked at Dan- with an encouraging smile he said we had pictures for the other rounds, so maybe this round was going to be different for us.  Yes, we’d done this several times now. .. I just knew that this was the one.  The transfer went so smoothly and the 1 embryo was top quality.  Dan drove me back to the acupuncturist and he completed the second treatment for the day.

As I lay there on the bed listening to calming music my mind drifted to all of the excitement to come.  The announcements, the nursery, would it be a boy or a girl?  After an hour in the dark room with needles sticking out of me every which way, he came in and instructed me to stay warm.  Whatever that meant.  I went home and rested for the rest of the day.  I had minimal cramping and stayed all snuggled up in cozy pj’s and in my bed.  Keeping warm as instructed.

Since this was the last shot, I was pulling out all the stops- women on fertility forums always were talking about eating a pineapple core after the transfer.  Apparently some nutrient in the core is supposed to aid in the implantation of the embryo.  Yep, you know you’re officially desperate when you are crunching down pineapple cores swearing it’s going to help you get pregnant.  If there was a chance it was going to help, then sign me up.  We bought two pineapples and cut the cores into 5 segments for the 1st five days after the transfer.

I spent the next day taking it easy and working from home.  I wasn’t going to risk any extra stress or activity for this one.  It was so hard to keep focused on work.  Suddenly, everything baby was so much more interesting than grievances and LTD appeals.  Gender reveal parties (yes- I secretly want one- I’m a loser!), baby shower themes, and what to pack when you’re heading to the hospital were suddenly priorities.  One day down… thirteen more to go until my beta test.

I went back to work the next day. Trying to keep myself busy enough to forget about the miniscule baby who was either digging its way into my uterine lining… or not.  Impossible.  Still eating my pineapple core, I was also continuing to go to acupuncture on the schedule the traditional Chinese doc had recommended.

By 3 days post transfer I found myself wandering through the pregnancy section of Indigo.  There were so many books to choose from.  To be honest, I already owned several of them.  But I was sucked into the aisle and couldn’t leave.  I picked out the most detailed book I could find (which my friend later referred to as ‘the encyclopedia of all things pregnancy’).  It was pricey, and knowing we were seriously short on cash I had a sudden pang of guilt.  I called Dan and asked if I could spend $60 on this amazing pregnancy book that I absolutely needed(!). My rationale was that it started from the last day of your last cycle- so I would get an entire chapter of my ‘pregnancy’ day by day.  Even though a lot of the things described were forced through science (egg retrieval, fertilization, transfer) I could read all about the development and what was happening inside me.  I walked to the cashier and she smiled and asked if the book was a gift- I said no not really getting where her question was leading… She suddenly had this megawatt smile and said, “Congratulations! It must be SO exciting! I love seeing newly pregnant women when they are buying their first book!”.  Unsure what to say next, I smiled and muttered a thank you and avoided eye contact at all costs.  Was I a fake?… there was a baby inside of me, I just wasn’t sure whether it wanted to stay yet.

book

I got home and instead of making dinner I became fully engrossed in the science and miracles behind pregnancy.  The neat part was that this book actually talked about IVF and what stages lined up with the natural cycles etc.  I was legit allowed to read the whole first chapter in ‘preparing’ yourself for pregnancy etc and caught up to seven days after fertilization.  Crunching on a pineapple core I was fascinated by the corresponding pictures and details.  It just seems so crazy that a person can actually just have sex and make a baby- all the moving parts that have to align so perfectly, it baffles me.  Here I am with science doing every single little thing for us, all my body had to do was accept the little guy and let it burrow into my uterine lining.  The more I thought about it, the more I was certain this round was going to work.  My new nightly routine was set- I was going to read where our embryo was in it’s growth each night before bed.

Days four and five post transfer were fairly unexciting.  I continued eating the pineapple core and reading about the development of our embryo.  On day six, everything changed.

The Test (s)

Day 6 of 14

Six days post 4 days transfer (in fertility lingo that would be 6pt4dt)… This means that the egg was fertilized and then grown, outside of my body in an incubator type thingy, for four days.  After four days, they transferred the embryos.  They’d been in there for six days.  In this case, there was the cryogenically freezing part, the thawing part, but in the end, it all sort of equals the same.

Why does this matter at all?  Because 6 days post transfer plus 4 days incubation meant the embryo should have implanted in my uterus by now and started emitting some HCG… the hormone that pregnancy tests test for.

Ten days was the magic number.  When the above numbers add to ten is generally the earliest time that you will get a BFP (Big fat positive!) on a home pregnancy test.  Infertiles know the dumbest factiods of information.  But this one… this day 10 mark was big.

The pineapple cores had been eaten, I was still going to acupuncture ($87.00 bucks a pop), but ultimately, I just wanted to get to day 10.

Dan tried and tried to convince me to wait.  Wait until the blood work he’d said because you can get false negatives on the HPT (home pregnancy tests).  Why put yourself though this every morning?  Just wait.

Easy to say, not easy to do.  Do I? Or don’t I?  Frankly, if he really wanted me to wait, he would have confiscated the neat row of HPTs, organized by expiry date, in our master bathroom.  He didn’t.  That meant he secretly wanted to me to do it, right?

Day ten.  I woke up an hour before I needed to because I just couldn’t wait a second longer.  I sat there awkwardly trying to rip the packaging open so not to wake Dan… didn’t want to be busted.  I peed on the stick.  I caved.  Then I waited…

One line appeared… Please God, please.  Just let me see a second line.  Hadn’t we been through enough?  …and waited.

And waited.  No line appeared.  It was most absolutely negative.

I actually chucked the recently peed on stick across my bathroom and burst out crying. Out of protest for the test that had just ruined my day, I wanted to leave it laying the on the ground, but my dogs were fairly interested in it thinking we were playing fetch, so I had to go back and retrieve it.

Dan had told me not to do it.

I crawled back in bed and cried as silently as I thought possible.  However the crying breathing, the one where your chest pumps up and down, was shaking the bed.  Busted.  Dan tried to comfort me and made me realize that most pregnancy’s wouldn’t show up this early anyways on a HPT.  In fact, we were still 4 days before I would even get my period.  So let’s be optimistic, focus on the good, and say a little prayer that it was just too early.

I composed myself… and did what every infertile does when they get a negative on a HPT.  Go onto every forum and read about how this person had a negative test but was really pregnant with twins!  And that one didn’t test positive at all but the beta test showed it was positive.  Ok, good thing I woke up an hour early, I needed the hour just to convince myself to make it another day.

I kept a smile on face for the rest of the day.  Yes, it was too early to test and being negative wouldn’t help my little embryos grow any faster.  When I got home that evening, I read the next page in my book about the embryo development for today.

hope

I kept up the positive mantra for approximately another 24 hours.  It was the morning again and the first pee was the best one to test with as it would have the highest concentration of HCG for the test.  To test?  Or not to test?

Day 7 of 14

This was honestly torture.  I decided that I wasn’t going to test again until I went for my beta testing.  The HPT tests was enough to make you miserable and frankly, they still could be wrong as it was so early.  Dan was right, I was going to wait.

Day 8 of 14

Eight days post four day transfer…. I can’t wait another second.  I NEED to pee on that stick to see the second line.  Every penny in our savings account was gone form fertility.  We had put everything, and I mean everything into this cycle.  This was our last shot.  We were not going to try again.  It had to work this time.  It was going to work this time.

I peed on the stick.  Dan had already left for work so I didn’t even have to sneak around. So I waited…. I sat on the bench at the end of my bed with the test perfectly level waiting for the second line to appear.  Now according to  the “Countdown to Pregnancy” website (http://www.countdowntopregnancy.com/pregnancy-test/brand-chart.php?hptbrandid=41), 87% of people that are pregnant show a positive 12 days after ovulation.  Well using my scientific dates, I decided that the day the egg was fertilized would be day one.  87%!!!  I was one of them, right?

Wrong.  One f’ing line.  The test, again was negative.

My breathing started to get heavier, and before I realized it I was having a full blown panic attack.  This could not be happening.  I did everything.  I even ate the stupid pineapple cores.  Dan and I would make amazing parents- it’s all we want in the entire world!  This just cannot be happening.

An anti-anxiety pill and an hour later I was calm again.  There was still 13% of persons who were actually pregnant that at day 12 still got a negative reading. PLUS, these were dollar store tests… who knew if they even worked anyways.  Right.  I’m pregnant.  I know it.

My boobs were aching, I was emotional, no period yet, and my lower back was throbbing… I AM pregnant.  With that, off to work I went.  I called Dan and admitted the test and the meltdown.  He listened and tried to encourage me that it wasn’t over until it was over- the blood test.  Think positive.

And I did.  Fake smile and all.

On my drive home I had to pick up some groceries and found myself in the pharmacy aisle looking at the First Response 6 Days Sooner tests.  Study after study had shown that these were the most responsive tests and detected pregnancy the earliest… so maybe that’s all I needed.  I ignored the price tag and figured our entire lives was dependent on this one test so we could afford it.

Day 9 of 14

9 days post transfer… and another 5 days until I am able to go and get my beta test.  Armed with a new, better (!!), test and ignoring Dan’s protests I walked proudly into the washroom and peed on the stick.  Dan came to observe as we stared at the test.  We decided that watching it just made the time go painfully slow so we tried to make casual conversations about our scheduled days ahead…. the time was up and I raced to see.

One fucking line.  One line. This just cannot be happening.  This was supposed to work!  How, after them literally putting live babies in my damn uterus, was this even possible?

Dan, the calm and ever optimist, reminded me that only the beta blood test would tell us the truth.  We had to wait for the beta test.  It was that exact second that I called the IVF nurse at my clinic and explained that there was no way I could wait another second.  I was going crazy.

She knew what we had been through and knew all of the struggles (and the price tag!) of the rounds we had gone through.  She also knew that this was our last shot and gave me some hope.  She said that even though the clinic liked to wait until 14 days post transfer, if the test was positive, it would be positive tomorrow.  She warned however, that the levels of HCG might not be enough to detect if it was a viable pregnancy yet, but it would for sure tell us if it was negative.

Done.  I was now going for my beta test four days early.  Tomorrow morning I was going to waiting at the clinic when it opened for my test.  The sooner I got in, the sooner the results.

Trying not to think about if I was pregnant or not was impossible.  I tried to work, but luckily had no meetings booked.  I was being cautiously optimistic and trying to think positively, but I was going to be no use at work today.  I called in and took a comp day and spent the rest of the day researching beta tests, HPTs results, effectiveness of each test, what a good HCG level was for 10 days post transfer… you get the point.

Day 10 of 10

Ten days post four day transfer.  This was it.  By noon, I was going to know.  I drove to the clinic and got the blood test.  I was a wreck. I was so nervous that I could barely speak (and those that know me know that that doesn’t come easily).  The lab tech gave me a hug and wished me the best.  She let me know that she had been praying for us and had a good feeling.

As I walked through the hall back towards the waiting room, the women who dispenses the drugs came out of the ‘pharmacy’ room and gave me a big hug.  With tears in her eyes, she told me that Dan and I deserved to be parents, and she knew that everything would work out.  This woman was also the one who apologized to me daily as she continued to charge my credit card for the latest conglomerate of medications I needed.  She gave me one last hug and said she’d say a prayer for us.

The two receptionists stopped what they were doing with other patients and both said good luck with an encouraging smile.  Everyone knew today was D-day.  Today was the day that would change my life.

I’d gotten to know so many of the employees at the clinic now after spending more time then any other patient they had ever had with them.  When my cycles went on and on for months, I needed to be there every day.  I felt like I had developed this amazing secondary support group- and they were rooting for me.

I just couldn’t go to work.  So instead, I drove to Pita Pit and laid on the couch in Dan’s office.  I needed to be close to him.  Dan continued with busy work and continued to come in and check on me.  We knew that the call would take a couple hours to come.  And so we waited… and waited.

At exactly 11:37am, I got the call.  Dan was out front serving customers at the time and I was in the office alone.  It only had to ring once before I picked it up.

I could tell the second the IVF nurse said hello what my fate had in store for me.

“Adele, I’m so so sorry.  The test came back negative.  You’re not pregnant.”

My first thought through my mind was that I actually felt bad for her.  This poor nurse had to call me to tell me the most devastating news I’d ever get.

It then sunk in.  I will never, ever, ever get pregnant.  Ever.  We were done.  It was over.

its-over
It. is. over.
Picking up the Pieces.

Is it possible to mourn for something you never had to begin with?

The day we got the negative test is basically a blur.  I honestly don’t remember how I got home from Pita Pit or what happened next.  I do know that I ended up curled in the fetal position sobbing in our bed.  It just felt surreal.  Did this actually happen?  We had put everything into fertility- physically, emotionally, spiritually, psychologically, and financially.  The science behind it seemed so logical and the doctor’s were so optimistic with our case.  Hell, from the start, we didn’t even think we had fertility issues.  Yet here we were.  Broke, devastated, and an a completely empty uterus.

I stayed in bed with a cocktail of anti-anxiety meds and kleenexes for the next couple of days.  My mind just could not compute that this had just happened to us.  It was so easy to be angry with the rest of the world and adopt the ‘poor me’ mantra.  How could women who didn’t want or care about their children continued to be blessed with them?  How could the rest of world take for granted the miracle of life that was being with held from us?  It just didn’t seem fair.  We are a young married couple who are unquestioningly in love.  We have good jobs, a loving home, supportive family and friends, and so much room in our hearts to dedicate ourselves to our child.  Yet, here we were at a dead end.

It feels utterly impossible to describe in words what it feels like.  My heart was broken.  Completely shattered… and I wasn’t sure I’d be able to piece it back together again.  To make matters worse, Dan, who had always been my optimistic rock, took it just as hard.  He tried so hard to keep it together, to put on a smile to encourage me to come back to the living… But this blow was just too hard to take.

That evening, we just lay in bed together with our faces inches apart, crying.  Our dream, a simple dream of having a family, was over.  No words could console us.  We just needed time to mourn.

Day 3: The third day after the news, I pulled myself together, put on dress clothes and tried to return to work. If I could just get back to the business of every day life, then perhaps I could give my brain (and heart) a rest to try and forget… even just for 7 hours a day.  I put everything into my work, but I just couldn’t keep it together.  My colleagues, most of whom knew what was going on, came by to give me a hug or say they were thinking about me. I couldn’t even fake that I was ok.  I’d burst into tears at the drop of a dime.  I was hvaing problems concentrating, making decisions, and was just utterly exhausted.

At lunch, I decided to walk to Pita Pit so I could at least get a comforting hug from Dan. We share our building with public health and they had just put up a several posters that morning in our elevator.  With one look, I had a complete break down and ended up sitting in the corner of the elevator bawling my eyes out.

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Am I pregnant? No. I am not.

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I just couldn’t do this.  I lasted three hours and I just couldn’t do it.  I went down the parking garage to drive home… but was far too upset to drive.  So instead, I reclined my chair in my car, and laid down there in the dark trying to relax.

I made it home and emailed my manager to let him know that, again, I’d need to be off sick again.  Work had been so supportive, however with each day I took off meant that someone else was stuck trying to cover my work.  We are all so busy so I felt like I had to come back.

Day 4: I tried working from home.  I was trying my best but wasn’t doing great- my thinking was working a little was better than nothing, right?  That afternoon, a colleague called my cell.  She has had some medical issues herself and wanted to chat with me re: sick time.  Known for her bluntness, she gave it to me straight.  Work would would survive if I got hit by a truck tomorrow and never returned.  I needed to stop thinking about work, and instead focus on me.  Focus on healing.

I needed that kick in the butt- I needed someone to tell me that while I did a good job, work wasn’t going to fall apart without me.  I emailed my assistant and my manager and let them know that I’d be going off sick… for at least a week.  I would check back in later and let them know how I was doing.  Looking back, I am so thankful to my colleague.  I definitely needed some time to grieve.

Day 5: I just could not shake this terrible grief that I felt.  I felt alone.  Powerless.  Furious. Defeated.  Angry.  Misunderstood.  Depressed.  Anxious.  Distressed.  Heartbroken.  Miserable.  Things were not getting better.  But how could they?  My body, and now my mind, was broken… and I wasn’t going to be magically fixed.

Day 6: I decided I needed help.  I called my family doctor and got an appointment for that afternoon.  When he walked into the room I just burst out crying and told him our sad story up until then.  I asked him for more anti-depressants because these ones were obviously not working.  I couldn’t kick this.  I couldn’t just cheer up.  The future seemed dim at the very best.  We chatted for an hour in his office.  We talked about my support system, my future options, and how to best move forward.  That’s when he said it… Adele, you are in mourning- the same you would be if you lost someone close to you.  Mourning?  To mourn, didn’t I actually have to lose someone?  If that someone was never even born, how can I experience mourning?

We talked about the five stages of loss and grief and it fit perfectly.  I had been in stage one- denial and isolation for the first couple days.  I was so overwhelmed by my emotions that I questioned if this was even possible.  It felt like a bad dream that I would one day snap out of.

Stage two- Anger had reared it’s ugly head.  Anyone who was having a child, had a child, or once was a child was on my list of people I hated… everyone. It just wasn’t fair that I was here and others weren’t.

As we continued to chat, I realized I was somewhere between stage 3 and 4.  Bargaining and depression.  I had spent my last days re-thinking my cycles and wondering if there was anything we could have done differently.  I was also questioning our decision to stop trying… I remember we had good ideas on why to stop then, but now, I couldn’t help but think ‘what if’ we just tried one more time?  The depression had hit at full force and I just felt like I was stuck in the bottom of a deep cavernous pit with no hope of climbing out.

My doctor prescribed a heavier dosage of my already high amount of anti-depressants and asked me to check in with him next week.

I went home and tried to process how to mourn for something you never really had.  Not an easy task.

I booked another appointment with the clinic to discuss what had happened and what to do now.  We needed to have some closure and I hoped that the doctors could provide us that.  The WTF appointment was next week. Next steps seemed too far away to think about, but we also needed to hear medically what went wrong.

The next week was a long, difficult week for us.  We tried to process the idea of loosing something I’d always taken for granted- having a baby.  I was home from work.  This was both a blessing and a curse.As time moved forward, and the longer I had been away from work, the more anxious I got about returning back. I was still very depressed, tired, achy, and wanted to sleep the day away.  On the other hand, getting back to work would keep my mind occupied.  Plus, I love my job.  I kept telling myself I’d go back tomorrow.

Then the evening would hit and I would be so anxious my mind would be racing in circles.  My job took my full concentration.  What would happen if I went back and made a mistake?  What if I missed something?  There were potential negative consequences for others if I made an error.  This thinking was enough to push me back into my cave of loneliness and I’d crawl back into bed for yet another day.

Days became a week, then two.  I needed to go back.  My calendar was fairly light for the next week ahead so thought it might be a good time to ease back in.  I promised myself that Monday would be my first day.

Monday came, I made it to work, and nothing terrible happened.  Tuesday followed, and I was back into the swing of things.  Focusing on other issues made our problems fade into the background… at least during my working hours.  Evenings I’d return home and feel lost at what to do next.

We had our WTF appointment at the end of the week.  Dan and I talked daily about what questions we had, what we needed to understand, and what we had decided- we were done with trying.  Our evenings turned into mini-counseling sessions.  Dan and I would try to talk through everything focusing on what was next.  (Ok, I talked through everything.  Dan did a lot of nodding.)  One thing we knew was that we couldn’t just jump into something else, we had to mend ourselves from this process first.  Throughout the week we talked about next steps.  We had decided to look into surrogacy as our next step, but the clinic didn’t know that yet.  What would they say about our new plan?

The night before our appointment it occurred to me- I needed to completely change my way of thinking.  Instead of focusing on ‘getting pregnant’, I know had to focus on ‘making a family’.  At one time, those meant the same thing.  However, now, I knew they were two very separate things.  Getting pregnant was only one solution.  Changing this mindset would take some time, but thinking about things this way made me feel like there was some light at the end of the tunnel.

This wasn’t the end, this was just the end of trying ourselves.  More importantly, this was about the be the beginning of a whole different story.  Our story.

WTF Appointment Day:

Dan and I pulled into the clinic and gave each other the ‘we can do this’ smile.  We held hands and walked through the door.  This past year and half may have beat us down, but we made it through.  One thing was for certain, our marriage had never been stronger.  If we could make it through this, we could make it through almost anything.

We sat down with our RE and he said he was sorry about our disappointing news.  He then started into how he was going to change our protocol for the next round in hopes that it would take significantly less time to get my body to produce follicles (eggs).  I kept trying to jump in but he continued on and on about different medications we could try to help etc.  Finally, I stopped him.  I asked him to back up.

Why didn’t it work?  What went wrong?  Was it me?  Was it the embryos? He simply shook his head.  Science had come so far, and the doctors and scientists knew so much about everything before you actually put the embryos inside me.  Once they were inside, we just had no idea what went wrong.  There was no medical answers.  It could be my body rejecting the embryos, it could be something wrong with the embryos, or it could be simply bad luck.

Then I just came out and said it.  We were done.  We simply couldn’t do it anymore.  It took an entire year straight to do only 4 cycles (when most people would get to do 12).  The emotional, physical, and financial toll was just too heavy.  If the doctor didn’t have any reason why it wasn’t working, then what would change if we did it again?  My body was simply revolting at the idea of carrying a child.  No matter what we did, my body seemed to protest it.

I then told him about Jen’s offer of surrogacy and said that we were interested in exploring this option further.

He just shook his head.  What kind of surrogacy he asked?  We were thinking about Jen being a gestational carrier.  This meant that it would be my eggs, Dan’s sperm, and her uterus.  The child would have no DNA connection to Jen, we would ‘simply’ be using her body as an oven.

He took a deep breath and shook his head again.  This was not a simple process he explained- had we looked into it?  Did we know what it entailed?  And if we wanted to do it, we would still be required to make eggs again which was one of the most difficult parts last time.  He explained that while our clinic was one that would work with surrogates, that all of the docs would have to agree that Dan and I made good candidates.  This was not a simple hurdle and was not decided on lightly.  In order for the clinic doctors (the 5 of them) to approve us for moving forward with surrogacy, they would basically be saying they felt there was virtually no chance of us being successful by ourselves.  He wasn’t sure if we met that criteria yet…

I was stunned.  I had thought that we had figured out the perfect option to move forward with.  We had someone who was willing to investigate the process further.  We were with a clinic that would work with gestational carriers, and fertility treatments were simply not working for us.  And now the doc was all but saying no?  I was crushed.

I asked him if he felt that Dan and I could conceive.  He said that there was no medical evidence at this time telling him that we could not.  I asked then if there was therefore medical evidence that we could?  He looked at us thoughtfully… and slowly said no.

He said, “In a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to worry about the costs associated with these treatments.  If we were in Holland or even Quebec, these services would be covered by the government and we would like to do three fresh transfers.  Once a couple has done three fresh transfers and was not successful, it was at that time that the clinic would say that we were unable to conceive.”  We had done one fresh transfer, and two frozen transfers plus an attempt at the less invasive IUI.  Not exactly his formula above, but it also wasn’t like we hadn’t given it our all.

The doc sat there in silence for a minute then said, “I know that your situation is very unique.  We have had issues at every step of the way and we know that you are not a typical infertile couple.  Let me think about this a little more and I will take it to my team to discuss.  We will discuss if we feel you are appropriate candidates for surrogacy and get back to you.”

Defeated, I nodded.  We shook his hand and left the clinic.  I finally thought that we had an opportunity to move forward… and now we were in exactly the same place we were a year and a half ago (only thousands and thousands of dollars poorer).

When we were going to get a break?  It appeared my ideology about this being the beginning of a new story for us meant nothing.  This looked like it was simply going to be the end.

 

 

Hoping for the best, Preparing for the worst: The Clinic’s Final Decision

October 24th, 2013: The big day!

Today is the day that we head back to the clinic to find out the RE and the team’s opinion about how we move forward.  I’ve spent the last 3 weeks going through each and every scenario, and how it would work.  I also have every scenario’s questions laid out in my mind to ensure we get all the answers we need.  Knowing the RE didn’t seem to be interested in surrogacy for us, I needed to know every medical reason behind each option and how it might work.  This was the only way we could make decisions about how was can move forward.

Dan and I got to the appointment, and I was trying to prepare myself for the news- and to be honest, I wasn’t exactly expecting great news.  Could I do another IVF round again?  How…? Emotionally, mentally, and physically I wasn’t so sure I could handle it.

To doc sat us down and opened with, “After review with my team and your medical history, we believe we’d be very supportive if you wanted to move forward with a gestational carrier”.  WHAT?!!!

This was the one scenario that I didn’t plan for.  The last appointment made it pretty clear that this wasn’t something that he was excited for.  My mouth actually dropped.  He laughed and said he thought I’d be happier with the news.

It wasn’t that it wasn’t exciting, but how did this come about?  What had changed?  The doc explained that after reviewing everything, we didn’t have very much medical evidence to base our decisions on.  We were basically guessing at best.

He explained that there was a very high chance of OHSS for me due to the amount of meds I require, and the extremely high levels of estrogen that I kept having.  This would not be supportive for the transfer, and additionally, could actually lead to us being cancelled- meaning either no retrieval or no fresh transfer- both not good.  Secondly, there was no medical evidence to support that is would work if we continued.  He said that we might be right, but then so might he.

He emphasized the importance of the ‘right’ carrier, not just any carrier.  Third party fertility was very difficult and not clear cut in Canada due to our laws.  This was not something to do on a whim with such anyone.  He felt that the close-knit friendship I had with the potential carrier, as well as her family situation was actually optimal for a gestational carrier.

The other issues that weighed into the decision was if I was able to get pregnant, we still may have problems during pregnancy and birth due to my bleeding disorder and the anti-depressants (which we now an even higher dose than before- thanks infertility!).

I honestly had no response for the doc.  This was the exact appointment I had dreamed about getting, but was not expecting at all.  Dan asked a bunch of questions, which, quite frankly, was very un-Dan like.  He is normally more of a nod and listen type of guy.  But he was the pinch hitter in this appointment as I just sat there stunned.

The doc said we needed to talk to the IVF nurse to discuss specifics, but we had his blessing and off he went.  My heart was racing, I had a huge smile plastered across my face, and I couldn’t stop squeezing Dan’s hand- this was it!  We’re going to have a baby!!!

The IVF nurse came in and went over how to move forward.  First things first, did we understand the financial impact? Well yes, I already had a colour coded spreadsheet at home with our guess-timates of cost.  Then, out came the sheet.  Holy sh*t… I perhaps forgot that OHIP would cover nothing.  At all.

Every appointment with the doc, blood tests, ultrasounds etc would all need to be paid for.  And man, did those fees add up.  We remembered the IVF fees, the counseling fees, the legal fees, the expenses, the post pregnancy expenses, but totally forgot about these.  The general estimate for typical surrogacy arrangements in Canada was anywhere between $60,000 – $90,000.

We swallowed and smiled.  Yes, the fees were ok.  Nothing was going to make my smile disappear today.

Our plan was that Jen would need to come into the clinic for an assessment by our doc.  He would go over her medical history and determine if she was a medical fit.  If she passed that test, she would get the privilege of having a sonohysterogram and blood work.  If she passed that hurdle, next was the psychiatric analysis.  If we all made it through those appointments, then we’d be off to the lawyers to sort out a surrogacy contract.  Once we have that, we would have to sync up Jen and my cycles, then off we go- I’d get medicated, grow awesome eggs, get them retrieved at the same time as getting Jen’s uterus ready for the embryos, pray the eggs fertilized, pray they make it and continue to grow them in an incubator for 3-5 days, then implant them back into Jen.  Then pray for sticky vibes and hope they stick and she would get pregnant!

Easy peazy….??! Breathe in.  Breathe out.

By the time I made it the 30 steps from the conference room to the front desk, I had texted Jen and my parents with the good news.

Even though we hadn’t had our official sit down with Jen, I got a bit ahead of myself and booked her for her initial consultation two weeks from now (to the tune of $250.00… :S) and left my credit card number.

To do: Call Jen and set up a little family meeting to discuss her carrying our child, go over all the information we had received and try to ensure we understand each step then come up with a new updated budget, oh, and raise our credit card limits.  Bright side is that we’re about to get a ton of air miles…!

On we go! Surrogacy here we come!!

Surrogacy: my egg, Dan’s sperm, and Jen’s uterus.  Well… it’s a tad more complicated than that.

In researching surrogacy, we found that it is something that is vastly different depending on where you live.  In some places it’s completely illegal like in Italy.  In other places, it is illegal to take part in commercial surrogacy- when you actually pay the surrogate for her services- like here in Canada.  And in other places, both altruistic and commercial surrogacy is well within the law- like the USA and Israel.

So being in Canada, where commercial surrogacy is illegal, and altruistic surrogacy is ok, I was surprised to find out that dependent on your Province, different rules apply… More on that later.

However, this whole surrogacy thing is actually a lot more complicated than you could imagine.  So I thought I’d do a quick (?!)  run down on how it works for us, here in Ontario along with the costs.

 

Step 1: Be Barren. ($$$$- All the fertility costs up until now)

– check

Step 2: Find a Surrogate (Free if you find one yourself… unknown fees if you use an agency)

There are actually three main types of surrogacy in Canada.  A traditional surrogate is a person who would use their own egg, plus the intended parent’s sperm, and carry a baby to term.  The second type involves donor eggs and/or sperm with the use of the surrogate’s uterus to carry the baby to term.  The third, and most common type, is called a gestational carrier.  This is where the baby would be biologically related to the intended parents, and use a surrogate’s uterus to carry to term.  That’s us.

Now to finding a surrogate.  ha…  Well think for a moment, how many people do you have in your life that are willing to volunteer?  I would hazard a guess that the number is fairly small.  And wait a moment until you read the whole list below about what’s involved and then ask yourself again, would they still volunteer if they knew all of the below?

So in case you don’t have anyone jumping at the chance to put their life on hold, endure invasive testing and actually bare you child, well you do have options.  There are surrogacy businesses in Canada that assist in linking you to a person who would be willing to be a surrogate.  Now remember, these potential surrogates cannot be compensated for this (other than their expenses) so as you can guess, the number is quite small of people volunteering.  However, these types of amazing strangers (angels!) do exist believe it or not.

So now you have yourself a volunteer….  (Insert Hunger Games joke here about volunteering to be a tribute)

Step 3: Get Approved for Surrogacy by your Clinic (covered by OHIP)

It apparently isn’t as easy as just asking.  Because of the potential harm and risk to the surrogate, clinics in Canada aren’t jumping at signing anyone and everyone up to do surrogacy.  In fact, many clinics do not facilitate surrogacy whatsoever.

We were lucky that our clinic did.  Not something I looked into in my initial research for a clinic, but was very helpful in the end as we got to continue with the same doctors, medical team, and it was close (enough…) by.

I wrote previously about our clinic not being overly excited about approving us at first, however, we were approved at our next appointment and on we go.  Read more about that part here: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back and Hoping for the best, Preparing for the worst: The Clinic’s Final Decision

Step 4: Get your Surrogate Medically Approved ($$- Every test and ultrasound is paid out of pocket ~$2000)

A logical next step.  We need to ensure the surrogate is in good medical health and able to complete the process without any undue harm.  However, I was surprised to find out how much testing they do.

The clinic requires the a whole pile of blood work that tests for anything and everything including STIs, HIV, mineral and vitamin deficiencies etc.  Next up is the Day 3 blood work and ultrasound- tests done on the third day of the surrogate’s cycle to ensure that all the hormone levels are where they should be for Day 3.  Next is essentially a full physical including a pap smear etc.  With this appointment comes the longest and most invasive list of medical questions you could imagine.  Lastly, if anything comes up in that, then she would need to follow up with specialists for clearance prior to proceeding.

Step 5: Get your Surrogate and Yourselves Psychologically Approved ($$ – ~$600-$1000)

Yep.  Next step is for you and your partner to sit with a psychiatrist to determine if you are able to go through with this process.  It isn’t easy for anyone, but there are also huge social, moral, and legal implications.  Have we thought everything through?

Once that is passed, it’s your surrogates turn.  She gets to sit on the hot seat and have a psych doc evaluate her mental capacity to ensure she is up for the task.  One hour of answering tough questions about how, why, and what is about to happen.  If your surrogate has a partner, the partner must also be included and pass the above testing.

Once you and the surrogate have the official ok that as separate parts you are sane enough to move forward, you then have the final appointment- An hour session with all included parties to discuss how we feel about moving forward, how it will work, ensuring we understand each others needs and clarify that yes, we are sane.

Step 6: Legal ($$$$- Two laywers btw $5000 – $10,000 total)

Next up- find a surrogacy lawyer who will draft a surrogacy contract.  This is a necessary step required by the clinic prior to initiating any procedures.  This contract will clarify a bunch of the detailed information such as the maximum amounts for expenses, what the medical agreements are, how many embryos, how many tries, when would we terminate the pregnancy, when would we selectively reduce, what tests and pre-natal care is expected, who will attend appointments, who will attend the birth… etc etc etc

We draft the initial agreement with our lawyers.  The surrogate gets an independent lawyer to review the agreement with and amend as necessary.

We go back and forth until it is acceptable and protects both parties- then it is signed off.  The lawyers then confirm with the clinic that it exists and is signed off.  Giving the clinic the go ahead to move forward with any procedures.

Step 7: Get your Cycles Synced up and Review your Protocol ($$$- Admin fees NOT including medications here are about $2500)

In order to get your cycles synced up, the surrogate needs to start a birth control pill to allow the clinic to ‘control’ her cycle.  The pill is the same dosage each day and she needs to continue on it until told otherwise.  In the meantime, the intended mother (aka me) needs to get everything in order to start a new round of IVF to grow and get the eggs to fertilize.  Signing off of medical consents with the clinic happens here.

Step 8: Start synchronized cycles ($$$$- This would be a round of IVF for me and a round similar to Frozen Embryo Transfer for our surrogate PLUS medications, so for us it would be anywhere from $20,000-$35,000)

in vitroA normal process would look something like this:  Surrogate starts injections to put her cycle on hold (yep- she’s now stuck poking herself with needles too…), then incorporates estrogen pills (orally and/or vaginally) to try and get her lining to thicken up to receive the embryos.  In the meantime, I’d get started with injections to stimulate the follicles, take a shot to mature them, have them extracted then fertilized.  Wait between 3-5 days while the eggs grow and then transfer them into our surrogates uterus.

All well and good, but the timing has to be perfect.  The surrogate’s lining has to be a perfect thickness in order to take the embryos… which means the intended mother’s IVF cycle has to be carefully planned to coincide with it.  Which is going to be very interesting (to say the least) in our case.

Step 9: Pray it worked (Do I include the cost of anti-anxiety pills here??)

Wait for two weeks until beta day to find out of the embryos implanted… if not…

Do not pass Go.  Do not collect $200.  Begin again at step 7 and repeat.

If it works!  Congrats!!  Now you’re pregnant… well she is, with your kid.

Step 10: Realize that legally you have no say into anything during the pregnancy. (Cue anti-anxiety meds again)

In Ontario, once the surrogate is pregnant, the law considers it her child regardless of it’s biological origins.  So if the surrogate decides to take up whiskey, pot smoking and moves to China… We have no say.

Now you’d ask why we spent thousands on a legal agreement if it means nothing?  Well… because that’s the process.  And the process sucks.

We have to have an agreement to start, but the agreement really doesn’t mean anything once she is pregnant (it wouldn’t hold up in court as the fetus is legally ‘hers’).  The only thing it would mean is if the surrogate directly violated the contract, the intended parents could withhold the expense payments.  Woop-di-dooo

So this means if the surrogate so chose, she could abort the pregnancy at any time or selectively reduce the pregnancy at any time (aborting one or more fetuses if there are many for medical reasons for the children or mother).  You get the picture.  This next 9 months is where it is incredibly important that in Step 2 you found a good surrogate who you completely and absolutely trust.

Step 11: Expenses ($$$$ For us, capped at a total of $21,000 plus any lost wages capped at $14,000)

Now is the part where you cover the surrogates expenses incurred during the pregnancy. And so you should. The basis of this legal principle allowed in Canada is based on the fact that this person, who is carrying you child for purely altruistic purposes, should not incur any expenses as a result.

Expenses can literally include almost anything if it related to the pregnancy. The easy ones to think of are maternity clothing, mileage to and from appointments and check ups, pre-natal vitamins, and covering babysitting costs if necessary to get to appointments. The ones you probably wouldn’t think of are covering life insurance premiums (at a minimum coverage rate), any lost wages if the surrogate becomes ill and/or if they go on bed rest and/or during the delivery and recovery, house keepers to assist with house work if tired/ill, healthy food, gym memberships, massage, chiropractor, and pretty much anything else you could possibly imagine that could somehow be tied to pregnancy.

As you can imagine, this portion can get extremely expensive. Interestingly enough, the average for expenses for surrogates that are close with their intended parents versus those who are strangers are drastically different. And I imagine so… I don’t think my best friend is going to go on a crazy shopping spree with my credit card for thousands of dollars of maternity clothes. She will go and get what she needs, plus I’ll push her to get a little more. Same with a house keeper etc. This is the part of the legal contract that is actually helpful as it stipulates the maximums allowed that the surrogate can charge.

All receipts and payments to the surrogate needs to be kept and tracked. Our lawyer and others have noted that we will most certainly be audited when it comes to tax time, so keep track of everything. To date, no one has yet been charged under this specific law so the boundaries around what are considered ‘expenses’ has yet to be decided in court. We don’t really want to be the first case… so we are following the rules precisely.

Step 12: Legal… again. ($$$- Around $5,000 – $10,000)

At around 24 weeks gestation, you get in contact with your lawyer again. When it comes time to give birth, it is important that the Hospital know the information surrounding this agreement as well as who the biological parents are. The lawyer starts correspondence with the Hospital to ensure they are aware and on board with our arrangement. Additionally, we need to ensure that all medical decision making for the baby, once born, is at our discretion. Legally, the baby is still considered to be the surrogate’s- so we need to ensure that the Hospital is ok with the surrogate having the authority to make decisions about herself and the baby while it is inside of her, but once born, all medical directives for the child would come from us.  Complicated.  But important.

heroStep 13: Have the baby. (OHIP covers the costs of the birth the same as any other in Ontario)

Suddenly the birth process sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

Here is the part where you surrogate actually endures labour and gives birth to your child. Yep, as I mentioned before. She’s an angel or a super hero.  Or both.

Step 14: Who’s baby is it? ($$- Legal fess cover off some of the above but you also need to pay for DNA testing etc)

Legally, until proven otherwise, it is the surrogate’s baby. We would initiate DNA testing of the child, the intended parents, and the surrogate to get confirmation of the biological origin of the child. This takes a little bit of time to send off and then receive the results. In the meantime, you cannot register the child’s birth as registering him/her in the intended parents names isn’t allowed, and registering him/her in the surrogates name would be false. And so you wait…

Step 15: DNA Results are in! Now off to court…!? (Covered in the legal expenses referenced above)

Once the DNA results come in, the lawyer now has to prepare what is called a Declaration of Parentage. This is a formal procedure in which the lawyer presents our situation to the judge along with the surrogacy contract and DNA results and petitions the court to put the intended parents (us!) names on the birth certificate. This normally happens in a closed door session in front of a judge.

The second step to this is a Declaration of Non-Parentage. This is sort of the opposite procedure. In Ontario, believe it or not, it is legal to have more than two persons names on the birth certificate. So adding our names would mean that it would now be listed as the surrogate plus us. We then have to provide the court with the above declaration to get the surrogates name off the birth certificate so there is no further legal link to the child.

Congratulations! You now have a baby AND the law recognizes that s/he is yours!

Now time to register the birth and celebrate.

Oh… and explain to the world that even though you didn’t have a baby bump, the baby is actually yours biologically.

Step 16: Have the Gov’t Screw you Again ($$$$- Cost of my top-up benefit and EI for ‘maternity’ portion of your leave from work.

Because I didn’t actually give birth to the child, I am only entitled to receive gov’t assistance (read: Employment Insurance) for the parental leave portion of the year (37 weeks). I can choose to take a full year off work, however, I do not receive anything for the ‘maternity’ (15 weeks) leave portion.

This has actually gone to the uppers courts previously as it was challenged that this is discriminating against those who are unable to bare children (cause it sure is… Haven’t we been through enough?  Since I can’t bare children, and you already won’t pay for me to try to have them, you then won’t give me the same benefits as a birth mother.  Nice). The court rules that the maternity portion is specifically for recovering from childbirth, it is the parental section is for raising the child.

To add insult to injury, my job allows for maternity/parental leave ‘top-up” to top up my salary to a percentage during my leave. However, the language reads that it will top-up the difference between my EI and my wages (to a percentage)  … So if I don’t get EI, I don’t get top-up.

But hey, I’ve got the child of our dreams- so I guess I’ll focus on the bigger picture.

 

 

The Family Meeting

babyWell it’s official.  We are seriously thinking about surrogacy.

After our hearts stopped pounding, and we digested the ridiculous price tag attached, I felt this glimmer of hope.  Hope.  A word that I haven’t used to describe us in this situation for a very long time.  Hope that we will one day have a family of our own.

In our excitement after our appointment where we got approved, I got a little ahead of myself and actually booked Jen for a consult the follow week at the clinic.  She said she’s be interested in this… but it was technically pending a whole lot details getting sorted out first.  We called Jen and figured the best way to chat about this all was to meet and go over all of our concerns and questions.

From there a dinner date was set.  Milestones was the pick and we had about three days to try and compile all of the questions we could think of to discuss to make sure we were on the same page.  We had both done research independantly, but now it was time to sit down and actually work through how this would work.

We decided to make independent lists then go over them together at dinner.

Two days later, and one day before our dinner date, we had compiled all of the questions we could think of.  We scoured the internet for as much information and blogs to read about the process and the tough questions the clinic would be asking us.  I called Jen that night and told her our questions were done.  She laughed and said her were too…  We decided to exchange questions so that we could prepare and think about our answers before we actually met tomorrow.

It turned out about 90% of our questions and concerns were identical.  Ok good.  We are definitely on the same page.  Well, sort of.  We have the same worries, but we may not have the same answers.

I couldn’t sleep all night thinking about all of our conversations and trying to read what was really going through her mind.  I fully believed that she thought she was going to do this… but I kept waiting for the “it’s just too much” talk.  The very fact that she even offered to look into this is incredible… but the more we learned, the more complicated things got.  This was most definitely not just a simple offer.

I spent the entire day debating how tonight was going to go.  I called Dan even more than usual just to say hi and to ask him if he was nervous about tonight.  To him, this was like any other day.  To me, this was the biggest day ever!  I sometimes hate how nonchalant he can be about everything.  He just has this ‘everything will work out’ mentality.  I keep reminding him that so far, nothing has worked out.  But he still smiles and continues on.  When I don’t want to kill him for his continual positive outlook, I love him even more.

It was almost dinner and I started getting the butterflies in my stomach… I could not believe how nervous I actually was.  And more than that, I was internally freaking out that tonight was going to awkward.  Jen and I don’t do awkward.  In fact, I tell her everything- the good, the bad, and the very ugly.  But suddenly our friendship was about to be tested in the wierdest way yet and I almost felt it was a business transaction.

The three of us got a table and sat down together.  We ordered then both pulled out our lists… Jen and I expected that we would do all the talking.  But Dan, to our surprise, was right in there.  We figured, let’s do this.

We went down  our lists.  We started easy (ish).

Timing- what was she thinking? Did it matter?  Not really… she knew I didn’t want to wait another 12 years.

How many times do we try?  Three sounded like a good number. We could always change it later.

How many embryos do we transfer at once? One.  Less risky for Jen and the babies.

What doctor would we use (OBGYN)? Jen liked hers, but I want to deliver at the children’s hospital because of potential issues with a bleeding disorder.  We agree.  We’ll pick together but someone who works there.

Who would attend the appointments? We both agreed that we wanted it to be as if I was pregnant.  So if Dan would normally attend with me, then we’d both be there.

*Cue Jen nervously laughing here*… Uhhh, so I need to know.  Who will be in the delivery room- cause if Dan is, I need to start preparing for that now!  We laughed.  Yes, Dan wants to be there… if that works.  Dan pipes in- he has no plans to move from the head area.  Wonderful….!  LMAO

The questions continues with some basic stuff including life insurance, benefit plans, how expenses would work, how we’d like to pick lawyers, how the procedures would go, what medications did we think she’d be on etc.  I guess I shouldn’t have been that surprised.  We know everything about one another… and our answers were always on the same page.

I think the poor waiter got more than he bargained for if we was listening in on our conversations, but we just continued to fly through the questions and talk about all the logistics.  Insert a couple of hilarious and inappropriate jokes here and there… We were having a good time.  This was as far from awkward as could be.

We moved on to some of the harder questions.  The legality of everything.  We were well within the law doing this, but we also knew that once Jen gets pregnant, that any and all decisions about the baby were legally hers.  This brought us into difficult decisions.

Abortion- under what circumstances would we want to abort the pregnancy- Dan and I had had so many conversations about this.  All of the what if’s.  We knew that if something was wrong with the baby, it was still our baby.  We would have no intentions of ending the pregnancy.  We also knew Jen’s mentality was the same.  While this was a difficult conversation, it was an important one.  We all agreed that the only reason that we would consider termination of the pregnancy was if Jen’s life was in imminent danger.  Her health had to come first.  Ok, one hard one down… a couple to go.

Selective Termination- reducing the pregnancy if multiple babies- After the above conversation, we all knew we were on the same page.  We were only going to transfer one embryo, so the chances of multiples were very low, but we had to chat about it regardless.  Again, we agreed that the only way we would ever approach this was if Jen’s health was in imminent danger. 

Prenatal Testing- Dan and I knew that regardless of the results, we would want to go ahead and test the baby for potential issues.  Our rationale was that if we were to have a child with Down Syndrome, we would want to do the research ahead of time to learn as best as possible about our child.  Jen agreed.  But she was worried about the possible harm to the baby if we proceeded with an amniocentesis. This was something that she was not prepared to do.  To be honest, I think Dan and I, if we were in that situation, would need all the information we could get to make our decision.  But if this was her bottom line, this was not something that concerned us.  We respected this decision and agreed that under no circumstances would we proceed with an amnio. 

Ahhh… and my favourite.  Confidentiality- Who were we going to tell about all of this? I had just started writing my blog about a month before this meeting.  She knew that I was enjoying writing it and had an incredible out pouring of support from friends, family, and complete random people.  We decided that we would keep everything fairly under wraps until we actually decided that we were, for sure, going to be going ahead with this.  We decided that we wanted this pregnancy to essentially mirror exactly the same things that Dan and I would do if the baby was growing in my belly.  This would include belly pics and Facebook updates.  She was ok with this.  She was a little urked out by the idea of complete strangers knowing everything about her… so we decided to change her name on my blog.  This worked the best.  We agreed to a no-press rule.  Sounds silly, but as these things don’t happen all that often, they sometimes draw the attention of the media etc.  Nope, this was our arrangement- not something for entertainment. 

Dan was worried about what this might do to Jen and I.  We both laughed and said that was the lmarksast thing to worry about.  We’d been through some tough stuff, and we were confident that our friendship would make it through anything.  Jen wanted to talk about potential jealousy.  She had read a lot of blogs etc of woman having a hard time dealing with the other person being pregnant, not them.  I told her straight up that I hoped that wouldn’t be an issue- but at the first sign of turmoil, I’d be heading to counseling to work through everything.  We agreed.  We wanted to be as prepared as possible, but couldn’t anticipate everything.

After about two hours of laughing and joking about what we were about to get ourselves into, our dinners were finished, and so were our lists.  We had a good idea of the other persons concerns and worries… and felt like we were ok with moving one more step forward.  I told Jen about the doc appointment I booked and we made arrangements the following week to both go.

This was really happening….

 

 

Under the Microscope

 

journeyThink of the most invasive question that someone could ask you… Now imagine ten pages worth of them.  Yep, I don’t think there’s a chance of ever repaying Jen back.

After our dinner together, I smiled and let Jen know that, guess what?? I already booked her an appointment to go to the clinic for literally the next week.

As it was her first appointment at the clinic, I wanted to go with her.  That meant she had to do a lot more planning than most for simple appointments.

Next came the forms… The clinic had handed me a form for Jen to fill out and bring with her to her first appointment.  I didn’t really look at much initially as we had to first sit down with each other to discuss all the logistics.  After the dinner, I actually had a look at the forms.  Ummm… Maybe I should have given her this thing right then and there.  It pretty much asked anything and everything.

I called her and warned her about the form.  Then I start reading the questions.  It started out innocent enough asking about her cycles- When did they start?  How many days do they last?  How is the flow?  For how long? Any pain?  What type of PMS symptoms, if any?

Then it moved on from there.  Us, being us, decided to fill it mostly out over the phone.  I’d BBM her the questions, she’d send back the answer.  The questions got more invasive the further through the form you got.  How many sexual partners in the last year?  Did any of them have an STI? Did any of them have a blood transfusion?  Did any of them do illicit drugs during this period?

How about you?  Do you use illicit drugs?  Do you, or have you been paid to have sexual relations with someone?  Do you, or have you exchanged goods for any sexual relations?  Do you smoke?  Smoke what?  How often?  Ever?  Where do you live?  Who with?  What type of water is your home one- city, cistern, or well?

The questions continued…  Most of which we just laughed at.  Seriously, if Jen was a closet prostitute or drug addict, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be asking her to carry our child.  But still, the fact that they ask all of the above means that someone, somewhere during this process answered yes to some of these questions… sketchy!

Back to Jen- Her pregnancies:  How long did it take for her to conceive?  Was she on any medications during the pregnancy?  How long did each pregnancy last? Any miscarriages? How long was the labour?  Vaginal or via C-Section?  With medications of without?  You get the picture.

Some of my favourite questions included, “Do you suffer from any nipple discharge?”  (Is that actually a thing?)  “Did the intended parents offer you any money or other goods in exchange for your services?”  (If I did, I don’t think she’d check yes… duh.  But no, fertility clinic, we are following the rules.)

The hardest part of the form was the section with basically a chart.  It had every medical condition or symptom you have EVER heard of and then had a chart to check off if you, your siblings, your parents, or grandparents had ever suffered from the following.  Well, the self, siblings and parents parts are easy… but add in a zillion questions involving 4 grandparents that you really weren’t intending on telling this whole story to until it was for sure, life gets a tad more complicated.

The chart was finally finished and we walked to the clinic the following week. We sat in the first waiting room chatting.  No one chats in the fertility clinic waiting room.  That is basically forbidden.  Screw it- we’d be through enough and I was breaking all of the unwritten rules.  We were just two best friends catching up on life.

We get called in and I stand up to go into the room with Jen.  The nurse kindly tells me that this was personal, and to wait in the waiting room.  Jen laughs and says, that I filled out most the form, so I can come.  Onwards we go into the little room waiting to be grilled.

The doc got there and asked a couple questions about who we were to each other, and how we got here.  He then said that we’d be going over a very detailed family, menstrual, sexual, health, and personal health history and asked me to leave.  Jen, again, said that I was more than welcome to stay.  I believe her comment was something to the effect of “If her baby is going to grow in me, then she needs to know what in this form too!”.  His eyebrow raised slightly, then said ok and we went over the entire form verbally.  Jen barely squirmed once under direct examination about her sexual and health history since the day she was born.  She deserved a medal.

Next he says is the pelvic exam- umm… Jen asked me what would be involved, I said just questions… she’s gunna kill me.  I winked and said that we’re close enough so I didn’t think I needed to see the inside of her uterus.  We agreed.  I waited back in the waiting room.

After a couple of minutes, and with everyone’s clothes back on, I got called back into the room.  They said that based on the information given today, they had a small concern about a family history item and that they wanted to refer her to specialist.  The theory here was that they wanted no additional risk put on Jen.  Fair enough, but we laughed that she had made it through 2 great pregnancies of her own…  Regardless, off to the specialist she was to go.

From there, the RE explained the process.  She was to do a whole pile of tests including a sonohystogram, a full panel of blood work, and day three blood work and ultrasounds to check on her hormone levels.  After all the above tests come back, along with the ok from the specialist, we could come back and review.  Then if she passed the test, we’d be on to step 2: the Pysch appointments.

I cannot believe this is actually happening!

 

 

 Us + Jen + The Shrink

 

Psych appointments.  Fun.

So in order for the clinic to move forward with the approval of surrogacy, they apparently want to make sure that both we, the intended parents, and Jen, the carrier, are sane.  Fair enough I guess.  But asking your best friend to head into the psychologist to be evaluated is not a normal friend request.

Again, Jen took it in stride.  Dan and I were up first.  This was the same doc that we had seen several times in helping us to deal with everything that was going on.  He was a nice guy that had provided us support and help when we were in need of it previously… and we felt very comfortable with him.  We walked into the appointment hand in hand and sat down.

This appointment felt different.  It felt like we had to say the right things so that we would ‘pass’.  I wasn’t sure what a right thing to say was.  I had already sat in this chair and spilled my heart out.  He knew about my history with depression.  He knew about our struggles.  He knew about my previous break downs after bad news after bad news.

Wait- did that make us not ‘pass-able’?

We sat down.  I suddenly started to get nervous. He smiled and told us to relax.  And the next words out of his mouth were magic to my ears.  He said, “Adele, we have had the opportunity to discuss your upbringing, your struggles, and feelings throughout the other sessions, so I’m really just hoping to talk about Dan today”.  HA!  Score!

Plus, hell, he is the sane one out of both of us!  He is my rock.  The one who always has something funny to say to make me laugh or smile.  The only who always sees the bright side.  Plus, Dan talking about his feelings was a rare opportunity… I felt like I just scored tickets to a good movie.  I say back and my heart rate slowed back to normal.

Dan lost his Father in a tragic car accident when he was 5.  He has very few memories of him… and mostly fills in the blanks with stories and pictures from others.  The doc asked him about how it was growing up without a father and how that played out.  He then brought up his Mom…  Dan’s Mom passed in 2008 of colon cancer.

While it wasn’t easy for him to talk about, he explained in detail about his Mom’s passing and how is affected the family.  He spoke about his closeness to his older sister and the important role she now plays in our lives.

Listening to him talk about his life made me really sit back and think…  Dan has not had an easy go at life this far, yet his outlook remained so bright.  He is truly an incredible guy.  Not once does he play the ‘woe is me’ card, instead, he has ensured that his life experiences assisted to build him into the man he is today.  (a pretty awesome man, I would add!)

The appointment was supposed to be an hour.  After about half an hour, he asked about he felt about my best friend carrying our child.  He laughed and talked about his initial reaction and how we had come together to be genuinely excited about this new, and unique, opportunity.  We were both 100% full steam ahead.

After asking a couple ‘what if’s’ he seemed happy and sent us on our way.  I felt like stopping while walking out of his office and asking- wait, did we pass?  The answer, I knew, was that this was just step 1.wait

Step 2 was Jen’s appointment.  I called her as soon as she got home from her appointment (a week after ours).  She laughed and said he asked the same basic questions surrounding her life, her upbringing, her motivation for volunteering, how she felt this would affect her and her children, and what her fears were.

She said he visit went very well and she was out of there in about 40 minutes.  I took this to mean that this was good news.  If he didn’t think she was sane enough for this, chances are he wouldn’t have sent her packing with a smile and a handshake after 40 minutes.

Well today was a great day.  My best friend was indeed sane, and she wasn’t yet scared away from doing this!

Step 3: The next appointment was going to be the interesting one.  The final ‘pass’ was an appointment scheduled with the three of us to discuss the plan and moving forward.  This was the final session.  The three of us met in the waiting room at the clinic and were chatting and joking around.  No one in the waiting room knew quite what to do.  First off, people we talking- unheard of in a fertility clinic waiting room. Second, we actually sounded happy- again pretty damn odd.  And third, why was there THREE of us?  We got stared at and lots of questioning looks.

The doc called us in and onward we trod into his office.  Three chairs were set up in a nice little semi circle in front of his desk.  I took the middle seat seeing as I was the binding piece to this whole arrangement.  We sat down and all smiled at him.  I think the three of us were weirdly anxious/nervous.  A psych session with my best friend and my husband wasn’t exactly the most normal thing…

We talked about our plans, about our intentions surrounding the legal aspects, and how we hoped this process would move forward.  The doc asked us a lot of hard questions:

– How would it affect our friendship if it didn’t work?

– What would happen if she miscarried?

– Did we think that jealousy was going to be an issue during the pregnancy or afterwards?

-What we do if we disagreed about how to move forward?

Jen and I promptly answered all the questions.  There was no doubt, we were on the same page about everything.  We both answered in unison about what would happen if she miscarried- we both looked at each other and said how terrible we would feel for each other.  My concern was Jen feeling like she failed and holding that weight on her shoulders.  Her first concern was to ensure Dan and I would make it.

Would this effect our friendship?  Well, we couldn’t really get any closer.  And our first priorities were each others feelings.

The doc nodded at all of our answers, then after about half an hour, he chuckled and asked how Dan really felt about this all.  Dan looked at Jen and I and made some joke about getting a word in edgewise… He said he couldn’t be more supportive and happy about moving forward.  We knew we couldn’t be doing this process with anyone else other than Jen- and he said this.

With a nod, and a pen stroke, the doc said he thought we had covered everything and offered his services for us on our journey.  There was about 10 seconds of silence in which I blurted out- so does that mean we pass?  He shook he head and said he wasn’t giving us a pass or fail grade.  He felt like we had had the discussions we needed to have.  We had the right attitude, and we were being realistic with our plans.  So yes, he was giving us his blessing.

Dan got the bill (yes we have to pay for everything….!) and paid him while Jen and I walked out and high fived in the hallway.

This hurdle was cleared…. just a couple more to go!

 

 

Bah. Humbug.

-Late Fall 2013-

The hurry up and wait mantra that is my life needs to take a hike. Like seriously, have we not waited enough?

After getting the official OK from the clinic on pysch, we had got the gold stars on several hurdles.  But several remained.  Each of which took, you guessed it, more time.  Everything was going fabulously with the testing and Jen, but I’m not exactly a patient person…

The To Do list was getting shorter though.  Jen had to go and get the never-ending panel of every blood test known to man done  to ensure everything was A-ok.  I needed to get an appointment for a consult by an Anesthetist due to the fact that the drugs for the conscious sedation for the last egg retrieval didn’t touch me.  If this plan for a gestational carrier worked out, I would need to do another round of IVF to harvest more eggs, inseminate them with Dan’s sperm, then put them into Jen.  That meant another egg retrieval for me.  And if there was one thing that I knew, it was that there was no way I could possibly endure another retrieval with no drugs.

We got the requisitions for Jen’s  blood, and I had a consult sent over to McMaster Hospital.  Now we waited for them to call me back.

In the meantime, it appeared that my entire newsfeed on Facebook decided to get pregnant.  Ultrasound pictures, posts about baby’s kicking, and baby showers were pure torture.  While I am sane enough to know that the chance that those people got pregnant and are posting those pictures and status’ solely to make me want to jump out a window was low, it didn’t matter.  I would come home from work and have a meltdown almost every day as someone new was calling us or posting about their good news.  The ones that really got to me were the ones who got pregnant when we started trying over 2 years ago, had their baby, and were now pregnant with their next one.  Yay for them (insert irrationally grumpy sarcasm here).

I desperately needed a break.  The problem, however, was that we had now spent over $60,000 on fertility treatments (with nothing but mental scarring to show for it) and we didn’t have a penny to spend on a ‘vacation’.  My family has a cottage in Muskoka, so Dan and I talked about trying to just get away there to relax.  The secondary problem was that Dan had just opened Pita Pit in the summer and couldn’t exactly just take off to the cottage for any number of days.  Cue another breakdown.

My parents, knowing a break was exactly what we needed, suggested an offer I couldn’t refuse.  My Mom goes to Barbados for work, and would be heading down there for a week the last week in November.  If I could get it off work and pay for my flight, I could bunk with her in her room, and she would cover the cost of my meals.  She would be working most the time, but at least I could relax beachside.  Really??  This was amazing!  Mom and I agreed this would be my baby-free vacation- a week where I could relax and just forget about everything else!

Dan and I figured out how to pay for the flight knowing how important and desperate I was for a trip.  I sent an email to my manager at work and noted that it was last minute, but was there any chance it would work?  He approved it!  I packed everything up and off I went.  The weather was gorgeous and the resort we stayed at was perfect.  Dan was at home working- and frankly a vacation without your husband isn’t wonderful- but this was still a week away from anything baby.

Day 2 of 8 my Mom hands me her phone while on the beach.  Someone from work was calling her about something, but wanted to say hi to me.  Sure- it turned out to be a good friend and I happily said hi!  He continued to talk and said that he wanted to share some news- he and his wife were pregnant.  He wanted to let me know before he told everyone at work so I wouldn’t find out through the grapevine.  So he called me in Barbados to tell me.  Thoughtful…. except I was supposed to be away from this all.  Plus, he already had 3 kids- come on!  I swallowed hard and congratulated him.  I was genuinely happy…. but devastated for me.  That was all it took.  I left the beach in tears and went back to my room to try to relax and enjoy the weather.  It worked, sort of.

By the next day I was calmed down again and ready to enjoy my vacation!  I unpacked several books and started some hardcore reading on the beach.  After dinner, I checked my email.  Another friend wanted to let me know about their wonderful news of being pregnant personally before they posted it on Facebook.  At least she wasn’t in the room as I burst out crying while I wrote a congrats email back. Yes, they will make great parents….  Recovery needed again.

A friend of mine lives in Barbados with her boyfriend, and I couldn’t wait to see them!  They had me over for a sleepover for a couple nights and ended up driving me to the airport to go home.  It was a perfect end to my trip and I was so excited to get to catch up.  After spending the afternoon together, we went for dinner.  After dinner, my friend looked exhausted.  She looked at her bf and said that she wanted to tell me, even though it was so early, as I was there- and she didn’t just want to email me when I got home.  They were expecting.

This is where I smile and congratulate them!…. Expect instead I turned into a blubbering idiot.  I have never been so embarrassed in my life!  I tried so hard not to cry.  So hard.  Instead I ended up crying on their couch after they told me the most exciting news of their lives.  When did I turn into this terrible of a person?  How could I do this to such great friends?  I apologized profusely and excused myself until I could at least fake pull myself back together.  When did I turn into such a pathetic, selfish, and terrible person?

I have never. ever. ever. been so embarrassed at my actions.  I tried so hard for the next day or so to make it up to them.  I just couldn’t control myself.  They forgave me and said they understood… but still.  Wow.  I’m an ass.

I flew home and had to tell Dan all about my depressed self and how 8 days of vacation turned into somehow 3 baby announcements.  We hugged and decided to focus on all of the great news we had moving forward with Jen.  This was going to work for us.

The next night we had my cousin and my parents over for dinner.  After dinner my cousin seemed to be dragging her feet in leaving until my parents left.  I got a pit in my stomach as I just knew.  Another one…. prepare myself for the incoming news. My parents left and she sat down on our couch to let us know her and her husband’s great news.  She was just 12 weeks and planned on telling the rest of the extended family at our family Christmas.  I held myself together until she backed out of our driveway and then I just collapsed.  She was the last person in the world we expected this news from.  Dan carried what was left of me up the stairs and got me into bed.  Anti-anxiety pills later, I could finally put words together.

But I LOVE Christmas.  LOVE it.  Obsessed with it really.  And now our family Christmas would be focused on baby talk.  I know, I sounds completely and utterly selfishly crazy.  But mentally, I didn’t think I could do it.  I just couldn’t go.  Maybe I’d get ‘sick’… I don’t know.  But with 2 weeks left until the party, I couldn’t do it and embarrass myself all over again a la Barbados. Dan said to wait it out, and we could talk about it another day.  With tears in both of our eyes, Dan held me until I feel asleep.

I ended up going off sick from work as I just could not seem to pull myself together.  All I could see each time I left my home was happy families, pregnant couples, and kids playing in the snow.  My solution was to stay in bed all day and drown my sorrows in my pillow.  The worst part was that I knew that everything regarding surrogacy was actually going well for us.  Yet I couldn’t seem to focus on the positives… just the negatives.

xmas

 

This Christmas was going to be a write off.  One to forget about and pretend it didn’t happen.

My obsession for Christmas had very quickly turned into social anxiety and a constant stream of negative thoughts.  No, I’m not happy so hurry up and get this holiday over with.

 

 

 Bah Humbug- Part 2

— December 2013 —

It seems that every single person in my life now has a new born or is expecting one. The Christmas posts on Facebook continue and I keep asking myself when I turned into this bitter person?

Normally, most people that meet me would choose a variety of words to describe me – high energy, won’t stop talking, bubbly, hyper – but not bitter. Yet, even I know that I have gone from being an upbeat mid-20’s girl to a bitter, ungracious wreck.

Now, some of you are now thinking… ‘Well she’s been through a lot. It’s understandable.’ Well let me enlighten you – here is a glimpse into some of my worst moments as a human being. It wasn’t pretty.

Refusing to leave my office at work for fear of talking to someone… pretty much anything these days ended in a rant about how terrible my life was, how I had no money from fertility, and how we were never getting a child.

An example of me at my lowest…
I had joined the local gym and was attending with my Sister in law and a good friend. We did this in an effort to get fit, have fun (Zumba!), and enjoy some time out of the house. Yes, a distraction was needed. One evening after a work out, we headed back to change room to clean up before going home. In it were a couple of women chatting about whether or not they should have another baby. Keeping my head down and trying my very best to get out of there before I opened my mouth, I scurried to get my runners off and my coat on. Alas, I couldn’t do it in time. Cue one woman saying, “You know, I was nauseous… not for 3 months, but for almost 9 months. Now that is enough to make sure you take your birth control.” That was it. I turned around, grabbed my coat and said loud enough for them to here- “Boo-F*cking- Hoo” and left. My sister-in-law’s eyes almost popped out of her head. She not so gently pushed me out of the change room in a hurry. Classy Adele, classy.

Posts on Facebook continued… now, anyone and everyone that has a child is so excited about having their kid at Christmas. Pictures and quotes about how Christmas ‘isn’t Christmas’ until you see it through the eyes of a child, children’s Christmas concerts, and matching outfits were enough to make me crawl into bed for weeks.

Dan did his best to force me out. And worked on talking me back into our Family Christmas celebration- normally the highlight of my Christmas season. Was I being irrational? I was so terrified that the pregnancy announcement would turn into baby talk for the rest of the evening. I knew that I wasn’t great at keeping my ‘outbursts’ in lately, and the last thing I wanted to do was to make a fool of myself at a family Christmas. Nope, my bed was a much safer place.

Dan staged a mini intervention. Christmas was my favourite part of the year. It always has been and I start planning for it in August each year. Yes, this year was harder, but think of the progress we are making with surrogacy! We would hopefully have our little one in our arms by next Christmas! Ok, he had a point. I DO love Christmas. I love buying gifts I know everyone will love, I love decorating, singing carols… Maybe I just needed to be careful at certain events and allow some breathing room between me and Facebook. Yes. Plus, I was so excited for my cousins’ pregnancy- they would make great parents! I was not going to ruin this.

Head up, shoulders back, and tears stored at least one layer deeper, I was going to make it through Christmas.

bitter

I attended each Christmas celebration. Smiled nicely at those with protruding baby bellies, coo’ed at the newborns, and kept my shit together until getting in the car home each night. And I did enjoy most of them. They ended with a woe is me pity party at the end, but only Dan got to see those.

Frankly, looking back, I’m shocked Dan didn’t either have me committed or throw my ass out. But he didn’t. He hugged me tighter and tighter. Feeding my anti-anxiety pills when needed, and talked me back into reality. This man is indeed a hero. And if this isn’t true love, then I don’t know what is.

Christmas flew by without any major hitches…. We spent time as a family, gave gifts, and tried to give my head a shake and be grateful for the countless blessings we did have. Yes, blessings. The month of December was harder than some for focusing on the good, not the bad. But January was coming.

January meant the final medical clearance (hopefully!) for Jen to be our surrogate. This also meant the results from my appointment with anesthesia at McMaster so we would know how to proceed with the sedation around egg retrieval. This meant we could literally be pregnant by February… and baby by November! Things were happening. As quick as we could make them. A Churchill baby was certainly at the end of this long trying and bitter saga.

 

— Early January 2014 —

2014 is going to our year.  I just know it.

 

After being approved by everyone and jumping every possible hoop, Jen/we are ready to go.  We now have to set up our meeting to sign the consents at the clinic.  (Again, inside my head I scream- this is really happening!)

 

This appointment requires all three of us to be there and go through all of the legal paper work etc with the clinic.  The clinic has now received our surrogacy contract from our lawyers, all of Jen’s blood tests back, her test results back, and our pysch evaluation/approval.  I called and booked us in for our appointment mid-January- the soonest they could get us in.  It has also been one month from the time the clinic got my anesthesia information from the hospital so they would have a plan in place for my egg retrieval. Fabulous.

 

This appointment didn’t come without a big old financial price tag.  One would think signing some forms wouldn’t break the bank.  Well… they’d be wrong.  For this appointment, we had to pay ________________

 

The day after booking the appointment I get a call from the IVF nurse.  She is needing to change the appointment as whomever booked it didn’t book it with the right ppl.  Okay.  Frustrating as arranging these appointments so three people, with three different jobs, could all be there wasn’t easy.  But we would make it work.  She started listing off days and we finally found one that we could arrange to make work.

 

She then notes that she wants to go through the check list to ensure we have everything ready.  She rambles through all of our appointments and documents that she has received.  She then stops at Jen’s basic blood work.  They haven’t received it.  Ok… well she did it over 2 months ago.  I know cause I was on the phone with her when she was there.  The IVF nurse starts saying how we can’t move forward until we have everything.

 

Yes, we get it.  But we did the blood work.  Can she check again?  Nope.  Not there.  She then says if we don’t get it before the appointment we would, again, need to reschedule.  The next appointment however was another 3 weeks after the first one.  Well in Feburary.

 

You HAVE to be kidding me.  Ok, I call Jen all frantic and she then runs across the world to get her new blood requisition and get it done that day so we would have it all back.  It’s not like we have to work or anything… :S  We make it work.  She even texts me a pic of the needle in her arm for ‘proof’ so the clinic doesn’t say it’s our fault!  Again, Jen is my hero.

 

It’s weird being somewhat helpless.  Being able to run around and get everything sorted out yourself is one thing, but asking someone else to drop everything and run is another.  Especially after she is already agreeing to do the most selfless act in the world.

 

I call the IVF nurse back and say she did the blood work, it should be back in time, and we should be ready to go for the appointment.  Just before I hang up, I said that I’m looking forward to this cycle as having full anesthesia during the egg retrieval is going to make all the difference! 🙂

 

… she pauses….  uhhhhhh…. right.  We did get that back from the anesthesia clinic, she says.  Then notes that she is going to put that on the agenda for this Friday’s RE check in with the clinic.  WHAT?  It had been a month since they got the report and they haven’t done anything with it?

 

Perhaps the clinic missed the point where we wanted to get pregnant.  And we had already been trying for over 2 years now… Plus our schedule was now based on my and Jen’s schedule (aka our bodies!) so not having the right info on one day could make the difference between a cycle in February or March.

 

So frustrating…. Obviously upset I asked her if that was going to hold up this cycle.  She said that she didn’t know and would have the RE’s look at it this week.

 

Wonderful.

 

I get I’m impatient and excited to get started, but waiting around for the clinic to do their job wasn’t in my waiting plan.  Pissed, I call Dan and Jen to vent about their incompetence.  They both being me back sane-ish and tell me it will all work out.  Yes, this was alllllll going to work out.

 

 

….. Monday, after the above noted ‘Friday RE Meeting’, and 5 weeks after the clinic received my report …..

 

I called the clinic and asked to speak with the IVF nurse.  After the amount of money we have spent at this clinic, I’m anxious for answers re: the new plan for my egg retrieval.

 

She answers and assures me that the RE’s discussed my situation at their Friday meeting.  It was decided that another RE, one who’s cousin was an anesthetist, was going to take the lead on this one and find out what we could do.

 

Me:  Okay, did she have a projected time line for this?

Her:  I don’t know. It is now up to the other RE.  She is going to handle it.

Me: Okay, but did she think we could be on track for a February cycle start date?

Her: She didn’t know.  We would have to wait and see what this RE would come up with.

Me: I’m just frustrated now that you’ve had this info for over a month and nothing has been done.

Her:  We are working on it.  That’s all I can tell you.

 

Wonderful.  Just wonderful.

 

 

….. Monday, the following week after the above conversation, and 6 weeks after the clinic received the report ….

 

Another call to the IVF nurse.  I hadn’t heard from her at all with any updates so I called and left a message to see if there was anything I could do?  Any calls I could make?

 

She called back after a couple hours and said that there was no update.  Last she heard, the RE was going to talk to her cousin…

 

Me: Ok, did she have a time line?  Or even a meeting date with him?

Her: She didn’t know.

Me: Ok, is there a way to find out a projected time line?

Her: She didn’t know.

 

Fabulous.

 

Next week is our consent appointment and hopefully, meeting with our RE, we would get answers.

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