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I feel awful. Just absolutely awful.

One of the girls who co-hosted my baby shower (let’s call her Liz) came over to our house to spend some time with Nina and us a couple of nights ago. We got to talking about how we are the first ones in our group of friends to have a baby and so we’re not really sure how the dynamic of the group and our involvement with our friends will change now that Nina’s in the picture. It’s not that we don’t want to hang out with our friends, it’s just that we don’t want to impose and bring her to events where she’s not welcome.

Liz pointed out that another couple in our extended group of friends is currently pregnant and while Mark and I aren’t very close with them (because they’re newer to our group and we just don’t know them well yet), at least it’s another couple that obviously is open to kids. Then she went on to mention another couple (we’ll call them Joe and Mary) in our group of friends and said something to the effect of “they’d have kids if they could.” I’d heard that this couple had some financial struggles a while back, so I asked for clarification on her statement, asking if she meant that finances were holding them back from having kids. She kind of stopped and looked guilty and said, “Oh, I thought that Mary had told you about it.” I could see the recognition in her face that she wasn’t really going to be able to get out of the situation without telling us what she meant, so she said “They’ve been working with a fertility doctor for the past two years. Mary seemed to give the impression that it’s an issue with Joe.”

At this point I could feel my face flushing. I haven’t told Liz, nor anyone else in this group of friends about our struggle to conceive. I realize that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t already know; our friends are pretty sharp people and it wouldn’t be unthinkable that one of them put two and two together and figured us out, but we haven’t told any of them.

I tried my best not to give anything away, but I’m sure that my increasingly red face probably said more than I did…it’s just a question of whether or not Liz noticed. And at this point, I’m not sure that I really care anymore if people know what we went through. My motivation for not telling people was mostly because I didn’t want to have to deal with people asking questions of us all of the time, asking for updates on treatment and cycles and what the terminology meant. Now that we are past that, I feel much less protective of the entire thing. But regardless of how I feel, it wasn’t the time to come out to Liz, certainly not without discussing it with Mark first. I tried to play it off nonchalantly by saying how awful it was that they were having difficulties and the subject was quickly changed to something else.

But it ate at me. Mary was one of the co-hosts of my baby shower, throwing it at her house. I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult that must have been for her. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for her to have me around the past 6 months in my pregnant state. I count myself extremely lucky in the fact that we were the first ones of our main group of friends to be pregnant, which meant that I didn’t have to deal with any of my friends getting pregnant before me. I can only imagine how difficult that was for her. In fact, we actually told all of our friends about the pregnancy at their house. It was a sports themed movie night and Mark and I put together a little photo slideshow of baseball games that we’d been to with our friends and at the end we had a slide that said “Baby L coming soon to a centerfield near you…anticipated draft date – February 2010.” As soon as that last slide came up, Mary whipped around in her seat with her jaw dropped and just stared at me. I thought her reaction was a bit strange at the time. While I figured that she was just surprised at the news, a small part of me wondered if there was more going on there than just surprise. She didn’t look hurt or upset or anything, so I assumed that I was just reading into things maybe a bit too much.

Over the course of my pregnancy she was always interested in what was going on with me and talked frequently about her cousin who was due around the same time as me. The fact that she seemed perfectly OK with both my and her cousin’s pregnancy had me pretty well convinced that I had completely projected my infertile feelings into her reaction to our pregnancy news. Even though her potential infertility had crossed my mind, it still completely took me by surprise when Liz said they’d been seeing a fertility doctor for two years. My heart broke for them, and specifically her. I wanted nothing more than to drive over to their house and give her a big hug and tell her that I understand. I wanted to take back my fantastic baby shower to spare her the pain of the experience. I wanted to take back all of the pregnancy talk that I did when I was around them. I want for her to know that she’s not alone and I’m there for her if she wants to talk to someone who can relate. I want to be there for her if she needs it.

The shock of finding out that they are dealing with infertility makes me realize just how common infertility is. And it made me realize that just because I always felt like we were the only ones in our group of friends that had to deal with the absolute hell that is infertility, I couldn’t possibly have been further from the truth. And it made me realize that unless people let you in, you may never know the pain that lies beneath.

My closest friend from my support group is THAT girl. You know, the one who had some absolutely odd defying thing happen to her and people talk about her anecdotally like “My best friend’s, husband’s, sister’s cousin…” Yes, I know her.

I met Jill about a year and a half ago at my first support group meeting. She had been trying to get pregnant for a little over two years at that point and there was absolutely no explanation for why they weren’t succeeding. Her willingness to honestly and openly share her feelings about what she was going through and her ability to see the humor in something that, by definition, was anything BUT funny drew me in. While I love all of the girls in my support group, she was the one I was rooting for the most, she was the one I most wanted to see succeed. I could envision her as just the best mom that any child could ever want, and the thought of her not having that opportunity broke my heart.

As the group floundered through last summer, trying desperate last ditch attempts at IUI, or special diets or herbs, Jill and I were preparing for our first IVF cycles in October. October came and went, my IVF was cancelled due to poor response and I was devastated. Part of what helped me through the disappointment of my cancelled cycle was being able to follow along with Jill’s cycle and be a cheerleader for her. Her cycle went great, and though she ended up with a positive beta, it was low and didn’t double properly; she had a chemical pregnancy. While she was heartbroken at the outcome, she picked up the pieces and was looking forward to cycling again soon. She was part of a shared risk program and was happy to have two more fresh tries left.

As she and I were getting ready for our second attempts at IVF, we found out that another woman in our group would be trying her first IVF cycle at the same time. It was so exciting to have the support of real life people during that time and knowing that we could potentially be pregnant together and have kids right around the same age was fun to daydream about. Right before Jill was going to start her cycle, she got a call from her clinic telling her that her cycle would be a frozen one, not fresh, since she had one embryo frozen from her previous attempt and her shared risk contract required her to use her frozen embryos before doing another fresh cycle. She was beyond depressed about the news, thinking that her one little embryo couldn’t possibly have a chance and it would just be a waste of time and money. We did our best to cheer her up and give her hope for her one embryo and we all went through our two week waits together cheering each other on along the way. Though things didn’t work out for me or the other woman, we were ecstatic to find out that Jill’s one little embryo did indeed take and she was pregnant with a nice high beta.

Everything appeared to be going well and Jill’s first ultrasound showed her baby with a healthy heartbeat and her doctor told her that her chance of miscarriage dropped from 20% to 8%. She was feeling confident about things and was therefore absolutely shocked to find at the next ultrasound that her baby’s heart had stopped beating. She went through a horrible miscarriage and eventual D&C in the ER and came out of the whole situation as just a shell of Jill that I had known before. I felt absolutely awful in that I didn’t know what to do for her or how to support her best. I did the only thing that I could think of and reminded her of all of the really great things that she had in her life and what a fantastic partner her husband was through everything. She decided to focus on those things and scheduled a vacation for her and her husband in Mexico.

Meanwhile, she was having her betas checked with her OB to make sure that her HCG levels were dropping appropriately and also met with her RE to discuss the next steps. Her RE wanted to do an SHG to make sure that nothing was left in her uterus and then move forward with another IVF cycle, which Jill agreed to. Surprisingly, the SHG showed a polyp that hadn’t been seen previously, and the RE felt that it would be best to remove the polyp before going forward with the next IVF cycle. The hysteroscopy was scheduled for a Friday and on Thursday Jill had another check to make sure that her beta was still dropping from the miscarriage.

Amazingly, miraculously, her beta, which had been below 50 for a couple of weeks came back at nearly 600. The “polyp” that they found during the SHG was, in all likelihood, her baby implanting itself in her uterus. She and her husband had sex just once since the miscarriage, on Valentine’s day, no less, and now she was pregnant. Completely naturally.

In the early morning hours on Sunday, my friend Jill, who had been pregnant 3 times in less than 6 months and suffered through more heartache than any woman should ever have to endure, finally saw her deepest desires come true. She gave birth to her beautiful, healthy son. Her Facebook status says that she is in love with her little miracle, and I know that nothing could be more true. My heart could not be any happier for her right now.

Beyond my sheer joy for Jill and her family, her story gives me hope for all of the women who are struggling with infertility. We hear about women who conceive in the most unlikely scenarios, after years and years of trying. We want to believe that maybe, just maybe, one day we will be one of those women. While the women who get pregnant in such improbable ways are few and far between, they are out there. I know one of them. And that in itself gives me hope.

It’s a subject that nearly every infertility blogger writes about at some point. The reason why is simple: there is no avoiding it.

The positive that has come out of my struggle with fertility is that I have found myself surrounded by an amazing group of women, both on the internet though my buddy group and blog, and in my everyday life, through my real life support group. While all of the women who have been a part of my infertility journey have added something special and unique to the experience, it’s the women in my real life support group who have made the biggest impact on my life.

These are women who have been with me through thick and thin and can relate to the struggles that we’ve endured. We clicked as a group, in a way that I didn’t think was possible for a group of women brought together by one small common link. They were there to provide listening ears, arms for hugs and humor and invaluable laughs when I was down. They were there for me when I felt like there was no hope. There were there when it felt like no one else in the world could possibly understand. They provided hope and they understood. They picked me up when I was down and provided me with something to look forward to every two weeks. They became my friends. I always left our meetings feeling uplifted, refreshed, renewed and with the energy to face our next infertility battle.

And one by one, miracle by miracle, babies were conceived, grew for 9 months and were born. One by one, women realized the dream that they had been wishing for for months and sometimes even years. One by one the number of those still waiting for their miracle slowly decreased.

It seemed crude to compartmentalize the women into “haves” and “have nots,” but in reality there’s no other way to do it. The “haves” still wished and hoped for miracles, but this time for their friends, not themselves. The “have nots” desperately wished that it would be “their turn” next. Eventually the “haves” outnumbered the “have nots.”

Shortly before I became pregnant, I was discussing with one of the two remaining “have nots” how things were different with our group. While I knew that everyone was still rooting for us and I still felt supported, things just weren’t the same. I missed the common thread that we all had: trying to have a baby. We discussed potentially recruiting new members who could provide more of the “still in the thick of it” support. We discussed trying out a different local support group. We discussed meeting as just the three of us. In the end, we didn’t do any of those things. We agreed that our group, as it was in the past, as it was at that very moment, and as it would be in the future, was most important to us. The relationship that we had formed was unlike anything we thought that we could replicate with new members, a different group, or just as the three of us.

Eventually, and seemingly miraculously, I crossed over from the “have nots” to the “haves.” This meant that there we only two women left in our group still trying to become pregnant. Even though I never believed it would be possible, the pain and sorrow of the past two and a half years slowly started to fade away into the background. While I don’t think that I will ever forget how awful that time was for me, I can no longer feel with the same intensity what it was like to go through each and every day wanting and waiting. Unconsciously my heart has moved to a different place, a place that has forgotten the mire of infertility, a place where hope has replaced fear and dread. My heart aches for these women, but I can’t honestly say that my heart aches WITH them.

And that is what makes me feel so guilty. I always thought that if the day came that I was actually pregnant, that I would never forget. How could I? But now here I am. I’m finally on the other side, and everything that I thought would be true just isn’t. I feel like a traitor, like I abandoned my friends. It’s as though I traded what I wanted the most and sacrificed knowing, understanding and having the ability to support my friends who are still trying. And the part that makes me the saddest is that the two who are left are the two who have been trying the longest. One woman for the entirety of her marriage, nearly six years, and the other woman somewhere between four and five years. And both are nearing the end of their rope; ready to give up entirely on having children in any way. Sadly, none of the rest of the women in our group have ever been where these two women are now. Yes, we all dealt with the emotions of infertility, but none of us for as long as these two women, nor were any of us ever at the point of seriously considering a childless life. While I was never able to relate to the length of time that they’d been dealing with infertility, at least I was able to share in their emotions and feel the camaraderie of still being in the depths of infertility together. Now I can’t even provide them with that comfort.

I feel like a failure in that respect. I feel guilty that I have what they want, and even more than that, I feel as though I’m not able to bring them the comfort and support that they brought to me over the past year and a half, and that hurts. Every day it seems more and more apparent to me that the scars of infertility, while seemingly invisible, reach deeper than I could ever imagine.

For yesterday and today, at the very least, I can count myself as pregnant.

After the longest two and a half years of my life, I finally saw two pink lines on my test yesterday morning. To be quite honest, I would have been shocked, utterly shocked, if my test had been negative. Unlike every other two week wait that I’ve been through along this road, this time I’ve actually had real symptoms. I’ve been having a lot of pain in my right ovary, exactly like ovulation pain. I’ve also had very mild cramps on and off for the past few days, along with a “pulled muscle” feeling every time I rolled over in bed this weekend. To go from never experiencing these symptoms to all of them happening at once had me convinced that I must be pregnant.

I actually tested on Monday night after my acupuncturist stated that my pulses “couldn’t decide if they wanted to be slippery or not.” In TCM, a slippery pulse is a sign of pregnancy, so that coupled with my other symptoms drove me to testing. I used a crappy Equate test (one of those plus/minus ones) and there was definitely a line. Faint, but definitely there. I couldn’t tell if there was color or not though. I chalked it up as an evap, was slightly disappointed, and hoped for better results the next morning.

Yesterday morning I got up and tested right away and was really disappointed when a second line did not show up immediately. It took a while for the line to faintly begin to appear. Eventually it was to the point where I could definitely see it and was indisputably there, but was still what I would consider faint. Even though I knew better, I decided to pull out the big guns and do a digital. I really, really wanted to tell my husband that night if I were indeed pregnant, but given my horse’s ass performance the last time I thought I had a positive test, I wanted to be able to reassure him that I really, really was actually, for real this time, pregnant. The line on my Answer test was pretty faint, so I was pretty convinced that the digital would be negative, but I just couldn’t stop myself. I dipped the test and a few minutes later it read “PREGNANT.”

Even though I know a line is a line and two lines means you’re pregnant, I was still shocked to see those words. After everything that we’ve been through it just didn’t even seem possible that it could actually happen. Even with IVF, the holy grail of reproductive technology, I still felt that we’d end up on the wrong side of the stats. And I know that it is so early and there are no guarantees. For now I’m trying my best to enjoy being pregnant and not spaz out about everything, though I’ve already stupidly tested again and began to freak out about the fact that it is no darker than yesterday’s test. The coming and going of the symptoms also has me on edge and I begin to worry if I haven’t had any pain or cramps for more than a few hours. Rationally I know that tests can vary and don’t necessarily have any bearing on what’s actually going on, and I know that symptoms are bound to come and go, but sometimes it’s hard to believe that in your heart. I am trying to remind myself that what will be will be and I have absolutely no control over anything that happens from here on out.

And the waiting continues. Beta is on Friday, so if you can, please think strong beta numbers for me.

OK, so maybe not three of a kind, but three in total. I was shocked when we walked into the transfer room this morning and the doctor told us that we had three to transfer this morning. Shocked. I was in no way prepared for that. He handed us a picture of the one blast and two morulas that we would be transferring. I took a quick look and made a comment about how we couldn’t get away from the morulas. He said something that I didn’t really pay attention to, but then mentioned how the blast was a perfect 4AA and looked absolutely great. Having three to transfer with one of them deemed “perfect” definitely lifted my spirits.

Transfer went smoothly for the first time ever, I think mostly because I told them that I wanted them to use the stiffer catheter right off the bat. I laid on the table for a half hour and then off we went.

Let the waiting begin,

Five is all we have, once again. Over the past six months I’ve had 53 eggs sucked out of me, and only 13 of them made it to the next day. That’s not even a 25% fertilization rate. Typical rates are 60%-70%. I’m not even at HALF of what’s typical.

What is wrong with my body? Honestly. I’ve done everything right. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on acupuncture, changed my entire diet and am otherwise a healthy young woman. I’ve never smoked or done drugs and didn’t wait too long to try to have kids. I can’t possibly fathom what I could have done to have made this go any better. Why is my body betraying me like this?

I tried really hard to not set myself up for disappointment, but my reaction to this news clearly shows that I failed at that. I knew that based on the past two cycles that we probably wouldn’t get a whole bunch of embryos, but I still hoped that the five months of DHEA that I’ve been doing along with my diet modifications would have made a slight difference. Apparently not. It was all just a big waste of time, effort and money.

And I know that anything can happen, but right now I’m just not in that frame of mind, so please don’t tell me that things could still work out. I’m well aware of that and know that crazier things have happened, but for right now I just want to mope and complain and whine. This is the same crappy, disappointing news that I’ve gotten every other time and I’m just so sick of it. For once I just wanted it to be good news. GOOD good news. News that brings a smile to my face instead of tears to my eyes.

Don’t I deserve better than this?

I’m so looking forward to this being over and done with so that we can move on. I’m so over all of this and ready to move on.

We got 16 eggs today, which is a number I’m completely happy with. Of course 16 eggs today means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. What matters is tomorrow’s phone call, telling us how many fertilized and are growing. This is without a doubt my least favorite part of all of this and I’m absolutely dreading the call. My stomach starts turning even thinking about it.

But it is whatever it is and only time will tell. I hate waiting.

This morning I took my last stim shot ever. I will never again give myself a shot to stimulate my ovaries to make loads of eggs. It’s a strange feeling since IVF has pretty much been my life over the past year. Now we’re at the end of that road, and it’s been interesting for me to look back over the past year and see exactly where we came from and where we’ve been since.

About a year ago we started having serious discussions regarding next steps should our final IUI’s not be successful. I was surprised how quickly Mark was willing to jump on the IVF bandwagon, in fact, he was the one who convinced me that we should do it. I was hemming and hawing over the costs and how we couldn’t afford it and he’s the one who said “Screw it, let’s just do it. It’s only money and we can always make more. Having a family is more important.” His steadfast commitment to the process made it all that much easier for me to say yes to the whole thing. Had he not felt so passionately about going forward with IVF, I’m not sure where we would be now.

To be certain, I never expected us to be where we are now. There are so many women out there who can honestly say that they knew they would have issues trying to conceive, but I’m not one of them. Not once did I ever envision us having problems as I’ve always had regular cycles and I’m still “young.” Even after we started seeing an RE, I really thought it was just a matter of time before we were successful. A bit too optimistic perhaps, but I felt like if we kept trying, eventually it would be our turn. Surely IUI would be as far as we would have to go down the ART road. Maybe in my subconscious I knew it wouldn’t work for us because even as I was certain we would get pregnant from IUI, I was still busy researching IVF, just in case.

When our last IUI wasn’t successful, the transition to IVF was surprisingly easy, given the huge emotional, physical, time and financial commitment that IVF actually is. Mentally I was completely prepared for IVF and to be honest, the physical aspects of IVF have been so much less intensive for me than I ever thought they would be.

So it wasn’t until last week that I realized what a big deal IVF actually is. I was fantasizing about how great it would be to get to tell people if I’m fortunate enough to become pregnant from this cycle. I’m sure that some people will ask if the pregnancy was planned. It’s my initial reaction to want to tell people everything that we had to go through, if for nothing else than to be a resource for someone else who may be going through the same thing. I imagined myself saying “yes, this pregnancy is the result of two and a half years of trying with three rounds of IVF” and as soon as I imagined saying those words, the enormity of everything that we’ve been through hit me.

I think I’ve become so entrenched in the world of infertility and ART that IVF has somehow become normal and unremarkable to me. I talk about IVF as if it’s no big deal, because for the most part it is no big deal to me. It’s my current normal. It’s what we have to deal with in an attempt to get what we want. And I’ve managed to make that so OK inside my head that I don’t even realize what a HUGE deal it actually is. THREE IVF cycles. That’s what we’ll have been through by the time this is all over and done with. And I know that there are loads of women out there who go through so much more and our history is nothing in comparison to many others, but it’s still so very much more than I ever thought we’d have to deal with. And it IS a big deal, no matter what I’ve convinced myself over time. We’ve somehow managed to make it through without too much damage to our marriage and overall well-being and for that I’m very thankful.

As I rode my bike to work this morning with every single bump in the road making me acutely aware of the swollen condition of my ovaries, I realized that this is indeed the end of an era for us. No matter the outcome of this cycle, we are definitely closing a very specific chapter in our lives. It’s been quite a ride for us, with lots of heartache, bad news and pain, but at the same time filled with so many good memories and bonding between us. I have no idea how this chapter will close, but I have great hope for our future regardless. You could even say I’m optimistically hopeful.

Today’s appointment showed that I have a couple of follicles around 17-17.5mm, and my clinic looks for 18mm before scheduling trigger. I told my nurse that I’d really like to hold out for one more day because last time my follicles were around the same size and we triggered anyway. That resulted in 18 retrieved and only 8 mature. I’m hoping that the extra day of stims will make all of the difference. So one more Follistim shot and then I trigger tomorrow night. Retrieval will be Thursday and transfer next Tuesday. Please oh please let this one be the one.

We had our second monitoring appointment today and everything continues to look good. Particularly exciting to me is that my largest follicle is now over 14mm, so I begin my Cetrotide shots tonight. I know, not something that excites most people, but the past two cycles I haven’t started my Cetrotide until Monday night, so this time we’re a day ahead of schedule. At this point, after having two cycles that were pretty much identical in schedule and outcome, any bit of a difference is appreciated. We go back tomorrow for another scan and hopefully can return home tomorrow with retrieval scheduled for later next week.

We are enjoying our time away from home and managed to score a hotel room on the 31st floor of a downtown hotel for super cheap. We’re loving the location and wandering around enjoying the city. It’s a great way to relax and keep everything very mellow. All in all, everything’s going well and I’m feeling optimistic again.

We had our first stim check this morning and everything looked good. The follicles that she measured were all around 8-10mm, and the nurse said that this was the best I’ve ever looked on day 5 of stims. She said that we didn’t even have to worry about being cancelled, which was kind of funny because, strangely enough, the thought hadn’t even crossed my mind. After being cancelled during our first cycle, it was all I could think about at my Friday checks for the past two cycles, but I never even considered it today untill she said something.

So for right now everything looks good and we should be on target for a retrieval late next week. It feels so good to not worry about anything and I’m trying to just go with the flow this time around. So far so good!

Welcome to all those who are stopping by for ICLM! To save you all the hassle of trying to figure out who I am and what my history is, I’ve typed up this spiffy little summary! My husband and I are in our early thirties and we’ve been trying to get pregnant since December of 2006. So far the only potential issue we have found is that I have an elevated FSH, but we knew that age is supposed to trump FSH, so we thought we’d have no problem conceiving. Five Femara with IUI cycles and two RE’s later, we decided to pull out the big guns and move to IVF.

Our first IVF cycle was a long lupron protocol, but the lupron over suppressed me and I was cancelled after four days of stims. The second cycle was supposed to be a micro dose lupron cycle, but I completely messed up my lupron doses and so we converted that cycle to a Cetrotide (antagonist) cycle instead. Retrieval yielded 19 eggs, but only three fertilized with ICSI and we had one blast and one morula to transfer on day five. The RE felt that we just got a “junky batch of eggs.”

The third cycle was a Cetrotide cycle from the start and yielded 18 eggs, but only 8 were mature at retrieval. Of those, five fertilized with ICSI and we were once again left with one blast and one morula on day five. Our RE stated that this batch was of much better quality than the last, but the cycle was still not successful.

We’ve just begun our fourth and final cycle. This is it for us…the end of the road as far as trying to conceive a child that is biologically part of both of us. I don’t hold out much hope that this cycle could end any differently than either of the two previous ones; it’s hard for me to even fathom that it could. But on the plus side, I’ve not given up hope that we will be parents one day. We have other alternatives that we are investigating (more on that to come) and know that someday our baby will find us.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope that you’ll stick around and ride out this cycle with me!

It seems I’m not the only one who’s been quiet lately. It feels like the entire blog world, or the corner of the blog world that I visit at least, has had less to say in recent weeks. This is probably due in part to the fact that many of the women who write the blogs I read are now mommies and likely don’t have the time that they once had to spend blogging. I’m guessing that the increasingly more frequent beautiful weather is playing a small part in the lack of blog updates as well. But whatever the reason, my reader has been less active than usual.

As such, I went on the hunt for some more blogs to read. Google reader has a nice little bit in the upper right hand corner called “Top Recommendations” and Google states that “Recommendations for new feeds are generated by comparing your interests with the feeds of users similar to you.” Upon further investigation I found that Google “takes into account the feeds you’re already subscribed to, as well as information from your Web History, including your location.” I can say that Google is no idiot. Google is so smart, it has figured out that I like to read infertility related blogs.

However, most of the infertility blogs that Google is offering up to me are pregnancy after infertility blogs. While I do love to follow an infertile’s journey to pregnancy and beyond, I can honestly say that I’m not too interested in picking up someone’s story mid-pregnancy. Additionally, Google apparently thinks that I am just dying to read blogs about parenting multiples, as is evidenced by the inclusion of “4tunate – A blog to document our journey in raising quadruplets” and “Multiple Baby Pileup,” just two name a couple. The fact that Google recommends these blogs to me strikes me as funny since I don’t frequently browse websites about multiples or parenting. Maybe it’s because several of the blogs I read are those of women who have or are having twins? Who knows. Anyway the same theory applies with the multiples blogs…while it makes me happy to read about women who’ve prevailed over infertility, right now I’m less interested in the destination (having kids) and more interested in the journey (getting pregnant and staying pregnant). It only makes sense; people like to hang out with people who are like them, or at the very least people that they can relate to, right?

Since I’m not pregnant, and never have been and because I’m still trying to become pregnant, I’m looking for blogs of those who are where I am…still trying. It doesn’t have to be women who are going through IVF or even doing any fertility treatments at all. I’m just looking for blogs of women (or men) who have been dealing with infertility that I could relate to. Since Google can’t seem to figure out exactly what I’m interested in, I’m going to take a peek at the amazingly long list of infertility blogs at Stirrup Queens to see what I can find. However, I’d also love to know of some of your favorite blogs to read, so feel free to comment with suggestions. I’m hoping for a few good blogs to add to the fantastic list of blogs that I already follow.

So I’ve been pretty quiet lately as there really just isn’t much to say anymore. I’m in the dreaded waiting phase in between cycles and I’m having a really hard time even feeling interested in this upcoming cycle at all. I know that there are a lot of women out there who need three IVF cycles to get pregnant, but it’s still impossible for me to believe that this cycle could possibly have an outcome that is any different than the previous two.

We’re reaching the end of the “biological children” road and while I’ve said before that I’d be perfectly happy with a non-biological child (and I still stand by that), the thought of it makes me sad nonetheless. And if this cycle doesn’t work, then we’re headed into uncharted waters…not having a plan of what to do next. We discussed our options a couple of weeks ago on our way to Easter, but didn’t really come to any conclusions. While it was good to talk through things and I learned some new information from my husband, I still don’t know what’s going to happen if this doesn’t work. But that’s a different subject for a different day, I guess. For now we’ll just continue to wait and hope for the best.

If you’ll recall, during my last phone conversation with my nurse, she mentioned that I shouldn’t be discouraged because my RE has lots of tricks up his sleeve. When she said tricks, I was thinking fancy and unconventional protocols (EPP), co-culture, different med combinations, etc. As it turns out, my RE appears to have no tricks up his sleeve for me for our third and final IVF with this clinic.

Our WTF consult started out as it always has in the past, with him saying how he’s so sorry that things didn’t work out. It’s nice that he cares and expresses that emotion, but it kind of feels a bit hollow at this point. Anyway, he went on to say that I stim great, we just need to get some better results with the embryos. Obviously my concerns are that from 19 and 18 eggs retrieved, we’ve only ever ended up with one blast and one morula on day five. He mentioned that on average 4 out of 5 human eggs are “junk,” so my results aren’t too far from the norm. That stat really shocked me because it just doesn’t really mesh with how I see so many other women’s cycles go (not to mention all of the women who get pregnant the first month they try). But I guess it’s irrelevant, it doesn’t really matter what the stats are, just how things go for us.

So given that I had a good response to the last cycle, he plans to do the exact same antagonist protocol again. I was somewhat disappointed when I heard this because in the back of my mind I was hoping that he’d have some special “high quality” protocol that would be just perfect for me. To hear that we’ll be doing the exact same thing that we’ve already done was kind of a letdown.

OK, so no tricks up his sleeves with the protocol. The tricks must be in the details of the cycle. And here’s where I should give you some info on my doctor. He’s super technical and really seems to know his stuff (as he should for what we’re paying him) and he is very opinionated. If you bring up something that he doesn’t believe is useful in treating infertility, he will let you know, and in no uncertain terms, that he thinks it’s all a bunch of hooey. So without further ado, here’s the list of “tricks” that I came up with that were pretty much all shot down by him.

• Three day transfer – this was shot down since they believe that a five day is really the way to go. Never mind that the uterus is really the best place for those embryos to be while they’re trying to grow up nice and strong. But, in all fairness, I can’t really argue with this one too much since they do have a phenomenal pregnancy rate of 61.8% per transfer for my age group and 90% of their transfer are day five.

• Embryo glue – Many people have mentioned this, and it seems that my clinic already uses this, though I was completely unaware that they did. This is another one of those things that my doctor doesn’t really buy into and he even said that they’re going to discontinue using it in the future because it doesn’t really seem to make a difference in success rates.

• Assisted hatching – I remember from our consult many months ago that he said the clinic only does AH on day three embryos, not on blasts. He said once they get to day five most of them are already starting to hatch on their own, and if they aren’t, the blast can actually be damaged by scoring it at that stage. I knew this, but I thougth I’d question him on it again anyway. He stated that the hole that is made during the ICSI process usually works just like AH does. The blast tends to expand out of that hold just like it would if AH had be performed on the embryo. So I asked him if my two blasts had been hatching when they were transferred and he took a quick look at the photos and said that yes, both of them were starting to hatch. I looked, and for the life of me can’t see anywhere on either of the two blasts where they might have been starting to hatch, but I guess he’s the expert, not me.

• Co-culture – Many women have attributed their eventual success to co-culture, so I thought I’d ask if they even offered it at my clinic. He said that yes they did, but again it’s one of those things that he doesn’t believe actually increases pregnancy rates. He actually told me that it’s a pain in the ass and the lab people hate doing it and it’s more hassle than it’s worth. Wow. Just wow.

• Additional testing – I asked about additional testing like antibodies, thyroid, karyotyping, etc. He said we could if we wanted to, but the results are often hard to interpret and even more difficult to treat. Not sure I really understood this one, but he seems to think that the testing we’ve already done is sufficient. Since this is an area that I really don’t know a whole lot about, and because this testing can be really, really expensive, I was willing to take his half-assed response to this line of questioning as is.

So that’s the list of things that he essentially shot down. Here’s my list of consolation prizes…things he was willing to compromise with me on.

• ICSI – When we originally met with this doctor, he stated that it was possible that Mark could have developed anti-sperm antibodies due to two hernia surgeries. He told us that we could test for it, but if the test came back positive, the way to get around it is to just do ICSI. So to save the time and money involved in testing, he suggested just doing ICSI to avoid the whole issue. OK, fine. That’s what we did the first two times. Now I’ve heard experiences from women who have split their batch of eggs in half and done ICSI on half and let the rest fertilize naturally, and the ones that fertilized naturally have developed better than those that were ICSI’ed. I mentioned this to him and he said that he thinks those situations are ones where the ICSI is just not performed well and that’s what causes the embryos to not do as well. Again my clinic has great success rates, so I’m inclined to think that the embryologists are very skilled at what they do, but I’m still curious. I told him that if we were to get a decent number of eggs, I would like to do ICSI on most, but leave a few out to fertilize naturally just to see what happens. Even with his opinion, he was willing to do this, which makes me feel better. Plus, I’d still really like to know if fertilization is our issue, and this would be a great way to find out.

• P4 follow up – This last cycle I was spotting heavily for a few days before my negative beta. Now I’ve always been a chronic spotter, but I really thought that doing PIO would mean that I wouldn’t spot (and this was true with my first IVF). The fact that I was spotting for 3 days before my beta makes me really wonder if my body has issues absorbing the progesterone. He said he didn’t think that was the case because I’m taking so much progesterone. I asked him if I could have my P4 checked 7 days after retrieval just for my peace of mind. He said sure, that they have their local patients come in for a progesterone check mid-lueteal phase. Ummm…what? Why would you have a different protocol for in town patients versus out of town patients? I know it’s very unlikely that there is anything wrong with my P4 levels, but I still want to know.

• Stim dosages – I mentioned that I was concerned that maybe the stim dose was burning out my eggs and that’s why we were having such quality issues. I told him that I would gladly trade a smaller number of eggs for better eggs if he thought that would help. He said that we could definitely do that and thought it might help. As opposed to the 225 Follistim and 150 Repronex daily, he threw out 150 Follistim and 75 Repronex as options. I’m not sure if that will be my final dose once we actually get around to starting the cycle or not, but it’s on the table at least. On one hand I’m really hoping that this will be the key to better quality, and on the other hand, I’m absolutely terrified that the lower dose won’t work at all and I’ll be cancelled again. I guess I just have to suck it up and hope for the best.

• 3 embryo transfer – For fun, not thinking that he would ever agree since my clinic has what I thought was a strict “only two embryos in women under 35” rule, I asked him if, by some miracle, we ended up with three embryos on day five of this next cycle, if we could transfer them all. The words had barely escaped my mouth and he was already replying “absolutely.” I looked over at Mark and he gave a big smile and a thumbs up to me. Of course having the option to transfer three means nothing if we don’t have three to transfer. Past history would indicate that the chances of getting three are not so hot, but I’m still happy to know that we can do it if we have enough embryos.

When we hung up the phone I turned to Mark and said “well that was horseshit.” It’s not that anything went particularly badly, I guess I was just expecting more than “we’re doing the exact same thing” as his plan. The changes that we’re making are because of my doing, not because he thought it would be best. And part of me isn’t satisfied with his answers to some of the questions, but I honestly don’t have the energy or desire to really push the issues. I really just want this next cycle to be over so that we can move on in some way.

So there. That’s probably a lot more reading than you were expecting on a Thursday. In fact, that’s a lot more typing then I had planned to do. But there it is. Accordingly my fertility signs (which no matter how hard I try, I can’t ignore), I am about half way through my “break” cycle now, so I should be starting BCP’s for our final IVF sometime the week of the 20th. Good times.

Ok, so maybe I was a bit melodramatic with my last post. Really, the pregnancy announcement wasn’t nearly as bad as I had expected it to be. I think that suspecting she was going to announce her pregnancy allowed me to deal with it on my own terms beforehand and I wasn’t at all caught off guard when she told us. It’s like GI Joe said: “knowing is half the battle” and knowing in advance (or thinking I knew at least) really helped to soften the blow. Plus I’m sure the wine helped too.

So when I arrived home Mark asked if there was any news to which I replied “yes.” He asked if she was pregnant and I said “yes.” I decided to take the dogs for a quick walk to the library to return a book and get some fresh air. After I got back, I noticed that there was a new jigsaw puzzle and a bag of jelly beans sitting on the couch waiting for me. My fantastic husband bought them for me during his lunch break since he knew I would probably be upset once I got back from dinner with the girls. As insignificant in cost as these two items were, they were priceless to me as a symbol of how much Mark cares about me and wants me to be happy. The puzzle and jelly beans absolutely made everything better at that moment because it was just another reminder of what a great husband Mark is and how fortunate I am to have him as the father of our children. He is so great, and I am so very lucky to have him.

So fast forward to last night, when I had arranged yet another Girls Night Out at the Melting Pot, this time with my support group. Oh my gosh. I literally cannot remember the last time I had so much fun and laughed so hard. I honestly cannot imagine where I would be without these girls, probably in the depths of despair. The amazing support and understanding that they bring to my life is such a wonderful gift and I am so thankful that I found them. What I find interesting about our little group is that it’s nothing like what I thought it would be, or even what I picture other support groups to be like. When I think of support groups I think of a dark, depressing space and lots of sad discussions, crying and “why me’s?” Our meetings are anything but that. And while there are definitely times when there are tears and questioning, I find that laughing and smiling far outweighs those sad moments.

My support group really is like therapy for me. I always leave in a better mood, with a clearer mindset and a happy heart, and for that I am eternally thankful.

She heard the heartbeat last week and they’re officially out of the first trimester. Nothing better than hearing a friend talk about how nothing tasted good and how she had to go out and buy new bras since the girls were getting too big while you’re busy bleeding through a super plus tampon from your second failed IVF.

I love you Chardonnay (actually, I don’t really love Chardonnay at all, it’s just the only white wine they had on special today).

Alright, enough moping. Moving on with life.

Tonight is Girls Night Out at the Melting Pot with a couple of my friends from high school. We aren’t super close anymore, but try to get together once a month or so to catch up and keep in touch. While I should be looking forward to yummy fondue (yeah, that “you can’t eat anything that tastes good” diet of mine is out the window!!!) and good times with my friends, I have a hunch that one of them is going to announce her pregnancy tonight. The cryptic Facebook status updates and her calling up out of the blue to request we get together for dinner has me convinced she has news for us.

This particular friend told us in early 2008 that she and her husband were going to start trying one month after they got married, which was in June. We found out in November that she had been pregnant, but sadly had a missed miscarriage. When she told us about the miscarriage, which was when she first told us about the pregnancy at all, she said that they would start trying again as soon as they could. I knew it was only a matter of time before she got pregnant again, though I kept telling myself that by the time she was pregnant again, I would be pregnant too. Well we all know how well my plan to get pregnant has gone. Two IVF cycles after she announced her miscarriage and I’m still not there yet.

Anyway, the thought of her announcing her pregnancy makes my stomach turn. As I’m sure most who have struggled with infertility can relate to, pregnancy announcements are not something I look forward to. I hate that other people can so easily achieve what I’ve been trying to do for over two years. I hate that they get to experience things that I can only dream of. I hate that I’m being left behind by my own dreams, hopes and desires. I hate that I’m powerless to change my own situation.

Of course I will be happy for her, but at the same time I know that I will be absolutely miserable for myself. This announcement will bring to the surface all of the unhealthy emotions of anxiety, envy, stress, jealousy and unfairness that I have been trying to eliminate from my daily existence. Those are things that I still haven’t figured out how to successfully deal with in a rational manner. Who am I kidding? I haven’t even figured out how to deal with them in an irrational matter. My initial reaction is to avoid the situation, but that won’t get me anywhere. I can’t avoid reality forever. Mark pointed out that she’s probably less than three months along at this point, so she likely won’t even look pregnant yet, which is helpful. It will be infinitely more difficult for me to handle as the months go by and she gets bigger and bigger. For some reason, it’s the pregnancy itself which is the most painful thing for me to endure. Once the baby is born, things become easier for me to handle again. I guess maybe it’s just because I so passionately want to experience pregnancy. To watch others experience what I’ve been waiting for for so long is such a struggle for me.

And it makes me feel like such an asshole for feeling the way I do. But I just can’t help it.

Thank god for drink specials for Girls Night Out…I’m going to need it.

Thank you all for your wonderful comments; it’s always nice to know that there are people rooting for you and wishing you the best when you’re feeling down.

My beta was supposed to be either today or tomorrow, but I went for my blood draw on Thursday since I knew I wasn’t pregnant and didn’t want to continue the PIO shots until Monday. My nurse called back in the afternoon and I was going to just let it ring through to voicemail, but Mark said I should pick it up, so I did. As it turns out, I was glad that I did. She was really sweet and said that my beta was negative and I told her that I knew it would be. She said she always holds out hope even if the patient is testing negative. She was very reassuring and told me not to lose hope. She said my doctor has lots of “tricks up his sleeves” and has already been thinking about me and what we will do next. That was a small pick-me-up and definitely helped me to close the book on this cycle and move on emotionally.

So as seems to be our pattern after a failed cycle, we ran away. We decided to head to Indiana where my sister lives and spend some time with her and my parents who were also visiting. We took advantage of the great state forests and parks near her house to do some geocaching and mountain biking, which was a much needed distraction. Being out in the beautiful spring air and getting some exercise was a much needed change of pace.

So where we go from here? It’s a good question. When the nurse called, she told me to schedule our WTF appointment in a couple of weeks to discuss things with the doctor, which I am really looking forward to. I am very interested in what he has to say about this cycle and what his plans are for our next cycle. I am very curious to see what kind of tricks he has in store for us.

I’ve often felt more like a casual observer of this cycle than an active participant. I can think of only three times when I actually had a real emotional reaction to something. Once at our first monitoring u/s when I saw how good things looked, again when I felt the disappointment of our fertilization report and once more when I found out that we only had one blast and one morula left at transfer. Other than those instances, I feel like I’ve been on auto-pilot for the rest of this cycle.

Perhaps it’s a self-defense mechanism – to not let myself get emotionally invested in the cycle means much less disappointment if it doesn’t work out. Of course if that was the theory, then it certainly didn’t work. I’m 99% certain that this cycle is a bust due to the recent appearance of spotting and complete lack of symptoms, and for not being too emotionally involved, I’m surprisingly sad. I was really hoping that the better quality of our two embryos this time around would lead to a better outcome, but it appears that is not the case. It seems this cycle will fall by the wayside along with every other cycle that I’ve ever had. Will this ever get any easier?

Our History

Dec 2006 - Started trying to conceive
Summer 2007 - Semen analysis (great), progesterone test (normal)
Dec 2007 - SHG normal
Jan 2008 - 1st RE appointment
Feb - Mar 2008 - Diagnosed with elevated FSH levels, 2 rounds of IUI with 5mg of Femara
Apr - Jun 2008 - Seeing a new RE. 3 rounds of IUI with 12.5mg of Femara, all busts. HSG normal
July 2008 - Moving on to IVF at a new clinic
Aug/Sep 2008 - 1st IVF cycle - cancelled due to poor response
Nov/Dec 2008 - Retry IVF, transferred one blast and one morula, negative beta
Feb/Mar 2009 - 2nd IVF cycle - Antagonist protocol
May 2009 - 3rd and final attempt at IVF - Antagonist protocol
Feb 18th, 2010 - our One Small Wish comes true: Nina Adele is born.

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