A blip

Chalk another one up to our list of Things That Haven’t Happened in the Timing We Expected While Trying to Have Kids.

After the first ultrasound on Monday, when I found out about that pesky cyst, I figured my next appointment would be pretty critical in determining how and if we proceed with IVF. The little freak-out on Monday turned out to be beneficial in that it prepared me for the unwelcome possibility of needing to cancel the cycle. The ultrasound yesterday showed the cyst was getting bigger, and, more importantly, that the other follicles weren’t.

My kind and efficient doctor, whose job I certainly don’t envy, had me come into her office so she could explain the sitch in thorough detail, which I will try to summarize succinctly (a tall order, for me). First, she said the cyst could be more endometriosis that built up since my laparoscopy last year. It shouldn’t be a problem unless it causes a lot of pain, and that type of thing hasn’t been shown to affect the outcome of IVF. Of greater concern was the fact that the other follicles weren’t growing much yet. She could have increased the dosage of meds and kept me on them longer, but lengthening the prototypical cycle by a few days has been shown in studies to decrease IVF pregnancy rates. So she wanted us to know our options: We could proceed with the cycle until the meds finally started taking effect or we could cut our losses, cancel the cycle, and try again, hopefully soon.

Her best guess as to why the follies weren’t getting much action is because of the birth control pills she prescribed for me the month before. It’s pretty standard protocol to do at least one cycle of BC before IVF; it helps many women regulate their body functions, but for others, it can delay follicular growth, according to the doc. It shouldn’t be surprising I’d fall into the latter category, considering how sensitive my body is to any sort of hormonal changes. Case in point: I’ve had to buy a heck of a lot more Proactiv ever since I went off BC 2+ years ago.

Fortunately, my blood test showed my estrogen level was going up, so the medicine was working, just taking longer than expected. We don’t know for sure if the meds would work any faster in a month or more, after the BC has worked its way out of my system, but considering how well I’ve responded to less powerful fertility drugs in the past, it does seem like there would be better odds.

While the doc said she would support us if we wanted to proceed or not, Colin and I didn’t need much time to discuss our decision. Obviously, we want to do what will lead to the best chance for success, and, though it sucks to have to wait another month or longer, that’s what we need to do.

The need to cancel after going through five days of shots is frustrating and disappointing. We had worked out the October IVF schedule logistically and prepared for it emotionally, and now we have to start over again, who knows when. Even if it’s only a month later, that’s one more month of not being pregnant and not knowing when/if/how we’ll have kids. Another month for others to make pregnancy announcements and us to feel happy and yet left out.

That’s the downside. But God has really helped me believe He’s got a purpose for this delay, just like He’s got a purpose for all of our struggles in trying to expand our family. And He’s pointed out a few plus sides to this change of plans:

  • It’s better for my work schedule.
  • The doctor knows more info about how my body responds to the meds.
  • Colin has gained experience giving me shots.
  • We won’t be finding out if we’re pregnant right before our first meeting of the couples infertility support group we’re helping launch at church.
  • We only wasted a couple hundred bucks on the meds instead of thousands on doing the whole procedure with decreased chances for a successful outcome.
  • I’ve got more time to blog.

As my mom put it, this canceled cycle is just a blip, a temporary interruption in our path to parenthood, nothing insurmountable or impossible to overcome. We still face a lot of uncertainty, and are praying that we will be able to try again in November and not have to wait until after the holidays. I’m not a great waiter, so the best thing I can do at this point is to remind myself of verses like Psalm 62:5-6: “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I will not be shaken.”

I also need to think of some fun things to do to pass the time and keep me from worrying about when we can do the next cycle. For example, this Saturday, I’ll be going shopping with a friend. We won’t be dropping $10K this month, so why not pick up a new pair of shoes?

First ultrasound, first freak-out

Considering how many people describe the IVF process as an emotional roller coaster, I should have expected our cycle to start off with a steep, stomach-lurching drop. Yesterday, during my first monitoring appointment, the ultrasound showed a cyst and not much growth in the follicles. Unbeknownst to me, I had started the cycle with a tiny cyst (shown in the baseline ultrasound) that the doctors weren’t worried about but now appears to be getting larger due to the meds. The nurse said they’d call me with the results of my blood tests, which would show if my hormone levels were normal and help the doctor determine if my dosage should be increased or if we would need to cancel the cycle.

For some reason, this came as a shock to me, perhaps because I’d only been getting the shots for three days and had just had an ultrasound done four days prior. I knew that cycles can be canceled if the patient doesn’t respond well to the meds or delayed due to cysts or other problems revealed in the baseline ultrasound. But I didn’t think I’d face this possibility so soon. As a result of my ill-preparedness for that major downer, I quickly became concerned, i.e., I freaked out and automatically assumed the worst: We’d have to cancel the cycle, and because of the holidays, wouldn’t be able to try again until January.

Immediately after the appointment, while suppressing the urge to sob and fly out of control, I called Colin, who calmed me down and recommended not jumping to conclusions until we heard back from the nurse – in other words, to be logical about it. Logic is not my strong suit; however, with the help of my friend, Kelly, who has been through IVF, and her wonderful reminders that God is in control of this situation and is working through it for His glory and my good, I got through the couple hours of waiting for the nurse to call without a complete meltdown.

She had good news: My blood tests were normal and the doc wasn’t concerned about the cyst. They just wanted me to bump up the dosage of meds to stimulate more follicles.

Today, the nurse called me once again to say the doc wanted to see me earlier than planned to make sure the boosted dosage was working OK. I’ll go in tomorrow morning and find out if the follicles are fired up yet. So my prayer request for now would be that the ultrasound will show that the follicles are growing and the cyst is shrinking.

While we don’t know yet if the shots are working, we’ve become pros at shot administration. After a minor mishap during the first attempt, when Colin accidentally used a larger needle than necessary and worried that he’d jabbed it in so far it punctured my intestines, we figured out a virtually pain-free method of injection: I pinch a chunk of skin and Colin gives me the shot, which stings for a few seconds and leaves a little red mark from the needle prick. Then he discards the used needles in the SoBe bottle we’re using as a makeshift Sharps container and I scoop us up some ice cream as our reward for going through the whole ordeal.

Thankfully, I haven’t noticed many side effects besides a few headaches and some abdominal uneasiness, but then again, my stomach is uneasy half the time, anyways, thanks to IBS-related issues. Colin is preparing for the worst in terms of hormone-induced mood swings, but that hasn’t been too bad, either, in my estimation. He might have a different opinion. All in all, the process hasn’t been entirely awful thus far. I just hope we will be able to continue and not have to postpone the procedure to a later time.

Green light

Had my baseline ultrasound yesterday and got the go-ahead to start the stimulation medicine today. So this evening, Colin will get the honor of giving me two shots in my belly – what better way to wrap up a Friday date night!

The nurse led us through an injection training session, during which Colin dozed off and didn’t perk up until he heard the nurse say something about his prescriptions. He resumed napping once she reassured him that he would be taking oral medications, not shots. Of course, I am not looking forward to getting a couple of shots a day throughout the course of October; however, I feel somewhat prepared, having gone through a few years of allergy shots 1-2x a week when I was younger. I was that nerdy kid who couldn’t play outside in the spring due to the sneezing fits I’d get whenever I breathed in the heady scent of Scotch broom pollen. But, as Emily reminded me earlier this week, at least I didn’t have to wear an oxygen mask in public places and be shipped off to asthma camp like Justin.

Learning how to use all these injections was definitely daunting, and paying for them wasn’t exactly a blast, either. Walking out of a pharmacy with a grocery bag full of meds was a new experience for me, one that I hope not to repeat. The sheer volume of drugs, needles, alcohol swabs, and other paraphernalia was so ridiculous I decided to take a picture of it all laid out on our table. Note: This pic was taken before I got more needles and an injection pen at my appointment.

Impressive as it is, this supply doesn’t hold a candle to my mom’s Port-a-Pharmacy she makes my dad lug around everywhere. She likes to have this cache of meds on hand for her autoimmune flare-ups and everyday emergencies – you know, like if someone happens to get typhoid fever and needs heavy-duty antibiotics. Big Pharma owes Mom a big thanks, as do I – she has set an amazing example for enduring health issues with grace and patience, an area I’d like to grow in as we proceed with IVF.

A few people have asked me if I’m excited to begin IVF, to which I would answer that I’m as excited as one can be about starting an expensive, emotionally and physically taxing process that has a 50/50 or less chance of resulting in us having a biological child. It is exciting to be moving forward in our path to parenthood and nerve-wracking to wonder if the procedure will work. Beyond that, it is comforting to have family and friends encourage and pray for us during this time of uncertainty. We are extremely grateful for your support.

Save the dates

I didn’t anticipate the need to write again so soon after the most recent post, and was expecting to take a little break to recover from the emotional hangover resulting from my blog broadcast of our infertility issues. However, as with many situations in life, things didn’t turn out the way I thought. And this thing isn’t necessarily good or bad, just not what I expected.

But enough ambiguity; what I’m referring to is the schedule for our IVF cycle. For no particular reason, in my mind, I figured we’d start taking the meds the first week of October, and, not knowing how IVF works, thought it would take a month to complete. So when the nurse called and said she’d devised a schedule based on a start date of September 24 – as in three days from the moment she called – I had a minor freak-out. This was a pretty silly reaction, considering that the nurse said the schedule could be changed, not to mention that the whole reason we’re doing IVF is because having a baby didn’t happen when we had planned. Our ETAF (Estimated Time of Adding to our Family) was off by two or more years; starting IVF earlier by a week or so should be NBD (definition for the non-texters: No Big Deal).

Thankfully, the nurse was patient with me, and Colin even more so. After a couple iterations, we came up with a game plan based on a start date of October 1. Of course, all of this could be a moot point if the ultrasound they do on September 30 shows a cyst or something else that would make the doc frown and say “Hmmmm.” Barring that, the schedule, which imported nicely into my iCal and will set off alarms every time I’m supposed to get a shot, has tentative dates for the retrieval, transfer, and the scariest of all, the pregnancy test.

As October 1 draws closer, I’m praying for peace and sanity, both for my sake and for Colin’s. Lately I’ve been stressing out about trying to know what to do/what not to do so I won’t be stressed during IVF. So, to reduce the stress of figuring out how to avoid stress, it seems the best course of action is to maintain routine activities and simply be less of a perfectionist, for once. The baseboards can go without getting dusted for awhile (or ever, in Colin’s opinion).

If this post sounds a little scattered, that’s probably due to the 15 minutes I spent watching DirecTV’s RedZone Channel, which has got to be the most ADD-enabling program on TV. I’m not sure when my next post will be, but I have plenty of ideas for infertility-related topics to discuss, including some good articles I found as well as updates on the support group we’re involved in at church. And I might try to throw in a post or two about non-infertility-related topics, like what’s going on in our college small group and what new TV shows we’re digging this season. For now, I’ve got something better to do than blog – cheer on the Seahawks. Yet another opportunity to moderate my expectations.

It’s Missouri, not misery

After a year-long hiatus, I thought it was time to update the ole blog. Then I procrastinated for a few more months until I felt motivated to write something a bit longer than a tweet or Facebook status.

As most people know by now (if you don’t, you are really out of touch, or maybe just wishing you had received the 2009 edition of the Hesse Holiday Herald, which regrettably was never published), we live in Columbia, Missouri, home of the University of Missouri, where a certain Assistant Professor of Communication Studies is plugging away at his research, well on his way to tenure and its accompanying academic fame and fortune. While Colin is running labs, teaching students, or playing on his university-funded iPad, I’m working from home, continuing to edit articles and do other editorial tasks for the company I worked at in Arizona. The nice part is the flexibility; the downside is the lack of human contact and interaction (Kaffy doesn’t count, and even if he did, he sleeps all day and thus doesn’t make the most engaging companion). But we do have many friends we are thankful for, and they almost make up for the lack of good Mexican restaurants in town.

If you are wondering about Columbia, you should Google it to save me the time of explaining what it’s like. I will say that it’s an exceedingly friendly community with an appreciation for football, the arts, and good BBQ. Several people gave us the line, “You’re going to misery?” when we announced that we were moving here, and I can gladly say that I don’t consider it to be a fair statement, especially after living in the 100+ degree temps of Arizona. Dry heat, humidity – doesn’t matter which; they’re both awful. But the difference is Columbia has four seasons, which is the right kind of climate for two native Washingtonians.

As I said earlier, and would like to repeat to dispel any doubts, we have been blessed with many friends here – Colin’s colleagues, our church small group, and several nice neighbors. We’ve also started helping out with the college ministry at church, leading a small Bible study. It’s great to be around college students and hear about their hopes, dreams, and fears, which reminds us of our college days and alarms us thinking about how long ago that was.

Some of you may be wondering why we haven’t been posting pictures of our kids or updating Facebook with all the cute things they say. This would be due to the fact that we don’t have kids, which I have to say is not for lack of trying. For more than 2 years now we have been in full TTC (Trying To Conceive) mode, with nary a missed period or positive pregnancy test. This, in a word, sucks. I could certainly make the typical Christian statements and say that God’s plan is better than ours; He’s in control; He’ll work it out for our good – all of which I believe are absolutely true but do not always feel that way. Both of us desire to be parents and are not sure when/if/how that will happen, which is a pretty harsh reality to face. Without going into detail about how we got here, I’ll just provide our current status: in an adoption waiting program but on hold as we might be trying in vitro next month. We would like to adopt no matter what, but we would also like to give the fertility treatment route a whirl before things could get worse and my uterus completely craps out.

I decided to share this part of our lives not to elicit several comments of pity – Lord knows I have already shown myself way too much of it – or even to ask for prayer, though that would definitely be welcome. The main reason to let the world wide web know about our infertility is so that other people who are experiencing it know they’re not alone. Infertility makes you feel isolated, like no one understands or even cares about your situation, which is a lie, and one that I bought into because it’s such an emotional issue. I discovered that this was not the case after attending an adoption seminar wherein we met other couples like us and after reading a friend’s blog about her difficulties and setbacks on the road to parenthood. As we started talking to more people about it, we found that many have either experienced infertility themselves or know someone who has. And, according to the CDC, it affects 1 in 8 couples of childbearing age. In light of this, the whole concept of God comforting us so we can comfort others going through the same struggles (2 Corinthians 1:4-5) has become personally applicable to our lives and has demonstrated that there’s at least one good reason why this is happening to us. So we are helping launch an infertility support group at church and hoping it will help others be encouraged and encourage us in the process.

It wasn’t really my intention to make this into an infertility blog, but for the moment it will be, considering that it’s a pretty big deal right now as we prep for IVF in a few weeks. And since Lost is over, I really don’t have much material to work with anymore, save for Kaffy’s misadventures leaving his mark around the neighborhood and going berserk over a fly in our house. I’ll try to provide regular updates on what’s going on, complete with entertaining anecdotes on all the crazy things we’ll get to do, like Colin attempting to give me shots, which promises to be a great video opportunity.

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