And Then There Were 32

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Yep, you read that right. The ultrasound this morning revealed that 10 additional follicles have developed since yesterday. This mama hen is now growing 32 eggs in her big ole belly. Almost 3 dozen.  I’m still trying to let that one sink in. For those who are interested, the updated follicle sizes are as follows:

Right Ovary: 15, 14, 13, 13, 11, 11, 11, 11, 10, 10, 9, 8, 8, 8, 8, 7, 7

Left Ovary: 13, 12, 12, 11, 11, 11, 10, 9, 9, 9, 8, 8, 8, 7, 7

I think it’s safe to say things are moving along quite nicely. Blood work revealed that my luteinizing hormone (LH) has started to surge, which means my body is trying to ovulate. We don’t want that to happen until the doctor is ready to go in for retrieval, so I am adding in another injection tonight called Ganirelix, which will prevent ovulation.

The blood work also revealed that my estrogen level is rising very quickly. It was 38 last Thursday, 761 yesterday and 1095 today. This is a little bit concerning. If it keeps rising this quickly, we are going to be entertaining the possibility of Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS). I have already dealt with OHSS once before, so I am worried I will develop it again.

If my estrogen rises to 4,000 my doctor will not be able to transfer the embryos back into me right away. He will have to freeze the embryos and wait for my levels to come down then do a frozen embryo transfer cycle. While it wouldn’t be the end of the world, it would be pretty devastating after all of this. That being said, if my estrogen peaks in the 3000s, it wouldn’t be dangerous to proceed but would be INCREDIBLY uncomfortable for several weeks. The doctor said he would leave it up to me at that point whether I could endure the discomfort or would prefer to freeze the embryos and wait a few months. If that is the case, I will absolutely, without a doubt, power through. I am willing to do just about anything to make this a reality as long as it doesn’t pose any harm to me or my future children.

Hopefully I just gave you all of those scenarios for no reason and we can keep my estrogen level below 3,000. Only time will tell. The nurse said we are still in an OK range and it isn’t time to worry yet. I guess I’ll have to work on that.

My mind was going in a million different directions this morning playing out every possible scenario. Then I opened up my e-mail. A few months back I signed up for e-mails from Joel Osteen. Sometimes the daily message is so fitting that I just can’t believe it. Today it said, “There is no obstacle that can stop you. There is no disadvantage that can hold you back! You’re in the palm of God’s hand, and He has equipped and empowered you for everything. When God is on your side, He sets the right people in your path. In fact, He’s already released favor into your future. He’s planning for you to come into new seasons of increase. He has a plan for victory. Let that sink into your heart today. Begin to expect His favor. Expect him to work in your life. Focus on the fact that God has equipped you. He has anointed you. Your best days are still out in front of you! If God is for you, no one case rise against you! Meditate on this promise so you can walk in the favor and victory God has in store for you!”

Wow! Is that on point or what? That was exactly what I needed to hear today. God has equipped me with 32 eggs, the ability to explore this option and a brilliant doctor to lead the way. He has empowered me with everything I need and no obstacle can get in my way. Not even a scary estrogen level. I need to expect His favor so I can walk in the victory He has in store for me.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed, called, texted, messaged, or reached out in some way throughout this journey. If you’re praying for us, please pray that this estrogen level stays below 3,000. When you go through hard times, one of the single most comforting things in the world is the knowledge that people are praying for you. People are taking a moment out of their busy day to focus their energy and their prayers on you. That’s huge! There’s no way I could ever accurately convey my gratitude to each of you.

I return to the doctor tomorrow morning for another ultrasound and more blood work. They will retrieve the eggs as soon as the lead follicle gets between 18 and 20mm. It is currently at 15. It looks like retrieval will probably occur Sunday or Monday. I’ll keep y’all posted. Now back to growing these eggs… 🙂

The Lucille Ball of Fertility Injections

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Last night was the big night…the night I had to give myself the first set of stimulation injections. It played out like an episode of I Love Lucy. Math and science were my worst subjects in school, so I am a little challenged when it comes to mixing up solutions and injecting them into myself.

I sat down with all of my supplies and 2 pages of typed instructions and tried my best to follow along. I worked with all the concentration of a high school senior taking a standardized test but just couldn’t seem to get it right. When I combined the two vials of Menopur, I was supposed to end up with 1mL. I drew the syringe back and only got 0.8mL. Then, when I combined the Menopur and Follistim, I was supposed to end up with 1.2mL but ended up with 1mL instead.

I was frantically reading the instructions and facetiming my husband to see where I went wrong. I was visiting my mom’s house during this entire ordeal. That’s when her dog decided it would be a good time to get busy with my small dog. He was wrestling her on the floor and she was howling like a wolf. Not to be outdone, my 70 pound Lab decided to flip her water bowl up in the air with her nose and covered the entire floor in about a gallon of water. I put down the shot supplies and went to fetch some paper towels to clean up the mess. As soon as I stood up, I slipped on the water and went flying across the kitchen on my booty.

All I could do was laugh at that point. I tried to draw up the shot again and still ended up a little short on the amount. I had no choice but to give myself the shot, but I continued to stress for about an hour. What if I did it wrong? What if this messes everything up? What if I have done everything right to get to this point only to jeopardize it all over 0.2mL of missing fluid? This is such a high stress process that you have this overwhelming burden of screwing it all up every step along the way.

Just then, Aimee from the Maybe Baby blog texted me to see how I was doing.  I had a little bit of a meltdown on her and she reassured me that it’s very common for Menopur to draw up a little short. Phew! She really saved the day! Aimee and I found each other through our blogs and recently exchanged numbers. We are on the same day of our IVF cycles and thought it would be neat to compare notes as we went along. Ironically she texted me at the exact moment I needed to talk to someone who understood what I was going through.

I have a great family. The problem is, they just can’t relate sometimes. Luckily, I have built a strong network of incredible women with similar journeys throughout this process. It’s absolutely crazy how immediately you can connect with a complete stranger because they are going through the same thing. God puts the right people in your life at the exact moment you need them, and that’s just one more thing to be thankful for! I hope you all have a wonderful holiday weekend. This is the only kind of cocktail I’ll be mixing up:

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Wish me better luck on my second attempt tonight! 🙂

Sham-Wow

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I just have a quick little update today. As I wrote yesterday, my lips started tingling and feeling a little bit numb about an hour after I took the Lupron shot. As the day progressed the numbness got worse and my hands started to feel numb too. The worst part was that my legs suddenly started itching to the point that it felt like fire ants were crawling on me. The doctor said I was having an allergic reaction to the Lupron and needed to stop taking it immediately. He switched me to the Ganirelix protocol. Ganirelix prevents premature ovulation just like Lupron, but you don’t start taking it until you begin to produce eggs. Luckily this wasn’t too big of a snafu and it won’t change the timing or anything else. Thank goodness!

The tingling and numbness finally stopped, but my legs continued to itch mercilessly. I had promised to help my little cousin do her makeup for prom, and I was determined to be a woman of my word. When I got to her house I was running around like I had ants in my pants. She had the brilliant idea of putting Chilly Pads (used by runners behind their neck) over my legs and I got immediate relief. A-lle-luia! I’m pretty sure her date’s family thought I was a weirdo, because I was essentially walking around covered in giant shammies. The moral of the story is: don’t be afraid to get creative when it comes to home remedies. You just never know what might work. 🙂

It’s Friday…let’s do shots!

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Happy Friday! Let’s take shots! Lupron shots, that is. I’m finishing up my last few days of birth control (Levora), and this morning I started 20 daily units of leuprolide acetate, or Lupron. This stage of IVF is called suppression. It puts your body into a temporary state of menopause and allows your ovaries to rest. After all, they are about to be put into overdrive producing as many follicles in a week as most people produce in a year or two. The Lupron also dramatically lowers estrogen levels and, therefore, allows my doctor to regulate my body’s production of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). Ovulation cannot occur naturally on Lupron because LH, which stimulates ovulation, is suppressed. This prevents a premature release of LH before the egg retrieval procedure.

I know this sounds like a lot of medical mumbo jumbo. In a nutshell, these meds won’t let me ovulate until the eggs have reached maturity and my doctor is ready to go in and retrieve them. It’s only been a few hours, but the only side effects I’ve had so far are numbness and a tingling sensation in my lips. Now I know how Kylie Jenner feels. I’ll post a full update when I go back to the doctor to start the stimulation phase next Thursday (May 21st). If anything interesting or funny happens in the mean time, I’ll be sure to let you know. Have a great weekend, y’all! Drink a cold one for me 🙂

Perception vs. Reality

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Some days I think I’m doing fine until I open Facebook. The news feed reads like a who’s who of America’s Most Fertile. On any given day my eyes fall victim to 3-4 pregnancy announcements, a gender reveal video, a baby shower photo album and one or two birth announcements. It can leave me feeling like I’m on the wrong side of an episode of Oprah’s Favorite Things. Everyone gets a baby! Everyone that is, except me.

It’s not that I’m not happy for my friends. I’m genuinely thrilled for them. The tough part, though, is that it can be a painful reminder of my own infertility. It can make me question God and doubt myself. Why can’t I get pregnant? Did I do something horribly wrong to be so undeserving? Why is God blessing everyone else?

Something I have learned through this journey is that things aren’t always as they seem. A friend recently revealed that she was “Eggspecting” on Easter. I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous that she didn’t know the pain of infertility. Come to find out, she had several miscarriages prior to this pregnancy, and she lives in constant fear that history will repeat itself.

Another friend appears to live the carefree life of a jet-setter. It seems that at least once a month she and her husband are setting off to quaint islands around the world. Little did I know, they want nothing more than to stay home and raise a little one. Unfortunately, her husband suffers from male factor infertility and babies may not be in their future at all.

Still others tell me that I have no idea how lucky I am. They don’t even know if they have fertility problems because they haven’t found the right person yet. They struggle every time they open Facebook too. Their hearts sink because their news feeds are filled with engagement announcements, wedding albums and various other photos of couples living out their happily married days.

The point is, we’re all struggling with something. Everyone we meet is fighting some kind of battle. No matter how picture perfect another person’s life appears, I can assure you that it isn’t. We could all benefit from having a little more patience with each other.

I read somewhere that the reason we struggle is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlights reel. Try to remember that next time you compare yourself to the girl who appears to have it all.

The Journey to Baby…so far

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Although I have shared our journey with family and close friends, I have been somewhat hesitant to put our story out there en masse simply for fear of negative comments and backlash. I continue to feel, however, that there is a reason God has put this struggle in my life. Maybe I am supposed to share my feelings with others so that they don’t suffer alone and struggle with the crippling isolation infertility can bring about.

While perusing infertility boards on Pinterest in search of some inspiration from the most unlikely of sources, I came across this quote. “The scars you share become lighthouses for other people who are headed to the same rocks you hit.” Bam! Just like that I felt confirmation that I was supposed to share my story.

It honestly makes no difference to me whether people read it or not. I’m not looking to rack up page hits here. The truth of the matter is that if my story can help even one person out there to feel that they aren’t alone, then every moment of this battle will have been worthwhile. Admittedly this will benefit me too. As terrifying as it is to put myself out there, it will be cathartic and therapeutic to put my thoughts to paper.

For as long as I can remember, motherhood has been the greatest desire of my heart. The only toys I cared to play with as a child were baby dolls. At the tender age of 6 I would strap them into my old car seat in my mom’s minivan, stroll them around the mall and otherwise tend to their every need.

As I grew older, this desire transitioned into a love for babysitting and a constant need to surround myself with children. This calling took me many places from a 6-year stint with the Disney company to a job working with kindergarteners. Wherever I ventured, my love of working with and nurturing children never fell far behind. I’m the adult at the family parties who happily lays on the floor playing games with the kids rather than sitting out on the patio drinking wine with the grown-ups.

I never gave a second thought to the possibility that I may not be able to have children. I have always known it was my destiny. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up the answer was immediate and simple: a mom.

When my husband and I went to one of our marriage prep courses our booklet asked us to identify the most attractive quality about our future spouse. Always the joker, my husband initially wrote, “the way she looks in yoga pants.” After blushing and giggling I made him erase his inappropriate answer before submitting the booklet to the deacon in charge.

The answer he replaced it with filled me with joy. He wrote “her maternal nature.” It made me feel good that he noticed and appreciated something that I felt was such an integral part of my DNA.

When we took those vows to love for better or worse and in sickness and health, we had no concept of the journey we would soon embark upon. Everything seems perfect and you think you’re going to live happily ever after and that the rest of your life will play out just like your fairy tale wedding.

When our priest asked, “Will you accept children lovingly from God?” we both responding with a resounding “We will!” When we went to place flowers by the Blessed Mother during the Ave Maria, I said a silent prayer that, through her intercession, we would be blessed with children very soon. I secretly hoped that my new husband was praying for the same thing.

Talking about your future children is so exciting in the beginning. You talk about how many you hope to have, potential names, which room you will use as a nursery, where they will go to school, etc. You never say “What if we can’t have children?”  “How will we weather infertility?” Those aren’t sexy questions or fun thoughts to think about. Those aren’t the things dreams are made of.

I’ve struggled with endometriosis since I was a young teenager so I always knew it might take a little bit longer for me to get pregnant than others. For this reason, we began trying to get pregnant pretty quickly. It was so exciting. We were actively trying to have a baby! Motherhood was just around the corner. We bought a onesie on vacation, because we were convinced we had conceived a baby on our trip and he or she should have a keepsake of this momentous occasion.

Cue our surprise/disappointment when things didn’t go according to plan and negative tests stared us in the face month after month. After laparoscopy to clean out my endometriosis my doctor informed me that this getting pregnant thing might be a lot more difficult than I had ever anticipated.

She instructed me to take ovulation tests every morning, chart my cycles and follow up with blood work on the 21st day of each cycle. Ever the organized, Type A personality, I was not intimidated by this at all. I made calendars, downloaded apps on my phone and took control of the entire situation.

I will admit that something that is supposed to be fun and exciting turned into a little bit more of a scheduling frenzy. You would regularly hear things like, “You can’t go hunting! Are you crazy? I will be ovulating that week!” in the Pippin household. My poor husband.

Day 21 blood work seemed to confirm the same thing month after month: I was not ovulating. When you receive confirmation that you didn’t ovulate, you can’t help but feel that the entire month has been a waste. All of this charting, scheduling, testing and there hadn’t even been a 1% chance for you to get pregnant because you hadn’t even ovulated. What was it all for?

Hesitant to take fertility drugs, I continued to allow my doctor to test for several months to rule out the possibility that I may only ovulate every few months. After several months, my OBGYN told me there was no chance I was going to get pregnant on my own. It was time to dip my toe in the water of fertility drugs.

This was a tough realization, but I was ready. This was what I had to do. She started me out on Clomid, the gateway drug as I like to call it. I reached out to anyone and everyone I knew who had ever taken this drug and they all had success stories. Within 1 or 2 months, every person I knew who had tried Clomid had ended up with twins.

I started the medicine and gladly dealt with the negative side effects. After all, this was just another stepping stone on the road to motherhood, and I was convinced this was going to work for me.

Right around the time ovulation was supposed to take place I woke up in the most excruciating pain I had ever felt in my life. I could not escape the fetal position. My husband was out of town working so I called my mom. She came over and brought me to the doctor.

Once inside the ultrasound room, the tech pulled out the all too familiar trans vaginal wand. As soon as my ovaries came up on the screen she got a worried look on her face and said, “No wonder you are in so much pain. Your ovaries are screaming for help. This looks horrible!”

Completely unaware of potential complications I innocently asked, “ok, how do my follicles (eggs) look?” She looked at me as if I had 3 heads. “Oh honey, you don’t have any viable eggs, but that’s the least of your concerns right now.”

I immediately broke into tears. What?! No viable eggs?! How could this be? I just didn’t understand. I felt so broken and empty. I was so sure this was going to work. How could I not have any viable eggs after taking this medication? Not even one!

My doctor was off that day, so I waited in tears for the nurse practitioner to come into my exam room after overlooking the ultrasound pictures. She came in and gave me news that shocked me. “It looks like your ovaries threw a party on the Clomid,” she said. She informed me that I was one of less than 2% of patients that suffer from Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome or OHSS.

Apparently my ovaries overreacted to the Clomid and were now covered in giant cysts and so inflamed that they were concerned about the possibility of ovarian torsion. Torsion is when your ovaries twist and, thus, cut off their blood flow.

Two other doctors from the practice came in to look at the pictures remarking that they had “never seen a reaction like this before.” Well, that made me feel good. I wanted to ask if I could go home before they marveled at the freak show.

They insisted that I go for a blood flow ultrasound immediately to be sure that I was still getting an adequate supply to each ovary. Everything checked out fine with the blood flow ultrasound; however I was told that I needed to take it very easy for the next few days and go to the hospital immediately if the crippling pain returned.

They said I ran the risk of losing an ovary. I sat on the couch in a state of fear and depression over the next few days. I was told that I would never be able to take Clomid again. Ok, so I don’t ovulate on my own and I can’t take the medicine that makes me ovulate. Is this the end of the road for me? How will I ever get pregnant?

With every tinge and twitch, I feared that an ovary was torsing and I was losing blood flow. After several calls to the emergency number, my doctor finally returned that Monday. She called and informed me that it was time to seek the help of a fertility specialist.

She said I needed a higher level of medical intervention than she was able to provide as an OBGYN. She also told me that due to the way my body responded to the fertility drugs, I would need constant monitoring, which her office simply did not have the manpower to provide.

While I never thought I would have to enlist the help of a fertility specialist, I actually felt a sense of relief that I was going to get help from someone who was so skilled in this area. I also felt relief that someone else was going to take control of the situation and I wouldn’t have to be in charge anymore. Anyone who knows me knows that I don’t relinquish control easily.

While it can take months to get an appointment with a reproductive specialist, I was given an appointment just 2 weeks later. When I called, the receptionist said someone had just cancelled and I was very lucky to call at the right time. That made me feel good about this. That seemed like a great sign that this was meant to be. (I’m big on signs and tend to find them even when they aren’t there. It drives my hubby crazy.)

They e-mailed me a 50-something page packet of medical history to fill out. I had to call my mom to ask her about some of the questions, because they dated all the way back to medications she took before I was even born. I was excited about our consultation.

Our meeting with the doctor went extremely well. He didn’t seem impressed by my story at all. He had seen this a million times before. I read literature in the waiting room about how many women over the age of 40 he had assisted in achieving pregnancy, and I assured myself that my case should be easy as pie for this guy.

After doing an ultrasound he told us that not only had the Clomid caused OHSS but it had significantly thinned my uterine lining, which would make it impossible to sustain a pregnancy until it was built back up.

He told me to call him when my period began and we would try a different drug called Femara. It is a drug used to shrink tumors in breast cancer patients. However, it has also been found to induce ovulation without the negative side effects of Clomid. I was floating on air. This was going to work. I just knew it.

I had never been so excited for a period to start since we began our journey to baby. Lo and behold, it came about 14 days late that month. Periods are a funny thing like that. When you don’t want one to come because you’re hoping you’re pregnant, it shows up like clockwork or even early. But when there is no possibility you’re pregnant and you need Ole Flow to show up so you can start your new meds, she decides to go on an extended vacation.

When she finally reared her ugly head I raced to the phone and called the doctor. This was going to be the month! I could feel it in my bones. I went in for bloodwork and ultrasound. The ultrasound showed a ginormous cyst on my right ovary. The ultrasound tech informed me that the doctor would probably not allow me to start this month because of this mother of a cyst.

I held back tears and put on a brave face as I waited for the doctor to come give his opinion. He told us that he wasn’t terribly worried about the cyst because he didn’t think I would ever have a month where I was cyst-free given my history. He wrote out my prescription for Femara and sent me on my way.

Just like that, I went from a valley to a peak. The ultrasound tech had me convinced it was doomsday but I escaped unscathed with prescription in hand. This day was glorious, and I headed to Target to celebrate by buying things I really didn’t need.

While walking through the housewares department, I heard my phone ring. I was surprised to see the doctor’s phone number on my screen. They had gotten my blood work back and were very surprised by the results. My estrogen level was supposed to be under 30. Instead, it was 1800. At 2000 you are hospitalized. That mother of a cyst was pumping some serious hormones into my body.

They told me to throw away the prescription for Femara and head back to the office to pick up a prescription for the strongest birth control on the market. BIRTH CONTROL?!?!?! But I’m trying TO get pregnant. They told me birth control was the only medicine that could shrink the cyst and bring the hormone levels down. And just like that, I was back in the valley.

I sat in my car in the Target parking lot as tears streamed out of my sunglasses. I tried to convince myself that this was just another setback and it would only be one more month until I could start the Femara. When I arrived at the office topick up the prescription, the nurse explained the severity of such an escalated hormone level. She told me that it may take MONTHS to get a level this high down and they wouldn’t know what kind of progress I was making until they checked me when my next period arrived.

MONTHS?! The disappointment was almost too much for me to bear at this point. I felt the craziest mixture of hopelessness and despair I have ever experienced. I started to wonder if motherhood would ever be a reality for me. I cried until I didn’t have tears left. Then I decided I had to pick myself up off the ground and keep going.

My husband suggested that we get out of town and do something to make ourselves happy and get our minds off of all of this. We found a last minute cruise for the following week and hopped on board. It was a wonderful trip to beautiful places filled with lots of exciting memories. I even got to fulfill a lifelong dream of holding a monkey!

The thing about infertility, though, is that it’s never far from your mind. On an excursion in Belize we went tubing through ancient ruins the Mayans used to perform rituals in. We observed broken pieces of their pottery. While floating through the caves our tour guide remarked that the Mayans believed the water in this particular cave brought about fertility. It didn’t take but a second for me to jump out of my tube and dunk my whole body in the water. I did the backstroke and swam freestyle underwater attempting to soak it all in. 🙂

My period was supposed to arrive on the first day of our cruise. By the last day it had still not come. “Wouldn’t it be crazy if I got pregnant while on birth control after all this?” I told my husband. We decided to get a pregnancy test in the last port, Cozumel, Mexico.

It cost us $20 for a “life test” as they called it. We returned to the ship and I took the test in the bathroom only to realize I was unable to decipher the results because the test was unlike any I had ever seen and the instructions were in Spanish. We had a good laugh about that.

When we returned home, Ole Flow finally showed up and it was time to head back to the fertility doctor. I went in with realistic expectations this time. After all, they told me it would probably take months to get the estrogen level down. The ultrasound revealed that the cyst had grown larger. The doctor came in and told us that he highly doubted the hormone level would be down where they needed it to be based on the size of the cyst so he wrote me another prescription for birth control and sent us on our way.

One or two tears streamed out from my glasses on the walk to the car, but I wasn’t devastated because I was expecting it. My husband and I went to lunch and while we were at lunch the phone rang. Again I was surprised to see the doctor’s number. He told me that he couldn’t believe it but the cyst was actually not producing any hormones. My estrogen level had come all the way back down into normal range, so I could throw away the prescription for birth control and come pick up a prescription for Femara. And just like that, valley to peak. Well played, Mayans!

I was cautiously optimistic to begin the Femara. I had some unpleasant side effects, but I didn’t care. I was just so thankful for a step in the right direction. After 5 days of medicine I returned to find out that my ovaries had produced 2 beautiful follicles that were the perfect size. I was overwhelmed with a renewed sense of joy that had been so absent from my life lately. I glanced over at my husband and noticed that he was misty eyed with the same smile he had when I agreed to marry him.

Further testing revealed that I had a hostile environment (which I will not go into the gory details of). This meant that although it was almost time for my body to release the eggs, we weren’t going to be able to get pregnant the old fashioned way. In essence, my body thought that anything that entered my cervix was bacteria and killed it as a result.

Because of this, we had to circumvent the cervix through a process called Intrauterine Insemination, or artificial insemination in layman’s terms. I was a little bit shocked that my need for medical intervention had escalated so drastically in one appointment. I had never even given a thought to a procedure like that. I never thought we would need it.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about this, but the doctor assured us that I would not get pregnant without it and I didn’t have much time to decide. And so we proceeded. This was it. I was convinced. I had 2 perfect sized follicles (pretty incredible for a girl who doesn’t ovulate) and a “beautiful lining” to support a pregnancy. Also, the doctor told us that my husband’s counts were “extraordinary.” Cue his request to post his report on the fridge.

All the stars were aligning and this was going to be our month. The nurse gave me a shot that would trigger my body to release the eggs within the next 36 hours, and I returned in the morning for the procedure. I walked in with all the excitement of a teenage girl at prom. The procedure was extremely easy, and the only discomfort was due to the use of a small catheter.

The next 2 weeks were glorious. I convinced myself that every sign and symptom I experienced were indications of pregnancy. I calculated the due date and realized the baby or babies would be due 10 days before my birthday and 20 days before Christmas. I was thrilled with the idea that this year I would get the best gift ever. How could I be so lucky? Everything was great until it wasn’t.

Without fail, the pregnancy test stared back at me with one lonely line instead of 2. I called the doctor’s office and demanded a blood test, because I was sure there was some mistake. How accurate could a drug store test be anyway?

The blood test confirmed my fear: I was not pregnant. They told me once again to call when my period showed up. Five days went by before Flow came. Each and every day was a mixture of agony and hope. Maybe I got a false negative. Maybe the results are just taking a while to show up. But that was not the case. She eventually reared her ugly head.

I called the doctor and was informed to come in for another ultrasound and more blood work to begin the next cycle. At this point I realized 2 things:

  1. It takes one heck of a strong woman to go through this process. When you start your period, all of your hopes and dreams from the past month come crashing down to the ground. You can cry and scream and fall on the floor, but within moments you have to pick yourself up and start a whole new cycle. How can anyone be expected to muster up the hope to start all over again when they haven’t even had the chance to grieve the failure and the disappointment of the last month? At the same time, I think the fact that you HAVE to pick yourself up is sometimes the only reason that you do.

2. Sometimes you get so wrapped up in this process that you lose perspective. Just one month earlier I was on my knees thanking God for the ability to even start this process and for getting my hormone levels down in such a short period of time. Now I took that for granted. I expected everything to be fine this time. I expected to be able to start my next cycle right away. I didn’t have the fear that the doctor would write a prescription for birth control. I stopped to thank God for that blessing and tell Him I was sorry for taking such a momentous feat for granted just one month later.

Everything checked out fine and the doctor wrote me another prescription for Femara. I wasn’t as excited this time. I wondered why it would work this time if it didn’t work last time. I was just kind of going through the motions at this point, and I moaned and groaned about the negative side effects of the meds a little bit more.

When I finished the meds, my husband and I returned for my ultrasound and blood work. I need to give my husband a huge shout out because he has moved the Earth and the moon to accompany me on just about every appointment humanly possible.

To our surprise I had 9 follicles this month. NINE. Only 3 appeared to be mature size though, but my body wasn’t quite ready to release them yet. We returned 2 days later for a follow-up ultrasound and 4 of the 9 follicles were mature. We took a deep breath and decided to proceed. The nurse warned us that the trigger shot had the potential to cause 2 more follicles to mature before insemination, so we were potentially looking at 6 mature eggs.

We had a little bit of a panic attack. The main downfall of IUI is that they are unable to control how many eggs get fertilized. All they can do through this procedure is make sure that the sperm and eggs meet.

We went ahead with the procedure and had ourselves convinced that we just might be having sextuplets. We laughed and joked about it with family members and friends but had some worries ourselves. Surely ONE of these eggs will be fertilized and turn into a happy, healthy baby.

Once again the test confirmed our worst fears two weeks later. One lonely little line. Negative. No baby. 9 eggs + 312 million sperm = nothing. I felt the despair creeping in again, but a weird thing happened at this point. For the first time in a year, I didn’t cry when I saw a negative result. I didn’t scream. I didn’t fall down. I didn’t do much of anything. I just felt numb. I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or scared to feel this way.

The nurse called and said that I didn’t need to come in for an ultrasound and blood work this time. Instead, the doctor wanted to meet with us. I wasn’t sure what to think at this point. I didn’t sleep for the week leading up to our consultation, because I didn’t know what kind of news he was going to deliver. I had a pretty good idea, though.

Finally the day of our appointment rolled around, and I was so relieved that it was finally here. Unfortunately, a huge storm caused the office to lose power and our appointment was cancelled. Another sleepless night. We drove about an hour away to see him at his other office the next morning. I couldn’t stand to wait another week for an appointment.

He told us that it was no longer ethical for him to do IUI on me. I was producing too many eggs and he had no control over how many would be fertilized. Our only option at this point was IVF. Ugh. My heart sank. I remembered lying on the table during my first IUI. He told us that we had a couple of shots at this and we didn’t need to consider IVF yet. “Yet?” I thought. “We will never have to go that far. Our problems aren’t that severe. IUI is going to work for us.” Another lesson I have learned throughout this journey: never say never.

Here we were staring down the barrel of the last resort in infertility intervention. The mother of infertility treatments. The kind of thing you only read about in magazines but never in your wildest dreams think will be a part of your story.

In case you don’t know, In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) is a 4 step process through which they stimulate your ovaries with injections, put you under anesthesia to harvest (remove) all of the eggs you have produced from your body, fertilize the eggs in lab, watch the embryos grow for approximately 5 days and then implant the living embryos back into your uterus.

How did we get here? I hoped I would never even have to consider IVF, because quite honestly it makes me very uncomfortable. I am not comfortable having any leftover embryos. The common practice is to fertilize all of the embryos they harvest (typically between 10 and 20), pick the best 2 to implant and freeze the rest for later attempts in case it doesn’t work. The problem is…what if we don’t need any more embryos? What if it works on the first try and we get twins and then we have all of these leftover embryos? What are our options for those guys?

In the state of Louisiana you have 2 options. You can either donate your embryos to other couples or leave them frozen indefinitely. I think donation is an amazing, wonderful gesture; however I’m just not personally comfortable having children out in the world I don’t know about. I’m also not comfortable leaving the embryos frozen for all eternity, because I believe life begins at conception.

After expressing my concerns and beliefs to the doctor, he said that if we chose to limit the number of eggs we allow him to fertilize we would be SIGNIFICANTLY reducing our chances of success. He attempted to convince us to change our minds, but also respected our beliefs. After a lot of thought and prayer, Matt and I have decided to proceed with IVF on our own terms.

I am going to take all of the injections necessary to stimulate my ovaries and we are going to let the doctor harvest all of the eggs I produce. However, we are only going to allow him to fertilize 3 eggs. At the end of the 5-day period in the lab, we are going to allow the doctor to implant whatever is still living in my uterus. We may end up with none, we may end up with twins or we may end up with triplets.

We decided to allow him to fertilize 3 eggs instead of 2 to give us better chances, but this also opens us up to the possibility of triplets, which we are ok with. The doctor is also going to attempt to freeze the remainder of my UNFERTILIZED eggs. Egg freezing, or vitrification, is still a very new and experimental process, so he isn’t sure if any of the eggs will thaw out if we need to use them for future attempts. It’s just a chance we have to take. We are putting our faith in God, and we feel confident that He will reward us for doing this in a way that we feel is right.

The clinic I go to said they have NEVER had a patient do IVF this way before. They have had a lot of patients ask about it in the beginning and then abandon the idea and fertilize all of the eggs once they learn how much their odds will decrease. I think they told me this to make me reconsider. It did the opposite. It makes me that much stronger in my convictions that I am going to do this according to my beliefs.

I know that my beliefs aren’t shared with everyone else, and I don’t judge anyone whose beliefs differ from mine. I respect and admire each and every person who has had to travel down this path. I would encourage anyone else going through the same process to make the decision that works for them. At the end of the day, you are the only person who has to be comfortable with the choices you make.

Prayers are appreciated as we take on the next leg of our journey. It certainly won’t be easy, but they say that nothing worth having ever is.