nav

Thursday, January 30, 2014

how do you give up on your dreams?


We were supposed to be done. 
That's what we always said.
CCRM would be our last attempt to grow our family.

But that's because we believed it would work.
Many would argue it's the best fertility clinic with the most renowned doctors in the world.
If anyone could get us pregnant, it would be them, right?

We never imagined that we'd be dead in the water again.
Before we even made it to transfer.

Three IVF attempts and no normal embryos. 
Not even a chance at a possible pregnancy.
We never saw that one coming.

Every time we tried something new, we believed in it.
With our whole hearts.
We got our hopes up. 

First visit to the RE.
First IUI.
First laparoscopy.
First IVF.
First IVF at CCRM.

And every time, our hopes and dreams were crushed.
Our beliefs questioned.
Our faith tested.

Since I received the phone call that all of our baby embryos were gone, 
I've felt so sad and empty. 
Just gutted.  
I'm grieving the loss my biological child. 

We've lost so much on this journey.
It hurts to accept that I'll never see myself in a tiny human.
That my body has failed me yet again.

We could give up.
That would be the easiest thing to do.
Decide that we can't fight any longer.
Accept our fate as a childless, infertile couple.

But I don't know how to do that.
How do you just give up on your dreams?
That concept is foreign to me.

There is certainly a part of me that wants to give up.
I know A feels the same way. 
But my heart is telling me that if we don't keep trying to grow our family, 
I'm going to regret it for the rest of my life. 
I don't believe that God would put this desire in my heart 
if He didn't intend for me to be a mother some day.

Maybe this pain is part of our story. 
None of these paths has led to our baby…
so maybe we need to take a different one.

I'm trying to be still and listen to the direction my heart is leading me.
And continuing to pray that at the end of this very long road
…the baby we are meant to have will be in our arms at long last.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

and just like that…it's over.

The day after I wrote this post, we got a call from the embryologist informing us that our few embryos that were struggling didn't make it to the blastocyst phase. 
So we only have had the two.

Then we waited for another week for the CCS results to come back to tell us whether our two embryos were chromosomally normal. 

We received the call from Dr. S that they were not .
Neither one. 
Both abnormal.

He said that neither one would've resulted in a viable pregnancy. 
We would've had an early loss.
If they implanted at all.

And just like that…it's over.
We have nothing to transfer.

Our savings drained.
Over 9,000 miles travelled.
Countless injections and prayers.
All to give ourselves the best possible chance of achieving a healthy pregnancy
 and having our baby.

And it failed. 
If I let myself believe that it was all for nothing (which is what it feels like)…I will spiral into a deep, dark depression. And might not come out of it.

We got more answers. 
My eggs are not good. 
There is a very low chance of us ever having a child with my genes. 
We know that now. 


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

the disgrace of infertility

It is rare to find an infertility piece written from a man's perspective. 
It is even harder to find one written by a man of God. 
This post, written by a pastor named Nate Pyle, is so powerful…I just had to share it. 

This Christmas I preached through the Christmas story as told by Luke. For all the times I’ve read the story, I’ve never noticed this small line hidden in the middle of the Christmas narrative. But this year was different. This year, that small, innocent line refused to go unnoticed and forced me to see it.

After Elizabeth became pregnant with John, she praised God saying, “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.”

We know that disgrace. My wife knows that disgrace. I know that disgrace.

Infertility.

No, it isn’t the same type of disgrace that Elizabeth experienced. In that day, an inability to bear children was equated with sin. It was assumed that the reason for barrenness was your own doing. You must have done something. You must have something to repent of. Some sin you committed. Some reason God was withholding his blessing from you.

You.

You created the problem by your disobedience, and now God is punishing you.

Thankfully, the shame of disapproving eyes and rumored gossip doesn’t surround infertility in America anymore. But shame still exists.

Shame grows with constant thermometer readings. Peeing on countless sticks. Needles. Probes. Tiny plastic cups. Forever counting days. Sex that feels mechanical and forced because “It’s time.”

Shame slips in with the silent words spoken as another, month pregnant only with hope, passes by. It is amazing how much silence surrounds the struggle of infertility. The silence of not wanting to talk about it. The silence of wanting to talk about, but being scared. The silence of trying to avoid the one thing you are wondering about, but not wanting to focus on it, and yet having your mind dominated by it. The silence of not feeling comfortable talking with others about it because it involves sex. The silence because you just don’t want to deal with the questions.

That silence gives shame all the voice it needs to whisper silently, “Something is wrong with you.”

Infertility is a shame-filled, silent trial, isolating couples in closed bedrooms of pain.

As a man, the pain of infertility is difficult to talk about it. While my wife and I walked through our experiences together, she felt the pain of not being able to conceive more acutely than I did. Pregnancy was failing to take place in her body. Even though the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong with either of us, she was the one scheduling the monthly ultrasounds. She was the one taking medications. She was the one physically being reminded every 28 days of the failure to conceive. The pain was much closer and much more tangible for her. And all I could do was stand back and watch. I felt hopeless. Unable to do what I normally do when situations aren’t what I want them to be: fix it.

We stood in the kitchen having the same discussion we’ve had every month. The sadness was making Sarah cry and I stood there helpless. I hugged her, but I couldn’t do anything else. I couldn’t fix this. This was out of my control.

Helplessness is not a feeling I do well with.

As I held my crying wife, I didn’t cry, but quietly grieved and pulling back from hope. The grieving brought on by infertility is different than other grief I have experienced because you do not grieve what was lost, but what never was. At some point you start grieving for what never will be.

Men don’t talk often about infertility. My guess is that, if we started the conversations, a lot of guys would feel helpless. When people dream of starting their family, no one sees years of disappointment and frustration as part of the process. No, when we dream of starting our family it is a nice and tidy schedule. “First we will go off birth control, then in 3-6 months we will get pregnant.” Wouldn’t that be nice?

Instead those struggling with infertility find themselves dealing with resignation, bitterness, anger and exhaustion.

Exhaustion from fighting to hold on to hope.

Infertility is a brutal cycle that steps on hands gripping hope. The cycle begins each month with hope only to be followed by disappointment.

Hope.

False alarm.

Hope.

Discouragement.

Hope.

Frustration.

Hope.

Shame.

Hope.

Despair.

At any point in this cycle you are constantly reminded of what you cannot do by running into countless pregnant women in the grocery story, at church, or at the gym.

Church is a good place to find support, but it isn’t always a tower of refuge. The American church is one place in our culture where marriage and kids is an expectation. Singles are constantly met with questions about when they will get married, and unnecessarily pitied or prayed for when a potential spouse isn’t in the picture. Young married’s are bombarded about when they will start having kids, as if their marriage doesn’t really matter until a child validates it.

Around church, having kids is talked about as if it is like scheduling a tune-up for your car. “Isn’t it time the two of you start having kids?” is one of the most painful questions a couple dealing with infertility can hear. Because thats exactly how they feel! It is time for them to start having kids. They’ve been hoping and praying and wanting and waiting for a long time for God to respond to their request. So yes, it is time, but no, kids don’t show up on a time table.

My wife and I struggled for 14 months before we surprisingly found ourselves expecting our now 3 year-old son. We were literally starting to have all the testing done the next month when my wife woke me up with the news that she was pregnant.

So many couples never wake up to that news.

It’s now been over two years that we have tried for another child. Two years and an ectopic pregnancy that we had to end. I’m not writing because my wife and I have discovered some secret to living with infertility. I don’t think there is any. I’m not writing because I have some great pastoral wisdom to help comfort those who are struggling with infertility. In fact, I don’t even know how to end this post. All I have is this:

You are not alone. Your struggle may be in silence, but you are not alone.

I don’t have a magic Bible verse of comfort, or prayer of peace, or words of wisdom, or any answers.

I only have “me too.” Us too. We know. We understand. And we mourn with you.

So may we, together, accept that there is nothing wrong with us and see we are simply sharing in the human experience – which is simultaneously beautiful and painful, disheartening and hopeful.


Friday, January 17, 2014

the well of tears has run dry

maybe my well of tears has finally run dry.

maybe there are only so many tears
that can be shed about the same thing before the tears just stop coming.

maybe after so much disappointment and heartbreak over the last five years
one learns to respond to bad news with a sort of businesslike indifference. 

maybe i've become stronger through this journey 
and can handle more than i could before.

whatever the reason, 
i didn't really respond how i thought i would when i received bad news yesterday. 

after being let down so many times along the way,
every hope that a different supplement, diet, doctor, procedure or prayer will bring a different outcome
but always ending up the same way.
empty womb. empty arms. 

i just accepted it. 

but let me back up a little bit and tell you the news straightway.


Most mornings, I start my day by reading a daily devotional, Jesus Calling
Yesterday, when I opened the book, here's what I read.
Come to Me, and rest in My loving Presence. You know that this day will bring difficulties, and you are trying to think your way through these trials. As you anticipate what is ahead of you, you forget that I am with you--now and always. Rehearsing your troubles results in experiencing them many times, whereas you are meant to go through them only when they actually occur. Do not multiply your suffering in this way! Instead, come to Me, and relax in My peace. I will strengthen you and prepare you for this day, transforming your fear into confident trust.
I closed my eyes and thought….not today. No difficulties today. That was not what I wanted to read. And He was right. The day would be difficult indeed. 

I arrived at a client meeting that morning and knew the minute I walked in, that's when the embryologist would call. Sure enough, 15 minutes into a 2.5 hour meeting…I see CCRM pop up on my phone. I thought about excusing myself and taking the call in the hallway. But thought better of it. In case it was bad news. I don't have a very good poker face.

After the meeting, I listened to the voice mail message that told me "you have two embryos that have been biopsied and frozen and a few more that are trying to do something". 
What does that even mean?
 Obviously, I called for clarification.

Basically, I was told that one embryo stopped growing right away. So, then we had six. Most of those weren't dividing as they should be. The embryos' cell growth was fragmented and uneven (which they don't like to see). Even at Day 3, my embryos were "delayed", they should have been 7-10 cells. But most of mine were 4 cells. 

When I asked about the few that were "trying to do something", she said that sometimes embryos make it to the blastocyst phase on day 6 or 7 so they'll keep watching them and if they get there…they'll biopsy them for CCS testing and freeze them with my other two.

All of this made me wonder if I should have done a Day 3 fresh transfer instead of opting for the CCS testing and FET (frozen embryo transfer).  I thought maybe my babies could've survived in utero.  But the embryologist told me that the quality at Day 3 was borderline and it's questionable whether they would've even been transferable.

If they weren't good embryos, it's likely because of poor egg quality. That means they were probably abnormal and would've resulted in no pregnancy or a miscarriage even if I had transferred on Day 3. 

Not to mention…
…I wasn't in Denver anymore to do a fresh transfer even if I had wanted to. 
...my inhospitable uterus needs months of hormone therapy before it is ready to house an embryo. 
….as I sat on the tarmac to fly home, I received news that my grandmother's health took a turn for the worse while we were in Denver. She's been put on hospice which broke my heart.
…on the plane ride home, I caught a vicious flu bug (thanks to stim meds compromising my immune system) that's had me running a fever, coughing up a lung and in bed every minute that I'm not at work. 
…my counterpart at work took an unplanned leave of absence to attend to family matters effective the day I returned from Denver.

I think it's safe to say…all things considered (poor egg quality, endo, emotional turmoil, fever, work stress) it probably wouldn't have made a bit of difference if I'd done a fresh transfer.

We did all of the right things. 
After one cancelled cycle, we got a second opinion
We travelled all the way to CCRM in Denver for not one but TWO cycles
To give ourselves the best chance of implantation, we are doing CCS testing and a FET to suppress my endometriosis first. If these embryos, my two embryos, don't come back normal, it just wasn't meant to be. 

For now…I'm praying that my little struggling embies that are "trying to do something" will make it to blastocyst and that my two frozen embies will come back normal.

But I'm preparing for more disappointment.
They said that my embryos didn't look good.
We've been on the wrong side of the odds every time. 
What would make me think this time would be any different?
It's not pessimism….it is realism. 

And oddly…I type this without any tears. I feel as if I'm observing myself go through this. From a distance. Perhaps watching on a screen as if it were a someone else's really sad story. 


Monday, January 13, 2014

life is better with friends


Two common themes on my baby making trip to Denver were great friends and delicious food. I was blessed to share a few hours with some fabulous friends who brightened the long winter days.

high school friend
As I've mentioned, my best friend from high school, S lives in Stapleton (a suburb of Denver). Her home is about 40 minutes from the CCRM and she's been kind enough to allow A and I to stay with her when we come to Denver for treatments. It has been a huge blessing as the cost of a hotel during our last three trips would surely be an additional financial hardship.

Although we stay at her house, I don't actually see her that much. But we had the opportunity to spend one afternoon together window shopping in Cherry Creek North. Afterwards, we had a late lunch at NoRTH, a modern twist on Italian. We enjoyed the most amazing salad with salmon and tomato bisque soup while we caught up on each other's lives. 


industry friend 
A few days later,  I had lunch with L. She and I were on an industry board together about 6 years ago as we are both in advertising. We determined that it has been about six years since we've seen each other. She moved to San Francisco for work. Met a boy. Moved to Boston with said boy. Married the boy and now they have been living in Denver for the past few months. Although we haven't seen each other, we've been keeping in touch via social media and blogs. L blogs at quinoa, kale & exhale and is constantly inspiring me to cook more delicious vegan and vegetarian dishes. 

We dined at True Foods Kitchen and shared two amazing winter salads. The whole menu is based on Dr. Weil's anti-inflammatory diet and everything is delicious. 


college friend
C is one of my "forever friends". I only see her about once a year but she's in my heart year around. We went to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo together and have been friends since. C and her hubby just moved to Denver in November and are still getting used to the area. It was so great to see her and catch up on all that is happening in her world. We met at True foods (yes, again) for brunch and shared two delicious veggie egg dishes. 


blogger friend
The grand finale was meeting Suzanne from Our Journey to a Baby Bump and her hubby T. Although we'd never met, I've been following Suzanne's infertility journey for the past year and felt like I knew her already. We both decided to pursue treatments at CCRM around the same time last year and the timing worked out perfectly for us to meet in person. 

Suzanne and I both had our surgeries scheduled at CCRM on the same day. So we had planned to meet the day prior for lunch with our significant others. We dined at Linger, an anti-entree, vegetable-based small plates style restaurant. It had an urban vibe and the food was different but quite flavorful.

But the best part of the day was the great company. There is something so easy about friendships that start with an infertility connection because there is an innate understanding of your circumstances. A compassion that comes from experience. Needless to say, I fell even more in love with Suzanne…she's such a beautiful person inside and out. I'm praying so much that her surgery works and she's able to carry her frosties and have her take-home baby this year. 



The people have certainly been the blessing in this infertility journey. I'm so grateful for all of our friends who've supported us along the way and for all the new friends I've made through the blogging community.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

holding onto hope


They say "comparison is the thief of joy."

There are always people who have it better than you do and people who have it worse. If you choose to compare your situation to those who have things "better"…you're certain to be unhappy. 

I bare this in mind as I reflect upon the results from my egg retrieval yesterday. 84% of the population is able to conceive with no cost, no effort (or very little) and no medical intervention. Of the 16% of people who seek fertility treatments to have children, many conceive by taking a clomid pill, doing IUIs or doing IVF once. One might say that those people have it better than me when it comes to conception.

But I'm well aware of all of my blogger friends who would die for my situation. Those using donor eggs/embryos. Those who can't afford infertility treatments. Those who have zero sperm and can't even attempt IVF. Or those who cycle and end up with no embryos at all. 

We've been blessed with good jobs and the help of so many wonderful angels to seek treatment at one of the best clinics in the country. And we still have, at least a chance, at our own biological child. That reality is not lost on me.

The retrieval 
Yesterday's egg retrieval went well. I had the same surgical nurse that I had during my last surgery and she's fantastic. CCRM was behind schedule and switched doctors on me right before surgery, which was a little unnerving. But Dr. B seemed to be a capable surgeon and I'm in very little discomfort today…so I take that to be a good sign.

Since we'd seen more follicles in ultrasounds than my last cycle, I was hoping to get about ten eggs. When I woke up, the nurse informed me that we got eight…one more than my last cycle. After the initial disappointment, I started focusing on praying for all of them to fertilize. Or at the very least, fertilize at the same rate as my last cycle, which would give us six more embryos to add to our bank.

Last night, I didn't sleep much as I laid awake praying and trying to think positive thoughts. Visualizing beautiful, strong, healthy embryos. 

Fertilization report 
This morning, we got the call from the embryologist and the report was not as good as we'd hoped. Despite the fact that all eight eggs were mature, we only have three embryos from this cycle which is a low fertilization rate for ICSI. He informed us that three degenerated (died) and 2 fertilized abnormally. With the two that fertilized abnormally, they had an extra chromosome. The embryologist could see two nucleus in the embryos even though only one sperm was inserted in each egg. Typically this is due to poor egg quality.

I'm worried for the growth and CCS genetic results of our remaining embryos considering the news about my egg quality. I already knew that I had Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR), which typically means poor egg quality but it's still a slap in the face hearing it's already affected two of my potential babies.

Today, the four embryos from our last cycle were thawed. Both sets of embryos will grow and the cells will divide (God willing) in the lab in Denver starting today (Day 1). The embryos that make it to the blastocyst phase (Day 5) will be biopsied and tested for chromosomal abnormalities. 

So now we wait and pray. And hold onto the hope that our strong little fighters will keep growing until Thursday and at least a few of those embryos will be genetically normal to transfer. If we play the numbers game, CCRM gave us these stats:

50% of embryos will usually make it to blastocyst phase.
In my age range, they'd expect to see 60% of embryos come back normal.
So that'd give us, 1-2 normal, transferrable embryos if we are in line with the odds.

Of course, we are hoping to beat the odds. It will be a tough four days of waiting to hear from CCRM on our blast report and then another really long two weeks until our CCS results come back. 

Please pray for our four autumn embies and three winter embies...our lucky seven. And thank you again for all of your love, support and encouragement. I don't know where I'd be without it. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

the good, the bad and the "forgot to read our chart"...


The great outdoors certainly gives me some perspective. 
It's a reminder of how small we are in this big world. How insignificant in the big scheme of things. The Rocky Mountains make the mountains near Lake Tahoe (where we live) look like child's play. 


When A arrived in Denver a few days ago, we decided to take a drive up to Beaver Creek (near Vail) to enjoy some of the fresh snow. It was a lovely winter wonderland. We walked around the village resort and had a nice dinner at Maya in the Westin Hotel.


We played, laughed and had a light-hearted day.


I'm glad we had that day and I can reflect on it because the last 36 hours have not been great. Is it the stress of the cycle? The hormones? A and I knit-picking each other? I can't really say. This is just hard. Harder than anyone who hasn't been down this road can ever really understand. 

Things were moving along so well and then…

Day 10 of stims
(left) 14 MM, 13 MM, 13 MM, 12 MM, 11.5MM, 10 MM, 9MM, 9MM
(right) 14 MM, 13 MM, 7.5 MM

Day 12 of stims
Visited the CCRM office near Boulder and the nurse didn't give my numbers

Day 13 of stims (today)
(left) 22 MM, 20 MM, 17.7 MM, 17 MM, 14.3 MM, 13.7 MM, 13.7 MM, 11 MM
(right) 19 MM, 18 MM, 13 MM, 10 MM, 7.7 MM

Based on my follicle sizes, they'd like to have me stim for one more day to try to get those smaller follies a little bigger and do a Saturday retrieval. The ideal follicle size at trigger is around 20 MM and many of mine are too small yet. But my estradiol level started to plateau today. If they don't trigger me tonight and my estradiol level actually drops down…that's bad. So the doc didn't have any choice. We are doing a double trigger tonight at 1:45 AM with Pregnyl and 2:45 AM with Lupron…for a Friday retrieval. 

We also had a regroup with Dr. S today. Is it too much to expect your doc to read your chart and have some clue who you are and what's going on before he walks into a meeting? First, he starts off by saying, not much is going on in your left ovary but your right is doing some work. Huh? I didn't correct him but that is completely backwards.

Then he proceeds to talk to us about doing another cycle and banking our embryos before CCS testing. A looked him flabbergasted and asked how many embryos he wants before we test. Dr. S said six. A asked how many we got last time? The doc looked confused and said let me look. While he was pulling it up on the computer, I stated that we have 4 frozen embryos. Dr. S confirmed that number and said he just wanted to mention it as an option because some people do cycle three times before testing. Neither A and I think he remembers that we just cycled in September and he trying to play it off afterwards. UGH! Nothing else from the regroup was particularly noteworthy. 

This cycle started out so strong. It sucks that doubts are starting to creep into my head and concerns about how many eggs will be mature. Emotions and hopes just run so high in this process that it's so hard to deal with the disappointments that inevitably seem to come along. But I'm trying to focus on my faith and maintaining hope that this will end with a baby in our arms.


Saturday, January 4, 2014

fresh start


Nothing like starting off 2014 with fresh snow. 
On the first morning of the new year, I woke to snow in Denver. For those of you that live in an area where it snows, it's probably not a big deal. But I haven't woke up to snow much since my days living in Boston…almost ten years ago. So it's a novelty.

What I love about the snow is how fresh and clean it is. It is purifying. All white everywhere. Soft, shimmery powder. It's like a new beginning. A fresh start. Kind of like the New Year. It was magical. I woke up early and walked around the neighborhood. My foot prints were the first to mark the path.

I've felt really tranquil this cycle. Whatever will be, will be. But I believe that our miracle baby is on its way. And I know in my heart that we have done everything we could do to make it happen. No regrets. Before I left for Denver, I borrowed some luggage from my friend D. She is pregnant right now with TWINS girls from CCRM. This is the text she sent me after I left her house:
"You looked beautiful last night. There was a strong and confident yet calm and peaceful aura surrounding you. And that is such a great way to go into this cycle."
That is exactly how I feel. At peace. 



My follicles are doing really good and my estradiol (223 on Weds and 668 today) has finally caught up to where it should be. 

Day 6 of stims
(left) 9.6mm, 9.2 mm, 8.4 mm, 7.9 mm, 6.9 mm, 6 mm, 3.7 mm
(right) 9.7 mm, 8.3 mm, 4. 1mm, 3.4 mm

Day 8 of stims
(left) 11 mm, 10 mm, 10 mm, 8 mm, 8 mm, 8 mm, 7 mm
(right) 11 mm, 11 mm, 5 mm, 4 mm, 4 mm

The 5 and the 4s on the right are probably too small but everything else is growing pretty close together. I'm ecstatic. This is huge for me. My little eggs are growing slow and steady. My retrieval was planned for Tuesday but it is going to be pushed back to later in the week…probably Thurs or Fri.

I'm enjoying my quiet time in Denver. A little mall walking in the snow. Exploring new areas of the city in my rental ride. Going to yoga. The neighborhood studio offers a free week pass. My nurse cut me off from hot yoga after my first session but last night I did restorative yoga. It was quite nice.


 
Please send some positive vibes to our ttc sister Desiree at Stripes and Pearls. She is on pins and needles waiting to find out if five of her eggs are going to make it. 
Fingers crossed for you, honey.

Hope you're all enjoying the New Year so far! And if you're preparing to brave the storm today, good luck and stay warm. I'm off to the clinic in a snowstorm at 6:30AM to pick up needles for my morning injection because I ran out. Ugh. #InfertilityProbs …and yes, I just hashtagged my blog post. ;)


Blogging tips