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I've shared before that my husband and I were incredibly blessed to have success with our first cycle of IVF. We had our nothing-short-of-a-miracle daughter in April of 2010, and every failed cycle since then has just reinforced what a gift she really is.

Well, Jocelyn is about to turn three in a few weeks and is becoming quite the conversationalist. I was completely caught off guard when I got home from my retrieval to hear her shout, "Mommy, did the doctor take all of your eggs out?" She's also quite the little eavesdropper because I definitely did not have that conversation with her.

Jocelyn has a really great group of playmates that we see pretty regularly, and all of them... all of them... now have little siblings--which leads to a natural question. "Mommy, where's my little sister?" It comes up often, and I usually respond, "We just have to keep asking God to give you a little brother or sister." Usually, Joss just accepts this answer, says okay, and hops/bounces/dances off to go play. 

Well, last night was a little different. After my usual response, Jocelyn said, "Let's call God." She ran into her playroom and came back with her little purple Fisher-Price phone, handed it to me, and said, "Here, Mommy; call Her and ask." I had to smile, especially because she referenced God as a woman (can you tell Mommy's a feminist?). But I also admired her sense of urgency. This is serious business. Get this God woman on the phone and demand some action!

I took her little phone and tried my best to have the conversation she was looking for. "Hi, God. It's Mommy and Daddy. We were just wondering if you could help us have a baby and let Jocelyn have a little brother or sister.... (pause)... Okay, you're going to try really hard to help us?... (pause)... Okay, then we should continue to pray and know that we are doing everything that we can? ...(pause)... Okay, we will. Thanks for your help, God. Take care."

Jocelyn seemed satisfied with the call, and in some ways, so did I. It gave me a chance to remind myself that I am doing everything that I can. I struggle with a good dose of mommy-guilt that we brought Jocelyn into this world and now may not ever be able to give her the sibling she requests so often. We just didn't think that baby #2 would be this hard. And, since this is our last attempt, it's important to accept that God has this. There is nothing that I could have done differently to help make this work... nothing. This transfer is going to be in God's hands now. And we just have to pray that She takes phone requests.

 
 

We Have a Litter

We received the most glorious news on Saturday (well, next to hearing that we're actually pregnant). Our RE confirmed that we have 8 embryos that made it to Day 6! They were all successfully biopsied and frozen. So now we wait for the results of Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) testing, which should take about 2 weeks... a whole new 2-week-wait to stress over. I assume that we'll probably lose a few due to chromosomal abnormalities, but odds are good that we'll have at least two embryos to transfer. Huge relief!

We've been sharing our IVF journey with a bunch of our friends and family, so naturally, we were excited to share this news with them. I love that the question I keep getting about these embryos is: "Will you transfer all 8?" Knowing what I know about IVF, the answer is obviously no. But I still have to chuckle at the thought of being the next Octomom with my own little litter of kids.

Ringing in CD1 with Aphrodite

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It's also quite fitting that today, March 18th, is Goddess of Fertility Day--fitting because today is also Cycle Day 1 for me again. It's time to start building up my lining to prepare for a frozen embryo transfer (FET), and how wonderful that I get to kick off this part of my cycle with a celebration of Aphrodite. 

I've actually been channeling the Greek goddess of fertility throughout this entire cycle with a charm that is supposed to symbolize fertility. It was given to me by a friend who had it blessed, and I am to return it to her after I get pregnant. I'm hoping that I get to give it back to her very soon.

Aside from celebrating Cycle Day One with tampons and a cramps, I'm also starting the seeds to my garden today. Symbolism just abounds here. It just feels like a great day to honor rebirth, fertility, and growth. 

 
 
Every time I watch this video of an embryo dividing, I get chills. I get chills because I can't believe that my miracle daughter started out like this over 3 years ago, and I can't believe that we just had 8 embryos successfully make it through this process. IVF is every bit as miraculous as a natural conception. Check out this clip from Reproductive Medicine Associates of New Jersey.
 
 
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Tomorrow morning, I'm going for my endometrial disruption, less elegantly known as a "womb scratching." It's essentially a very light scraping or disruption of the endometrial lining with the goal of increasing white blood cells. The white blood cells then spit out all kinds of other substances that are particularly helpful in coaxing a little embryo to implant. (Read more about it here on FertilityAuthority.com.) It just creates a more favorable lining for the transfer. And since we've had quite a few genetically normal embryos fail to implant, we figured we'd give it a shot. It's supposed to really increase the chances of success so, naturally, I'm on board.

Meanwhile, somewhere in a lab in North Jersey, my little embryos are still dividing away. It's killing me that I don't know what's going on with them though! I wish the RE offered a 24/7 webcam, like they have in some daycare facilities now. I could just log on from home and check on my embryos-- you know, cheer them along, call the embryologists if I have a concern.

"Yes, hello. I'm calling about embryo #13. Can you tell me why it's looking kind of clumpy?... Oh, okay... Just increased cellular adhesion?... Okay, thanks for looking into it... You have a good day, too... Buh-bye."

Funny to think about, but I bet it'll be totally normal 5 years from now. It's already amazing how much has changed in the 5 years we've been doing IVF. For now, I'll just have to trust that my embies are in good hands and keep my fingers crossed for an amazing report on Saturday morning.

 
 
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Well, yesterday was the big day! And egg retrieval day turned out to be a huge success--although it was not without some opportunities for complete panic.

Our morning seemed to go super smooth and was complemented by a beautiful sunrise to set the scene for our 90-minute drive to the RE's main office. It was so peaceful, especially when compared to the ice storm, freak blizzard, and complete downpour that confronted us on our previous retrieval visits. We took it as a sign that things were falling into place this time around.

We were thrilled to see all of our favorite nurses on staff when we arrived. Having been through more than a handful of cycles, we've gotten to know the surgery and recovery nurses pretty well. And we were also excited to learn that our actual RE was performing our retrieval, not one of the other doctors on staff. Again, a reason to feel like things were happening like this for a reason.

The actual procedure was like clockwork. Staff bustled around confirming my identity, getting me positioned on the table, and the next thing I knew, the doctor was telling me to have a nice nap. I remember making a sound that was supposed to be "thank you," and then I just drifted off. Lord, if I could fall asleep that easily every night, I would be one very happy gal.

Apparently, I also had the opportunity to learn of my budding alcohol addiction after the procedure. When the nurses wheeled me back to my room, I spent the first five minutes coming out of my deep sleep muttering something about really needing a glass of wine. I don't remember ANYTHING, but I was totally embarrassed when TR told me about it. He was just relieved I didn't wake up asking for a Bob, or Joe, or Julio. 

Just when we thought everything was going great, we got a call from the andrology lab that TR's specimen was not sufficient. He had to go give it a second shot, literally. I can't imagine the pressure he must have felt--his wino wife worrying like crazy down the hall while he, ahem, ya know. But he did it! And we found out a couple hours later that the lab had enough in the fresh and frozen specimens to fertilize our eggs.

So here's the results of our final fresh IVF retrieval that we will ever do for the rest of our lives:
  • 32 eggs were retrieved
  • 24 of those eggs were mature enough to do ICSI
  • 17 of those ICSI-ed successfully fertilized

We'll find out on Saturday how many embryos are still growing, and those embryos will be biopsied for PGD (genetic testing). It'll take two weeks to get those results back and then we can start preparing for the transfer!

It's just crazy to think we now have 17 little embryos growing in the lab. We are praying like crazy that they continue to thrive (and we're wondering if we can claim all 17 potential children as tax deductions?). I can't help but smile when I think that our next baby is somewhere in that mix.  :-)

 
 
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My IVF retrieval date is officially on the calendar--in pen. I'm scheduled to go in Sunday morning to have these follicles harvested! Praying for lots of beautiful little eggs.

I took my trigger shot tonight at exactly 8:30. I'm triggering with Lupron, which means a pounding headache, but I'm thankful that I didn't have to deal with Lupron headaches until now. I can handle just a day or two, for sure (the second part of my trigger is tomorrow morning at 8:30 am).

I was also excited that I got to play "chemist" today with my injection of Pregnyl. This particular med comes in a powder form that you need to reconstitute. The process involves a couple different needles, two vials, a solvent, etc. Kind of makes me miss Mr. Kingman, my high school science teacher. He would be proud to see me measuring with such accuracy. If only I had a white lab coat! I totally would have worn it.

So I go back to my RE tomorrow for one more check before the big day. I've got several follies measuring at 18 or 19, and a couple dozen not far behind. As long as everything goes according to plan, this retrieval should be like harvesting basil--you end up with so much you just have to make a pesto or something.

 
 
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Am I supposed to believe it's just a coincidence that Oz the Great and Powerful opens just 1 day after a major Nor'easter makes it's final sweep through the country? It's Hollywood marketing strategy at it's finest, I tell ya.

Ridiculously implausible conspiracy theory aside, this storm is already starting to wreak havoc on the Jersey shore. My lights have been flickering for the past hour, and I'm pretty sure that some of these trees spared by Sandy are gonna uproot soon. Odds are, we'll be without power by sunset. Not exactly prime conditions for trekking into the RE's office for monitoring tomorrow morning. Luckily, I'm off the hook.

Any other time, I would be pretty bummed that my eggs didn't reach the coveted 18 mm measurement today when we though they would. But, thanks to this storm (do I really have to call it Saturn?), I'm actually thankful that my eggs still have a ways to go before it's time to trigger. 

I'll go back in on Friday morning for another status check. With my lead follicle at 17 mm today, I should definitely be triggering by Friday night. That means a Sunday morning retrieval, and Sunday is supposed to be a beautiful 50 degree day. Perfect egg harvesting weather!

 
 
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Well, the IVF amnesia is starting to lift, and I'm kinda feeling like I know what I'm doing again. That doesn't mean I don't still call my nurse with a million questions (I can take Tylenol, right?), but at least I'm not forgetting how to do my shots every night.

I'm on day six of the stim phase now, and my eggs are definitely growing. I've got dozens in there--five dozen, to be a little more exact, and my lead follicle was up to 15 mm as of yesterday. I'll go back in tomorrow morning for another ultrasound to check their progress, but things appear to be lining up for a weekend retrieval. Last time, I had 35 eggs retrieved. I'm guessing we'll have at least the same number this time.

I feel a bit like a stuffed Thanksgiving turkey today, a feeling I vividly remember from my previous cycles. And, with about four more days to go, I'm wondering if I have enough sweatpants to make it to retrieval day. I've already taken my favorite jeans out of rotation (yes, the skinny jeans I wore to dinner last weekend--bye, bye), so it's just yoga pants and sweats until all of this bloating subsides. 

As much as I want to complain about it, the bloating is a really great thing. It means my eggs are growing, and my contribution to baby #2 is in there somewhere. Some fat pants and the need to lay on the couch all evening is totally worth it.

 
 
I've been injecting myself with medications for close to four years now; but Wednesday night, as I was about to inject my first dose of Follistim and Low Dose HCG, my brain completely froze. I couldn't, for the life of me, remember if it was okay to inject both meds within the same couple of ice-numbed inches on my stomach. What a silly little thing to forget. It turns out, after a phone call to my nurse, that it was just fine to inject them about two inches apart. Issue resolved. But I was left feeling a little unsettled about my memory lapse. It appears that I've developed IVF amnesia. 

I've always been envious of those women who could recall every detail about every cycle at any given moment. "Oh, my Day 3 estrogen during my second cycle was 73." Meanwhile, I can barely remember my estrogen from this morning! Am I the only one whose bloodwork results go in one ear and out the other?

I also can't seem to remember when I started feeling certain side-effects from the meds. For instance, I probably would not have worn skinny jeans out to dinner tonight if I had remembered that bloating really started to kick in after the 4th day of injections. (Apologies to those who saw my undies when I stood up to leave, forgetting that my pants were unbuttoned.)

There is one really great aspect to this IVF amnesia, however. It makes this feel like something brand new all over again. Sure, it's comforting to know what you're doing; but man, is it exciting to go into each ultrasound not sure what to expect.

This morning, my ultrasound showed everything was progressing as it should. I have about 60 follicles about to grow, which means some serious discomfort is on the way. Fortunately, I just can't quite remember when that will set in.
 
 
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I'm looking forward to seeing my uterus tomorrow morning! It's one of the funny little perks of doing IVF--I always know what the inside of my uterus is up to. It's been over six months since we last had visual contact, and I'm long overdue for a meeting with my uterus.

I was very excited to have my IVF medications arrive via UPS today. Mostly because it means that this is all really happening again... but also because the pharmacy sends along a little bag of Hershey Kisses with each order. Yum! For the record, I do not share my IVF Hershey Kisses. Those are mine. I earn them.

Tomorrow, I'll wake up at the crack of dawn for morning monitoring--bloodwork and an ultrasound to make sure everything is in working order. It'll be Cycle Day 3, and as long as everything looks good, I'll be injecting myself with the first dose of follicle-stimulating hormone, a.k.a, Follistim, tomorrow afternoon.

Tomorrow's shot is the least painful part of the whole process. It's the shot that kicks off a new cycle filled with promise; the pain masked by sheer enthusiasm for the journey we're about to embark upon (and the 5 minutes of icing the injection site beforehand helps, too). There's no swelling or discomfort (yet). There's no pesky side effects (yet). Just an ear-to-ear grin, an onlooking/wincing husband, a deep sigh, and a "Cheers!"

Tomorrow's shot is my favorite of them all.

 

    My Story

    Infertility has been messing with my family for the past five years. We've seen amazing highs and the most heartbreaking of lows; but with each passing cycle, we've grown a little closer, a little crazier, and a little more willing to just eat the freaking pineapple core. 

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