Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Shout Out, Answered Prayers, & Distractions

Two posts in one day... look at me go! I knew my update would end up being pretty long, so wanted to make this a separate entry and mesh a few things together. 

First, a shout out. Technically, more of a book review, but that doesn't sound as fun. So let's say it's a shout out to the author, Kristine Ireland Waits, for her book Every Drunken Cheerleader: Why Not Me? 

I found this book back in January, like the day we found out our infertility sentence. I remember being home by myself when the Doctor gave me the news that we had no swimmer count. Scott was working the late shift that night, so it was me, the devastating news, a box of tissues for my millions of tears, and the Dr. Google for quick solutions of support, research, understanding, and answers. I searched infertility books and this is one of the first I came up with. The first was actually Waiting For Daisy, by Peggy Orenstein, which is another good read. I ordered both and had them a few days later. 

With a title like Every Drunken Cheerleader: Why Not Me?, how can you not laugh or say "YUP, that sums it up." I mean, really. The title grabbed me instantly and I'm glad I found it. Kristine's writing is so personable and just flows, as if you were sitting in a room with her and hearing her tell her story. I was hooked from the first page, and after the intro and first chapter, I looked her up and emailed her. I know that sounds weird and stalker-like, but I have actually never done anything like this before. There was just something about her writing style, and her encouraging words, that made me want to reach out and thank her. Up to this point in the early stages of our relationship with infertility, I had only told a very small number of people, and most of them didn't really understand what exactly we were going through... but this author did. I was craving guidance from someone who had been in our shoes before. So I emailed her just to say thank you and to let her know that I truly enjoyed her book. From what I could tell, I had a feeling she would be very appreciative and would want some feedback from readers. 

Sure enough, she did, because I was surprised when Kristine wrote back that same day! She was very thankful and glad that I responded positively to her book, felt we both spoke the same language, and asked me to consider contributing to her next book. This book was all about her personal experiences, and she's currently working on one that is a compilation of other people's experiences with infertility. So kind of taking a different spin and publishing a collection of struggles, advice, ways to find support, success stories, etc. I immediately jumped on this because since everything was still so new and fresh, I had been meaning to journal about it all but hadn't had the push to yet. Her request was my push, so I did it and wrote about everything on my mind. I must have spent about 3 hours at the laptop just writing nonstop as it all poured out. I apologized profusely to her and said I didn't even care if she used none of it, but it was so therapeutic for me to get it all out there, so she could take it or leave it, but it was helpful for me to have written. I think the spark to start this blog came out of that, too. I've always tried to keep journals, but it usually ended up wishy washy. Plus it makes my hand hurt. This is a lot easier. So, now I have an author friend. We've emailed back and forth a few times over the last few months, most recently over the summer and she replied saying if we lived closer, she would bring over a kick board to help encourage our swimmers! Ha! She's working on her new book now and I can't wait to see how it turns out. I don't even mind if none of my material was useful (well, I would feel awful for her to have read through it all, but really no hard feelings other than that here), the fact that it helped me say what I needed to say to keep record of our journey for myself is what really counts. Anything more than that would just be kind of fun and neat. 

I truly recommend this book to anyone who wants a good read, whether you're trying to conceive (TTC) or are close to someone who is. It gives a great picture of all the emotions and other things you encounter on the journey. And needless to say, Kristine and her husband have endured many struggles but in the end have two beautiful children!! Gotta love stories with happy endings. <3

Check out these sites to learn more about Kristine and her books: 

Next, some cute prayer stories. 

My family is Catholic, we went to church a lot growing up, and I received many sacraments, but I'm not very active in the church anymore. I've honestly had a hard time believing in God at times, but I still consider myself a very spiritual person. I have total faith that things usually happen for a reason and to just stay positive and believe. I believe in a lot of things and have a lot of hope, but it's kind of been my own spiritual journey for a bit until the past year. I've started to pray on my own a lot more in the past year and I have many different tokens of fertility symbols and good luck charms on my dresser. Things from different friends. There's a picture of the triple goddess, which is supposed to be a powerful fertility symbol, a Kokopelli charm/necklace, a fertility bracelet, a prayer for motherhood, and a few other trinkets that I felt I would keep all in one spot when a friend suggested this last year. Can't hurt, I'll try just about anything if it will get us a step or two closer. Anyway, I've somewhat regained my sense of faith over the last year and have kind of found my own spirituality and what I believe in. 

Over the summer, I knew I was changing grade levels again to teach Kindergarten. I was pretty excited about it, but having only done it once before (2 years ago, so not consecutively), I was nervous to be the only teacher doing it this time. My partner was moving up to 2nd and I was really really nervous about teaching it on my own when I wasn't 100% comfortable with taking it over just yet. It was only set to be one section because the numbers just weren't there for 2 classes. (I teach in a VERY small school~ it's a K-8 district, all in one building, with only 1 or 2 sections of each grade, depending on size.) The K numbers in June were around 18, and we wouldn't typically split unless it was around 24/25. I was in and out a lot over the summer moving classrooms, and when I was in on July 30 before going to Florida for a few weeks, the principal updated me that many new families were moving in and wanted to register their children, and our numbers could be increasing. The potential numbers were enough to put it right on the fence of 24/25. 25 is average anywhere else in the country, but in our small little country town, 25 in one class is A LOT. On my way home that day, I started to panic and run through lots of thoughts. That many kids in one class at my school would be enough to set any of us on edge, but I was more anxious for a few reasons. Kindergarten can be a loose cannon; you don't know their academic needs or behaviors yet, so that's a lot for the lower grades where rules, routines, and other foundations are key. The bigger elephant in the room was that fact that I knew there was a good possibility I would be starting fertility treatments during this school year and would need to be out a lot of days for different doctor appointments. Not ideal in any situation, but worse in a Kinder class, and a class with so many families who just might not understand. So right there, on my drive home, I started to pray out loud. I tried to spin it and think positively. I knew I would only be given what I could handle... or at least I prayed to only be given what I can handle. If it ended up being so many kids, I would have to accept it and know that I would survive, somehow, one way or another. I asked to PLEASE keep in mind the fact that we'd potentially be missing days with RE appointments and treatments, on top of regular germs and sicknesses that any school year brings. If I was meant to go through all of that, a smaller number would be much easier to handle. Fast forward 2 weeks and the last full day of our vacation in Disney (just 2 weeks before school started) I got word that the administrators decided to split the class into 2 smaller classes. I was SO overjoyed and felt an immediate sense that things would start looking up soon and we can start down the path to a baby this school year. I now have 12 children (with 1 or 2 newbies potentially arriving in the next few weeks) and they are such a sweet, fun, and adorable class! I am loving each and every day and I'm very VERY hopeful for the school year ahead. I know I will need to use days for appointments at some point in the year, but having a smaller class makes it so much easier to be gone here and there, and I have to put my family first for once. I know they will be left in good hands and that it won't be chaotic for substitutes with a nice small number. I truly feel that things are starting to fall into place. :)

Thankfully ;)
And finally, some distractions...

Being a teacher married to a retail manager, our schedules are like night and day. Sometimes Scott and I are like two ships passing in the night. I am up at 6:30 and in bed around 10 every weekday, and home on the weekends. Scott works all weekend, every weekend, has 2 weekdays off, and works some mid shifts, some late shifts, and one opening shift. It's safe to say that we spend more time together asleep in the same bed than awake with each other. We can count on 2 dinners a week, maybe 3 together... the days that Scott is off from work (as long as I leave school at a decent time), and the day he opens (as long as he leaves on time). Other than a few hours together on those nights, we have a few hours combined on the weekend mornings too, before he goes to work. So it's never enough to go out and do anything other than run a few errands and maybe go out to eat. Otherwise we are on the couch, catching up, watching TV, and eating din together or having coffee together. 

We haven't had a common day off together since August 28th, and we probably wouldn't have one again until Thanksgiving... unless I take off from work. Luckily, my birthday is in October and we usually try to do something either on my birthday or on the weekend nearest. This year it's on a weekend and we're both taking 3 whole days together and going on a weekend getaway!! I'm so excited. It's the big 3-0 and I'm not super excited about that (Dad, I totally get why you always used to pretend you were still 29 every year... I don't want to turn 30!!). Scott asked if I wanted a party, but all I really wanted was a weekend with Scott, some wine, and to be somewhere new for the weekend. So we're headed to wine country, the Finger Lake region of New York. It's about 4 hours northwest of us, but we've been wanting to go for years, and what better reason than a big milestone birthday? Also, if we aren't starting any fertility treatments until December at the earliest, a wine weekend in the fall is perfect. I am so excited for this distraction. Distraction from school, from infertility, from social media, from everything except us. Just us. A Team Ricci getaway.  I love our vacations together because it really gives us quality time to reset and reconnect. Our work schedules tire us out so much that even though we have a few hours together on some days, we're like on autopilot and usually stressed, tired, or have something to work on or do. So this trip will be a fun and relaxing adventure to somewhere new. I'm really looking forward to it!! :) :) :)

 "Eat, drink, and be merry." <3

Updates & The Final Quarter of The Waiting Game

It's all about perspective. Staying calm, staying positive, and rolling with the punches. Just go with it. This mentality has been my way of life for a while now (thanks to some inspirational family/friends) and it's what I know. My dad always said "Positive things happen to positive people.", and my mom always reminds me to think positively and keep my head up. So I do. Things get me down easily and I will complain like there's no tomorrow about some things initially, but when the dust settles, it really comes down to living with a positive mindset for me, or I would just be a miserable and depressed person 24/7. I know it seems as though I live with my head in the clouds sometimes a lot, but it works for me. I'm a natural worrier, I'm a dreamer, yet I'm also realistic about things when I need to be. I keep balance, in true Libra fashion. And I refuse to live through life with a negative mindset because I truly believe that will just get you absolutely nowhere... except being alone, bitter, and miserable. 

With that being said, I refuse to sink and refuse to give up as we move forward into the next chapter of our baby journey. I have to keep a positive mindset going into the next few months because it matters now more than ever. There are bound to be pitfalls, crappy test results, lots and lots of doctor bills, and lots of tears and days I won't want to get up and go to work... BUT I need to push through and carry on because it's the only way to get to our goal in the end. Nothing worth having comes easily without some form of struggle or challenge (ok, maybe it appears to happen easily and without struggle for some people, but don't let the facade fool you, everyone struggles sometimes, somewhere, somehow). The challenge is what makes the end result all the more worthwhile. I know there will be tough days ahead, but I'm prepping myself to not give up. I know it will be tough and very difficult in the months ahead, but I refuse to give up or give in.

I'm loving this quote and starting to believe it more and more. 
You can plan and dream all you want, but life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. Curveballs will be thrown in here and there, and it's all how you roll with it. It will all be okay in the end, some day. I'm starting to see the bigger picture more and more, and realizing some good reasons why it's actually okay that we haven't gotten pregnant yet. It's allowing different opportunities to come up and present themselves, and it's all kind of exciting. It all gives me hope that down the road, we can look back and feel comfort that this journey molded us for the better and changed us in good ways.... As long as there is a child somewhere in the next 10 years before we are 40 please! :p

Okay, onto the updates. Sorry, we all know I ramble A LOT. Last week was a big information-gathering week. 

So here's the scoop...

Remember Scott's surgery in May to remove the varicocele? We had to wait 4-6 months before checking for any swimmers (sperm) for a Team Ricci swim team... that's the earliest anything would have shown up because it can take that long for sperm to produce and show up in a test. Well, we just made it to the 4 month mark! Yay! So, Scott had a post-op check-up with the urologist on September 9th. They did an ultrasound to check on the varicocele and that showed that it's completely gone, so that is exciting, but it's a small victory because that was only half of the issue. Unfortunately, the checkup showed that there are still no sperm currently. So even though the varicocele is gone, it doesn't necessarily solve or fix the problem because it didn't help with sperm production. Scott's testosterone level is still very low, so I think that's showing the Klinefelter's (chromosomal issue) is holding us back and stopping production. Scott is bummed and feels like the surgery was done for nothing, but it's good it was removed anyway because they had to rule it out and at least see if it worked. So now, the next step is to go back in November (which would then be the 6-month mark) and repeat the tests again to see if there is a change. If so, we are obviously good to go, and if not, they will do a biopsy to hunt for some stubborn swimmers in hiding. 

Even though we didn't get great results, we did get the results we were expecting, and got a glimmer of excitement at the end of the visit. We were realistic and didn't expect to see a change just yet. I am holding out hope for one of the November checks, specifically the biopsy. Scott doesn't think there will be any regardless because of the testosterone levels. But I'm holding out hope and praying, so we can't give up yet. I asked the Dr what would happen after November, regardless of Scott's results. This is the exciting part... regardless of the results (obviously hoping on the best for Scott, but prepared otherwise), we can still move forward with fertility treatments around December or January. To me that is super exciting. 

So, the way I see it, there are 3 possibilities in November...

1. If sperm show up, we proceed with IVF asap. (least likely, but possible)

2. If still no sperm, they will do sperm mapping/retrieval (biopsy) and proceed with IVF if they find any. (PRAYING!!)

3. If no sperm in both checks, we have to throw in the towel and move to selecting a sperm donor and go on to possibly IUI instead of IVF. *Side note to possibility #2, if they find just a few with Scott, we could potentially do IVF with some of Scott's and some of a donor's as backup (like if there weren't enough to fertilize all retrieved eggs with 1, we can supplement the donor sperm with the others). 

Prayers would be greatly appreciated to find something useful in November. It only takes 1, although a few more would be nice! 

The super exciting news here is that EITHER WAY, with either possibility, we can proceed in December/January!!! It all would depend on my cycle, so let's just say January to be on the safe side... but still, that's just a few months away until we can get in the game. Also means only a few more months to save, as IVF is really expensive and not covered one bit by our insurance. But, it's still very very exciting to feel that we can be out of the initial waiting game and jump into the next step. 

The same week Scott had his checkup, I had started my next cycle and had to meet with our RE (fertility doctor) again. She wanted to perform a saline infusion sonohysterogram (SIS), which essentially is a procedure to make sure my uterus would be a good home to hold a future pregnancy. It's the lesser of the two evils, when compared to a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), which involves the fallopian tubes as well and is said to be very painful by a lot of people. I knew I needed it before moving onto IVF, and the reason I don't need the HSG (yet) is because IVF bypasses the tubes completely, so there's no need to check on them. IF we ever move away from IVF and go to IUI (intra-uterine insemination, or "artificial insemination"), I will need the HSG because then they would need to know the condition of my tubes. As crazy as it sounds, I'd rather stick myself with needles daily for IVF than get the HSG from what I hear about it, and after my experience with the SIS. Thinking about either makes me want to cringe though. 

Ok, back to the saline sonogram, which I needed to have. This was done in the Danbury office of our clinic, which is about an hour from work, so I took a half day last Friday. Scott couldn't switch days off since we had his appointment earlier the same week, so I took a half day and went alone. The staff assured me it was nothing to worry about, so I didn't think twice about going alone. They told me to take ibuprofen about an hour before and that I would just experience some mild cramping. No biggie. I am a nervous nelly when I go to any Dr. visit, but I was feeling calm and collected, surprisingly. It was my first time at this office, since when we initially met our RE back in March, it was at a closer office they usually use just for initial consults. One of my best friends uses our clinic, too, and she loves the staff there, so I knew it would be a comfortable visit. My first impression of the office was great. When I arrived, I was the only patient in the waiting room for a good 15 minutes, and the receptionist welcomed me, was SO sweet and friendly, and made me feel right at home.  I also noticed some Kokopelli art hanging on the wall, and instantly smiled because he's been one of my good luck charms through this journey, thanks to another friend! 

Kokopelli~ a Fertility God
When I was called back with the nurse, she reminded me that it was a pretty simple procedure and there would just be some mild cramping. Essentially, "Saline infusion sonohysterography (SHG or SIS) consists of imaging the uterus and uterine cavity using ultrasonography where sterile saline is instilled into the uterine cavity. The purpose of sonohysterography is to detect abnormalities of the uterus and endometrial (uterine lining) cavity." I knew all this and wasn't worried, plus I knew it should take about 5-10 minutes. Being Friday the 13th, things couldn't have gone perfectly or that just wouldn't be how things typically play out for me. The saline and iodine are injected through a thin catheter inserted into the uterus, and there was an issue somehow with getting the catheter into my cervix, and the Dr. had to take everything out and try again like 3 times. Let's just say this wasn't the most comfortable experience and the catheter hurt more than I had imagined. I'm thinking there's an opening and a thin tube, no problem. Yea, not so much. Thin tube that you can feel poking inside your uterus, when nothing has been in there before, OUCH. Getting nervous, feeling uncomfortable, and now worried that it's not going to work also don't help for trying to stay calm, relaxed, and breathe through it. On a good note, thankfully, the Dr. and nurse were both extremely apologetic and sympathetic, they felt badly that I was basically having the procedure done almost 3 times because it wasn't working smoothly. But luckily, finally it worked, they did their thing, took some ultrasound pics to get some measurements and a clear view of my uterus, and then we were done. Eeek. All in all, it was about 15 minutes, but it was 15 uncomfortable minutes and I was holding back tears bc of the unexpected discomfort due to the complications and the fact that I wished Scott was able to go with me (not his fault, I didn't even think I needed him). Just thankful everything looked clear and I don't need to do that again.... And this is why I'm fearful of the HSG, because this was supposed to be easy and it wasn't something I would ever want to do again, thanks to my uncooperative reproductive parts. Ouch. 

As if that weren't enough trauma for one day, the RE reminded me that I was also scheduled to do blood work for all of my genetic makeup.... Oh joy! I had started the week with blood work to make sure I wasn't pregnant (Duh) before they did the SIS, so I had already been poked in my left arm and that was still slightly bruised. The problem was, I didn't remember about the blood draw and had barely drank water that day, so I was very dehydrated and began to panic, thinking it would be hard to find a vein and this would hurt too. All I wanted to do was be home in my PJs and snuggling with Scott. But being forced to be a big girl, I sucked it up and had no choice but to go with it. Looking back, it may have been a blessing Scott wasn't there, because it forces me to be more independent when it's just me, and when I'm nervous, I tend to be more chatty. I'm also chatty when I'm comfortable with others, and the nurse really was super sweet and personable from the start. So I started warning her that I hadn't drank and that I was a big baby when it came to needles, so I was kicking myself for not drinking more to make it easier to find a vein. She said not to worry and that it would be fine. I looked the other way, we made a deal that she wouldn't even warn me before the needle, and she kept me distracted by talking. I have to say, she was ROCK STAR because she got the vein immediately, I didn't feel a thing, and she made me feel very relaxed so that it went very smoothly. I actually look forward to using this clinic when the time comes for multiple blood draws and ultrasounds during future IVF cycles. If she's there all the time, or all the nurses are that good, it might actually make my fear of needles disappear real fast! 

I then met with the RE again for an IVF consult. She went over all the steps of the IVF process, what happens, and what to expect. Thank you to all my new friends on the TTC world of Instagram, because I have learned SO much from you all, that I can honestly say I was already very familiar with every step of the process. We talked about the possibility of needing donor sperm and we can actually start selecting that as soon as we are ready to, so that we have it as a backup and all picked out, so we don't waste any more time after November. I also met with a lot of the other staff at the clinic, like the patient coordinator and RN that will be assigned to us, along with the financial coordinator. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, and they truly made the whole experience seem much easier. It was a very overwhelming visit in a lot of ways (physically and emotionally), and when I finally made it back to my car, I cried for about a minute just because it was a lot to take in and Scott and I were both sad that he couldn't be there. But there are more important things for him to come to later on, so we will focus on all of that for now. The important thing is that the clinic was great, the staff is amazing, and I know that we are in really good hands with them. 

So now we continue to wait, but I'm not wishing it all by as you might think. It's not that far away, and this is the final quarter of the waiting game. Fall is a great time of year, ESPECIALLY in New York (and especially in the Hudson Valley where we live), and I want to enjoy every minute of it. I don't want it to rush by (I kind of hate winter), and I'm confident that this is how things were meant to pan out. I don't know what results November will bring, or which route we will have to take from there, but we will walk down that road when we get there. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pay it Forward

Please take a few minutes to look at the link below and share with anyone who may be able to help...

Stanzi is a mom in my hometown (the community where I now teach) who is fighting like mad to beat cancer. She is a wife and mom, and she makes some mean cupcakes & homemade chocolates! She has 2 beautiful boys, one in 2nd grade and one in pre-K. I had her oldest in kindergarten 2 years ago, and he was in the neighboring class last year in 1st. They are very sweet people and hearing about their struggle is just absolutely heartbreaking to me. I want to help in any way possible, and I feel like spreading the word of how to donate and help is the fastest way to do so. Please share the link with anyone who you think might be willing to help.

At the very least, please send some prayers up above for this family.

Life truly isn't fair sometimes. Remember to count your blessings each and every day.

Tell your loved ones that you love them, and make sure they see it. Life is too short to make assumptions and hold grudges.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world."~ Gandhi

<3 Thanks.