Friday, July 25, 2014

Dust Yourself Off and Try Again

I'm just an angry orchard of emotions today. This bottle of goodness kind of sums up how I feel... I feel as though my reproductive organs are part of an angry orchard. No apples here. Not yet anyway. I feel like my mind and body are deceiving me. 

Oh goodness... It makes me sad that my last post was May 31st. Almost 2 months have gone by and I meant to blog more often in this in-between time, but time slipped away and there wasn't really much to say. Still, I feel bad about it because I love doing this and wish I could figure out how to make it more consistent and concise each time.

I last left off that we were taking a forced break to let my body get back to normal and let my hormones rebalance after having an early miscarriage. It was hard to crawl out of the deep, dark hole of the land of loss, but we did it. I worked out like crazy, I cleared my head, I tried to be healthy and stress free. I completed 5 consecutive weeks of the T25 fitness program. I, Stacy Ricci, Queen of sleeping in and NEVER working out early in the morning (rarely working out at home), got up at 5:40 most days to work out before school for 25/30 mins. I amazed myself, but it did the job. I got bursts of energy. My clothes fit better. Headaches were staying away longer. Confidence was boosting. Muscles were forming and endurance/strength were getting better. I was moving on. 

Scott & I vowed to not broadcast when we would start up with IUI cycles again. We learned our lesson the hard way; telling everyone about every step of the first two cycles was just, hands down, a very bad idea for us. So many people knew every step, so all those people knew (or could figure out) the basic timeframe of our pregnancy test. And I have an awful poker face. When we got pregnant, a lot of people found out, and when we lost it, it was just way too hard to deal with everyone knowing, so we promised we wouldn't tell when starting up again. I'm super proud of both of us for not spilling the beans before now, but I need to do another catch up to keep stress-free and keep the peace. Spoiler alert: We have started back up again. I tried so hard to be vague because I really can't take all the questions from people. I'm a terrible liar, but it's so much easier doing these cycles without the world knowing each step.

Here's the short story:

STILL trying to conceive... STILL not pregnant. End of story.

Here's the play-by-play, Stacy-style:

Took time off to wait for my body to get back to normal. Took time off to exercise and eat well. Took time off to get back to a stress-free, calm, positive, and energetic mindset. Took time off to get back to me.

Finally, it was time to start back up again. I was/We were BEYOND thrilled to get going again. Bring it on!! 3rd time's a charm, right?

Wrong. 3rd cycle failed~ and I honestly didn't think it was going to. They upped my dosage of Clomid and I produced 2 really good follicles. 2!! We were thrilled with the idea of having twins~ 2 and done, 1 baby for each of us at all times. Plus, my little cousin predicted last summer that we were going to have twins (out of the blue he said to me "how about twins?" when we asked him to say a prayer for us and ask God to bless us with a baby). I SWORE it was all happening and unfolding as it should. There were soooooooooooo many wonderful signs pointing to a positive during this past two-week wait.

We were sneaky (and successful) in planning a vacation during our two week wait. We went to Myrtle Beach, SC, to visit Scott's parents. We weren't supposed to take a vacation this summer due in part to Scott's new job and also in part to IUI. Being so time sensitive, we didn't know when we would get to start up again, and so it all depended on when I got my last cycle, so anything had to be last minute. Once we knew where the 2-week window would lay, we booked a trip and I was excited to have something to distract us and relax us at the same time. NO ONE knew that we were in the process of another cycle except for one very close friend going through the same exact thing and Manny (He had Face-Timed us coincidentally on the night I had to do my trigger shot injection, so instead of hanging up we just explained and he got to watch~ haha. So literally only 2 people outside the clinic and my acupuncturist knew. We told everyone else we weren't starting until later in the summer, probably August. It was hard to keep secret but it was for the best. We don't want people asking questions anymore, not even family. We don't want people bugging us. We don't want people guessing or looking for hints. It stresses me out and it's so much easier doing it all with no questions asked. "Normal" couples don't get asked every month how the baby-making is going... so why us. I want just something about this process to feel normal. So, no one knew.

While away, I can honestly say that I was the most relaxed in a really long time. Probably a year. A full week, with Scott, totally relaxed. I went to the pool. I read. I drank. I shopped. I had fun. I lived.

Please do not judge me on drinking. I am fully aware of the controversy here. I can just hear it now~ "Why risk it after all you've gone through, after you've come this far?". Part of me wanted to take that stance, and I respect those that do, but here's why I didn't.  All those "normal" couples I refer to? They don't always know the exact time of conception, nor about the two-week wait to see if an embryo implants. A lot of people drink and have NO idea they are pregnant. I didn't want to regret not enjoying vacation if it was negative. That would have stressed me out more because I wouldn't be able to just be worry-free. Did I get black-out, crazy drunk? No, that's not me. Did I have a glass or two with a special meal out, or while relaxing with family on the patio? You betchya. Do I regret it? No. Is that why it didn't work this cycle? No. I wanted to feel normal for once and I'm happy to say those were 2 extremely relaxing weeks. I understand fully that alcohol can impact fertility, but since we are aware of our infertility causes, I don't feel bad about indulging in a drink on special occasions. Outside of vacation, I don't drink every night, and I rarely have more than one anyway.

We had a great time away and I thought for sure this cycle was going to work. FOR SURE. These will all probably seem silly to anyone else (Scott thinks I'm crazy when I say them all aloud, so it's ok, you can judge me on this), but here are some of the "signs" I had this cycle:

-Hearing certain key songs, whose lyrics really resonate with me

-2 follicles (My little cousin, AND a close friend, both had visions of me having twins)

-A full moon on the night of IUI, AND the night after (Actually, a "Supermoon"). A full moon is supposed to be a magical time to get pregnant and "so many conceive at this time")

-My acupuncturist shared a beautiful story about the Big Dipper aiding in conception (I created it in the pic below), and the summer being a wonderful time to fall pregnant. I have NEVER been able to identify the Big Dipper in the sky, but while in SC one night, it was SOOOO incredibly clear overhead and I started crying, feeling comfort that it was going to happen.

-Dragonflies. A lot of them. I know it's summer, but I was seeing a lot. I also wanted to buy myself an Alex & Ani bracelet while away. Scott & I both decided on the dragonfly because of it's meaning and look.

-Numbers, especially number combos that mean a lot to us, kept popping up in places.

-A double rainbow in SC. We had a rainbow on our wedding day. After a miscarriage, our baby will be our so-called Rainbow Baby. Having 2 follicles and seeing a double rainbow? Come on. Also, someone wise recently just told me that she heard that a rainbow is a sign of God's blessing.

-On the plane ride home, a mom seated near us was telling someone else that she was expecting twins. "Twins on the way!" I heard her say... I thought it was a sign for us.
All these amazing signs. I kept praying for signs one way or another. None were physical really~ my boobs were hurting a few days, but that's also a PMS sign. I look for universal signs everywhere. Signs in nature. Signs in numbers. Signs in patterns and pictures. Signs in words. Signs, Signs, Signs... for what? All it proved is that I am a crazy dreamer because it all came crashing down.

2 weeks of slow slow waiting to see if I was pregnant. I was so incredibly hopeful and didn't have a doubt that it wouldn't work. This was our time. No doubts here, until this morning... the morning of my pregnancy blood test. I woke up with a splitting headache and knew I was doomed before even opening my eyes. I almost always, without a doubt, get intense headaches when I start my period. It's something with the hormone shift and being in withdrawl that brings it on. 10 years on the pill, same thing. New cycle, headaches were a given. I took my temperature to confirm. I try not to rely on this anymore but I also know my body works like clockwork. Two days before a cycle, my temp drops to 97.45, the next day 97.33, then 97.18 and that day I get it. "Please be well above 97.50!", I thought to myself as it was registering. Then "beep! beep! beep!"... 97.33... It's coming. Cycle 3 failed. Out again.

I got up to shower, cursing the system, cursing the fact that I have to be up at 6 to drive an hour to the clinic and be there by 8, when monitoring hours end. (*Thankful for summer so I don't have to rush to be the first one there at 6:30 when they don't even open until 7, so I can leave by 7:25 tops and just make it to school on time.... I dread having to do that again when September rolls around... Sigh.) Cursing the system for making me test today, when I KNOW it's negative. But, it's protocol since it was my test day and have to stick to the plan. Grr. I started crying in the shower. So much for being so completely relaxed and stress-free in the 2 weeks leading up to that moment. Gone... done... out-the-window... a distant memory.

As I knew, my fears were confirmed. I had emailed my nurse when I left the clinic because I didn't get a chance to see her, so I updated her and said that I had 2 typical PMS symptoms and was bracing myself for the worst. She called this afternoon and said she was so sorry, and that I was right. It was negative. Again. Another cycle passed, still an empty uterus. Empty room in our house. Emptiness in my heart. Empty, empty, empty.

It freaking hurts. Up, down, up, down, up, down. I'm not a yo-yo. When does it stop? I'm starting to think that whoever is in charge is mixing me up with someone who must have some pretty bad karma. I JUST DON'T GET IT... I just don't.

STILL trying to conceive. STILL not pregnant. STILL not our time...


"...Dust yourself off and try again."

One thing is for sure, WE WILL BOUNCE BACK. We will. It just takes time.

 What now???

In all honesty, nothing changes. We go about our life as is. We haven't lost or gained anything, so we are still moving onward and upward. We are sad, but nothing changes how we are or what we are doing. So, we allow ourselves to grieve, feel it, accept it, work through it, and move on. Use pain, setbacks, and negative life experiences to fuel you and guide you as you move forward.

Onward and upward. Fall down seven times, get up eight. (I hope that doesn't mean we need 8 cycles!! Eeek!! lol.)

We keep moving. When my nurse called with the news, she asked how I wanted to proceed. Without hesitation, I said "let's keep going. Start again asap." Without a doubt, no need to think that one over.

I still plan to keep it to ourselves. Not share specifics~ no timelines. No appointment recaps. No IUI dates. No telling what meds I'm on, when I go for the next appointment, when my wait is, when I test. No. I'm sharing now because it's been 2 months and it was another let down. So I recapped. I want just one aspect of this journey to feel like everyone else. Know that we are trying, and when it happens, and we get to the safe zone to announce, we will share it with the world. Please please please respect that and don't ask. You can certainly comment about anything we've shared so far, offer general support, and whatnot. I don't mind saying "we're working on it", "trying for a baby", or even going into detail about how the process works. I just don't want to keep hearing "Are you pregnant yet?" "When do you go again?" and stuff like that. 

I wish so much that we weren't going through this. I know it's part of our journey and it's our fate/destiny. It's meant to be. I'm okay with all of that and I do honestly and whole-heartedly believe with everything in me that we will have a baby some day soon. I'm just really becoming emotionally drained at the HOW and the WHY. I just want to feel normal. I envy all of those couples that can simply have well-timed sex, pee on a stick, and be done. I honestly feel so many people take that simple thing for granted and I would give so much to be in their shoes. But that's not how life works and that's not in the cards for us. I will never get pregnant that way. Never. Team Ricci has no sperm. It's just not possible for me to get pregnant without driving an hour to the clinic multiple times each cycle to get blood drawn, monitor my hormones, have ultrasounds to check my uterus lining and follicle development, take fertility meds in pill form, self injections, and go for a 5 min procedure to have a vial of donor sperm inserted into my uterus. I feel like a science experiment. It gets emotionally and physically exhausting after a while. Something so natural to all forms of life, and we can only do it with the help of science and technology. Not to say I take that for granted, THANK GOD for science and technology. The world of reproductive medicine is amazing, and without it, I wouldn't even have the chance to carry a baby and experience pregnancy. 

We've been asked more than once about adoption and if we would consider it. We absolutely would, and have nothing against it. It's a wonderful thing and who knows, it may be in the cards for us down the road. But, the current plan is to exhaust all other options first. I want SO badly to experience pregnancy and carry a baby myself, if at all possible. We will continue with IUI for as long as they let us, or a full year, whichever happens with the help of our Doctors. Then, if needed, we will explore IVF, and a new donor only if necessary. I've also been asked if the donor is the problem. I don't believe so at the moment, no. We've had 3 really great samples in terms of numbers and have no reason to believe it's the donor. "Normal" couples can take up to a year to get pregnant anyway. Technically we were pregnant 1/3 of the times so far, so we just keep trying. 

In talking to my nurse today, I learned our Dr. wants to change my protocol for the next cycle. This time we had 2 follicles/eggs, BUT my uterine lining was thin. Clomid can cause that to happen, and I was on Clomid for 3 cycles, this most recent one being a higher dosage than the others. If the lining is too thin, it makes it difficult for an embryo to attach and implant. I was put on Estrace, a drug that is supposed to thicken the lining, but perhaps it didn't do the job well enough. So, this time coming, our plan will be changed. I won't know for sure until I start another IUI cycle again (not sharing specifics of dates or time frames) but from my understanding today, she said something like this... Instead of Clomid, go on 5 days of Femara to stimulate and produce more follicles (similar to Clomid, but doesn't mess with lining as much, if at all). We will aim for 2-3 follicles again to up the chances of success. Then, add in a few days of self-injections of a drug called Gonal-F, a follicle stimulating drug. This scares me a bit because it's more needles. I had become a pro at giving myself the Ovidrel injection just 1x per cycle. Now I have to add in 3+ nights of another that is a click-pen style injection. The thought makes me cringe. My stomach will be all sorts of bruised and black and blue I'm sure. Ick. Ouch. Blah. But, I am strong. I can do it. I am woman, hear me roar! ;) I think I will need the Ovidrel again to trigger ovulation when follicles are a good size and they've set another date for IUI. At this point, Ovidrel will be a piece of cake!! ha! Talk about facing my fears dead on. 

Hopefully this new protocol will have better results. At first we were leery, but my new nurse is just as great as my last, and she answered all my questions today. Why are we changing it up? Why didn't it work? What to expect. I feel comfortable with the answers and think my Dr. is being proactive to get us moving to the next step. I'll be excited and hopeful again in no time by the end of the weekend. 

In closing, sorry for another downer post. Womp, Womp. Negative Nancy. Scott was so bummed by me being sad this morning. I am like the bipolar poster child of emotions. SUPER BUBBLY or SUPER CRANKY. The past 2 weeks I was the first, super bubbly, all smiles, feeling on top of the world. This morning, my world came crashing down and I was in a rut. Scott never gets how I can be so positive, and so negative. But it's how I process. I need to fall to the ground, re-evaluate and assess the situation, feel it, dwell on it, be sad, and then start to sort the pieces and pick back up. I bounce back quickly, but before I do, I'm just plain sad. I was so so sad this morning. Crushed, defeated, blue. How could the universe pick me up with all these signs, just to throw me back down for the count? I will never know the answers, but I can't stop trying or it will really never happen. You gotta keep living. You can't change the past, You can't change what happened. You can only change how you react and adapt to what life gives you. Get up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Maybe in the same direction, Maybe in a different direction, but keep going. 

Keep going, we will. 

Team Ricci will prevail. We will keep on going. We will become parents. We will not give up. We are a team. United we stand. <3 

My new, customized, Team Ricci shirt. :) :) It arrived while we were away, so I wore it today. It was originally for good luck but I decided to wear anyway and it will be a key good luck charm in the next cycle for sure. 

I am so incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful and amazing husband. Scott is my best friend and soul mate. I love him so much and would be lost without him. We are a complete match and a true yin/yang team. I wouldn't trade this journey if it meant going through it with anyone else but him. Our journey makes us who we are, and our baby will be a perfect result of our unique journey. 

While in Myrtle Beach, on date night. We ate at a restaurant overlooking a pier. I wanted some cool pics under the pier and Scott took this one of me. It's become one of my absolute favs. It shows I can't be broken and I will always get back up. 

Thanks for sticking to the bottom of this post. For those of you who also blog, I am so far behind on all your pages but promise I will get back soon. I feel like a hypocrite being supportive of journeys on IG but find I've slipped from keeping up with the blogs now that there are so many of us. I promise it's not a 1-way street and I think of/about, and pray for you all often. Secondary infertility moms, new moms, expecting moms, or still TTC, we are all in this together every step of the way. And to all the non-TTC readers/subscribers, thank you as well. This is a confusing story for you to relate to, but we appreciate your love and support more than you will ever know. Please don't feel bad for us~ I'm not asking for pity. Everyone has their own journey and struggle to face. I am well aware that this could be worse in many many ways. But it's our path, and it's a difficult one in it's own way, that you just can't completely understand unless you've been here. Regardless, the love and support of others is never unnoticed by us and we thank you all. It's helped us get where we are today. Without it, we would still be struggling inside, secretly. This path of communication has allowed us to get awareness out, vent our feelings, and sort through this journey together. Again, we thank you. <3 <3 

Much love,
Stace & Scott
XOXO <3 :)

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