Thursday, December 31, 2015

Adios to Another Year

Adios to another year; may 2016 be filled with cheer! 

It's December 31st, 2015... New Year's Eve, at least in the US still. The end of another year, another chapter. As much as I'm happy for 2015 to be over in some ways and move on to see what hope and wonder 2016 could hold, I have to pause and be thankful for all that 2015 brought us. 

1. We put our house on the market... In a sense I'm not thankful for this as it's somewhat of a dead end and we feel like it will never sell. We've dropped the price a bunch over the year and still no promising deals. Doesn't look like we will be moving any time soon *but* the fact that we put it up and are ready to move when the time comes is exciting. I'm thankful for taking the step so that when it does finally happen some day, we will be starting a new adventure in a new house together. Maybe in 2016.  Hopefully soon!

2. I made lots of new, wonderful family memories. I have a lot of family in Florida that I don't get to see much, for obvious reasons (living in NY). My Nanny is near Tampa and she is the only living grandparent left between Scott and I. She's 88 yet has the spirit of someone so much younger. I obviously don't get to see her often but just talking to her on the phone is enough to brighten my day when I can hear her smiling through the phone. We did get to visit her over the summer when we went down on vacation and I'm thankful for spending even just a few hours with her. Even though we get to go to Disney a lot (being vacation club members- one of the best things we ever did years agp because vacations are basically paid for and a given each year) we don't have a car while there and it's hard to make the trip out although I wish I could see her every time we are there. I also got to spend a lot of great quality time with my mom, brother, and his fam in Florida this year. We don't see much of them either for the same reasons but I was able to see them in May for my youngest newphew/Godson's communion and then again for vacation in July. My brother and his fam also came up for Thanksgiving and they hadn't been back to NY since Scott and I got married in 2007. Having them all up here was a blast and we got to spend 3 days together over their visit. I'm thankful for making so many great family memories. 

3. We made the scary terrifying jump to IVF. This involved switching fertility clinics (we had worked with a clinic in CT for 2 years for 6 rounds of IUI) for financial reasons because IVF is a big expense, not covered by our insurance, and NY clinics offered a financial assistance program that we were eligible for. We started over in June with a clinic in Westchester, about an hour from home. Over the summer we were able to do an egg retrieval and a full round of IVF. Although that cycle failed, we were lucky enough to send 8 fertilized, good-quality embryos to freeze. The fact that we have those is hopeful for us in that our future baby/babies is/are hopefully in that batch so we don't have to go through it again for physical, emotional, and financial reasons. As terrifying and draining IVF is for multiple reasons, I'm so thankful we had the opportunity to go through it and are now on the other side of the super tough stuff. As much as our fertility journey has been incredibly difficult on us in many ways, we are oddly thankful for it. It's made our relationship so much stronger in so many ways, it's allowed me to gain a lot of support online from the TTC community (I wish Scott could say the same as we still have yet to really get equal support for him), and it's given us 8 extra chances at a baby. Sure it's a lot of money, time, emotion, etc, but hopefully 2016 will be THE year for good news finally. 4 years is a long time and we are simply tired of waiting and trying and giving our all into every step of it. As much as we've waited a long time, we have also come very very far from where we were at the beginning of it all 4 years ago. 

A new year just around the corner... 366 blank pages to fill (2016 is a leap year!- Consider that a bonus day I suppose?!). Make each page/day worth reading/remembering. May your glass always be at least half full and may you be filled with inspiration, hope, happiness, positivity, and love in the year ahead!! May good things come to all who deserve it! 

As always, thanks for all the love and support along the way. Hoping our time is coming. Please keep prayers and positive vibes coming our way. 




Sunday, November 29, 2015

Bittersweet Christmas Feelings

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..." or so the song goes. The holiday season was always a favorite for Scott & I, even before we were together. Not because of the gifts under the tree but just because there's always been some type of magic in the air. Some of my favorite things about the Christmas season have always been Christmas lights, the magic & wonder of it all, giving gifts to others, fun decorations, and the excitement of children awaiting Santa's arrival. 

I don't know what it is about Christmas lights but they always relax me and make me smile. One year in college, I came home from babysitting late one night and Alli had decorated our room with lights to cheer me up (I think I was stressed or bummed about something). It brought instant happiness! Then, one of the first years Scott & I were married, I came home to our tree up and lit; Scott had done it all on his own while I was at work.  New York City in December always has a magical feel to it, too. Lights and decorations at every corner; Rockefeller Center; etc. 

Life, however, has had a funny way of trying to ruin the holiday season for us numerous times. Scott being in retail for 14 years meant sacrificed holiday time and often waiting for him to get home on Christmas Eve while dinner got cold. Long retail hours of nights and weekends were difficult on us at times but we got through it. Fortunately, as of last fall, Scott changed jobs and now we have a "normal" life of working Monday-Friday during the day. Nights and weekends together has been great and last year was the first holiday season we got to actually enjoy together. 

But then there's the other reason I secretly have a love/hate relationship with Christmas.... It marks yet another year of trying to get pregnant. Christmas Eve of this year will mark exactly 4 years since I went off the pill and we decided we were officially ready to start a family. 4 years. Thanks for the reminder, most wonderful time of the year. More like most awful way to be reminded we are still childless. 

Christmas 2011- we started trying to have a baby
Christmas 2012- realized it's been a whole year and we need to seek help from Drs 
Christmas 2013- If we hadn't miscarried our pregnancy from IUI #2, our due date would have been this week. Oh, and realize it's now been 2 years trying and things are getting old.  Couldn't look at Christmas or baby stuff without tearing up.
Christmas 2014- Realize it's been 3 years trying and that we could have had a 1-year old by now. 

That brings us to now, 2015, aka 4 years trying... but hopefully getting closer soon. At least now we are on our yellow-brick road to Oz via IVF. We got 8 frozen embryos out of our IVF cycle over the summer and hopefully our baby/babies are in that batch as we gear up for another try soon. Hopefully we are getting closer and hopefully this is our last Christmas just us. But who knows. I still hate certain Christmas stuff. Those cute Christmas jammies? Secretly hate them. Baby's First Christmas anything? Yup, hate those too. It all is just so damn cute but makes me want to cry because I have no need to buy them right now. I keep telling myself "Maybe next year... maybe next year... maybe some day...". Blah. 

So, yea, I've got some bittersweet feelings on my plate for our favorite time of year. Can you blame me? I want to stay hopeful, as I most often do, but sometimes it's hard. I pray our time is coming and one day I will stop worrying about everything, even just for a bit. For now I just have to believe that all will be right some day and keep believing in the magic of the season. Maybe our time is finally coming. I hope so. 

In the meantime, Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all! 


Stace <3

Monday, October 19, 2015


Simply put, I feel like I'm stuck in a rut. 

 I feel like this often but it's usually just for a passing moment. I think lately I've been feeling it more often and each time it lingers for longer and longer. I feel like I'm stuck in a rut and am only able to half make it out sometimes. 

We started trying to have a baby about 4 years ago. Yup- FOUR YEARS. I went off the pill on Christmas Eve of 2011. 4 years. Four long, grueling, depressing, emotionally draining, stressful, tough years. And we aren't even close to being done with this journey yet. I have no idea how much longer it'll take. How many more cycles of IVF will it take before it works? How many more cycles of IVF can we even afford? Will we run out of embryos before we get a viable/healthy pregnancy out of it? Will we have to start from scratch again? Will we have to adopt? Will we give up? Will we be forced to give up if/when money becomes an issue?

December used to be one of my favorite months because the holiday season made me so happy. But over the last few years, it's become tougher because it's filled with difficult emotions for me. December 2011 is when we started officially trying when I went off the pill. December 2012 marked 1 official year of failure to get pregnant and we had to start doing initial tests. December 2014 is when we wold have become parents if I hadn't miscarried at 5 weeks from our 2nd IUI cycle. December 2015 now marks 4 years. Instead of being filled with happy feelings around Christmas, it's just marking yet another year of trying or another year without the baby that could have been. 

I feel like it's been a ridiculous detour for a crazy adventure for us; we are still going in circles and haven't been able to find the end of the detour and get back on track. Will we ever get back on track? 

In the meantime, LOTS of friends are getting engaged and planning weddings. Lots. At school there are 6 people engaged, with hopefully a 7th right around the corner. Outside of school we have other friends who will hopefully jump on that wagon soon too. It's all wonderful happy news and I'm genuinely super excited for all of them until I remember what is likely to come after their weddings. They'll soon be on the TTC path too, trying to become parents. I joke about how none of them better get pregnant before us, but now I honestly worry about it. Not that it's something they should put on hold or should be wary of beating us to, because that's a crazy thought and now what I'm saying. It's just that naturally a bunch of them will start trying soon and I am so scared of being stuck in this rut when their pregnancy announcements and baby showers start rolling around. If we aren't pregnant by then, I will surely start to slip into a legit depression. 

Each pregnancy announcement is hard as it is to an infertile couple... but add in a pregnancy announcement of someone who wasn't dating, engaged, married, or trying for a baby is even harder. It makes you feel like life is suddenly a race and you are stuck in the middle of the race. You had a head start (Scott and I got married 8 years ago, at ages 23/24, after dating in high school. We were, in a sense, ahead of the game because we already found each other and knew we would marry each other). Then a bunch of friends caught up and got engaged or married, some had kids before we were ready or just as we were trying, no big deal. A few friends who got married way after us had no trouble conceiving and then suddenly were ahead of us. Now all those engaged couples, at least 1 or more are likely to beat us to it again. Not that it's a race, I know that, but beating us to our goal of becoming parents is somewhat of a race in our situation I guess. Life isn't fair, I know that. But when you've been trying for 4 years and have been trying the entire length of some people's entire relationship and they are likely to be TTC on the same level soon, it's majorly frustrating and depressing. It's not their fault and I won't be mad at them personally if it happens. It's just that I know this is how the cycle is turning and it's likely to happen. It's unavoidable to become pretty depressed off of that too. So I guess I'm just bracing myself for the brunt of a possible storm that's to come. 

All the happiness also makes me sad in a sense because I get jealous in a weird way. I miss those happiness highs of the fun moments and I feel like ours was so long ago. Our engagement was a whole 10 years ago and we've already been married 8. Trends have changed and so many neat things are the trend now, as it always goes of course, and I miss those ridiculously happy moments and memories. We've talked about celebrating our 10th anniversary in a fun way and renewing wedding vows, but by then there could be a newborn on board (trying to be hopeful) and either money or traveling will be tough. I fear it'll interfere with that plan... where, again, if we got pregnant years ago, it would be easier. Now we are looking at what's even possible and realistic, financially and logically. I feel so bitter and ugly thinking this way but I do get jealous easily of other's happiness when we've had such a tough spell for so long. I envy their happiness and love story, not dulled by stressful life situations. I envision them all having perfect weddings, as deserved, and then getting pregnant on the 1st or 2nd try. I don't with infertility or trouble conceiving on anyone but I envy those who have no trouble in this area. 

Scott & I have an incredible relationship and a fun, unique love story. I wouldn't change it for the world. But with our struggle comes stress, A LOT of it. It changes a lot of things in a relationship and when it's related to fertility, it changes your relationship in both emotional and physical ways. We've become stronger for each other in everything we've gone through (and are still going through) but it's really freaking hard at times. Not hard in the sense that we will give up, because we won't, but hard in the sense that I envy couples who don't have to go through this. Emotional blocks and physical blocks are difficult to get used to. 

It's also now affecting my self esteem and confidence more and more. I've been having a really hard time lately with my body image. I've always had an issue here in the sense that I always pick on myself and say I feel chubby or that I'm gaining weight. People often tell me to stop because I've generally always been pretty small. I'm 5'3" and have always been pretty average. I've always pigged out on junk food but have had a pretty good metabolism for years. I started exercising regularly with Zumba 5 years ago and toned up a bit, but over the last 1-2 years I've gained a good 10 pounds. I'm still seen as small but I know, for ME, I'm borderline uncomfortable in some of my clothes and uncomfortable with how my body is changing. I'm currently the heaviest I've been for me, and I have nothing to show for it. I know age is a factor, now that I'm in my 30s, but I blame stress and this stupid infertility ride for a lot. I've been pretty conscious for the most part on food choices over the last 1-2 years also but because I work out less, it all piles on so easily. Being on different IUI or this past IVF cycle, sometimes workouts are either too much or they're off limits. Between not being able to work out consistently and all the hormone changes in my body, I'm starting to hate it. I know you should never go off the scale but I weighed myself this past week and according to the general scales online, I'm 1 pound away from being technically in the "overweight" section for my height. I know there are tons of factors here but I've always been at least 10 pounds away so I felt safely in the "normal" range. I cried myself to sleep one day last week when I realized this. But yet I don't change it. I have no motivation or spark to fix it. I try eating healthy and limiting portions and nothing changes. I have no energy to get up early to work out or to do it when I'm home after an exhausting day at work. I try to get to the gym 2x a week when I can but so many meetings or appts have gotten in the way over the last month. It's hard and it sucks. It makes me so mad that infertility hasn't only left our arms empty from a baby but it's also making me go crazy and gain weight because of all the stressful realities that come with it. 

I'm stuck in a rut, emotionally and physically. I feel like life is happening above and around me, everyone moving on with all aspects of their lives at a normal pace, but Scott and I are just stuck here. We can't sell our house. We can't get pregnant. We are just here... Stuck. 

Sorry for the negative vibes today. See, it's really not always rainbows and sunshine around here. 



Saturday, September 12, 2015

How to Make PIO Shots Your Friend

**Even though we're still in the gray area of denial & acceptance of our 1st failed IVF cycle, I wanted to post this in the hopes of MAYBE helping ease some fears of anyone worried about progesterone injections. I've actually been working on this post for the past week and was planning to post it even if our cycle worked. Regardless of the outcome, we've done 2 weeks of PIO pretty smoothly and I wanted to share it. ((*Side note: We weren't originally going to share the results of our test BUT we were shocked when it came back negative this week and it hurt more than I imagined it would. We couldn't keep it in and so here we are. We can't start up right away, Dr. suggestion, so will be keeping busy in the meantime.))

How to Make PIO Shots Your Friend 
... or at least not the most dreaded thing on Earth.

It's no surprise that I hate needles. I am practically terrified of them! Infertility hitting the #TeamRicci house 4 years ago pretty much meant life was laughing in my face and throwing me right into the fire of facing my fears. Lots and lots and LOTS of needles... Acupuncture needles. Multiple blood draw needles. Hormone injection needles. I've become somewhat used to these 3 kinds and they are honestly pretty small in relation to the big league of needles. Even though I slowly got semi used to them, I still always feared THE BIG ONES- the PIO needles. A one and a half inch needle that needs to go into the butt/hip muscle. Ouchy. One big reason I was scared of moving to IVF was because I dreaded the PIO shot. Now being on the flip side, I'm telling you it's not nearly as bad as I feared. Here are my reasons for choosing it and some tips that have worked wonders for not making it so bad! I hope they help! 

Why PIO? 
PIO is short for "progesterone in oil". Progesterone is a necessary hormone for getting pregnant and staying pregnant. It's needed in IVF cycles because you're essentially tricking your body into what's happening and re-wiring the system by supplementing it until it produces enough of it on its own. 

There are a few forms of progesterone to choose from (apparently there is a pill (?? still confused on this and the success of it but it's been mentioned in a few places. I wonder if it's just a mythical creature at this point!) but that option was not given to me... I obviously would have chosen that one in a heartbeat if so!!)... Progesterone injections -OR- vaginal suppository cream. Yup, you read that right. Eww. Quite honestly, NEITHER of these sound fun. It was a big toss up to me in the beginning and became a game of which is the lesser of the 2 evils. Avoiding needles was the easy choice for me, but I did a lot of research and thinking, and the thought of being uncomfortable literally ALL day from the suppositories was NOT a welcoming thought whatsoever. I would have needed to use them 2-3x a day and I know I would have been EXTREMELY self conscious, uncomfortable, and downright miserable... All. Day. Long. I was not looking forward to the injections and the big needle either, but I knew it would only be literally a few minutes of misery compared to all day. So a tough decision became an easy one: injections it was. 

These injections are IM, intramuscular, hence why the needle is so long. The baby needles I used for the stimulation drugs are only a half inch and go into the fat of your stomach, so they can be shorter. Going into the muscle requires a longer needle. They also need to be in the upper outer quadrant of your butt/hip muscle. This image is perfect because it shows a grid and gives a general target zone for each side. It's 1 injection and night and is recommended to alternate sides each night so that you give your muscles a break. The picture below is a general guideline. Use the top of the butt crack (for lack of a better term, sorry) as a horizontal line point. Then split each butt cheek vertically in half. Inject in that upper outer section. This helps avoid your sciatic nerve, which would not be fun to hit. I've seen images where the shaded area is down and more in the butt than hip, and I've read that either are fine. I've heard it hurts more in the lower outer area because it's fattier and that's also where you actually sit/bend from. We used this image and I was pretty comfortable most days (once I realized to NOT tense up so much. The first 2-3 days were rough bc I was tense so my muscles obviously hurt at injection site but also my back was tight and on fire from tensing that up as well).  It's helpful to have your nurse draw target zones at first if you want. 

In hindsight, I'm so glad I chose the injections. Little did we know at the time, but it is a really wonderful way to involve Scott. He offered to do them before and I knew he kind of wanted to, but he would joke about looking forward to sticking me with a needle. (Brat :) ). When it came time for the first one (our trigger shot), he froze and almost couldn't do it. But he did, partly because we had no choice, and he was great at it!! Now, he really enjoys doing them for me. 

How do we make it bearable? 
This is our nightly routine:

1. Apply a small amount of numbing cream (We use lidocaine cream; got it on Amazon but some Drs may prescribe it. Ours said we could just buy it. It was about $20 on Amazon and it's a 1oz bottle which doesn't seem like much, but we've barely dented it with 1-2 weeks worth.) Cover the area with a piece of plastic wrap and let it take effect for about 25 mins. (Maybe less but this number works for me!)

2. Ice Ice Baby. I've read some people say no to ice, but a bunch of my friends also recommended it, so I've used it since day 1 and it's helped. My Dr office never gave any tips either way, they said whatever works (they felt some was psychological but it all helps me, the worrier). Anyway, ice works for ME, I wrap an ice pack on a paper town and hold it right over the plastic wrap for about 5-10 mins (maybe start with 10 your first time). 

**During this time play some music to motivate you. Maybe it's something upbeat to put you in a good mood; maybe it's something sentimental; whatever works. It helps distract me anyway. 

3. Take off plastic wrap & clean skin with alcohol swabs. Scott uses 2 each night- one to wipe away the cream and another just to make sure it's all gone. 

4. Decide if you're standing or laying down; do whatever works for you. We prep everything on the kitchen counter and when it's time, I stand and lean over the counter on my elbows. I use a small couch pillow and actually lean on that for support & comfort (and to bury your face in if scared). I also put all my weight on the opposite leg and relax the leg of the side that's being targeted. It helps relax the muscle so you're not tense. 

4. Go time. Do not look, just let hubby do his job. (*If doing them yourself, Way to go!! I give you tons of credit.) I find that not looking at the needle helps me forget how big it actually is. (1.5inch, 22 gauge). Scott usually draws it up and preps it for me while I'm numbing or icing... We were instructed to do 1cc or 1mL each night but I suppose that could be different for different protocols. (We were given 18g needles to draw it up and 22g to inject. Look at the thickness of the 18g and suddenly the 22g doesn't seem so bad!! Look once if you've already seen them and are scared. If you haven't seen them, don't look.)

This bottle gets us about 10 injections. (10mL)

*I swear that on most days all I feel is a little pinch. Sometimes I can feel the oil going in, but it just feels like a little pressure, not pain. Breathing through it also helps. 

(Photo credits here to our close friend, Manny, who was visiting at time of transfer & got to document our shot process. Not sure I want to post the video yet though bc I am always self conscious and hate myself on video- haha!) :)

5. When done, Scott applies gauze and massages the injection area for a minute or so. This helps the oil settle and spread/absorb. Apply a bandaid when done massaging the area (just for fun- it's not actually needed!). The bandaid also serves as a target for next time so you remember the spot. 

6. Apply a heating pad. This is like a nice treat at the end. :) We heat ours in the microwave for 1-1.5 mins and then I relax on the couch with it. 

That's it!! You certainly don't have to follow all (or any!) of our steps, but just sharing what works for us. Just for reference, one night last week I experienced just how well the numbing cream and ice work for me... I had an awful migraine the other night and since I couldn't take anything but Tylenol (at least until the pregnancy test, and beyond if we are pregnant), the migraine wasn't going anywhere but was actually getting worse. It hurt so bad I literally threw up bc it was so severe. In the time I got sick, my numbing cream wore off and we didn't have time to ice it because we wanted to get the shot done before I possibly got sick again. Cream wearing off and no ice made the needle hurt and I realized just how well our little system works. 

*SOME YouTube videos work well too. Key word= Some... Some made me inspired and it looked like a piece of cake. Others made me more nervous than I already was. These are my 2 favs...

Progesterone Party- Self Injection (I love this one because she makes it FUN... and she gives it to herself (eeeek!! Props to you, girl!!). She makes it look so easy & this is where I got the idea for the numbing cream)

Tips from a nurse (I liked this one because it's professional advice and she makes it not seem so scary!!)

I would say our experience was pretty on par with these videos. I hope the links work- if not, I'll try to fix it later on. 

Good luck! Hang in there!! If I can survive it, so can you!! 



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

They say...

(Posted by Scott)
They say...that when you get to hold your baby for the first time you learn to love all over again, almost as if you have never loved something so much before.  They say this but what about all of us that are out there that get the big fat negatives.  What about the fact that you pray and hope and look at the stars and want it to happen so much but the day the test comes they say sorry, this is not good news.  I don't handle heartbreak well.  And by that I mean I hold it in and try to let it out but it never comes out when I want it to.  I want to cry with my wife, but my "man brain" will not let me.  They say that you need to let it out.  They say that it will happen.  No offense to anyone and even to myself at this point but, I need it to happen.  This will be a short post because I am pissed and angry and sad and being torn up inside but what happens to the guys out there when "they say...."  I know that the females will read this out there and say I know that my husband/partner has gone through this.  I  had to tell my poor, crying wife over and over tonight to stop saying sorry.  Its not her fault.  Honestly we would have never been in this situation if it weren't for me not having swimmers.  They say it will work out.  They say if you keep trying it will be there.  I got off the phone with our doctor tonight and honestly after talking to him and hearing the next steps and the plans that they have, it amazed me.  But what truly amazed me is the sincerity in his voice when he called at 750pm and knowing that he had to make that call.  I don't care how much money I have to spend to have a child with Stacy but this guy made me want to keep trying and want to keep pushing forward.  They say it will happen and honestly we gotta believe that it will, but right now its hard.  They say...

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Embryo Transfer & Beyond

"A person's a person, no matter how small." -Horton/Dr. Seuss :) 

I'll start with the focal point of this post, and of the past week- our sweet little embryo. I LOVE that we get a picture of it (magnified tons- it's so small and microscopic, it's like a tiny spec and yet holds so much wonder!).

I saw this on the ground the night before our embryo transfer. I couldn't resist taking a pic of it. Our really good friend, Manny, was visiting for the weekend and the 3 of us had dinner at a nearby park along the river, and I found this on our way back to the car. I saw a heart so I thought it was fun. 

The morning of transfer, this was my horoscope!!! Woa!! Talk about hope and excitement! :) 

So off we go to the Dr.'s office! We had a 10:30 appointment (lucky us!! First one of the day!) but were instructed to arrive by 10:00 and have a full bladder by 10:30. No problem for me, mine seems to be the size of a peanut; I always have to go! We get there, the waiting room was so quiet and empty ?(only 1 other patient, BIG difference from retrieval day) and I start drinking...

Yup, that's a 32oz Gatorade bottle. It wasn't full when I brought it along and started drinking, but I did put some water in it when I was done with the Gatorade. (In hindsight, finishing the bottle was mistake #1. Adding more water was mistake #2, but I didn't know that yet.)

We get called down to the lab area around 10:20 and I get so happy things are running on schedule. We are instructed to change and come out when ready. I had to wear the same type of gown for retrieval, but I only had to take off everything waist down, I could keep everhtnjng else on, yay. Of course my lucky socks stayed on though. (Plus they want your feet warm and cozy anyway, so it's either my socks or theirs, which are not so cute). Scott obviously kept everhtnjng on but had to put these classy things over his clothes and hair. Ha! There's just no way to look good in these outfits! :) So we will make fun of it! 

Ready to get this show on the road! 

Finally all set, we go into the procedure room (same room egg retrieval was in) and just wait. At this time it's about 10:30 on the dot. Excitement sets in, nerves set in. The embryologist comes in a few mins later and happily tells us we are going to transfer one beautiful AA embryo. We always said we would love to transfer 2, have twins, and be done. But we obviously trust the Dr's judgement. They thought it best to do just one because of 2 factors- my age, and the quality of the embryo. Since I'm young and it was a great embryo, there's more of a chance it could split. They didn't want to put in 2 and end up with 3-4 babies. Fine by us! So 1 it was! 

She then told us that we had quite a few embryos developing and that she would call the next day with a more solid report. She planned to cryopreserve/freeze a few that day and then give some another day to develop before freezing them... However, it looked like we had a good number make it to good quality stages. 

So here we are with the picture of the star of the day- our beautiful embryo, 5 days after fertilization. How cool is that! 

At this point, I really have to pee, and the Dr isn't even in sight yet. The nurse realized how badly I needed to go and she let me go use the bathroom. I was afraid of emptying my bladder completely but she said "I saw how much you drank, you'll be fine!". So I go and feel soooo much better. Then, silly me, I drink a few more sips of water when I return. (Not a good idea.) 

The Dr's (one main one to do the transfer and another to assist) arrive and by this time it's around 11:00 or so and I have to pee SO badly, again! It's as if I hadn't even gone 10 mins ago. Eek. I tell them I think it's too full and they say it's probably okay and we will get started shortly. They come back after what feels like an eternity and onward we go. 

I'll try to spare some of the details but let me just say that my bladder was WAY too full. I will NOT drink so much next time, knowing that I have a small/sensitive bladder. No one told me it could be as bad as it was and I honestly felt like, for me anyway, it was torture. It was the hardest part of the process so far because it was the longest. The stimulation injections in my stomach sucked because they stung and burned, but it was over shortly. I had to hold my super full bladder, ready to explode, for a good 45-50 minutes, NOT KIDDING. Scott is my witness (and hero!). Wowsa!

Imagine having to pee as bad as you ever had, multiply it by 50 (according to Scott), and hold it for almost an hour. Laying there in an awkward position, ultrasound probes and other tools inside of you AND an abdominal ultrasound tool pushing on your belly/bladder is no task for the weak. Woa. I kept warning them that I was afraid of peeing on them, and they assured me I wouldn't be the first or last. (Thankfully I did not, but it took all of my strength not to.) 

The transfer itself involves somewhat of the following: internal ultrasound and abdominal ultrasound to determine the best pathway to the uterus. They mapped out a path and then a speculum (my LEAST fav tool- bleh) is inserted and they clean your cervix. Then a catheter is inserted. (Some of this hurts only a teeny bit, but when you're super tense & your bladder is so full it hurts, this whole process hurts quite a lot.) You can see a lot of this on the ultrasound screen, and Scott was mostly watching. I, however, was wincing, clenching, sweating, complaining, trying to breath, trying so hard not to cry or lose control of my bladder (in fear we would have to start all over again), and just downright miserable. I always envisioned this being a positive happy moment filled with love and hope, yet I was squeezing Scott's hand SOO hard I'm surprised I didn't break it. 

Once the prime spot inside your uterus is determined by the Dr, they wait for the embryologist to being in the embryo, loaded in a thinner catheter. That catheter is inserted into the one already in place and it's pushed up to the top. At this point I was trying to be really aware because this was THE moment. The Dr. told us to watch the tip of the catheter and look for a "shooting star" when they counted down. They counted to 3 and then there it was, our shooting star- a little white blob came out of the catheter and was there sitting in my uterus. It may not sound like much but it was pretty magical and amazing. Scott was emotional and I was all smiles. I would have cried out of joy too if I wasn't still in pain from my bladder. 

There it was, our little shooting star, finally placed back in its home. At this point I was extremely happy and grateful that it was finally there, life was finally inside, and also grateful that all the tools and such were being removed and I was moved back to a normal laying down flat position. 

But I still couldn't pee yet. They want you to lay down for about 20 mins. The Dr asked if I wanted a bed pan and I said I never ever thought I would say yes to that but there was no way in hell I could hold it another 20 mins. So I said yes.... But if never came. 10 mins must have passed and I was getting worse by the second and I kept yelling at Scott (out of pure crankiness) to please find someone and ask for one but no one was around. Finally they returned a few mins later and said I could get up and use the bathroom but then come back for the remaining 10 mins. PHEWWW. It helped tremendously and even though it wouldn't all come out (from being squeezed tight for almost an hour), it helped big time. Then I laid down the remaining time and we were free to go home. (After I peed another 4x before the ride home! Ha!)

Soooooo happy to show off our beautiful embryo!! The pic on the right is the ultrasound image of when it was actually transferred. We can pinpoint the exact tiny white spot that contains our embryo. Pretty awesome! Sent on our way and advised to take it easy and take off the next day from work. They don't want you on strict bed rest but don't want the stress of work. Being that transfer day was Sunday, staff at my school actually reported on Monday for the first day back, for 2 staff days and kids arriving Wednesday. My bosses are 100% supportive of what we are going through and Scott and I actually felt (with the encouragement of some friends/coworkers) that a second day was smart. Why risk it after all we've put out there. What's one more day? Plus there was a heat wave this week, perfect timing to go back to school with no air conditioning- and my classroom is one of the hottest in the whole building. I have an entire wall of windows that don't open, only let heat in. 2 days of work to just relax and do whatever I wanted, within reason, sounded way more relaxing and hopeful for future baby Ricci to settle in after "move-in day". 

Once we got home, all I could do was stare at the pic and make fun collages. Look at our cute little family of 3. <3 :)

At one point in the day, Scott and Manny ran out to get some groceries and stuff for dinner, and Scott returned with these beautiful flowers for me. What a guy~ I mean really, I know how lucky I am to have him on a daily basis, but he really stepped up to the plate Sunday. During my whole 45 mins or so of torture, Scott held my hand the ENTIRE time. He was right in my face making me look at him and breathe. He tried to distract me and make me calm. He kept reassuring me how great I was doing and how proud of me he was. It made every bit worth it (sort of). :) Thanks, hun. I would NEVER be able to get through something like that alone or with anyone else. Plus I could squeeze his hand as hard as I wanted and know I probably wasn't even making him flinch. 

That night, I GLADLY took the PIO injection. Gladly. One tiny pinch and a minute of mild discomfort was nothing now. Manny was there with us and as you know we usually play music to help keep me calm, distracted, or pumped up for the shots. First it was a fast, pumped up, dancy song, and then when it was done, "Home" by Phillip Phillips came on. I immediately burst into tears (FINALLY!!!) because the emotions finally hit me. "Home" is one of my absolute favorite songs; I've loved it from the first time I heard it, back from the summer olympics a few years ago. It was used in a commercial for the US Women's gymnastics team. Then it grew and now I'm a big Phillip Phillips fan. Anyway, "Home" and the lyrics have always connected me to trying to get pregnant. I always imagined when we finally are (with a viable pregnancy that will last to full term), I connect the "I'm gonna make this place your home" lyrics to making my belly a home for our future baby. So anyway, I start crying happy tears and ask Scott if he played it on purpose (of course he did). I then explain to Manny what I just said, and he got a little filled up too. I was just so extremely hopeful and excited that our embryo is finally home. So he snapped this pic of us (once I stopped crying).

Good luck and God Speed, little one. I hope you snuggle in and get cozy. We'd love for you to stick around for the long haul with us! <3 

Flash forward to Monday, my first day off. Everyone else was headed back to school and I missed it for the first time ever. A part of me was bummed to miss social time and all the "Welcome back"s, and catching up on everyone's summer, but a big part of me didn't mind it. I was on Cloud 9 in a happy bubble of my own. Manny hung around for the morning then headed home, Scott was back to work, and it was me and the jellybean just relaxing. I went out to lunch with my friend Kortney, we sat by the river after, and then I just completely relaxed the rest of the day. It felt great!! 

Below are images of typically developing embryos. Top left is the fertilized egg and then what happens while it develops and cells multiply into a blastocyst/embryo in the bottom middle. *(Our embryo looked just like this, it's "textbook" as one of our friends said, and we were surprised how perfectly round this one was. They don't all look this way and I'm certain our others aren't either as they chose the best one for first dibs.) The bottom right image is the embryo starting to hatch so that it can implant and attach to the uterine wall.

Our embryologist called with a final report. She ended up freezing 4 embryos on Sunday and let a few more wait to Monday, where she froze 4 more. So in addition to the embryo we put back in, we still have 8 frozen embryos in storage!!! We are thrilled with that number, as it's almost double what seems to be the norm. We are extremely thankful and completely realize how luck we've been this cycle. We started with 25 eggs retrieved, 22of which were mature. Out of those 22 mature eggs, 18 fertilized. Then from those 18, a total of 9 made it to healthy, good quality embryo stage. The rest could have dropped off for any number of reasons and that's totally normal. We expected that and once we heard 18, I said 9, at half, would be incredible. That means we have many more tries if this doesn't work, or for tries with a future sibling.  We would only have to repeat an egg retrieval if we run out of those frozen embryos. Hopefully we don't need to do that, but if we do, it shouldn't be for a long while. 

Being a Disney nut, I had to create a fun way to announce our great results. I saw pics of people posting with snowflake pics and I did see one Elsa reference, so I got to work with my photo apps and.... Ta-Da!! :) :) 

Tuesday was just as relaxing and wonderful as Monday. I sat outside for a bit in the morning and then drove up to visit my best friend, Alli. Alli has 2 adorable children, one of which is my Godson, and we currently live about an hour away from each other but try to see each other once a month or so. We had a picnic with the kids at an old historical site right along the river and it was a beautiful day. 

For now, we just wait. For now, I can't do anything high impact (no Zumba for a bit) or lift anything crazy. For now, we just wait and wait and wait. (And hope and pray LOTS.)

Here also comes the moment where most of you might be bummed... Scott and I have decided that it's best, for US, not to share the testing date or results. We are giving a general 2-week time frame of our test, but we don't plan to tell anyone exactly when the test is OR what the results are. We've already been down that road of announcing too soon, when we miscarried at 5 weeks. Too many people found out in that week of excitement, which made it more crushing. It was too hard to announce a positive to lose it so soon after. I completely understand and respect the 10-12 week thing before announcing. SO much can happen in those weeks. 

Plus, we've always felt robbed of the element of surprise when it comes to that. I always wanted to surprise people with a pregnancy announcement. That doesn't happen when your story is out there for the world and all of social media to see. Yes, that's been our choice and No, I don't regret a single bit of it. I am 100000% thankful and glad we've decided to be so completely open about our story. It's helped us cope in more ways than anyone on the outside could understand. It's made us stronger. It's gained us extreme support. I don't regret that. But I think for us, we want to keep these next steps quiet. From here, I expect this could all go down a few possible ways:

1. This cycle works, we get a positive, and we announce when the time comes. 

2. This cycle doesn't work (either right away or after a few weeks), and ALL we have to do is start over with a frozen embryo transfer (FET) cycle next month or when my body is cleared to start. That may involve some injections and hormone supplements here and there, but nothing like starting over again. It'll be a much smoother process. 

Whichever try works, it should hopefully work between now and Christmas. Then expect an announcement from there. Hopefully. If things go completely haywire, I'll jump back on to say what the holdup is and what happened. We hope it doesn't come to that, but you just never know. Sure there's a higher chance now that I will get pregnant soon, but there are so many crazy variables in every pregnancy try that it's just out of our hands. We hope for the best, remain positive, and we'll see what happens. 

In the meantime, we still need to do my nightly progesterone injections. If I'm not pregnant, we'll stop and start back up with the next try. If I am pregnant, we'll have to continue for another 4-6 weeks or so. Either way, we'll still be doing them, for this cycle or another, so it won't really be an indicator of success or failure. My mood overall shouldn't be either. I'm excited to have come so far and regardless of a positive or negative, I know in my heart that we are finally closer to the finish line. If not now, maybe next month. At least I know fertilization has occurred and there's life inside each transfer. That's the important part. Please be respectful of our decision and don't ask when the test is or try to pry into the details. Feel free to guess on your own, but don't share it with me. I have a terrible poker face and don't want to feel pressured into sharing when we aren't ready.  I know this will be hard at work because everyone knows the deal and they all want it almost as badly as we do, but I'm going to try my best to stay my happy self, whether it works now or later. 

That's all for now folks. Signing off from updates until it's the right time for us and remaining positive, calm, relaxed, and hopeful. 

As always, thank you for the tremendous support, love, positivity, and prayers. We feel it. <3 <3

Stace & Scott

Friday, August 28, 2015

Progesterone Party- Our New Nightly Entertainment

Progesterone shots are our new nightly routine before bed. How exciting!! Lucky us! From occasional celebratory alcoholic shots to fertility shots. Haha! This post will mostly be about the progesterone in oil (PIO) shots, but first I wanted to give a post-retrieval update.

The night following egg retrieval was crummy in the sense of sleep. I slept on the couch so A) I didn't have to climb the stairs and B) I wouldn't disturb Scott or vice versa. We snuggle a lot and didn't want to jab into me accidentally. He was sweet enough to sleep on the other couch so that he was nearby in case I needed anything. I was super comfy on the couch but was up every 1-1.5 hours. Blah- I hate feeling like you've been asleep for half the night and find out it's been an hour. This literally happened from 11pm to about 7am. But I felt semi better in the morning. 

I still had a lot of cramps (I rarely get menstrual cramps and if I do they're pretty mild, so this was definitely more than I am used to). Again, knowing the process and the needle used to retrieve the eggs and where it went, of course I was still uncomfortable. I kept taking Tylenol throughout the day and using the heating pad. Guzzling Gatorade and making sure I stayed hydrated and peed enough. My belly was hurting and a bit bloated but nothing too extreme. Thankfully no hyperstimulation symptoms. The nurse called me in the afternoon to check on me and she said everything I described was totally normal and acceptable. Phew! 

The most anticipated call of the day, however, was from the embryologist in the lab. I knew I would hear from her at some point in regards to our fertilization report. She called around 2 (the end of the expected time frame, long day on my end, haha) and said...

Ahhhhh!!!!! Talk about thrilled!!! This is very exciting news. We started with 25 retrieved and 18 fertilized. She said 20 something were mature and out of that we ended up with 18 as of Wednesday.

It doesn't mean all 18 will survive to the freeze/usable/blastocyst/embryo stage. It's just nature that some drop off at each step. We lost 7 from retrieval to fertilization but even that isn't bad. Let's say 50% of this 18 make it, that's still 9. I don't expect only 50% to carry on, but you never know. Trying to be cautious in my expectations. Either way, praying we still end up with good news in the end. I would love to not have to repeat the stimulation and retrieval steps ever again, or at least not for many years if so. 

Just out of curiosity I asked which were fertilized via ICSI and which regular. She said they did 12 ICSI and 7 fertilized, while they did 13 regular inseminatkon and 11 fertiized. 7-11, hehe. :) here we go with the fun numbers game again. I was surprised ICSI had a lower rate than the regular but maybe it was just luck of the draw of which eggs were thrown into the ICSI pool and which weren't. Either way it doesn't matter at this point because 18 is 18, no matter how they got there. 18 potential chances of hope. Our future child(ren) are in that group, we hope & pray!! 

This means my transfer will be a day 5 transfer, and will be this Sunday, August 30th, 2015. We won't know a time until tomorrow, as egg retrievals take priority for appointments, being time sensitive. Transfers happen after, so we'll see where we end up. Ironically we have tickets for an air shot at a local air base and it's for Sunday. We've had them for months and Scott has been all kinds of little-kid excited about it. We may still make it to part of the show depending on the appt time (don't worry, low activity level for me- It's sitting and watching, light walking, and 5 mins from home). I feel bad of the timing but obviously we both feel our child is more important. It's just funny bc that's our luck to pick a date for something and have an overlap. :) it's a happy and exciting, welcoming overlap though! Bring it on!!

This brings us to our PIO shots. Luckily we had 2 full nights off from injections (that was amazing, after 30 needles of some sort stuck in me in a 10-day period). We were instructed to start them the day after retrieval, anytime in the evening. We are going with a window of 8-10pm so it's pretty much somewhere just before bed. We are usually home together by this time and if it's eventually some other event, we can prob push it back a little after 10. We are "getting old" and aren't out much past 10 lately anyway. Ha! 

Ok so first injection- Wednesday, 8/26/15. We inject 1cc of progesterone in oil, which is pretty thick stuff (being in oil, duh), and it has to be injected intramuscularly, with a 1.5inch needle. Yowsa!!!!! 

Here's the suggested injection site: 

Scott preps it for me (NO mixing, so it's a piece of cake for him compared to the Menopur he was so good at mixing) & I can honestly say he's becoming quite the pro at this. He was a nervous wreck the night of the trigger shot but once he got through that and did amazingly, he's now totally fine with giving these. It's not easy putting a giant needle into your loved one (see his guest post on here a few days back). 

Before injecting, we apply numbing cream to the spot he plans to inject. It's a lidocaine cream we got on Amazon, at the suggestion of someone's YouTube videos I found on doing her own PIO shots. It's got 5% lidocaine and works wonders so far. It's $20 for a small bottle but I think it'll get us far. If it helps, I don't care how much it costs. I need to stay calm and hey, what the heck. 

So anyway, Scott applies the cream and I give it a good 20-30 mins to take effect. Then I ice it for 5-10 mins. Then it's shot time. He cleans the area to rub off the cream but also to prepare the site, with alcohol pads. Then he spreads the skin taught (going into a muscle is diff than fat, where you want to squeeze it up), injects in a dart-like motion (but don't let go!) all 1.5 inches. To make sure you didn't hit a vein, you need to pull back on the plunger a teeny bit to make sure there's no blood. If you're good, start pushing in the oil. Because it's thick, it goes in slowly. When done, remove needle, cover with gauze and some pressure, apply a cute bandaid, and massage the area. We also at this point throw the heating pad in the microwave and apply some heat to the area too. I guess all this helps it settle in, avoid welts/clumps, and it just feels nice. 

My job is the easy part I guess. Aside from freaking out and being shy of a panic attack the first night (to which Scott put on our wedding song and calmed me down instantly! Gosh I love him!), I just have to stand there and breathe. I put all my weight on the opposite leg to loosen the muscle, I DON'T look, I put my head down into a pillow, and I just breathe until it's over. There's an initial pinch and then that's it. The oil isn't painful in any way, it's not like the stinging medicine I was injecting the last 2 weeks. One needle a night compared to 3. So there's that for my silver lining. 

PIO shots are a literal pain in your butt, but it's doable. I have no choice. (Well, I do, but I realllllllllly don't want the all-day panic of the suppository cream). Scott loves being involved, and it's absolutely bringing us even closer. I have to place 1000000% of my trust in him and know I'll be ok. Plus his job is super important- he's providing the hormone to set up a home for our baby/babies. Progesterone is a necessary hormone to get and sustain a pregnancy. Since my eggs were taken out this cycle, my body assumes I ovulated and will get my period. So it's not producing it, and it wouldn't recognize embryos being implanted. So therefore we have to trick the system and sneak the progesterone back in. 

It's only been 2 nights but Scott has done a fantastic job. I didn't cry last night, so maybe I'll slowly adjust over time. I can't say it'll ever be easy but if I can get through it without panicking that's a start! :) 

Oh yea, we also circle the spots to use as targets. We swap sides each night to give my body a break, and it's a good visual of where to aim next time. 

Let me say, I NEVER ever ever thought I could survive something like this. But here I am. I self-injected fertility drugs into my belly for 10 consecutive nights, 23 times I think? (The 30 was including blood draws and the other trigger shot that Scott did). I survived egg retrieval and the post cramps and bloat (which make me feel icky and fat and look pregnant already. I already need new clothes!). You surprise yourself when being strong is your only choice. Let it defeat you and give up, or be strong and keep going. 

Ok, so I leave you today with some infertility/IVF humor. :) 

(Said no one, EVER.) ;) 

This one may be one of my favs. For real, fertility drugs for one cycle are THOUSANDS of dollars. 

Praying a good number of our little ones survive to Sunday!! That way if we ever need additional attempts & for future siblings, we will have some chances 

As always, THANK YOU ALL for the tremendous support getting up to this point, and this past week especially. It means so much to know we aren't in this alone. Look for updates later this weekend on our embryo transfer!

Stace & Scott