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

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Egg Retrieval Day!!!

Getting right down to it, this is THE BIG news of the day- 25 eggs retrieved on egg retrieval day!!! We are SO beyond happy to have gotten 25 eggs out of this process so far! It doesn't mean all are mature or will fertilize, we are expecting a drop off of that number, but it's a great number to start with! The thought that our child(ren) could be in that batch and conceived today is a super exciting & emotional thought! :)

Another crazy thing is that we've collectively posted 3 blog posts in the last 24 hours! New record! My initial plan was to update each step separately with drugs/injections last week, but we all know how that goes. So today gets its own special post for a special day! :) 

So some pre-op instructions I had to follow for egg retrieval today:
- No food or drink after midnight
- No scented lotions, perfumes, etc (they can interfere with the quality of the eggs as they are taken out)
- No makeup
- No contacts
- No dark nail polish
- Your hair can't be tied back
- Wear a pair of warm socks
- Arrive 30-45 mins prior to appt 

I woke up around 7:15 and slowly rolled out of bed. I was getting super uncomfortable by the minute as my ovaries felt like they were about to explode! I showered the night before so I didn't have any traces of scented shampoo, deodorant, lotion, etc on me. I didn't want to take any chances. I changed into super comfy PJ pants and a fun t-shirt for a special day. 

My appointment was at 10am, so we knew to arrive 9:15/9:30. In reality, we left at 8:05 and arrived at 9:05. The waiting room was PACKED- the most I've seen. All chairs were taken and some people were in the hallway. I noticed a lot of couples today. Ironically, I was the only egg retrieval today, so everyone else was there for either monitorings, IUI, etc. Go figure. I arrived in lots of discomfort and standing wasn't a fun thought. I secretly wanted everyone to give up their seat for me and now understand even more why pregnant women should have seats offered to them all the time, lol. I could have squeezed between strangers in one random chair but I didn't want to leave Scott's side. I was also in PJ pants and I think I was getting looks from people. They were prob like "who is the 12-year old rolling in here in pajamas" haha. Finally seats opened up and I lounged being super uncomfortable. 

Around 9:30 I got an ID bracelet and I got psyched thinking we were going soon. I knew I had priority over the people in monitoring bc my procedure was time sensitive, so I knew they'd pull some staff to do my stuff. But as the clock kept ticking and approaching 10, I got nervous. I was already a little scared my eggs would ovulate sooner than they wanted, and I wanted them out asap, or as close to 10 as possible. As it kept getting later and later I was super anxious thinking they forgot about us, but then finally it was time. (*Side note: your eggs will not release immediately, like silly me feared. They have like a 2 hour window to play with. I just assumed if they wanted 10 am, it had to happen at 10am. It doesn't. All was fine.) The lab & procedure room are in a diff suite down the hall from where everything else happens, so they called us and out we go. 

First I had to empty my bladder one last time and change into a super fashionable hospital gown, ya know, those ones with ties in the back that don't really actually hide much! Also, best part, a super flattering hair net, and a pair of thick ugly hospital socks. Luckily they let me keep my cute socks on, which happened to kinda match the colors of the gowns and sheets and stuff. :) 

Onto a bed I go and the nurse checks out my vitals. I meet the anesthesiologist and INSTANTLY start getting nervous. This is all now SOOOO real and official. I start shaking my feet and forgetting how to breathe, all while fighting back tears. I'm not ready for this, I think. Then I look at Scott and he starts cueing me to take deep breaths, so I do and suddenly all is ok and I start to calm down momentarily. I also met the Dr and embryologist at this point, too. Everyone was so welcoming, nice, and CALM. It helped me calm down and get a little comfortable. 

Me rocking the super cute hot mess egg retrieval look... bleh. 

Eventually they had me get up and walk into the next room for the procedure. I remember feeling instantly overwhelmed because it was somewhat of a small room and the bed looked super intimidating. Instead of the usual stirrups, the leg rests looked like boots with the top half cut off. Plus there are all types of machinery and tools all around. There was also a door on one side and a curtain right in front of the bed. I remember asking if the lab was through one of them, I think the curtain, because they pass the eggs right to the embryologists so nothing is contaminated. I remember laying down and putting my legs up into the scary contraptions and then instantly going "Woa, this is actually way more comfortable than I thought!" Not gonna lie, I kinda wish all female Dr offices had these for all procedures. It's bad enough laying like you need to for the world to see everything, but it's worse when it's mostly super uncomfortable. I suddenly wasn't caring what was about to happen. 

The anesthesiologist did his thing and placed an IV in my inner arm, where they typically do blood draws. I was the most worried about this part because I knew the rest I wouldn't remember, but he did a good job (of course) and it hurt for a few seconds but wasn't so bad. I remember him telling me that he gave me something initially to calm me and I thanked him and said it must be working because I was becoming a chatterbox and not worried a bit. I tend to talk wayyyyyy extra if I'm nervous and I remember telling them this, and telling them to feel free to tell me to shut up at any time. They put some oxygen thing in my nose and all of a sudden I was feeling the anesthesia because my eyes were fighting to stay open. I remember asking if I needed to keep them open and they said whatever I want. I bet I closed them instantly because the next thing I know, I hear voices and wake up in recovery. I hear a nurse almost immediately at my side and I started to move my legs, realizing I'm back on the bed I started on before the procedure. How the hell I got there I haven't a clue but let me say anesthesia is a wonderful thing! It made me chatty and silly (I had some of the staff laughing at how talkative I was) and then I don't remember a damn thing. 

I remember asking how many eggs I had and if Scott was able to come in yet. She sent for him and told me I had 24. I remember commenting "24 is my brother's fav number, so that's cool!" (#dork) and I asked her to write the number on my hand. I know some clinics do this because I've seen countless pics online of the magic egg retrieval number and I kind of couldn't wait for mine. I told her my best friend & I talked about this and I wanted to send her the pic, so she gladly wrote 24 on my right hand. Scott came in a few mins later and I remember being amazed that it was over. 

Suddenly a different embryologist pops her head in and tells us that our number is actually 25; one popped up at the last second that they missed. Fine by me!! So I had Scott change it on my hand to 25. :)

**So what happens now??**
So even though 25 eggs were retrieved, it doesn't mean all 25 were mature or that they will all fertilize. Typically the numbers drop off by a certain percentage and that can occur due to many various factors. Sometimes they put the eggs and sperm in a dish and let the sperm fertilize the egg naturally on their own. We are doing this with half our eggs, or 13 in this case being an odd number. The other 12 are being fertilized via ICSI (intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection), where the embryologists select a single sperm to be injected into an egg, so fertilized by hand in a sense. ICSI ("Ick-see") can be helpful in certain cases where sperm might have some issues, or if it's frozen. Using a donor, that's the case for us. Even though donor sperm "should" be super sperm, it doesn't mean it is perfect. In case there is some issue with it that we don't yet know, ICSI is kind of a way to give them a boost and help fertilization along. So again, not all will fertilize and we expect the 25 number to drop off a bit. We will hear tomorrow and that magic number will determine a day 3 or a day 5 embryo transfer. If you have less than 3 or 4, they do a day 3. If you have 4+ they do a day 5. Day 5 is optimal but it depends on the count. Day 5 allows them to grow and develop more before putting them back in. What happens either way is whenever they decide, we will go back for an embryo transfer. I'll be in the same room right next to the lab and they'll insert an embryo into my uterus, via a small catheter. In a way it's exactly like the IUI procedures I had done, but the embryo is going in rather than a vial of sperm. All the embryo has to do is snuggle into my uterus and stay put! Then you wait and hope for the best! The remaining embryos will be frozen and if it doesn't work this time, we can do a frozen embryo transfer (FET) in another month or so and it's the same thing but no need for another egg retrieval unless we run out. If this cycle works, we save any frozen embryos for future siblings and repeat the FET with them down the road. Praying and hoping we are done with the initial IVF steps and that this batch of eggs will get us the family we've been dreaming of!

So 25 eggs on the 25th!! We are numbers people (well, Scott by default of my craziness!) and I think that's a fun fact. Also 7 and/or 27 are our jam and 25 (2+5) is 7. Probably sounds like a stretch to others but it's not to me. I dig it. I kind of wanted 27 or 25 because of that. Also, today is our close friend's birthday- Happy Birthday, Manny!!! We didn't meet Manny until after we were married and he always jokes with us that he's bitter he wasn't invited to the wedding. Today I texted him and said "Your future niece/nephew(s) were hopefully conceived today, on your birthday... still wanna complain about not being at the wedding?". I won that battle. :) haha 

Of course you feel a little groggy in recovery but I guess I wasn't out that long so it probably helped my wakeup. They said the procedure was only about 25 mins and I had been asleep maybe 15. I laid there for a good 30-40 mins before getting up. Scott was looking forward to me being super loopy and silly for some good bribery pics/video, but he didn't get it because I did so well. The staff all kept saying how great I did through every step, so that made me happy. 

My abdomen/uterus/ovary area was definitely quite sore and crampy/uncomfortable, so they gave me some Tylenol and a heating pad, along with some apple juice (I hadn't had a thing in over 12 hours at this point, so I was happy for that!). When I got to the office in the morn I said my discomfort was maybe a 3 out of 10, and after the procedure I upped it to a 5ish, mayyyybe a 6 tops. But given all that had happened, I knew this was normal. I knew how they got the eggs out, but looking it up and giving a visual is a whole different story... No wonder why it still hurts now! Check out that needle! Ouch!

The nurse gave me my post-retrieval instructions and I was pretty much free to go. I felt awake enough, not nauseous, not dizzy, etc, so I was free to slowly get up and change. Taking the bandages off the IV was maybe the same amount of pinching as it was to get it in- not that bad. Around 12:15, we were headed out and on our way home! 

The car ride home was bumpy and uncomfortable but I had brought my pillow with me so I had that on my lap to help. I also requested McDonald's as my junk food for the day and it was delicious!! I normally avoid fast food when I can because it's so terrible for you on a regular basis, but in special occasions it was literally so perfect today. I knew today was a wash so I let myself have it and when I feel better, I vow to get back in shape. Being out of it this week made my discomfort level go up, so being more energetic or flexible would have helped my comfort level. Also, last night I saw a pic of me from 4 years ago when I did Zumba 3-4x a week and was super active. It's not a huge difference but with a small frame, a few pounds here and there makes a big difference for ME. I want to get back to that (unless pregnant soon, of course, but even then I want to continue being active and healthy). 

Once home, I scarfed down my McD's and laid comfortably on the couch with some pillows, a heating pad (my new BFF), and some Gatorade. I haven't moved all day except to get up to pee (not so fun or comfortable but at least I'm going and not retaining fluids yet) or to move to the recliner. Scott has been amazing all day and I'll miss him when he goes to work tomorrow. 

I'm only allowed to take Tylenol, and I've definitely been doing so. It's been steadily uncomfortable throughout the day but I should start feeling better tomorrow. They also gave me 2 prescription pills to take over the next 4 days (including today), one is an antibiotic and the other Scott thinks is a steroid. Not sure. It tasted NASTY, though. It started to dissolve in my mouth instantly before I could get it down and BLAH- EWWW- GROSS. lol!! 

I thankfully had another night off from injections today (I've been through enough, thank you!) and our PIO shots start tomorrow. PIO is progesterone in oil. Progesterone is a key hormone to sustaining a pregnancy, and since my eggs were just taken out, my body will be confused over the next few days and prob assume I released them, triggering a period in 2 weeks. But since we hope to have an embryo transfer in a few days and hold a pregnancy, we need to introduce progesterone and keep it going. The method I've been prescribed is nightly injections into the butt muscle. This is a similar shot to what Scott did Sun night, but it doesn't have to be at an exact minute. I had a nurse draw circles on me of where to inject (Scott did well guessing from Google pics, but we were off by a bit and it was too close to possibly hitting my sciatic nerve- hah whoops! Obv he didn't but now we have targets from the nurse). We ordered numbing cream to help me, even if just mentally, for the injections. It arrived tonight so we are ready to go. We'll do these injections for the next 2 weeks until the pregnancy test. If pregnant, we'll need to continue for another 1-2 months and if not, we stop. So nowhere in the clear from injections for now. I could have taken the alternative of vaginal suppository cream but that's like 2-3x a day, and to be honest, the thought of that would make me crazy all day long. Plus, now I know Scott is kinda looking forward to the shots because it involves him in a very big way. So I will be brave and just not look at the needles. :) Also, I'll keep my eye on the prize of a baby and hold onto hope that all of this will work soon! 

So here we go- an end to a very long but exciting and eventful day!!! :) I did it!! The super hard part is behind us!! Now we just wait patiently and see what happens. Prayers for good numbers moving forward, please!! 

Stace & Scott

Day in the Life of Infertility--Male Factor--Written By Scott

So its been a long time since I have made a post on here and that is because I wasn't really sure where to start.  But then I started thinking about my days and how once you are a male factor for the infertility and you get diagnosed as sterile, the journey becomes a mission for you to help your partner succeed at.  Its funny because most of the time when I tell people we are having fertility problems, they always and I mean always say, don't worry if you try more and practice more it will happen.  At this point, I am pretty open about it and I say, noooooo not for me!  Most of the time when I am telling that to someone for the first time they almost get offended and immediately feel sorry for me.  I have only gotten mad at people twice when I had to respond and it was because they made ignorant and snark comments after I said we were infertile.  Problem for those people is that they are just ignorant and will never understand what people go through on a day to day basis when all you want is a baby.  But it is great that I am so open about this and that I can talk because if it were 5 or 6 years ago, I would have bottled all inside and it would have led to more aggression towards Stace and more aggression towards life.  Now I just talk about it and I like to teach people about it because it truly is something that is common and most people do not know.  

So we are starting the final stages of IVF and quite frankly it is getting scary and extremely exciting at the same time.  For weeks, I have been joking to Stace about giving her the intramuscular shots and how I finally get to stick her!  Well that night came quickly two nights ago when I had to give her the trigger and we drew our circle and got ready to do it.  I am normally really good at high pressure situations and can normally keep my composure no problem, but when it came time to sticking a 1.5 inch needle into the woman that I love and that I might cause her pain and I might hit a vein and have to pull back and that I might mess it up, I became deathly terrified.  And on the other side on the needle is my beautiful, brave wife that has been sticking herself with needles for the past few months in her stomach, so much that she is getting bruises on her stomach, but who is also deathly terrified of needles at the same time.  So we get to the point where I have to insert this needle into her and I ask her countless times you want a countdown???  She keeps saying no I am good, just do it.  I didn't tell her to after but I wanted the countdown, I needed something in my mind that said, its okay to stick your wife in the hip with a 1.5 inch needle.  So after going through every dilemma in my head, I finally decided that I needed to help my wife who has been such a trooper through this whole process, and I went for it.  Went it quite easily, drew back no blood, injected the meds, and pulled the needle out, put the gauze pad on, massaged the medicine around and voila, we were done!  1 down 3000 to go.  But I thought about this after and I thought the team that we are on and typically I just make sure that we have the right music playing and that the drugs are mixed correctly but the hard part is typically done as soon as I pick up the camera to take the video.  I am so glad that I get to be a part of the process again!!!

So the post title is the day in the life, and when you are a male that is sterile, you look at yourself different at first, believe me its okay, I did and it took a while to get past it but I truly am past that now. Probably because of my friends that allow me to steal their babies for hours and know that it soothes me as well as my spirit.  As a male you know our responsibility is to ensure that your family is safe and secure and that you bring home the paychecks and you make the families.  I guess I am a little different because for years I have told Stace that I would have no problem being the stay at home dad.  Even when I worked as an Assistant Manager at Best Buy, I would constantly tell my employees that when I had kids, I would not do retail anymore.  I love that Stace has found a job that can support us and will I probably say one day when we have kids,  what was I thinking, probably but I don't care right now!  I love my life right now and if we are lucky enough to make a baby out of this, boy I will be on cloud 9.  If it doesn't work this time, well we have other times to continue and will it be hard, sure but we will get through it.  

So now we get to participate evenly in our journey together again.  I get to be 100% involved in the process again because I get to inject Stace with PIO now and it gets me involved more than the music and mixing.  Funny how when we sat with the psychologist, she asked me how Stace was on hormones before and I joked and said cranky.  She then said to us, well cranky can become bitchy really quick with IVF so are you ready to handle that.  My response, I worked in retail for 15 years and work in an office of mostly female employees now, I think I am almost a genius now!  No offense to the ladies out there, but hormones change your behaviors and I love you still but just gotta give us time to understand if this is the meds or we just messed up! 

Its funny because the one thing I have realized about this whole process is the support that is out there for females, and there could easily be support for males, but it takes a lot for a male to open up and understand that life happens.  But when you finally do open up and realize that you are in the journey together with your partner, it will make it that much more fun, and who knows maybe you might get lucky enough to allow your partner to trust you enough to stick a 1.5 in needle into her hip over and over and over!  Bye bye!

Monday, August 24, 2015

Back in the Game

(Started writing this yesterday, 8/23)- Just walked into the Dr's office and there's a lot of people here, like always, so while I wait I figured I would get this updated for all of you who are not on Instagram. :) The past 9 days have been SUPER eventful in the land of my reproductive parts (medically speaking, anyway)!! As mentioned in my last post, I stopped the pill on 8/10 and went to the Dr 8/14 for a blood test to make sure all hormones were where they wanted. Everything looked great so we were instructed to start injectable meds that night. 

Friday, 8/14 through Sunday, 8/16 I was to inject 125iu of Follistim and 75iu (1 vial) of Menopur each night. Follistim is in a readyject pen so I just attach a new needle tip, dial to my dose, and go. It looks the scariest to others bc it's big but it's actually the easiest in my opinion. It's also the most familiar because it's what I used for some of my IUI cycles. Menopur is a bit more complicated because you have to mix/prep it. Luckily this became Scott's job so I'm thankful for that. I would do it if I had to but it's one less thing I have to worry or spaz about. 

Friday, 8/14/15- So here's the first night. Many emotions. Excitement but also pure panic. Remember I've had a fear of needles like my whole life. Doing what feels like hundreds of them by now does NOT make it much easier. 

Following the advice of some friends and fellow fertility warriors, I iced my belly beforehand (maybe 5-10 mins) to numb the area a bit. I of course freak out beforehand and beg super nervous but we play some fun pumped up music (anything that makes you smile or fits the situation, makes you wanna dance, whatever) and inject away!!

 I do think the ice helped because to be honest I really didn't feel or mind the actual needles. These ones are pretty tiny (1/2 inch). It's actually the medicine that bothered me a bit. I had heard Menopur burned, so we did that one first to get it over with. I knew what I was getting into with Follistim (never did that high of a dose before so that made me nervous at first bc if was like double haha) so we saved that for last. 

Menopur was tricky bc it did feel like an uncomfortable burn while going in, so I tensed up and was scared to press the plunger in. Eventually I did it all but it took me a while bc it was just different and awkward. (I got better as time went on.) It's not a fun shot, but what is? It's over pretty quickly and on to the next one. It's all for a good cause. I was miserable after on the first night because it's just overwhelming, different, and unfair. But they are Miracle meds, as my friend Jess called them, and this wouldn't be possible without them. :) 

Saturday, 8/15/15-- Night 2 went a teeny bit better. My hand was shaking but I didn't freak out as much as the night before, so there's that. It's also good to switch sides each night to give your skin/belly a break. 

Sunday, 8/16/15-- Night 3- getting a little more into the groove of things & getting a bit more silly... Oh, and fun bandaids make it better. They're not necessary but if they make you smile, why not? 

Monday, 8/17 I was due back to the Dr's office for a blood test & ultrasound. They like to see you after 3 days of meds to see what's happening & then determine whether they need to modify your med doses or not. 

Did I mention the morning monitoring system works on first-come, first-serve? The office opens at 7 but I heard people start showing up at 6:15 outside. On Friday I got there at 6:10 and was already the 3rd person!! Yikes! Luckily it was just for blood so I was done by 7:45 and on my way to work (I had summer school these past 2 weeks). But I knew I had to step it up this week. 

This next pic was me sitting in the hallway outside the Dr office last Friday, along with 9 other women, all before they opened at 7am. I brought a book but, let's face it, I was way too nervous (and TIRED- up at 4:30 for an hour drive) to read anything. Everyone mostly sits in the hallway in silence until the office opens. Then we file in line and silently walk in to put our names on the sign-in sheet and find a chair to just sit and wait some more. Hurry up and wait. Wait. And wait some more. I think this was the most draining part of the week/process so far. Waking up so early and driving nearly 2 hours by the time I get to school, being awake for 4+ hours by the same time. It's draining. I woke up cranky most of those mornings and was thrilled to "sleep in" to 6:15/6:30 on the days I didn't need to go but still had summer school. I woke up Friday actually sobbing because there was a crazy intense thunderstorm as I was getting up and I didn't want to drive in it, it was pointless if I couldn't see anything on the road anyway. I said "I'm not rushing to be first in this weather. It's ridiculous. It's not far." I snoozed like 10 mins and got ready anyway, luckily by then it had slowed down and passed. But it's like get up at the crack of dawn to fight to be first, or go later and sit in the waiting room for over an hour anyway. Either way it stinks, and if you have to go to work, you have no choice but to get there as early as you can. 

Monday I left the house at 5am and ended up being the 2nd person there, by literally a second. There are 2 ways into the building and a girl and I walked in at the same time but different doors. She beat me by the smallest bit but in all fairness she was there at 5:45 and I wasn't until 5:55. The building doesn't open until 6 so we ended up meeting on the second floor and not knowing we weren't alone. I was happy to be second, anything sooner than Friday was a win. 

I got a quick blood draw and was off to the ultrasound room in no time. My assigned Dr happened to be there so that was a nice surprise (there are about 10 Dr's in this practice so I get the feeling it'll always be different). They found a bunch of follicles and only measured 1 because at that point it was too early for anything to happen and they just needed 1 to get an idea. All looked good so I kept my doses the same and was told to come back Wednesday for a repeat visit. The Dr said each ultrasound from here on out would be longer and longer as the egg follicles grow bigger. They don't want them to grow too fast and ovulate on their own, so careful monitoring is important. 

Monday, 8/17/15-- night 4--
Starting to get used to things by now! :)

Tuesday, 8/18/15-- night 5
Same routine. Even though it gets a bit easier, it also doesn't at the same time. I still freak out momentarily before doing it. It's always fine, just the anticipation they gets me every time! The helpful thing is that each day I was done, I knew I was one day closer to being done with stims/belly injections. And it's all for a great cause! 

Wednesday, 8/19/15-- night 6
I returned to the office for a repeat of Monday except this ultrasound was a few mins longer. As more follicles were forming and growing, they needed an idea of what size the lead ones were. Ideally they want them all to grow together like a cluster of grapes, but if a few take the lead, they run the risk of ovulating on their own too soon and being useless. So although this is common, they often prescribe a third drug to keep those overachievers at bay. This happened in my case and Ganirelix was prescribed for Wed & Thurs to make sure the bigger follicles didn't release before given the signal to. (*Isn't science amazing... I mean really, this is all pretty fascinating!*)

I had heard Ganirelix wasn't the best. Up until this point, Menopur wasn't my friend bc it burns as it goes in. Some girls on Instagram were referring to Ganirelix as the devil, the worst, etc. Although this freaked me out, I'm glad I had a heads up on it or I would have maybe thought something was wrong with me. I kept my routine the same and added it last- if it was going to hurt, I didn't want to get thrown off and not be able to do the others. I added it last so I could be DONE when it was finished. It's a convenient shot in the sense that it's pre-filled and it's all ready to go in a single-dose syringe. The downfall is that the needle itself is somehow duller than the others, even though it's the same size and gage. Weird. I read about this but wondered how it could be until I did it for myself. It doesn't slide into your skin as easy as the others do- you kind of have to dart it in a little faster so it breaks the skin, otherwise it bounces back and won't penetrate. That's a weird/freaky sight for anyone watching. It didn't hurt but is just a weird weird thing to experience and Scott was a bit freaked by the sight of it. Haha whoops. So jab that one in faster or just be prepared to push it in. To my surprise the medicine itself went in super easy and didn't bug me at all... then BAM, about 10-20 seconds after it was out, it hit me. OUCH!!!! Not gonna lie, I kept saying it felt like I was stabbed with a knife (not that I actually know what that feels like, but what I would imagine it to). Bottom line, owwww. I found that icing it and massaging it (any combo of the two) helpd it to feel better. Just remember these are miracle meds and this is all for a good cause!

Thursday, 8/20/15-- night 7--
We actually didn't get any pics of this night's injections. We had tickets to a local baseball game with some friends and once Scott got home, we had like a 5 min window to get it all done so we could leave. I could have done them alone before he got home, but I like the moral support. So we were in a rush and I just went for it- 1, 2, 3, Done! Iced in the car and we were good to go. 

Friday, 8/21/15-- night 8--
Morning monitoring again. I got there 2nd Friday, by a second again, but the girl was there since 5:20 and she was only there for a blood draw.  I can't and won't compete with being there earlier than 5:50/6:00, and technically I was first for ultrasound bc she wasn't getting one, and they catch up 2 people on blood by the time ultrasounds are ready to go. I went in and this time they measured each and every follicle. At this point I was getting closer and closer, so they wanted to know where each follicle was and how big they were.  They measured 25 worth measuring, which took about 20-25 mins, and also said that my uterine lining was "textbook". I was super excited about this because I had some occasional lining issues for IUI cycles with the meds I was on. The lining is important because it's where the embryo will implant and dig in to stay snug and develop into a fetus. It needs to be a certain thickness for better chances. and mine finally is great, a bit early in the game. 

I got my blood results back and they said things were progressing very nicely and I was responding very well to the meds (Which we guessed). Got the report to continue all 3 shots and return Sunday. 
Scott has gladly taken on the role of mixing and prepping the Menopur for me. Menopur comes in powder form in a small vial. It needs to be mixed with a vial of sodium chloride and then drawn back into the syringe. He has taken on this role from day 1 and I love that he's been involved in that part. Also shown is our sharps container getting very full. Don't worry, we have plenty more. 

Saturday, 8/22/15-- night 9
Same routine... and HOPEFUL that it's my last night on these (Spoiler alert- it turned out to be in the end!). The nurse who called Friday said it looked like I was getting closer and retrieval could possibly be around Tuesday. I didn't know for sure that this was our last night of stims (stimulation drugs) but I sure acted like it!! You'd think it would be easier to inject hoping it was the last one, but I got more antsy for some reason and it was harder. I think all the meds were finally sinking into my system and making me a bit more of a mess too.

Our buddy, Kokopelli, a fertility God, has been on this journey with me for a few years. Even back before seeing a fertility doctor. A school mom let me borrow it a few years back, in hopes that we would conceive then, before knowing we had some speed bumps. I still break it out every once in a while when big things are happening. 

Closeup of the sharps container getting filled. I know we don't need to put the bottles in but it's kind of instinctive to put it all together. 

Sunday, 8/23/15--
Morning monitoring checkup, same deal as Friday, measuring each follicle. Scott was able to come with me, being a weekend, and I was excited for him to see the ultrasound part. He's seen a follicle or two via ultrasound before for one of our IUI cycles, but this was a whole new ballgame. Essentially it's lots of shades of gray, black, and white on the screen. The follicles are dark spots and together they look like a cluster of grapes. We don't have a pic of my scan, but I found this one online to give an idea of what we saw and what they measure when it shows up on the screen. 

Each dark circle is a separate egg follicle and they measured the width and height for each. Except this time it exceeded 25... the Dr on Sunday went all the way up to... 39!!! (Enter complete FEAR here.) 39 is INSANE. They like to aim for around 15, my Dr said. 25 was phenomenal... 39 makes me terrified to hyper-stimulate (produce too many and fill up with fluid, bloating up and not feeling well, not making it a good idea to transfer the embryo shortly after). 39 also doesn't mean that all are mature, good quality, or even useful. I was happy with 25 but 39 really does scare me, I'm not getting my hopes up too high that they are all good. Scott was paying more attention than me and he thinks she measured every single one, even the little ones that won't really mean anything. So perhaps the 25 number would be ok in the end. 

*Side note: I was getting extremely cranky today, all the 9 days of stims finally caught up to me. I was cranky, tired, and just felt off. I was legit not fun to be around (sorry Scott). 

As for hyper-stimulating, I guess it's something you get or you don't, and there's not much I can do personally to avoid it at the moment. I have to watch for certain symptoms (extreme bloat, crazy weight gain in a day-two, nausea, vomiting, etc.) and I am at risk for it, but there is one glimmer of hope. The Dr prescribed me a trigger shot that's slightly diff from the norm I think. Normally they trigger ovulation to happen at time of egg retrieval with an HCG shot (HCG is the human pregnancy hormone, basically. I'm not sure why it triggers but it does.), but this is common for causing hyper-stimulation in some cases. However, if you add in a second shot, of Lupron, it has a counter effect and prevents hyper-stimulation. That's what I was given, 2 diff meds to work as a combined trigger. Lupron was SubQ (subcutaneous, meaning it goes into the fat, aka my belly, like all others before) and the Pregnyl was IM (intramuscular, meaning it goes into my butt muscle and I need Scott to do it because of the angle and because it's a 1.5 inch mama jamma of a needle!). 

The Dr said I was VERY close and guessed I would trigger either Sunday or Monday, depending on my hormone levels from the blood draw. I got a call around 3:00 that my levels showed I was, indeed, ready. She said my retrieval was set for Tuesday at 10:00am and to trigger at midnight!!!!  

We could have gone to bed and set an alarm, but we ended up being up until midnight. I was extremely terrified because of the muscle shot. I worked myself up and was feeling super nervous. But when 11:40 rolled around and we each prepped a shot, it started to become a little exciting. Sure this is no fun but we have to do it, no way around it, so let's get going! 

One image we found of where the muscle shots go. However, I had a nurse draw on my behind today so that we know where to aim with future shots. Scott was super close and he did a great job. It turns out he was super nervous and almost wanted to back out, but he did it. We have many more injections like this ahead of us (and more if we end up pregnant) but now the first one is behind us. The others won't be as stressful because they won't be specifically timed like this one was. I also ordered some numbing cream and will do anything to make it easier on me. 

Is he enjoying this a little too much???

Bottom line- Scott did a great job!! I did the Lupron in my belly no prob. I went back to the Dr today for a final blood draw to ensure the meds are in my system (happy to report that they are) and to get pre-op instructions!! So I'm all ready to go and tomorrow egg retrieval is set for 10am. 

Here's to hoping for all good things!!! Positive vibes & prayers would be greatly appreciated!! I feel like I'll never rest easy until there is a baby in our arms. Each step of the way will give me new worries and fears. But one step at a time and I'll get there. 

Sorry if parts of this don't make sense. I was struggling to get it done before I go to bed, and falling asleep every few mins. I would wake up to see I was beginning to type whatever I was thinking/dreaming about, or hearing on the TV. Whoops. Makes no sense if that's the case. Sorry. 

Ta Ta For Now!! 

Let's go hatch & fertilize some eggs!!