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

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