Saturday, January 23, 2016

Behind the Scenes... Filling in the Missing Pieces (Part 1)

As you likely know, we announced earlier in the week that we had a big surprise... 


(Please see previous post, Monday 1/18, if you somehow missed it!!)

This whole week has literally been a whirlwind of pure excitement! Finally getting to share our secret with our world has been sooooo much fun!! :) We have waited a really long time for this and it's been fun to finally tell people and have them hear it from us. So now that it's out, I couldn't wait to share some all of our info from the past 3 months and fill in the missing pieces to the puzzle and give some behind the scenes sneak peeks. It may be best to split this into separate posts but we'll see how it progresses from here.... 

**UPDATE... What was I thinking?! 3 months worth in 1 post? No way... This post alone will explain the FET cycle and go through that up to our positive pregnancy test. The next post will have a recap of weeks 4-12. I'll either throw in our announcement pics there or in their own post, not sure yet. Then, finally, somewhere I'll squeeze in sharing the news with my kindergarten class and coworkers. Lots to come eventually! Then once I'm all caught up to date, I plan on posting weekly updates from here on out. We'll see how it pans out but that is my intent for now. If you don't see things that regularly, it's probably just me being lazy! We are excited to have you all on this journey with us, so thanks so much for being faithful supporters!! <3 Here we go! :)

Quick Recap (Aug/Sep)
We jumped into IVF over the summer. I was shooting myself up with all kinds of fertility meds in August and the Drs retrieved 25 eggs from my ovaries on Aug. 25th. In the end, 18 fertilized and we got 9 embryos out of that. We transferred the best one back "home" (aka my uterus) on Aug 30th but we found out in Sept that it didn't stick and the cycle resulted in a negative pregnancy test. Our Dr. had no specific reason of why the cycle didn't work and we all chalked it up the fact that it was likely due to the fact that my body was doped up on so many hormones and it was just a little overstimulated. They suggested we take a month off and jump back in after letting my body calm down.

FET Cycle (Oct/Nov)
The month off was pretty rough but finally time passed and we had the chance to start up again. We had to have another required consult with our Dr. before proceeding (protocols are different with fresh IVF cycles vs frozen- what form of meds did I want to take, when we would schedule it, etc) and luckily we were able to squeeze that in before my next cycle started. We went back mid-October to officially start our FET cycle (frozen embryo transfer)! From meeting with our Dr, we knew that a FET cycle was much easier than a fresh cycle in a few ways... obviously no stimulation meds since my eggs were already taken out and fertilized... it is much easier to schedule the transfer process (putting the embryo(s) into the uterus). Our Dr. wanted to do the procedure himself, so we were able to pretty much pick whatever day worked out for both of our schedules. With fresh IVF, it's all time sensitive and things need to happen at certain times based on our body and/or science, but with an FET there's a little more flexibility.

One major thing about a FET cycle is that you only need to be on 2 meds/hormones... Estrogen & Progesterone. I still don't know all the specifics behind these 2 hormones but I do know they're necessary to sustain a pregnancy, and my levels for both hormones were checked for about 2 months. Each hormone supplement comes in a couple different forms so we did have a choice. The Dr. said there are patches and injections for estrogen, and there are suppository creams and injections for progesterone. So, technically, I could have gone needle-free this round but we surprisingly opted for both injection forms! Shocking, I know. Our Dr. told us that the injections were less expensive for estrogen (not sure about progesterone) and Scott chimed in that he was already an expert in giving me the injections (both forms needed to be intramuscular again, aka upper/outer butt muscle... blah!). I gave in (less than willingly), cringed, but ultimately knew this was all for another "shot" at a baby. 

Given the fact that my hormone levels needed to be monitored, I had to get blood draws twice a week (ouch!). The AWESOME part about this is that I didn't need to necessarily go to the fertility clinic for these. Our Dr. said since it was literally just for a quick blood draw and nothing else, I didn't need to drive an hour and do it there. He suggested using any local lab who could submit my results stat to the Dr. office. This was music to my ears because literally one of the worst parts of this process was the days I needed to get to the office before school. I had to get up around 4:15, leave the house by 5, get to the Dr by 6 when the building opened in order to claim one of the "first come, first serve" spots and beat other patients also trying to be there early when they officially opened at 7. Most times getting there at 6am I would be 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place. Not fun. Having the chance to use a local lab was amazing because there is one 5 mins from our house. They opened at 7:30 and I would typically be 1st, be in/out within 10 mins, and get to work either on time or within 5 mins late. It was perfect. Also, the best part of going to the lab I chose is that the phlebotomist was THE best at finding my vein/drawing blood without any pain. I actually got to the point where I would occasionally even look and was never nervous to be there. The girl was great and I ended up blabbing my entire story to her. Heck, seeing her 2 days a week first thing in the morning, I felt the need to explain a bit. She was always so encouraging and friendly, it became such a positive experience for something I used to literally cringe and chicken out on. 

(So thankful for this girl!! She's been amazing & has almost cured me of needles.) <3

Back to my timeline. So mid-October we started our cycle and I started going to the lab every Tuesday/Friday to check my estrogen level. Those afternoons, one of my fertility nurses would call with my estrogen level and give instructions for my estrogen injection that night (what dosage, etc). It was a good way to ease back into the injections only being 2x a week at first. The first few were painful/uncomfortable and I cried A LOT at how draining the process is. As much as I was stronger for all we've been through, it's still a huge bummer to have to do these just to try and get pregnant in the first place. But I referred an old post on our PIO injection routine and realized I wasn't following all the steps. Once I followed it again and Scott got back into a groove giving the shots, we settled into the routine again. 

We did the estrogen shots every Tues/Fri for about 2 weeks and I went back to the office on Nov 3 for an ultrasound to check the lining of my uterus. They do this to ensure it's thick enough for an embryo to implant and dig itself in. Back when the first cycle failed, one of my very close work friends offered to go with me to the Dr early one morning for company and begged me to tell her when we started up again. Ironically (and conveniently) November 3 was Election Day and is always a staff-only day at school. I didn't feel so guilty taking a coworker along if neither of us had students to race back to. We got permission from our admin and I picked her up on the way to the Dr at like 5:30 am. She got to wait in the hall with me so early in the morn and see how crowded it got by 7am. She got to hear a few of us share stories, bitch and complain about hormone side effects (the estrogen made me nauseous a few times if I didn't eat enough, made me a little cranky, etc.). It was such a big gesture for her to go with me and just be there for moral support. As some have asked, she did NOT go into the room for ultrasound (that might be a little awkward, haha) but my report for that was great! My lining looked good and we were scheduled to have our transfer the following Monday, November 9th. I was also instructed to add progesterone shots (PIO) into our nightly routine!! I also had to take a few days worth of antibiotics prior to the procedure.

At this point, PIO was now daily and then on Tues/Fri we would add estrogen and have 2 injections. Talk about double whammy! Scott never wavered and was incredible with almost all of the shots. :) Our excitement built as November 9th approached and we couldn't wait to bring more embryos "Home". 
(So thankful for these two gals! They've both been so supportive through the whole thing and have offered to come to the clinic with me for different things. November 3rd was a big day. Got to start it at 5:30am with Jess to get to the clinic early... Got to end the work day with Amy and a glass of wine, and then ended the actual day getting back into the PIO routine with Scott! Love you all!)

Transfer Day (November 9, 2015)
I totally forgot to mention that I added acupuncture back into the mix this cycle. I was only able to squeeze in 2-3 appts though I think but one of the most important/most suggested ones is that you get a treatment on the day of your transfer (either before or after the procedure). My acupuncturist (aka miracle worker!) offered to meet me on a day she isn't normally in the office and came in just to see me. She did a quick treatment focused on my uterus and gave me some techniques to relax myself. I was getting anxious because of the full bladder issue (the first time I thought I seriously may have died bc my bladder was about to burst and it was so bad) and also just general anxiety/nerves. 

I forget what time our appointment was but it was in the morning and we were feeling hopeful and excited. It helped knowing the process from last time and it also helped knowing that our Dr was the one who would be performing it himself. I definitely drank WAY LESS this time and sure enough my bladder was still pretty full... but I have to say although it was still slightly uncomfortable (to be expected) it was much much much better than the first time. It was much faster, much easier, and more bearable. Scott is always an amazing support line through these procedures and didn't let go of my hand for even a second in the whole process. I was able to stay calm and actually watch/process more of the actual embryo transfer too (Where you see it all go right into the uterus on the screen). 

What I didn't mention until this point is that we chose to transfer TWO embryos this time. We wanted to try for 2 in hopes that both would stick and we would end up with twins. We could be done with one shot and get both babies for the price of one cycle. We both want this so badly and could each have a baby to hold at all times. And if something happened and both didn't stick, we would still have 1. The Dr. was ok with us doing 2 this time and without a doubt we knew it would be 2, so 2 it was. (That leaves us with 6 still in the freezer for future attempts/siblings.)

(Waiting before our appt)

(I hate this pic of me but I had to include it... No bribery please)
We didn't happen to get any pics of our embryos this time (the lab was so busy prepping for lots of appts that they didn't get a chance to print them out prior. I was bummed and scared it was a sign it didn't work. I've always wanted to show a "before" and "after" pic of our embies/babies. We have the one from last cycle though so that's something. It is what it is. <3 :) 

(Once we got home... So so so excited) <3

The Dreaded Wait
The dreaded "Two Week Wait" is thankfully only about 10 days for IVF (Only? ha!). Believe it or not, though, those 4 days less makes the world of a difference! It's still a long and brutal waiting period but 10 days is still better than 14. Transfer was Nov 9th and our test was set for Nov 18th. During that time I did all that I could to keep warm (warm feet-=warm uterus) so I always had double socks and/or blankets on at home. I rested a lot. I did some relaxing yoga moves. I ate pineapple/pineapple core. I drank Pom juice. I tried to not drive myself crazy and analyze every little thing. I felt totally normal and therefore started to lose hope and positivity. I even got super weepy at times and would just cry because I wanted it to happen so so badly and didn't want to let another embryo down (2 this time!). I honestly thought this cycle didn't work and I was beginning to get mad at my body and at life and just not understand why. I sobbed during/after our PIO shot on Nov 17th because it could have been our last again. I almost didn't want testing day to arrive and steal my sunshine. 

(During the wait, we went to a new local cider house for Angry Orchard cider!! So cool, by the way! We got free cider tastings and I have to admit I had a few sips of each. I gave the rest of my cups to Scott and I drove us home, but I had the bare minimum knowing that it was still early.)

Testing Day (November 18, 2015)
I had to return to the clinic for testing day, even though it was a blood draw only. It was included in the price we had already paid so it didn't make sense to pay double and go out of pocket at the lab again. I begged Scott to go with me and we both made the trip early before work that day. I was 3rd that day and all 3 of us actually transferred on the same day and were testing on the same day. We were all sharing stories and none of us felt very different. A 4th girl came and told us she had her Beta (pregnancy test) 2 days prior and it was positive, so she was back to make sure the numbers doubled as they should. We were all saying how it would be the longest day in history because typically the nurses don't call until 4-5pm and we would all go crazy until then. The newer girl said that actually our Dr (we all shared the same Dr) called himself and called around noon! So then it threw us all off and we were like oh great, it'll come sooner but we'll all be at work! Yikes! I got the blood test and back to work we went. I was a nervous wreck all day. Scott and I made a pact that I wouldn't answer a call from the clinic until I was home and that he wouldn't text me to ask anything and would just wait until he was home and I could tell him in person. 

(My horoscope the day before testing)

(Sitting here, shaking my leg and anxiously awaiting my turn, felt like an eternity.... then the hours after that until "The call" was another eternity... eeek)

I remember having a half-day substitute that day to work on report cards in the afternoon. So I managed to make it through the morning, lunch, and then was going to focus on computer work. At least my mind could be elsewhere and I wouldn't have to be "on" for the kids in my class. I was on my way back to my classroom after lunch when I saw a missed call and voicemail from an unknown number. It was just before noon. For a split second I thought it was my results but they've always called from the direct line. My heart skipped a beat out of curiosity. I wasn't breaking our promise since it wasn't from the clinic. I listened to the voicemail and it was from our good family friend who works at the clinic. She asked me to call her and said that she loved me. The rest was a blur but her voice and words were so so hard to decode. Was that good news? Bad news? Was it even related at all? I got to my classroom and realized the class and sub were all outside so I had the room to myself for a bit. I closed my door and turned off the lights so no one would bother me if they were trying to find me... if it was my results and it was bad, I would have a quiet space to collect myself if needed. My heart was racing as I called her back. I'll refer to her as "P". Plus, keep in mind, this is over 2 months ago so this is not word-for-word but you get the point. 

Me: Hi...
P: Hi hunny, how are you?
Me: I'm ok... I think...
P: Yea? You hanging in there?
Me: (Thinking: Oh God, it didn't work) ... I don't know? Should I be? 
P: Well.... I have your results...
Me: OMG, you do??? Ok...
P: Yes I do!!... Stacy, you're pregnant! You're pregnant, hunny!! Congratulations!
Me: WHAT? OMG REALLY?!?! Wait, what's the number?! 
P:  It's 282!! You're pregnant! 
Me: WOW!!! Did you say two-HUNDRED-eighty-two??!!

I literally fell to the floor when she told me the news. I couldn't believe it. I think I literally pinched myself. I was in shock. I didn't feel any different. I immediately started crying happy tears and couldn't stop shaking or smiling... OMG!! I'M PREGNANT!!!!

Oh, right, I'm still at school... for 4 more hours! (On Wednesdays we stay until 4 for meetings... eek!!) I had to find a way to control myself and stay calm or the whole building would know something was up. I wanted to sprint through the hallways and do cartwheels or scream and shout. I wanted to jump up and down. I wanted to dance. I wanted to leave, go to Scott's office, and just cry and jump and and down cheering. I'm pregnant!! Woaaaaa.... :) :) :) 

I called Scott and just shouted it all to him. He was in shock too and so excited. He kept asking if 282 was good. I said it was amazing!!! I wanted 100 to feel comfortable (just out of personal experience... the last pregnancy we had around a 30, then close to 70, then close to 150... it wasn't high enough and then we lost it). Just to feel comfortable I was looking to start around 100 and yet 282 was amazing. Scott was so excited and then I had to somehow focus on report card work the rest of the day. I managed to sneak around and tell a few of the coworkers who knew we were trying/going that day and then my excitement came flooding back all over again. It was incredible!! 

HCG Checks
The beta test (pregnancy test) checks for the level of HCG in your blood. They retest it every 2 days in the beginning to make sure it rises nicely. They genuinely like to see it double every 2 days. So after 282 we were looking for something around 550 or so.... My second number came in at 745 on Friday, 11/20!!! Almost triple... Awesome!! We began to wonder if it was twins because typically twins will cause a higher number, both giving off the same hormone. My nurse/Dr. said we will keep testing until it gets to about 2,000 and then go in for an ultrasound. They didn't want me to go in over the weekend so we let it go 3 days and tested again on Monday, 11/23. By then it was up to 2,714!!! Woaaaaa.... Even the nurse said "Ok, let's bring you in for an ultrasound to see how many it is!". 

(Couldn't resist... I had to take one at this point! Plus, it's a good way to show my baseline.)

1st Ultrasound (November 24, 2015)
They like to do an ultrasound around 5 weeks mostly to see if A) there is a gestational sac and B) it's in the uterus where it belongs, and not in the tubes or somewhere dangerous and unwanted. We went in on November 24th and saw TWO gestational sacs!!! At that point we were labeled as having twins! We cried lots of happy tears, of course!! They labeled "Twin sacs" and Baby "A" and "B" on the screen and we got to keep pics. All you could see at that point was 2 dark shaded circles that would become the babies' homes and ultimately meant that both stuck and were safe inside my uterus. We learned how they label Twin A vs B as well (A is the one closest to the cervix). At this point, Baby B was a little bigger but that was normal. We scheduled an appointment to come back in about 2 weeks to look for heartbeats. We left, feeling over the moon, and had to contain our excitement around others yet again! EEEEEK!!! :) :) :) 

(May be hard to see but there are 2 small dark spots in the middle. The left is labeled "A" and the right is labeled "B". Those are the gestational sacs/embryos/babies. <3 <3 At this point we were totally having twins. And even though we only have 1 baby as of now, this is still a part of our story and I believe it's a great way to document everything.

(Soooooooooooo excited and in love... after the appointment, headed back to work. We are in shock at this point and just so so so incredibly happy!!) <3 <3

Next Steps
Of course after seeing TWO implanted embryos right at home where they were meant to be had us all kinds of happy. We wanted so badly to tell our families and friends. It took everything in us not to. Scott wanted to update our parents immediately and I thankfully convinced him not to. It was still VERY early. We were just barely 5 weeks at this point. We had been here before. 5 weeks is as far as we made it last time. It's so so incredibly hard not to tell anyone at this point but I was just too nervous to say anything too soon. It was too big of a secret and burden to put on our parents at this point and we really didn't want our news to get out yet. I convinced Scott to wait until we saw a heartbeat and then maybe wait until Christmas to tell ONLY immediate family. *At this point we had told a few coworkers and friends we were seeing frequently. They were ones who monitored us much closer and we needed them on our side in case something went down but also to side with us and ward off others who may get suspicious. I needed to also let a few coworkers in because I was occasionally a few mins late and sometimes needed someone I could trust to cover my class if needed. So we waited... very very VERY patiently. And very very very difficultly (if that's a word?). It is now haha. 

More to come in the next few posts! Stay tuned!! 

Much love, 

Stace & Scott
(& Baby too!)

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