Friday, December 28, 2012

Light after so much darkness

The past few days have been so joyous and wonderful. And while I know we aren't at the ultimate finish line, I am relishing in every bit of joy I can along the way. We endured so much darkness the past couple of years that I believe it's helped me to appreciate the good days so much more.

Christmas Eve and Christmas were everything I had hoped and prayed they would be. It was a lot of work though, no question there. My feet felt like they were going to fall off after being on them cooking and baking for nearly three days straight. But it was all worth it. We are in a new world without my mom in the picture. My dad moved from Utah to now just up the street from us. My mother in law (also a widow) lives three miles away. I still have two brothers in Utah, but they each have families of their own so we are the new Texas home-base for Holidays. We wanted to create new family traditions and began many of them this year. We decided we would have surf and turf be the new Christmas eve dinner tradition. We served steamed crab legs and Picanha, which is a Brazilian rotisserie steak dish that my husband makes. While my husband was cooking, Jen (my sister in law) and I played dance games on the Kinect like a couple of kids and had a blast, not to mention a good cardio workout. Probably a good thing considering how much food was involved during the last few days!

Christmas morning I made an awesome gluten free breakfast casserole and everyone raved about it. I made homemade apple cranberry cider in the crockpot and it filled our home with delightful holiday smells. Our entire kitchen table was full of treats, appetizers, cheeses, etc. And our Christmas dinner was a feast that my mom would have been proud of! Ham, turkey, mormon potatoes (a major crowd-pleaser), pies, jello, and the list goes on and on. We were able to share the day with our family and a couple of close friends and their two small children. A cold front blew into town and we even lit a fire in the fireplace topping off the Christmas ambiance. I sincerely had so much joy in my heart all day long and I couldn't have asked for a better day given where we are in life. I pray that next year we have a little one to share it with and we finally have real hope that this might actually come true.

As for progress on our cycle, things are going fantastically on that front too. After so many terrible doctors appointments last year, every single win in this whole process now is something to get excited about.  I had my saline ultrasound and mock transfer yesterday which I was braced for in a lot of ways. I was worried it would hurt like crazy because the one in July was probably the most painful procedure I've ever had done in my life. Basically, the doctor sticks a catheter through the cervix, fills the uterus with a saline solution, and then uses an ultrasound wand to check for abnoralities. The one from July was so painful I couldn't even walk for about 10 minutes. In addition to worrying about the pain, I also was worried they'd find polyps like they did last time and that would mean I'd need hysteroscopy surgery to remove them. Surgery would mean, well, surgery, and who wants that?  Finding polyps would also mean a few thousand dollars out of pocket because in 2013 we are switched to an HSA plan, ugh. Lastly, it would also mean delaying our FET cycle which stinks in its own right.

Jen went to the appointment with me since I wanted my husband to save his time off of work for the big appointments, like the actual transfer itself. I'm happy to say that the procedure took all of three or four minutes, and didn't hurt one bit! The doctor said everything looked "perfect." Yes, he used the word perfect and I'm hanging onto that! The word "perfect" was never uttered anywhere, anyhow, at any doctors appointment last year or this summer, so hooray for my perfect uterus! He again said he had a very good feeling about everything. My previous RE was so sweet and caring, but she was very formal. This new doctor is incredibly caring as well, but is so much more casual than the previous RE and he and puts me at ease at every appointment with his jokes and friendliness. I left that appointment with so much joy and optimism that I just am still sitting here the following morning relishing in it! It feels so good to have hope again! Hopelessness weighs on your soul like a big cement block.

After the appointment, Jen and I went to the Whole Foods in downtown Austin. This is the original Whole Foods of all Whole Foods, and let me tell you - it's enormous! I've been there quite a few times, but Jen is from NYC and has never seen it. We wanted to check out gluten free food options because I knew they had a lot. We picked up some delicious GF brownies and pastas and had some lunch at their deli.

Afterwords, we visited my mother in law then got a pedicure. We had planned for me, my husband, Jen, and my dad to go to my favorite restaurant for dinner, but I was a little worried about what options I'd have now living gluten free. I called ahead and they said they were very accommodating for those with gluten restrictions. And when we got there, the executive chef was able to prepare my favorite gorgonzola and truffle oil mac & cheese with their in-house gluten free pasta and it tasted exactly the same as the gluten-full version that I had loved so much. I was thrilled! And to make things even better, the chef brought out FOUR  complimentary desserts that he had made gluten free just for us to enjoy at our table. To.Die.For.

So I know it sounds corny, but the last few days have been fantastic, and I am not going to take any of these moments for granted. These wonderful days mean so much more because of the dark days that have preceded them.  It's nice to be in the light once again.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

I have officially started our cycle

My period finally made it, albeit two days late. My cycles are like clockwork so I was very frustrated that this time it decided to be delayed. Oh well, onwards and upwards! I cut gluten out of my diet about a month ago and I can't help but wonder if that had an impact on my cycle pushing it from it's normal 26 days to 28.  Whether or not it did, cutting it out has made a HUGE difference in the rest of my life. I was sick with "IBS" for 13 years (severe stomach issues.) During this time, I've had all kinds of tests, poking, prodding, procedures, prescription pills, - yet no doctor could ever figure it out. Finally, I read an article about how many people were misdiagnosed with IBS and other stomach ailments when they really had gluten intolerance or Celiacs disease. A lightbulb went off, and I decided to cut gluten out and see how I felt. I seriously cannot believe the difference! I was sick every single day, within 30 minutes of eating a meal I would have serious nausea and need to run to the bathroom (sorry TMI!) But as soon as gluten was gone, I'm normal. I literally sit in awe now at thinking how long I suffered needlessly when this was the answer all along. And the doctors couldn't figure it out and it was this easy. Good riddance, gluten - I feel a million times better without you!

And I'm not sure if I'll ever know, but I've been reading a lot lately about how autoimmune disorders can cause Diminished Ovarian Reserve. Celiacs disease is an autoimmune disorder, and it's wreaked havoc on everything else in my body so it would make sense if there was a link there for me too. What if this gluten business caused my DOR? Who knows? I'll always wonder, that's for sure.

Anyway, back to the cycle preparation. My meds got here and they are sitting in a pretty box in the kitchen.  I started birth control pills last night and I will start Lupron injections in two weeks. Then at some point I will add in estradiol and I'm not really sure on the details on the rest. I will get my calendar after the beginning of the new year. I'm a little anxious about the Lupron because I felt like crap on the microdose Lupron (a diluted dose) so I can't even imagine how I will feel on the full dose. But I will do whatever it takes to have a successful FET! I scheduled my saline ultrasound for this Thursday. Fingers crossed that they don't find anything that needs to be removed.

My sister in law flies in from NYC today and I am so excited to see her. The house is decorated beautifully, I have elaborate holiday meals planned and the weather actually feels like Christmas. I feel so hopeful and positive this year as opposed to last. I wasn't sure if I'd ever feel this way again. I'm really afraid of dropping back into a depression if this doesn't work, but I'm trying to stay focused on the positive and tell myself that it will.

I decided to reactivate my Facebook account this morning after a long hiatus from it. I deactivated it because it got way too painful to see pregnancy announcements, children's milestones, baby photos, etc. I even had some friends complaining about their pregnancies publicly on FB and it just got to be too stressful and upsetting. Our close friends know about our difficult infertility journey, but I never talked publicly on Facebook. I have changed so much in the last two years and I think that "coming out" is going to be an important step for me. I want to be an advocate for embryo adoption because it's such a beautiful thing. I "liked" Embryo Adoption Awareness on Facebook for now and I bet a lot of my friends who don't know what we are going through are scratching their head right now. I guess thats me just dipping my feet in the "coming out" waters. :)

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our snowflakes made it!

Our five little snowflakes made it safe and sound! They are currently snuggled up all nice and a lab in San Antonio and that's only about an hour and a half away. :)

As far as today being the big anniversary, it's been going pretty well. Last year when my mom died, we planted a beautiful maple tree in our backyard in memory of her. Before she died, I told her we planned to do this and asked that she "meet" me there whenever I needed her. She of course agreed. The tree is still small but appears to be growing and has beautiful orange and red leaves all over the top. When we were at the nursery buying the tree, I came across a garden statue of an angel holding a baby. Since we live in Texas and my mom was buried in Utah, I knew this statue belonged under her special tree as a memorial I could visit since I wasn't near her grave. This morning, I went out and spent some time talking to her and letting her know I think about her every single day.

I know I keep saying it, but I'm positive she is near and can hear me. She's cheering us on throughout our journey, I can feel it in my soul.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Good news, good news, and more good news!

I have been thinking a lot about last Thursday's appointment with the RE. Based on some critical information that one of the office staff told me, we decided to plan our FET in February. But just because I'm crazy and a bit obsessive, I decided to call back this morning on the way to work and talk to the head nurse to confirm that same information. I'm glad I did because I found out what the first lady told me was incorrect! See? It pays off to be crazy like me. Now I'm excited to say that we won't have to wait until February to do our FET after all. In fact I am supposed to call with my period once it arrives this week (hopefully the 19th) and start taking BCPs this month! My medications have been ordered and are being delivered tomorrow. I think it's finally hitting me that this is happening! It's FOR REAL!

As if that's not enough good news for one day, I was pulling into work right after hanging up with the nurse when I got a call from a Virginia area code. It was the lab director with some even more amazing news: Our embryos were on their way here! I wasn't expecting to hear from him so soon since I had just left him a voice-mail an hour and a half earlier, let alone for him to call and say they were already on their way! They will be coming "home" on December 18th, the anniversary mom's death. I know she's helping with all of this. :) She's watching. 

I have been asking God for comfort as the horrible anniversaries of December 2011 approached. Anniversaries have been really hard for me this year, especially the one in May of my Mom's diagnosis. I have been dreading the two big anniversaries - December 6th (DOR Diagnosis) and December 18th (Mom's death.) and have prayed diligently for some level of comfort to help me get through them. But not only has God answered my prayers with comfort, but I have actually been given joy for both. December 6th, the donors officially signed over their rights to the embryos to us. And tomorrow, the anniversary of my Mom's death, our embryos arrive home in Texas! If you had asked me three months ago how I would be feeling on the eve of the anniversary of her death, I'd probably tell you I'd be in tears. Well, I am in tears.  Except they are tears of joy and elation. I miss my mom terribly, but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she's near and she has a hand in all of this. This wonderful thing could have happened on 364 other days of the year, but they are coming home on December 18th. :)

I've been watching the news for any FedEx plane crashes between Virginia and Texas, and so far there haven't been any reports. So I'm going to try to stop worrying that they will make it here safe and sound. I hope my mom is hanging out with them and helping them stay safe until they are in their new home in Texas.

Welcome to Texas, little snowflakes. 

Friday, December 14, 2012

I have to start somewhere...right?

So this is my first blog post. Ever. I have worked in computers and technology my entire adult life, yet I'll be the first to admit I don't know anything about blogging! It's really not the same as troubleshooting a server or setting up a printer. It's very foreign to me so please, bear with me as I learn the ropes. :)

Before we knew we'd be dealing with infertility, I used to think "Blogging is silly. What in the world could people ever possibly want to know about ME?" But as we eventually learned we would not have children the "normal" way, I realized how important a community of support was in getting through the dark world of infertility. I found so much comfort in reading blogs of others with similar experiences. I felt like I wasn't alone. I hope that by blogging about our journey I can lend the same sense of belonging to others in similar situations.

2011 was full of so many harsh blows for us. We had planned to start trying for children in May 2011. And as cruel fate would have it, the exact day I ovulated that month, my 53 year old mother was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer on the weekend of Mother's Day!

We continued to try to to get pregnant, and in September 2011 my OB/Gyn wanted to run some bloodwork and ended up misdiagnosing me with PCOS. I was skeptical about her diagnosis because everything didn't add up, so we decided to make a trip to the RE (fertility doctor.) The RE ordered an array of tests and on December 6th, 2011, I was officially diagnosed with severe Diminished Ovarian Reserve. I had an an AMH level of <0.16 (undetectable.) This basically meant I was facing menopause at only 30 years old! I don't think I fully comprehended what a diagnosis like that meant at the time, but we were heartbroken and confused. At that point, we only had insurance coverage for an unmedicated IUI. So even though we knew that it wasn't going to work because of my awful eggs, we gave it a shot anyway and hoped for a miracle. Sure enough, as expected, it didn't work.

My mom had always been my biggest cheerleader and knew of our hopes to conceive. When I told her of the diagnosis that day she cried with me. She said she would go to the ends of the earth to see us have a family and if she couldn't help us in this life, she would "pull some strings from heaven." My husband and I flew to Utah to see her a few days later since we knew she was nearing the end. We visited the gorgeous Temple Square Christmas lights display in Salt Lake City and attended a live Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert. It was surreal knowing these would be my last moments with her on earth. I said goodbye to her on our way to leave for the airport on the morning of December 12th - this was a moment I had absolutely dreaded since her diagnosis in May. She held me for a long time and her final words to me were "I will always love you. Families are Forever. You will always be my little girl." On the plane ride back, I prayed God would take her home and end her suffering. Hours after arriving home in Texas, she slipped into a coma. She joined the angels in heaven on December 18, 2011. We flew back the next day and had her funeral on Christmas Eve. I was terrified that the Christmas season would be forever tarnished with these gut-wrenching memories for the rest of my life.

We hoped and prayed that 2012 would be better. With my mom now safely on the other side, we began gearing up for IVF. We knew that we were embarking on a difficult road that would take huge emotional, physical, and financial tolls. We had no infertility coverage with our insurance at all.  IVF cycles range from $12k-$18k with absolutely no guarantee of success. For someone with a diagnosis as severe as mine, the cost is at the high end of that range because I would need the maximum amount of medication for my ovaries to even have hope for any response. And even then, the prognosis for success is only at around 30%. We knew we had to give it one try even though the odds were incredibly stacked against us. Prior to beginning IVF, I had a saline ultrasound procedure to check my uterus. We were surprised when the RE found a polyp. I had to undergo surgery to have it removed. Thankfully, it didn't set our cycle back and we were cleared to continue. We used the most aggressive protocol available, but just as we feared, I had absolutely no response to the cycle.  I will always remember August 10th, 2012 as the day my RE told me that we had tried everything and it had failed. My doctor and and my husband held me as I sobbed uncontrollably in the exam room. We knew our next step would be to pursue embryo adoption. It was something I had discovered in late 2011 just prior to my mom's death and I had felt very drawn to it. It's a beautiful option that the majority of people don't know and it's a hopeful means for a path to parenthood for couples in our situation.

To me, our dreams of children include gleeful Christmas mornings, soapy mohawks in the bathtub, little arms thrown around us and "I love you, Mommy" whispered in my ear. None of that has anything to do with genetics. I still daydream about these moments to come.

Our clinic was in the process of starting a donor embryo program and we were placed on their waiting list. We also posted an ad on Miracles Waiting, a classifieds ad type of site where donors and recipients can try to make contact and adopt embryos. We waited, and waited, and waited. We had a few false starts on Miracles Waiting, but the potential matches ended up dropping off of the face of the planet creating a whole new level of pain.

But through what I believe was divine intervention (or maybe my mom pulling her strings) a woman who I will refer to as "V" saw a post I made on Baby Center in early November where I had expressed my sadness, grief, and depression around our current situation with no donor embryo prospects. She said she knew how I was feeling having gone through the same thing a few years earlier and she had five frozen embryos she wanted to donate to a married couple like us. She had received them herself from an anonymous donor couple who had used an anonymous egg donor to create them in the early 2000's. V and her husband had a beautiful son who was four and a half years old. I immediately felt a kinship with V because she understood what we were feeling. She had truly been where we were having been a recipient of embryos at one point herself. We were speaking on the phone and on November 16th, 2012 when she said the magical words to us:  "We want you to have our embryos."

We worked through the legal aspects, and on December 6, 2012 (a year to the day after my DOR diagnosis) the embryos were officially ours! We have since become friends with V and learned what an incredible angel she is. We truly love her and are so grateful for the gift she and her husband chose to give us. I hope she never gets tired of us telling her this, but we seriously can't begin to express the level of gratitude in our hearts. I honestly cannot believe that we have real hope at building a family again.

So there, now I can say I've done it. I've written my first blog post. I hope it gets easier from here on out because that was a lot of information to throw at you at once. I hope you'll keep watching as our journey unfolds. :)