Friday, May 31, 2013
The unique part about this cycle is I don't actually have a calendar yet, and I won't until our embryos are shipped here, which is fine. My RE and I thought it would be best to have me start on BCPs with this period because we know the embryos are going to be coming very soon and we didn't want to have to wait until a whole new cycle to get started. Works for me! So I'm officially in a cycle. Sort of. :)
Kevin and I decided we need to go on a weekend trip to the countryside in order to get away from it all. We took next Friday and Monday off of work and are heading to a small town just a couple of hours away called Fredericksburg. It's a quaint, historic town with plenty of German heritage, antiques, restaurants, etc. And there are beautiful vineyards/wineries all around. Who knew Texas had wine?
We went to Fredericksburg in February of 2012 and had wonderful time. The only issue was with the cabin where we stayed. The cabin setting itself was perfect, the grounds were perfect, but the shower didn't work and the bed was horrible. So this time we decided to check out something new and found a highly reviewed ranch with a bed and breakfast. There are horses, horseback riding, campfires, and star gazing. Exactly what we need!
And one of the great selling points is that we get to bring Oscar. The ranchers say they love dogs and we are welcome to bring ours. I'm excited since this will be one of our first "family" vacations we go on with him to the countryside. It's going to be hot (and probably humid) so I'm not necessarily looking forward to that part of it, but we all should have a great time!
Thursday, May 30, 2013
The past week has been bonkers. As you saw in my previous post, Saturday I ended up in the ER with a potential stroke that turned out to only be a temporary nerve injury. And on Tuesday afternoon, health scare number two began.
I got a call from my primary care doctor saying one of my labs came back positive for "smooth muscle antibodies" which is indicative of autoimmune hepatitis.
This was shocking since my liver ultrasound results came back normal the previous Friday. She said I needed to go to a liver specialist.
I consulted doctor Google, and in a nutshell he said autoimmune hepatitis is a condition in which your immune system decides to attack and destroy your liver. Unfortunately it's not something affected by diet or exercise, its basically something you're born with. The only treatment is years of steroids to try to get it into remission. And if the liver damage becomes so severe, you may need a liver transplant. It's very serious.
I have spent every moment since that call worrying like a crazy woman.
I emailed my RE and told her what was going on because I am due for CD1 any moment now and I was supposed to start birth control pills. And to my disappointment, she replied telling me to hold off on starting pills until we know what's up with my liver. I was running on about one hour of sleep, so needless to say I was a sobbing mess yesterday. It was just way too overwhelming.
Luckily, I was able to get an appointment for this morning to see my gastroenterologist's physician's assistant. She went over all of my labs and ultrasound and confidently determined I do not have autoimmune hepatitis. She said my liver enzymes would be much higher than they actually are. That in conjunction with my other lab results, she said to not worry about hepatitis. She said that the antibody test is very finicky and can be impacted by many factors and this looked like a fluke. Mine tested as an extremely weak positive (1:20) and that anything below 1:20 is considered a negative anyway.
WHAT A RELIEF.
I still have an appointment on Tuesday with an actual GI doctor. Call me crazy but I want an actual MD to tell me not to worry and not just a PA, but I'm still extremely relieved.
I emailed my RE letting her know what the PA said and she just replied letting me know she feels comfortable once again with me starting birth control pills as planned! All in all, it was a minor (yet very upsetting) hiccup that appears to be nothing.
And in embryo news, I sent the contract off to Libby yesterday. And according to UPS it will arrive on Tuesday. If she and her husband are able to sign fairly quickly, we might even have the contract back by the end of next week. Can you believe it?
Monday, May 27, 2013
My immediate thought was stroke.
I ran to Kevin who was already in the shower and in a panic-striken state alerted him that something was very wrong with my hand. He hopped out of the shower quickly and did basic vitals on me (he's a firefighter/EMT) and decided we'd head to the emergency room right away. He was worried about a stroke or blood clot - two things you don't mess around with.
I was rushed into an exam room and the ER doctor did basic stroke tests on me. Kevin and I really thought it was probably a side effect to the Labetalol or folic acid since these were new pills I had just started, but the ER doctor didn't think a systemic drug could cause such an isolated symptom. He finally determined I was not having a stroke and I didn't have a blood clot (what a relief) and told me to follow up with my doctor during normal hours later this week.
But for the rest of the day it baffled and upset me as to why this had come on so sudden. And I still didn't have use of my hand despite being discharged from the ER.
Then at bedtime it hit me. I had taken my blood pressure just minutes before I lost the feeling in my hand. I have been keeping an eye on my BP to make sure it didn't drop too low with the new medication. Upon realizing this, I googled "blood pressure cuff injury" and sure enough there were countless stories of how a blood pressure cuff can compress a main nerve that runs through your arm causing loss of feeling/function in your fingers/hand described exactly as my symptoms had had presented. It happens when you put it too low on your upper arm, which I notoriously do. I didn't think it was dangerous. Now I know better!
The good news is, the following morning the feeling returned to normal! I'm a little embarrassed about the whole event, but I would never advise anyone to ignore any signs that might present as a stroke.
And funny enough, the only other time I've ever been to the ER was in 2008 when I was cutting an avocado and accidentally put a knife through my left hand and out the other side! OUCH. I severed a digital nerve and it had to be repaired surgically. It seems like left hand nerve issues should earn me a punch card to the ER.
I had to share the adventure with you all and give a public service announcement to make sure you use your at-home blood pressure machines safely. If you put the cuff too low on the arm, this can happen. Lesson learned - I'll always make sure the cuff is much higher on my arm.
And the good news is that on our way home from the ER, we got the embryo agreement contract signed and notarized! We are shipping it to Libby early this week. I'm so excited that we are on the home stretch!
Saturday, May 25, 2013
Kevin and I are going to go sign it in front of a notary today. We are so happy about this final step! Next stop....shipping! I can't wait to meet these precious snowflakes! We are almost there!
Friday, May 24, 2013
Friday, May 17, 2013
First, a big one....Libby and her husband got their blood drawn which is a requirement by the FDA for them to donate. Can you believe what a superwoman she is? She just gave birth to a baby on Sunday yet both she and her husband graciously went to the lab to get poked for this lab draw for us. I am so grateful for them. THEY ARE AWESOME. Giant checkmark in that box!
The other big update, this afternoon my RE and I discussed a tentative plan for my next cycle. I also had a chance to discuss the blood work results with her from my massive 24 vial draw way back from April 19th.
Okay, now, where do I start? We talked about so much!
As far as blood work goes, most of the labs came back normal such as Factor V, Protein C, etc. What a relief! I don't want to list all of the tests I had run, but just know that nearly all of them were normal.
The abnormal labs were where we spent most of our conversation:
MTHFR - One copy of the c667t
Vitamin D - Low
Liver enzymes slightly elevated
Factor IX and XI slightly elevated
Plasminogen slightly elevated
Fibrinogen slightly elevated
Testosterone slightly elevated
Blood glucose slightly elevated
My RE said that she doesn't believe that the MTHFR had anything to do with my miscarriage. That was a huge relief. But that being said, she still thinks it would be prudent to put me on Folgard which is a high dose of folic acid. I was thrilled to hear we would do something, because I guess some REs just choose to ignore this. She also plans to have me start on baby aspirin a few days after transfer.
I will be starting a prescription dose of 50,000 units of vitamin D for six weeks then take an OTC supplement after that and through my pregnancy. Interestingly enough, she said that she recently attended a donor egg seminar where there was strong evidence presented that donor embryo/egg implantation failure can be due to low vitamin D. Crazy! Well, no complaints on replenishing my vitamin D then!
She believes that the elevated plasminogen, fibrinogen and factor IX and XI issues are related to the fact that it had only been three weeks post D&C when my blood was drawn. Pregnancy is certainly known to increase these levels, so we are going to rerun them now that I am over a month past my D&C.
Liver enzymes - The fact these were elevated was a little bizarre. It could be due to the Metformin that I've been taking for almost two years. I was originally put on it because my OB had suspected PCOS, but under the care of an RE we learned I do not actually have PCOS. They opted to keep me on it because of my insulin resistance but it is in question now if I need to be on such a high dose. My PCP should be able to assist with investigating this. I also researched that elevated liver enzymes can even be caused by IM injections and progesterone which I had recently stopped prior to the blood draw. My levels were low enough that they did not concern my RE about an infection or hepatitis. But for good measure, she told me to see my PCP to get her take on all of it.
Testosterone - She said I'm kind of a conundrum for this because I've always had elevated testosterone (lovely, huh?) but I don't have PCOS, yet I do have insulin resistance which all points to PCOS. And I've had mild issues with testosterone hirsutism since puberty, so it's nothing new. I asked her if this would impact pregnancy, and she said definitely not so we're not worrying about it.
Based on our lengthy discussion, I scheduled an appointment with my PCP. Can you believe I got an appointment for this coming Monday at 9am when I called Friday at 4:45pm? It must be my lucky day! I'll be glad to knock that out!
I am also instructed to start BCPs with my next period which should be here in the next couple of weeks. I will also have another saline ultrasound after being on BCPs just to make sure all is looking good in my uterus since no one has had a look post D&C. My RE isn't worried whatsoever that there might be a problem.
I'll start taking all the new prescriptions like Folgard and Vitamin D on Monday once the prescription gets called in by the nurse. The nurse will also reorder the above mentioned blood tests for me to get drawn next week. We are very optimistic that the clotting labs will come back normal now that I'm not even close to pregnant anymore.
Oh and she wants me to do acupuncture during this cycle which will I will reluctantly do because in the past I found it costly, ineffective, and a hassle during our fresh IVF cycle but I'll listen to her advice and do this because I want to give it my 110%.
And on the embryo front, we are still waiting for my RE's clinic to get approval from the attorneys at their sister company in NY. My RE mentioned that the team from my clinic is actually meeting in NY this week about a whole bunch of things, and they should be getting an answer on my contract as one of them. They return Monday so we expect to have our approval in hand then. Then we can sign the contracts and get these wonderful embryos shipped to us!
As I was finishing up my discussion with my RE, she was so sweet to tell me how much she had enjoyed being a part of our journey and she was grateful for us allowing her to be part of it. She is the third party reproduction director at my clinic, but they don't actually have an in-house embryo program. She has been learning a lot on the process of obtaining embryos through us, and she's really enjoyed being my partner in it all. I could tell she was sincere! I was honored to hear my RE say that because here I thought I was the appreciative one for all she's done to make this happen for me.
All in all, it was a very good discussion and I'm excited (and terrified of course) to be starting it all over again.
Time to go, just found out Kevin got rear-ended on the way home from work. He's okay, but.... Oy!
Monday, May 13, 2013
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Last night Libby completed the psychological informational session. Woo hoo! That giant box has a checkmark in it now! Yay! She said it went well, and much of the discussion was geared around how to tell the story of this embryo adoption to the children involved. This includes her existing children as well as any children resulting from these five embryos we are adopting.
I remember a similar discussion when we went in for our psychological consult session last year. We mainly talked about the importance of transparency of their origins with any resulting children. We loved the idea using the term "baby seed" to keep it age appropriate without getting too birds-and-bees. Since that session, the basic gist of the storyline we had planned to tell our kids would be:
Mommies and daddies grow babies from baby seeds. Sometimes mommies and daddies can use their own baby seeds, and sometimes they need a little help from other families. We needed a little help, but we were lucky enough to have a wonderful family share their baby seeds with us so we could grow our family which resulted in....you! We are extra lucky because you are loved by two families!
Pretty basic, but we recognize that it's really important that we use the same story and the same terminology with all of the kids to keep it consistent, especially if they ever want to meet one another. So I'm looking to you all to share how you've chosen to share your child(ren)'s embryo adoption story.
Here are some of my specific questions.
What term do you use to refer to the donors to your children?
What term do you use when you discuss with adults?
What term do you call the relationship between genetic siblings born to the two different families?
Is it a different term for children than to adults?
What type of story dialog have you used around your child's origins?
What story did your donor tell their children and in what terms?
How and when did you introduce the story to the children?
How and when did your donor introduce the story to her children?
I look forward to reading about your experience with this! Libby and I plan to put some thought into this and to have some good discussions and we'd love your suggestions to help with that.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
There are a few main things left that need to happen for my clinic to accept our donor embryos:
FDA bloodwork panel done on the donors
Psychological informational session done with the donors
Legal contract completed and signed showing transfer of ownership
Sounds easy enough, right?
It is, when I really think about it. It's not bad. It's just making it all happen quickly with all the moving parts including my RE (who has been on vacation), insurance, psychologists, attorneys, etc that has been challenging logistically. We are all racing the birth of Libby's baby which could happen any day. We are very excited for her to meet her new little one, but we recognize that her involvement on any of the above becomes much more difficult with a newborn in the picture. But I'm excited to say that we are on the final steps of the contract now, we have the informational session finally set up, and I'm hoping we can get the bloodwork ordered and completed by end of week. Then wah lah! That should be enough for my clinic's embryologists to get the process started to ship these precious snowflakes to us. When they are on their way, I will finally take a deep breath of relief because it's been a lot of work to coordinate. It's felt like moving mountains in a short period of time. But everyone, especially Libby, has worked so incredibly diligently to make this happen, and happen quick!
And in other news, I had my first post D&C CD1 roll around on Friday. My body appears to be cooperating to get this show on the road! Theres a big sigh of relief there. If we can get these snowflake babies safe and sound here in Texas, I will be ready to start BCPs for FET #2 next cycle's CD1 which puts a transfer into late July or early August.
And last, Kevin and I had an absolutely beautiful weekend. We relished in Friday's news of our bonus fifth embryo by going to a fantastic Austin restaurant. I also spent some time at a friend's house taking photos of her products for her Etsy shop, Two Little Hands. She makes all of her items by hand and is an advocate for raising Down Syndrome awareness. She has two beautiful children and her husband is my coworker. They live in the same town as we do. It was wonderful catching up with her and her family since I've been such a hermit the last few months!
The weather has been phenomenal so Sunday we checked out the Old Pecan Street festival, which is an Austin tradition. I took my DSLR and got some pretty neat shots. We stopped in at "The Museum of the Weird" which is a museum full of bizarre oddities, and even some performers.
Kevin and I are about to head to the local farmers market and pick out some fresh veggies, but I'll leave you with some of my favorite pictures from Sunday.
Friday, May 3, 2013
Fantastic and totally unexpected news!
Libby called to tell me that she just got off the phone with her lab. She was surprised to find out that she has not four as we all originally thought...but she actually has FIVE frozen embryos! Talk about the best surprise EVER!
We are getting FIVE blasts!
FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE FIVE! High five! Can you tell I'm excited? This means we will have six total including our single snowflake already frozen here in Texas! I had to share the exciting news!
Thursday, May 2, 2013
On the adoption front, we are still trucking along making lots of progress in a very short period of time. Yesterday, we got the first draft of the contract completed from our attorney and we are working on making changes to our liking.
We are also waiting for my RE's nurse to send me the donor's blood work checklist but I haven't received it yet.
I've been really busy with that but have still had time to play with my camera. I am having so much fun learning about it and reading photography books. It's been a fantastic distraction from infertility and the suckiness of recent events. I got a macro/zoom lens and have been having fun with that. Here is a photo I took in my dad's garden yesterday.
Here's a link to my flickr photostream if anyone feels bored and wants to browse around my beginner's attempts at photography!
I hope everyone is having a great day! It's almost Friday. This week has flown!
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
I don't like May very much.
I remember Sunday, May 1st 2011. It started out like such a wonderful day. Kevin and I had recently started trying for a baby and figured we'd be successful very quickly. We had lots of naive hope for our future. We had spent the day shopping and bought some beautiful Le Creuset cookware, something we had wanted to treat ourselves to for a while. We came home, put the new cookware away and turned on the TV to learn that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. I was overwhelmed and amazed. May 1st, a day that would go down in history! No sooner did that news start breaking when I got a call from my brother.
"Mom is in the emergency room. The doctor says it's 95% likely to be cancer."
Nothing else mattered anymore, the TV was blaring but I couldn't hear it. My world went silent. Then it turned red. I was angry that an ER physician felt like he had the ability to diagnose cancer. I was furious. There was no way my mom had cancer. She was only 52 and healthy! My dad was the unhealthy one - he was blind and had diabetes. She was supposed to stay alive and care for him. This was impossible. What kind of irresponsible ER doctor throws around the word cancer when it's clearly not true?
We made the next available appointment for her to be seen by an oncologist the following Friday, to "rule it out" which is what I kept telling myself. Kevin and I immediately booked a flight to Utah to be with her because no matter the outcome, we knew we wanted to be together. The weekend following was also Mother's day. What bittersweet a visit it would surely be.
That Friday our plane was delayed. When we finally arrived, we literally ran from the plane to our rental car and sped to the doctor's office. We got there just as she was being ushered in. My brother, his wife, my dad and now Kevin and I were in the exam room with her as the doctor arrived. I will never forget the surreal feeling in that room.
The doctor sat down on a chair just feet from her, took a deep breath and then looked her straight in the eyes.
"This is what we call stage four colon cancer. It has metastasized to your liver."
The ER doctor was correct. My anger turned immense sadness and horror. My mom was very stoic and even accepted this diagnosis with a joke, because that is how she was. She said "Can I cancel my Weight Watchers and Curves membership?"
Without treatment, he gave her two weeks to live. With treatment, months.
We spent the weekend watching her die. I know that seems crazy to say, but she deteriorated before our eyes. She couldn't get her first chemo treatment until the following Monday so that weekend the cancer ate at her while we all watched. Sunday, Mother's day, was the last Mother's day I had with her. We cleaned her house and pampered her as much as we could. But I knew this would be her last.
We reluctantly left to go home to Texas the following day as she started chemo. I am happy to say that chemo extended her life for a few more months until the Christmas season of 2011 when she finally was taken home to heaven.
Last May, I played these memories back in my head starting with May 1st when I got that call from my brother. Mother's day is now a triple whammy for me. I remember that my mom is no longer here, I remember her diagnosis that weekend, and lastly that I am no longer a mother. I think this mother's day is going to be extra hard because I have now lost a baby.
But I will get through it. I will be a mother again someday. I will see my mother again someday.
Someday Mother's day will be joyful.
But for now, May is just hard.