IVF#2: 7DP5DT We Couldn’t Wait

So last night DW and I were grocery shopping and bought a box of First Response Early Result tests.

IMG_6323

Luckily, I’ve been busy all day today, so I wasn’t home for the little FRERs to call to me like My Precious and Gollum from Lord of the Rings.

But this evening, they called to me. Their cries got louder and louder.

So we caved.

And I peed.

IMG_6342

Today is 7DP5DT, and it is POSITIVE!

We’re going to test again on Friday, to see that it gets darker (for peace of mind).

Beta is on Saturday, and I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that we get a good HCG level.

But for now, we are pregnant!

IVF#2: Embryo Transfer

The sun was shining this morning as I woke up to my beautiful wife. Lazy mornings with her are my favourite. She is an early riser, but stays in bed and reads the news until I wake up.

The pace of the morning was very relaxed. It was a nice contrast to the stress and anxiety that I felt all day yesterday. DW came home last night after a long day at school, as she volunteers to open the workout gym for the kids for a couple of hours. She hadn’t even changed out of her work clothes before I was sitting on the carpet, bawling my eyes out.

The stress of two plus years of actively TTC, four failed IUIs, four failed embryo transfers, three miscarriages, and one last IVF which was proving to be less fruitful than the first IVF finally broke me. DW shared how she feels lost in all of it too. Together, sitting in the middle of the floor, dogs licking the tears off of our faces, we both admitted that we’ve reached our limits. Infertility has sucked too much happiness and enjoyment out of our lives.

After that session with my wife, I felt tremendously better. We decided that whatever happens to our embryos on day 5, happens, and that we will be okay. We will roll with it. DW also said though, that she has a good feeling about our transfer tomorrow.

Fast forward to today.

I started the morning with awesome dog cuddles.

IMG_6236

IMG_6229

IMG_6228

I wore a lavender dress with black tights and my Tretorn boots.

IMG_6241-0

IMG_6230

I was way more relaxed for embryo transfer today than any other transfer, which was ironic because today’s was a fresh transfer and all of my other ones have been frozen ones. What I mean is, I just had my vagina stabbed multiple times just five days ago, laying on the same table! Whether it was the awesome songs playing on our drive to the clinic (Uptown Funk, Riptide), the sun shining outside, or the fact that we’ve been through so many transfers now that it has become like a routine, I felt super chill. I was chatty and joking around all the nurses, I didn’t cry when the phlebotomy nurse spent several minutes rooting around in my arms trying to find a vein, and I wasn’t rushing around or impatient.

The transfer itself went great too- I practiced some deep breathing during the insertion of the catheter, and took a moment to welcome the embryos into my body before they were transferred. There was no pain or cramping, unlike all of my other transfers.

We transferred these two beauties:

IMG_6244

Here they are in my uterus:

IMG_6242-0

Our beta isn’t until Feb 21st. I hope we get some good news. Now to keep my mind occupied until then…..

Thank you all for your continued support. Each and every single one of your likes and comments means a lot to us. I feel so much gratitude right now.

IVF#2: Embryo Development Day 4

Last year, this is where the major short listing happened, as we went from 11 embryos on day three to 8 embryos on day four.

Yesterday, I informed you that all fertilized embryos were still alive and kickin’. However, their grades weren’t all the same:
6 graded good
5 graded average
2 graded poor

I figured that we would probably have one or two less than last IVF make it to the day four compacted morula stage.

But I was wrong.

And I’m about to cry.

Of the 11 day three (good and average graded) embryos from yesterday….

FOUR were compacting.

How the hell did we go from 11 to 4?
Last year we went from 11 to 8!

I have made so many changes to try to produce better quality eggs (no evidence that my egg quality was a problem even) this time around, like:
– supplements
– minimal exercise
– more sleep
– Chinese herbs
– no coffee
– less sugar
– more fat

So WTF?????!

The embryologist said, “Hopefully, we will have 1 or 2 to transfer tomorrow.”

Last year we had SEVEN blastocysts.

She said that the remaining embryos are still alive, and could just be slow growers. Some could become day 6 blastocysts. There are a couple that have a lot of fragmentation, so they are unlikely to progress further even though they are still alive. She didn’t really seem to want to carry on talking to me, or giving me details like she had in previous phone calls.

I guess no one likes to be the bearer of bad news.

Please please please universe, help all four of my morulas keep growing and thriving so that they can come home where they belong. Send love to the embryos who have fallen behind so that they too, have a fighting chance.

Friends, please send me hope, peace, and positivity, as I can feel my anxiety spiralling out of control already. I don’t want to relive the hell that was IVF#1. This is my chance to restore hope in the things out of my control. Thank you.

PS- my OHSS has gotten a bit worse again. There’s no pain now, but my weight is up 2lbs, my circumference up 2cm, and I drank more than I peed out yesterday.

Supplements to Improve Egg Quality

There is so little in this delicate game of TTC that we actually have control of, so when there is something that can improve our outcomes, it makes sense to act on it.

There isn’t a whole lot of information on supplements that can improve egg quality, but of what is known, I have summarized here. Obviously, I am posting this in my role as a blogger dealing with fertility challenges, and not as a physician.

Since follicles are recruited from “storage” as early as 90 days from when they are ovulated, supplementation is best started three months prior to when your IVF/IUI/BD is happening. In fact, most studies testing the efficacy of supplements on egg quality have subjects taking them for 3 months before their procedures.

Now, obviously, this isn’t always possible, but I don’t think it is an all-or-nothing kind of thing. For example, last cycle, I was doing an FET, so for several weeks, I was not taking these supplements. But I figure that giving my eggs 45 days of quality-improving support will be better than nothing. So don’t sweat it. Do what you can. After your eggs have been retrieved/ovulated, you stop these supplements.

So here’s what I am taking for this round of IVF:

Ubiquinol– this is the more active form of the antioxidant CoQ10. Doses that I have seen suggested range from 200mg to 600mg, going higher if your base egg quality is worse. I am taking 400mg daily, split up 200mg in the AM and 200mg in the PM. Warning: ubiquinol is very expensive.

Myoinositol aka Inositol – this supplement used to belong to the family of B vitamins but because it can be made by the body, they nixed its status. There have been positive studies on the use of Myoinositol for improving egg quality. The dose that was studied was 4 grams or 4000mg per day. Myoinositol at much greater doses has also been shown to be as effective as SSRIs in the treatment of mood disorders. I have taken mine in capsule form, 2 grams in the AM, 2 grams in the PM. The store I buy it from ran out of the capsules, so I am currently taking the same dose in powder form. I just have to measure it myself now.

Melatonin – follicle/egg samples taken from people with good egg quality have eggs that are bathed in naturally greater melatonin concentrations than those from people with lower quality eggs. 3mg is the recommended dose, taken at bedtime, as it can help with sleep. Be careful taking this if you are hypothyroid. Melatonin down-regulates (slows down) thyroid function, and thyroid function is super important in TTC. For example, my TSH level before tak
ing melatonin was 0.84, and after taking melatonin daily for a month, my TSH went up to 1.15! So it really does make a significant difference. Since 1.15 is still under the TSH limit for TTC of 2, I’m not worrying about it too much. Especially since I will be stopping it after egg retrieval.

Omega 3 Fish Oils – help to decrease inflammation, which is important in egg development. Inflammatory cytokines can compromise egg quality, and inflammation in general is bad. I have not found any solid suggestions for dosing, but I take a total combined dose of 1800mg daily. 900 mg in the AM, 900 mg in the PM. I took the same dose even before TTC. It is important to buy good quality brands. Ascenta is a good brand.

DHEA – I don’t take it, but there is research that shows that it can help with egg quality if you are found to have low levels of it. If you do not have low levels of it, it can do more harm than good. Generally, people who tend to produce lots of follicles (PCOS types) should not take this. I am not sure of dosages recommended.

Now there are some other supplements that I have seen recommended by trustworthy sources, but without the randomized controlled trials to back them up, I wasn’t going to spend the money.

I also think that food can be both healing and harming. I have major digestive issues, and when I eat something that triggers my immune system, I get major inflammation. It is noticeable the next day- my tattoos become puffy like braille, the fluid in my joints accumulates and becomes so sore that I feel pressure when I close my hand into a fist. As a result, I am doing my best to stay away from my food sensitives- gluten, dairy, fructans, and polyols. It is so hard, as I love the flavour of garlic and onions, and veggies like broccoli and brusselsprouts. But everyone is different, so just be aware of your food sensitivities and stay away from things that harm your gut.

Too much exercise can also cause problems, as increasing your metabolism causes free radicals and oxidative stress to happen. This can damage DNA in the long term, and I think is part of the reason why female athletes who had an exercise history of greater than 4 years prior to TTC had poorer IVF success. But of course, this is pure speculation, and really, the damage is done. Most women who have a BMI over 30 can benefit from regular exercise. What I’m talking about here is over-exercising to the point of stressing out your body. Like what I have been doing since the 1990’s, and still did until a few days ago.

Anyways, that’s all I’ve got. I hope you find this helpful. Stay tuned to see if 45 days on these supplements made a difference on my egg quality for the upcoming IVF#2 (predicted for end of January, early February).

FET#4: 10DP5DT or 15DPO: Results

IMG_5734.JPG

IMG_5726.JPG

IMG_5737.JPG

IMG_5751.JPG
I thought that some nice pictures of the dogs might ease you all into bad news.

We just got the call from the clinic.

BFN.

We are devastated, but not surprised. I guess the Dollarama pregnancy tests were more correct than that stupid Clearblue Easy Plus.

I’m supposed to stop all my meds, aside from my thyroxine, and AF should arrive within 2-5 days.

I feel like I need a vacation. Take me away from this cold, terrible place.

Never did I ever think that we would blow through all seven blastocysts and be worse off than before we started. Some believe that there is a lesson in each failed IVF cycle. What have we learned?

– DW can’t hold a pregnancy past the first week
– I can’t hold a pregnancy to heartbeat viability

The reasons for DW’s failed attempts are unknown, and my diagnosis is weak at best.

Where do we go from here?

FET#4: The Little Embie that Could?

Embryo transfer was yesterday, but I’ve been struggling to post about it because I feel like I am in shambles.

The day started off perfectly. I woke up early, saw that DW was still asleep, so we cuddled a bit and I fell back asleep for a bit too (sleeping in is such a guilty pleasure for me). When I woke up again, DW surprised me with a vanilla coconut milk decaf coffee in bed, and a curious little box (seriously, so many gifts lately!).

It was a jewellery box.

And in it were the most stunning diamond earrings.

My jaw dropped.

While I am not immune to liking expensive things, DW and I have been somewhat frugal with our money because of “project baby”. Several years ago, I had mentioned that I loved diamond earrings, but that they were too expensive, and well, maybe on our 10 year anniversary, we could look at some for me. Each year, at Christmas time, DW asks me what I want, and I say diamond earrings. It’s almost a joke now because I knew that I didn’t want puny little ones that you get for your niece, but sizeable ones you buy for your WIFE, which are way too expensive for two gals working in the public education system.

But she did it. She went and bought them.

And I love them. But I do feel a bit guilty because of the extravagance, as the weight of them is heavier than the big-ass diamond on my engagement ring. I’m also not a materialistic person, so well, yeah. But I love them. And I am so touched by what DW had to overcome to purchase them (she is even more minimalist than me. She asked for a set of saw attachments for her reciprocating saw for Christmas).

Anyway, after the shock of my pre-transfer sparkling diamonds, we showered and got dressed to leave for our transfer.

All was good, I wore a very lesbian outfit to meet Little Spark: long-sleeved thermal shirt and tights, a sleeveless cotton dress on top, Christmas socks, and Blundstone boots. It didn’t look pretty, but my goal was to stay warm, as it was below freezing temperature.
IMG_5599.JPG
Christmas socks.

We got to the clinic, settled in and changed, and waited.

One lady went in before me, but then was soon escorted out and told that they would rearrange the schedule and see her later (I think her bladder wasn’t full enough for the ultrasound?). I went in next, hopped on the table, and was ultrasounded. My bladder was too full, so they asked me to go let out a full cup and come back. Just as I was climbing off the table, the embryologist came to the door and said she needed to talk to the nurse. The nurse walked out of the room with me, and I could overhear some of the conversation she was having with the embryologist. There was a problem with an embryo. (I didn’t think this was that significant until later).

After peeing, we waited for the RE for 50 minutes. In that time, I had to pee two more times. The ultrasound technologist kept imaging my uterus, I think because she was bored. There was a poop in my descending colon that was creating shadows over my uterus, so we had fun making fart jokes. The poop looked like glitter on the screen, which pleased me.

Sparkly diamonds, glittery poop, Little Spark is coming home.

When the RE finally arrived, he looked at our stats, made some random small talk, and then transferred Little Spark back to his/her rightful place: my womb.

IMG_5590.PNG
Do you see him/her? Right above the arrow.

Because I hadn’t heard back from him about the Cipralex, I decided that between my legs was right time to ask him about it since we had his attention. He laughed, asked what it was for, I said “It’s an SSRI, I am having some anxiety and trouble sleeping”. He laughed again, looked at DW, and said, “She doesn’t look stressed! Just drink some wine!”, totally dismissing my mental health struggles, and the months of work that it has taken to be able to even talk about it with my family doctor.

I felt humiliated, and DW was PISSED. “Wine? I hope not!”, gesturing at my PUPO (pregnant until proven otherwise) belly, legs still in stirrups, exposed ass facing the RE.

He then stood up, shook our hands, and left. In every single previous FET, he would rant and rave about how excellent the quality of our embryos were, and how we’d end up with twins. This time, no such optimism. In fact, when I asked about what he thought of the embryo’s grade, he just pursed his lips, and bobbed his head side to side, “It’s o-kay”.

All was good, I was giddy even despite the stupid Cipralex exchange, until I found out the grading of our embryo post-thaw.

Last FET, the embryologist explained that we had two good/excellent 5AA and one fair 5BC blastocysts, and that he only recommended transferring one if we were planning on using the 5AAs. So when they were transferred, they selected one of the excellent blasts and the fair blast, leaving an excellent remaining in freeze.

Well, that excellent grade blastocyst did not thaw very well. When re-graded post-thaw, it was graded as a 4BC. My heart just sank when I heard this, and all day yesterday, I tried to resist googling what this meant for our chances of success.

I was already bummed out about only having one blastocyst to transfer. Now I find out that it’s of fair quality. Fair = bad. It went from being a 5AA –> 4BC. What. The. Fuck. All of our other embryos have improved grading after thaw. Most of them were graded as 5BB or 5AB, and then ended up re-graded after thaw as 5AA.

My willpower for avoiding seeking advice from Dr. Google is weak. So I started frantically searching things like “4BC embryo success”, as I just really needed to hear some positive stories. Instead, I find shit like this, which tells me that my prognosis is poor:

IMG_5604.PNG
From: http://www.oregonreproductivemedicine.com/about/laboratory/embryo-grading/

And the general consensus in frantic IVF forumland is that usually C-graded anything isn’t generally worth freezing because of how poor of a prognosis it has for implantation and pregnancy.

Let’s break it down: 4BC

4: means that the blastocyst has fully expanded, but has not yet started hatching

B: refers to the inner cell mass that becomes the baby- this is a good rating

C: refers to the trophoectoderm, which are the cells that become the placenta- this is a bad rating, and basically means that there are not enough cells and that they are not organized as they should be

Obviously, I want to believe that this will work, but I find it so hard to establish a balance between informed pessimism and false hope. On one hand, I think of the stats and how the chances of a BFP with an excellent single blastocyst transfer is only about 30%. Then I think about how we’re working with a “poor quality” blastocyst, and the stats in my mind plummet to “I should just crack open that bottle of wine now” level. On the other hand, frantic IVF forumland has many anecdotal stories of people who have had live births from 4CC and day three embryos, so it could happen. Plus, during my research of morphology grading and incidence of chromosomal issues, there was less correlation than people believed. So a poor grade blastocyst could still be normal and grow to be a bouncy baby.

These are the thought bubbles over my head, and I have been very upset during the past 24 hours, but haven’t been able to really even express this to DW, because I know she worries about my anxiety spinning out of control, and I don’t want to upset her with what the reality might be for this FET.

I will also admit, that it has also been very difficult for me to post about this because I feel like I’ve put out more negativity this quarter than I would like. But the truth is, that life really does suck right now, and I need your support more than ever. Normally, the TWW is full of (tentative) hope and excitement, symptom spotting, PSOAS addictions, but it is really awful going through a TWW feeling like the odds are stacked against you. Like, the rhetorical question, what is the point.

But I’m still taking it easy, doing stuff around the house, trying to keep myself busy and to think positively.

I am talking to my belly, to Little Spark. Little Spark I love you, and I would love if you stayed. You have a maman whose love is the greatest that I have ever felt, and furry sisters who can’t wait to help you walk, and clean food off your face. You have grandparents who will spoil you, and have been waiting for you for a very long time. Your mama has friends in the Blogosphere, who have been sending you love and kind wishes before you were even conceived.

You can do this Little Spark. You are so strong because you come from me, and together we have overcome my past, which is a great accomplishment. I believe that our strength is greater than my fear, and I will cherish whatever time we have together. You inside me, and my hope inside you.

5 More Days… And Gluten-Free Crepes!

Today’s Uterine Lining: 9.5mm

BIG update: Our FET is scheduled for Sunday, August 3rd at 6:50 am! One day ahead of what I had anticipated. So instead of being 6 days until the transfer, we’ve got 5 days….

It’s with another doctor, which I’m neither thrilled nor disappointed about.

I reduce my Estrace to 2mg twice a day (down from three times a day), and start taking vaginal Endometrin three times a day, and oral Prometrium three capsules at bedtime. This is when the Calvin Kleins get really sloppy.

I have a massage booked for tonight, and tomorrow I’ve got an acupuncture appointment with a colleague that I used to teach with at the chiropractic college. I also have my last ball hockey game tomorrow night. At least I’m hoping it’s my last 🙂

DW and I made gluten-free crepes for dinner last night (we love having breakfast for dinner), and they were amazing!

The recipe for the crepes themselves are from Gluten Free on a Shoestring

They were so good that they made DW remember her Oma, Wilhelmina, who used to make crepes with butter and brown sugar.

So last night, we made gluten-free crepes à la Wilhelmina.

Steps:
1. Make crepes
2. While crepes are still hot, butter on one side
3. Sprinkle brown sugar over the buttered surface
4. Roll up
5. Enjoy!

20140728-220315-79395827.jpg

Day Three Embryo Report

I think I have OHSS. In fact, I’m certain I have it. In the past twenty-four hours, I’ve gained nearly three pounds, and my abdomen has increased in circumference by at least 3 centimetres. My belly is taut and hard to the touch, and it hurts changing positions, going pee (and poo), and coughing. I imagine this is how it feels to be extremely pregnant.

In other news, I received an update from the embryologist!

Of our 14 fertilized embryos:
8 of the 10 ICSI-fertilized embryos are at the 6-8 cell stage
3 of the 4 IVF-fertilized embryos are beyond the 8 cell stage and are growing fast!

In total, we have 11 embryos still in the race, on their way to becoming morulas in the next 24 hours!

embryos