IVF: The Novel

I’m titling this preemptively because I’m assuming this one may be long, but I hope that doesn’t discourage you from reading on. It’s amazing how little people know about IVF. When I don’t feel like going into the nitty gritty, I usually say something like “oh you know, like a test tube baby.” First off, it’s more like a petri dish and secondly, this makes IVF sound so much simpler than it actually is. And as someone who has gone through it, I’m proud as hell of myself and should brag about how amazing my dedication to being a mom is.

IVF is not for the weak. Do you hate needles/shots/blood draws/invasive ultrasounds? You’ll get over that really quickly. There are many, many IVF protocols and drug combinations, so I will only be talking about the one I did, which is called the Antagonist Protocol with birth control. I’m not going to mess with the science of all of it, but basically you take the birth control to calm your ovaries down and prevent any follicles (which is where the egg comes from) from forming. That way, when you start the injections meant to make your ovaries grow as many eggs as possible, they all grow at close to the same rate. Then once your follicles get to a certain size, you introduce another shot to keep your body from ovulating all those eggs you’re working so hard to grow!

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My table of IVF drugs!! Shots, shots, shots!!

For me, I think the birth control was worse than the shots as far as symptoms are concerned. I hate birth control. It messes with my mood, my skin, gives me headaches, and I had hoped I would never need it again! I think most people on this protocol only take about 3 weeks worth, but mine got pushed a little longer because my doctor was on vacation and I wanted to wait for him.

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Last birth control pill!

I took my last birth control on a Tuesday, and started my injections on that following Sunday. For me, it helped me feel more relaxed and in control to try and have all my bases covered before starting stims. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel and wanted to be able to focus on relaxing and growing follicles. I spent the weekend prior to starting injections and majorly cleaned our house. I also made sure I had all my prescriptions (and there are a lot!) and medications ready to go. On top of the shots, you have a pretty decent pull regime going on at certain times of your cycle. It’s important to know what you’re taking and when. I know for awhile I was taking over 80 pills and vitamins a week!

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So. Many. Pills.

My clinic also wanted me on a high sodium diet during and after stims to help prevent OHSS (Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome). This is caused by your ovaries working extra hard and causing a buildup of fluid that if left untreated, can lead to death. Your doctor should be keeping a close eye on you for this anyway, but anything you can do to prevent this is obviously a good idea! So prior to starting stims, I went to Sam’s Club and stocked up.

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High sodium and high protein!

My nurse had instructed me to drink at least 32oz of Gatorade a day, so it was nice to have plenty and not have to worry about picking up more.

Onto the shots! Day 1 was obviously the worst. And the belly shots (for me anyway) honestly weren’t bad. I did them myself, because I can be a control freak and I’d just rather be the one stabbing myself in the belly!

Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday I was on two injections at night. Medicines called Menopur and Gonal-F. The Gonal-F came in a pen and was super easy to use and inject. The Menopur you had to mix but thankfully my husband did it for me. It helped him feel a little more involved. The Menopur burned a little, so I would just ice my stomach for a few minutes while we were getting everything ready. Wednesday was my first monitoring appointment! This is when they do an ultrasound to see how everything is going, do a blood check to check different hormone levels, and adjust your dosages if needed.

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So many dates with the ultrasound wand!

During this appointment, we added in a third shot that I’d do in the mornings. This was to prevent ovulation of my eggs early! Friday morning was my one and only little stim meltdown when I had a bubble in my Cetrotide (the shot to prevent ovulation) and I swear I wasted too much medicine trying to get that bubble out. I also turned one shot into 3, trying to get the bubble out. Turns out, it wouldn’t have been a big deal since it’s a subcutaneous shot and not going into a vein, but oh well. All was okay, but it took some convincing from my IVF nurse.

I responded quickly to stims and when we went in Sunday morning for another monitoring appt, we were told we would most likely be triggering that night for retrieval on Tuesday! The trigger shot provides your body with a final hormone to get your eggs ready to ovulate. Without the trigger, those eggs won’t be ready to retrieve. This shot goes in your booty, so my husband got the honors of this one! We had to do it at 9:00pm on the dot, which was a good thing, no time for hesitation! After that, we were done with shots until after retrieval!

I already wrote a small article on retrieval, so I’ll skip over that, but you can read all about it and my tips for retrieval here.

Egg retrieval recovery wasn’t too bad for me. I took the day off and the day after, too, which was the perfect amount of time. The trapped gas and constipation was the worst part for me. IVF is so glamorous. Unfortunately, as if egg retrieval surgery isn’t enough for one day, your PIO shots will also start that night if you’re doing a fresh transfer.

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The DREADED PIO…

Progesterone in oil and yes, that whole needle has to go in your butt and hopefully you will need this every night for the next 8-10 weeks! Since your body isn’t becoming pregnant naturally, it takes some time for it to catch on and start producing progesterone naturally, and progesterone is needed to stay pregnant. My husband also had to do these for me and I think he hated it more than I did. They look worse than they are, usually. It seems to be hit or miss with no rhyme or reason. I plan to write another post just on these babies one day.

The day after egg retrieval, I received a call from our embryologists to let us know how many eggs fertilized. At our clinic they call you day 1 and day 3 with reports on how everything is growing. There are certain things they look for and a certain amount of times embryos should divide. We did our transfer on day 5, when they hit the blastocyst stage. We transferred one embaby and froze the others. ❤

I will continue the story of our transfer day in another blog post, so stay tuned!

– Chelsea

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How We Afforded IVF

Woof. For us, the financial aspect of infertility was probably the most stressful. We have easily spent $15,000 at this point and that is cheap compared to a lot of couple’s expenses. It’s hard to spend that kind of money only for a chance of becoming pregnant. There are no guarantees unless you go to a clinic that offers those programs and it’s still a gamble. They’re generally more expensive up front, so if you get lucky and get pregnant on your first shot, you’re out a lot of money!

We took a year off to save up the money for IVF because the money is due upfront and we also wanted to use that time to get in the best health that we could. Here are some of the ways we raised money:

  • GoFundMe. We had some awesome friends (Katie from BurritoBuzz and her husband) who asked us if they could set up a GoFundMe account for us. This was an amazing gift and it helped us raise a good chunk of money without having to do a lot of work. This was great too, since our goal was to also raise infertility awareness.
  • Garage Sale. We had a massive garage sale. It was huge. My mom and I cleaned out her basement and we also had a lot of people donate items for us to sell. I advertised it on a local buy/sell/trade page and that really helped. A lot of people who stopped at the sale also wished us well with IVF and that was very sweet.image
  • Cookie Fundraiser. This one might not be as feasible for everyone, but I went to culinary school for pastry arts. I worked at a bakery and they offered to let me make and sell an item at the bakery, and the profit would go to our clinic for our IVF. I chose to make giant triple chocolate chip cookies. I did the work off the clock, but it was definitely worth it!
  • Pinched Pennies. We had a lot of game nights at home. We’re homebodies anyway, so this wasn’t too hard! We didn’t make ourselves miserable, but by cutting back on a few “extra” things here and there, you can save a lot of money. Most of our friends understood and were happy to have cheap date nights with us!
  • Apply For Discount Drug Programs. Our clinic provided us with forms to apply to both First Steps and Compassionate Care discount programs. They’re income based IVF drug discount programs. Our nurse also suggested writing a cover letter and we were offered 25% off from both companies and these discounts are good for one year.

I’ve made friends with people who have gotten loans specifically for IVF/infertility treatments with low interest rates, so that’s another good option! There are also grants you can apply for. Another idea is to open a credit card that offers no interest for a certain amount of time. I’m a firm believer that if there is a will, there is a way!!

With all of these tips, we raised a huge chunk of the money that we needed for IVF. We couldn’t have done it otherwise. I know a lot of people never get to pursue IVF strictly due to the enormous cost, so I hope that this might give you some options before giving up!

Baby Dust!

– Chelsea

Finding My Tribe

Let’s take a moment to flashback to my life about 18 months ago. My husband and I had been trying to conceive for over a year and had recently started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist (RE). We had just finished our first (and only) IUI and it didn’t work. Unhappy with our current doctor’s bedside manner, we sought another opinion at the same clinic. We got the news that IVF would really be our only option to try to have a biological child. Other than that, we were looking at a less than a 5% chance, even with the
IUIs. Needless to say, my husband and I were feeling a little overwhelmed. We were also feeling pretty alone. Infertility and IVF aren’t things people talk too freely about, at least not yet anyway. I’m praying this is something that will change soon. Instead of Googling and reading outdated baby forums to get opinions/real life information, I began searching hashtags on Instagram. What I found was more than I could have ever imagined.

Little did I know that there was a huge trying to conceive community on Instagram. Women sharing their journeys in hopes of giving and receiving support and advice from other women going through the same things. The good, the incredibly bad, and all the nitty gritty details that doctors don’t tell you. Since I was very open with our struggles, I at first didn’t understand why most of the accounts were strictly IVF/infertility related. Not many women use their personal accounts for their trying to conceive accounts. Then it occurred to me that most of my “real life” friends might not want to see my posts about sperm, ovulation and PIO complaints. So I jumped on board and made my own “baby Instagram” as I so lovingly call it. I searched hashtags and would follow people going through similar situations as ours.

imageI cannot tell you how much this outlet has changed my life. You wouldn’t believe me, and it kind of sounds crazy, but these women have become some of my best friends. And not that I don’t have amazing friends, but it’s hard to relate to something like infertility if it hasn’t personally affected you. To be able to 100% share and feel with these women is amazing. I have a team of hundreds of cheerleaders! Just today, I had the honor to meet 21 of the women for a lunch. It was amazing. The strength and love these women have for each other is something I have never experienced before.

We do trying to conceive gift exchanges (lots of pineapples themed gifts), we lift each other up, cry with each loss, offer advice, prayers and understanding, and we always have each other’s backs. I’ve found multiple friends who actually go to the same clinic and even see the same doctor as me! What a small world! I know meeting strangers online sounds weird, but I’ve only had positive experiences. If I could change one thing, it would be that I found these women sooner. They have honestly changed my life.

This post was really just a chance to brag about my awesome tribe and encourage you to find yours! If you’re trying to conceive, check out some Instagram hashtags and see what you think! I can promise you it’s a great outlet. And you can be as private or open as you want. Some women never post photos of themselves and that’s totally cool! It’s up to you what to share or not. I’d love to post the picture of all my girls today, but like I said, some girls are more private, so I won’t be sharing to respect their privacy.

Baby Dust!

– Chelsea

Should I Ask For Help When Trying to Conceive?

How long is too long to TTC without a doctor’s help? Obviously I am no doctor, but if you’re asking yourself this question, maybe my opinion will help ease your mind!

A simple Google search will probably lead you to an answer like these:

  • 1 year of trying if you’re under the age of 35
  • 6 months if you’re over the age of 35

Your OB/GYN might also stick to those guidelines. This might be very good advice too; I normally like to assume that doctors know what they’re talking about more than I do. For me though, I made my first “family planning” appointment with an OB/GYN after about 8 months of trying.

I did this because I wasn’t having regular periods. It’s extremely hard to chart your cycle when you don’t cycle (and a lot of wasted pregnancy tests.. and man, they expensive!). So my husband finally convinced me to go. They ended up offering us help and treatments right off the bat due to this. Turns out not having periods is very unhealthy and can lead to cancer. So if you’re reading this and haven’t had a period in over 90 days, please go see a doctor whether or not you’re trying to conceive.

I can’t say whether or not you’ll be offered help before a year, but I can say it doesn’t hurt to ask and be proactive. Especially if you truly think something is wrong. I’ve learned in this infertility journey that it really pays off to be well informed and to advocate for yourself. But you also need to trust your doctor and if you don’t, you need to find a new doctor that you can trust. There’s nothing wrong with going and asking for help! You’re not alone and needing a little help is nothing to be ashamed of. ❤

– Chelsea

Egg Retrieval Tips and Tricks

My husband and I recently went through our first round of IVF. Eventually I will be writing about the whole process more thoroughly, but I had a good friend have her egg retrieval surgery today, and as I was giving her some advice, I realized I should write all this down while I’m thinking about it!

Leading up to your egg retrieval surgery, you’re on a lot of really fun hormones and shots! We call this ‘stimming’ in the TTC world. I think the average length of stimming is around 8-10 days, but I’ve personally known girls who have had to stim for up to 15 days! Not fun. I was lucky and responded quickly to my drugs and only had to stim for 8 days.

Since egg retrieval is a surgery, you can’t eat or drink before the procedure. Because of this, they generally try to do retrieval early in the morning. The whole process is fairly quick. I suggest wearing sweatpants or something comfortable and easy to get on and off (honestly, after stimming for so many days, you’re probably bloated and sore and happy to wear sweats where ever you can!). My IVF nurse had me bring a snack so I could take pain medication right after surgery for the ride home but more on this later.

I was most anxious about the IV, and I have no clue why. I’d been giving myself multiple shots a day for days. But for me, that was the worst part! Before I knew it, I was waking up in recovery. I think the whole procedure took maybe 15 minutes.

I’ve only been through this once, so I’m sure there are more experienced people who may have different advice, but here is mine:

  • You will (obviously?) need someone with you to drive you home. If you’re doing IVF, that will be your husband/partner most likely because the clinic will need their “sample” that morning to fertilize your eggs! It’s conception day!
  • Dress comfortably! I put on only enough makeup to look human, and wore my comfiest clothes.
  • That being said, wear your hair down. You have to wear a scrub cap, and it’s much easier and more comfortable to lay down without a ponytail bulge in there.
  • BRING A DRINK FOR AFTER! Holy crap was my mouth dry afterwards. No one warned me of that! It was insane, like having to put water in my mouth while chewing so that I could swallow.
  • Don’t bring a salty snack. See last bullet point. I took pretzels.
  • I took the day of retrieval and the following day off from work and highly recommend it. Obviously you can’t work the day of retrieval, but the next day is still hard. I was still taking pain medication as needed.
  • The heating pad is your friend, use it!
  • Don’t delay taking stool softener. I never said this was glamorous. Constipation and trapped gas are painful after surgery, and you’re already in pain.
  • Treat yourself well! Your body just went through a lot. Relax and let someone take care of you. My husband stayed home both days with me and he was awesome. I even got pizza after a nice nap the day of retrieval! I love pizza!
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Me looking fabulous after egg retrieval, and so excited they were able to get 10 eggs!!

Like I said earlier, I have a lot more to share from my IVF experience, but these are just a few random things I learned about egg retrieval that I think are useful! To anyone who may be going through this soon, baby dust to you!

– Chelsea

How To Be There For Your Infertile Friend

So your friend opened up to you and shared that she’s having problems getting pregnant. (And if you’re a good friend, this will happen. Infertility is way more common than you probably think). Your first instinct is probably, ‘Crap! What do I say? What do I do to help her?’ As a member of the infertility club, I’m here to give you some tips and tricks! Things I wish the people around me had said or done.

Disclaimer: We know infertility is hard to understand if you haven’t experienced it first hand. We also know it can be super awkward to talk about (sperm, vaginas and sex, oh my!). The fact that someone is telling you about their infertility struggles just means they need a trusting place to vent!

Let’s start with some things to do:

  • Listen! We need someone other than our husband/partner to talk to!
  • Listen well! There’s nothing worse than having to re-explain procedures and diagnoses over and over. Try to pay attention and actually understand what is going on with your friend’s journey.
  • Do some quick research. A quick Google search will give you more than enough information to fully understand your friend’s upcoming IUI, or HSG test. Your friend will be thrilled you spent the time to try and understand!
  • Unexpected friend mail is the best! Snacks, bubble bath, fun socks (for all those dates with the stirrups), even just a simple card! All are amazing and all are appreciated.
  • Just being aware. Certain social events and holidays are hard. Being understanding and aware of these triggers is huge. Don’t be hurt if your friend doesn’t come to your baby shower. She’s still so happy for you! She’s just sad for herself.

Here’s some things to try and avoid:

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  • Giving advice. Unless you’ve gone through the same things, try to just not to give advice. We know you’re trying to help, but it doesn’t help. Trust me, we’ve tried it all. Duh, temping sounds better than painful procedures and spending thousands of dollars. But that doesn’t work for everyone.
  • Telling other people about your friends struggles. Just don’t. That’s so rude and we aren’t in high school. Not everyone is as open about this as I personally am.
  • Comparing your 4 months of trying to her years of trying. Again, not the same, and not kind. It’s ok that you got pregnant easily. We wish we could too!
  • Complaining about your kids/messy house/lack of sleep. We are dying for those things.
  • Tell her about adopting. We know! This not only makes adopting look easy (which it isn’t, and it’s not for everyone), it also makes her feel guilty that by following her biological instinct to reproduce, she’s being selfish. You adopt! Adopting shouldn’t be the sole responsibility for infertile people.
  • If you become pregnant, don’t avoid her or purposely not tell her. That’s hurtful. Also telling her in person is a little much. I suggest a thoughtful text message explaining that you wanted to share, but wanted to be respectful. Again, if she’s a good friend, she’s going to be happy for you. Just sad for herself.

These me are just a few little tips and tricks I’ve experienced along the way. It’s hard to go through infertility and I’m sure it’s hard to know what to do or say to a person experiencing it! It’s even been hard at times for my mom and I. She was super fertile, and just doesn’t always know what to say. And that’s ok! Just having the support is really what we need most.

– Chelsea

 

Why Am I Writing For A Mom Blog?

This is a question I’ve been asking myself since joining BurritoBuzz, and I felt like this was a good first blog topic (with the exception of my Infertility Sucks guest blog post). I’m known as Mom to by lovely fur babies, Penny and Sadie, but I have no human children as of yet. I have no fancy baby products to review, and no mom advice that I would be able to share. I’ve never dealt with teething or sleep training. But you know what?

I matter, too!

This may just be my perception as an infertile woman trying to become a mom, but too often women who aren’t mothers are made to feel less than in our society. Whether women choose not to have children or are just having a tough time getting there, we are made to feel like we’re outsiders. And maybe we are. Who knows. But it sucks.

Confession time: I had to unfollow this very blog on my Instagram because I just couldn’t. It’s hard to have that constant reminder of something I so desperately want. I hope that someday soon, I will! Having to struggle for so long will make my husband and I better parents.

I am in no way trying to shame anyone in writing this. In my humble opinion, all women are amazing. We all are capable of showing motherly love, whether we are moms or not.

So I guess all this rambling is basically just a long version of this: you women out there who are struggling too, I got you! I know you’re out there and I feel your pain. I think it’s amazing that these girls saw that hole and asked me to fill it. I gladly will! I feel like we’ve gone through about 85% of testing and procedures that one can go through with infertility, so if anyone ever has any specific questions, please let me know! I plan on getting around to writing about them!

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My babies, Penny & Sadie

– Chelsea

One and Done

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It is not okay to guilt people into having children ever. Under no circumstance is it acceptable to make a person feel like a lesser person for having no children, a lot of children, a few children, or in my case… one child.

One, single child.

One amazing, beautiful child.

He is not “just one.” He is not EVER to have the describing characteristic of being one of those only children.

He is our one and only. Our entire world, in one tiny human.

Making the decision to have children is very personal. Perhaps the most personal decision you will ever make as a couple. To anyone that elects to have no children, I commend you on fully knowing what you want in life.

My husband and I decided to start trying to have a baby a few years back. I hoped that I would have a few months to ease into the idea of possibly being a mother, but was in no way prepared for the year and a half it took us to actually get pregnant. It wasn’t easy. (You can read more about my infertility struggle here.) I was in denial that we might not have children. I didn’t want to see doctors, and flat out didn’t want to deal with the fact that we might need some intervention (thankfully, though we waited some time, we ended up pregnant on Vitex.)

Those that knew we had been trying to get pregnant were few. The pressure to have a child when people know you are trying to get pregnant only increases the stress (at least it did for me.) Month after month of saying “no, not yet” really wears on you. And the people that say things like “just relax and it’ll happen” or “it’ll happen when it’s supposed to”… not helpful. Actually really frustrating. Just remember, you don’t know who is fighting a silent battle– who is trying to get pregnant, who is unable to get pregnant, who has lost angel babies. You don’t know.

So, assuming to understand an individual’s reproductive abilities or personal choices is something that has to stop. It has to. I’m guilty– and as much as we struggled, I’ve definitely asked friends if they think children are in their future. I try hard not to now, because I know how painful the question can be.

So there’s a high probability that my husband and I are one and done. Both by choice, and by reproductive ability. Why? 

  1. We know that we can financially provide for our one child. The rising cost of health care, education, housing, food, etc. is sometimes difficult to stomach. I want to leave him better off– not just financially, but with more opportunity. I don’t plan on having a spoiled single child, but I do fully plan on giving him every opportunity I  can.
  2. We had a hard time having one child. I’m content with one. More than content, I’m beaming that we have a healthy child. So, I’d prefer not to think we might be able to have a second to only be disappointed and unable.
  3. I’m not worried about my son’s social ability as a single child. He has cousins close in age,  and we fully plan on giving him plenty of social opportunities.
  4. We had a very difficult labor and delivery. My son had his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, and we are lucky he is here. You can read about that story here. My postpartum weeks were also marked with some post partum blues (those hormones… whoosh!)

Things that people with single children don’t want to hear?

  1. Aren’t you afraid of him being alone when you and your husband pass away some day? Answer: No. Having siblings doesn’t mean you will be close with your siblings. Financially? I hope to plan for any financial situation so that he isn’t left with all kinds of loose ends to tie up. I know that he’ll have other family, friends, and hopefully a family of his own someday.
  2. Won’t he be spoiled? Answer: I plan on teaching him the value of a dollar and how to work hard for what he wants. That being said, money can buy opportunity, and if I can help him here and there with things such as schooling, I will.
  3. THE WORST: What if your child passes away? Then you have no children. Answer: This question is ridiculous, so please don’t ever ask it. Having other children doesn’t mean you won’t miss your child that has passed away just as much. It doesn’t. You don’t have children to be “backup children” in case something happens. I treasure each day with my son, and that will never change.

So here’s the thing: treat everyone as if you don’t know what their story is. Just simply not asking unless the person on the receiving end brings it up or wants to talk about it. Listen to them. Try to be understanding. Step into their shoes. Children are a beautiful, amazing gift. Children aren’t for everyone. And, children aren’t always easy to have. Simple understanding can bring us a long way.

-Katie