It’s a date.

Pros and Cons

So we have a date for our second (frozen) embryo transfer. We have been so torn about this cycle over the past few weeks: we debated waiting until the new year – after all of the hectiness of the holidays was over – and weighed so many different pros and cons of proceeding now versus in January – a few of which are below (I’m chart obsessed if I didn’t tell you that before. Tables=my life).

Procon

I know that some of the pros and cons are silly – but I wanted to map out everything that has been floating through our heads recently so I could figure out what made the most sense. Of course: the first and most important detail is whether or not this try would be less successful by moving ahead now, versus waiting for a full second period to pass. After a conversation with our doctor, however,  who said that he thinks that my “natural” period, plus my second period that was the result of two weeks of birth control is enough to proceed, and he feels confident that all of my stats – coupled with my recent successful hysteroscopy – make me a good candidate for a frozen November transfer.

The Hysteroscopy

The hysteroscopy was on Monday – it was my first, even though most women have one before their first transfer. My clinic does theirs at a surgical center (which has limited availability and schedules months in advance, so if you recall from a few posts back: my doctor elected to forgo the hysterscopy the last time since I had a successful HSG, and then he did some sort of saline test with my mock transfer in his office and said I was safe to move forward at the time). He said this time they wanted me to have the hysterscopy because of our loss: to ensure that there was no scar tissue, or other problems resulting from the miscarriage that would prevent this next try from being successful. The test – which lasted about 3 minutes – was honestly no big deal overall. That is a LOT coming from me after my HSG ordeal. They prepared me mentally for a lot of cramping and discomfort, and I had a white knuckle grip on the exam table when the doctor inserted the speculum and then the tiny catheter camera that was subsequently pushed through my cervix to examine the inside of my uterus. They gave me the option of watching the procedure on a television screen, but I wanted to deep breathe and prepare myself for the ensuing pain when I saw the first flash of shiny, pink, inner body camera footage – but about 20 seconds and a few medical descriptions of what was on the screen later – it was over. No severe cramping.

I do think the fact that I took three advil this time – exactly 45 minutes before the procedure – helped a lot. Plus I have had so many internal exams – including my transfer – since the HSG test, that perhaps my body is becoming used to that “pain”. Either way: I was super grateful.

About 5 hours after the procedure, I developed some pretty intense stomach pain. My abdomen felt sore and tender to the touch – kind of the way your stomach feels after you’ve been dry heaving or maybe doing sit ups for a few hours. That pain lasted through the next day, and finally dissipated about a day and a half after the exam: still unsure if the two were related, but even with that pain the procedure wasn’t terrible. The good news is: both the doctor who did my procedure as well as our regular doctor both said that everything looked fantastic, and that I have the green light for a late November transfer if we want it (which I labeled as December above – same thing).

So…here we are. I had my baseline visit at the doctor’s yesterday and my ultrasound and bloodwork looked great (forgot to document the stats, this time). I told them I’d call them today with a definitive answer on whether or not we’d want to take advantage of this cycle for a transfer, and after a lot of deliberation, we decided to go ahead. We transfer in exactly two weeks! I started estrogen and baby asprin last night, and I will incorporate the PIO shots again next Sunday.

How many embryos?

We have decided to transfer one embryo at this time. If this try is unsuccessful, we will seriously consider two next time. We’ve actually read quite a few stories about couple’s highest quality embryo being a dud, and people having success as they worked their way down the line, so we are hopeful that what we experienced last time is a fluke, and that we’ll have success with the next try. Fingers crossed. Prayers up. Good vibes out to the world. “This could be good, this could be good…

So this is it…

We are equally thrilled, terrified, and I also have this weird feeling that I can’t entirely articulate. I feel like we haven’t waited long enough since that heartbreaking failure, or like maybe for some reason we don’t quite deserve this. Maybe its a protective mechanism so I don’t get my hopes up too much. I honestly don’t know and can’t shake it. I just keep telling myself that this is what it is and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but the truth is: if it doesn’t work, we are officially $3k in the hole, as our next transfer won’t be covered by the initial plan we purchased, and we will be getting closer to that “WTF do we do” point as we will have gone through 2 embryos without success. But….WE HAVEN’T EVEN TRIED AGAIN, YET. I’m getting ahead of myself. We aren’t there yet. This could be great. We just need to breathe.

In the meantime, we are now fully immersed in my absolute favorite time of year. I have already started the Christmas music, the air finally has a crispness to it, I have a TON of time off coming up (thanks to a really busy year and inability to use much of my vacay time), and I am getting ready to decorate. I am trying to maintain a sense of peace among all of this craziness and soak up this time of year that I love SO SO much.

Hope everyone else is in a good place as well. ❤

I won’t give up.

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up

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Since the last time I posted, I left the window open and the light has continued to creep back in, casting a warm glow on everything in our lives again.

We have been laughing more, smiling often, spending time with friends and family, and we even took a trip recently. Not a true vacation – my wife joined me for a trip I had to make for work, but we got to explore a new city, eat some good food, and enjoy each other for a few days. Our trip started and ended a little hectically with a big storm delaying our trip by several hours and the airline misplacing our luggage temporarily on the way home, but we had a lot of fun and made some incredible memories (including getting to see an MLB playoff game!) so it worth the hassle.

We are still planning a year-end trip, and haven’t yet decided where/when to go, but with only a few weeks left in the year (um…can you seriously believe that?!?) we will have to decide, soon.

On the babymaking front, after what felt like the longest month of my life, I finally got my period. While we were away last week, I noticed blood after going to the bathroom and excitedly ran out of the room with my pants down (TMI? Eh…it’s a blog about our fertility story…I guess nothing is really TMI anymore) and my wife grinned ear to ear when I told her.

The next morning, the blood was gone and my heart sank as I began to worry that perhaps I hadn’t gotten my period and was expelling some kind of residual blood from the miscarriage. I’ve been terrified of experiencing problems from the procedure, so I have been watching closely for any symptoms of  potential problems.

The next day, I had dark blood, followed by periodic bright blood, but I only had a drop here and there – nothing major. Finally, about three days after that started, I began to bleed slightly heavier (which was still nowhere NEAR the volume of a normal period for me) at which point I called my doctor to tell them that I thought I was starting my “full flow” period. They brought me in for bloodwork and ultrasound, and the nurse who did my ultrasound informed me that my uterine lining was still pretty thick and that she thought I’d be experiencing heavier bleeding soon, and that the bloodwork would reveal if this bleeding was – in fact – my period, or some kind of random abnormal bleeding.

Fortunately, she called early in the afternoon to let me know that my blood work looked “perfect” and that my period had arrived. I was still a little nervous as I had NO cramps, and the bleeding was very light, but she insisted that it looked good and I included my stats below in case they help anyone else (and so I don’t forget in case I need them later):

Estrogen – 34

Progesterone – 1.3

FSH – 9.8

LH – 5.2

I have a hysteroscopy scheduled for two weeks from now (during which they will insert a scope through my cervix to examine my uterus and ensure that there is no residual content or scarring from the miscarriage) and as long as everything looks okay, I will stop my birth control (which I started this week) and they will begin my cycle of medication (exactly what I forgot to ask, but I am assuming will include estrogen, baby asprin, and injected progesterone again) in order to prepare me for a frozen embryo transfer….almost exactly one month from now!!

We are trying to keep our excitement at bay in case we get any bad news during the hysteroscopy (or in case anything else unexpected happens) but we were thrilled to have a date to look forward to (and one that is so close!).

I had to advocate for us again, as the nurse wasn’t prepared for any kind of date for the next potential cycle start, and simply told me to call with the next period after my hysteroscopy to begin discussions about dates, but I reminded her that my other nurse told me that a medicated 2nd cycle (using birth control) was possible to speed things along, and she consulted with the doctor who was in strong agreement based on how everything looked so far – as long as the exam doesn’t reveal anything unexpected. I was really glad that I pressed her on that, otherwise we likely wouldn’t have transferred until January as our clinic is closed in late December and they stop accepting new cycles for transfer after the first week of December. I did ask her several times if doing things this way (with medication, and also…so soon) would in anyway impede our success, and she felt very strongly that it would not, and that this was a great plan based on our circumstances.

So now… we wait two weeks, and pray that everything goes as hoped during the hysteroscopy.

In the meantime, my cramps commenced as my body began filling pads with blood that is roughly the volume of Lake Michigan, and since I’m still wary of using tampons or a silicone cup (my preference) I feel like a vacuum cleaner is pulling out my internal organs every time I stand up. Fortunately, I think I’m just about finished and definitely feel better knowing that this is a true period and reflects my normal monthly experience. I’d much rather feel normal than comfortable when it comes to this entire process.

My wife and I have been discussing the remote possibility of transferring two embryos. Our clinic has a policy of only transferring one (I think I may have mentioned this a while back – they believe it to be irresponsible to transfer two as they said that it only increases the overall odds of pregnancy by a negligible amount, but that it dramatically increases the potential for twins, which they discourage due to all of the problems with premature births and risks to the mother), but our fear is having another “bad” embryo (since that is what we now believe to have been the problem with the last pregnancy – all of our research led us to believe that what we experienced is “blighted ovum” which generally results from a chromosomal abnormality with the embryo). We fear that due to my wife’s PCOS that we could have more poor quality embryos (even though our doctor said that he does not believe that to be the case), and we just wonder whether transferring two embryos might increase our odds of success – especially since this is the last transfer that is covered by the package we paid for, and any additional transfers would cost us roughly $3K/ea.

We really don’t want twins, but we really DO want success, and if we do proceed – we would likely have to beg our doctor to do it (and I don’t know how firm they are on the policy, so it may not be a possibility anyway). Has anyone been provided research or stats that are any different than what our doctor provided? Anyone’s doctor feel as strongly as ours did about double embryo transfer? Has anyone’s doctor RECOMMENDED transferring two? We would love to hear about it, if so.

We still have a month to think all of this over, and have elected to do something a little differently this time around: we do not plan on telling ANYONE about this transfer. We had each looped one friend into our last cycle early-on and shared most of the details with each of them. After we were fairly certain of the impending miscarriage, we told our immediate families and a couple of close friends (which helped a LOT!), but we want this next cycle to be just the two of us…and of course: anyone who reads this blog. I am literally the worst secret keeper ever as I get so excited about everything, so if we didn’t document it here I think I’d burst from anticipation.

So…here we are. One month out. Hope time doesn’t pass TOO slowly (although with Thanksgiving coming up, I also hope it doesn’t fly) and here is to hope and good news.

Cheers!

“I’m just beginning: the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned.”

This weekend was the first one in a few months during which I experienced a feeling of immeasurable joy – a feeling that I didn’t expect to experience for a while.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve gained about 10 pounds – I do think that a small part of it was due to all of the fertility meds I’ve been taking, but a bigger part of it was my eating habits. I just haven’t been eating healthy.

So last week, my wife and I elected to dust off our “My Fitness Pal” aps, start walking more, and investing some time in some healthy food prep. I baked two loaves of bread last weekend (I know – bread is typically the opposite of healthy eating, but it was a whole wheat blend, and it gets consumed in moderation and tracked..), we made soups, overnight oats, mapped out some crockpot meals, and bought lots of fruit and veggies.

I’m not down anything, yet, but I feel better as I don’t go to bed every night feeling guilty about what I ate, and I know I’m taking steps that will get me back to where I want to be. In the meantime, I have felt horrible in almost every article of clothing that I own, and I don’t believe in buying new – larger – clothes to accommodate weight gain, but at the same time: I needed to feel better when I stepped out of the house (and I am prepping for another business trip next week – the first in a few months) so my wife and I went shopping and I got a new pair of jeans (which I needed anyway as I hate jeans shopping and my last pair was starting to look ragged), a really cute dress, a few tops, and a black jumpsuit (which my wife thinks looks like a costume of some kind, but I assured her was fashion-forward, and it made me feel really amazing).

This may sound weird, but the new clothes and the healthy eating just made me feel like a real person again. I finally started to feel hope and possibility, and it made me so incredibly happy.

On Saturday night, we got to spend some time with my aunt who I haven’t been in close contact with for over 10 years. Her son – my cousin – passed away two weeks ago (right after I had the miscarriage) and – although sad and horrible – his death seemed to be the spark needed to rekindle the relationship between her and my mom, and my mom invited all of us over for dinner and a bonfire. It was so wonderful exchanging stories from my childhood with her, and catching up on the years we missed.

The Friday prior was my best friend’s wedding (isn’t that a movie?) and although it was beautiful and magical, I still struggled to shake my sadness that day (but managed to dance and have an amazing time in spite of it). And…bonus: since I wasn’t pregnant, I got to have a few drinks, after which I fell asleep at the hotel fully dressed in my bridesmaid gown and false lashes (the exhaustion you experience as a result of this entire process and all of the meds is REAL!)

Right now, my wife and I are casually glancing at houses (the one I posted about a while back ended up selling – it was a bit of a heartbreaker as we LOVED that house, but are hopeful that something better is on the horizon), and we are in the process of planning a mini end-of-year vacation as we didn’t really get to do anything big over the summer. We are eyeing up a few big cities (New Orleans and Orlando – we’re looking at you!) but are still undecided. Planning this trip has also helped me to keep my eyes up and forward, and has filled me with some kind of a purpose.

It’s strange: for the last few months, we had almost always had regular doctor’s visits, and dates to look forward to. Now we are at a stand-still, and I think that has fed into my sadness a bit. Keeping busy and trying to find meaningful things to do (like plan this trip) has helped a TON.

This trip will also be a first anniversary gift from each of us to the other. We are quickly approaching one year of marriage (and five years of dating!) so we are really looking forward to celebrating. And on that note…I know I don’t post many (any?) photos, but here is a shot that I love from our wedding last year. It was taken during our candle-lighting ceremony (a really amazing ceremony that I think I discussed a while back in this blog that my mother-in-law wrote, after which we lit the candles of our bridal party and they – in turn – lit all of our guests’ candles and the dimly lit room was filled with the warm glow of family and friends).

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Speaking of our wedding, I don’t think I ever told you all about our honeymoon-that-almost-didn’t-happen. Four days after our wedding, we were planning to hit a Sandals resort in the Caribbean, and the night before we were supposed to leave, I went online to check into our flight (as I always do when I travel) only to find that the tracking info didn’t work. Two hours on the phone with a Sandals representative later, I found out that our flight had been cancelled by the airline SIX MONTHS PRIOR and we were without a way to get to our destination. Sandals offered to “generously” pay for another flight for us out of an airport that was an hour further away than the airport we were ALREADY driving an hour to (and likely another $100+ in tolls/parking which they refused to compensate for us) so we ended up cancelling the trip and booking a last minute getaway to Mexico for a few days. We can laugh about it now, but we were really upset when it all happened.

We have a similar chaotic story of when we purchased our first home, and a friend recently reminded me of both when we were talking about the miscarriage. She said,  “this is no different than all of your other life events, but just remember: they all seem to work out on the 2nd try.”

That really made me smile, and I’m going to try EXTRA hard to stay really positive in the coming weeks.

Hope everyone is getting lots of good news out there. We love hearing it and are rooting for you all. ❤

“You took it all, but I’m still breathing.”

So I lied. I said I was going to take a break from writing. I suppose I thought it would help me feel better. In reality, for me – writing is like popping the top off of a champagne bottle: there is so much energy and pressure inside that needs to find a way out, and writing just does that for me – regardless of who reads it (though I appreciate every person who does). It lets a little air out so my heart and thoughts can settle.

So here I am.

It has been 13 days since I took the pills that ended my pregnancy. It feels like 13 weeks, or maybe 13 months, sometimes. Other times, it feels like it has been 13 hours. For the most part: it’s been just fine. I took the pills (vaginally), had cramps for about 48 hours, bled for about a week, and then it was over. So far, no other symptoms or pain – aside from my right hip/butt area that has become a combination of numb, itchy, and tender from the progesterone injections – which ceased 14 days ago. It’s kind of cruel if you ask me: I didn’t have any pain while I was pregnant, and now that its over, it hurts. Or maybe I was just so hopeful and happy that I didn’t notice the pain. Either way, it’s just uncomfortable and annoying – other than that I’m totally asymptomatic (par for the course, really.)

I was pregnant.

That sounds so strange to say, now.

I went back to the doctor’s office for a follow up visit last week. He said that everything looked as it was supposed to, and my HCG level dropped that day from 1500+ down to 50. Today, it finally dropped to 0.

I thought I would be relieved when I got that call. (I wasn’t). I waited for that name to show up on my phone so many times – waiting to hear about an HCG rise, some small amount of good news, some tiny glimmer of hope. I almost felt like I was cheating on myself when my heart skipped as the number came up on my phone’s screen. “This is good news after what you went through,” the nurse reassured me. “Now you should just call us with your next period and we’ll discuss next steps.” Good news.

I think the only news that would soothe my aching heart at this point is for someone to tell me that this was all just a big mistake and that I can still expect to have a baby in my arms sometime in late April/early May, but I’m going to go ahead and take her word that this is good.

Later this afternoon, another nurse called – interestingly, the nurse with whom I was assigned to work, who was absent during the last few weeks of this ordeal, and just happened to pop up again like one of those old friends you don’t talk to for a year, and just pick up with where you left off.

She let me know that I should expect to get my period sometime in the next few weeks and when I do, I’ll let them know, but in the meantime, she is scheduling me for another HSG test (you can only imagine the sheer joy on my face when she told me that. To relive the excitement of my last test, feel free to skip back 6-7 posts – it was a real treat!), and afterward, she said that they can put me on medication to “speed up” the process, and she left me with a tiny bit of hope that we could transfer again before December. At this point, though, it’s really up to my period. Fingers crossed that it’s fast and furious.

In the meantime, I rotate through a series of – now predictable – emotions: peace, happiness, sadness, and anger. I find myself crying randomly (usually when I’m alone in my office or the car) and sad songs really do me in. Damn you, self, for stumbling upon that random video of some girl doing an acapella version of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” two months ago, and then downloading it to your phone’s music list, only to have it pop up in the playlist every few days.

I just don’t get it. They say that 1 in 4 women have miscarriages. I mean, I know that not a lot of people talk about this but…where the f*&k are they?!? This process makes me feel so incredibly alone – especially when I’m 31 years old and almost everyone I know is pregnant or has small children. Where are the 25% of people I know who get what this pain is like. I want to have a drink with them. Understand how they got past this. Figure out how they managed to not punch every person who told them that “this is only the first try – there will be others” or “you’ll get there” or “everything will be fine”. I need these women to teach me their ways. I need them to help me to be gracious, and grateful, and not be angry or envious when I see ultrasound after ultrasound flood my Facebook feed, and women skip happily out of the doctor’s office with their sky high HCG numbers and good news. I think I mostly want to know when they got to the point at which the tears stopped welling up in the corners of their eyes randomly, or when they stopped feeling anxious, scared, and alone.

And then – there is this completely other side of me – a side that says: buck up, buttercup. Earlier this week, almost 60 people lost their husbands and wives. Their grown children. Their parents. Their fiancees, boyfriends, and girlfriends. You lost a baby that you barely knew. 

I know. Sadness isn’t a measuring contest. A mother isn’t easier to lose than a child. A sister isn’t easier to lose than a fiancee. A small child isn’t easier to lose than a big child. Or, maybe I don’t know. Maybe one is worse than the other. It just all sucks. And it makes me sad. And it makes me angry.

And my wife and I (okay, mostly me, but she supports me and goes along with it) had big plans to do some volunteer work this month, but I just feel so frozen by all of this. It is like when there is a big task ahead of you, and you wonder how it will get done, so you just lay down and don’t even start. I know we just need to do it – the good will probably help more than the writing, but I just don’t know where to start anymore.

Ideas? Words of wisdom? Comforting recipes? A butt-kicking pep talk? Does anyone have anything that can help jump start my heart?

 

“You’ll be with me, like a handprint on my heart.”

“How are you today, Mrs. ____?” It was a simple enough question. One I’d answered hundreds – probably thousands of times in my life, but one that had me stumped on this particular occasion and made my eyes fill quickly with tears. “Fine.” My answer came out harsher than I’d intended, but it was as if adjusting the tone of my voice was suddenly outside of my control. “Hang in there, honey,” the nurse whispered as she finished setting up the ultrasound machine and closed the door to the room.

I stripped down and took my obligatory spot at the end of the exam table, feet ready to be swung into the stirrups when the doctor walked in.

After what felt like an eternity as I mentally recited a mantra of, “you are strong, you are brave, you will overcome,” the doctor walked in and repeated the nurse’s question. I repeated my gruff response.

I choked back tears as he inserted the ultrasound wand which revealed a slightly larger, but equally vacant sack on the ultrasound screen. “Well, I feel confident that we are not dealing with an ectopic pregnancy here. That is definitely a sack in the uterus, but just like last time: we are not seeing a defined yoke sack or fetal pole inside. We can wait another week if you want – I know that you went through a lot to get here, but I am confident that nothing will change between now and then. In fact, I would say that there is pretty much a zero percent chance that this pregnancy will progress normally.”

His assistant opened a new box of tissues and handed me one as the tears streamed silently down my face. “I can write you the script for the cytotec, and you can think about it a little more if you want to.” I nodded.

“Will it hurt?” I asked. “Cramping, bleeding – probably a little more than a normal period,” he cautioned. “Can I have something for the pain?”

“Of course,” he said before plugging my information into a narcotics database to ensure that I wasn’t an addict in search of a high. (Which – to be honest – was a little offensive, even given the rapid culture of drug abuse in my state. If I wanted a high, I wouldn’t spend $15,000+ to get pregnant, and then lose my baby on purpose to get high, but rules are rules I suppose.)

By the time Friday arrived, I felt calm and peaceful about our decision. Long talks with my best friend – who happens to be a nurse practitioner – really helped a lot. She agreed with my doctor’s decision, and explained that fetal development at the beginning of pregnancy should be rapid and the fact that we didn’t have that made it very clear that this would not be successful – no matter how long we waited and how many additional positive signs we experienced. “In your professional opinion,” I asked her, “Am I making the right decision? Should I assume that this has no chance? I feel like we are, but am so scared to kill something that might have a chance to live – however small it may be. But [the doctor] said that holding out any longer would only be for our mental benefit, and not for the pregnancy itself, though he was happy to wait.”

“I agree with him,” she said. “Things should have progressed at this point. It was fine to wait up until now, but continuing to do so isn’t going to be fruitful effort. You absolutely connect emotionally from the beginning, but this isn’t a baby. It’s a failed pregnancy. You aren’t failing or quitting on a human. Please don’t torture yourself.”

That was incredibly hard to hear, but it came from someone with both a deep understanding of medical knowledge and a deep love of me and my wife, and it gave me comfort. It is really what I needed to hear in order to start the process of the miscarriage. (And I recognize that not everyone feels that way and respect that different things help different people make peace with this process, so if that isn’t helpful to you, feel free to continue to do what makes sense to you and your partner.)

So Friday came and went like any other normal day, and I was asked about five or six times what my weekend plans were at my office.

“Oh, you know, just taking it easy,” I responded aloud. And having a miscarriage, I recited mentally.

Friday night felt surreal. After a dinner of leftovers, I retreated to the bathroom and stripped down to a t-shirt and found a comfortable position in which to insert the 4 cytotec pills that my doctor prescribed. I then put on an overnight pad, and took a painkiller prescribed by my doctor along with a glass of water around quarter till seven.

By 7:30, I had some mild period-like cramps, and started to feel a bit dizzy and tired (probably from the pain medicine) so my wife and I retreated to bed to watch the new season of Fuller House on Netflix. (Don’t judge me, haha).

I fell asleep after one episode. I woke up around 10:30 to moderate cramps, and took one extra strength acetaminophen pill, and laid in bed for the next half our trying to breathe and count through the cramps.

One, two, three, four, five…. No more baby. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten….I failed.  One, two, three, four, five….It’s almost over. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten…things will get better.

By quarter after eleven, the cramps still hadn’t abated, so I woke my wife up to ask if she thought that I could take another painkiller. She wasn’t sure and fell asleep a few minutes later, so I took one anyway and got up to go to the bathroom. I looked down – nothing. No blood. No clots.

I got back in bed and scrolled through Facebook for a few minutes before falling back asleep.

I slept until about five and got up to go to the bathroom again and saw the first blood. I felt both sad and relieved. It was the end of one try, and the beginning of another. I was sad for the baby we lost, but looking forward to the babies we still hope to have.

The cramps continued on moderately throughout Saturday and I managed them with ibuprofen. Nothing stronger than my worst period cramps, and the bleeding was actually less than I anticipated. I know that it could still get worse, and if I don’t expel everything I could still require a D&C, but overall – this experience wasn’t as scary as I anticipated. I hope that brings comfort to anyone who may read this who may be gearing up for what I am (hopefully) going to finish up in the next week or so.

I vacillate between very sad and very hopeful, and pregnancy signs everywhere make me a little sad at the moment.

But I somehow managed to go to my friend’s daughter’s first birthday party yesterday (which had more babies and infants present than any first birthday party I’ve been to in the recent past), and I didn’t cry once (and actually smiled and laughed a lot).

This process is different for everyone, I imagine, but for me – the key is to not think too much, and to get up and move and live life.

My best friend told me to remember that this is a failed pregnancy – not a baby – and on one hand, I know she is right. The decision we made didn’t terminate a living baby – by the time we made it, that baby was gone. My wife and I are both Catholic, though, and recently started going to church more, although we have always both felt a deep connection with our faith. And we do believe that we lost a baby. We don’t think the Cytotec killed our baby: we aren’t sure why it didn’t continue to grow and develop, but we know that we now have an angel looking out for us, and we hope that it protects the next one that will live in that same spot (hopefully not too long from now).

In the meantime, we are going to practice a lot of self care. We made a plan to start going to the gym more, watching TV less, enjoying our life, and maybe planning a vacation for a few weeks from now. This process has brought us closer, deepened our faith in God, and made us want to continue to make this world a better place for the babies that we hope to one day bring into it. We aren’t past the hard days, the sad days, or the tears. But we are going to try really hard to be happy.

And – I don’t know if I mentioned this before – but my wife is actually alive today because of a miscarriage. Her mom had a miscarriage during her first pregnancy. She went on to get pregnant with my wife’s older brother a little while later, and then got pregnant with twins after that (my wife and her twin). She told us that she never would have had the twins had she not miscarried as she would have stopped at two babies, so – in a way – my wife is a miracle that wouldn’t have been here had her mom not suffered the heartbreak of a miscarriage. That really helps me to keep moving forward in moments like these, and hoping and praying for our own miracle.

I’m probably going to check out of here for a little while, unless something major happens, but will update as we get closer to our next attempt. I am wishing you all luck, love, hope, and baby dust, and can’t wait to catch up soon.

In the meantime, thank you for your kind words: every single one has helped so much and we are so grateful for the little community we have found on here. Sometimes we wish we could get together for coffee (or a hug) as it feels like we know some of you that well. But please know we are rooting for you all and hope to hear lots of positive news from all of you very soon. ❤

 

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(Flowers and a card from my amazing mom)

Things no one tells you.

No one tells you that the two week wait, could actually be a four week wait. No one tells you that the joy of a positive pregnancy test can still slip through your fingers like sand.

No one tells you that the elation that comes with seeing that second pink line – however faint it may be – could be tempered by the flatness of a voice telling you that your HCG level is only so high, that it only rose so much, that they can only find an empty uterus on that blasted internal ultrasound, then only an empty sack.

They don’t tell you the sadness and rage you will feel when they say, “It’s only a bad embryo. You can probably still get pregnant without any major issues.”

They don’t tell you the strength and grace you will have to muster to keep from punching people you usually like and care about when they tell you, “It’s only your first try. There will be others.” They don’t tell you that you will quietly wonder, “will there be others?” They don’t tell you how quickly people will want you to rally and move on.

They don’t tell you the fear that you will experience when your doctor offers you options such as methotrexate, or misoprostal to end the pregnancy. They don’t tell you that those options could make you fear your own body, and what blood and tissue may come out of it. They definitely don’t tell you that you could fear pain commencing so quickly – after all: that was supposed to come nine months later. They don’t tell you that if you elect not to take those options, you are sitting on a slowly ticking time bomb – waiting for your body to eject the contents of the pregnancy that was not to be: on its own time, at its own pace.

They don’t tell you that you can’t start again right away. They don’t tell you that you have to wait another 2-3 agonizing months before you have to try the procedure again – before you can spend another few thousand dollars transferring another one of your precious embryos. They don’t tell you that you will be TERRIFIED that this could all happen again.

They don’t tell you that the words of your family or friends – or at times your own partner – won’t be comforting. They don’t tell you how alone you may feel.

They don’t tell you that even on the brightest and sunniest days, you could receive news that makes you feel like you are experiencing the blackest, most starless night of your life.

They don’t tell you that hearing others’ stories about their own losses and rainbow babies will be immensely comforting. They don’t tell you that those stories – whether they come in the form of Facebook posts from friends and acquaintances, or forums from six years ago on random websites – will feel like a golden rope that’s been tossed down to you, while you’re sitting at the bottom of your well of sadness. They don’t tell you how each story can help you feel like you’re being lifted out of that pit – slowly but surely.

They don’t tell you that sometimes you don’t feel like taking the rope: that sometimes you feel like wallowing in your sadness a little bit longer.  They don’t tell you, but eventually you take the rope.

They don’t tell you that hope is like a drug. Is is what propels you forward, even when you aren’t sure in which direction forward is. They don’t tell you how much that scares you, because it is the same vacuous hope that told you to keep holding on for one more visit when the bad news first started. It’s that same foolhardy hope that told you to “trust your gut” and that “everything will be okay,” when your brain told you it wouldn’t.

But it’s that same resolute hope that soothes you when nothing else can, and reminds you that tomorrow is a new day: full of possibility.

The rollercoaster.

I couldn’t sleep this morning.

Which – to be honest – is not unusual. Over the last few years,  I have transitioned from being a night owl to an early bird. I like those calm, quiet, morning moments where it’s just me and the rising sun (and in the past a weak cup of coffee, too).

On Saturdays like today my eyes crack open at the time I usually get up for work (sometimes a little later if I’m lucky), and I lay in bed and think for a while. Then I get hot, usually have to pee, and after that getting back in bed makes me feel restless. I crept past my wife and sleeping dog and carefully pried open the door (not that she’d hear it if I wasn’t careful – I envy her deep and peaceful sleep), and snuck into our guest room where I usually blog in a little tan rocking chair glider. It looks like it is for a nursery – one day I hope it is – but I am obsessed with rocking chairs so in the meantime, it’s just mine.

This week was hard. For a lot of reasons, many of which are unrelated to the baby making process. First, I’ll go back to last weekend when we left off.

On Saturday, my wife and I went to a local Ronald McDonald House with some friends and family and made breakfast for the families staying there. They told us that the families often rush to appointments and don’t stop for a warm breakfast, so we felt really grateful that we could provide them that opportunity. We made hashbrowns, pancakes (gluten free and regular), bacon and finished in a really fast amount of time without a single argument or raised voice (which you may expect when a big group is dancing around one another in an unfamiliar kitchen trying to prep breakfast in less than an hour). When the families started filing in, I tried to stay in the back because I found myself getting surprisingly emotional – especially when one dad stopped to talk to my mom and fill her in on his daughter’s really rough journey and requested prayers. I say “surprisingly” as I’ve noticed my emotions wane ever since I’ve been far into the lupron shots. I don’t know if that’s normal, but I’ve cried a lot less and been less emotional. But on Saturday morning, that certainly wasn’t the case – I’m not sure if potential baby or situation were to blame – probably both.

The experience was awe inspiring. We watched parents and children who have gone through things that probably make our fertility journey seem like a small blip on the radar to their atomic bombs, but still they ate, and smiled, and enjoyed one another, and remained strong and fearless. It certainly didn’t make me feel bad for feeling bad about the tough parts of this journey – but it provided prospective and helped me to remember to remain strong.

We’d like to keep up that spirit of doing for others. A while back, I’d wanted to spend some time getting to know folks at a Muslim cultural center. They’d even ask if I’d be willing to assist teaching English on the weekends – something I’m still very much interested in if they need me. I think I’m going to reach back out, and have a few other organizations in mind to assist with as well. I want to find activities that bring even a tiny amount of light to others, so if you have any favorites or suggestions, please send them in my direction.

So the weekend passed pretty effortlessly. On Sunday we had a wedding for a coworker, and on Monday we had a barbecue at my parent’s house (where my cousin and her daughter currently live with my parents and sister) so it was a really nice day surrounded by family.

On Tuesday, I had a quick bloodwork appointment in the morning. I got a call back midafternoon to let me know that…..*drumroll* our HCG level had increased TENFOLD and gone from 21 to 226! The nurse sounded positive and said that she thought that was a GREAT sign and I immediately called my wife who squealed on the phone. We were SO excited. She told me she wanted me back on Friday for an ultrasound to ensure that the embryo wasn’t developing in one of my tubes to cause the overall lower numbers, but she was really happy about the increase and said she felt like the odds were more in our favor at that point. She did tell me that due to the point at which we were, we may not see anything on the ultrasound on Friday and not to let that concern us (a sentiment confirmed by my best friend – a nurse practitioner who doesn’t work directly with patients undergoing fertility treatment, but does see them for their ob/gyn care afterward – so she’s a fountain of information).

The next few days progressed painfully slowly (especially with a LOT of drama at work which caused me an insane amount of stress for two days – stress that will likely continue on for the next two weeks) and finally Friday arrived.

The morning started out a little rocky when our dog woke us up at 5am shaking and panting only for us to find out that she had the “diarrhea sweats” and she proceeded to go to the bathroom three times in the house before making it the short walk outside to the grassy spot where she goes to the bathroom. So our Friday morning started out with a bang (I guess kind-of, almost literally).

Because of all of the commotion, I ended up five minutes late to the appointment and they ended up taking two other couples ahead of us (even though my wife got there on time – we drove separately so we could each head right to work from the appointment) so we didn’t end up being seen for a half hour after our scheduled appointment time (which made me – probably very unnecessarily – grumpy). By the time the doctor came in to our ultrasound room, I was already on my back, feet in stirrups, ready for the visit. He proceeded to talk to me for about five minutes in that position before starting the ultrasound. I was expecting the same cautious optimism that we’d been experiencing, but he started out by putting his hand on my shoulder and saying “you know, you’ve been making me nervous with these numbers.” He then proceeded to tell me that there was a possibility of this baby developing in one of my tubes and if that were confirmed today that they’d look to put me on something called methotrexate to cause the pregnancy to end.

So we commenced with the ultrasound and – as expected – saw nothing (in tubes or uterus) and he referred to it as a “pregnancy of unknown origin” and said he wanted me back for an ultrasound and more blood on Monday. I asked him what he wanted to see on my bloodwork today in order to feel confident that this could still be a slow, but normally developing pregnancy (one of the three options that he said this could be at this point: the other two being, ectopic, or an abnormally developing pregnancy). He said 1000 would be the minimum that would make him feel confident.

Immediately after, I began texting my best friend who called me and gave me her perspective. She respects the particular doctor I am seeing, but thinks that they could be a bit preemptive in their talk about termination as she said that I could not yet expect to see anything on an ultrasound and that my numbers were still increasing at an appropriate rate (though they did start out low). She said that she thought the doctor’s desire to see 1000 was a bit high, as the rate should be increasing by 50% every two days or so (which would put it around 339 by Thursday and even if it went up another 50% from Thursday to Friday would only make it 508). She said she thought an expectation of truly doubling was good, but potentially unrealistic (her husband is also in OB care, and agreed). She said either way – if the numbers went down or plateaued, I should be concerned and even if they went up the way she expected they should, I could still not walk away from this with a favorable outcome. I was grateful for the different perspective – which didn’t change my level of caution at all – and just began to hope for good news.

When the nurse finally called, her voice was less perky than when we spoke on Tuesday, but more pleasant than last Wednesday. She was very direct. “Your number is at 501. Which is obviously lower than what we were expecting and is not increasing as we hoped. Doctor wants to see you back Monday. And he gave you paperwork to review on methotrexate, right?” She doubled down on the idea that this could be and very likely was an ectopic pregnancy. I was so angry and confused.

When we first began this journey, she told us that the possibility of this happening was so slim, that while she would discuss it, she wouldn’t spend too much time doing so as it would likely never happen. So how is it – that someone with no diagnosed fertility issues – on her FIRST ATTEMPT AT CONCEPTION – has an ectopic pregnancy?

So I called my wife, who I expected to be sad but hopeful, and I could hear little sniffling noises and I asked if she was okay, and she began sobbing. It was heartbreaking, especially since my wife is very stoic and unemotional. I’ve only seen her cry a small handful of times in our relationship (in fact, I can probably count them on one hand), so I began to feel even less hopeful, as this strong and stoic woman felt weak and defeated.

At this point, even with the post-number optimistic perspective from my best friend, we are feeling very sad and nervous about Monday. I am still holding out some hope, and if the numbers increase again by more than 50% on Monday and they don’t see an ultrasound image, I am going to push to hold off on the methotrexate for another few days as there is something called the discriminatory zone (which is 1500 HCG) under which you typically won’t see anything on an ultrasound.

The nurse advised me to watch for bleeding or abdominal pain over the weekend (signs of an ectopic pregnancy) and the doctor advised that if we do terminate with methotrexate or if my body terminates naturally, the soonest we could try again is about 2 months from now.

I mean, we do have six frozen embryos and one covered transfer left, so this isn’t the end of the world – but man, do you become attached quickly. As soon as we saw that faint line, I became so excited by the idea that I could FINALLY be pregnant. We counted down to our (very distant) possible due date, and fantasized about what life would be like with a baby in the spring/early summer. We began to mentally decorate the nursery, and plan for how we’d tell our friends and family. We began to wonder what this TEENY TINY person may one day look like, act like, or…just like. Would they be serious like me, or goofy like my wife? Would they be the kind and caring person we want them to be? Would they love learning? Appreciate art?

I know that it’s early and that most people probably think you don’t have a right to get so attached at that point, but how can you not when you spend so much money and effort getting to this point? How can you not?

So little embryo of unknown origin: I believe that – although it is unlikely – you may still be there, in just the right place in my uterus: slow to show up on the ultrasound screen, like your mama is to almost every event in her life. Slow to develop like your mommy was: the tinier of two twin babies, who people thought couldn’t hear when she was an infant, or was perhaps disabled in some other way (she wasn’t).

And if you’re in a tube or are just developing abnormally, you existed – although briefly – and are deeply loved and very much wanted.

And we will continue on. And we will spread love and goodness in this world – even when we are sad – because that is what we do.