The rest of our hospital stay.

The last two weeks have been a whirlwind. I’m sitting here writing listening to the soundtrack of my breast pump churning and wheezing and the little peanut is across the room cooing in her Rock N’ Play (which has been a Godsend since this child won’t sleep in many other places). I’m hoping that her little chirps are just indicators of sweet dreams and not the signs of her waking as I’m not even close to being done everything I intended to work on this afternoon.

Plans.

Go.

Out.

The.

Window.

When you have a newborn.

I mean, I knew that. People told me that.  But – I still thought my child might be different.

I can’t believe she has been out of my body for more than two weeks. Three weeks ago, I would have struggled to recall what life was like before my big belly. I didn’t remember what it was like to be able to paint my toenails, or shave in the shower, sleep on my stomach, or savor the rich taste of a glass of merlot. Now I’m struggling to recall what those tiny kicks felt like, or the weekly drives to the doctor’s office for my nonstress tests, or the round fullness of my pregnant belly.

I miss it SO much, sometimes.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that she is lying across from me. I love her tiny noises, the way her mouth curls up into a smile randomly (and then uncurls just as I grab my phone to take a picture), or the way she purses her lips with milk dripping from the corners when I pull her away from my breast.

I love how she wags her head and shakes her fists when she doesn’t get food fast enough: it’s like she is already demanding a space for herself in the world…asserting her needs…helping me to understand life on her terms.

But its not the same as when she was inside. She’ll never be as safe and secure. I’ll never be quite as full of life. We’ll never be physically connected ever again. And that made me just a little sad when it all finally set in.

The first night home from the hospital was hard.

Well, the hospital itself was hard.

Hadley was born at 7am, and I didn’t get to hold her until about 6pm that evening (I think…everything was a blur at that point due to the sheer exhaustion of having been awake for almost two days straight with short cat naps in between). They wheeled me in to see her in the NICU for the first time around 9am, I think. I watched her through the glass dome of her incubator and was only able to hold her hand and push her pacifier back in when she began to cry (which made ME cry). The soundtrack of our first official meeting was the bubbling noise of her CPAP machine, and all of the beeps from the monitors she was hooked up to. She had a tiny bruise on one hand from where they tried to insert an IV but failed (and she had one to match on the other hand once they finally removed her IV).

I asked if I could hold her and the NICU nurse scolded me: reminding me that she needed that time in the incubator and that the doctor would tell me when I could hold her.

That was so hard. She was MINE – just mine – for nine months. I knew her rhythmic kicks and she knew my heartbeat. And all of the sudden she belonged to a NICU nurse and I was simply a visitor.

I had a really tough time with that entire experience. I felt like I didnt know my child when she came home from the hospital and it hit me like a ton of bricks when I finally considered how traumatic her departure from me was after her birth.

My labor was so fast and intense and she came rocketing into this world quicker than I had a chance to process. Then she was whirled away to be measured and assessed while I delivered the placenta and got stitched up.

I was so bone tired that I didnt really process what was happening:

That we didn’t get to delay her cord clamping to give her a few extra minutes to build up her iron supply.

We didnt get skin-to-skin right away to give us a chance to bond and get to know each other.

I didnt get to feed her right away to help us bond and help my milk supply to come in faster.

I really didn’t “meet” my daughter until much later.

I joked that they could have taken my baby and given me back another and I wouldnt have known the difference.

That sounds horrible, doesn’t it? What mother doesn’t instinctively know her baby. But I felt like I didn’t. And that made me very sad.

I know everything was done in her best interest. I know she is healthy and more importantly – alive – because of the efforts of that medical staff. But it was still hard and emotional.

Before she was released from the NICU, I was able to see her four more times. That evening around 6 they allowed me to feed her after a lactation consultant visited me in my room earlier in the day for a lesson on breast feeding and pumping (thank God for that woman because breastfeeding is harder than it looks….more on that, later).

We went back with both sets of our parents later that night and again in the middle of the night to breastfeed. We went back for one final visit the following morning to feed her and give her a bath. I thought I knew how to bath a baby, but apparently there was more to it than I knew (like: wash the face first and dont use the same part of the cloth to wipe their eyes twice).

Around 4pm that next day (Sunday as I would later learn…what a blur of a stay) they brought her back to my room. She was all bundled up in the standard hospital blanket with a purple knit hat. I still wonder who made that – it gave me some comfort that she was adorned with something cozy and personal during part of her NICU stay.

They let us know that night that her bilirubin levels were high (which means that she had some jaundice) and they recommended phototherapy which commenced on Monday and earned us an extra day in the hospital. Fortunately, they allowed us to “room in” with Hadley so we didnt have to leave her and we were all able to go home together on Tuesday.

If you’ve never experienced phototherapy for a newborn: it looks cool but is actually torture. She had to lay on the equivalent of a bright tanning bed with foam goggles and she had to be naked (sans a diaper) and be swaddled down to the surface of the light board.

She hated it and cried hysterically all day, which led to us frequently picking her up to feed and comfort her which led to an extra 12 hours with the light when they came to re-test her later that night. In the middle of the night she was pretty much over the whole ordeal and cried hysterically at which point I said, “screw it” and swaddled her (against the rules since her swaddled skin wasnt exposed to the light). She slept soundly for two hours at which point I woke up in a sweat, terrified that I hadn’t heard her in two hours (the longest we’d gone with silence before that on the light treatment was about 20 minutes) and I was to find her not breathing. Both she and my wife (who was sleeping on a cot next to her) were sound asleep. Evidently the swaddle session helped her to reset and I was able to get her to sleep for the rest of the night without any major issues. No more two hour stretches but I think she slept for an hour at a time which was great.

I was super nervous for her morning blood test after basically removing her from the light for two hours, but I wasnt torturing the kid any more than she needed to be: we all needed that sleep and she desperately needed that comfort after the rough start to her life.

Fortunately she passed both that as well as the following blood test and we were discharged that afternoon.

That Monday (the day of the phototherapy) was HARD. I didnt leave the room all day and it rained so it just left me feeling very down. It was also tough because we had almost hourly checks from various hospital staff throughout our weekend stay, but that stopped on Monday when I was discharged and just “roomed in” with my daughter. The peace was nice, but when you have a newborn (especially a sick one) it is nice to just talk to other people. It helped me maintain sanity and normalcy: even though I didn’t know any of the staff particularly well.

When I got home from the hospital I cried a lot the first few days. I thought I would transition gracefully into motherhood: I’ve wanted this my ENTIRE life. But everything made me cry. Signs of my pregnancy like the big U-shaped pillow on the bed that had been my best friend for the prior two months. Or the look of my deflated belly in the bathroom mirror complete with stretch marks that I hadn’t really seen as they were on the underside of my belly prior to Hadley’s birth. It looked like a basketball that had been used too hard in its final game and was now deflated – sitting on the sidelines.

Even the sight of Hadley’s bedroom made me sad. We decorated it in hopeful anticipation and having her home was so scary: I didnt know what she wanted or needed in those first few days, and everything was so overwhelming.

I also wasnt making enough for her to eat which was nerve wracking, and likely was related to the fact that I didnt feed her for the first 12 hours of her life. I’m still struggling with breastfeeding, but I think that warrants it’s own blog entry.

Despite all of these challenges and the hecticness with which her life started, the love I feel for this child is indescribable. Even though I get so overwhelmed when she cries (mostly because I never truly know the reason), I know that the reasons are so basic: food, sleep (or lack thereof) and comfort. That’s basically it. She is so innocent and full of possibility and hope and I want to keep that alive in her forever. I want to meet any need that she ever has before she has it. I want her to see the world as beautiful, and kind, and loving. I want to ensure that she never knows hunger or pain or heartache. I want to wrap her in my love every day for the rest of her life.

I guess that’s what  being a parent is, right? Loving and supporting your child through everything, and taking the bad moments on the chin: knowing there are more good ones to come.

If that’s not it: let me know when you figure out the secret, will you? 😊

In the interim: some pictures of our little love:

 

Here comes the 2nd trimester…and the stomach bug :(

Even though I watch my belly daily for signs of growth: poking and prodding it, hoping that the baby will show some sign of life in between these now – very distant – ultrasound visits;

Even though I open the Bump and Baby Center apps weekly: eager to see what new feat my baby has conquered since the prior week, and how many precious milimeters and fractions-of-an-ounce little one has added on over the last few precious days;

Even though work and life have kept us as busy as ever….

the 2nd trimester has actually kind of snuck up on me. I can’t believe I’m 1/3 of the way through this pregnancy: especially since I don’t feel pregnant at all half of the time.

I imagines what I would look and feel like at 14 weeks, and I wasn’t envisioning fat, tired, and still pretty nauseous.

Of course, acquiring the stomach bug this week wasn’t a huge help with that. My sister and her kids had it about 3 weeks ago, and we thought they were all clear when they came to visit last weekend, as they’d been asymptomatic for weeks, and feeling pretty healthy overall.

I saw them Friday, Saturday, and on Superbowl Sunday and by Monday afternoon both my wife and I were feeling a little under-the-weather. She felt worse than I with a fever and chills, but we both felt pretty nauseous.

[I should probably add here that I have a pretty severe case of emetophobia – or an intense fear of vomiting – and I’ve had it for as long as I can remember. I can’t stand vomiting, or seeing/hearing others vomit…which has made for a few pretty interesting plane flights earlier this year. Seeing/hearing others get sick makes me shake and sometimes cry and it’s something I’ve really been working on tackling over the last few years. Yes, I know kids vomit. Yes, I know my kid will vomit. No, I don’t know what I’m going to do about that yet. Here’s to hoping I can work my way up from spit up. Anyway, I haven’t thrown up in about 20 years – aside from maybe 2-3 times when I was drinking heavily and don’t really remember the act of getting sick – so everytime I get any kind of stomach bug, I lay down and breath deeply until the feeling passes.]

Thank goodness our home has two bathrooms, because around 7pm the virus took both of us down. No amount of deep breathing was stopping anything. And just as soon as it started, it passed…and left a low grade fever and very sore stomach in its wake.

In a way, the experience was actually kind of nice – hear me out – as I have had this intense fear for 3 decades now, and it’s been YEARS since I’ve experienced the act of throwing up. I think this experience helped me to feel a TINY bit less fearful, and more compassionate toward others who get sick (the fear is so intense that in addition to being shaky and completely upset, I get angry at the offender – as if they could control it. I know – it’s crazy), and I was kind of glad that if we both had to be taken down by something that severe: that we could have the experience BEFORE kids came along.

We both took as good of care of each other as we could, and it helped us both to hone in on our motherly instincts.

I mean, if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger…right?

This experience also helped me to realize that my pregnancy nausea isn’t nearly as bad as it could be, although now every time I feel nauseous I’m terrified that the virus is making an ugly return, so I just kind of want to experience this 2nd trimester relief that I’ve heard so much about.

So far, my belly just looks fat: I’m eager to see it round out more so that my coworkers and strangers stop looking at me like I can’t control myself around donuts (I mean, I can’t but…) and I’ve gained 8 pounds, which is really making me get upset with myself, but I keep trying to remember that this will all be worth it. In the meantime, I just bought a stationary bike from a local yard sale and am going to try to get more active on a daily basis: I think it will be good for me and for baby.

We are beginning to toss around nursery ideas (leaning toward a grey/white theme, or navy/gold…any suggestions one way or the other? We want something gender neutral as we won’t find out the sex until baby gets here…)

I am also eagerly waiting to feel some movement. I swore I felt a kick earlier this week, but nothing since which leads me to believe that it may have been a muscle spasm or gas.

There are still moments when I have to stop and remind myself that this is all real, and pray that it won’t be yanked away. I envy women who get excited at every milestone. I am always fearful that the next will never come.

But then I think: we made it this far…why NOT us?! And I keep hoping and praying that a healthy little nugget is still growing inside me: kicking away, and that one day soon I will feel them.

Love and hugs to everyone for healthy continued pregnancies, sticky embryos, successful stimming, and good news all around.

Jenn

 

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

JJ-175

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!

The two week wait.

I am struggling to find the right words to capture both what I am feeling tonight, and what transpired over the last few days.

When I last wrote, my wife had just wrapped up her egg retrieval and I was hesitant to document how many eggs we got. I follow so many blogs of other couples who are attempting co-IVF like we are (some of whom seem to be flying over each hurdle effortlessly, and others who appear to be struggling with this process). I also follow a lot of heterosexual women who are on this IVF journey because they truly have no other choice – many of whom have gone through this process several times over with empty arms, heavy hearts, and hopes that the next attempt will be the one that works.

So I am hesitant to dig into some of these details for two reasons:

  • I do not want my joy to EVER cause even a small twinge of pain for my fellow IVF-ers (or women on this journey via another assisted reproductive channel). I truly want us ALL to have healthy babies.
  • Our journey could still end similarly and I could be getting excited only to have my heart broken later in this process.

I also know that the more I read of others’ stories, the more I feel like I have a community. I read some of your blogs and feel like we are old friends – I wait eagerly for the next chapter and my wife and I smile at so many of our similarities with you all. I feel like I owe it to the part of myself who feels connected to the other blogs, forums (however old they may be) and articles that have gotten us through these past few months, to share it all. I also think we owe it to the friends and family who will (hopefully) read all of this later to better understand this journey.

So I will continue to share: good and bad. And I will continue to look to you all for support in those rough moments, and to share joy in the great ones.

Back to the matter at hand….retrieval day.

So doctor came out to gleefully inform me that he retrieved 40 eggs from my wife. Yes, 40. All of our research on PCOS allowed us to predict this with relative accuracy (in fact, my wife actually guessed that it would be 40 the night before her procedure). We approached the news with caution, as our research also advised us that when it comes to PCOS and high retrieval counts, very often: many of the eggs are not mature or able to become viable embryos.

So on Thursday, we received a call from the embryologist that of the 40, 29 were mature and able to be ICSI-ed (fertilized) and of the 29, 24 appeared to be continuing to develop normally.

The weekend passed by relatively quickly and effortlessly as my sister, brother-in-law, and two nieces were in town (they are 4 months and 20 months) and we spent a lot of time together. That helped to keep my stress at bay as well. My wife and I have been facetiming with them pretty often so that we can see our nieces and vice versa since they all live about 2 hours away, and this was the first time that my niece really clung to me for a large portion of the weekend. She gave hugs freely, and even put her arms up to be picked up and then snuggled her head into my shoulder for a few minutes. It may have been because my mom (“mom-mom” who is literally her FAVORITE person in this world) wasn’t home at the time, but I’ll take hugs and snuggles any day from any of my sweet nieces.

So by the time Monday arrived, it kind of felt like any other day as the weekend had been so busy. I set my alarm for 4:50am so I could take a quick shower and prepare myself for the appointment at 8 (which was an hour away and we needed to be 45 minutes early for), but I got up at 4 to go to the bathroom (for some reason, the progesterone shots make me pee about 3x/night) and couldn’t fall back asleep.

I was advised to drink 60 oz of water before the procedure, so I started drinking about 20 minutes into our car ride, and I felt pretty comfortable until I sat down in the chair in the waiting room: then it started to hit me, and I began to get irritable waiting to go back.

We were taken into a changing room, and I had to put on a gown, hair cap, and slipper socks, and my wife had to put a yellow apron over her clothes, booties over her shoes, and a hair cap over her hair as well.

We were then brought into a staging area, and the nurse asked me to sit in a reclined arm chair and then draped a warm hospital blanket over me. She went over all of my discharge instructions (very light activity for the first day and absolutely no work, followed by a reduced activity level for the rest of the week: light walking, no heavy lifting, and food/drink as if I am pregnant (i.e. no alcohol, tylenol for pain, etc.)

After she wrapped up, we waited with bated breath (and a very full bladder at this point) for the embryologist. By the time she came in, I was irritable and ready to get on with the procedure, and she sat down and showed us a picture of our embryo on paper. She explained that it was a grade ABA (more on the grading here: http://www.advancedfertility.com/blastocystimages.htm)

She also showed us how the cells were beginning to rupture through the cell wall, indicating that the embryo was “hatching”. We didn’t get a copy of the photo, unfortunately, and I meant to ask her to email us a copy and forgot. I am going to try to call tomorrow for a photo.

Anyway, we then asked how many were going to be frozen, and were taken aback when she said, “we have ONE ready for the freezer.” My eyes immediately started to well up, and I was struggling to comprehend how we’d gone from 24 all the way down to 2, but when we asked about any others she said we “may have two more for the freezer tomorrow. It depends on how they do.”

At this point, my bladder was about to look much like the hatching embryo and I was sad and frustrated. Even my stoic wife – who literally never gets emotional – turned away and started to cry after the embryologist left the room. She felt like it was her fault, and we were both so sad because this procedure cost so much, and we know we can’t afford it again, so we so desperately wanted all of this to work and to have backup embryos in case the first try fails.

So the nurse popped her head back in, and asked if we needed anything. At that point, I was standing with the blanket wrapped around me as I was in too much pain to sit, and she escorted me to the bathroom and handed me a cup and encouraged me to fill it twice and dump it so that I could be a little more relaxed during the procedure. I was too afraid that my lack of control would hinder the doctor’s ability to get a good read on things, so I filled 3/4 of one cup and waddled back to the room just in time to chat with the doctor.

She was not our normal doctor either, but I really liked her. She was calm, direct, and just a tiny bit funny. We told her how sad we were about the embryologist’s news, and she told us not to worry – she said that the drop off we experienced was normal for such a large retrieval, and that the quality and ability of this embryo to succeed and turn into a healthy baby was not related to the fact that so many died off. She got us excited and ushered us into the surgery suite to start the procedure.

I walked into a room surrounded by windows, and laid down on a table with the largest, most cushioned strirrups I’ve put my feet in, to-date. My wife sat by my head and we held hands as they inserted the speculum and pressed down on my bladder with an external ultrasound wand. I asked the doctor if she’d ever been peed on during the procedure to which she responded, “What answer do you want?” “No..” I hesitantly laughed. “No, then,” she told me. Then, the embryologist told us to glance back over our shoulder to see our magnified embryo on the screen. I started to tear up a little at that point.

Then, the doctor washed my cervix (don’t ask me what that entailed – all I know is that I had the speculum and about five pounds of pressure on my slightly emptied but still-painful bladder) and a moment later, the embryologist came in with the embryo in a catheter, which we were able to watch on the ultrasound as it was placed in my uterus (a tiny “flash” on the ultrasound monitor). Everyone was so wonderful and excitedly pointed out what everything was on the screen. I think images on that screen are FINALLY starting to become discernible to me (after what? 10 ultrasounds, now?).

After that, the doctor pulled everything out, and said, “I can’t lie to you. Now that we’re done, I will tell you: I’ve been peed on.” I tried not to laugh, and silently gave thanks that I wasn’t on that list. They then gave us five minutes to lay there together before they came back to escort us out. More tears, and a general feeling of disbelief. I have literally wanted to experience pregnancy and have a child for longer than I can remember, and here I was – possibly at the beginning of that process. Here WE were, possibly on the first day of becoming “moms” (even if it is to a tiny embryo), and I just couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. (and that feeling is scaring me a little as I just cannot fathom any of this being real. It just feels like something I have wanted and hoped for, for so long and if I allow myself to give in to the excitement, then maybe something will go wrong. I know it’s horrible, but its honestly how I feel).

So after we walked back, they ushered me to a bathroom where I had a surprisingly difficult time trying to pee. My back started burning and my legs were shaking, and I was able to go a tiny bit before a wave of nausea washed over me (which – LITERALLY – never, ever happens) and I had to stand by the toilet for a few moments swallowing that saliva that you know your mouth is only producing as your stomach is ready to turn itself inside out. Fortunately,  I didn’t vomit, and after a few minutes I recovered enough to finish going to the bathroom and get dressed. I fell asleep in the car, and for a while on the couch when we got home, and woke up to a yellowed sky due to the solar eclipse, which added to the overall surrealness of the day. We wrapped the day up with some slow cooker pulled pork that I set up the night before the procedure so that we wouldn’t have to worry about cooking and could have a semi-healthy meal, and then fell asleep to a netflix movie after my progesterone shot.

We did get a call this morning from the embryologist, though, and she left me a message letting me know that we had FIVE embryos that were frozen. We were ELATED as that was SO much better than we’d expected the day prior, and she called me later in the day to say that a sixth survived as well. So final results are as follows:

Wife has PCOS. Went to retrieval on 8/16 at which point 40 eggs were retrieved. She did NOT develop OHSS.

Of the 40, 29 were mature and 24 of the 29 fertilized normally. We dropped down to 16 for our Day 3 count, and had 1 implanted on 8/21. Of the remaining embryos to be frozen:

  • 1 is grade 5AA
  • 1 is grade 5AB
  • 3 are grade 5BB
  • 1 is grade 6BB

 

So now….we wait. Did any of you take a pregnancy test during the 2WW? If so, are you happy that you did or do you regret it? Any advice for not going crazy?

In the meantime, we are wishing, hoping, praying and trying to put good energy and love back into the world (God knows, it needs it right now). Hope you’re all on the verge of great news. ❤

BFP

Champs.

My beautiful, strong, amazing wife made it through her retrieval today with flying colors. They pulled a really solid number of eggs, and we are waiting on a call tomorrow morning from the embryologist to find out how many of them were fertilized. I don’t know why, but I thought we’d leave knowing more – like how good the eggs looked, but we’ll know so soon that it’s not too bad.

We arrived at the clinic at 7:30 for her 8am appt, and we knew I’d be taken back at 8:30 for bloodwork and ultrasound. She signed in when we got there, and I set up my laptop to get work done – assuming we’d be waiting a bit, and my wife walked away to use the bathroom and a nurse came out and started calling my name. Since I hadn’t yet signed in myself, I didn’t respond and someone else then came out to ask if I knew my name was being called. They later explained that the doctor had a few moments before going back to start the two retrieval procedures he had lined up, so they wanted to take advantage of our earliness to squeeze in my ultrasound before he was tied up. I was so confused at that moment, though, and I didn’t know if I’d see my wife before her procedure. I just wanted to kiss her goodbye and tell her I loved her and was being escorted through one door for my ultrasound as she was being escorted into another across the room to wait for her procedure, and we were being separated while waving to one another like a scene in a sappy love movie.

After I composed myself, the doctor (not our usual guy, unfortunately) came in for my ultrasound. He popped in the wand with record speed and told me immediately that my uterus looked beautiful and that the fluid that had shown up on my last ultrasound was gone and my lining was at 10mm (which he was very pleased with). After he wrapped up, I met with a nurse who drew a blood sample and discussed my new medication calendar (which included the introduction of an oral steriod to prevent my body from rejecting the embryo) and progesterone in oil (a viscous liquid that is injected intramuscular-ly with a very long needle) in addition to my estrogen pill, prenatal vitamin, and baby asprin (a regimen I’ve been on for a few weeks, now).

I ended up back in the surgical waiting area with enough time to see my wife before her procedure (which was AMAZING) and after about 45 minutes of waiting (only about 20 of which were for the actual procedure) the doctor came out to tell me the results, followed by a nurse who brought me back to see her.

She was groggy for the first few minutes, but otherwise great. No major pain (just some abdominal cramping, which we expected) and she’s been chugging water and gatorade all day to try to keep herself hydrated and prevent the OHSS. She also has to monitor her weight as a key indicator of OHSS is rapid weight gain due to water retention, so I am keeping a close eye on her (not that she needs me as she’s tough as nails).

Tonight, I had my first progesterone shot (which I described above). We watched several videos on administering the shot, and followed tips that we found from fellow bloggers and online forums:

  • Iced the area for 5-10 minutes prior to injection
  • Warmed the bottle of the medication in a cup of warm water (it is an oil-based shot, and typically oils are more viscous at colder temperatures and become more thin and pourable at higher temperatures). That being said, we used warm water – not hot – as I wasn’t trying to cook my muscle tissue with hot sesame oil.
  • Laid down on the bed with some relaxing music (which was Rhianna for me tonight, haha)
  • Rubbed the area for a few moments afterward

I wanted to take a picture from my perspective of the shot, but my wife yelled at me because she was nervous so – no photo. Then I got nervous and began to dread the shot in the seconds leading up to it piercing my skin – though I’d been feeling fairly nonchalant about it all day. Turns out – the seconds of worry were for naught, as I literally could not feel the shot. Like – I kind of felt it pierce skin, and then I asked her what she was waiting for because I was starting to get nervous and she said, “I’m done!”

I totally thought she was kidding, but it was so easy and painless (and I am a HUGE baby when it comes to pain). I honestly think the ice helped a lot and where she injected the shot as well. They say you can inject the shot into any muscle, but the upper, outer quadrant of your buttcheek is the best place. Sooo…that’s my story. Hope the details help someone else to have a painless shot, too.

(Though I told my wife I’m partially nervous that she injected it into the wrong place and I’m going to end up with an issue from the oil in the wrong part of my body…but she swears it’s right).

So….5 day holding pattern. Monday is the big transfer and I don’t expect that much will happen between now and then.

We still have our eyes on that house, but are sitting tight to see how this all pans out, first. Still thinking of everyone else out there and hoping for good news for you all.

embryosinfavor

Tomorrow’s the day!

It feels like we just started this journey – literally – February feels like YESTERDAY, but here we are – on the eve of our retrieval, trying to calm our nerves and keep our fears at bay, and fill our hearts with the hope of a bunch of healthy, thriving little embryos.

I thought that it might be nice to honor my rockstar of a wife (whose experience I haven’t blogged very much about as she’s generally more private and less eager to write than I, but who is also the one going through this egg retrieval process, so that her eggs with our donor sperm can help to create our future baby) with a little co-authored entry in Q&A fashion. I’d seen this done in another blog a while back and thought it was a great idea, so I’ll ask her a few questions about this process and transcribe her response into text for you all (whoever “you all” are) as well as for us and posterity 🙂

How do you feel heading into the retrieval tomorrow? 

Excited and nervous: I’m excited to see how many eggs we get, but really nervous that I’m going to develop OHSS [Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome – a condition that can happen more frequently to women with PCOS and with which symptoms include:

  • Mild to moderate abdominal pain
  • Abdominal bloating or increased waist size
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Tenderness in the area of your ovaries
  • Sudden weight increase of more than 6.6 pounds (3 kilograms) (borrowed from the Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-hyperstimulation-syndrome-ohss/symptoms-causes/dxc-20263586]

How have you felt – in general – throughout this process? 

Other than being pretty bloated, not bad. And uncontrollably emotional these past few days. 

Okay, so that’s the physical part: how do you feel emotionally about all of this? 

I just don’t want to let you down if something goes wrong. I also don’t know if I could do this again. I just hope we have a ton of embryos in the freezer [when this is all done] so we don’t have to worry about that. And I’m pretty sick of being fat [she isn’t – she gained a few pounds – probably partially water weight – and looks amazing, but I’m telling it like she’s saying it…] 

What do you want to tell people who might be getting ready to go through this? 

Be super patient with [your spouse] and start saving money. And don’t watch too many IVF blogs or watch too many vlogs, because you’re going to freak yourself out. You just gotta do it. 

What was your favorite part of this entire process so far? 

I actually like the ultrasounds daily at this point and seeing how big my follicles got. I like to see progress. 

What do you wish I knew about how this process has been for you? 

You can be more emotionally supportive. 

What else do you want the blogging world or families to know about any of this? 

I feel very lucky to have a wife who would give up everything to carry my baby, and I don’t know anyone else who would do that for me. (We’ve discussed this a lot. I literally cannot wait to do this – it doesn’t feel like a chore, or a burden AT ALL.)

I’m not going to lie, the one about me being more supportive hurt my heart a little, but it didn’t come as a surprise as we’ve talked about that pretty extensively over the last few days. This last week has been tough – I’ve been low on emotion and she’s been high and its usually the COMPLETE opposite, so we’re both struggling to figure out how to manage these feelings and how to tease out what is related to the medication and what’s related to the overall process and how overwhelming this all can be.

Overall, I think we balance one another out well, and I think I mentioned previously – I cannot imagine another human being by my side – this woman keeps me calm when I’m going crazy, pulls me in when I’m floating away, and makes me feel safe when I’m terrified. Tomorrow is really scary. We’re hopeful because the doctor told us at her appointment yesterday that our case seems to mirror another co-ivf case that he did a few weeks ago that yielded GREAT results for the couple, but we really do read and watch so much online and can’t help but get sucked in by the horror stories. All we want is one perfect embryo to transfer (at this point, it is looking like Monday) and a few solid embryos to freeze for the future or in the event that this first attempt doesn’t work as planned. Prayers, positive thoughts, good juju – whatever you believe in, please! And as always – back at you ladies. I have so much respect for ANYONE going through this retrieval process: you’re all rockstars and your partners are so, so fortunate to have you. What is it that the TTC community says so often? Baby dust….baby dust for all!

See you on the other side of this retrieval process, tomorrow.

Birthday shots.

In my 20s, birthday shots had a slightly different meaning, but this year – on my wife’s birthday, I took the first of – at least a few weeks of – lupron shots. So far, so good. I am giving them in my thigh (the other option is in my stomach area, which really freaks me out for some reason). No bruising, no side effects – yet. I’m fairly certain that our nurse indicated that this shot is supposed to put me into temporary menopause so that I am not producing eggs and my body is ready for the transfer eventually, but don’t quote me on that. The meeting was four hours long, and I did my best to write down and follow as much as I could – but anything I forget I just call the office about as it comes up.

Our nurse made us a beautiful calendar which maps out each medication that I have to take each day (bless her heart), so the chances are slim that I will miss anything and my wife is AMAZING with keeping track of the little details. When I traveled recently, she sent me emoji reminders of my pill times via text as she knew I’d be attending work dinners, and she wanted to keep me on track without taking me away from work. I’m REALLY lucky. I am not sure how I’d make it through this process with any other person by my side.

We heard back from the insurance company  and they gave us the final denial of coverage,  with the reason for denial listed as “no diagnosis of infertility”. The woman from the clinic called and said that they told HER it was because of lack of exposure to sperm, but since the reason they us was the lack of infertility diagnosis, we plan to follow up with a letter our doctor provided us with details on my wife’s PCOS diagnosis. Fingers crossed. We’re hopeful, but certainly not holding our breaths.

We are taking a loan for a bulk of the procedure, and using part of our savings for the rest. We didn’t want to deplete our savings entirely, because we are also hoping to relocate within the next year or two and would like to have cash available to do so, if needed. We currently live in a small condo, with just enough room to expand with a baby, but we have little storage space, and close neighbors so I’ll probably feel guilty on a regular basis thinking that I’m keeping them up with the late night symphony of baby wails. We aren’t searching seriously at this point, but keeping an eye on the market as we want to be ready to jump if something that really fits our needs pops up.

When Denise (finance lady) called to advise us of the denial of coverage, she first left me a monotone voicemail, and when I called back for a bit of clarity (notably upset) she informed me that “they did everything they were supposed to do” and when I told her I felt as though they didn’t entirely advocate for us and that we felt as though we may need to evaluate another clinic before proceeding forward, she suggested that we need to do what we need to do. Not so much as an “I’m sorry. This sucks.” I’m not expecting us to be best friends, or even cordial acquaintances, but when you are delivering heartbreaking news, you could at least muster a compassionate tone of voice, and a “this stinks.” Maybe I’m expecting too much. Maybe they DID do everything exactly right, but folks: we have gotten SO many different stories from people with the same insurance company but different situations, people with the same situation and a different employer, people who work in medical billing, etc. that we really didn’t know what was true and what wasn’t and couldn’t have forgiven ourselves if we didn’t try. And she was argumentative from appointment #1 so I don’t feel too bad about pushing back on her.  We pushed so hard and fought so vehemently, because:

  1.  Regardless of current law, what the insurance company is doing is wrong (but legally they can do it anyway).
  2. If there was some sliver of a chance that our fighting could help us hold onto a few thousand dollars that we could use ON our new family and not to build it, we wanted to at least try.

But, the cards fell, the answer was no, and while we are appealing it, we feel confident that the answer likely won’t change. So rather than continue to be consumed by this, we want to press forward – biological clocks are ticking, and we are simply hoping and praying right now that the one egg retrieval and two transfers that we will get with the package we are purchasing will result in a healthy baby. If not, we’ll head back to the drawing board.

I did mention to the doctor that I was disappointed by our interactions with Denise (since she plays such a crucial role in the process, and everyone else has been so kind and warm) and he thanked me for the feedback and vowed to pass it on. Although the practice isn’t tiny, I am fairly confident that they all talk (when I call to ask a nurse question, I hear from finance a few minutes later and vice versa), so I probably now have the reputation of the mean lesbian lady, but I’m trying not to care.

Right now, we’re targeting a retrieval sometime around the 3rd week of August, with transfer shortly thereafter.

This coming week will bring my mock transfer and hysterosonogram, and the following week my wife and I each have appointments (blood work, I think). My wife also got news that she has elevated levels of a thryoid hormone so she’s been put on syntheroid to regulate that. Hopefully we don’t have any unexpected guests in the near future. Our counter currently looks like a small pharmacy, and the number of open bottles seems to be growing by the day.

Positive vibes to you all for good news – wherever you are in the process.

 

 

The countdown is on!!

Way back in January, my wife and I discussed starting the journey to a baby around August/September. Back then, I felt such an intense ache for everything to speed up – for time to pass more quickly, even though I knew our year was jam packed with life events and activities that would keep us more than occupied throughout that span of time.

Little did I know that my job would throw us a wrench and add in a LOT of unexpected traveling, so this time seems to have passed even MORE quickly than we could have anticipated, but I’m still no less eager to get started.

Throughout this time, we’ve gone back and forth with the insurance company, pored over donor websites, and thought long and hard about how we would proceed: IVF? IUI? At-home attempts? After talking to some new friends and old, reading numerous blogs, watching numerous vlogs(?), and doing extensive research, we decided that no matter the cost: IVF was our chosen path forward. That being said, we are submitting one last formal request for insurance company coverage (especially after learning that my wife has polycystic ovaries which could potentially make this process slightly more challenging) and we are awaiting the results of that request – we will hopefully know with certainty on Tuesday.

Regardless, we cannot be too upset as our clinic worked with us to put together a multi-cycle package that will give us two attempts to get pregnant (assuming, fingers crossed, prayers, good wishes, and positive thoughts) that we walk away from her egg retrieval with more than one viable embryo for less than we had initially thought we’d pay for one (via co IVF – if you’ve read the other posts you know all of that drama). We also picked up all of the meds for our first round yesterday and after copays, we walked away spending a whopping total of $250 and change (which seems like a lot, but for IVF meds is AMAZING!!). We are counting our blessings and considering ourselves immensely fortunate.

IVF MEDS

(This doesn’t include a ton of stuff that we elected to not remove from the fridge for the photo)

Yesterday, we also had our nurse consult during which we learned how to administer the many shots we will soon have to give each other (well, mostly give ourselves but there is a big, bad intramuscular injection that my wife has to give me in the butt….I’m sure there is a good joke in there somewhere that I will appreciate when I look back on this one day, but I’m honestly just a little terrified of the needle at this point!), and discussed the timing. Initially, the nurse asked me to call on the first day of my next period to schedule my baseline blood tests and ultrasounds, but after learning that I was on day 4 of my current cycle, she snagged the ultrasound tech, and got everything done while I was there, and sent me on my way with instructions to begin birth control immediately, which is how my cycle will ultimately be synced to my wife’s. We’re now waiting on her period to start, as well as for a call back from the clinic to get a sonohysterogram and mock transfer scheduled so they can make certain that there are no issues with my uterus, and so they know exactly how they will be implanting the embryo when we get to that date (which should be sometime toward the end of next month if all continues to move according to the plan we assembled with her, yesterday).

Our nurse was kind of amazing – we were with her for almost four hours, discussing every detail of the process and getting my testing and ultrasound done (which was an unexpected surprise!) She encouraged us to call with any question or unknown symptom we may encounter throughout this process, and made us feel so comfortable. Her kindness and warmth was a stark contrast to the head finance honcho (we’ll call her Denise for the purposes of this blog) who we had the displeasure of meeting with again yesterday. We thought we made progress with her the last time we saw her a few weeks back, and she was just as ornery as ever and seemingly forgot everything we’d discussed during the last visit. She is the sole reason why I feel very confident that we will not be seeing any coverage by the insurance company, but either way – we’ll be happy to be finished working with her (hopefully very soon!)

The ultrasound tech confirmed that everything looked good, and found a total of 21 egg follicles (to the 18 the doctor found the last time) and although that isn’t super pertinent to our current situation, it just reassures us that we should have a smooth journey to baby# 2 should we elect to conceive via IUI. We ordered what we were advised by the clinic would be more than enough donor sperm (7 vials) to pursue this round of IVF, plus several rounds of IUI in the future.

So, folks: we are ready. We’ve never been praying so hard for an expeditious period (as well as good news from the clinic on a date to do the mock transfer in the very near future!) and we’ll be getting this party officially started.

partygif

We got the goods.

So today was kind of a momentous day.

After Friday’s appointment with the doctor, we spent the evening checking out potential donors (I mean, let’s be honest: we’ve been looking at donors for the past few months, and finally got serious on Friday) and narrowed our list down to a short few. We then purchased a subscription to view more information on the cryobank’s website, and – through process of elimination and our most most basic gut instincts – found the donor we pretty much knew was “our guy”:

  • His ancestry is a combination of parts of each of ours
  • His personality is similar to both of us, and he seems like someone we would generally respect and appreciate as a human being (which is important, should our future children ever want to get in touch with him)
  • He is open to being contacted one day (which we felt was really important)
  • He’s intelligent

We also found out after reaching out to our clinic today that my tests from last week came back and I am CMV negative (which I NEVER thought I would be as I’ve done a lot of reading on it and was exposed to a lot of the things which are thought to be linked to CMV as a child) and fortunately – so he is, which made our lives a lot easier as it is suggested that CMV negative carriers utilize CMV negative donors. We also found out that my AMH level is 4.4, which the nurse said is above average and makes sense considering the follicle count that the doctor advised us of last week. So I have a green light should we elect to conceive baby#2 via IUI. So I placed an incredibly expensive order for sperm that will be stored until we are ready to proceed (we didn’t want to risk losing out on this person since we felt there were so few individuals who met all of our criteria: and this guy did, and THEN some!)

I really wanted to tell someone, but we are staying tight lipped about this process until after we successfully conceive, so for now…our dog knows all of the exciting details (and we hope she won’t tell).

We then got the disappointing news that our clinic appointment – which was supposed to be tomorrow – got pushed out by two weeks (to be fair, they were ready to meet with us next week, but I’ll be traveling again). So we now have to wait for any additional info about the costs of the actual procedure (including how much all of the medication will cost as we still don’t know which medication we’ll be taking and are supposed to better understand all of that during our appointment) and I’ll have to come up with ANOTHER excuse to duck out of work for two hours, as the one I had given my boss for tomorrow won’t work again in two weeks. Ugh.

Part of me thinks I should tell my boss now, but I am also another few days away from learning more about the fate of my current role, so I don’t want to say or do anything that will affect my ability to keep this job beyond this year.

So many things to think about, but at the moment: we rest, and celebrate overcoming another big hurdle today, and patiently wait another two weeks for the next step in this process.

Wishing you all good luck wherever you are in the process!