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Hang in there

22 May

It’s been quite a week.  Today would have been our first ultrasound.  I knew it wasn’t going to happen even when we scheduled it.  It still hurts to see the appointment come and go.  I am officially un-pregnant as my hcg is now under 2.  The good news is, that’s the last needle poke for a while.

The next question is why?  As usual, we have no explanation.  These things tend to be physical, chromosomal, or possibly immunological.  Because we did CHG, we already know the two that were implanted were considered chromosomally normal.  I was hoping to get some information from the immunology Dr. showing that it was an immune issue.  Their tests came back and showed that no, there were no immune causes.  We tested during the pregnancy and found that my immune system was responding fine with everything coming back as normal or slightly elevated.  So there goes that theory.

My new theory is that my unexplained repeat pregnancy losses all have one thing in common:  me.  Since I can’t pinpoint any specific cause, not even a specific body part or system that is causing this I am really left to just blame myself-  me as a person or my behaviors.  Maybe I should have grilled that burger longer… maybe I should have not been weeding so much…  Maybe I should have just given up a long time ago and started the adoption process.  By blaming myself it is almost easier to accept than to just think the world is a random scary place where unfair unexplained things can happen to anyone at any moment, or in my case, repeatedly happening to the same person again and again. Self-blame naturally leads me to feeling guilt, shame and embarrassment which results in me wanting to just isolate myself from the world and hide.  Each time I get the question “how are you?” I force myself to smile and say “great” when I really just want to tell the truth, but I can’t, at least not to most people.  Since I can’t tell the truth to most people it just takes so much energy to hide the truth and act happy that I prefer to hide at home alone.

The secret keeping and isolation that comes along with RPL is almost as bad as the RPL.  I feel like all my friends just had babies and jumped on a boat and left me abandoned on a deserted island.  I can see their happy status updates on Facebook and we see each other at BBQ’s with their little ones, but they seem miles away.  I feel like I have only 2 choices : be alone or be with friends and feel awkward.  When I stay away from them I feel even more guilty that now I am pushing them away.  I am to blame for my own isolation.    I am not sure what to do.  When we all get together with the kids I am just miserable. I feel like a giant spotlight is on me and my failure to have a baby.  Now that all of our friends (even the gay ones) have at least one baby it’s all they want to talk about and I feel totally awkward around them.  It’s just embarrassing to be there when they all start talking about being parents.  I hate being so lonely, but I hate these awkward social interactions even more. I want so badly to have good news and be able to rejoin my friends, but instead I just feel ashamed and embarrassed that we are still at square one 4 and half years later.  Actually it isn’t even square one, it’s more like negative six.

 

Here is some interesting information about the Hang in There Cat-

The image, of a tiny kitten hanging off a tree branch (or rope in the case above) with the words “Hang In There” has been around since the early 1970s. Many have tried to reproduce the original’s genius, while others, such as The Simpsons, have parodied the motivational poster. In ”The Twisted World of Marge Simpson” Marge sees the poster’s 1968 copyright date and says, “…determined or not, that cat must be long dead. That’s kind of a downer.”

One of the cats from the posters passed away last October, to which singer John Mayer tweeted, “That cat from the “hang in there” poster just died. Makes a man just wanna give up.”

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Back in the game

30 Jan

Thank you all so much for your support on my last post.  It just means the world to know that I am not the only one who feels alone in this.

After a cycle that was a complete bust (unclear if I ovulated at all, abnormal early bleeding) I am happy to report that my hope is renewed. We have a clean slate this cycle and a good start.  We got the clear to try again with Femara last week and we saw two big follicles on my right ovary on Saturday at our mid cycle checkup.  I know an OPK at home is really all you need, but there is something about actually seeing the follicles on the screen that just boosted my confidence.   After so many bad pregnancy ultrasounds these mid-cycle scans are the only ones I can honestly say I look forward to, proof that my body can do something right.  On a more optimistic side, I like to hope that if things work out I can have memories of my child before they were even conceived!

My RE said they looked ready to go any minute now, and sure enough the next morning my OPK gave me the double lines to confirm the surge.  I could even feel some aching down there in the ovary zone confirming something was definitely going on.  With three days in a row of trying, I’d say we’ve done all we can and now it is just up to time, fate and some higher power to decide if this month will grace us with a positive pee stick.  There is a lot of pressure on this cycle because we decided to move ahead with IVF for our next cycle.  I think it is the right way to go after four years of trying this naturally, but it’s a whole new ball game and not one I thought I’d  have to get into after having being able to conceive naturally five times already.  It’s not clear that we would have better odds with IVF to prevent miscarriage, but it would just (hopefully) speed up the rate at which I am getting pregnant.  Hopefully between the immunology treatments, the natural cycle and the IVF we’ll have a healthy normal pregnancy sometime soon and if we are really lucky it makes it out alive.  Two week wait here we come!

…..

Post Continued>

Thanks guys.  Just when I thought I had it all together I just got hit with another giddy pregnancy announcement at a group dinner.  Forcing a smile hurt as much as ever.  Do those announcements ever get any easier?

Have it Uruguay!

21 Dec

Mr. Star and I leave for Uruguay tomorrow for the Christmas holidays.  Did you say Uruguay? Yes, Uruguay, South America.  It’s that little country directly south of Brazil and north of Argentina.  That is where his family is originally from.  It will be my second time going to visit and first time during the holidays.  Being south of the equator this is their summertime which means it is beach season.  Yeah!  To prepare I’ve been ramping up the Spanish for the past two months with a tutor and splurging on random comforts like new inflatable neck pillows for the impending marathon flight in each direction.  While I am gone it will be a bit quiet here on the blog.

Here’s a quick update on the baby-making front.  On Sunday I got a BFN.  It was the day after my cat died, so double boo!   This time I went straight to the lab instead of relying on the old pee sticks which failed me before.  It was our first month of trying since our new Immunology Dr. (from the Dr. Alan Beers Center) gave us the green light and first attempt since miscarriage #5 in July.  I am crossing my fingers for month #2.  I was able to see my RE doc today for my Day 3 ultrasound to get the green light from her for a prescription for Femara.  The last three pregnancies were all Femara assisted with success on the second month.  Well, here we are again going into the second month.  Will I get luck a fourth time?  When deciding if we try again naturally or move on to more aggressive treatments (like IUI or IVF) I had told myself we should at least try Femara again as it was so effective before.  If we get a BFN again this month I am going to have to consider plan B.  It seems like I already got lucky getting pregnant five times naturally, what is the likelihood I could get pregnant so easily again?  Each time it seemed like a miracle. Something worked!  Even though they all ended up the same way, it was reassuring that SOMETHING was working offering up that little sliver of hope each time that maybe this time will be different.  I don’t know why but part of me worries that I’ve had my five chances and they were squandered.  I feel almost greedy expecting a sixth one.  Trying to get pregnant naturally a sixth time after five losses defies a certain sense of logic, esp. as I am now four years older than when I started this.  Feeling completely undeserving of another try, we cross our fingers and try again.

Note-  The house is SO empty now without our little kitty.  I am so grateful to be going away even if it’s going to be an intense experience with the in-laws in a foreign land.

We’re back!

28 Nov

So after a long hiatus from trying and failing we are back to trying again to get this family started.   Since it’s been so long since I’ve posted I feel like I should give a recap of what’s been going on.  After 5 consecutive pregnancy losses (each at 8-10 weeks) we dragged ourselves to the Alan Beers Center in August to look at possible immunology causes and treatments.  According to their nurses they have an 85% success rate, that is IF you follow all their recommendations.  So we bit the bullet and went for it.  After spending thousands on blood tests we were told I had elevated Natural Killer Cells and low Leukocyte Antibodies.  Based on this we were advised to go to Mexico twice for Leukocyte Immune Therapy to treat both issues.

We did it (see previous post) with two trips to Mexico and got retested to see if our levels improved.  Our test results came back today and (drumroll) our numbers are excellent now!

  • LAD
    Before :19.7
    Now: 95.9 (Excellent!  We were just shooting for 50 to be in the “healthy” range.)
  • NK Assay 50:1
    Before: 21
    Now: 14.5 (normal, no longer elevated)
  • NK Assay 25:1
    Before: 11
    Now: 7.1(normal, no longer elevated)
The only test number that is still in the problem zone is my CD56 ( These are the NK cells in the uterus) They went from 19 to 17.8 (and should be 12 or less).  Because we have elevated CD56, they want us to do an infusion of IVIG if/when I get a positive pregnancy test. This is supposed to help”calm” my killer immune response in the uterus during pregnancy.  I am not at all excited to do this one as IVIG still creeps me out a bit plus it is pricey, $2500 per infusion.
I started Femara this month to up my odds (my last three pregnancies happened in month 2 on Femara).  Here’s hoping we get lucky in the first few months again.
On the emotional front I’ve just been crashing.  The anxiety from waiting for all the treatments and tests and wondering if any of this makes any difference and if we we will EVER have a healthy baby is back in full force.  Sometimes it was even hard to read others’ blogs on the subject which is why I stayed away.
January will mark our four year anniversary for trying for a baby.  With each loss I felt my own level of confidence and satisfaction with life just plummet further.  Four years later, this whole thing has gone from fun to a complete nightmare full of humiliation, heartbreak and a constant fear of time running out.
Right now I am trying to think positive, relax and get into a low stress mode that is more conducive to baby making.  According to my fertility friend calendar my peak day will be on Thursday of this week.

Back from Nogales

9 Oct

We’re back!  We made the trip in less than 24 hours for our first round of LIT.  We need to have our second treatment in 3-5 weeks.  The treatment itself is not a big deal.  I got two injections which took less than 5 minutes.  The overhead was another story.  Crossing the US/Mexico border, visiting a random border town in Mexico, meeting all new faces may of whom spoke only broken English, definitely edgy and out there.

Here is a step-by-step of how it all went down:

1. We waited in Arizona for the van at the McDonalds at the scheduled time (11 AM).  (I skipped the whole fast food thing as I had an AMAZING breakfast at our hotel before we left.  I am still thinking about those waffles.  Mr. Star was fasting, but he never eats breakfast anyway so he wasn’t bothered)

2. We met Cesar our driver.  He was our guide for the day and picked us up in a Honda Odyssey.  He was a few minutes late so we were a bit nervous.  That particular location has zero cell service which didn’t help.  Mr. Star used GoogleTalk via the internet roaming to call the clinic and confirm he was coming which was reassuring.

3. We drove across the border through the gates.  We got some glances by the security but noone stopped us.  Apparently Mexico doesn’t check passports or IDs for people coming in.  The border itself is a fence over 30 feet high with rough terrain on both sides.

4.  We drove through the town of Nogales to the clinic.  When you enter you definitely feel like you’ve left the US and are now in a much lower income country as the roads are suddenly much crappier and the phone and electrical wiring is exposed and appears to be hung everywhere.  There is a lot of foot traffic and brightly painted cement buildings closed together with signs in Spanish.

5. We arrived at the clinic which is one of many offices that share the building. Cesar our guide walked us up through the lobby to the clinic on the second floor and we waited in the waiting room looking at the many photos of babies on the wall.

They smiled at us and told us to wait.  It seemed like we were the only non-Mexicans there and everyone was speaking Spanish.  We waited a good thirty minutes before the receptionist asked us to come back.  In the meantime I burned through their magazine collection including old issues of National Geographic and an issue of the local paper (in Spanish) including an ad for the clinic.

6. We meet Dr. Quiroga who asks us if we speak Spanish.  He is relieved when Mr. Star pipes up fluently, but then I let him know that I only speak a little.    In my attempt to practice my Spanish I answered some of his questions in Spanish, but it was weird.  It felt really odd to be turning a conversation about miscarriages into a Spanish lesson.  Fortunately it was just a screening and he got all the information he needed from our paperwork.

7. Mr. Star did his blood draw in the room next door which went smoothly.  He chatted away with the nurse in Spanish (lucky because she doesn’t speak English) and then we were done.  They took the blood and started the cleansing process to make the injections which takes about an hour.  It looks like the blood vials just get processed in the giant machine that was in the same room.

8.  Our driver, Cesar picked us up right afterwards and drove us to lunch across town.  He took us to a really nice restaurant called “La Roca” that had white table cloths and waiters in white jackets and bow ties.  It was a bit out of the way for walking so I was grateful he drove us there.

 There was even an old guy taking polaroids you could by, as if you were eating there to celebrate a special occasion.  I couldn’t resist the cheesiness so we got one.  The food was great and it almost felt like we were on vacation.

9.  Right at the end of the hour and after lunch Cesar picked us up and whisked us back to the clinic where I had the injections.  The needles with the cells were very small and the injections just went below the skin.  It was weird but not too painful.  Still, I was SO relieved it was over as I had really worked myself up about it.  The last visit for the injections was so quick Cesar just waited out front in the car and he was ready to take us back right away.

10.  We made our final cross back to the US sitting in the van watching the carnival atmosphere.  People were walking up and down the line of cars selling popsicles, music CDs and statues of the virgin Mary.  I wish I got a photo of the last one because it looked really funny.  When we got to the border the US agent asked what we were doing in Mexico.  Cesar said we were at “the clinic”.  I wondered if he knew what that meant.  He asked us then if we worked with “an agency”.  Mr. Star and I looked at each other not sure what he meant.  We answered “yes” and the agent seemed satisfied and moved us along very politely.

That was pretty much it.  We spent the rest of the day just killing time before our flight geocaching, site seeing at the national park and taking funny photos of cheesy road sign animal art.  I will let you all know how it goes.  Ultimately time will tell if this adventure amounted to anything more than a bizarre experience.

Tumacácori National Historical Park

Random Rooster Road Sign

Buen Viaje!

6 Oct

We leave tomorrow night for immunology treatment number one of LIT in Mexico. I am a little nervous about the whole process.  I am most nervous I will forget something important and then for some reason we get there and they can’t do the procedure.  When I get there I am sure I will get nervous about  everything else, like being poked with needle and traveling across the US/Mexico border with a flight to catch.

One of the fun parts of this is that we will get picked up in a van at the McDonald’s in Arizona near the Mexican border.   Awesome!  There’s nothing weird or sketchy about that, right?    The funny part is Mr. Star is not allowed to eat any greasy food prior to giving his “donation”.  So he will have to resist while we wait for the van.  Meanwhile I can go crazy if I want, go figure…

Here’s a photo of the pickup van..

Actually they sent us a long list of do’s and don’ts:

Instructions before receiving LIT:

  • Do not take any antihistamines (for both of you)
  • Do not drink alcohol. (for both of you)
  • Do not eat greasy food the day before (only for the donor)
  • Fast 5 hours before donating (only juice and water are allowed) (only for the donor)
  • Do not take any herbal treatments or herbal tea (for both of you)
  • Do not take any medicine to avoid flight sickness (for both of you)
  • Do not use any nasal spray. (for both of you)

After LIT you won’t be able to:

  • Work out in an exercise where you have to move your arms while you have the LIT reaction.
  • Be under the sun for 3 days after LIT.
  • Swim in the pool for 3 days after LIT or while you have the LIT reaction.
  • Take antihistamines flu medicines, nasal spray, herbal remedies, tea (for 3 weeks during LIT treatment)
  • Drink alcohol (one glass only is allowed).
  • Do not apply any lotion, cream, soap nor hydrocortisone on the LIT area. (while you have LIT reaction).

Here’s where we will be.

According to their site the clinic is the creme building.

Fingers crossed it all turns out ok and maybe even works!

Sidenote: Now that I am immersing myself in all things immunology I also borrowed some reading for the trip.   It is the well known book that I managed to not read until now called “Is Your Body Baby Friendly” (http://babyfriendlybook.com/).

Since I always knew that the answer to that question was a resounding “NO!” I never bothered to read it, skeptical of the whole immunology thing (esp. since my doctor didn’t support it).  Now that I am buying into it I figure it is about time to understand the science and rationale behind these treatments.  It is fascinating and focuses heavily on repeat loss and situations like mine.  Has anyone else read it?

Mexico here we come!

26 Sep

Thank you all for your posts!  After much thought and consideration we’ve made the decision to do the Leukocyte Immune Therapy in Nogales, Mexico.  It sounded really scary at first, but the more I’ve learned the more I am optimistic that it is exactly what we need right now and there is no reason to be scared.

Since my last post I’ve met several people who have either done LIT and had success or know others who have.  In fact when I raised my concern at my last Resolve support group that is very familiar with immunology treatments they thought it sounded quite normal and common.  I was concerned that it was not FDA approved, but as they pointed out, neither are a lot of treatments that are used for infertility like intralipids and IVIG.  In fact even the Femara I used to get pregnant on my last three pregnancies says right on the bottle that it should not be used for fertility.  It’s technically only approved for treating breast cancer.   Bottom line is I don’t need to get all bent over the FDA approval.

I was also weirded out because we had to go to another country, but I’ve since found that there are clinics all over the world that do it including in Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia.  I think I’d prefer to go to Canada and make it into a long weekend, but to be treated in Canada you need to be a Canadian citizen and covered under their national health insurance.  We are sticking with the clinic in Mexico because they accept patients from around the world and they work directly with our clinic so it is logistically easiest.

We now know three couples who did the same treatment in Mexico and are either pregnant or already had children as a result.   We’ll see what happens, but I am feeling quite hopeful that that this will help us more than IVF or IVF with PGD ever could.  Given our last two pregnancies that were tested came back normal,  my gut tells me it is not a chromosomal issue and the immune system issues really make a lot of sense.  We may not even need IVF (fingers crossed).

Based on the comments I feel like a pioneer stepping out into new territory.  I’ve gone a full 360 from thinking there was no hope to now I can’t wait to go and see my results!

On a funny note, did anyone see Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live last weekend.  (To jump to the joke go to 34:50).  Seth Meyers hit the nail on the head in a funny way with Facebook.

“On Thursday Facebook announced a new change to its interface called Timeline which will let users share pictures and videos in real time.  Because we’ve all been thinking Come at me faster other people’s ultrasounds!

The status text reads “Hey, look at my baby.  OMG!  He looks just like my Dad.  I’m so excited!”.  Hilarious.