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I wish i was a seahorse

2 Jun

We had our follow up consultation with the IVF doc yesterday.  I left the fall feeling crest fallen.  He advised that given our history that it wasn’t worth it to try again.  He thought it would be a waste of time.  Instead he recommended that our best shot at biological children was with a gestational carrier.  He confirmed what we thought all along.  There is something wrong with me that we currently have no treatment for.

The alternative to the gestational carrier would be to try IVF with an egg donor.  From there Mr. Star and I debated the pros and cons of each.  Since it sounds like our embryos are fine (as far as we know) the gestational carrier makes the most sense.  Also I think in the long term, having the biology will outweigh the carrying/giving birth connection.  At this point I think my embryos would be safest in anyone other than me.  Hell, I think even Snookie could be a good surrogate at this point.

While I had suspicions of this all along I also had deluded fantasies that if we just kept trying one of these days something would work.  Even now I have fantasies that we will get pregnant naturally and magically have a healthy full term baby.  I’d heard so many anecdotal stories that ended with this.  Why couldn’t that happen to us?  The statistics seemed to be on our side, at least in the beginning.  70% of women who have had 3 losses go on and have a healthy pregnancy.  Remember that?  Once it gets to 6 losses the odds are down to only 40%.  So after 10 are your chances only 0%?  Maybe statistics in this case are not very helpful, or even applicable.  The statistical odds of having 6 miscarriages are so low that I don’t think anyone can really explain what someone in that situation can expect.

Changing gears really feels like giving up, especially considering how long we’ve been on this path.  Part of me is grateful for his honesty and not getting our hopes up for another try that would also end in failure.  Maybe this is just what we needed to finally stop trying and give up on having a baby the “normal” way.  Normal at this point just means I conceive in some way or another and carry to term a biological baby.    Giving up natural conception to IVF was a huge blow.  Now giving up the pregnancy is the next.  Logically we should have gone to adoption years ago.  But Mr. Star didn’t and still doesn’t think we are at that point.  And I had my own struggles with the concept of having a biological mother out there who is “the real mother”.  So we are left with two options both super expensive and both assuming a major loss for me either to my biology or to my role as the carrier.  And it goes without saying that both are giant blows to our bank account (and my ego, what’s left of it that is).

To top it off, after this dismal phone consultation I had a rough rest of the day.  I had an appointment to see a my new counselor for the second appointment but somehow I mixed up the time and arrived 30 minutes too late.  The receptionist told me after I arrived (and drove 25 minutes in rush hour traffic) that she needed to reschedule and that I was late.  I thought I arrived right on time and was more than ready to have a chance to talk about all this stuff going on for me with someone.  Instead I felt like I had the reverse of counseling. I got back in my car totally upset and angry and now having to drive 25 minutes back home in rush hour traffic knowing the whole drive was a waste and it was my fault.  To top it off, they told me that she had to go because “she has to pick up her daughter”.  I barely know this person, but now I already know she is a mom with a young daughter.  I can’t help but think of this the next time we meet.  I really don’t want to know this about my c0unselor.  Seriously!

And finally we had plans for dinner with friends.  They brought their 2-year old with them and I just spontaneously burst into tears.  It was totally awkward and everyone was averting their eyes and trying to change the subject to something funny.  Normally we get together afterwards to hang out, but they didn’t even bring it up.  It was like I was left out to dry with my grief and burned a bridge at the same time.

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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.”

It’s officially over

14 May

Well, pregnancy #6 ended almost as soon as it started.  I just got the call that my beta was only 35.  At least now we know for sure that it’s over.  As sad as it is, at least I didn’t have to find out yesterday, on Mother’s Day.  It was nice to at least have hope on that day for a change.  I am really at a loss as to what to try next.  We pretty much did it all in this last try and I am running out of hope that anything is going to work with my broken body right now.  My body is literally a death machine.  I can’t find out what’s wrong with me and so I can’t seem to fix anything. I feel like I spent the last year trying to diagnose my situation, spending gobs of money, talking to all these new doctors, doing tons of tests and treatments and taking tons of drugs and then here we are again.   This just confirms what I thought all along, that IVF won’t help us, it will only make the loss more painful.  Good bye my chromosomally perfect little boys.

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

LIT in Mexico, really?

14 Sep

We had our first meeting with the Immunology Treatment doctor today.  I had some issues with the doctor who seemed to be repeating a lot of things we had already heard before and at other times going into great detail about things that we didn’t need to be concerned about.  It seemed like he hadn’t read our records before the meeting which was also off putting.  In the end it sounds like most of our tests came back normal.  He found my natural killer cells were “slightly elevated” and recommended a intralipid infusion to treat it.  He seemed to think IVIG (the really expensive treatment wasn’t necessary).  I was happy with his suggestions that seemed quite reasonable, until he mentioned the last treatment, lymphocyte immunotherapy (LIT).  The treatment takes white blood cells from Mr. Star, washes them and then later infuses them into me.  Here is a fuller description of what it is-lymphocyte immunotherapy (LIT)

It sounds scary already, but the extra fun part is that it is no longer available in the US.  His recommendation was to go to a clinic that they partner with on the US border with Mexico.  I met someone in my RESOLVE support group that did just that.  We all sat on the edge of our seats as she described her experience in disbelief.   I assumed it was for infertility because her issue was that she couldn’t conceive even after IVF and they seemed at the end of the road having tried for 5 years and willing to try anything.
I can’t believe this is what is recommended for me, twice!  Meanwhile we are paying a lot of money for all these tests and for the consultation with this doctor to tell us this stuff.  I would really like to get a second opinion on this, from someone with experience with using immune therapy to treat repeat loss.  I just didn’t feel confident in him.  I also feel really weird about the whole Mexico thing.
I feel like I can’t really talk about it with anyone because it sounds so crazy.  I can’t find much information about it online either.  How safe is it?  Is there any research showing it helps?  The one study I found showed that patients with/without the treatment had the same rate of success (which is what my RE told me long ago).  I am really curious why they stopped doing the treatment in the US.  He claims it exists in other countries, and I have seen evidence that they do it in Europe and Asia (London and Japan, esp.), but  it seems so questionable to do something so out there.
So here I am, feeling a bit stuck on what to do next.  I could try this crazy thing (assuming Mr. Star is up for it) and move forward, or I could just try again the same old way, or maybe we should just throw up our hands and adopt or get a surrogate.  I really don’t know at this point.  With the exception of the one couple from my support group that did it (and they later had a miscarriage after 5 years of not conceiving) I don’t know of anyone else who did, and more importantly anyone else who had any success with it.
It’s Mr. Star’s birthday so I will try hard NOT to dominate our big dinner out at Red Lobster talking about this.  Yes, of ALL the restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, Red Lobster is his favorite and where he always wants to spend his birthday.  The funny thing is, the closest one is in Milpitas a good 25 minutes away. Meanwhile there are top Zagat rated gourmet restaurants so close by.  I have to wait until my birthday for those though ;  )
After today’s consultation I was just ready to throw in the towel and say we are at the end of the medical road, but somehow a few hours later I’ve cooled down.  I’ve reminded myself of my gay friends and their kids and how if they can do it, one way or another so can we.  It will happen somehow, just not sure which way at this point.