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Week 13- Passed the Nucal Scan!

29 Nov

Week 13- Passed the Nucal Scan!

This is starting to feel real! We had all around good news this morning at the nucal translucency scan. Everything was normal and combined with our bloodwork suggest that the baby is healthy and normal (no down’s syndrome or trisomy 18). We have our last genetic screening scan in January. The baby was really moving and jumping around in there a lot which they also saw as a good sign of health.

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Week 12: We made it!

25 Nov

We made it to week 12 on Friday (2 days ago)!  We are officially in the second trimester for the first time ever!  I am in disbelief about it all and have been feeling a bit numb, not the tears of joy I was expecting to feel if/when we ever made it this far.  While I don’t expect the other shoe to drop, I am still not ready to be super celebratory.  I guess given our history it’s expect to be cautious.

Since my last post I’ve “graduated” to several milestones.  I am free from my gluten-free/dairy-free diet.  I’ve stopped the prescribed meds (metformin and progesterone).  And my acupuncturist said I can go back down to 1x week.  The biggest milestone came at our ten week ultrasound when they were able to use the ultrasound wand on my stomach.  Sadly I’ve had SO many transvaginal ultrasounds I just thought that was all there was.  I somehow believed the stomach kind was for people who were “really” pregnant. So when the nurse was able to scan straight from my stomach and show us a fetus with actual hands and feet I was completely blown away, like she was talking to someone else.  It was such an opposite experience compared with my 8 weeks scan two weeks earlier with Dr. Mean.

Thank you to everyone for giving the courage to change doctors.  No more Dr. Mean!  Since the new doctor (someone I’ve seen for previous pregnancies) seems to be super busy they’ve been sending us for appointments with the nurse practitioner and physician’s assistant.  So far they’ve been so much nicer and more encouraging than any of the OB’s I’ve had, so I’ve found it a welcome relief.  For that reason I am trying to just keep scheduling with them when I can.

One thing that has helped is the Sonoline B doppler.  It is amazing!  It arrived around 9 1/2 weeks in and it worked that same day!  It was tricky to figure out the right spot as there really is only one spot that picks up any vibrations, but once it does, it is amazing.  Each time we try we’ve been getting a little heart in their beat at around 170 bpm.  Since we have a long time in between ultrasounds, it is really the only reassurance we can get that things are ok in there.  For about $50 it was worth every penny.

Despite all this reassurance I still don’t feel like we are “expecting”.  My stomach looks the same and we haven’t told many people so it all feels like some fantasy in my mind.  That said I find myself afraid to do any real exercise other than walking or yoga.  I used to really enjoy Zumba and Cardio-dance-type classes, but now I just see all that jumping around and think it’s a recipe for miscarriage.  The OB said that it was safe to exercise, but I don’t really know what that means.  I’ve found websites online about pregnancy and exercise that say exercise is safe, but then there is the disclaimer that you should check with your doctor if you have a high risk pregnancy or recurrent loss.  That’s definitely us!  Our OB said it was ok, but I don’t believe him.  I don’t trust regular OBs on this one yet.

Sadly, because of this I’ve been feeling really stuck and having a hard time exercising at all.  That can’t be good. Does anyone have any suggestions for safe exercise routines for paranoid pregnant women like me?  Even yoga scares me a little when we do contra-indicated poses like inversions.  Oy!  I thought after week 12 I’d be in the “safe” zone, but I find myself still feeling very paranoid and overly cautious.  This Friday we are scheduled to go for our nuchal translucency ultrasound.  Fingers crossed!

Update: Nov. 27  I had my last of my weekly series of progesterone blood tests today.  I did this every week for the first trimester for my IVF Dr.  I can’t believe that’s the last prick on the horizon!   While I suspect more of these things come up as part of prenatal care it is exciting to be done with the tests that were for infertility, like somehow I’ve graduated.  Yeah!  Also, feeling less of the nausea and fatigue and more back to regular me.  It could be the magic of the second trimester kicking in or more likely the fact I stopped my nightly progesterone doses a few days ago.  Or maybe some combo of the two.  Either way it is a relief to feel more like myself.

Good news in week 8, but a mean doctor

1 Nov

We had the first official OB appointment yesterday at 8 1/2 weeks along.  It felt like a huge milestone to graduate from the specialty doctor to be back with normal people. It felt very different than the first time when I was naive and clueless, nervous and excited.  Now jaded and skeptical I viewed the whole thing with a mix of disbelief and hesitation.  I admit I had dreamed of being back again here one day so many times through the years.  Through some stroke of magic we had another scan that showed everything was fine, heartbeat was still going on, baby was growing.  According to the Dr. everything looked fine.  We are thrilled but I can’t help thinking that it is just a matter of time before I am found out and someone kicks us out.  I don’t think there is much of anything you can say to someone after so many losses that convinces them that everything is fine, at least not at this early stage.

The Dr. gave us one of those Preparing for your  Pregnancy type books and suggested a website for tracking your pregnancy and even talked about childbirth training and parenting classes.  Whoa, Nellie!  I am not ready for ANY of that yet!  While it is in my nature to be prepared, I just can’t think past 12 weeks right now.  If through some miracle we make it that far, then maybe I’ll be ready.  It just feels too dangerous right now to get our hopes up.

I hate to complain about anything at this stage as I feel so lucky that things are going well, but our first OB visit, which given the good results should have been a positive experience left me and my husband both feeling terrible. The OB himself was, to our surprise, very cold and impatient.  He wanted us to describe to him our entire medical history with dates again after we handwrote it on 2 different forms and provided the full records from our specialist.  It was clear he didn’t read any of it.  He seemed almost bothered that we had such a complicated history with other doctors and didn’t want to hear what we’d gone through beyond the dates of my D&C’s.  The whole time I felt like he was impatient with us because we asked such specific questions that related to our case and history instead of fitting into some cookie cutter proces he had going for new patients.  Whenever I either asked a question or gave too long of an answer he acted ticked off as if I’d interrupted him.  Even the exam part was akward.  At one point we asked what the heart rate was and he said it was “normal”.  Since we knew it was 160 on Friday, we asked what the exact BPM was and he snapped ans said he didn’t know how to get that from the machine!  After the nurse on Friday and our specialist had given us this info easily, I didn’t think it was a big deal.  He seemed self conscious that he didn’t know how to figure it out, and this guy is the HEAD of the department!  Then later he crouched to reach the print outs for several minutes while still holding the u/s wand in my privates.  I was just bracing for him to stand up or lose his balance and jab me right in the crotch by mistake.  It seems like most people would finish the scan before moving on to the next task.  It was just very unnerving and at best, impolite.  On its own would be one thing, but combined with all his snapping and coldness I just got a really bad feeling from him.  It feels like a real loss as I had high hopes of being able to move forward and take a positive first step.  Instead I am dreading my next exam that involves him.

Maybe it is just naturally weird for an OB to deal with someone with people like us who’ve had a long history of problems.  I get that they want a neat and clean start.  Along this journey I’ve met mostly sensitive and empathic clinicians who get that loss and IF are hard.  Somehow either this guy or OBs in general just can’t translate that experience to their world.

Still growing, week 7

23 Oct

So far this pregnancy is holding on.  I am in the middle of the danger zone which for me has been between week 7 and 9.  The first five all seemed to end around then and usually right at the start of week 8.  Week 8 for me officially starts in three days (October 26).   So that may explain why everyday feels like the longest day ever.  Each day with no bleeding or cramping is a small step forward.

Here is a bit of an update since the last post. So far it is all good news.

HCGs are all progressing nicely with the last count at 103, 047.   My Dr. said these numbers were great and so I am no longer doing these weekly tests, which is more great news.  So just like the chart, things are looking up.

Just out of curiosity and because my health plan has this fun chart feature I compared my hcg results this time with my previous pregnancies over the past few years.  It turns out that it’s the first time I’ve had scores over multiple weeks continuously rising.  It’s also the second highest hcg beta I’ve ever measured.  I set that record back in February 2008 with number one.  I guess that first pregnancy really set my system off as I started out with a whopping 155902.  It declined steadily after that which taught us very quickly about the significance of rising betas.

The even bigger news is that our first ultrasound went, shockingly, completely fine.  In fact, according to my Dr. everything looks perfect.   I went into the exam bracing for bad news.  Betas are one thing, I thought, but these ultrasounds tend to be where the it all goes south.  Since the scan was with my IVF Dr. who claims victory when you get pregnant, I was suspicious that he might be overly optimistic.  For whatever reason I bought his confidence as a positive sign and teared up as he talked about how perfect and normal it looked from the size being exactly right to the heart beat being both measurable and at a good rate (124BPM).  We’ve had some heart beats appear in past scans but there was always something tentative about them, either too slow (90-100), or not quite right, wait and see, etc.  So it was a milestone to have a perfect heartbeat on day one and I am so grateful.  This really is the farthest we’ve ever gotten and I find myself feeling more hopeful each day that maybe this time it really is going to be different.

For those of you who love TMI or have a degree in radiology or just a special gift for reading these fuzzy images here is the ultrasound pic.  It looks different than our previous scans that always seemed to be missing something.

Next step is to sit and wait.  Now that we’ve “graduated” from the specialist our next scan is with an actual OB.  These appointments in the past have NEVER gone well, so getting through that will be a major milestone.  It feels bizarre to have a scan and then wait a full two weeks for another.  I don’t think I’ve ever gone longer than a week, usually getting a scan every 2-3 days before making the official call to move to a D & C.  My Dr. assures me I don’t need another scan so I don’t have much choice.  Since I have to wait until then I’ve chosen to see that as an advantage.  No bad news is good news, right?   This time really could be different.

Riding the wave

3 Oct

I had my second hcg test yesterday morning.  When I hadn’t heard from them by 4 PM I began to worry that maybe there was something like maybe it was lower, or hadn’t quite doubled.  But they reported good news,  my hcg actually did more than double it jumped from 505 to 1232.

I feel like a surfer who just caught a wave.  How long til the crash?  Or maybe this time will I ride it to the end?  Noone knows.  The one thing I do know is that this rush of good things happening is often very short so I am trying to just live for the moment, grateful for this gift for as long as it lasts.

Since we did chromosomal testing we actually already know the gender. It’s bizarre to know this so early, but we know that if this is the one it’s going to be a little girl.  We ended up with 3 male and 3 female embryos so we could have gone either way, but since we were implanting only one we had to make a choice.  Go little girl, you can do it!

And speaking of family building we have some new additions.  We’ve adopted kittens!  This summer we were kitten foster parent volunteers  and were able to foster ten kittens, a group of 3, then 4, and now 3 again.  From this last batch we are adopting two (or three if we can’t part with the third).  It’s been a wonderful distraction and a lot of fun.  This last group was only 3 weeks old when we picked them up and each was under 1 lb.! 

 

 

 

Here is what they look like today at 9 weeks old.

 

For now these are my babies.  :  )

Lucky Number Seven

30 Sep

We got good news today!  I tested positive yet again.  This time I skipped the POAS and just went straight to the blood test which showed my hcg has a strong start with a count of 508.   What a welcome phone call that was!   I am trying to contain myself.  I know the odds were against us as we only implanted one, so I am counting myself very very lucky.

We still have a long climb ahead of us, but for now I am just that our little “perfectly chromosomally normal” embryo is happily growing along.  I can’t believe it made it all the way to implantation after all the poking and freezing and thawing it’s been through.  So grateful, so hopeful.  This time little one, I believe in you.  :  )

What’s new

24 Sep

After our last heartbreaking loss, a long break from blogging and a lot of  confusion and soul searching about next steps we are back to trying again.  In August we went ahead with another IVF cycle.   Since we transferred and lost the only two that had tested chromosomally “normal”  back in May we had to start all over again.  We tried a few different things this time hoping for something better.  The two big changes were a new test and a new diet.

For this new cycle we requested chromosomal testing on Day 5/6.  In our first IVF cycle in April we tested on Day 3 (per our Dr.’s recommendation) and since then multiple sources have advised that that type of testing is not reliable.  Even though our IVF Dr. has a lot of confidence in Day 3 testing, he seems to be pretty alone.  The theory is that there just aren’t enough cells on Day 3 to get enough information.  In comparison, on Day 5 there are hundreds of cells and more evidence that the tests are consistant and reliable.  In any case, just surviving to Day 5 is a test of embryo health in itself.  So we agreed to to move ahead for another cycle with the same IVF Dr. but this time with Day 5 testing, which meant that we had to do a frozen transfer instead of fresh stretching the whole process out over multiple months and upping the number of steps, expenses, etc.  The lesson I learned, don’t bother with Day 3 testing.

The second twist we added was a change in my diet.  I gave up gluten, dairy and coffee and followed a pretty strict PCOS diet for the time leading up to the egg retrieval.  Despite all the things I’ve done on this journey, this was by far one of the most intensive.  Since I had a real goal with a deadline I was able to manage it, but it was still very challenging.  In addition to my own natural temptations for all things bready/cakey and creamy it was challenging.   My IVF Dr. recommended “cutting down” on dairy and carbs because of my diagnosis of polycystic ovaries, but it was really my idea to go cold turkey like that.  It was one of the few things I had heard might help so I figured it was about time to try something since I was feeling desperate for any action I could take to up our chances.  Since egg quality and embryo quality are the likely suspects with women of my age it felt actually empowering to do something active and take control of my diet.

It was hard enough on my own, but in social situations, travelling, going out to eat, etc. it became something I had to address.  At first I was really shy about what I was doing, but people got curious and it just made it easier to be up front.  I just said I was giving up dairy and gluten for “fertility-reasons” and that was pretty much all I had to say.  One thing I learned- people love talking about foods they are avoiding and why.  And for the first time friends and family could actually “help” me on this journey by making suggestions for gluten-free, dairy-free alternatives.  So much of this journey I am on my own, so whenever someone voluntarily prepared or offered gluten-free/dairy-free foods (esp. desserts) I was so touched.

So what happened?  At the time of our retrieval we were able to collect 16 eggs, a higher number than our first cycle.  Of these 11 made it to Day 5 for testing.  An astonishing 50% came back as chromosomally normal!  He warned us in advance that we should expect only 30% at the most and I was prepping myself for an even lower number.  So in the end we had a higher number of embryos retrieved, with higher quality (more making it to Day 5) and a whopping 50% normal rate which is statistically way above what you would expect from someone of my age.   With such high numbers we didn’t get any clarification about why we are having so many losses, but it did at least help give us confidence that something is working right and we can put the thoughts of an egg donor to rest for now.  Since the only big change in the protocol from last time to this time is my gluten-free/dairy-free diet, my Dr. is crediting this with upping our numbers and quality and as a result I am (sadly) still on the diet.  Perhaps it was just a coincidence, perhaps it made a difference, who knows…

With 6 embryos banked,  our Dr. recommended that our best chances were still with a surrogate.  However, given that there were more than 2 banked he thought it was reasonable to give my body one last shot at baby making.  So that is where we are.  We transfered a single embryo last Thursday.  Per his recommendation, we didn’t want to waste more than one of our supposedly perfect embryos on my iffy uterus.  It made it out of the thaw ok (something I was worried about) and is hopefully making magic in my nether regions as we speak.  Our first beta is this Sunday and I am praying for some good news.

This second cycle was a lot less dramatic than the first.  I got over my bitterness giving up natural conception, something I thought we had going for us.  And I knew what to expect with the injections and procedures.  Instead of wallowing in “poor  me” I felt like I had matured to just take it and move ahead.  After considering egg donors and surrogates, “conventional” IVF seemed so normal and gave me hope that maybe there was still hope to carry my own genetic baby.  At this moment, both doors are still open and I have been able to delay that decision.  Surrogacy is still out there as an option, (a very complicated and expensive option), but I couldn’t go there without at least giving this one last shot.