Circle + Bloom Giveaway

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Nearly three years ago I purchased Circle + Bloom’s IVF/IU Mind-Body Program meditation set, which is a 4-CD set of meditations for women going through ART.  As it turns out, C+B accidentally included two disc “1’s” in my order.  When I wrote to notify the company of the error, C+B generously sent me another full CD set as a replacement—not just a replacement disk, but the entire set!

Now I have two (well, 1.75) once-used C+B sets collecting dust on my bookshelf.  Since I spent good money on them—and since I now regret my very secular purchase of something I disagree with on a spiritual level (meditation)—it’s time to re-home these babies.

Which brings me to this post.  I’m going to give away both sets to two people who can use them.  Each set is valued at $59USD.  Now, I haven’t opened the disk cases in quite awhile, so I can’t say for certain who will get the set with two disc-ones, but, hey—it’s free!  All I ask is that you are someone who currently follows my blog or I follow yours.  If you blog anonymously and enter the giveaway, I promise promise promise not to reveal your identity EVER.  Because #1 that’s totally uncool, and #2: then you’ll know my identity too—leverage!

So, hey: If you’re down for possibly scoring a free C+B meditation set, submit the form below.  I’ll draw two random winners on June 1, 2018 and mail the set to you.

Peace.

 

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Reproductive Plans: The Next Chapter

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Okay, so I might have slightly misled you. I really don’t have a plan. In fact, I probably haven’t been very clear on this blog about what’s next for us in our Quest for Baby. Well, that mystery is about to be solved. ‘Cause here’s the answer: not much.

I have the deepest admiration for those of you who soldier through back-to-back ART cycles, and I wish that I could do the same. Such a feat is not possible for us right now, though it’s not for lack of wanting to. If I had infertility treatment insurance coverage then I’d be right there alongside you, my blogger friends, trying again and again and again. But, my plan has zilch coverage for such extravagantly “unnecessary” treatments, so here I am. Juuuust hanging out….waiting and trying… Blogging occasional random ruminations about all-things-fertility, while watching my biological tick-tock into infinity.

I’m pretty sure that another IVF is not in my reproductive future. The only way we’d be able to do another IVF round is if: (a) I won the lottery, or (b) we befriended a benefactor both rich and generous. Since I don’t even play the lottery, my odds seem pretty nil on that front. And, so far, no rich benefactors have come a’calling. Short of taking out a massive loan, the IVF ship seems to have sailed its final course.

We continue to try naturally, although the last two months have both been busts. In July I had all that weird bleeding, so I was out a month. Then this month I’m also having…yep, more mystery bleeding! I also didn’t ovulate this month, which I was surprised to learn is a common side effect from Provera. In fact, there’s only been a handful of months in 2016 that have been normal cycles for me complete with ovulation, so thus far 2016 hasn’t exactly been our year. Things could always turn around though, and I very much believe that I will eat these words come December 31st.

At least I’m not completely out of the game! I’ve been investigating another cleanup surgery (lap) for my incessant endometriosis. This would be my fifth surgery. Aside from drastically increasing my odds of conceiving naturally, the other big reason I want another surgery is that I am so over being in pain all the time…grrr. I literally never stop feeling my ovary, all day, every day. Whether it’s pulsing, throbbing, or outright screaming at me, this has.got.to.stop. Lately I can add weird random shooting pains near my uterus to my pain factor. They come out of nowhere, which means I could just be walking down the street or sitting on the train when—WHAM!—a pain will strike and double me over. Besides being embarrassing, this kind of pain is so not cool just in general. It also keeps me up at night diagnosing myself with all kinds of far-flung, worst-case-scenario maladies… Anxiety’s such a monster.

I won’t let just any old doctor perform my next surgery though. I’ve been down that road before and, just, no. It’s a challenge, because there’s very, very, VERY few doctors out there specializing in endometriosis. My personal experience has been that I tend to know more about this disease than the majority of doctors I’ve dealt with! That said, I did find one potential contender: He’s a gynecologic endoscopy specialist (fancy!) whose practice is located about two hours from where I live. This doctor seems to really know his stuff about endo and he has 4,000+ laparoscopic surgeries under his belt… well, so to speak, haha!  I haven’t called for an appointment yet, but he looks very promising. Fingers crossed!

Despite no real plan save the maybe-surgery, things could be much worse, reproductively speaking. There is always hope, and God still does the impossible! So until maybe-surgery time gets here, I do have some fun things coming up that I’m looking forward to:

  • A Joyce Meyer conference this weekend. Joyce is only in my state once a year and this year I WILL attend the conference, distance be damned! Seriously, every time I listen to/watch Joyce Meyer I wish that she was my mother. She rocks!
  • A Labor Day cookout in a few weeks. I freakin love Labor Day weekend. It’s still technically summer, but it also unofficially ushers in autumn, which is my favorite season.
  • A conference that my profession’s local association is hosting at the end of September. I have no real colleagues to speak of in my workplace, so I’m very much looking forward to a paid day of networking and a day free from Boss.
  • Sewing classes. My sister and I have signed up for sewing classes at Jo-Ann Fabrics. I’ve always wanted to learn to sew, but never got even the basics down. I mean, I struggle to sew buttons back on a shirt; the scrunchy I made in seventh grade home ec class was little more than a floppy, unwearable circular cloth. My first class is in mid-September and I’m excited for it, even if it might mean near-certain decimation of another innocent garmet.
  • Home Depot workshop. On the third Thursday of each month, my local Home Depot (and yours, too!) holds a free women-only workshop. We’ll be making “vintage wheelbarrows” at the workshop that I signed up for. I feel kind of silly admitting that I’m excited for this. But the truth is that I AM crazy looking forward to it, cause I totally heart making crafty décor.
  • Camping. Our annual family camping trip is only 7 weeks away! My entire family gets together, we bring our campers and tents plus a whole lot of grub, and spend the weekend camping at a quaint country campground. I usually begin looking forward to the next trip before the current trip has even ended. Jake and I bought a popup camper last year, so we’re always stoked for a chance to use it.
  • Bike ride.  The annual 19k organized bike ride that my dad and I participate in each year is only 2 weeks away! It’s a great ride for a great cause, and an added bonus is that most of the course runs along a scenic river canal. Oh yeah, did I mention that my dad is almost 72 years old and he does this ride like a boss? This is truly one of my favorite rides and I’m ridic excited for it.

So now you guys are all caught up in our lack-of-a-plan plans, and I hope I haven’t put you to sleep cause I feel like I’ve said a whole lot of nothing here.

However, one of the best things about plans is that they’re always subject to change. And I wouldn’t mind if this one changed, like, a whole lot! Besides, who knows? While I’m busy looking one way for that mystery benefactor, God may have a much better plan in store for me coming from the opposite direction. I hope He does.

 

 

 

 

The Meeting (and the due date)

About six weeks ago, Dr. C left me a voicemail: “I’m really disappointed to hear about how things went this cycle. Let’s chat,” he said. I’m pretty sure this was code for the fertility blogger’s infamous “WTH meeting” I read about from time to time (and that’s “What-The-Heck” in case you’re wondering. No swearing here!). I never wanted to go to one of those. So I did what I do best and put it off.

After several weeks of dragging my feet, I finally I got around to calling the clinic back. Even then I took my sweet time, scheduling the meeting out weeks in advance. I wasn’t alone in not wanting to go: Jake sure didn’t, either. He saw no point in meeting with Dr. C, and I understood his feelings. I had this mental image of us walking the walk of shame down the hallway to Dr. C’s office, passing by all the staff who would give us pitying looks because they knew why we were there.

Of course, it went nothing at all like that. Jake eventually warmed up too, and in the end he told me the meeting was actually worth having.

Even though we covered a lot of ground during our 30 minutes, it also felt like we didn’t really get anywhere. I asked Dr. C every single question I’d had during the past nine months. He graciously took the time to answer each and every one. Toward the end of the meeting Dr. C said that, even though I’d given him quite a workout, he appreciated patients like me who come in armed and ready. He also half-jokingly offered me a job in his practice.

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Stock photos lie. This is not how a WTH meeting looks.

Since you guys know how much I love lists, here’s the highlights:

AMH/DOR/Egg Quantity: My AMH was 0.62 a year ago. I had another AMH panel drawn during my WTH visit. The results will take several days to come in.  Last year, Dr. C conservatively figured that my low AMH could’ve been due to my having one ovary. This year he changed his opinion and said that my score wouldn’t have made a difference, because whether I had one, two, or three ovaries (who has 3 ovaries????), DOR is DOR is DOR.

Egg Quality: Besides my low egg reserve, there’s also a quality issue of my remaining eggs. I again declined Dr. C’s suggestion of using donor eggs. It’s important to me to be biologically related to our child, and using donor gametes goes against my beliefs. After the meeting, this whole egg quality thing had me feeling pretty bad about myself: Did my “bad eggs” make me directly responsible for all our losses? I’m only 34. Aren’t donor eggs something for older women? Why is this even something a doctor is talking to me about?

Pelvic Adhesive Disease: Dr. C kept throwing this term into my diagnoses until finally I had to ask what exactly pelvic adhesive disease is. Here’s the lowdown: Endo adheres your insides together. After surgery to remove the endo adhesions, new scar tissue forms from removal of the endo adhesions themselves. This new scar tissue adheres your insides together yet again, resulting in PAD. It’s like an ever-spinning wheel of adhesive insanity! Of course Dr. C couldn’t prove it diagnostically at our meeting, but the fact that my ovary hurts, oh I don’t know, ALL THE FREAKING TIME makes him think PAD is a culprit, along with recurring endo. Hooray.

Laparoscopy: It makes sense to me—and I said so, too, bluntly—that all this IVF/ART business is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. As long we ignore the endometriosis factor then we’re not really treating my fertility issues, we’re just trying sneaky backdoor methods to get me knocked up. Since IVF is tabled for now (donations welcome!), Dr. C gave me a referral to a local gyn surgeon he highly recommended. This would be my fifth surgery and third laparoscopy. It might seem counterintuitive to have surgery because of the whole PAD thing, but surgery is the option I’m most in favor of. Jake and I have a lot of discussing to do before I make the final decision, since there’s a few things going on in our personal lives with work, school, moving, etc. that might make having a lap a bit tricky right now. We will see. And, of course, I’ll let you guys know!

IUI: I’d always been told that IUI for endo patients is a total waste of time and money. However, Dr. C feels that that’s not necessarily true if the IUI is done soon after a lap. In that case, the endo is gone so it’s no longer a factor. Until we’re able to do another IVF, Dr. C suggested Clomid IUIs with injectables following the lap. It seems like we’d be going backward to move from IUI to IVF back to IUI.  I’m 50/50 about this option, but leaning more toward “no.”

Implantation Issues: This one’s a biggie. Since no one can see implantation happening (or not happening), it remains this mysterious, elusive, intangible thing for doctors. I  walked away from the meeting feeling like I didn’t get a lot of answers about possible implantation issues, as Dr. C couldn’t offer any real solutions. After three losses, Dr. C feels that implantation is definitely a factor to investigate… somehow. But there’s not much to be done diagnostically that I haven’t already done. Basically, the implantation issue went nowhere and I’m not thrilled about that. To be revisited.

MTHFR: Along those lines, we reviewed my RPL panel and Dr. C espoused how unremarkable it was. Here’s where I could use some serious input from you guys: When I asked Dr. C why he didn’t include testing for MTHFR on the panel, his response was (literally), “It doesn’t really make a difference.” This didn’t sit well with me. That can’t be true, right?! Anyone? I mean, there’s entire websites dedicated to MTHFR. I really, really wish that REs took RI more seriously. It’s to their patients’ detriment that they don’t.

Scratching the Itch: Last year I had asked for an endometrial scratch prior to starting IVF. Science is iffy about whether ES helps prime the uterus for an embryo, but it certainly doesn’t hurt (scratch that, it does hurt, physically, a lot. Pun intended) to have the procedure done anyway. He wasn’t opposed to it last year, but Dr. C eventually talked me out of having it done. During our meeting, though, he recommended I have an ES done prior to doing IVF again… You can’t even begin to know the depths of my frustration when I reminded him that I’d asked for an ES last year and we didn’t do one!

The Miscarriages/RPL:  All Dr. C could tell us was that m/c #2 was likely due to an abnormal embryo, and that m/c #3 could have been another abnormal embryo or an implantation issue alone or both. We did ICSI last time around, but not PGS. Dr. C recommends PGS for any future IVFs. I have reservations about the reliability of PGS and I don’t believe it doesn’t harm embryos (science says so, too!), plus I have moral issues about destroying embryos that don’t pass the PGS test. This is one thing I’m really firm on. Since I never had any miscarried embryos to biopsy, there’s no telling. Again, a more thorough RPL panel might have helped here… Maybe one that included MTHFR.

Okay, wow, now that I’ve written it all out it seems pretty clear to me that we need to get a second opinion (or a fourth, really). Dr. C is the third reproductive endocrinologist that I’ve treated with, but I’m not so dedicated to the practice that I won’t get another opinion. REs don’t know how a patient will respond to IVF the first time, and it can take a few cycles to get the right protocol down; I totally get that. I guess the whole purpose of a WTH meeting is to go over things, try to come up with what went wrong, and make plans to change what needs to be changed the next time around.

With that said, I’ve looked into RI treatment with Dr. Braverman. I even went so far as to start dialing his number for the free consultation. I mean, logistically it’s somewhat doable: Braverman’s office is only 2 hours away. Boss would even work with me for all the time I’d need to miss from work. There’s a semi-local clinic where I could be seen for non-NY appointments. But, it’s all so stupidly expensive and my insurance covers none of it. Another door closes.

With no real solutions, I feel I’ve basically said nothing this entire post up ’til now… except for a whole lot of “maybe’s” and “I don’t know.” Which is pretty much how I feel about things too: maybe this, maybe that, and I just don’t know.


 

Finally, it wouldn’t be right for me to end this post without making mention of my due date… well, one of them anyway. I’ve added the due date to all the other tough moments of being in the fertility trenches. I like to think of them as a collection of battle scars. As scars become layered on top of each other, they form a thick skin. And a thick skins helps us toughen up and soldier on, even when our insides are all soft and battle-weary.

June 9, 2016 would’ve should’ve been my due date for pregnancy #2. Instead of a baby on June 9, I got my period. Seriously. Jake sent me a beautiful bouquet of flowers at work that day to let me know he didn’t forget either, which meant so much to my heart. I think about it every single day and I will always hold a special place in my heart for the little person who should be here with us now, but is in Heaven instead. I love you, S.W., and You Are Missed.

In S.W.’s memory, this charm hangs from my rearview mirror, for when I look back while still moving forward.

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  Peace.

 

 

 

He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not

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This picture graces the home screen to my blog. It spoke so much to me at the time I chose it because—among so many “No” petals—a “Yes” won. Hope. Odd-defying triumph. Rising from the ashes. Which is how I imagined infertility would one day end: finally beating the odds, pulling a yes from the countless nos. What I think these petals are actually from is the game “He loves me, he loves me not.” Fittingly, I’ve been playing that very game over and over again this past week. Except instead of “He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not,” it goes something like “I’m Pregnant, I’m Pregnant-Not.”

Twinges in my uterus?  Pregnant. Spotting? Pregnant-Not. Nausea? Pregnant. Cramping? Pregnant-Not. I’ve mastered this game. All day, every day. I can outplay anyone who dares challenge me to a round. And at 6dp5dt I get to keep on playing for four more fun-filled days.

Remember how last time I posted I talked about a TWW post that I had in mind? Forget I said that. You guys don’t need my TWW tips or to know what foods I’m eating or whether I’m wearing socks round the clock. I don’t even care about that stuff anymore. I just care about making it through this wait. Intact.

Maybe it’s because I’m on so many more hormones than last time and at higher doses, maybe it’s because we don’t have any more frosties left to “spare” if this fails, maybe it’s due to residual depression that I haven’t dealt with, but, ya’ll—I’m a mess. Like, a total, complete, sloppy, messy mess. I honestly cannot remember the last time I felt so insane waiting. It’s regular crazytown over here.

See, you’re all privy to a big secret: Jake and I didn’t tell anyone that we were doing this FET. The only person we told, in utmost confidence, was our pastor so he could pray for us and for the outcome. Last time around, several people in our lives knew that we were doing IVF. But having to report the play-by-play of events to these people, especially the final end result, ended up making us feel like we just let everyone down. This time we decided we’d tell no one—absolutely no one—until we were at the beginning of the second trimester. At the time it sounded like a good idea, but now the isolation of doing a secret IVF cycle is taking its toll on me. I feel completely and utterly alone: just me and Jake against the world.

All these hormones are making me a big ol’ ball of crazy. Add to the equation that I’ve been cramping quite heavily for days now, spotting like mad, and my ovary ceaselessly feels like it’s being stretched beyond capacity, and we have the perfect concoction for an inevitable meltdown. I’m continually amazed at the fact that I’m somehow able to hold conversations with people, run errands, go to work, get dressed, and generally somewhat appear normal during this TWW, while on the inside I feel like it’s only a matter of nanoseconds before I completely self destruct. Because as I’m doing these “normal” things, I’m continually thinking to myself, “I’m Pregnant, I just know it. Nope, I just had more spotting. Pregnant-Not. New mystery symptom? Definitely pregnant! Or maybe not. I must Google it. Immediately. Daaag: that’s a Pregnant-Not. But some people say it could mean a Pregnant…” And on and on it goes as I pull yes-no petals from the flower that seems to have no end.

It’s exactly moments like these that I need to remind myself to:

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And to ask you guys to please pray for my mind, pray for this endless ovary pain to end, pray for Jake because he has to deal with me in real life, pray for this cycle to yield our take-home baby, and pray that I get through what feels an interminable wait with grace.