Operation: Bring Maxee home

Sunday: This morning we left Denver on our 36-hour jaunt to Maryland to pick up Maxee and bring it home. Although we haven’t discussed names, choosing a nickname has been hard! I like the playful spin-off our last name with “Coffee Bean”, but we land on Maxee.

On the plane, I sat next to a delightful man from Boulder who is flying to DC for a national science convention when he asked where I was going, I shared about our fertility journey and how excited and hopeful we are for this weekend. I love being able to embrace this story and see the joy and magnificence this brings as the combination of nature, God, and science.

Our night is spent celebrating little Maxee (living in the petri dish at Shady Grove clinic) by eating a delicious meal at Wildfire restaurant at Tyson’s Corner.

We know it’s not a guarantee this will end with a beautiful baby in our arms, but we are grateful for this opportunity.

Tomorrow we get to reunite with our little one.

This is the closest we have come to being pregnant, and are enjoying every moment.


Monday: 10am: I am receiving my final acupuncture before the transfer. Sitting under the heat lamp, my body is preparing for the transfer.

11:15am: Here I am, sitting on the cream couch, with Property Brothers playing on the flat screen in the background. I am sitting, after just emptying my bladder and refilling it with exactly 16oz of water… Waiting.

I get to take my embybaby (Maxee) home today and it gets to be and grow inside of me until it’s ready to come out. My prayer is that in the next 9-10 months I am able to pour every ounce of love, prayer, hope, confidence, and health into this little one. My heart is happy to be sitting here and a little nervous.

  • What will the procedure feel like?
  • How will I feel after?

I can’t believe this is as close as we have been to have our own baby!

  • What will it be like to be pregnant?
  • How will I feel?
  • What will the next few weeks mean for me?

So many unknowns.

My stomach is a little crampy but mostly calm.

I am 45 minutes away from being semi-pregnant!


At what point does one become pregnant?

  • Is it a successful transfer?
  • A successful nesting or implantation?
  • It is it with the results of the pregnancy test in two weeks?

I have been praying for a healthy womb, for a clear space to call home.

Free of any negative energy and in its place a positive, healthy home that will encourage and support little Maxee.


“Hilary Maxwell”… it’s time to go!

12 noon: we are called back to the room.

12:20: Dr. O’Brien welcomes us, shares the news that our one embryo is in the incubator and thawed out perfectly. She shares that the 2nd embryo with the genetic mismatch had an extra chromosome 3 (meaning either Hubby or I contributed 14 instead of 13 chromosomes, making this particular embryo not viable.)

Joining her are 2 nurses. One nurse squirts the ultrasound jelly on my stomach and pushes the monitoring wand on my bladder (yup, cavity full!) and the second nurse asks me to confirm my name, date of birth, and social security number before she confirms the one embryo with me and Dr. O and then leaves the room.

Dr. O is a delight and we engage in small talk about what’s about to happen as she inserts the catheter into place (yup, that’s an uncomfortable pinch).

Hubby pulls out his phone and begins to film what we see on the large screen tv plastered on the wall.

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_8767.jpgOur second nurse is in the lab next to us and has taken control of the TV screen. Before us, blown up, is the petri dish with a couple of air bubbles and this round thing with a cluster of little circles inside… that’s our Maxee, 5 days ‘old’.

12:26pm: Nurse draws the liquid and embryo into a syringe type and enters into our room. She and Dr. O exchange a specific protocol for transferring the syringe filled with liquid and our embryo. It reminds me of when I used to rock climb and the belayer and climber had to exchange a control check before the climber proceeded to climb.

“On belay, belay on, climbing, climb on”.

Dr. O wiggles the already inserted catheter so we can see it on the screen (and yes, I can feel it) and then proceeds to insert the filled-syringe into the catheter and in a matter of seconds we see a white blurb… our embryo on the screen shoot out from the catheter. It lands just where Dr. O wanted and it’s been a successful transfer. (Hubby gets it all on film!)

12:30pm: Maxee is with me!

I continue to lay there with a drape over me as Dr. O spends 15 more minutes with us answering our questions and unknowingly validating our decision to work with her.

I am scared to use my stomach muscles to sit up and even more scared to stand up, let alone go to the bathroom.

What if Maxee falls out of me?

I am assured Maxee won’t and begin to dress.

Our discharge nurse helps us to know exactly where the progesterone shots are to occur on my backside (we were just a ‘little’ off) and I head for my final acupuncture appointment to help the blood flow before we head to the airport.

Dr. O did not prescribe bedrest, just casual walking, and no heavy lifting or intense working out for 2 weeks.

We asked about skiing. She was hesitant to answer and her worry is more about if I am hit by someone else on the mountain. Although she said no, she also said it really depends on how crowded the mountain and the likelihood of me getting into a tumble.

I don’t know what my answer will be for myself, but for now, the answer is no as I let Maxee get situated.

7:30pm: I can’t believe I am sitting here on the airplane back to Denver, with a little embryo growing inside of me.

I know how fast the cells multiplied in those 5 days after fertilization and can only imagine what is happening inside of me right now.

Dr. O said implantation can occur in 36 hours and there is no way of truly feeling it happening. She even debunked the thought of implantation bleeding, although might be slight, the bleeding people experience is at times a few days after the implantation. Since I’m on both estrogen and progesterone the likelihood of any bleeding is slim to none, so I know not to be looking for anything as a sign this week.

Hubby called me ‘mommy’ for the first time today, I like how that sounds.

Although I feel excited by the opportunity and possibility, I am also very aware that this little one may not take and we might not be pregnant.

It’s a 70% chance of pregnancy at this point… that still leaves 30%. So I am going to keep things mellow for my body this week, eat warm foods, drink warm water to give Maxee a wonderful environment to enjoy and get a lot of rest.

Tonight, we get to bring our Maxee home and pray that it sticks to become a viable pregnancy. We still hold our breath until we have a positive pregnancy test.

The 2-week wait (2WW) begins.

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Bruising and Increasing Pressure

Day 9- “Good morning”, was said with a prick of the needle into my stomach.

I began taking Cetrotide this morning to help pause my body from going into the ovulation phase and will continue at night with the Gonal F and Menopur to help the follicles grow.

Bright and early this morning, Hubby and I head to Shady Grove to meet with Dr. O’Brien for our consult. UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86ef.jpg

She is a delight and informed us that we are on the right track.

Since my estrogen started off so low (50 on day 4), we are 2 days behind the protocol she originally outlined, making our retrieval 2 days later and therefore disrupting our travel plans back to Colorado.

God, help me be flexible. I’m not doing all of this just to botch it in the end over a change of travel days.

Change of travel days means a change of PTO at work and meetings and scheduled appointments.

Just another sign that I’m too busy during this season.

I relax and embrace that this process is not exact and that my body is responding just as it is supposed to. I keep praying for healthy eggs inside these follicles, regardless of how long it will take to grow them.

Dr. O’Brien has no concerns for what she is seeing and is very pleased with how my body is responding to the medication and process.

Our prayers are with God’s will and modern medicine as we continue this walk of faith into the unknown.

We spend the rest of the day playing tourists in Washington, DC. To the Holocaust Museum and then the Bible Museum. Such an amazing experience to be in the Nation’s capital and living with the freedom to explore history. Hubby continues throughout the city while I return back to Rockville, tired and depleted. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again as my body really is exhausted.

Gonal F- 187.5 IU
Menopur- 225 IU
Cetrotide- .25mg


Day 10–  I return for another prick of the arm for blood work and ultrasound. The follicles are growing (praise God!) and we are looking at a 16mm follicle on the right side as our front-runner. Many on the left are still in the 9mm range though, so we have some growing to do.

I head upstairs for my acupuncture appointment and she focuses only on my kidney today. She explains there are two sides of the energy, like 2 bank accounts, one is checking and one is savings. When the checking runs out, I dip into savings, but I don’t spend enough time replenishing the savings and before I know it I’m in major debt in my body. Today we are going to help rejuvenate the savings side of my kidney. Apparently, the kidney is the part of the body that is feeding my ovaries the blood and protein necessary so they are working overtime right now.

The needles in my stomach ZING as she puts them in.

“Is this because my stomach is so sensitive from all the shots?” I ask.

“No, it’s because these are for your kidney’s and right now they are tired so they are more sensitive.”

…Interesting.

I rest under the heat lamp and carry that same posture of quiet and rest into the remainder of my day.

Gonal F- 150 IU
Menopur- 225 IU
Cetrotide- .25mg


Day 11– My bruised vein greets the phlebotomist.

“Which arm would you like?” I ask.

“Either one works for me”. She responds.

How to choose between two bruises? I just have to suck it up and let her prick me again.

The ultrasound was more painful today.

Everything seems more painful today, walking, sitting, bending.

She inserts the ultrasound wand and I feel like she is pushing through tight muscles. The follicles are growing, causing my stomach to feel swollen.

Sure enough, there are eight follicles on my right side, the largest being 20mm and seven on the left with the largest being 14mm. Come on left side!!

I spend the rest of the day relaxing. Reading, writing and grateful there is an NCIS marathon on USA.

Gonal F- 187.5 IU
Menopur- 225 IU
Cetrotide- .25mg

Heading to our new home…

Day 6– Today’s drive to the doctor was a little more anxiety producing. I originally was scheduled to do my ultrasound at my OBGYN and then go to the local fertility clinic for the blood work with same-day results but when I entered into my OBGYN I remembered they merged with the University of Colorado and everything had changed. Including the price for the ultrasound. I quickly called the local fertility clinic and they added me to the list of appointments that morning.

A little poke of the arm for a blood draw doesn’t seem so bad after having it happen a couple times this week, not to mention the fact that I’m nearing 1 week of shooting medicine into my abdomen.

The ultrasound was a success.

At about 1:30MST I received a call from nurse Christine. We have 13 follicles that are present, with the largest being 8mm. Things are on track!

Ok, I’ll be honest. I wasn’t happy when I heard 13. In our ‘interviews’ with various fertility clinics, we would hear people throw around numbers like 20 and 30 for a goal range of follicles. I want more. The more follicles, the better the chance for having more blastocysts at the end of the entire process, right?

Maybe.

I spoke with a friend who works on the ‘other side’ of IVF in the lab and she mentioned that sometimes the more follicles means the less quality of eggs. We certainly don’t want that.

With this information, I’m able to return to that place of HOPEFUL SURRENDER.

God, I know you know what you’re doing.

You were the one who started this whole idea of reproduction through an egg and sperm and the creation of cells and development of chromosomes.

Who am I to question what you have already done?

H.u.m.b.l.e.    p.i.e.

I don’t know it all and I’m certainly not in control of this entire situation.

The only thing I can do is take the medications, eat healthily, take supplements and rest.

Telling on myself: I am tempted to give myself a higher dose of medication. I mean, it’s there, in my refrigerator, I could easily up the dose.

Thankfully I have enough sense to know that isn’t a good idea and that it’s best for me to stick to what my doctor recommends.

I back down from the charge.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next time we monitor will be with nurse Christine at Shady Grove in Maryland.

We are thrilled. Ok, I am thrilled. Hubby is supportive and also keeping his emotions level.

I continue to stick my stomach with what is now a burning sensation (Menopur) and I’m grateful the Gonal-F is not as painful.

Tomorrow we will board the airplane to Maryland!


Day 7– Here I am sitting on the airplane and I am so excited to finally be doing this. Hubby is cautious with his energy towards the trip to preserve his emotions. He is better at staying realistic as I am the true optimist (and sometimes a very fearful one) of the relationship. The way I see it, I’m just happy to be able to be on an airplane, taking the medication, and making progress towards a retrieval.

My charge is to keep my expectations low with the process as I don’t want to get too ahead of myself.

The plane takes off at 5:30pm Denver time. I typically give myself the shots at 6pm and my nurse instructed I continue giving myself the shots at the same time each night. This means I have to prepare and inject myself on the airplane.

It feels weird to be pulling out the needles, syringes, vials of solution and medication and laying them on the tray table.UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_86cb.jpg

The flight attendant walks by asking what I’d like to drink. I shrink for her to see the stash of drugs on my table. The man sitting on my left acts oblivious but I wonder if he is just trying not to wonder what I’m up to.

Self-conscious, yes.

I quickly prepare the needles and stick myself as quickly as I can.

I feel like I’m a druggy.

Get the hit and get rid of the evidence. Hubby puts the trash in his empty to-go container that was used to transport his burrito.

Come on drugs… do your thing!

We arrive late in the night, pick up our rental car and drive to the rented Airbnb, a basement of a nice couples house, our home for the next week.

I fall into bed, excited for tomorrow.

Gonal F- 187.5 IU
Menopur- 225 IU


Day 8– I arrive at the Shady Grove Fertility clinic with a little buffer built in for me to get lost. Hubby did a great job of finding a place in Rockville about 10 minutes from the clinic. I drive into what looks like an executive building and park in one of the designated SG Patient parking spots. In the rotating door and to the elevators, 4th floor. The doors open to a modern space with calming colors. This will be where I entrust the growth of our family.

Blood work to check my estrogen and an ultrasound. Looks like I have 13 follicles, the largest is 14mm with the majority measuring around 8-10mm.

I meet Dr. OBrien in person, what a delight. She reviewed the ultrasound and comforted me with positive remarks. Her hope is that we get between 15-17 follicles. With my age my ideal follicle count is 17. So much for me praying for 20+!

We will have our official consult with her tomorrow.

Gonal F- 187.5 IU
Menopur- 225 IU

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Up to the 5th floor, I go to the Wellness Center at Shady Grove to meet my acupuncture lady. Although this is not required, I have found it to be insightful and calming. Hubby believes this to be more of a placebo but I truly believe in the combination of Eastern and Western medicine.

DaRae is a wealth of knowledge.

She hears what my food and supplement intake is on a regular basis and asks that I have less salad and more protein. She explains that salad is raw vegetables and it takes more energy for my body to decompose the raw vegetables, the energy that needs to be going towards making/growing follicles. Cooked vegetables are great (so I’m good there!)

She also explains that my body is making a large number of follicles and this takes more energy and protein.

Finally, she feels the different organs and comments that my body is tired. Her analogy is that I am a smaller engine trying to run like a large engine, a lot of output but not a lot of capacity to maintain it. She recommends that I rest more and let my body relax.

Interesting that I have heard this a couple different times now.

The last thing she recommends is that I eat more pork and less chicken and turkey. She explained the energy of a chicken and turkey is fast (just think about what they do when they are alive, running around) and a pig is lazy, sleeping and laying around.

With this, the meat of a chicken and turkey are warmer causing more acne.

Interesting concept.

I drift off to rest as she puts the needles in their proper place, moves the heat lap over my stomach and turns down the lights.

Nap time.

I spend the rest of the day around our Rockville home, even taking a 2-hour nap.

Rest my child. Just rest.

Gonal F- 187.5 IU
Menopur- 225 IU

 

Journey to Retrieval…

DAY 1- After 20 minutes of watching tutorials, I’m ready to become my own nurse. The shots will be in my stomach area so Hubby is off the hook for sticking me.

He sits there and helps me figure it all out.

Why in the world do they leave this in the patient’s hands, I don’t know. I’m scared I’ll mess something up. I watch the videos again.

My doctor friends offered to come to show me how to do it. I should have taken them up on it.

I clean the area on my stomach, prep the shots by mixing and ticking the side of the syringe, like I see in the movies to get the air bubbles out, grab a little fat and stick it in there.

Two times each night for the next 10 days… here we go.

I have such compassion for my girlfriends who have gone through this process. One of my friend’s had to give herself shots for her entire pregnancy and a couple weeks after. My word, what a sacrifice for a little life.

I become sleepy about an hour after the shot and then I start burning up about 2 hours after the shot. Is this what hot flashes feel like?

I can’t get to bed fast enough.

Gonal F- 75 IU
Menopur- 150 IU

DAY 2 & 3- Much of the same routine. Thankfully, I don’t have many side effects throughout the daytime. Just feeling the heat at night, plus waking up in a puddle of sweat at night. No big deal, just disgusting!

I feel I have become a pro at this whole shot thing. Minus the fact that I used too much of the solvent to mix the powder which left my stomach a bit distended with extra liquid. I won’t be doing that again!

The acupuncture appointments have helped calm my nerves and I’m hoping they are helping with the follicle growth too.

Tomorrow I go in for my next monitoring appointment. I’m a little nervous as this will be the first time we see how my body is responding to the drugs. I’m praying there are multiple follicles and that my bloodwork looks positive.

I can’t do much more for myself at this point. Eating healthy, getting good sleep, slowing down, and calming my mind. God, you do the rest!

Gonal F- 75 IU
Menopur- 150 IUIMG_0398.JPG

(Hubby thought it would be fun to have a ‘shot’ party… )

DAY 4 & 5- Monitoring first thing in the morning so the labs have enough time to get the report 2 time zones over to the clinic. I have the rest of the morning to pray that all is well and that I’m exactly where I need to be at this stage in the process.

At 3pm, I receive a call from Shady Grove. All looks good! She did say something about my estrogen being 50 (incredibly low for day 4). I don’t know where it needs to be but she asked that I increase the Gonal F to 187IU and keep Menopur to 150IU. How in the world did they come up with the number 187? Feels strange to have such a random number but maybe it’s the precise science that makes IVF such a miracle worker?

Excited, I prepare the shots. I have 75IU left in one Gonal F shot so tonight I will give myself 3 shots just so I don’t waste the medication.

Babies are being delivered by my friends all around me and I am trying not to fall into the self-pity. “They didn’t have to do all this to have a baby”. I notice I am more sensitive to well-intentioned comments.

God, I know you are with us on this journey. I’ll keep surrendering my anxiety over to you. I am so grateful we get the opportunity to do this treatment. I know you are with us and I pray that I may accept what you have for us.

The shots will continue at this dose for 2 more days and then I’ll go in for another monitoring appointment on Monday morning.

Happy weekend!

Gonal F- 187 IU
Menopur- 150 IU

IVF Timeline

1_5Yqfls2QmHfRxDiEmi4eVQ.pngWhat’s the timeline look like for us?

If all goes well… this is what the timing and protocol look like for us. The tricky thing to note is that it all depended upon how my body responds to the medication.

It’s my charge to be as calm and relaxed as possible during this time so my body can do what it needs to do. I already know that stress is a huge factor that causes my body to shut down so I will have to build in space for chill nights and calming days.

I put in red the things I’m doing to help this calming process.

IVF Procedure- Step 1: Egg retrieval

Take birth control- 2 weeks

Baseline ultrasound & blood work- Day after last birth control pill

Day 1: Begin medications- 2 days after baseline ultrasound

  • Medication: Gonal F & Menopur
  • Calming: acupuncture

Day 3: Calming: light workout, acupuncture

Day 4: Monitor appointment (potential to increase medication)

  • Medication: Gonal F & Menopur
  • Calming: massage

Day 5: Calming: light workout, acupuncture

Day 6: Monitor appointment (potential to increase medication)

  • Medication: Gonal F & Menopur
  • Calming: acupuncture

Day 7: Fly to Shady Grove

  • Medication: Gonal F & Menopur, begin Cetrotide

Day 8: Monitor appointment (potential to increase medication)

  • Medication: Gonal F & Menopur, Cetrotide
  • Calming: walk, acupuncture

Day 9: Monitor appointment (potential to increase medication)

  • Medication: Gonal F & Menopur, Cetrotide
  • Calming: walk

Day 10: Monitor appointment (potential to increase medication)

  • Medication: Gonal F & Menopur, Cetrotide
  • Calming: walk, acupuncture

Day 11: Monitor appointment & trigger shots and meds

  • Medication: Cetrotide, Lupron & HCG shot
  • Calming: walk

Day 12: Blood work (LH, P4 & HCG) to ensure trigger shot worked

  • Medication: (unsure)

Day 13: Egg retrieval

  • Calming: acupuncture

Day 14: Egg retrieval results/ follow-up appointment

  • Calming: acupuncture

Day 15: Return to Colorado

Day 20-21: Egg/sperm cell growth results- 5-6 days after retrieval

  • Freeze blastocysts that are healthy

—-WAITING GAME—-

Day 30: Receive period

  • Go on birth control until we receive test results

Receive PGS/ chromosome testing results- 3 weeks from egg retrieval

Consult with Doctor O to decide next steps for Step 2: frozen embryo transfer protocol.