Our Thanksgiving Loss

(I wrote this yesterday, but it didn’t feel like the right day to post it, so I’m posting it today)

This was not the post I wanted to write.

Last Thursday, we went in for a 6 week ultrasound. Our PGS tested embryo had implanted and the blood tests had been perfect. Though we were nervous, we felt confident because we had so many things in our favor. There was only about a 5% chance things wouldn’t look good.

But as soon as the ultrasound wand was in and the tech started looking around, I knew. Before the doctor could say a word, I said “shit”.

Yes I was early, yes things could change, but I know these things never do for us. I knew she was gone.

We waited a week and found a place in Texas that would give us an ultrasound to confirm. It confirmed the worst.

And so today, on Thanksgiving day, I am losing our baby.

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At times like this, I am thankful that our journey has helped me to find my home in grief. It is no stranger to me. I know how to sit in it, and I know how to stand up in the midst of it and be strong.

I am thankful, too, that my theology makes room for this. There is nothing in me that blames God for our loss. And I know he makes his home in my grief. Those who mourn are uniquely blessed, and I have experienced that blessing time and time again.

I have spent time reading this post that I wrote after our first miscarriage, reminding myself that God is not a spectator in this tragedy and putting myself back with him in the garden to grieve and receive his comfort.

And oh, how thankful I am for the miracle that calls me mama. If it weren’t for her, I would think I wasn’t meant to be a mother. But because of her, I am one. And I know that I’m a good one, because the road that led me to her made me strong and deepened my capacity to love her well.

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This IVF road was supposed to be “easier”. We had Abbie via an IUI, so of course putting a tested embryo inside of me would make this a more simple process. It has not been simple. I feel foolish for even thinking it would be. Having a child will never be easy for us.

But we have four more embryos waiting for us. So in a couple of months, we will dust ourselves off and try again. And I am eternally grateful that we even have that option. 30 years ago, we wouldn’t have. Because of the time we live in, we get a chance at parenthood. Abbie gets a chance at having a sister. And so I pray that at least one of our four embryos would be the sibling our sweet girl deserves.

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This is a horrible time to be losing a baby, on Thanksgiving day. But in a few days it is Advent, and as my friend Kari told me, advent is a great time for darkness. And so I will spend this advent season in the darkness and know that light will soon find us. It always does.

 

Embryo Transfer

Since I last wrote, we found out that all six of our embabies “passed” the genetic screening. They were all chromosomally normal, which was shocking since I’m almost 35. The doctor predicted we would have 2-3 good embryos, so this was more than we could hope for.

Because they look at the number of chromosomes, they can also tell the gender.  So we knew that we had one boy and five girl embryos.

We transferred the boy last Thursday. He was our best looking embryos. I did accupuncture the week before, the hour before transfer, and the week after transfer. I had an abdominal/uterine massage. I ate pineapple core. I took tons of vitamins. I ate low carb. I ate soup. I drank so much water. I did everything right.

It didn’t work.

I am not devastated. Just numb. I have been in this place so many times, so I am pretty strong when it comes to these things. But oh, how we wanted that boy to implant. How we longed for his life to be. How we dreamed of his future.

Particularly Tom. He wanted a son. We had a boy embryo. And I hate so much that it didn’t work.

We are sad and we are mourning, but we will pick ourselves up and do another transfer. And another, and another, though I pray with all my heart we only need one more.

But we will likely not be as vocal throughout it. That’s how these thing work; you share a lot the first time, but if it doesn’t work you go quiet because you don’t want to have to update all the people again that it failed. I’m glad we shared about our boy, but we won’t be sharing again until we have a successful transfer.

Despite the awfulness of this, it is 1000 times easier because we have our Abbie girl. She is so cuddly these days, wanting to be held whenever she is near us. She hugs my neck and gently pats the back of it and she squeals with glee when she see her DADADA. She heals all the broken places in our hearts. So we will keep fighting this battle because she deserves a sibling, but she is enough. She is perfection, and we thank God every single day for her.

 

See? Perfection. So we will be okay.

IVF update

We completed our first IVF cycle (minus the transfer)! For those are interested, here’s an update on how it went.

 

Stims

I was looking forward to the stimming process, with all the sciency needles and vials. And it was fun for awhile, until my follicles (eggs) started growing. Then it started to get old and very uncomfortable. But I responded so well! For our IUI’s, I usually had very little response at the first ultrasound. But for my first IVF ultrasound, I already had a great number of follicles growing with an E2 (estrogen level) of 937! And then things just ballooned. Two days later, I had 27 follicles. Then 39. I triggered with 39 follicles and an E2 of 4540.

One of the reasons they pushed the number of follicles was due to my left ovary, which they were concerned they might not be able to reach for retrieval. For most of the stimming process, it was hidden underneath my uterus. So they wanted to make sure my right had a good amount of mature follicles, and it did. Each mature follicle is about the size of a grape. I had 25 in my right, 14 in my left. So each ovary was like a large bunch of grapes, and I was seriously bloated to the size of a very pregnant woman. Don’t believe me? Here you go.

Rebecca at 5 months of pregnancy? Nope, just the night before retrieval. I was in so.much.pain.

 

I realized that estrogen is what causes the nausea in early pregnancy. By Day 8 of stims, I felt as gross and nauseous as I had felt during the first trimester with Abbie. I worked in the office that day and was so exhausted, bloated and in pain (I swear I could feel my ovaries stretching out). Thankfully, my dear friend Susan, who just went through a (succesful!) IVF cycle herself brought us dinner that night. It was just one of many of the kind and supportive things she did to care for me during this cycle; I’m so thankful for her!

I triggered on Sunday night. They did a lupron trigger with no hcg, to ward away hyperstimulation of my ovaries. It seemed to work well, because though the first few days post retrieval were verrrrry painful (but oh thank you, Vicodin!), I’m feeling almost back to normal now. Still bloated, but much better than before.

Retrieval

We got there bright and early on Tuesday morning at 7 am. I was a ball of nerves. What if the lupron trigger didn’t work and they couldn’t get any of the eggs? What if all my eggs were bad? What if they couldn’t get the left ovary? The nurse was so kind and cheery, and she led us to the operating area, an area I’ve never been in all my years at Midwest Fertility! I dressed in the gown and they put in my IV. Thankfully Tom was able to be with me during this, since he is always able to calm me and make me laugh when I am anxious.

 

Dressed and ready to go!

My handsome cheerleader

Then they took me back and put me to sleep. Unfortunately, the anesthesia didn’t seem to work as well as it should have. I supposedly frantically scratched my nose during the whole thing and then started kicking my legs! When I woke up, I told the nurse I had dreamed that they kept telling me to stop moving, and she told me that was not a dream. The doctor said while he was getting the eggs from my left ovary (which was accessible!), he had to wait for me to settle down after each one. He laughed when I told him that Tom often tells me to “sleep like a human” in the middle of the night. Thankfully they were able to move past it and get 29 eggs!

We got 29 eggs!


Fertilization/Embryo update

The next day, the lab called at 9 am to tell me that of the 29 eggs, 25 were mature and 14 fertilized with ICSI. That number honestly worried me. I knew that from 29, the number would dwindled down significantly, but I expected more like 20 to fertilize. The embryologist told us that about 30% of our embryos would make it to day 5, so I wanted to start with as many as possible. But my hope was that, since fertilization is our main fertility problem, a healthy number of those that fertilized would make good embryos. There’s so much you learn during an IVF cycle that you don’t learn during IUI’s. And though my tests have always been good, I’ve felt sure that I contributed to our fertility problem as well over the years. So the wait from Wednesday to Sunday was not the easiest, to say the least. I really wanted enough embryos to have a peace of mind about our future family. We did this with kid #3 in mind as well as kid #2. And of course, just as I would be okay with just having Abbie because she is perfection, I would be okay with only two kids. But I want my options. Infertility doesn’t give you many options, and I was so hoping IVF would give us some! That feels greedy, but it is what it is.

Thankfully, the lab called yesterday to let me know that they biopsied and froze 5 perfect embryos! They were all of equal quality, given a grade of 6BB. I asked what was the highest, and she said 6AA but they rarely give that out, so 6BB is pretty much the highest they give. They were still watching 6 more embryos, and I heard today that one of those was also biopsied and frozen, also 6BB. So we have 6 beautiful, frozen embabies! This is a great number! And by next week, we should know which of those are chromosomally normal.

PGS is an optional test that we are paying for ourselves, but it will hopefully save us from the agony that our miscarriage was back in February of 2014. If I never have to go through that hell again, it will be worth the $4k it cost to get there. And as far as costs go, I feel so lucky. The medication was completely free with my insurance. And I’ve almost met my insurance deductible, so the cycle will be mostly covered. Obviously it would be nice if we could just get pregnant for free, but we are very lucky to be working our way through infertility treatments a second time without any debt.

So now we wait to see how many of our 6 embryos have the right genetic components. And after that, we start prepping for a transfer! This will either be in August or September. I feel way more terrified about this than the retrieval. I knew I could make a lot of eggs from our cancelled IUIs when I made too many eggs, and I guess I should feel good about achieving pregnancy since I’ve been pregnant twice. But I still feel like my uterus is deficient and will reject the embryo. I will be doing everything I can to make the embryo stick!

So, in summary, here is the crazy math that is IVF:

39 follicles
29 eggs retrieved
25 mature eggs
14 fertilized eggs
6 frozen blastocysts

It’s crazy to go have to start with such high numbers to end up with 6, but I am very happy with these 6! May the Lord bless and keep these embabies until they are able to be brought to life 🙂