Inducing Labor

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I’ve been reflecting a lot lately about how people (me) and things change over time, whether good or bad.  Around this time last year, I was angry and bitter after a failed IVF cycle.  I had SO many feelings.  I cried, I was frustrated, I wanted to be alone, and I distanced myself from the Lord.  The feelings of my heart floated around like endless ripples in the water.  The thoughts in my mind crashed like waves on the shore.  I was in no position to help anyone because I was the one that needed help.  I needed to change my attitude then in order to accept the change I embrace now.  Now, a year later, my life has undergone an irreversible change…being a parent.

Inducing Labor

As the days drew near to our babies’ delivery, I knew the plan was to induce labor.  The doctor wanted me to make it to 39 weeks, if baby didn’t come before then.  With twice/week appointments and NSTs plans seemed to change frequently.  Everything depended on my doctor appointments and exams.  In the meantime, I decided to read up about inducing labor to prepare me for that process.  At 38 weeks, I was dilated to 3 cm and my doctor was hopeful for my scheduled induction.  My uterus was “ripening” well so my doctor recommended pitocin to induce labor.  A week earlier he recommended pitocin and a vaginal tablet.  Sorry, can’t recall the name of that medication right now.  The tablet is inserted vaginally and used to help the uterus soften to prepare for delivery.  But, since my uterus was “ripening” I didn’t need the tablet.  Lucky me.

Week 39 arrived – my scheduled induction.  My husband and I had a leisure morning, ate lunch at Zippy’s, and then headed to Queens with all our stuff.  When I say stuff, I mean baby’s car seat & 1 bag – full of clothes for both of us, clothes to dress the baby upon discharge, snacks, toothbrushes/paste, and whatever else we felt was necessary.  I had been warned to eat a good lunch because I wouldn’t be eating anything until after the baby came out.  (I would’ve been fine except being induced took WAY more time and energy than I ever expected.)

Anyways, so once we got there, we got our room, got hooked up to baby monitors, IV, and pitocin…the inducing started.  My husband and I pretty much just cruised in the delivery room until it was time to sleep.  We watched TV, looked at our phones, texted family members with updates, and stared at each other.  Lol.  Actually, it’s REALLY hard to do anything in the hospital.  A nurse or 2 would come in every hour to check the monitors, medications, ask questions, do a vaginal exam, etc.  My doctor came in the evening (and was in consultation with the nurses and doctor on shift) to check on me.  He reminded me that inducing labor is a really slow process.

About 14 hours into the process (3am) I decided to have an epidural.  I was really hesitant about having an epidural because then I would be bed bound and reliant on a catheter to use the bathroom.  I asked the nurses and residents about the specific process.  I was SO tired but I couldn’t sleep because I was uncomfortable.  It’s funny because every time there’s a new shift a new nurse would come in and ask me what my level of pain was.  For me it was low (2-3) because of the excess fluid made it almost impossible to feel any contractions.  You’d think that since I didn’t feel any contractions, I didn’t need an epidural.  But, I agreed to have an epidural.  Apparently Queen’s was really busy that night and I had to wait about 15 minutes.  It wasn’t long to wait.  I suppose if I was farther along in the process, 15 minutes would feel much longer.  Lol.

The anesthesiologist came in and explained the process of an epidural and what to expect afterwards – possible side effects.  At 3am my husband was already sleeping but was awoken by the bright lights that needed to be on.  The anesthesiologist talked me through every thing, step by step.  She was really good, I hardly felt anything.  To me, if I can barely feel the needle – you’re good.  I’ve had blood drawn that’s hurt more than getting an epidural, honestly.  The anesthesiologist also explained the button…an additional boost of medication that should only be pushed as needed.  Once you push the button, you’d have to wait at least 10 minutes before pushing it again, if you needed to.  Well, you could keep pressing the button but it wouldn’t release any medicine.

The epidural was nice!  I was definitely able to feel comfortable and get minimal rest.  I didn’t feel the contractions before I got it and sure didn’t feel them after either.  Lol.  After that things were pretty mellow until the morning.  Mellow as far as progress for the baby.  The nurses and residents continuously come in and check on you…but at least at night they use the low light so you can a little rest, or none if it bothers you.  Lol.

In the morning, around 7am, now 18 hours into my scheduled inducing, my doctor came to check on me.  He, along with a couple of nurses, pricked my water bag so it would slowly drip out.  He made a few holes using a very thin needle.  I happily didn’t feel anything because of the epidural.  My doctor noted progress – I was dilated to 6 cm.  This was great news to me because I thought we were nearing the birth of our baby.  Technically I was in active labor but couldn’t feel it.

In the early evening my doctor came to see me again and I was still dilated to 6 cm.  I had so much fluid and the baby was still now dropping so the doctor decided to let out a little flow of fluid to help guide the baby down and help me dilate more.  He made a few more pokes to let more fluid drain out.  The nurses changed the padding under me as needed.

Evening went fine, well maybe fine isn’t the right word for it.  I was hungry, tired, and confined to the bed.  We watched TV, talked and cruised in the room.  We got a visit from my sister-in-law and 2 nieces, who brought dinner (for my husband of course).  My sweet husband ate outside the room so I wouldn’t have to smell any of it.  We chatted and then they went to visit someone on another floor.

Everything was pretty calm…until about 1 in the morning.  (I had been at the hospital for 36 hours now.)  My husband was sleeping on a fold up bed near me.  I started to shake and shiver as if I was cold.  I tried to go back to sleep but couldn’t.  After 10-15 minutes, I decided to call the nurse.  Unfortunately, the remote had fallen to the left of the bed and it was hanging down that side.  I tried to reach for it a couple times and almost got it.  I felt the shaking getting stronger and out of control.  I called my husband a few times but he didn’t hear me.  I reached one more time for the remote and got it.  Oh, I forgot to mention that besides having the IV on my right hand, the epidural tube came up my right shoulder, I had an oxygen mask on, a blood pressure cuff on my left arm, AND I couldn’t feel from the waist down.  The blood pressure cuff went off every 20-30 minutes.  SO, reaching for the remote to call the nurse was much more difficult than it sounds.  Lol.

I finally called for the nurse.  When she came in, I told her how I felt and she told me to try and relax.  She asked if I wanted some medicine for nausea.  I agreed to take it – via IV.  But before she could give it to me, I threw up on myself and the gown I had on.  My husband awoke to me throwing up and helped the nurse clean me up.  I got a new gown and a warm blanket, literally.  When the nurse left to get the nausea medication, I asked my husband to give me a blessing.  I didn’t know what was going on with me.  I was shaking and shaking.  I couldn’t stop myself.  My husband gave me a blessing before the nurse came in with my nausea medicine.  My regular nurse for the evening came in and checked my temperature.  The thermometer read that I was fine but the nurse didn’t believe it and quickly obtained another thermometer, which showed I had a fever.  I took deep breaths to help calm me but that didn’t always help.  I got the nausea medicine and my shivering slowed down.

It was 2:15am…My contractions plateaued and I was over it.  I wanted the baby out.  I still had a fever and shakes (intermittently).  The nurse called my doctor and a c-section was in the works.

Next post: Cesarean Delivery

Day 10

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Sorry, I’ve been slacking on my posts!  This time of year tends to be like that.  Well, thank you for your patience!

Between our unsuccessful FET and now, I’ve been able to take a step back and relax.  Which is good, right?  Of course.  Ooh, before I forget, the FET completed our first IVF cycle…even though we started in May and got postponed until September.  Not sure if I mentioned this before.  Sorry if I have and you’re reading this again.  Lol

Alright, Day 10.  When I scheduled my exam with my IVF coordinator, I knew Dr. F would not be there.  Instead, I would be seen be his wife, also Dr. F and an OB/GYN.  It would be my first time meeting her.

On Day 10 I went in for my exam.  As I waited in the exam room I wondered how the appointment would go.  I hoped the lining of my uterus looked good enough so we could gain further insight on the best treatment for the next cycle – of whatever we decided.  Remember our 3 options?

After a brief waiting time, the female Dr. F came in.  She did the ultrasound and appeared to be enthralled at the lining of my uterus.  This both intrigued and worried me.  She did note that my uterus was a little different, but that it did appear to have its own trilateral pattern.  I didn’t know how to interpret what she said.  I was kind of at a loss for words.  I felt she was honest with me and I appreciated it.  I had so many questions in head.  I wondered if that meant I would be able to carry a baby or not.  As my exam continued and she looked at my ovaries closer, she recognized my endometriosis.  That explained the difference in the look of uterus.  Hopefully that makes sense.  Well, she took screen shots for Dr F to review and that was it.  After she left, I spoke with my IVF coordinator about our plans.

I was under the impression that we had 3 options.  As we talked, I realized that our options were limited to 2…FET or IVF cycles.  I thought that the fresh cycle with a little medication was a separate option.  But, it’s not.  It’s a fresh IVF cycle.  Lol.  I felt so dumb for not getting it before.  I did get a good laugh though.  Although our options were lessened, it doesn’t change the fact that we still have options…which is good.

Anyways!  In my discussion with my IVF coordinator, she requested that I give her 3 months notice before we start anything.  In previous conversations and emails, I told her that we wouldn’t be starting anything until January, at the earliest.  We laughed about how I would have to tell her now because in 3 months it will be the beginning of February.  We left it at that because we both were unsure of what Dr. F would recommend.  We decided to wait until Dr. F could review the images and then my IVF coordinator would contact me.

Within a week, my IVF coordinator called.  Since we plan to wait until January/February we have time to consider our options.  She instructed me to call her in January on Day 1 of my menses.  Dr. F has requested to do another SIS.  Fine with me, as long as it helps and allows Dr. F to continue to provide the best treatment for me.

Another factor in the process is that we will be switching medical insurance effective January 1st.  This is definitely a change but it also opens the option to a second IVF cycle, covered by insurance.  (I’ll talk about this again in a later post.)  In January, we will confirm our decision and take the necessary steps.  In the meantime, we wait… and read.

Next post: Endometriosis Diet

Now What?

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Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 2 weeks since my last post.  I’m sorry for not posting earlier.  I’ve been quite busy with a variety of projects.  I’m planning to post them on my other website soon.  Anyhow, I hope you are all doing well. 🙂

Coincidentally, the last post I wrote was the day I met with Dr. F to discuss our options.  Prior to our meeting, here are the options I thought we had:

1 – Do another FET, which FYI, insurance does not cover.  It’s an out-of-pocket expense that costs $4,000.

2 – Do another IVF cycle, which I estimated would cost another $3,000+.

and 3 – Nothing.  Take a break from all the medication and wait.

In my last post I mentioned that I was done and I didn’t want to continue trying anymore.  I felt that way because I was so hurt and the process is time consuming.  I recognized that a break was necessary but I didn’t want to take it.  Honestly, I wanted to do another FET but I knew what I needed to do…option 3…Nothing, at least for a little while.  Choosing to do another FET right away would have been more draining.  I knew my body needed to rest from all the medications and the emotional stress I experienced.

Doing another FET seemed to be only option but the price was not inviting.  Plus, money is always considered, whether or not I’m working outside my home.  I knew that we could afford to do another FET but I really had to think about whether that would be a smart decision.  I thought about the options we had and was still usure of what to do.  My husband & I discussed the options and decided we would wait until next year, 2013 to do anything, whatever it would be.  Of course, our decision also depended on Dr. F. recommendations.

The night before the meeting I wrote a couple of questions in my phone so I wouldn’t forget to ask them.  I really didn’t know what the objective of the meeting was and I didn’t know what to expect.  I figured we would discuss the FET and options, obviously, but other than that I didn’t know.

The day arrived for my follow up appointment with Dr. F.  I went by myself because my husband had a work meeting and was unable to attend.  When I arrived, they were apparently busy.  I knew I would be waiting a little longer than usual.  It wasn’t a problem because they have a TV and I have my phone to do shopkicks on.  When ready, Dr. F. and I walked to his office.  He shut the door and then talked with me while looking through my folder.  He allowed time for me to ask questions.  I only had 2.  The first questions was in regard to my endometriosis and if I should consider removing it.  I don’t remember the entire answer but I remember him explaining that removing it would be helpful if I experience a lot of pain.  I remember thinking that I do but I didn’t say anything.  I just thought about it.  The second question I had was about my menses.  I wanted to know why I didn’t get it prior to the blood test results.  Dr. F explained that during a normal menstrual cycle, a drop in progesterone levels would initiate my menses.  So, because I was still taking the progesterone I didn’t get a period until after I stopped the medication.  I was like, “Oh!”  After that I felt dumb because I felt like I should know that.  Lol.  After answering all my questions, we carried on with our discussion.

Dr. F. apologized for us not having any success.  I didn’t know what to say.  I felt he was genuine and I played it off by telling him, “it’s ok.”  That was awkward for me.  It wasn’t ok but I knew we both recognized that success was important.  Instead of dwelling on the lack of success, Dr. F focused on the embryos.

Dr. F used an analogy that helped me understand his perspective in the process, including our options.  I’ll call it…The Olympics.  He showed me pictures of our remaining 5 embryos and compared them to the olympics.  Seeing the embryos renewed my strength, hope, and purpose.  I completely understood the analogy and was again reminded of the risks involved with every step.  To make it to the freezing, each of the embryos are really good.  They’re the best athletes!  When it comes to the day of competition, you hope for an elite performance but never truly know how they will perform.  I may have exaggerated a little more than Dr. F, but you get the point right?  Dr. F. explained that he would expect 3-4 babies from the 7 embryos we originally had and with the 5 left, he still has that same expectation.  I know each embryo must meet a specific criteria so it was intriguing to me that the same expectation applies to the 5 remaining embryos.  Pretty cool actually!

We continued our meeting by discussion our options.  I was pretty accurate in my guesses for options.  Dr. F reviewed all the options, including the ones I thought about.  Dr. F, he’s so nice.  One more than one occasion, he’s told me I’m young.  Lol.  Sometimes I don’t feel young when I think of trying to have my first child at thirty-something.  But I am young! 🙂  Just a little note here…if the Dr. tells you you’re young, soak it up!  Lol.  Anyways!  Here’s a brief description of what we talked about:

1) FET.  Cost: $4,000   Begin: whenever we want.  This option is always available as long as we have frozen embryos…and we pay the storage fee.  Ya, I know, it reminds me of the all the storage facilities that have popped up on Oahu over the past 5+ years.  Except my embryos require much less space.  Lol.

2) IVF.  If we switched insurance companies we would get another “free” try.  Dr. F office would not charge us a copay for this second cycle.  Not sure if you remember but the copay price begins at $3,000.

3) Natural cycle with a little medicine.  I was not expecting this to be an option.  I told Dr. F that we weren’t planning to start anything until next year, end of January at the earliest.  He was respectful of that, which I really appreciated.  Now that I think about it, I don’t think we talked about how much this option would be.  I’m assuming that it is much cheaper than the other options.  I’m guess it’s like an IUI, which is a few hundred dollars.  Dr. F requested to do an ultrasound after we finished our discussion.  He wanted to see what the lining of my uterus looked like without medication, during a regular cycle.

Our meeting was done.  We walked out of Dr. F office and into an exam room.  I had a few minutes to change before he and my IVF coordinator knocked and came in.  During the exam, Dr. F inspected my uterus and remarked that it looked good.  What a relief!  I was hoping it would look ok.  I was so enthralled that Dr. F could tell I ovulated by the looking at my uterus.  It was amazing to me.  Dr. F wanted to see the lining of my uterus at different times during a normal cycle.  So, I have to call to schedule a day 10-12 exam.  Looks like the natural cycle is an option for now.  Yeah!

Well, those are our options.  I feel good and comfortable with them.  Another good thing is that I didn’t feel pressured from anyone to do anything.  The decisions were and are completely ours.  You know, after the FET was not successful, in some ways I felt like our options were limited to FET or IVF.  I’m glad that I had the opportunity to meet with Dr. F.

Still not sure what option we’ll choose.  We’ll see.

Next post: Considering the Options


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After 5 days of taking all those medications, the day of the transfer arrived…September 10th.

My FET was scheduled for 10:30am.  I had to be there a 1/2 hour before, so we weren’t in a rush.  My husband & I leisurely woke up and got ready.  I had been instructed to do take the Crinone gel in the morning and to have a full bladder.  When we were ready, my husband gave me a blessing, and then we left.

Unfortunately, we locked ourselves out of the house.  My husband didn’t take his keys.  I left my keys in my church bag the day before and forgot to take it out.  He closed the door before I could reach for my keys.  Oops!  Lol.  I couldn’t believe it but it happened.  There wasn’t much we could do, except worry about it later.  I wasn’t going to be worried about that, we had an appointment.  While my husband drove, I called my mom.  She had keys to our place.  So we arranged a time to meet afterwards.  I estimated that we would be done around 11:30 – 12pm.  The plan was for me to call my mom when we left, that way, we would get there around the same time.

We arrived 1/2 hr before and sat in the waiting area.  A few minutes later we were called by my IVF coordinator.  We followed her to her office where she reviewed instructions for the ET.  I disregarded some of the instructions because they were related to pregnancy and would worry about that later.  I didn’t want to assume, neither did I want to feel overwhelmed by possibility.  The instructions were pretty straight forward and to me, quite obvious:

No swimming – for 1 week
Drink lots of fluids – In addition to water, juice and sports drinks
Use stool softener – as needed for constipation
Eat balanced meals
No strenuous activities

You got it, right?  In addition to all the instructions, I still had to take medications…until my IVF coordinator instructed me to stop.  I was taking the Crinone gel, Estrace, aspirin, & PNV.

The instructions also included 2 dates – Sept. 20th & 22nd.  On these dates I was scheduled for blood work only – to see if I was pregnant or not.

After meeting with my IVF coordinator we again sat in the waiting area.  I was called for my blood work and then we went to meet with Dr. F.  He explained the risk for multiple births and we asked questions.  We signed a couple of documents verifying our embryos.  I wanted to cry.  I had been so worried about the embryos.  When as I signed the documents I realized that my prayers had been answered and I felt relieved.  In a previous appointment, I asked Dr. F what the procedure is for thawing the embryos.  He explained that they are taken out one at a time.  If they are not growing, they are discarded and another embryo is taken out.  Knowing that we have 7, I didn’t know how many would be used to get 2 strong embryos.  I hope that makes sense.  As I signed the document, I understood that only 2 of our 7 embryos were thawed for this procedure.  I felt comforted and grateful.

Dr. F showed us 2 pictures of our 2 embryos.  It was SO cool!  The picture on the left were of the frozen embryos and the picture on the right was of the thawed embryos.  It seemed like they were magnified like a million times larger.  The images were huge, especially when you know they’re the size of an ink dot.  I was so intrigued by the pictures.  I thought it was amazing because it was personal.  They were OUR embryos, not the ones you see in a text book.  As I viewed the side-by-side pictures, they looked only slightly different to me.  Dr. F explained that before transferring them they would look somewhere in between both pictures.

After our meeting was done, we followed my IVF coordinator to the OR area.  It’s the same place I had my egg retrieval.  I was in the exact same room too.  We put our hair caps and booties on.  I removed my clothing from the waist down, wrapped myself with the large sheet that was provided.  I opened the curtain and we followed my IVF coordinator into the OR.  My husband sat on a stool (with wheels) and I laid on the bed.  I lifted my legs up to rest on these pole things and then scooted my bottom all the way to the edge of the table.  The poles are like ob/gyn stirrups for back of the knee.  I verified my name and birthday that were on the screen and then my IVF coordinator informed Dr. F that I was ready.

We waited for a while because there was something that Dr. F. needed to take care of.  I think we waited about 15-20 minutes, that’s my guess.  I wasn’t watching the clock.  When he arrived, he talked us through the procedure while getting started.  He put the speculum in and I think, a catheter.  I’m not exactly sure about the catheter.  He told the lady in the Lab that he was ready.  We looked at the screen and saw the 2 embryos.  Dr. F was right, the embryos looked somewhere in between the 2 pictures we saw, except this was LIVE.  We saw them super close and then the view zoomed back until they were tiny.  The catheter came in and sucked up the embryos.  The lady in the Lab brought the catheter to the adjacent door and gave it to Dr. F.  The door has a a little window that can be opened or closed.  It’s quite convenient actually.  Dr. F. took it and sat back down.  It took him a few minutes to insert the catheter.

Once the catheter was in, Dr. F had us turn our eyes to the ultrasound.  He told us that we would see a white line in the uterus and then the embryos would be released.  The embryos were released deep into the uterus, much like where they would be if it were a natural conception.  We saw the white line and that was it.  The embryos were SO tiny, I knew we wouldn’t see them.  That was it!  The catheter and speculum were removed.  Dr. F shook our hands and told us that there was nothing more we could do – let nature take its course.

I switched beds and got rolled to my room.  I laid there for 30 minutes.  Before we left, I emptied my bladder and put my clothes on.  My mom met us at home and we were able to get in.  Lol.  She made chili for us so we ate and then rested for the rest of the day.  It was so nice.

Now it was time to wait…

Next post:  The Next 10 Days

(Not sure if I’m going to post the picture of the embryos.  I have 1 of the 2 pictures we saw.  Thinking about it.)

My Surgery Date!

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Getting a surgery date was much harder than I expected.  When I called to talk with my OB/GYN, I was informed that he was on vacation for 2 weeks.  I just shook my head in disbelief.  Seriously?  I thought, “What are the odds of that?”  Lol.  The only option I had at that point was to schedule a phone call appointment with my OB/GYN upon his return.  I inquired about having another doctor do the surgery but when I talked to the nurse, that didn’t seem to be an option.  I couldn’t do anything about it…I just had to wait.  For the next couple of days, I was annoyed…just because.  I estimated that the earliest date for my surgery would be at the end of July or maybe early August.  Then I gauged that my ET would probably be pushed back to late August or September.  I wouldn’t be able to confirm that until after my phone call appointment on July 16th @ 4:30pm.

While I waited, I confirmed with my IVF coordinator, via email, that there was only 1 polyp.  She checked with Dr. Frattarelli and confirmed it – only 1 polyp.  I also spent my time researching polyps.  At that point I wasn’t sure how big or small the polyp was but I knew I would be ok.  A uterine polyp is pretty much a growth on the lining of the uterus.  It can look like a bump or hang like a tear drop and can range in size.  I know that sounds quite gross but that’s the only way I can explain it right now.  Lol.

The day of my phone appointment arrived, July 16th.  When 4:30pm rolled around, I expected my phone to ring.  I tried to keep my phone nearby so I would’t miss the call.  I had all day to think about what the doctor might say.  Time seemed to tick away and still no call.  4:35pm, 4:40pm, 4:45pm.  Still no call.  I wondered if my OB/GYN would call or not.  I thought, “I really don’t want to call tomorrow wondering why no one called me.”  4:50pm, 4:55pm, my patience was being tested.  Then a little after 5:00pm, my phone rang…it was my OB/GYN.  Phew!

As I explained the purpose of the appointment, my OB/GYN noted that he had not received any information from Dr. Frattarelli.  He noted that he briefly check his mail but hadn’t seen anything, but he still had more to look through.  I was quite surprised that after 2 weeks, my OB/GYN hadn’t received information about my polyp.  So, I briefly updated my OB/GYN.  He said he would follow up with Dr. Frattarelli.

I waited as he looked for an open date for the operation room.  My OB/GYN quickly scheduled my surgery for July 31st and said he would have his nurse call me the next day.  I agreed, of course!  Wouldn’t you?  I just wanted it to be done with so I took the earliest date I was offered.  The phone appointment took about 20-25 minutes total.  I realized after we hung up that I knew the date, but not the time.  Oops!  But it was ok because I knew the nurse was going to call me the next day.  This is one way I feel that being laid off has been a blessing.  I didn’t need to take the day off or call in sick or anything like that.  Much less stress.

The following day, the nurse called me.  She scheduled a pre-op appointment for July 27th & reviewed some of the things I needed to prepare for.  I asked her about the time of the surgery and she told me 10:00am.  Then she explained that at my pre-op appointment, she would review more information with me and I would most likely have to do blood work.  That was fine with me!

It was such a relief to have my surgery date.  I assumed it would be similar to my egg retrieval.  I didn’t worry about it.

The date for my pre-op appointment came quickly.  I checked in and sat on a chair waiting to be called.  I saw a note on the board that said my OB/GYN was running 45 minutes to an hour late.  Oh dear, I thought.  I geared up for a long wait.  To my surprise, my name was called about 10 minutes later.  I’m grateful I didn’t wait too long.

The nurse took my height, weight, and vitals – blood pressure, temperature, and pulse.  She asked me a few questions related to family history and date of the first day of my last menses.  You know, the same basic questions.  She escorted me to the exam room where she asked me to remove my clothing from the waist down.  The nurse gave me a disposable sheet and then told me the doctor would be in soon.

A few minutes later, my OB/GYN knocked on the door and came in with the nurse.  He briefly checked my uterus and breathing.  It was a really quick appointment, maybe 5 minutes.  Then, as instructed I changed & met with the doctor in his office.

He explained, with a visual aid what a polyp looks like in the uterus.  He continued with talking me through the procedure.  I listened attentively and learned that the doctor would be using a camera to look into my uterus.  Apparently, using a camera is much more accurate than the ultrasound when it comes to locating polyps.  So cool.  We discussed some of the side effects and that I should expect some spotting for a few days.  The doctor also explained that the polyp would be cut off with a scissors.  I’m sure it’s a special kind of scissors.  Pretty interesting to me!

My OB/GYN also told me what time I needed to arrive at the hospital.  Since my surgery was scheduled for 10:00am I needed to be there 2 hours prior – 8am.  I was also instructed (just like my egg retrieval) not to eat anything after midnight the night before my procedure.  The day of the surgery, I was instructed to take my thyroid medicine with a sip of water.  That was it, nothing else.  Since I was having an outpatient surgery and would be receiving light sedation, I needed to arrange to be picked up.  I would not be allowed to drive home nor would I be released without an adult.  Lol.  That sounds funny but they’re quite adement about someone being with you.  We reviewed the pre-op instructions, which I just explained, and then signed.  We also reviewed a consent which stated the purpose of the procedure, anesthesia, and medical treatment.  The doctor & I signed that form.  He asked if I had any questions.  At the time I only had one question.

My question was this….since he was removing the polyp, could he also remove the ovarian cysts?  I figured since I was going to be under anesthesia, why not?  Lol.  Well, the answer was no.  But it was ok.  The doctor explained that ovarian cysts are removed through the belly button, not vaginally.  I thought that was interesting and it made sense.  It seemed so obvious after he explained it.

After leaving his office I walked a short distance to the nurses desk.  She briefly reviewed the pre-op paper and the consent.  She put the originals in an envelop labeled for the O.R. with my name on it.  She instructed me to bring that envelop with me on the day of my surgery and hand it to the receptionist at the O.R.  Then she gave me my copies of the two forms and I was off to the lab.

At the lab, I did a urine test and blood work.  First the urine test, which I always seems weird to me, and then I waited to be called for blood work.  There were a handful of people waiting so I knew I had a few minutes before I would be called.  It wasn’t long before it was my turn.  I went in and requested the wrap instead of the tape.  I make it a point to ask for the wrap because the tape is horrible.  It rips the hairs off my skin and leaves a residue that has to be scraped off.  Not fun.  Plus, I think going to Dr. Frattarelli’s has spoiled me.  They always use the wrap, which is great.  The phlebotomist found my vein easily so I was out of there fast.  My entire pre-op appointment, including lab work, was about an hour.

All done!  Now, all I had to do was wait a few more days until the surgery.  In the meantime, I emailed my IVF coordinator and she sent me an updated calendar.  With all the postponing and changes that arose, this was my 3rd and hopefully last calendar.

I was ready! 🙂

Next post: My Surgery – Polyp Removal


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We have some new subscribers!!  Yay!  Thank you for joining in on the journey! 🙂

Almost immediately after I published my last post, I said out loud, “Oops!”  I realized that I forgot to mention something, something big.  I don’t know how it slipped my mind!  So, before I talk about my SIS, I’m going to rewind a little.

Ok, here it is.  A week and a half after beginning the birth control pills again (early June) I was informed by my employer that they would be restructuring.  I was not alone in this, at all.  2 weeks and then I would be out of a job.  Words can’t adequately express the many emotions I felt at that time.  I felt SO many different emotions.  I felt angry, worthless, disposable, protective (of others), distraught, etc.  For the first few days after receiving this news, I was furious.  I did not like the way the lay off was done.  I went in one day and cleaned out everything!  I made the decision to use some of my leave and not return.  I think I went in one more day but that was it.

The lay off brought much more dynamics to what I already felt was a complicated task – IVF.  At that point I felt such a burden.  I wondered what would come of our efforts to try to start a family.  I contemplated whether or not to search for work.  I had so many more questions than I had answers for.  I knew what I had to do, I just didn’t want to do it.  There were 2 things I knew for sure…1 I had to file for unemployment, and 2, I had to pay COBRA.

In order to maintain my medical coverage and continue with IVF, I had to pay for COBRA.  During open enrollment, my husband changed insurance companies so at the time of the lay off, we had different medical coverages.  Unfortunately, in the state of Hawaii, when you do IVF and something comes up, if you don’t continue coverage, you forfeit the only opportunity you’ll have.  I was not about to give that up.  Technically, insurance only covers one chance.  It felt like such a huge sacrifice because now I had to pay the full coverage for medical insurance.  But, it was necessary and temporary.  I can switch to my husband’s insurance once the IVF cycle is completed.

Filing for unemployment was another frustrating process.  Even with the handbook, powerpoint, and instructions, the process proved to be a daunting one.  I’m glad I didn’t go through it alone.  Once you get through the first few steps, it gets easier.  I think that’s all I’m going to say about that.  If you need assistance, let me know.  I’ll help you!!

Through all of those emotions (and this experience), I still felt relieved.  It might seem to be kind of weird but I was glad to leave.  My philosophy and thoughts on the lay off simply come down to this – a company that doesn’t value me doesn’t deserve me.  I decided not to let the lay off bother me and moved on to more important things.  The lay off has been a blessing.

Ok, now that you’re all caught up with that, I can talk about my SIS.

So, like I mentioned in my last post, my IVF coordinator emailed me my new calendar and scheduled my next appointment.  My new calendar revealed that my ET (embryo transfer) would now be scheduled for July 30th.  It was pushed back because of the delay in my thyroid test results.  So my once July 25th ET was now 5 days later.  I sarcastically told my husband, “I’ve been waiting forever already, what’s 5 more days.”  Lol.  Things can always be worse, but why dwell on that…it doesn’t help.  Honestly, you really have to be able to laugh, put things in perspective, and at times search for joy in the little successes.  It’s not always easy to do but it has its rewards.

I went in on July 2 for my SIS, in preparation for my ET on July 30th.  Prior to this, I’d never heard of a SIS.  Saline Infusion Sonogram (SIS), also called a sonohysterography, is a test that looks at the shape of the uterus.  The saline solution is like the dye of HSG test, it acts as a contrast to help the doctor look at the uterus, using ultrasound.  The SIS is similar to the HSG test, I’ve mentioned previously.  Minor cramping can occur.  It took less than 5 minutes.

On the day of my appointment, I forgot about the SIS and I didn’t do my research.  I guess I was distracted with the lay off that I didn’t read up about it.  Maybe that was a good thing, maybe not.  The doctor was behind schedule so I had time to talk with my IVF coordinator.  She reviewed with me the calendar and the medicines I would be starting that evening.  I didn’t have my blood taken just my vitals – blood pressure, pulse, and temperature.  The doctor came in and did the SIS.  He put the speculum in, catheter and then the solution.  I felt a bit of cramping but it was bearable.  The doctor pushed the monitor toward me so I could see.  I saw a little oval.  The doctor took a picture of it and then zoomed in closer for a better view.

With a closer view, I saw bigger oval with a white line through most of it.  Dr. Frattarelli explained that the oval shape was a polyp, which would hinder our embryos from attaching to the lining of the uterus.  Therefore, it needed to be removed surgically…before proceeding any further.  I was absolutely speechless and it felt as though things were going in slow motion.  I was overcome with disbelief and then reality set it.  Yet another postponing of the ET.

When I began this journey I compared it to a roller coaster ride, this was definitely one of those rides.  I cried the whole drive home (about 30 minutes).  It felt like deja vu.  I questioned my pursuit of becoming pregnant.  I felt like there was so much adversity, it was too much to bear.  I felt so sensitive that day, I needed time to myself.  But having too much time to think about things isn’t always helpful either.

That evening, my sister-in-law called inviting us over to play “Dance Central 2” on xbox 360.  I was so emotional I thought it would be better to stay home.  I reluctantly agree to go.  I knew my parents were there and I was apprehensive because I knew the moment I saw any member of my family, I would immediately start crying.  I  wasn’t ready for that, so I thought.  As I made the less than 5 minute drive over, my eyes watered in anticipation.  What was I going to do?

I wiped the tears from my face, took a few deep breaths, told myself it would be ok, and went in.  I was met with so much love and kindness, I was surprised I kept my composure.  I wanted to cry but I felt that was selfish.  I needed to forget myself – my heartache, pain, and sorrow – and enjoy the moment.  In other words, I had to suck it up and leave my personal feelings outside.  It was more than just about me.

I tried my best.  As I’ve reflected on that night, I had such a fun evening with my family.  I don’t think they will ever know how much they helped me that night.  As I made the short drive home, I felt such relief.  I was so proud of myself…I didn’t cry.

I was responsible for contacting my regular OB/GYN to schedule surgery.  I knew the surgery date was not up to me.  I could gage when the surgery might be but I wouldn’t know until I called my OB/GYN.  Dr. Frattarelli requested that I give my OB/GYN a day before calling, that way he had time to send the appropriate notes/information to my OB/GYN.  So, I called my OB/GYN the next day.

Little did I know, I would have to endure a little more…

Next post: My Surgery Date!

FYI: I’m going to be launching another website soon…!  I’m excited!! 🙂

The Calendar, Timing, and Costs of IVF

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One of these posts, I’m going to catch up…it’s just not going to be this one!  I have SO many thoughts right now, I’m not quite sure where to begin.  I think I’ll start off with this…

I’m going to apologize beforehand, if anyone is offended by what I’m about to say.  I don’t intent to offend anyone.

One of the original purposes for starting this blog was to inform and help others.  I’m not trying, at all, to sugar coat the IVF process.  This is not something I’ve dreamed of doing, nor is it a result of something I’ve done wrong.  I get asked a lot of questions pertaining to the “hows and whys” I’m not pregnant.  People assume many things.  I’ve had some say that I’ve put my career ahead of my decision to have a baby/child/family.  I’ve had others wonder why I haven’t had a baby after being married for more than 7 years.  Yet others assume that it’s easy for everyone to conceive just by having intercourse.  If it were that simple, I wouldn’t be writing this blog.

Everyone’s experiences are very personal and individual.  I recognize that to some degree, if you haven’t experienced IVF, you will probably never fully understand what some women have to go through to become pregnant.  It’s difficult to explain how personal this is.  Even though IVF is a process, there is a tremendous amount of emotion, physical pain, and unexpected events that accompany it.  I hope that as I describe the steps and experiences I’ve had, that you will gain an understanding.  I don’t think I can really explain everything.  I’ll do my best.

The Calendar

Like I’ve mentioned before, there are a lot of dates to remember.  Since I already wrote about the birth control, I think I’ll bypass that this time.  My calendar contains at least 2 weeks of intense activity, meaning appointments, ultrasounds, blood work, and injections.  Of course, all of this activity is tentative and subject to change, depending on how the uterus and ovaries look.  So, you have to keep your schedule open during that time.  My calendar included specific dates for my egg retrieval and embryo transfer, which I will discuss in more detail in upcoming posts. Oh ya, I forgot to mention another important date.  The calendar gives an exact date for when I will be starting the shots.  One month prior to starting the shots (while I take the birth control), my IVF copayment is due.

The Timing

IVF requires frequent monitoring, which is why timing is so critical.  Although I followed my calendar, I understood that I could be asked to come in for another appointment, the next day.  I could have an appointment anywhere between 1-3 days or more, in other words, flexibility is a requirement! 🙂

Costs of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

Oh my, take a guess!  How much do you think IVF costs with or without insurance?  I’ve mentioned a range in previous posts.  Since this is our first time doing IVF, insurance will cover a majority of the costs.  Phew!  That’s definitely a good thing!

We had over a month to review the costs and make a decision about IVF before paying our portion.  There are a few options available to couples doing IVF.  For me, the copayment would either be $3,000 or $4,500 plus some additional fees that, if we consented, would be paid at a later time.  The options include the following:

1.  With or without ICSI.  ICSI stands for Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection.  Choosing to do ICSI ultimately means that after the eggs are retrieved from the ovaries, each egg will be individually fertilized with a single sperm.  When I first heard of this procedure, I was amazed!  It’s very precise and pretty much guarantees that each egg retrieved will be fertilized, thus slightly increasing your success rate.

Choosing “without ICSI” means that the eggs and sperm are on their own.  They are placed together and then responsible for fertilization.  I’m not sure if you can still consider that “natural” but it kind of is.  It’s just not happening in your body.

The cost: Without ICSI = $3,000     With ICSI = $4,500

Without insurance, IVF would cost around $18,000-20,000.  That’s right!  Thinking things through is a MUST!  You want the best chances you can get with the least amount of variables or factors.

2.  Cryopreservation of the Embryos.  This is one of the additional fees to be paid at a later date.  Agreeing and paying for this means we would be freezing our embryos, which will cost $1,500.  There is also a fee for storing the embryos.  After the first year, keeping the embryos frozen will amount to $600/year, which equals $50 per month.

3.  Frozen Embryo Transfer Cycle.  If per chance we decide to freeze our embryos we have the option of doing a frozen embryo transfer cycle.  Say the IVF cycle did not result in pregnancy and we’d like another chance.  We can use the frozen embryos and have them transfered into the uterus rather than complete the entire IVF cycle again.  Or, say that the IVF cycle was successful and we wanted to increase posterity.  This same option would be available to us.  The cost of this cycle is $4,000.

These are all HARD decisions to make.  I’m grateful we had a sufficient time to review all of these options.  The first difficult decision, for me, in the IVF process, was whether to do ICSI or not.  The $1,500 additional charge was difficult.  Paying for it wasn’t the problem, not that we’re swimming in money!  I thought about this decision for a LONG time!  My husband and I had many discussions about it…still no definite answer.  We weighed the pros and cons, pondered, and prayed.  What was really going through my mind was this…is it necessary?  I didn’t feel comfortable paying for ICSI because I felt that it was for men with low sperm count.  From what I knew, there weren’t any issues with my husband’s sperm through semen analysis.  Then there were the “what ifs” that popped up in my head.  Like, what if only a few eggs are fertilized?  We were encouraged to do ICSI but in the end, it was up to us.  It took weeks for us to solidify our decision.

The second decision we contemplated was whether to freeze the remaining embryos or not.  My husband read a lot of articles that say that many couples become pregnant naturally after IVF.  We have NO idea if that would be the case for us.  How would we know?  We just speculated.  Regardless of that, we had to discuss and decide.  We didn’t need an answer yet but the time would approach quickly.

Decisions, decisions…

Next post: Our decisions

Ovulation Induction with Injectable Gonadotrophins

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The title sounds so serious and technical but the process is quite simple (& easy to do).

So, where was I?  Provera, that’s right.  Just to review, the provera was prescribed to help regulate my cycles and the endometriosis.  I thought a few days after I finished the pills, I’d get my menses.  But that wasn’t the case.  It took about 3 weeks for me to get my menses.  I began to worry, because I knew that I only had 6 months and 1 month was already taken due to provera.  Of course, it was for a good purpose, but I was a little worried I may run out of time.

My menses came and I went in for a day 3 scan.  I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but when I talk about a scan, that means I had a vaginal ultrasound.  Before I start talking about my appointment, I want to describe the bleeding.  My menses was exceptionally heavy and lasted at least 3-4 days longer than usual.  See, when I took the provera my bleeding stopped, but my cycle continued and the lining of my uterus continued to grow and thicken.  This made my menstrual cycle the heaviest, I think it’s ever been.  Taking the medicine didn’t lessen any of the cramps, not that I expected it to.  Although, it really, I think, cleared out my uterus.  Mmm, not completely, but a lot and enough to start the injections.  This may sound gross and possibly weird, but I took a picture of one of the many clots that discharged.  It was a big one and I wanted evidence!  Lol.  You can kind of tell what the clots look like because they’re really dark compared to the rest of the blood, and they can be in different sizes.  If I remember, I’ll post it and you can tell me what you think! 🙂

Ok, getting back to my appointment.  The day 3 scan still showed that the lining of my uterus was a little thick but I got the ok to start the injections or shots.  I was surprised, happy, and apprehensive!  I got dressed and met a medical assistant in a office type setting.  She gave me a bag of stuff.  Stuff I wasn’t familiar with, yet.  In the bag included the following: (Each item is individually packaged so you do end up with a lot of little pieces of rubbish.)

  • Syringes
  • Alcohol wipes
  • Q-caps:  A Q-cap is like an adapter.  It attaches to the vial by snapping around the top, which locks it in place.
  • Needles:  small sized
  • Injectable medicine:  I took a medication called Bravelle.  One box contained 5 vials of the medicine and 5 vials of water.  Each vial of medicine was 75 IU.
  • Sharps container:  to dispose of the needles.

I was given a tutorial from the medical assistant explaining how to prepare and inject the medicine.  I also received written instructions to assist me at home.  I was now burdened with the task of injecting myself with medication.  Oh dear!  I created events in my calendar and then set it to remind me.  I did this to assure that I was taking the injection at the same time each night.  For me, it was important to follow all the instructions with exactness, thus minimizing or eliminating any other factors on my part.  I was determined to do my part.

That night, after my day 3 scan, I did my first injection.  Before injecting the medication, I had to prepare it.  Here are the steps…

1.  I gathered one vial of each (water and medicine), 1 syringe, 1 needle, 2 alcohol wipes, and a Q-cap.

2.  I washed and dried my hands.  I took the caps off the vials which revealed a gray rubbery covering and cleaned them with one alcohol wipe.

3.  I put the Q-cap on the vial of water and then twisted the syringe on the top.  I drew up 1 cc of water and removed the entire Q-cap, with the syringe and put it on the vial of medicine.  I pushed the syringe down to release the water into the vial of medicine.  Bravelle is a powder, which explains the need for the vial of water.  Once the water and powder are combined, I swirled the vial around until the powder dissolved and the mixture was clear.  I put it down and let it rest for a minute or 2, while I prepared everything else.

4.  I drew up the medicine with a little air and untwisted the syringe until it was separated from the Q-cap.  I attached the needle, which was covered with a cap (for safety, I’m sure) and opened the 2nd alcohol wipe.

5.  I flicked the syringe and pushed the air out so only the medicine remained.  I took the alcohol wipe out and pulled the cap off the needle.  I didn’t know HOW I was going to do this!

6.  I took a few deep breaths and cleaned a small area in the abdomen area.  Where am I injecting this thing?  2 inches left or right of the naval.  I pinched the skin with one hand and inserted the needle with the other hand.  I was SUPER nervous!  I slowly pushed the syringe because I could feel the medicine going in.  It didn’t help that I was so tense, I was squeezing my abdomen hard.  (I think that’s why it was sore.)  It seemed like the LONGEST 20 seconds ever!  I did a lot of self talk and released the strong grip I had on my abdomen.  That helped.  All the medicine was in…I slowly released my grip and pulled the needle straight out.

7.  I removed the needle from the syringe and put it in the sharps container.  Everything, except the water vial, went in the trash. (I could use 1 vial of water for more than 1 dose.)

Phew, I was done!  And it was only the first night, I still at least 4 more nights to go before my next appointment!  Right after I finished, my husband came in the room.  I didn’t tell him when I was going to do the shot…I wanted to do it by myself, without an audience.  He wasn’t offended at all and requested the opportunity to give me a shot the following evening.  I agreed.

It’s one thing to see the phlebotomist have blood drawn.  It is a COMPLETELY different experience to give yourself a shot. (When I get to the IVF, I hope to make a video so you can SEE, rather than read what happens.)

Next post: More shots

The Wait is Over!

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As I wrote about my hyperthyroidism, I think you got the very abbreviated version.  I kept all my papers, consents, and information…I think it’s hiding from me!  Lol!  I may go into more detail about that later.

Anyways!  It’s been over a month since I started my blog.  I can’t believe I’ve made it this far and that people are still reading (& following along).  I feel the need to THANK YOU for your encouragement, love, and support.  When I thought about starting this blog, I contemplated whether or not anyone would be able to relate to me or understand the things I experienced.  I was very surprised and overwhelmed by the MANY responses and feedback I received.  I didn’t expect that at all.  Many friends and family emailed, messaged me on Facebook, and chatted with me in person to share their knowledge.  I just wanted people to know.  I felt like I was taking a gigantic step way out of my comfort zone, but it was necessary in order to let others know.  THANK YOU to all who have offered support in any way!  You have both strengthened and humbled me.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m trying to catch everyone up before I actually go through the IVF process.  I want people to know what IVF really entails.  So, I have less than 2 weeks to catch you up!!  Yikes!  I hope I can make the deadline I created for myself! Lol! 🙂

Alright, back to Step 4 – My referral.  In May of 2011, I received my letter of approval!  I was so elated and yet apprehensive.  Even though I knew the plan included injectable medication, I was unsure of the details, like how many cycles we were going to do.  I also knew that if the shots were not successful, we would be on our way to IVF.  As I reviewed my letter, I noticed that I was approved specifically for IVF.  “Wait a minute,” I thought.  “This is not what we agreed on.”  A couple of days after receiving my letter, I was contacted by my Fertility Specialist’s office.  They received their copy of the letter and called to schedule an IVF cycle with me.  I notified them of the error in my letter and that the plan was to do the shots.  I also notified my OB/GYN of the error and almost a week later, I got a 2nd letter, corrected.  Basically it said that I was approved for ovulation induction with gonadotrophin injections (the shots) and then for IVF if the shots were unsuccessful.  The referral was approved for 6 months, which meant that I would need to request an extension if more time was necessary.

I was instructed to call the Fertility Specialist’s office on day 1 for a day 3 scan.  Due to the timing of my cycle,  my first appointment with the Fertility Specialist was in June 2011.  This was nerve-racking AND a bit relieving at the same time.  Nerve-racking because I was stepping into new territory.  I was also relieved because I felt like I would finally be able to get some answers and assistance.  I hoped the Fertility Specialist would be able to tell me what was up with my body, and do something about it.

It was time for my first appointment…I asked my husband to join me because 1, I was nervous and 2, I wanted a witness.  I wanted us to both hear what the doctor had to say.  This way we would all have the same understanding and know how things were going to play out.  I felt that the first appointment would set the tone for us and give us an idea of what to expect, how we would be treated, and the level of expertise available to us.  In other words, my first appointment was crucial in many ways.

My husband and I went in for my day 3 scan.  I went to the town office, located in Hale Pawa’a, which is near Ala Moana shopping center.  When we entered, I notified the receptionist and waited to be called.  We waited about 5-10 minutes and then were walked to an exam room.  It was the size of other OB/GYN exam rooms I’ve been in.  There was a large framed art piece on the wall.  It looked like local hand painted art work.  It was beautiful.  I was able to look at the details of the art as I laid on the exam table awaiting the doctor.  I had been instructed to remove my clothing from the waist down.  I also noticed that the monitor in the room was set up with my name on the screen.  Since it was day 3, I was still bleeding and that combined with laying on the exam table was not the most comfortable thing.  The doctor knocked, came in, and greeted us, along with an assistant (the same one that walked us to the exam room).  He explained what he was going to do and then had the assistant turn off the light.  A small mobile lamp was turned on.  It reminds me of a night light.  You can’t see everything but you can see what you need to.  Having the lamp helped me see the screen of the ultrasound machine.  The doctor did a vaginal ultrasound, which looked like a long plastic penis-shaped probe.  At the top of the probe was a rectangular semi-transparent piece, which used sound waves to display the uterus and ovaries.  That would be why it has it’s name.  Anyways!  The probe was covered with what looked like a condom that fit loosely around it, and a little gel was squeezed on the top to help it glide through the vagina and uterus.  Hope that creates a visual that makes sense!

So, the doctor talked me through this and had the assistant take notes.  This was my first ever, ultrasound.  Yup, you read that right!  My first ultrasound.  As I looked at the monitor, I had no idea what to look for.  He took measurements and the assistant recorded them.  I watched in awe.  I was so glad the doctor knew what he was doing and I was amazed at the multitasking that took place.  In one hand he had the probe and moved it around to get different views and with the other hand he pressed buttons and keys on the machine to record what he saw.  When he was done looking at my uterus and ovaries he removed the probe and had the assistant turn the light on.  He explained what he saw and gave his recommendation.  The doctor confirmed that I had endometriosis and ovarian cysts.  I wanted to scream, “I knew it!”  But I kept my composure.  Lol!  I listened attentively as he recommended and prescribed Provera.  The order was placed by the Fertility Specialist’s office, but fulfilled my pharmacy.  I picked it up after work that day and was given the generic form, which is called Medroxyprogesterone.  It is a small white pill you take around the same time everyday for the duration of the prescription.  I took 10mg of this medication for 10 days.  You’ll notice that most of the pills and shots are taken or injected at the same time each day for a specific number of days.  Well, the purpose of the provera was to regulate my menses, help with the endometriosis, and help with the lining of my uterus, which was too thick for a day 3 scan.

I was somewhat disappointed I wasn’t starting the shots but I knew that the endometriosis needed to be addressed.  I took the Provera, which stopped my bleeding immediately, and waited for my menses…it took at least 3-4 weeks.

In the meantime, I had a LOT of thoughts to ponder.  I had a bunch of questions and suggestions for my medical insurance company.  In the time I had to wait for my menses, I wrote what I refer to as my “angry letter”.

Next post: My Angry Letter

My Research & Self-Diagnosis

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Ok, as promised I’m finally going to share what I my body was really experiencing.

Remember now, I still felt like there was something wrong with me…I just didn’t know what it was until I started reading.  I did clomid and simultaneously searched for answers.  So often you hear others say, “Everything happens for a reason” or “Things happen for a reason.”  That just ate at me.  My reasons were a little different.  I was looking for WHY…why is nothing working, thinking that would solve my problem.  Knowing the cause of such difficulty brought temporary relief.

I borrowed a couple of books from my local library and began to read intently each moment I could.  I would come home from work and just read, sometimes getting a late start on dinner.  I would read late into the night, well late for me, often times going to sleep way past my bedtime.  I felt that educating myself on the topic would broaden my perspective on the whole process and increase my understanding…so I didn’t look like a deer in headlights.

As I read, I noticed a lot of the books were similarly structured but their explanations were very different.  I would only read through the IVF chapters and then skim through the rest.  I didn’t want to read about adoption, surrogacy, donors and the sort.  I knew that was not the direction I wanted to go, nor was I prepared to pursue those options (& still not).

Book 1: “Having a Baby…When the Old-Fashioned Way Isn’t Working”

I read a book by Cindy Margolis, a former model.  She experienced multiple IVF cycles and had a surrogate help her have 3 children.  The junk part was that after reading the book, I found out she and her husband are now divorced.  I find it interesting that they separated because they both contributed to the book and expressed their thoughts.  As she shared her story she emphasized that they went through this process together and how important it is to have supportive family, etc.  I thought…that sucks!  I’m sure there’s a lot more to the story.  To some degree I was unable to relate because I didn’t have the same concerns she shared.  I did however, understand how she felt.  She expressed feeling awkward around friends, thinking that it was her fault that she was not pregnant, and strong desire to have a baby.  She told her story and expressed the idea that it was not her fault and she was not going to let it bring her down. I’m glad I read it.

The book I found to the most informative and helpful is “What to Do When You Can’t Get Pregnant” by Daniel A. Potter, MD & Jennifer S. Hanin, MA.

Book 2: “What to Do When You Can’t Get Pregnant” (2005)

This book is truly amazing!  It’s so easy to follow!  I opened to the first chapter (page 1) and read this, “Nearly 15 percent of reproductive couples (men with female partners age 20 to 45) suffer from infertility.”  So, although I felt SO alone in my journey…I was in fact, not at all lonesome.  I didn’t like the term infertility because it sounded like I was unable to have a baby…ever.  I was wrong, of course, about that term.  The book explained, “Infertility is a medical condition.  A condition so misunderstood that it touches both genders equally.  A condition so common that it affects 80 million people worldwide.  In this country, infertility is growing at an alarming pace.  Over 16 million Americans have been diagnosed as infertile, and experts believe the actual number is easily triple that” (pg 2).  I really had no clue that there were so many people dealing with this!  I was somewhat relieved but I still didn’t know what was going on with ME.  Of course, I was only at the beginning of the book! Lol!  I continued to read and obtained more interesting facts.  The book also describes the menstrual cycle, including fertilization.  I found this to be much more complicated than I thought!  See, although I was still keeping track of my menses the chances to become pregnant each month was much smaller than I thought.  The book contains a few illustrations as various processes are described and explained.

I found the answer I was looking for when I made it to chapter 4, entitled “What Your Doctor Might Find in You.”  I began to read about endometriosis…and a light bulb went off in my head.  It’s like the book was reading my mind.  Lol!  Here is what I read (on pg 64-65)…I’ll apologize now, it’s kind of lengthy.

“Endometriosis is a progressive disease where the tissue lining your uterus (endometrium) implants and grows in your abdominal cavity. …When you menstruate, the foreign tissue in your pelvis also bleeds (since it’s actually uterine lining), causing irritation and inflammation that can lead to scar formation and distortion of your pelvic anatomy.  This anatomical distortion can cause infertility.  Strangely enough, severity of symptoms seen with endometriosis doesn’t correlate with severity or stage of the disease.  Some women have little or no pain from severe endometriosis, while others experience immense discomfort before or during their period from mild disease.  Symptoms of endometriosis include the following:

  • Extremely painful menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea), especially if this condition develops after years of pain-free periods
  • Discomfort during intercourse (dyspareunia)
  • Pelvic, back, or side pains before or during periods
  • Rectal pain or painful bowel movements, diarrhea, constipation, or other intestinal upsets during menstruation
  • Frequent and painful urination during periods
  • Infertility

The book continued, “How Common Is Endometriosis?”  Endometriosis is one of the most common gynecological diseases, affecting more that 5.5 million women in the United States and millions more worldwide.”  The book also mentioned some suggestions and treatment options to help alleviate the pain, but clearly stated that there was no cure for endometriosis.

I TOTALLY believed I had endometriosis!  I remember telling my husband, “I think this is what I have!”

I thought everyone had cramps, until I read the book.  I had been experiencing painful periods for a while but my cycles were pretty regular.  I experienced 4 of the symptoms the book mentioned – extremely painful menses, pelvic & back pain, painful BM, and infertility.  This was my WHY!  I realized that all these symptoms were hindering our attempts to become pregnant.  As I thought about my self-diagnosis, so many more things began to make sense!  I thought, no wonder clomid didn’t work, even with the IUI.  Speaking of IUI, I said I would talk about the sperm being “washed.”  Here is the explanation provided by the book, “What To Do When You Can’t Get Pregnant” (pg 100).

“Why Wash Sperm?  Semen is mixture of sperm cells, seminal fluid, and debris (dead sperm, white blood cells, mucous, and fat globules).  You probably didn’t realize it, but semen contains prostaglandins that cause menstrual cramping.  While sperm behaves fine in the vaginal environment, if your doctor injects raw sperm directly into your uterus, you would experience severe pain.  So the goal of sperm washing is to separate healthy sperm from toxic seminal fluid.  One method of doing this involves a specialized lab tech who layers sperm on top of a nutrient medium and spins it in a centrifuge.  Spinning forces sperm cells to the bottom of the tube.  Once spun, he draws this purified sperm into a syringe so your doctor can inseminate you.”

I hope this makes sense!  It made sense to me.

Anyways!  Getting back to my self-diagnosis…I’m going to explain the symptoms I had.

  1. Extremely painful menses – Having cramps everyone month was a given.  The pain was really inconsistent each menses.  I think maybe a handful of times, total, I didn’t have any pain.  Otherwise, I had very painful menses.  Most of the time I just tried to take the pain, but I couldn’t handle it all the time.  I preferred not to take anything for the pain and I wouldn’t unless I had to.  It was SO bad at times, I had to take an OTC pain reliever.  The pain was very sharp, intense, and constant.  It’s not the funnest thing in the world, that’s for sure!  For me, the majority of the pain lasted for at least 1 day and sporadic pain the next day.  When I refer to my menses, I’m talking about years of pain, …before I started (& during) this journey.
  2. Pelvic or back pain before or during menses – Ooh, this in combination with #1…not good.  One of the BEST purchases I ever made was…a heating pad!  Most of the time, I experienced horizontal lower back pain near my tailbone.  Using the heating pad helped minimize the pain.  It also helped me sleep better at night.  This usually lasted 1 day, sometimes 2.
  3. Painful BM, constipation, etc – I think this is pretty self-explanatory.  I didn’t know before reading the book that this was such a problem for me.  I just expected it every time I got my menses.  I didn’t take anything for it but I did do some deep breathing to relax.  This lasted the entire time I bled, which was about 4-5 days.  I don’t have any good suggestions for this.  Just recognize that it’s a symptom.
  4. Infertility – Uh, this was quite obvious to me.  Becoming pregnant wasn’t happening for us so I understood this to be a factor in our inability to conceive.  I’ll talk more about this when I get to the referral.

I was never asked about my symptoms from any OB/GYN nor did I divulge all kinds of information.  I was pretty much just asked: how long I bleed and how many days my cycle lasted.  I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault…but when I got my referral, it made a big difference.

I really hope this helps you understand what I was going through and the all frustrations I had.  I received tremendous understanding and knowledge reading the books.  I’m glad I did.  My research didn’t end there.  I still read about it and other related topics.  Knowing more allows me to make better decisions and understand what to expect.

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