What made it work? IVF prep, God’s grace, and a fabulous RE!

For some time I have felt the need to write about some of the different things that I did leading up to my IVF cycle that could have helped it work.  One will never know what exactly did the trick.  Mostly, I just give all the credit to God and figure it just FINALLY was the right time for us.  Nonetheless, the further out I am getting from our cycle, the more I seem to forget.  I never thought I would say that as we lived it for so long – the shots, the oral medications, the vaginal suppositories, but I am.

So, let’s get to it…

One of the first things I did upon discovering that I might have endometriosis earlier this April, was to get on what I am calling a anti-negative immune system regimen.  There are some negative immune things going on in endo, I sought to counter these effects with:

DHEA 20mg.  I took a very low dose.  DHEA had many positive effects apart from increasing the better parts of my immune system and decreasing some of the unwelcome parts.   (I could go into so much more detail about DHEA and get all scientific, but don’t want to lose you, so we’ll stick with my better/unwelcome parts analogy. ) Apparently it also helps with egg quality.  (Somehow, according to our RE, all our embryos turned out “perfect”, so I’m thinking this really helped.)  Was my RE really on board?  Not really, but they let me stay on it. There are a lot of clinics around the country utilizing DHEA as part of their IVF protocols.  In my humble opinion, I think we will begin to see more of it.

DHA.  Found in Omega 3 Fatty Acids, I took some additional DHA on the side.  Also, to help out my immune system and improve my egg quaility.

Vitamin D – 2000IU.  I increased my Vitamin D intake as it also appears to modulate the immune system.

Melatonin 3mg every night to help improve egg quality.

…I figured if endo was preventing my embryos from implanting or attacking them prior to even reaching my uterus, well, it was time for me to take the offensive position and get it UNDER control. I will never really know how my immune system was really functioning as I did not undergo testing.  Nonetheless, I felt these changes were very important and there was enough literature out there to support them. On a side note, as much as I loved my RE, he isn’t really into the whole immune system side of things and only begins to delve into these things in women with recurrent miscarriages. He kinda laughed at me when I brought it up early in our treatment, but I carried on anyway.

Next, I ordered a book.  IVF Success Program.

This book was GREAT!  Definitely overwhelming and there is NO way you can incorporate everything into your life.  But it provides all the research on everything from diet to exercise to medications to acupuncture to little changes that can make all the difference in having a successful IVF cycle.  A few changes I made as a result of reading it were that I started going to acupuncture again.  I went once a week and then on the day of my transfer, I had acupuncture before and after.   I tried to incorporate more pH basic foods into my diet including cucumbers, red peppers, kale, etc…while decreasing pH acidic foods such as red meat in hopes to encourage more positive changes in my immune system and overall fertility.  She also recommends drinking mint tea everyday…so mint tea I did.  I am not going to get into all the research here.  Too much to talk about, but I really liked the book.  She also goes over the whole process from starts to finish, the different medications you are on and all of the tests you will endure.  There is a yoga book included, as well as a menu planner, and a journal to track your experience.  She also talks about the research behind the eating of pineapple core for 5 days post transfer….

Thus, that is what I did.  Pineapple core post transfer for 5 days!  Just the core.  The bromine helps with implantation.

I had NO caffeine whatsoever, no alcohol, and apart from a few luna bars each week, did not consume any soy products.

I was on bed rest for 2 days post transfer and was not allowed to exercise or have sex until we had our positive beta.  Our RE wanted my body in REST mode.  Walking was okay as long as it wasn’t too strenuous and I kept my heart rate under 140bpm.

These are the main things I did to improve our chances of success.  I really believe they helped as our embryo quality was “perfect” on all of our embryos according to our RE and embryologist. Also, I felt really good throughout our cycle and think the acupuncture and diet changes really helped with that.  Yet more than anything, I prayed…a LOT and left the whole cycle in God’s hands.  I realized pretty early on that worrying would get me NOWHERE.  I had no control except to take my medications and eat as best as possible, the rest was up to my body and God.  I knew that if He willed it to happen that it was going to happen.  I just had to keep the faith, keep the trust!  Of course, I got anxious from time to time and fretted and worried and googled, but as quickly as I would see my mind spiral out of control and count us out for this cycle, I would try to take captive these thoughts and replace them with ones of faith and belief.  Mind over matter.  I was NOT going to let my worries get the best of me.

Of course, I realize that my RE deserves a great deal of credit too!  Oregon Reproductive has an AWESOME protocol and amazing doctors and I feel SO blessed to have received care under them!

Post transfer, I was on Endometrin 3x daily, Estrace 2x daily, and Aspirin.  I am still on the Endometrin and Aspirin and only finally got off the estrogen last week.  I am hoping that starting next week I will get to begin my wean from Endometrin.  I still take my 2000IU of Vitamin D and prenatal with DHA, but stopped all other medications.

Anyway, much credit to Dr. Hesla and his colleagues.

Hopefully, I didn’t leave too much else out. If so, I will add it in later.  I have really enjoyed other bloggers post of things they have done to improve their success so thought it important to contribute my own!  All the best to all of you!  I am praying for so many of you and am so thankful for this community!

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Paradise. Redemption. Stories.

3 words. 3 words that I have pondered over the past month. 3 words with multiple applications. 3 words with tremendous significance for my life. 3 words I hope to reflect on over coming posts.

;

PARADISE. Thanks to Coldplay, I have began to really re-ponder this. What is MY paradise? WHERE is my paradise? When did I first lose sight of what paradise looks like to me?

REDEMPTION. Why don’t I have it? As far as I am concerned, Infertility is a pretty CRAPPY redeemer. Why have I allowed it to set the terms of my life? Why have I allowed it to hem me in? I have access to the ONE and ONLY REDEEMER. I want to see REDEMPTION in my story and I want to start seeing it NOW.

STORIES. Brandy Carisle. The Story. Part of the first verse…

All of these lines across my face

tell you the story of who I am

so many stories of where I have been

My life is a story. Each crease, each scar, each expression…so many stories of who I am.

***

My vacation did amazing things for me. We are already deep into our IVF cycle, yet (by God’s grace alone) it does not reign over me. Trust me, I have been clinging onto this feeling for dear life recognizing that it could be ever so fleeting if I am not careful. As a result, it has been difficult for me to write about it lately. I am afraid to give it more power in my life. It has already tried to take so much of me. Thus, I have been trying to keep my beloved friend, infertility, at bay and on the back burner. She has been all too pushy and demanding. Quite frankly, I am TIRED of it. So, she’s taking the back seat for a bit. She needs a reality check of her own. She’s gotta realize she doesn’t own THIS girl. Try as she may to take over my life, it just AIN’T going to happen. Check ya later, infertility. *smile*

More to come.

(Picture taken in the gardens of the Chateau Cheverny in France).

Endometriosis. Immunity gone array.

Immunity.

We all love it.  We are all thankful for it.  When we don’t have it, bad things happen.  Seemingly insignificant bacteria and viruses equate with certain demise.  But what do we do when our immune system is overly active?

Such is the case with Endometriosis (Once again, I will refer to it as the big “E”).

I’m am learning so much about this new diagnosis of mine.  Thankful for answers, but nervous as to how it will play out over the years.

 

4 things I have learned.

1.  It is painful – This would explain my intensely painful periods over the years.  5 times between 2003-2005 (I think this is when the big E began to run its course, see more below),  I ended up in either the ER or urgent care with pain so severe, I was doubled over, ready to die.  The nausea came with the pain and quickly lead to vomiting and when there was nothing left to bring up, hours of dry heaving would ensue that left me exhausted and dehydrated…still in PAIN.  Ahh, such pleasant times.  Double O-C more like it. (Out of control).

When I started my Master’s in 2006, I could no longer deal with the unpredictability of my painful periods.  Would this month be SO bad that I will end up in urgent care again, needing an IV, Morphine, and anti-nausea medicine? The unpredictability was anxiety provoking. I could not afford to miss class/clinicals for my period – thus began my 5 year stint on CONTINUOUS birth control.  It kept the painful periods away. Yep, that’s right…not a single period for 5 years.  In retrospect, I am SO thankful for this now, given my diagnosis…given point # 2.

2.  There is cell growth where there shouldn’t be.  Endometrial cells (the cells that line your uterus) somehow find their way OUT of your uterus where they belong and can become attached to your abdominal wall, ovaries, bowel, vagina…you name it.  They grow a lining and shed it right along with your regular menstrual cycle.  This bleeding in areas not meant to have to deal with such atrocities become angry and inflamed.  This leads to the formation of adhesions that cause parts of your body to stick/twist to areas and/or organs they shouldn’t.  Adhesions = SEVERE PAIN.  The fact that I was on BCP meant that my body was given a 5 year stent of reprieve from such growth and inflammation.  THANK YOU, Doctor, even though you didn’t know you would help me so much in the long run, what a GIFT!

3.  My IMMUNE SYSTEM is WHACKED.  I have discovered that the immune system of someone with the big E is a little, shall we say, off the mark.  Without getting too scientific and lose you all in medical ease, I will give you the quick and the dirty.  The body doesn’t like foreign material.  Sperm is foreign material, embryos are invaders – kill them…kill them all!  ATTACK!  Yep, that is pretty much what can happen.

4.  IVF works.  It takes the abnormal conditions within your body and normalizes them within a controlled, ideal environment (like that of our fertile counterparts).  The beautiful 5 day old blastocyst (embryo) is able to attach, unharmed, unattacked to the rich uterine lining of a now medically suppressed immune environment within a woman’s body.  This is KEY to a pregnancy in an otherwise hostile uterine environment.

 

Next question for the RE.  So, if IVF works for us and we achieve implantation, what next?  Will we have overcome all obstacles in our BATTLE against the big E?  Will we need to continue to suppress my immune system?  Or will my other hormones take over and bring the pregnancy to fruition?

Tomorrow is our last BIG RE appointment before we leave for France.  While in France, we will start our treatment regimen….come home mid-June…and then it will be time to start the heavy hitters of IVF.  So much to learn.  A long ways to go, I really hope we can get my immune system in check.

About my blog’s picture…

Logging on to my blog today, I can’t help but to think where I was at when my husband snapped this picture of me.  It was our first official month that we were being INTENTIONAL about TTC.  February 2011.  We had been off birth control for 3 months.  We were temp tracking, optimistic and felt for sure that we would be pregnant in no time.  We were on our first cruise together….sailing around the Eastern Caribbean.  Midweek, our hopes and dreams came to a quick and shattering halt.  This was NOT going to be our month.  Even that first month, we were devastated…hurt, and disappointed.  We shed our tears and just as quickly, dried them off, put our unmet expectations behind us and moved forward.  Little did we know the part of our story we were just stepping into.

I came across this picture yesterday.  I am trying to put together a scrapbook of our lives and activities since we have been married.  I used to be so diligent about these things.  But since SD cards have replaced film, I have very few pictures to show for it.  But I am working on it…utilizing Shutterfly’s project center to help me out.  Anyway, when I saw this, I knew it would be perfect as the main picture on my blog. The essence of the picture a powerful metaphor for my current struggle with infertility.

In the picture, I am staring out into the middle of the Atlantic Ocean…there is not a boat or another piece of land for miles….just the ocean, consuming the entirety of the horizon.  And me…just one person, on this powerful boat, making my way through it.  Waiting for land to appear.  Waiting for the sun to set, for the sun to rise, for sea life to show it self from below the deep waters.  Waiting for a change in scenery.  Hopeful, expectant.  Waiting for what I know I will love…but for now, I journey.  I allow this vessel to carry me through the waves.  I allow it to teach me its lessons.  I can always feel the wind upon my face.  It ruffles my hair, reminding me that I AM making forward progress.  I am not stagnant.  I will see land.  I will walk on land again. 

I remain ever hopeful.

 

TWW – Little Joys – Day 1

I have been trying to figure out a good strategy to get through this TWW I now find myself in.  We are on day 3 of our window and I know how these things go.  You’re okay for a little bit…feel very positive about your timing and how much of an effort you made to make things happen.  You remain hopeful…but then time moves on and as you move closer to the end, you can’t help but to put up the defense mechanisms again.  You begin to protect your heart and prepare for the worst….or what you determine to be inevitable…that AF is just around the corner…on her way, yet again, for a little visit. I am tired of these draining cycles…wondering, waiting, hoping, reading into symptoms.  Thus, I am starting something new.  They say it takes 21 days to form a habit…I only have two weeks, but I really just want to stay positive throughout this journey…even more, I want to get outside of it and become better able to appreciate the little joys in my life each day.  Last month, Belle over at Scrambled Eggs put together a photo challenge.   I found it so uplifting and a nice distraction.  Well, I want to take it a step further and make it more applicable to my own needs.  And what I need is to BELIEVE in the impossible and wake up to the GREAT things that are going on in my life apart from infertility…no matter how small, no matter how insignificant they may seem at the time!

So here goes nothing!  Little joys – day 1 – commence:

As I was finishing conference this morning and headed back to the operating rooms, I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the glorious morning I found myself in.  It was one of those perfect, rare April mornings…warm and fresh.  The fountains are filled and a reminder to me of new life and hope.  It was breathtaking, hardly able to be captured in this photo…but it was one of those moments when you realize your mother was right: Sometimes you just gotta stop and smell the roses.  Forget the fast pace job, the stressful patient, the infertile state of your uterus…and just enjoy the beauty of creation all around you.  It is gift.  A wondrous gift that can bring such joy to my heart and really help me feel better about my life and where its going!

Thanks for reading!!!

Hello fellow ICLWers!

Hello!!!

I’m SO happy you stopped by!  Sorry for late intro post. This is my first ICLW and I’m so thankful to have joined in on the action.

My name is Danielle and I live in the LOVELY Pacific Northwest with my sweet husband and labradoodle, Higgins.  We have been TTC for a year and a half.  The road has been fraught with angst, grief, and hope.  Yesterday we completed IUI #4.  Currently, we are practicing “the power of positive” thinking. *smile*  We have often had little faith in our journey, dismissing treatments as failed attempts before we had even started them, before they even had had a chance to reveal differently.  Lately, we have felt that we lack belief.  Belief in our God, belief that the impossible will soon become possible for us.  That we CAN and WILL someday have the beautiful child we so desire, we just lack the insight into the means and the HOW at this point.  It feels really good to have this paradigm shift in our thinking and we are running with it!  THIS is OUR month.  This is the months we will conceive.  I gotta believe in this.

Anyway, we love adventures and are heading out to France next month for what we hope to be our last hurrah!  We enjoy cooking together, hiking the rugged trails of the mountains and coastline around us.  We enjoy working on our house and a good dinner together with friends.  Life really is pretty wonderful…despite all we have been through, these tremendous pains, the unending waiting – it has only taught us more about ourselves, the people we want to be, the people we are becoming, and the hope that is ours if only we learn to walk with faith.

Thanks for stopping by!  Take care!

the road less traveled…

Sometimes, I just don’t know what to say.  I have probably started at least 7 new posts over the past few weeks and just can’t quite seem to get it out right in written word.  I am in a strange spot…wavering between thoughts of anticipation and defeat.

Will this be our month?  Or will we soon join the wagon train named IVF.  I’m just not sure.  My husband is increasingly feeling defeated.  We have prayed and prayed for a baby.  How do you respond to God when he doesn’t seem ready to respond to you?  Have our prayers been heard?  Are our hearts in the right spot?

This week a friend of mine posted the following on facebook.  God only answers prayer in  3 ways:  1.  Yes  2.  Not Yet   3.  I have something BETTER in mind.

I have heard this before, but this week it served as a good reminder as I try so desperately to remember that if God does not will for us our own biological child, there WILL be something better for us.  I was encouraged by a radio program I just happen to tune into in which there were 3 women describing their journey through infertility.  I was struck by the fact that at the end of the day, all three woman got the family they so desired.  Whether biological or adopted children, all came out out with precious family members.  In retrospect, they could all, without question, say that things turned out perfectly for them.  I found the program very encouraging.  I love hearing people share their stories.  I love hearing the hope that was discovered and the unending joy that God brought into their lives though they journeyed through such a difficult and trying season.

A friend of mine who did IVF and has two beautiful twin boys reminds me each time I see her at work that no matter what, someday I will have my family.  No matter what.  It will happen. At times, I so desperately want to believe her.  At other times, I feel that she has forgotten what it was like to walk this road and is trying to brush off my feelings as insignificant.  But deep down, I know, in the bottom of my heart that she is right.  One day, I will have the children I so deeply desire and it will be GOOD.  I am just not certain as to how we will get there, but I will!

As for now, I am off to a baby shower.  Wish me luck.

Thanks for reading.

March Photo Challenge – Day 5

COMMUTE.

I went round and round on this one, but after much deliberation decided my most trustworthy commuting partner were my many shoes. Here are just a few that have ended up in our downstairs closet by our front door.  They serve their purpose well.  They get me from point A to point B…and many other various points between and beyond.  I’m a pretty boring shoe gal over all.  I am a comfort girl.  I love a good pair of comfy Danskos.  Sometimes its rather embarrassing to admit this to all my cute shoe loving friends who just cringe when I stroll in in my Danskos.  But I guarantee it, I am always comfortable at the end of the day and my back never aches.  Though, I have to admit, I am trying to break out of the mold and got these tasty shoes on the end from my parents for Christmas (see, everyone is TRYING to help me out).  I recently also bought a pair of wedges that I frequent, though I do get a little back ache whenever I where them. : (

Anyway, so there is my take on commute, my trusty comrades, the true weight barer of my soles – SHOES.

Illuminate. March Photo Challenge – Day 4

ILLUMINATE

Amplify, brighten, reveal, understanding, to see.  These are all words that come to mind when I hear the word illuminate. Oftentimes, I pray that God would illuminate my path…reveal the next step in our journey, bring light to the dark places in my life. I’m not really sure how I could illustrate these yearnings for clarity deep within me.

Instead, I am going to share a picture from our trip to Santorini last summer.  The sunsets are famous there and I just love the picturesque Greek architecture in the foreground.  I love the way the SUN illuminates the Aegean Sea and the bell tower of this gorgeous building.  Happy Sunday!!!!

March Photo Challenge – Day 3

DOMESTIC.

Ok, because I don’t get to brag about progress in a pregnancy or little feet pitter-pattering about our home, I am going to take this opportunity to brag on my husband.  He deserves it.  He is one incredible, absolutely irresistible, domestic man.

My husband is EXTREMELY domestic for a man.  He does all the grocery shopping because he WANTS to, because I don’t enjoy it, and because he loves getting a good deal.  He loves to garden and doesn’t mind doing the dishes.  Earlier this week I even caught him organizing the spices in alphabetical order so we could find them better.  He even doesn’t mind cleaning a toilet or making the bed. He also loves to cook.  Last night he was whipping up some cabbage rolls so I decided to snap these pictures.

My boys!  Oh, how I love each of them!

Thanks for checking out Day 3.  We’ll see you again tomorrow.  Man, my creative juices are flowing…not to say anything amazing will come of it…but it’s a start!