Saturday, September 9, 2017

From Stims to Transfer

Guys. I’m trying really hard to keep my mind busy. Can you tell by the cover picture? Why not design a movie poster themed picture?
(Please no jokes on the poor quality – Steve is the tech savvy one in the relationship) But it kept me occupied for a good half hour.

Back to the subject at hand. O-M-G. Those two little circular blobs inside that heart (and currently inside my uterus) are our two ‘Little Test Tubes’. Can you believe it? I still can’t. These past three years have been such a wild journey and I can’t believe we have made it this far.

It was a whirlwind week, but I thought I would take a look back and give you an honest take on what the past week was really like for Steve and me.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

IVF Cycle: Week 1

It’s been seven days since we began our “official” IVF treatment. I’ve been sitting here trying to come up with some kind of funny, witty, poignant opening, but honestly, I can’t think of anything.

I. Am. Exhausted.

You know, you can read all the books and follow all the blogs and ask everyone who has come before you what to expect, but I’ve come to realize fertility treatment is one of those things where you just don’t know until you’re experiencing it.

Don’t get me wrong – I am still thrilled and excited to the very core that we are finally doing this and the knowledge that I will soon be PREGNANT (God and science willing) carries me through. I just didn’t think it would be this tough. I thought my excitement would make it all so easy. But IVF is hardcore. You put your body through a LOT in a pretty short span of time.

My attitude for the past week has pretty much been, “I’ll do what I have to do and I will not complain.” What cause do I have to complain, knowing what a gift we have been given to try and become parents?

But sometimes – I want to complain. Again, not because I’m ungrateful or unhappy, just because some parts of this journey suck. Point blank, it sucks out loud.  

I’m tired. My stomach is bruised and battered and sore from multiple daily shots. I have permanent sticky spots on my arm from the bandages after bloodwork every other day. I feel vulnerable every morning that I have to go to an ultrasound and let someone jam a probe into me.

And you know what? It’s okay to feel this way. It’s human. I’m human. I think you would have to be a robot or some kind of sociopath to not feel something going through this.
Because no matter how I feel right now, there’s something inside me that makes it all worthwhile: Hope.

Hope that in about nine months, Steve and I will be holding our firstborn child. Hope that our dreams are coming true. Hope that I can look into Little Test Tube’s eyes and smile and say, yes, you were worth it all. And I would do it all over again for you. 

Until then, I’ll do what I have to do.

That’s my advice to you, my fellow Infertility Warriors – do what you have to do. But let yourself feel whatever you have to feel. None of your feelings are wrong. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.
Anyway, that’s my emotional spiel. On to the technical side of things:

What I’ve been Doing This Week:
 The first week of IVF treatment focuses on one thing: Stimulating the ovaries to get as many follicles (eggs) as possible.

I’m on an ‘antagonist’ protocol. What this means is I inject two drugs per day – gonatropins (Gonal-F) and menotropins (Menopur). They “antagonize” the ovaries into overproduction of follicles. The more follicles you have, the more that can be removed and fertilized and hopefully make it into healthy embryos.

And they WORK.

Know how I know this? The ultrasounds and bloodwork? Well, yes. But I can also tell due to the fact that I have bloated like a week old corpse (THERE’s my sense of humor! I knew it wasn’t gone for good)

Seriously. I can no longer fit into my pants. I had to wear dresses to work all week and buy new underwear that wasn’t cutting off my circulation. That’s because my ovaries have bloated into the size of a bunch of grapes and there’s really only so much room in there. Oof. I already LOOK pregnant. It’s not terribly painful, but I’ve had some decent cramping, too. I’d equate it with a really bad gas pain.

I’m super fatigued, too. I feel like an old lady because I’ve been out cold by 10:30PM since we began.

But I had an ear to ear grin this morning when I looked up at the ultrasound screen and saw those twelve little follicles. Okay, maybe I was also crying - but in my defense I'm really hormonal and as I said to the tech, "they're such CUTE little balloons!"

There's the hope. 

What Happens Next?

I had an ultrasound this morning and I have twelve maturing follicles and I am hopeful that we will get a few more than that.

I continued the Gonal-F and Menopur and added a third drug, Cetrotide, which prevents the ovaries from releasing any eggs. We don’t want them going anywhere before we’re ready for them.

The doctor believes we are close to “triggering” – a fancy way of saying I’ll give myself a shot that will prepare the ovaries to release the eggs. Once that happens, we will go to Grand Rapids for the egg retrieval.

I will be going back for another ultrasound and bloodwork first thing in the morning and we will see where it stands then. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Wildberry Pie

I’ve finally had a weekend free all to myself. Sleep in, shop, and veg out in front of the TV.  So what did I decide to do? Bake. And cook. And Can. The kitchen currently smells like a combination of cucumbers and pickling spice, roast pork, and the remnants of buttery crust and fresh fruit.
I baked this Wildberry Pie on Friday for dessert. We had my in-laws over to grill burgers, and I was (as always) in charge of dessert.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

F*****e is the other F Word.

I heard a priest use the F word his weekend.
No, not that one – get your head out of the gutter.
The OTHER F word.

Let’s back up a bit. Steve and I attended a wedding this weekend. A friend of his from high school got married, and he was a groomsman. I was looking forward to indulging in some new makeup for the occasion (oh hey Sephora), eating more than my fair share of cake, and attempting to avoid the free wine (I caved. Half a glass.). Plus, this is the month before IVF so it would be a good opportunity for Steve and I to enjoy each other’s company.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

MLM and Infertility

"I know you can't get pregnant, but let me tell you about this SUPERMAGIC powder that got my cousin's sister-law's friend from nursery school pregnant! Want a sample?" 

"Have you tried essential oils? The problem is all those chemicals in the drugs! Can I schedule you for a consult?"

"I think you need to lose weight! Have you tried BeachBody/Shakeology/Magic Weight Loss item? "

Sigh . . .

If I had a penny for every person who has tried to sell me something, I probably wouldn't need to be employed. Log on to Facebook and you get inundated with MLM (multi level marketing) sales of whatever the newest and latest product is. Jamberry, LuLaRoe, Beachbody - I know someone has tried to sell at least one of those to you.

I have no problem with people wanting to make money or enjoy a product. I don't begrudge them that. In the past, I've shrugged it off, removed myself from groups, declined to host parties.

Until I "came out" as infertile. I though maybe that knowledge would discourage some of them. But, in actuality, it's given them ammunition.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Vanilla Bean Venetian Cream

Here it is! My first official recipe post on my redesigned blog. I decided to share one of my favorite desserts of all time, Venetian Cream. This is one of my "Italian Grandma" recipes. I don't know who came up with it or when - I have all my old family recipes typed up from a variety of old written cards and notes - but whoever came up with this one is a rock star. 

Monday, May 22, 2017

IVF Consultation

First off, if you're reading this, thank you for joining us on our journey - Project Little Test Tube has been underway for a long time - and I'm grateful for the love and support that we've gotten from all of you.

Holy cow. 

We had our IVF consultation in Grand Rapids today, and let me tell you, I feel like my brain is about to fall out of my ears. It was 2.5 hours long, and it felt like running a marathon (or what I assume running a marathon would feel like. I may be too short and tubby to do much running. Anyhoo. . .)

I was ridiculously nervous about this consultation. Normally, I take medical/hospital/doctor stuff with a grain of salt. I've seen it, I've done it, it doesn't scare me, and honestly, I'm absolutely fascinated by the medical field. 

This time? Not so much. I was alternating between nausea and cramps from terror. Luckily, our clinic is also right near the Meijer Gardens so we went early and wandered the grounds. Nature is very, very good therapy.

Aah.... Gorgeous, right? 

I focused on those flowers and that pond while we were waiting for our consult nurse to come in.  I think my heart skipped a beat when she called us back. Her name was Amy and she was cheerful and friendly - I liked her right away. It's every day business for them - which is nice if you think about it. Nothing to be scared of. They make infertile couples parents every single day. 

I wish I could tell you everything that she discussed during those two and a half hours. There is SO MUCH information, and stacks upon stacks of consent forms. Some things I expected, some threw me for a loop. You want us to sign papers designating guardians for our embryos in the event of our death? I don't even know who I would give custody of our cats to! (Accepting applications for embryo and cat guardian!) 

Mostly, the discussion is medical. Here are the drugs we're going to give you, here's the numbers you have to call, here's what you can't do on the medication.... 

I currently have a list of ten prescribed medications in my hand - Lupron, Certoide, Gonal-F, FSH, Menopur, MCH, Zihromax, Medrol, Promethazine, Valium (wish I got more than three of those....) and the dreaded, colloquially known PIO or progesterone in oil. 

Why the progesterone pout? A shot is a shot, right? Not so much. PIO has to be injected intramuscular, which means it HAS to go in your behind. 

Say hi to the 22 gauge PIO needle. He and I will be frenemies (?) the next few months....

 (This is the part where you all chime in and tell me it's worth it)

I'm trying to look at that needle and see an ally. What I took away most from the consult was hope - the odds are good for us (about 50-60% for a first, fresh cycle, then upping to about 70-75% for a second, frozen cycle). So even though this still seems very, very overwhelming, I am trying to focus on the knowledge that we have a 50 to 75% chance of holding our baby a year from today. Or babies! Fertility treatment always comes with a risk of multiples after all. 

So what's the basic takeaway from the IVF consult?

  • Next month I'll be having a sonohysterogram to check my uterus for any malformations and a CRAP ton of bloodwork. (I checked. The proper terminology for any bloodwork that requires more than five vials of blood = 1 crap ton) 
  • In August, I'll start taking oral drugs to suppress natural ovulation and prepare my body. 
  • In September, I'll begin taking daily injections of Gonal-F and Menopur to stimulate my ovaries to make as many eggs as possible. 
  • After about two weeks of 'stim' shots (and being checked every few days via ultrasound) I will take a timed trigger shot which will prepare my body to release the eggs.
  • The next day, we will go to Grand Rapids where I will (mercifully and blissfully) be knocked unconscious while they jam a huge needle through the vaginal wall and suck them out. 
  • Eggs and sperm will have a little honeymoon in a petri dish and we cross our fingers and hope that a few fertilize. 
  • Two days later, those ferilized eggs (2 maximum) will be transferred back to my uterus and voila! PUPO - pregnant until proven otherwise. More infertility-isms. 
  • Rest, progesterone, and prayer - and hope those little eggs stick around.

Headed to your own IVF consultation? Here are my tips:

Write your questions down beforehand (and don't feel stupid for asking)!
We scheduled this appointment months ago, once we had received our insurance approval. I kept a running list of questions to ask - you will think of the best questions at the most inopportune times - in the bathroom, falling asleep, trying to plant a raspberry bush in the yard. It's too overwhelming to gather your thoughts during the consultation and try to ask questions. Write them down! And remember, these people are pros - they've heard it all before and there is no such thing as stupid question. 

Don't try and remember everything!
The key word here is 'consult'. This is not the last time you will be working with your clinic and the staff - they'll tell you everything step by step as you do it. This is just a huge overview of the next couple weeks! 

It's okay to be terrified. 
This is a big, huge, honkin' deal. This isn't just a trip to the doctor for a check up. It has the potential to change your life forever. It's scary as hell. You can be grateful and excited and looking forward to the opportunity and still be scared.

As a matter of fact, I took my "Therapy and Travel Dinosaur", Dino, with us! He stayed on our laps the whole time. There's no shame in having a dinosaur :) 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017


For a few years, I have tried to share my favorite things on my blog, The Happy Idiot.  I still love sharing my life, creating content, and hearing from others that like what I have to say, but something had begun to feel different.  Through my journey with infertility and my experience with anxiety, I didn’t originally want to talk about the hard stuff.  Talking about it is very personal and usually upsetting, and it isn’t easy to deal with well-intended but unsolicited advice that inevitably follows.  I struggled for a bit with how to put something I don’t want to talk about into a place where all I do is talk about things in my life.  I decided to rebrand my blog to give my new experiences with infertility a place, because life is more than just the good recipes you post and happy things you get to write about.  A blog about my life means it’s a blog with that is true to all of my experiences, no matter how challenging.  I will still have all the staples of the old blog and all of my favorite things (coffee, nail polish, and couponing to name a few), but I look forward to providing new content and sharing my infertility journey.  I hope the shift not only gives me a place to share my story, but also can provide something comforting and relatable for couples going through the same thing.

Melissa Ball. All rights reserved. Blog design by Rainy Day