A New Cycle, And Conversations

Phew!  No need to name any cysts this cycle.  There was none!

Antral follicle count: three on the left, one or two on the right.  We got the clear to start Cl.omid tonight!  I am quite pleased with the AFC since it gives us a chance to have a few follicles again.  I know how great our last cycle was.  Of course I would love to replicate it.  However, I know that these things are not a guarantee.  I have been praying for a perfect number of follicles, a perfect number of eggs, and a perfect number of embryos.  I am going to wait patiently for these numbers.  Next ultrasound to check on the follicles will be Monday, October 6th.  IVF #6, banking cycle #2.  Here we come!

*****

I love my dad.  We have had a very good relationship since I was  a little girl.  He has many qualities that I would love to have myself.  My dad was born in China as the 4th child of a huge family.  He did not have a chance to have a formal education.  He started working at age six tending cattle.   At one point he also begged for money on the street.  He moved to Hong Kong with most of his family from China at age 11 and started working then.  When he was a teenager, he started to attend night classes while working a few jobs a day.  Despite not having a formal education, my father is one of the most intelligent men I have ever met.  He is also caring, patient, has a very open mind, and is a great problem solver.  We don’t have to talk much but every time we talk, I can pour my heart out and tell him anything I want to.  When we first experienced fertility problems, my dad was one of the first people that we told about considering IVF.  He is a trustworthy man who can really keep a secret.  When told not to tell my mom, he really kept everything to himself and never said a word about our treatment.  Although at one time, I got mad at him because he advised me to let nature take its course and not to force things.  I told him that he wouldn’t understand because he and mom never experienced any issues when they conceived my older brother and me in their 20s.  After that, my dad never said anything that would offend me about this process.  He supports us quietly.

Last week I chatted with him about our cycle.  I bragged to him about the savings for doing the egg retrieval without anesthesia.  I went on to tell him about all the mini cycles we intend to do for the next couple of months and how much each costs.  He listened to me quietly.  Then he asked, “How are you guys doing financially?  You must have to cut down on your expenses because of these cycles?”  I told him not to worry about it.  We have saved up money for these cycles.   We are also actively saving up for donor egg cycles.  Ever since Bob found a new job, saving up money is getting easier.

I love what my dad said next.  He said, “While you’re trying to save up for the baby, make sure that you guys set aside some money to enjoy life and each other.”  I was very touched by what he said.  He does not want us to pour every single penny we have into having a baby.  He wants us to live life.

I don’t know if you remember a fight Bob and I had a few months ago.  He wanted to put every single penny into our IVF fund.  He felt that we were not on the same page and was disappointed that I didn’t have the same intensity he had for saving up for IVF.  Even my therapist told me to tell him that it’s okay to spend some money to live life and not to focus everything (money or time) on the cycles.  When my conversation with my dad ended, I went down to the living room and sat next to Bob who was watching TV.  I told him I talked with dad.  And he had some advice for us.   Bob really respects my father.  So he paid full attention.  He listened to what I had to say and he seemed to take my dad’s words seriously.  I am grateful that my dad made such an advice and my husband is receptive to it.  Living life is important too, right?  My dad is wise.

*****

My first serious job out of college was a research assistant at a university clinic.   I became very close friends with a few of the girls there at work.  We’ve been friends for the last 18 years.  They celebrated most of my birthdays in my 20s and early 30s.  They are like sisters to me.  In our mid-30s, the relationships started to drift apart for a little.  We no longer work with each other.  One of them, who was usually the one organizing get togethers, moved to another state.  Another one married her long-term boyfriend who cheated on her during their dating years.  This kind of put a strain on her relationship with us.  Nonetheless, I still consider them very good friends although I don’t see them as much anymore.

Both these friends were very fertile.  Chloe conceived her first the second month trying.  Then she conceived number two the first month she was off the pill.  Leanne, the one with the husband that we don’t really like, also got pregnant within the first couple of months.  When Bob and I first started trying, both of them dismissed my concerns of my fertility difficulty and laughed at me for charting and doing OPKs.  According to them, I shouldn’t be doing all these things.  Just have sex, relax, and it will happen.

Well, guess what?  Fast forward to two years nine months later, a baby has not happened.  They don’t make these insensitive remarks anymore.  Instead, they both feel sorry that I have such difficulty having a baby.  I don’t update them with all the details.  I just tell them all the big things, such as the transfer, the miscarriage, and just in general that we’re pursuing mini-IVF.

Chloe’s done with building her family as she has two kids.  Leanne’s husband is nine years older then she is and has a teenage daughter from his first marriage.  Leanne has always wanted number two but her husband often said no because he felt that he was old.  So I have never been worried about her announcing her pregnancy to me because I knew that she wouldn’t try unless he is on the same page.

This weekend Bob and I went to visit Leanne’s new house.  She moved from a two bedroom condo to a single family home by the coast.  I was surprised when we arrived.  It was practically a mansion.  It has a few huge rooms with a huge master bedroom and front and backyard.  It’s much much bigger than what they had before.  While we were all standing in the master bedroom admiring the vastness of it, Leanne broke the news to me that they are trying for number two.  I was very shocked as I never expected that her husband would’ve said yes to it.  Well apparently he didn’t want to try because of the small size of the previous home.  Now that this house is so much bigger, he feels that there is room for an extra baby.

I don’t yet know how I feel about it.  I never thought that I would even have to decide how to feel about it.  It had been quite safe with both of these friends in terms of pregnancy news as they were done by the time I started trying.

It’s such a mixed bag of emotions.  I love Leanne dearly and don’t want her to have to go through any sort of trouble with number two.  She is after all 38 years old and is five years older than when she had her first.  It could take a little longer for her this time.  However, I don’t want her to have an instant pregnancy either.  At least try for a few months?  I am conflicted.  I still have to process my feelings.

I know that her pregnancy will be none of my business because it’s not about me.  But I do secretly hope that I will get pregnant first so that at least I don’t have to endure another close friend’s pregnancy announcement while I am still waiting for my turn for my first baby.  Does that make sense?

The human mind is so messed up sometimes.

MicroblogMondays: My Former RE on TV

Microblog_Mondays

Dead tired so I left work on time instead of staying for an extra 45 minutes.  Still too tired to cook so I turned on the TV and watched a few minutes of news.  And then there she was.  My beloved Dr. E, the RE who had been through thick and thin with us during our first three IVF cycles and the one IVF-turned-IUI cycle.  The RE that made personal phone calls to share all the good news and not so good news with us.  The RE who had heard me cry and ask Why??? when we miscarried.  The RE that I made a very difficult decision NOT to return to because of the cost of cycling with her.  She is a regular guest on this local TV station during news time to talk about fertility issues.  She looked different on TV: hair down and blow-dried, full make-up, nice dress suit instead of scrubs.  Her voice was so familiar.  Her smile was so genuine.  Surprisingly, seeing her also triggered a lot of negative emotions of the past failed cycles.  I firmly believe that my path is right: we made the right choice to go to her and we also made the right choice to break up with her and go to this new clinic.  But I do mourn the loss of having her as my RE.  I so wish that she would be the person who breaks the news to us with fantastic first and second beta results.  I wish so much that she would be the one who would have the joy of finding the heartbeat for our first baby.  It doesn’t seem like things will turn out this way.  I sat there staring at her.  Pondering about the what-ifs.

Moving Right Along, Hopefully

I realized I haven’t quite written about my five-minute post embryo cryopreservation phone consult with Dr. No Nonsense last Friday.

So as usual, he was late.  He was supposed to call me at 3pm but didn’t do so until after 3:15.  He of course apologized and I was like, Oh it’s okay, it’s kind of expected.  He was like, Ohhh don’t say that.  HA.

I don’t quite remember all the details.  Basically, he was pleased with the outcome of the last cycle as we did get three day-two embryos to freeze.  Bob was not able to join but wanted me to ask what made the difference this past cycle.  Was it the Cl.omid?  Was it the Estrace?  Doctor believes that Cl.omid does not fry the eggs like the other injectibles may.  And somehow it worked.  He said it was hard to know if it was Cl.omid, Estrace, or the combination of the two.  What I was the most concerned about was whether or not we could cycle again.  And Doctor said YES as long as there is no cysts.  Please please please no cysts.  I just want to be able to cycle over and over again to bank some more embryos.  Doctor likes the protocol and will not change a thing about it.  So Estrace started last Friday.  It has been a week now.

Doctor read over my notes and asked, “So we are going to do two cycles and then start transferring at the third cycle right?”  I told him that ideally not knowing how many embryos I would make each cycle, I was thinking doing three banking cycles and do a fresh cycle for the 4th one with thawing of some frozen embryos and transferring.  But I would also trust his opinion on this.  I asked him his thoughts.  He advised to evaluate one cycle at a time.  He reminded me that for each cycle, we expect zero, one, to two eggs.  I will keep that in mind.  I am still going to remain hopeful that the upcoming cycle will be similar to the one just now.  But it can also go the other direction.  We can be hopeful but we should also be realistic about things.

I received the huge quantity of meds that AC, one of my readers, so generously sent me.  I am so in awe of her kindness.  We are set for at least two cycles with enough Ganirelix to spare.  Thanks AC for your kind gesture and your kind words on the card.  🙂

The only medication that I was missing was the trigger shot.  Last cycle, I had to order from Fre.edom Pharmacy and was disappointed that they misquoted the price.  By the time I placed the order, the actual price was actually $20 more than what they quoted me.  So this cycle I decided to call around, find the cheapest price, and order from that pharmacy.  The one place that offered the cheapest price is on the east coast.  Preg.nyl was quoted to be $69.90 and Nov.arel was $80.  That would be $30 less than Fre.edom.   I also learned that anything under $100 would cost $10 for shipping.  So I asked my RE’s nurse to call in two orders of Preg.nyl for me so it’d only cost me $140 for the two doses with free shipping.

When I called to order, I was notified that the pharmacy ran out of Preg.nyl and would send me Nov.arel.  I was okay with that.  So extra $20 that is.  I made sure that I asked for two doses to be sent to me.  I made sure that it was free shipping over $100.  The lady on the phone said, Oh if you’re not in a rush, someone will call you tomorrow to place the order.  I was so puzzled about that suggestion.  I was on the phone right then and there.  Why didn’t she just process the order then?  So I said, I would prefer to do the order right now.  I noticed that she did not ask me for my email address so I had to request for the shipping information to be sent to me via email.  It was quite a process as I had to be on top of things and ask the right question.  I was told that I would receive the meds on Thursday.  It was Monday when I placed the order.

Fast forward to Tuesday.  I checked online if I was charged for the Nov.arel and found that instead of being charged for $160 for two orders, I was charged $90.  It looked like they had only sent me one dose and charged me the shipping cost.  If it was in the past, I would have been really mad.  But after going through this process for so long, I just thought, Okay I will receive the order and then call to reason with them.  But I can’t help but think that how incompetent it was for someone to mess up a simple order like that.

Well when Thursday rolled around and when I received the package, I felt that the incompetency reached a level of ridiculousness and I just had to laugh about it.  In a bin of many Fed.ex packages, I was looking for my name.  Instead of finding my own name, I found “Isabelle Thick” instead.  It was puzzling to me: Who is Isabelle Thick??? And it occurred to me that it was me.  Of course my last name is not Thick.  It’s a two-syllable name that begins with “T” and “H”.  I don’t know how they could mess it up so much that they dispensed to a person who did not exist.  On the box of the Nov.arel and my prescription, it also said “Isabelle Thick”.  Bob was like, What??? Thick?? Are they calling you fat or calling me fat??? Hahaha gotta love that boy.  He always cracks me up.  And yes, there was only one box of Nov.arel.  There were no needles included.

Well, things can be accomplished with a simple phone call and politeness.  I called the pharmacy and told them the mistakes that they made.  The lady kept on saying… Your name is not Isabelle Thick?  Of course lady.  I know what my name is.  After many many seconds, this guy came on the phone. I explained to him the problems.  He sounded like the person responsible for the pharmacy.  So he credited back the $10 shipping to me and would place the order for another Nov.arel without the shipping cost.  As for the needles, the guy said the doctor’s office did not order them.  Oh well, I have a bunch of needles so that should be fine.  And he promised to correct my name so I am not going to be associated with the word “thick” or “fat” or whatever.

AF should show any moment.  Maybe tomorrow.  Maybe on Sunday.  Please please please no cysts.  Please please.

I don’t know about you.  I am really ready for this next cycle.

Open and Transparent

In the beginning of my fertility journey, I would share about our struggles with a selected handful of friends.  I was not blogging back then.  I had made a few friends with a few ladies I met on an online forum who were over 35 and trying to conceive.  Other than a couple of friends and a couple of coworkers, nobody at church or at work knew that we were trying.  I was feeling quite lonely and scared.  It was a dark period of time.  I wanted to beat the odds and prove my OB/GYN wrong (because he recommended IVF following a review of the labwork that showed my extra high FSH and extra low AMH).  I was struggling emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

Fast forward to today.  After two years nine months of this journey, I have come to a totally different place.  Every time I start a cycle, I email all the people I know will pray for us.  This group is expanding to about 15 people.  They include people in my bible study group, people who used to be in my bible study group, people at church, people in my family, and people I met online.  I truly feel that being surrounded by prayers and prayer warriors made a difference in our previous cycle.  Except for work, many people in our friend circle, church circle, and my bible study circle know about our journey.

I am a discussion group leader for an international bible study program.  I am part of about 30 leaders that meet every Saturday morning for training.  Every time we meet, we are given a piece of paper to write down our prayer requests.  We pass the paper to the lady next to us and the prayer will be prayed aloud during our 25-minute prayer time.  During the first training session a few weeks ago, I sat there and contemplated what to write down.  The most important thing back then in my life was for the mini-IVF cycle to go well and for the retrieval not to be interfering with the bible study schedule.  I looked around me and saw that three-quarters of the people in the leaders circle already know about my struggles.  I didn’t think I minded other new leaders knowing about me going through fertility treatment.  So I decided to be bold and wrote down my prayers request as “Pray for the upcoming cycle of fertility treatment to go smoothly”.  My friend next to me who got the slip turned to me and asked, “Do you want me to pray this aloud?”  I said, “Go ahead since most of the people already know about it”.  So she prayed aloud for me.

Fast forward this past Saturday at the leaders meeting, a brand new lady came and sat next to me.  Before the meeting started, she said she wanted to chat with me about my fertility treatment.  After the meeting, we stood outside of the church and talked for about 35 minutes.  She and her husband’s story is similar to my story with Bob.  She got married late.  At 38, she has been trying for the last 14 months but nothing is happening.  On that Saturday, she found out that her first IUI attempt had failed since AF just arrived on that day.  It seems like her AMH is fine though.  She poured her heart out and I tried my best to share my experience and my knowledge and to answer all the questions that she had.  At one point, she made a remark about the amount of knowledge that I have on this issue.  She said that she deliberately came to sit next to me because she heard the prayer request for me the other time and really wanted to connect with me.  She explained that this is still something that she and her husband have not shared with many people so she was very glad that I could talk with her.  I am so happy and grateful that opening up about my struggles appears to have helped someone else feel less alone in this very lonely journey.

As a group leader, I lead about 15 ladies in a weekly discussion group.  We also share our prayer requests with one another so that we can all pray for one another daily.  During our first round of prayer requests last week, I again had the choice of waiting to share or sharing immediately.  Last year, I did not share about our struggles and the cycles until after mid-semester.  After much prayers, I decided to be open about my experiences this year because I would really appreciate prayers from these group members.  So I put down “Pray for wisdom, strength, and peace from God during our fertility treatment”.  I sent out all the prayer requests to the ladies.  Two days later, I received an email from one of the ladies.  It said:

“I saw in your prayer request that you are going through fertility treatment and was wondering if you would feel comfortable if I asked you a few questions about it down the line. My husband and I met with a doctor at a fertility clinic to discuss the various options a few months ago. We are still praying and deciding when we should start the process.  Although I don’t feel comfortable sharing it with our group yet so I won’t request for prayers for it. We haven’t spoken with anyone about it since it has been quite stressful and discouraging. We are also trying to surrender it to God.”

I was surprised to have received this email and at the same time so glad that I was being open.   If I had not been open, this sister in Christ would not have anyone to talk about this with.  I am also glad that she opened up because it must have been hard for her to write to a stranger about her struggles.  I wrote her back right away and said:

“You can ask me any questions any time.  I am pretty open about my journey and my struggles.  I didn’t start out that way but after going through it for a a while, I have become very open about it (except for at work).  I am sorry that you are going through the uncertainty at this point.  My husband and I have been trying for almost 3 years.  We have done a few cycles of IVF and had an early miscarriage back in February after our first ever transfer.  It took us six months to feel ready emotionally and mentally to start all over again.  I know what you mean by it being stressful and discouraging.  I found that my first year of trying was the hardest.  It has actually gotten a little easier mentally, emotionally, and spiritually after I have accepted that this is our path and I have to trust God on it.  I would love to share with you my journey and answer any questions you may have if you feel comfortable with it.  We can talk over coffee or on the phone if you would like.  Just let me know. :)”

She wrote me back the next day with this response:

“Thank you for being so open and transparent with your fertility. This process can feel so lonely, especially since we are at the beginning stages. Our doctor presented us with several options to start and it completely went over my head because there’s so much information. I do know he suggested starting with Clomid. He also talked about IVF being one of the options after we tried everything else. However, what made me uneasy was that he said the clinic will make me sign an agreement to abort the third fetus if the treatment resulted in triplets. He said IVF sometimes but rarely result in triplets and he said it wasn’t safe or something so you have to sign an agreement to not keep the third. This is something we don’t feel comfortable with so we have been holding back on starting any treatment. We know the chances are very slim in it resulting in triplets but we are not comfortable with it.  Do you know if that’s a policy for all fertility clinics? We might wait until end of this year before we start treatment. I would love to hear more about your journey on phone or in person sometime. I am sorry to hear about your miscarriage. I will be praying for you as well. God is good and faithful. He always has better plans than we can imagine even if it doesn’t feel that way when we are going through trials and hardships. I will be praying for you! I’m also very grateful He placed me in your group this year.”

I saw her during our discussion group on Monday and made sure that I reached out to her.  We were making plans for getting together either this coming Saturday or some time next week so we can talk in person without interruption.

In this group there is one pregnant lady this year.  I am actually not bothered by her presence at all.  But I can only imagine what the sight of a pregnancy lady may affect this other lady with infertility issues.  The interesting thing is that these two ladies actually share the same first name.  I wonder if this infertile lady would have the “why me” mentality.  I am even more glad that she’s in my group so she really doesn’t feel that she’s all alone in this.

God works in very mysterious ways.  I am not sure why Bob and I have to go through this very difficult journey.  This is something that I probably will never understand until I see God face-to-face.  One thing I am sure is that God is with me every single step of the way.  He guides my path and allows me to be increasingly at peace with this path.  He gives me strength to live everyday.  He also gives me the courage to be open and transparent and share with others.  I did not know that my openness would touch another person’s life.  It appears that being able to be open not only touched one person but two people this week.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to serve these ladies and for them to feel less lonely.  God is amazing and He orchestrates every little and big thing in our life.  There is no accident that I encountered these two ladies this year.  God does not make mistakes.  I am excited to see how God can use me this year to help encourage them.

MicroblogMondays: Every Little Bit Counts

Microblog_Mondays

Place: Local Walg.reens Pharmacy

Time: 9:30pm Saturday night

People: Isabelle (me) and Pharmacy staff

Event: Picking up Cl.omid prescription

Reason: Dr. No Nonsense allowing us to cycle again in a week (Woohoo!!!) with the same protocol

Original price: $40.26 for 10 pills

After presenting the online Goodrx.com coupon, reduced price: $19.12

Saved: Over $20

Me: Grinning from ear to ear.

Although it doesn’t seem much, every single dollar counts.

 

First World Problem

Girl Cousin who lives on the east coast is in town for a wedding.  She sent out a last minute email to all the cousins to see if anyone can join her for dinner this Sunday.

My first reaction: I wanted to hide.

Not that I don’t want to see my Girl Cousin.  If we were to get together, I am sure we’d have a lot to talk about.  She’s an acupuncturist and has some friends who also have fertility issues.  The last time I saw her was at my Boy Cousin’s wedding last October.

Well… Boy Cousin is the problem.  It has not been a year since his wedding and his son was already born.  Eleven months after he and his wife got married.

I don’t know if I am ready to see him, her, or the newborn.

I sometimes feel bitter when I think about them.  And I don’t want to force a smile or force my interest on the baby.

My brother already responded and said he and his family can’t make it.

Bob would rather watch football on Sunday.

I was thinking, maybe Boy Cousin wouldn’t come because the baby is barely a month old.

He just wrote me a FB message asking if I could make it.  I closed FB once I saw the message.

I know this is totally a first world problem.  I still haven’t decided but I am leaning towards not going.

Sorry Girl Cousin…. I would love to see you.  But a baby is in the way.

Would you go?

Officially Introducing Our Three Possibilities

We waited all day long for THE phone call, little did I know that they don’t usually start calling until between 3pm and 5 pm.  I was mostly eerily calm… but by 3:50, I was getting a bit impatient.  Come on already.  Give me a report!!!

All day I was wondering if we’d be doing a happy dance for three embryos, happy for two embryos, relieved for one embryo, or sad for none.

My secret FB ladies were impatiently waiting.  My friend Jo was impatiently waiting.  My dear friend Jane Allen was impatiently waiting.  All.  Day.  Long.

So I finally called at 3:51pm.  The nurse said they barely started calling people.  But she was willing to give me the results.

So here are the results:

We have….

One four-celled grade one

One three-celled grade one

and One two-celled grade two

Praise the Lord!! We have three embryos still growing!

The nurse said the four-celled grade one is where it should be.  The two other ones are a little behind.

And I said, well, the best I have gotten ever in the previous cycles were two-celled grade one on day two.  I will take ANYTHING that is better that what I had before.

They all go into the freezer.

I am grinning from ear to ear and was doing a happy dance.

I know this is a day two freeze.  I know that they could still change in the future.  But people get pregnant with day two transfers.  My dear friend RR is an excellent example.  She is a happy parent of a very cute little girl.  Result of a day two transfer.

In God, nothing is impossible.  Just like what my hubby said on my birthday.  Life is full of possibilities.

So, let me introduce again: Felicity, Gabriel, and Harriet.  They are all going to be paused in time and hang out in the freezer.  🙂