Saying goodbye to my body parts…and hello to surrogacy

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I’M BACK, and WE ARE PREGNANT!!!! April 12, 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — chromisome @ 2:02 pm
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Hi Everyone, I’m back!  I apologize for not writing for so long.  I can’t believe I haven’t written since August 1st, 2012, but for some reason I had it in my mind that I would post once our pregnancy was “safe”, due to that other traumatic experience, and then time just got away from me.  I started working full-time again in Sept-end of Dec (which was agonizingly difficult for my body), had another breast reconstruction surgery in December, had my full hysterectomy in late January, been recovering, had our co-ed baby shower in early March and have been getting all the baby stuff and nursery together, and have just been waiting for our little miracle to arrive since a  few weeks ago.  I’ve just been paralyzed in a way that if it wasn’t about baby stuff or trying to distract myself, it was difficult for me to concentrate on anything else.  I realize that a lot of people might have thought that we didn’t get pregnant from that last round of IVF because I haven’t updated my blog, but that is untrue.  One of our embryos did take from that round, and is in fact still hanging out in our surrogate’s womb even though we all thought she would come a bit early.  Her due date is Monday, April 15th (yup, that’s Tax Day!), but we thought she was going to be born as early as last Friday (April 5th).  We are still at home waiting, on call every minute thinking everyday that “today is the day she will come.” 

Because I’ve missed so much in updating, I will most likely go back and “backdate” some of our experiences as I have time and as I remember.  The cool thing is that after the 1st Trimester, we were able to see an ultrasound every month which really helped my husband and I to feel close to our daughter even though someone else is carrying her.  The reason we were able to see her every month is because she had a condition called “marginal umbilical cord” where the umbilical cord is close to the edge of the placenta; many times this condition corrects itself as the pregnancy progresses and is only a problem if the baby starts to decrease in growth.  Luckily for us, even though the umbilical cord stayed about 3 cm from the edge of the placenta throughout the pregnancy, our baby was only a little bit lower in weight, at about the 20th percentile as of 8th month of pregnancy.  Because she is nearing Week 40 (this coming Monday), our baby will probably be closer to 7 lbs if not more!

I was anxiously waiting for our daughter for the last week and a half, but my nerves have ironically calmed down the last few days which is why I was able to get myself to write today.  I still feel a little bit of nerves, but not too bad.  😀

I think this is all I can write today….I will update once our surrogate goes into labor and calls us!!!

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Implantation Day… August 1, 2012

…was this past Sunday.  We received a phone call from our doctor around 9:15 am (implantation was scheduled for 10: 30 am, and he told us we had three embryos to implant.  Out of 12 tested embryos (I previously thought the number was 8), four embryos came back chromosomally normal.  One of those embryos was a carrier of the BRCA1 breast cancer gene.  I’ll admit that my husband and I discussed and wondered beforehand if we should keep (freeze for later use) any “normal” embryos infected with BRCA1, as we may decide not to do any more retrievals after this point.  However, we decided against it even though my best friend pointed out last year that to test and eliminate BRCA1 embryos would be  getting rid of people like me (since I carry the gene). Conversely, I was born without knowing whether or not I carry the gene since that type of technology and circumstance were not available, and the BRCA1 baby would know with certainly that she had the gene.  It was a difficult choice but we decided we would not keep the embryo.

We ended up implanted all three embryos; #3 and #7 were from Cycle 3 and #22 was  from Cycle so was frozen and thawed.  The irony is that all three of the embryos were all girls again, even the “normal” embryo carrying BRCA1.  In Cycle 1, 8 out of 10 tested embryos were girls; in Cycle 2 and 3 combined, 10 out of 12 embryos were girls.  My husband’s maternal grandfather had four girls, so maybe his grandfather’s genes are just really strong!

Now all we can do is wait!  The pregnancy test is next  Thursday.  Luckily, I’m flying to Seattle/Vancouver with my husband for his work and returning next Tuesday evening so we will be decently distracted…hopefully!  I will add a picture of the embryos a little later; right now I’m getting ready to go to the airport!

Another irony (so many ironies in this process) is that after watching the first day of Olympic competitions, my husband may be more open to adoption at a later time even if these embryos do take.  Who knew the Olympics could do that?  🙂

 

Testing Day… July 27, 2012

Today is supposed to be testing day for PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis).  Our doctor called us about half an hour ago and unfortunately, we are down to eight embryos.  Yes, EIGHT, from eighteen.  This is even worse odds than I imagined or hoped for.  I was hoping that we would have  at least 12 embryos for PGD.  At this rate, we will be lucky to have even ONE implantable embryo at the end of testing.  I can’t believe we only have eight embryos left at this stage from 35 retrieved eggs from Cycle 2 and Cycle 3.  We had 10 embryos left from Cycle 1 at the same stage and ended up with two implantable embryos.

We’re definitely disappointed and mildly surprised, but in no way are we as shocked (no tears this time) as when we went through this in Cycle 1.  The last couple of days my husband and I actually talked about what we would do if this last implantation isn’t successful and we even discussed how the result of a  low percentage of implantable embryos would affect our future decisions.  Basically, if the implantation isn’t successful this time and given the repeated low yield of implantable embryos, we might just call it quits for having children.  We’ve not only spent over $150K already on all of these procedures (including surrogacy agency and surrogate) but frankly, I don’t know how much more my body can physically take.  My fibroid-laden uterus still needs to be removed and so do my ovaries.  If we try again next summer or the summer after, my eggs would only be getting older.  Because of the past results, I wouldn’t even consider harvesting more eggs and freezing them for later procedures.  I would have to have at least five retrieval cycles to feel that freezing my eggs would even make sense.

Adoption is also out of the question because my husband wants to have “our own” kids, so if that’s not to be, he’d rather not adopt.  Maybe we’ll adopt more animals.  🙂

Who knows?  We could still end up with 2-3 implantable embryos out of the eight and one or two of them might actually take.  If that happens, we will be overjoyed, but we’ll wait and see what happens…

Update on Retrieval Recovery – I really haven’t had any more abdominal pain after the 2nd day but I’m still really tired.  Yesterday I slept close to 20 hours; today is a bit better but I’m still really sleepy.  I’ve had discharged since day 3 and am continuing to have it.

 

Day After Retrieval July 25, 2012

My egg retrieval went well yesterday; 18 eggs were retrieved and I woke up from anesthesia pretty quickly and alertly.  Amazingly, I didn’t take any naps yesterday once I got home, but I slept from midnight until 4 pm today!  Of course, I woke up a few times to use the bathroom and check my phone, but I probably slept for 14 hours.  Guess that was my body telling me what it needed!  My pain level was pretty low (relatively) but I took a few Vicodins, and the nurse said I would feel more bloated today than yesterday; she was right about that!

Our fertility doctor called us this morning at 8:31 am; unfortunately I was still asleep so I didn’t listen to the voicemail until I woke up for a little bit around 1:30 pm.  Out of the 18 eggs that were retrieved, 15 were injected with my husband’s sperm, and 8 of them began to divide normally.  Three of them did not divide correctly, and four of the embryos did nothing.  There’s still a chance that the four “nothings” will divide, but when that happened last cycle to two of our embryos, nothing came of them.  That brings the number of 18 retrieved eggs from Cycle 3 down to 8 “normal” embryos for day two (with the possibility of four more).  Assuming that nothing will come out of those four embryos, the dwindling of this number was a bit of a shock because only 53% of the fertilized eggs are viable embryos.

The ten embryos that were frozen from Cycle 2 were thawed this morning (since they were frozen on day 2) and all ten embryos survived and are dividing normally (17 eggs were retrieved during Cycle 2).  There are still two more days to go to see how many total embryos will be biopsied for PGD (preimplantation genetic diagnosis).   As of now, we have a total of 18 “normal” embryos which I really hope will all still survive until Friday which is when they will be biopsied (one cell will be taken from each embryo and sent to the genetics lab to be tested for chromosomal problems and my BRCA1 breast cancer gene).

The irony is that the results of Cycle 2 and 3 are so far similar to the results of Cycle 1.  If all 18 embryos survive until PGD this Friday, 51% of my 35 retrieved eggs from Cycle 2 and 3 will be tested.  In Cycle 1, ten embryos out of 20 retrieved eggs survived to be biopsied for PGD.  Recalling Cycle 1, three out of ten tested embryos turned out to be chromosomally normal, but one of those was positive for BRCA 1 so we only had two embryos left for implantation.  We implanted both of the embryos, our surrogate came back testing positive 11 days later although her HCG level was a bit low, and one week later we found out that the embryo(s) were not meant to be.   I remember I felt beyond crushed because I already loved my little embryos.  I felt like a piece of me died that I would never get back.

The best case scenario after PGD this time would be if we had 5-6 viable and implantable embryos.  That would allow us to implant three embryos on Sunday and 2 or 3 more during a subsequent implantation if Sunday’s embryos do not take.  I’m a bit nervous of how many implantable embryos we will have after this round of PGD since 20 % of 18 embryos is 3.6 embryos, and we don’t even know if all 18 embryos will survive until Friday.  I’m still staying positive, but this analysis is also realistic.

The implantation in our surrogate will occur on Sunday and my doctor said he would also do my follow-up appointment that day.  Will update on Friday when I hear from the doctor.

 

Retrieval on Tuesday & Four Shots Tonight! July 22, 2012

I went to have another ultrasound and blood test this morning and my doctor told me that my retrieval will be on Tuesday.  As of last Friday, we weren’t sure if the retrieval would be Monday or Tuesday, and on Saturday, we thought the retrieval might even take place on Wednesday.  My follicles usually start out a little bit slow and grow more quickly near the end, but even so, my doctor had my take 425 ul of Follistim on Friday, Saturday and Sunday even though I only took 325 ul of Follistim every day during the 1st and 2nd cycle.  I’ve also never had to inject Follistim everyday including the night of the HCG trigger shot.  I also had to take Ganirelix Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and tonight I actually had to have four shots: two of them were of Follistim since each vial only has a maximum of 325 ul of Follistim, one shot of Ganirelix (ouch), and one shot of HCG (the trigger shot) at 10:30 pm tonight.

My belly is so bloated and swollen now I definitely feel like a pregnant woman!

My retrieval will be on Tuesday at 9:30 am and my check-in time will be 8:30 am.  The PGD (genetic testing will be done five days later), and the implantation into our surrogate will take place on Sunday.  Our surrogate is also going to have a couple of sessions of acupuncture as suggested by the nurse at our fertility clinic.  I was pretty okay up until now, but writing about the upcoming week and being reminded of the emotional roller coaster of Cycle 1 has me a little nervous.  After the retrieval, every day, every hour, every minute will be a waiting game of news.  Fingers crossed!

 

On Schedule for Monday Retrieval July 17, 2012

Had my fifth ultrasound for this IVF cycle and my follicles are coming along nicely.  So far the doctor can see seven follicles in my left ovary and ten (plus a few small ones) in my right ovary, and the largest of the follicles are about 13.5 mm.  I go back for another ultrasound on Thursday, and then I’ll probably be going in for ultrasounds on a daily basis until my retrieval.

As advised by my acupunturist, I’ve been consuming lots of food that contain iron (since I’m anemic).  They include lean beef (we don’t usually eat that much red meat), cherries, raisins, spinach, and copious amounts of red beans (adzuki).  I enjoy cooking the red beans in a slow cooker and then blending them with milk and a few ice cubes to make a red bean shake…delicious!  Red beans have tons of protein and fiber as well (9 grams per serving) so they are a great food all around.

The biggest side effect of this round’s shots is my evident tiredness.  I’ve been sleeping 8 hours each night for the last few nights, but after waking up in the morning around 8 am for about an hour, my body shuts down for another nap…a 3 hour nap.  Sometimes I sleep through lunch, and if I don’t, my body shuts down again after lunch for another 1-2 hour nap.  At this point, I’m just letting my body do its thing, which is apparently lots of rest and sleep.

Aside from the tiredness, I’m holding up well.  🙂

 

IVF Shots (Pictures) July 9, 2012

Today was my first day of shots for IVF Cycle 3.  My period should have started yesterday or at least today (since my last birth control pill was last Thursday), but for some reason, it still hasn’t come.  I had my ultrasound and blood test this morning and was told that my hormone levels are all as expected, meaning I’m ready to go for my shots tonight.

I’ve wanted to include pictures of what the medication and syringes look like in past posts but I always forget to take pictures (I guess I’m usually just concentrating on the shots and the pain afterwards).  I remembered today though (maybe because my husband is away on a business trip so it’s just me with my shots), so here are some pictures of what I basically do every night for 14 days.

Lupron: 20 ml every night for 3 days.  The picture on top shows the box that the Lupron kit comes in.  Lots of individually wrapped syringes with orange caps and a small vial with a “pierce-able” rubber screen.  The picture underneath shows me about to insert the syringe into the vial and draw out 20 ml of Lupron.

Follistim: 425 ul of Follistim every night for 8-10 days, depending on how quickly or slowly my follicles are growing.  (For some strange reason, Word Press keeps inserting this image upside down…another weird glitch.)  The “pen” at the top of the picture is really the syringe.  You load the Follistim vial into the center of the pen, turn a the dial at the end of the pen back to 425 ul, attach a needle on the other end, pinch part of your belly with one hand, insert the needle into your belly, and turn the dial slowly all the way in to inject all the medication. This is actually really difficult to do by yourself since you’re supposed to pinch your belly skin as you also inject the Follistim; one hand has to hold the pen steady with the needle in the belly as well as turn the dial at the end of pen; as the dial is turned, resistance is felt because of increasing amount of Follistim in the muscle.

Below is basically the whole medley of medications when put together (even though I only displayed one of each medication).  I basically have to take all these things out before starting my shots.  The Lupron and Follistim are stored in the fridge.  The red box is a sharps container to dispose of used syringes and medication vials.  Those alcohol swabs are very important!  The doctor has my HCG medication so that’s not pictured here.  Ganirelix is injected around the last four days of the IVF cycle.

Below is what my belly looks like after the two injections.  The small prick on top is from the Lupron.  The needle is much smaller and doesn’t hurt as much.  The drop of blood below is from the Follistim; a little of it usually oozes back out after withdrawing the needle.  Alcohol swabs are very useful in cleaning up these little messes!  After a few days my belly is basically sprinkled with lots of different colored bruises from all the shots.