Category Archives: IVF

The Memory of Little Feet

 

I’ve always been dismayed at those bloggers who invite you into the most personal moments of their lives, and then suddenly disappear without a word. So rude! So abrupt! So unsettling. And after letting more than a year lapse since my last post, I became one of them.

I’m so sorry!

It was never my intention. I’ve started writing so many posts in my head, but life has been one big glorious, messy, chaotic interruption. I left my job when I went on bedrest at the hospital, so I no longer even have those moments to steal away for a few tweets or updates.

I’m hoping this time I’ll get to hit “publish” and give you all the long over-due update about what happened after we escaped from the NICU and brought C & S home.

It’s all been so much harder and so much easier than I expected. Easier because C & S are the sweetest babies with such sunny temperaments. Easier because they continue to “graduate” from their specialists, with clean bills of health. Easier because big sister loves them like no others. Harder because big sister at age three is a tough one. Harder because after surviving infertility, five weeks of hospital bedrest and two months in the NICU, there’s the joy and burden of Appreciating Every Single Miraculous Moment.

Sometimes when my three-year old is having a tantrum and screaming so loud that the walls are trembling and her sisters start crying in alarm, or she needs help going to the potty just as I’ve buckled all three girls into their car seats, I marvel how much I went through for the privilege of being in this moment, of being a mother of three who all need me so much. I’d do it all again just to be in this unpleasant moment of wiping poop while everyone is crying.

Though to be honest, in these particular moments I want to tell them, “Hey kids- I’ve already gone through hell and back to have you here, can’t you just give mommy a break now?”

Of course, for each of those moments, there are other moments that make my heart explode with joy: hearing the girls laughing together as big sister pulls a blanket across the floor with her little sisters running to catch her and go for a ride. The twins feeding each other cheese and Cheerios across their high chairs. The girls all dancing together and clapping as the littlest sister learns to twirl. The twins giving each other kisses, waking up from their naps talking in their own little language.

I watch them and marvel that C and S were frozen in a dish for over two years. That they were born at 29 weeks and 6 days, weighing just 3.5 and 2.7 pounds, spending the next two months in a warm little box until they were strong enough to come home. That my determined little C almost didn’t make it that night she was born.

During those days in the NICU, I consoled myself with the thought that my babies would never remember spending their first two months of life in a hospital. That they wouldn’t remember being on morphine, needing breathing support and IVs. Being too fragile for even their mama to hold them until they were three days old. That they wouldn’t remember the pain, pokes and pricks and procedures. Then someone told me that preemies feet “remember.” They are more sensitive to touch, as their tiny feet were used as the point of blood draws and IVs.

The days leading up to the twins’ first birthday this year were so difficult- I couldn’t help but relive each day from July 10th when I went to the hospital to their birthday on August 12th with dread. The details I wanted to forget were still there; how it felt to prepare again and again for their premature birth and the possibility that they might not be strong enough to survive. Fearing I might not be strong enough to survive if they did not. The dire predictions and statistics from the neonatologists who reminded me that even if my babies survived, they could have severe cognitive impairments.

I kept their birthday simple. Just a small family dinner and cake. We sang to each of them, and then let them have the little smash cakes I made. They dove into those cakes with such delight, devouring the whipped cream frosting and giggling with glee as they smeared it all over their faces and trays.

I still smile to think of it. As they smashed those cakes, they replaced my traumatic memories of their birth day with the happy memories of this first birthday.

C and S are 15 months old  now. They still have appointments with the pediatric development team every four months to assess their motor skills, language and cognitive development. They are meeting the appropriate developmental milestones for both their adjusted and actual ages. Their pediatrician said that if it weren’t for their diminutive statures (S is only 16 pounds and C is 18 at 15 months) he’d never even know they were preemies. Their lungs are clear, their vision is fine. Their PDA’s and PFO’s (holes in their hearts, normal for preemies) have closed.

And my heart is healing too. I tickle the twins’ feet now and they giggle. Whatever memories may be in their little feet, they can’t be all bad.

This may be the end of my blog, so I’ll say goodbye for now. Thank you for supporting me through so many difficult, scary days. I wouldn’t have made it through with my sanity (somewhat) intact without you. Your stories and encouragement will be part of me forever. You’ve made a difference in my life, more than you could know.  

With so much gratitude- Jess

bath

The same tubby one year later. September 2014 and September 2015.

 

 

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Double the Joy, Double the Worry

photo (9)

6 weeks and 2 days: Baby A and Baby B and empty sack for Angel Baby C in the middle who likely split from either A or B.

We had our second ultrasound on Thursday. I had been feeling especially “well” that day, so I was sure something bad must have happened.

To my surprise, Dr. L. found both babies and their flickering heartbeats right away. He said he had heard from Dr. A. about the third sack, and wanted to check that out so we started our tour of my uterus there, confirming that sack A was empty (I never thought I’d be relieved to see an empty gestational sack). Measuring it, he found that it was only about a third of the size of the other two sacks.

Dr. L said that unless Mr. T and I had sex and fertilized an egg at the same time as our transfer (which I reminded him is entirely impossible unless I was having an affair- and even then still quite unlikely) he said that one of our embryos must have split. Which means that it’s possible- although unlikely, that Baby A and B are identical.

He zoomed in on Baby B next. To my concern, Baby B is measuring 6 days behind. Little B should be at 7 weeks 1 day, but is only measuring 6 weeks 2 days. Heartbeat was 119. Dr. L didn’t seem to concerned, but he’s always nice and generally optimistic. He said the fact that the heartbeat was strong and baby was continuing to grow was a good sign. That B would likely catch up.

Baby A on the other hand is only 2 days behind- at 6 weeks 5 days. Dr. L turned on the sound and the heartbeat was so loud and fast at 146 bpm that I couldn’t believe it was coming from such a tiny little speck.

Overall, I should have left feeling happy. But measuring behind always worries me, based on my unhappy experiences. And now that I’ve had a chance to see Baby A and Baby B, and hear their sweet little heartbeats, I feel that much more attached to them. I’m already picturing the two of them keeping each other company in the womb as they did in the freezer for four years, snuggling together as babies, holding hands as they grow up and being best friends forever.

Mr. T and I left, under my self-imposed somber dark cloud of worry. Poor Mr. T. All these years of carrying my worry. He said as much in a rare outburst on the car ride home.

And I decided that even if I’m right to worry- Mr. T is right that we deserve to be happy in the moment once in a while too.

So this weekend I threw all caution to the wind, and made the bold decision to tell my best friend on Saturday. She’s expecting her second baby in May, and was overjoyed for us. It felt good to let myself be happy.

Then I went to the bathroom and was spotting brown. It’s as if the universe felt me getting too happy, and wanted to keep me in check. I lay down for the rest of the afternoon, convinced it was the beginning of the end.

The spotting stopped by the time we headed out to a friend’s birthday party that evening where we would see all our closest friends. On the way over, Mr. T asked if it was ok if we told everyone there. They know what we’ve been through- and most of them knew we were starting the FET process, but I had been vague about the dates, not wanting the pressure of keeping everyone posted about each milestone along the way.

But now, I realized that this might be it. It might be the only time we could celebrate these two miraculous little heartbeats with our friends. These two embryos had waited so long- they deserve all the hope and joy and love from our friends. And so did Mr. T. After all, this is the last pregnancy announcement we’ll ever make- no matter what happens next.

So we told them. And their hugs and love and the outpouring of joy they had for us was amazing. Any misgivings  I had about sharing our news were gone when I saw Mr. T’s  happy face across the room. Thinking back to his diagnosis of Azoospermia five years ago, not sure if we’d ever be able to have children, let alone the big family he always dreamed of- he deserved this moment.

We still aren’t telling our families until we are out of the first trimester- from past experience we’ve learned they need more comforting and ask more questions than our friends when things don’t go well. 

But celebrating Baby A and Baby B with our friends felt good. No matter what happens next, I’m glad we had this moment. Maybe after five years of infertility, I’m finally learning to be braver. I can only hope. And continue to hope for Baby A and B with all my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

The Last First Ultrasound Ever

rainbow

The view in 2011. So much has changed since then.

When I left the house this morning, I consciously left the music on. I didn’t want to come home to a quiet house if we got bad news today.

I’ll skip right to the good news here- it turns out I didn’t have to worry about that.

Mr. T and I arrived at the clinic late, and had a bit of a wait. In the waiting room, we looked out the panoramic windows at the city, and all the buildings and the new bridge going up across the river- marveling at all the changes in the city since we were first there as new patients five years ago. It’s strange to think that during all that building, our little embroys were sitting here frozen in time.

Finally we were called in to see my favorite of all my wonderful doctors at the clinic- Dr. A. She’s the one who did our ultrasound for our last miscarriage- and for our daughter. At IVF 3.0, I had such PTSD from the click and measure sounds of the ultrasounds in the past, always measuring and coming up short, missing heartbeats- that I had to wear headphones and listen to music to stay calm, squeezing my eyes to block everything out until Dr. A told me it was ok to look. That day in May 2011 was a good day.

Today, Mr. T and I held hands tightly as she prepared the ultrasound and “Mr. Wandy.” For a long time Dr. A didn’t say anything- and I was starting to think it was bad news again. Then she turned the screen toward us.

“Wow!” I laughed in surprise- wonder-struck by what I saw.

Mr. T, not so versed in the ways of ART and ultrasounds- looked at me puzzled.

“It looks like two…” Dr. A said. “And a third one… but that one looks empty.”

I wish I could have captured the look on Mr. T’s face just then. I know most people when they hear we are doing IVF expect that means twins or more- but in three pregnancies- with six embryos- we only had singletons each time- and as you know, all but one pregnancy ending in miscarriage.

Dr. A clicked and zoomed in. “let’s call this one baby A…” she said, as I instantly fell in love with baby A. She clicked and zoomed in. She measured and I tried not to notice that the measurements looked behind date. But she turned on the sound and there it was- Baby A’s heartbeat, filling the room. 114 beats per minute. Mr. T and I grinned like fools at each other- at the sound that we will never take for granted.

The Dr. A adjusted the wand. “And here’s baby B…” And I fell in love with Baby B. Again, baby B seemed to my untrained eye as small for date. I mentioned this, but she said not to worry – that measurements could vary up to 5 days at this point. I wasn’t so sure about that- but when she turned on the sound, and we heard Baby B’s heartbeat- 101 beats per minute. So beautiful.

At 6 weeks, 2 days- Dr. A assured me this was good. But of course, that it was still early. (Subtext- anything can happen- as we all know.)

She zoomed in on the third mysterious object, confirming it was empty (to my great relief.) We had only transferred two, but one might have split. (I initially worried about transferring two during IVF 1 since there are twins on my mother’s side of the family, and ending up with triplets is a scary proposition.)

But the joy of this moment- seeing our family expanding in ways we never thought would happen- is more than I can describe right now.

Dr. A printed out three pictures- one of Baby A, one of Baby B, and one of the two together. I clutched the photos as we left the exam room, beaming and hugging the nurses I knew who we passed in the halls.

As I write this, I keep pausing just to look at the picture again. Just looking at the printout now- I’m so head over heals for these babies already. I know twins won’t be easy (if we are lucky enough to meet them both) but I’m so grateful for today.

Dr. A said she wants to see us again next week. By then we’ll be 7 weeks, two days. I hope.

Thanks to everyone who held my hand over the past month. Finding the courage to do this transfer wasn’t easy. So grateful to have your support- in whatever comes next.

“Maybe Babies” Homecoming: Transfer Day

Sun through the clouds

Sun through the clouds over the fertility clinic

On our way to the clinic for our transfer this morning, the sun suddenly broke through the clouds, directly over the building where my “maybe babies” have been hanging out for the past four years. I hoped it was a good sign.

Mr. T and I walked into the hospital hand in hand, as we had for so many years before. As we took the elevator up to the 10th floor, I remembered how embarrassed I was to get off at the “infertility” floor for the first time. I’d watch the others getting off at floors like “cardiology”, actually jealous of them.

Now, the 10th floor feels like home. Even after all these years. I look around the waiting room and wonder about everyone else’s stories. I want to hug them all. But in real life, we all sit quietly, avoiding eye contact.

In the embryo transfer room, I sit on the table with my paper skirt, trying to peer into the embryology room next door as we wait.

“What do you think their accommodations look like?” I ask Mr. T. He knows I’m talking about our “maybe babies” and the place they have called “home” for four years.

“I think you’d be disappointed,” my practical husband responded. “I doubt there are flowers and gardens. Probably just a freezer full of test tubes.”

The embryologist finally came in with her clip board. With the experience of an infertility veteran, I look at her face, trying to gauge her expression before she speaks. Good news or bad new? She looks neutral.

“You had two day six embryos frozen…” she began. My heart skipped a beat as I honed in on her use of the past tense.

“….it looks like they both survived the thaw,” she finished.

I breathed a sigh of relief.

She went on to say that they looked fine, but that “it’s always hard to tell,” and asked if I had any questions.

Do I have any questions?

YES! I want to know everything about them! Their favorite foods, their favorite books, what they want to be when they grow up. What color eyes and hair and who will they look like.

But of course she doesn’t know any of this. Instead I grasp around for questions I can ask, anything to help me get to know these tiny maybe babies from the only person who might ever see them.

I ask about the shell.  (still intact, not hatched yet.)

Do they both look about the same? (one looks a little better than the other.)

And finally: “If all the other embryos in batch result in miscarriages, by the laws of the transitive property, does that mean that these will end in miscarriage too?”

She doesn’t know. But she also says the laws of transitive property as I’m describing them don’t apply to embryo cohorts. So that’s good.

She leaves us, and the nurse comes in to offer apologies for the doctor running late. It’s going to be a bit longer. She asks if I’d like to “half” empty my bursting bladder. They still need it to be full for transfer, in order to see the uterus.

I knew that there would be no stopping if I “broke the seal” now, so I soldiered on. More concerning was the thought that after making them wait four years, my “maybe babies” were hanging out in a dish, just waiting. I just wanted them home.

Finally, 45 minutes late, Doctor L came in. We still send him Christmas cards with pictures of our daughter every year- with the words “so grateful to you” scrawled on the back. So knowing the care and time he gives his patients, I forgive the delay.

At this point though, my bladder feels like a baloon ready to pop. Mr. T holds my hand and coaches me to think “deflating thoughts, like a popped balloon.” Not helpful!

After everything is rigged up, my legs and but almost falling off the table, Dr. L says he has a great view of my uterus thanks to my ballooning bladder.

I confirm my name again to the embryologist through the window of the lab. And then finally, my “maybe babies” are home.

We wait for the required 30 minutes after the transfer, reclined on the table. I clutch the photo they gave me of the embroys being released into the womb. A dark universe with a commet streak. There they are.

Mr. T holds my hand and asks me if I’ll be ok. If it’s ok if E ends up an only child.

I’m surprised to hear this question coming from my eternal optimist husband. At such a hopeful moment. But I understand where he’s coming from. He’s seen me at my most heartbroken moments, and doesn’t want to repeat that again.

Neither do I. I can’t predict how I’ll feel when this chapter is over. For now it’s about hope.

Mr. T kissed my tummy with our two “maybe babies” somewhere in there.

Beta day (pregnancy test) is Valentines day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Insomnia: The Night Before the Big Day

It’s past midnight and no surprise- I can’t sleep. All day I worked frantically to finish projects up so I could take tomorrow off from work, while fitting in acupuncture and  massage appointments. I’ve been so focused on getting things done, one step after another- that now, lying in bed, I’m finally thinking about tomorrow.

Tomorrow I meet my two tiny four year old “maybe babies.”

Silly thoughts run through my mind like: Will they remember me? Are they mad I made them wait so long? (ok- maybe not silly- just crazy.)

And more serious ones like: What if they don’t make the thaw? The embryologist helpfully told me that they have improved the freezing process since the long-ago vintage when mine were frozen. So helpful to know that since there’s nothing I can do about it.

So much is out of my control. And still I wonder: have I done enough to prepare for them? Am I ready?

I finally got out of bed tonight when I realized I was a little hungry- maybe I didn’t eat enough for potentially three of us.

So now I’m drinking tea and eating a banana and peanut butter sandwich. And googling recipes for the crockpot tomorrow so Mr. T, Little E, Maybe Babies 1 and 2 and I will have a good healthy dinner. Our first dinner as a family of five.

I hope there will be other dinner times with them- with all the chaos and joy and food smashed into the floor, curtains and table that comes with that wish. I’m ready.

I hope these little ones are too.

After my transfer tomorrow, I’ll report back on how it goes. I’m looking forward to a long afternoon lounging on the couch. Other than the hope for a baby at the end of it, this one day of doing nothing is the best perk of the process.

Thanks for all your messages of support, prayers and good luck wishes. No matter what happens, I know I’ll get through it- with a little help from my friends. Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

Return of the Four Letter Word: HOPE

Hope in bloom

Hope in bloom.

A week from today I’ll be “pregnant until proven otherwise” for the last time.

Yesterday we went to the clinic for lining check, and I was surprised to hear it was already at 14. I didn’t even know that was possible- especially since I haven’t had a cycle since 2011. (I haven’t missed it a bit.)

We saw the new doctor there for the first time. She asked about our history and our daughter, and she went on and on about how this was perfect spacing for our second child- as if it were a sure thing. She’s young and enthusiastic and just full of optimism.

Despite myself, I couldn’t help but get a little carried away by her enthusiasm. And by “carried away”- I  mean I cracked open the door to hope. For the first time, I imagined what it might be to experience pregnancy again- maybe this time with less fear and more joy. I imagined the sweet baby smell, the tiny socks and hats. And I imagined my daughter as a big sister, instead of as an only child.

On Tuesday, February 4th- we will be reunited with her little big brothers and/or sisters. They’ll just be a speck. We know they are six days old, and have top “grades” from our clinic. We won’t know if they will have blue eyes, hazel or brown eyes, if they will be tall or short. If they will be silly or serious. If they will have their father’s athleticism or my quiet nature. I hope we get to see them grow and find out.

That’s all I can do now- to hope. Letting my heart finally do that feels good. These little tiny embryos deserve all the hope and love in the world- no matter what happens next.

Hope and Courage in the Freezer

At the lake

I’m back from vacation- a wonderful two weeks unplugged at my parents’ cabin on a lake in New Hampshire- and I’m still basking in that post-vacation glow. I feel so rested that I finally felt up to making a phone call I’ve been avoiding for years. I called my fertility clinic.

I have two frozen embroys there from the 2010 vintage. That was not a good year, as those who have followed my story know.  

2010, the year of my first IVF cycle, started off with such promise. We had six beautiful embryos including the first 5AA embryos our nurse had ever seen. When the first two perfect embryos ended in a miscarriage at eight weeks, we were heartbroken, but still hopeful. “Just bad luck” was our official diagnosis. When the second two embryos ended in miscarriage, I thought my heart would be broken forever. My hope was gone. And after lots of tests, our diagnosis was again “Just bad luck.”

I couldn’t face the last two embryos from that doomed cycle. When I finally got the courage to try again- I wanted a fresh start and a fresh cycle. That cycle didn’t go well. By Day 5, our embroys were lagging, and none had yet reached the important blastocyst stage. On Day 6, we transferred the only two that made it. One of those is now our tenacious, beautiful little daughter. I’m still wonder-struck.

And yet the grief of those first two losses haunts me. Whenever Mr. T starts talking about going back for our last two embroys, I balk and change the subject.

But on Friday, I picked up the phone and called the clinic. There was a new receptionist there. I felt the familiar pang of anxiety as she took my message, promising me that the embryologist would call me back within a few days.

Five minutes later, the embryologist called me back. I recognized her voice as my favorite embryologist. The caretaker of my frozen “maybe-babies.” The super-hero who helped make my daughter possible.

I gave her my back story; “Remember me? I was the one with the great-looking embroys and multiple miscarriages…It’s been a few years, and I just thought I should check in on our last two embroys… are they still there? Have they been behaving? How do they look?”

I could hear her leafing though my file.

“Yes, you have two from that first cycle. It looks like all the embryos from that cycle had high grades-all about the same. The fact that you had a pregnancy- even if it ended in a miscarriage- is a good sign.”

(I’ve learned the professionals love to say this- as if miscarriage could be comfort.)

“I just keep thinking of these two as the ‘bottom of the barrel’ from a very bad crop,” I explained in my best bravado, my voice wavering with the emotion I was trying to keep in check. “I’m just wondering what you think their chances are…”

Her voice was warm, and I knew she was trying to comfort me, without promising anything (for we all know there’s no guarantee in this business.)

“Well, our freezing process has changed in the past two years since yours were frozen, so our success rates with frozen transfers are higher now than they were with the old process. But the fact that your frozen transfer resulted in a pregnancy, though a miscarriage, is a good sign.” She said it again. I knew she meant well, but fact that my “maybe-babies” were sitting around with the outdated freezing process was unsettling.

“We could do PDG to test them, but since you only have two and it’s expensive, it might not be worthwhile…” she explained, trying to give me the feeling that I had options.

I thanked her for the information, and said that I knew I just had to get up the courage to give those two a try. Someday.

I’m still not sure when I’ll be ready. Whenever I think about potential dates, I find myself thinking “Would that be a good time to have a miscarriage?” I’ve already had a summer miscarriage. That was not a good time. My cousin’s wedding in September? Not a good time. Thanksgiving? Not a good time. Christmas? I’ve done that too- and take it from me- that’s the absolute worst time. Of course, the answer is that there’s never a good time to have a miscarriage.

But tonight we drove by the “Fertility Tower” as I call my clinic, a tall building on the waterfront. I can’t pass by without being so grateful and amazed that our daughter began there- and wonder if she has a sibling or two- who should be older than her by now, frozen and waiting for me to be brave.

So for now, I’ll keep looking for my own “infertility twin” and hope I find my courage eventually.

I will be sharing some more happy-ending infertility adventure stories here soon- let me know if you have a story to share to spark hope for others. Even though it can be scary to hold onto it, I still believe that hope that makes the world go round.