Thursday, August 28, 2014

Peace in the Waiting

Ugh!!!  Honestly, I'd take a million more shots in my belly if I could bypass this waiting part.  This is the worst y'all!  I am a bit of a hypochondriac by nature anyhow, so knowing I've got embryos in my belly makes me hyper aware of every twitch, cramp, pull, tug, and sensation going on in my body right now.  It's a tough place to be.  It's tough not to know.  I've never been pregnant before.  Not legitimately.  I have no idea what it's *supposed* to feel like to have a pregnancy implanted in the right place in my body.  Should I feel my uterus getting bigger?  Should my lower back hurt?  Should I have to pee all the time?  Should I be nauseated??  I'm not really feeling any of those, so does that mean I'm not pregnant???

Bottom line is that if I *am* pregnant, I'm no more than 5 days pregnant.  What woman experiences "early pregnancy signs" at 5 DAYS pregnant??  Maybe I'm experiencing something right now that with with my second pregnancy I'll recognize as a true "pregnancy symptom".  In the meantime, I feel fine.  Normal, even.  Which is saying a lot considering what my body has been through these last 8 weeks.  I even feel what I would consider "comfortable".  I don't have cramping, though the first day or so after transfer I had a little.  I'm chalking that up to residual hCG lingering from my trigger shot.  That is, after all, a giant dose of pregnancy hormones injected right into my lower belly.  It's supposed to linger a while.  It was probably that AND the fact that my body had very recently been through a surgery for crying out loud, and was also probably mellowing out after the transfer procedure.  And with these progesterone shots I feel extra every couple of hours a nap sounds like the perfect plan.  So really, any "symptoms" I'm having can be contributed to the hormones coursing through my body...either newly introduced or lingering from our treatment cycle...and/or my body recovering from the retrieval/transfer procedure...

On Tuesday we got the call from OU about our remaining 5 embryos.  We were supposed to get an update on their progress and they were supposed to tell us how many were being frozen.  Here's how the call went down:

(an MA in the clinic who I will not name): "Hi Rachel!  Just wanted to let you know that none of your embryos are being frozen.  Ok?"

(all chipper...her voice not at all matching the gravity of what she is saying)

Me: "Uh...ummm...ok...  Does that mean ALL of them are just done, or will you be reassessing tomorrow?  Or is that just it?"

(MA): "Ummm...hold on."

She puts me on hold, then comes back to the phone a few seconds later...

(MA): "Oops!  One of your embryos will be frozen.  Ok?"

Again...all chipper.  I was shell shocked and about to burst into tears so I said "Ok" and hung up.  Jonathan was on the phone with someone else at the time, so I tried to hold it in for a while.  Then I just lost it.  He panicked and hung up with the person he was talking to.  I could barely choke out what information I had been given.  So he called the clinic back and asked to talk with Connie.  Oh thank the Lord for that woman!  She gave us so much more information, apologized profusely, and gave me a HUGE peace of mind.  Generally speaking here's what we got from her:

-4 of our remaining 5 just weren't growing strong enough for them to feel confident they would survive the freezing, thawing, AND transferring process
-the 1 little fighter is a FABULOUS embryo!
-he's a 5AB which means he's pretty darn near perfect
-he's one stage away from hatching and one letter away from literal perfection
-the two little ones we transferred Saturday were an 8 cell and a 10 cell
-the 10 cell is a little overachiever!

That's pretty much the gist of it.  Connie said she's hoping and praying that we don't need to use our little snow baby for several years.  Of course we're hoping the same thing!  I was really sad about our other 4 embryos not making it.  I wasn't surprised about our one little runt, but the other 3 really caught me off guard.  But when I'd finally regained my composure (with lots of kisses and pep talks from Jonathan), I was led to this verse:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  For I do not give as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." -John 14:27

It's that' "I do not give as the world gives" that He really wanted me to hear.  The world gives and takes in excess.  We find a pair of jeans we like, we buy 3 pair.  Our kids want a Frozen dress, we buy them a top of the line $200 get up.  There are 30 presents on the birthday gift table.  Etc., etc.  God doesn't give that way.  He gives lavishly, yes.  We've experienced that fully in these past few months. But He gives LOVE.  Not "stuff".  And He didn't need all 7 embryos to make our family.  He created what He intended to create.  Sent here to earth what He intended.  And he gathered the others to Himself.  One sweet day Jonathan and I will wrap our arms around all 5 of our sweet lost little ones.  But for now, He wants us to live in the present.  Not dwell on the past or fret over the future.  He wants us to live for TODAY.  And today...I have 2 angels in my tummy and 1 angel safe and secure at OU.  Today, I feel good.  Today I am not worried that my body or my God might forsake me.  Today, I'm content.  I'm right where He needs and wants me to be...

Next week will be a big week for us Womacks.  A life changing week no matter what.  We will take our Beta test on Thursday, Jonathan will get his test scores back at the end of the week, we will make a housing decision for Miami, and we will be in our last full week here in OKC before we start the next chapter.  A big week indeed!  So say some prayers for peace and calm.  Of course keep our little angels in your thoughts and prayers too.  Jonathan and I both tell them multiple times a day that they are SO dearly loved by us and by all of you!  We tell them to hang on for dear life and to grow big and strong.  We tell them we can't wait to meet them!  We will be keeping the results of our beta to ourselves for a little while.  We'll be relishing in the newness of it at first or wading through the sadness of a negative.  Either way, keep praying for us.  Soon and very soon!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Lucky 7!

Yesterday was my egg retrieval!  All day on Tuesday I was running on a literal adrenaline rush.  I was nervous and excited and anxious and SO ready to do the retrieval.  My mom came in from Granbury around 7:30 on Tuesday night and then I really was ready to go.  It felt so nice to have her here with me through this the toughest part of the process for my body.    We got up at 5:00 AM on Wednesday morning and I miraculously felt rested.  We went into the office where we met Connie at the front desk.  There was literally not a single soul other than her there.  So Jonathan, Bernice, my mom, and I went right in while being followed in by one of my best dear friends Angela.  She's such an amazing person that she agreed to meet us up there for the retrieval to take some video and pictures of our big day.  I'm such a blessed woman to have someone like her in my life...before dawn she was there being such a big part of our special day!  To say I'm grateful for her support is the understatement of the century...

Connie led Jonathan and I back to the "prep room" where I dressed in a nice warmed hospital gown and donned my fluffy warm socks.  Then she came in and prepped my IV and it was all a breeze.  Then Angie came in and took some video of me and Jonathan just being together and being silly for a minute.  Then my mom took Angie's place for a bit, then Bernice came in and took her place.  For the next half hour or so Dr. Hansen came in to talk with us and so did the anesthesiologist.  Connie was there by my side the whole time keeping me calm and Jonathan was giving me little kisses and reassurances.   Then, before long, it was time to take me back!  Connie sent Jonathan to "the man cave" and the anesthesiologist came in and gave me a few shots of loopy meds in my IV.  I was coherent and aware while they took me into the procedure room.  It didn't take long, though, before I was out.  And then it felt like 10 seconds and they were wheeling me back across the hall to the prep room.  Connie laughed and said that when they brought me out of anesthesia and told me they were done I crinkled up my face and said, "Are you serious??".  It really didn't feel like it should have been over so quickly!  But I had no pain whatsoever and no trouble coming out of anesthesia.

On the wall of the procedure room there is a digital counter.  In red I saw the number 11 which didn't mean anything to me at the time.  Dr. Hansen came in not too long after and said they had gotten 11 "textbook eggs".  He followed them to the lab for John, our embryologist, to evaluate.  He was totally happy with the number and VERY happy with the quality.  I'm not gonna lie, I was a little caught off guard by the number.  I really thought that with 30 follicles, there would have been more eggs.  But my sweet friend Kathleen reminded me later that a big quantity doesn't necessarily guarantee quality. And it's ALL about the quality.  And as far as I was concerned, if Dr. Hansen and John and Connie were happy with 11, I can't complain!  While I was coming out of anesthesia in came Kisha and Amber to thank me for the note I wrote them and the earrings I made for them (it's my love language y'all...of course I made my nurses something!).  They were so sweet and they gave me hugs and talked with me for a minute.  I got a minute to really talk with Connie and tell her how grateful I am for her and for OU Repro.  I told her how much we loved Dr. Hansen and she and Amber both agreed that his bedside manner and his focus were two things that were really wonderful about him.  They said lots of people didn't really get him, but that it was cool that I really did.  Man I'm a blessed woman!

So then I went home to sleep off the anesthesia and wait for the fateful phone call today...

I was anxious all morning.  The what ifs running through my brain (which is NEVER a good thing).  at 1:30, Connie called.  I thought I might have a heart attack!  She asked how I was feeling...wondered if I had any pain today or any nausea.  I told her no pain at all but I'd had a little nausea the night before.  No big deal.  She said:

"Well I'm glad you're feeling better, but I've got some news that will help you feel even better!  There were 11 eggs, 9 were found to be of really great quality and maturity...  Of those 9... 7 FERTILIZED!!!"

SERIOUSLY??!?!?!  O. M. G!!  We have 7 embabies y'all!!!  7!!!!!

Connie says the embryologists are VERY happy with the number.  It's a higher than average fertilization rate and, though we won't have "grading" on them until tomorrow, they are happy with what they're seeing.  Tomorrow Connie will call me with grades and they will also decide then whether transfer will be Saturday or Monday.  I'm thinking with 7, it's probably going to be Monday.  Even though I'm anxious to get them back in my uterus, I'm happy with a possible Day 5 transfer.  That will mean they are the most stable they can be...

So for now, I'm literally delirious!  7 Embabies.  I am so relieved and also shocked and very overwhelmed.  God is good!!  Jonathan and I came up with embryo names for our Lucky 7.  Here they are...don't laugh... (ok can laugh...):

Peter Pa (Pa, that one's for you!)
Skinny Pete (Jonathan's pet name for one of my follicles that he'd been had been smashed between two bigger follicles the whole cycle...)
Shasta (don't ask me...that's Jonathan's invention)
Lady Bug
Jelly Bean

So tomorrow we will have more details about our little babies.  For now, Mommy and Daddy are ridiculously excited and humbled and in awe.  Thanks for your prayers.  They're helping to create miracles!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mickey Mouse Crocs and 80's Music

This was our last monitoring appointment.  SO crazy to be able to say that already!  For lots of reasons I was a little nervous about this appointment this morning.  I sent a few text messages to some of our champions asking for prayers of peace and calm.  I sort of freaked out a little because despite my 30 growing follicles, I couldn't feel my ovaries when I woke up.  I'm irrationally afraid I might ovulate before they can get those eggs outta there.  But on the way to my appointment, those prayers were answered and comfort came in the most absurd way.  All of a sudden my ovaries were like, "Good morning we are!".  Pain, pain, pain...but in the best possible way!

When Dr. Hansen came in he asked, like he always does, how I was feeling.  I had tears welling up in my eyes just before he was walking in the door.  Just feeling a little overwhelmed.  I told him I was physically feeling fine, but I was a little nervous today.  He asked why...I told him it was because I was terrified that I might ovulate before the retrieval.  To which he responded, "Well there's always that outside chance, Rachel, but looking at your charts and knowing you're still taking Lupron shots, I'd say that chance is pretty low for you.  You shouldn't worry about that."  He's so focused and reassuring.  I know I'm in good hands.  He did my follicles are HUGE!  He smiled warmly, shook our hands, and said, "We probably won't see you tomorrow...but we'll see you for the egg recovery on Wednesday.  You're just about done!"  And once the door shut behind him I just cried.  Because I feel SO blessed to have him as my doctor.  His personality and his bedside manner are exactly what I have needed through this.  The right amount of reassurance without being cocky while also being completely confident about what he's doing.  Jonathan told me I can't cry like that because it hurts his heart.  My tears these days are part excitement, part overwhelmed, and part nerves.  I'm just a big ball of emotions lately...I can't imagine why!

Today was the day we met the embryologist.  Toni, the nurse we saw today, assured us she would send one of them in as soon as they were free.  So after our ultrasound, we waited a few minutes and then in walks this guy:

This is John.  He is one of the embryologists at OU.  He knocked on our door and then strolled in with his surgical cap on and his scrubs.  He warmly shook each of our hands and introduced himself.  I looked down and saw red Mickey Mouse crocs on his feet and I immediately felt comfortable with him.  He answered all of our questions very gracefully.  My main concern was how they will decide whether my embryos are "viable" or not.  In a nutshell he told me that they give each embryo more than enough time to grow before deciding they aren't viable.  Sometimes they even wait until my transfer is over to decide whether some of them are freezable or not.  Let me give you a bit of a rough rundown of our conversation with him:

Rachel: So how do you decide whether our embryos are viable or not?

John: Well you know once they're fertilized they really are little lives and they do their own unique thing.  Sometimes on Day 3 an embryo might be labeled "low viability", but by Day 5 they are reevaluated and found to be one of the front runners so to speak.  We just never really know, which is why we watch them so closely.  There aren't many absolutes in our profession.  I've been doing this for over 23 years and I'm still amazed at the process...

Rachel: We really just wanted to put a name and a face together and shake a hand.  After all, one or all of you guys will be among the first set of eyes to see our babies!

John: It's a little unusual for a patient to ask to meet with one of us.  We're just "the guys in the back"...we don't get much recognition.  So it's cool to get to meet a patient and get to talk about their embryos.  Just call me the babysitter and when you think of me back in the lab with your embryos remember I'm the guy with the Mickey Mouse crocs probably jamming out to 80's music (it's ALL about the 80's music) while I keep a close eye on your little ones.  

Rachel: Well I just want you to know you've got a lot of people thinking of and praying for you this week.  They're praying for your eyes and your hands and this process.  We definitely know what a big job you have!

John: Well you know, we've been given this ability for a reason.  I truly believe this.  My wife and I dealt with infertility, so I know right where you're at.  You're right that this part starts getting pretty heavy.  But even down to the tiniest detail, we make sure this goes the way it's supposed to.  Even in the ICSI process!  I don't seek out a sperm to inject your eggs with.  I put them in a dish and let the right one come to me.  I figure if he comes right up to the needle, which inevitably one always does, there's a reason why he did.  I try to let it happen as organically as it can...I just try to let what's supposed to happen happen.  And this is all going to be great for you guys.  I love working for this clinic because you're not just a number here.  You're a patient and you get cared for as an individual. Truly cared for.  This is the only clinic I have ever worked for...I've seen where we've come from, where we are, and where we're going...and I'm very proud to be a part of it.  You're definitely in good hands here!

Well if that doesn't put your heart and mind at ease, I just don't know what will.  I walked in that clinic scared and nervous and left fully at ease and happy.  God is good...He has orchestrated this all so perfectly.  He's ordained the hands and eyes that will eventually be cultivating the tiny lives of our babies.  He led us to people who are the exact right personality we've needed to walk through this process.  He's raised up an army of supporters from all over the country for us.  He's answered prayers big and small all along the way.  I can't help but picture him like Mickey Mouse in Fantasia just conducting this massive orchestra of colors and experiences.  His extravagant brush strokes that leave me breathless.  The booming music that sends chills over my body.  What He's working out here is truly spectacular.  SPECTACULAR!  And how did I get so lucky to be in the middle of it all??

When you pray in the next week here are some specifics.  In addition to John Graves, there are 3 other men working in the lab who will be a part of the early stages of our embabies growing lives:

This is Dr. Michael Zavy- he's the "head honcho" in the lab

This is Brad Zavy- another resident embryologist

This is Mitch Trammell- he's also a reproductive technologist

Some or all of these guys will have hand in making our dreams a reality and will be our Womack babies' first real babysitters in the coolest kind of way.  There's also of course these very special people who will be taking care of Mommy and Daddy (i.e.-me and Jonathan) in the OR and have been taking care of us all along:

This is Kisha.  She's one of our nurses who is so sweet she'll make your teeth hurt...

This is Amber...another nurse who's taken good care of us.  As you can tell from her picture, she and I have lots in common when it comes to jewelry...

This is our sweet Connie.  She's been our nurse from the start.  She's answered so many questions and been there when I needed her all along.  When she left on vacation for a while, I wasn't sure what I would do without her.  But I'm so blessed to be working with her and even more blessed that the other nurses have been so perfectly wonderful in her absence...

And then there's this guy.  Dr. Hansen.  I have put so much of my trust in this man and he has delivered on all accounts so far.  To say I'm blessed to have been led to him is the understatement of the century.  So much respect for him and the practice he has built.  We are a lucky, lucky couple to be his patients...

And there you have it.  That's the behind the scenes army that's been walking with us every step of the way.  Good to put a name with a face right??  So when you pray, remember these people.  Remember the anesthesiologist.  Remember me and Jonathan.  Your prayers so far have been felt so very tangibly...I hope you all know that.  So much is at stake in these next few days, but the mighty way we've seen God work so far is just simply matter what the outcome of this week is.  Tonight I take my trigger shot...tomorrow I lay low...Wednesday is our day...

Are you getting goosebumps yet??

Friday, August 15, 2014

A Weekend of Monitoring

Jonathan and I went to yet another monitoring appointment this morning.  My follicle count is up to 27+ and there are still another 8-10 small ones that will grow larger over the next 48-72 hours.  I didn't see Dr. Hansen today (he teaches residents on Fridays), but I saw his partner Dr. Craig.  She was VERY pleased with what my estrogen is doing and what my follicle count looks like.  In a nutshell this is what she said:

"Well, I'm definitely going to schedule you for appointments on Saturday AND Sunday.  There's an *outside* chance we won't have to see you on Saturday if your estrogen has not gone up as high as I think it has, but we will schedule you anyway and if that changes we will let you know when we call with your blood work results this afternoon.  I think we can safely say that a retrieval on Monday is out of the running, but I can say with some confidence that it will probably be scheduled for Tuesday. Of course this can all change which is why we will be watching you so closely over the next few days.  But for now, that's our tentative timeline!"

She also told me that since my ovaries are full of fluid and will only get more full, I should be eating a high sodium diet for the next few days so that I can stay comfortable.  She laughed and said I would never hear another doctor again in my life recommend that!  The area around my ovaries as they get bigger and bigger will start collecting fluid, not to mention post retrieval there will be more fluid build up in and around them.  Salt helps reduce some of that fluid, so Chinese food and pretzels it is!  

I'm definitely to the point where my body is working over time.  I feel the need for naps and breaks frequently throughout the day.  I'm so grateful for this perfect timing that God has given us where I really *can* lay down and take a nap when my body needs it.  And what's even better is that my sweet husband can lay down with me and snuggle me when I need/want him to.  How perfect is that?!  I'm definitely ready to be out of the "student loan" phase of our lives and back into making money again, but for now I'm relishing the fact that our poorness also affords us the opportunity to be together 24/7 in these crucial weeks leading up to a hopeful pregnancy.  Priceless!

I was calculating in my head today and sort of "ball parking" what I hope the outcomes will be.  If some ridiculous ratio like *half* of the eggs get damaged in retrieval and aren't "fertilizable", we are talking upwards of 20 good eggs.  Then from there if an equally ridiculous *half* of those get fertilized, we are talking 10 fertilized eggs.  And if still ridiculously only *half* of those are viable embryos, we are talking at least 5 good transferable/freezable embabies.  In my mind, those are pretty good odds.  I'm thinking we have a pretty good chance of having maybe more than that!  All we are looking for are 2 good quality eggs.  If we get no more than that, we will be happy as clams.  If we only get one good embryo, we will be happy, and we will trust God has a marvelous plan for that little Bean.  Shoot...He must have something marvelous for ALL our little ones for all the hype leading up to their arrival!

I tell my little eggs every day to hang in there.  To grow big and strong and to get ready for a big adventure.  Can you imagine??  In 4 days or less they will be aspirated out of my ovaries, put into a dish with sperm (and some will be injected directly with one sperm), and then they'll start growing into tiny lives.  My mommy heart will already be working overtime (as if it isn't already) and I will be anxious to get them back into my womb so they can be safe and warm.  In the meantime it's pretty cool to think that they'll be so closely watched and cared for by the embryologists at OU.  They're already so loved by so many!  I think we will request at some point to meet the embryologist before our embryos hit the lab.  I'd like to shake the hand of the guy (all the embryologists at OU are men) who will be cultivating the early lives of my babies.  It's a big job!  Plus I'd like to have at least a face to conjure up when I pray for their hands and their eyes next week.  NEXT WEEK!!

We'll be parents next week y'all.  Jonathan will be a Daddy and I'll be a Mommy.  There are no words to describe our excitement and also how humbled we are by the gravity of all of this.  God is SO good to us.  Our cup overflows with His blessings already!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Heading to Hamm to Check on My Eggs

Today was our first ultrasound appointment since we started the stim shots (the building we go to our appointments in is called the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center...hence the blog title...).  Right now there are 14 large follicles visible on ultrasound and 14+ smaller follicles that will likely get bigger over the next few days of shots.  So essentially there are nearly 30 follicles growing in my ovaries right now.  I *knew* I felt something happening in there!  Before when I've taken Clomid I've had a maximum of 6 eggs and felt like I was about to burst.  Now, on day 5 of stims, I've got nearly 30!  So you can imagine what my insides are feeling like!  My lower back is super tender and my lower belly feels very full.  Me and tylenol have a very close relationship right now...

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day hormonally.  I am very aware of my heightened emotional state, so I've been able to, for the most part, keep things in check.  Jonathan and I had lunch with my friend Rachel G. and while she was telling me the woes of day care for her son Henry, I literally burst into tears!  I couldn't turn it off!  I was nearly weeping in the middle of Chipotle because she was telling me her son's nap time was gonna get all messed up now that he's back in day care.  It was kind of ridiculous actually.  And then last night I really had to psych myself up for my shots.  You see, the Lupron and the Follistim are no big deal.  Especially since the Follistim has been backed off, so I'm only taking 125 iu of it each night.  It's quick and easy and the needle is microscopic.  The Menopur, however, is a beast.  I know I'm probably being a big baby...I am definitely grateful for the fact that I don't have to take extra shots for other things.  I have a friend who has to endure Lovenox shots every night during IVF prep cycles and all through pregnancy...*those* shots are really beasts.  But the Menopur just burns going in and there's SO much fluid going in I just feel like the needle is in my belly for 5 minutes!  I have little tiny bruises at all my injection sites, so all around my belly button kind of looks like a mine field with all the needle prick marks and the bruises.  Last night after my 3rd shot (which is always the Menopur) I burst into tears again.  It hurt and I was emotional.  And even after the needle comes out, my belly feels like someone is burning it with a match and a little lump forms and turns red.  I'm not really sure I can put into words exactly what was going through my head at that moment, but it took me a few minutes to reign it in...

It hit me today that these nearly 30 follicles I'm seeing on ultrasound could potentially be my babies.  One of those follicles is one half of Maggie or Greysen or Avie or Lillie!  Dr. Hansen is very happy with everything he's seeing so far, and we will go in on Friday again for another monitoring appointment.  It's then that he will probably tell us when our retrieval is likely to happen.  It's getting more real and more intense every day!  I will be so relieved to eliminate this uncomfortable feeling in my ovaries after they go in and get all these eggs.  But I'm looking forward to the uncomfortable feeling in my lower belly as my babies hang on in there are start growing inside my body.  The thought of that is pretty much intoxicating.  One week from today I could have embryos in the lab...maybe sooner!  It's hard to even wrap my brain around that fact...

For now, we will just keep stimming away and I'll keep taking these belly shots like a pro...even if I do cry a little every night like the cry baby that I am ;).  I'll keep you all posted on the progress and what the next few days entail.  Keep up those prayers and try not to laugh too much if I turn into a puddle on the floor in front of you over something silly.  It's the hormones y'all...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's Almost Time...

As my body slowly gets more and more pumped full of hormones, it becomes increasingly more difficult to stay rational.  It's the times when I'm feeling... "over emotional" let's say...that I let things bug me more.  Things that are stupid and not worth being bugged about bug me.  So I take a deep breath and say "Rach it's just the hormones" and try to move on.  It's also those times that I feel satan grappling for a foothold.  It's like he sees a window of opportunity to jump in there and stir up my thoughts.  Planting things like "Nobody really cares what's happening with you guys, stop putting it in their faces," or "You better not invest too much in know it's not gonna work anyway" in my head.  He's a pretty mean dude isn't he??

At any rate, when I stop and pray in those moments, satan is immediately suppressed and God's voice overpowers everything.  He reminds me to take a deep breath and "rest in His embrace".  His grace abounds in the deepest waters...where I'm forced to take His hand or I'll drown under all those swells.    He's called me, He's called US, to greater things.  Jonathan and I.  Our faith has been tested.  Our willingness to do *anything* for Him has been tested.  I hope we've been found faithful so far.  I hope when I get to Heaven He'll say "Wow Rach...I threw some tough stuff at you and you fielded it.  Well done my daughter...".  It's *now* that my trust really does have to be without borders.  I have to walk out on the water...right in the middle of the storm...and grab His hand and keep walking.  It's the part about letting my soul rest in His embrace that is tough.  It's like the minute I go, "Ok, I'm relaxing and letting you handle this," the other side of my psyche starts drumming up all the "what ifs".  Y'all...IVF is the WORST thing in the world when it comes to what ifs.  There are so many things that could go wrong.  There is a HUGE unknown here...

I keep praying for signs...obvious signs...if this is not what He wants from us.  I don't want to do this if it's something He's not ordaining.  But I'm not getting those signs.  Little answered prayers throughout my weeks give me just the confidence I need to take that next step forward.  He is so faithful y'all.  And He is good.  And He loves me like crazy!

A few years ago while I was driving to work, I had a conversation with God.  I had woken up that morning and taken a pregnancy test because I was late (which used to be a normal occurrence...).  It was of course negative.  Ugh.  So through a flood of tears I drove to school talking to Him all the way.  I said, "God, what are you doing here?  What else can I do??  I swear, if you would just grant me this one thing, I promise I'd give you ALL the glory.  What do you want me to do??  I'd give up everything...I mean seriously everything (except Jonathan) for this.  And I mean that..."  Welp...He tested that.  I gave up my job, my house, all my comforts, all my stability.  WE gave up all those things.  We answered a call to medicine which took us across the ocean into a 3rd world country.  While we were there He shaped us.  He protected us.  He provided for us.  And now we are back.  And the blessings are overflowing.  He needed us to sacrifice.  Not *so* He would make us parents.  No, it's not like that.  All this growing...all this learning...was necessary.  It was part of our journey.  It has been all along.  And this is what's next.  I feel it in my bones.  In the deepest part of me I know He is painting this beautiful picture of our family.  How my heart skips a beat each time I think about what He has in store for us...

My babies are almost here.  They're ALMOST HERE!  Each night when Jonathan gives me my belly shots he kisses the spot and says one of our baby names.  Every night until Saturday he would pick one of our 4 names...either Greysen, Maggie, Avie, or Lillie...and say it out loud.  Just to help us...maybe more remember why we are doing all of this.  Why all those needles are for a greater purpose.  Now that I'm taking 3 a day he says nearly all of them.  The day before our transfer he will say all 4.  Their names are special...each time he says a name I say a quick little prayer for them.  I imagine what they might look like.  I imagine what it will feel like to hold them in my arms.  What it will be like to see their hearts beating on ultrasound.  What it will feel like to look into their eyes and say, "I'm your mommy!"  I just about can't keep myself from tears when I envision Jonathan holding and loving them.  What a great Daddy he's going to be.  How he will love his children.  And how ready we both are to be parents.  It's time...

So we can officially say that NEXT WEEK we will have embabies.  I've been thinking about what I might "nickname" our embryos.  To just call them embryos seems like not enough.  Each of them will be uniquely their own little tiny person.  But we won't know enough about them yet to call them by our baby names.  Still mulling that over.  I get an adrenaline rush when I think that in just over a week (or maybe less) we will heading to the hospital to do my egg retrieval.  Crazy.  I can't thank you all enough for your prayers and your well wishes.  Your little encouraging words really do mean the world to us.  They mean more than you know and more than we can express.   I don't expect every single person we know to hang so close to's tough!  It's tough to know what to say, how to respond.  I know.    But to you who are still in our midst cheering us on, encouraging us, remembering us in prayer...THANK YOU.  It's because of you that we are being given the courage to press forward in this.

It's almost time!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Stim Like a Champ!

We had our baseline ultrasound and infectious disease blood work done yesterday.  All is well on the "estrogen front" for me.  They were looking for "quiet ovaries" (meaning no follicles trying to mature on their own) and low, low estrogen.  My ovaries on ultrasound have 24 "immature" follicles between the two of them.  That's a GREAT number to start with, and Dr. Hansen says there usually are a few "surprise follicles" that pop up during ovarian stimulation.  So we are in really good shape with this start.  Keisha (the nurse filling in for Connie while she's out of town) called me yesterday afternoon to tell me that my blood work revealed a "perfectly low estrogen level" and that I'm ready to start stimulation drugs on Saturday!  I really can't believe it's finally time to start this part of the treatment. Seems like yesterday I was announcing our IVF intentions and now we are less than 2 weeks away from having embryos in the lab!

I will be starting with 150 iu of Follistim which is a fairly low dose.  Since I've taken Clomid a few times before and my ovaries have responded REALLY well to that, Dr. Hansen doesn't want to push it with the Follistim.  It's likely I won't need any more than 150 iu throughout these 10 days of stimming, and it's possible he may even back off the dose as we get closer to retrieval.  So starting Saturday I'll be taking 3 shots in my belly.  1 of Lupron, 1 of Follistim, and 1 of Menopur (which is another stim medication).  I feel like if I've mastered the Lupron needle, the Follistim and Menopur needles will be a breeze.  Follistim especially since that needle is practically microscopic.  It's the drinking straw-like needles that the Progesterone in Oil shots have to be given with that scare me.  Yikes!  Those won't start until the day before or the day of my transfer, though, so I've got a little while before I have to take those bad boys...

So I start the stims on Saturday and then we go back into the clinic on Monday for blood work.  Then from there we have to go in every other day (possibly every day as we get closer to that 10 day mark and depending on how my body responds) to get blood work and ultrasound.  Once Dr. Hansen is happy with the number of mature follicles he sees he will set my retrieval date (my money is on August 20th, but our "window" is between the 19th and the 21st...though it's possible it could happen earlier).  Then less than 24 hours before my retrieval I will take a shot of hCG in my belly to mature my eggs and then it's go time!  I'll keep you all posted on when our retrieval will happen.

In the meantime, Jonathan takes his USMLE boards on Sunday morning.  It's an 8 hour test that starts at 8:00 AM.  He is definitely ready to take this exam and get it over with.  He's going to do amazing!  But prayers for his peace in this would be much appreciated!  We were having a conversation over dinner yesterday about the direction our lives are going right now.  The timing really couldn't be more perfect, and as these big milestones are passed, things just keep falling right into place.  We found out last week that we can do all of Jonathan's core rotations in South Florida (that's like 38 weeks of rotations), so once we move down to the Miami area in September, we'll be parking it there for the long haul probably until residency or right before.  Though it would have been cool to live in NYC for a little while, I am over the moon about the prospect of staying in once place that's actually affordable for an extended period of time.  My stuff can come out of storage...I can nest!  Ridiculously excited about that.  Of course we are hoping to need a place suitable for bambinos, so I'm pumped about potentially being able to set up a nursery.  The next few months *could* get tricky with dates and what not, but once I'm down there for good with him, South Florida will be our home for the next at least 18 months and probably longer...

There is a definite feeling of the closing of one chapter of our lives.  His taking the USMLE is definitely the end of an era on that front.  3 years of taking basic sciences have built up to this test.  And on Sunday, that part of his quest for an M.D. will officially be over.  Of course starting a family has been on our list for a long, long time now.  We can't help but feel like that's the next big thing in our lives.  I have to keep believing that God has a perfect plan in all this.  I hope and pray that His perfect plan includes a pregnancy and delivery and bringing our precious baby (or babies) home to our own sweet little house in South Florida.  But I know that if that's not in the cards, He's got bigger plans.  But I can't help but hope that the hurt we've felt in the last few years about this is about to come to an end.  I've felt His presence so very intensely in the past few months and even more so in the past few weeks.  When I pray, He's answering.  And He's answering in a very, VERY recognizable way.  He is revealing Himself to me.  As we get closer to "the moment of truth" in all this IVF stuff, I find myself asking Him often to give me a sign or a heads up if He doesn't want us to continue.  I ask Him to protect my heart and start now if this is all to end in heartbreak.  But instead of diverting us, He's giving us the GREEN light all the way.  If I told you all the ways He has answered my prayers even in the last few days, it would be a novel I tell ya.  He answered my prayer with yesterday's appointment when He so easily could have disallowed my estrogen to drop.  That would have derailed this whole thing.  Instead He has orchestrated this perfect little scenario and everything has been smooth sailing.  He's put a peace in both of our hearts about this.  No matter what, He's got this...

So be praying for us in the coming weeks.  This is what we've both been waiting and working for.  Jonathan's boards, our stim week, and our retrieval and fertilization.  In 2 weeks or less we will be PARENTS!  Even if it *is* only to our tiny little embabies.  We love you all so much and your support has been tireless.  I thank my God each time I remember each of you and how you've been such pivotal and influential parts of our journey.  What lucky, lucky people we are.  So blessed!

So in closing...I intend to "Stim Like a Champ" starting Saturday.  Here's to basketball sized ovaries! ;)

Monday, August 4, 2014


I had a sweet friend tell me a few weeks ago that she admires my "clarity of mind" when it comes to dealing with this IVF situation.  I've had several others tell me that they feel like I'm going into this with my eyes wide open...ready for any outcome, good or bad.  I think years of dealing with infertility have afforded me those positive outcomes for this part of our journey.  So many failed attempts at fertility treatments have taught me not to lose sight of the fact that a negative pregnancy test is a definite possibility in all of this.  I'm trying not to get caught up in the deliriously heady image in my mind that one month from TODAY I could see two pink lines for the first time in 5 years!  

But yes...through the fog of excitement and anticipation, I am keeping both feet firmly planted on the ground.  Though we will be devastated if this doesn't work this time, we will not be back at square one.  What I keep telling people is that at the end of all of this, we will either have a legitimate pregnancy or at least options.  Neither of which have we ever had in all of these years.  And *that* fact brings in that peace that passes all understanding.  God is creating something here.  We hope, hope, hope that He's creating an opportunity for us to be parents.  But we KNOW that no matter what, He's creating life.  He's guiding our doctors' and embryologists' hands as we speak.  And in a short 16 days or less, He will be breathing life into our little embabies.  

I told a friend this morning that I get an adrenaline rush every time I think about getting those calls from Connie telling us how our embryos are growing.  Y'all seriously...I get teary eyed just thinking about it!  For a woman like me who has never experienced 40 weeks of a pregnancy...a woman who has never gazed into the eyes of my newborn...just the idea of multiplying LIVING cells created from  my cells and Jonathan's cells is ridiculously awesome.  It'll be the closest I've been since the loss of our one miracle pregnancy to being a mommy for real.  And if you're one of those people who thinks "science has taken the Divinity out of creating life"...shame on you.  We could have the world's most qualified doctors and embryologists...but it still takes GOD to create life.  And that's what will be happening behind the doors of the OU Repro Lab here in a few days.  

It dawned on me the other day as Jonathan and I were filling out and signing our "consent forms" that we are already having to make parenting decisions.  We have to inform the clinic about our intentions for our embryos in all of these possible life scenarios.  For the record, we have decided that if we come to the end of our parenting journey satisfied with our outcome and we *still* have embryos frozen (or if something were to happen to me and Jonathan), they will be being donated (or adopted out) to other couples in need.  The idea of us going through what we've been through to become parents and *still* being able to pay it forward and bless someone else's life in this way is very humbling.  And it makes my heart oh so very happy to think I could do that for someone else in all of this.  Again...His power made perfect in my weakness!

So off we go!  We have an appointment Wednesday and from what I hear from some of my "IVF veterans", those 10 days of stim drugs before the retrieval FLY by.  We are officially in the 4 weeks of this year that we've been anticipating since January.  Jonathan takes his USMLE Step 1 on Sunday, we start stim injections on the Saturday before that, and in 16 days we will be the parents of embryos if all goes well.  Keep your prayers coming.  They are definitely felt and appreciated!  We can't wait to see what the month of August is going to bring!