Another Big Fat Negative

I did everything right. I waited an entire two weeks to test. When I took the test, I let it sit out of eye sight for the full five minutes. This was unusual for me as I usually begin testing days before my missed peeiod, so if I waited patiently, I somehow thought the outcome would be different. It was not. Being familiar with this outcome did not mean the harsh lack of a second line was any less disappointing to see.

I try to remain optimistic and tell myself that I will probably get pregnant next cycle when we switch to daily injections instead of Clomid, but deep down I can’t help but fear that I will never have a biological child. While I am glad that we are working towards adoption, it is hard to think of it as a reality since it will be at least three years until we are placed with a child. We will give fostering a try once our license comes through. Maybe this will be enough to fill the emptiness in our lives.

I won’t give up on God or medicine even though every negative test just makes it that much harder to keep trying. All I can do now is hope my period comes quickly so I can call my doctor and begin the whole process again. There is something to be said for those medically-imduced 28-day cycles though….I don’t have to wait as long to try again!

Faux Symptoms

2wwI think any woman who is trying to get pregnant (or who has ever tried to get pregnant) would agree with me when I say the two week wait is the worst! It seems like the closer you get to the end of it, the worse it is. By the time my period is due I am absolutely convinced that I am pregnant! In the past 2 1/2 years, I was only right once, but that doesn’t keep me from using every normal premenstrual symptom as confirmation that I am pregnant.

Following ovulation, I always caution myself against getting carried away. I am on board and ready. I will not listen to my body and let the pregnancy test at the end of the two weeks let me know if I am actually pregnant. But then I will feel a small abdominal twinge, which let’s face it…is probably just gas, and then those little nagging “what-if” thoughts start to pop up in the back of my mind. Then when you add the tender breasts, change in bathroom habits and extreme fatigue to the mix, those little thoughts have turned into full blown pregnancy symptoms before I know it. It doesn’t matter how much I try to be level headed about this, the two week wait just builds up anticipation that leads me to a disappointing negative pregnancy test. Oh, but if only it ended there. I have to take a pregnancy test pretty much every day for the next week, you know, just in case…

Then the cycle just repeats itself. I’m currently only half way through my most recent two week wait so the real PMS symptoms have yet to begin. By now, I know what to expect and am trying to prepare myself, but who am I kidding, I know I will fall right back into the trap. Hopefully one day soon I will get that positive test I’ve been waiting for. I know that will make this entire emotional roller coaster worth it!

IUI #2

Wish me luck!


Well, here we go! I went to the infertility clinic on Tuesday for my cycle day (CD) 12 ultrasound. Keeping in mind that my last CD 12 ultrasound ended with my Reproductive Endocrinologist telling me that I’m not responding to the medicine and am no longer a candidate for Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) after having only one follicle develop.This time, it was a different doctor that performed my ultrasound. Everything was going as predicted, except when he was performing the ultrasound, he didn’t say a word! Even as I watched him measure the follicles, he was silent. When he was finished he told me to get dressed and meet him in his office. I was scared! I was so close to tears and thought for sure something was wrong because he had not said one word to us about the ultrasound. After dressing, we walked down to his office as instructed. He told me that I only had one follicle nearing maturity at 17.5 millimeters (18-22 is ideal). He told me to take my Ovidrel trigger shot on Wednesday morning and come back on Thursday for my IUI. What a relief! Yes, I was disappointed that there was only one follicle again and that it was a tad on the small side, but women get pregnant all the time with just one egg, right? Besides, I’m sure the doctor wouldn’t have wasted his time performing an IUI if there was no chance I’d get pregnant. I also did a quick consultation with Dr. Google to verify that there are women who have gotten pregnant from an IUI with just one developed follicle.

On Wednesday morning I took my Ovidrel shot (HCG trigger) and on Thursday we were back at the hospital. My husband had an 8 am appointment at the lab to provide a sample of his baby makers and then I had an appointment at 9:30 am to have them inserted for the IUI. We were taken to a small exam room with an ultrasound machine. In the corner was the “husband chair” and a small square box on a table in the corner. The small metal box had a glass door and through the door you could see a small vial with a label on it that had my husband’s name and social security number. This was the sperm remaining after my husband’s sample had been washed to remove the semen. There was only a little bit of fluid in the bottom of the tube. It’s crazy to think that just that little bit could get me pregnant. The UCSD fellow from our first visit came in and gave us information on what to expect for the upcoming procedure. While I had an IUI before, it was pretty clear to see that this one would be different and more thorough so I could throw out all my prior knowledge (this was unfortunately becoming a trend). The doctor looked at my chart and congratulated my husband on having a remaining motile count of 37 million sperm. Apparently that was 3.7 times more than what we needed. Things seemed to be off to a good start! A while later, the supervising doctor that I also saw at our first appointment came in with a nurse and a nursing student. Six was definitely a crowd for the small room we were in, but if one person was going to stare at my girl parts, then three more people weren’t going to bother me. While one doctor was inserting the speculum to prepare for the procedure, the other was placing the ultrasound transducer over my abdomen. I was going to get to see the IUI on the ultrasound machine! How cool is that? While watching the ultrasound screen, we could see the doctor on the business end of things struggling to get the catheter through my cervix. I don’t blame him at all since I have a severely retroverted uterus (tilted toward the back) and I remembered the trouble I went through when having the HSG done. After moving the catheter around a bit, he was able to get it through the cervix.I was fascinated at watching this all unfold right in front of me. It was mentioned that I have a long uterus as I watched the catheter move the last few millimeters towards the top right of my uterus. Then I watched as the white cloud of sperm was released from the catheter into my uterus. It was so amazing that I was able to watch my husband’s sperm enter my uterus, where it will hopefully continue through my Fallopian tubes to meet up with my egg. Even with one egg, my doctor told me my chance of conception was about 15-20%. While that number certainty isn’t overwhelming, it is the same chance a healthy 20 year old female has of conceiving under normal conditions. I’ll take it. This whole experience left me to ponder two things. First, if it was so difficult to place the catheter while being able to see it on the ultrasound, how on earth could my previous RE have correctly completed the IUI last May? Second, could my tilted uterus and long cervix be the reason that getting pregnant is so difficult for me? I’m not sure I’ll ever really get answers to either of these questions, but the IUI should certainly help me bypass any complications that came from my unconventional uterus.

Now, it’s on to the two week wait where I will take the slightest cramp or abdominal twinge to confirm that I am pregnant, just like I do every single month. Since my miscarriage, I have the worst PMS symptoms that mimic pregnancy symptoms. It is so frustrating. No matter how many times I tell myself it is just PMS, every time my breasts get sore or I feel anything unusual, I convince myself that I’m pregnant, only to be let down when my period comes. Well, maybe this time it won’t come. Only time will tell…

 

 

Ugh….Weight

3.12 Skinny Stef

My “skinny” Day

Weight is my least favorite topic to discuss but according to doctors, the most important factor of fertility and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. Every one has their own method of addressing this and that’s okay. Each of us is different so there’s no such thing as one diet for everyone. After I have tried and failed with many diets, Weight Watchers is what I found to help me best. Since December 28th, I have lost 23 pounds and I feel great, even though I have 85 more pounds to go. I can eat whatever I want, though I try to limit simple carbs and gluten, and most of the time do not even feel like I’m on a diet. I exercise six days a week and have never felt stronger.

That picture on the left? Yep, that’s me! I clearly have a long way to go on my weight loss journey, but I felt great about myself and couldn’t wait to send a pic to my husband at work to show him how skinny I looked! My goal with weight loss is not to look aesthetically pleasing (though that’s a big bonus) but to be healthy and ultimately have a baby (or several).

If you google and research dietary needs for women with PCOS, you will find loads of advice (sometimes conflicting). They say to cut out all gluten and dairy and processed foods and be sure to add 50 vitamins to your diet….so on and so forth. I fully believe they are all correct and that following this advice will probably help with your PCOS symptoms and weight loss. In fact, I’ve tried many of these things myself. My problem (and I feel like I’m not alone in this) is that changing the entire way I live my life and giving up food I’ve eaten my whole life is just not sustainable. I’ve tried sooooo many different things, but they only last for a month or two. The key to sticking to any weight loss program is making sure it is something you can live with. If you are terrified at the very thought of following any one diet for the rest of your life, then it probably isn’t something you should be doing. I would love to be able to completely cut out all gluten, simple carbohydrates and dairy from my diet and perhaps some day I will be able to, but if I want to have long term success (again…everyone is different), then I need to take baby steps.If I feel too overwhelmed, I will just give up on everything. I wish I could say that my desire to get pregnant will always win over my desire to have a sandwich or a slice of pizza, but I cannot. Does that make me feel like a failure? Absolutely!  After all, having a baby is clearly the bigger priority, so shouldn’t it be an easy decision?  I know I have an unhealthy relationship with food and I suspect that I’m not alone. I’ve recently read that women with PCOS have a higher chance of developing eating disorders. Keeping in mind that anorexia and bulimia are not the only eating disorders, I wonder if I don’t see some evidence of that in myself. However, that is a different topic for a different day.

Women with PCOS clearly have unique needs when it comes to diet and exercise to manage symptoms. After all of the time I’ve spent testing new things, below are the two things that work for me. Maybe some variation of the following ideas will be able to help you too! Just a 10% decrease in your overall weight can kick-start ovulation!

  1. Decrease consumption of simple carbohydrates – I limit (not completely cut out) items such as white bread, russet potatoes, refined sugar and other items that cause my blood sugar to spike. Instead I try to replace them with items like whole wheat bread, sweet potatoes, honey or remove them from a meal altogether. I am the type of person who will immediately crave food I’m told not to eat, so I find limiting items to be easier to stick to in the long run. After all, the most important thing is finding a combination that you can stick to and still enjoy life.
  2. Increase exercise – Yes, I know how daunting and overwhelming this can be. I completely understand how little time we have to accomplish so much during the day and how hard it can be to make time to do something we dislike so much! Exercise does not have to be spending hours in a gym each day. I enjoy it the most when I combine it with things I love to do. I must admit, this is one area that a Fitbit really keeps me motivated. For instance, I love spring time and looking at flowers at the garden shop. I can get in so many steps from walking and just looking at flowers. That certainly doesn’t feel like exercise. Any form of movement helps! However, I do work out 6 days per week on my elliptical trainer. I wake up and immediately work out before I can think up any excuses. I began working out for 20 minutes at a time for a few weeks. I have increased my work by one minute each week to work my way up to an hour at a time (eventually). I know that it doesn’t sound all that appealing, but I’ve found a way to truly enjoy this time. I am an avid reader, but can never seem to find the time to read a book. I’ve downloaded the audibles app on my phone and listen to books while I work out. Not only does this make my work out seem to fly by but I feel like I am actually taking time to do something I enjoy. It feels amazing to carve out a little bit of time each day for just me. I spend so much time worrying about everyone else, that I forget to take care of me. I’m now up to 27 minutes a day and I really look forward to my time each morning.

So, that’s it! After everything I’ve tried, those two are the biggest changes that work for me (in addition to sticking to my daily and weekly points with Weight Watchers of course). Even a little change can have a huge impact on your health and weight loss! I don’t often see changes in the mirror, but I can feel them in my every day activities. I no longer have to stop and catch my breath from doing simple activities and I can see and feel some amazing definition in my legs. As I’ve said, I still have a long journey ahead of me, but the idea of continuing my current way of life forever, doesn’t scare me. I don’t remember ever feeling healthier and happier. Now, if only I could get pregnant…..

 

 

Here We Go Again

dr
Well, I finally went to the infertility clinic. I do have to say that my first impression had me wondering what kind of care I would be receiving. Perhaps I’m being a little too critical since I used to work as a receptionist, but it felt like the front staff had no idea what was going on and they weren’t communicating with one another. It was so frustrating for me to have to ask a question and be passed of to three different people….but now I’m drifting off topic. We were led back to our room, where I was told to prepare for my ultrasound. Then a doctor came in and introduced himself as a fellow from UCSD. He spent roughly 10 minutes talking with us and getting our history and going over tests that had been performed. We brought up that my husband had just had a semen analysis done and he left the room to grab the results for us. The minute he left, my husband and I looked at each other and said “Wow. This guy gets it!” With my former Reproductive Endocrinologist, I felt like he never listened to me or told me what he was doing and why he was doing it. All of the information I have is due to googling the procedures and medications he was using. I was instantly relieved to be dealing with someone who could potentially get me pregnant! (Well, with the help of my husband of course!) He returned with his supervising doctor and announced that my husband’s analysis was completely normal. He went on to perform the ultrasound and patiently took the time to explain each thing he was looking at and why (I even got my own monitor!) without even having to ask! After getting dressed, we discussed the next step. They wanted to have a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) completed to make sure my Fallopian tubes were open.  Why on Earth had this not been done before in the 2 1/2 years we have been trying to conceive? Shouldn’t the first step have been to do all the tests to rule out reasons I was not conceiving? I was told to expect a little discomfort when I had the procedure done and then to call the day after the procedure to discuss the results and plan moving forward.

Two days later I had the HSG done.Now, I really should have learned by now that nothing goes as planned, but I was about to get a big reminder. A quick layhsgmen’s rundown of the procedure is that a catheter is inserted into the uterus where dye is injected and an xray is performed to see whether the fallopian tubes are blocked. In the radiology room were a medical assistant that I had met at my visit to the infertility clinic, a resident and the doctor. There weren’t any stirrups so I had to awkwardly raise my hips while the catheter was inserted. The resident let me know that there would be pressure, but I think we all know when they say pressure, they really mean pain! There was a lot of intense cramping as the catheter was inserted, but fortunately it subsided once placed. The radiologist came in and positioned the X-ray machine above my abdomen and started taking images when he told us that the catheter had come out. I was definitely not looking forward to enduring the pain of going through that process all over again, but I did. The catheter was inserted again. I went through the pain again. When the radiologist positioned the X-ray machine over my abdomen, he announced that the catheter had to come out again. This time the catheter didn’t actually make it to my uterus, it got to my cervix and began to curve. Oh, boy…I didn’t know if I had it in me to go through the procedure a third time! The resident sent the medical assistant upstairs to the infertility clinic to grab another speculum because she had run out! While we waited for 10 minutes to get another one she kept apologizing to me and telling me that this never happens! When the MA returned, I geared up for try number three. This time, when she inserted that catheter, it was even more painful than the prior two times. It almost seemed like she used some time of clamp to keep it in place. The xray machine was positioned and it was actually in th
e right spot this time. I thought I was home free and done with the painful part. That is, until the die was injected. It was literally the most intense cramping I had ever felt in my life! The X-rays seemed to take forever to finish. I remember telling myself that if childbirth felt anything like this that maybe I should rethink the whole thing! After about a minute (it felt like 10 years), they were done and the catheter was removed. The cramping instantly stopped and I was extremely relieved. The procedure was finally complete and the resident announced that my tubes were clear. I should have been happy but I was a tad disappointed. After all, I felt that if a problem was found then it could be easily remedied and I’d be able to get pregnant again. Now, I know it is a silly thought and I should have been happy everything was good. I just wanted to blame my failure to get pregnant on a known cause. I realize that PCOS is a cause, but I’ve been ovulating, my husband’s sperm is good and my tubes were clear. Why wasn’t I getting pregnant?!?!

The next morning, I called the infertility clinic as instructed by my doctor to find out what the plan was for me going forward. I had to call and leave three different messages before the front staff understood why I was calling. I can’t have been the first patient instructed to call in like this. They kept trying to book my baseline ultrasound which I had already completed three days prior. Doesn’t anyone keep records of this sort of thing? Anyway, my doctor reiterated that my tubes were clear and he wanted me to stop taking the birth control. That’s right, stop the birth control. Now if you have read my previous post, you know I was a bit excited to get to take a whole month off from trying to conceive, however it ended up only being seven days. I’m not too disappointed as we now have a clear plan and I actually have hope again that I’ll be able to get pregnant. I was prescribed 100 mg of Clomid to take cylcle days 3-7, which is pretty standard, but this time instead of Gonal-F injections on Day 9, I will be using Menopur. I did a little googling and found that an average of 5% more women become pregnant each month on Menopur versus Gonal-F. Now, the study I read was based on women who were preparing for IVF, so I’m not sure how the statistics translate to IUI. My take-away was that I may have a better chance of conceiving.

I’ve now finished with the Clomid and will be taking my Menopur injection tomorrow. I’m anxious/nervous for my ultrasound Tuesday. For my only IUI, when I went in the first time, my follicles weren’t quite large enough so I had to take another injection and return two days later, but it was perfect at that time. My last cycle when I worked on getting an IUI with my RE, it didn’t happen because he said I wasn’t responding to the medicine, so I’m hoping that my body responds like it should and I have a successful IUI. After all, that puts me a huge step closer to finally having a baby!