Archives for the month of: May, 2014

***Update: 22 eggs were retrieved! J has recovered so well with some pain and cramping but nothing concerning. I made her soup for lunch and macaroni and cheese with tomato soup for dinner ūüôā This evening I whipped up some vegan vanilla almond cupcakes for her as a retrieval day treat. That was the fun part of recovery! We also watched Knocked Up & Philomena – two movies in one day instead of work! We cuddled with the cats and each other for hours. J took doxycycline to prevent infection. I started progesterone tonight – exciting! Three times a day all the way through my blood pregnancy tests.

Today’s the big day! I’m sitting in the waiting room of our clinic and J is in surgery.

I’m not going to pretend my life is perfect – that’s a Facebook phenomenon I won’t allow in my blog. Our drive to the clinic for the egg retrieval was rough with a small disagreement and then me crying because I cry at anything these days thanks to the estrogen. We recovered but I’ll tell you, I’m ready for the IVF roller coaster to be over!

They took us into pre-opp and we met the anesthesiologists. They were very sweet. They went over J’s medical history and reviewed my progesterone schedule which starts tonight. J got changed into cute surgery wear and laid down on the cot to have her IV. I held her hand and talked about our fluffy little kitties to distract her. She said she was nervous but not too much. They put a fascinating thermometer on her forehead. It’s a small black strip that looks like a photograph negative and has tiny blue and green bars that change color with her temperature.

Our wonderful doctor came in to say hi and review everything. She checked J’s trigger injection site and said the allergic reaction wasn’t too bad. She also said she expects to collect 15-20 eggs and that they will fertilize the most mature of those. I think this is not too many but not too few so that’s good! They took her into the OR and I’m back in the cushy waiting room. I called J’s mom to give her an update and reassure her that I’ll take good care of her daughter for the rest of the day!

I’ll give an update later. For now I’m going to sit and send my beautiful amazing egg mama positive vibes!

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Under heavy skies we wonder, under heavy skies we pray

But today there was a harvest and the flowers opened anyway.

-Vanessa Torres

In the field of psychology, and I suppose in pop culture now, the word trigger refers to emotions. When my clients get “triggered,” something set off the very thoughts and emotions they’re working hard to change. In the world of IVF, the “trigger shot” is disguised as a medical term, but we all intuitively know it’s so much more than that. Why else would it affectionately be called a trigger shot? It triggers the nervous excitement a couple has been building up for weeks. It triggers us to believe something could happen. It triggers us to start worrying. It triggers the beginning of a very emotional few weeks.

The universe continues to throw crazy shit at J and I. I quit my job on Friday (more on that later). J had a huge project meeting today, which was supposed to be her retrieval day, that could not be moved and was planned after we started our cycle. My job, which used to be very relaxed with time to obsess over IVF blogs, is now so busy I can barely go to the ladies’. My private practice clients all want to have family sessions all of a sudden. We’re both kind of running on empty, but we’re happy because of all the adrenaline!

Yesterday was J’s final monitoring session. She had 19 follicles on one side and 17 on the other! Her estrogen was over 4,000 the night before so they didn’t even bother telling us her level in last night’s phone call. Our IVF coordinator mixed up her trigger shot and showed us how to use it. It was to be injected subcutaneously, not intramuscularly. Apparently sub q is just as effective. We set an alarm for midnight last night, the time of the trigger shot. Waking up in the middle of the night to get a shot in the stomach isn’t exactly fun but it wasn’t awful either. Of course today J has a red rash around the injection site which our doctor said is nothing to worry about. This morning, since J couldn’t make it into the clinic for monitoring, they had her take a home pregnancy test. The HCG in the trigger shot should make her test positive to be sure it’s working. She tested positive and I called the clinic with her results. Today was a needle-free day! Tonight we just ate some pizza and we’re getting in bed at 9pm.

So we’ve been triggered, physically and emotionally. Her retrieval is at 11am tomorrow. Stay tuned for the number of eggs collected!

This has been such a relaxing weekend considering we both worked and studied for parts of it. I love 3-day weekends! Since we can’t drink alcohol we switched up our usual happy hour or dinner with friends for some much-needed pampering.

Friday evenings I usually go to¬†either vinyasa or restorative yoga. This Friday J was so exhausted from her week that she decided to come with me. Her abdomen is filling up with follicles so we went to restorative where we stretched and meditated. It’s such sweet bliss to stretch deeply in a dimly-lit room to music and the sound of the teacher’s voice reminding me to nurture myself. Finally finding a studio in LA that I like and can get to on a regular basis has been a turning point in my acceptance of life here. J seemed to enjoy it. Restorative yoga uses a lot of props and while we waited for the class to start she played with the yoga blocks, stacking them into towers; such an architect. After she said it was better than having 2 glasses of wine ūüôā

Saturday was a monitoring day so we were at the clinic by 8am. It was dreary and cool (in LA, that means below 75 degrees) so in the afternoon we finally hit up the Korean spa we’ve been meaning to try. Since J is carrying our egg babies and wanted to avoid the hot tub, she opted for a¬†massage while I immersed myself in hot water. Mmmmm. I went in a steam room infused with reishi mushrooms. They smelled bad so I hope they were somehow beneficial.¬†We also laid in the warm himalayan sea salt room, which is supposed to regulate blood circulation and blood sugar. I love spas – love spending three hours rotating between the jacuzzi, cold water wash, steam room, sauna, then all over again. We left feeling like happy jelly and ate dinner in front of a movie.

Sunday was our productive day. I cleaned and J went to her office to design labs, as she often does on Sundays these days. I told her to drink water and try not to let the stress affect our little egg babies. I had to work on a continuing education course for my new job and do some house cleaning. We did reward our day with Thai food though – spring rolls, Tom Kha soup, calamari for J, then red curry and Pad Thai.

I’m inserting a medical update into this story¬†– This morning it was back to the clinic for J’s monitoring and my ultrasound. I’ve been on estrogen tablets for a week which thicken my endometrial lining. The doctor wants it to be over 7mm. Mine was 9.2! Yay! We confirmed the egg retrieval for Thursday. Tomorrow morning our IVF coordinator will mix up the trigger shot and show us how to inject it. She also reviewed my progesterone schedule – I start suppositories the night of J’s retrieval! One of the bloggers I follow (if you’re reading this you’ll know who you are!) said that after the retrieval it felt like her wife was passing the baton to her and that’s exactly how it felt!

Today we had our third relaxing outing of the weekend – hiking and beach in Malibu. We packed some sandwiches from Whole Foods and drove to Point Dume, a large cliff that juts out over the Santa Monica Bay. Our doctor has told J not to do strenuous exercise so this small preserve was perfect – just a few trails snaking through the dunes, then a steep staircase descending to a beach that’s more secluded than the public ones. The cliffs were gorgeous and the ocean greenish blue. We saw some fins swimming though the waves which may have been dolphins. Down on the beach the water was a refreshing temperature, not freezing, not warm. We did some splashing but the tide pools were too rocky to swim. We ate and fell asleep in the hot sun. If anyone saw J’s belly with its bruises and red needle marks they may have been confused.

It was exactly the kind of weekend we needed before a busy week and the retrieval in a few days! Hopefully the egg babies are relaxed and ready for their journey. We just finished the last round of stimulation shots and heading to bed so we can return to the clinic tomorrow morning.

Looking down from the hike

Looking down from the hike

J on Point Dume

J on Point Dume

Quick medical update, then hopefully tomorrow I’ll have time to write a post about our weekend adventures.

J’s follicles are blooming. Yesterday her estrogen was almost 2,000 and she had 18 follicles on one ovary and 14 on the other. We finally saw our doctor yesterday who we hadn’t seen since starting stimulation. She told us that unfortunately J is at risk for OHSS (ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome) because she’s responding so well to the meds, but hopefully that won’t happen. For now we’re keeping the same doses – 150 Follistim (down from 225 three days ago), 1 menopur, 5 Lupron. Here’s an ultrasound of J’s follicles:

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J told me she could “feel something happening” in her abdomen. I find this fascinating. What does it feel like? Does it hurt? She said it felt like thirty cotton balls saturated in liquid had invaded her uterus, that she felt “full” but it didn’t hurt. Interesting. Her stomach is covered in blue bruises and small red needle marks. I feel awful every night when she has to inject again so I’ve been cleaning the house and making comfort food.

This week we have to be at the clinic Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, then J’s retrieval next week. I can’t work out or sleep as much because the schedule is crazy and requires me to travel 1/2 hour to the clinic downtown, then an hour back to the west side for work. Work is super busy for both of us and in the meantime I’m in the hiring process for my new job. I not complaining, it’s exciting, but I’ve had my moments of feeling overwhelmed.

The monitoring during egg retrieval keeps track of J’a follicle growth, number of follicles, and estradiol level. Last week her estradiol was 37. Her current level is 380! She has 16 follicles on one ovary today and 14 on the other. One of them was already large and is now 13 mm. Monday the US tech was concerned that with one big follicle the others would stop growing and we’d have to wait a cycle, but today she said the others are growing too, so we’re still in the game.

J had to have the clinic bloodwork, then another blood draw for some tests we had forgotten to get, and tonight is about to get three more needles in the stomach ūüė¶ The kitties and I are being very nice to her!

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Finding a donor was the most daunting part of TTC so far. Since my partner is Korean and we’re using her eggs, we focused on finding an Italian-American donor who may have some of my characteristics. The first hurdle was choosing a sperm bank, which was a huge decision in itself. The websites, prices and selections are all really different. We ended up buying memberships to both Fairfax Cryo and California Cryo so we could get a better idea of which Italian donors fit what we wanted.

My partner left this choice up to me since she’ll already be biologically related, so I summoned my mother to help. I gave my mom the login info and a second later she sent a text that just said, “This is weird.” Yes, that’s why I need help!! She eventually got over the weirdness and gave me feedback on my favorites. “Sperm dating” mostly focused on a trifecta of important factors – baby pics sorta similar to mine, current career, and personality. Then there were more fun things to confuse me – staff impressions, celebrity look-alikes, donor audio comments, family relationships, medical history. We noticed that California Cryo had a lot of donors in the entertainment industry like dancers and actors, which was kind of funny. Not really what we were looking for, so we moved to Fairfax. Fairfax website isn’t as user-friendly but their selection is great.

A few Saturdays ago I made J breakfast and put all our donor options on the dining room table. It was like a final decision breakfast. Over pancakes we read and listened wrote pros and cons. What finally tipped our decision was hearing the donor talk about his great-grandfather being a “straight off the boat Italian.” My grandfather was the same, and this donor was adorable as a little boy, pre-med with plans to become a pediatric oncologist, and described as being really sweet and respectful. There was another we really liked but he didn’t have any vials available. On Monday morning I called Fairfax and ordered the pre-med guy, and once it was done I tried not to look back. As my mom said, all the donors are excellent candidates, so it’s a crap shoot. You have no idea what their genes, mixed with J’s genes, will be like, and every embryo from that combination would produce a totally different child so there’s just no way to know.

Our swimmers arrived at the clinic yesterday! It feels surreal.

My & J's baby pic

My & J’s baby pic

Our donor

Our donor

Yesterday was a great day. I woke up feeling like something exciting was happening, like Christmas, but it was just J’s first day of stimulation meds! J’s work schedule lately has been insane – apparently when an architect has a deadline, self-care goes out the window, which is so different from my field as a therapist! It was a rough week. We took our Lupron early or late every night and I started to worry about stress and J’s egg production. We fixed that yesterday, spending a great day nesting together. J read some articles on stress and IVF. We’re going to try to relax a little more this week, and Friday was our last night of having a couple of drinks. Our doctor’s guidelines are four or less alcoholic drinks a week. We were going to stop drinking altogether, but with the stress last week, I thought it was possibly better to have a beer to relax Friday night than no drink at all. We have completely stopped drinking during the week and had 1-2 glasses of wine or beer a night for the past month. What does everyone out there in blogland think about having a drink or two on weekends while TTC? What did you do?

Last night we went to The Getty Center. It was amazing! Twilight overlooking Los Angeles, a sweet little picnic in the garden, then some museum time (we saw Jackson Pollock’s Mural). I started to get nervous about J’s first night of stimulation around 8pm and we headed home. We had to watch several videos on freedommedteach.com to remind ourselves how to work the Follistim pen and mix the Menopur. That stuff is complicated – powder, water, mixing needles, a “pen” that’s actually a mean little needle that clicks menacingly as you dial up the medication. We have an area of our spare bedroom set up for IVF – a surface I clean every few days with antibacterial spray, our sharps container, all our meds, and um, a teddy bear I sometimes hold while J gives me the Lupron shot. Yeah, I’m a baby but I can’t be a baby anymore after what J went through last night! We set everything up and followed the videos slowly while J injected three needles. She was so brave! I just sat there feeling really impressed and acting as nurse. She already has a few small bruises on her stomach but she’s super tolerant so I know she’ll be okay. Babe, you are amazing!

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It’s like a medical lab in here!

I had a gift ready for J that I put¬†in our medical area yesterday morning so¬†she’d have that to look forward to all day instead of needles. After stimming I gave it to her – it was heart-shaped Lavender shortbread, honey vanilla lip balm, a Harmony candle and some herbal throat drops she likes since the air here is so dry lately. I also spent hours making her an organic strawberry rhubarb pie which we ate during our picnic – see below! I hope these gifts¬†helped ease the pain a little.

I know it’s going to be hard to face three needles every night for 8-10days, but I’m also really excited. Nervous too. I’m scared that I won’t get pregnant, that I’ll waste J’s money, or that I’ll get a BFP and then miscarry. I’ve been talking to my sister about this lately as she is a tiny bit older and wiser than me, and she reminds me that you can’t prepare for such things, they just happen and there’s no way to know, but the fear is still there. Other times I let myself imagine everything will work out and then I’m like holy shit, what if I get pregnant?! Yikes what do we do then?! I guess only time will tell…

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Strawberry rhubarb pie was yummy and came out really well. Owen the Owl sent us good luck and baby dust!

 

My little sister's daughter, left, and my older sister's son, right, both wrapped in blankets knitted by me!

My little sister’s daughter Giuliana, left, and my older sister’s son Gabriel, right, both wrapped in blankets knitted by me!

 

I’m the middle sister of three thirty-something women and my mom is a nurse midwife, so for the past several years, we wondered when a baby would come.¬†The idea of our family having a new generation of babies hadn’t occurred to me until a few years prior. I’ve never been much¬†of a kid person and didn’t want children at all until¬†my late twenties. First of all, I was thrown off by the whole gay thing;¬†even when I¬†dated a couple of guys around¬†age 27, I felt like I’d missed the boat on the whole traditional family thing. I knew I wouldn’t be marrying a guy because I’d been out since age 16 and who are we kidding? I didn’t even know if¬†marriage was something I believed in for myself (the jury’s still out on that one, pun intended, at least in the national sense). My relationships were somewhat unpredictable and I was finishing my doctorate which is daunting both financially and time-wise. I was completely focused on my career and my social life, so I figured starting a family wasn’t really in the cards for me. Even a couple of years ago, after a few years of wanting a baby, I found myself suddenly single and 33. I threw the idea out the window again; my sisters would have amazing new families and I would just tag along as the auntie.

Then J and I started dating. We’d been friends, not super close but in the same group for five years. Things started to fall into place. I felt calm and secure around her and this was a pretty foreign feeling for me. She was financially stable, a good communicator, and of course beautiful and attractive. She had a bit of a wild side, working her steady architecture firm job, fixing up her house on the weekends, then running off to Europe for a few weeks, or going out every night for a week just because she felt like it. I loved that she was stable and mature yet spontaneous and intense. We related to each other so well and fell into a relationship neither of us expected. Once we’d been together for awhile I shared my baby dreams with her and she suggested we start looking into it, considering our ages. I felt so much gratitude that we were starting the process, and eight months later, I’m still amazed that this is happening! Preparing for reciprocal IVF has been a fun and interesting project for us and I just can’t wait to get started on stimulation TOMORROW!

I’ve gotten way off track – back to Giuliana and Gabriel. Thank goodness blogs don’t have to be as well-organized as books or papers!

ANYWAY, last year I found out both of my sisters were pregnant, a few months apart.¬†I remember where I was when each of them gave me their happy news, and having tears of joy that my family was finally getting some babies! They say that babies feel different when they’re a part of your family, and let me tell you, meeting these little guys was an experience wholly new to me. Feeling their tiny bodies in my arms and seeing my sisters’ faces in theirs has been incredible. J and I were already seeking fertility treatment when the babies came, but if we hadn’t yet, this may have set me over the edge. I’ve always identified with being a sister – I love my sisters and consider them friends, mentors and confidants. I also think both of their husbands are pretty great. Watching their babies grow is crazy awesome!

Giuliana was born November 3rd, 2013 and Gabriel¬†March 15th, 2014. I threw showers for both sisters, and found adorable gifts everywhere for them (oh my gosh, all of a sudden baby stuff is everywhere!). A Christmas ornament for Giuliana, a silver-plated piggy bank for Gabriel, newborn Christmas pjs for Giuliana,¬†sophisticated gray nursing scarves for both sisters.¬†The night Giuliana was born J and I had gone to see Blue is the Warmest Color, a French¬†film about two¬†women in love. Before the movie, even though the baby wasn’t expected until the next week, we sent my¬†little sister a¬†pic of us toasting a beer to her arrival. A few minutes later,¬†while in the theater, I got a text back that my little sis was in labor!¬†We stayed at the theater, but needless to say I missed most of the¬†lesbian love fest on the screen. J and I stayed up that night to wait for the¬†pictures¬†from the hospital and¬†we even¬†had a¬†glass of champagne.¬†I spent Christmas cuddling Giuliana, changing her cloth diapers, singing to her, kissing her. When Gabriel came I could barely concentrate at work while my older sister was at the hospital for four days. I woke up in the middle of the night waiting for news that he was finally born. When I met him a few weeks later I felt slightly more comfortable (thanks to practice with Giuliana!) and I got to cuddle, change and sing to him too! It’s just been so incredible meeting these little people and watching my sisters effortlessly become mothers. Okay, I know it’s not effortless but they’re both naturals!

It’s funny TTC while falling in love with new babies. I’ve been nothing but happy, maybe a twinge of well-intentioned jealousy here and there, but for the most part Giuliana and Gabriel have only added to my baby lust. I’m not saying it wasn’t exhausting when they both cried unstoppably during my visits, but for the most part they made tiny baby sounds, slept in my arms, had micro-smiles, and were just amazing. My sisters are great moms!

I started knitting a baby blanket for my own baby four years ago, but ended up tearing it out and making two new ones for my sisters. I hope that someday soon I can start knitting my own baby blanket!

 

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Medical update: this morning we had an office visit for bloodwork and ultrasounds to check some things before we start stimulation. We’ve never both had US on the same day which was interesting. We both just finished our periods. Endometrial linings were very thin which is what the medical team wants so they can start over – a clean slate so they can have their way with our reproductive systems! I have some endometriums which are painful little things along my lining that I don’t really understand. As long as they don’t get in the way of a pregnancy I’m fine with them. J had 8 follicles on one ovary and 14 on another – 22! We can work with that. Later our IVF coordinator called to say our estrogen levels were nice and low – 35 & 37 – so we can go ahead with our IVF cycle. This is great news!

I start estrogen twice a day tomorrow and decrease Lupron to 5 units from 20. I’ve been getting headaches that may just be from the heat but maybe they’ll go away. J starts stim shots on Saturday and also decreases Lupron that day. I’m going to make her some yummy food and we’re planing a chill weekend so hopefully all will go well.

Next post I will introduce our donor!

This weekend we packed up the car and headed to San Diego, which we do as often as we can. The weather was gorgeous and we¬†spent Saturday cleaning and painting exteriors windows at J’s rental property. The sun was hot and we fell into an exhausted pre-dinner nap, then woke up and took early Lupron shots so we could enjoy our evening (not too early – we’re in a two-hour window).

The restaurants in uptown San Diego are fantastic; part farm-to-table, part hipster, part class. We had trouble getting reservations because of Mother’s Day and even with a res we had to wait, surrounded by celebrated ladies and their children. We met¬†our friends who are also TTC. This wasn’t on purpose, we just wanted to get together for dinner.¬†Finally, at a garden table surrounded by heat lamps, lights and a fountain, the wine was poured and we all raised a glass. My friend said, “To the mothers-to-be” and we all clinked glasses.

Let me just say as a side note that I have really been indulging in food since we started this whole thing. We’re finally off birth control and the cravings are subsiding, but Saturday I went all out – warm fluffy bread, melty brie, then grass-fed filet mignon with a creamy mushroom sauce and crispy vegetables, and finally a warm homemade cookie smothered in ice cream and whipped cream. Yeah.

We spent most of the dinner discussing our plans and sharing pics of respective sperm donors.¬†The pics of their donor was so cute we almost decided to have a Puerto Rican baby! We showed them our little Italian guy and talked about egg retrieval and insemination, and every time the server appeared I kind of felt like kids who were doing something we didn’t want the teacher to see.

My friend and her wife have been wanting to have a baby for awhile and I can’t wait for them to conceive. I adore both of them and they’re going to be loving, intelligent, and hilarious mothers. We agreed that if one of us has trouble and the other is successful, we will all be happy for each other; I can’t imagine being happier for anyone! But we also agreed that if both couples are successful in the next few months it would be amazing¬†and we’ll have alcohol-free meals together.

Once we returned to LA J had to go to the office for a few hours. On a Sunday! When she came home I had dinner ready and the table set. She placed a gift bag on the table and told me she’d gotten a mother-to-be present for me. I actually cried, I really honestly haven’t been that sentimental so far, only when I actually see babies or something! I was so touched that I just wrapped my arms around her and said thank you without even having to open it (it was lots of awesome Burt’s Bees stuff)!

That was our last weekend before we start stimulation!