Always, Katie: July 2014

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BarBABYdos: The Aftermath

Ethan and I have been home from Barbados for a couple of weeks now.  He went back to work (and I went back to housewifing) a week ago today... life is mostly transitioning back to normal.

While in the middle of OHSS, we were told that everything would be better when my period started, and we fortunately found this to be very true.  However, the second full day was a bloodbath.  Seriously... terrifying, horrifying, slasher-film stuff!  Emotionally, it was pretty brutal, too.  A large part of that was probably hormones, because my emotions swung wildly and without warning.  But another part was definitely that we had to go buy pads.  I had all but run my supply out with my last pre-IVF period, blissfully thinking that it was perfect timing - I wouldn't have to store them for a whole pregnancy!  It hurt... a lot... to pick a pack up off the shelf at Kroger.  I'm actually lucky I got the kind I wanted, because I could barely bring myself to look at them enough to make sure they were the right ones!  Just grabbed them, tossed them in the cart, and started daydreaming about chocolate chip cookies. ;-)

Leaving Barbados was heart-rending.  I cried like a baby on takeoff, until the island disappeared from sight.  When we landed there, we were so full... of eggs, of hope, of confidence... as we were leaving, I felt so empty of all those same things. Now, we're focusing on our return trip in a couple of months.  There's a little less planning and logistics involved, but still enough to keep us busy and mostly distracted ;-)  

I'm back on BCPs (birth control pills) for our FET cycle, and as usual, they're making my moods swing a little worse than usual.  I haven't noticed weight gain again yet, but it's only been about a week ;-)  I think that week of not being able to hold more than a few bites of food every several hours helped get rid of some of the old BCP weight... not that that is a pleasant/safe/advisable way to diet at ALL, but hey - silver linings. :-)

In other non-fertility news, we're keeping my in-laws' pup, Dixie, for a week.  She is SUCH a funny little critter, so we're having a blast.  It IS an interesting glimpse into life with a baby and a toddler, though... I'm thinking we'll try to space our future FETs out a bit... ;-)

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Friday, July 11, 2014

BarBABYdos: Day 7: Egg Retrieval

I woke up as late as I could the morning of my egg retrieval (since I was fasting and tend to get “hangry”), got ready in no time flat, and we called a taxi to take us to the clinic.  I was super-nervous, but I also felt determined.  I had made it this far, all that was left was to take a nice, drug-induced nap while Dr. Skinner retrieved eggs from my hugely swollen ovaries.  Piece of cake!

Once there, we were taken back to curtained pre/post-op area, and I changed into the all-too-familiar, even in a foreign country, surgery garb: a blue gown, blue hair net, and blue mesh booties.  Good thing blue is my favorite color!  Of course, I was also wearing the earrings I’ve worn to every appointment down here… my sperm and egg. 

The theatre nurse, Emma, kept us in stitches while she checked me in and took my vitals.  Dr. Skinner did a quick check of (I’m guessing) my lungs to make sure I was safe to sedate, and told us what to expect as far as how long I’d be in, when Ethan could see me, and how long I’d be in recovery.  

I wasn’t separated from Ethan until I walked from my curtain to the operating room, which I really appreciated.  Lynn was the surgery assistant, and she kept up a pleasant stream of chitchat while she made sure I was comfortable on the table and in the stirrups (the ones that you place your calf in, instead of your heel… love that!).  Dr. Skinner came in and took up the conversation, keeping me smiling and otherwise focused while she slipped an IV into my vein faster and smoother than ANYone EVER has.  Lynn placed an oxygen mask over my face, Dr. Skinner started injecting into the IV, I got a really weird taste in my mouth, coughed a little bit and cracked a joke about it, and the last thing I remember is chuckling with my doctor. 

I cannot stress how different that was from every other surgical experience I have ever had.  I told Ethan I usually feel more like a surface being prepped than a human patient, like the counter a cook wipes down before they start chopping ingredients.  But everyone at BFC from the moment I got there answered questions, joked, encouraged and did whatever else needed done to make me feel absolutely comfortable and valued.  

I woke up a couple of times and remember little bits of each time, just enough to feel like déjà vu when I woke up for real :-) Apparently I told Ethan each time how great Dr. Skinner is!  I guess I also read my texts like they were new each time, too.  When I woke up for real, I was hurting.  Quite a bit.  It felt about as bad as one of my worst cysts popping, and I mostly spoke in whimpers and asked repeatedly when I could have pain medicine.  It came soon enough, and I woke up enough to be able to converse semi-intelligently. 

That’s when Anna came in, which delighted us, because we love us some Anna Hosford!  She incredibly gently explained to us that our transfer would have to be delayed, and gave us enough information to start processing it as a couple.  She came back a little bit later, when we had talked and processed and had some questions articulated, and did one of the things we love her for… she gave us a plan.  She gave us a plan to get through the night, then scheduled an appointment for us the next morning to come up with the rest of the plan.  The compassion for our heartbreak from both Anna and Emma was unbelievable, and I choke up a little thinking about it now, four days later.  

We knew ahead of time that my ovaries were hyperstimulated, and that it had the potential to get worse.  I knew from my time on the internet that cycles were sometimes canceled because of it.  We are so thankful that our cycle was not canceled before retrieval, because while I deal with immense bloating, shooting pains, cramping, nausea, and shortness of breath, I can comfort myself with the fact that we have 23 beautiful, mature eggs frozen at the clinic, waiting for us to return for an FET.  

We have stayed in Barbados for additional monitoring, as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) can get extremely serious and require draining or even hospitalization in the most severe cases, and we will be returning home when we were originally scheduled.  I have stayed in bed most of the last four days, and am on strong pain killers to deal with the OHSS.  (I am fairly sure my procedure pain was almost gone by the next morning!)  I have had one ultrasound follow-up, and my OHSS is still considered mild, as I do not have much fluid free-floating in my abdomen.  She could find my massive, fluid-filled ovaries almost up to my belly button… they’re definitely not supposed to be up that high!

All things considered, I’m okay.  We are planning a brief return trip to Barbados when my body has had time to heal.  A silver lining is that my body will not have been through such a recent trauma like stimulation and retrieval when our precious embryos are transferred back into me.  

So, this chapter of the BarBABYdos story is ending.  The next one begins in September.  Stay tuned :-) 

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Saturday, July 5, 2014

BarBABYdos: Day 4: Finalized Schedule

I had my last ultrasound yesterday morning.  All of my follicles are growing right along, and enough of them are big enough that we went ahead and scheduled my last round of meds and my egg retrieval.

Retrieval is Monday, at 9:30 in the morning (please be praying!).  Last night, Ethan gave me my last intramuscular injection (of ELEVEN!  Can we take a moment and give him a round of applause?  He is a champ!) of hMG and FSH, and I gave myself my last shot of Cetrotide.  Tonight, I am to give myself Ovidrel (hCG – “finishes” the ripening eggs) at precisely 9:30 pm, and start taking Bromocriptine orally as well.  I’m super-excited for tonight, because the Ovidrel should be my last shots… hopefully ever, considering how many follicles I have this time.  I’d love to come back to Barbados Fertility Centre for an FET (or a few), get as many kids as these eggs will get us, and never have to stim again.  Stimming stinks!

Yesterday and today, I have been exhausted and achy.  Today, I’ve been nauseated off and on, but I’m not sure all of this is entirely IVF-related.  Travel can be rough on a body, and I’d say we’ve had enough going on to justify a good bit of fatigue ;-)  Our exciting vacation-y plan for the rest of the day is to keep doing what we’ve done all day – nothing.  Tomorrow, we want to go back to the grocery store so we have enough stuff stocked to get us through retrieval recovery, and we need to do laundry.  The hazard of traveling for long periods of time – at some point, you have to do boring grown-up stuff! 

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

BarBABYdos: Day 3: Follicle Check

I had another ultrasound at Barbados Fertility Centre this morning, checking on my follicles again.  They’re growing, but they’re not done yet.  We’re supposed to do the same injections tonight that we did last night – my FSH and HMG, followed by Cetrotide a little bit later – then go back to the clinic for another ultrasound in the morning.  Anna is expecting that we will do egg retrieval on Monday, but there’s still an outside chance that it could be Sunday.  We’ll know tomorrow!

After my ultrasound today, Ethan had an Indian head and neck massage, which he gave rave reviews!  He sometimes gets those muscular contraction headaches, and the therapist was able to identify some knotted muscles and he thinks she was able to improve them a lot.  Hopefully, that will give him some long-term relief from those headaches!   I had a full acupuncture treatment this time, which was less dramatic than my last one was, but still very nice.  It seemed to have a longer-lasting effect of relaxation this time – my ovaries are still uncomfortable, but I was able to mentally deal with it and enjoy our day pretty well, and I think that has at least something to do with the acupuncture.  The absolutely stunning views and the soothing, rhythmic sound of the waves probably hasn’t hurt, either :-)  

We visited Accra Beach this afternoon.  It’s not far from here, but we took a cab anyway, for the sake of my ovaries and so we could have a little more time to relax there.  Neither of us are BIG beach or water people, but we did really enjoy basking a little, digging our toes into the super-soft sand, and playing around the edges of the water for a while.  We planned to head up to the boardwalk-ish area and shop some of the little vendors’ stalls when we were done and before our taxi driver came back for us, but when we walked back up, the stalls were closed.  So we hoofed it across the street and enjoyed dinner at Chefette, Barbados’s local fast food restaurant.  I have been trying really hard to follow Anna’s suggestion that I avoid refined sugar to prevent the OHSS from getting too painful, but I misbehaved just a little and ate my bun AND an ice cream cone.  Delicious!!  

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

BarBABYdos: Day 1: First Appointments

The WiFi connection in our cottage is really patchy, so I wasn't able to post last night...

We had our first appointments at Barbados Fertility Centre yesterday morning, and fell even more in love with the clinic and staff! 

First order of business (after new patient paperwork, which made me chuckle, since I've considered myself their patient for months now) was finally meeting Anna and Dr. Skinner in person and discussing the order of the day, then on to the ultrasound to count and measure follicles. 

I have been feeling a little bit uncomfortable for a few days now, so I was pretty confident that my ovaries were working overtime.  I was a little shocked at just HOW MUCH overtime they have been working.  Dr. Skinner identified at least 30 follicles in various stages of growth, with the lead follicle at 13mm.  These are the same follicles that most of us grow one or two of each month. :-)  So, the HMG and Gonal-F seem to be working quite effectively!!  I have a mild case of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) which can be pretty serious in severe cases.  I'm nowhere near that point though, and I trust Anna and Dr. Skinner entirely to keep it in hand from here on out.  It's nice to be on the same island as my amazing medical team, finally :-)  I'm supposed to avoid refined sugar (on vacation!), eat lots of protein and stay hydrated to help reduce the discomfort from the OHSS.  No big deal :-)

I had to get some blood drawn after my ultrasound... I have no idea what it was for!  At this point, someone in scrubs asks for blood, I hand over a vein without questioning ;-)  After blood, we sat down with Anna again to discuss adjustments to my medications in light of the ultrasound.  We're not changing my doses of HMG and FSH, but tonight we add Cetrotide to prevent my ovaries from releasing those 30ish eggs before Dr. Skinner can get to them!  We go back for another ultrasound tomorrow, just to check progress.  It looks like we're probably on track for egg retrieval on Sunday or Monday. Yay!

We both had full body massages in the Life Wellness Center above the clinic, which was lovely. :-)  Because we agreed to let a film crew get some shots of us for an upcoming documentary about BFC, I got my first mini-taste of acupuncture, too.  I'm not sure what I was expecting from the needles, but they were kind of unremarkable.  Most of the time, when she inserted one, it felt like she was flicking me!  Afterwards, we went right across the street to a restaurant/bar called Blakey's, and ate overlooking the water. 

Suuuuuper relaxed....
You know how massage, acupuncture, reflexology, etc can help you release emotions you were subconsciously holding on to?  Something about storing the feelings in your muscles as tension...?  Anyway, I had to fight tears mightily until the camera man and the therapist left the room... then I let the tears roll.  It was a really healing cry, of relief and gratitude.  I thought about all of the people who love and support Ethan and me - at home, "in the computer," and even on a little island in the Caribbean - and I was just overcome with how powerful and wonderful that love is.  If you're reading this, you're part of that, and I want to thank you from the bottom of my overflowing heart! 

Today, we have the day off from IVF stuff (except my shots tonight, of course).  We are hoping to venture to a nearby supermarket to stock our kitchen a little bit, and hopefully soak up some sun on the beach.
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